Tag Archives: blessings

The blessings of paying tithing

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Some people might disagree with me, but I feel that much of the promises extended to faithful Christians are vague. We all have faith that by following commandments and trying to be like Jesus, our eternal reward will be life with God. However, what blessings are in store for me right now?

I feel that one of the clearest description of blessings is associated with paying tithing. The classic scripture in Malachi explains it this way:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.

Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

Malachi 3: 8-10

I guess you could say that the promised blessings are still vague, but it does seem to indicate that you will be blessed here and now. It’s a very vivid description. You can imagine a waterfall pouring over you and you can’t collect all of the water in the reservoirs you have gathered.

I was thinking about this because this past Sunday during Fast & Testimony Meeting a woman bore her testimony about tithing. She shared a story about how when she was younger she was speaking with someone who said that they couldn’t pay tithing. The member in my ward said that she had judged her friend. She had always thought paying tithing was easy and so judged her. Now, years later, the woman and her husband have had a very tough year. Her husband got laid off right after they bought their first house. During this time, she learned about the sacrifice it truly takes to pay tithing. They have continued to pay their tithing, and they feel they have been blessed for it.

It was one of the most touching testimonies I’ve ever heard in a Fast & Testimony meeting. She spoke of her past experience, compared it to the present situation, and bore testimony. It strengthened my own testimony of tithing, and reminded me of all of the blessings I have received from following this commandment. I truly felt the Spirit.

A 48-year long experiment of faith?

I taught the Gospel Doctrine Sunday School class this past week and we were covering Alma 3235 (lesson 28). We spent a majority of the time discussing faith and the experiment we are to do.

One thing that has always frustrated me is that people are willing to “experiment” with all sorts of things… drugs, alcohol, alternative lifestyles, etc. However, they often aren’t willing to experiment with the things that matter most. From a Church point of view, they won’t try to keep the Word of Wisdom, or they won’t try to stay morally clean. It’s as if the experiment isn’t worth doing.

I brought up the recent sort-of discovery of the Higgs boson particle (the so-called “God particle”). The existence of such a particle was first proposed in 1964. In July of this year, it was announced that they have probably found it, but they can’t prove it yet. That means that there have been scientists around the world trying to prove the existince of this particle for 48 years. They are getting close (very close), but they still haven’t gotten there yet. Isn’t that amazing?! Can you imagine feeling so strongly about something that for decades you are working towards that goal? Well, that is exactly what we should be doing in the gospel.

The whole chapter is great, but here are a few key points about the experiment:

Alma 32: 27 …awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith…

Alma 32: 40 …looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof…

Alma 32: 41 …nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof…

Alma 32: 42 …because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it…

Do you have a testimony of the Law of Tithing? If not, obey it, then keep obeying it. If you haven’t felt the blessings being poured out on you from the windows of heaven, keep obeying the law. Exercise a particle of faith; look forward to the blessings; be patience; be diligent.

If we are willing to put in the effort, whether it be 48 minutes, 48 days, 48 weeks, or 48 years, God will help us find the results we seek from our experiment. We will be able to get the fruit “which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.” It is a beautiful promise!

Count your blessings

We recently had a family home evening lesson about what we were grateful for. Here is a list of things that were mentioned by the 5 members of my family. You can probably guess which ones were from adults and which ones were from kids, but there are definitely some that could be either (I’ll leave it up to you to guess). Overall, it’s not a bad list. I’m pleased that we were able to think of such a wide range of things.

  • our home
  • priesthood
  • family
  • love
  • job
  • food
  • brothers and sisters
  • my best friend
  • the Church
  • toys
  • our fish
  • prayer
  • comfortable furniture
  • books
  • clothes
  • music
  • school
  • teachers
  • flowers
  • games
  • spring
  • movies
  • funny people
  • nature
  • animals
  • temple
  • scriptures
  • life
  • weather

Our motivation for doing things

I don’t have anything deep to say about this, but it’s something I’ve thought about before and figured I’d put up something quick about it.

I’m certainly not the only one who has thought of this, but there seems to be a progression of why we do things. Sometimes we do things because we have to. Sometimes we do things because we want to. I suppose there are a variety of reasons why we might do things, and I’ve listed a few of them below.

  1. We do it because we feel we have to because of family and/or friends
  2. We do it because we are scared of potential consequences
  3. We do it because we don’t see any drawback to doing it
  4. We do it because we want to be obedient, and we have a testimony that obedience to that principle really does bring blessings

Is one reason better than another? If we are being obedient isn’t that good enough? What about the good gift/bad gift scriptures? If you are doing something for the wrong reason, is it worth doing at all? If you are doing something because of someone else, does the “believe on their words” gift of the Spirit apply?

179th Annual General Conference – Saturday Afternoon Session


As I mentioned l last time, I was a little distracted during the first session, but I was able to pay attention more during this second session. There were several good talks that I made note of and we might use them in my ward for the 4th Sunday lessons.

It was reported to me that we still had about 46 people attend the session at Church.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf is conducting

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf did the sustaining

  • The Sunday School General Presidency and the Young Men General Presidency was changed
  • There were a bunch of Area Seventies released, including Clayton M. Christensen. Elder Christensen visited one of our stake conferences, and was awesome

Auditing Department Report

  • it’s all good

First Presidency Secretary Statistical Report

  • 2,818 stakes
  • 348 missions
  • 622 districts
  • 28109 wards and branches
  • 13,508,509 members
  • 123,502 child of record baptisms
  • 265,593 convert baptisms
  • 389,095 total baptisms (my calculation, not report in conference)
  • 52,494 missionaries
  • 4 temples dedicated
  • 128 temples total in operation

M. Russell Ballard ** might use this as a 4th Sunday lesson **

  • First and last Edsel dealership
  • Some of the most powerful lessons can come from those who have come before you
  • Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it
  • There are great lessons to be learned from the past
  • Learn them, so you don’t exhaust your spiritual strength
  • be wise and learn the lessons of the past
  • no new technology to help you can a testimony… you can’t Google it or text message

Elder Quentin L. Cook ** might use this as a 4th Sunday lesson **

  • there has been an increase in the discussion of our faith
  • in 1863 Charles Dickens was going to report on the Saints. He went onboard to bear testimony against them, but he found them to be the “pick and flower of England”
  • some descriptions of us are harsh
  • non-believers find it hard to accept the miracles in the scriptures
  • traditional definition of hell not consistent with the restoration
  • we need civility and mutual respect between people of other faiths
  • other churches do much good, bless mankind, and teach about Christ.. we should not criticize them

Kevin W. Pearson ** might use this as a 4th Sunday lesson **

  • faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
  • faith is a principle of action and power
  • we can give our children many things, but if we don’t give them faith in Christ, we have given them little
  • if we desire more faith, we must be more obedient
  • fear and faith cannot co-exist
  • 6 destructive D’s
    • doubt
    • discouragement
    • distraction
    • lack of diligence
    • disobedience
    • disbelief

Elder Rafael E. Pino

  • told story of former counselor whose daughter had drowned
  • “my peace I give unto you”
  • endure adversity confidently

Elder Richard G. Scott ** might use this as a 4th Sunday lesson **

  • I’m going to speak heart to heart, without mincing words
  • temples
  • go to the temple often
  • what activity could have greater impact
  • remove your watch when you enter the House of the Lord
  • personal story of two of his children who died as small children, who are in the Celestial Kingdom and born in the covenant
  • when we keep the temple covenants, then come what may, we have no reason to worry or feel despondent

Elder Russell M. Nelson ** might use this as a 4th Sunday lesson **

  • hearken to the will of the Lord
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • a pattern to follow, not a piece to repeat often
  • we can pray for unity
  • pray in Jesus’ name
  • don’t overdo our prayers and fasting
  • closing prayer doesn’t need to summarize and become an unscheduled sermon
  • private prayers can be as long as we want, but public prayers should be short supplications or expressions of gratitude
  • do not be casual in the way we speak in our prayers
  • we should pray to God “Thy will be done”
  • pray that His kingdom will go forth

Read the recaps from the other sessions of General Conference:

Religious Freedom Day, 2009

For some reason the other night I was poking around the White House web site, and came across the proclamations page. Apparently today (January 16, 2009) is Religious Freedom Day in the United States. I haven’t read anything on- or offline about this. The proclamation is worded very well. I particularly appreciated the following:

Our Nation was founded by people seeking haven from religious persecution, and the religious liberty they found here remains one of this land’s greatest blessings. As Americans, we believe that all people have inherent dignity and worth. Though we may profess different creeds and worship in different manners and places, we respect each other’s humanity and expression of faith.


I call on all Americans to reflect on the great blessing of religious liberty, endeavor to preserve this freedom for future generations, and commemorate this day with appropriate events and activities.

I’m not American, but I commend the President for issuing such a proclamation. Religious liberty truly is a great blessing!

2009 “State of the Ward” address

Since I’ve been bishop, it has been tradition (as I’m sure it is in many wards) that I speak on the first Sunday (other than Fast Sunday), and talk about how the previous year was and what we need to work on for the coming year. I did that on Sunday. For those who are interested, here is my talk:

As is usually the case, I’m here at the beginning of the year to talk about our progress and where we are headed. First, let me remind you of why I do this each year. Last year I told you about my fancy pedometer. It keeps track of steps, calories burned, distance walked, and more. The pedometer itself stores the data for over a month. I can also connect it to my computer and save the data forever. I’m sort of obsessed with it. As long as I have something with pockets, I’m carrying it. If I forget it on a given day, I’m disappointed, almost devastated. Just yesterday as I was walking into work I reached down and patted my pocket to feel for it and it wasn’t there. My heart skipped a beat but then realized it was indeed there, but my pocket hand gotten twisted out of position.

You may wonder if my obsession has paid off. In 2008 I took over 3.7 million steps. This averages to over 10,000 steps a day. The software also tells me that I walked about 3,000 km. How do I feel? Well, I feel pretty good, both physically and mentally. Physically, I’m keeping active and enjoying the benefits of that. Mentally, I feel good that I set a goal and kept it. The pedometer has helped me measure my progress. If during the day I see that I might fall short, I can decide what action to take in order to get to where I want to be.

Wouldn’t it be great to have some sort of device like that, that would tell us where we’re at spiritually? I guess the closest thing we have is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Unfortunately, there is no electronic read out or data storage. It is only by staying diligent and feeling the promptings of the Spirit that we can know how things are going. Today, I guess I will be the pedometer of the ward. I’ll tell you how far we’ve gone and then we’ll know what we have left to do.

In 2008, we had 2 main goals. The first was to have 18 member referrals for the missionaries. When we share the gospel, we do it so others can share in the joy of having the truth in their lives. Our joy comes from the fellowship with the saints, not in reaching an arbitrary number. As we “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”[1], we become more like the Saviour, and get a glimpse of His joy.

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me![2]

We had a goal of 18 member referrals and we ended up with 13. I’m sure there are dozens; probably hundreds more people who are more familiar with and friendly towards the Church because of your example. These 13 people, however, are special. Because of a members love, they met with the missionaries and were taught something. All 3 of our convert baptisms last year were because of members sharing the gospel. Kristen knew the Elliott’s. Sally knew Marlene. Janelle knew Alex. I’m sure the joy that those members have from bringing a friend into the Church is great. I would like to feel that, and I’m sure you do, too. Even though we didn’t reach our goal of 18 last year, as a Ward Council we feel that the ward could and should do better. We have set a goal to have 20 member referrals in 2009. I’d ask that you pray about this individually and as a family. Pray to know what you can do. Pray for the courage to speak about the Church. Look for opportunities. A couple of months ago Lisa spoke with a neighbour about babysitting the kids while we went to the temple. All Lisa told the person was that we had to go to Brampton for something. I reminded her that we need to just share what we are doing. We have nothing to hide. Lisa is certainly not the only one who has done this. I’m not saying to do anything terribly different, other than to just be yourself. The apostle Paul said it well:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth[3]

Our second goal was to have regular sacrament meeting attendance of 150. This is an easier goal to work on because we have so many chances. In 2007, we had an average attendance of 131. As we improved, the last 4 months of that year we averaged 143. In 2008, we increased our attendance by 10. We averaged 141 people. Again, as we improved through the year, the last 4 months we averaged 150. No matter how you look at it, we have more people coming out. Every quarter was higher. There were 42 weeks where we could compare attendance year over year, and 32 of them were higher. For the entire year, we had 400 more people who attended a sacrament meeting. Let me just remind you of what that all means. This means that there are more people being strengthened. There are more people partaking of the sacrament and renewing their covenant to follow the Saviour. As members are strengthened, more people are available for callings. Members are more likely to go to the temple. They are more likely to do their home and visiting teaching. We truly are being edified together. Doesn’t it just feel better when there are more people here?! Our worshiping feels more complete. We feel more like we are part of something important. It just feels good! In a revelation given to Joseph Smith, it is explained what is happening here:

Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.

And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.[4]

We may have much work to do before we reach that perfect day, but as we make progress, we can see and feel that light getting brighter.

With all that being said, our goal for 2009 is to have 155 people regularly attending sacrament meeting. There are basically two things you can do to help us reach this goal. The first is to get here yourself. Be here early. Come in to the chapel and quietly prepare for the sacrament. The other thing you can do is to be a caring member. Look around you and determine who is missing. Are the people you home or visit teach here? Are the people that you serve in your calling here? If not, reach out to them. Let them know that we love them and miss them.

You know, I worry that you will get sick of me giving this same sort of message over and over. You might tune me out. I’m sorry, but I can’t stop. This is what I feel in my heart we need to do. The struggles of life can be eased as we forget ourselves and serve others. As I said a couple of weeks ago, Christ lived so that we may live. We, too, should then live so that others can live. People need us, and we need to be there for them.

In addition to our 2 main goals, we also have a few areas of focus this year. The first is reverence. Kelly Rigby gave a great talk recently about reverence. When we speak of reverence, the obvious part of that is the volume level here in the chapel. We need to be quiet so we can hear and feel the promptings of the Spirit. If we are rushing in at 9:29, it will be hard to be settled and ready for the meeting. But reverence is about more than just volume level and promptness. It is about respect; respect for the Lord, respect for the building, respect for those around us, and respect for those who are speaking.

We’ve talked as a Ward Council about how we can improve this respect or reverence. This is difficult as it needs to come from inside each of us. We can’t force anything on people, but we have a few ideas to try to help.

  • We recognize that as leaders, we need to set an example. The bishopric will try to be in their seats early. The quorum and auxiliary leaders will try to do the same.
  • We are going to try to have a few more activities. That way members have more opportunities to socialize, which can help alleviate the rush before meetings.
  • We want all of us to understand what it means to worship. This will be taught, learned, and emphasized in talks, lessons, and other ways.
  • Be prepared when you come to Church. Tanya just spoke about this. If you are a teacher, have your lesson prepared ahead of time. If you attend a class, do the class reading during the week. Have things ready for your children, so they can be settled.
  • Lastly, try not to be distracted by things around us. At the last General Conference, Elder Oaks reminded us that:

“Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines… it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior. How sad to see persons obviously violating that covenant in the very meeting where they are making it.”[5]

As we all work together, we can improve the reverence of, in and for our meetings. This is turn will allow the Spirit to be here in greater abundance.

Another area that we want to emphasize is temple attendance. Caroline Bonfield has just spoken on this. Shortly after Howard W. Hunter became President of the Church, he invited us all to “establish the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of their membership.” He then counseled us as follows:

Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.[6]

It the temple is supposed to be a symbol of our membership, what does our temple attendance say about us. Going to the temple is a very personal experience. Only you know how you feel about the temple and when you should go. However, I will say this: almost all of us should go more than we currently do. From the time that Lisa and I got married, we have tried to go to the temple monthly, but in almost 12 years of marriage, we’ve haven’t been able to do this. Unfortunately, there are always reasons not to go. Hopefully the reasons to go are stronger.

I recently read a description of a person’s recent trip to the temple.

I went to the temple Wednesday. Oh boy did I need it. I sat in the temple after the session and cried…

Why? I have no idea.

Was it because I had lost my recommend and hadn’t been in a couple of months?… Too much chaos? Not hydrated enough? Who knows.

All I know is this. I entered a temple at a slight run. I walked out of the temple hesitatingly, once again surprised at the calm and quiet inside my head. I walked out not remembering the exact words the Spirit used to answer my tears, but remembering the feeling that came with them.

And when the words to describe how I was feeling were so clear in the temple, and so murky once I left, I knew I needed to go back. And soon.[7]

I like the way that was phrased. I can’t always describe how I feel when I’m at the temple, but I certainly have experienced that “calm and quiet inside my head”. I look forward to each trip. Eustace and Patricia Saul were recently assigned to help coordinate the Ward Temple Night. They have been calling around inviting people to attend. In December, we had our largest turnout for a non-youth trip in years. We live quite close to a temple. President Hunter mentioned that proximity is an issue for some people, but it shouldn’t be for us. Enjoy the temple. Attend the temple and receive the blessings that come from the service that is done there.

The third and last area we want to focus on is Family Home Evening. Jeff Bonfield recently spoke about this and Mike discussed it in a combined lesson. The world is getting more and more hectic, and in many ways, more and more evil. People are working long hours, sometimes at multiple jobs. Families are split many ways in trying to meet the demands of jobs, school, sports, and other activities. At the same time, the Adversary is making great progress in weakening society’s values. Now, more than ever, parents need to gather their children around them and teach them, protect them, and love them. Having weekly Family Home Evening is not easy. Just as there are obstacles to temple attendance, there are often obstacles to Family Home Evening. Don’t let those jobs, sports, or other activities get in the way. If this week you just can’t get everyone together, don’t cancel it. Have Family Home Evening with as many as you can. It’s worth it. One of the highlights of my week is at the very beginning of our Family Home Evening. If Andrew or Matthew is conducting, they usually start off by saying, “Welcome to Family Home Evening”. Lisa and I usually respond with, “Thank you. It’s nice to be here.” (I don’t remember when or why this started, but we do this almost every time). For whatever reason, when we say that, their eyes will light up and they smile from ear to ear. I think at that moment they feel like they are a part of our family, and an important part at that!

Whether you have a family of your own, or you meet together with friends, hold Family Home Evening. Sometimes there are struggles with knowing what to do or teach. We are planning an activity that will demonstrate the sorts of things that can be done, and will allow us to share ideas. I’m sure it will benefit us all.

Those are the goals and areas of focus that we have for 2009:

  • The members will have 20 people ready for the missionaries to teach
  • Our Ward Sacrament Meeting attendance will regularly be 155 or greater
  • We will focus on reverence, temple attendance, and Family Home Evening.

I assure you that a great amount of time and prayer have gone into these. I feel comfortable that this is the Lord’s will for our ward at this time. I hope that you will support me in working towards this.

Lastly, I wanted to share with you the theme of the stake this year. You will recall that last year President Homer wanted to focus on the change of heart as taught by Alma[8]. This year, President Homer would like to focus on the words of Alma as his follows were with him in the waters of Mormon:

And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.[9]

What a beautiful phrase “hearts knit together in unity and love”. As a result of our common faith, our lives are indeed woven together. What happens to one of us, does affect all of us, whether great or small. The question is, do the threads that bind us exist because of the contention between us, or because of the love between us? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I say that we do not have a contention problem. Generally, we are at peace with one another. However, living without contention is different than living in unity. We can always be more unified.

It always amazes me the love and praise that the members have for whomever is the President of the Church. He is, for all intents and purposes, a stranger to us. But through the Spirit, and from following his counsel, we very quickly know that he is the man who the Lord has chosen to lead the Church. Likewise, the support for a stake president and bishop are often very strong. Unfortunately, the further “down the line” (so to speak) we go, the support wavers. In considering the things I’ve discussed today, I invite you to more fully sustain the leaders of the ward. I testify to you that the bishopric felt the confirming power of the Spirit in calling these men and women. Fulfill the home and visiting teaching assignments they give you. Help in other ways. Speak well of them. Build them up and you’ll be amazed at the good they can do. Pray for them, just as you pray for the prophet, a stake president, or a bishop. As we support one another, we will be stitched tighter together. We will trust each other more. We will respond faster to the needs of one another. We will be happier.

I thank you all for the support that you give to me. It truly is an honour to serve you. I pray that the Lord will strengthen me so that I can continue to serve you as long as He sees fit. I know that this Church is true. I know that Christ lives and leads this Church. That is why we do what we do. I know that as we work together to grow the ward[10], our own lives will be improved; our own families will be strengthened, and our lives will indeed get brighter as we head towards that perfect day. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] Mosiah 18:9

[2] D&C 18:10, 15-16

[3] Rom. 1: 16

[4] D&C 50:22-23

[5] Dallin H. Oaks, “Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 17-20

[6] Howard W. Hunter, “The Great Symbol of Our Membership,” Ensign, Oct 1994, 2

[7] http://segullah.org/small-epiphanies/dirt/ – accessed 20090110 11:39 am

[8] Alma 5

[9] Mosiah 18:21

[10] Gordon B. Hinckley “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 106

Survey: Many believe in divine intervention

The Associated Press (seen on CNN) has an article about how most people believe that God will save people’s lives:

When it comes to saving lives, God trumps doctors for many Americans.

An eye-opening survey reveals widespread belief that divine intervention can revive dying patients. And, researchers said, doctors “need to be prepared to deal with families who are waiting for a miracle.”

Recently, my mother was quite ill, and ended up in the hospital for 62 days. She was given a few blessings before various procedures, and is now well on her way to recovery. She has had 5 doctors tell her she’s lucky to be alive. The latest doctor to see her said that he has never had a patient go through what she has and live. He said he has never heard of anyone go through what she went through and live.

I guess the bottom line is… count me in the group that believes “God trumps doctors”!