Authority in the Ministry

The entry is based on the activity found in Preach My Gospel page 5.

It first refers to John 15, which is an account of Christ ordaining His twelve Apostles to the great ministry they have prepared for them. Christ says “I am the true vine” (John 15:1) – He is the source of power of any administration or use of the priesthood authority in His Church. Without Him this Church wouldn’t be restored in it’s original form as His Church. As we have faith in Him – we are endowed with the power to do all His will.

In this scriptural passage, Christ is talking directly to his Apostles. However, we many take this event and apply it to ourselves, liken the scriptures to ourselves. We, when we officiate in His Priesthood, are a direct link to the Saviour – we are His branches. As Christ said “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). As we connect to the Vine in our responsibilities and if we invite His Hand to move this sacred work His power will emanate. In being set apart to the work, we become part of this overall ‘plant’ – a branch of the true Vine – messengers of Christ.

Here is a great promise by the Lord – “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7). Whatsoever thing we ask for in righteousness to our Heavenly Father in His service, it will be given. There is great power in knowing and applying this to the work.

We are all called as ministers. And interestingly this does not just apply to priesthood holders. Brethren and sisters are all called to the sacred ministry. All are called as ministering brethren and ministering sisters. We are required to be connected to the true Vine so we can invite power in His service. We are conduits for the power of the Spirit to flow. Whilst the conduit is important, it can only be useful and fulfill its purpose if it doesn’t impede the flow of our Saviour’s power and influence.

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Lehi’s Dream – Love of God

Lehi’s Dream – the vision of the tree of life – has many marvelous meanings and analogies behind it. It is one of the first main gospel ‘teachings’ in the Book of Mormon and highlights really just what the Book of Mormon is for – to bring others to the knowledge of Christ and, eventually, the true love of God. We see this in the vision described by Lehi in 1 Nephi 8 and explained later to Nephi in 1 Nephi 11.

If we look at the vision in terms of missionary work – we see a good description of the emotions and efforts of the work placed before us.

At the beginning, Lehi finds himself at this tree of life. He tastes the fruit and says “I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted…And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy…” (1 Nephi 8:11-12). Thus we see that this fruit was very delicious to the taste and it made Lehi feel great. This fruit can be related to as the love of God – the abundant blessings that we receive from our loving Father’s hand – in particular eternal life, living in the presence of Him and our families together forever.

As such, if we want to dwell with our families forever, they need to qualify as well. So Lehi continues “I cast my eyes round about, that perhaps I might discover my family also…” (1 Nephi 8:13) – he immediately looked for his family to taste of what he just had. He wanted to share it with them so that they could have the joy that he had – just as we should be with the Gospel in our lives.

What is also interesting is the way that people would make it to the tree/eternal life. In order to reach the tree, people had to “press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” (1 Nephi 18:30). This links into what we need to do to receive all the blessings of the Atonement. Grasping to the rod could represent holding to the gospel covenants. As such, commitments and covenants help us move closer and closer to the eventual goal of celestial glory. An interesting point is that the people had to hold to the rod right until they reached the tree – and hold on tight. Due to the mists of darkness (temptations of Satan), if they didn’t hold fast they would be lost – if they didn’t endure to the end then they wouldn’t reach he blessing of eternal life.

Sister Okazaki – Prejudice or Peace: An Example of Cultural Unity

I recently studied an article about a talk by Sister Chieko N Okazaki in the April 2018 Ensign. I was impressed whilst reading the short bio of Sister Okazaki at the start of the article. You can read it at this link or the bio is just below:

“Chieko Nishimura Okazaki (1926-2011) grew up in Hawaii, USA, in Buddhist family of Japanese ancestry. She joined the Church when she was 15.

By then, Sister Okazaki had come to acknowledge the complexity of her ethnic and  cultural status. Worried about how others would perceive them after the Japanese  military bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Sister Okazaki and her mother gathered and  burned every Japanese memento they owned. But then she looked in the mirror and  thought, “I have never set foot in Japan. am not Japanese in my heart. But cannot run away from myself. My eyes, my skin, and my hair are Japanese.”1

Sister Okazaki confronted racism throughout her life. She began teaching soon after  World War II when anti-Japanese sentiment still ran high in the United States. Three mothers refused to allow  their children to be in her class. But Sister Okazaki soon won them over.

Sister Okazaki was the first woman to serve on all three of the women’s auxiliary boards:   first Young Women, then Primary, then Relief Society.”

I am aware that this type of cultural prejudice is unfortunately as prevalant today as it has always been. You would think that as the world becomes smaller through new and improved systems of communication and a diversifying of many cultures this would not be the case. Sadly, there is still a lot of unwarranted hate in the world. You only even have to look at something as trivial as football fans to see this in action. One set of fans automatically go against other fans and hurl abuse simply because of the team they support. Were they to meet each other in other settings they may have struck a wonderful friendship up. Yet, it is their categorisation of ‘those fans and that club’ that instantly have them make a judgement about those individuals.

The harrowing thing about cultural prejudice is that, unlike football teams and fans, culture and race cannot be ‘chosen’. We are born with it. As such, if someone is prejudiced against someone else for their race or culture, they are making judgement on that person just because of the way they were born – not on ANY of the choices that person has made! This is clear to see in the example of Sister Okazaki. The sorrow she must have felt when treated in this way because, simply, she looked different must have felt bad. She even said she did not ‘feel’ Japanese, but the way she looked made the difference.

She shared a wonderful talk about this cultural difference and the Gospel. She said:

“The basket and the bottle are different containers, but the content is the same: fruit for family. Is the bottle right and the basket wrong?No, they are both right. They are containers appropriate to the culture and the needs of  the people. And they are both appropriate for the content they carry, which is the fruit…

Brothers and sisters, whether your fruits are peaches or papaya, and whether you bring  them in bottles or in baskets, we thank you for offering them in love.”

It does not matter what we look like, but what we live like. Obviously, this is something that as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we would believe as we believe we are all children of our loving Heavenly Father, no matter the colour of our skin. However, this talk – along with the context of Sister Okazaki’s life-experience – was an eye-opener. I fall victim to making judgements about others and I wish to work on that.

President Nelson Tour

Saints in the UK and Ireland recently had an incredible opportunity. After a historic General Conference, President Russell M Nelson embarked on a Global Tour of the Church and is visiting 8 countries in 11 days (and some of us used to suggest we couldn’t visit our handful of HT families in a month)! The very first stop was London and President Nelson, along with Elder Jeffrey R Holland and their wives taught so powerfully to the members of the UK and Ireland area of the Church.

Sister Holland spoke first and it was clear of her love for, and her reverence for, President Russell M Nelson and the sacred calling that he has been given. She encouraged us to study the words of President Nelson from his service in the General leadership of the Church. She recognised that she can speak so well of President Nelson because she knows him pers onally – she invited us all to get to know our relatively new prophet personally by studying his words and asking Father in Heaven about his call as Prophet, Seer and Revelator. This also reminded me of the invitation I had been given but not yet fully fulfilled – to study the talks given by any visiting authority. We were fortunate to have the Area President, Paul V Johnson, visit us for our Stake Conference 9 days after this special broadcast with President Nelson so I studied those talks before his visit.

Following Sister Holland was Elder Holland. He spoke of his felt inadequacy in following his wife and preceding President and Sister Nelson. He taught powerfully about revelation. As mentioned, we had a historic General Conference just a week before. He reminded us that, whilst President Nelson spoke a number of times to announce changes in Church policy, he did give a message on the Sunday General Session – revelation. The General Conference was all about revelation – whether it was Church-changing revelation or personal revelation.

Sister Nelson then spoke about her testimony about how she knows President Nelson has receive the mantle of the prophet. She made reference to a unique and divine experience that she and President Nelson had 2 days after the passing of President Monson which left her without doubt, an experience too personal to share. Also, she shared experiences of when President Nelson received revelation to guide the Church and she was directed by the Spirit to leave the room before the revelation was received. This was a powerful message, particularly after Elder Holland’s address to us to be more in tune to receive the quiet promptings of the Spirit.

President Nelson was the final speaker and he was an inspiration. He taught about the need to ‘clean up’ our lives before we meet our Saviour, similarly to how the Hyde Park Chapel was before his arrival. He then spoke of ministering – the new announcements from General Conference and how we need to become better ministers (or ‘shepherds’ as was suggested earlier on in the process). He left an Apostolic Blessing that all those in attendance would have a greater capacity to feast on the words of Christ. Also that we would be blessed with health and safety as we continued on our mortal journeys.

Belief, Faith and Knowledge

The three terms belief, faith and even knowledge are often interchanged as though they are synonyms – all with the same meaning. However, there is a definite difference between them all.

In the Oxford Dictionary – her are the three definitions:
Belief: “something believed (accept as true)”
Faith: “reliance or trust; belief in religious doctrine”

Knowledge: “the facts etc that someone knows; knowing a fact or about a subject”

The easiest one to separate is knowledge, which will be discussed later, but belief and faith do seem to be similar – however a closer look differentiates the two.

Belief “may consist in a merely intellectual assent,” says Elder James E Talmage (Articles of Faith pg 96) whereas “faith implies such confidence and conviction as will impel to action.” (Articles of Faith pg 97). From this, it emerges that someone might believe something to be true – however, they do not act on that feeling. Faith, on the other hand, leads to action – it is a trust or reliance on a subject and acting accordingly. Faith is what is necessary for us to receive salvation and exaltation – not merely believing that to be the case. Another interesting thought is that one can have a belief – or even better, knowledge of a fact – and not have faith whereas you can’t have faith and not believe.

For example, it says in James 2:19 “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Further, a man possessed by devils was causing havoc “But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?” (Mark 5:6-7). These devils believed Jesus to be the Christ, in fact, more than that – they knew Him to be the Christ. These spirits, unlike us, do not have a veil over their memory and so they remember perfectly the Grand Council in Heaven and the fact Christ was ordained as our Leader and Saviour. However, despite having this perfect knowledge, it doesn’t help them – they do not have the trust in Him as their Saviour (i.e. faith) because they have enlisted to follow the other ‘leader’.

Now, compare this with Peter’s statement to Christ. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). Peter has belief that Christ was the Son of God, maybe even a knowledge but it couldn’t have been much more knowledge than the devils had (after all they knew perfectly he was the Christ from their unveiled experience) – so what was different between Peter’s attitude and the evil spirits? Faith! Peter not only believed THAT Jesus was the Christ but also believed IN Him as the Christ and what He would do.

To illustrate the point that mere knowledge doesn’t save, Elder Talmage uses an example of a scientific man who discovered, through scientific tests and observations, that the supply of water in a great city was tainted and was causing outbreaks of cholera, which was killing many people. He proclaimed this and the people, never having seen the physical tests to prove it, acted on faith and would drink sterilised water. The scientific man, despite his perfect knowledge, one day forgot and drank unsterilised water and died. His sure knowledge didn’t save him, but the people’s faith did save them. The man wasn’t wise and didn’t apply the knowledge he had received to his own life – thus it is with one who has belief but no faith. “Faith in Christ leads to action.” (Preach My Gospel pg 61) and is key as the very first principle of the Gospel.

Sacrament – “This Do in Remembrance of Me”

The sacrament is a most special ordinance in the fact that it allows the opportunity to remember Christ and renew our covenants made at baptism. Concerning the sacrament – Christ himself said “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:18). When we come to the sacrament meeting, we should be ready to ponder over our worthiness and be prepared for a spiritual experience. In 1 Corinthians 11:28 it says “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of that cup.” I have personally found that when one comes to take the sacrament, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and focus on what is taking place before them and the importance of that ordinance – it can be one of the most profound spiritual experiences in your life. You can feel the Spirit working within you.

The sacrament itself was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper – to usher in the new covenant. Now, instead of sacrificing a lamb to cleanse our sins, the atoning blood of the Lamb of God does that and we show our acceptance of that through the ordinance of the sacrament. Christ declared “Think not that that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17). The doing away of sacrificing animals was not a sign of leaving God’s law – rather it is the shifting to a higher law, from which higher blessings and spirituality can be achieved.

Elder L Tom Perry said “Before the world was organised, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises. The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is, of course, to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord…” – not only does this ordinance serve as an actual renewing of our covenants but also as a reminder of the covenants themselves, hence the particular wording of the prayer offered over the sacrament.

“Behold, I am the Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Wherefore let all men beware how they take my name in their lips,” (D&C 63:60-61) – a stark warning to take the name of the Lord not in vain. We are taking upon ourselves the name of Christ in being baptised and renewing those covenants weekly through the sacrament. If we do this lightly, we are breaking one of the Ten Commandments – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…” (Exodus 20:7). We need to be reverent and ponder over the promises we are making and renewing.

On my mission I had a moving experience whilst teaching a Family Home Evening to a member family. We showed ‘To This End Was I Born’ – a deep film of the Saviour and His Atonement. A very solemn spirit came over the lesson – somehow the sacrament was discussed and every single person in the room committed to take the sacrament more worthily, remembering that “there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17). It is easy to often let our minds drift during the sacrament or be preoccupied – but as we all determine to focus on why we are taking this bread and water – what it can mean for us when we take it in the right spirit – then we will receive the profound, spiritual experiences during this sacred ordinance and then all be ‘filled’.

Learning to Love Learning

Based on a talk by Elder David A Bednar found in the February 2010 Ensign.

Life is like a laboratory – we are constantly conducting experiments and learning from the results of these tests – good or bad. Elder Bednar in his talk gives three aspects in our lives as to why it is important to love the process of this learning experience. There are different categories of students in this laboratory – those who are there, eager to learn what new concept will be addressed today, note pads ready. Unfortunately, there are also those that are there just to go through and get the grade at the end, with as little effort or learning as possible. The three aspects of our lives that learning to love learning develops are:

1. Learning to love learning is central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Throughout the scriptures , we are advised and commanded to learn. We are told to ‘seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118) One of the ordinances we receive as members of the Church is the confirmation – or to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This precious gift of God has many roles and purposes, but one is to facilitate learning. Numerous scriptures talk about this role of the Holy Ghost – “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5) “But the Comforter…he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) are just a couple. The Gospel of Jesus Christ revolves around learning “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ…” (John 17:3) – how can we learn of God and of Jesus Christ if we do not learn? We cannot! It takes a lifetime of learning to even begin to know them, therefore we have to be learning now!

As the scripture said – the most important thing that we can learn in this life is about our Heavenly Father. There is priority to what we can learn in this life and we need to be able to discern what in life we can learn that is of eternal importance. The Apostle Paul prophesied that people in the latter-days would be “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7) – there are those people who spend their time pursuing knowledge of the world (which in itself is a good thing) but sacrifice learning which will propel them to celestial glory and returning to their Heavenly Father – we need to learn and apply gospel principles to our lives.

2. Learning to love learning is vital to our ongoing spiritual and personal development

If there was a model of someone who loved to learn, it was President Brigham Young. Repeatedly, he would emphasise life being a learning experience and how important it was to learn and love doing so. Here are a couple of things he said on this topic – “The religion embraced by the Latter-day Saints, if only slightly understood, prompts them to search diligently after knowledge. There is no other people in existence more eager to see, hear, learn, and understand truth.”, “We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it: never, never.” (President Brigham Young). As we develop through our life, and life after, it will be hard to avoid learning, especially if we desire to make it back to dwell with our Heavenly Father! As we learn how to truly learn – we will see ourselves develop spiritually and personally. “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” (D&C 93:36) – how can we expect to gain what God has gained without gleaning intelligence from this life?

3. Learning to love learning is an absolute necessity in the world in which we do now and will yet live, serve and work.

Elder Bednar remarked about how the BYU has a motto saying “”Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” This expression certainly does not imply that everything necessary for a lifetime of meaningful service can or will be obtained during a few short years of higher education…” (Elder David A Bednar). He is making the point that – although university is a place solely set aside for learning, it really is a place where people go to learn to love learning. During life, at least once, we will come across a situation or task that we haven’t faced, compelling us to learn something new to rise to the task. Elder Bednar puts this point across even further by saying “For example, the US Department of Labor estimates that today’s college graduates will have between 10 and 14 different jobs by the time they are 38 years old. And the necessary skills to perform successfully in each job assignment will constantly change and evolve.” Fortunately, in today’s world we have many resources at our fingertips to assist us in our quest to learn and to overcome life’s puzzles. However, we must be careful to not “trust in the arm of flesh,” (2 Nephi 4:34) and not remember the Lord our God. If we do that, we will become like Zeniff and his group of people. They wanted to possess the land of their forefathers and journeyed to do so. However, he records “we were smitten with famine and sore afflictions; for we were slow to remember the Lord our God.” (Mosiah 9:3). If we ever feel the world is above us in wisdom, remember these words “…if you will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, every man and woman will be put in possession of the Holy Ghost…They will know things that are, that will be, and that have been. They will understand things in heaven, things on the earth, things of time, and things of eternity, according to their several callings and capacities.” (President Brigham Young).

As we learn to love learning and then use what we learn to serve diligently in the world and the Kingdom of God – we will see great blessings and treasures of knowledge.