Strengthening the Family and the Church through the Priesthood

Today, I started watching the 2013 Worldwide Leadership Training, Strengthening the Family and the Church though the Priesthood, that Elder Ballard talked about in his General Conference talk. There are some really powerful and inspiring videos, and I really recommend the content. I especially liked the First Presidency Message. President Eyring has previously given one of my favorite messages about family, so I was excited to hear his remarks.

President Eyring begins by talking about how the priesthood is a gift of authority from God given to us for the blessing of all of God’s children. I love the idea that priesthood is not an exclusive thing only given for the benefit of some. Instead, it is given to worthy brethren in order to allow them to bless everyone.

President Eyring reminds us that the priesthood authority can and should become Priesthood power if we are righteous. Recently, I have been thinking a bit about this concept. In the temple, there is a portion where the women covenant to be obedient to their husbands ‘as’ they are obedient to the commands of God. I realized that as a new husband, I have a great responsibility to be a righteous example that my wife can follow. I can not lead based on authority, but must lead through kindness and long-suffering. That is the only way that I can truly be worthy of the amazing priesthood authority I have been given.  If we fail to be righteous, our authority will be a twisted form of authority that can be used for unrighteous dominion. Satan has this twisted and distorted form of priesthood….He uses his ‘authority’ to destroy and to compel. That is not the way of a priesthood holder of God.

Elder Eyring emphasizes that God is infinitely wise, kind and patient. He knows the challenges we will face in his service and will help them face those challenges as he would. Jesus Christ set for us a perfect example of kindness and respect. Elder Eyring mentions in particular the way Jesus Christ treated his mother. His relationship to his family has always been an interesting one for me. Christ knew that he was about his fathers business and that his ministry came first. Still, he took the time to show acts of unparalleled kindness to those around him. Christ had an amazing sense of priorities. Elder Eyring mentioned that Christ called everyone to repent with absolute clarity, but at the same time left everyone with no doubt that with his help they could succeed. He inspired greatness and great confidence in the hearts of men. For me, he is a true example of a leader. 

Elder Eyring also spoke of Joseph Smith’s choice to provide an example and allow members to try and live in accord. He exercised his priesthood through meekness and love unfeigned. I love the Prophet for his example. The more I learn about him, the more I realize that he was truly called of God and inspired to build up this church and kingdom. 

Elder Eyring’s mention of the love of his parents was also tender. Truly, I am grateful beyond words for the righteous example of my parents. Even though they were/are not members of this church, I am so grateful to truly have been born of goodly parents that were always there for me. Sadly, there are far too many people that do not have that blessing. 

President Eyring next spoke about the potential blessings of exaltation and eternal family that are available to us. Those gifts will be given to us if we qualify through faith and following the savior. It is truly amazing to me to have gotten even a tiny glimpse at all that God has in store for me. Heavenly Father sees that amazing potential in me and in all those around me. His matchless vision is what helps to build our confidence in him.

“God’s priesthood has the power to change hearts and nit us in eternal families.” I love this idea, and I truly believe that this is true even for those family member that do not yet believe in the savior. The power of the priesthood is working on the hearts of each of us to transform us. Each time we pray or serve in the church, there is a power that is touching those around us. Our faith helps us to see the good in others and to love them with a deeper love. That love transforms others even when we do not see the changes right away.

Elder Eyring emphasizes that in times of testing our faith truly grows, and God’s power manifest in those times can help give us hope. Those trials bring out charity and help us access the atonement of Christ. His promises are real.

The priesthood gives families hope…hope that we can be together forever. Hope that we can overcome the adversary and be bound through sacred covenants. I have a true and abiding testimony that through Christ everything will work out for our good. His love and priesthood is like the thread that binds us together as a family 

Elder Eyring explains that this isn’t easy .Satan is real and trying to destroy us. However, the power of Christ and his priesthood is greater. What we need to do is align our hearts with him, and love will win out.  Christ has prepared a place for us through his atonement. His love is manifest through the atonement and his priesthood. 

I am so grateful for the blessings that God has given to me. I am grateful to be married to a wonderful daughter of God in his Holy Temple. I am excited to start a family together and to begin implementing those principles that God has taught through his Prophets and his Apostles

Redemption – Elder Christofferson – April 2013 General Conference

One of the most prominent roles of the savior is the focus of Elder Christofferson’s wonderful talk from the Sunday Afternoon session of conference. The thing that I have appreciated most about his talks in recent conferences is his doctrinal clarity and bold directness. I also love his focus on the savior Jesus Christ. Elder Christofferson has shown  willingness to clearly speak about subjects such as repentance, correction and, in this talk, redemption. His articulate clear pronouncements of truth in many ways remind me of Neal L. Maxwell filled with rhetorical devices and literary allusions.

The talk began with a historical flourish that I truly appreciated as a history buff. Elder Christofferson spoke of “Redemptioners” or individuals who made the passage to the Americas as indentured servants and worked to pay off their own wages. In many ways, we are like these redemptioners. We have been brought with a price as the scriptures suggest. As King Benjamin declared, even if we serve God with all of our hearts and souls we would remain unprofitable servants. Moreover, we are perpetually in God’s debt because as we give back to him he always gives us more than we could ask for.

That however, is the beautiful part of the atonement. Through it, all debts are paid off. More than that, however, Elder Christofferson emphasizes that thanks to the atonement, not only are the natural consequences of the fall atoned for unconditionally, and the indirect consequences of sin atoned for through our faith and repentance, but also ” the Atonement also satisfies the debt justice owes to us by healing and compensating us for any suffering we innocently endure.” The wonderful thing about the atonement, is that it redeems us both from our sins and from our weaknesses. What this ultimately means is that not only do we receive far more mercy than we deserve, but we also receive far more blessings and justice when wronged or injured. God is both perfectly merciful and perfectly just towards compensating and blessing.

One of the best parts about the Church and Gospel of Christ is that we are active participants in his work. We do not go to Church merely to be entertained, but for the opportunity to serve and redeem others.”Inasmuch as we follow Christ, we seek to participate in and further His redemptive work.” Elder Christofferson identifies a few areas where every members can play a redemptive role : Missionary Work, Family History Work and helping the poor and the needy.Obviously, not incidentally, these points echo the four fold purpose of the Church and remind us that Christ’s Church is there to allow us to become more perfected through active service of our fellow man.

I love his description of the work of redemption that we can engage in while on this earth

“This kind of redemptive work means helping people with their problems. It means befriending the poor and the weak, alleviating suffering, righting wrongs, defending truth, strengthening the rising generation, and achieving security and happiness at home. Much of our redemptive work on earth is to help others grow and achieve their just hopes and aspirations.”

To illustrate his point, Elder Christofferson quotes from Les Miserables and recounts the story of Jean Valjean and the Bishop who redeemed him for God. That book and play show that one kind act of redemption can ripple and bless the lives of many. Yet, the actions of individuals are always limited to some degree, and that is truly why God gave us his church

“Some forms of temporal redemption come by collaborative effort. It is one of the reasons the Savior created a church. Being organized in quorums and auxiliaries and in stakes, wards, and branches, we can not only teach and encourage each other in the gospel, but we can also bring to bear people and resources to deal with the exigencies of life. People acting alone or in ad hoc groups cannot always provide means on a scale needed to address larger challenges. As followers of Jesus Christ we are a community of Saints organized to help redeem the needs of our fellow Saints and as many others as we can reach across the globe.”

This reminded me of one of my favorite non-general authority talks: Why the Church is as True As the Gospel by Eugene England. In that article, England similarly emphasizes what an immense impact serving others in the church can have on those that give up their time, talents and energies to serving the Lord.  This church is a transformative force in the lives of those who are active in it. People who drift out of activity because the church does not meet their needs are missing the point entirely. The church is about allowing us to share our talents with others and through service being transformed. This is a multi-dimensional effort which includes temporal and spiritual aid alike.

Elder Christofferson ends with a powerful story about a deaf woman who’se life was transformed and redeemed by the kindness of a member and by the light of Christ. Such stories are common as Christ and his church engage in its work of salvation. May we continue to be disciples of Christ and assist him in his work of redemption.