Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Small Plates Portion of my Blog

Some weeks back, Nemesis gave a talk in church and then posted the text of her talk the following Monday. I thought it was a really nice and uplifting way to begin my Monday. And as I've tried to make this blog not just a record of the journey, but a log of the things I've learned, I think I will do the same. I'll post pictures later in the week of our fun weekend at the pumpkin patch and the apple orchard.

Text of talk dated 10/14/2007

Since getting married just a little over eight years ago, our family has moved nine times. These moves have taken us to very different parts of the country and all types of living arrangements. In the middle of all of this, we’ve had three sons, our oldest will be six in a couple of weeks and our youngest was just born in May. My husband and I have each held a number of jobs, and [Plantboy] has earned two college degrees in the same eight years.

When I condense our life together into a few short sentences, it sounds almost overwhelming, but with all this change there have been two important constants—our family and the church. Regardless of how far we’ve roamed from the parents and siblings we grew up with, we have the security of one another and the Lord’s promises to depend on. The church has been the other anchor in our lives. I have lived in over twenty different wards since graduating from high school, but I know when I go to church on Sunday there will be things that never change. [Plantboy] and I know that all we have to do is go the church on Sunday and we will be watched over and protected by the good word of God[1] and the love of his Saints. On the downside, it does mean we speak in church fairly regularly.

Our topic today is the Plan of Salvation. Rather than just give an overview of the plan, we chose to focus on just two key parts of the blueprint our Father in Heaven has laid out for our happiness. Today I will be speaking about the home and its role in preparing family members to learn of the Savior’s plan so that all will desire to make and keep both baptismal covenants and temple covenants. My husband will talk about the temple and its role as a place of spiritual refuge and progression.

As our world moves further away from the righteous purpose of families and proper relationships between men and women, it becomes that much more important to teach our children the sacred purpose of their lives and to give them faith to set proper goals and to work to attain them. In her Conference talk last week, Mary Cook, the second counselor in the Young Women’s General Presidency, quoted from For the Strength of Youth pamphlet saying, “being part of a family is a great blessing. . . . Not all families are the same, but each is important in Heavenly Father’s plan.”[2]

The bible dictionary states that “only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”[3] This is a heavy responsibility for each family member. And while all families do not look alike, each of us have assumed some role in a family, or maybe many roles—parent, child, grandparent, aunt, uncle—each person has a unique part to play in the overall harmony of the family unit.

To learn more about proper family roles, we need look no further than the words of the prophets. It is interesting that the Proclamation on the Family[4] begins with a basic overview of the Plan of Salvation and the family’s purpose of helping the Father with his “plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” With so many dissenting voices about what people, particularly, young adults should be doing with their lives, The Proclamation teaches the following doctrines in clear and distinct terms:

1) Marriage is ordained of God and spouses should cleave unto one another and none else.
2) Children are a gift from Heavenly Father and should be treated as such. Husbands and wives should desire to have children, as well as to “rear [them] in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.”
3) Having children is not to be taken lightly and children are entitled to be born in a family to a father and a mother.
4) Mothers and Fathers have certain primary responsibilities, though they are equal partners. Families should carefully consider their individual circumstances before deviating from these duties.

Though these principles are primarily aimed at parents, there is part of the Proclamation that applies to any family member. “Successful . . . families are established on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities.” President Hinckley’s talk that included the first reading of the Proclamation in 1995 makes clear that every person has the privilege of helping create a successful family, and that each of us has the responsibility to increase Christ-like attributes in our respective homes.

In her Conference talk, Sister Cook also spoke of the need for each person in the family to follow prophetic counsel to pray, study scriptures, and to keep the other commandments. She said, “As you commit to these patterns of righteousness, you will be blessed throughout your life and will develop the spiritual foundation from which you can strengthen your family by example.”[5] She then spoke with love of her brother whose example helped her parents desire to go to the temple and be sealed to each other and their children. She quoted Elder Robert D. Hales: “If the example we have received from our parents was not good, it is our responsibility to break the cycle. . . . Each person can learn a better way and in so doing bless the lives of family members now and teach correct traditions for the generations that follow”[6]

My own life has been blessed because one person decided to break the cycle. My mother grew up in a home with parents who differed widely in age and with whom there was little communication. Their activity in the church and her father’s employment was spotty. The only nurturing my mother received as a young girl came from a much older half-sister. My dad’s upbringing did not reflect a very strong foundation in the gospel either, but my parents made a decision when they were married to be active in the church. My mother gathered lessons on love and parenting from the sisters in her ward and the friends in her neighborhood and she learned how to be a righteous mother. We did not do everything perfectly, but I never doubted my mother’s testimony or her commitment to the Savior. Because of her faith and her diligent teaching of the gospel plan, all of her grandchildren have been born in the covenant. Her children have served missions and taken callings, and countless others have been touched through her own church service. One person can indeed make a difference.

Though our covenants are made with our Heavenly Father, it is through our interactions with others that we prove whether or not we will keep them. I think the baptismal covenant as set forth in Mosiah makes our obligation plain. Alma had been teaching the people for many days. They were so spiritually starved that they left their homes and gathered in the wilderness to hear his preaching. He laid forth the first principles and ordinances of the gospel—faith, repentance, baptism and the Holy Ghost. When they felt the joy of the Lord, they wanted to know how to follow. Alma explains the covenant in plain terms.[7]

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are adesirous to come into the bfold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are awilling to mourn with those that bmourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as cwitnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the dfirst resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being abaptized in the bname of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a ccovenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

We know from the rest of the account that the people rejoiced as they made their covenant. We don’t know any individual detail about what happened with these people later, but I think, probably not unlike us, once the initial euphoria of their spiritual experience wore off, they had to daily recommit themselves to the responsibilities of their covenant. The best way for any of us to prove the sincerity of our baptismal or temple covenants is in our charity toward others. There is no better proving ground for our souls than in Christ-like treatment of our families.

Sometimes this can be hard. It is not always easy to serve our family members, even when we know we should, and even when experience teaches us that service is the best way to be happy. For me, being a mother is sometimes frustrating. It isn’t just kids that get tired and cranky sometimes! As I try to guide my children, it sometimes seems like I have been forgotten; that any other thing besides mothering has been put on hold indefinitely. During his conference talk, Elder Packer spoke of the new calling one of his sons had. He said that though pleased with his son’s new responsibilities, it was the work in his home that was the most important. He said, “What my son and his wife are doing with their little children transcends anything they could do in the Church or out. No service could be more important to the Lord than the devotion they give to one another and to their little children. . . The ultimate end of all activity in the Church centers in the home and the family.”[8] When I feel tired and frustrated, I try to remember the importance the Lord has attached to the work we do in our homes and pray for strength to serve cheerfully.

We must not forget that every diaper changed or four a.m. feeding, every roommate consoled, every bruised knee kissed, every game of catch, every granddaughter taught how to cook, every article of clothing shared with a sister and every niece taken for an ice cream cone will teach love—both to those we serve, and to ourselves. The more love we show and act on, the more love we feel and the greater capacity we are given to serve. When families of any shape and size and configuration are filled with love, teaching the gospel and the purpose of life is the next logical step. As we serve one another with real gladness in our hearts, we become the Lord’s covenant people who will one day inherit all He has.

In conclusion, I would like to tell you about Russell. I met him when I’d been on my mission about five months and we felt impressed to knock on doors in his street. The first discussion was not promising. Russell’s house wasn’t clean, nor was Russell. His hair was long and unkempt and his clothes were dirty and ill-fitting. Though he held a full time job, much of his excess income went to alcohol and cigarettes. Later he admitted that he only invited us to teach him out of boredom.

Russell was not a golden contact, but the Spirit began working on Russell in quiet ways, and almost imperceptible changes began happening. First he cut his hair and dressed more carefully. He threw out his alcohol. He began reading scriptures and praying each day. There was religious music playing in his home when we came for our discussions. The night he decided to join the church he said, “I want to be baptized because the Spirit is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever felt and I never want to be without it again.” I learned, some months later, that he had finally given up cigarettes. A fellow missionary told me that he wore a new suit to church the day he blessed the sacrament, instead of the ill-fitting suit left over from the 70's that he had been wearing. He began saving his money so that he might more often visit his four sons who lived in another city. I lost track of Russell about the time I came home from my mission; the last I heard is that he had quit his job to move closer to his children and begin rebuilding a relationship with them.

Some years after I had been home, through an unusual set of circumstances, I learned of Russell again. He was serving as a member of a branch presidency in the small town he had moved to years before, and his son, who had been baptized some years before, had just been sealed to his wife in the temple.

As the Spirit and the knowledge of the plan of salvation worked on Russell, he became a contributing member of his family. The family he had once thought broken beyond repair, has begun to heal through Russell’s diligent living of the gospel. Such healing is within the reach of every one of us.

As we head into the coming week, may each of us determine to do one thing to better keep our covenants to our Father in Heaven by serving our families with cheerful hearts. I know that as we magnify the love in our families, and establish patterns of righteous living, gospel teaching becomes easy and natural. Our homes will indeed resemble the temple in sacredness as they become havens from a world void of direction and purpose.

The Lord lives and He loves us. Of all the wonderful gifts he has bestowed on us in our lives, one of the best of these is family. Of all His wonderful promises for the life to come, the best of these is the knowledge that family relationships do not end with death. As we form families based on His principles, we will progress through our lives according to His plan and learn what we must to live in his presence again.

[1] Moroni 6:4
[2] Ensign November 2007, “Strengthen Home and Family”
[3] Bible Dictionary under “Temple”
[4] Ensign, November 1995, “Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World”
[5] Ensign November 2007, “Strengthen Home and Family”
[6] Ensign, November 1993 “How Will Our Children Remember Us?”
[7] Mosiah 18:8-10
[8] Ensign, November 2007, “The Weak and The Simple of the Church”


KarateMommy said...

Thank you.

Desmama said...

Such amazing thoughts. I'm pretty sure we'll be up for speaking in our new ward soon--I'll e-mail you the topic and if you wouldn't mind whipping something like this up, I'd be most appreciative. ;)

Karin said...

heehee, we've been in 5 wards in 9 years and have only spoken once. It makes me wonder who's keeping up with making sure the new folks always have to speak.

It was a great talk.