Welcome to the Talk Of The Week Club. I began this club as a way to share my love of learning and growing in the gospel of Jesus Christ through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My hope and desire is for you to learn and grow in your faith and love of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Each Thursday a new talk will be posted, come back, open your heart and mind, allow yourself to receive and I promise you will be spiritually fed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Week 39: Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples

My husband and I had the opportunity to take a 15hr road trip down to New Orleans last week. We left on Sunday the 13th and we returned on the following Sunday, so due to our traveling schedule we were unable to attend church for two weeks. On our return home my spiritual canteen was feeling less then full and I wasn't being a very pleasant traveler. To help invite the spirit we decided to listen to the April 2009 session of conference which we just happened to have saved on our laptop. The talk "Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples," by Elder Gary E. Stevenson, left me so inspired I just knew that I needed to share it with all of you.

One of my favorite hymns says, "Home can be a heaven on earth when we are filled with love." Just as this hymn says, so too, is the temple a heaven on earth. It is a place where all are filled with love, a holy place, a place where one can feel the spirit and where all who enter in can feel our father's love. This talk inspired me to take an accounting of the atmosphere in my home because, as his talk states, only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness. EEK?! Is my home a sacred place? A place of love and beauty?! I'll admit it, No, it isn't all of the time, not even half the time...but I'm trying.

After you read or listen to Elder Stevenson's talk I invite you to take a "virtual tour of your home using your spiritual eyes." Turn the doors of your homes more fully toward the temple and begin to create your Heaven on Earth.

Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples
Elder Gary E. Stevenson Of the Seventy

What a wonderful conference it has been. How blessed we are to hear the counsel of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators.
I remember a warm, sunny afternoon when spring was trying to nudge its way through a long winter in Cache Valley, Utah. My father, whose Saturdays were always filled with chores for his grandsons, stopped by our home with an offer to “go for a ride.” Always happy to ride in Grandpa’s truck, our four- and six-year-old sons scurried into the back jump seat, and I joined my father in the front. Our drive took us through the streets of downtown Logan, which wrap around the Logan Temple, prominently situated on a hill, centered beautifully in the city. As we moved further away from the city, we turned from paved, busy streets to seldom-used dirt roads, where we crossed old bridges and weaved through trees far into the country. We were far from any other traffic and all alone.
Realizing his grandsons were in a place they had not been before, my father stopped the truck. “Do you think we are lost?” he asked the wide-eyed boys as they gazed out the windshield across the valley. Followed by a moment of silent assessment came the profound reply of a young child. “Look,” he said, pointing his finger, “Grandpa, you are never lost when you can see the temple.” Our eyes turned, focusing with his, seeing the sun glistening off the spires of the Logan Temple, far across the valley.
You are never lost when you can see the temple. The temple will provide direction for you and your family in a world filled with chaos. It is an eternal guidepost which will help you from getting lost in the “mist of darkness.”1 It is the house of the Lord.2 It is a place where covenants are made and eternal ordinances are performed.
In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin directed the Saints of his time and place to gather, “every man having his tent with the door thereof towards the temple.”3 As Church members, we have recently received counsel from modern-day prophets which, if followed, will turn the doors of our homes more fully towards the temple.
The First Presidency has invited “adult members to have a current temple recommend and visit the temple more often” where time and circumstance permit and encouraged members “to replace some leisure activities with temple service.” They also encouraged “newer members and youth of the Church who are 12 years of age and older to live worthy to assist in this great work by serving as proxies for baptisms and confirmations.”4 Even our young children have been encouraged to visit the temple grounds and touch the temple.5 President Thomas S. Monson once counseled, “As we touch the temple, the temple will touch us.”6
We are blessed to live in a temple-building dispensation in which 146 temples have been dedicated or announced.7 Under the definition of “Temple” in the Bible Dictionary, we read the following: “It is the most holy of any place of worship on the earth,” followed by this insightful statement: “Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.”8 For me this suggests a sacred relationship between the temple and the home. Not only can we turn the doors of our homes to the temple, or the house of the Lord; we can make our homes a “house of the Lord.”
Recently, in a stake conference, all present were invited by the visiting authority, Elder Glen Jenson, an Area Seventy, to take a virtual tour of their homes using their spiritual eyes. I would like to invite each of you to do this also. Wherever your home may be and whatever its configuration, the application of eternal gospel principles within its walls is universal. Let’s begin. Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. What do you see, and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention? That concludes our tour. Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some “home improvement”—hopefully not an “extreme home makeover.”
Whether our living space is large or small, humble or extravagant, there is a place for each of these gospel priorities in each of our homes.
In order to keep the temple and those who attend it sacred and worthy, the Lord has established standards through His servants, the prophets. We may be well-advised to consider together, in family council, standards for our homes to keep them sacred and to allow them to be a “house of the Lord.” The admonition to “establish . . . a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God”9 provides divine insight into the type of home the Lord would have us build. Doing such begins the construction of a “spiritual mansion” in which we all may reside regardless of our worldly circumstance—a home filled with treasure that “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt.”10
There exists a righteous unity between the temple and the home. Understanding the eternal nature of the temple will draw you to your family; understanding the eternal nature of the family will draw you to the temple. President Howard W. Hunter stated, “In the ordinances of the temple, the foundations of the eternal family are sealed in place.”11
President Boyd K. Packer counseled: “Say the word temple. Say it quietly and reverently. Say it over and over again. Temple. Temple. Temple. Add the word holy. Holy Temple. Say it as though it were capitalized, no matter where it appears in the sentence.
“Temple. One other word is equal in importance to a Latter-day Saint. Home. Put the words holy temple and home together, and you have described the house of the Lord!”12
Last year Primary children gathered, thousands of them, from around the world in each of their wards and branches, singing to their families and ward members as part of the Primary sacrament meeting presentation. They sang of desire, promises, and preparation. The things of which they sang begin in sacred homes and continue in sacred temples. I think you will hear the tune in your hearts as I read the words:
I love to see the temple.I’m going there somedayTo feel the Holy Spirit,To listen and to pray.For the temple is a house of God,A place of love and beauty.I’ll prepare myself while I am young;This is my sacred duty.
I love to see the temple.I’ll go inside someday.I’ll cov’nant with my Father;I’ll promise to obey.For the temple is a holy placeWhere we are sealed together.As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth:A fam’ly is forever.13
President Boyd K. Packer stated, “The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father.”14
I testify to you that the application of these principles will help turn the doors of your home to the temple, or house of the Lord, and more fully allow you to make your sacred home a house of the Lord.
I conclude where I began, with the words of an innocent child: “You are never lost when you can see the temple.” And I add my testimony of the sacred nature of our homes and of the Lord’s temples. I know that God is our loving Heavenly Father. I bear witness of Jesus Christ and of His role as our Savior and Redeemer and of living prophets authorized to exercise all priesthood keys from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson. I do so in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
NOTES1. 1 Nephi 8:24.2. See Topical Guide,“Temple, House of the Lord,” 519; “Temple, House of the Lord,” in Guide to the Scriptures, at scriptures.lds.org.3. Mosiah 2:6.4. First Presidency letter, Mar. 11, 2003.5. See Thomas S. Monson, “Finding Peace,” Liahona and Ensign, Mar. 2004, 5–6.6. In JoAnn Jolley, “A Shining Beacon on a Hill: Jordan River Temple Is Dedicated,” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 77: “Early in the week, Elder Thomas S. Monson of the Quorum of the Twelve suggested deep spiritual meaning in the physical presence of the temple. He recounted the late Elder Matthew Cowley’s story about a grandfather who took his small granddaughter on a birthday visit to the Salt Lake Temple grounds. With permission of the groundskeeper, they walked to the large doors of the temple. He suggested that she place her hand on the temple wall and then on the door, saying tenderly to her, ‘Remember that this day you touched the temple. One day you will enter this door.’ His special gift to his granddaughter was an appreciation for the House of the Lord. Likewise, counseled Elder Monson, ‘As we touch the temple, the temple will touch us.’ “7. See “Temples around the World,” at temples.lds.org. Click on Chronological.8. Bible Dictionary, “Temple,” 781.9. D&C 88:119.10. See Matthew 6:19–20; 3 Nephi 13:19–20. 11. Howard W. Hunter, “A Temple-Motivated People,” Liahona, May 1995, 4; Ensign, Feb. 1995, 2.12. Boyd K. Packer, “The Temple, the Priesthood,” Ensign, May 1993, 20–21.13. “I Love to See the Temple,” Children’s Songbook, 95.14. Boyd K. Packer, “The Shield of Faith,” Ensign, May 1995, 8.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week 38: Three Goals to Guide You

Hi Friends! Well, we are several weeks into a new school year and I just had to share this talk with you. As we strive to educate our children, ourselves and others in our sphere of influence, this talk by our dear Prophet is a great reminder of the guides we should use along the way.

Study diligently.
Pray earnestly.
Serve willingly.

As I prepared for a really intense home school year this year I really strived to incorporate the first two. What I have found now is that my study and prayer has allowed me to feel more confident in what I am doing and now I can serve others willingly and help them along the journey! I pray that whatever we are working on – even if the study is HARD and at times the prayers seem unanswered – we will know through the trial of our faith that our efforts are ALWAYS rewarded and then we can turn and bless others. May you have a blessed and wonderful month!

Your friend - Sarah

MP3 Link

This evening our souls have reached toward heaven. We have been blessed with beautiful music and inspired messages. The Spirit of the Lord is here. Sisters Julie Beck, Silvia Allred, Barbara Thompson—thank heaven for your dear mothers and fathers, your teachers, your youth leaders, and others who recognized in you your potential.
To paraphrase a thought:
You never know what a girl is worth,You’ll have to wait and see;But every woman in a noble place,A girl once used to be.1
It is a great privilege for me to be with you. I recognize that beyond you who are gathered in the Conference Center, there are many thousands watching and listening to the proceedings by way of satellite transmission.
As I speak to you, I realize that as a man I am in the minority and must be cautious in my comments. I’m reminded of the man who walked into a bookstore and asked the clerk—a woman—for help: “Have you got a book titled Man, the Master of Women?” The clerk looked him straight in the eye and said sarcastically, “Try the fiction section!”
I assure you tonight that I honor you, the women of the Church, and am well aware, to quote William R. Wallace, that “the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”2
In 1901 President Lorenzo Snow said: “The members of the Relief Society have . . . ministered to those in affliction, they have thrown their arms of love around the fatherless and the widows, and they have kept themselves unspotted from the world. I can testify that there are no purer and more God-fearing women in the world than are to be found within the ranks of the Relief Society.”3
As in President Snow’s time, there are, here and now, visits to be made, greetings to be shared, and hungry souls to be fed. As I contemplate the Relief Society of today, humbled by my privilege to speak to you, I turn to our Heavenly Father for His divine guidance.
In this spirit, I have felt to provide each member of the Relief Society throughout the world three goals to meet:
Study diligently.
Pray earnestly.
Serve willingly.
Let us consider each of these goals. First, study diligently. The Savior of the world instructed: “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”4 He added: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”5
A study of the scriptures will help our testimonies and the testimonies of our family members. Our children today are growing up surrounded by voices urging them to abandon that which is right and to pursue, instead, the pleasures of the world. Unless they have a firm foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ, a testimony of the truth, and a determination to live righteously, they are susceptible to these influences. It is our responsibility to fortify and protect them.
To an alarming extent, our children today are being educated by the media, including the Internet. In the United States, it is reported that the average child watches approximately four hours of television daily, much of the programming being filled with violence, alcohol and drug use, and sexual content. Watching movies and playing video games is in addition to the four hours.6 And the statistics are much the same for other developed countries. The messages portrayed on television, in movies, and in other media are very often in direct opposition to that which we want our children to embrace and hold dear. It is our responsibility not only to teach them to be sound in spirit and doctrine but also to help them stay that way, regardless of the outside forces they may encounter. This will require much time and effort on our part—and in order to help others, we ourselves need the spiritual and moral courage to withstand the evil we see on every side.
We live in the time spoken of in 2 Nephi, chapter 9:
“O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
“But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”7
Required is the courage to hold fast to our standards despite the derision of the world. Said President J. Reuben Clark Jr., for many years a member of the First Presidency: “Not unknown are cases where [those] of presumed faith . . . have felt that, since by affirming their full faith they might call down upon themselves the ridicule of their unbelieving colleagues, they must either modify or explain away their faith or destructively dilute it, or even pretend to cast it away. Such are hypocrites.”8
There comes to mind the powerful verses found in 2 Timothy, in the New Testament, chapter 1, verses 7 and 8:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”
Beyond our study of spiritual matters, secular learning is also essential. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. Statistics reveal that at some time, because of the illness or death of a husband or because of economic necessity, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider. Some of you already occupy that role. I urge you to pursue your education—if you are not already doing so or have not done so—that you might be prepared to provide if circumstances necessitate such.
Your talents will expand as you study and learn. You will be able to better assist your families in their learning, and you will have peace of mind in knowing that you have prepared yourself for the eventualities that you may encounter in life.
I reiterate: Study diligently.
The second goal I wish to mention: Pray earnestly. The Lord directed, “Pray always, and I will pour out my Spirit upon you, and great shall be your blessing.”9
Perhaps there has never been a time when we had greater need to pray and to teach our family members to pray. Prayer is a defense against temptation. It is through earnest and heartfelt prayer that we can receive the needed blessings and the support required to make our way in this sometimes difficult and challenging journey we call mortality.
We can teach the importance of prayer to our children and grandchildren both by word and by example. I share with you a lesson in teaching by example as described in a mother’s letter to me relating to prayer. “Dear President Monson: Sometimes I wonder if I make a difference in my children’s lives. Especially as a single mother working two jobs to make ends meet, I sometimes come home to confusion, but I never give up hope.”
Her letter continues as she describes how she and her children were watching general conference, where I was speaking about prayer. Her son made the comment, “Mother, you’ve already taught us that.” She asked, “What do you mean?” Her son replied, “Well, you’ve taught us to pray and showed us how, but the other night I came to your room to ask something and found you on your knees praying to Heavenly Father. If He’s important to you, He’ll be important to me.” The letter concluded, “I guess you never know what kind of influence you’ll be until a child observes you doing yourself what you have tried to teach him to do.”
Some years ago, just before leaving Salt Lake to attend the annual meetings of Boy Scouts of America in Atlanta, Georgia, I decided to take with me enough copies of the New Era so that I might share with Scouting officials this excellent publication. When I arrived at the hotel in Atlanta, I opened the package of magazines. I found that my secretary, for no accountable reason, had put in the package two extra copies of the June issue, an issue that featured temple marriage. I left the two copies in the hotel room and, as planned, distributed the other copies.
On the final day of meetings, I had no desire to attend the scheduled luncheon but felt compelled to return to my room. The telephone was ringing as I entered. The caller was a member of the Church who had heard I was in Atlanta. She introduced herself and asked if I could provide a blessing for her 10-year-old daughter. I agreed readily, and she indicated that she and her husband, their daughter, and their son would come immediately to my hotel room. As I waited, I prayed for help. The applause of the convention was replaced by the feelings of peace which accompanied prayer.
Then came the knock at the door and the privilege which was mine to meet a choice family. The 10-year-old daughter walked with the aid of crutches. Cancer had required the amputation of her left leg; however, her countenance was radiant, her trust in God unwavering. A blessing was provided. Mother and son knelt by the side of the bed while the father and I placed our hands on the tiny daughter. We were directed by the Spirit of God. We were humbled by its power.
I felt the tears course down my cheeks and tumble upon my hands as they rested on the head of that beautiful child of God. I spoke of eternal ordinances and family exaltation. The Lord prompted me to urge this family to enter the holy temple of God. At the conclusion of the blessing, I learned that such a temple visit was planned. Questions pertaining to the temple were asked. I heard no heavenly voice, nor did I see a vision. Yet there came clearly into my mind the words, “Refer to the New Era.” I looked toward the dresser, and there were the two extra copies of the temple issue of the New Era. One copy was given to the daughter and the other to her parents. We reviewed them together.
The family said farewell, and once again the room was still. A prayer of gratitude came easily and, once more, the resolve to ever provide a place for prayer.
My dear sisters, do not pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, but you will be the miracle.
Pray earnestly.
Finally, serve willingly. You are a mighty force for good, one of the most powerful in the entire world. Your influence ranges far beyond yourself and your home and touches others all around the globe. You have reached out to your brothers and sisters across streets, across cities, across nations, across continents, across oceans. You personify the Relief Society motto: “Charity never faileth.”
You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service. No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve?
Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call. If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good. Sometimes, of course, more is needed.
I learned recently of loving service given to a mother when her children were very young. Frequently she would be up in the middle of the night tending to the needs of her little ones, as mothers do. Often her friend and neighbor across the street would come over the next day and say, “I saw your lights on in the middle of the night and know you were up with the children. I’m going to take them to my house for a couple of hours while you take a nap.” Said this grateful mother: “I was so thankful for her welcome offer, it wasn’t until this had happened many times that I realized if she had seen my lights on in the middle of the night, she was up with one of her children as well and needed a nap just as much as I did. She taught me a great lesson, and I’ve since tried to be as observant as she was in looking for opportunities to serve others.”
Countless are the acts of service provided by the vast army of Relief Society visiting teachers. A few years ago I heard of two of them who aided a grieving widow, Angela, the granddaughter of a cousin of mine. Angela’s husband and a friend of his had gone snowmobiling and had become victims of suffocation through a snowslide. Each of them left a pregnant wife—in Angela’s case, their first child, and in the other case, a wife not only expecting a child but also the mother of a toddler. In the funeral held for Angela’s husband, the bishop reported that upon hearing of the tragic accident, he had gone immediately to Angela’s home. Almost as soon as he arrived, the doorbell sounded. The door was opened, and there stood Angela’s two visiting teachers. The bishop said he watched as they so sincerely expressed to Angela their love and compassion. The three women cried together, and it was apparent that these two fine visiting teachers cared deeply about Angela. As perhaps only women can, they gently indicated—without being asked—exactly what help they would be providing. That they would be close by as long as Angela needed them was obvious. The bishop expressed his deep gratitude in knowing they would be a real source of comfort to her in the days ahead.
Such acts of love and compassion are repeated again and again by the wonderful visiting teachers of this Church—not always in such dramatic situations but just as genuinely, nevertheless.
I extol you who, with loving care and compassionate concern, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. He who notes the sparrow’s fall will not be unmindful of such service. The desire to lift, the willingness to help, and the graciousness to give come from a heart filled with love. Serve willingly.
Our beloved prophet, even President Gordon B. Hinckley, said of you, “God planted within women something divine that expresses itself in quiet strength, in refinement, in peace, in goodness, in virtue, in truth, in love.”10
My dear sisters, may our Heavenly Father bless each of you, married or single, in your homes, in your families, in your very lives—that you may merit the glorious salutation of the Savior of the World: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”11 I pray, as I bless you and also the dear wife of James E. Faust, his beloved Ruth, who is here tonight on the front row, and their family, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
NOTES1. See “Nobody Knows What a Boy Is Worth,” in Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, ed. Jack M. Lyon and others (1996), 19.2. “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand That Rules the World,” in The World’s Best-Loved Poems, comp. James Gilchrist Lawson (1955), 242.3. The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, ed. Clyde J. Williams (1984), 143.4. D&C 88:118.5. John 5:39.6. American Academy of Pediatrics, “Television and the Family,” 1, http://www.aap.org/family/tv1.htm7. 2 Nephi 9:28–29.8. “The Charted Course of the Church in Education” (address delivered at the Summer Institute of Seminary, Institute, and Church School Teachers at Aspen Grove, Aug. 8, 1938), in James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 6:52.9. D&C 19:38.10. Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 387.11. Matthew 25:21.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Week 37: Reservoir of Living Water

I chose this talk today because it was one that helped inspire me to continue studying and reading the scriptures for myself as well as with my children. When my children where younger I wanted to start reading together but felt the visions of my past family scripture reading experiences come back as nightmarish! I didn't want to hear the whining, the crying, and the "I'm so tired's". The reason I didn't want to hear those things was because of my own personal love of the scriptures.

I noticed that it hurt to hear those things because I relied so much on the scriptures for my strength and inspiration. It wasn't until just now while writing this that I realized that I have not heard the things that I thought I would from my family. In fact at times when we have gotten too busy it has been my children who have requested scripture study! Maybe a reason for that was, because of my great love of the scriptures, they too felt a love and a desire to study without complaint.

I love the way it feels in our home and in my life when I am consistently reading the scriptures. I feel strengthened and inspired by the Spirit. I feel closer to my Father in Heaven and Savior Jesus Christ because I get to read little love notes in the scriptures meant just for me and delivered right when I need them. I know that the scriptures are truly Living water and will so quench our spiritual thirst to the amount we drink it up. If you have not already made scripture reading or studying a regular part of your spiritual diet I challenge you to start today with at least 10 minutes daily for a month. Be gentle on yourself and enjoy the blessings that come from trying your best.

I love you all and hope the best for you this week!

MP3 Link

A Reservoir of Living Water
Elder David A. Bednar
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
CES Fireside for Young Adults • February 4, 2007 • Brigham Young University

Sister Bednar and I are grateful to meet with you tonight. As we travel the earth, we especially appreciate opportunities to gather with and learn from faithful young people like you. Tonight I pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost as we worship together and seek in unity to be taught from on high (see D&C 43:16).
I want to begin by asking a simple question. What is the most valuable substance or commodity in the world? We might initially think that gold, oil, or diamonds have the greatest worth. But of all the minerals, metals, gems, and solvents found on and in the earth, the most valuable is water.
Life springs from water. Life is sustained by water. Water is the medium required to perform the various functions associated with all known forms of life. Our physical bodies are approximately two-thirds water. Whereas a person can survive for many days or even weeks without food, an individual will usually die in only three or four days without water. Most of the world’s great centers of population are situated near sources of fresh water. Simply stated, life could not exist without the availability of and access to adequate supplies of clean water.
Living Water
Given the vital role of water in sustaining all forms of life, the Savior’s use of the term “living water” is supernally significant. As described in the fourth chapter of John, Jesus and His disciples passed through Samaria as they were traveling from Judea to Galilee. In the city of Sychar they stopped at Jacob’s well.
“There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.
“(For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)
“Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
“Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
“The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? . . .
“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:7–11, 13–14).
The living water referred to in this episode is a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel. And as water is necessary to sustain physical life, so the Savior and His doctrines, principles, and ordinances are essential for eternal life. You and I need His living water daily and in ample supply to sustain our ongoing spiritual growth and development.
The Scriptures Are a Reservoir of Living Water
The scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long. You and I must look to and come unto Christ, who is “the fountain of living waters” (1 Nephi 11:25; compare Ether 8:26; 12:28), by reading (see Mosiah 1:5), studying (see D&C 26:1), searching (see John 5:39; Alma 17:2), and feasting (see 2 Nephi 32:3) upon the words of Christ as contained in the holy scriptures. By so doing, we can receive both spiritual direction and protection during our mortal journey.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a sacred stewardship to preserve the written revelations in purity and in safety (see D&C 42:56)—this precious reservoir of living water. A monumental work was accomplished by the Church in the 1970s and 1980s and resulted in the edition of the scriptures we enjoy today with extensive footnotes, cross-references, and additional study aids, maps, and information.
As the updated scriptures were first introduced to the members of the Church in the early 1980s, Elder Boyd K. Packer prophesied:
“With the passing of years, these scriptures will produce successive generations of faithful Christians who know the Lord Jesus Christ and are disposed to obey His will.
“The older generation has been raised without them, but there is another generation growing up” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53).
Twenty-four years have passed since Elder Packer spoke those words. And the generation to which he was referring is seated tonight in Church buildings all across the globe! He was talking about you, and he was talking about me. The vast majority of you have only known the scriptures as we have them today. Please keep that fact in mind as I continue to quote Elder Packer:
“The revelations will be opened to them as to no other in the history of the world. Into their hands now are placed the sticks of Joseph and of Judah. They will develop a gospel scholarship beyond that which their forebears could achieve. They will have the testimony that Jesus is the Christ and be competent to proclaim Him and to defend Him” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1982, 75; or Ensign, Nov. 1982, 53).
Not only are we blessed to have these scriptures so readily available to us today, but we also have the responsibility to use them consistently and effectively and to drink deeply from the reservoir of living water. I believe this generation of youth is more immersed in the scriptures, more deeply acquainted with the words of the prophets, and more prone to turn to the revelations for answers than any previous generation. But we still have a great distance to travel along the strait and narrow path—more to learn, more to apply, and more to experience.
Obtaining Living Water from the Scriptural Reservoir
I now want to review with you three basic ways or methods of obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir: (1) reading the scriptures from beginning to end, (2) studying the scriptures by topic, and (3) searching the scriptures for connections, patterns, and themes. Each of these approaches can help satisfy our spiritual thirst if we invite the companionship and assistance of the Holy Ghost as we read, study, and search.
Reading a book of scripture from beginning to end initiates the flow of living water into our lives by introducing us to important stories, gospel doctrines, and timeless principles. This approach also enables us to learn about major characters in the scriptures and the sequence, timing, and context of events and teachings. Reading the written word in this way exposes us to the breadth of a volume of scripture. This is the first and most fundamental way of obtaining living water.
Studying by topic typically follows, grows out of, and builds upon our reading of the scriptures from beginning to end. For example, as we read the Book of Mormon we may identify and seek to find answers to important doctrinal and practical questions such as these:
• What is faith in the Savior?
• Why is faith in Jesus Christ the first principle of the gospel?
• Why and how does faith in the Redeemer lead to repentance?
• How does the Atonement strengthen me to do things in my daily life that I could never do with my own limited capacity and in my own strength?
Focusing upon such questions and studying by topic, using the Topical Guide and index to the triple combination, allow us to dig into and explore the depth of the scriptures and obtain a much richer spiritual knowledge. This approach increases the rate at which living water flows into our lives.
Both reading from beginning to end and studying by topic are prerequisites to the third basic method of obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir. Whereas reading a book of scripture from beginning to end provides a basic breadth of knowledge, studying by topic increases the depth of our knowledge. Searching in the revelations for connections, patterns, and themes builds upon and adds to our spiritual knowledge by bringing together and expanding these first two methods; it broadens our perspective and understanding of the plan of salvation.
In my judgment, diligently searching to discover connections, patterns, and themes is in part what it means to “feast” upon the words of Christ. This approach can open the floodgates of the spiritual reservoir, enlighten our understanding through His Spirit, and produce a depth of gratitude for the holy scriptures and a degree of spiritual commitment that can be received in no other way. Such searching enables us to build upon the rock of our Redeemer and to withstand the winds of wickedness in these latter days.
I want to emphasize an essential point. You might initially assume that a person must have extensive formal education to use the methods I am describing. This assumption simply is not correct. Any honest seeker of truth, regardless of educational background, can successfully employ these simple approaches. You and I do not need sophisticated study aids and should not rely extensively upon the spiritual knowledge of others. We simply need to have a sincere desire to learn, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the holy scriptures, and an active and inquiring mind.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that we should “search the Scriptures—search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory, nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God” (History of the Church, 1:282).
If you and I will ask, seek, and knock (see Matthew 7:7), always keeping ourselves worthy to learn from the Spirit, then the gates of the spiritual reservoir will open to us and the living water will flow. I witness, I testify, and I promise that this is true.
Let me briefly explain and provide examples of what I mean by connections, patterns, and themes.
A connection is a relationship or link between ideas, people, things, or events, and the scriptures are full of connections. Consider the relationship between the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (see Mosiah 15:1–9); between mercy and grace (see 2 Nephi 9:8); between clean hands and a pure heart (see Psalm 24:4); between a broken heart and a contrite spirit (see 3 Nephi 9:20); between the wheat and the tares (see D&C 101:65); between knowledge and intelligence (see D&C 130:18–19); between justification and sanctification (see D&C 20:30–31); between sheep and goats (see Matthew 25:32–33); between immortality and eternal life (see Moses 1:39); and countless others. Prayerfully identifying, learning about, and pondering such connections—the similarities and differences, for example—is a primary source of living water and yields inspired insights and treasures of hidden knowledge.
As I have read each of the standard works from beginning to end and studied different topics, I noticed that the word understanding was commonly described in relation to the heart. Two verses in the Book of Mormon illustrate this connection:
“Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise” (Mosiah 12:27; italics added).
“And the multitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed” (3 Nephi 19:33; italics added).
I find it most interesting in these and many other verses that understanding is linked primarily to the heart. Note that we are not explicitly counseled to apply our minds to understanding. Obviously, we must use our minds and our rational capacity to obtain and evaluate information and to reach appropriate conclusions and judgments. But perhaps the scriptures are suggesting to us that reason and “the arm of the flesh” (D&C 1:19) are not sufficient to produce true understanding. Thus, understanding, as the word is used in the scriptures, does not refer solely or even primarily to intellectual or cognitive comprehension. Rather, understanding occurs when what we know in our minds is confirmed as true in our hearts by the witness of the Holy Ghost.
The spiritual gift of revelation most typically operates as thoughts and feelings put into our minds and hearts by the Holy Ghost (see D&C 8:2–3; 100:5–8). And as testimony and conviction move from our heads to our hearts, we no longer just have information or knowledge—but we begin to understand and seek after the mighty change of heart. Understanding, then, is the result of revelation; it is a spiritual gift, it is a prerequisite to conversion, and it entices us to more consistently live in accordance with the principles we are learning.
This revealed insight about the relationship between the heart and understanding has greatly influenced my approach to gospel learning and study, has affected positively the way Sister Bednar and I teach our children and grandchildren, and has impacted my priesthood service.
A pattern is a plan, model, or standard that can be used as a guide for repetitively doing or making something. And the scriptures are full of spiritual patterns. Typically, a scriptural pattern is broader and more comprehensive than a connection. In the Doctrine and Covenants we find patterns for preaching the gospel (see D&C 50:13–29), for avoiding deception (see D&C 52:14, 18–19), for constructing temples (see D&C 115:14–16), for establishing cities (see D&C 94), for organizing priesthood quorums (see D&C 107:85–100) and high councils (see D&C 102:12), and for a variety of other purposes. Identifying and studying scriptural patterns is another important source of living water and helps us become acquainted and more familiar with the wisdom and the mind of the Lord (see D&C 95:13).
As I have both read from beginning to end and studied topics in the Doctrine and Covenants, I have been impressed with a pattern that is evident in many of the Lord’s responses to the questions of missionaries. On a number of occasions in 1831, various groups of elders who had been called to preach the gospel desired to know how they should proceed and by what route and manner they should travel. In revelations given through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord respectively counseled these brethren that they could travel on water or by land (see D&C 61:22), that they could make or purchase the needed vehicles (see D&C 60:5), that they could travel all together or go two by two (see D&C 62:5), and that they could appropriately travel in a number of different directions (see D&C 80:3). The revelations specifically instructed the brethren to make these decisions “as seemeth you good” (D&C 60:5; 62:5) or “as it is made known unto them according to their judgments” (D&C 61:22). And in each of these instances the Savior declared, “It mattereth not unto me” (D&C 60:5; 61:22; 62:5; 63:40; see also 80:3).
The Lord’s statement that such things “mattereth not unto me” initially may seem surprising. Clearly, the Savior was not saying to these missionaries that He did not care about what they were doing. Rather, He was emphasizing the importance of putting first things first and focusing upon the right things—which, in these instances, were getting to the assigned field of labor and initiating the work. They were to exercise faith, use good judgment, act in accordance with the direction of the Spirit, and determine the best way to travel to their assignments. The essential thing was the work they had been called to perform; how they got there was important but was not essential.
What a remarkable pattern for you and for me to apply in our lives. Jesus Christ knows and loves us individually. He is concerned about our spiritual development and progress, and He encourages us to grow through the exercise of inspired, righteous, and wise judgment. The Redeemer will never leave us alone. We should always pray for guidance and direction. We should always seek for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. But we should not be dismayed or discouraged if answers to our petitions for direction or help do not necessarily come quickly. Such answers rarely come all at once. Our progress would be hindered and our judgment would be weak if every answer was given to us immediately and without requiring the price of faith, work, study, and persistence.
The pattern I am describing is illustrated succinctly in the following instruction to those early missionaries:
“I, the Lord, am willing, if any among you desire, to ride upon horses, or upon mules, or in chariots, he shall receive this blessing, if he receive it from the hand of the Lord, with a thankful heart in all things.
“These things remain with you to do according to judgment and the directions of the Spirit.
“Behold, the kingdom is yours. And behold, and lo, I am with the faithful always. Even so. Amen” (D&C 62:7–9; italics added).
The principal issues in this episode are not horses, mules, or chariots; rather, they are gratitude, judgment, and faithfulness. Please note the basic elements in this pattern: (1) a thankful heart in all things; (2) act according to judgment and the directions of the Spirit; and (3) the Savior is with the faithful always. Can we begin to sense the direction and assurance, the renewal and strength that can come from following this simple pattern for inspired and righteous judgment? Truly, scriptural patterns are a precious source of living water.
The most demanding judgments we ever make are seldom between good or bad or between attractive and unattractive alternatives. Usually, our toughest choices are between good and good. In this scriptural episode, horses, mules, and chariots may have been equally effective options for missionary travel. In a similar way, you and I also might identify at various times in our lives more than one acceptable opportunity or option that we could choose to pursue. We should remember this pattern from the scriptures as we approach such important decisions. If we put essential things first in our lives—things such as dedicated discipleship, honoring covenants, and keeping the commandments—then we will be blessed with inspiration and strong judgment as we pursue the path that leads us back to our heavenly home. If we put essential things first, we “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3).
Themes are overarching, recurring, and unifying qualities or ideas, like essential threads woven throughout a text. Generally, scriptural themes are broader and more comprehensive than patterns or connections. In fact, themes provide the background and context for understanding connections and patterns. The process of searching for and identifying scriptural themes leads us to the fundamental doctrines and principles of salvation—to the eternal truths that invite the confirming witness of the Holy Ghost (see 1 John 5:6). This approach to obtaining living water from the scriptural reservoir is the most demanding and rigorous; it also yields the greatest edification and spiritual refreshment. And the scriptures are replete with powerful themes.
For example, the Book of Mormon came forth in this dispensation to “the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon title page). The central and recurring theme of the Book of Mormon is the invitation for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” (Moroni 10:32). The teachings, warnings, admonitions, and episodes in this remarkable book of scripture all focus upon and testify of Jesus the Christ as the Redeemer and our Savior.
Let me provide a few additional examples of important themes using scriptures from the Book of Mormon:
“If . . . the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them” (1 Nephi 17:3).
“Press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20).
“Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).
“In the strength of the Lord thou canst do all things” (Alma 20:4).
“Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10).
If you promise not to laugh, I will tell you about one of the simple ways I search for scriptural themes. I do not advocate or recommend that you use the same approach; different people use different methods with equal effectiveness. I am simply describing a process that works well for me.
In preparation for a recent speaking assignment, I was impressed to talk about the spirit and purposes of gathering. I had been studying and pondering Elder Russell M. Nelson’s recent conference message on the principle of gathering (see Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 2006, 83–87; or Ensign, Nov. 2006, 79–82), and the topic was perfectly suited to the nature of and setting for my assignment (see The Spirit and Purposes of Gathering [address delivered at a BYU–Idaho devotional, Oct. 31, 2006]).
I recognized that I had much to learn from the scriptures about gathering. So I identified and made copies of every scripture in the standard works that included any form of the word gather. I next read each scripture, looking for connections, patterns, and themes. It is important to note that I did not start my reading with a preconceived set of things for which I was looking. I prayed for the assistance of the Holy Ghost and simply started reading.
As I reviewed the scriptures about gathering, I marked verses with similar phrases or points of emphasis, using a colored pencil. By the time I had read all of the scriptures, some of the verses were marked in red, some were marked in green, and some were marked in other colors.
Now, here comes the part that may make you laugh. I next used my scissors to cut out the scriptures I had copied and sorted them into piles by color. The process produced a large pile of scriptures marked with red, a large pile of scriptures marked with green, and so forth. I then sorted the scriptures within each large pile into smaller piles. As a first grader I must have really liked cutting with scissors and putting things into piles!
The results of this process taught me a great deal about the principle of gathering. For example, I learned from examining my large piles that the scriptures describe at least three key aspects of gathering: the purposes of gathering, the types and places of gathering, and the blessings of gathering.
I noted that some of the primary purposes of gathering are to worship (see Mosiah 18:25), to receive counsel and instruction (see Mosiah 18:7), to build up the Church (see D&C 101:63–64), and to provide defense and protection (see D&C 115:6). In studying about the types and places of gathering, I discovered that we are gathered into eternal families (see Mosiah 2:5), into the restored Church (see D&C 101:64–65), into stakes of Zion (see D&C 109:59), into holy temples (see Alma 26:5–6), and into two great centers: old Jerusalem (see Ether 13:11) and the city of Zion or New Jerusalem (see D&C 42:9; Articles of Faith 1:10). I was grateful to learn that edification (see Ephesians 4:12–13), preservation (see Moses 7:61), and strength (see D&C 82:14) are some of the blessings of gathering.
Through this process I gained an even deeper appreciation for the spirit of gathering as an integral part of the restoration of all things in the dispensation of the fulness of times. I will not take the time now to recount the other things I learned about gathering; my purpose here is to briefly illustrate one way of searching for scriptural themes.
The Blessings We Can Receive
The blessings of knowledge, understanding, revelation, and spiritual exhilaration that we can receive as we read, study, and search the scriptures are marvelous. “Feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20) is edifying, exciting, and enjoyable. The word is good, “for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28). “Behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them” (3 Nephi 20:11), and they “shall be in [you] a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
In my personal reading, studying, and searching over a period of years, I have focused many times upon the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. No event, knowledge, or influence has had a greater impact upon me during my 54 years of mortality than repeatedly reading about, studying in depth, and searching for connections, patterns, and themes related to the doctrine of the Atonement. This central, saving doctrine, over time, gradually has distilled upon my soul as the dews from heaven; has influenced my thoughts, words, and deeds (see Mosiah 4:30); and literally has become for me a well of living water.
Lehi’s Vision
The importance of reading, studying, and searching the scriptures is highlighted in several elements of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.
Father Lehi saw several groups of people pressing forward along the strait and narrow path, seeking to obtain the tree and its fruit. The members of each group had entered onto the path through the gate of repentance and baptism by water and had received the gift of the Holy Ghost (see 2 Nephi 31:17–20). The tree of life is the central feature in the dream and is identified in 1 Nephi 11 as a representation of Jesus Christ. The fruit on the tree is a symbol for the blessings of the Savior’s Atonement. Interestingly, the major theme of the Book of Mormon, inviting all to come unto Christ, is central in Lehi’s vision. Of particular interest is the rod of iron that led to the tree (see 1 Nephi 8:19). The rod of iron is the word of God.
In 1 Nephi 8, verses 21 through 23, we learn about a group of people who pressed forward and commenced in the path that led to the tree of life. However, as the people encountered the mist of darkness, which represents the temptations of the devil (see 1 Nephi 12:17), they lost their way, they wandered off, and they were lost.
It is important to note that no mention is made about the rod of iron in these verses. Those who ignore or treat lightly the word of God do not have access to that divine compass which points the way to the Savior. Consider that this group obtained the path and pressed forward, exhibiting a measure of faith in Christ and spiritual conviction, but they were diverted by the temptations of the devil and were lost.
In verses 24 through 28 of chapter 8 we read about a second group of people who obtained the strait and narrow path that led to the tree of life. This group pressed forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. However, as this second group of people was mocked by the occupants of the great and spacious building, they were ashamed and fell away into forbidden paths and were lost. Please notice that this group is described as clinging to the rod of iron.
It is significant that the second group pressed forward with faith and commitment. They also had the added blessing of the rod of iron, and they were clinging to it! However, as they were confronted with persecution and adversity, they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost. Even with faith, commitment, and the word of God, this group was lost—perhaps because they only periodically read or studied or searched the scriptures. Clinging to the rod of iron suggests to me only occasional “bursts” of study or irregular dipping rather than consistent, ongoing immersion in the word of God.
In verse 30 we read about a third group of people who pressed forward continually holding fast to the rod of iron until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree. The key phrase in this verse is “continually holding fast” to the rod of iron.
The third group also pressed forward with faith and conviction; however, there is no indication that they wandered off, fell into forbidden paths, or were lost. Perhaps this third group of people consistently read and studied and searched the words of Christ. Perhaps it was the constant flow of living water that saved the third group from perishing. This is the group you and I should strive to join.
“What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?
“And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:23–24; italics added).
What, then, is the difference between clinging and holding fast to the rod of iron? Let me suggest that holding fast to the iron rod entails the prayerful and consistent use of all three of the ways of obtaining living water that we have discussed tonight.
“And it came to pass that I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life” (1 Nephi 11:25).
Each of these approaches—reading from beginning to end, studying by topic, and searching for connections, patterns, and themes—is edifying, is instructive, and provides an intermittent portion of the Savior’s living water. I believe, however, that the regular use of all three methods produces a more constant flow of living water and is in large measure what it means to hold fast to the rod of iron.
Through normal activity each day, you and I lose a substantial amount of the water that constitutes so much of our physical bodies. Thirst is a demand by the cells of the body for water, and the water in our bodies must be replenished daily. It frankly does not make sense to occasionally “fill up” with water, with long periods of dehydration in between. The same thing is true spiritually. Spiritual thirst is a need for living water. A constant flow of living water is far superior to sporadic sipping.
Are you and I daily reading, studying, and searching the scriptures in a way that enables us to hold fast to the rod of iron—or are you and I merely clinging? Are you and I pressing forward toward the fountain of living waters—relying upon the word of God? These are important questions for each of us to ponder prayerfully.
As we conclude tonight, we will sing together the hymn “The Iron Rod.” Indeed, this song of the righteous will be a fervent and poignant prayer (see D&C 25:12). May we have ears to hear the lessons this hymn teaches.
I witness of Jesus Christ and of the power of His word and of Him as the Word. He is the Son of the Eternal Father, and I know that He lives. I testify that holding fast to the rod of iron will lead to His living water. As His servant, I invoke this blessing upon you: that your desire and capacity to hold fast to the rod of iron will be enlarged, that your faith in the Savior will increase and replace your fears, and that as you drink deeply from the scriptural reservoir you will come to know Him. May we ever remember that
When temptation’s power is nigh,Our pathway clouded o’er,Upon the rod we can rely,And heaven’s aid implore.(Hymns, no. 274)
In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Week 36: Finding Joy In Life

Dear Friends,
As I pondered and searched for a message to share, I read Elder Scott's "Finding Joy in Life." I am at this moment going through a stretching time, grateful to know that our Heavenly Father will never test us beyond our ability to bear. I am grateful, as I am once again inspired by Elder Scott's powerful message, for the power of prophets and apostles and that their messages to us are ever new. I love his reminders that our Heavenly Father and the Savior have power to crown our lives with peace and joy and that as we come to them, our challenges can become sweet and do sanctify us. His message that our Father's intent is that each of us might have joy and his counsel for how each of us can access those blessings are wonderful encouragement for me. Our progress is accelerated when we willingly allow him to lead us through every growth experience we encounter.
A joyful week to each of you,
No Audio
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Ensign, May 1996, 24

Recently I stood on the north shore of a beautiful Pacific island gazing out to sea at daybreak. I was fascinated by the regularity with which the gigantic waves consistently moved forward to break on the shoreline. It reminded me of the constancy of the plan of the Lord, with its fixed, eternal law, and the security of enduring justice and the tenderness of mercy when earned by obedience. I noticed that each wave would crest at a different point on the horizon to find its unique path to shore. Some cascaded over rocks, leaving rivulets of foaming, white water. Others burst on the shore in individual patterns. They slid up the moistened sand with playful frothy edges, then bubbled and swirled as they receded.
I thought of the unending variety of possibilities the Lord has provided for us. We have so much freedom, so many opportunities to develop our unique personalities and talents, our individual memories, our personalized contributions. Since there would be no further opportunity to observe the majestic sea, I tried to imagine the glorious panorama the brilliant sun would later create. As I watched this magnificent scene in reverence, a window formed in the clouds; the glistening rays of the rising sun broke through the overcast sky, transforming everything with its luminescence, its color, its life. It was as if the Lord wanted to share an additional blessing, a symbol of the light of His teachings that gives brilliance and hope to everyone it touches. Tears of gratitude formed for this wondrous world in which we live, for the extraordinary beauty our Heavenly Father so freely shares with all who are willing to see. Truly, life is beautiful.
Do you take time to discover each day how beautiful your life can be? How long has it been since you watched the sun set? The departing rays kissing the clouds, trees, hills, and lowlands good night, sometimes tranquilly, sometimes with exuberant bursts of color and form. What of the wonder of a cloudless night when the Lord unveils the marvels of His heavens—the twinkling stars, the moonlight rays—to ignite our imagination with His greatness and glory? How captivating to watch a seed planted in fertile soil germinate, gather strength, and send forth a tiny, seemingly insignificant sprout. Patiently it begins to grow and develop its own character led by the genetic code the Lord has provided to guide its development. With care it surely will become what it is destined to be: a lily, crowned with grace and beauty; a fragrant spearmint plant; a peach; an avocado; or a beautiful blossom with unique delicacy, hue, and fragrance. When last did you observe a tiny rosebud form? Each day it develops new and impressive character, more promise of beauty until it becomes a majestic rose. You are one of the noblest of God’s creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be.
Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, “Men are, that they might have joy.” 1 That is a conditional statement: “they might have joy.” It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.
Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy. Pondering their doctrine will let you enjoy the beauties of this earth and enrich your relationships with others. It will lead you to the comforting, strengthening experiences that flow from prayer to Father in Heaven and the answers He gives in return.
A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle. Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective. Likewise, problems or trials in our lives need to be viewed in the perspective of scriptural doctrine. Otherwise they can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth. Some people are like rocks thrown into a sea of problems. They are drowned by them. Be a cork. When submerged in a problem, fight to be free to bob up to serve again with happiness.
You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. 2 The tempering effect of patience is required. 3 Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you. 4
Your agency, the right to make choices, is not given so that you can get what you want. This divine gift is provided so that you will choose what your Father in Heaven wants for you. That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be. 5 That path leads to glorious joy and happiness.
Learn from inspiring individuals who have made peace with their challenges and live with joy amid adversity. A lovely woman with an aggressive terminal disease consistently found joy in life. She understood the plan of happiness, had received the temple ordinances, and was doing her best to qualify for the promised blessings. Her personal journal records: “It is a beautiful fall day. I picked up the mail and sat down on the swing. I was so happy and content in the warm sun, the sweet smell of nature and the trees around me. I just sat and gloried in the fact that I am still alive on this beautiful earth. … The Lord is so good to me. How I thank him that I am still here and feeling so good. I am soooooo happy I just want to shout and dance through this beautiful house as the sun streams into the big windows. I love being alive.”
A valiant mother courageously fighting a debilitating illness spent untold hours laboriously completing a large, challenging needlepoint work of art. It was a gift to a couple experiencing trials. For the couple it is a priceless treasure, a constant reminder of the precious fruits of resolute effort in the face of adversity, an enduring message of hope bound in the bonds of pure love and willing sacrifice.
Children teach us how to find joy even under the most challenging circumstances. Children haven’t yet learned to be depressed by concentrating on the things they don’t have. They find joy in what is available to them. I remember a small boy playing along a riverbank. He had tied a piece of fishing line to the ends of two discarded soft-drink cans. He threw one can over a limb, then filled it with water. He would pull on the other can, then let it go. The weight of the first can would draw the second one up as it fell. He laughed and danced with glee.
Simple, rejuvenating experiences surround us. They can be safety valves to keep the tension down and the spirit up. Don’t concentrate on what you don’t have or have lost. The Lord promised the obedient to share all that He possesses with them. You may temporarily lack here, but in the next life, if you prove yourself worthy by living valiantly, a fulness will be your blessing.
Find the compensatory blessings in your life when, in the wisdom of the Lord, He deprives you of something you very much want. To the sightless or hearing impaired, He sharpens the other senses. To the ill, He gives patience, understanding, and increased appreciation for others’ kindness. With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him. 6
To the afflicted people of Alma, the Lord said: “I will also ease the burdens … that even you cannot feel them upon your backs … ; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
“And … the burdens … were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:13–15).
Attempt to be creative for the joy it brings. After their noble husbands were called home, Sisters Camilla Kimball, Amelia McConkie, and Helen Richards learned to paint. They not only leave legacies of art, but they will never see a sunset, a face, or a tree the same again. They now perceive subtle nuances of color and form and rejoice in the abounding beauty around them.
Select something like music, dance, sculpture, or poetry. Being creative will help you enjoy life. It engenders a spirit of gratitude. It develops latent talent, sharpens your capacity to reason, to act, and to find purpose in life. It dispels loneliness and heartache. It gives a renewal, a spark of enthusiasm, and zest for life.
Willing service to others is a key to enduring happiness. President Kimball said: “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another mortal that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.” 7
I know of a woman who was joyously happy. Each morning she would ask her Father in Heaven to lead her to someone she could help. That sincere prayer was answered time and again. The burdens of many were eased and their lives brightened. She was blessed continually for being an instrument directed by the Lord.
I know that every difficulty we face in life, even those that come from our own negligence or even transgression, can be turned by the Lord into growth experiences, a virtual ladder upward. 8 I certainly do not recommend transgression as a path to growth. It is painful, difficult, and so totally unnecessary. It is far wiser and so much easier to move forward in righteousness. But through proper repentance, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and obedience to His commandments, even the disappointment that comes from transgression can be converted into a return to happiness.
Make a list of things you can do for happiness, such as:
• Ponder the scriptures to understand the plan of happiness.
• Pray with faith in Jesus Christ.
• Love and serve others.
• Receive the temple ordinances. Return to bless others.
• Listen to the prophet and obey his counsel.
• Be grateful for what you have.
• Smile more.
Your list will provide keys to contentment and joy.
A famous Brazilian song repeats a falsehood many believe: Sadness never ends, but happiness does. I witness that with faith in the Savior and obedience to His teachings, happiness never ends, but sadness does.
No matter how difficult something you or a loved one faces, it should not take over your life and be the center of all your interest. Challenges are growth experiences, temporary scenes to be played out on the background of a pleasant life. Don’t become so absorbed in a single event that you can’t think of anything else or care for yourself or for those who depend upon you. Remember, much like the mending of the body, the healing of some spiritual and emotional challenges takes time.
The Lord has said, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” 9 As you are patient, you will come to understand what the statement “I am with thee” means. God’s love brings peace and joy.
Your faith in Jesus Christ gives life enduring meaning. Remember you are on a journey to exaltation. Sometimes you have experiences that yield more happiness than others, but it all has purpose with the Lord. 10
As a witness of the Savior, I exhort you to forgive any you feel may have offended you. If there is transgression, repent of it, that the Master may heal you.
Thank your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son for the plan of happiness and the gospel principles upon which it is based. Be grateful for the ordinances and the covenants they have provided. I solemnly testify they have power to crown your life with peace and joy, to give it purpose and meaning. You will learn that sadness and disappointment are temporary. Happiness is everlastingly eternal because of Jesus Christ. I solemnly witness that He lives, that He loves you, and that He will help you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1. 2 Ne. 2:25.

2. See Abr. 3:25.

3. See Mosiah 3:19.

4. See 1 Ne. 3:7.

5. See D&C 58:26–32.

6. See Orson F. Whitney quotation in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 98.

7. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 252.

8. See Isa. 40:31.

9. D&C 24:8.

10. See Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 177.