Capacity Beyond our Own

President Monson’s priesthood session talk from this past conference was a brief testimony of the blessings of the Word of Wisdom. I really liked the central story of the talk and it is short enough that I am going to share it here in full:

“Recently I read the true account of a dramatic manifestation concerning these promises. A faithful member of the Church, John A. Larsen, served during World War II in the United States Coast Guard on the ship USS Cambria. During a battle in the Philippines, word came of an approaching squadron of bombers and kamikaze fighter planes. Orders were given for immediate evacuation. Since the USS Cambria was already gone, John and three companions gathered their gear and hurried to the beach, hoping for a lift out to one of the departing ships. Fortunately, a landing craft picked them up and sped toward the last ship leaving the bay. The men on that departing ship, in an effort to evacuate as quickly as possible, were busy on deck and had time only to throw ropes to the four men, that they might hopefully be able to climb to the deck.

John, with a heavy radio strapped to his back, found himself dangling at the end of a 40-foot (12 m) rope, at the side of a ship headed out to the open sea. He began pulling himself up, hand over hand, knowing that if he lost his grip, he would almost certainly perish. After climbing only a third of the way, he felt his arms burning with pain. He had become so weak that he felt he could no longer hold on.

With his strength depleted, as he grimly contemplated his fate, John silently cried unto God, telling Him that he had always kept the Word of Wisdom and had lived a clean life—and he now desperately needed the promised blessings.

John later said that as he finished his prayer, he felt a great surge of strength. He began climbing once again and fairly flew up the rope. When he reached the deck, his breathing was normal and not the least bit labored. The blessings of added health and stamina promised in the Word of Wisdom had been his. He gave thanks to his Heavenly Father then, and throughout the remainder of his life, for the answer to his desperate prayer for help.”

We are very unlikely to be in a circumstance where we need help from heaven in such a dramatic fashion. Yet, I am so grateful for moments in my life when I have experienced divine aid and strength beyond my own. For me, that divine aid has come more frequently as the spirit has given me a rush of inspiration and wisdom. I found that praying before law school exams or other important assignments has always helped me. I have felt the Lord’s promised blessings of treasures of hidden knowledge. I am so grateful to my father in heaven for the Word of Wisdom and its attendant blessings.

Love and Expressions of Confidence

Conference talks can take on radically different meanings depending on our life circumstances.  A couple of months ago when I first watched the October 2016 conference, President Eyring’s Priesthood Session talk didn’t make much of an impression. Since then, however, I have been called to teach 12-13 year olds in Sunday School and so his message took on new meaning for me.

In my class, there has been one young man in particular that is a trouble maker and loves to be a disruption. President Eyring’s talk was a great reminder that I need to show forth a greater degree of charity and love towards him. It was a great talk to read to avoid being discouraged.

“Many things may help strengthen our younger brothers to rise up in the priesthood, but nothing will be more powerful than our helping them develop the faith and confidence that they can draw on the power of God in their priesthood service.

That faith and confidence won’t stay with them from a single experience of being lifted by even the most gifted Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The ability to draw on those powers must be cultivated by many expressions of confidence from those who are more experienced in the priesthood.”

I love teaching through expressions of confidence and love.  That is something that perhaps I have been missing in my approach.

“You priesthood leaders and fathers of Aaronic Priesthood holders can work miracles. You can help the Lord fill the ranks of faithful elders with young men who accept the call to preach the gospel and do it with confidence. You will see many you have lifted and encouraged stay faithful, marry worthily in the temple, and in turn, lift and prepare others.”

I am grateful for President Eyring’s apostolic witness and for his expression of confidence.

Standing up to the Tide of Evil

In October 1975, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke about the rising deteriorating standards in the media and in broader society. If his words were timely then, they are even more timely today.

“Our legislatures and courts are affected by this wave. Legal restraints against deviant moral behavior are eroding under legislative enactments and court opinions. This is done in the name of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of choice in so-called personal matters. But the bitter fruit of these so-called freedoms has been enslavement to debauching habits and behavior that leads only to destruction. A prophet, speaking long ago, aptly described the process when he said, ‘And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.’ (2 Ne. 28:21.)” In summary, President Hinckley emphasized that “[t]he whole dismal picture indicates a weakening rot seeping into the very fiber of society.

Yet, his talk was not one focused on doom and gloom. Instead his was a message of needed hope and concrete counsel.

First, he noted that despite evils in the world, overall conditions in the world remain positive and there is much reason to rejoice.  Indeed, “there are millions upon millions of good people in this and in other lands. For the most part, husbands are faithful to wives, and wives to husbands. Their children are being reared in sobriety, industry, and faith in God.” That was true when President Hinckley spoke in 1975 and I suspect it is still true today.

The truth is that there are many in society that share our values and standards. Even as society drifts, we are not alone. And “Given the strength of these, I am one who believes that the situation is far from hopeless. I am satisfied that there is no need to stand still and let the filth and violence overwhelm us, or to run in despair. The tide, high and menacing as it is, can be turned back if enough of the kind I have mentioned will add their strength to the strength of the few who are now effectively working. I believe the challenge to oppose this evil is one from which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as citizens, cannot shrink. And if we are ever to begin, let it be now.”

So if we must act how can we do so? President Hinckley offered four specific suggestions or “points of beginning.”

First – “Begin with yourself”

Second – “A better tomorrow begins with the training of a better generation”

Third – “The building of public sentient begins with a few earnest voices”

and Finally – “Strength to do battle begins with enlisting the strength of God”

President Hinckley offers quite a lot of meat on each of these points, but I tink it will suffice to highlight a few things that stood out to me.

I was struck first by his call to self improvement: “We cannot hope to influence others in the direction of virtue unless we live lives of virtue. The example of our living will carry a greater influence than will all the preaching in which we might indulge. We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves.”

Next, I loved the idea that what I do in my home raising my children matters as much if not more than what I do in the public sphere: “The home is the cradle of virtue, the place where character is formed and habits are established.”

Third was the emphasis to not let out voices be drowned out or to let a vocal minority advocating for sin overwhelm the large numbers who stand for righteousness:

“I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws. The sad fact is that the minority who call for greater liberalization, who peddle and devour pornography, who encourage and feed on licentious display make their voices heard until those in our legislatures may come to believe that what they say represents the will of the majority. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.

Let our voices be heard. I hope they will not be shrill voices, but I hope we shall speak with such conviction that those to whom we speak shall know of the strength of our feeling and the sincerity of our effort. Remarkable consequences often flow from a well-written letter and a postage stamp. Remarkable results come of quiet conversation with those who carry heavy responsibilities.”

In the end, I left uplifted and inspired to do better as I read President Hinckley’s talk. It is easy to get discourage when you feel like all of society is opposed to your values. But that isn’t quite true. There are so many people of good faith and we can work together with them and attempt to persude them. But we must first be our best selves and we must focus on teaching our children the same true principles.