In Praise of Those Who Save

This entry is based on a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf with the title of ‘In Praise of Those Who Save’.

Families in Crisis

As we come to learn about our Saviour Jesus Christ and His Gospel, the more we start to recognise that the family is central to God’s eternal plan. We have been taught so powerfully about the family at many General Conferences and it is clear that this topic is paramount in their thoughts.

Families play such a key role in the Gospel and the Church that when an investigator first begins learning about the Gospel, generally the second principle that is taught (after God being our Heavenly Father) is that the Gospel Blesses Families. In the very first chapter of Preach my Gospel, it is the second focus in that introductory chapter which deals with a missionary’s purpose. It says:

“On earth, family associations can be the source of some of our greatest joy. Satan is attacking the family on many fronts, and too many families are being destroyed by his efforts. The message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ makes it possible for families to be united now and in eternity. By living the principles of the gospel, families can experience peace, joy, and a sense of belonging and identity in this life. Through the light of the gospel, families can resolve misunderstandings, contentions, and challenges. Families torn by discord can be healed through repentance, forgiveness, and faith in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

The sacred institution of the family has been in force since Adam and Eve and will last into the eternities. Have you ever stopped to wonder why after thousands and thousands of years mankind still (as a general rule) structure themselves in this, almost instinctive, family setting? Of course, we know that the exact identity of marriages and families is debated widely from worldly views on sacred matters, but that general understanding still exists today.

If families are so important, then why are they in danger today? We live in a world where we have a culture of disposables. President Uchtdorf stated: “As soon as something starts to break down or wear out—or even when we simply grow tired of it—we throw it out and replace it with an upgrade, something newer or shinier. We do this with cell phones, clothes, cars—and, tragically, even with relationships.” 

When we see the world we live in today, this is certainly true! Just this month, I was due an upgrade on my mobile phone. I was aware of the date that I would be entitled to a free upgrade. Barely a day has passed and I was at the phone shop looking to get my free upgrade! I was eager to see what new sleek models were on offer, what new tariffs were available to me and what new high-tech specifications I could hold in the palm of my hand! It was only upon reflection that something occurred to me…there was nothing wrong with my current phone. Now, a perfectly functional and good quality mobile phone is sat in my bedside drawer gathering dust, simply because I had grown tired of its use and the time had come for a better model. It will either continue sitting in my drawer as a back-up or be sold on for a fraction of its original value.

We cannot allow this to happen to our families.

Saving Marriages

To begin looking at how to save families, we must first look at marriages. I have been married to my wonderful wife, Chrissie, for 6 years and we have been ‘together’ for 9  1/2 years (she waited for me on my mission). As the weeks and months have slowly formed into years, one thing (among many other things) has always been clear: marriage is not easy. How do we explain the most recent statistic (2013) that in the UK, 42% of marriages today will end in divorce? Something easy cannot end in so many terminations. There is something truly tragic that happens to those who decide that they cannot continue that eternal journey they started so promisingly together. President Uchtdorf added:

“I have never met anyone who, as they looked at each other across the altar, thought they would end up divorced or heartbroken. Unfortunately, some do.

Somehow, as the days multiply and the color of romantic love changes, there are some who slowly stop thinking of each other’s happiness and start noticing the little faults. In such an environment, some are enticed by the tragic conclusion that their spouse isn’t smart enough, fun enough, or young enough. And somehow they get the idea that this gives them justification to start looking elsewhere.”

Of course, President Uchtdorf is referring to temple marriages. It is difficult to hear that in the world some people abuse this sacred rite of marriage with the knowledge they can fall back on cancelling this expression of love.

Looking at temple marriages, we know that both individuals prepare extensively, ensuring they are right for each other, praying for guidance from on high and change their lives so they can enter the Temple. Something like that requires the individual to be certain they are happy with the decision before going through with it. I do think that is one reason why marriage in the Temple is (generally) more successful.

However, there is another, far more precious reason why temple marriages are more successful in lasting (evidence for this – as opposed to the average 42%, LDS members in a study reported 16% divorce rate). In D&C 132:19 we read:

“And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—…and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.”

Put simply Brethren and Sisters, we shall receive all the blessings we can receive in our eternal lives, or to quote Sister Linda K Burton in a marvellous talk she gave – we shall ascend together. We recognise that in order for both husband and wife to achieve their full potential, they must work together in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is far too important an opportunity to lose – and that is why we are more inclined to endure. Those who save marriages recognise the need to push on, despite the chaotic storms pulverising their marriage. Even if it is seemingly held by a thread currently, that thread is a thread of hope. Christ always brings Hope.

Of course, despite all these thoughts on the need to keep marriages together, we have to be aware of three potential circumstances that must be addressed:

  1. I am not married and I don’t think I will be now: To those valiant members the opportunity will come whenever it is the Lord’s will. He will bless you for your efforts.
  2. It is far too late, our marriage cannot be saved, it is advancing to the brink: To those valiant members, my marriage is not perfect. Speak to one of those seemingly perfect couples, because they will tell you of hardships. Yet, they will also tell you the blessings of pulling through together. President Uchtdorf stated: “…no matter how flat your relationship may be at the present, if you keep adding pebbles of kindness, compassion, listening, sacrifice, understanding, and selflessness, eventually a mighty pyramid will begin to grow.”
  3. It is too late, I have been through a divorce: To those valiant members, never lose that trust in the Lord that has brought you here today. You will be blessed, either in this life or in the eternities, with the rewards of your faith and obedience to the Lord. Never lose faith in Him and His Infinite Atonement.

A word to new couples also. This is the most critical time in your marriage. Research states that, of couples who stick together in the first ten years of marriage that mentioned 42% figure drops to around 20% over as you go up to 20 years of marriage. The time for building that eternal relationship should have started already; it is your goal, your responsibility, your duty to improve your relationship each and every day. Do not let a day go by where you do not express your love for your eternal companion, they are too precious. This is where a temple marriage becomes an eternal marriage. A temple marriage is simply defined as a joining of two souls in matrimony which has taken place in the Temple, with the potential to last beyond the grave. Having a temple marriage does not guarantee eternal life with our family. We must have an eternal marriage. An eternal marriage is defined as being a temple marriage which is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, a marriage full of love, devotion and pure charity, where both individuals have submitted their will to the Saviour and are ready to enter His presence. How do we achieve this? It comes down, largely, to those small, everyday choices. President Uchtdorf elaborated If we look for imperfections in our spouse or irritations in our marriage, we will certainly find them, because everyone has some. On the other hand, if we look for the good, we will surely find it, because everyone has many good qualities too. Those who save marriages pull out the weeds and water the flowers. They celebrate the small acts of grace that spark tender feelings of charity. Those who save marriages save future generations.”

As President Uchtdorf said in his talk – if we really wanted a perfect companion, would they really have been interested in us? Not one of us is perfect. However, we are here in our marriages to help each other along that path toward perfection. If you don’t think you are anywhere near, yourself or in your marriage, then don’t despair. Start today.

Saving Families 

I have a small amount of time remaining but I do want to mention the need to save families in general. This can now be our relationship with our children, our parents, our siblings – whoever! No family is perfect. There are times where we will fall out, sometimes it can shatter our lives!

We find the formula for success in 4 Nephi 1:15-16. At this stage, the Nephites were living in a prosperous, peaceful state and this is how they did it:

 “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”

The love of God dwelled in their hearts. We cannot delay in having this love in our homes with the ones we will spend eternity with. I have often heard the phrase that we can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family. Well, let me tell you that we have chosen our family; we decided before we came to Earth who we would arrive to, the parents that would raise us – it was then down to them to fulfil that role of ‘parent’ the best they could. 

Let me leave you with a few questions and pieces of prophetic advice by President Uchtdorf: “What legacy do you want to leave your posterity? One of harshness, vengeance, anger, fear, or isolation? Or one of love, humility, forgiveness, compassion, spiritual growth, and unity?  Sincerely apologizing to your children, your wife, your family, or your friends is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Is being right more important than fostering an environment of nurturing, healing, and love? Set aside pride. Build bridges; don’t destroy them! Even when you are not at fault—perhaps especially when you are not at fault—let love conquer pride.”

Whether we have our own family, marriage or neither, we can save families. Be one of those who saves!

I Love to See the Temple

In 2017 we have been invited by our Stake Presidency to make the Temple the central focus of our year. We are promised in scripture if we do this then we will be immensely blessed. We read in D&C 109:17-19, 22 “That all the incomings of thy people, into this house, may be in the name of the Lord; That all their outgoings from this house may be in the name of the Lord; And that all their salutations may be in the name of the Lord, with holy hands, uplifted to the Most High…And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them;” These guidelines and promised blessings are given at the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple and apply to all saints who worship at the temple. We know that as individuals and families come closer together around the temple they will be brought closer together.

As a family we have set a goal to gather at the temple once each month. Obviously myself and my wife will be striving to visit on a regular basis to enter the temple and worship there. However, we felt it was important to involve our 4yo and 2yo children somehow. This is due to a scripture in Moses 7:18 “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.” We want to have the blessings and peace of the temple reach the heart of all our little family, not just us as parents.

So once a month, all of us get together quickly after a busy day at school and work, hop in the car, grab a McDonalds (or in the case of our strangely healthy 4yo boy, a healthy dinner bag from Dunelm Mill Coffee Shop!) and drive up to the Temple. On the way we talk about our day, how things are going at school and why we’re looking forward to going to the Temple. The kids love it. We love it except the rush hour traffic but when we come off the exit off the M61 at Chorley and see the welcoming site of the Temple on the hill it makes all the jostling through vehicles worthwhile.

Usually our daughter falls asleep on the way and so she wakes up when we arrive. Each time she’s woken and seen the Temple, she always lights up and says “Oh, Temple!” We get out and hold hands and enjoy a walk around the Temple and grounds. Our son talks about Jesus being there, our daughter points out Moroni and we talk about the precious nature of the Temple and the blessings it has brought and will bring to our family.

At the end of each visit we all put our hands on the Temple and promise that we will return. This has seen our children become excited about the Temple, but I don’t think it’s just the fact it is a sacred place – whilst that is important. What is also happening is the memories we are building, the peaceful sacred time together. We love to see the Temple and will continue to do so in 2017!

It’s Never Too Early or Too Late

Where are you on your journey?

In Europe we have had an Area Plan: this simple, yet inspired Area Plan focuses on three key areas. This plan is to bring a friend, become self-reliant temporally and spiritually and find an ancestor. In Alma 34:32 we find a well-known verse which reads –  “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” We have all been blessed to be on this Earth, we need to use our time effectively. If we have not moved off in our journey this year yet and left the shore to get to the Promised Land, it’s not too late to start TODAY!

The Daily Battle of Direction

In fact, this principle of it never being too late (or indeed too early) is exactly the message I want to think about. This is based on a talk that was given by Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy. In his talk he applies the approach of it never being too early or late to raising children in the Gospel but I want to apply this wider to anything in our own or our family’s spiritual progression and then discuss the impact on children in Zion.

He begins by making this statement:

“Brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a battle with the world. In the past, the world competed for our children’s energy and time. Today, it fights for their identity and mind.”

When we wake up tomorrow, will we remember that we are on a spiritual battlefield? Bearing in mind that it used to be a battle in itself to get our son, Joshua, out of bed for Nursery in the morning (despite him only being 3 years old at the time, not 13) it can be easy to see in our hectic day-to-day lives why we might forget this. In the confusion and hardships of the day, we might sometimes slip our focus away from the things that matter most. I want to look at an event from the scriptures which links well to this – the Brother and Jared and the Jaredites. As we know, they were blessed to come away from a sinful nation and were given the promise that if they followed the Lord, they would be lead to a blessed land where they would prosper. They obeyed and travelled and it says in Ether 2:13: “… it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.”

Surely, if they were content to dwell there on the seashore for four years, it must have been a pleasant enough place? Just picture where you were 4 years ago – that is a long time! If we’re talking about it never being too late to act then this is a good group of people to study(!) – because for four long years they settled. They did not progress. Are we sometimes not like the Jaredites, settling for what we have right now? If we think for one moment that we are good as we are and all is well in Zion then we need to repent – because none of us are where our Heavenly Father would have us yet – although I am sure He is pleased with the progress we have made so far!

 

All is Well?

This attitude of all being well as it is right now, today, is not only a sign of a lack of motivation to improve but it is a cunning tool of Satan to have us never reach our full potential – to be stunted in our spiritual growth. In 2 Nephi 28:21 we read:

“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

Not only is Satan craftily making us stop our own progress if we feel content where we are, but he is carefully leading us back away from the Lord. To quote from Elder Neil L. Andersen in his talk at the same Conference, he said:

“How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith.”

We are either moving forward in our journey, or slipping away from our eternal goal.

Never Too Early or Too Late

To return to the account of the Jaredites, the Lord clearly wanted to make this point to the spiritual leader of the group, the Brother of Jared, as we read:

“And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Ether 2:14)

To me, we can learn a lot from this. Yes, what the Jaredites did in being content was wrong, that is made clear. Also, the Lord is always there for us when we are ready to return back to Him. However, we also read here that the Lord ‘came’ to the Brother of Jared. Our loving Saviour is not just always there but he will seek us out if we are lost. This is a great lesson for us as members of His true Church – whilst we should always be ready to receive those of our number who are lost with open arms, it is NEVER too late for us to go out and find them, and it can’t be done early enough. In the New Testament, our Saviour taught us our role when he gave the parable of the Lost Sheep:

“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:4-5)

Obviously we are not encouraged to literally lay investigators on our shoulders – but how amazing is it that we have the opportunity to play our part and not only be ready to receive, but also to go out and find – it is NEVER too late for them! As we know, it wasn’t too late for the Jaredites either and they made it to the land which the Lord had prepared for them.

Children in the Gospel

As we know it is our mandate to bring people to the Lord, what do we need to do to help them become spiritually self-reliant so they can become tools in the Lord’s hand? This can apply to our children, as Elder Foster goes on to teach, but also children in the gospel (investigators, our friends, even our HT/VT families as we are all meant to be teachable).

Elder Foster taught us a very valuable principle when he said:

“On this occasion, Jesus told a story about planting seeds—the parable of the sower. In explaining this to His disciples, and ultimately to us, He said, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” The message for parents is clear: there is a difference between hearing and understanding. If our children merely hear but do not understand the gospel, then the door is left open for Satan to remove these truths from their hearts.”

Our FHE’s, investigator lessons, HT/VT visits etc. are not simply places where we are to preach and they are to listen to our words. If we attempt this, then we are not teaching in the Lord’s way. Why is this? Because we are not to be the teachers. If we set ourselves up as the teacher then the learner will only hear the words we say. However, if we recognise the Holy Ghost is the teacher, then understanding will implant deeper into the listener’s heart.

Teaching By the Spirit

Before mentioning a few things to remember about teaching by the Spirit, I would echo Elder Foster’s plea again – It Is Never Too Early or Too Late. Our daughter, Elaina, is 2 years old. If we do not begin now to offer a spiritual feast each and every day in our home then she will look for a feast elsewhere as she grows up and it will be more difficult to provide that feast later as we have not got into the habit of providing that feast. Similarly, it still is never too late if we have not been providing that feast. Begin today.

Can I dispel some myths about teaching and learning by the Spirit? Supposedly, you can tell children, or even adults, have been taught by the Spirit if:

  • They sit quietly through the whole lesson (again, adults as well as children!) – quite honestly if this were true then I would start thinking it’s never too late to give up
  • They cry with tears. Whilst crying can be a response to the fruits of the Spirit we can feel (Galatians 5:22-23 like love, peace, joy and goodness) it does not mean you have to cry to indicate you have been taught by the Spirit. Again, to apply this to our FHE setting, I think I would be concerned if my 4 year old began sobbing at what we were saying – in fact, the only time he has cried during a FHE is when he was struck by his sister with a toy.
  • The teacher does not prepare the lesson and so decides they have to ‘teach by Spirit’. Teaching by the spirit is not the same as ‘winging it’. As a primary school teacher, I know what it is to have to ‘wing it’ for a lesson sometimes – and often it can pay off. However, the Spirit will be the strongest if we are prepared. It is never too early or too late to prepare a spiritual lesson or experience with our children. If we spend hours on preparing a lesson for Church and then sit swiftly with our children and make up a lesson for FHE or some other experience on the spot, something is wrong.
  • Everyone is happy and the lesson went great. There will be times that you feel that a lesson did not go the way you wanted it to (again, this applies to parents, member missionaries, HTs, whoever) – however, it may well be those lessons that the Spirit has touched the heart of one of the listeners and that teaching moment by the Spirit will change their life forever.

Build a Better Tomorrow, Today

Building eternal bonds, loving ties and spiritual foundations has to be on the mind of all parents in Zion. To quote the scripture which always makes me feel terrified as a parent but willing to do better in D&C 68:25

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

It is never too early or late to build lasting relationships with our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our ancestors, with our HT/VT families – it needs to begin NOW otherwise we will not move on in our spiritual journey and miss out on potential future promised land blessings.

Becoming Provident Providers

In December 2015 my family had to move home. This news was not welcome, nor was it in our plans in the near future. However the Lord has His purposes which we may not see at the time. So we began to look at the market and there was nothing in our price range we could afford other than small, 2 bed flats which would have our lively children running up the walls (due to a 22% rise in house rental prices). We knew we could not, and should not, justify agreeing to a place which we could not afford (more on that later). As such, our views stretched out further afield, we found a home in another area within our price range, it worked with travel etc…we went to look…instantly we felt this was the place which we needed to pursue. We did not like it (we would have to move away from Ward in which we resided in, the area itself was not very desirable, it had limited outdoor space) yet there was no denying the feeling that both Chrissie and I received…

We began to inform family and friends – and despite the disappointment felt by those close to us, we knew (and we kept checking!) that this was right. However, as days passed to a week, and as we began to make plans for the move to occur, the Lord had something else in mind for us. We may never know why we had to go through this experience, but we felt that suddenly, despite previous clear revelation guiding us to the place we found, we now felt it wasn’t right. We prayed and prayed together to make sure…and on the very next day a house that was more spacious was brought to our attention by our current letting agents, with a garden and at a significant drop in price to where we were having to move from and the other house we had found…for our small family, this was a miracle. It is not perfect, but we will never forget how the Lord directed us over those few weeks.

How does this link with ‘Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually’? For me there is one simple key to becoming self-reliant in these two areas…complete, unwavering trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The blessings we received as a family from this experience were more than finding a house in a place we want to be (temporal things) – this experience has had a massive impact on our family spiritually. Our children, particularly our eldest son who wanted to be a part of our prayers and searching, had seen faith in action. We had come to know God and Jesus Christ more as we had discussed with them and also, we knew of a greater assurance their deep, abiding love that they have for our little family. They created worlds without number, their power can shift mountains and part seas and yet they are aware of our need to relocate down the road.

Temporal and Spiritual Hand in Hand

Of course, as we begin to consider how to become temporally and spiritually self-reliant in our homes, we have to remember this important principle: D&C 29:34 “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.” – all things we do to follow our Saviour are spiritual, despite their being possible temporal blessings, the two are linked together.

Temporal Providers

I first want to focus in on being better temporal providers. As with most areas of the Gospel – we can all improve on this. Elder Robert D. Hales stated that there are some debts that can be expected in our lives – he said “education, a modest home, or a basic automobile may be necessary to provide for a family.” However, we must not allow ourselves to be enticed to spend money we do not have on any other means that are not necessary for us. If we need furniture and we do not have the finances, look in areas where you can save money until the time comes you can afford a little more for your family. Elder Hales went on to say “Unfortunately however, additional debt is incurred when we cannot control our wants and addictive impulses.”

Notice how Elder Hales uses the ‘addictive’! This is a strong word, yet a prophet, seer and revelator used this language, we need to learn from it. He suggests the same escape route as with other addictions, turning to the Lord Jesus Christ.

How do we turn to the Lord to be temporally self-reliant? One of the major responses may be a confusing one to some, but not to those who have faith in Christ.

Tithing is a key part in becoming temporally self-reliant. In D&C 119:4 we find the reinstitution of this sacred law in these latter days…

“And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.”

Thus, tithing is not only found in the Bible and Book of Mormon for those of God’s children, but it is an important principle for us. Elder Robert D. Hales said “Tithing is the great equitable law, for no matter how rich or poor we are, all of us pay the same one-tenth of our increase annually, and all of us receive blessings so great “that there shall not be room enough to receive [them]”.”

We can all pay tithing. The Lord has seen fit to give us everything…we need the faith to trust in His guidance and show our faith by contributing 10% of the 100% He has blessed us with. Does that make it easy? Of course not! When discussing this very important principle with people I know who have had concerns, and these are people who want to serve and follow the Lord, their main concern is generally the same – “I/We cannot afford it.” We cannot afford NOT to pay our tithing. The members who have paid their tithing faithfully will testify that they have what they have because of the outpouring of blessings from heaven because of their obedience to this law.

In terms of being temporal provident providers, we have to be prepared to make sacrifices. How often have you wanted to buy or provide something to someone in your family or to someone you care for just to show that love? We are at the time we commemorate the birth of our Beloved Saviour Jesus Christ, and part of that worship involves the buying of gifts for loved ones, as the wise men did to the infant Son of God. We recently had what is becoming a more popular event in the UK (as with most things we decide to bring over from USA), Black Friday. As we reflect on this sacred time (Christmas, not Black Friday), are we planning a wonderful Christmas but staying true to being temporal provident providers?

Elder Hales shared a lesson he learnt in his early marriage years – “I was in the air force, and we had missed Christmas together…When I got home, I saw a beautiful dress in a store window and suggested to my wife that if she liked it, we would buy it.” Isn’t that great? He wanted to treat his darling wife to a gift. He continued that after his wife, Mary, tried the dress “After a moment the salesclerk came out, brushed by me, and returned the dress to it’s place in the store window. As we left the store, I asked, “What happened?” She replied, “It was a beautiful dress, but we can’t afford it!”…I have learned that the three most loving words are “I love you,” and the four most caring words for those we love are “We can’t afford it.”

…We are not meant to have everything we want. Mortal life was never meant to be a situation where we received anything we wanted whenever we wanted it. In fact, many of us have been blessed with a lot more than a number of people on this Earth. Are we living in our means and making sacrifices to ensure we are temporal providers?

Elder Hales gave a ominous warning to those who lack the self-control to not spend when it is not necessary, particularly when this spending leads to debt “Whenever we do this, we become poor temporally and spiritually. We give away some of our precious, priceless agency and put ourselves in self-imposed servitude. Money we could have used to care for ourselves and others must now be used to pay our debts.” If we spend where it is not needed and this leads to financial struggles, we have handed over our free will. We are, in a small fraction, no longer able to utilise our agency because we have placed restrictions on ourselves.

Spiritual Providers

This leads perfectly on to the other part of my focus – being spiritual self providers. In Mosiah 3:19 we read “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” Also, Alma taught his son, Corianton, in Alma 39:9 “Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.” (remember that lusts can refer to material coveting as well as sins of chastity). How can we ever hope to be like Christ and become ready to Celestial Kingdom, if we cannot control our desires and overcome the natural man?

Being spiritually self-reliant and being spiritual providers are two different things. I can be spiritually self-reliant, but if I do not share that with my children I am not being a provident provider. How can we spiritually provide?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “Give a man to fish and you will feed him for a meal, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” This applies to teaching our children, our home teaching families, investigators…whoever…how to be spiritually provident. We have probably heard the verse before in D&C 68:25 “And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

Please note again a vital word in this verse – “understand”. It does not say “teach them the doctrine of repentance”, it says teach them to understand the doctrine. How do we understand the Gospel rather than just know it? We have to teach those in our stewardship how to ‘fish’, how to receive that spiritual self-reliance and how to receive their own witness.

We’ll Ascend Together

This entry is based remarks on the talk given by Sister Linda K Burton in the recent General Conference ‘We’ll Ascend Together”. In her talk she speaks of the importance of the family, in particular the relationship between the husband and wife. I would like to focus on this relationship but also include the children within this family setting and their role in helping the whole family ascend together.

The world as we know it is in disarray. Countless concourses of people are tossed to and fro in chaos, looking for a sense of purpose and comfort in their lives. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we are in a very fortunate position. We have a great amount of knowledge about such deep and spiritual things that I think sometimes we forget just how fortunate we are. We know what we need to do to have peace and happiness in our lives.

On the other hand, we also know that Satan, the adversary of peace and happiness, does all he can to make all mankind suffer and become lost. Have we ever stopped to wonder why? After all, this Satan was once like we were, in that he was a spirit child of our Heavenly Father. We know that he decided that he required more though, in his own way and time. In rebelling against our Father in Heaven, Satan lost the opportunity to experience mortality. As a result he works ceaselessly to degrade us and our families. He has planted the lie that family, and the fundamental organisation of the family, are not necessary, that we can find happiness without family. In the last General Conference, Sister Linda K. Burton stated I plead with you not to listen to Satans lies! He has forfeited that sacred privilege of ever becoming a husband or father. Because he is jealous of those who have the sacred roles he will never fill, he is intent on making all men miserable like unto himself!

Is it any wonder that in today’s ever-changing world, the family is being attacked on all sides? Whether it’s the family as a concept or own individual families, Satan is mobilising all his efforts to rip the family apart. The list that could be given of active threats to the family is too long and disheartening to state at this moment but we are fully aware of them. As parents in Zion, it is vital for us to not only teach our children the principles of the Gospel but create a nurturing home which can be a place of refuge in the spiritual storm. As children in Zion, it is very important that we accept our role in making the home truly a heaven on Earth. Parents and children have a partnership and if they work together they can resist the oncoming march of Satan and his lies.

Parents

As I researched for this talk I came across a great list of quotes about family given by well-known people; people like CS Lewis, Walt Disney, Princess Diana and more. What was fantastic to see was that within this list there was a quote by Marjorie Pay Hinckley – wife of recent Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley – she said “Home is where you are loved the most and act the worst.” The sad thing about this thought is that I instantly felt bad – you know the feeling. Parents, do we act as polite and respectful of others at home as we do maybe in the workplace, or in public? As husbands or wives do we remember to apply the Proverb “A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1). We all have arguments with our family members and I’m no exception. There have been a number of times I’ve looked back over a discussion we’ve had and I wonder ‘Why didn’t I just let it go?’ – did me being right really matter that much? I’m sure we’ve all had those moments too! Couples who have been blessed with a temple marriage should be working towards a Celestial Marriage – and there is no contention in the Celestial Kingdom. Will we therefore agree completely in the eternities? Maybe not, but we will not contend with each other. Let’s get into that habit now.

As a people who have made life-changing covenants with Heavenly Father it is our duty to remember Christ and try to live a life that He would in all times, things and places – this includes, and probably applies most to, our own home. As I think of the role of parents in the home my mind refers straight back to my favourite passage in the Bible Dictionary under the entry for the Temple – it describes the Temple as “A place where the Lord may come, it is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth. Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”

This thought surprised me when I first read it – can our homes REALLY compare to the Temple in sacredness? Can my home with Cheerios scattered across the living room floor from snack time, my home with books constantly finding their way on the floor, my home with little flecks of Playdoh all around the dining room table really compare to the Temple in holiness? Before deciding that goal was a little unrealistic for our young family I paused and thought about the significance of those items. All of these things (and more) show that our home is a place for nurturing, learning, playing and growing together. However messy until the children go to sleep (and then the same again the following day), it is indeed a special place and yes, a place where the Spirit of the Lord can be unrestrained, if we invite it to be there.

In the scriptures, we read of parents who taught their children well so that when they grew up they did not depart from the way they had been taught. From the very start of the Book of Mormon we learn the principle of righteous parenting – ‘I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents’ is often referred to as the most read line in the entire Book of Mormon. But it is a good line. It shows that Nephi was taught and that his parents were good. They must have taught their children well because Nephi did not just accept what his parents said but also went to find out for himself – in 1 Nephi 2:16 we read “…having great desires to know the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord and behold…he did soften my heart that I did believe the words which had been spoken by my father.”

I don’t know if you have noticed but did you spot the word ‘soften’. I had always, for some reason, pictured Nephi as this unquestioning, strictly obedient son to Lehi. Yet, here Nephi specifically says that his heart was softened, suggesting it was in a state that it needed to be softened. Yet, Lehi and Sariah must have taught their children how to receive an answer for themselves, otherwise why would Nephi know to pray to the Father? We would do well as parents or prospective parents to follow the example of Lehi and teach our children in a ‘goodly’ way, or, teach them the Gospel and how to find truth for themselves.

Does this mean that if our children decide to depart we have not taught them well? Of course not – look at Lehi’s other sons…

Children

At this stage I want to look now at a child’s role in make the home as sacred as the Temple. Parents do have a large responsibility to ensure that the home provides for temporal and spiritual needs, including regular FHE, prayer and scripture study. However, children play a vital role too.

At this stage it seems appropriate to share a thought I found by the great author Mark Twain about children in the home and how things are from their perspective – he said “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

If you are the child of a parent (which is all of us) I’m sure you have probably felt this or will encounter these feelings. But whether we are a child at home with our parents or moved away from our parents, we are and will forever be the children of our earthly parents (according to the great Plan of Redemption). This, surely, is why when Moses received the 10 great laws that would govern the Lord’s chosen people one of those ten was to ‘Honour thy father and thy mother…’. We will all need to uphold this law into the eternities…

However, children playing their part in the home extends to more than simply respecting their parents and doing what they ask, they can offer so much more. Our son Joshua, when he had just turned three years old, developed a habit of asking us the same question a lot – the question was “You happy?”. Every day, in the Roberts home, we are asked this very deep question “You happy?” Now, that question is adorable enough, but when you recognise that this question was not just restricted to his family at home to make the home a cheerier place it just gets even cuter. Random people who passed our family on the streets would be psychoanalysed by this 3 year old – “You happy?”. When out shopping decided which cereal to get – “You happy?”. The most surreal time has to be when we went swimming and I was with Josh in the changing rooms and one of the lifeguards was mopping the water from the floor nearby “…you happy?” Unfortunately this lifeguard didn’t look too happy but he had headphones in so he didn’t hear this invitation to reflect. Whilst I put this question across as a funny story, this question had a marvellous effect on us and the people who were asked – if we weren’t or the people we met didn’t seem happy…you can’t look into the bright green eyes of a cheerful three year old and say you’re not happy! Our three year old son, even though he probably didn’t recognise it at the time, was trying to make our home a happy place to be – we can truly learn from our children!

Children, currently at home or simply children by relation, can brighten up the home, or their older parents’ days, by your choices. Do we decide to shut ourselves away from our family or do we actively decide to spend time with them, ask how they are and build those eternal relationships? All of us, as children (again referring to all of us) are placed in a perfect position to make the home a heaven on earth; decide today to make the home a happy place.

The Storm will Continue

So, if we, as parents and children, decide together to work on protecting our home will we be completely weather proof from Satan’s storm. We do have to accept it will not be easy, but we can do it!