A Doorkeeper in the House of God

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Many years ago two brothers lived in what is now part of Iraq. They lived near or in the city Babel. The word “Babel” means both the “gate of God” and “to confuse”. In Babel, or Babylon, was a false temple – a false gate to God. The Babylonians wanted to reach heaven but they built a false gate and worshipped false gods. Many in our day also worship false gods.

Are we building and worshiping in false temples like the Babylonians? Are we worshiping at unholy altars? Are we letting the good crowd out the best? Do we make sacrifices to gilded calves? What do we allow in our lives to take priority over the gospel and the things of God? Do we wander on side-roads when we should be traveling on God’s heavenly highway to the temple and eternal life? The prophet Isaiah wrote of God’s highway, “And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it.”((Isaiah 35:8))

This highway leads through the deserts: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” ((Isaiah 40:3)); it leads to the exalted heights: “And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.”((Isaiah 49:11)) If we travel on God’s exalted roads, we are in the path to peace; we are on a temple road, a road for the clean and holy. Those who wander on strange roads are on the way to false temples and false gods.

Our worshiping in false temples could range from shirking church responsibilities to spending too much time pursuing work or recreation (or even family) such that other necessary activities are left undone. Our worship of false gods could range from obsessively following the latest trends, technologies, or celebrities to dishonoring the Sabbath day. All that is good is not exalting and too much of a good thing might hinder our salvation. We don’t have to focus only on the gospel and family – we can and should spend time doing other things – but if our devotion to these activities becomes our religion we are like the Babylonians.

Elder Oaks taught the importance of prioritizing in our lives: “As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all. Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best.”((Ensign, Nov. 2007))

Many things, people, and causes clamor for our attention. We can run around exhibiting a kind of attentional disorder trying to do everything (or conversely, doing too little or focusing on too narrow a thing) or we can wisely use and improve our time by choosing to spend the most effort on the best things. Our Savior Jesus Christ and our families come first. Anything that takes away from the centrality of God and a Christ-centered family is a false god.

So the Babylonians were building and worshiping their false temple – the great tower of Babel. Because of wickedness, this became a time of great confusion and war of words. Jared and his younger brother, their families, and friends left the confusion – they left the false gate to God – to find sanctuary elsewhere. The Lord led them to a new land of promise and covenant. To get to this new land, they first needed to cross an ocean. To cross the ocean they needed to build vessels. The Lord taught the Jaredites how to build the barges but the Jaredites quickly realized they would be in darkness for much of the crossing. Because the brother of Jared was the spokesman, he went and spoke with the Lord to ask about light during the journey. The Lord provided clear directions for the building of the vessels but when the question of light came up the interaction was different.

“And [the brother of Jared] cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness? And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire….And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” ((Ether 2:22-25))

I love this interaction. The Lord asked the brother of Jared: “What will ye that I should do?” I love the humility of our Savior. Think about it; the creator of the earth asked the brother of Jared, “What do you want me to do?” He was willing to do what the brother of Jared decided. To provide some guidance, He pointed out some of the challenges of lighting a storm-tossed vessel and sent the brother of Jared on his way to figure out a solution.

“And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord.”((Ether 3:1))

The brother of Jared ascended the mountain to craft stones and then speak with the Lord high on the mountain top.

He prayed: “I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea. Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men. And it came to pass that when the brother of Jared had said these words, behold, the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched the stones one by one with his finger. And the veil was taken from off the eyes of the brother of Jared, and he saw the finger of the Lord; and it was as the finger of a man, like unto flesh and blood; and the brother of Jared fell down before the Lord, for he was struck with fear…. And…behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.”((Ether 3:4-6,13))

So great was the faith of the brother of Jared that the veil had no power to hide the Lord from him. The brother of Jared did not just converse with the Lord while separated by a veil, he was brought directly into the presence of the Lord. The brother of Jared worked to make the stones but the Lord filled them with light just as he filled the brother of Jared with light.

How can we apply this story to our lives? The scriptures are most useful when they result in a mighty change of heart. If we only read the words but don’t heed the words, we fall far short of what we can and should be. In the same chapter of James that Joseph Smith read before deciding to pray in a quiet grove of trees we read: “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.”((James 1:22))

Just like the brother of Jared, as we act and do good things Jesus Christ fills us with light. As we do good things our souls are filled with lighted stones and we become more like Jesus Christ. Each stone of light in our soul softens our stony heart and Jesus Christ blesses us with a new heart of flesh.

The prophet Ezekiel testified with the words of the Savior: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.”((Ezekiel 36:25-28))

These are promises made to all who follow the Lord. We can be cleansed and blessed with a soft heart. This new soft heart comes as we are filled with the Spirit of God.

Let’s return to the brother of Jared. His [the brother of Jared’s] experience on the mountain was a temple experience. The brother of Jared entered into the Savior’s presence through the true gate of faith and diligence. That is what temples are for – helping the children of God – helping us – return to God’s presence.

Regularly performing temple work is important because it is the process whereby we and others can return to live with our Eternal Father. In temples we partake of saving ordinances without which we cannot return to live with God. Because of this, building and attending temples are among the most important things we can do as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1834 the saints were building the Kirtland Temple but the temple was in serious trouble. The Saints soon needed to pay the mortgage loan on the temple lot but they did not have enough money to repay the loan. Faced with this problem, the Prophet Joseph Smith and other church leaders gathered in prayer and asked the Lord to send someone or some people who had money to save the temple. 200 miles from the birthplace of the Restoration lived the man who was the answer to prayer. John joined the Church in 1832. He was a wealthy and generous man. One night he had a dream that he was urgently needed in Kirtland, Ohio. Within two weeks, John sold his land, homes, hotel, and everything else he could and prepared to leave. On Christmas Day, John and his family left their mansion in New York in search of a mansion in heaven. John and his family headed west to the home of the saints. John arrived in January after 500 miles and a month of travel; he found the prophet (whom he had not previously met) and quickly discovered why he was needed in Kirtland. John loaned Joseph and the Church the money needed to pay the mortgage. Without John’s money, the loan would have defaulted and the temple land would have been repossessed. Without John Tanner’s consecration, the Kirtland Temple would not have been completed.((If John Tanner did not have the faith and money, the Lord would have provided someone else. I share this experience to encourage each of us to more faithfully act on inspiration.))

From the days of Adam, temples have always been important to the followers of God. In the ancient world, temples were often at the center of city life. This also is how some modern cities are designed, including Salt Lake City. Wherever the saints of God lived, they built temples. Adam built an altar upon which he offered sacrifices. This was the first temple. Many years later, the Lord commanded Moses to build a tabernacle – a portable temple. Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem that was alternately destroyed and rebuilt over the years. Shortly after Nephi and his family reached the Promised Land, they built a temple. Following the Restoration, the prophet Joseph was commanded to start building temples. The saints built one in Kirtland, Ohio. The saints fled Ohio because of persecutions – leaving behind the precious house of the Lord. They dedicated land in Missouri for a temple. That structure has not yet been built.

Once in Nauvoo, the Saints built a temple, finishing it with a trowel in one hand and a wagon in the other as they fled the country to head to the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young dedicated the Nauvoo Temple before it was fully completed so at least portion of the Saints could receive their temple blessings before they had to cross the plains. I’m sure those blessings gave courage and strength to many who faced the grueling journey ahead. The Prophet Joseph stressed the importance of temples: “The main object [of gathering the Jews, or the people of God, in any age of the world] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.”((as cited in R. Millet, The Power of the Word, p.218))

The prophet Isaiah saw in vision latter-day temples and the church members who attend them: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”((2 Ne. 12:2-3)) One of the first things President Brigham Young did upon entering the Salt Lake Valley was designate the land for the future Salt Lake Temple – the mountain of the Lord’s house that is built in the top of the mountains. Isaiah saw that temple in vision as he prophesied of the last days.

In the last days – in our day – comes the clarion call to the temple. It is a call to go to the temple to hear the words of the Lord. This is what King Benjamin asked of his people: “And now, it came to pass that Mosiah went and did as his father [King Benjamin] had commanded him, and proclaimed unto all the people who were in the land of Zarahemla that thereby they might gather themselves together, to go up to the temple to hear the words which his father should speak unto them.”((Mosiah 1:18)) Mosiah called the people to come to the temple to hear the words of the prophet. We should also go to the temple and participate in the work of salvation.

This call to the temple is a call to learn the ways of God and to walk in the paths of the Lord. It is a call to one and all to visit the house of God as individuals and as families in order to receive the blessings of time and eternity. A temple is literally the House of the Lord. It is the place where ordinances necessary for exaltation are performed. Temple ordinances weld generation to generation, husband to wife, mother to daughter, and sister to brother.

We learn further of the importance of the temple in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name. And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people; For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.”((D&C 124:39-41))

What we learn from this scripture is that the temple is a place of revelation. Within those walls we can know things that have been hidden from “before the foundation of the world.”

The temple is a place of covenant – it is a house of holiness. To be holy means to be dedicated, set apart, or consecrated. When we are holy we consecrate all our lives and everything we have to the work of the Lord. The prophet Zechariah spoke about consecration: “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD…Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts.”((Zechariah 14:20-21)) Zechariah envisioned the day when even the horses and dishes would be consecrated for the work of the Lord.

Many of us do this in our lives – we drive our children and the children of others to church activities or we drive to our visiting or home teaching appointments; we also use our dishes to take food to those who are ill or in need. Those may seem like small matters, but that is the essence of consecration – it is using our means and lives to serve and support others and further the work of the Lord. John, whose money saved the Kirtland Temple, gave almost everything he owned to the Church without ever being repaid. Elder Maxwell taught, “Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory. It brings release from the raucous, overpopulated cell block of selfishness and emancipation from the dark prison of pride.”((Neal A. Maxwell, “Settle This in Your Hearts,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 66)) Consecration is holiness.

Just as the Lord inspired John Tanner to go and save the temple, we should emulate his example and go to the temple, not to save it but to be saved and help save others. The temple not only will bless our lives but also the lives of those around us – most importantly our family for generations to come. The temple is a holy place that has eternal significance and provides eternal blessings. Let us follow the admonition of Isaiah by gathering all who will be gathered and beckon unto them: “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.”

To paraphrase Boyd K. Packer: “What happens if we don’t [attend the temple]? Nothing happens. We miss everything. We live far below our privileges.”((Boyd K. Packer as quoted by Sander Larson and modified by me))

Moroni pleaded with us: “And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.”((Ether 12:41)) I also urge you to seek Jesus. We more fully seek Jesus by attending the temple regularly.

In closing I echo the words of the Psalmist: “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”((Psalms 84:10)) Serving in the temple is a greater honor than anything the world can give. That we might leave the tents of wickedness and enter the house of God is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The Conversation of Conversion

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When I was younger I went on a number of Boy Scout campouts. On one of these outings we got to our mountain campsite late in the evening, which meant that we had to set up our tents in the dark. The tent that I was assigned to was old and not in good working condition. While we had set up many tents, the three of us assigned that tent hadn’t set up that particular tent before. Trying to put up a tent in the dark with tent poles that didn’t quite fit together was a challenge. Because we were tired we decided to be content with a tent that wasn’t quite put up right but it was up and we could sleep in it so we decided to leave it as it was. If it had been a typical Arizona night we would have been fine but that night was different.

Elsewhere a storm was brewing. After we settled down and were asleep, it started raining. Soon the rain was coming down in torrents. The three of us woke up as our tent collapsed around us and we found the water level in the tent rising rapidly. Apparently we got the tent with the jacuzzi. Two of us made the best of our soggy situation and had fun with the experience. The other scout in the tent wasn’t thrilled but we all survived the night – if soaked and cold.

We thought we were sufficiently prepared for the night but we were not prepared to weather a storm. Although we tried to make the best with the tent we had, we were not fully prepared.

I will turn to another experience I had as a scout, an experience with a different outcome. On another campout I was not weathering a thunderstorm at night in a collapsing tent, this time it was daytime in the desert. My scout patrol and I found ourselves with a compass and instructions directing us to a destination.

We were part of an orienteering competition. If we wanted to win, my patrol had to try and complete an orienteering course faster and more accurately than the other patrols. Given nothing but bearings and distances, we had to traverse the course, find the waypoints, and then end up at the destination. My patrol and I had spent many hours practicing. We prepared by practicing our pacing of distances and understanding and following compass bearings. Because of our preparation and conscientiousness during the course, our scout patrol won that competition and won every other orienteering competition we were in. We won because we prepared and stayed true to our preparation. We strove to be like the worthy warriors of Helaman’s army who “did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). We did not just act blindly without preparation; we studied, we planned, and then we acted (see D&C 9:7-8).

In the gospel and in life a key to success is firstly being prepared and then acting with integrity to the capability we have. In the end, integrity to God is what really matters. One measure of our integrity to God is the measure of our conversion. Conversion takes preparation and work; it takes holding to the course and finding and following the guideposts. Conversion comes from striving to act with exactness to the principles we have been taught. It comes through at-one-ment with God.

The word conversion comes from a word meaning “to turn around”. In the gospel setting, it means turning our backs on our previous lives to turn back towards Christ. We turn back to Christ because we knew Him and accepted His plan in the grand council of Heaven. We go through a change – a change of heart, a change of direction, a change of motivation. Conversion is never a single event; it is a process. One way to look at conversion is as a life-long conversation. Conversation, incidentally, comes from the same root words as conversion. While this is not the common use of the word today, conversation means to turn about with, to keep company with, and to live with. This can bring new meaning to the phrase “converse with the Lord”. When we converse with the Lord we follow Him, we keep company with Him, and we live with Him. Conversion brings conversation with the Lord.

This reminds me of a story told about a meeting one of the apostles had with a group of ministers from other churches. During this meeting one of the ministers asked the apostle, perhaps condescendingly, “Would you give your life for Jesus?” After a brief pause, the apostle responded, “I thought that’s what I was doing.” When we are converted we give our lives to the Savior. Not just the breath of life – Jesus gives that to us – but the breadth of our lives.

As we are converted we go through a process of upconversion. The Lord takes what exists and replaces it with a higher quality version. We are upgraded from our base, natural tendencies to be more like the Savior. The apostle Paul spoke of this upconversion when he counseled the Saints to “put off concerning the former conversation [-] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God[,] is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:22-25; emphasis added).

Conversion means throwing off the old man or woman of sin and putting on a new man or woman of Christ. It is not just an inner change, it affects our interactions with others. As we are converted we take upon us a new name and a new persona that is better and brighter than what existed before. Christ made us from the dust of the earth but He wants us to shine like the sun. “From physics we learn that there are set laws that govern the conversion of matter into energy, and the conversion of energy into matter. It is through these laws that the sun and other stars convert matter into energy, thereby giving us our light. In the same way there are laws governing our conversion from a natural man or woman to a son or daughter of God[, a radiant being full of light and the hope of eternal lives].” (Ryan Tanner, personal communication).

What are these set laws that govern our conversion? They are the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the scriptures and by the living prophets: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, priesthood, service, charity, prayer, temple worthiness, endurance to the end.

If we do not strive to follow Christ we go through a process of deconversion. In the gospel this means we turn away from Christ. As we become deconverted we turn our backs on the Savior, rejecting Him and His atonement. We change from the new back to the old. Even as we turn away, the Savior reaches out to us, hoping we turn back – convert – to gaze upon His glory and have conversation with Him.

This conversation – this turning around with the Lord, this keeping company with the Lord, occurs as we repent. “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.” (D&C 112:13) We are healed spiritually as we convert. The temple is vital for this conversation and conversion to occur: “Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.” (D&C 124:39; emphasis added). If you have not gone to the temple, now is the time to obtain a recommend and go. For those with recommends, frequent attendance will bring great blessings to our lives. We will feel the Spirit of the Lord more powerfully.

As we become conversant with the Spirit, we are converted. When we are converted we are counseled to “strengthen [our] brethren [and sisters].” (Luke 22:32). This strengthening comes from the conversation of our lives and in our invitations to those around us to come unto Christ and be purified in Him.

I knew a man named Bill who was invited and then taught the gospel by friends. Bill was a contractor and an ex-Marine with a soft heart. After being taught the fundamentals of the gospel, Bill was baptized at age 50. Three weeks later he baptized his son. He quickly became immersed in the church, serving as ward executive secretary and then going to the temple to make sacred covenants a year after his baptism. Shortly after he joined the Church I overheard him talking to a ward member. He was happy to have the gospel and to be baptized but he expressed regret at having not been taught years before. Bill used to play basketball with LDS friends at the local church building. Although he was around them weekly, not once did they offer to share the gospel with him by inviting him to meet with the missionaries. Over the years Bill kept in touch with those friends but it took 20 years for them to finally offer to share the gospel with him. Although they had taught him in the conversations of the actions of their lives, they finally taught him the principles of the gospel through the conversation of missionary discussions; he rejoiced, he accepted, and he was baptized. His regret was that if his friends had simply started that conversation years ago, he would have joined the church as a younger man and been able to experience the blessings that come from it for those 20 years. He thought that perhaps if he had the church earlier he could have saved his marriage and been saved from some heartache over the years. Bill was happy to have the gospel but hurt that it took so long for that conversation and invitation to happen.

How many Bills are there in our lives – individuals just waiting for us to open our hearts and mouths in invitation? Is Bill your neighbor or good friend? Is he your co-worker or your brother? Just as we should not delay the day of our repentance, we should not delay our sharing with others the conversation of conversion.

President Monson has charged us as members of Christ’s church to participate in hastening the work of salvation. This requires us to be become conversant with others about the church and be bold in invitation.

The Lord has blessed us with a large increase in full-time missionaries. Since President Monson’s announcement that lowered the age at which missionaries could serve, we’ve had a 55% increase in the number of missionaries. What we have not yet seen is a similar increase in member referrals to missionaries. How many of us have friends, neighbors, and acquaintances who are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7) because we never extend the hand in invitation? Brothers and Sisters, the Lord has asked us to lengthen our strides and get to work by participating in the hastening of the work of salvation. “For behold the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul” (D&C 4:4). The field is white when we as members do our part in preparing, teaching, and then inviting those around us to meet with the missionaries. We help the Lord of the Harvest by planting and nurturing seeds and working along side the missionaries in the field.

The prophet Zenos delivered a great allegory pertaining to the work of the Lord in the latter days.

“And the Lord of the vineyard said unto the servant: Pluck not the wild branches from the trees, save it be those which are most bitter; and in them ye shall graft according to that which I have said. And we will nourish again the trees of the vineyard, and we will trim up the branches thereof; and we will pluck from the trees those branches which are ripened, that must perish, and cast them into the fire. And this I do that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil. And because that I have preserved the natural branches and the roots thereof, and that I have grafted in the natural branches again into their mother tree, and have preserved the roots of their mother tree, that, perhaps, the trees of my vineyard may bring forth again good fruit; and that I may have joy again in the fruit of my vineyard, and, perhaps, that I may rejoice exceedingly that I have preserved the roots and the branches of the first fruit—Wherefore, go to, and call servants, that we may labor diligently with our might in the vineyard, that we may prepare the way, that I may bring forth again the natural fruit, which natural fruit is good and the most precious above all other fruit. Wherefore, let us go to and labor with our might this last time, for behold the end draweth nigh, and this is for the last time that I shall prune my vineyard.” (Jacob 5:57-62).

We are not alone in this work. “And it came to pass that the Lord of the vineyard sent his servant; and the servant went and did as the Lord had commanded him, and brought other servants; and they were few…. And it came to pass that the servants did go and labor with their mights; and the Lord of the vineyard labored also with them; and they did obey the commandments of the Lord of the vineyard in all things.” (Jacob 5:70,72). The Lord is out there too; He not only directs the work, He performs it. We are called to participate with the Lord in this great work of salvation.

Another way we can hasten the work is in our own homes as we strive to raise our children in such a manner that they are firm and steadfast, abounding in good works. Preparation for full-time missionary service needs to occur in our homes. Going on a mission is like jumping into the deep end of a pool without knowing how to swim. We can soften the shock by teaching our children to be missionaries all the time. We need to prepare our children by acting as missionaries to all those around us. Then, when they enter the mission field they will already be comfortable with the work. They will still be in over their heads but that’s where growth occurs. Just as do the rest of us, missionaries have to rely on the Spirit to buoy them up. Learning to recognize the Spirit and act on those promptings happens most powerfully in the home. This means that parents have to be more conscientious about teaching their children and helping their children learn to recognize the Spirit. Youth preparing to serve missions need to know doctrine, understand the scriptures, recognize the Spirit, and live the gospel. As our youth are filled with “faith, hope, charity and love, [and have eyes] single to the glory of God” (D&C 4:5) they are qualified for the work. It is our responsibility to be filled with those attributes and encourage those around us to likewise be filled.

As we are converted, we will strive to participate with the prophet in rescuing those who are lost. A story from the Revolutionary War teaches the principle of rescue.

On a bitter cold Christmas night the Continental Army, led by George Washington, made a bold maneuver against the superior forces of the British army. General Washington led his troops over the Delaware in what would prove to be a defining moment of the Revolutionary War and American history. The crossing of the Delaware took all night; it was a significant adversity. Severe winter weather blew and froze the troops all during the crossing and the following day. Even so, the poor weather was a mixed blessing – it made the crossing treacherous but it also masked the movements of the Americans. Even after crossing the icy river, surviving the danger of that maneuver, it was so frigid that there are reports of at least two soldiers freezing to death that night. John Greenwood was a member of the army; he served as a fifer but because of the circumstances, John the fifer became John the soldier when he was called to carry a musket during the upcoming assault. As the army marched on its way after crossing the Delaware, John Greenwood was exhausted like many others. During one break he sat down with the intention of going to sleep. The voice of the bitter cold enticed John, lulling him into a false sense of security. He was so fatigued that he didn’t care if he never awoke from his slumber. As he drifted off to sleep, a passing sergeant noticed John, roused him, and got him up and moving. (Fischer, David H. 2004. Washington’s crossing. Oxford University Press, New York, NY, p. 228). This act saved his life. Had the sergeant not noticed the lowly fifer, had the sergeant not gone after a sleeping sheep, John’s life would have been lost.

This story exemplifies the principle of stewardship in the gospel. All members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have responsibilities to other people. All are ideally called as visiting teachers or home teachers where in our conversations we strive to strengthen conversion – that of others and our own. Do we watch over others or do we leave them by the wayside to suffer the effects of their inaction? Let us be proactive so that we do not need to spend time helping others become re-active. Cain asked a simple but condescending question of the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Even though Cain’s reason for asking was neither honest nor of concern for his brother, whom he had just killed, it is a question we would do well to ask ourselves in honesty. Do we really see ourselves as our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers?

It is our covenant duty as members of the Church to love others and watch over them – even when inconvenient, maybe especially when inconvenient. When we watch over others we might just save their lives spiritually or physically. We can participate with Pres. Monson in rescuing those who are lost by acting with diligence to our covenant responsibilities that come with our conversion to the gospel. As we do so, we and they can converse with our Heavenly Father along the path to exaltation.

The prophet king Benjamin taught his people a powerful sermon. “And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things. And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy. And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days.” (Mosiah 5:1-5).

King Benjamin’s people experienced a mighty change of heart. They were converted and healed. Are we converted? In the words of Alma: “I ask of you…have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? And now behold…if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:14,26).

As we prepare and are converted, conversing with the Lord, we should work with the Lord in rescuing those who are lost and in hastening the work of salvation. May we seek out to rescue the John Greenwoods around us or invite and teach the Bills in our lives! May we be prepared for whatever paths or storms come our way. May we be healed through our conversions and conversations with God. This I so pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Lessons from Life – Part 2 – Leaky Balloons

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The other night I sat watching my daughters play with a couple helium-filled balloons. As my daughters played with them, the helium inside slowly leaked out. At first the balloons stayed up on the ceiling but then over time they lost their lift and sank to the floor. The spiritual significance of this was striking. Before I write the spiritual, I’ll focus on the physical.

Balloons are usually made out of rubber or plastic or latex. All of those materials, especially when stretched thin, are porous. Being porous, balloons will leak whatever is inside based on the principles of equilibrium (of pressure) and diffusion. Many balloons are filled with helium, which is the second “lightest” element. It diffuses through solids very quickly, up to 3 times faster than air, because it is a small and simple atom. This means that latex/plastic/rubber balloons filled with helium will deflate quite quickly.

We, spiritually, are like helium-filled balloons. Over time we start to deflate spiritually. Remaining pumped full of spiritual helium requires effort and recharging. If we slack off in our spiritual efforts and endeavors, we will lose our lift and sink slowly down. For a time, if we are connected and tied to others, their buoyancy can keep us afloat but not indefinitely. Eventually we will sag and hang down, deflated and dejected. To counteract this spiritual diffusion we need to actively recharge with new helium. We should do some of the soul-searching Alma did and asked his people to do.

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

“Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?” (Alma 5:26-27).

I’ll repeat the key question: “If ye have experienced a change of heart…can ye feel so now?” Change once is not enough; conversion and salvation and exaltation take a lifetime of effort. We must seek daily for the Lord’s mercy and grace to free us from our sins. We must fill our lives with goodness and good acts. We must endure to the end: “Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Ne. 31:20). If we do not: “watch [ourselves], and [our] thoughts, and [our] words, and [our] deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what [we] have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of [our] lives, [we] must perish. And now…remember and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

In order to keep our spiritual balloons inflated and buoyant, we must remember what we have learned and endure to the end. We must continually fill our balloons with new helium in order to be lifted up at the last day.

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