Elder Kent F. Richards spoke eloquently of the importance of temple work and the need to look towards the temple. Recently, in light of the Philadelphia temple dedication this theme has been on my mind. I recently taught my 12-13 year old Sunday School students a lesson about the importance of temple covenants and the need to prepare to receive the sacred ordinances.
As I reread Elder Richard’s talk, I was once again encouraged to focus on the temple. He noted that: “I had the privilege recently of being in a temple open house with President Russell M. Nelson and his family as he gathered them around the sealing altar and explained to them that everything we do in the Church–every meeting, activity, lesson, and service–is to prepare each of us to come to the temple and kneel at the altar to receive all the Father’s promised blessings for eternity.”
I testify from my experience that there is a power found only in the temple. I know that if we stay focused on the ordinances of the temple and see the temple as our ultimate destination, that we will better be able to avoid temptation. I know that as we look towards the temple our vision will be lifted and we will be transformed.
Elder Oak’s talk on the role of opposition in the plan of salvation has been noticed primarily for his controversial statement that there is no “loyal opposition” in the Church. In a way this focus is unfortunate, but it obscures the strength of the rest of the talk on the Plan of Salvation which I found to be exceptionally well done.
In particular, I loved Elder Oak’s focus on one of themes that most intrigues me, namely the fact that while Satan tried to oppose God’s plan his opposition ultimately furthered it.
“So it is that the evil one, who opposed and sought to destroy the Father’s plan, actually facilitated it, because it is opposition that enables choice and it is the opportunity of making the right choices that leads to the growth that is the purpose of the Father’s plan.”
I love knowing that Satan, while full of rage and thunder, is ultimately an impotent adversary in many ways. At best, he is relegated to achieving tactical victories at the expense of grand strategic loseses. Satan thinks he knows how the frustrate the plan of God, but his every move ultimately furthers God’s masterful strategy.
In the Book of Mormon, early in Helaman, the Lamanite armies make a similar mistake. They plunge deep into the center of the Nephite land. They have victories on the way, but are ultimately surrounded and utterly destroyed. Their zeal led to their undoing.
Satan ultimately suffers the same fate. His actions led to the unfolding of God’s plan. His actions led to the fulfillment of the atonement of Christ. And his actions will bring about the Millenial reign. We should take great comfort knowing that he will not and cannot win.
If you have not seen this video yet or read the talk that it is based on, please drop what you are doing and find time for it. This brief video speaks of the plight of refugees and calls those who listen to action.
I love how the Church has taken a strong stance on the importance of helping refugees. It is a profound message of charity and love. As a descendant of those who were refugees escaping Nazi persecution, I feel that we need to take this message to heart. How we respond to those in need truly does define who we are as a society, as a church, and as individuals.
My grandparents fled Poland to Russia seeking refugee from the Nazi storm. Instead, they were treated with suspicion and animosity and placed in work camps in distant parts of Siberia. Many refugees perished as a result of the harsh conditions and inhospitably of the political and social climate.
The Christ-like way to respond is very different. It is to welcome, lift up, and serve those who are escaping danger. It is to give work rather than place in work camps, it is to integrate rather than exclude. That is the path of discipleship and the path of charity.
Elder Gong’s talk from conference focused on the theme of remembering and remembrance. He noted that there are over 400 uses of the word “remember” In the scriptures. It does seem like the scriptures contain a near constant refrain of the vital but difficult task of remembering God.
It seems to me that it is the extreme moments of life when it becomes hardest to remember him. When things are going well, we lean on our own strength when things are going poorly, we doubt his strength and forget him.
I love this passage from Elder Gong’s talk:
“When trust is betrayed, dreams shattered, hearts broken and broken again, when we want justice and need mercy, when our fists clench and our tears flow, when we need to know what to hold onto and what to let go of, we can always remember Him. Life is not as cruel as it can sometimes seem. His infinite compassion can help us find our way, truth, and life.”
If we remember Christ, we can overcome even our worst trials. He shows us the way upward and over all adversity.
One of the greatest blessing of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is having the gift of the Holy Ghost. I’m so grateful for the influence of the Third Member of the Godhead in my life.
Elder Hales offered a beautiful testimony of the potential of this incredible blessing:
“To my own posterity and all within the sound of my voice, I offer my testimony of the personal revelation and constant flow of daily guidance, caution, encouragement, strength, spiritual cleansing, comfort, and peace that have come to our family through the Holy Ghost. Through the Holy Ghost, we experience ‘the multitude of [Christ’s] tender mercies’ and miracles that do not cease.”
I know that I need that daily and constant flow of encouragement, strength, and peace that Elder Hales speaks of. I’ve noticed how different my day is when I have sought the guidance and protection of the spirit. On days when I have not started with prayer and study of the word of God, I find the natural man taking charge. I am irritable and make bad decisions. When I start of my day the right way, things simply go differently. I’m given the words to say and my temper is tempered. I’m given a sense of peace and understanding.
I need that presence in my life.
Bishop Burton in the final session of the October 1973 conference told of an experience that I think many of us can relate to. He spoke of talking to a complete stranger on the streets of Rio de Janeiro only to discover that the person was actually a member of the Church. Bishop Burton emphasized that there is a certain light in the countenance of members that are living according to the Commandments of God:
“If we truly accept God in our lives and live in accordance with his commandments, God will work a mighty change in our appearance and we will begin to appear more like our Heavenly Father, in whose image we have been created. Could it be this appearance we recognize when we meet men and women who are trying to live close to the Lord?”
This same theme was echoed by President Monson just a year ago in conference:
“To me that means we strive to have in our lives kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, and goodwill. These qualities will provide for us a spirit which will touch the lives of those around us. It has been my opportunity through the years to associate with countless individuals who possess such a spirit. We experience a special feeling when we are with them, a feeling that makes us want to associate with them and to follow their example. They radiate the Light of Christ and help us feel His love for us.”
I truly have felt this in my interactions with believers in Christ– both inside and outside of the Church. I am a Christian and a member of Christ’s Church today because of the positive influence of true Christians who had Christ’s countenance engraved on their souls. Because of these individuals, I thirsted for greater knowledge and ultimately came to know my savior and redeemer.
Certainly, that spirit cannot be confined solely to members of the Church. There are good people throughout the world that have this same burning light within them. But, as beneficiaries of the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we are entitled to his presence in our lives–if we remain worthy.
I hope that I am doing what I need to do in order to have his image in my countenance. I hope that I am doing what I need to do in order to look and “feel” like a true latter-day saint.
31 And it came to pass that they did break forth, all as one, in singing, and praising their God for the great thing which he had done for them, in preserving them from falling into the hands of their enemies.32 Yea, they did cry: Hosanna to the Most High God. And they did cry: Blessed be the name of the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God.
33 And their hearts were swollen with joy, unto the gushing out of many tears, because of the great goodness of God in delivering them out of the hands of their enemies; and they knew it was because of their repentance and their humility that they had been delivered from an everlasting destruction.
I love this beautiful depiction of the exultant joy the people showed upon their deliverance from the robbers. They recognize that the lord is the source of salvation. And so, they shout Hosanna to the Lord. Their hearts are swelled with joy. They know that it is only because of him that they averted their fate.
If only we could so clearly see the danger of spiritual destruction as clearly as we see the danger of temporal destruction. If only we were as quick to turn to God when delivered from spiritual danger.