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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"The Key to Spiritual Protection" by President Boyd K. Packer

Hello there!

Sorry for the long absence. Moving from one area to another is always an adjustment! But I'm settled now and I'm ready for a  new post. The talk I chose for this week is "The key to Spiritual Protection" by President Boyd K. Packer.

President Packer begins his talk with a question all parents have wondered at one time or another: "Is there a safe place to raise children?" The answer is yes and the place is "a gospel-centered home."

Paul prophesied that our days would be perilous times and listed a series of characteristics men would have (from covetous to blasphemers, from incontinent to traitors and so on).
Moroni, the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon, also warned of the "awful situation" in which the world would be in the last days.
Not only did these prophets warn us, but they both also provided a remedy, a key to spiritual protection: the Holy Scriptures.

Of the scriptures President Packer says: "They teach us where to go and what to do. They offer hope and knowledge."
President Packer also stresses the importance of teaching little children using the scriptures: 
"Children taught an understanding of the scriptures early in life will come to know the path they should walk and will be more inclined to remain on that path. Those who stray will have the ability to return and, with help, can find their way back."
One of the big issues I have found people encounter as they approach the scriptures for the first time is understanding the language. The standard works (other name for the scriptures) are not written in modern English and this might put many off that try to make sense of all those fancy words. Here is President Packer's promise: "If the language of the scriptures at first seems strange to you, keep reading. Soon you will come to recognize the beauty and power found on those pages."

A life lived following following the course prescribed in the scriptures should be our goal:
"Continue forward until the time when the Lord’s blessings will come to you and the Holy Ghost will be revealed as a moving force in your life."
If that's not the kind of life we are living at the moment, there is a way back:
"Jesus Christ has prescribed a very clear method for us to repent and find healing in our lives. The cure for most mistakes can be found by seeking forgiveness through personal prayer. However, there are certain spiritual illnesses, particularly those dealing with violations of the moral law, which absolutely require the assistance and treatment of a qualified spiritual physician." 

I love this truth: it doesn't matter how big or small our sins are, Jesus Christ can lift that weight off our shoulders:

"The gospel teaches us to be happy, to have faith rather than fear, to find hope and overcome despair, to leave darkness and turn toward the light of the everlasting gospel."

We might not be able to end wars or conflicts that rage all throughout the world, but listen to this inspired promise from a servant of the Lord:
"Peace can be settled in the heart of each who turns to the scriptures and unlocks the promises of protection and redemption that are taught therein."

I hope we will all read our scriptures more and more often! Here's the link to all of them. Enjoy!

Until next week :)


Friday, November 8, 2013

"Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ" by Elder Richard G. Scott


There's nothing too hawaiian around me at the moment (just a lot of rain actually!) but I felt optimistic.
My blog is not going unnoticed among friends and friends' friends and it's weird to think that several people other than me will be reading this in about an hour or so. Thank you.

The conference talk I share this week is one of the sweetest talks I've ever come across about the atonement. It was given by Elder Richard G. Scott and it's titled "Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ".

First of all, do we all know what the Atonement is? Let's turn to Preach My Gospel :
"As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinners and allowing them to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ suffered in Gethsemane and on the cross. He was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement for all mankind. He suffered the penalty for our sins in Gethsemane and died on the cross. He took upon Himself the pains, sicknesses, temptations, afflictions, and infirmities of us all." 
Gethsemane and the cross are mentioned twice and that's where Jesus Christ performed this greatest act of love and grace. Of the two powers of the Atonement (the saving power and the enabling power), in his latest talk Elder Scott focuses on the enabling power; in his own words: "the personal strength we can receive through the Atonement of Jesus Christ."

The entire talk is an insightful commentary of the famous Book of Mormon story of the Lamanites who converted to the Lord, buried their weapons of war forever and never unburied them -- not even to defend their brethren came to brutally slay them. The Lord later provided help through their young sons, who weren't under the same covenant with God. 
The first interesting point  -- something I've learned as I studied this talk -- is that "one of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins." Why couldn't those fathers go to the battle to defend their families? Why was it alright for their sons to go instead? It's the same principle by which it is not wise for ex alcoholics to walk into a pub lest they fall back into old, bad habits! The Lord knew the weaknesses of those men and in His wisdom He didn't allow them to be exposed to wars and weapons again. Thus we learn two important Gospel principles and truths:
  • "Breaking a covenant with the Lord is never justified."
  • "Satan will try to use our memory of any previous guilt to lure us back into his influence. We must be ever vigilant to avoid his enticements. Such was the case of the faithful Ammonite fathers. Even after their years of faithful living, it was imperative for them to protect themselves spiritually from any attraction to the memory of past sins."
Elder Scott draws a very interesting parallel between those Ammonites' and Captain Moroni's preparations for war:
"In between the many battles, Captain Moroni directed fortification of the weakest cities. “He caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers … until they had encircled the city … with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height.” Captain Moroni understood the importance of fortifying the weak areas to create strength.
"These Ammonite fathers were much the same. They needed taller and wider fortifications between their faithful lives and the unrighteous behavior of their past. Their sons, who were blessed with righteous traditions, were not as vulnerable to the same temptations. They were able to defend their families faithfully without compromising their spiritual well-being."

Let's listen to Elder Scott's statement about rebellion and weakness:

This is so reassuring with me. What is best than a knowledge that God loves us and wants to help us get rid of our weaknesses? The best thing we can be doing in life is using this knowledge to improve ourselves. Believing, knowing that Christ suffered and died to enable us to become better and more like Him is humbling and it fills me with hope.
Sin is sin, and God "cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance" (D&C 1:31); but that's because He loves us and He wants us to become like Him. Elder Scott said that God can't tolerate sin "because He knows what it takes to become like Him".

Weak things become strong when they're in the hands of the Lord: that's what happened to the 2,000 young and inexperienced sons of Helaman (although they were all injured to some degree, no one died in the conflicts) and that's what happens to us when we fully rely in Christ, are obedient, "go and do".

We talked about the fortifications Captain Moroni built to strengthen the weak places and turn them into strongholds, but what spiritual fortifications can we build for ourselves and how do we do that? Here's what Elder Scott suggests:

    Make covenants and receive ordinances for yourself. Then steadily and consistently work to provide ordinances in the temple for your own ancestors.

    Share the gospel with nonmember or less-active family members or friends. Sharing these truths can bring a renewed enthusiasm into your life.

    Serve faithfully in all Church callings, especially home teaching and visiting teaching assignments. Don't be just a 15-minutes-a-month home or visiting teacher. Rather, reach out to each individual member of the family. Get to know them personally. Be a real friend. Through acts of kindness, show them how very much you care for each of them.

    Most important, serve the members of your own family. Make the spiritual development of your spouse and children a very high priority. Be attentive to the things you can do to help each one. Give freely of your time and attention.
Four simple ways of serving our God and our fellowmen. The recipe is that simple. The Atonement is real and it is within anyone's reach -- anyone who's willing to put his or her faith in God and Jesus Christ and to show that faith. As we do so, we will grow spiritually stronger and wiser. We will become spiritually self-sufficient and we will have enough strength to share with others freely. Said Elder Scott: " As you lose your life in the service of Father in Heaven’s children, Satan’s temptations lose power in your life."

I have felt the reality of the Atonement in my life. And the joy that comes from sharing that reality with people? UNPAYABLE, UNMISSABLE and... UNless you try it you can't describe it :) 

This is a nice quote from this talk.

 You'll find many more of Elder Richard G. Scott quotes on his official Facebook page.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed this week's post!

Bye for now :)


Friday, November 1, 2013

"Put your trust in the Lord" by Elder M. Russell Ballard

Hello there!

It's so good to be updating my blog this week. It's one of those routines that you come to love after a while. Plus, I've been receiving some positive feedback by some of my readers and that's so refreshing. Thank you!

I'm particularly excited because the topic of this week is missionary work! You knew it would happen, didn't you? Missionaries usually can't go so long without talking about missionary work!

Last General Conference Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Twelve titled his talk "Put your trust in the Lord". It's very much member-oriented. It's for both those members who love doing missionary work and for those who struggle a little. Both categories can all take courage from the exhortation contained in the title!

The idea of members sharing the gospel with others in natural, casual ways is not new. The Prophet Joseph Smith loved to talk about missionary work (here are some quotes you can check out) and Elder Ballard reminds us of one of the shortest and plainest of his statements on the matter: "After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel."
Just to mention a few more among the most recent: more than 50 years ago President David O. McKay stated the most famous "Every member a missionary"; about 40 years ago President Spencer W. Kimball challenged us members to "lengthen our stride [and] enlarge a vision." And just a few months ago President Thomas S. Monson reiterated:"Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work."

Speaking of the hastening of the Lord's work, in his last conference talk Elder Ballard made it clear that such hastening "in our day [...] can be done only when every member of the Church reaches out with love to share the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to work together in partnership with our 80,000 missionaries now serving." 
That is so so true!
Missionaries are dying to work with members. We do our finding, we try to talk to everyone and bring the gospel to everyone; but members are the key. They have always been. Those wards and branches, stakes and districts that have experienced the most miraculous growths are those whose members have been actively engaged. 

Some members hesitate to do missionary work, and Elder Ballard individuates the two major causes for this:
  • "The first one is fear. Many members do not even pray for opportunities to share the gospel, fearing that they might receive divine promptings to do something they think they are not capable of doing. 
  • "The second reason is misunderstanding of what missionary work is."
I could go on days reassuring, promising, assuring you all that you needn't fear anything and anyone when you're sharing the gospel, but the words of an apostle will do it better that mine could ever do:

If we are all engaged, the Lord will have so many hands through which He can accomplish His wonders, so many mouths through which He can speak to His elect, and so many more eyes to watch over His children, our brothers and sisters. 

And here is the challenge for our time and day, for the here and now:

"We are not asking everyone to do everything. We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just “one” between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior."

Elder Ballard quotes from a letter a member sent him to report on his family's effort in sharing the gospel. I have one more testimony to add to that. After Conference I emailed some of my friends and I extended Elder Ballard's challenge to them. I was so happy to read this the following week:

 "I took your and Elder Ballard's challenge to talk to people about the gospel, and the first time it happened was the Monday after Conference!  I was at work and one of the physician's asked me if I'd had a good weekend.  I of course said that I had and he asked what I did.  I very easily could have just brushed him off and not gone into any detail about what we did, but I decided to tell him that [my husband]and I watched General Conference, which I explained happens in our Church every October and April where we have the opportunity to watch and listen to the Prophet of our church and other leaders speak to us and give us guidance on how to improve our lives and help others as well.  He looked at me kind of weird and said, "Do they ask you for money?"  I chuckled and told him no.  He then went on to say that he thought it was so cool that we have missionaries who give up two years of their lives to help other people, and he said he thinks all youth in the world should do that because the Mormon's turn out so well.  Needless to say, I was a little nervous to tell him about Conference but knew that I'd be guided on what to say and I was.  It was a neat experience."

Self-explicative, huh? The persons my friend talked to hasn't become a member (yet!), he hasn't even agreed to meet with the missionaries (yet!), but who can say that my friend failed!

One of my friends on Facebook has been a member of the Church since last January. He loves the gospel, his testimony is very strong. His natural concern for his friends is amazing. He lets the missionaries teach in his home, he goes out with them, he talks with his friends about the gospel and he invites them to talk to the missionaries, to befriend them on Facebook and listen to the message of the restored gospel. Some accept, some don't, and some even ignore the invitation. Can we say that my friend fails when the latter two happen?

Of course we can't choose for others -- we can't force them to accept the invitation to meet with the missionaries, listen to and accept the gospel. Elder Ballard said:
 "It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand. While the outcome is a result of the exercise of one’s agency, sharing the gospel is our responsibility."
From personal experience I can assure you of one thing: the more we share, the more we like to share. The more we share the gospel, the stronger our testimony grows. There are just so many reasons why we want to be involved in our Father's work!
Let us heed our prophet's counsel and Elder Ballard's exhortation. Let us all seek to find the one!

And that's all for this week.
Bye for now!


Friday, October 25, 2013

"Lamentations of Jeremiah: beware of bondage" by Elder Quentin L. Cook

Hello there! 
It's so good to be writing this week. The weather here in England has gotten cold and a bit wet, but oh well! 

The talk I'll discuss today attracted me because of its title: "Lamentations of Jeremiah: beware of bondage". Isn't that the best title? It's also a pretty good talk, by Elder Quentin L. Cook, who was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 6, 2007. Elder Cook gave these remarks during the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 2013 General Conference. 

"Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem" by Rembrandt 

I had never read Lamentations (in the Old Testament) before reading this talk, so I was a lot curious to see why Elder Cook used this title and how he related his remarks to the book -- written by the prophet Jeremiah (and probably others) to lament the destruction of Jerusalem by the hand of the the Babylonians. The chapter heading to Psalm 137 in the LDS edition of the King James Version of the Bible reads: "While in captivity, the Jews wept by the rivers of Babylon—Because of sorrow, they could not bear to sing the songs of Zion." By turning away from the Lord, the Jews put themselves in bondage and were scattered. Elder Cook lists a few of the lessons we can learn from this tragic period in the history of Israel, to encourage us to "do everything within our power to avoid sin and rebellion that lead to bondage."
These are the four kinds of abuses of moral agency that Elder Cook describes "pernicious" and "destructive":

1) "Addictions that impair agency, contradict moral beliefs, and destroy good health cause bondage". This is all around us unfortunately. Drug addicts and alcoholics, people addicted to pornography or who enter into large debts place a heavy burden on society at large. The 2008 financial crisis, caused by people, financial institutions, and even governments that outspent money they did not have, still influences our lives today and has caused so much poverty and bondage.  

2) "Addictions or predilections [that,] while not inherently evil, can use up our precious allotment of time which could otherwise be used to accomplish virtuous objectives." A bit of social media, a bit of sport or recreation have never killed anyone; Elder Cook, though, is warning us about the dangers of excessive use of these and others. The main danger being that of not spending enough time with our family because of those very activities. Elder Cook shares the interesting story of a colleague of his who struggled to balance career, marriage and children:
"She always felt like a juggler trying to keep three balls in the air at the same time. One ball was her law practice, one was her marriage, and one was her children. She had almost given up on time for herself. She was greatly concerned that one of the balls was always on the ground. I suggested we meet as a group and discuss our priorities. We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn't nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with leaving time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential? We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men."
Many of us could easily find themselves in the concerns expressed by this woman lawyer. Women and men. The gospel of Jesus Christ indeed offers the solution to this problem, by putting family first. Families are forever, and all the rest is an appendage. Our jobs, our recreational activities, even our activity and service in the Church should point us back to our families. When the work-hard-play-hard philosophy crowds out family time, it is self-defeating.

 3) "Ideology or political beliefs that are inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ." Elder Cook refers to these as  "the most universal subjugation in our day, as it has been throughout history". He notes that the Athenians to whom Paul preached in the 1st century AD rejected the gospel because it was too simple, and probably not new to them. It was too simple therefore they mocked him. "We will hear thee again of this matter" they said. To me it sounds very much like those in today's society mock stay-at-home moms. It's too easy some think. It's not worth it some others say. Is it really? I know a woman who decided not to pursue a career outside of the home and who's now the mother of 7 (s-e-v-e-n) beautiful children. I don't think that's easy. I do think it's worth it. 
"Now, let me say unequivocally that I am thrilled with the educational and other opportunities that are available to women. I treasure the fact that the backbreaking work and domestic drudgery required of women has been reduced in much of the world because of modern conveniences and that women are making such magnificent contributions in every field of endeavor. But if we allow our culture to reduce the special relationship that children have with mothers and grandmothers and others who nurture them, we will come to regret it."
4) "Forces that violate sincerely held religious principles result in bondage". This fourth point refers to all those forces who force, for example, doctors to choose between practicing abortions or losing their job. In Elder Cook's words:
 "The Church is a relatively small minority even when linked with people who are like-minded. It will be hard to change society at large, but we must work to improve the moral culture that surrounds us."
This doesn't mean that everyone should become a Mormon (although that would help, if they chose to!), but we still have a responsibility to make the environment in which we live better.

Elder Cook leaves us with a challenge: "Our challenge is to avoid bondage of any kind, help the Lord gather His elect, and sacrifice for the rising generation. We must always remember that we do not save ourselves. We are liberated by the love, grace, and atoning sacrifice of the Savior." 

What are we going to do to rise to this challenge from a modern-day apostle?

Bye for now :)


Friday, October 18, 2013

"The moral force of women" by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

Hello there!

Since a lot of my readers are women, I decided I would dedicate this weeks post to them. During last General Conference several talks were on the subject of women and the great contribution to society and the Church. The one I chose is by Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: "The moral force of women". It won't hurt us men to remember the great role our mothers, grandmothers and female teachers have played in our life!

It's true, sometimes the power women have goes unnoticed and this causes some unhappiness among our sisters. Elder Christofferson suggests that: "Perhaps, because it is pervasive, this contribution of women is often underappreciated". Pioneers stories are full of examples of faithful women who kept their faith and managed to go through unthinkable ordeals. Elder Christofferson relates the story of Anna Daines:
"Anna and her husband, Henry, and their four children were among the pioneers of the Church in New Jersey, in the United States. Beginning in the 1930s, when Henry was a doctoral student at Rutgers University, he and Anna worked tirelessly with school and civic organizations in Metuchen, where they lived, to overcome deeply rooted prejudice against Mormons and to make the community a better place for all parents to raise their children. Anna, for example, volunteered at the Metuchen YMCA and made herself indispensable. Within a year she was appointed president of the Mothers’ Auxiliary and then “was asked to run for one of the three women’s positions on the YMCA board of directors. She won without opposition, and so joined the very council that only a few years before had refused to let the Saints meet in their building."
Anna's faith overcame the thick barrier of prejudice against the Mormon community in this small village in New Jersey.  
But the real moral stronghold of society is the home, where future leaders and future parents are raised and taught. And who's the moral head of the family? 
"A woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children."
To avoid misinterpretations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is aware that an increasing number of families is drifting away from the model of the "traditional family". Many members -- for many reasons -- are single parents. Church leaders have repeatedly saluted these single mothers and fathers for their efforts. Still, in Elder Christofferson's words, "where this ideal [ie. mother, father, and children] does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances". There is unparalleled power in the family; simply because that's God's way. I have a strong testimony of that. I was born and raised in a "traditional" family and I have seen the benefits of it. My father has always been my role model, my best example of a righteous man. When I look for a wife, I won't settle for anything below the high standards of morality and ethics lived by my mother. It's not even a matter of religion. My parents are not LDS. But, again, family is the Lord's way of organizing society and there is power in it. 

    My "traditional" family

Elder Christofferson recognized the moral power of any women, regarding her circumstances: 
"Whether you are single or married, whether you have borne children or not, whether you are old, young, or in between, your moral authority is vital, and perhaps we have begun to take it and you for granted. Certainly there are trends and forces at work that would weaken and even eliminate your influence, to the great detriment of individuals, families, and society at large."
 Three major trends against the moral authority of women are listed by the apostle:
1) "the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career";
2) "attitudes toward human sexuality";
3) "those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine".

I realize Elder Christofferson (probably because of his wonderful career in the law profession) likes to use some fancy words, which I would like to break down into everyday language for the sake of our understanding -- mainly mine!

Point 1) is very well explained by Elder Christofferson in this brief video clip.

Point 2) warns against abortion for personal or social conviction, which "strikes at the heart of a woman’s most sacred powers and destroys her moral authority", and "sexual immorality and [...] revealing dress that not only debases women but reinforces the lie that a woman’s sexuality is what defines her worth." This is not bigotry. Asking for morality is not bigotry and should not sound like asking for a past that could never possibly come back. Women were once expected to live by high standards of morality and men were allowed pretty much anything ("the unfairness of such a double standard is obvious, and it has been justifiably criticized and rejected" noted Elder Christofferson). That double-standard has now turned upside down, and women are encouraged to be as immoral, uncommitted, and incautious as possible in their relations. The results? "Fatherless families and growing poverty." And men are "liberated" from all responsibilities. In a nutshell, allowing our daughter to go around with the latest low-cut tank top only contributes to the reinforcing of this wrong mindset by which women are just another nice toy. 

Point 3) refers to those persistent voices that entice women to be "more aggressive, tough, and confrontational". This is simply wrong. Just because men have spent the past centuries warring with one another, it doesn't mean that's right or praiseworthy in any way! Elder Christofferson adds: "In blurring feminine and masculine differences, we lose the distinct, complementary gifts of women and men that together produce a greater whole."

In concluding his talk, Elder Christofferson invites all women to cultivate the most meaningful relationship that could ever exist: that with God, our Heavenly Father. And to exercise that influence for good "without fear or apology"

There's also something for all men:
"Let no one willfully misunderstand. By praising and encouraging the moral force in women, I am not saying that men and boys are somehow excused from their own duty to stand for truth and righteousness, that their responsibility to serve, sacrifice, and minister is somehow less than that of women or can be left to women. Brethren, let us stand with women, share their burdens, and cultivate our own companion moral authority."
I realize this is kind of a hot topic and I was a bit hesitant as to whether I should make a post about it or not, but I figured that this is what the Lord has spoken through one of His duly ordained apostles and, as Paul wrote in his epistle to the Romans of his days: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth". 

Missionary hugs to all of you! 
Bye for now.


Friday, October 11, 2013

"Converted unto the Lord" by Elder David A. Bednar

Hello everyone! 

First of all I need to say how awesome General Conference was this last weekend. If you missed it... then you missed out! But that's okay, because you can find everything (talks, music and all the nice stuff) HERE

This week we talk about the link between testimony and conversion. The talk I'm going to use was given by Elder Bednar at the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 2012 General Conference -- "Converted unto the Lord". 

Elder Bednar dives into the topic quite quickly by relating two events in the New Testament:

(a) "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 16:15-17)

(b) "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." (Luke 22:31-32; italics added)

In the first passage Peter bears his testimony of the Christ (he acknowledges Jesus as the Son of God); in the second one, Christ is addressing Peter referring to his conversion as something yet to happen. 

These are Elder Bednar's words:
"Interestingly, this mighty Apostle had talked and walked with the Master, had witnessed many miracles, and had a strong testimony of the Savior’s divinity. Yet even Peter needed additional instruction from Jesus about the converting and sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost and his obligation to serve faithfully."
When thus analyzed, it's clear to see how a testimony, a knowledge of truth didn't make Peter converted to it and neither will it make us. In Elder Bednar's words: "Conversion is an offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony."

The Book of Mormon is full of accounts of people who were truly converted. Elder Bednar mentions a few: the people of King Benjamin and the Lamanites converted by the sons of Mosiah. What do these converts have in common? Elder Bednar uses the 5 points given by the prophet Samuel in the book of Mormon to define what it takes to become converted:
1) Believing in the teachings and prophecies of the holy prophets as they are reported in the scriptures; 2) Exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; 3) Repenting; 4) Experiencing a mighty change of heart; 5) Becoming "firm and steadfast in the faith"  
The process of conversion is the process of a lifetime. From my (yes, small and yes, still brief) experience, you are never converted enough. Since Jesus Christ is our example, and the kind of life He lived our goal, we are never quite as Christlike as we know we should be.

In conclusion, Elder Bednar uses the parable of the virgins to show the strong relationship between testimony and conversion. These are his words:
"Ten virgins, five who were wise and five who were foolish, took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Please think of the lamps used by the virgins as the lamps of testimony. The foolish virgins took their lamps of testimony but took no oil with them. Consider the oil to be the oil of conversion."

 When the bridegroom came, the foolish virgins asked the wise ones if they could borrow some of their oil. The five wise virgins refused to lend them their oil and said: "Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." Elder Bednar goes on explaining: 
"Were the five wise virgins selfish and unwilling to share, or were they indicating correctly that the oil of conversion cannot be borrowed? [...] As the wise virgins emphasized properly, each of us must “buy for ourselves.” These inspired women were not describing a business transaction; rather, they were emphasizing our individual responsibility to keep our lamp of testimony burning and to obtain an ample supply of the oil of conversion." 

To "buy" that precious "oil of conversion" Elder Bednar suggests that we -- for example -- obey the commandments and study the scriptures, thus experiencing the peace the gospel can bring in our life. As a missionary, I see everyday how it's not possible to give the joy and peace that come from living the gospel to someone else. As much as I would like everyone I meet and talk with to experience the blessings of the gospel, I can't do for them what only they can do for themselves. We can't be converted for others, although we can sure help others in their journey to conversion.

This quote sums up the meaning of this address:

Testimony is an excellent starting point. Becoming more and more converted to the Lord should be our goal everyday. Let's do it :)

Thanks for reading my blog. You're so many I could have never imagined!

Bye for now.



Friday, October 4, 2013

"The hope of God's light" by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

This week I'm going to introduce you to one of my favorite people on earth: President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. Last April his General Conference talk was titled "The hope of God's light" (when the title alone makes you feel better, I would add!).
This talk is all about faith, hope, charity, and the light at the end of the tunnel. 

"Entrance to enlightenment" by LDS artist Johan Benthin 

President Uchtdorf compares the light and darkness in this painting to what we experience in life. He notices that the light coming through the door only illuminates part of the room. Interesting metaphor of how we sometimes have to go through life one step at a time, since the Lord teaches us "line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (Isaiah 28:13; 2 Nephi 28:30).

The story of Jane is very inspiring. Jane suffered from physical and emotional abused since she was 3 years old. Over time, she learned to stop feeling and her life was lived in wait of its end. 

 "Then, at age 18, Jane discovered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The joy and hope of the restored gospel penetrated her heart, and she accepted the invitation to be baptized. For the first time, light entered her life, and she saw a bright path before her. She left the darkness of her world and decided to attend school a great distance away from her abuser. At last she felt liberated from an environment of darkness and evil—free to enjoy the Savior’s sweet peace and miraculous healing."

I would like to stop and contemplate for a moment the miracle of Jane's conversion. President Uchtdorf doesn't tell us how she find the church but -- whether it was through dedicated missionaries or dedicated member missionaries -- a modern-day miracle took place in Jane's life. Her story is one of the many testimonies about the healing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our power -- as members of His church -- to serve (and save) others as we share that gospel!

Later in her life, Jane's past came back. Her abuser had died and she had to decide whether she would give him the final victory by holding to the pain he had inflicted her, or she would forgive and spend her life making others' better. This was Jane's choice and now, as a schoolteacher, "her love has influenced the lives of hundreds of children, helping them to know that they have worth, that they are important. She has become a tireless defender of the weak, the victimized, and the discouraged. She builds, strengthens, and inspires everyone around her."

A few weeks back I was reading this very talk and I felt inspired to create this: 

The words are taken from this talk. In this picture there's a man looking down a cliff. That cliff can be any difficult situation me might be in. The sky is cloudy but there's some light coming through the clouds. In a nutshell, the bottom line is that we can't expect someone else to switch the light on for us. Not even God. We have to show our courage, prove our, faith, figuratively jump off the cliff of our fears knowing that God will catch us, that He will make the fall soft for us. And throughout it all, we will have learned faith, courage, the love of God and tons more.

"So how do we open our eyes to the hope of God’s light?" These are President Uchtdorf's 3 steps:
  1. Start where you are ("We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings.")
  2. Turn your heart toward the Lord ("Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling.")
  3. Walk in the light ("[God] does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.")
"To all who feel they walk in darkness, I invite you to rely on this certain promise spoken by the Savior of mankind: 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'” taught President Uchtdorf

I invite you all to read about the amazing story of the saints in Africa which President Uchtdorf relates at the end of this talk. Those saints are the living personification of light, and a living testimony that light can and does prevail over darkness when when we allow it to!

Let us all come to the Light of Christ. I have seen His light work miracle in my life and in the lives of many people around me. 

Bye for now!