Habits of Christ-centered Homes

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Jesus spent much of His ministry walking and talking with people. One day he was asked to come minister to a young girl who was ill. As He walked to bless the daughter of Jairus, who would die and be brought back to life, many people followed Him or pressed around Him to gawk. In this setting while Jesus traveled, we read in Mark about an experience of faith: “And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me? And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” (Mark 5:25-34)

One of my favorite works of art is a painting by James Christensen of this woman who needed healing. In the painting, she reaches out to touch the hem of Christ’s cloak. The pressing crowds, the background, and even the Savior other than part of His cloak are not in the painting because the focus is on the woman’s great faith as she reaches towards the Savior’s healing. A copy of this painting takes a prominent place in our home to serve as a reminder of the power of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As we keep our thoughts and homes centered on the Savior our faith in Him will be strengthened and His Spirit will be with us.

After miraculously feeding the thousands, Jesus sent his disciples away on a boat while He went to pray to and speak with His Father. He spent hours in communion with His Father. The following day in the hours before the rising of the sun, His disciples were on the boat in the midst of contrary winds and stormy seas. On the unsettled water “Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And [Jesus] said, Come.” (Matthew 14:25-29)

I can imagine Peter crying out to the Son of God, the Light of the world, as he stepped from the boat onto the waves:

“Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene–one step enough for me.” (John Henry Newman, Lead, Kindly Light)

“When Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:29-33)

Some observations about this story. We know Peter had great faith – He walked on the water to the Lord! How many of us have the faith to take even one successful step? Peter’s faith was great – it was not until he took his eyes off the Savior, when Peter looked at the storm around him, that he became afraid, started to doubt, and began to sink beneath the waves. As Peter’s faith faltered and he cried out to the Lord, Jesus immediately reached out and caught Peter. Jesus responded to Peter’s plea for help immediately! King Benjamin spoke of these immediate blessings: “[The Lord] doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?” (Mosiah 2:24). We are forever indebted to the saving, grasping hands of the Savior.

The winds continued to blow around Peter and his Master. It was only after making it to the boat that the winds ceased and peace prevailed. Blessings come while we experience the storms of life; greater blessings and peace come after trials of our faith.

One of the most important lessons from this experience between Jesus and Peter is not the great faith Peter had, it is what happened when Peter looked away from the Savior. As soon as Peter looked away, he focused on the waves and wind; Peter focused on the storm and turmoil and became afraid. With that fear came sinking doubt. If we lose focus on the Savior, though the consequences might not seem as immediate to us as Peter’s were to him, we begin to lose faith and begin to sink.

In order to weather the stormy days we live in we must focus constantly on Christ. This focus needs to start in our hearts, minds, and homes. The moment we look away and become fearful of the storms, our faith can falter. Satan tells us lies about the things we fear the most – the waves are too large, the winds too strong, we are unloved, we have sinned too much to repent, we cannot overcome our genes or our biology, we are failures, there is no hope for the future. Satan tries to hit us and hurt us where we are weakest but through Christ all our weaknesses and fears can become strengths. Jesus Christ suffered that we might triumph in strength. He reaches down to pull us up.

The prophet Nephi exulted of the Savior: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26). Nephi strove to build a Christ-centered home. He set an example for us to follow so that we can fill our homes with the love of God. We can fill our homes with God’s love as we consistently keep His commandments. We can pattern our homes after our heavenly home, where God dwells.

During the final meeting with His apostles, a meeting paralleled many years later by Joseph Smith giving his last charge and saving ordinances to the latter-day apostles and others, Jesus gathered with His friends to celebrate Passover. He performed the ordinance of the washing of feet. Jesus broke bread and drank wine in sacrament with His disciples. He sent one off who would betray Him and then taught the apostles significant doctrines. Only after Judas departed did the real teaching and blessings begin. What the Savior taught during these late hours is covered in just over four chapters in the book of John – one fifth of a book covering three years of Jesus’s ministry. That so much of the book of John focuses on this time is one indication of the importance of what Jesus taught before His atoning suffering in Gethsemane and His death upon the cruel cross.

What did Jesus teach? One of the most powerful lessons in all scripture is found in John 17, what is commonly called the intercessory prayer – intercessory meaning praying or petitioning on behalf of another. Of this prayer John wrote: “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:1-4)

The key verse here is “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Life eternal is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. As we strive for eternal life we must strive for a knowledge of God. Even more, we must not only have a knowledge of Him but also truly know Him. The better we know Him the more we love Him. How can we fully love something we do not understand? How can we truly love someone we do not know? The more familiar we are with someone, the more we understand and love that person.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision was a light in the darkness of knowledge about God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Joseph had clear evidence that the Father and the Son are distinct beings. One of the implications of knowing that God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are distinct Beings is that we have a special relationship to God (He is our Father, not just the Savior’s) and we have an opportunity to become more like Him. We are His children and as His children we can grow and develop, gaining attributes of our Divine Parent.

This is what was so revolutionary about what was re-taught in bright clarity to the world when Joseph Smith, a young man of 14, saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It upended not only the world’s misconceptions of the nature of God but also of the world’s misconceptions of the nature of men and women and of their divine potential, even though that potential would not be understood for years. We can have a personal, loving, relationship with God our Father here on earth just as we had with Him before we were born with physical bodies.

A simple recent experience reminded me of the nature of God’s love for us. As I was praying, just seconds into a prayer, my infant son started crying in the other room. I asked my Father if He would please excuse the interruption to the prayer because my son needed me and then I closed the prayer. I had the distinct impression that my Eternal Father understood completely. My concern for my son mirrored His concern for me, for you, and for all His sons and daughters. That is the nature of God – He is our Father; He loves us; He watches over us. He knows us and wants us to have joy. God hears our prayers. Experiences like this can remind us of our heavenly home.

We can pattern our homes after our heavenly home and build them upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We can do this by establishing patterns of righteousness. Our righteousness can become habitual. The brain is made up of 87 billion neurons – the brain cells that allow us to breathe, think, walk, talk, pray, serve, and love. Each of these cells is connected to others with an estimated total of 100 trillion connections. That’s a staggeringly large number – the number 1 followed by 14 zeros! These connections are not set for life; they strengthen or weaken constantly based on what we do and learn. Even simple actions, such as clapping or raising our hands in sustaining of church leaders, changes blood flow within our brains for half a minute. Each thought we think, each action we do, changes our brains. As we learn and re-learn things, the connections between brain cells change. If we do things over and over they become habits; habits might be easy or difficult to develop but they are usually hard to lose. This is because habits are ingrained within deep recesses of our brains; they travel along major brain pathways automatically and at rapid speed. Each thought or action we have or do has the potential to become a habit if we repeat it. What habits are you forming? What connections are you making in your brain – positive, uplifting, faithful ones? Or are you strengthening connections that lead you away from Christ? The roads of the mind can elevate or debase. Do we seek and strengthen the paths that will lead us back home?

I’d like to share four habits we can develop that will help us focus our families on Christ. These are not meant to be prescriptive, rather they are shared as examples of the types of behaviors we can instill in our homes, whatever the size or state of our family.

Habit 1

In our home every week or two we pick a scripture to memorize. Each time there is a new scripture, it is printed out and placed on a door where everyone will see it regularly and be able to read it. All in our family are encouraged to memorize the verses. In the morning – during breakfast or in the car on the way to school – we take turns reciting a memorized verse (it does not have to be the one for the week) and talk about the scriptures. With this constancy and repetition, all of us (except our baby) have been able to memorize a number of verses. This process doesn’t take long but it requires consistency. Having scriptures memorized allows us to recall them when we need a spiritual boost. Even if some of the specific words of the verses slip from memory, the principles will be retained and will provide strength against storms.

Habit 2

The first habit was knowing the words of prophets of the past. The second habit is learning and knowing the names and teachings of the current prophets and apostles. Knowing who the Lord calls as His chosen servants is important for recognizing how His work is accomplished upon the earth. More important than knowing names and faces of the prophets and apostles is being familiar with their recent messages. Frequently for Family Home Evening we talk about one of the church leaders and discuss the most recent general conference address. We distill one of the main messages of the talks into a single simple phrase. We also pick out a scripture from the talk or find a related one to memorize and discuss. This past week our family discussed Elder Holland’s talk “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet” and learned 1 Corinthians 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” We all experience sin and death, just as Adam and Eve did, but through the merciful atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ we will overcome physical death and may overcome spiritual death. Understanding the need for the Savior and the centrality of Him needs to start in the home. As we listen to, read, and follow the words of the Lord’s living prophets, we follow Jesus Christ. As our homes are filled with the words of the prophets, we fill our homes with the light and spirit of Christ.

Habit 3

The third habit we seek to instill in our children is a set of simple habits: 1) weekly Family Home Evening, 2) regular journal writing, and 3) daily personal and family prayer. These are ways we show daily devotion to God. In Family Home Evening we have the opportunity to “preach…receive, [and] understand one another [that all will be] edified and rejoice together.” (D&C 50:22). Each of us takes turns teaching a lesson, choosing a song, saying a prayer, arranging a treat, and sharing a scripture or short spiritual thought. When everyone participates, everyone feels some level of responsibility. This helps the children pay better attention and be more involved in the evening.

Journal writing is also an important habit that helps us reflect on the present and anchors us to the past. I was encouraged to write in my journal regularly as a child. We encourage our children to write regularly in their journals. While we sometimes hear protests, these journals will be appreciated later. Journals can become sacred texts to us and our families. Many of the books of scripture are journals of the prophets.

Much can be said about prayer. Personal prayer is, as I frequently tell my children, the most important thing we can do in the day. Prayer is an opportunity to for us to converse with our Father. He loves us and wants to speak with us. When we pray we have the opportunity to thank Him. We have the opportunity to tell Him about our thoughts, desires, strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failings. He knows all these things but wants to hear from us. It is far too easy to become complacent in our prayers. It is easy to be like the brother of Jared of old and slip in our personal communications with God, something for which he was criticized severely (Ether 2:14-15). We must make time for God. Family prayer can also bring great blessings of unity and love.

Habit 4

The fourth habit is Sabbath day observance. The Sabbath is a holy day, a day sanctified for us. To be sanctified is to be set apart, holy, dedicated. Is that what our Sundays look like? Is it a day different from the other six of the week or is it just another day? Is it a day spent worshiping God and strengthening our family, or is it merely a “fun day”? I love hearing my children say, “This is Sunday music!” or “That’s not a Sunday movie!” and see them choose to stay in their Sunday clothes all day. Both are signs that they recognize that Sunday is a special day; it is a day to cast off our normal activities, to put off doing our pleasure, and dedicate ourselves more fully unto God. One of the greatest things we can do throughout the week and on Sunday before church is prepare for the sacrament. Partaking of the sacrament is an opportunity to partake of the grace of God. It is a sacred ordinance, central to our week and our lives. It is a time to worship the Lord and offer up our sacraments to God, as we read in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 59:9).

Pres. George Albert Smith, the president of the church from 1945 to 1951, said of the Sabbath: “It is not an insignificant thing to violate the Sabbath day. I want to say that you lose every time you violate the Sabbath day, you lose more than you can gain, no matter what you may think you are going to gain. To forget that it is the Lord ’s Day, as some of us appear to do, is ungrateful. He has set apart one day in seven, not to make it a burden, but to bring joy into our lives and cause that our homes may be the gathering place of the family, that parents and children may…increas[e]…love for one another…. Honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy…and it will bring to you great joy and our Heavenly Father will bestow upon you the blessings that result from obedience to his advice and counsel.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, Chapter 16)

Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is a habit we can gain or maintain. There are few things we can do that will strengthen our own spirituality and our homes better than keeping the Sabbath Day holy. It is a sign to the Lord of our faith. He richly blesses those who honor his holy day.

One way to honor the Lord by honoring the Sabbath is attending church. Jesus Christ established The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to make individuals better and families stronger. Those who are baptized and confirmed members of Christ’s church are “called his people” – they take upon themselves the name of Christ. The responsibilities of baptized members of Christ’s church include:

• Bearing one another’s burdens
• Mourning with those who mourn
• Comforting those who need comfort
• Testifying of God in all things and times through their words and deeds

Those in the church have a primary responsibility to take care of each other. Our devotion to God and our discipleship of Christ is evident in what we do and how we serve others. This sentiment echoes what the Savior taught His disciples on the eve of His death – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)

The words of the hymn remind us of our duties at home and to those around us:
“Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now in the paths of sin
Some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide,
Tho dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet:
I’ll say what you want me to say.” (I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, Mary Brown, Hymns #270)

There are loving words we need to speak in our homes and to all around us. We need to say what the Lord wants us to say and help others along the way. Ultimately God wants us to return home to Him. That does not mean we need to be perfect now but the Lord requires us to try to be better; the atonement of Jesus Christ will help us overcome our shortcomings and sins.

The four habits I mentioned – memorizing scriptures, knowing the words of the living prophets, personal and family daily devotion, and Sabbath day observance – will help us draw near to God. They will help us strengthen our homes, allowing them to be places of refuge and peace. Our homes can become sanctified houses dedicated with the spirit of holiness to the Lord. May we strengthen our homes by following the Savior! May our homes be sacred places where the Spirit of God dwells! May they be edifices where we feel comfortable inviting the Lord to dwell. May we build our homes into tabernacles where we might kneel and greet the Lord Jesus, the Great Redeemer!

Love At Home

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One of the saddest things I’ve seen recently in a TV show or movie was during an episode of The Cosby Show. Two of the sisters have a disagreement and start fighting. I know many people watch that and laugh at the ridiculousness of it but it brought me to tears. There is nothing I find more disheartening than discord in homes. Seeing or hearing families fighting, arguing, or yelling at one another in anger is always profoudly disturbing to me.

I understand getting angry and annoyed but anger is almost always ugly. People have a difficult time thinking clearly when angry. Things are said or done that normally would not be said or done. Those less-than-thoughtful words and actions then exacerbate the problem, creating a feedback loop that can degenerate into something more hideous – a terrifying chimera of anger, distrust, and hate. Not all anger devolves into this, certainly, but our homes should be temples of peace and love and kindness rather than battlegrounds.

Our homes should be places of refuge and safety. Our homes should be full of kindness, service, and love. When we become angry and vent on family members, when we allow anger and fighting to enter our home, we drive away the Spirit of God and in essence desecrate the temple that should be our home. Anger and fighting have no place in our homes. The great prophet king Benjamin taught us to not:

“suffer that [our children] transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14-15).

I’ve been married for more than 10 years. Not once have my wife and I fought. We’ve only rarely disagreed about things. I cannot even recall (should I even want to) a time when I was annoyed with my dear wife. I try to not do things or say things that could annoy my wife. Marriage is a sacred relationship; temple marriage, in particular, is founded upon covenants of righteousness and consecration. What this means is that everything we do should strengthen our marriages. One of the key things we can strive for and have to strengthen our marriages is unity. There is little my wife and I value more than unity as a couple and family. This leaves no place for anger or fighting. We need to be kind and gentle in all that we do.

We have been commanded to “Cease to contend one with another; cease to speak evil one of another.” (Doctrine and Covenants 136:23). This leaves no place for arguing or fighting. If we want our children to be kind to one another we need to be good examples for them, which means we need to cease responding in anger to them. One of the best ways to reduce bad behavior is to encourage good. Jesus taught through the words of Isaiah that “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” (3 Nephi 22:13). Peace in our homes and hearts comes when we are taught of the Lord. Peace comes through testimony and the Spirit as we strive to follow Jesus.

I started this post this morning and then after stake conference watched a new Mormon Channel music video that I feel is appropriate here.

“Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

Church Organization: Overview

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized after the same manner as the church Christ organized during His mortal ministry. The head – or leader – of the LDS Church is the Savior, Jesus Christ. The core unit of the LDS Church is the family and all structures and organizations of the church are established to support and edify families. Watch this brief introduction to the organization of the LDS Church.

The Eternal Impact of Motherhood

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Near the close of a tumultuous year, John Morgan was a 21-year-old Union soldier from Illinois. He had fought in 6 battles and would fight in 6 more before the end of the Civil War. After the war John ended up in Salt Lake City and founded a college. He subsequently joined the church, was called as a general authority, and served as mission president of the Southern States Mission, covering areas where he fought as a soldier. But back in his camp in Alabama on a chilly Sunday evening in December 1863 he wrote a letter to his mother. In his letter John gave a soldier’s tribute to mothers: “A mother’s love is not purchased by either gold or diamonds; in camp, on the march, the bloody field of strife or the chill bivouac the soldiers veneration for his mother remains the same. Falling on the Blood drenched Battlefield or stricken down by sickness, his last words are invariably: My Mother My Country! often have I seen an unbidden tear spring to the eye of the rough soldier that had braved death in a thousand different shapes. Whose cheek was unblanched & nerve steady amid the roar of Battle Whose voice was as clear and ringing on a charge as the bravest of the brave. I have seen such men moved to tears on receiving a simple short letter from a mother.” (Source)

It is telling of the influence of mothers that amid the cacophony and calamity of war, the dying breath and the living heart both quickly turn to their mothers. The keys and spirit of Elijah were needed to turn the hearts of children to their fathers but no such influence is needed to turn hearts to mothers. A mother’s embrace, a mother’s soothing words, a mother’s soft hands do much to comfort and strengthen in times of war or peace. Just as the Master’s voice calmed the raging sea, a mother’s voice calms the raging heart. Mothers are precious.

Nearly 2,000 years before John penned his thoughts to his mother, an army of young soldiers, who had been raised by faithful mothers, also paid tribute to their mothers. These young men glorified God and honored their mothers, who taught them faith in Christ. They did not doubt the faith of their mothers and were blessed. (see Alma 56:47-48). They fought, they bled, but they did not die.

Woman’s role as mother is under attack. Satan wages a war on families, on motherhood, by trying to paint and portray it in such dreary and dismal colors that many women feel drawn elsewhere. There is much that is gaudy and flashy in the great and spacious building, which is enticing and can even appear uplifting; however, when we seek to live in or visit that foundationless building, we remove ourselves from the lasting foundation of our lives – that of an eternal family. By lusting after Satan’s showy society, we devalue raising children and thus diminish the family. This leads to the destruction of the one potentially eternal component of our lives and of society. Civilizations rise and fall but the family is eternal. Women [and men] can escape the “tugs and pulls of the world” (Maxwell, Ensign, Nov. 2000, p. 35) by believing that “the greatest of the Lord’s work…will be within the walls of our own home[s]” (Lee, Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 130). Just as the stripling warriors fought for their families, it is vital for us to defend and support ours.

To lend a little support to mothers, I’d like to focus on three types of mothers: Mother-to-be, Mother New, and Mother Old.

The first mother is Mother-to-be.

There are many women who desire to be mothers but who cannot have children. There are women who don’t have the opportunity of marriage and motherhood. Such trials are weighty but the Lord is willing to strengthen shoulders. What the Lord has promised is that in this life or in the next, all women who desire and who are faithful will be mothers. All of the promised blessings of Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel – equal partners and participants in the covenants and blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – will be theirs. Those covenants and blessings include posterity like the stars in the sky. No blessings will be withheld. Such promised blessings do not resolve the pangs of those who desire children but the promises can reduce the pain of childlessness. Girls and young women are other Mothers-to-be. We should expend steady effort to edify and encourage girls in their education and more importantly in their desires for an eternal family. We should help our girls and young women understand that they are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them. We should help them to be ready to strengthen home and family, make sacred covenants, and receive the blessings of the temple and exaltation (see Young Women Theme).

We can help the young Mothers-to-be understand that motherhood is the noblest status in the world. It is a calling and mission established before life on earth. We learn in the Family Proclamation that: “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.” Those who are women here on earth were women before they were born. The call to motherhood was extended at the time the calling of the priesthood was extended to men: in the pre-earth life. Pres. Benson said, “Before the world was created, in heavenly councils the pattern and role of women were prescribed. [Women] were elected by God to be wives and mothers in Zion” (Ensign, Nov. 1981, p.104).

Similarly, Sheri Dew told the women of the Church, “Motherhood began before we were born. Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality, righteous women were endowed premortally with the privilege of motherhood…. Motherhood is not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with priesthood ordination. It was the most ennobling endowment He could give His daughters, a sacred trust that gave women an unparalleled role in helping His children keep their second estate” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, p. 96).

Motherhood is not an afterthought to Heavenly Father, it was not instated merely to give women something to do; it is essential for the salvation of Heavenly Father’s children. Once women leave the pre-mortal life and become mothers here on earth, they can look to our greatest Exemplar—the Savior Jesus Christ—for knowledge of how to become faithful mothers.

Elder Ballard taught, “When God asked [in the premortal world] who would come to earth to prepare a way for all mankind to be saved…, it was Jesus who said, simply, ‘Here am I, send me’ (Abraham 3:27)” (When Thou Art Converted, p.178). Speaking to women, Elder Ballard continued, “If you are wondering if you make a difference to the Lord, imagine the effect when you make commitments such as the following: ‘Father, if you need a woman to rear children in righteousness, here am I, send me. If you need a woman to make a house, a home filled with love, here am I, send me…. If you need a woman of faithful steadiness, here am I, send me” (p. 179). We need such willingness more than ever!

While there are many worthwhile things for women to do outside the home, none of those can take the place of being a successful mother. This is also true for men and fathers. I do not wish to denigrate those who are not mothers, rather, I hope to encourage those who are. Pres. David O. McKay said, “She who can paint a masterpiece or write a book that will influence millions deserves the admiration…of mankind; but she who rears successfully a family…deserves the highest honor that man can give, and the choicest blessings of God” (Improvement Era, 1953, pp. 453-54). On a similar note Elder Maxwell eloquently stated, “Some mothers in today’s world feel ‘cumbered’ by home duties and are thus attracted by other more ‘romantic’ challenges. Such women could make the same error of perspective that Martha made. The woman, for instance, who deserts the cradle in order to help defend civilization against the barbarians may well later meet, among the barbarians, her own neglected child” (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book, p. 219). The titillation of the great and spacious building does not compare with the tranquility of a humble home.

When mothers are there for their children, fulfilling their stewardships, they have great impact on the lives of their children and consequently on future generations. As a result of this, mothers have played some of the most important if not often the best-known roles in history. There is Mother Eve, who fearlessly stood by her husband’s side, facing a desolate world. She was both the mother of the human race and the “mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). It was she who reminded Adam of the necessity of the Fall, of becoming mortal in order to have children and fulfill the Lord’s first commandment to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth” (JST Gen 1:28). Eve knew her role as a mother and was faithful in magnifying her calling.

There is the example of Rebekah, who was blessed to become the “mother of thousands of millions” (Gen. 24:60) as a result of her righteousness. This teaches us that for those who are faithful to the covenant, motherhood does not end with death. We also have the great example of Hannah who had much anguish over being childless. She covenanted with the Lord that if He blessed her with a son, she would dedicate her son unto Him. Her son Samuel grew up to be one of the great prophets in Israel and a sign of his mother’s faith. Mary, the mother of the Savior, was a woman of great virtue and faith. She was highly favored and blessed because of her role as the mother of the Prince of Peace (see Luke 1:28). Mary remained near the Savior throughout His life and was there watching her Son finish His mortal ministry. She was there for Him, from the cradle to the cross. King Benjamin gave in simplicity one of the greatest tributes in the scriptures: “and his mother shall be called Mary” (Mosiah 3:8). What more need he say? She was to be the mother of the Son of God; she was an elect woman, trusted by our Father with one of the weightiest of responsibilities in the history of the Earth.

The scriptures are largely patriarchal and priesthood-focused so the references to great mothers of faith and covenant are sparse. Thus, stories of mothers in the scriptures are particularly significant. We can learn much about the qualities of faithful motherhood from these illustrious women.

The second mother is Mother New.

Mother New is like so many of those here in this ward. Becoming a mother is a difficult time for both mother and baby. For much of history, childbirth was particularly dangerous. As recently as the 1800s, in the rural South 1 out of every 6 mothers died during the birthing process. It was also common for mothers who survived to lose 1/3 to 1/2 of their children at birth (Robertson, Stonewall Jackson, p. 157). A time that should be one of great joy too often produced heartache. Thankfully such loss at childbirth is less frequent today.

Once the kicks of pregnancy give way to the pushes of labor then the real labor begins. Some years ago I discussed with my mother a few of the best experiences she remembered in life. She talked mainly about being a mother. I learned much about the great joy she had as a mother but also about the great times of struggle. She stated that the most rewarding and satisfying thing in her life was, in her own words:

“The safe pregnancy and delivery of our children and then raising them. Having and raising seven lovely children has been wonderful. It was a lot of hard work but they all turned out okay. We did a lot of things together as a family, we worked hard, we survived hard times and ate cracked wheat. We went to church every week and spent the time together as a family. There were occasional problems but we survived them and overcame them.

“One time when we had 3 or 4 small children a friend was extolling the virtues of Sesame Street and said how her child could count to 10 and knew all the colors and all because the child watched Sesame Street on TV. I was appalled and wondered ‘What is a mother for?’ and why would anyone need TV to teach children what I thought was my ‘job description.’ So we read and played and counted everything and numbered everything and named colors and tied shoes and did all sorts of things. We learned to work and had jobs to learn responsibility.”

My mother also talked about the struggles of being a mother: “What has been difficult? How about seven babies! It was very difficult when we didn’t have any money and Dad was working two jobs and we were trying to make ends meet. We did not have much money at all, especially when the kids were small. We did not have much but we always survived. It just took a lot of hard work and some ingenuity.

“Another hard time was when we had four children under the age of five. This was a terrible emotional stress. The kids were sick all the time and we had no money. I was physically sick some too. Our washer broke during this time and so the children stomped the clothes in the bathtub to wash them – they thought it was fun; they thought they were like the pioneers. At least they had fun with it.

“These years were hard with a lot of difficult physical work. I was changing diapers on three babies. I also mopped the floors at night so they would stay clean at least the eight hours until morning. I also had to deal with potty training all the kids and cleaning up their messes. We also had a garden and had to plant it and keep it growing and harvest the food and can and store some as well. We had to work really hard to survive.”

The work was hard but the blessings were great. As a young mother my mother also found that church helped her cope with the stress of raising children. She loved going to church and Relief Society. She saw them as her salvation every week. Enrichment was also a great time for her to receive respite from the demands of parenting. Spending time with other women in the ward helped recharge her energy.

I will always be grateful for my mother and all the work she did and does as a mother. She is a remarkable woman and mother.

When the days seem tough and the nights even worse, Mother New can find solace and encouragement in the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“In speaking of mothers generally, I especially wish to praise and encourage young mothers. The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work. The young years are often those when either husband or wife—or both—may still be in school or in those earliest and leanest stages of developing the husband’s breadwinning capacities. Finances fluctuate daily between low and nonexistent. The apartment is usually decorated in one of two smart designs—Deseret Industries provincial or early Mother Hubbard. The car, if there is one, runs on smooth tires and an empty tank. But with night feedings and night teethings, often the greatest challenge of all for a young mother is simply fatigue. Through these years, mothers go longer on less sleep and give more to others with less personal renewal for themselves than any other group I know at any other time in life. It is not surprising when the shadows under their eyes sometimes vaguely resemble the state of Rhode Island.

“Yours is the grand tradition of Eve [and so many other wonderful mothers]…. We thank all of you…and tell you there is nothing more important in this world than participating so directly in the work and glory of God, in bringing to pass the mortality and earthly life of His daughters and sons, so that immortality and eternal life can come in those celestial realms on high” (Ensign, May 1997, p. 35).

Not long ago I was responsible for getting Mother’s Day flowers to give to the women in my ward. As I picked up 7 dozen roses the cashier asked, “How many mothers do you have?” I replied, “A lot.” After that question I started wondering, “How many mothers do I have?” The correct answer is “a lot.” Not only do I have my own wonderful mother, I have a mother-in-law, I have older sisters who have been like mothers to me in their own ways, I have generations of ancestor mothers. It is important to remember all the mothers in our lives. Remembering our mothers can bring solace and peace. In dark moments, in times of temptation or in the good and happy times of our lives, remembering our mothers can bring us comfort. There are mothers who are absent, there are mothers who are abusive, there are mothers who might even best be forgotten, but most mothers are best remembered and honored. Mothers are not perfect, mothers make mistakes, but motherhood is a divine calling and blessing that comes with the blessings of the Lord. The Lord will make up for shortcomings if we ask Him. For mothers there are hard days and sleepless nights; there are rings around rosies and rings under eyes; there are diapers and tears (sometimes from the child) and hugs and kisses; there are laughs and lullabies and unbounded love. These are things that build memories in both mother and child. It is that foundation that gives such strength and comfort to those who have their own mother remembered, particularly as that mother advances in years. (see Monson, Jan 1974 Ensign, Behold Thy Mother).

Finally comes Mother Old.

Being a mother does not end when the children leave home; it is a role that keeps growing and expanding even though duties change. This is what it means, in part, to be an eternal family. The eternally expanding role as mother is a portion of the blessing of eternal lives (see D&C 132:24). Perfection does not come in a day, neither does the full realization of motherhood; the process is as important as the goal. At some point Mother New becomes Mother Old. Mother Old has an opportunity to continue her mothering to her children and grandchildren. She can serve as teacher, comforter, and nurturer to those around her.

Most of my work involves seeking to understand and help those with neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or Parkinson’s disease. Many of these people live with minds weakened by disease or age but hearts strengthened by experience and love. I find little more tragic than seeing a mother forgotten by her children, coming in for care with few resources for help and few to care. I see little more beautiful than a mother surrounded by her children who are willing to drop everything to care for and comfort their mother. She who nurtured now receives nurturing. Mothers who are forgotten suffer in silence, waiting for someone to call or visit and brighten their day. Mothers who are remembered are strengthened by those they love and who love them. May we not forget the mothers in our lives! May we pay tribute to Mother Old, learn from her, and help support her.

I’m grateful for the tireless work my mother did in raising a family in faith. As a mother to seven she is now a grandmother to 31. I’m grateful for my wife who works so hard and so well to nurture our children; her work will last throughout eternity. We can learn much from and do much to honor and support Mother-to-be, Mother New, and Mother Old.

Elder Ballard issued a call to women to follow the Lord’s example. He said: “We need [mothers] who can hear and will respond to the voice of the Lord, [mothers] who at all costs will defend and protect the family[,…but] above all, we need [mothers] who will stand up for truth and righteousness and decry evil at every turn, [mothers] who will simply say, ‘Lord, here am I, send me'” (When Thou Art Converted, p. 179). I pray that in the battles of life we will take many moments to remember and honor all the mothers in our lives. I testify that motherhood is a divine calling. Heavenly Father lives and loves us and is particularly mindful of mothers.

Two Brothers

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A farmer and his wife had two sons. They lived in a modest home on a modest parcel of land. They worked hard from first light to dusk, clearing their land, plowing, planting, watering, and harvesting. As the sons grew older, their eyes started searching beyond their farm fences. There was a whole world out there that they longed to see and experience. They enjoyed the farm but both were curious and inquisitive. By the time they were old enough to strike out on their own, the elder brother staying around longer to help their parents, the father had many workers to help on the farm. The parents encouraged the brothers to go off and gain experience in the world, to get an education, and to learn and grow. The sons, while caring of their parents, knew that their parents would be able to manage the farm without them. So one day they struck off for the nearest big city.

The two brothers decided to rent a house in the city together. The elder brother found employment in a hospital during the day and went to school during the evening. The younger brother was restless. He bounced from job to job and had a difficult time holding on to his money. He began to become involved in risky behavior and began to interact with questionable people. The younger brother soon began drinking, using drugs, and dealing drugs. He knew what he was doing was wrong, and his older brother counseled with him about his choices, but he felt he was having too much fun. He felt like he was finally breaking free from the shackles of his parents and their prudish ways. He felt that he found a fast track to success – in dealing and using drugs.

For a time, the younger brother enjoyed his riches; he drove fast cars and wore fancy clothes. He still visited home on occasion, hoping, in his twisted view, that his success would please his parents; he found them only grieved. His older brother still lived with him because he hoped he could be an influence for good. One day, the younger brother did not come home. This was not unexpected, but the older brother began to worry. He called the police and asked them to search for his brother. They had dealt with the younger brother many times but said that they did not know where he was.

The next day, the brother still did not come home. After a week of searching, the elder brother began to give up hope of seeing his brother again; though he did not agree with his brother’s lifestyle, he still loved him. Then one day the police showed up at his home; no, they had not seen his brother but they announced that they were there to arrest the elder brother.

He was shocked; why arrest him? He kept every law and always did what was right. The police put him in a room and interrogated him, wanting to know where his brother was. They stated that his brother had beaten and murdered a whole family – parents and children; they assumed the motive was related to drugs and they had unimpeachable evidence that his brother had murdered the family. After the interrogation they locked the older brother away, declaring that because they could not find the younger brother, they were going to hold the older brother in his stead. The police said this was only fair because the two were brothers. They said the guilt of the younger brother would be placed on the elder brother because the younger could not be found. Even though the elder brother protested stating that it was not fair to punish him for the sins of his brother, the police would hear none of his arguments and, working with the courts, they sentenced the older brother to death for the crimes of his brother. The sentence was only reversed when the voices of many pointed out the injustice of guilt by association and a higher court overturned the charges.

A common complaint I hear about Mormons is that they believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. Some even casually remark this fact to others, eliciting the obvious response, “What!? Jesus and Satan are brothers? That’s heresy! Mormons believe in a different Jesus; one who is the brother of Satan!” While the statement (that Jesus and Satan are brothers) is strictly true, the use of it is often for nefarious reasons. We read in LDS scripture:

“And there stood one among them [spirit children of God] that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.” (Abraham 3:24-28).

The first who stood up was Jehovah, our Savior Jesus Christ. The second was Lucifer, who wanted to God’s glory but on Lucifer’s terms. We read in 2 Nephi 24 (quoting Isaiah 14):

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thy heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and shall consider thee, and shall say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms? And made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, and opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, yea, all of them, lie in glory, every one of them in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and the remnant of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land and slain thy people; the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned.” (2 Ne. 24:12-20).

One interesting aside from these verses: Satan does not let his prisoners go free (“opened not the house of his prisoners”) but Christ does. Christ provided a way for the captive to go free.

Lucifer had a lot of pride and lust for power. He was cast out of God’s presence and became Satan. Lucifer is brother to Christ and every human on the earth for that matter but Satan is the antithesis of Christ. He sold his birthright, whatever birthright he might have had, for a mess of prideful pottage. He sinned great unpardonable sins against God.

Do his actions diminish the glory of his Father or elder Brother? Are the sins of the siblings answered upon the heads of their siblings? Is it just or right to condemn the elder brother for the murders of the younger brother?

My allegory at the start of this post was meant to drive home the point that we are not responsible for the actions of our siblings. We are not guilty simply by association. Yet, when individuals ask or declare the seemingly innocent question or statement about Mormons believing that Jesus and Satan are brothers (which again, is strictly correct; however, Lucifer has also been disinherited; he gave up his family membership through his evil choices and is left without root or branch) are usually trying to imply guilt by association.

I state usually because I have heard people ask the question honestly because they had heard it from a preacher or from someone else and thus they were simply wondering if we Mormons do believe that. But I have had people condemn me because I believe that Jesus and Lucifer are both spirit children of God (as are all of us). They view this as heresy because in their minds they create a link of guilt by association. They believe that if Lucifer is Jesus’ brother, that that somehow reflects on the Savior and even means that He could no longer be who He is and have the power He does. Who Lucifer is no more reflects on Jesus than who Stalin was reflects on you or me or any other person. Just because one individual is perfectly good and the other perfectly evil does not mean that either are responsible for the actions of the other.

Those who declare such things, even if they are true, are creating straw men and attacking them with rubber arrows of logical fallacy. They misuse LDS theology – with or without malice – to scare people away from what they view as the cult of Mormonism. I say again, the sins of the brother do not diminish the glory of another. Christ is not tainted by Satan.

John Tanner in the Joseph Smith Papers

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The LDS Church is archiving and making available to all, documents, journals, and other church sources contemporary with the prophet Joseph Smith (e.g., his journals, church meeting minutes, revelations, etc.). This is an unprecedented expose of the prophet Joseph Smith and the early days of the Church. His life and actions will be available to all to peruse. There are few other people in the world with more serious scholarly (and pseudoscholarly {generally anti-Mormon}) work devoted to them than Joseph Smith. That’s a bold statement but not without evidence. Joseph Smith wrote relatively little about himself but people took copious notes of meetings with him. Much of what we can read in these documents is about Joseph Smith but really its the history of the early days of the restored Church.

The project is nowhere near completion but what is done is available online. I wanted to see what is available about one of my ancestors – John Tanner. It turns out that there is some, so far.

In the Minute Book 2, a record of the April Conference in 1838 held at Far West, Missouri, we read of some of the troubles the Latter-day Saints were experiencing (to put it mildly). I’ll quote a portion that includes a reference to John Tanner:

In the meantime men were abused, women insulted and ravished by the troops; and all this, while we were kept  prisonors.— Whilst the town was guarded, we were called  together by the order of General Lucas, and a guard placed close around us; and in that situation were compelled, to sign a deed of trust for the purpose of making  our individual property all holden, as they said, to pay  all the debts of every individual belonging to the Church,  and also to pay for all damages, the old inhabitants of  Davis may have sustained, in consequence of the late difficulties in that County.—

Genl [John B.] Clark was now arrived, and the first important  move by him was the collecting our men together on the square and selecting out about 50 of them; whom he immediately marched unto a house and confined close, this  was done, without the aid of the sheriff; or any legal process. The next day 46 of those taken, were driven like a parcel of menial slaves, off to Richmond, not knowing why they  were taken; or what they were taken for. After being confined in Richmond more than 2 weeks, about one half were liberated  the rest after another week’s confinement, were most of  them recognized to appear at Court and have since been let to bail.— Since Genl Clark withdrew his troops from Far-West, parties of armed men have reconoitered the County, driving off horses, sheep, and cattle, and also plundering  houses.— The barbarity of Genl Lucas’ troops ought not  to be passed over in silence, they shot down our [p. 169] cattle and hogs merely for the sake of destroying them, leaving them for the ravens to eat. They took prisoner an aged man by the name of [John]Tanner and without any reason for it, he was struck over the head with a gun, which laid his scull bare.— Another man by the name of Carey, was  also taken prisoner by them, and without any provocation,  had his brains dashed out with a gun; he was laid in  a waggon, and there permitted to remain, for the space of  24 hours, during which time no one was permitted to  administer to him comfort and consolation; and after he  was removed from that situation, he lived but a  few hours.— The destruction of property, at, and about  Far-West, is very great, many, yes a large portion  are stripped bare as it were, and others partially so; indeed  take us as a body, at this time, we are a poor and afflicted  people; and if we are compelled to leave the State in the Spring many; yes a large portion of our Society,  will have to be removed at the expence of the State, as those who otherwise might have helped them,  are now debarred that privilege, in consequence of  the deed of trust we were compelled to sign;  which deed so operates upon our real estate that it  will sell for but little or nothing at this time.” (pp. 171-172; emphasis added)

John survived the hit to the head, which left him very bloody (obviously, since his “scull [sic]” was showing). He later crossed the plains with the Saints and died in Utah.

In the Minute Book 1 (Kirtland High Council Minutes,” Minute Book 1, 3 Dec. 1832–30 Nov. 1837; pp. 28-29), John Tanner was told to move to Kirtland:

Kirtland Sept 28th 1833—

This day a councel of Elders convened for  the purpose of taking into consideration  the case of brother John Tanner who sent his  two sons to Kirtland to assertain the will  of the Lord whither he should go to Zion  or move to this place— Bro Oliver [Cowdery] [p. 24] opened the councel by prayer

After the case was fairly laid before the  councel it was unanimously agreed by all  present that it was the will of the Lord for  all who are able and willing to build up  and strengthen the stake in Kirtland should do so therefore this is our councel  to our beloved brother John that he moove  to Kirtland fro the above named purpose

F[rederick] G Williams

On May 8, 1834, it was recorded that John Tanner gave the Church $170 (that’s worth anywhere from $4000 to $100,000 today, depending on how you measure it). He gave much more than that to the Church, that was just one of the times recorded.

John Tanner was included in a list of men “who were blessed in consequence of  their working on the House of the Lord in Kirtland and those also who consecrated to its upbuilding” (Minutes, 7-8 March, 1835, p. 2): “Gad Yale, John JohnsonJohn Tanner called & Blessed.  Gad Yale being one who went for the relief of their [p. 196] afflicted brethren in Mo. and received a blessing accordingly.” (pp. 5-6)

My ancestor, Sidney Tanner (John’s son), was also at the meeting and blessed for his work.

On December 9, 1835, Joseph Smith wrote: “To day Elder Tanner brought me the half of a fat[te]ned hog for the be[ne] fit of my family. And a few days since Elder S[hadrach] Roundy brought me a quarter of beef  and may all the blessings, that are  named above, be poured upon their  heads, for their kindness toward me” (Journal, 1835-1836, p. 61; emphasis added).

The whole project is fascinating. I’m looking forward to reviewing more sources as the project is completed over the coming years.

The Purpose of Life

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Yesterday, I had some very weighty matters to write about. In my post I talked about some hard things, things that shouldn’t happen but do. Some might wonder in the face of such tragedy, “What is it all for? Why do we even try in this life? Why are we even here on Earth?”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently released a beautiful video that explains why we are here, what our Earth life is all about.

Selected October 2009 General Conference Quotes and Thoughts – Sunday Morning Session

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Pres. Henry B. Eyring – The Road of Improvement

Different as we may be, we share a desire to be better than we are. We can and must expect to become better as long as we live. We will all meet the Savior someday and need to prepare for that time. Any believing Latter-day Saint is an optimist about what may come. Even the most humble person can take comfort in the invitation to become like the Savior.

I’m trying to be like Jesus, I’m following in His way. I’m trying to love as He did, in all that I do and say.

It is a commandment to become like the Savior. He has prepared a way through His Atonement and example. Love is the motivator along the way to becoming like Him. Love of God will lead us to keep His commandments. The family is an example of the ideal setting in which we can experience love [and service]. Sorrow [in our families] comes primarily from selfishness.

I pray that there will be no empty chairs in your family in the life to come. Pray for the love to make your companion’s joy your own.

[He talked about wayward children]. Orson F. Whitney quote: “Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them…Pray for your careless and disobedient children…Love them, reach out to them with confidence…”

Honor thy father and mother – the only commandment with a promise.

You can feel the approval our your Heavenly Father when you do what He asks. I hope you will go out today looking for opportunities to do as He did.

Elder L. Tom Perry – Temple and Missionary Work

Talked about the Manti Temple pageant and temple. There is a special spirit about these older temples that were constructed [with great sacrifice]. I can hear the pioneers saying, “Look what we built with our own hands!”

Stories of the pioneers. Settling in Sanpete and promised to have a temple. They waited and no temple was started so they, with the Church leaders’ permission, started building the Manti temple. They used the principles of ship-building to build a solid roof for the temple (they designed it like a ship and turned it upside-down). The principles of building a sound ship also applied to the temple.

We have all accepted the responsibility to share the gospel with others. The church eliminated the stake missions and brought it down to the ward level; it increases involvement by the members. Pres. Hinckley said: “So many of look upon missionary work simply as tracting…there is a better…wherever there is a member who introduces an investigator, there is a built-in support system.”

How prepared are you to give witness and testimony of the gospel…to play that supporting role to the full-time missionaries as they teach investigators?

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the divine way to face the future.

Elder Russell M. Nelson – Revelation

Modern technology is amazing. But more amazing is our ability to receive knowledge from heaven without hardware, software, or monthly fees. This offer to receive personal revelation is extended to all God’s children. We always need to be ready to receive [personal revelation].

To access information from heaven, one must have firm faith and sincere desire. One needs to ask with real intent and with faith in Jesus Christ. Study the matter diligently.

Some revelations have been given for specific circumstances, like Noah’s ark.

A desire to follow the prophet takes much effort because the natural man knows little of the Lord. The natural man is an enemy to God and will be forever unless he [submitteth unto the Lord].

Personal revelation can be honed to become spiritual discernment. This is a supernal gift. It allows us to see things not visible and feel things not tangible. Can detect trends in the world…things that are flashy and fleeting and those that are [worthwhile and lasting].

“None of the callings in the Priesthood are for the personal benefit or fame of those who have them. They are to fulfill the purposes of God.” ~ Pres. John Taylor (paraphrased)

Revelation need not all come at once. It may be incremental. “Line upon line, precept upon precept.” Unto him who receiveth, I will give more.

Pres. Thomas S. Monson – Service

Volunteers in Medicine founder – Dr. McConnell – giving service

Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose in life. Giving service can, in effect, save your life.

“Man’s greatest happiness comes from losing himself for the good of others” – David O. McKay.

At baptism we covenant to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light. Too often we think, “oh, someone else will fill that need.” We spend too much time thinking about things that do not matter much in the grand scheme of things.

“I have wept in the night for the shortness of sight that to somebody’s need made me blind; But I never have yet felt a tinge of regret for being a little too kind.”

“Warm fuzzies jar” – based on acts of service. A girl in a ward babysat for free for a family who did not have a lot of money. [Other examples of service were shared].

We have to live a long time to learn how empty a room can be that is filled only with furniture. The memories of the past can burn within our hearts.

Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.

If we truly listen we may hear that voice say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Faith of Our Fathers: John Tanner

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One reason we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints focus so much on family history is because through studying about our ancestors we increase in our feelings of kinship with them. Part of the goals of the gospel include welding generations together for all eternity. As we read about our ancestors we might find our love and appreciation for them growing. I have a great love and respect for many of my ancestors but I’d like to share part of the life of one of them who was quite conspicuous in the early days of the church.

My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Tanner joined the LDS church in 1832 under miraculous circumstances. Two Elders, Jared and Simeon Carter, were in New York preaching the gospel. John Tanner was confined largely to bed due to a terrible and painful disease he had in his left leg. He did have a wheelchair that he used to move around though. When John heard these Mormon elders were going to be in the area, he wanted to attend the meeting to put them in their place and make sure they spoke no heresy or false doctrine. He never heckled them, instead inviting them afterward to his home. After a night of discussion with the brothers Cater, John wanted to be baptized. However, because he could not walk (and had not even been able to put his foot on the floor in six months), he didn’t think he could be baptized. The elders asked if he had faith to be healed; he said he believed the Lord could heal him. Elder Jared Carter commanded him to arise and be healed. John said, “I arose, threw down my crutches, and walked the floor back and forth – back and forth, praising God, and I felt light as a feather.” Shortly later John walked to Lake George and was baptized by Simeon Carter. With that miraculous beginning in the church, John never wavered.

John was a wealthy man with a large family. In the fall of 1834 he had a dream that he was needed in Ohio. He left shortly thereafter, arriving in Kirtland in time to loan the Prophet Joseph $2000 dollars (John came to Kirtland with $10,000 in gold and silver), which was needed to stop the impending foreclosure on the farm upon which the temple was being built. He also loaned the temple committee $13,000 in merchandise (which was worth considerably more there on the frontier in Ohio); in addition, he later gave money directly for the building of the Kirtland Temple. Further, he signed a note with the Prophet Joseph for $30,000 in goods purchased in New York (meaning he was financially responsible, in part, for the loan). Just for the money he directly loaned (he forgave some of the loans and did not get any of the other money back), its estimated worth in 2009 U.S. dollars is anywhere from $500,000 to millions of dollars. The $2000 in cash he directly loaned Joseph for the mortgage of the temple lot is the equivalent of roughly $50,000 today. John loved the Prophet Joseph and the church. John invested much of his money in the Kirtland Safety Society bank in order to support it and give it better financial grounding; the bank failed (along with a lot of other banks at the time) and John, who had gone to Kirtland with many thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise, left for Missouri with a “borrowed team and one old broken down stage horse, and an old turn pike cart, a cag of powder, and $7.50 in cash.” John remained faithful. Many left the church after the Kirtland bank failed but John did not. He had participated in the glorious events of the Kirtland Temple dedication and knew and loved the Prophet Joseph. He had a testimony of the gospel and made the sacrifices he was asked to make.

Of the $2000 loaned to the Prophet Joseph, we have the following account. “At the April Conference, 1844, Father Tanner was called to take a mission to the Eastern States. Before starting he went to Nauvoo to see the Prophet, Joseph Smith, whom he met in the street. He held the Prophet’s note for $2,000 loaned in 1835 [9 years previously], to redeem the Kirtland Temple farm, and in the course of the conversation he handed the Prophet his note. The Prophet, not understanding what he meant by it, asked what he would have him do with it, and Father Tanner replied: ‘Brother Joseph you are welcome to it.’ The Prophet then laid his right hand heavily upon Father Tanner’s shoulder and said: ‘God bless you, Father Tanner, your children shall never beg bread.'” The Prophet Joseph did not live long after that experience. John was able to forgive the loan directly to the Prophet before he died.

John was a faithful follower of Christ. He gave his all to the gospel and the Church and always remained true to the faith. John in no small manner was responsible for the building of the Kirtland Temple. He also donated much to the building of the Nauvoo Temple. Among his descendants were at least four apostles (including N. Eldon Tanner and Hugh B. Brown) and other church leaders. His descendants number in the tens of thousands – many of those alive are still active members of the Church. He created a legacy of faith that blesses my life and the lives of countless others every day. I hope that I can continue on with the legacy he started.