Posted by: 2thdocbob | 16 August 2020

Things the Spirit taught me during the pandemic

I was asked to speak online to my congregation (Waterman Ward) this morning. It has been six months since my last sermon, so I was grateful for the opportunity, but also a little anxious. The best part? I didn’t notice anyone dozing off.

I am an introvert who enjoys being around people. But I have my limits. I am also a person who is reflective and thoughtful. Of course I have limits being on my own, too. The pandemic has largely been a blessing to me, because I have had extra time to reflect on what is most important in life.

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Brothers and sisters, this has been a very warm week. Yesterday, Cal State’s weather station had a high reading of 111.6o. It makes me think of a general conference session from last century. President Hinckley was conducting the Priesthood Session and commented: “It is warm. I am sorry.”  Then he paused and added: “But if you don’t repent, it will be even hotter.” I don’t want to find out what that’s like.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. I wish I could do this in person. An old expression comes to mind: “may you live in interesting times.” This year has been filled with interesting times.

I hope that each of you has learned from the things we are enduring. A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the Stake Presidency. They asked me to give an accounting of my stewardships. Later, it struck me that I will one day have a similar interview with the Savior, and I hope I can answer his questions confidently.

In that interview, President Garvin posed a question that he was asked by the Area Presidency: “What have you learned from this pandemic that you will use in the next one?”

I have been pondering that ever since, and I would encourage you to reflect on that as well. It’s a profound question.

I have had far more time to ponder and reflect than I have had in the last few years. As a result of that, I would like to share some of my insights with you this morning.

The first great insight I received came rather quickly. I drove home from work on March 12 with the understanding that the University would be shut down soon. The students had been instructed earlier that week that they were not to return to campus until further notice.

Late that night, I received a text that the university was closing down and that we would begin distance learning. I saw the text the next morning, along with the notice from Salt Lake that all church meetings were cancelled. This hit me hard: losing two of the most important elements in my life at once.

Then the Spirit reminded me “You still have your family.” What a tremendous blessing that reassurance was! The Spirit reminded me what is most important. And I have my birds. But family is the most important.

In the seventeen weeks I worked strictly from home, I was very busy, because online teaching is not the same as teaching in-person. And a large part of my responsibilities involves teaching hand skills to our students, so that was gone.

But my commute became easier, and I had more time to spend with Heidi and Christine. Heidi was happy just knowing I was around. And until it became too warm, we went on walks in the neighborhood, and visited many of the local wildlife refuges to see birds and other wildlife. We have felt blessed to have this time together.

In addition, we have had extra time to read and discuss the scriptures, using Come, Follow Me. I love hearing my family’s insights.

I have had time to read more, and have included many good church books in my reading. I particularly enjoyed Saints, and can’t wait for the next two volumes.

I have felt deep gratitude for the ability to administer the sacrament to my family. I am grateful that Heavenly Father trusted me with priesthood authority to extend the blessings of the sacrament to my family and occasionally to others.

At this point, five months later, I have gained an increased sense of gratitude for the rich blessings I enjoy in this life. I’m glad I have had time to reflect on these blessings.

I’d like to share a poem I learned from my grandpa:

My granddad, viewing earth’s worn cogs, said, ‘The world is going to the dogs’
His grandad, in a house of logs, said, ‘The world is going to the dogs’
His grandad, from the Scottish bogs, Said ‘The world is going to the dogs’
His grandad, dressed in caveman’s togs, said, ‘The world is going to the dogs.’
There’s one thing I can safely state: The dogs have had a good long wait.[i]

The Lord saw this happening, too. We see throughout the Doctrine and Covenants that there would be interesting times. And the Lord warns us repeatedly, beginning in Section 1:

 “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments”[ii]

When the Lord speaks, he chooses his words with great purpose. We are certainly experiencing a calamity right now. He also has the advantage of seeing the end from the beginning. But because he knew the calamity – and because he used the singular “calamity,” I think it includes many events – he has called prophets to prepare us by giving us his word, including commandments.

He foresaw this pandemic, and gave us a year to practice home-centered, church-supported gospel learning before we had to use it because we couldn’t go to church. To put our restrictions in perspective, please watch a video about the saints in Ghana who had to endure an 18 month freeze on church activity. You can view the video here. They couldn’t visit each other without the risk of arrest. But they remained faithful. I wept as I watched it. it gave me a better perspective on our current situation. That might also be why I couldn’t put down either volume of Saints; I could feel what they were going through as they endured persecution and their other trials. And some of them were my ancestors, and perhaps yours, as well.

Ministering is another example of the Father’s foresight. The structure of ministering makes it easier for us to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in times like this, as we understand that any form of contact is acceptable in the Lord’s eyes.

The changes that we have experienced since President Nelson became prophet remind me that Heavenly Father is in charge. That gives me great comfort as we face the new uncertainties of life.

Because Heavenly Father is in charge, he can end this pandemic when he sees fit. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m OK with that, because I know Heavenly Father loves his children. He will take care of us.

An important concept the Lord wants to teach us throughout the Doctrine and Covenants is that he will send calamities and pour out his wrath upon the earth until his work is finished. These are calls to repentance, and in a sense, they are wake-up calls for the righteous as well as the less-righteous.

Two truths that have been emphasized to me this year are simple gospel truths. First, “Stand ye in holy places.”

In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are instructed: “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved; but among the wicked, men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.”[iii] Please note that those who curse God and die are those who have not taken the time to know him and accept his gospel.

We have been told for years that our homes should be holy places. You have felt that when you partake of the sacrament at home. In reality, every place we stand should be a holy place because we are standing there.

This is especially important while our chapels and temples are not available to us. We can still feel the Savior’s presence and the Savior’s love at home and elsewhere.

The second truth is to love one another. John said: “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.”[iv]

During this pandemic, each of us is fighting our own battles. Many people have strong opinions and aren’t afraid to share them. As I have been out and about and seen people with and without masks, some wearing them incorrectly, I felt a strong impression that I should not be critical of these people, because I don’t know what challenges they are dealing with.

I’m still working on this one. It hasn’t been easy, but sometimes the Primary song pops into my head:

“I’m trying to be like Jesus;
I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught
.”

I’m trying to love my neighbor;
I’m learning to serve my friends.
I watch for the day of gladness when Jesus will come again.
I try to remember the lessons he taught.
Then the Holy Spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught
.”[v]

If more people tried to be like Jesus, what a wonderful world this would be. But at least I can do my part.

In the last five months, the importance of family has been reinforced to me, as well as the importance of following the prophet in his divine calling. I have been taught to take seriously the commandments to stand in holy places and to love one another. As I have directed my efforts to standing in holy places and particularly to loving others, I have felt an increased peace, even in the midst of all the uncertainties that surround us. This is the peace that “passeth all understanding” that Christ promised us.[vi]  This the peace we need during interesting times.

I ask each of you to reflect on your experiences of the last five months, and write down what you have learned and what insights the Spirit has provided to you. Your posterity will treasure these writings just as we treasure the writings of the pioneers.

I testify that God lives. He loves each of us. He is in charge. We just need to trust him and call on him for strength and assistance. I know he will bless us as we do this.


[i] Author uncertain. Originated about 1910.

[ii] Doctrine and Covenants 1:17.

[iii] Doctrine and Covenants 45:32.

[iv] KJV, 1 John 3:23.

[v] I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus. Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 78. Italics in original.

[vi] KJV, Philippians 4:7.

 


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