Archive for the ‘Church Meetings’ Category

31
Dec

Church Poetry (December 2006)

   Posted by: John

Bishop Keeley taught the combined Priesthood and Relief Society lesson today.  He started off with this poem that I thought was real good.

‘Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house

Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.

Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care

In hopes that Jesus would not soon come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed

Not ever kneeling or bowing a head.

And mom in her rocker with the baby on her lap

Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the east there arose such a clatter,

I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here!

With light like the sun sending forth a bright ray

I knew in a moment that this must be the day!

The light of his face made me cover my head.

It was Jesus returning just like He said.

And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,

I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book of Life which He held in His hand

Was written the name of every saved man.

He spoke not a word as He searched for my name;

When He said, “It’s not here” my head hung in shame.

The people whose names had been written with love

He gathered to take to His Father above.

With those who were ready He rose without a sound

While the rest were left standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;

I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.

I stood and I cried as they rose out of sight;

Oh if only we had been ready tonight.

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear;

The coming of Jesus is drawing near.

There’s only one life and when comes the last call,

We’ll find that the scriptures are true after all!

Testimony meeting is usually all right, but on occasion we have some very good testimonies and something profound is said.

One of the ladies stood and talked about cleaning her gutters.  She has some health problems and can’t do a whole lot, but tries to do what she can to avoid imposing on others.  Anyway, she had flushed the gutter junk down the drainpipe with the hose, but the hose got stuck on something when she went to take it out.  After struggling for a few moments, she said a quick prayer to help her get the hose out so she wouldn’t have to bother her neighbor.  She still couldn’t pull the hose free.  However, after thinking about it for a moment, she had the idea to get a screwdriver and remove the screws holding the downspout to the pipe.  She did and the hose came out with no problem.  She replaced the screws and it turned out fine.

She mentioned that this may seem a silly thing to pray over, but she realized that the answer was given to her, just not the way that she expected.  The end result was the same, but getting there was different than what she had in mind.

I got to thinking about this principle.  People are generally very short sighted and we get fixated on one or two ways to accomplish something.  It is difficult to step back and take a fresh or different look at finding an answer to a problem.  Often it requires input from another source to get us to look in different directions to get to the same result.

This lady’s situation was a perfect example.  The result was the successful removal of the water hose from the drainpipe, but the method of removing the hose was different than what she initially expected.  In the end, the result was the same.  Getting there took a little more time and effort.

Isn’t that true of all things?  Sometimes getting to the end result requires more than we expect to put into it.  Often, the extra effort teaches us more, or gives us more reason to appreciate the result.  It is a good reason to strive for excellence and not be just average.

In the end, what we make of our lives is what is important.  God is there to give us direction.  We need to be open to His suggestion and be willing to make changes to achieve the results He wants and expects.  His wisdom is far greater, and while we can often plan for our desired results, we sometimes have to take a different direction than we planned.  The Holy Ghost will help us recognize when we need to change direction. 

It’s amazing what one can glean from a 3 minute testimony, isn’t it?

25
Sep

“Are Willing To” (September 2007)

   Posted by: John

Sunday’s sacrament meeting was a missionary theme.  There were a lot of speakers that included the fulltime missionaries, the ward missionaries, and the ward mission leader.  It was a very full meeting.  Brother Moss said something that I thought was very interesting.  He takes a little time getting around to his points, but when he gets there, they are usually worth it

He read from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 20, verse 77.  It reads as follows:

“O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.”

This prayer, of course, is the one that we hear every week, as the sacrament is blessed.  Brother Moss paid special attention to three words: “are willing to”.  He talked about the promises and conditions that are in the sacrament prayers along with other commandments that the Lord gave us.  We are all imperfect and will break commandments, either by commission or omission.  There is simply no way we can be perfect.  However, we can strive to be perfect and do our very best, and prove that we “are willing to” follow all of the commandments of God, he will give us all that he promises us.  In the case of the sacrament prayer, it is to have the Spirit with us.  God has promised us many other things, many of which are cataloged in Section 121: 41-46.  There are some requirements, then many wonderful blessings and promises, if we “are willing to” follow the commandments.

I’m grateful to Brother Moss for bringing out these three words that make it so we can keep these promises.

18
Sep

How Is It Done? (September 2007)

   Posted by: John

I don’t remember who gave this talk in church, but I wrote down something from it that I thought was interesting.

The talk was from one of Elder Scott’s conference addresses, having to do with prayer and forgiveness.  The item that caught my attention was this:  How is it done?  That sounds a little strange, but consider it for a moment.  After receiving an answer to prayer, we should thank the Lord.  But Elder Scott also said he also wanted to know “How is it done”, especially on items such as repentance.

It’s a good question.  We know about the plan of salvation and the atonement.  These are subjects of constant lessons, talks and discussion.  It’s one thing to talk about them, but it’s another entirely to fully understand the significance of the atonement and yet another to know the means of how it works.

I am reminded of Enos, the account of which is in the Book of Mormon.  He is hunting, and remembered the words of the prophets and his father.  The words sank deep into his soul and he wanted to know if they were true.  He prayed, not just a short prayer, but continuously, with earnest desire to know, for an unknown period of time.  Eventually the answer came, and he heard the sure voice that his sins had been forgiven.  He knew God could not lie and his guilt was swept away.  Then he asks this: “Lord, how is it done?”

Knowing that he had been forgiven was not enough for Enos.  He wanted to understand the means by which that forgiveness was obtained.  The Lord said “Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou has never before heard nor seen.”

Like so many of the scriptures, I am sure there was more dialogue and events than was written.  Enos was very likely given information, like Nephi received when he saw the vision of his father.  Receiving a simple answer would not have been enough.  Enos would have wanted to see the events in the garden of Gethsemane, on Golgotha, and the tomb.

If we read further in the chapter, we find that the Lord makes several covenants with Enos regarding the records and the Lamanites.  I find that interesting considering that the Lord usually requires us to make covenants with him, not the other way around.  Only a man of incredible righteousness and standing with the Lord would be able to extract such promises from God Himself.  I think it safe to say that Enos would have been the recipient of visions and promises from God equal to any other great and righteous person.  His understanding of “How it is done” would have been extensive and very complete.

From that question and answer, and the following few verses, we see a person of great spiritual quality, one who is favored of God.  It would behoove us to look at this example and ask God ourselves how it is done, personally from Him.

Today was High Council Sunday.  It is interesting that in this stake, the high councilor who speaks selects a speaking companion to go with him and they present the talks.  I don’t remember that happening in other wards and stakes I have been in.

Sister Dopp was the speaking companion.  She is the wife of a member of the stake presidency.  She spoke mostly about the word of wisdom as a means of keeping ourselves free from addiction.  As she spoke, I had several thoughts about different kinds of addictions.

Physical addiction: This kind of addiction is something that we either take into our bodies.  For example, coffee.  People get addicted to the substances in coffee and it becomes very difficult to stop drinking it day after day.  Cigarettes are another example.  As the body becomes hooked on substances it affects our ability concentrate on more important matters.  As this happens, the spirit will become dragged down as the body succumbs to a losing battle of choice.

Now there are those who say, “I’m not addicted.  I can take it or leave it.”  This rationalization is not correct, since they always end up taking it.  They have limited their choice because the body craves and most often gets what it wants.

Mental addiction:  There are more subtle kinds of addiction than substances.  The human mind is able to take all kinds of things into it.  However, sometimes, there are things that become an obsession.  For example, pornography.  In this case, the mind becomes poisoned, but the physical body is largely untouched or hampered, at least for some time.  These kinds of addiction enslave the mind.  Because they tamper with the mind, they also alter character, emotion, and reason.  Mental addictions also are often more damaging to the spirit, often quicker and with more devastating effect.  There is virtually nothing a person can to do kill the connection with the Holy Ghost quicker than to start down the path of porn.  It is almost scary how fast it can go.  Yet, someone addicted to porn can, for all intents and purposes, be as healthy and free from physical addiction as the next person.

There are many things that can vie for our attention.  People get addicted to money, power, heroin, caffeine, sex, sports, etc.  When we let ourselves get stuck on those things, we begin losing our connection to the Holy Ghost.  There are things we can participate in that will not hurt us, such as basketball, or even politics, that will do us good, so long as they don’t become the focus of our lives.

Sister Dopp spoke mainly of the word of wisdom.  Obviously that is part of the battle.  The other part involves keeping our minds pure and unfettered by worldly things.  That may be the tougher challenge.

10
Sep

Sunday Meeting Notes (September 2007)

   Posted by: John

Sacrament meeting was quite interesting yesterday.  We had 4 speakers, two of whom were young men in the ward, then we heard from the Wagners.

Young Brothers Wilson and Ingersol gave excellent 5 minute talks.  They are fine examples of  Aaronic Priesthood holders, and it reflects in their manner and speaking.

Then Sister Wagner spoke about prayer and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  (I don’t know if that was the real topic, but that’s what I thought the message was.)  She related some stories of her life where listening to the spirit led her to find her husband, and helped her through some difficult times.

By the time she finished, there was only a few minutes left.  Brother Dustin Wagner got up, made a quick joke, then said that there he was having to throw his talk out due to time.  Rather, he would give us the topic and let us ponder it.  The topic?  “Remember, and perish not.”  He then said that while he was sitting there realizing he was out of time, a scripture came to mind with great force, from 1 Nephi 11, where Nephi was seeing the vision his Father had.  The angel asked if Nephi knew the condescension of God.  Nephi replied that he knew that God loved his children, but did not know the meaning of all things.  The angel then showed him Mary, the Mother of God and explained to Nephi the miracle of Jesus’ birth.  Dustin then said, “Remember that, and you will not perish.”  Then he proceeded to mention several other things.  Jesus teaching the doctors and scribes at the age of 12.  Jesus being baptized by John.  Jesus calling the disciples to establish His church.  Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, then on the cross.  Jesus not being in the tomb on the third day, but appearing as a resurrected perfect man.  And after each thing he said “Remember that, and you shall not perish.”

This was the kind of sacrament meeting we had, where the talks were given by the spirit, and the messages where loud and clear, and received by the spirit.  I noticed that the Bishopric were sitting just as riveted as I was.  This is one reason why I love this ward.  We may not see the spirit giving the talka quite in this fashion, but we almost always have it there.

21
Aug

Thoughts on Broken Hearts (August 2007)

   Posted by: John

We had Ward Conference last Sunday. President Olsen spoke about having a broken heart and a contrite spirit as an offering to the Lord.

This has been one of the areas that I have always struggled with in some way. A broken heart is often associated with sadness or depression. Our Father in Heaven wants us to be happy, not sad or depressed.

As I listened to the President Olsen speak, I had another thought that makes a lot more sense. For some reason, the only similar thing I could think of was boot camp. New recruits are put through several weeks of difficult tasks and intense training. They are also taught to follow orders immediately and without reservation. They are broken to do the will of their superiors.

I think that is what God means when he says to have a broken heart. Rather than sadness or remorse (we need those things in regards to repentance), our hearts are set to do the will of God immediately and without reservation. There is no room for objection to or disobedience of the commandments.

As we do this, our good thoughts and actions will become good habits. Our faith will increase because we will feel the presence of God daily. Our hearts will be “broken” to do the will of God continually, without reservation

5
May

Temple Baptism Night (May 2007)

   Posted by: John

Last evening was the ward youth baptism night at the temple.  We went with them, and it was very special.  I made arrangements so that Karen and I could be baptized for Grandma and Grandpa, along with Grandma’s brother Wayne.    A few others in the ward had names to be done as well, so they were included and done by the youth.

As it turned out, I was the baptizer for the young women.  We had 3 that were there for the first time.  When they were done, Karen came down and I baptized her for Grandma.  Then Brother Z came down and baptized me for Grandpa and Wayne.

Coming out of the dressing room, I found the Bishop had made arrangements for the confirmations, and took us to the room immediately.  There, I was able to confirm Karen for Grandma, then the Bishop confirmed me for Grandpa and Wayne.  I had not asked for him to do that, but of those who were there, and they are all great people, I am glad that it was him.

It was a rather emotional evening for me.  The spirit of the Lord was strong, and I am sure that some of the people who we were baptized for were near.  I could feel them, even if I could not see them.  It was so nice to be there with Karen and to share this experience with her.  This work is true, and I am so glad to be a part of it.

1
May

State of the Union (May 2007)

   Posted by: John

I was thinking about the current state of the United States of America, and I am very concerned that the country is approaching a critical time.  This land has historically and scripturally been a “promised” land since the time that the continents were divided.  While we do not have much of a biblical source for the promises and equal warnings given to those who would possess this part of the world, we do have several groups who have received the promise given in ancient scripture, namely the Book of Mormon.  Without this book, there would be very little information about the divine promises given to those who would inhabit the Americas.

Almost every group of people led here were given great blessings and promises of a free land with the condition that they serve God righteously.  And, almost without exception, each of those groups eventually fell into iniquity and were violently removed.

Jaredites, Mulekites, Nephites, and possibly other –ites that we do not yet know about were brought here rather miraculously and started their sojourn in a land of promise.  When they were righteous they prospered.  When they became wicked, they warred among themselves and were killed in great numbers.  And, at times, when they were righteous, they warred with those who were not and most often came off victorious.

I believe the Lamanites were spared because of the pleadings of righteous men for their sake, and the Lord made promises to those men on behalf of their wicked brethren.

When people began again to immigrate to America, it was because they were seeking religious freedom, the right to worship in the way they thought correct.  Thus, this land was prepared for freedom and self government.  When the Lord’s church was restored, the promises made to the ancient inhabitants was made again – if the Lord was served, the land would remain free.

Here we are in 2007, approaching 200 years from the time those promises were made again to the Saints of God.  This country has more people than it has ever had.  Many are righteous people.  Many more think they serve God, but do not have the gospel as given by Christ.  More still are wicked, not adhering to the commandments of God, but follow their own paths, being led by the wiles of the devil.

I fear that those who lead our country are largely of that latter group.  There does not seem to be many who are willing to lead in righteousness.  They think that faith and religion are things to be shunned.  Those who try to be righteous are labeled as fanatics and kooks.  We hear a lot about the religious right, and that group is painted as fruitcakes.  I met a person today who is one of those “religious right” kooks.  He was passionate about the state of his country, his role in it, and I share his concern that we are facing and going to face some very difficult times very soon.

I firmly believe that this country can not be brought down by outside forces.  Those who have tried have always failed.  History has shown that this land is protected by divine force.  When governments and people have fallen, it has been the result of dissent, disillusionment, wickedness and violence from those within.

This is the reason that I am very afraid for this country.  At this time, we have a government that is not interested in the welfare and security of this country.  They are warring among themselves, not caring that the citizens are watching them act like spoiled children fighting over a candy bar.  The ideas and actions of these people are contrary to God’s will and commandments.  What’s worse, some of them know better, and choose to ignore what is right, going with what is politically correct.

Along with this, most people end up taking sides.  These sides are becoming farther apart as ideas become more extreme and middle ground erodes away.

Those who would stand of principle of righteousness find themselves more isolated as the larger majority are willing to put their principles aside in favor of popular opinion.  Already, we have incidents where one group of people protests against another group, sometimes leading to violence.

These are the same kinds of things that led to the ruin of previous inhabitants of this land.  I think of Captain Moroni, who had to march to the rescue of Pahoran, leader of the government at the time when those who wanted a king were becoming such a problem that they threatened to overthrow the chief judge and install their wicked leader as the king.  In Moroni’s case he was successful, but at the cost of having to eliminate those who wanted the king.

I think of the Nephite people after Christ visited and gave them His gospel.  Those who remained righteous were those who were there and saw Him.  This continued for about 3 generations.  By the 4th generation, the story became “old” and wickedness quickly took over.  Some years late, the entire Nephite nation was destroyed by the Lamanites.

In the first case, Pahoran was a righteous man, but he was threatened by those who were wicked and were more numerous than the righteous in that area.  I feel like President Bush is somewhat in that position right now.  He is a good man who faces an uphill battle right now, and while I do not think that he needs to fear for his life per se, the pack of wolves in the congress are looking for every opportunity to bring him down, regardless of the cost to this country’s security and prosperity.

In the second case, when the Nephites became wicked, the conditions that God made concerning righteous inhabitation of America applied, and they were swept away, almost universally.

There are many people here who are likely more wicked than the Nephites ever thought of being.  At the same time, there are many people who are as righteous as the Nephites ever were.  I believe this is the reason that God has not started the sweeping of this nation.  There are enough good people here to prevent that extreme measure.  In spite of this, it has become obvious to me that Satan is very craftily orchestrating the demise of our inspired form of government, and he has a host of willing accomplices to assist him.

Remember the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Lot pleaded with the Lord to spare the city if even 10 righteous people out of however many were there could be found.  Lot was commanded to leave, because the wickedness (except for him and his immediate family) was universal.  That is not the case today.  There are righteous and good people in all places, and for that reason, I believe the Lord has spared us the fire and brimstone and destruction.

However, the adversary keeps hammering away, putting chinks in our armor, looking for ways to creep in and destroy us from within.  In my opinion, he has a portion of our federal government.  Those who are trying to do right are outnumbered, losing ground, and in some cases, setting their principles and values aside for the sake of getting along.

I don’t know what the answer is, other than to pray for our leaders and vote for those who are trying to do the right things.  Staying righteous and encouraging others to remain or become righteous is likely the best thing we can do.  As long as there are good people living in this land, we improve our chances of keeping our country and way of life intact.

18
Feb

On Faith (February 2007)

   Posted by: John

We were talking about miracles in Sunday School today.  Bro. Miner was writing some things on the board as we were reading scriptures from the lesson.  One of the words that he wrote was “Faith”.  Then he proceeded to describe faith in a way I have not thought of before.

We had read the following situation from Mark 2:1-4.

“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.  And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.  And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.  And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.”

At this point he asked us what other words can be used to describe faith.  Words like hope and belief were given by class members.  Bro. Miner added a different word on the board: confidence.  I have never associated that word with faith.  After thinking about it, I wonder why I haven’t.  It makes perfect sense.  A person with faith is confident that the Lord will respond to whatever the circumstance is.

This is a great example of why faith is different than belief, where one may hope that something is true, but does not have confidence in it.  Faith drives people to action, and while it is true that one hopes for the promises associated with the various commandments and works, the confidence in the Lord is strengthened with each manifestation of the spirit.

I think of Enos, whose soul hungered to know if the things his father taught him were true.  He prayed mightily and received his answer.  He prayed more about other things and was answered again.  Then, in verse 11, “And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord…”  In other words, his confidence that God heard him, answered him and loved him was strong.  It became so strong, that in verse 12, God said “…I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith.”  Now, the situation that Enos describes in these verses has to do with the Lamanites, but the principle applies to faith in general.  Enos had such confidence in the Lord that the Lord granted the righteous desires of his heart, and tells him that his faith is the reason.

That is what I learned in Sunday School today.

18
Feb

Why “Pat Answers” are OK (February 2007)

   Posted by: John

While I was sitting in sacrament meeting today, I got to thinking about the phenomenon of giving “pat answers” when asked questions in Sunday School or Priesthood.  For example, a question might be “What can we do as Priesthood holders to strengthen our families?”  The pat answers are things like “Read the scriptures”, “Have our family prayer”, or “Attend the temple”.

It is not uncommon to think of these kinds of answers as too simple, or even as humorous, since they can be used to answer 90% of the questions asked in class.  As I thought about it, I realized that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the so-called “pat answers”.  They are, after all, correct.

I think that many who have been church members for a long time get bored with these simple answers (even though they always give them) because they ARE simple.  We may feel that we are beyond simple and we should be discussing more complex and advanced principles.

It should be noted that the first principles of the gospel are indeed simple and basic, yet they are deep and symbolic.  For example, faith and prayer are simple concepts, yet the spiritual aspects to these are far more deep than most people comprehend.  Other examples would be scripture study, paying tithing, or personal prayer.  Yet, without a firm understanding of these simple things, it would be impossible to successfully grasp the meaning of the advanced gospel topics and ordinances.  One must firmly adhere to the basic principles if they wish to have even a hope of understanding the depth of things learned in the temple.

Strangely, we hear more from our church leaders on the basic and simple gospel principles than anything else.  Why is that?  Is it because people in general have trouble living the simple things even though they think the simple things may be beneath them?  How many General Conference talks have we heard on faith, repentance and tithing?

All of this goes to show that if the basic “pat answer” topics are good enough to hear from Apostles (who likely have heard gospel topics from the Savior himself that they can not share with us because we could not handle it), they are good enough for us to use in our classes.  We need to learn them, live them and love them.  The reason that we hear them over and over is because we do not live them fully.  Until such time as we do, we will continue to hear them time and again.  Then, we will understand the advanced things because our spirits will be communicating with God on a higher level.

So, give the “pat answers” and don’t think you are too good for them.  Use them well, and the rest will be given by the spirit.

17
Dec

Priesthood Lesson (December 2006)

   Posted by: John

The Priesthood lesson today was on the Second Coming.  It was interesting to review various things we already know about the second coming.  During the discussion, we were talking about what we will be doing during the millennium.  Among other things, we will be doing genealogy and temple work.  We were discussing the kind of family history work that we would be involved in, having the heavenly records to work with.  I made kind of a flip comment that God’s bookkeeping system would be a lot more accurate than anything we have ever used.  After thinking about that a little more, I realized that God’s books will be perfect.  Every person who has ever lived on this Earth will be recorded in it, along with their parents, siblings, when and where they were born and lived, when they died, who they married, etc.  And, being a heavenly record, there will be no errors in translation, no incomplete entries, no wrong dates, and no family member missing because they died at birth.  Now, for those who are into family history, having those records at their disposal will be amazing.

Also, during the course of the discussion, Norm Stoddard had a deep thought.  He first asked if we thought the church was growing faster in foreign countries than here in the United States.  I think that it is.  So Norm said something along the lines of how we may be in danger in this country of losing the leadership to another, more humble place.  I thought about that.  There is some scriptural basis for that line of thought.  How many times in the Book of Mormon did the church move from one nation to another?  Then, the nation that had the church sent missionaries to the other nations to bring their brethren to repentance.

These kinds of examples are based on one of my pet peeves about history.  It is easy to see what happens when reading about it, particularly when one can cover years, or hundreds of years in a few pages.  The perspective is different when living it day to day.  The slowness of living compared to the rapidity of history makes it difficult to apply the lessons that history provides.

This is one of the reasons that the Lord wants us to STUDY the scriptures, to become familiar with them, to know them, so we can learn and recognize the lessons.  We have an advantage over people of all previous dispensations in that we have the scriptures available to read any time we wish.  Every person can have their own copy to read, mark, or ignore if they so choose.  One wonders if the children of Israel would have been so rebellious and quick to turn from the Lord if every household had their own set of scriptures to read and learn from.

On further reflection, I agree with Norm’s thought to a point.  Yes, it is possible that this land could fall into deep iniquity and require the efforts of missionaries from another location to bring us to repentance.  However, I do not think it is likely.  The difference is that we have the scriptures in our homes.  We are told that the elect may fall, but I do not believe that the majority of the LDS church will fall away.  To ensure that we do not fall away, we need to humble ourselves before the Lord to avoid becoming another “history lesson” worthy of future scriptural mention.