Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday Thoughts: Co-Hosting a Blog Hop and Speaking in Church (not simulateously)

Today, I thought I'd share the talk I gave in church on Sunday, but first I have some exciting news:  I'm going to co-host the weekly "Ten Things of Thankful" blog hop! 

Ten Things of Thankful
Every weekend, bloggers take a moment to reflect on ten things for which they are thankful and share them with the world on the "Ten Things of Thankful" blog hop.  I've been participating in the hop, but now am delighted to also be co-hosting.  To add icing to the cake, this week Considerer is spotlighting me in her "TToT: Meet the Co-Hosts" blog post.  Click on the link and go explore other pages on Considerer's blog. (Then please return and finish reading my post, if you wish.)




The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) does not hire pastors, so the Sunday talks are given by members of the congregation.  I had a chance to speak this past Sunday.  My assignment was to give a talk based on an address by Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society president, entitled:  "Is Faith in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ Written in Our Hearts?"  I enjoyed being able to ponder this topic.  Here are my thoughts:


I love going to Disneyland.  From the moment I step foot onto Main Street, I enjoy the music, the clean atmosphere, and the delighted expressions on visitor’s faces.  I’m like a little kid when it comes to Disneyland.  I usually don’t sleep well the night before a planned trip; I am too excited.  




Earlier this year, my daughter and I went to Disneyland.  We arrived early in the morning.  We enjoyed rides, shows, food, and characters, and just generally had a good time.  When we returned to our car that afternoon, we discovered that our car was sporting a new dent in the rear bumper.  Someone had hit our car.  Not only that, they did not leave a note.  



I have to admit, I was not very happy—in fact, I was mad.  My insurance would pay for repairs, but I would need to pay my deductible.  Though I understood how insurance works, it didn’t seem fair that I would have to pay for someone else’s mistake.  



Of course, this is just a small example of life not being fair.  We could easily focus on all that is unfair in the world, but we would just be frustrated and unhappy.  Fortunately, our Heavenly Father has provided a plan of happiness—a means by which we can be happy here and now, despite life’s challenges.  


In the last General Relief Society meeting, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, gave a talk entitled, “Is Faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ Written in Our Hearts?”  In that talk, she mentioned “three principles of the Atonement that, if written in our hearts, will increase our faith in Jesus Christ.” 

The first principle is: “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”  I don’t need to fret about a dented car; in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter.  If I stew about it, I will prevent myself from forgiving the unknown driver.  However, if I allow myself to feel the Savior’s gentle reassurance, I can allow His love to soften my heart and learn to not take offense.  

Of course, there are many bigger issues that seem unfair with a capital U.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, in his April 2009 General Conference talk, addressed those of us who might be experiencing such trials.  He stated: 

". . . my . . . message today is intended for everyone, but it is directed in a special way to those who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned. These might include those longing to be married, those who have lost a spouse, and those who have lost—or have never been blessed with—children. Our empathy embraces wives forsaken by their husbands, husbands whose wives have walked away, and children bereft of one or the other of their parents—or both. This group can find within its broad circumference a soldier far from home, a missionary in those first weeks of homesickness, or a father out of work, afraid the fear in his eyes will be visible to his family. In short it can include all of us at various times in our lives."

Elder Holland went on to give a beautiful, heartfelt account of the last days of the Savior’s mortal ministry, then concluded by saying:

"Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].” "

Our trials stretch us and give us growing pains, but if we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and avail ourselves of the Atonement, we can gain the peaceful realization that all will be right in the end.

That assurance allows us to endure difficult situations.  One of my pregnancies was high-risk, resulting in months of bedrest and an early delivery.  Though I received blessings, I never knew ahead of time what the outcome would be.  The thing I was promised was that whatever happened was going to be the Lord’s will.  Even after my son was born, it was years before he ever received a blessing of health.  I learned to appreciate the phrase, “I bless you with health”, because it was missing from so many priesthood blessings that my son received.  Though I hoped and pleaded that the baby would survive, I drew comfort from knowing that the Lord was aware of me, and that His will would be done.  My son did survive, and is now a healthy 20-yr-old, but through all the health scares of those first years, the thing that carried me through was the knowledge that my Heavenly Father was aware of my family and that His will would be done.  I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to experience those years without faith in the Atonement.

While “all that is unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ,” the power of the Atonement can be accessed even during our trials; we don’t have to wait until the next life to benefit from the Savior’s sacrifice.  The second principle that Sister Burton mentioned is:  “There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.”  She goes on to quote Elder David A. Bednar:  “It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us.”


When Neil L. Anderson spoke in General Conference just after being called as a general authority, he said: 

"I have heard President Monson say, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.” I know this is true, and it gives me hope looking beyond my own inadequacies. I know that when we are on the Lord’s errand, he will be with us, he will strengthen us, he will build our capacities. I have experienced it. I have felt his lifting Spirit. In the months and years ahead, I will need him so very much."

 
We do not have to be one of the twelve to experience that promise.  I know that as I keep my covenants, when my daily priorities are straight and I devote my best time to the Lord’s errands—prayer, scripture study, serving my family and others—I accomplish more than I would on my own.  When I feel stressed out, I first do a mental self-evaluation.  Am I consistent and purposeful in my prayers?  Is my scripture study meaningful, or have I just been breezing through the words?  Have I reached out in service to others?  Have I attended the temple recently?  

As I make corrections in my life and draw closer to Christ, He strengthens me.  I can more readily meet the challenges I face.  I have more patience with myself and others, and time seems to stretch to accommodate the demands of the day. 

No matter what our particular challenges, we can receive help from the Lord.  The scriptures are filled with verses that remind us again and again that He is willing and able to help us:

"Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

". . .how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings. . ." (3 Ne. 10:5)

"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

"And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness." (1 Ne. 17:2)

There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

The third principle that Sister Burton mentioned is: The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children.  This is perhaps the most beautiful, fundamental, at-the-heart-of-everything principle we can begin to understand.  Our Heavenly Father loves each of us, individually.  He knows our imperfections, but He also knows, better than we, our potential.  He has provided a way, through the Atonement of His Only Begotten, for us to be able to progress, and return to Him again.  

My mom joined the church when I was 4 years old, but before she was baptized, I got to go to Primary with the next-door-neighbor children.  In Primary, I learned songs that resonated with my soul.  My mom had to ask to borrow the neighbor’s Sing With Me.   (Some of you might remember that orange book, which preceded the Children’s Songbook that Primary now uses.) 
The reason she had to borrow it was because I got mad and frustrated when she couldn’t help me remember the words to a song I had learned in Primary.  Fortunately for me, my mom played the piano, so she was able to help me remember the music as well as the words:  “We must love and have faith, we must try to obey, We must lengthen our learning and we must pray.” Not only could she help me with that song (which isn’t in the new Children’s Songbook),  but she also could also hear my other favorites:  “I am a Child of God” and “My Heavenly Father Loves Me.”  Those songs reminded me of truths I instinctively knew, and taught me to continually seek to be close to my Heavenly Father. 

Children know that Heavenly Father loves us, but sometimes along the path of life, adults forget that truth.  Sister Burton quoted President Uchtdorf’sApril 2010 conference talk

“One woman who had been through years of trial and sorrow said through her tears, ‘I have come to realize that I am like an old 20-dollar bill—crumpled, torn, dirty, abused, and scarred. But I am still a 20-dollar bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars.’”

Our Heavenly Father knows our full worth.  He can see beyond our weaknesses, and He can help us see ourselves as He does.


Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-13 says:   



Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;  For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.  And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!”



Isn’t it interesting that the proof in that scripture for the worth of souls is the fact that Christ atoned for all of us?  “. . . that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.”  Heavenly Father knows us.  He knows everything about us, and He loves us. 

The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children.

I know that Heavenly Father has a great plan of happiness for us, and that Jesus Christ and His atonement is central to that plan.  I know that they love us, not only collectively, but individually.  I know that as I remember the principles that Sister Burton taught,  I feel joy and calm assurance:

All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

There is power in the Atonement to enable us to overcome the natural man or woman and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Atonement is the greatest evidence we have of the Father’s love for His children.

We should be as happy and overcome as were the shepherds in the field those many years ago when the angel declared:

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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Thanks for opportunities to study and share.

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3 comments:

  1. We believe in redemptive suffering. If we get through our troubles, worries, pain and offer up our suffering it not only benefits us spiritually but also for any other poor souls that need additional help to cleans their souls in order to get to Heaven. I probably have not properly explained it.

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  2. Hi Kristi, just stopping by to say how delightful your blog is. Thanks so much for sharing. I have recently found your blog and am now following you, and will visit often. Please stop by my blog and perhaps you would like to follow me also. Have a wonderful day. Hugs, Chris
    http://chelencarter-retiredandlovingit.blogspot.ca/

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Thanks for making this a conversation. I love to hear your comments!