Walking with the Saviour

In a sacrament meeting talk recently I was drawn again to the story of the Saviour walking on the water toward His disciples. In this experience, a number of lessons were highlighted and things that can be likened to our experience when out in this voyage called mortality.

The disciples had been sent on by the Saviour whilst He went alone to pray. I imagine that the Saviour in order to fulfill His ministry required close communion with His Father in Heaven. Meanwhile, the disciples were running into a little trouble:
“But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was
contrary.” (Matthew 14:24)

Straightaway we see a parallel with our lives today. Often, we will feel in the midst of the sea in our day-to-day lives. Sometimes we drift peacefully along with the swells and current, moving towards our destination. At others, we will wash up at the end of the day and wonder what on earth happened in the past 15 hours or more! Sometimes the wind is pleasant, at others it can certainly be contrary!

“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a
spirit; and they cried out for fear.” (Matthew 14:25-26)

In the past I have been surprised that the disciples’ reaction was one of fear. However, it makes sense when you understand that ‘the fourth watch of the night’ is between 3am-6am. It is the dead of night, they are battling against contrary winds and suddenly they see a figure approaching them on the water they are fighting so hard to steer through. Their fear is understandable, but the Saviour soon puts them at ease.

“But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheerit is I; be not afraid.
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the
water.” (Matthew 14:27-28)

Peter’s reaction is very interesting. For many people, they may be in that scenario and invite the Saviour to enter the boat with them. They may call out to their friend and ask Him to join them. However, Peter calls out to the Saviour and asks if he can join Him on the tempestuous waters. I find this fascinating. There could be two possible reasons. The first is that he wanted to perform the same miracle that the Saviour was manifesting. I doubt this but it is a possibility. The other reason (and the more likely one in my opinion) is that he wanted to be where the Saviour was and walk with Him. Imagine wanting to leave the safety of the boat and wanting to step out into the murky unknown. However again we can see the similarities in our life. We often will need to take leaps of faith towards the Saviour but He always is there to invite us. 

And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the
water, to go to Jesus.
But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraidand beginning to sink, he cried,
saying, Lord, save me.
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O
thou of little faithwherefore didst thou doubt(Matthew 14:29-31)

Our Saviour is always there. As soon as we begin to doubt or we fall short, His hand will always be there as a constant support to us if we will reach back and accept His help. The parallels are clear in this instance.

This experience has so many lessons contained in it that we can learn a lot. As we move into 2019 and focus on the stories of the Saviour’s life, I look forward to looking more deeply into these stories and accounts to learn more.

Questions about the Church

I was listening to another Mormon Messages extract recently, this time an interview with a man who works for the Church History Department. I found this fascinating and gave me some food for thought. It was focused on what to do when shown events in Church History that haven’t been experienced before.

Firstly, I want to make something clear. There is a reason I have given this post the specific title it’s been given. When we come up against questions of faith in the Church it is very often for this reason: the Church. It is rarely (although it does happen) questions about the Gospel. The Church and the Gospel are two completely different entities. One is the eternal plan devised by a loving Heavenly Father, whose goal and focus is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. The other is the earthly institution, instigated by Jesus Christ Himself, which officiates in and makes available the ordinances and support structure for Heavenly Father’s children to live the Gospel easier. You cannot have the Church without the Gospel, but our faith is sometimes built upon the ‘Church’ rather than the ‘Gospel’. Whilst it is important to have a living testimony of the Church (which involves the passing on of priesthood keys and living prophets and apostles), it is more important to have a testimony of the Gospel (which involves our Saviour Jesus Christ and the plan that has been prepared for us). In this post when I refer to struggles of faith, I am referring to the unfortunate cases where a member doubts the truth of the Gospel because of questions they have about the Church and in particular, events where they are unsure why certain things happened in Church History.

The Doubt

I think it would be naive to think that no adult member of this Church has ever come across some of the challenges to faith that could occur when it comes to Church History. Questions about polygamy, Joseph Smith, the Priesthood and other such topics are often discussed in modern popular culture, never mind some individuals who actively go about and seek to undermine the Church and its teachings. However, every now and again there will be stories or rumours about certain events that will shake us. We have a doubt, and that leads us to question.

However, this is a very important stage and it’s important for the individual to recognise that this is completely normal. The brother in the Mormon Messages segment was very clear on this. There seems to be a cultural anomaly that has developed within the Church – that to question things is wrong. If we have a question we had better forget about the question and just keep doing what we’re meant to. However, as he wisely pointed out, that culture isn’t doctrinal. In fact, to say we shouldn’t question goes against doctrine. We read throughout every part of the Standard Works that we should ask the Lord about anything we so feel:

Askand it shall be given you; seekand ye shall find; knockand it shall be opened unto you:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

And when ye shall receive these things, would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not trueand if ye shall ask with sincere heartwith real intenthaving faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

Oliver Cowderyverily, verily, say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive knowledge concerning the engravings of old recordswhich are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit.

Yea, behold, will tell you in your mind and in your heartby the Holy Ghostwhich shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. (D&C 8:1-2)

Asking questions is strongly recommended in developing and maintaining a testimony of Jesus Christ, not frowned upon (looking at the doctrine). The important thing is that we are honest seekers of truth, that we want to find out the answer and act on it.

Foundations of Faith

In considering all of this, this brother reminded the listener of something else. Whatever it is that someone has questions about regarding Church History, what is important to remember is that we are looking back and making judgments without full knowledge of the context. We also need to remember the foundations that we have already placed our faith on.

He likened it to the analogy of Santa Claus. When he was growing up, he learnt that certain details about Santa Claus weren’t completely the truth. That the reality was not exactly what had been painted for him whilst he was learning about Christmas and the traditions surrounding it. However, he had a choice. He could find out more and continue sticking with the things he knew to be good about the Christmas season – the gifts, the traditions and so on – or he could cut all ties with everything to do with what he had learnt about Santa Claus, including Christmas itself.

The point he was trying to make was that if we come across events from Church History that make us question, the important thing to consider is that you have developed faith on principles of truth. There are certain things that you have testified about that you have experience in finding out to be good and trustworthy. When faced with doubt, it is important to remember that. You can then search out answers through study, prayer and so on. Sometimes there may not even be an answer to the question you seek (yet), however we can be assured that there are answers to things we can find out about.

Verily, verily, say unto you, if you desire further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

Did not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? (D&C 6:22-23)

We can always turn to the Lord for guidance and reassurance – but we must develop a relationship in times when things seem straightforward for those times when faith seems difficult to find.

Roots and Covenants 

As we chose to come to this Earth to progress, our Heavenly Father did not want to leave us without any guidance. Part of why we had to come here was so that we could choose to follow our Saviour Jesus Christ. We make promises to follow Him and try to live a life of His disciple. In return we are promised blessings which will help us to become more like our Heavenly Father and receive eternal life – the ultimate blessing of coming to Earth as part of this plan.

These promises (or covenants) make up a significant part of our life following Jesus Christ. They enable us to receive the strength to complete any challenges or overcome any trials that may come in our way. In 1 Nephi 17:3 we read “And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.” Often we can look at Lehi and his family’s journeyings through the wilderness as a parallel to our sojourn in mortality and in the same way we can receive strength from keeping our covenants.

Covenants as Foundations

In the same way, we can compare our covenants to foundations for our life. A well-known verse from Helaman 5:12 helps us to begin to make this link. It says “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” As was mentioned before, our covenants (if they are kept) provide us with a strong foundation which can help us continue through this life.

Roots as Foundations

However, it is important to recognise that we have other examples of covenants in the scriptures. In Jacob 5 we read of an extended parable of olive trees. These trees all had roots which we read relate to the covenants found in the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. An examples is found in verse 36 where it reads ” Nevertheless, I know that the roots are good, and for mine own purpose I have preserved them; and because of their much strength they have hitherto brought forth, from the wild branches, good fruit.” The roots of the Gospel, the covenants which channel the sustaining life of our Saviour, bring sustenance.

Lesson

However, something is important in considering these parables of covenants. Both of them highlight the life-giving elements of our covenants. On the other hand, they also teach us another valuable principle to those to minister to others in the Gospel – the strength of our covenants (of how much we are keeping them) are not visible to others. We can very easily go about our daily lives not strengthening our covenants and those around us may not notice. That it is why it is so important to look to support and strengthen as many as we can – not just those that ask for support or help. So reach out and ask for guidance for who to send that message to or ask how their day is, because you never know when that reaching out may make their day, whoever they are.

Be Thou Humble

The Three Relationships

I was recently in a discussion about the crisis of faith that can enter into every member’s lives. Those that attend the Lord’s house do so because of their faith in the Saviour Jesus Christ. However, those foundations of faith have been, are now being and will continuously be tested by turbulent trials and tribulations. Horrific events shake the world most weeks – the news never seems to cease. As we discussed how each of us could more safely navigate through these troubled times, our discussion become focused on three key relationships that, if we work on these, then we will become much more able to stay stable in our faith.

Having reflected on this, it became clear that we need to put all of our efforts into maintaining and strengthening these key relationships. One key attribute we need to do this is humility. I have studied the talk given by Elder Steven E Snow of the Seventy in the last General Conference in relation to this. We have a great deal of influence over the relationships we have in our lives – and these relationships could ultimately save our eternal lives in future times.

Fellowcitizens

The first key relationship we should develop is our relationship with fellow members of Christ’s Church. We read in Moroni 6:4-5:

And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith. And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.”

When we are baptised into his Church, our Leader, our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, asks us to support one another. When members gather together, Christ is in their midst. As we develop a stronger relationship – a friendship – with those we share the same beliefs with, we have a wider network we can rely on when times become difficult. Not only this, but we can be sources of strength for others also.

As we develop our friendship with those around us in the covenant of Christ, we can remember the words of joy found in D&C 18:16:

“And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!”

You do not know the beneficial impact you can have on the faith of those around you. I have learnt great lessons of faith from many other people. Lessons of love, care, concern, humility and faith. I’m sure you can think of many lessons you have learnt from others too. On the other hand…we can have negative experiences in this type of relationship.

Careless words, thoughtless actions and unintended misunderstandings can have devastating consequences in our relationship with fellow Saints. We know how these negative experiences can have a direct impact on someone’s faith (whether or not this is the main reason for a lack in faith). Most of you will have heard the experience of Thomas B Marsh. If not here it is in brief:

Thomas B Marsh was the first President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the latter days, at 35 years of age. Therefore, he would (if the same general rule of ordination followed as today) have become the next President of the Church after the Prophet Joseph Smith. He lived faithfully, serving missions and caring for members of the fledgling Church. However, in 1837, relationships among the Twelve had deteriorated. This actually highlights another need for humility – the main causes were inexperience and disagreements about their role and purpose within the Twelve. We find Christ chastising the original Twelve Apostles in the New Testament when He said in Mark 10:44 – “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”

Despite being successful in improving the humility of His brethren in the Twelve, Marsh fell victim to the spirit of pride, with an incident involving Marsh’s wife, Elizabeth, and Lucinda Harris, wife of George W. Harris. According to George A. Smith, the women had agreed to exchange milk from their cows for making cheese. But counter to their agreement, Elizabeth allegedly kept the cream strippings—the richer part of the milk that rises to the top—before sending the rest of the milk to Lucinda. According to Smith, the matter went before the teachers quorum, then the bishop, and then the high council, all of whom found Elizabeth to be at fault. Marsh, not satisfied, appealed to the First Presidency, who agreed with the earlier decisions. Further offended by this chain of events, the already frustrated Marsh was said to have declared “that he would sustain the character of his wife, even if he had to go to hell for it.”

Sometime in the fall of 1838, Marsh left Far West with his family and began actively opposing the Saints. He swore out in October 1838 that detailed his concerns about acts of violence and destruction he believed were being planned or carried out by members of the Church against their neighbors in Caldwell and Daviess counties, as well as stating his fear that “all the Mormons who refused to take up arms, if necessary in difficulties with the citizens, should be shot or otherwise put to death,” and that “no Mormon dissenter should leave Caldwell county alive.”

Following his excommunication in 1839, Brigham Young become the next President of the Quroum of the Twelve…and the rest is history.

Pride amongst fellowcitizens and Saints can be faith-shattering. Remember humility and love.

Family

The second relationship we cannot allow pride to enter is with our family. Elder Snow is very clear on this matter:

“Humility is essential to gain the blessings of the gospel. Humility enables us to have broken hearts when we sin or make mistakes and makes it possible for us to repent. Humility enables us to be better parents, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends.

On the other hand, unnecessary pride can dissolve family relationships, break up marriages, and destroy friendships. It is especially important to remember humility when you feel contention rising in your home. Think of all the heartache you can avoid by humbling yourself to say, “I’m sorry”; “That was inconsiderate of me”; “What would you like to do?”; “I just wasn’t thinking”; or “I’m very proud of you.””

Have you ever had an argument with your spouse, parent or child and thought afterwards that it was the best thing to do? Was it ever better being right instead of recognising each have differing opinions and showing an increase of love?

Having said all this, we are human. Often, the original focus of our pride-filled ‘debate’ will be forgotten and at the end, the initial trigger of the argument will have been forgotten. At that moment we see 3 Nephi 11:29 fulilled:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”

I am certainly not perfect when it comes to having humility in my relationship with my family. We may be tempted to say that this shortcoming is only human, that it is something we can work on but will always be a problem. To that, President Dieter F Uchtdorf stated:

“Pride may be a common human failing. But it is not part of our spiritual heritage, and it has no place among holders of the priesthood of God. Life is short, brethren. Regrets can last a long time—some will have repercussions that echo through eternity. The way you treat your wife or children or parents or siblings may influence generations to come. What legacy do you want to leave your posterity?”

We are better than this. We can overcome pride in the home. It is not easy. However, if we desire to return to live with our Heavenly Father, we need our families. We must teach with love and humility. Parents must demonstrate humility to each other in front of their children. The way they see your interactions will have an impact on the spouse and parent they are in the future – affecting generations of your family line! Your pattern of humility (or pride) will echo into the eternities, for you and for them. And this will affect our faith…

God

The final relationship we must have the utmost humility in (and probably the most important) is with our Heavenly Father. We cannot develop a secure enough relationship with God if we are not humble. As mentioned, we are seeing many events in the world, as well as our personal lives, where we may be tempted to throw our hands up and question ‘Why?” Elder Snow said:

“Accident and illness, the death of loved ones, problems in relationships, even financial reversals can bring us to our knees. Whether these difficult experiences come through no fault of our own or through bad decisions and poor judgment, these trials are all humbling. If we choose to be spiritually attuned and remain humble and teachable, our prayers become more earnest and faith and testimony will grow as we overcome the tribulations of mortal existence.”

This is a scripture which I feel, for me personally, begins to convey to me to intense deep love our Father has for us. In Moses 7 we read:

“…Enoch was high and lifted up, even in the bosom of the Father, and of the Son of Man; and behold, the power of Satan was upon all the face of the earth. And he saw angels descending out of heaven; and he heard a loud voice saying: Wo, wo be unto the inhabitants of the earth. And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced…And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains? And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever…and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep? The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…”

However, what will be an even greater cause of sorrow to our loving Father, is that when these horrifying events occur, there will be some that turn away from Him because they have lost that relationship with Him – their faith is gone.

One such person that could have easily lost their faith was Job. Job had been blessed with great riches and a large family. However Satan felt that Job was still faithful as he lived in comfort. So, Satan set out to tear away all from Job – natural causes of death and destruction literally tore Job’s life apart. He ultimately ended up alone without a penny, with only his ‘friends’ left, who accused him of sin – because how else would those bad things have happened? However, Job had built a strong relationship with His God. As such, despite this great loss, he testified:

“For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:”

Invitation

I share with you today an invitation that could affect your life. I urge you today to reflect on these three key relationships: with members, your family and your God. In each of these relationships, I invite you to think of how you can strengthen each one of them, remembering humility will be vital.

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!

Subtlety vs Simplicity

In Jacob 4:14, we learn of an issue that was found amongst the Jews at the time of Christ but is also found in the world today. It says “But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness…” In a world of instant information and complex media, we often expect to find the answers to questions instantly. With information being easier to access, it can sometimes be easy to want to find answers to complex or meaningless questions. These questions will not help us in life but sometimes we can be tempted to want to find out answers to them. They can distract us from the things that matter most.

Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, has made it so that His Gospel is clear. It is something which children can be taught to understand. Elder Chistoffel Golden Jnr taught “In its essentials, the gospel is simple and easy to understand and adapted to the capacity of the weakest.” If it were not so, would God be fair? If the Gospel were something to be only understood by an intellectual few then would it be fair for any of us who didn’t understand? We are not required to know the subtle mysteries of God. Yes, we are required to study out the principles of the Gospel as deeply as we can. However, we do not have to look beyond what the Saviour and his messengers teach in the scriptures or through revelation.

On the other hand, and there is always another hand, Satan employs different tactics in order for us to use our agency unwisely. In 2 Corinthians 11:3 we read “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Satan is the opposite to the Saviour. Instead of being open, clear and honest about what he offers, Satan encourages us to disregard the commandments of God by presenting temptation as an enticing and alluring prospect at that moment in time. It is very rare that we make huge mistakes instantly.  Elder Robert C Gay further emphasised “Today it is so easy to get caught up in the noise of the world-despite our good intentions. The world presses us to [look] beyond the mark.” From a scriptural perspective we read in 2 Nephi 28:21 “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.” As we make our day to day decisions we will need to remember to avoid looking beyond the mark.

The ways to avoid falling for the subtlety of Satan and keeping to the simplicity of the Saviour will, ironically, be the small and simple things that we often mention: prayer, study, regular partaking of the sacrament and so on. However, these vital acts will help us remember the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and avoid the subtle snares of the adversary.

Making Mountains of Us

This entry is based on an article given in the January 2010 Ensign about a mountaineering guide who explains how, in order to appreciate the top of the mountain, you need to experience the valley first.

When he gets visitors to the park, Richard Chen finds that most, if not all, the visitors are there to ascend up the Jade Mountain. The article says “Visiting the peak, with it’s manmade trails and wonderful view, is a great experience, but Richard tries to explain that there is much to learn and much hidden beauty to find in the more difficult-to-access river gorges and canyons below.” However, there are some visitors who don’t care about that and they are positive they only wish to reach the top via the easiest route.

There are so any lessons that can be learnt from this spiritually. Christ, as ‘the way’ (John 14:6) and the only True Guide, wishes us to return back – with as much experience in this mortal life as possible. Elder Neal A Maxwell said “One’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free…Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!’…Real faith … is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process.” How can we expect to receive what the Father has if we do not pass through the way prepared by Him?! “…thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment…if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” (D&C 121:7-8) said the Lord to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail.

This idea is similar to the mountain Richard Chen takes his visitors up – they have ‘grown’ higher and higher over thousands of years through the heat and pressure of the two tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust colliding together. This causes the mountain ranges to rise up and up. This can also be likened to our lives as we face bigger challenges and pressures, like a refiner’s fire – we become stronger and stronger.