Sunday, December 29, 2013

Goals for the New Year

One of the couples in our group, the Clarkes, gave the talks today in Sacrament meeting.  They were good and I've quoted a few thoughts here for us to consider.

  • In 1975, President Kimball counseled us to set goals that require us to “reach and strain. … Growth comes from setting your goals high and reaching for the stars” He also said: “We do believe in setting goals. We live by goals. … We must have goals to make progress”.
  • "In addition to setting our individual goals, we should talk with our families and set goals for the entire family to achieve. We can be working on some individual goals and some family goals at the same time."
  • "Bishop John H. Vandenberg said: “I feel that goal-setting is absolutely necessary for happy living. But the goal is only part of the desired procedures. We need to know which roads to take to reach the goal. … [People] need to make commitments with themselves by writing down their goals and keeping a record of the fulfillment of their achievements” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1966, 94; or Improvement Era, June 1966, 534).

I've never been one who likes to make goals at New Years.  I always made goals at the beginning of the school year however.  That was more my "new year."  Whenever we feel more like the start of a new year or period, we ought to make goals.  By writing them in a journal they may be more likely to be kept!  Don't make them unrealistic, and do set out a plan to accomplish them step by step.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Purpose of the Priesthood

Priesthood is not just authority to perform ordinances.  It is more than just fellowship.  These are both very important, but priesthood is also training in how to govern righteously, regardless of the setting, whether in families, church, or government.

The Aaronic Priesthood is the preparatory priesthood.  It does perform certain ordinances and provides fellowship for the members of these quorums.  But perhaps its most important function is to prepare for actual governing.  There are presidencies where, usually young, men get their first lessons in holding responsibilities, follow-through, and delegating, as well as sitting in council to accomplish good things.

As they progress, the Melchizedek is the next step, where training and increased responsibilities continue in the righteous use of authority within the family and the organization of the Church.  This is not all however.  It is training for governing righteously in all settings, including government.  However the most important is within the family.

Within the quorums men learn in theory and practice how to purify themselves, overcoming temptations that lead to sorrow and corruption.  If we value this priesthood and work within it, the Lord will transform us to become as He is.  THIS is the greatest of ALL miracles!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Practicing Skills

When we first come to this earth, we learn the important skills of eating, balancing, walking, talking, etc.  These enable us to get along in this world.  Later we work to develop abilities that will get us things, hunting skills, craftsmanship skills, or intellectual skills.

I believe the most important skills, the ones we came to this earth most to develop, were the skills of patience, kindness, empathy, long suffering, virtue, and others that Paul enumerates.  Our work in families and the Church help us in developing these skills and in becoming more proficient in them, just as going to a football camp may improve skills emphasized there.

To sharpen these skills then we may need to focus our attention on them more.  How are we doing?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Taking Care of Ourselves for Others

Last night we got to bed late, so I was yawning through the individual presentations the students were doing today.  That's really not fair to them.  I can't judge them as well.  I couldn't do my best, because I hadn't taken care of the stewardship of my body like I should have.  That has consequences.  That doesn't mean we indulge ourselves, be lazy, or refuse to do good things.  It means we need to learn what it takes for our bodies to be at their optimum, balancing it of course with responsibilities and time.

The point is, when I eat right, sleep enough, exercise sufficiently, and keep up a balanced amount of cleanliness, I can do more!  I become more worthwhile/valuable!  Those all require attention to learn how to do, but they pay rewards in how effective we can be.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Listening to talks with distractions

Tonight we listened to District Conference, Adult Session, for our Central China International District.  Of course it was by phone link all across China.  We heard from an Australian, American, Canadian,  and someone from Ecuador, each with their different accents.  The phone link is not clear.  There are clicks, weird sounds that delay speaking then race ahead to catch up with the sound coming in, etc.  These make it hard to understand when there is an accent the speaker has.  Nevertheless the important parts came through.  We felt the spirit and were spiritually energized.

Sometimes at home we tend to get bothered when there is noise from children, or anything else distracting happens.  I found that perhaps the most important part of our listening during these meetings is the worshiping we do.  When we do that, we tend to be less critical!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Temple Worthiness Sacrament Meeting Talk 2013.09.8

Brothers and Sisters it is good to greet you even though I cannot see you.  Last week Bro. Knox asked us to speak today.  The Branch Presidency wanted this talk to introduce the theme for our branch for this coming year, which is Temple Worthiness.  As my wife has mentioned we have a personal connection with this topic.

I want to ask you, “What is Temple Worthiness?”  What does it mean?  I turned to President Hinckley’s Priesthood Session talk in the April 1990 Conference.  During the talk he held up two cards.  One was a credit card.  He described what was required to get a credit card, and what it would do for you.  Then he held up a temple recommend and described what was required to get one, and what it would do for you.

Pres. Hinckley said that to get a recommend we need to have demonstrated over a period of time our capacity to discipline our lives in such a way as to be worthy to enter the House of the Lord.  It shows that we have grown in our understanding, as well as in our capacity to exercise that measure of self-discipline, which would result in personal worthiness.

“This small document,” he says, “…certifies that the bearer has met certain precise and demanding qualifications and is eligible to enter the House of the Lord and there participate in the most sacred ordinances administered anywhere on earth.  These ordinances are concerned not only with the things of life, but with the things of eternity.”  “Entering the temple is a privilege to be earned and not a right that automatically goes with Church membership.”

I would like to detail a little what is required to get one.  Perhaps you could see how you are measuring up.  To get a recommend we must answer certain specific questions to determine worthiness.  We are asked if we are paying a full tithe.  Long observation has shown that the faithful and honest payment of tithing is an indicator of faithfulness in other matters.

We are asked if we are observing the Word of Wisdom, which is concerned with the care of the body, which the Lord has assured, is of itself a temple, for our spirit.  How could we be worthy of entering the Lord’s Temple, if we are not taking care of our own?

Do we sustain our local and General Authorities in the Church?  They are the mouthpieces for God in our lives.  If there is not loyalty to them, how can there be loyalty to God?  Without loyalty to the local leaders President Hinckley said, “there will be an absence of harmony, there will be suspicion and hesitation to serve with fidelity, there will be that kind of division which is always destructive of faith.”  The Lord said, “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27)

Pres. Hinckley further mentioned, “Honesty with others including obedience to constitutional law, is likewise a requirement.”  He quoted the 12th Article of Faith, which says, “We believe in being subject to kings, president, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”  This is as important in China as in any other country we live in or travel too.

There must be sexual purity and a testimony of Jesus Christ.  Finally we must consider if there is anything in our lives that is not in keeping with the commandments of the Lord.  He says, “You must judge within your heart whether you are guilty of any practice that is unholy, impure, or in any way evil before the Lord.”

We do not have to be perfect to be temple worthy, but we must be up to the standard the Lord has outlined.  Now the world spatters us with mud all the time in the difficulties of life.  There are temptations and little slipups that we make.  These are carcinogens, cancer-causing agents to our spirits.  Left there they would corrupt us.  Fortunately our loving Father in Heaven, who wants us to come back to Him, provided a way.  And fortunately our spiritual brother paid the price, in the atonement, to provide the soap to wash away that mud, those carcinogens from off our spirits and minds.  The atonement is powerful enough to bleach away the sins, even very serious sins, if we will follow the process of repentance.

Brothers and Sisters this is not a one-time washing at baptism!  This is a continual process as long as we live.  We must continue to humble ourselves before Him, so He can cleanse us and mold us into what He knows we can be.  If you have serious sins that need to be repented of, make an appointment and talk to Pres. Britton.  He has the keys to administer that soap to free us from these spiritually carcinogenic stains.  And for all of us, let us humbly reflect on our shortcomings and ask in prayer for help to overcome them.  Over time I know He can make us strong and lift us up!

Of course it is difficult for most of us in this branch to go regularly to the temple.  Perhaps we are not married, or old enough, or have the means yet, to go through the temple.  I served in a young single adult ward just before coming to China.  There were many of these single adults who had not taken out their endowments yet, but they got a recommend to do baptisms for the dead anyway even if they couldn’t go often merely because it was a certification that they were worthy and on the path.  A temple recommend is a physical symbol of a spiritual certification.

Temple worthiness is needed to create the faith to call down blessings from heaven.  Temple worthiness is necessary to hear the Spirit directing us away from the pitfalls and things that would harm us.  Temple worthiness shows that we are treating others the way we should - loving them, and our Father in Heaven.  Finally temple worthiness is the only way we can progress along life’s journey toward eternal life.

Considering temple worthiness listen to D&C 121:45, 46, which says, “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

“The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”

Let us pray daily for the strength to be worthy.  Let us study the scriptures daily and attend our Church meetings that by feeding our spirits we can be made strong.  Let us serve and fellowship as we can, that that charity spoken of might fill our souls.  That through our consistent efforts in prayer, study, and service the way may become easier, our confidence stronger, that peace might fill us inside, our joys fuller, and that we might have the courage to go forward always, is my prayer.