Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Plan of Salvation

Some days we may feel overwhelmed by the burdens which lay at our feet. We may be wondering "Why me?" or "How will I ever get through this?" At times such as these, I am so thankful for the knowledge I have of Heavenly Father's plan for His children.

In Preach My Gospel, we are taught that "The Plan of Salvation teaches us where we came from, why we are here on earth, and where we will go after this life. It maps our eternal journey through premortality, mortal life, death, resurrection, and to our life in the eternities. The plan also explains what our loving Father in Heaven does to help us make this journey successfully so that we can return to His presence and become like Him. The plan focuses on the mission and Atonement of Jesus Christ in overcoming the effects of the Fall and making eternal life possible for us."

Sisters, in preparation for Sunday's Relief Society lesson, I hope you will read "Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation" from the book Preach My Gospel. I look forward to discussing this amazing principle of the Gospel with you.

Natalie Marstella

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Loving Others and Living with Differences" -- Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"The teaching to love one another had been a central teaching of the Savior’s ministry . . . But the commandment to love others as He had loved His flock was to His disciples—and is to us—a challenge that was unique . . . Why is it so difficult to have Christlike love for one another? It is difficult because we must live among those who do not share our beliefs and values and covenant obligations . . . We are to live in the world but not be of the world. We must live in the world because, as Jesus taught in a parable, His kingdom is “like leaven,” whose function is to raise the whole mass by its influence (see Luke 13:21; Matthew 13:33; see also 1 Corinthians 5:6–8). His followers cannot do that if they associate only with those who share their beliefs and practices." (Dallin H. Oaks, October 2014)

This Sunday we will be studying "Loving Others and Living with Differences" by Dallin H. Oaks. I invite each of you to read through the talk, pray for guidance to understand the principles you can apply more fully in your life, and come to Relief Society prepared to discuss what you learned.

I appreciate everyone's dedicated preparation and contribution to our lessons. I leave each Sunday feeling humbled and edified as the Holy Ghost teaches me through your comments and testimonies.

Claira Wilson

Thursday, February 12, 2015

President Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 3 "Freedom of Choice, an Eternal Principle" & Chapter 4 "Living Joyfully in Troubled Times"


This Sunday we have the privilege of studying two lessons from President Benson! We will be discussing Chapter 3 "Freedom of Choice, an Eternal Principle" and Chapter 4 "Living Joyfully in Troubled Times". I love these principles and I particularly love how well the dovetail together. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from these lessons.

"We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices. Clearly, there would be little trial of faith if we received our full reward immediately for every goodly deed, or immediate retribution for every sin. But that there will be an eventual reckoning for each, there is no question."

"Therefore, a man would do well to examine himself to see that he is in harmony with all of God's laws. Every law kept brings a particular blessing. Every law broken brings a particular blight."

"The real issues of today are, therefore, not economic or political. They are spiritual -- meaning that man must learn to conform to the laws which God has given to mankind."

"Happiness must be earned from day to day. But it is worth the effort."

"Do we realize that happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God's will for us -- and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small? To live perfectly is to live happily. To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection. Every action performed in accord with God's will is part of that growth."

"We will never be alone if we live as we should, because our Father will always be with us to bless us. He wants us to be successful. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to achieve the good goals we set. He will do His part if we do our part."

Please read and ponder these lessons and come prepared to discuss the parts that touched your hearts! See you Sunday!

Stephanie Johnson

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Hastening the Lord's Work within Our Own Souls"

Contributed By Robert L. Millet, Church News contributor

While “real growth” or deep conversion is surely the product of consistent and sustained gospel living, what does it look like? How might we know if we are, through the years, experiencing real growth? What might we begin noticing in our own discipleship?

In recent years we have been reminded by our leaders that a significant prophecy is being fulfilled in our day. The Lord said: “Behold, I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73). To hasten is to urge on, to accelerate, to move or act quickly.

Specifically, the Brethren have called upon the Latter-day Saints to hasten the work of (1) reaching out to those who may not now enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel; (2) extending the blessings of that gospel to those who have died without the opportunity to receive its requisite covenants and ordinances; and (3) searching out and caring for the poor and needy among us.

These selfless acts—missionary work, temple work, and compassionate service—are part of what we are called upon to do as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle James, brother of our Lord, explained that this is what true Christians do; this is what he called “pure religion.” But there was one more thing involved in pure religion—namely, keeping ourselves unspotted from the vices of the world (Joseph Smith Translation, James 1:27). This facet of the Christian faith has to do with personal spiritual development.

In addition to hearing much about hastening the work, we have been told how important it is to encourage and foster “real growth,” that is, deep conversion, complete consecration to God and His Church and kingdom. While such growth is surely the product of consistent and sustained gospel living, what does it look like? How might we know if we are, through the years, experiencing real growth? What might we begin noticing in our own discipleship? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

1. There begins to develop within our hearts a desire to do more to further the work of the Lord and to be better people than we are. This seems to be what Abraham felt when he wrote of how he had previously been a follower of righteousness but had felt the need “to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge” (Abraham 1:2). That is, Abraham wanted to do more and be more.

2. We gradually begin to view commandments, laws, and Church directives differently, to no longer see them as guard rails, barricades, or hindrances to life’s enjoyments, but instead as helps, guides, and kind gestures of a benevolent Father in Heaven. To those Saints who had begun to gather to the land of Missouri, those who had come out of the world and chosen the gospel path, the Savior promised that they would be “crowned with blessings from above, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time” (D&C 59:4). We certainly cannot enjoy the blessings of living a law we do not keep or one of which we are ignorant. John the Beloved explained that “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous [burdensome, oppressive]” (1 John 5:3).

3. The more we search the scriptures, we begin to see patterns, connections, parallels, and principles for living. Holy writ becomes more and more relevant to everyday life. In a sense, the words of the prophets become our words. Many of us can still remember the final sermon and testimony of Elder Bruce R. McConkie. As he began to unfold the truths associated with Christ’s atoning sacrifice, Elder McConkie said:

“In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other apostles and prophets. “True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word” (“The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” April 1985 general conference).

4. Our personal gospel study becomes more and more enlightening and faith affirming, so that regularly during the week we are fed and spiritually strengthened. Because of this, our attendance at Church—in which we partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, receive instruction and inspiration from those who teach us, and enjoy sweet association with members of the household of faith—need not be our only opportunity for building gospel scholarship and being edified. Sabbath worship thus becomes the capstone for a spiritually productive week.

5. We begin to be more secure and settled in our faith, less troubled by unanswered questions; in short, we begin to have doubt banished from our hearts and minds. Cyprian, one of the great defenders of the faith following the apostolic period, described his own experience: “Into my heart, purified of all sin, there entered a light which came from on high, and then suddenly, and in a marvelous manner, I saw certainty succeed doubt” (quoted by Harold B. Lee, in Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 57).

6. We begin to feel a deeper sense of love for and loyalty toward the apostles and prophets, those charged to guide the destiny of the kingdom of God. As the Lord explained in modern revelation (D&C 1:38; 21:5), their words truly become His words. Their counsel becomes His counsel. President Harold B. Lee was fond of teaching, “That man [or woman] is not fully converted until [they see] the power of God resting upon the leaders of this Church and that witness goes down into [their hearts] like fire” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee[1996], 520). We begin to see and feel about world conditions and the state of society as the Brethren do.

7. With the passing of time and as we mature spiritually, our faith is transformed into certainty. Indeed, our receipt of personal revelation and our regular encounter with the Spirit of God leads us to that point where our faith begins to be “unshaken in the Lord” (Enos 1:11; see also Jacob 7:5). Further, that conviction manifests itself in commitment. Because true faith entails a decision (see Neil L. Andersen,“It's True, Isn't It? Then What Else Matters?” April 2007 general conference), it becomes with us, as it was with the early Latter-day Saints: It is the kingdom of God or nothing!

On more than one occasion I heard President Gordon B. Hinckley comment on the need for the Latter-day Saints to get the gospel from their heads to the hearts. Yes, we as followers of Jesus Christ need to have a reason for the hope within us (see 1 Peter 3:15)—an understanding of the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel that is as stimulating and satisfying to the mind as it is soothing and settling to the heart. In addition, we need a witness and an assurance that produce and result in real growth, in deep conversion, in complete consecration. In this way and through this sacred process, the work of the Almighty is hastened—within our own souls.

Robert L. Millet is professor emeritus of ancient scripture and former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.