Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sunday Talk

Matt and I both gave talks on Sunday. 
We only had one week to work on them, and it happened to be during such a busy week. 
It was the talk I felt that I needed to give.
Normally Matt and I infuse a lot of humor in our talks, but neither of us really did that this time. We were asked to speak on the prophets and the restoration of the church.
When we talked with one another about our individual talks, it turned out that I had focused on the prophets, while Matt and focused on the restoration.
As always, I wrote out every word so that I could feel confident as I spoke and Matt jotted down his quotes and scriptures and gave a fantastic talk. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014 (pardon the grammar/typos- it's my working draft)

We have been asked to talk to you today about prophets and the restoration of the church. The focus of my talk will be on focused on the prophets, while Matt will speak more of the restoration.
A prophet is, in its most basic definition, a person who delivers messages that are believed to come from God.
Our Heavenly Father has always utilized prophets to lead his church and his people. There is a pretty common agreement among certain faiths that there were prophets on this Earth in ancient times. 
In Amos 3:7 we read:
 “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”

People can read the words of the prophets of God in the Bible, they can see that while God’s church was on the Earth, there was not just one prophet, but a number of them, covering vast expanses of time. Prophets were on this Earth from the beginning, serving and spreading God’s messages to mankind.

Somehow though, the belief changed from an acknowledgement and acceptance of God having prophets on the Earth to lead his children, to a belief that prophets, true prophets were something that only existed in ancient times. Today’s world has no Elijahs, No Isaiahs, it has no Abrahams.

And for a very long time, they were right. While there were still many good and righteous people who followed God, there was no revelation, no priesthood and… prophet. The Lord’s church was not found on the Earth.
Then, a young boy of 14 went into that sacred grove and spoke to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  In that moment, God was directly speaking to mankind again. The church and the priesthood were being restored and a prophet was called to lead it once again.

In D&C 21:4–5 it says:

 “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:4–5).

Since that time, the world has been blessed by the presence of a true prophet of God, guiding and leading all who choose to follow and we sing: praise, to the man who communed with Jehova!
There have been 16 prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Each one of these men was not only called of God, but was sustained as a prophet by the members of the church. Each one of these men led the church and it’s people during the exact dispensation of time when they could deliver the exact messages that God needed heard.
Sometimes we hear funny or weird stories about the lives of the prophets.  I remember reading about Wilford Woodruff’s childhood when I was a kid and laughing at how many times he got seriously hurt either from working or mostly from goofing off and doing dumb kid things when he was growing up.
I read of Spencer W Kimball and the terrible health issues he endured during a season of his life and thought that it had to be the worst thing to ever endure, to have boils on your skin and what a painful thing that had to be, and yet- it didn’t shake his faith in God. As a kid, I wondered if I would be that steadfast.

Recently, my daughter asked me what she should do if someone asks her about the church in a mean way, looking to tear her down and I told her one of my favorite stories from the life of Joseph F Smith.

 One day, when Joseph F. Smith was returning home from his first mission, “after the little company of wagons had traveled a short distance and made their camp, a company of drunken men rode into the camp on horseback, cursing and swearing and threatening to kill any ‘Mormons’ that came within their path. It was the lot of Joseph F. Smith to meet these marauders first. ... Joseph F. was a little distance from the camp gathering wood for the fire when these men rode up. When he saw them, he said, his first thought was to do what the other brethren had done, and seek shelter in the trees and in flight. Then the thought came to him, ‘Why should I run from these fellows?’ With that thought in mind he boldly marched up with his arms full of wood to the campfire. As he was about to deposit his wood, one of the ruffians, still with his pistols in his hands and pointing at the youthful Elder, and cursing as only a drunken rascal can, declaring that it was his duty to exterminate every ‘Mormon’ he should meet, demanded in a loud, angry voice, ‘Are you a “Mormon”?’
 “Without a moment of hesitation and looking the ruffian in the eye, Joseph F. Smith boldly answered, ‘Yes, siree; dyed in the wool; true blue, through and through.’
 “The answer was given boldly and without any sign of fear, which completely disarmed the belligerent man, and in his bewilderment, he grasped the missionary by the hand and said:
“‘Well, you are the ... pleasantest man I ever met! Shake, young fellow, I am glad to see a man that stands up for his convictions.’
“Joseph F. said in later years that he fully expected to receive the charge from this man’s pistols, but he could take no other course even though it seemed that his death was to be the result. This man, evidently the leader of the band, then rode off, the others following him, and the Mormon company was not molested further”

It warmed my heart when my daughter said “through and through…..that’s what I’m going to say. I’m a Mormon, through and through!”
As you come to know the lives and ministries of each of the prophets, there is a much to learn from as we learn from the prophets of ancient times.  
Just as the prophets of old struggled and sought answers for the people they served, so do our modern prophets. They seek answers and direction concerning the issues and times that we live in. 
In this ever changing world, they are the wind to set your sails to, as the landscape changes- they know which way to go.

I’ve recently been having some discussion with an old friend who was in my ward as a kid. His family have been members since the pioneer days, and with each generation, a little more of that is taken for granted, a little more of that is forgotten and seems to be of less value. This friend has a testimony, but struggles with issues where it seems that the world and the church do not agree. He doesn’t want to offend his friends by choosing a side that hasn’t caught up to the current times.
I talked to him about some of my feelings about the church and some of the issues that seemed to be causing a lot of hurt and confusion.
 I told him that not that long ago, my views were what was considered to be on one side of the political fence. It was a side that wasn’t very popular with people  in my family and every four years, I was always sent news articles and firmly worded emails admonishing me to vote in a way that was in line with the political views they had.   Some thought that in order to be a good member of the church, you had to vote and feel a certain way.
I was secure in my knowledge that the church’s position on all things are that you should vote according to your conscience and often replied with some version of “Well, isn’t free agency great- you’re not the boss of me.”
 I’m not a person who enjoys or really ever wants to be a part of a debate in the first place and I've never been known for having much tact when I feel I am being pushed to do something I don’t want to do.

As the years have progressed, my views on those issues haven’t changed very much, however, the line I was so far on one side of completely moved.
 My opinions, my morals and my values are still the same as they were before, but I am now on the other side of that line- without even having moved!

How lost I would feel if I didn’t have a prophet and leaders who were also here in this constantly shifting and changing world, right with me--who knew that the way to keep our footing was to keep out eyes and ears focused on God.  It is God’s direction we must follow, God who has the right answers that bring harmony, unity and happiness. We hear the words of God from our prophets.

Follow the prophet! He knows the way!
As tides turn and the winds of change blow around us, they lead us in the direction we should go. They make the adjustments for the church, so that we don’t have to rely on external sources to help us to find the way.
It is the prophets who help us to find and take hold of that iron rod, that will lead us to  to everlasting happiness.

1 nephi 15:24
 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
 25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

The world is always changing. Society is always changing. The amount of information and influence others have over our families is growing and it is very hard to know what is right and what is wrong in some situations.
This church has never been known for its popularity. Even as we are growing and missionary work goes forth all across the Earth- not many of the teachings are well received.  We are not the Prom Queen of religions, we don’t win the popularity contests society seems to be constantly having. 
We live in a world where it is possible to put every thought and actions on display, in a world where that is becoming the norm, in fact. I know too many of you have had to endure the daily pictures of my silly new puppy, and with each update that goes out for the world to see, there is an instant reaction and we become very aware of what our peers think and feel about things that we once discussed only with our families and with the Lord.  Everything seems open for discussion and in seconds arguments can be made to support or tear down every position on everything from serious political issues, to which 80’s cartoon character you should be.
As questions come up in our lives, we need to be sure that we are going to God and seeking the words of the prophets as we decide what is right for our families. We cannot slip into the trap of letting facebook likes determine our choices and influence the direction we go.

Follow the prophet – he knows the way.
He knew the way to go when it was time to head west and settle on that ugly desert with a big lake you couldn’t drink from, that became Zion to the Saints. The members of the church followed the prophet Brigham Young with both their souls and their bodies.

He knew the way when I was a kid of 16, nervous and unsure of what path I should go. I wondered if I mattered to my Heavenly Father, if he cared at all or if my dumb little life meant anything.  When I prayed, alone in my car,  I remembered the words of the prophet of my youth, Ezra Taft Benson who repeatedly urged me to read the scriptures, so through my tears, I opened my scriptures to D&C 6:
 22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
 23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
 35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.
 36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

And the prophet speaks the words of God to you.  The words of the prophet are the first place as well as the last place you should go, as often as possible- and especially in times when the world is changing around you and you need to make sure that YOU are where you need to be, that you are not shifting with the tides.
How lucky and blessed we are to have a prophets, who live in this world with us and who really do know what we are facing and the questions and problems that weigh so heavily on our hearts and minds.
Follow the prophet.
Follow the prophet.
Follow the prophet.
He knows the way.

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