Spiritual Capacity – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying Spiritual Capacityby Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1997 general conference.

(As I read this today, I realized that the October 1997 General Conference was my first General Conference on my own. I was living in Utah for college. I actually had gone down to Provo to visit a few friends. Don’t remember much about the conference – I think that I was probably doing more socializing than listening!)

Even though I don’t really remember this specific talk, I did like reading it now! I love the subject – spiritual capacity. I haven’t really thought of it before, and I found it intriguing. President Nelson shared the following:

“A verse of scripture opens a door of opportunity for each of us: “There is a spirit in man,” said Job, “and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” – Russell M. Nelson

All of us have a spirit, and we are all children of God; therefore, all have spiritual capacity. President Nelson continued:

“To take advantage of such an opportunity, we need more than a verbal incentive. We need an example—someone to show us how spiritual capacity can be developed. I have selected as a model for my message President Gordon B. Hinckley.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love President Hinckley. In my earliest memories of General Conference, President Hinckley has been a part of the First Presidency.

When I was in High School, President Hunter passed away, and President Hinckley became the next president and  prophet, seer, and revelator of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though I never knew him personally, he greatly impacted my own testimony and growth.

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“Unshakable faith, hard work, and contagious optimism epitomize our prophet.” – Russell M. Nelson about Gordon B. Hinckley

I agree with President Nelson that President Hinckley is an example of the potential we have when we develop our spiritual capacities.

Goodly Parents

President Hinckley had good parents who loved him, loved God, and taught him to also love God. President Nelson shared:

“Both his parents and he understood the importance of education and a mission. After his graduation from the university, he faced a major decision in 1933, when he was called to go on a mission. At that time, most young men in the Church were not able to serve because of a global economic depression that deprived nearly everyone of available cash. Earlier, his wonderful mother, with foresight and faith, had established a small savings account for his mission. Though she died before his call, her fund sent him on his way.

Shortly after Elder Hinckley’s labors began in England, he became discouraged and wrote to his father. After reading that letter, his father’s wise reply closed with these words: “Forget yourself and go to work.” Thanks to noble parents and a crucial decision to remain, Elder Hinckley completed his mission with honor. Now he often states that the good things that have happened to him since have all hinged upon that decision to stay.” – Russell M. Nelson

As I write this blog, my younger children are playing games, my oldest daughter is baking cookies, and my second daughter is watching golf with my husband. I’m surrounded by joy and love. I have been so fortunate to be blessed with my family.

And I’m so inspired by the example given by President Hinckley’s mother. She passed away before President Hinckley would need the missionary money. Yet she faithfully collected this money for him to serve a mission. Do I have that kind of faith and obedience?

The spiritual capacity of President Hinckley was greatly amplified by the faithfulness and spiritual capacities of his parents. I have the same duty for my children. What am I doing to help nurture their spiritual capacities?

Now – I want to say, I don’t think that we all need to save money for our sons for their missions. What President Hinckley’s mother did that is so remarkable is that she followed the spiritual impression she had to save money.

This is what I can do for my children. I can stay close to the Spirit and follow it when it teaches me what I should do. Often these promptings will come at a sacrifice to me. And sometimes, I won’t even see the fruit of such sacrifice. But I still need to obey.

Hobbies

I absolutely love what President Nelson stated (confirmation bias!):

“Hobbies can aid in spiritual development. Worthy music, dance, art, and writing are among the creative activities that can enrich the soul. A good hobby can dispel heartache and give zest to life.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson also spent time sharing the hobbies that President Hinckley had developed, and how they helped to develop him spiritually. He did house-remodeling and work around his house. He did the landscaping and gardening in his yard. And he did this with the rest of his family. President Hinckley was deeply curious and spent time learning from others. He also was a writer. President Hinckley’s many hobbies taught him and cultivated him in a way that helped to prepare him for his life’s work.

I just love that President Nelson included this about President Hinckley. And probably this is because I also am a lover of hobbies, creating, and learning.

I have several hobbies. Maybe too many hobbies. I love to create and learn new things. I have found that by developing my hobbies, I’ve been able to see the world differently. My hobbies have also been ways for me to connect with my children and others. I really think that the happiest people have a few hobbies. (Maybe, if they’re like me, they have too many hobbies!)

Really, though, I love this. Pursuing our hobbies can help to increase our spiritual capacity. I know that this is true. I have gained insights that I’ve needed in my life through my hobbies. Running taught me to have better discipline. Hiking has taught me to take my time and enjoy the journey – that if we are overly focused on the destination, we won’t see the beautiful wildflowers at our feet. Quilting has brought me friends, and it has taught me that “when life hands you scraps, make a quilt.” It has taught me to be resourceful. It has brought my daughters and I closer together. And it has given me a way to serve others. Reading has brought the entire world into my home. Art has helped me to see the colors and beauty in the world around me. So many of my hobbies have had an impact that goes far beyond the hobby itself.

Sense of Humor

If you are reading this blog post and you are familiar with President Hinckley, I’m sure that you had this in mind. President Hinckley was famous within the church for his loving humor and quick wit. I really loved that about him.

In fact, after President Nelson gave this very talk that I’m studying today, President Hinckley stated:

“Brother Nelson’s right when he said no one is told what to talk about in these meetings,” … “He’s taken an extreme liberty. I challenge him to a duel down in the basement of the Tabernacle right after this meeting.”

Later, during the close of the conference, President Hinckley said:

“Brother Nelson, I’ve repented. Thanks very much for your kind words. We’ll postpone the duel.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley’s sense of humor actually means a lot to me. When I was a young woman, I was a bit light hearted (and I still can be at times now). I loved laughing and messing around (still the same!).

I kind of had this idea that I wasn’t supposed to be happy, to have fun. I thought that a “good girl” sat in church piously, hands folded in her lap. That she didn’t crack jokes, but giggled every once in a while – demurely, I guess. I felt like if I wanted to be “good” and follow god, then I needed to shut up and be REVERENT!

President Hinckley, though, was funny! He was always cracking little jokes during General Conference. He had a light smile and twinkle in his eye. He didn’t take the gospel lightly, and he took his calling seriously, to be sure. But he was happy and had fun. He liked to laugh. He brought humor and love into his talks. I think that this impacted our church as a whole.

Isn’t President Hinckley’s sense of humor one of the things we all loved about him?

I remember noticing his sense of humor and feeling a major sense of relief. It’s okay to laugh! It’s okay to have fun and be funny every once in a while. Though there were times for me to be reverent, for sure, that didn’t mean that I had to act demure and shy every moment of every day. I could be myself and accepted of God.

This was a major example for my own spiritual development. The “reality” of President Hinckley – his frankness, his humor, his spirit – is what made me think that the gospel was for me, too.

Compassion

About President Hinckley, President Nelson shared:

“Among President Hinckley’s spiritual attributes is that of compassion. He is sympathetic to people and feels a strong urge to help them. I have watched him weep with those who mourn and rejoice when Saints are blessed. Such compassion can come to anyone whose heart has truly been touched by the Spirit of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love the idea of compassion and developing it. I feel a need to develop it, and I try to look for examples of those who have developed a deep sense of compassion in their lives. Here, President Nelson teaches us that compassion can come to anyone whose heart has been touched by the Spirit of the Lord.

So – if I want to develop compassion, then I need to keep my heart open to His Spirit. I suppose this also means that I need to accept some of the trials and afflictions that I may face in life – with the understanding that this is all ways that I can potentially become kinder and more compassionate.

Optimism

Another characteristic that comes to mind when I think of President Hinckley is his optimism. President Nelson stated:

“I believe that his personal antidote for fatigue is enthusiasm for the work.” – Russell M. Nelson

Being optimistic helps us to develop spiritually. I think that this is because the Spirit of God can’t really be with us when we are depressed, frustrated, annoyed, or contentious. If we want to have solutions to our problems, we need to remain optimistic. And why wouldn’t we be? We have the gospel. We have the Savior. We have the hope of salvation.

Love of God

Though this isn’t necessarily something that President Nelson addressed, I want to include it here. Though I didn’t know President Hinckley personally, I know that he loved the Lord. He spent so much time and sacrificed so much of his life for the work of the Lord.

His love of God was also apparent in his understanding of the scriptures. I remember that during one session of General Conference (while I was in college, I think), President Hinckley was speaking. He quoted a scripture, but no reference was given. At that moment, the Spirit spoke to my soul – though the words were the scriptures, they were also President Hinckley’s. This is because he had spent so much time in his life studying, pondering, and living the gospel the words of the scriptures were no longer only Nephi’s (or whoever he was quoting), but they were also his. They had become a part of him.

I also knew at that moment that this was possible for each and every one of us. That I could have the scriptures be a part of me if I would work hard to make them a part of my life. Because of President Hinckley’s example, I knew that I could also grow my spiritual capacity.

***

President Hinckley passed away ten years ago – in 2008. I remember feeling both gratitude and grief for a man I never met. He spent his life in the service of God and growing in his testimony.

President Nelson taught:

“While the body may reach the peak of its maturation in a few years, the development of the spirit may never reach the limit of its capacity, because there is no end to progression.” – Russell M. Nelson

The last talk I studied was about enduring to the end. One of the blessings of this charge – to endure – is that through endurance, we can continue to develop spiritually. We can keep progressing and feeling the joy that comes as we move closer to our Savior.

***

I’m grateful that we have a prophet who has worked closely with other prophets. Early in the talk, President Nelson shared:

“This year, Sister Nelson and I have had the privilege of accompanying President and Sister Hinckley to 11 countries for which I have had some responsibilities. That has given us a rare opportunity to observe him closely under a variety of conditions.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Russell M. Nelson, long before he became the President of this Church was serving with and observing the living Prophet. He has been tutored for his current calling – not only by the Lord but through experiences provided to him by the Lord. Though President Nelson hasn’t been the prophet for very long, he isn’t a green-newbie. He has been serving with prophets and apostles for years. He has had experiences with the prophet that would one day help to prepare him for future calling.

I’m grateful to know that the Lord has blessed President Nelson with these experiences, and that President Nelson has lived up to the occasions offered him by the Lord. I’m grateful that he willingly accepted his tutelage from God, and that he prepared so he could serve as he does now.

I’m also grateful to know that President Nelson takes inspiration from the people around him. We are led by a prophet today!

 

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Endure and Be Lifted Up – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Endure and Be Lifted Up, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1997 general conference.

Endurance. I don’t know if endurance is something that many of us look forward to. Endurance.

What do you think of when you read the word endurance? I suppose that there are a lot of things that I think of, but one of the first things that comes to mind is running.

First, a quote from President Nelson:

“Whatever your work may be, endure at the beginning, endure through opposing forces along the way, and endure to the end. Any job must be completed before you can enjoy the result for which you are working.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’d like to relate this to running a race.

At the beginning of a race, there is a buzz of excitement in the air. It’s strange to think that so many people would be gathered together – to run. They aren’t getting together to eat a rich meal, to watch a movie, to leisurely swim. They are getting together to push themselves physically and run.

The gun goes off, and the people begin their run.

It only takes a moment for the excitement to dissipate. Not only does the excitement dissipate, but the realization comes – the race has started, time for the blood to get pumping, the lungs to get working, and the legs to start burning. I have found that there is just as much temptation to quit at the beginning of a race than any other time. It takes a moment for your body to acclimate to the pace of the run. Yet we must endure.

You make it through the beginning of the race, and you might even get another surge of energy. And then, there are opposing forces along the way – maybe it’s a windy day. Or maybe there are hills. One Thanksgiving, I ran a race in the sleet. It wasn’t particularly fun.

Yet you must endure.

You must endure to the end for any of the endurance experienced at the beginning and the middle of the race to matter. President Nelson taught:

“Whenever an undertaking is begun, both the energy and the will to endure are essential. The winner of a five-kilometer race is declared at the end of five kilometers, not at one or two. If you board a bus to Boston, you don’t get off at Burlington. If you want to gain an education, you don’t drop out along the way—just as you don’t pay to dine at an elegant restaurant only to walk away after sampling the salad.” – Russell M. Nelson

So – even though the idea of endurance may seem off-putting at times (because it’s hard!) I have to say that I’d rather endure than never cross the finish line or make it to my destination.

Now – the thing about running a race and endurance is this – it doesn’t matter how much endurance you think you can mentally muster in the race if you haven’t been training in advance. If you are have been spending most of your time sitting on a couch, then you won’t be ready for a race. Most people must train for weeks before they are ready to endure.

There are things that we can do to give us power to endure.

Conversion and Commitment

If you want to be able to endure during the race, then you need to cultivate a real commitment to running. “Conversion” usually happens over time.

I remember when I first took up running. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I never came home from a run in a bad mood. Even though it was hard, I always felt great.

One evening, I didn’t have much time for a run. I asked my little brother to watch my oldest two daughters for 25 minutes while I went for a quick run. The weather wasn’t great – it was a windy and cold spring day. But I knew that if I didn’t run then, I wouldn’t have a chance to at all.

So, I went for a run, and I came home just happy.

Within minutes, that nearly changed. “Where are Tiger and Panda?” I asked my brother. He was watching Spongebob Squarepants by himself. The house was eerily quiet. I went upstairs calling out for them when I noticed that the bathroom door was shut – which wasn’t usually the case.

I opened the door to the bathroom – to a cloud and my two daughters frozen like scared deer. Tiger, my oldest was holding a bottle of baby powder with two hands. And they were covered in white.

But that wasn’t the only thing…I also noticed hair. Clumps of hair everywhere. And on the ground – an open pair of scissors. Before the powder party, Tiger managed to cut her hair (giving her a reverse mohawk!) and her sister, Panda’s hair. It was terrible!

All of this destruction – in 25 minutes!!!

Thankfully this happened while I was on a run. I wasn’t particularly happy to see a huge mess to clean and a mystery to solve (what was I going to do with Tiger’s and Panda’s hair??? They looked terrible…It took a few days before I just cut their hair pixie-short and got their ears pierced). Despite these problems, I was in a good mood. All due to running!

These experiences converted me to the goodness of running – which outweighed the sacrifice. And, as my conversion to the sport increased, so did my commitment. Completing a race would be possible thanks to this conversion and commitment.

Likewise, we need to be converted and committed to Christ if we want to endure to the end.

President Nelson taught:

“When we know without a doubt that Jesus is the Christ, we will want to stay with Him. When we are surely converted, the power to endure is ours.” – Russell M. Nelson

Just as running is a sacrifice of time and comfort, the Lord requires sacrifice. And it isn’t until we make the sacrifice that we can understand its value. As we exercise our faith through sacrifice and obedience, we will be blessed. These experiences will then inspire us to stay committed to Christ.

Moroni teaches:

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” – Ether 12:4

When we cultivate our faith in Christ, we are filled with hope. This hope anchors us to the Savior, in whom we have faith. The combination of hope and faith makes us sure and steadfast. We then cultivate charity and do good works and glorify God. As we develop faith, hope, and charity, we become better able to endure. We have perspective. We are blessed and made capable of endurance.

Prioritization

Another way that we can better learn to endure in life, is through prioritization.

Back to the running analogy. If you want to be fit enough to endure a footrace, then you will have to determine your priorities. You will need to prioritize workouts, food, and rest. You can’t cram for the race. Running too much will most likely result in an injury (which will sideline you before you can even begin the race!) Too little running will not prepare you properly, you won’t be able to endure the race without proper training.

Prioritization is a critical part of being able to endure.

President Nelson taught:

“When priorities are proper, the power to endure is increased. And when internalized, those priorities will help keep you from “going overboard.” They will protect you from cheating—in marriage, in the Church, and in life.” – Russell M. Nelson

Prioritization. I hate to admit this, but it is always troubling for me. I don’t like to be tied down – which sometimes results in a lack of prioritization and diligence. Not only that, but I have found if I don’t prioritize and plan, then I will usually end up wasting precious time and effort.

Oh – and one other thing that seems to get in the way of prioritization…social media. I’ve gotten much better, but there have been times when I’ve wasted hours of my day checking various feeds. And for what?! Because of my unwillingness to prioritize, I lost precious time to do the things I needed to do. When I don’t prioritize, I find that I’m moodier and frustrated easily. Endurance – in all aspects of life – becomes more difficult when I feel rushed and unprepared. Prioritization is the solution to this problem.

We Can Do It

We are taught about endurance – not because the Lord wants to scare us or prove to us how powerful He is. We are taught about endurance because it is the only way to finish the race; it is the only way for us to eventually inherit eternal life.

It’s just the way it is.

Though endurance is difficult we can do it. We don’t need to get frustrated or depressed by endurance. We can have gratitude and joy even as we endure.

While running, and I’m feeling tempted to stop, try to look at the view, smile, or turn on some music. We can do similar things in our lives. We can be grateful for our blessings, smile, and turn on some happy music!

And just like running a race, we aren’t alone. There are hundreds, thousands of others, who are buzzing with the same excitement – to do something hard, and finish with a smile and sense of accomplishment.

President Nelson quoted President Hinckley:

“I invite every one of you to stand on your feet and with a song in your heart move forward, living the gospel, loving the Lord, and building the kingdom. Together we shall stay the course and keep the faith.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

***

I’m grateful for a prophet who understands the need to endure, can teach us how to endure, and has endured much in his life! He is 93 years old! He speaks to us about endurance not only because he logically understands the precepts but because he has lived them! I know that this concept – enduring – is important for us to remember in our lives and relationships.

The Atonement – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk The Atonement, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1996 General Conference.

The Atonement. Performed for each of us by the grace and love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

It’s a lot to speak on. In fact, this talk – while helpful – can’t cover everything! I can’t really cover everything in a single blog post, either. I actually think that you could dedicate an entire website to the Atonement, and still – there would be so much to uncover and understand.

Be that as it may, the Atonement is the subject of President Nelson’s talk. I really like this talk. In October of 1996, I was eighteen years old. Crazy. Senior year in high school. I don’t really remember this talk, specifically, but I do know that I heard it and took notes on it. And I also know that these talks were becoming the fabric of my own understanding of the gospel and the Atonement.

Why?

I’m a “why” person.

Why am I a why person?! Hahahahahaaaa! Well – because I want to know what I believe. I don’t go to church just because. I mean, it is loonnnnnnngggggg. I don’t go to church for social reasons. Sure, it is great to gather with saints, I really like that and church does provide a wonderful social setting. It helps you make friends and connections wherever you go.

But that’s not why I go to church.

I go to church because I actually believe that this is God’s church. That I need to participate in the weekly ordinance of the Sacrament. I like to know what I believe because I know that I need meaning in my life.

And this has a lot to do with my faith. Often we hear that Christ is our Savior, but what if you don’t understand what that means or why he saves us? Then what is the motivation???

This is what I love about President Nelson’s talk. Instead of immediately launching in to Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, President Nelson stated:

“Before we can comprehend the Atonement of Christ, however, we must first understand the Fall of Adam. And before we can understand the Fall of Adam, we must first understand the Creation. These three crucial components of the plan of salvation relate to each other” – Russell M. Nelson

I really love this. In order to understand the Atonement – what it is and why that matters to us – we have to understand a few other facts first.

The Creation

In his talk, President Nelson refers to the creation of the earth and then the creation of Adam and Eve as a paradisiacal creation. He states:

“The Creation culminated with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. They were created in the image of God, with bodies of flesh and bone. Created in the image of God and not yet mortal, they could not grow old and die. “And they would have had no children” nor experienced the trials of life. (Please forgive me for mentioning children and the trials of life in the same breath.) The creation of Adam and Eve was a paradisiacal creation, one that required a significant change before they could fulfill the commandment to have children and thus provide earthly bodies for premortal spirit sons and daughters of God.” – Russell M. Nelson

Adam and Eve – alive – were not mortal. They didn’t function in a way that we completely understand. They didn’t grow old. They couldn’t have children. Alive and breathing, yes. But they couldn’t procreate and progress.

I’m sure that life was nice in the garden. It was probably pretty blissful, but I don’t want to say that it was happy. Adam and Eve didn’t have knowledge in that way. Okay – let me think of how to phrase this. They probably had some knowledge – as they were having plenty of experiences in the garden. But they didn’t have knowledge of good and evil – because there wasn’t any evil yet. They didn’t have the knowledge of pleasure or pain – because there wasn’t any pain yet. They didn’t understand joy or misery – because there was no misery.

Though we like to avoid opposition, it is necessary. How can you really define life without using its opposite – death? Joy is impossible to understand without also understanding misery. These things are connected. Joy and misery, for example, cannot be separated. They are like heads and tails. You can’t pick up the heads side of the coin without also picking up tails. If you don’t want misery, then you have to also give up joy.

Life in the garden was life without joy. It was also a life without potency. Adam and Eve, though commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, were unable to do so in the state of their pre-fall existence.

…I’m getting long winded here…not surprising, I’m sure…

But for now, we need to understand that first God created the world and He created Adam and Eve. And when He created them there was no death or hell. Additionally, they were kind of suspended in their progress.

The Fall

Before the fall, Eve sought knowledge. There came a point where she knew that her progression was halted in that garden. That is when the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil started to look pretty appetizing. I don’t think that she fully understood the scope of the consequences (she was beguiled, after all). But I do think that she understood that she needed to make this choice if she wanted to become more like her Heavenly Parents.

I believe that the choice Eve made in Eden was the bravest choice ever made.

Once this choice – to be mortal – took place, she understood that Adam needed to make the same choice, so they could keep the commandments. Adam’s choice was also brave. And I think that it was full of love and compassion. Eve was his helpmeet. She literally helped him out of that garden and onto the next extremely important phase of life.

And Adam loved her and listened to her. He, fiercely obedient, started to understand why he also needed to partake of the fruit. So he did.

And then they fell.

President Nelson taught about this fall:

“The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death. And a loving Creator blessed them with healing power by which the life and function of precious physical bodies could be preserved.” – Russell M. Nelson

The fall was both beautiful and messy. Both good and bad…

The Pros of the Fall

  • Knowledge
  • Potential for positive experiences of life – even if it requires exposure to the negative experiences of life.
  • Ability to keep the command to multiply and replenish the earth.

The Negatives of the Fall

  • Physical death – they would age and die.
  • Spiritual death – They were no longer worthy or capable of being in the presence of God. This is spiritual death. Or hell.

The thing that strikes me is – they didn’t realize that God would offer them a Savior. They had no idea. They fell and Heavenly Father pronounced the everlasting consequences:

To the Serpent:

“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” – Genesis 3:14-15

Notice – it is only the Serpent who is cursed. This is because the Serpent is a symbol of Satan, the Devil. And he knew what he was doing. He was willfully rebelling against God and trying to destroy God’s plan and His creations.

Adam and Eve transgressed, for sure. They knew that the were disobeying God’s command, but this wasn’t because they were trying to be destructive. They weren’t trying to set themselves against God. Their intention was simply to gain more knowledge and then have children.

It was a transgression, for sure – with consequences still, but not worthy of the same kind of cursing that the serpent received.

To Eve:

“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” – Genesis 3:16

I’ve had children, and I can say that there is great joy in conception, and great sorrow. Not only does this sorrow occur during the nine months that lead up to birth – and of course birth itself. But hormones! wow! Even when I am not in the middle of having children – the hormones and organs that make me a woman – that make being a mother possible – have caused headaches, breakouts, anxiety, mild depression, etc.

This consequence is real!

To Adam:

“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” – Genesis 3:17-19

Adam would have to work hard just to stay alive. And you know what – in the end, he would die. He would return to the very dust that made his life so hard.

***
At this point, when the Lord pronounced these consequences of partaking of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, He didn’t tell Adam and Eve of another major part of His plan.

Heavenly Father drove them out of the Garden, They were no longer able to be in his presence. To feel His warmth and peace. They were forced to go into the “lone and dreary world.”

Yikes. So – yes – they had knowledge…but at what cost? Physical death? Sorrow? Cursed Ground? And also being cut off from God.

I would have cried.

But they were not without hope! Heavenly Father clothed them in a coat of skins…and He taught them about their Savior. The Lord, all along, had a plan. He had prepared an Atonement for them. President Nelson stated:

“But mortal life, glorious as it is, was never the ultimate objective of God’s plan. Life and death here on planet Earth were merely means to an end—not the end for which we were sent.” – Russell M. Nelson

The fall wasn’t it. There is so much more in store for all of us, thanks to our Heavenly Father’s elegant and merciful plan of Salvation – which hinges on the incredible work of the Savior…the Atonement.

The Atonement

Gosh…I’m 1600 words into this blog, and I’m finally getting to the Atonement. But hopefully now, we can see why it is so important. Hopefully we can see why we need the Atonement.

I love what President Nelson taught:

“The Atonement of Jesus Christ became the immortal creation.” – Russell M. Nelson

Read that again. The Atonement of Jesus Christ became the immortal creation!!!!!!!

As Paul taught:

“As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” – 1 Corinthians 15:22

Because of the Savior – the negative effects of the fall aren’t consequences we must suffer throughout eternity. The Savior offers physical life too each and every one of us. He offers spiritual life to all of those who will choose it.

And President Nelson puts it so beautifully:

“I weep for joy when I contemplate the significance of it all. To be redeemed is to be atoned—received in the close embrace of God with an expression not only of His forgiveness, but of our oneness of heart and mind. What a privilege! ” – Russell M. Nelson

Isn’t that what we are all aching for? Acceptance and love?! To have our parents pat us on the back, kiss us on the head, and hug us? To be filled with peace and joy – one with the very One who gave us life in the first place, and filled with His light that offers life and joy for eternity?

This is what the Savior offers us through His Infinite Atonement.

President Nelson so eloquently put it:

“All that the Fall allowed to go awry, the Atonement allowed to go aright.” – Russell M. Nelson

***

If I let myself, I can get overwhelmed and anxious – when I think of how I fall short. How I am not good enough. How I make mistakes. For example, right now, It is 10:43 AM on a Sunday Morning. I haven’t quite gotten out of bed yet. I’m in my pjs, my hair is a mess. (I’ve brushed my teeth because my breath was so bad I couldn’t take it.) I had a slight headache this morning. I’m living in my in-law’s house. I’m a little overweight. I have more cellulite than I’d like to have. And a big varicose vein on my leg that is not only unsightly but also painful.

I have a mess in my room, remnants of some work and projects that I have needed to get done for the quilt shop that I occasionally work for. I have a project that I told them I’d do, but I know that I don’t have enough time for, so like a dog with its tail between its legs, I’ll be taking it back to them unfinished and sorry that I can’t do more.

I have homeschool to plan for four kids, and it will start in about a week and a half when we finally move into our own place.

And whatever. Then there are the other facts. I can work and work and work, and I’ll still get old and die. My kids will still make their own choices. And still there will be a pile of dirty laundry.

If I let myself, I could get down a pretty gnarly spiral fairly quickly. But the truth is:

life is amazing! Even mortal life. The messes, the pain, the excess weight, the inability to do enough, the limited time…it is an amazing blessing that has immense meaning.

Heber Valley Golden Hour

This is the reality. We live in a fallen world full of beauty and hope. The Savior came to this earth, in the meridian of time, and performed a work that makes every negative into a positive – if we will let it. The Savior came and atoned – for our mortal failings and sins. He overcame death. He cleans the messes in our lives. He heals us from our circulatory issues. He lightens each day and brings rest each night.

Without the creation and fall, His Atonement would be moot and meaningless. But God loves us! He created us! Here we are!…God loves us! He let us choose! He let us fall! He lets us experience opposition in all things, so that we can have knowledge. And He has given us a Savior who performed an Atonement so that the fall isn’t the end. So that we don’t die forever.

The Atonement is the alchemy that turns our leaden mortal experiences into brilliant gold.

***

I’m so grateful for President Nelson – and that we are guided by a prophet who has sought to both understand the Atonement and why we need it. I’m grateful that our prophet has a testimony of our living and loving Savior. I will end this post with his words, and trust that I’m grateful this is the man leading our church.

President Nelson testified:

“As one of the “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” I testify that He is the Son of the living God. Jesus is the Christ—our atoning Savior and Redeemer. This is His Church, restored to bless God’s children and to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

“Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods” – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1996 General Conference.

Once again, this is a talk that I know I took notes on, but I don’t particularly remember. It was a long time ago! Oh well, let’s get on with the talk.

At the beginning of this talk, President Nelson shares an experience. When he was younger, he served in the military. (He served a two-year term of medical duty during the Korean war for the U.S. Army – see here.) The sergeant would should shout the orders: “Attention!” “Right face!” “Left face!” “About face!” About this experience, President Nelson shared:

“We learned to respond to those orders with instant precision. In retrospect, I don’t recall ever having heard his command to “face upward.” Yet scriptures tell us to “look to God and live.” – Russell M. Nelson

He then asks the question: Which way do you face?

***

Before going on with the study of this talk, maybe it is good to think about the answer for myself? Which way do I face? Do I look to God in good times, in bad times, in normal times? Do I look to God for strength and support? Do I feel worthy to face Him?

In a way I’m ambivalent to share the answer. It feels so personal. But on the whole, yes. I do face Him. And I always want to face Him. I try to make decisions that are faithful and keep Him in my view. I love Him. I know that my love actually stems from His love to me – He is a perfect Father and I know that I’m His daughter.

Look Up
Literally…Look up!

***

Okay, back to the talk.

The First Commandment: Love God

In this talk, Russell M. Nelson stated:

“No matter where we live or in what position we serve, all of us need to determine which way we face.” – Russell M. Nelson

Again, the personal questioning that might help…Which way do I face? Which way do I want to face? What am I doing each day to demonstrate both my desires and my commitments?

President Nelson taught that the commandments that God has given us can be a standard that helps to measure our priorities. When we face God, we are choosing to trust Him and to keep His commandments.

I can’t help but think about Stephen from the New Testament. In Acts, we read:

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,

56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” – Acts 7:55-56

In this account, we read that Stephen looked steadfastly into Heaven. He had to face God in order to have his vision steadfastly fixed on Heaven. Though this scripture refers to a singular moment in Stephen’s life, I have the feeling that He spent more than that moment facing God and looking to Heaven.

Stephen faced God and looked to heaven so steadfastly for so long that he eventually saw Heaven and God and the Savior and all of their glory.

Earlier, I mentioned how the commandments (and our choice to obey them) serve as a demonstration of what we prioritize. And that’s true. But the commandments are so much more than that! They are more than a test. They commandments are a demonstration of love – both on the part of God (for giving them) and on ours (for keeping them).

The commandment to “look to God and live,” isn’t just some order because God is power-hungry or needs attention. Even in the commandment there is a promise – and live. This is because God is the Creator. He offers us life. His commandment – to love Him – is given so that we can return to Him and be happy!

So – God demonstrated His love to us by giving us the first commandment. Heavenly Father is governed by laws. He has given us the commandments so that we can understand the laws by which He governs and is governed. He wants us to be happy. Life is a test, yes. And the commandments aren’t the test! They are the answers to the test!

We demonstrate our love to God by listening to Him, trusting Him, and keeping His commandments.

In God’s giving and then our keeping of the commandments, we can reap joy, confidence, and abundance in this life and the life to come. Of course, it is up to us to do so. President Nelson explains the consequences of breaking God’s first commandment:

“If we break God’s first commandment, we cannot escape retribution. If we allow any other person or cause to come before allegiance to Him, we will reap a bitter harvest. Paul foresaw “destruction” for those “whose God is their belly.” (I might include all forms of anatomical affection.) Any who choose to serve “the creature more than the Creator” deprive themselves of spiritual reward.” – Russell M. Nelson

When we choose not to face God, then we choose not to face joy, growth, confidence, and abundant blessings. This is simply the way it is. The Lord has provided a way for us to reap a sweet and good harvest. He is the Light that can nurture us and sustain us, but we have to face Him. As President Nelson stated:

“Trees reach up for the light and grow in the process. So do we as sons and daughters of heavenly parents. Facing upward provides a loftier perspective than facing right or facing left. Looking up in search of holiness builds strength and dignity as disciples of Deity.” – Russell M. Nelson

Face God. Love Him. Keep His commandments. It will only result in upward cycle – which reinforces faith, joy, clarity, peace, and more obedience.

The Second Commandment: Love Others

Not only will facing God help us to keep the first commandment, but it will also help us to better keep the second commandment.

Facing God and Loving Others in the Home

President Nelson taught:

“Facing upward is crucial for successful parenting. Families deserve guidance from heaven. Parents cannot counsel children adequately from personal experience, fear, or sympathy. But when parents face children as would the Creator who gave them life, parents will be endowed with wisdom beyond that of their own.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have often heard the complaint that when you have children, there is no instruction manual. You go to the hospital, have your baby, and then they let you take the baby home! Tada! Ready or not, you’re a parent.

Actually, I went through this myself. I remember when my oldest was born. Of course, I looked forward to actually having her arrive. 9 months feels like an eternity when you’re pregnant. During that pregnancy, I had morning sickness, hives, bleeding gums, kidney stones. You name it! I was ready for her to vacate my body!

And the time came. I had her. She was perfect and small and beautiful. I was wrought with conflicting emotion – who was this person! I didn’t know her. As her mother, I thought that I was supposed to know everything about her, but it turned out I didn’t know a single thing! I didn’t know how to nurse. I didn’t know the difference between various cries that first day and night and even week of her life. I was excited, terrified, happy, scared. It was a bit of everything (and that’s not even including the hormones!!!)

I remember that when we took her home, I felt like a wide-eyed deer – paralyzed with fear. And my little baby daughter was that car, no semi-, no train headed right for me. I didn’t know what to do! I was supposed to keep her alive?! Where’s the nurse? I can’t do it!!!

So, I ended up taking her home from the hospital without a nurse. It was just me. Somehow she made it through that first week – not only alive, but growing. That first week turned into two weeks, a month, a year, and now seven-teen years.

I’m by no means an expert, but now that she is nearly old enough to leave my house I’ve finally started to figure out things like who she is…what she likes…how to talk to her… (I kid…kind of!)

Thankfully, early on in my experience with parenting, Heavenly Father impressed on my soul that I did have an instruction manual – the scriptures. While they may not be specific regarding “how to raise a child” we do have thousands of pages of examples of Heavenly Father dealing with His children. I could learn how to be a parent by noticing and following His example and by fighting for His spirit every single day.

The task of parenthood felt a little less overwhelming. I can’t begin to guess how many times I’ve been helped by Heavenly Father. Yes, we can use our own experiences, fears, and sympathies to rear our children, but what has made the difference in my life has been the wisdom that Heavenly Father has endowed me with. There have been so many times where a problem came up, and I was given a flash of illumination – a prompting – or a feeling – a solution. These solutions were way out of my own experience, wisdom, or wheelhouse. They came from God. How I’ve needed Him throughout my life. But I can’t imagine parenting without His example and express help.

Facing left and right – looking around at what others are doing – can help us to be a better parent. But best of all, when we face God, we will be the best parent possible. He will inspire us in ways that are beyond our comprehension because He has unlimited perspective. When we face Him, we fill our home with His Love. We will be able to have joy in our home.

Facing God and Loving Our Neighbors

The same principles apply to our other relationships. President Nelson taught:

“Similarly, relationships with neighbors, friends, and associates will be enhanced as we approach them with “the pure love of Christ.” A desire to emulate the Lord provides powerful motivation for good. Our craving for compassion will cause us to act in accord with the Golden Rule. By so doing, we will find joy in feeding the poor, clothing the naked, or doing volunteer work of worth.” – Russell M. Nelson

I know that this is true!

It is easy to see how loving others would help to nurture friendships – especially with people that we like. But I know that charity never faileth – even with people that we are having trouble with!

I have experienced this. I was going through a tough time with someone else. I don’t want to get into the details. I’m sure that this other person had some stresses of their own. But sometimes those stresses were taken out on me and others. I have to admit, it hurt.

I wanted to be angry. I wanted to lash out at this person – if nothing else for a defense. I didn’t understand why I was being treated so poorly. This experience was having me feel so depressed that I felt like I would just melt into a puddle on the floor.

Anyway, thankfully the Lord blessed me in that moment. I remember that I came home after a particularly difficult experience. I was feeling out of it, frustrated, and depressed. I walked into my home, which is usually a haven for me. I tried to say a prayer that I would get out of my funky mood because my family didn’t need to suffer because of this other situation.

That’s when the Lord prompted me to serve the person who had offended me! And I did.

It was simple, and I don’t think that I’m some kind of saint for this. In fact, there were still many struggles after this.

And I wish that I could say this experienced changed everything, but it didn’t. Nothing changed – other than my mindset. After giving the service that I had been prompted to do, the situation hadn’t changed, but the Lord comforted me. I had a distinct impression – truly, charity never faileth.

Even if the dynamic of our relationship didn’t change, even if the mistreatment continued, I knew where to look for support. The Love of God would never fail me. I can’t make others choose charity, but I can choose charity. And when I choose charity, I’m filled with comfort. I didn’t feel like a melting puddle anymore. I didn’t need an apology from someone else. I have access to the constant companionship of the Comforter, and if I would live worthy of it by having charity, then I would receive Comfort from God.

Charity never fails – even if we do. We can trust in God and in His love.

When we face Him, things are better in life! Usually facing Him and serving with love results in better relationships, more smiles, and fun. But even when it doesn’t – even when we face Him and serve with love and another rejects that love – we still have it. The sting is tempered. We have patience. The love of God will triumph over a small sting of rejection.

President Nelson said:

Just as we must look to God to live well, so we must look to God to serve well. – Russell M. Nelson

Looking to god – living well, serving well – helps us to feel His joy!

***

There is so much more to this talk, as always. But I need to wrap it up here. I know that if we look to God, then our lives become fuller, more beautiful, lighter, and better. I know this, yet I often forget to look. President Nelson gave this talk in 1996. He often made references of us looking to the right or the left – at what others are doing, or whatever. He gave this talk before smartphones! Before we were constantly looking down at our screens.

This is the mistake I make. I spend too much time looking down – focusing on that screen. Sure, it is really good sometimes. But others, I let myself get distracted. Instead of looking up and facing God, I just get caught up. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

So I’m grateful for the reminder – to face God. To look to Him and to live. To let Him be the center of our vision, our gaze. I know that when we look to Him, we will weather the storms of our lives. We will grow. We will find joy and comfort – even amid trial. I know that when we face Him, and look steadfastly to Heaven, then He will reveal Himself to us, just as He did to Stephen.

I’m also grateful to know that we are guided by a prophet who faces God and who teaches us to also face God. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson has made the decision to face God and obey Him throughout His life. I know that these decisions made by President Nelson enabled him to serve us today – as the prophet, seer, revelator, and president of our Church.

Perfection Pending – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Perfection Pendingby Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1995 General Conference.

Now that the talks are becoming a bit more recent (I know, still over 20 years ago), I like to think about where I was/how old I was when the talk was given. In October 1995, I would have been starting my junior year of high school, which means that I was in seminary. Which means that I would have watched this talk at the church (back in the day!) with a notebook in hand so that I could get credit for seminary.

Even though I remembered the inoculation/indoctrination concept from the last talk, I don’t remember this talk at all! I knew that would be the case. But I do like the talk.

IMG_6517
Hawaiian sunset – perfection!

Perfection

As you could probably tell from the title of the talk, President Nelson’s address is on the subject of perfection. I really love this talk because it helps to clear up a few misunderstandings that I have had about perfection, and I suspect others have had, too.

President Nelson stated:

“If I were to ask which of the Lord’s commandments is most difficult to keep, many of us might cite Matt. 5:48: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”1

Keeping this commandment can be a concern because each of us is far from perfect, both spiritually and temporally. Reminders come repeatedly. We may lock keys inside the car, or even forget where the car is parked. And not infrequently we walk intently from one part of the house to another, only to forget the reason for the errand.

When comparing one’s personal performance with the supreme standard of the Lord’s expectation, the reality of imperfection can at times be depressing. My heart goes out to conscientious Saints who, because of their shortcomings, allow feelings of depression to rob them of happiness in life.” – Russell M. Nelson

We have been commanded to be perfect. And this sometimes gets in our heads. I know that often, when I’m facing challenges and frustrations in my life, when I search deep inside of me my frustration seems to center around my perfectionism.

Interestingly enough, I think that perfectionism is actually the bane of being able to keep the command to becoming perfect. In perfectionism, we think that we have to do it on our own – be “perfect.” Whatever that even means. I mean – can we even really describe what “perfection” is? Without blemish? Well, we are born with blemish and imperfection. This is, after all, mortality.

What is perfect – doing something without making a mistake? Well, we learn line upon line, precept upon precept, which means that perfection is not something we will achieve over night – or after the first try.

What is perfect? What is the perfect home? The perfect body? The perfect hair? hahahaha! In this case “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and we must remember that the beholder is heavily influenced by their immediate culture. Today’s “perfect body” looks quite a bit different than the “perfect body” of the renaissance.

We get caught up in what we think that perfection is, and that is why this commandment is so troubling. Thankfully, President Nelson addresses this commandment in a way to bring us both enlightenment and hope. If you are struggling with the concept of perfection, then I encourage you to read it!

Today, I’m going to study a few quotes and concepts I liked from the talk.

One – We Misunderstand the Commandment

President Nelson stated:

“We all need to remember: men are that they might have joy—not guilt trips! We also need to remember that the Lord gives no commandments that are impossible to obey. But sometimes we fail to comprehend them fully.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love every sentence in this quote. We aren’t here to have guilt trips.

I’m guilty of the guilt trip!

But seriously, I am. I think that I might have shared this experience before on this blog, but I feel like it is a good time to share it again. Several years ago I was struggling with something – I can’t remember what it was specifically, but it was all just me. I know that it was some kind of “perfectionism” that was making me feel addled and depressed.

One morning, before going out for a run, I said my prayers. I knelt in my closet and “prayed.” I admitted to the Lord that I was sorry – for who I was: too fat, too messy, too forgetful, too quick to scream at my kids…blah blah blah. You know how it goes (maybe…maybe you don’t know how it goes). I prayed for a while, but it was kind of terrible. And after I closed my prayer, I didn’t feel better. I didn’t feel uplifted. I didn’t feel like I had just communed with the Lord.

It was morning, my husband had to get ready for work soon, so I scooted out the door and on my run.

I was still feeling pretty deflated, and I wondered why didn’t I feel better when I said my morning prayers? Why wouldn’t the Holy Ghost comfort me?

Thankfully, Heavenly Father was patient with me. He gently rebuked me. I had this small spiritual impression. It’s hard to put it in words, but the closest I can get is: Because the Holy Ghost will not bear false witness.

All of the terrible things I was saying about myself WERE NOT humility. It was self-loathing. And the Holy Ghost wouldn’t condone any of it. Closing that so-called prayer in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ was a form of using His name in vain. I couldn’t feel good about that “prayer” because it was a lie.

I mean, imagine if I had felt the witness of the Holy Ghost after giving that prayer -that I was indeed too “imperfect” to be loved. Yikes! Yuck! My misunderstanding of the command to be perfect – my confusing that command with “perfectionism” led me to guilt-trips and self-loathing – which are not at all in line with what a God of love will give us.

Two – Mortal Perfection

President Nelson, in his talk, teaches about perfection in two ways: Mortal Perfection and Eternal Perfection. We can think of mortal perfection as a process – where an act can indeed be perfect from time to time. President Nelson gives a few examples:

“In this life, certain actions can be perfected. A baseball pitcher can throw a no-hit, no-run ball game. A surgeon can perform an operation without an error. A musician can render a selection without a mistake. One can likewise achieve perfection in being punctual, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and so on. The enormous effort required to attain such self-mastery is rewarded with a deep sense of satisfaction.” – Russell M. Nelson

Interestingly enough, even in the examples that President Nelson cited, it is hard to recreate and repeat “perfection.” Even the most gifted pitcher cannot throw a no-hitter every time. Even if he masters his art and his craft, over time his shoulder will degrade. He won’t be perfect throughout his whole career. In fact, there will probably only be moments of sublime, perfect brilliance.

A surgeon may perform many surgeries without error, but he won’t perform all of them without error. It just won’t happen. She may be a brilliant surgeon – the best surgeon in her field, but you will still have to sign waivers that you understand the risk of surgery before you get on that table.

A musician may, after much practice, render a selection without mistake. I can understand this. There are songs I can play on the piano with my eyes closed. But then, every once in a while – even with the simplest song, I hit a wrong note.

We can master some things in life, but 100% perfection, even in the things that we can master is not possible. It’s just not how this universe works! In fact, I kind of think of some of these things as parabolic – the pitcher for example. There is an arc to his career. At some point the pitcher might be perfect, but with time our bodies degrade, our minds slow down, and he will reach a peak and then performance will suffer.

Michael Jordan might have been a perfect basketball player. And he might still be good now. But how would he fare in the NBA at this point? Much of mortal perfection is like a parabola.

I realize that there may be exceptions to what I’m writing here. But I feel like it is worth exploring – because I get caught in the “perfectionism” trap. It is worth me remembering that we aren’t always getting better. Sometimes we do, and then sometimes for reasons beyond our control, we don’t “progress” anymore. We reach our zenith and then start to fade. It isn’t a depressing thing. It’s just a fact of life.

President Nelson did describe this as mortal perfection, after all.

Three – Striving and Mortal Perfection

President Nelson stated:

“Scriptures have described Noah, Seth, and Job as perfect men. No doubt the same term might apply to a large number of faithful disciples in various dispensations. Alma said that “there were many, exceedingly great many,” who were pure before the Lord.

This does not mean that these people never made mistakes or never had need of correction. The process of perfection includes challenges to overcome and steps to repentance that may be very painful. There is a proper place for chastisement in the molding of character, for we know that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.”

Mortal perfection can be achieved as we try to perform every duty, keep every law, and strive to be as perfect in our sphere as our Heavenly Father is in his. If we do the best we can, the Lord will bless us according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.” – Russell M. Nelson

Now this is interesting.

We just need to do the best that we can. I didn’t ever know Noah, Seth, or Job personally, but when I read that paragraph, I couldn’t help but think of some of the people who I do know.

In fact, my first thought was of a patriarch and his wife that I knew in my last stake. He is a good man, and maybe it would be described of him (AND HIS WIFE!) that they were “perfect.”

He is a simple man, a kind man. He is a barber, a father, a patriarch, a grandfather, a husband, a gardener, a sealer in the temple. Often I would see him on walks with his daughter in town. He isn’t really all that special if you just saw him on the street. In fact, he’s kind of short and plain. You would walk right past him.

He gave both of my daughters patriarchal blessings, and both times he admitted to mistakes that he made – even as the patriarch! All of this to help us understand the magnitude of the blessing that each of my daughters would receive.

Yes he has made mistakes, but he has humbly gone to the Lord to overcome them. He accepts the loving chastening and rebuke of the Lord. He tries, he strives to keep every duty and every law. He is doing the best he can.

Even though it is hard for me to describe anyone as perfect – because of my own ideas of what “perfection” is – based on this description given by President Nelson, the patriarch I just described to you is just that.

Which means, maybe a lot of us are, too.

NOTE: this does not mean that we do not need the Atonement! It is the striving and the Atonement that perfects us! I think that maybe it just means we can have more confidence in the Lord!

***

One more thing – this quote also makes me think of the nature of all mankind – including the Savior – we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. Perfection is a process. It isn’t something we will do out of the gates. Over time the patriarch from our old stake has become more and more of a perfect person. This is not because he is just magical or talented. It is because he has allowed the Lord to work a process in him that has taken years.

The Lord will work this in all of us. If we will strive and do our part, then the the Lord will teach us line upon line, precept upon precept. He will refine us, prune us, purify us. And then, over time, we will be something good and worthy to be called “perfect.”

Maybe if we just remember that it is a process, we won’t get so wrapped up in the frustration of not being perfect yet. If we remember it is a process, we will trust God as He guides, teaches, and perfects us.

Four – Teleios

It is helpful for us to remember that the Bible was written a long time ago. In fact, Jesus uttered His command in Matthew 5:8 – to be perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect – over 2,000 years ago.

Think about that for a second. 2,000 years ago. In Jerusalem. He said it, most likely, in his language, which I’m guessing was Hebrew. Not sure how He said it. The New Testament, we know was written in Greek.

And the Greek of the New Testament was 2,000 year-ago-Greek, not necessarily what they speak today. For my purposes, I like to remind myself – they weren’t speaking English! It wasn’t 21st century American English! This was a different time. It might be helpful for me to suspend what I think that perfect means based on today’s sensibilities and culture. It might be helpful to think of what the Savior meant by this declaration, rather than what I think it means based on my current circumstances.

President Nelson taught:

“Recently I studied the English and Greek editions of the New Testament, concentrating on each use of the term perfect and its derivatives. Studying both languages together provided some interesting insights, since Greek was the original language of the New Testament.

In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios,which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.”  The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.” Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.” In fact, when writers of the Greek New Testament wished to describe perfection of behavior—precision or excellence of human effort—they did not employ a form of teleios; instead, they chose different words.” – Russell M. Nelson

Don’t you love this! to reach a distant end. To be fully developed. To consummate. To finish.

And to be sure that we understand, President Nelson reiterates – it does NOT imply “freedom from error” but achieving a distant objective.

That takes some of the IMPOSSIBLE pressure off of us. When I think of reaching a distant end, being fully developed, etc. Then I think again of the patriarch that I wrote about earlier. He is headed toward that development, that end that the Lord wants all of us to reach. He is on the path to perfection. Not because he is free from error, but because I think that when our Patriarch from Midway completes his sojourn on earth he will have achieved his distant objective.

We can do this, too.

In fact, when I think about perfection this way, I think of so many other people, too. I think of my grandma. I think of my mom. I think of my dear friends and examples.  I think of the women I’ve known and been friends with that have experienced trials and faithfully navigated through those trials. I think of women who have achieved mortal perfection in various ways (like making pies, for example – which I believe is probably one of the best things to achieve mortal perfection in!), and yet they are striving, moving forward, they will achieve that distant objective.

When I think of perfection this way, I get excited! I am hopeful. I am inspired to keep on walking, striving, and learning line upon line, here a little and there a little.

Five – We Need the Savior

All that I have already written is based on an assumption – we need a Savior. Without the Savior, we have no real hope for either mortal or eternal perfection. Without a Savior, there is no purpose in striving. There is no purpose in endurance. Because, without a Savior, no matter how disciplined we are, we would never be able to reach the distant end; to achieve the distant objective.

We Need an Atonement. And Christ offers it to us. President Nelson taught:

“Moroni taught how to gain this glorious objective [to be a perfect]. His instruction stands in any age as an antidote for depression and a prescription for joy. I echo his plea: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … love God with all your might, mind and strength … [Then] ye may be perfect in Christ, … holy, [and] without spot.” – Russell M. Nelson

We come unto Christ – first in the waters of baptism. And after that, our striving, our choice to make AND KEEP covenants, our weekly renewal of these covenants are all ways that we come unto Christ. As we progress on the path that He lays out before us, we are coming unto Him. We don’t have to master anything in a day, week, or year. We have a lifetime to do our best – by taking one slow step at a time. As Nephi taught:

“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” – 2 Nephi 31:20

Six – Chin Up!

It’s nice to study a talk about perfection and not feel overwhelmed, depressed, and discouraged. I feel stoked! I feel happy! I feel like I can actually do this! I feel like there are loads of people who have actually done this.

President Nelson taught:

“We need not be dismayed if our earnest efforts toward perfection now seem so arduous and endless. Perfection is pending. It can come in full only after the Resurrection and only through the Lord. It awaits all who love him and keep his commandments.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes, the path toward perfection and eternal life are “arduous.” I’m struck by the description of those who partook of the tree of life in Lehi’s dream:

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30 (emphasis added)

Our distant objective is distant. It will require work and repeated, daily effort. In fact, when we reach the end, I think that we’ll probably be like those in described above – we will fall down and finally partake of the proverbial tree of life.

But we’ll make it! We will partake! We will be perfected in Christ! We will reach that distant objective!

We can let this hope propel us forward during difficult times. And we can ignore the temptation of Satan – who wants us to misunderstand the commandment to be perfect, thinking it is just impossible.

***

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the commandments of God – regarding perfection. I know that misunderstanding this command is a subtle way that Satan tries to knock us off the path of perfection and joy. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson not only understands these commands but teaches us in a gentle and hopeful way. I’m grateful for living apostles and prophets who can help us to understand the mysteries of God.

 

The Spirit of Elijah

Today, I’m studying the talk The Spirit of Elijah, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1994 General Conference.

Family

This talk is all about family history and temple work. It’s kind of funny to read a talk from twenty four years ago about family history work. So much has changed (thanks to technology!)

1994 can seem like ancient times when we think of our technology. In 1994, I was in 10th grade. My family did have a computer, but it was a finicky thing, and I rarely used it. I hand-wrote all of my compositions for my English classes, and I wasn’t the only one who did! The Internet wasn’t really The Internet yet.

I remember that we would get these America Online cds in the mail. We installed it on my dad’s computer, and I’d spend time waiting for it to get online (anyone who grew up in the 90s will always remember that crazy sound of the dial-up modem.) Here it is, just for fun. (By the way, I’m writing as my husband is somewhat asleep next to me. I played it, and with his eyes closed, mumbling, he said, “that’s a dial-up modem.”) hahaha!

Okay! The fun is over, I guess. Back to the talk. It’s kind of hilarious to think of family history work in the 90s. It has become so amazingly easy now! But the principles then are the same as the principles now.

Baptism

The Savior, Himself taught:

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5

In order to enter into God’s kingdom, we need to be “born again” of the water and spirit. In other words, we need to be baptized.

Nephi clearly taught this truth as well:

“And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even by water!” – 2 Nephi 31:5

The Savior was our example, and He beckoned us to follow Him into the waters of baptism. It’s a simple thing to do.

And yet…there are so many people who have lived on this earth without the chance to do so. I have always believed that God is a just and loving God. Why would He give the command to be baptized without a way for all to have the opportunity to choose to be baptized?

President Nelson quoted Howard W. Hunter:

“Does it seem reasonable that persons who have lived upon the earth and died without the opportunity of baptism should be deprived throughout eternity? Is there anything unreasonable about the living performing the baptisms for the dead? Perhaps the greatest example of vicarious work for the dead is the Master himself. He gave his life as a vicarious atonement, that all who die shall live again and have life everlasting. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In a similar way we can perform ordinances for those who did not have the opportunity to do them in lifetime.”- Howard W. Hunter, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote because it is exactly what I have felt for so long.

How would God be a just God if there were so many billions of people who came to this earth, lived, and then died without even hearing the name of Jesus Christ, let alone accepting His Atonement and covenanting with Him through baptism?

I remember when I was about 12 or 13, a friend of mine was talking about faith, in general. He was actually a decent dude, but I remember him saying that those who didn’t have the chance to accept Christ in this life, would be damned. He felt that I, because I was a Mormon, was a damned soul. (I grew up in Texas, so I heard this all the time).

I tried convincing him that not only did I believe in Christ, but I had been baptized. He wasn’t buying it. Then I asked him, what about the people who didn’t have a chance to hear about Christ? Were they all damned too. His response – yes. He supposed so.
I wondered, how is it fair for a soul to be damned when they didn’t even have the chance to hear about the gospel, let alone accept it?

This is something I pondered on my own, and then realized – of course God is a loving and just God. And of course He would not damn someone because of their unfortunate circumstances. Our Heavenly Father already had a plan in place for the salvation of those who don’t have a chance to accept the gospel in this life. They are taught the gospel in the Spirit world – after death – where they have the opportunity to receive the ordinances of salvation.

The problem is – they can’t perform these ordinances themselves! They are in the Spirit World which indicates that they don’t have a body. So, vicarious ordinances are performed.

President Nelson taught:

“To the faithful, comfort comes from the knowledge that no blessings will be withheld from any who love the Lord and strive earnestly to keep His commandments. We will be judged by our deeds and the desires of our hearts—in the Lord’s merciful way and time.” – Russell M. Nelson

The principle of performing ordinances vicariously through the temple brought me peace when I was a young teen. It brings me peace now. I know that there are so many people who have lived good lives, who have good hearts, and who deserve to inherit God’s kingdom – yet they never had the chance to covenant with Him. Through temple work, the opportunity for salvation is made available to all – so long as they choose to accept the ordinances.

***

The Apostle Paul asked:

“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” – 1 Corinthians 15:29

Baptism for the dead is not a new practice.

Temple Work and The Promise of Elijah

The San Diego Temple

God’s people have always been a temple building people. Temples aren’t just beautiful edifices, they have a purpose.

President Nelson taught:

“From the days of Adam to the meridian of time, temple ordinances were performed for the living only. Ordinances for the dead had to await the Atonement and postmortal ministry of the Savior.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have been to the temple, and I love the temple. It is a place of peace, service, worship, and instruction. A few years ago, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with my duties as a mother – raising my innocent children in this crazy-not-so-innocent world. How do I do it? There are so many forces working against families!

It was a Wednesday, and that was the day that I regularly went to the temple. As I sat in the temple, I was pondering these feelings of overwhelm that I had. And I realized, it is no coincidence that this generation has work to do. It is no coincidence that we have a duty to our families and ancestors – to be proxies for them in receiving the ordinances and covenants of the gospel.

I’ve always thought of this duty as merely a job to do. I had never noticed the elegance of this assignment – that in completing my family history work and doing the necessary temple work for them, that I would be blessing my own family right now.

This talk was entitled “The Spirit of Elijah.” The Promise of Elijah:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6

As I have turned my hearts to my fathers and mothers, they have turned their hearts toward me. My heart has also simultaneously turned to my children. The blessings of the temple not only bless us individually, but they are poured onto our posterity – for all generations of time. When we bless our fathers and mothers, we are also blessing ourselves and our children. It is so beautiful, really. Not only is this work for them, but it blesses us, too.

I know that the work that I have completed for my family has blessed my family. I know that the ordinances that I have performed in behalf of my own ancestors has united us in prayer – even though they have passed on from mortality into the Spirit World. I know that they pray for me, plead for me, and for my family. I know that they have been a blessing to me – perhaps more of a blessing to me than I have been to them.

I come from a family that did not all have the blessings of the gospel during their mortal lives. They sacrificed their lives – to live in a time when the gospel wouldn’t be available to them. I can only imagine that they had the hope that one day, they would receive the gospel. Temple work has enabled this miracle for them and for so many others like them.

Identity

This wasn’t a subject in President Nelson’s talk, but I keep thinking that it might be good to include in my blog post.

I think that understanding our identity is of critical importance. I have had my own issues with “identity.” I was born out of wedlock. I had the great blessing to be adopted by the man I consider to be my father and my dad – when I was very young. He raised me, loved me, and does all of this still. He is my father.

But I also always knew that I was adopted. I looked a little bit different than my siblings. There were little questions that lurked in my mind.

Not only that, but I think that every single person on this earth has to get a grip on their identity – who they are – where they fit into their families – what their purpose on this earth is. Identity is such a universal thing.

So – I had my own little “identity crisis.” Thankfully, I was raised with a knowledge of the gospel, and that I am a child of God. Even if I didn’t understand my physical identity and genetics, I knew my spiritual genetics were from a loving Father and Mother in Heaven.

When I was in my early 20s, I had the chance to start doing family history work. This was in the “olden times” of family history centers, microfilms, and real research. I would visit the Family History Center in Ogden, Utah – and I was usually at least 50 years younger than the next youngest person there.

The work I was doing took time, dedication, and patience. But I experienced so many miracles. I was getting the work done. I did the research, found family members, made connections. And as I did this, I started to understand exactly who I was and why I was in the family I was in.

There have been a fair amount of dramas in my family, just like any other family, but the dedication I felt to family history, thankfully, superseded some of these dramas. I started to understand why I needed to be a member of the family I was in – even though I came to it in an unconventional way. Another family member said it to me best: “God knew you needed to be a Ryan without being a ‘blood-Ryan’ because we are all way too stubborn.”

I know that she meant it tongue-in-cheek, yet I also knew she was speaking the truth. Through doing family history work, I have been able to understand my role in my family and why it needed to come in a somewhat convoluted way.

I want to say right now, that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m so grateful to my mother, for her bravery in bringing me into this world even though her situation was less than ideal. I can’t imagine that it would have been easy for her to have me during that time in her life – all alone. Yet she proceeded with courage. She didn’t know that she’d meet someone who would be willing to partner with her and accept me, too.

I’m so grateful for my dad, who loved me, accepted me, and chose me. He has done this my whole life.

Maybe my story is different than many of yours, but it happened exactly as it needed to, and it has blessed me beyond measure.

This is another blessing of The Promise of Elijah. As we get the Spirit of Elijah in our hearts, we are blessed with identity. By looking to our fathers and mothers, we better understand our place in this world. This understanding then will bless our children as we turn our hearts to them with love.

***
One last thing. I know that some people may read this and think, I don’t want to be connected to those people! Some of us come from situations of abuse. And I understand it can be hard. If we prayerfully address the Promise of Elijah, then the Lord will direct us on the path we need to take. Maybe your path won’t look like mine. I know that the Lord is loving, He doesn’t expect us to endure abuse. I know that the Lord is our greatest champion and protector. We need not fear the idea of family history work, but we can spiritually approach it in a way that will help us to balance both boundaries and duty.

***
I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the blessings of the gospel and the Promise of Elijah. I’m grateful to know that He has his own testimony of the role of temples in our lives. It is interesting to me to see that recently President Nelson has asked the youth of the church to join in this cause. It’s amazing to see how family history work is so accessible to all now through technology. I can see how President Nelson was prepared for the duty he would perform as a prophet.

“Teach Us Tolerance and Love”

Today, I’m studying the talk, “Teach Us Tolerance and Love,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1994 General Conference.

Crayon Crinkle Project

Well, I guess I’ll start by stating the obvious. This was a really good talk. Tolerance. Love. President Nelson stated:

“I have been impressed to speak on the subject of tolerance—a virtue much needed in our turbulent world.” – Russell M. Nelson

This talk is so relevant today. He gave this talk 24 years ago – before the 24 hour news cycle – which, I believe, has made so many people so angry. Instead of surrounding ourselves with that which promotes tolerance and love, it seems like everyone is getting angrier and even tribal.

Not only has a lack of tolerance and love been problematic for society, at large, I can also see how this lack creeps into my personal life. It causes rifts, judgments, and misunderstandings. Instead of having love, patience, and long-suffering for others, I tend to get annoyed easily. This talk was timely, and I hope you will read it.

President Nelson quotes the following scripture story:

““Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

“This is the first and great commandment.

“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” – Russell M. Nelson

When the Savior was asked about the most important commandment to keep, he didn’t mention keep the Sabbath Day Holy or Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. He didn’t tell this lawyer any commandment that the lawyer may have expected.

During a political climate that exacted an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, the Savior proclaimed that the greatest of all commandments were to 1) Love God, and 2) Love Others.

President Nelson explained:

“Hence, our highest priorities in life are to love God and to love our neighbors. That broadly includes neighbors in our own family, our community, our nation, and our world. Obedience to the second commandment facilitates obedience to the first commandment. “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17)” – Russell M. Nelson

Recently in my personal scripture study, I’ve been reading and studying the vision of the tree of life – when Nephi sees the vision and learns what each symbol means. In studying this, I’ve learned a lot about desire, and Nephi, himself, learns that the tree of life represents the Love of God, which is the most desirable above all other things. (You can read more here.)

Isn’t it interesting that most important commandments – to love God and to love others – is the most desirable above all other things? I’m convinced that God’s commandments are never little rules given by a power hungry and arbitrary God. His commandments are the secrets to a happy life.

Anyway, if we want to be commandment keeping people, then we need to love God and love others. One way that we show this love is through our kindness to others.

Love Begins at Home

President Nelson shares a cute experience:

“I was amused recently when one of our grown children confided that she had always thought that she was her daddy’s favorite daughter. She was surprised to discover later that each of her eight sisters harbored that same feeling. Only when they had become mothers themselves did they realize that parents hardly have favorites. (Incidentally, our only son never had to wonder who was our favorite son.)” – Russell M. Nelson

Reading this, I wondered, do my children feel this way? I think that my younger two know that they are the apple of my eye. But my teenagers may not realize how much I love them. So – I’m stopping for a second to write them a note. They need to know it! And if your children don’t think that they are your favorite children, maybe take a second right now to tell them how much you love them. If it means that you stop reading this blog post, then great. You can finish reading it later. (or not).

Just imagine what this world would be like if children were reared in homes where they felt confident of the love that their parents have for them.

Heavenly Father Loves us, Too

Ideally, our examples as parents would help a child understand the great love that Heavenly Father has for each of us. Additionally, our children would learn that – just as contention, selfishness, and general unkindness are not acceptable in the home they are also not acceptable ways to treat our other brothers and sisters on this earth. We are all children of God, and we should treat each other as such.

President Nelson stated:

“Yet His children can be so intolerant with one another. Neighboring factions, whether they be identified as groups or gangs, schools or states, counties or countries, often develop animosity. Such tendencies make me wonder: Cannot boundary lines exist without becoming battle lines? Could not people unite in waging war against the evils that beset mankind instead of waging war on each other? Sadly, answers to these questions are often no. Through the years, discrimination based on ethnic or religious identity has led to senseless slaughter, vicious pogroms, and countless acts of cruelty. The face of history is pocked by the ugly scars of intolerance.

How different our world would be if all parents would apply this inspired instruction from the Book of Mormon: “Ye will not suffer your children … that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another. …

“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.”

If such training occurred, children and parents around this globe would join in singing, “Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving; Teach us tolerance and love.” Men and women would respect their neighbors and the beliefs held sacred by them. No longer would ethnic jokes and cultural slurs be acceptable. The tongue of the tolerant speaks no guile.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the true pathway to peace. Marches, protests, wars, laws, or legislation – won’t change anything in this turbulent world. Instead, we need to change our hearts. And parents have the power to do this. We can teach our children not to quarrel with each other at home. We can also teach our children that all of God’s children are our brothers and sisters, so the same love and tolerance applies to those outside of our family.

I love this quote! I love it so much.

I would love to live in a world where we can truly feel safe. This doesn’t come through segregation and “safe spaces.” This comes as we stop pointing fingers at one another. All of us need to stop making assumptions about one another. We need to simply love one another, listen to one another, and be kind. We can change the world – starting in our own homes and neighborhoods. We don’t need world leaders to make treaties, laws, and speeches. We can do it ourselves if we choose. The feelings of safety will come when we simply choose to love one another.

The Risk of Tolerance

Even though President Nelson has taught tolerance, He does warn us:

“Now may I offer an important note of caution. An erroneous assumption could be made that if a little of something is good, a lot must be better. Not so! Overdoses of needed medication can be toxic. Boundless mercy could oppose justice. So tolerance, without limit, could lead to spineless permissiveness.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though tolerance is important, we also have to be aware of a bigger picture. Too much tolerance may end up destroying the very thing we are trying to protect with our tolerance!

I’m reminded of an experience in the Book of Mormon. In the Book of Helaman, we read about the Gadianton Robbers – basically a “Mafia” of sorts – organized crime – secret combinations. We read how both the Lamanites and the Nephites reacted to this troubling development.

“And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.

And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations.

And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.” – Helaman 6:37-39

When the Gadianton Robbers started to proliferate in the communities of the Lamanites and the Nephites, the Lamanites show the example of love and tolerance that we need to adopt.

The Lamanites did not tolerate this wickedness. They understood that it would end up destroying their society. So, the Lamanites hunted down this band of robbers, and then notice what they did: they did preach the word of God.

Because of the love that the Lamanites had for their brothers, but their unwillingness to tolerate the cancer that was growing in their society, the Lamanites were able to eliminate the Gadianton Robbers.

Now look at the Nephites. They not only tolerated the people, but they also tolerated the behavior. The Nephites built up and supported the Gadianton Robbers. This eventually destroyed the Nephite civilization.

We can be loving and kind, just as the Lamanites were, while also rooting out the sin and wickedness that will destroy our society and bring misery. This requires that we are obedient to the commandments and worthy of the constant companionship of the Comforter.

President Nelson stated:

“Real love for the sinner may compel courageous confrontation—not acquiescence! Real love does not support self-destructing behavior.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lamanites in the example above are the perfect examples of courageous confrontation. Their love compelled them to preach the pleasing word of God – even to the most wicked among them – and they were able to root out the Gadianton Robbers. The Lamanites had true love – even for those who were destroying the society – they didn’t support the self-destructing behavior of the Gadianton Robbers. Instead, they boldly and patiently preached the word of God.

We can’t make choices for others. We can’t force others to see things the way that we do. It isn’t god-like to do so. But we can be good examples. We can live worthy of the Spirit. The Spirit will then direct us on when to “preach” and when to remain quiet. The Spirit will help us how to show tolerance for others without tolerating behavior that is destructive.

***
There is so much more in this talk, but I need to wrap things up right now.

I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is tolerant of others – of their religious views, their ethnic backgrounds, their tastes, etc. I’m grateful to know that not only is he tolerant, but that he preaches tolerance. I have been in the presence of our Prophet during a sacrament meeting once. I remember the overwhelming feeling of love I felt while he spoke to us.

I know that President Nelson isn’t a perfect man. I don’t intend to mythicize or deify him. But I’m grateful to know that we are led by a man who preaches tolerance and peace – especially during a turbulent time when it seems like everyone wants to be “right” at the expense of happiness and peace in our society.

I know that if we follow the advice of President Nelson, we will have more joy and peace in our personal lives and in the world, at large.