Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving Practice Run

Jake and I had some of or friends over for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. We decided that you can't get enough turkey so we should have Thanksgiving twice.

I must first give credit to Jake for the turkey...

As you can see, we have some weird friends who like to play with our napkin holders. Crazy Crocketts!

And then it was time for the boys to play Epic Duels (a Star Wars game that all boys seem to like and I just don't get the point) and the girls to do mud masks...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunday Talks

Jo and I spoke in our ward last Sunday and since we haven't posted anything in a while I thought I'd put our talks up on the blog. Jo wrote hers out but I usually just put the major points down and fill in the gaps as I speak so I hope it makes sense.

Jo's Talk

The next two months seem to be months of excitement with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all packed together. We can rejoice in a lot of things: Thanksgiving feast is coming up, Jake will be rejoicing in getting Lord of the Rings for Christmas, BYU winning the football game. But today I’m going to discuss rejoicing in things that have eternal consequence, specifically rejoicing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

It’s pretty bleak to imagine what our existence would be like if there was no God. In High School I sang a solo for my choir’s musical review; it was John Lennon’s imagine. In this song he talks about what I find to be a bleak life:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

I didn’t actually realize what I was singing about at the time. I tend to listen and sing the melody of songs without realizing what the lyrics say unless I make a conscious effort to listen to the words. One day I actually sat and listened, and I realized that I was singing about a world without God. Although this song paints it out to be quite an ideal existence, I think it would really be sad. In such a world, I don’t see much to rejoice in.

So now the question is: Knowing the truths that we talk about every Sunday, what do we have to rejoice about?

First, I rejoice that we have a loving Heavenly Father. There is an overwhelming peace that comes when I really think and reflect on this truth. It’s the peace of knowing that no matter where I am or what is happening in my life, I am not alone. God is real and watches over me. He listens to my prayers. I remember when I was going through an especially lonely time in high school and I went into the bathroom and prayed. I had never thought to pray at school before, and it really calmed me. God also answers my prayers when I fly. Ever since I left for college I have gotten anxiety when riding on a plane. I think it’s the realization that I am so far off the ground that I would totally die if anything happened to the plane—admit it, you’ve thought it too. So now every time I get on a plane I pray, and I also pray especially fervently when there is a lot of turbulence. There is something about being only a prayer away from communicating with God that can really comfort me in those moments.

Have you ever asked the question: Does God really love and care about me? I’ve asked that question, and the answer that pops into my head is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves and cares about your and my soul so much that he sent the Savior to this world knowing that he would suffer pain and death. It was inevitable. And yet, he wished it to be. That is His love. I rejoice and thank God that he is merciful and sees my soul as something worth saving.

Secondly, I rejoice in the Spirit. When I find myself rejoicing in the gospel of Jesus Christ is when the spirit gives me realization and understanding that what I believe is true. The Spirit shows me the beauty in God’s plan. It’s one of those boggle the mind experiences where the Spirit is allowing my soul to grasp an idea that my mind can’t possibly comprehend. I like how Elder Cook simply stated this concept in his address last General Conference: “Joy comes when we have the Spirit in our lives. When we have the Spirit, we rejoice in what the Savior has done for us.” And in these moments I rejoice in the Spirit.

The third thing I rejoice in is what every author of scriptures has rejoiced about. While preparing these talks Jake and I did a search in the scriptures for rejoice, and it is all over the scriptures. Nearly every time rejoice is mentioned in the scriptures it is in relation to the Savior, and subsequently our salvation. Ammon rejoiced after returning from spreading the gospel when he says: “Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name” (Alma 26:16, 35). And for an extreme scriptural example of rejoicing in salvation, King Lamoni “sunk to the ground” twice because he was so overcome by his new understanding of salvation.

Not that we have to faint to the floor every time we speak about the Savior’s atonement, but are you in awe when you think about this gift? Elder Cook said that “…the Resurrection and Atonement wrought by the Savior and the promise of eternal life with our loved ones are of such overwhelming significance that to not rejoice would demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Savior’s gift.” Do the blessings that Christ has presented us with if we have faith in him and submit to his will ever blow your mind? He promises life in heaven with God for eternity. He promises peace and joy FOREVER. Now that’s something to rejoice about.

Alma the Younger rejoiced in the realization of Christ’s mercy. He says that he “was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell…[and after remembering his father’s teachings about Christ he says] I cried with all my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of god, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more…yea; my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:12-20). This is the rejoicing that comes from the cleansing power of repentance through Christ’s atoning power.

I also rejoice in day to day things, such as my husband singing in the shower. I rejoice that there is a heaven and that we can live each day of our life knowing that there is more out there after today passes. I think that the rejoicing I feel every day is largely due to the peace I feel from the gospel. Last conference Elder Uchtdorf told about his experience living in post WW2 Germany. He said, “In the middle of this despair, my family learned about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the healing message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. This message made all the difference; it lifted us above our daily misery…The plain and simple truths of the gospel warmed our hearts and enlightened our minds.” When it comes to day to day challenges, and even difficult long-term trials, it is the optimism and peace of the gospel that can sustain us through those rough times.

I like how Elder Uchtorf put it: “[E]nduring to the end is not just a matter of passively tolerating life’s difficult circumstances or ‘hanging in there’. Ours is an active religion, helping God’s children along the strait and narrow path to enduring to the end is exalting and glorious, not grim and gloomy. This is a joyful religion, one of hope, strength, and deliverance. ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy’.” (2 Nephi 2:25)

I thank God for the moments that I recognize his hand in my life and feel happy. I hope that we will all recognize the peace and rejoice in the great goodness of God.

And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jake's Talk:

Luke 17:11-19 - The 10 Lepers

2 Kinds of Gratitude

1. Gratitude because life is good (The 9 Lepers who were glad to be healed)

- Everything seems to go our way and there are no major obstacles in our path.
Living is easy and we become prideful. We enjoy blessings but fail to recognize their source

2. Because God is good (The 10th Leper)
- Although we enjoy our blessings, we are able to see past them to a loving and caring God who provides good gifts to his children. We are grateful to the giver rather than just being grateful for gifts.

Nephi warns us against being grateful solely because life is good

HEL 12:1-2 – We forget the Lord when we are blessed materially

- All 10 lepers recognized Christ as a Savior while they were yet afflict

- Afterwards only 1 remembered from whence his healing had come

Nephi’s point is made painfully clear when we compare the Church in 4th Nephi to the City of Enoch.
Both had progressed to a state of spiritual and temporal abundance but while the Nephites set their hearts upon their wealth and sank into apostasy, the City of Enoch “had no poor among them” and were taken up into heaven.

Warnings similar to Nephi’s have been offered by the prophets of God in our day…

Brigham Young once said, “The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greater fear . . . is that they cannot stand wealth.”

Rather than focusing solely on what we have been blessed with, we should lift our eyes to giving thanks to our God who as provided those blessings.

Micah 7: 18-20 – Who is a God like thee?
2 NE 9:8-10 – Oh the wisdom the mercy and the Grace
2 NE 4:20-24 - He hath been my support (How often do we give God credit for day to day things?)
- “He hath helped me pass my exams, He hath taught me to be a good spouse…”

If you’re struggling to find gratitude, may I make a suggestion?
For me, the times when I have felt most grateful to God have been when I was most conscious of my weaknesses. I like the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon (Enos 1:3-6)

What are your needs? What is your spiritual leprosy? In what way is your soul incomplete?

I would exhort us all to bring our needs before the Lord that like the leper and Enos, we too might be made whole. ITNOJCA