Tag Archives: obedience

A great quote…

I’m not really into motivational speaking, but I’ve recently come across Jim Fannin, and like his style. Each week I download a podcast he does called The Success Zone through WebTalkRadio.net. A week or so ago the show (Week 1016 posted on April 11, 2010)  featured George Dans, the “Worlds Greatest Closer”, and they were obviously talking about the keys to success for people in sales. This topic didn’t interest me at all, but I listened anyway. I’m glad I did. Jim gave a great line:

The man who has the most constants in a world of variables will prevail.

I’ve heard things similar to this, but this is just short and sweet. It has made me think about how God is an unchanging God, and if we align ourselves with him, we to will be unchanging (at least in our obedience). Going along with my post from yesterday, if we are constant in our faithfulness even amidst the lower standards of the world, we will prevail. Nice!

Diversity, tolerance, and choice

I attended our Stake General Priesthood Meeting on Sunday Night. There were several speakers, with the Stake President being the concluding speaker. He spoke about a number of topics, and at one point he talked about how some of the school districts in the area will be modifying their curriculum to teach more about same-gender marriages. He was very careful in saying that we don’t persecute people, but that we also need to stand up for what is right. He shared a quote from a General Conference talk that Boyd K. Packer gave a few years ago. I like it.

…words can be used as weapons against you. If they throw the word diversity at you, grab hold of it and say, “I am already diverse, and I intend to stay diverse.” If the word is tolerance, grab that one, too, saying, “I expect you to be tolerant of my lifestyle—obedience, integrity, abstinence, repentance.” If the word is choice, tell them you choose good, old-fashioned morality. You choose to be a worthy husband or wife, a worthy parent.

The whole Church may stand alone in defense of these standards. But we are not the first. Moroni, the last of his people, said: “I even remain alone. … I fulfil the commandment of my father.” Do not be afraid.

Boyd K. Packer, “‘The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected’,” Ensign, Nov 2003, 24

A recent Sacrament Meeting Talk – Conversion and The Ship of Theseus

One of the things that does separate us from other Church’s is the fact that we don’t have the same person giving a sermon each week. Most members are usually given an opportunity to speak in Sacrament Meeting. As bishop, I usually speak 4-6 times a year. A few of those are “big” talks. These are usually at Ward Conference, January (giving kind of a “State of the Ward” address), and September (an anniversary of my call). The rest of smaller ones at Easter, Christmas, or another holiday.

Well, I’ve just passed 5 years as bishop, so it was about that time to give another talk. This is basically what I shared:


Have you ever heard of Theseus[1]? In Greek legends, he was a founder of Athens. His name comes from the Greek word for “institution”. He brought the people together and settled them. Theseus was very brave, and conquered many beasts and foes. At one point, he slayed a Minotaur on the island of Crete. After arriving safely back in Athens, his ship became a kind of monument. It was left at the harbour to be used during a festival. You can imagine that over time, various parts of the ship needed replacing. The shape and form of the ship didn’t change, but the individual parts did. This gave rise to the “Ship of Theseus Paradox”. The Greek historian Plutarch recorded it this way:

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned [from Crete] had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.[2]

In other words, is an object that has had its individual parts replaced, but maintained its original form, still the same object? Philosophers through history and different cultures have used this and similar questions to talk about identity. I like this particular story as it parallels nicely with the way we discuss our conversion to the gospel. As we learn and grow in the gospel, as we overcome our weaknesses and bad habits, as we replace the bad, rotten boards of our ship, we do change. There are those who would say that by giving up certain things (gambling, swearing, Word of Wisdom vices), we are different; definitely not the same. There are those who say that as we replace our rotten boards, we are just fixing up what is there to begin with. Our condition is just returning to that which God wants us to have. Regardless of how you look at it, this process can be quite painful. We recently took apart an old dog kennel in our bag yard. There was a small fenced in area that had a doghouse sitting on a wooden platform. Some of the platform wood was so rotten that you almost fell through as you walked on them. Some of the wood was rotten from end to end and right through the wood. It was easy to lift off the base. Some of the wood was rotten on one end, but still relatively solid on the other end. Obviously the rotten wood was easy to pry up or break off, but the solid wood required more effort. In some cases, when the solid wood was nailed into a solid base with a 6 inch nail, it required a lot of effort.

Again, you can see the similarity here with our own conversion. Some of our bad habits are easy to get rid of, but some of them seem to have taken root and just won’t come out. I’d like to take some time to talk about a few of the things that can damage our boards. These may not all apply to you. Our age, our time in the Church, and just our general life experience will dictate which boards are most damaged. Regardless of what needs fixing up, it is imperative that we do it now, and don’t delay. If we do this, our ship will continue to sail. If we don’t do this in time, we may not complete our journey, and may even sink.

Obedience. Sometimes we hear that word and we think we’re going to hear someone try to guilt us into following our leaders. That is not what obedience is about. If you are obeying a commandment or principle because you have to, you probably aren’t being obedient. Disobedience is what causes the decay in many of our boards. Obedience is about using our will and freely choosing to follow God’s will. Many people come up with many excuses as to why their way is better than God’s way. On the way home from the temple on Thursday night we were talking about the students coming back to university, and some of the activities they have during their first week. I commented on how there are those who claim that following the commandments causes them to lose their freedom. In particular, we were talking about how some students leave home for school and then with their new-found freedom drink to excess. The consequences of their so-called freedom could be not remembering what happened that night, charges for something that they did that they might not even remember doing, physical pain, or in extreme circumstances, even death. Obviously real freedom comes from following the commandments. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He has given us commandments, that when followed will bring us peace. Contrast the student I just mentioned with another student. This other student chooses to abstain from alcohol. There are no hangovers, no drinking and driving, no worries about what was done or said to whom. That’s freedom!

It is clear that engaging in addictive behaviour will eventually cause us to lose our freedom. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography can all bring us down. It is no surprise that our prophets and apostles have warned us about these things. The other day I read a headline from The Church News that said “If it’s on the Prophet’s mind, it matters[3].” My first thought was that seemed a bit strong. Can’t the prophet just talk and it’s just him taking? As I thought about it more, I came to agree with it. Thomas S. Monson is the prophet, seer and revelator, and is the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys[4]. As I say to the youth in our interviews, President Monson is “the Man”! Of course what is on his mind, or what he speaks to us about, matters. Whether by President Monson, President Hinckley, or prophets before them, among other things, we have been encouraged to serve others, warned of the distraction of the Internet, reminded to not let opportunities pass us by, told in no uncertain terms that a member of the Church must not be racist, and warned about the evil, addictive problem of pornography. Are these things important? Absolutely! We need to be obedient to the words of the prophets. Our obedience shouldn’t be a result of pressure. We shouldn’t blindly follow. We are obedient because we love the Lord, we have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel, and we have faith that obedience will bring the promised blessings. Remember these two verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.[5]

I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.[6]

The Lord speaks through his servants, and when we follow, we are blessed. On the other hand, when we do not follow, we have no promise.

I testify that obedience does bring blessings. As we turn away from our bad habits, and align ourselves more with the Lord, His servants and His church, we are able to replace those bad boards with stronger ones.

Another cause of decay in our boards is judgment. Matthew quotes the Saviour in saying “Judge not, that ye be not judged.[7]” Joseph Smith revealed that it should really be “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged.[8]” It seems clear to me what the spirit of this counsel is. Don’t judge something or someone unnecessarily, especially without knowing all of the details. However, we rarely do know all the details, so to me, we still have to be careful with how we judge. Unfortunately, there are those who think since they do or think something, everyone should. Life just isn’t like that. Often, judgment is defined as looking down on someone. That is the problem. Jesus Christ, our perfect example, didn’t just look down on us and comment there was no way we could make it back. He literally came down[9]. He condescended and came to our rescue. He taught, He healed, and He lifted. Always remember that. Our righteous judgment should lead us to better things and to bring us closer together, not to divide us.

Another part of judgment that can cause decay in our boards is how we choose to spend our time. Elder Oaks said it well when he said this:

Some of our most important choices concern family activities. Many breadwinners worry that their occupations leave too little time for their families. There is no easy formula for that contest of priorities. However, I have never known of a man who looked back on his working life and said, “I just didn’t spend enough time with my job.”

In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best. A friend took his young family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to memorable historic sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of these good summer activities he enjoyed most. The father learned from the reply, and so did those he told of it. “The thing I liked best this summer,” the boy replied, “was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.” Super family activities may be good for children, but they are not always better than one-on-one time with a loving parent.

The amount of children-and-parent time absorbed in the good activities of private lessons, team sports, and other school and club activities also needs to be carefully regulated. Otherwise, children will be overscheduled, and parents will be frazzled and frustrated. Parents should act to preserve time for family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and the other precious togetherness and individual one-on-one time that binds a family together and fixes children’s values on things of eternal worth. Parents should teach gospel priorities through what they do with their children.

Family experts have warned against what they call “the overscheduling of children.” In the last generation children are far busier and families spend far less time together. Among many measures of this disturbing trend are the reports that structured sports time has doubled, but children’s free time has declined by 12 hours per week, and unstructured outdoor activities have fallen by 50 percent.

The number of those who report that their “whole family usually eats dinner together” has declined 33 percent. This is most concerning because the time a family spends together “eating meals at home [is] the strongest predictor of children’s academic achievement and psychological adjustment.” Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: What your children really want for dinner is you.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has pleaded that we “work at our responsibility as parents as if everything in life counted on it, because in fact everything in life does count on it.”[10]

That is a long quote, but I couldn’t think of a better way to say it, and couldn’t decide what to leave out. Do the things that matter most with your children. Do the things that will strengthen them and keep the family together. Sports are great, but they shouldn’t take the children away from Church activities. I plead with you to choose activities that will keep your children close to the Church. This is where there is peace and safety. Along with the teachings in the home, this is where they learn standards and values. They will associate with other kids their age who have the same values. They will bear testimony to one another. They will feel the Spirit together, and they will look after one another. Returning to the Ship of Theseus analogy, there are many things we can do which might make the outside of the ship look nice. A coat of paint, a sealant, or other such things can cover up a lot. But if the wood is rotting, it will continue to rot. Don’t just choose things that seem to make your kids happy for the time being. Choose things that will bring lasting value to them and your family.

The final cause of decay I’d like to speak about today is a lack of love. Of course, love underlies all that we do. But I’d like to speak specifically about how we do things. There was a time before we moved to St Catharines where I was the YM President and Lisa was the YW President. We were young, only a few years older than some of the Priests and Laurels, and had no children of our own, so it was quite convenient for us to serve together. Unfortunately, it was not a positive experience for either of us. The group of youth that we had was much different than what we have here. They certainly weren’t bad kids, but there were some strong personalities and attitudes to work with, and many of the families seemed to just be happy that their kids went to Church. There didn’t seem to be other expectations, or at least this is how I felt at the time. We tried to teach them things, but I was sure they weren’t listening. It was terribly frustrating, and was actually kind of a relief to move, as that got us released from our callings. Many times I’ve looked back on that calling and wondered what went wrong. It seems clear to me now that what was wrong was me. They way I was looking at them was wrong. I came to learn that love actually comes in two parts. You do things with love, and you do things because of love. They might be similar, but they are not the same. Let me explain…

When I say that things need to be done with love, I am referring to our outward expressions. This is probably fairly easy for most people. As you speak to people, you are polite. You try to teach people in a way that they will listen. I had a missionary companion who was very good at this. He asked all the right questions (according to the missionary guide, anyway), and tried to commit investigators to certain things at certain times. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem sincere. He seemed almost phony. He was doing things because a book told him what he was supposed to do. In a way, that’s what I was doing with the youth. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I love the Lord, and I love the Church, and I sustain my leaders, therefore I loved the youth. The same goes for my missionary companion. He loved the Lord and his mission, therefore he loved the investigators. Well, love just doesn’t happen. Just because you are trying to do what’s right, doesn’t mean that love is present. In hindsight, the love was only on the surface. I wasn’t really doing things because of the love in my heart. That is where we find true charity. When we are serving in our callings, we shouldn’t just serve in a loving way. Showing a smile and doing what we are supposed to do probably isn’t enough. We really need to have love for others. That is when others feel it. Have you ever been with someone who just radiates love? It’s not just in what they say or how they look; you can really feel that is who they are. I look back with regret on that calling. Thankfully, we didn’t do any damage. In the end, most of the YM went on missions, and there have been temple marriages. I am, however, very grateful for the lesson I learned. This is by means to say that I am a wonderful example of love. I still have much work to do. We’ve all heard the words of Paul in his letter to the believers in Corinth, but it is worth repeating:

though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.[11]

These are only a few of the things that can damage our ship. Just as a ship can have hundreds, or thousands of pieces, we too have many things that can distract us from our purpose and lead us off God’s path. We need to be diligent in caring for these things. Through regular inspection, we can find the defects and replace broken pieces. In the end, I do think we are the same, but new. We are born again as true believers. We are finally becoming the people that God wants us to be. We can be clean and pure and worthy to return to live with Heavenly Father in the Celestial Kingdom.

Once we are on this path, and are safely following it, there is still lots of work to do. You see, it’s not just our own ship that needs work. Everyone around us has the same sorts of problems. As we are busy replacing boards of our own, we have to remember that others are in need as well. The Saviour said to Peter:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.[12]

There are those around us who do not have the strength to pull out that stubborn board on their own. When we see them struggling, we need to be there to help. Just as Paul said that feeding the poor without charity is worthless, so it is with us. If we are so busy fixing our own ships that those around us are sinking, it profiteth us nothing. This is why we have wards and stakes in the Church. This sense of community is very important. We are all brothers and sisters, and can’t do this alone.

I testify that as we become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and truly live his teachings, we will become new people. Paul said that old things are passed away and all things are become new[13]. As we walk in this newness of life[14], only then are we able to return to live with Heavenly Father. I know this to be true, and testify of it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] The main information on Theseus and the Ship of Theseus Paradox was from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theseus – Retrieved 20090912.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus – Retrieved 20090912.
Other helpful information was found on
http://www.productiveflourishing.com/the-ship-of-theseus-and-personal-identity/ – Retrieved 20090912.
http://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/theseus.html – Retrieved 20090912.

[2] Plutarch. “Theseus”. The Internet Classics Archive. http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/theseus.html – Retrieved 20090912.

[3] http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/57803/If-Its-On-the-Prophets-Mind-It-Matters.html – Retrieved 20090912

[4] From a current question in the temple recommend interview (as of September 2009)

[5] D&C 1: 38

[6] D&C 82: 10

[7] Matthew 7: 1-2

[8] JST Matthew 7: 1-2

[9] Abraham 3: 24

[10] Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 104-8

[11] 1 Corinthians 13: 2-8, 13

[12] Luke 22: 32

[13] 2 Corinthians 5: 17

[14] Romans 6:4

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

179th_annual_general_conference

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:

Peer pressure… are we for it or against it?

When I was younger, my Dad used to ask that question all the time… are we for it or against it? It was almost always a joke. I’d talk to him about something, and he’d respond with that. I’d ask about staying out late, and he’d ask if we were for it or against it. I’d ask about going to a church activity, and he’d ask if we were for it or against it. You get the picture.

Anyway, I’ve recently been thinking about peer pressure. Are we for it or against it? As a bishop, I spend a lot of time with the youth. I have yearly interviews with some, semi-annual interviews with others; I meet with the Priests each week; I teach in YW a few times a year; I’m at Church for all of the mutual activity nights. We so often encourage the youth to resist peer pressure. That obviously assumes that peer pressure is bad. But when you think about it, there is a lot of pressure in the Church to do certain things. As a youth, that pressure gets ratcheted up even more. There is pressure to go to Church, to go to mutual activities, to go to seminary, to go to dances, etc. There is pressure to get your Duty to God or Personal Progress requirements/objectives done. Often the pressure is put on by their peers. Add that to the pressure from leaders, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Most members would agree that peer pressure that encourages you to drink is bad. Is peer pressure that encourages you to not drink good? I think the answer is, “It depends.” In my experience, pressure more often than not is a bad thing. People know what they are supposed to do. If they are drinking, they know they shouldn’t. If they are not paying tithing, they know they should. It’s a challenge counseling these people, occasionally calling them to repentance, but still being sensitive to their struggles and being there to help. The right amount of inspired pressure/pushing/prodding at the right time can do wonders. The wrong amount at the wrong time can do a lot of damage.

My general philosophy is to get people out to Church and have them enjoy fellowshipping with the Saints. To a degree, I don’t care what you are doing, what you have done, or what you are hiding. Come to Church! I have total confidence that they will feel the Spirit of our meetings. If they keep coming, they will have the desire to make necessary changes. This kind of reminds me of what Elder M. Russell Ballard said in the October 2006 General Conference:

I hope it goes without saying that guilt is not a proper motivational technique for leaders and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always motivate through love and sincere appreciation, not by creating guilt. I like the thought “Catch others doing something right.”

Pressure may have it’s place, but don’t let it get in the way of the Spirit.