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.

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A Creator

Many people believe that this Earth which we live on was a random chance which occurred many years ago with which they can explain the origin of life itself.

Elder James E Talmage gave his thoughts on this perspective. “…man’s ingenuity has invented theories to illustrate…a possible sequence of events by which the earth has been brought from a state of chaos to it’s present habitable condition; but by these hypotheses this globe was once a barren sphere, on which none of the innumerable forms of life that now tenant it could have existed. The theorist therefore must admit a beginning to life on the earth, and such a beginning is explicable only on the assumption of some creative fact…” (articles of Fatith pgs 34-35).

The theories developed by man are indeed logical in many cases – however, to say that a monumental, cataclysmic event from nothing (as was once explained to me) is illogical to me. Elder Talmage also mentioned this – “we conclude that something must have existed always, for had there been a time of no existence, a period of nothingness, existence could never had begun, for from nothing, nothing can be derived.” (Articles of Faith, pg 34).

Many scientists do actually concede that there must be a greater power out in the universe and they are trying to explain how this Power caused these things to occur so perfectly. Said Alma to Korihor “…all things denote there is a God; yea even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and it’s motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” (Alma 30:44).

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1) – the Earth began with it’s creation and it was the Old Testament Jehovah, under the direction of the Father, that undertook this task. There was, and is, a Maker, an Organiser, a God. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” (Psalms 14:1). Often, the problem is that we need to have the Spirit of the Lord with us to begin to build a testimony of God and His influence. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:18) Because many shut their eyes from the Spirit, they cannot feel it’s light.

We do have a Heavenly Father and He, through His Son Jesus Christ, created this Earth for us to come and dwell. We can all receive this witness but we have to be ready to listen to the quiet promptings of the Spirit. We read “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:4) – one needs a broken heart and a contrite spirit to know these things, and God will provide an answer.

Step by Step

I have been thinking a little bit recently about how the Lord guides our lives and paths step by step. He has a plan for us and He can guide us to fulfil this plan. An example of this was the Star of Bethlehem. It is unlikely that the Lord made a star appear out of nowhere. Our Heavenly Father has a perfect plan. As such, He was able to orchestrate the movements of the stars and planets in such a way that they aligned or manifested themselves in such a way that signalled the birth of our Saviour.

In our personal lives, we are given the opportunity to receive Patriarchal Blessings. These blessings provide an opportunity for us to be guided step by step. We are told on lds.org that “Those who follow the counsel in their patriarchal blessing will be less likely to go astray or be misled. Only by following the counsel in a patriarchal blessing can one receive the blessings contained therein.” We will only be able to be led step-by-step if we follow the guidance and instructions in those blessings.

I have also been studying Our Heritage, which catalogues the History of the Church. It explains what happened in the early life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. After it details the event of his operation, it makes one small mention of a significantly important detail. It says in Our Heritage “After Joseph’s operation, the Smith family moved to Norwich, Vermont, where they suffered three successive years of crop failure, and then moved to Palmyra, New York.” This is again another example of the Lord guiding His work. The Smith family moved to Norwich, Vermont – however this was not where the Lord needed them to be for Joseph to carry out his work to which he was going to be called. As such, a destination adjustment was needed and then the Smith’s moved. People may say it is simply a coincidence, however all the coincidences in the world can’t explain how Heavenly Father’s plan has worked to perfection thus far. He guides up step-by-step.

Temple/Prodigal Son Analogy

Recently I’ve been able to consider my feelings about the Temple and how important it has been in my life. It really is a place where the Spirit of the Lord can feel so close and where peace can be found.

One thing that has been highlighted to me once more is the importance of symbolism. The Temple is a wonderful place to learn but a lot of the lessons taught are symbolic and require guidance from the Spirit to support our understanding. I explored a little into Parables – these are great examples of the way that the Lord teaches through examples, symbols and analogies.

We know the parable of the prodigal son begins with children who are due an inheritance from a wealthy father. The prodigal son asks for his inheritance early and then goes and spends it all on material, temporary possessions. I want to focus in on this part of the parable as an example of the Temple and how it can play a comforting and integral role in our lives. In Luke 15:17-19 we read:

“17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

We often may feel like this. I was asked to prepare a talk about being worthy to enter the Temple. Of course it was important to cover the necessary conditions that are required to enter the Temple. The Lord’s House is set apart, sanctified, to enable it to be such a spiritual place for a reason. However, I was also keenly aware of the need to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that we cannot be good enough. I think this is sometimes more of an issue. I have met so many people who feel that they are not good enough to enter the Temple but often it is because they are comparing themselves to the Lord’s perfect standard. We are not required to be perfect yet. We need to be living our covenants and striving to keep the Lord’s standard but, if we can answer the questions the Lord has set as the yardstick to enter the Temple, then we are good enough.

We must make the decision to enter as soon as we can. The words of the parable continue (Luke 15:20-21):

“20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”

Once we have the faith to act, we go before the Lord’s appointed servants and the Lord Himself and aim to go to our Father’s House. We return back home. We see the Father’s (and I imagine our Father’s) reaction in the following verses (Luke 15:22-24):

“22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

I can imagine this. Our Heavenly Father seeing His children gathering at His home and welcoming them all. We feel of this ‘best robe’ when we enter the welcoming, warm entrance to the Temple. It is almost as if He wraps us in His arms of comfort when we enter for those blissful hours we worship in that Holy place. The prodigal child returns – as we enter back into His presence to make the decisions and covenants we make in the Temple.

I Am A Child of God

The Debilitating Lie
In the Pearl of Great Price, we begin with reading about Moses and a glorious experience he has with the Father. Moses was carried away in the Spirit into a vision and he witnesses the glory of God – we read in Moses 1:3

“And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?”

What an amazing experience. Here is Moses, a mortal man, witnessing before him the very existence of a God and that He is all-powerful and endless. If you were in that moment, how would you feel? A little intimidated? Nervous? Even a little scared? Or, if you know the truth that Moses was to learn immediately after, maybe you would feel something else. God goes on to say in verse 4:

“And, behold, thou art my son;”

Why would the Lord, after proclaiming his never-ending nature, decide to proclaim his never-ending relationship with Moses? Why teach him so early on this profound truth? We find the answer very soon after this marvellous vision. Satan, the father of lies, deception and falsehoods, comes to Moses immediately after this life-changing experience. This cunning architect of doubt knew exactly what his best stratagem was after Moses had such a revealing vision of God. In verse 12 we read:

“And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.”

Here is the great, debilitating lie that Satan often uses with us today to seemingly demean our value, and it is what he tried with Moses. Moses had just witnessed a perfect Being, a glorified Man – one who Moses might have found difficult to relate to, had he not learnt the simple, glorious truth mentioned before. Was he not indeed insignificant, did he not tremble before the presence of this almighty God and see he, himself, was inadequate? In saying ‘Moses, son of man’ Satan is deliberately trying to cause feelings of doubt and unworthiness in Moses, implying that Moses is worth nothing to God, this Mighty, Immortal Being.

The Glorious Truth

But, we know different. Moses knew different. He had been taught the simple, profound truth – the truth that would enable him to overcome all Satan could throw at him, to overcome all feelings of doubt and inadequacy – and yet, Primary children in our Church at the age of three (even younger) sing this life-saving truth in an innocent, heartfelt song – ‘I am a Child of God’. Because this doctrine is learnt at such a young age in the Church I feel I have often overlooked its significance. Moses did indeed overcome Satan’s advances in this experience, we can do the same.

Often Understated, Can Never Be Overstated

These thoughts are based on a talk given by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy in a recent General Conference. He stated:

“This doctrine is so basic, so oft stated, and so instinctively simple that it can seem to be ordinary, when in reality it is among the most extraordinary knowledge we can obtain. A correct understanding of our heavenly heritage is essential to exaltation.”

It is indeed understated just how important this tremendous truth is. The reality is, it can never be overstated. Just imagine if you did not know there was a God? Would there be any purpose to our mortal lives? Would we be motivated if we did not have an ultimate, eternal goal to strive for? Now, imagine how you would feel if you felt there was a God, but you had no meaningful, loving connection with Him? Would this be any more comforting that not knowing there was a God at all? That there was some all-powerful Being observing our every action, with little care or unconditional love for us?

If we look in the Bible Dictionary under ‘God’ we read:

“Although God created all things and is the ruler of the universe, being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (through His Spirit), mankind has a special relationship to Him that differentiates man from all other created things: man is literally God’s offspring, made in His image, whereas all other things are but the work of His hands.”

As mentioned, this special relationship can be a great support and comforting for us to know as we journey through this mortal life. It means a lot. Once we understand this eternal truth, we can know that God is indeed there, but not only that, that He loves us as a perfect Father does, He is guiding us, He knows what is best for us and He desires nothing more for us to return again to Him for eternity.

Eternal Implications

Such a monumental truth has a number of implications, things which we need to take into account. I will only mention a couple but there are many.

The first, as mentioned, is the way we view trials. Elder Hallstrom went on to say in his message:

“When difficult things occur in our lives, what is our immediate response? Is it confusion or doubt or spiritual withdrawal? Is it a blow to our faith? Do we blame God or others for our circumstances? Or is our first response to remember who we are—that we are children of a loving God? Is that coupled with an absolute trust that He allows some earthly suffering because He knows it will bless us, like a refiner’s fire, to become like Him and to gain our eternal inheritance?”

The truth of ‘I am a child of God’ can have a profound impact on how we react to trials in our lives. Trials change from being irritable barriers which impede our progress to spiritual hurdles which, whilst challenging, will ultimately support our growth and progress.

The second thing we change is our view of each other. How much easier does it become to love those around us when we recognise and understand that, as we are all the children of God, we are all spiritually connected and related? In the weeks leading up to serving my Mission in the England Leeds Mission, I was having a personal struggle. Not one of desire to actually go on my mission – but one of concern with my level of charity. It’s not that I didn’t care for other people…it’s that I just didn’t like talking to people, much less people I had no connection with (and even less those from Yorkshire!) Joking aside, a couple of weeks before I was to leave, I begin to have a quiet concern – how could I begin to proclaim the Gospel if I didn’t have a love for the people I would be serving. I had a love of the Saviour and His Atonement – but I do not think I yet had a sufficient understanding that we are all children of God (despite, again, having sung that fact over a thousand times). Elder Hallstrom commented on this saying:

This beloved hymn is one of the most often sung in this Church. But the critical question is, do we really know it? Do we know it in our mind and in our heart and in our soul? Is our heavenly parentage our first and most profound identity?

I thought I did – but maybe I was wrong. As it was, this concern was eating away at me as I was sat on a bus travelling to a destination. It grew and grew in my mind until I couldn’t bear it. I looked around at all the unfamiliar people from my seat at the back of the bus (remember, I was on a public transport, so they were very unfamiliar) and I just couldn’t imagine myself ever having the confidence and the strength to talk to them. As the worry grew, I felt a profound feeling that I needed to pray…looking back this now reminds me of a scripture in Moroni 7:45 which says: 

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God;”

As I prayed, certainly trying as much as I could in my heart, something significant stirred within me. It can only be described as a prompting from the greatest teacher we have access to, the Holy Ghost. As I lifted my eyes from being bowed in prayer, something incredible happened. There was no heavenly music, no mystical voice heard in my ear – but there was a significant change in my heart. For that moment, I understood. I looked around again, at each individual on that bus, and I saw a glimpse of something that I hadn’t even yet seen in myself – potential. Every single soul on that bus had (and still have today) the potential to become as God is, their Heavenly Father. No matter who they were, where they were from, what life they had lived up until that point, they could become like Him. The only thing stopping them was not having the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and I had it!! The young, 18-year-old man at the back of that bus was sitting there with eternal truths that would bless their eternal lives forever…so why was he just sat there!? Unfortunately I cannot say that I jumped up and proclaimed restored truth to my first converts then, but I knew what was needed. Not for me to be perfect at teaching, or even be the most confident at talking to people. I needed to recognise that EVERYONE I spoke to had divine potential, they were offspring of God.

What do we need to do?

Now, in a world that is constantly pulling us in seemingly never-ending directions, the truth of ‘I Am a Child of God’ can take a backseat. It really can be a truth which, whilst it is glorious in principle, it can be ordinary in day-to-day living. Elder Hallstrom warned us of this, saying: 

“The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God.”

Elder Hallstrom said it is a truth which is vital to our exaltation. Whatever methods we take to internalise this truth and understand it more (and yes it is the usual, seemingly ‘ordinary and mundane’ answers of reading scriptures, engaging in consistent meaningful prayer, partaking the sacrament religiously and renewing our covenants made with the Father and so on), they simply cannot be glossed over. A 30 second prayer which we repeat every evening will not open our natural eyes to the glorious feeling that we have divine potential – we must WANT to find this truth.

Separation and Unification

Recently I was led to study the principle of unification and separation within the Gospel of Christ. This was something taught in recent Ward Conferences in my Stake but I have looked into this more and will try and explain my ramblings in some sort of sensible order!

What is Separation?

Separation is defined as “the action or state of moving or being moved apart” or, even better “the division of something into constituent or distinct elements”. Separation means that things, or objects that were previously together are broken into different, unique parts of the previous whole.
Separation takes a number of forms and happens in a variety of ways in the world we live in. Examples of separation include, but are not limited to:

  • National separations
  • Separation within countries of language
  • Race
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Distance
  • Time
  • Generations

In most of these circumstances, separation can be seen as a hurdle or a barrier between quality relationships. For example, the people of Mosiah were taught by King Benjamin about Christ and they had all covenanted to live a Gospel life – however this standard was not upheld by all of the rising generation (another example of separation between generations). We read “And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their carnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.” (Mosiah 26:4) The people began to be separated in their faith. As such they had more contention and problems which led to Alma leaving his judgement seat he was voted to in Alma 1 to go out and preach the word of the Lord.

However, there is more to separation and it’s opposite, unification.

How does Separation Fit into the Plan of Salvation?

Separation plays a key role in Heavenly Father’s plan for his children. From the very beginning we were with Heavenly Father but we decided to become separated for a future goal, which will be brought forward later. This physical separation from our Heavenly Father was important. We now live on this Earth with a physical body which houses our spirit (unified together).

As we go through life, we will eventually experience the opposite, death. Death is defined in the Bible Dictionary as this:
Two kinds of death are spoken of in the scriptures. One is the death of the body, which is caused by the separation of the body from the spirit; “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). The other is spiritual death, which is to die as pertaining to, or to be separated from, righteousness—to be alienated from the things of God (Alma 12:16, 32; 40:26).

We had to leave the presence of the Father in order to progress. In the same pattern, Adam and Eve had to fall (become separated) from the Garden of Eden in order for mankind to live and have joy. Also, once we reach the end of our mortal probation, it is true that we all will die physically, which involves a number of separations: body and spirit, family members and separation from the Earth are just some examples. Separation plays vital parts in Heavenly Father’s plan.

Is Separation Necessary?

The short answer – yes. There are a number of times, linked with the Plan of Happiness but also for other reason, when separation is needed.

In Alma 3:14 we read of the example of the Lamanites and Nephites. These two great nations were constantly at odds with one another. From the inception of the two separate groups, there was always a clear reason why this separation had to happen. This is what we read “Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.” In this case, this very literal and physical separation was to protect the Lord’s covenant people. There is some issue raised about ‘the mark’ that the Lord placed upon the Lamanites and what this means about race. Whilst others will have their view and continue to voice that, I take this as simply an example of pragmatic guidance from the Lord. Simply – see those people that look different to your people, avoid them because they hate your people and also their traditions would lead you away from the Gospel path. Here – the separation protected the Nephites physically but also spiritually.

In Alma 5:57 we read of a much more figurative, or spiritual, application to the necessity of some separation. Alma teaches “And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous, that the word of God may be fulfilled, which saith: The names of the wicked shall not be mingled with the names of my people;” The people taught by Alma were not only encouraged to separate from the wicked but told to be separate and touch not their unclean things. Now of course, it would be difficult for the believers to physically gather away from all non-believers – perhaps this refers more to the state that we are expected to live in today, being in the world but not of the world. However this guidance was implied, it is another example of where separation is needed.

The above applied also when the Saviour came to visit the Americas. He said to them “But, verily, I say unto you that the Father hath commanded me, and I tell it unto you, that ye were separated from among them because of their iniquity; therefore it is because of their iniquity that they know not of you.” (3 Nephi 15:19) This is similar to the other two examples but another example of when separation is used in the Lord’s ministering with His children of the covenant.

Perhaps the most drastic example of separating covenant people from the wicked is the people of Enoch who were literally taken from the Earth to dwell in the presence of the Lord. We read of this in D&C 45:12 “Who were separated from the earth, and were received unto myself—a city reserved until a day of righteousness shall come—a day which was sought for by all holy men, and they found it not because of wickedness and abominations;” This and the other examples show that separation does not always mean a negative thing completely. However, in every example found in the scriptures, separation was only used to protect the righteous from the wicked. On a personal level, separation is not good news.  

How is Separation Overcome?

We need to avoid separation between nations. Separation can lead to weakening of the whole. We see an example of this in Alma 31:2 when Alma was sorrowful with the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites. We read “For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people; therefore his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites.” Alma was sorrowful because of this separation. He knew that it would have a negative impact on the Nephites (probably due to the degenerating spirituality of the Zoramites and the danger of them joining the Lamanites) and the negative impact on the individual Zoramites themselves. Separation can be a danger to both sides.

We need to avoid separation between neighbourhoods. We need to avoid separation between families. However, more importantly, we have to avoid separation within ourselves. One important way we have to avoid separation is between our thoughts and where we are at now, where our body is if you will. For example, if we are at a sacrament meeting and renewing our covenants, our sacred promises with the Lord where we can receive great spiritual promptings, but our mind is elsewhere then we miss out on a great experience.

However, the most dangerous separation we have to overcome is that of the separation of body and spirit. We know from D&C 93:34 that “And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.” Of course, fortunately we do not have to overcome this separation ourselves. Our merciful Saviour, Jesus Christ, has made it so that we will have our spirit and body unite again.

However, what can we do to unite our mind and body, our families and those around us? We have to work at it. The interesting thing about separation and unification is that one of them happens naturally, and it is not unification. Unification takes effort, separation can happen naturally in a degenerative manner. So work at unifying your family, your friends – because unification brings power and strength. 

What is Unification?

The power of unification is potent. Mosiah 18:21 describes how people who take upon themselves sacred covenants can unify together. Alma taught “And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” This is the template for congregations in the Church. We often debate how wards can be stronger in love and service. This is it. Of course, seeing it in practice is much more difficult but this is the target. The covenant of baptism is a call to unite “And it came to pass in the seventh year of the reign of the judges there were about three thousand five hundred souls that united themselves to the church of God and were baptized. And thus ended the seventh year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi; and there was continual peace in all that time.” (Alma 4:5) We can keep the commandments, study the scriptures, worship at the temple all we can. However, if we do not unite, support and love one another in these activities we are missing out on great blessings.

As I was studying the Topical Guide for the word ‘Unification’, I came across this reference in Helaman 1:6 which says “And it came to pass that Pacumeni, when he saw that he could not obtain the judgment-seat, he did unite with the voice of the people.” This intrigued me. I wondered how this reference could shed any more light on unity. As I pondered over this I realised that this shows an example of how unity can bring peace. In the experience we find this reference, the Nephites are at a crossroads. The great war between the Nephites and Lamanites had passed and the chief judge that had led the way, Pahoran, had passed away. They needed a new chief judge and three of Pahoran’s sons vied for the position. When the victor, Pahoran (Jnr), was voted by the voice of the people, Pacumeni decided to unite with the voice of the people. He chose unity. Had his action been reciprocated by the other forerunner then the Nephites may have lived a very different lifestyle in the years to come. However, Paanchi did not, he chose separation. He called upon Kishkumen, an assassin presumably, and killed Pahoran. As the account continues, this Kishkumen becomes the original leader and initiator of – the Gadianton robbers. We will come back to this band at the end.

How does Unification fit into the Plan of Salvation?

As with separation however, I wanted to look at how unity or unification is used in the great plan of happiness. Recently in my studies and worshipping at the Temple I was thinking about this and the examples of unification are rife within the Plan of Salvation – more so than separation. In Genesis and the book of Moses we read the Creation account and the account of the Fall. I list just a few examples of unification here in these processes:

  • “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep…” (Genesis 1:2) We also know the Earth itself was created out of matter, not just out of thin air, and this matter had to be organised, or united together
  • “And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:9-10) Unifying of waters and land
  • “And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind…” (Genesis 1:21) Unifying of creatures on the Earth to gather together, each after their kind
  • “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:21-24) This was a very interesting one. Again, I do not fully understand how man and woman were formed. Was it literally a rib from the side of man? I don’t profess to understand yet. However, there is this we can gather – there was a separation and then unification. Separation of ‘rib’ from man and then unification of man and woman – this unification is important for us each individually for eternal marriage and families are part of God’s plan

I could go on with this example but I have picked out a few that stood out. The Creation and the Fall make up two pillars of this Plan of Salvation. The third and final intergral part is the great unification, the grand reconciliation. In fact, the Plan of Salvation itself is an example of “Unification -> Separation -> Unification” for after the adverse effects of the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes all things possible to be brought together in the end. In Alma 11:45 we read “Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.” This is why we worship our Saviour, our Redeemer. He makes unification between us and God, us and our families and us and our bodies possible. Without His great sacrifice then separation would become permanent and whilst separation is sometimes necessary in God’s plan, it is ultimately a state we wish to avoid.

When is Unification Dangerous?

Of course, as unification is so powerful, it is something that the adversary, along with every other useful and good thing that he can, uses to try and shake us from our faith. In 3 Nephi 6:27-28 we read of an occasion (and this is not the only example in the history of the Earth and mankind) where a unification happened that caused danger for everyone else involved. We read “Now it came to pass that those judges had many friends and kindreds; and the remainder, yea, even almost all the lawyers and the high priests, did gather themselves together, and unite with the kindreds of those judges who were to be tried according to the law. And they did enter into a covenant one with another, yea, even into that covenant which was given by them of old, which covenant was given and administered by the devil, to combine against all righteousness. Therefore they did combine against the people of the Lord, and enter into a covenant to destroy them, and to deliver those who were guilty of murder from the grasp of justice, which was about to be administered according to the law.” This unification caused monumental issues for the people of the Americas. In fact it caused the Nephite government and civilisation to crumble and separate into tribes rather than one united people.

If we are not careful, then we can allow the adversary and his followers to unite against us and separate us from our Saviour. However, we can use the principle of unification to combat against this foe. We find this just a couple of years later in the same people mentioned before who had Christ visit them. “And it came to pass that as the disciples of Jesus were journeying and were preaching the things which they had both heard and seen, and were baptizing in the name of Jesus, it came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.” (3 Nephi 27:1) As we unite as disciples of Christ and strive to live a life patterned after Him, then we can find the strength to resist the wiles of Satan and overcome the world – but unifying will be vital for this to happen, not becoming separate.

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!