Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 December 2018

Seeking Christ and the True Meaning of Christmas

I gave this talk today in two wards. This is the text I used for the English-speaking ward. The talk for the Spanish-speaking ward was similar.

I felt blessed to speak on the true meaning of Christmas.

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My dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you today, to worship with you and to feel of the Spirit.

I am blessed to be here by assignment this morning. And I am grateful for my speaking companion.

I pray that Spirit will be with us, and that we may all be enlightened by the things we will hear and feel.

I love Christmas season. I have always loved Christmas season. The festive decorations, the gifts, and the friendly greetings make it a happy time. Most of us spend time with family, and this usually strengthens family ties as we enjoy traditions that have been passed down through generations.

Of course, the holiday music is my favorite part of the season. There are so many good songs, whether they are Christmas hymns, Christmas carols, or just seasonal songs. They all tend to make me feel happy.

We sing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year;” we dream of a white Christmas; sing of a blue Christmas and even a green Christmas. We sing about Santa, and dancing snowmen (until the alligators knock him down–seriously), and flying reindeer; about silver bells and how cold it is outside. We sing about gifts we want: my two front teeth, a hippopotamus, and a little baby doll that will cry, sleep, drink and wet.

Even Christmas movies seem to be all about love, family, and peace on earth: very desirable things.

But I think that all the fun tends to distract us from what we are really celebrating at this sacred season. Today is Beethoven’s birthday, but that’s not the reason we are celebrating.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child, the baby Jesus, who came to earth to fulfill Heavenly Father’s plan for our salvation. No gift compares to that.

I am grateful to belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I was baptized, I covenanted to take the name of Jesus Christ upon me. As I took the sacrament with you this morning, I witnessed to Heavenly Father, along with each of you, that I am willing to take upon me the name of His Son and always remember him.

As I do this, I am identifying myself as one who seeks Christ.

We enjoy singing about those who are the best-known seekers of Christ: the Magi, or wise men. There is a great deal of Christmas mythology surrounding these men, but the fact is that we know very little of them.

Matthew tells us that they came to Herod some time after the birth of Christ, having followed a star that guided them.

We read that they asked: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”[1]

This is just my own thinking, but certainly that star was visible to everyone. Did only this group of wise foreigners notice it and realize its significance? Will we pay attention to the stars in our lives and be led by them?

After Herod’s scholars searched the scriptures, they sent the wise men to Bethlehem in Judea. Herod requested that they return and inform him of the king’s whereabouts, so that he could also worship him.

Of course, that wasn’t why Herod was seeking Jesus. He was very insecure and was concerned about this other King of the Jews taking his place.

And so we discover that the wise men found Jesus and worshiped him, and gave him gifts that were appropriate to one of royal birth: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are not your typical baby shower gifts; they weren’t practical at all, but they were rich in symbolism.

We know that the wise men were warned not to return to report to Herod, so they took a different route home. Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee the country to escape Herod, and they became a refugee family for a time.

We should remember that even though Israel was in a state of apostasy at this time, there were many faithful Israelites, Jews, who knew the scriptures and were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.

I believe that the shepherds, to whom the angel chorus appeared, were not ignorant, illiterate laborers. I think they were faithful, watchful Jews, who were aware of the prophecies and promises associated with Christ’s coming.

Having said that, let’s turn to Luke. He tells us that the shepherds said after the angelic chorus departed:

“Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

“And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”[2]

Their words show an understanding of what was happening. Notice that they “came with haste.” This suggests that they were very much aware of what the angels’ message meant, and hurried to see for themselves. And they did not keep the experience to themselves. They made it known abroad.

All they that heard it wondered; probably because they did not hear it from those who were considered the wise and formally trained, but from common folk. This seemed to be outside the norm for them. But we know that the Lord doesn’t work within man’s norms.

Simeon and Anna[3] were two devout Jews who sought Jesus. They both served in the temple. Both had been promised that they would see the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph took their infant to the temple to present him to the Lord, as the law required, they recognized Jesus for who he was, the Promised Messiah for whom the Jews waited.

The scriptures tell us of many others who sought the Christ, and not just to draw near to him, but to be like him. They understood the importance of becoming his disciples.

In our day, we have been commanded to seek Christ. Of course, our covenant to take his name upon us commits us to seek him.

But in the Doctrine and Covenants, we are told:

“ye shall call upon me while I am near—

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”.[4]

Please note that the Savior promises us that we shall find him. (And note that the imperative shall adds extra weight to the promise.)

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Amaleki summarizes the core message of the Book of Mormon when he counsels:

“And now, … I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved”.[5]

Moroni closes the Book of Mormon with similar counsel:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot”.[6]

That is the message of the Book of Mormon, and the invitation our missionaries offer to the world: “Come unto Christ.”

At Christmas time, it is appropriate to ask: Is my Christmas celebrating helping me to come unto Christ? Do my Christmas activities demonstrate to others that I am seeking Christ?

Please understand that I am not suggesting that we abandon our beloved holiday traditions; but I am suggesting that we remember those things that give deeper meaning to our Christmas celebrations.

I believe that what people desire most at Christmastime, whether they are Christians or not, is peace and happiness. These can be very elusive in this society.

Can we give this gift to others?

Yes! Yes, and it only costs our time and commitment!

But we must first possess it ourselves. So where can we get it?

I believe, in fact I know, that the prophetic directives we received in October Conference will lead us in this direction.

As we begin our home-centered, Church-supported gospel learning journey next month, we will take personal responsibility for our own spiritual growth and development. We will put our feet on the path to discipleship, and witness through our actions that we desire to take the Savior’s name upon us and follow him.

This will be a challenging path, but the promises are many. President Nelson promised us that as we do this, it “has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel [and any of you who have done remodels, is it a quick, simple process?] your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining”.[7]

I don’t know exactly what “unleashing the power of families” means, but it sounds powerful, and it sounds miraculous. I hope to discover at least a portion of what that means in the coming months and years.

I do know that as we grow, we will have a positive influence on those around us. Some will desire to have the peace and joy that we will radiate. We will become more effective ministers to our friends in and out of the Church.

So how do we start?

A good starting point is to take a look back at the past year, which is something many of us do anyway as we face the New Year.

As we reflect on the old year, we would do well to ask “Have I shown the Savior through my actions that I love him?” A follow-up question could be “How can I show my love for the Savior effectively in the coming year?

Another reflective question could be “What motivates me to follow the Savior?” Yet another question might be “How can I invite the Savior into my life this year?

Here are many things we can consider. There is great value in reflecting as a part of the learning process. And as disciples of Christ, aren’t we always learning?

I would like to echo the words of our Prophet in suggesting four steps we can take to come unto Christ.

First, commit fully to the spirit and intent of the home-centered Church-supported curriculum. Study the New Testament with your spouse, your family, or with others. Really seek to know the Savior and to grow closer to him. Study with intent, and gospel truths will be revealed to you.

Second, prayerfully seek ways to be a more effective ministering brother or sister. As we seek to serve as the Savior did, we will become more like him. The Lord expects us to seek revelation as we strive to minister.

Third, spend time in the temple. Visiting the House of the Lord will enable us to receive revelation and power from him as we serve there. President Nelson said that our need to be in the temple has never been greater.

Fourth, use the correct name of the Church. Now more than ever, we need to stand up and be counted as followers of Christ.

President Nelson said “I promise that if we will do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s church, He whose church this is will pour down His power and His blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen”.[8]

Of course, there are also many other ways we can come unto Christ.

But now, let us enjoy the Christmas season. Let us relish the peace and happiness that come as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Let us also remember that he entered into mortality just as we did. Abinadi testified that he “should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth.”[9]

May we stand all amazed as we consider the life and mission of our Savior Jesus Christ, and recommit to follow him, and may we let our lights shine before men that they may glorify not us, but our Heavenly Father, who sent his Son that we might live and enjoy the blessings of his eternal plan.

I testify that Christ lives, and that he is our loving Redeemer and Savior. He ransomed us from our sins to empower us to return to Heavenly Father’s presence, if we will be true to our covenants. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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[1] KJV, Matthew 2:2-3, ff.

[2] KJV, Luke 2:15-18.

[3] KJV, Luke 2:25-38.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 88:62-63.

[5] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Omni 1:26.

[6] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Moroni 10:32-33.

[7] Nelson, RM; Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints; October 2018 General Conference. Parenthetical note mine.

[8] Nelson, RM; Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives: April 2018 General Conference.

[9] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; Mosiah 7:27.

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Posted by: 2thdocbob | 29 November 2018

Santa’s 11 Secrets to Ease Your Holiday Stress

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Twas the week past Black Friday when all through the store, not a person was smiling from ceiling to floor. The bargains were hung on the fixtures with care, in hopes that frayed shoppers soon would buy there. Sound familiar?  And there are still…

Source: Santa’s 11 Secrets to Ease Your Holiday Stress

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 18 November 2018

Faith, Devotion and Gratitude

I spoke in Hallmark Ward and in Northpark (Young Single Adult) Ward today. I gave two different versions in the two wards. This is the version I used in Hallmark Ward. I share it with gratitude for the opportunity to visit my brothers and sisters in these wards.

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My dear brothers and sisters, I am thankful to be here today; thankful to worship with you and to feel of your spirit.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his Counselors. They are mindful of you and your concerns, and they pray for you.

As you know, I am here by assignment from President Garvin today, and I pray that the Spirit will be with each of us as I speak, to touch our hearts and lift our spirits. And I hope that what I say and what the Spirit says to each of you will be of benefit to all of us.

I love Thanksgiving. It is a wonderful time of year. The weather usually cools down. We get a few days off from school. I love the food, the football games, and of course, the opportunity to be with family. It all comes together for a great holiday. And the constant reminders to be thankful are a great lead-in to Christmas season.

Mr. Dooley, who was a print humorist in the 1890’s, made this comment about Thanksgiving: “‘twas founded by the Puritans to give thanks for being preserved from the Indians, and we keep it today to give thanks that we are preserved from the Puritans.”

Elder Talmage told us: “Gratitude is an ennobling quality in man; and he in whose soul it has no place is [defective] … Gratitude is a twin sister to humility; pride is a foe to both. The [individual] who has come into close communion with God cannot fail to be thankful.”

In my readings of the Book of Mormon, it strikes me frequently that the first thing that Lehi and his righteous descendants did after completing a journey was to build an altar and offer thanks unto the Lord.

Under the Law of Moses, the thank offering is equated with the peace offering, which was based on the supposition that the individual offering the sacrifice was at peace with God. So thankfulness and peace with God tie in very closely with each other, and build upon each other.

Gratitude will increase our devotion to God, which strengthens our faith and leads to increased gratitude, in a wonderful cycle.

Moroni was also a great example of this. He was described as “a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people”.[1]

A story is told:

“Two little children were put early to bed on a winter’s night, for the fire had gone out, and the cold was pouring in at the many cracks of their frail shanty.

“The mother strove to eke out the scantiness of the bed-covering by placing clean boards over the children. A pair of bright eyes shone out from under a board, and just before it was hushed in slumber, a sweet voice said, “Mother, how nice this is! How I pity the poor people who don’t have any boards to cover their children with this cold night.”[2]

We would do well to ask ourselves, am I like these children? Or is my attitude more like: “Mom! Charlotte’s board is bigger than mine!” Or “Hey! I’m going to get slivers!” This little girl was able to look at everything from the perspective of what she had—not what she didn’t have. And she was concerned about those who didn’t have as much as she did rather than upset and crabby because some had so much more than she did. The mother gave what she could in love to her children.

Why is it hard for us be grateful in such a situation? Do you have a hard time being grateful for simple gifts from the heart? Most of us have been guilty at one time or another focusing on what we don’t have, instead of being grateful for what we do have.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out”.[3]

Godliness with contentment. What does that mean? We might think of it as tranquil happiness: the peace and joy that come from being content instead of envious. Gratitude to the Lord is an important step on the path to true discipleship.

The Lord spoke to us in Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants: “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments”.[4]

Does that seem harsh to you? Let’s contrast that with additional instruction from the Doctrine and Covenants:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you;

“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.

And then the next verse, which I want to emphasize:

“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more”.[5]

Did you catch the Lord’s promises to you? The kingdom and the attendant blessings, and the riches of eternity are promised to us. If we are thankful, we will be made glorious! We truly do not, and perhaps cannot understand what great blessings Heavenly Father has prepared for us.

It is important for us to understand the doctrine of gratitude. I believe that there are three main concepts in this doctrine.

The Doctrine of Gratitude

  1. Everything is the Lord’s

The Psalmist wrote: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof…”[6]

Do we sometimes have an unrighteous sense of ownership of things that aren’t really ours? If you have received your endowments, you will understand where that comes from.

We should give thanks to the giver of our gifts. Think of the last time you gave a gift that wasn’t appreciated. How did it make you feel?

If we use the gifts he has given us without a thankful heart, or fail to recognize the gift or the giver, the Father’s wrath will be kindled, as he said to Joseph Smith.

King Benjamin reminded us:

“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another …

 “And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?

“And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you”.[7]

Please note that Benjamin is absolutely not telling us that we are nothing, so we shouldn’t bother trying. He is simply providing perspective on where our gifts come from, which should make us humbly grateful.

  1. We should thank the Lord in all things.

There are many scientific studies that demonstrate that gratitude promotes happiness and well-being.

President Monson spoke frequently of gratitude. He taught us that “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love”.[8]

So how do we show our gratitude to Heavenly Father?

“There are chances for work all around just now, opportunities right in our way; do not let them pass by, saying sometime I’ll try, but go and do something today”.[9] We also sing “because I have been given much, I too must give”.[10]

Giving is a wonderful way to develop gratitude. And the amazing thing about giving is that it doesn’t have to cost us anything. A gift freely given each week in this chapel is the gift of a handshake and a smile. It costs nothing, but who can count the value of a smile to the recipient?

Our thankfulness is shown, not only through our words, but also through our actions, for “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only the service of your God”.[11]

  1. We Should Count Our Blessings

Have you noticed that we live in a world where most people are prone to count their trials? As followers of Jesus Christ, we should count our blessings. Especially in times of adversity.

Paul advised the Thessalonians: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you”.[12]

And Ammon said: “and now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?”[13]

So, can you tell what great blessings have been bestowed upon you?

If you have a hard time answering that one, I would suggest that you change your focus. Look outward instead of looking inward. Or perhaps you are aware of so many blessings that you don’t know where to begin!

Remember the words of the hymn:

“Count your many blessings; name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Count your many blessings; angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end”.[14]

How do we do that?

  1. Look for your blessings.

Be aware. Look around. Look for the beauty in our world.

We can even feel thankful for ordinary things, for the small blessings we encounter each day. As I was preparing this talk yesterday, I had my window open and could hear the sparrows and finches singing in our yard, the scrub jays squawking, and the hummingbirds chattering at each other. I love these birds that visit our feeders.

I am so thankful for a Heavenly Father who created these amazing creatures.

Take time to reflect. The concept of a gratitude journal may seem trite to some of you, but it is a great reminder of the blessings each of us enjoys. And as a teacher, I know that writing by hand enhances our memory far more than typing.

President Eyring spoke of his ongoing experience of keeping a gratitude journal. Each evening before he wrote, he would ponder the question

“Before I would write, I would ponder this question. Have I seen the Hand of God reaching out to touch us?

“As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done”.[15]

Give thanks for those blessings you encounter along the way.

  1. Express gratitude.

This is an important one. Expressions of gratitude are like ripples in water: they spread outward and touch things that are far away, and they often bounce back to touch us from multiple directions.

Gratitude grows as it is expressed. By expressing our gratitude to others for their help and kindness, we give them the joy of being appreciated and we increase our own ability to recognize our blessings.

Both verbal and written expressions are important. Your grandmother might expect a written thank you note for gifts; other thank yous could be verbal. In fact, many thank yous can be in person and spontaneous. Regardless of the medium used to convey it, it should come from the heart.

  1. Thoughtful prayer

Prayer will awaken a grateful heart. Our personal prayers provide us with sacred time to ponder our blessings and express gratitude to Heavenly Father.

I would suggest that we occasionally just fast and pray with gratitude, instead of fasting and praying for a particular blessing or outcome. How many of you have done that? I have experienced rich blessings from these fasts.

As we pray in gratitude for the gifts Heavenly Father has given us, let us be mindful of his greatest gift to us: the gift of His Beloved Son, who atoned for our sins through the shedding of his precious blood. The sacrament should be a time of deep gratitude for this incomparable blessing.

Because I am a teacher, I would like to give you some homework. Perhaps the Bishopric can follow up on this. Think again of Ammon’s question: “what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?” Your homework is to consider this question. As you ponder it, think of five blessings, large or small, that you have enjoyed during the past week. Write them down, along with the giver of the blessing. Give sincere thanks to the person or persons who provided each blessing. Express your gratitude to Heavenly Father for all those blessings.

Primary children, you can do this, too. Ask your dad or mom for help if you need it.

You don’t have to limit your list. If you have a grateful heart, you will see that even a greeting of friendship as you entered the chapel this afternoon, a smile or a hug, is a great blessing.

I promise you that if you do this, with a thankful heart, that you will feel a warmth and happiness that you will want to keep with you. The Father will bless you with an increased measure of his love.

I bear you my witness that God lives, He is our loving Heavenly Father, and we should be eternally grateful for the multitude of gifts he has given us.

Jesus Christ is our Savior. He has atoned for our sins. Have we accepted this amazing gift?

This is the true Church of Jesus Christ, restored in the latter days to bless the lives of all God’s children. We are led by a living prophet, Russell M. Nelson, who speaks with God and receives revelation to guide us as we strive to become worthy to receive the great blessings Heavenly Father has offered us.

I pray that we will begin and end each day with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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[1] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 48:12.

[2] Edmunds, Mary Ellen; Godliness with Contentment; BYU Speeches, Nov. 1995.

[3] KJV, 1 Timothy 6:6.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 59:21.

[5] Doctrine and Covenants 78:19.

[6] KJV, Psalm 24:1.

[7] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 2:20, 23-25.

[8] Monson, Thomas S.; The Divine Gift of Gratitude; October 2010 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude?lang=eng

[9] Thompson, WL; Have I Done Any Good?; Hymns, #223.

[10] Crowell, GN; Because I Have Been Given Much; Hymns, #219.

[11] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ, Mosiah 2:17.

[12] KJV, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

[13] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 26:2.

[14] Oatman, ED; Count Your Blessings; Hymns, #241.

[15] Eyring, Henry B.: O Remember, Remember; October 2007 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/o-remember-remember?lang=eng

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 19 August 2018

Strengthening Marriage, Home and Family

This talk was given on August 19, 2018 in the Highlands Ward in San Bernardino, California. As a member of the Stake High Council, it was my privilege to prepare and deliver this message.

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Good morning, brothers and sisters, it is a privilege to be with today, to worship with you and to feel of your spirit. I am grateful for the long friendships that I have enjoyed with many of you.

I pray that Spirit will be with us this morning, that we all may be strengthened by this important message.

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We have heard much about the importance of families over the last few years. I hope you are not tired of hearing it. The only thing more important in our Heavenly Father’s plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

We continue to study the Book of Mormon individually and as families. I love the Book of Mormon. I love to study it and to feel the spirit that comes from this great book of scripture. I testify to you that it is the word of God, given to us for our day.

The Book of Mormon begins with a family. Lehi’s family was probably an ordinary family in Jerusalem, perhaps wealthier than most. It becomes clear that even though dad was a prophet, they were not a perfect family. They had some serious struggles. Indeed, we may well call them a dysfunctional family.

In the Book of First Nephi, we learn that Lehi taught his family the gospel. Imagine what those family home evenings were like! He taught his children to work. They participated in wholesome recreational activities together: they went hiking, camping, and hunting. They even went on a cruise together, although they had to build the boat first.

Lehi remained true to gospel teachings, in spite of death threats from outside and inside the family. He did murmur against the Lord during the broken bow incidents but responded positively to Nephi’s chastisements, and repented.

We learn a great lesson in 1 Nephi Chapter 5, when Sariah criticized Lehi, and he responded “yes, dear, I know I’m a visionary man.” Brethren, that is a man to follow.

Despite all the struggles, Lehi kept his family together. We read that he exhorted them “with all the feeling of a tender parent.”[1] That phrase touches me deeply. His concern for both his wayward children and his obedient children lasted until his dying breath.

Why is this important to us?

First, it reminds us that the Book of Mormon was written for our day, with many lessons that we can learn and apply.

Second, through the Book of Mormon narratives, we can learn the doctrine of the family.

President Kimball spoke of the family in the opening address of October 1980 General Conference. He told us

“We have always understood that the foundations of the family, as an eternal unit, were laid even before this earth was created!

“Therefore, whenever anything so basic as the eternal family is imperiled, we have a solemn obligation to speak out, lest there be critical damage to the family institution by those who seem to be deliberately destructive of it.”[2]

Remember, this was in 1980!

He continued,

“The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us.”

“There are those who would define the family in such a nontraditional way that they would define it out of existence.

“We of all people, brothers and sisters, should not be taken in by the specious arguments that the family unit is somehow tied to a particular phase of development a mortal society is going through. We are free to resist those moves which downplay the significance of the family … We know the family to be eternal. …

 “The decline in many of our families is occurring at a time when the nations of the world are moving into some of the most difficult times known.

“Our political institutions … cannot rescue us if our basic institution, the family, is not intact. Peace treaties cannot save us when there is hostility instead of love in the home. … Law enforcement cannot safeguard us if too many people are unwilling to discipline themselves or be disciplined.”[3]

Brothers and sisters, these are the words of a prophet of God, nearly 38 years ago.

How many of you have flown somewhere and heard the pilot warn of approaching turbulence and ask you to fasten your seatbelts? When you hear this announcement, you pay attention. The prophets have been asking us to fasten our spiritual seatbelts for as long as there have been prophets. And there is certainly turbulence today. These warnings have increased in frequency and in fervency in the last few years.

How can we effectively defend and protect our families and our homes?

First, we must understand what the doctrine of the family is, and what it is based on. We need to recognize the threats to the family, to marriage, and to the home so we know what we are fighting against and can prepare ourselves. And we need to remember our covenants and be true to them.

The doctrine of the family teaches us that the family is the basic unit for mankind here and in the eternities. We are children of a loving Heavenly Father who is a living example of this eternal law.

The Creation provided a place where families could live. God created a man and a woman who were the two essential halves of a family. And it was a part of his plan that Adam and Eve be sealed and form an eternal family themselves.

The Fall provided a way for the family to grow. Adam and Eve chose to have a mortal experience and to honor their covenant to multiply and replenish the earth. And what a privilege it is to be descended from these amazing people!

The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together for eternity. The plan of happiness, or the plan of salvation is centered in the family.

When we speak of qualifying for eternal life, it means qualifying for the blessings of eternal families. These blessings are available to all who are faithful, even if they have not had the opportunity to enjoy these blessings in this life.

This privilege was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, as described in the Doctrine & Covenants:

“Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

“And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

“If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.”[4]

These verses speak of temple blessings—the ordinances and covenants without which “the whole earth would be utterly wasted.” I find it significant that these verses are the only verses which can be found in each of the four Standard Works. That gives us a sense of the importance of this message.

Through the restoration of priesthood keys, we may receive the promises of eternal life in family units through our temple covenants.

In these temple covenants, we are also promised the blessings of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What are these blessings?

In Abraham, Chapter 1, Abraham tells us that he sought “the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer; … to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, … and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.”[5]

These blessings come only to those who have a temple sealing and marriage. A man cannot become a “father or many nations” without being sealed to his wife. And he could not hold the right belonging to the fathers without a wife who held the right belonging to the mothers.

These covenant blessings are all contingent upon our righteousness.

Finally, we need to understand that forming families and bearing and rearing children is a faith-based work. I’m not sure that this principle is evident to many of our young people. Or perhaps they are uncertain of their own faith.

I know that in our marriage, we acted in faith in our decision to marry, and in our decision to have children. We trusted in the Lord’s promises as we moved forward and have been richly blessed already.

This is the doctrine of the family. But how do we build on that foundation? It is too easy to use the standard answers, to say, “follow the Spirit, keep the commandments, love one another, pray, study the scriptures and hold family home evening.” It is much more difficult to do it. And there is more to it than that.

I would like to share some practical ideas on strengthening home, family and marriage.

As parents, we should live and teach with so much clarity that our teachings cut through the noise and interference that the youth are hearing from the world and so that it will pierce their hearts and touch them. We need to walk the talk and avoid sending mixed messages. Our youth will pick up on that very quickly. As parents, our teaching should be in harmony with the gospel, and definitely in harmony with each other.

Julie B. Beck counseled us to “live in your home so that you’re brilliant in the basics, so that you’re intentional about your roles and responsibilities in the family. Think in terms of precision, not perfection.”[6]

In other words, it doesn’t matter so much if our efforts are less than perfect, as long as we are consistent in having family prayers, family home evening, family scripture study, family singing and other activities that build faith. Through that consistency our children and grandchildren will gain a firm foundation. If we treat these events as unimportant, that message will be heard loud and clear. And we should do our best to make it enjoyable, leading “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;”[7] not by force or intimidation.

And don’t forget to have fun as a family. That must not be overlooked.

Of course, we all have our agency. And some of our children may choose not to follow us. Lehi dealt with that. Even Heavenly Father lost a third of his children. I would hesitate to call him a failure. But if we remain true and faithful to our covenants, we have a promise, which was stated so beautifully by Elder Orson F. Whitney:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God.”[8]

This is beautiful doctrine, and the Spirit has testified to me that this is true.

Elder Robert D. Hales told us that “the key to strengthening our families is having the Spirit of the Lord come into our homes. The goal of our families is to be on the strait and narrow path.”[9]

We have been counseled to make our homes a safe place where each family member feels love and a sense of belonging. Our homes should be sanctuaries from the world.

Satan is raging in the world, but we should not allow him to enter into our homes. There should be no place for him there.

President Nelson encouraged Church members to hang certain reminders of the plan of salvation in their home: “I invite the members of the Church to place on the walls of their homes pictures of their family, pictures of their grandparents, pictures as a couple, pictures of their children, and pictures of the temple. These all symbolize God’s eternal plan. It’s all about the family.”[10]

We also need to invest time in our most important relationships: our spouse, children, and grandchildren. I would suggest that the world’s concept of “quality time” is not in keeping with the gospel—it is an excuse. Scheduling an occasional hour is not adequate for eternal relationships. Sufficient time and effort should be given to strengthening our relationships with family members: to teaching the gospel, helping children and grandchildren set goals and lift their sights, to providing encouragement, and to developing common interests.

In my family, my mom had us takes turns doing Sunday dinner dishes with her. It was many years later that I learned that this was her chance to visit with us one on one on a regular basis. And we also learned to do some basic housework. When her grandchildren were old enough, she was patient enough to let them help with baking, and bonds were created.

I recall my mom taking us with her as she did her visiting teaching assignments during the summer. My dad was my home teaching companion throughout my youth, and when he was a Stake Missionary, I frequently accompanied him on visits. My parents taught me to serve others, and to magnify even the challenging church callings.

Heidi spends time talking with our grandchildren who can converse and sings and plays with the grandchildren who aren’t yet conversational. She recently asked our oldest grandson, who is eight, what his favorite thing was to do. He responded, “be a family.” What a mature and gratifying answer!

It is also important to help our children and grandchildren to value themselves for who they are. If they see themselves as children of God, they will be more accepting of others, both in and out of the church. We should help them to understand and respect honorable manhood and womanhood, as well as the God-given expectations connected to each role.

We should ask ourselves, what is the next ordinance? For ourselves, our children, or our grandchildren. It may be baptism, priesthood ordination, or temple ordinances. For some the next ordinance needed might be the sacrament. As family members, we can help other family members plan and prepare as they progress on the pathway to eternal life, as Elder Hales advised us.

And that, perhaps, is the most important role we have as family members, to strive together to stay on the path that leads to eternal life.

The Ward Motto of the Crestline Ward is; “It’s all about a Christ-centered family.” These are good words to live by whether we adopt it as a personal motto or goal, or simply recognize its truth.

Strengthening family, home and marriage in the public arena goes hand in hand with protecting our religious freedoms. The scriptures and the prophets have taught that it is through personal righteousness that we will preserve our religious freedoms. Through our personal righteousness, we will not only strengthen our own families, but also strengthen the family in society. We need to let our lights shine.

It is not necessary for us to be politically active. Our own righteous acts and other service will serve as the leaven in our society and help to preserve the institutions that we value.

I testify that the family is the foundational unit of Heavenly Father’s kingdom. Heavenly Father created the family in order for us to be happy, both now and in the eternities to come. If we are true to the covenants we have made, we will obtain all the blessings that Heavenly Father has promised to us through obedience to his plan. He loves us and wants us to return to him.

I pray that we will be true and faithful in living these important doctrines.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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[1] The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ; 1 Nephi 8:37.

[2] Kimball, SW; Families Can Be Eternal; October 1980 General Conference, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/10/families-can-be-eternal?lang=eng

[3] Ibid.

[4] Doctrine & Covenants 2:1-3.

[5] Pearl of Great Price; Abraham 1:2.

[6] Beck, JB; Teaching the Doctrine of the Family; Ensign, March 2011; https://www.lds.org/ensign/2011/03/teaching-the-doctrine-of-the-family?lang=eng

[7] Doctrine & Covenants 121:41. See also verses following.

[8] In Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110. See also Faust, JE; Dear Are the Sheep that Have Wandered; April 2003 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2003/04/dear-are-the-sheep-that-have-wandered?lang=eng

[9] Hales, RD; Strengthening Families: Our Sacred Duty; April 1999 General Conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/04/strengthening-families-our-sacred-duty?lang=eng

[10] LDS Living; http://www.ldsliving.com/President-Nelson-Invites-Latter-day-Saints-to-Hang-5-Things-on-the-Walls-of-Their-Homes/s/88680

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 4 July 2018

America, May God Shed His Grace on Thee

The goodness in the hearts of Americans and the actions that goodness drives are worth celebrating.

This has been adapted from an opinion piece in the Salt Lake City Deseret News. I have followed the original structure and included most of the text as originally written, but have added my own thoughts to it. The original article may be referenced here.


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Over the last decade there has been increasing criticism, even among our own leaders, of the values that built the United States of America. Too many Americans focus on their own perceived grievances and entitlements instead of focusing upon their duties as citizens. Civility has all but vanished from public discourse. Even our governing bodies tend to set aside compromise and the best interests of nation in favor of personal interests and personal gain.

At times the future looks cloudy. Is there still hope?

Is there anything left in America worth celebrating?

Deseret News answers with a resounding yes. I agree wholeheartedly.

Charles Krauthammer regularly declared that this nation, warts and all, is special. He most accurately defined why the country is worth celebrating when he wrote, “America is the only country ever founded on an idea. The only country that is not founded on race or even common history. It’s founded on an idea and the idea is liberty. That is probably the rarest phenomena in the political history of the world; this has never happened before. And not only has it happened, but it’s worked. We are the most flourishing, the most powerful, most influential country on Earth with this system, invented by the greatest political geniuses probably in human history.”

The idea of liberty is certainly worth celebrating.

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Whatever our views on immigration right now, we should celebrate the fact that America continues to be a beacon to freedom-loving people around the world.

The goodness in the hearts of the people of America and the actions that goodness drives are worth celebrating.

Americans regularly donate millions of dollars and countless hours to lift the poor, serve the suffering and strengthen those in need, not just in our own country, but throughout the world. Our people are among the most charitable people on the planet and are often the first on the scene of a natural disaster, first to volunteer, first to contribute and first to rally others to lend a hand. Even our military is involved actively in providing relief after significant foreign disasters.

The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Such a declaration is worth celebrating. Every single day.

Equality, life and liberty are worth celebrating.

The pursuit of happiness, even though it is largely misunderstood in principle and practice in our society, is worth celebrating.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Happiness is the aim of life, but virtue is the foundation of happiness.” To Jefferson, the pursuit of happiness went much deeper than momentary emotional feelings or personal pleasure.

Not many years later, the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God.”[1]

Many of us have learned that by creating happiness for others, we create happiness for ourselves.

Americans who find true happiness by creating happiness for others are worth celebrating.

The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness could only occur in a nation which was founded on these freedoms. It has been restored in its fullness with all the gifts, power, and authority that existed in the early church. It could not have happened elsewhere. This is certainly worth celebrating.

As the close of the declaration expresses, those who have pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor are worth celebrating.

The American citizens who have sacrificed much in defense of freedom are worth celebrating. And those who have sacrificed all are worth remembering and celebrating. Many of our own ancestors sacrificed all they had to provide their families, us, with the freedoms we often take for granted.

Handcart pioneers

Those who have sacrificed their lives, those who have lived with the sacrifice of a lost loved one, those who have sacrificed a limb, those who have sacrificed a life of ease, those who have sacrificed time and material comfort — all for the cause of liberty — are worth celebrating.

If Americans continue to defend their freedoms, a future generation will celebrate their efforts as they celebrate their own freedoms.

In spite of international turmoil, in spite of crises of addiction and despair, in spite of widespread anger, discord and division, there is much worth celebrating this July Fourth and every day.

The United States of America, the eternal principles of liberty and the resilient spirit of the American people are still the last best hope on earth.

America and its people are absolutely worth celebrating.

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[1] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255–56.

 

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 20 May 2018

Finding Peace in A Troubled World

I was privileged to speak in the Rancho San Bernardino Ward this morning. I feel a wonderful connection with my Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters there. I am especially grateful to Freddie Peterson for translating for me. He did a great job. As is my habit, I did bear my testimony is Spanish at the end.


Brothers and sisters, I am thankful to be here, to worship with you, and to feel of your spirit this morning.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin. You have felt that love as you have met with him.

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We live a troubled world. There are difficulties all around us. The world is full of confusion and chaos. Satan is trying to shake our faith. He will do everything he can to pull us away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How do we find hope in such a troubled world? How can we remove ourselves from the problems of this world and find peace?

Helaman taught his sons: “Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Hel. 5:12).

That is the key. That is the simple answer to our problem. But how do we build on that rock?

It begins with faith.

First, we must have faith in God.

I am a child of God. We love this song. We sing it, but do we believe it? Are the words written on our hearts? Do we feel something special when we hear it? Do you know that you are a child of God? Do you know that he is your Father, and that he loves you with a perfect love?

This is where peace begins.

Second, do you have faith in Jesus Christ?

In Alma, Chapter 5, Alma asked some significant questions that we should ask ourselves.

“Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality, and this corruption raised in incorruption, to stand before God to be judged according to the deeds which have been done in the mortal body?
“I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?” (Al. 5:15, 16).

In other words, do we have faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ? Do we have faith in the plan of salvation?

If I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior (and I do!) then I can feel peace, knowing that he has atoned for my sins and weaknesses, and all my problems, and that he will help me to bear them.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ will help each of us to bear our burdens in life. He may not make them go away, but if we ask, he will make our burdens lighter, just like he did for the people of Alma: “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15).

Just as with the people of Alma, the Lord will help us to bear our burdens if we ask in faith.

Third, can you recognize the voice of the Holy Ghost? Can you understand his voice?

The language of the Spirit is not our mother tongue – we must learn to understand it – but we can learn it by paying attention to our feelings. It is a great blessing to each one of us that the Holy Ghost can communicate in any language. English, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese, it doesn’t matter. The Holy Ghost can teach us and guide us in our own language.

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1, the Lord testifies to us: “Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24).

But it takes practice to hear the Spirit whisper to us amid all the shouting in the world. And it takes practice to know what the Spirit is telling us.

Most important, the Spirit will whisper peace to our souls during difficult times in our lives. This is why he is called “the Comforter.”

I testify that he does indeed comfort our hearts. I have experienced it many times in my life.

Fourth, do you follow the living prophet?

Do you have a testimony that President Russell M. Nelson is the living prophet of God today? Are you willing to receive his words in faith, and obey them?

When I hear President Nelson speak, I know that he is a prophet. I feel his authority from God, and feel his love for me, and for each of you. And I feel peace and happiness.

We have been promised that if we follow the prophet, we will have safety and peace.

Fifth, do we hold to the rod?

What does that mean?

In Nephi’s vision, he explained “And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.” (1 Nephi 11:25).

What is it that leads us to the tree of life, to the love of God? It is the iron rod, which represents the scriptures: the word of God.

If we study the scriptures every day, if we stay close to the Savior, and if we don’t let go of the rod, we will have peace, even if the people in the great and spacious building, which represents the world, are mocking us. We must have the faith and the strength to ignore them.

Another important part of holding to the rod is observing the Sabbath.

Heavenly Father gave us the Sabbath day to help us to escape from the world. The Sabbath is a day to remember the Lord and his blessings to us.

The Sabbath is a day to renew our covenants with the Lord by partaking of the sacrament. When we say “amen” to the sacrament prayers, we promise to “always remember him and keep his commandments…” and we are promised that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:75-77).

In this crazy world, it isn’t easy to always remember the Savior, as we promise each week, but if we do our best to remember him, we will feel the peace of the Spirit. What a wonderful blessing!

Sacrament meeting and our other meetings give us an opportunity to refocus on what is truly important.

The Sabbath is a good day to minister to our brothers and sisters, to study the gospel, to be with family, to do family history, and to remember the Savior and all he has done for us. Remember that Christ “went about doing good” (Acts 11:38). We should try to do the same.

For many of us, the Sabbath is a chance to rest from our labors. Personally, I try not to think about work on Sunday. I don’t look at my work email, I don’t watch sports, and I try to listen to music that brings me closer to Christ. To me, that means church music and gentle classical music. I want to feel the Spirit of sacrament meeting all day long.

Remember that the Sabbath day doesn’t end when our block of meetings ends. I feel that my life is blessed by honoring the Lord’s day.

To summarize, we can feel peace through:

  1. Faith in God;
  2. Faith in Jesus Christ;
  3. Recognizing the voice of the Holy Ghost;
  4. Following the living prophet;
  5. Holding on to the iron rod;
  6. Keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Hermanos y hermanas, yo testifico que ésta es la iglesia verdadera de Jesúcristo. Yo sé que José Smith era un profeta de dios. Russell M. Nelson es nuestro profeta viviente hoy. Él habla con dios.

Yo sé que El Libro de Mormón es la palabra de dios. Contiene el evangelio de Jesúcristo.

Yo testifico que Díos vive. Él nos ama. Jesucristo es nuestro Salvador y redentor.

Hermanos y hermanas, les amo a ustedes. Doy gracias por la oportunidad de visitar con ustedes.

De eso les testifico, en el nombre sagrado de Jesucristo, amen.

 

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 6 May 2018

Of Walls and Integrity

This is a post about integrity, not a post about politics.


The Great Wall of China has an interesting history, with much tradition. It was supposedly built to keep out the invading hordes to the north. It was thought to be so strong as to be impenetrable, and too long to circumvent. But it was penetrated, not once, but three times, during the Song, Jin, and Ming Dynasties.

great-wall-china

It was not breached or scaled. The enemy is said to have simply bribed those who had responsibility to “keep the gates.”[i] In fact, there is mention of a traitor at the gate, General Wu Sangui, who switched sides when he realized that defeat to the Manchus was inevitable.

When I read this story, it made me think of another great military story, which I have read and reread many times, in The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

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At the end of the Book of Alma, in The Book of Mormon, the reader is confronted with a series of chapters describing a lengthy war between the Nephites and the Lamanites (who are actually led by a group of dissident Nephites). Mormon, the compiler of this ancient record, was led by the Spirit as he chose which of the extensive records to include. The title page of the Book of Mormon informs us that the book was written for us in our day.

Ezra Taft Benson, a modern-day prophet, testified:

“The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us.

“Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations.”[ii]

One of the important lessons for us comes early in the war chapters. The rebellion of Amalickiah, who left the Nephites and led a conspiracy to murder the king of the Lamanites and take his place, is described. He then used his operatives to “inspire the hearts of the Lamanites against the people of Nephi.”[iii]

Meanwhile, we read of the efforts of Captain Moroni, the military leader of the Nephites to prepare his people for the eventual war. “Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.”[iv]

Of course, Moroni made an effort to strengthen both the Nephite armies and their fortifications.[v] But in addition to the physical preparations, he knew that spiritual preparation was the key to their survival. We are also told “And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.”[vi]

The record continues with a description of Moroni and his fellow leaders.

“And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
“Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
“Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.
“Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”[vii]

Moroni’s brothers in arms were described in this fashion:

“Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words.
“And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord, and thus they were free from wars and contentions among themselves, yea, even for the space of four years.”[viii]

It scarcely seems necessary to comment that such leaders are as common today as oysters in the Sahara.

The record also includes a description of the people and their faith:

“Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
“And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;
“And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.”[ix]

This is a good to how a righteous people should view their nation’s defense. I note that they had no hesitation to arm themselves, but their reliance was on God’s strength. This is a lesson that the Nephites’ forefathers, the Israelites, never seemed to grasp throughout their Old Testament wars, that they should trust in their God to deliver them.

The record continues with a description of the Nephites’ attitude toward war, and their justification for it.

“Now, they were sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood; yea, and this was not all—they were sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God.
“Nevertheless, they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by the barbarous cruelty of those who were once their brethren, yea, and had dissented from their church, and had left them and had gone to destroy them by joining the Lamanites.
“Yea, they could not bear that their brethren should rejoice over the blood of the Nephites, so long as there were any who should keep the commandments of God, for the promise of the Lord was, if they should keep his commandments they should prosper in the land.”[x]

These wars were prolonged by dissension from within, as a group dubbed “the Kingmen” sought to usurp power from those who became referred to as “the Kingmen.” The distractions caused by the Kingmen nearly led to the downfall of the Nephites, much like the traitorous actions of the gatekeepers of the Great Wall.

Although the Chinese rulers were focused on the enemy without, they failed to look to the integrity of those within. Moroni focused on both, but because freedom of choice is one of the most basic freedoms, he still had to deal with those who lacked integrity.

This is a great lesson for us, today. The best way to avoid war is to be well-armed and obedient to the commandments of God. However, we should be willing to defend ourselves, our families, our homes, and our right to worship, by whatever means the Lord should command us.

As we seek to preserve our liberties, we must never forget our God, the source of our liberties, and our Savior, Jesus Christ, who freed us from the bondage of sin and death. This focus will preserve our own integrity and help to shape the integrity of our own society as well. We must build our walls, but we must ensure the incorruptibility of that which is within the walls.

captain-moroni-title-liberty-39658-wallpaper.jpg


[i] See Great Wall of China History and Facts, http://www.china-mike.com/china-tourist-attractions/great-wall-china/history-facts/, and The Failure of the Great Wall, https://gbtimes.com/failure-great-wall.

[ii] The Book of Mormon – Keystone of Our Religion, General Conference, October 1986. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/10/the-book-of-mormon-keystone-of-our-religion?lang=eng.

[iii] Book of Mormon, Alma 48:1.

[iv] Ibid., Alma 48:7.

[v] Ibid., Alma 48:8-9.

[vi] Ibid., Alma 48:10.

[vii] Ibid., Alma 48:11-13, 17.

[viii] Ibid., Alma 48:19-20.

[ix] Ibid., Alma 48:14-16.

[x] Ibid., Alma 48:23-25.

I am reposting this because I love the message and how it was delivered. This is particularly important for parents who have gone paleo. You can read the original post here. Thanks to Rachel Klein for an insightful post in The New Yorker.


Limiting Your Child’s Fire Time: A Guide for Concerned Paleolithic Parents

 

According to the most recent cave drawings, children nowadays are using fire more than ever before. And it’s no wonder: fire has many wonderful applications, such as cooking meat, warming the home, and warding off wild animals in the night. We adult Homo erectus, with our enlarged brains and experience of pre-fire days, can moderate our use, but our children—some of whom never lived during a time when you couldn’t simply strike two rocks together for an hour over a pile of dried grass to eventually produce a spark that, with gentle coaxing, might grow into a roaring flame—can have difficulty self-monitoring their interactions with fire.

You don’t want to be the bad guy, but you also want to make sure that your child engages in other activities, like mammoth hunting and the gathering of rocks and bones with which to make tools. So, how do you set appropriate boundaries for your child on fire usage without jeopardizing the family unit so crucial to the survival of the species? Here are some tips:

Establish clear but firm limits: Fire is nice, but there’s a time and a place for it. So institute specific fire-watching times, and stick to them. After dinner, when the fire is lit, anyway, is one good option, as well as early in the morning, when a fire is just the thing to warm a chilly cave. Those living in glacial areas may have a harder time curtailing the use of fire, but just remind your children that when you were their age several layers of animal pelts were enough to keep you perfectly warm. Remember, you’re the patriarch (or matriarch, depending on your community’s customs surrounding familial power structures), and you make the rules!

Have a designated “fire room” in your dwelling: Those with smaller caves or huts might find this suggestion difficult, but even establishing a “fire corner” can help to create separate “fire” and “non-fire” spaces in your living area. In the non-fire spaces, encourage traditional activities, such as conversation (as much as your current vocabulary will allow), arrowhead-shaving, or stick-drawing in mud or soft stones. Reminding your children of the pleasures provided by these traditional activities can help reduce the seductive lure of the fire’s dancing flame.

Watch for changes and communicate concerns: For many children, fire is a harmless, pleasant addition to their lives. But for some it can become an all-consuming passion. If your child seems to be growing unhealthily attached to the fire, don’t wait to talk to him about it. A few common fire-obsessed behaviors to look out for include:

• Distraction: ignoring people when they are in the same room as fire

• Preoccupation: talking or thinking about fire, even when there is no fire present

• Deception: going off to secretly find/make fires; lying about fire usage when confronted

• Anthropomorphization: talking to/interacting with the fire as if it were a sentient being, which the elders we consulted say is highly unlikely, though they have yet to entirely rule out the presence of powerful magical beings within the inferno

Commit to non-fire family time: This last tip is the most important, because, if all you’re doing is restricting your child’s behavior and environment, he’s bound to resent you. So introduce non-fire activities that the whole family can enjoy together, and commit to them on a regular basis. These activities will depend on your region and climate, of course, but hunting and/or gathering is always a great way to be active and insure your family’s survival. If your tribe has already discovered music, carve a bone flute and work on a family song. Believe in a god (or gods)? Carve some rudimentary icons in his/her/their image. There’s no end to the fun you can have when you put your significantly-larger-than-a-chimpanzee’s mind to it!

In the end, just remember that fire, like most innovations, is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, it’s made our lives easier, our survival likelier, and will probably lead to the greatest evolutionary paradigm shift in human history. But it’s also dangerous, destructive, and, yes, possibly infested with demonic forces that wish us ill. As with everything in life, balance is key. If you can imagine what it was like a few thousand years ago, when the first humans started walking upright, and how much grief they probably got from their parents, you’ll have some empathy for your children’s unique place in the evolutionary narrative. At the same time, don’t forget that you’re the boss, and that, until they mate and produce viable offspring, what you say goes. And, of course, it goes without saying that, in the (again, very unlikely) event that fire is both sentient and vengeful, we humbly beg its forgiveness for our insolence and pray to be spared our fleeting and insignificant lives.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 21 January 2018

Worthy Goals

I was assigned to speak this morning in Crestline Ward. I love to go up to Crestline, elevation about 4600 feet, and enjoy our mountains. And of course it is a privilege to visit with my good friends there in the ward.


Dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be here to worship with you today. I’m grateful to be in the most beautiful part of our stake. And I’m grateful for the associations I have with many of you.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his counselors. They love you, and are mindful of each of you and the challenges you face in your lives.

This is still a new year, a symbolic time of new beginnings, of refocusing our priorities and trying to improve ourselves. Resolutions are made and broken in a long tradition that dates clear back to the ancient Babylonians.[1] Many of us just hope to remember to write 2018.

Amidst all these symbolic changes, members of the Church have experienced a very real change this year as President Thomas S. Monson died, and President Russell M. Nelson was called as his successor. Having a new prophet is a significant change for each one of us.

I hope that all of you had the opportunity to listen to the new First Presidency introduce themselves on Tuesday morning. If you haven’t, please take the time to go online this afternoon and listen to the words of our new prophet, Russell M. Nelson.

I testify to you that he was prepared and called of God to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at this time.

I would like to share a portion of President Nelson’s first message to us as our prophet. After explaining the changes and the process, he gave instruction to us as members of the Church.

“To each member of the Church I say:” and whenever the prophet says that, I pay attention; “To each member of the Church I say: Keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with him, and then keeping those covenants, will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women and children everywhere.

“As a new presidency, we want to begin with the end in mind. For this reason, we are speaking to you today from a temple. The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a House of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in the temple, that qualify us for the greatest gift of God, that of eternal life.

“The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the Adversary. Your worship in the temple, and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace, and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.

“Now, if you have stepped off the path, may I invite you with all the hope in my heart to please come back. Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this, the Lord’s Church. You, and generations yet unborn will be blessed by your actions now to return to the covenant path. Our Father in Heaven cherishes his children and wants each of us to return home to him. This is a grand goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to help each of us to come back home.

“Our divine mandate is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, helping to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. This we will do with faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, knowing that he is in charge.”

President Oaks spoke briefly and pledged his loyalty and support for President Nelson’s loving and inspired leadership. It was touching to see the bond between these two Apostles.

President Eyring spoke of the need for growth in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He said that “the growth will come as we each pray, work, and live to have the Holy Ghost as our companion in our lives,” and that the blessing will come as we “renew and remember covenants we have made in the sacrament and in holy temples and so have the Spirit to be with us.”

It touched me deeply when Pres. Eyring said “every association I have had with President Nelson and President Oaks has increased my ability to remember the Savior, keep sacred covenants, and find joy in the influence of the Holy Ghost.” And it made me think, could I ever be that kind of person?[2]

In this brief 18-minute meeting, I received valuable prophetic counsel: seven suggestions that I can use as a basis for meaningful, worthy personal goals.

First: President Nelson advised us to keep on the covenant path, to make and keep sacred covenants, including the temple covenants of the endowment and sealing. President Eyring also advised us to renew and remember these covenants, as we have this morning.

Eternal blessings were promised to each of us. The most important real-time blessings were the promised ability to resist the power of the Adversary through our temple attendance, and the promise of personal revelation through our temple attendance.

Second: President Nelson invited us to get back on the path if we have stepped off. There is always room for anyone who has the courage and the desire to come back. And if you have already done so, you can testify that this is no easy task.

Third: President Nelson reminded us of the divine mandate to help to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord, which requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fourth: President Eyring invited us to grow our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through prayer, work, and living so the Holy Ghost will be our companion.

Fifth: President Oaks pledged his loyalty and support to President Nelson. Are we willing to do that as we strive to follow the prophet? Our salvation depends on it.

Sixth: President Eyring’s comment on his association with Presidents Nelson and Oaks. Are we striving to be kind of people who make others want to remember the Savior, keep sacred covenants, and find joy in the Spirit? I saw that as a personal challenge.

And seventh: President Nelson reminded us of the “grand goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” to help each of us to return home to our Father in Heaven. I’ll say a little bit more about that later on.

These are prophetic instructions and counsel to each of us, if we will receive it. I can construct many worthy goals from this to help me to stay on track. And look at the promised blessings!

The Savior frequently took time alone to pray and ponder, and to counsel with the Father. I feel certain that these were times when assignments were given and reported on. We can follow the Savior’s example by counseling with Heavenly Father as we set our own goals.

And certainly, the First Presidency and Apostles have spent significant time this year praying and pondering, especially President Nelson.

Thirty years ago, President Monson taught us that “Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.”[3]

President Ballard observed that “those who accomplish the most in this world are those with a vision for their lives, with goals to keep them focused on their vision and tactical plans for how to achieve them.” He added that “Knowing where you are going and how you expect to get there can bring meaning, purpose and accomplishment to life.”[4]

The Savior’s injunction to “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect”[5] can seem overwhelming to mere mortals. But if we break it down into steps, “line upon line, precept upon precept,” it becomes more realistic.

The Savior himself had to progress a step at a time. In Section 93, we read “And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;

“And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;

“And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.”[6]

In setting goals with an eye on being like Christ, we can break it down into activities that will help us to be “even as he is.”

As the First Presidency instructed us this week, making and keeping sacred covenants is an important part of that progression. So is actively seeking the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Even these goals can be broken down further. Attending sacrament meeting is an important part of making and keeping our covenants. Since I have become faithful in my sacrament meeting attendance, now I might set a goal to improve my spiritual preparation to partake of the sacrament each week.

In my plan, I could take time during the week to ponder on the sacrament prayers and reflect on the promises I make each time I partake of the sacrament, as well as the promised blessings I would like to qualify for. I could make an effort to be kinder and more forgiving. I could prepare myself for sabbath worship on Saturday. I could even pray for the speakers to be influenced by the Spirit as they address us.

Daily scripture study has been a habit for me for over 40 years, but I have not achieved perfection in that yet. I look to President Nelson’s example. He reported that last year, he read, marked and pondered over 2,200 Topical Guide references to Jesus Christ, and said that he was a changed man because of it. He reported that he reread the Old Testament with an emphasis on the Lord’s covenants with the House of Israel. And he reported a depth of study of the Book of Mormon that I would love to achieve. Sometimes my study is a little superficial.

Temple attendance is another area that I can improve upon. And that requires goals and careful planning.

My family has been very active in family history work for decades. My dad feels that there is no realistic chance of my finding any new family names, short of receiving revelation. So, what should I do? Should I put this responsibility aside and say my work is done? No! I could assist with my wife’s family history. And I have been doing indexing, which will help many others do their work.

These are just some examples. The real lesson is that the goals must be appropriate to our individual situations. They should be realistic, and they should not lead us to run faster than we are able. But they should stretch us and lead us to grow.

Small, measurable improvements will keep us on the path (or return us to it) and will help us to head in the right direction.

In addition to the spiritual goals, temporal goals are also important. We make budgets, plan vacations, and try to save for important purchases and events. We may set career goals and other goals and President Ballard even mentioned goals for our golf game.

But do most of our goals have a temporal focus, or a spiritual focus? And why does that make a difference?

We should remember that each goal that we set must be compatible with Heavenly Father’s plan. If it is not, we cannot expect the Lord’s blessings as we set out to achieve it. We should seek the guidance of the Spirit as we set goals, and ask for Heavenly Father’s help as we try to achieve them.

Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”[7]

James reminds us: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”[8]

James warns us that we cannot take life for granted. We hope for future events, but we can’t always be certain. This is another important reason to include God in our plans.

And Paul reminds us: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”[9]

And finally, from Nephi, the familiar scripture, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”[10]

A highlight of Nephi’s statement was his willingness to go and do. We can never achieve any worthy goal without effort. But please note that he knew that the Lord would help him to obey the instructions from the prophet (his father, Lehi).

We must put forth effort to achieve our worthy goals. Nothing worthwhile in this life can be achieved without great effort and commitment. And that can be disappointing to some who would like to find an easy way to success.

Changing habits requires a great deal of determination and effort. In fact, when I think about losing weight, the Savior’s statement comes to mind that “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” [11]

But seriously, as we try to change habits, or to achieve important goals, or even our “big hairy audacious goals,” we need to do all we can with the Lord’s help. The prophets have told us that without the Lord’s help we cannot succeed; but with the Lord’s help, we cannot fail. I believe that if our goals are aligned with Heavenly Father’s will, and aligned with his plan for us, we will find this to be true.

The Lord will prepare a way for us to do his will. It might not be in the manner we expect; it might require a significant trial of our faith; it might not even come within our desired time frame. But if we seek and strive to do his will, we can count on his guidance and assistance.

Everything in the gospel of Jesus Christ points to Heavenly Father’s ultimate goal for us: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[12] And his plan for us to achieve that goal is his Plan of Salvation. This is the perfect example of a worthy goal, and it should be an example, and the foundation for all our other goals.

Brothers and sisters, I testify that our progress is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness. I testify further that if we will search the Scriptures, listen to the voice of the Spirit, and follow the prophet, that we will be able to receive the divine assistance that is so important in this life.

I know that God lives, and that he is a loving Heavenly Father. He will bless us as we include him in our plans, and as we strive to do his will through helping to perfect the saints, preach the gospel, redeem the dead, and care for the poor.

This I testify in the name of Jesus, Christ, amen.


[1] Mental Floss Magazine, Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions? http://mentalfloss.com/article/60776/why-do-we-make-new-years-resolutions

[2] A Message from the First Presidency. Transcript. https://www.lds.org/bc/content/ldsorg/church/news/2018/01/19/2018-01-1000-a-message-from-the-first-presidency.pdf?lang=eng

Video: https://www.lds.org/church/news/new-first-presidency-speaks-to-members-worldwide?cid=HP_TU_16-1-2018_dPFD_fCNWS_xLIDyMAST_&lang=eng

[3] General Conference, April 1987.

[4] General Conference, April 2017.

[5] Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 12:48.

[6] Doctrine & Covenants 93:12-14.

[7] KJV, Matthew 6:33.

[8] KJV, James 4:13-15.

[9] KJV, Philippians 4:13.

[10] Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3:7.

[11] KJV, Matthew 17:21.

[12] Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39.

Posted by: 2thdocbob | 14 January 2018

Goals or Resolutions? Does It Matter?

I know we are already two weeks into the new year, but it’s never too late to start making changes. I happened upon this article in our Church’s magazine for youth 12-18 (or to 95: I still like to read it), and really liked the ideas for resolutions.

I have never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions; there is an implication that they are not serious enough to stick with, even if the intent is good. I have always set goals at my birthday, and review and revise them at the New Year. That’s simply a personal preference, and it really makes no difference when you set your goals, as long as they are done with good intent.

There is a tremendous amount of literature about making goal-setting easy, and many people share three or six or five “quick easy steps to meet your goals this year and find happiness.” Malarkey. If it’s easy, it might not be a meaningful goal. If a goal does not stretch you and push you out of your comfort zone, it may not be a worthwhile goal: you may not grow.

In my mind, goals are a means to grow. And my goals can assist in my own growth as well as in others’ growth. That is why this New Era article resonated with me. I have posted it unaltered, in its entirety.

You can read the original article here.


6 New Year’s Resolutions You Probably Never Thought About

Charlotte Larcabal | Church Magazines

Tired of making the same old New Year’s resolutions? Here are six new ideas to make 2018 amazing!

My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Eat better.
  2. Get better grades.
  3. Exercise more.

Have any of these goals made your list? Don’t be too surprised if they have—year after year, these are among the most popular New Year’s resolutions. In fact, if you’re like many people, these goals were on your list last year—and the year before that.

For some reason, we keep setting (and oftentimes, not achieving) the same goals year after year. There’s nothing wrong with these goals, and there’s no reason why you can’t accomplish them, but why not shake things up a bit by setting (and meeting) a goal you’ve never thought of before? Here are six new goals that will help make 2018 amazing!

Two teenage boys

1. Make eye contact with people as you speak with and listen to them.

If you’re looking to make new friends, this is a great goal to set. Don’t overdo it—staring into someone’s eyes for too long (sometimes even for just a little) might make them uncomfortable—but try to look people directly in their eyes as they talk to you. When you meet someone new, notice the color of their eyes. Looking people directly in their eyes sends the message that you see and appreciate who they are. (Read “How to Be a Good Friend.”)

Two girls

2. Try something new every day!

This doesn’t mean you have to jump into a new hobby every day. Something new can be something little. Never hang up your coat? Hang it up! Always sit with the same people at lunch? Sit with someone new. Even making the smallest changes can lead to amazing new experiences and help you learn new things.

“Fill up your memory bank and your book of life with as many ‘I’m glad I did’ activities as you can possibly crowd into one lifetime,” counseled Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (“Making Memories,” Ensign, Aug. 1993, 63). Don’t let fear, laziness, or a routine keep you from “I’m glad I did” experiences. Surprise yourself! You’ll be glad you did. (Read “How to Discover Your Gifts.”)

Young woman

3. Look in the mirror every morning and say, “I am a child of God. He loves me and will help me today.”

We think thousands of thoughts every day, and if we’re not careful, many of these can be negative. Repeating a positive, powerful, and hopeful thought to yourself is a great way to keep out all those complaints, criticisms, and fears. Repeating that thought out loud makes it an even more powerful reminder. That fact that you are a child of God, who loves you and will help you, is one of the most positive, powerful, and hopeful thoughts out there! (Watch “Our Divine Destiny.”)

Young woman

4. Do something besides pull out your phone when you have free time.

What do you do when you’re sitting in class before the bell rings or waiting for your mom to pick you up? Chances are, you pull your phone out. But what if you didn’t?

Set a goal to not pull your phone out every single time you’re bored or waiting. Give your mind time to wander. Look around. Notice things. Bored? Good. You can handle a few minutes of boredom. Creativity can happen when you’re bored.

Young man with man

5. Learn to cook three new meals this year.

Think outside the (cereal) box. Reach for some fresh ingredients and kitchen gadgets and wow your family with your chef skills. Whether you love to cook or aren’t sure what a tsp is, learning a new recipe is always a good idea! You can find someone who cooks well to teach you a few things, or you can find some recipes to try yourself. Don’t forget to clean up! (Read “Self-Reliance: Preparing for Your Future.”)

Two young men

6. Say “thank you” 10 times a day.

You can make someone’s day by showing them some gratitude, but studies show that being grateful also has a powerful effect on your own mood and well-being. Many people find that the more they focus on things to be grateful for, the happier they are. Want to be happier, healthier, and make someone’s day? Amp up the gratitude. “No matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it” (“Of Regrets and Resolutions,” Oct. 2012 general conference).

Try saying “thank you” 10 times a day. Or finish each day by writing down 10 things you are grateful for. (Read “Live in Thanksgiving Daily.”)

It’s in the Doing

There are many, many different things you can do to become a little more like Heavenly Father this year. After all, that’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it? Maybe you really are going to practice discipline as you lose weight or save more money this year. Or maybe you want to shake things up and set a brand new goal. Whatever you choose to do, just remember what President Thomas S. Monson has taught: “It is not enough to want to make the effort and to say we’ll make the effort. we must actually make the effort. It’s in the doing, not just the thinking, that we accomplish our goals” (“A Royal Priesthood,” Oct. 2007 general conference).

Happy New Year!


“Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement,” the late President Thomas S. Monson has taught. “Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.”1

This is what meaningful goals are about. The six suggestions above will certainly make a difference in the life of a teenager; they could also make a difference in the life of an adult.

Does one of these goals resonate with you? Or do they inspire you to set a different goal? Please share!

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