Where is Wisdom? – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Where is Wisdom?, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1992 General Conference.

One of my dearest friends and I have a self-help book idea titled, Duh. It will be filled with helpful entries like, “People don’t like jerks, so don’t be one. Duh.” or “When driving, watch where you are going. Duh.” Helpful stuff.

While this is a great idea for a book, it might not be all that…diplomatic.

President Nelson has a much nice way of putting it, though…Where is wisdom??? He quoted the following scripture:

“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28:12

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long tradition of emphasizing the importance of education. Since the organization of the church in the 1800s, the saints have instituted schools and universities. We believe in finding wisdom – secular and spiritual.

Seek Education

This subject means a lot to me. In my patriarchal blessing, I was instructed to seek the highest level of education that I could reach – that it would open me up for the future work I could do on this earth.

When I was in high school and college, I thought that meant going to college and graduate school until I received a PhD. Well, spoiler alert: I never went to graduate school. I earned a Bachelor’s degree, and upon my graduation from college, I was pregnant. I felt the impression to wait, so I did.

Four years after graduating college, I had another child, and I was going through a divorce. Thankfully, I had already gotten a college degree, and it helped me find a higher paying job than I would have found otherwise. I started working with a big pharmaceutical company. They had a program that would encourage its employees to gain more education. I started looking into getting an MBA from a nearby school – Villanova.

I started doing the paperwork for application, but as I really considered both the monetary cost and the time cost for an MBA AND the fact that I had two little girls who needed me, I realized that I needed to put it off until Panda was in school full time.

Well, a year before Panda would start attending school, I was married. Homey had received advanced education and was able to make an income that would allow me to stay at home with my children. Again, I knew that I needed to put off my formal education to be at home with my children. They had already gone without me around for a few years, and this time would be essential for their healing from life with a single parent. Plus, it would be good for me to be at home while Homey and I got used to family life all together.

I started to wonder when I would ever go back to school. Would I ever value education again? Thankfully, over time, Heavenly Father taught me that the pursuit of education doesn’t have to be accomplished formally, within university walls.

President Nelson stated:

“I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1992. I was in 7th grade. There was no such thing as the internet. In fact, I remember taking a computer class in 7th grade. The computers were these small boxes with black screens and either green or orange lettering.

old computer

These computers that we used in computer class back then didn’t even have Windows! (Windows did exist, but they didn’t seem to get commonplace for a few more years. Only the techiest and most advanced had windows – probably corporations or such. My school computers…no way. My home computer – I really only remember playing games on it – all pre-windows. Oh – and I’m diverting from the point. These computers didn’t even have windows – LET ALONE THE INTERNET!

I remember when I was in 10th grade or so, my dad got a new computer. We got a cd in the mail – from America Online. We followed the instructions, waited while our computer made these insane sounds, and then tada! we were online! I didn’t know what to do once I was online. At the time, the internet seemed to be chatrooms. It was not yet an information super highway.

But that would change quickly, and by the time I was in college, I was emailing, downloading mp3s from Napster, and “googling.”

Enter the information age.

I didn’t need to rely only on the library or school for education and learning, over time a new option was becoming available. The Internet was filling up with information, tools, and more that would teach me more than I could ever possibly know.

In 2007, when I was married to Homey, with two young girls at home, I wanted to go back to college one day, sure. But I knew I didn’t need to wait. I could research anything I wanted to online.

Next came youtube and instructional videos. I can learn how to install a washer and dryer, cut hair, or even code all on youtube.

And then came podcasts, blogs, websites like Kahn Academy and Masterclass, and more.

Back in 1992, only very few people could have imagined the information age. President Nelson’s words are true – individual desire is more influential than institution. If we want to learn and we have WiFi, then the world is available to us.

President Nelson counseled:

“So my counsel then—and now—is to continue your education wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity, however you determine you can best serve your family and society.” – Russell M. Nelson

Notice the phrase interest and opportunity, we are so blessed to live now – the opportunities are endless. We just have to determine our interest and then seek.

Beware of Unbalance

President Nelson states:

“Choose what you will learn and whose purposes you will serve. But don’t place all your intellectual eggs in one basket of secular learning.” – Russell M. Nelson

There is a danger in pursuing only secular learning and ignoring spiritual education. We need to remember that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. (See 1 Corinthians 3:19.)

President Nelson shared the following story. It is long, but really emphasizes his point:

“In the nineteenth century, health officials and others were concerned about pollution of the air, not by visible smoggy hydrocarbons of today, but by an invisible miasma that was blamed for almost any infection. In 1867, for example, Lord Lister indicted bad air as the chief cause of infection.4 Because of that, in 1869 Simpson from Edinburgh urged that hospitals be taken down and rebuilt every few years. Such an extravagant practice was also advocated by other experts.

Even Florence Nightingale, a living legend following her heroic efforts in the Crimean War, failed to recognize the transmission of infection from one patient to another—this despite her careful notations that wound infection accounted for 40 percent of postoperative mortality.

But others missed the connection, too. For centuries, lives of innumerable mothers and children were claimed by “childbirth fever”—infections unknowingly transmitted among the innocent by unwashed hands of attendants.

It was only a short century ago that the great work of Koch, Pasteur, and others proved that infection could be caused by bacteria in contaminated body fluids—or infected issues—passed from one individual to another.

With these highlights of history in mind, may I quote the word of the Lord recorded long ago in Leviticus, chapter fifteen:

“The Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.

“And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue. …

“Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.

“And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water. …

“And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water.” (Lev. 15:1–5, 7; emphasis added.)

Several verses follow which re-emphasize and illustrate those important principles. Then we read this conclusion:

“And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall … wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.” (Leviticus 15:13)

Thus, our loving Heavenly Father had clearly revealed principles of clean technique in the handling of infected patients more than three thousand years ago! These scriptures are in complete harmony with modern medical guidelines.9 But during those many millennia, how many mothers needlessly perished? How many children suffered because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to incorporate the word of the Lord?” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s important for us to cultivate our knowledge of both secular and spiritual things.

Contemporary Challenges

Even though I spent a lot of time just talking about the benefit of living in the information age, it also poses many challenges. We are bombarded with information – and not all of it is good.

This has been going on for ages…one example I can think of right off the bat is how “Doctors” used to say that smoking was good.

camel ad

Another more recent example:
butter

It can be so confusing! I know – for myself – I have researched and researched so much about healthy diets and exercise. I’ve gone back and forth on the pendulum. Meat is bad – it gives us cancer. We should eat plant-based. …then…Wait, grains are bad. They raise insulin. We need to eat more protein. … then … No, wait again. Too much protein results in gluconeogenesis, which will then raise insulin anyway, so we need to eat very low carb (fruit is evil!) and lots and lots of fats. Saturated fat is fine. Stay away from polunsaturated fat though. (ignore what was preached in the 90s. Saturated fat is not the enemy! Veggie oil is!!)

It can make your head spin. You might ask…Where is wisdom?

President Nelson taught:

“Wisdom is to be found in pure intelligence—in that divine light which can guide people in all countries, all climes, and all continents.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lord is the fountain of all wisdom. I’m not saying that everything that we need to learn can be learned in only the scriptures or at church. That’s not the case at all. The Lord, Himself, taught us:

“… yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

Wisdom and education won’t just happen to us. We need to seek. We can find truth and light everywhere – as we observe the world around us, in a yoga class, while listening to a podcast, on instagram, from a blog, when we listen to our children, etc.

And though there are complications with living in the information age, we have a benefit – the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us to discern truth from error.

I, for example, don’t have to let myself get confused by all of the dietary and nutritional information that I have learned. I have the word of wisdom. It is an excellent guide, even if it doesn’t explain things like the effects of sugar on our hormones.

The Lord is the source of all truth and will help us to see the nuggets of truth as we seek more wisdom. There are a lot of good things that I have learned about health and nutrition – that weren’t included in the Word of Wisdom, but with the Word of Wisdom as a guide, I have been able to discern what is good and what is folly.

This is a long and rambling blog post. I’m sorry. I’ll finish with one last quote.

“Where is wisdom? It pulses and surges with the Lord’s light of truth! With that light He lifts us toward eternal life, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m so grateful to be living in the information age. I have learned so much from so many people – from experts with long pedigrees of formal education down to people who have put in time, effort, and experience to learn what they know. Though I haven’t pursued a formal education, I still have made every effort to obtain the highest level of education I can reach. This pursuit will continue until I take my last breath.

I’m also grateful to know that we are guided by an intelligent prophet who loves learning and light. I’m grateful that he has not only sought formal education, but that he learns on a daily basis. I’m grateful that he preaches that we each seek wisdom, learning, and light. I know that because of President Nelson’s choice to seek wisdom, we have all been greatly blessed.

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Russell M. Nelson at Church

If you read this blog, then you know that recently I’ve been reading and then writing about the talks that President Russell M. Nelson has given since he was called as an apostle. It has been a great experience so far, and I plan to continue with this, but today I’m going to take a quick break.

Yesterday, at 12:45PM, my family and I packed up in our vehicle and headed off to church. There were dark skies, it looked like it would rain at any minute. Right now, I’m staying with my in-laws in a small valley in Utah, and I have to admit that I love when the skies are moody – with the threat of a mountain thunderstorm.

In my mind, I began to sing, “When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us, and threaten our peace to destroy…there is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh…”

We headed off to church, and the song felt like a tender mercy. It was a reminder that even when life feels a little overwhelming, we can have hope – deliverance is nigh.

Sunday in Heber Valley

We got out of our car, walked into the chapel, and it felt so weird. It was sooo quiet and reverent. This is a big ward, and usually on Sunday, it is humming like a beehive, but everyone was seated and quiet. We were there 10 minutes early, but it felt like we were late.

I scanned the congregation, looking for my mother and father-in-law and my daughters, who had left a few minutes before Homey and I did with the younger two. I found them, headed to our seat, and was still feeling disoriented as it was so quiet and reverent.

While walking to our bench, I noticed someone seated on the stand. A couple of familiar faces.

President Nelson and his wife!

President and Sister Nelson
This isn’t a picture I took…I got found it here

President Nelson is not a member of my in-law’s ward. He is not a usual visitor. No one, to my knowledge, knows why he chose to visit our ward’s sacrament meeting this week, but he and his wife were there. The reverence made sense, and I found myself encouraging my children to be a little more reverent. I found myself sitting up straighter, singing louder, and taking the whole experience of sacrament meeting a little more seriously.

WHY??????!!!

As soon as I found myself taking everything at church a little more reverently and seriously, I was disappointed in myself. Sacrament meeting this week was no different than any other sacrament meeting. I was there to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament and fellowship with the saints. Why do I need to be reminded of its sanctity by the prophet?

Why can’t I take church more seriously, why can’t I be more reverent on my own accord?!

I committed to make my worship more meaningful.

Sacrament with the Prophet

I couldn’t help but find myself watching the prophet as the sacrament was administered. I felt like a child watching a parent – looking for cues on how to act, what to do. How does the prophet partake of the sacrament? I wanted to watch and know.

So I did. Well, kind of. I mean, I tried to be a little more subtle than a toddler. And I realized that I already know how to be reverent in sacrament. But I still found myself observing the prophet.

And he acted just as I suspected he would. He shut his eyes, he bowed his head.

As I watched him, I followed suit. I would peek up every once in a while. It almost felt voyeuristic because I could see that this was a very personal experience for him. It made me realize that my sacrament experience isn’t quite as personal for me. I take it, I’m grateful. But am I really internalizing it each week?

Watching the prophet also gave me a feeling that is very hard to express. The word/feeling that kept coming to mind is:

This is real.

Nervous Speakers

The bishop, when conducting, openly admitted that he was “a bit terrified.”

The youth speaker didn’t really mention her own nerves, but gracefully gave an amazing talk. She had no idea the prophet would be there that day. She gave a talk about having the Spirit with us always. She bore testimony. It was a sublime talk and a gentle reminder to me that I need to do more to sue for the Spirit each day.

The high councilman, who had just been called to his position was giving his first talk as a high councilman. Usually, they try to find a return missionary to travel with the high councilman as he speaks. He didn’t have another speaker, and was worried. Until he found that there indeed would be another speaker (or two!) that day. He was a bit flustered, but gave a good talk about family history work and how he has approached it.

Though the talks were good, I think my thoughts probably reflected the same thoughts everyone in the congregation had that day. I want to hear the prophet.

Imagining

You can’t help, in those quiet moments during talks, during songs, etc. You can’t help but wonder, how long is the prophet going to stay? Will he meet each of us? Will he shake our hands? Can we just stay in sacrament meeting instead of our other classes? Can we just ask him questions and hear his answers?

You can’t help but imagine more…I would love to tell him Thank you. I sustain you. I would love for him to look into my children’s eyes and smile – so they can meet a true prophet of God.

Of course, my imagining was interrupted by my rationality. He and his wife probably won’t stay. This is a huge congregation. How could he possibly shake all of our hands. You need to respect him and his wife and their time, Catania.

I realized something in that moment. The ache that I felt, to meet the prophet, to shake his hand, was representative another desire. The ache I felt to be close to the Prophet is actually the ache I feel to be close to the Savior.

jesus-with-mary-martha-39572-gallery
This is where I want to be one day.

I realized that President Nelson, he is the mouthpiece of the Lord. And he is here with us – in the flesh. And that, even though he is a mouthpiece, he isn’t actually the Savior either. I realized that my desire, to meet the prophet, is righteous but inaccurate. Really, I want to meet the Savior. I want to shake his hand. I want my children to meet Him. I want to worship Him in the flesh.

Again the thought came This is real.

I felt comforted to know that the ache I felt was really an ache for the Savior. It is a good feeling. And that although the Savior doesn’t dwell among us now, He has sent us a prophet. This is real! President Nelson really is a prophet of God. He really has had a witness, a special witness of Christ. President Nelson is a prophet, seer, revelator. No, we don’t worship him. He doesn’t want to be worshipped. But he does represent the Savior and the Savior’s power in a special way by virtue of his calling.

And because I could see President Nelson sitting there, a prophet of God, I could also rest assured that Christ is real! That at a future point, I will meet my Savior. I will worship Him in person. I will shake His hand, and I’ll probably cry instead of do anything meaningful or gracefulMy children will meet Him.

This is real.

Everything – everything that I’m doing in my life is because the gospel is real. The Savior is real.

I love learning things – principles – that help us to have better lives. And often I learn about these principles in books and on podcasts. And while they are very good things to learn, while they have made my life better, without the Savior no type of self improvement is even possible.

This is real! Over and over again, that was the feeling I had.

The Sacrament is a real ordinance.

The Prophet is a real man, called of God. He’s sitting up there. He looks older in person, but also realer.

The Savior is real. This is His restored Church. Every good thing in this world is possible because of Him.

Sister Nelson Speaks

After the High Councilor spoke, the Bishop announced that Sister Nelson would speak to us and then the Prophet would speak to us. He also asked us that, after the closing song, we would remain seated as the Prophet exited.

Sister Nelson got up to speak. She was wearing a purple jacket and a black scarf thing. She looked pretty but not high maintenance. “Neat and comely” is exactly how I would describe her.

As she walked up to the podium, I started to realize that so much of what “matters” to me is trivial. I’ll be absolutely honest with you, so please don’t judge me. I noticed that she is a woman, an older woman. She doesn’t have what one would describe as a “perfect body.” But she was radiant.

She radiated strength, knowledge, and testimony. She looked intelligent.

She began to speak, and everything she said reflected what she radiated. I don’t know much about her, but I felt an overwhelming amount of respect for her.

Here are a few points of what she said to us:

  • Family History work is important – she echoed the message we heard from our high councilman. … She had done a lot of family history work in her life. She had even gone to sites and found artifacts. She knew so much about her family. But for years she had never taken the time to research her family history and do temple work for her kindred.After hearing the talk The Joy of Redeeming the Dead by Richard G. Scott, she knew she needed to make a change. She told us how that talk resonated with her, and within a month of him addressing us, she had read the talk nearly a hundred times.

    Since 2012, she has read or listened to the talk over 250 times. I can’t say that I’ve ever read any conference talk so much!

    But even more important than reading a talk repeatedly, she was moved to action. She began to do the work for her family. She went to the temple. She had special experiences.

    She said that she was doing the work for the dead, then remarked, “And they don’t like being called ‘the dead,’ by the way!”

    I have been able to do work for my ancestors and family, and immediately I felt comforted by what she said. I have had my own experiences and I know that though our friends and family who are inhabiting the Spirit World may be “dead” physically, the end of our mortal lives is not the end. They are still alive – spiritually. They are working, learning, and waiting. I know that they are praying for us, and that the connection we have with our family doesn’t end with death. What a beautiful sentiment for her to share with us.

  • President Nelson is a prophet of God. She shared with us that she has had two very special and strong experiences that have testified to her that President Russell Marion Nelson is indeed God’s Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on the earth today.No, she didn’t share these experiences. She didn’t need to. I don’t need to know the details of her experiences. The Spirit confirmed to me that what she said was true. He is the prophet. I’ve had my own witness, and now I was listening to the witness of another.

The Prophet Speaks

It only took me 1,989 words to finally get to this point! After Sister Nelson was seated, President Nelson spoke to us. As he approached the stand, I put my son on my lap. I encouraged my children to listen to a Prophet of God. I wished that I would be able to record this experience. I prayed that the Holy Ghost would help me to remember what the Prophet said to us. I am still praying for that blessing now.

The Book of Mormon is the Word of God

The Prophet said a bunch of nice things to us and our ward – things that I’m sure 1) He says in every ward/branch/stake he visits 2) things he MEANS in every ward/branch/stake he visits.

Before I go on, I want to share an interesting thing…President Nelson is a normal old man. Really, I kept looking at him, looking for a shining light or halo. But he is a 93 year old man, and he looks like an 93 year old man. Well, maybe an 87 year old man. Not sure.  I’m reminded of the scripture in Isaiah:

“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” – Isaiah 53:2

This scripture is a description of the Savior, but it applies also to President Nelson. “There is no beauty that we should desire him.” He isn’t glittery or shiny. And with our natural eyes, he has no form or comeliness.

Yet, when I looked at the prophet, and let the Spirit in my heart, I began to see him a different way. I saw him with my spiritual eyes, and that is when I could really see the man he is. Then I could see that from his countenance emanated the love that he has for everyone – and the love that the Lord has for us all.

I guess I want to share this because if President Nelson is so special, why isn’t everyone just converted to the gospel when they meet him? It’s because we have to choose to see.

President Nelson started to tell us about an experience he recently had – meeting with some of the dignitaries of the NAACP. Before they met together, President Nelson wondered if they should present these dignitaries with a gift, and if so, what should that gift be?

It was concluded that they would give a gift. They decided to present these dignitaries with personal leather-bound Books of Mormon – with their names inscribed on the cover.

When they presented these Books of Mormon to the NAACP Representatives that met together, President Nelson explained that this was the most valuable and precious thing in his life, and the most valuable and precious gift that he could think of to give.

The Book of Mormon, he explained, is a testament of the Savior from the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.

He said, the Book of Mormon is far more valuable than money, diamonds, emeralds, rubies. Do we realize this?!

President Nelson mention that in one day, Joseph Smith was able to translate roughly 9 pages of the Book of Mormon. This was without a computer, word processor, spell check, etc. In fact, Oliver Cowdery was writing 9 pages of Book of Mormon text with a turkey feather quill and ink!!!!!!!  Can you even imagine? Then the Prophet continued, “And we feel accomplished when we can read one chapter in a day!”

I love the Book of Mormon, and I have a testimony of it, I felt inspired by the Prophet’s testimony, but I also felt a gentle rebuke. It IS worth more than diamonds, rubies, or the riches of the earth. And I have one. I have one on my phone. I have at least a dozen or so small “missionary” Books of Mormon – in boxes, in my suitcase. I have owned at least 3 sets of “nice scriptures” – the quads that contain all of the scriptures in one place. I have so much of this abundance in my life, that I kind of forget its value!

I read the Book of Mormon with my family, but my own personal study has suffered during our moves. What is the reason for that? Mostly it’s because I’m kind of spoiled. I forget. I forget that…

This is real!

It’s real! The Book of Mormon is real! It really came from Nephi and Jacob, and Alma and Mormon and Moroni by the command of God. The experiences related in its pages are real. The Savior really did visit the Americas after his resurrection. The Book of Mormon really will bring us closer to Christ than any other book.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ Love Each of Us

I wish, how I wish I could remember everything that the Prophet said verbatim. But I can’t.

After bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon, The Prophet encouraged everyone – and especially the youth – to study it, to read about the gathering of Israel. That his upcoming youth devotional will address the gathering of Israel, and that reading the Book of Mormon will help them to prepare for it.

He then expressed the Love that Heavenly Father has for us. I felt like the Prophet was looking right at me when he said, “Heavenly Father knows you and loves you, personally. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you, personally.” He knows our circumstances, He understands us.

I can’t remember the Prophet’s exact words, and maybe they aren’t as important as what I felt. I can remember what I felt. Often, when I receive a blessing from Homey, there is a mention of the Love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for me. Especially if this is a blessing of comfort when I’m sick or overwhelmed – there is a recognition of Heavenly Father’s and Jesus Christ’s perfect awareness of my situation – my trials, my worries, etc. In fact, I’ll share the verbiage of this type of blessing because I actually think it applies to us all:

 I bless you with peace. I bless you with the knowledge that your Heavenly Father and Savior are aware of your situation and the details in your life and in your challenges right now. I bless you that you will be able to feel their love for you, and a strong spiritual comfort that you have been led and guided by them…

As the Prophet spoke of the Love that our Heavenly Father and Savior have for each of us, I felt it specifically. I felt exactly as I feel when I receive a Priesthood Blessing.

On Saturday night, I didn’t get much sleep. We are in the middle of a big transition, a big move. This transition really has taken years of effort. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with my family. I am grateful for the guidance of the Spirit. I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had to make sacrifices and choices. And when I’m wide awake, I’m really capable of maintaining faith and courage.

Then night comes. And I start to fall asleep. The voice of my subconscious seems to be louder and more persuasive than my rational or spiritual voices. Any of the challenges that I’m experiencing loom darker and heavier at night. Thankfully this doesn’t happen every night. Most nights I say my prayers, give Homey a kiss, and get some sleep.

But you know how it is. Sometimes there are those nights when your brain won’t turn off. The hours passed, and I finally decided to read conference talks – President Nelson’s talk about revelation, specifically.

I didn’t have any shattering revelations. Instead, my mind was occupied enough to finally doze into sleep.

As I went to church, I saw the dark clouds hanging over the valley. I felt assured that though I was overwhelmed with metaphorical “dark clouds” the Lord’s deliverance is nigh.

Then, when I heard the prophet speak, I felt reassured – yes, Heavenly Father is aware of every specific detail of my life. He will not forsake me or my family. He loves me and supports me. He loves and supports all of us. He allows us to experience hard things because the only way to the top of the mountain is up.

empire pass
It isn’t easy getting here. God knows that, and He wants us to climb anyway – because it is totally worth it!

The Lord lets us experience hard things because they give way to happy things. The Lord has blessed us with a Prophet. The Lord has given us the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He has given us the Priesthood. He has given us a Savior.

This is Real

We All Stand as the Prophet Leaves

 

The Prophet finished his remarks. He sat down. We sang a closing song. (Hymn 220 – Lord I would Follow Thee, a favorite!) After the closing prayer, we stood up and remained in our places.

The organist was a total champ. He played “We Thank Thee, Oh God, For a Prophet,” as the Prophet shook hands with the Bishop, the speakers, as the prophet slowly and happily walked down through the chapel and out the doors.

I wanted to sing out loud.

Tears fell down my cheeks – because I was consumed with the knowledge that the Savior and Heavenly Father love us, love me! They love us enough to bless us with a prophet. Tears fell because I realized that there are people who love the Lord enough to dedicate their entire lives to serving Him.

Tears fell down my cheeks because This is Real!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t just a nice way to gather with like-minded people. It isn’t simply a social organization. It isn’t a society of people dedicated to making this world better.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church. He is real. His son is real. He created this earth. He knows each of us by name and loves each of us individually. The Savior really came in the meridian of time to atone for our sins, so that we could live in joy forever. The Savior really has revealed to His prophets – to guide us, teach us, and testify to us. The Savior is still revealing to His Prophet – to guide us in these latter days.

I’m so thankful to God for a Prophet. I will never forget the time I was able to partake of the Sacrament with Him. I will never forget what I felt – that this is Real. I hope that by sharing my experience with you, you are also strengthened in your knowledge that this is real. That God Loves you. That He has given us a Savior – Jesus Christ. And that we have a prophet who dwells among us on this earth today.

“Thus Shall My Church Be Called” – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk “Thus Shall My Church Be Called,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1990 General Conference.

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First of all – I’m excited – I made it to the 90s! We still have a long way to go until I’m reading President Nelson’s current talks, but getting to a new decade is still pretty exciting. At the time President Nelson gave this talk, I was 11 1/2 years old. I’m sure that I watched this when I was a kid, but I have no recollection of this talk or of any of the talks that I’ve read up to this point. I have absolutely loved reading and studying these talks now.

***

I Belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

This talk is about the name of our church. It seems like we hear these types of talks every once in a while.

I remember hearing a part of an interview of the creators of the Book of Mormon musical. They were laughing about how awkward the name of our church is, there are too many prepositional phrases in it. I hate to say it, but I kind of understood what they meant.

I lived in Texas until I was almost 15 years old. Then I moved to Pennsylvania until I went to college. Most people hadn’t heard of my church, and if they had, they always thought of us as “Mormons.” If someone asked me what church I went to, I often found myself answering, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Often, I was met with a blank stare and clarification. Then I’d say, “I’m a Mormon.”

Though I don’t say, “I go to the Mormon Church,” and I know the true name of our church, I can see why it is good for the Apostles to give talks like these from time to time. This talk is a good resource for us to share with others when they may have questions about the name of our church. It is also a good reminder to us – to remember the name of our church and what it means.

Saints

President Nelson begins by teaching us what the word “saints” actually means – as far as it is used by the Savior and in the Bible. He taught:

“Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love.”  – Russell M. Nelson

Though people commonly think of a saint as “one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent holiness,” this is not how we use the term. Instead, we use the term in a more biblical sense. In the Bible, those who were Christians were considered Saints.

A great example of this is through reading the epistles of Paul. As President Nelson noted:

“Paul addressed an epistle “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1.)

To recent converts there he said, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19; see also Eph. 3:17–19.)

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul used the word saint at least once in every chapter!” – Russell M. Nelson

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we consider saints to be individuals who are converted and who are striving to be the kind of people the Savior wants us to be. We are living. We are imperfect. We are faithful.

Latter-day

“Latter-day” has never really been a difficult concept for me to understand, but then again, I grew up in the church. President Nelson explained:

“The term latter-day is an expression especially difficult for translators who labor in languages in which there is not a good equivalent term. Some translations may suggest last day.

It is true that scriptures foretell the final days of the earth’s temporal existence as a telestial sphere. The earth will then be renewed and receive its paradisiacal, or terrestrial, glory. (See A of F 1:10.) Ultimately, the earth will become celestialized. (See Rev. 21:1; D&C 77:1; D&C 88:25–26.) But its last days must be preceded by its latterdays!

We live in those latter days, and they are really remarkable. The Lord’s Spirit is being poured out upon all inhabitants of the earth, precisely as the Prophet Joel foretold.” – Russell M. Nelson

So – if the “last days” are the final days of the earth’s temporal existence (hard to get my mind around – I guess that’s Armageddon), then this current time could be considered the days right before the last day. So, the latter days.

Late, but not last.

Maybe if I was thinking of this in terms of a baseball game, we are in the latter innings – post 7th inning stretch, but the game isn’t over.

The game isn’t over, but it’s wrapping up.

So – when we think of the name of the Church, the name that the Lord gave, then we understand that we are the saints of the last days – we are not the saints of the meridian of time. We are not the saints of the early days of the church. We are the saints that are “playing” during the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

One other point stood out to me in this talk regarding the latter days. President Nelson stated:

“Surely the hand of the Lord is apparent. He said, “I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73), and that time of hastening is now.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m currently typing my thoughts on a laptop computer. I read this talk on my iPhone – a computer that essentially fits in my pocket. I have more information accessible to me than I can process. I can do family history work, I can call and communicate with the other side of the world. I can facetime family and friends who live in other time zones.

I can drive across town, I can fly across the country. I can watch TV, movies, etc. I can wash my clothes in a machine. I wash my dishes in another machine.

I don’t butcher my food, but I go to a grocery store that sells me both local and exotic foods.

The changes in our lives and technology in these “latter-days” is astounding and quite mind-boggling. It is especially so when you compare the current rate of technology with any other period of time.

I believe that these changes are evidence that these are the “latter days” – when the Lord is hastening His work.

Jesus Christ

President Nelson explained:

“By divine directive, the title of the Church bears the sacred name of Jesus Christ, whose church this is.” – Russell M. Nelson

This Church is the Church of Jesus Christ. We worship God in Christ’s name. He is central to our faith and our salvation. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no need for any other part of our church’s name. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Book of Mormon (it is a Testament of Jesus Christ!) Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As President Nelson shared:

“We revere the name of Jesus Christ. He is our risen Redeemer.” – Russell M. Nelson

Jesus Christ created the earth.

Jesus Christ was Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Jesus Christ came to this world to do the work and the will of His Father. He lived a perfect life, taught, served, suffered, died, and was resurrected – so that we could find hope and Salvation.

Jesus Christ lives and loves us.

Jesus Christ will one day return.

The Church

Sometimes I wonder why we need to have an organized church. There are so many people I know, love, and respect who are smart and spiritual people that don’t believe in an “organized religion.” Sometimes this idea is pretty attractive to me – to simply believe in Christ but not be a part of some kind of organization.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is very individualized. We are to counsel with God. We are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Yet, we are also commanded to gather together often as saints.

President Nelson taught:

“The Church is the way by which the Master accomplishes His work and bestows His glory. Its ordinances and related covenants are the crowning rewards of our membership. While many organizations can offer fellowship and fine instruction, only His church can provide baptism, confirmation, ordination, the sacrament, patriarchal blessings, and the ordinances of the temple—all bestowed by authorized priesthood power. That power is destined to bless all children of our Heavenly Father, regardless of their nationality:

“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth.” (D&C 65:2; see also Dan. 2:37–45; D&C 109:72.)” – Russell M. Nelson

Though the idea of a personal, spiritual quest with mountain top church and without social structure sounds kind of nice, it is actually not ideal. It is not what the Lord has organized for us. It doesn’t offer the ordinances and covenants that we need in order to receive salvation.

We need the Church because we need each other. We need to bear one another’s burdens. I’m uplifted when I help to lift others. And I know that I have been the recipient of love and comfort from others, too.

We need to comfort others, we need to serve others. We need the chance to bear our testimony and hear the testimonies of others. Through the organization of the Church, we are able to get these things that we need – to help with our spiritual and emotional nourishment.

Of course, we are imperfect, which sometimes means that “The Church” is imperfect. Despite this, the Savior has commanded us to be a Church – to nurture and love one another. Sometimes the “imperfect” thing is exactly what we need. We need each other – we need The Church.

***

Finally, it is crucial to remember that the name: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is what the Lord named the church. It wasn’t a name made up by Joseph Smith. It was given to Joseph Smith by the Lord. We read:

“Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” – Doctrine and Covenants 115:4

***

I’m so grateful to be a member of this Church. I know that it is a blessing that I’ve been given. I haven’t done anything to deserve it. I’m not more righteous or special than anyone else. Yet I have the light and truth of the gospel in my life. I’ve been able to make covenants that have blessed me and my family. I’m so grateful to be able to proclaim, “I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I’m also grateful to know that our prophet understands the name of our Church and that the name was given by the Savior. President Nelson isn’t under any kind of presumption that this is his church since he is the prophet. This is Christ’s church, and I’m so grateful to know that President Nelson understands this and what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

SaveSave

The Canker of Contention – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk The Canker of Contention, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1989 General Conference.

Peaceful Place
Peace

So far, every talk of President Nelson’s that I’ve read is still appropriate now – years after the talk was given. Today’s talk is no exception.

I want to begin with a quote from the middle of the talk:

“My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1989. I was ten and a half years old. So, I think I was probably in fourth grade. I don’t really remember what the social climate was at the time – my life was mostly concerned with going to elementary school and playing outside. My parents got a divorce around this time, but I don’t really remember much about what was socially acceptable as far as courtesy or contention goes.

However, I would venture to guess that societal contention is still a concern for President Nelson. I know that it is a concern for me. 1989 – was before the 24 hour news cycles had taken hold in our lives. It was before there were trolls on the internet and cyber-bullying. I know that contention existed in 1989, but it seems like our society keeps trending toward contention and tribalism.

We have also seen how this contention spills out into the rest of our lives – the classroom and the workplace. In fact, who could have imagined how unsafe the classroom would be?! Gosh, I could go on, but that’s not the point of this talk or blog post. I think that we all know that contention is a problem. Bemoaning it doesn’t help. Instead, we can accept that we have a country rife with contention, and then we can understand why that is a problem. When we accept and understand, then we can work toward a solution.

Our Society is Rife with Contention

We can accept this. Accepting doesn’t mean condoning. It means that we recognize there is a problem.

It means that we recognize there is a problem, and that we can do something about it!

Accept it without judgement. Instead, I think we need to accept it the same way that you would if you found that you had skin cancer. One option would be to get mad at the sun. You could shake your fist at it. You could pretend that there is no problem as the cancer festers and destroys your body. Or you could accept the fact and simply say, “Well, I don’t like this, but I accept it. I have skin cancer. Now what can I do?”

So – we accept there is a problem. There are too many people bullying and being bullied. There are too many random shootings. There are too many purposeful shootings. There is too much road rage. There are too many people shouting and blaming and trolling. There is too much domestic violence. We have a societal cancer called contention. Accept it. and now, what can we do??? (No, the answer doesn’t mean point fingers at others, by the way. It’s not everyone else’s fault! What can WE do means what can WE do!)

The Problem with Contention

President Nelson declared:

“As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

But why? Why is contention such a problem? Well, let’s consider its origin.

The Savior taught:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29

The father of contention is the devil. He wants us to fight. He wants us to be filled with enough pride that we put down and hurt others. Though there may be momentary satisfaction in hurting another, we are left with a bad taste in our mouth. We are left with a gaping hole in our spirits when we let that spirit into our lives. Think of how Nephi felt when he was angry at his brothers:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” – 2 Nephi 4:17

The spirit of contention left Nephi feeling wretched. We quote 2 Nephi 4 as the psalm of Nephi, and we are able to witness him as he struggles with the consequence of contention and repents. We watch him strip this out of his heart. We watch him swallow his pride. He was angry at his brothers who wanted to kill him! He had done so much for them! It seems like he would have every right to be angry.

And he did have every right to be angry, I suppose. The Lord doesn’t expect us to be a doormat, but we also can’t give into the spirit of contention. So, if Nephi chooses to exercise this “right” to anger, then he also dispels the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

When Nephi felt angered and contentious, the Spirit departed, and because Nephi was so in tune with it, he felt wretched without it. He quickly corrected course because he knew that feeling wretched isn’t all that great.

But what about each of us? What do we do when we feel wretched. Do we look inward and plead with God for forgiveness? Or do we let that wretched feeling give way to more anger and more wretchedness?

***

Contention isn’t new. In fact, it existed in the pre-mortal world. Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father and started a war in heaven.

President Nelson stated:

“This war in heaven was not a war of bloodshed. It was a war of conflicting ideas—the beginning of contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is so fascinating to me! Even though I have been raised as a Mormon – so the whole “war in heaven” narrative has always been a part of my life – I never really internalized what that meant.

I mean, I never really compared the war in heaven with war that we see happening in this mortal world. I am so blessed. I know very little of war. I haven’t experienced it first-hand. I have lived a safe life. However, I’ve tried to educate myself, and I know that war is terrifying. It is full of death and misery. It is terrible. And this is exactly what the war in heaven was, too.

There was no bloodshed in heaven, but there were casualties.

War can be waged with only ideas, and such a war can have catastrophic results. Contention isn’t manifest for the first time with the exchange of blows. Contention begins deep in our hearts – with our thoughts, then expressed through words, and finally through actions. By the time we let it get to our actions, it truly has cankered our souls.

President Nelson also reminds us:

“Scriptures repeatedly warn that the father of contention opposes the plan of our Heavenly Father. Satan’s method relies on the infectious canker of contention. Satan’s motive: to gain personal acclaim even over God Himself.” – Russell M. Nelson

Satan’s motive is always the same. He wants our agency and God’s glory. Though he didn’t find success in the war in heaven, he still wages war now – with the same results in mind. His motive has nothing to do with us – giving into the pride of contention will not make us feel better.

I remember getting into an argument with a loved one. Both of us said things that we regret now – in fact we regretted them almost immediately. I remember that after the argument, I left and was feeling wretched. I was tempted to call a friend and then complain about this argument – furthering the spirit of contention and then also infecting another with this same spirit.

Thankfully the friend wasn’t around to talk to. So I was alone in my car.

I chose to just say a prayer that I would feel better.

The way that prayer usually seems to work (at least for me in these kinds of situations) is that Heavenly Father never usually says, “You’re right, what a jerk!…You know what you should do…” He never guides me to more contention or pain.

Now, my hurt feelings were legitimate, and Heavenly Father comforted me. But I was also impressed with a feeling, “You two are on the same team.”

And I realized that because we were on the same team, then we had to make a choice. There wouldn’t be one clear winner and one clear loser. Either we both win or we both lose. Satan tries to get us to lose sight of this. He wants us to be myopic and focus not on the big game but on the faults of our teammates. We may feel momentarily justified, but in the end we both lose.

Steps to Supplant Contention

President Nelson gives us two main steps to help us combat the canker of contention.

One – Bridle our Passions

Alma gave this advice to his son:

“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.” – Alma 38:12

Usually, I tend to think of “passions” as sexual in nature. But passion can be more than that. But we have to bridle our passions – of anger and frustration – so that we can be filled with love, God’s love, instead.

We are to bridle our passions. This doesn’t mean to eliminate them. This doesn’t mean that we become robotic! It means that we become the master of our passions – that we use discernment and discretion. It means that we follow the Spirit rather than our emotions.

President Nelson advised:

“To begin, show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the word processor. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” – Russell M. Nelson

Two – Love God

Really, this is the ultimate step in combatting contention and controlling our passions. President Nelson explained:

“Personal peace is reached when one, in humble submissiveness, truly loves God. Heed carefully this scripture:

“There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1:15; see also 4 Ne. 1:2; italics added.)

Thus, love of God should be our aim. It is the first commandment—the foundation of faith. As we develop love of God and Christ, love of family and neighbor will naturally follow. Then will we eagerly emulate Jesus. He healed. He comforted. He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! I love the connection between personal peace (which comes as a result of Loving God), and peace with others.

I know that this is true, too.

I have struggled with contention in my life. It is easy and natural for me to do. However, I hate the way I feel when I let even a little bit of contention into my heart. It is terrible. It truly is wretched. This is a struggle that I have tried to ward off and am continually confronted with. It is so hard to change.

The thing with change is – it’s so hard to make a change using sheer willpower if we are moseying along in the wrong paradigm. When we change our paradigm, then our actions are so much easier to change, too.

So – even though I listed step one as “bridling our passions,” I think that really it isn’t the critical step. We should bridle our passions so that we can be filled with God’s love because God’s love is where the paradigm shift happens.

I love the scripture:

“We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

If you are trying to cultivate a love of God, then allow yourself to feel His love because He loves you.

Imagine if every person on this earth knew this simple fact: that they are children of God; that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them.

Say this out loud: I am a child of God, and He loves me.

Just saying that fills my heart with hope and joy! I can’t explain it, but anger, fear, and pride dispel when I say and accept that I am a child of God, and that He Loves me. When I accept this truth in my life, I want to feel more of His love. I want to be kinder. I want to have peace. I don’t want to fight!

When we love God, we change our paradigm. We see the world in a new way. We recognize that we truly are all brothers and sisters and that God not only loves us, but He loves them, too. When we love God, we begin to feel the love and compassion that He has for others – even if it is hard for us to do that ourselves. When we love God, we heal our soul from the canker of contention – we won’t give way to temptation. The devil will have no place in our hearts to destroy our peace and afflict our souls. When we love God, we will see contention for what it is, and then do the humbling steps to root it out of our lives.

And imagine what a world that would be!

***

I love this talk, and I feel like it is so timely. Unfortunately, the subject of “the canker of contention” may always be timely. In any case, I’m grateful for this reminder. I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the cankerous effect of contention. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson also knows how to apply gospel truths to overcome contention. I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is a peacemaker

Addiction or Freedom – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk, Addiction or Freedom, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1988 General Conference.

This talk was a good reminder on the blessing of the Word of Wisdom – and how violating the Word of Wisdom will ultimately result in a loss of freedom…addiction.

Throughout the first portion of the talk, President Nelson taught about the cycle of addiction and various addictive substances. That part of the talk is very helpful, but it isn’t what I’d like to focus on today for this blog post.

After a short treatment of addictive substances, President Nelson offered a “Prescription” for overcoming addiction. This prescription is relevant to all of us – no matter the type of addition we may be suffering from.

Spiritual Prescription for Overcoming Addiction

Before I continue with the Spiritual Prescription, I want to quickly say that now, 20 years after this talk was given, we know that drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are not the only addictive substances destroying lives. We also know that there are other substances that are incredibly addictive will some ill long-term effects. I’m thinking mainly of the overconsumption of sugar and other processed foods.

I don’t advocate a complete avoidance of sugar. I think that it is okay in small doses. But many people are addicted to sugar and certain foods, and it has led them down a path of disease and obesity. I think that we can apply these same principles to any kind of physical addiction we might have.

One: Choose to Be Alive

I love this! Choose to be alive. This life is a gift. When we are in the throes of addiction, we forget this!

President Nelson stated:

“The choice for life brings an outlook of optimism. It breathes hope. It rekindles self-esteem—regarding one’s body as a timeless trust.” – Russell M. Nelson

I know that I’ve probably stated this before, but I heard Chad Lewis speak at a fireside once. He talked about his experiences in the NFL and after – including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. He has lived an exciting and full life, and told the audience that a major inspiration for him to do so was his father. About his father, Chad Lewis said, “He loved life enough to get after it.”

I love that. It has become a kind of motto for me – love life enough to get after it. This kind of love for life will help us to weigh various choices and sacrifices.

Yes, cookies and ice cream are good, but I do not want to eat them all the time. I don’t want to sacrifice future choices because of a current appetite. Choosing to be alive is fundamental for breaking any addiction.

Two: Choose to Believe

President Nelson states:

“Choose to Believe. Believe in God. Accept yourself as His child, created in His image. He loves you and wants you to be happy.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! Love it so much! Believe in God! and we need to accept ourselves. This is such a fundamentally easy mistake to make – not to accept ourselves as beloved children of God.

When we accept ourselves as His children, beloved and created in His image, then something changes within us. We gain confidence. I’m not talking about self esteem. I’m talking about the real confidence that will remain a part of us no matter what others say and do to us.

Accept yourself as His child. By doing so, we will begin to trust Him and His word – including His Word of Wisdom.

Three: Choose to Change

The change is only preceded by a choice to change. How do we choose to change? Probably education. Maybe also bad experiences. Not sure I have a single answer for this. But I know that if we want to change, we have to choose to change, and we have to believe that we can actually make this choice.

I think that there are a lot of people who want to change, but don’t think that they can. Don’t worry so much if you can or not (hint: you can). Just make the decision to do it.

Put another way, I was in a conversation with someone recently, and they said, “I don’t know how to do it.”

I realized that we don’t have to know how. Instead, we should focus on why. The how is really easy to figure out later on. Instead, focus on what to change and why. When we know what we want to change and why, when we really have these answers clear in our minds, we will figure out how to do it!

Unfortunately, we often get stopped on “how.” Let’s take weight-loss, for example. We might read diet book after diet book. A lot of people who are trying to lose weight know at least a dozen different diets, but none of them ever seem to work. Then, the next diet book comes out, they read that, hoping that it will finally answer how for them.

Instead, if they focused on why they wanted to lose weight – because they wanted to live longer, because they want to see their children have grandchildren, because they want their knees to stop hurting, because they don’t want to have to give themselves insulin shots, because they want to be more attractive for their spouse…etc. – then they would have enough of an answer to find out “how” in a jiffy.

So – make a choice to change. Don’t get fixated on how to change, just make a choice to do it – while remembering that you are alive, and that you are a beloved child of God. The universe (God’s universe) will point the way on how to change if you will just make the choice to do it.

Four: Choose to Be Different

This is an interesting point that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, but I believe that it is critical. President Nelson explained:

“Choose to Be Different. Distinguish yourself from worldly crowds. Defenders do not resemble offenders. Among them are clever merchandisers who plot to link beer with sports, tobacco with charm, and drugs with fun. Scripture warns of those who so deceive:

“Thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation.” (D&C 89:4.)

His Word of Wisdom includes sound nutritional guidance and simple instructions.” – Russell M. Nelson

Choosing to keep the Word of Wisdom does make us different! I know that many Mormons all over the globe have experienced this. As I think about this, I remember how L. Tom Perry would drink milk at corporate dinners. MILK! He was different. And it is a choice that we must make – we need to be okay with being different.

It can be hard to be different. This is true.

Recently, I started Intermittent Fasting. I’m sure that I’ll share more about my experiences at a future point on the blog, but I’ll quickly say that it is one of the most positive things I’ve ever done for my body, spirit, and the health of both. Through intermittent fasting I’ve finally found a way to address and wrangle in my own problems with certain foods (sugar-y ones!). I’ve finally found a way to feel like I’m a master over my body and appetites, rather than a slave to it.

But you know what? When you choose to do intermittent fasting, you are different. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch most days. I remember thinking, why can’t I just be like everyone else? Why can’t I just eat all day long?

Intermittent fasting has been a very spiritual decision for me, and when I asked myself these questions, I felt a spiritual response: You can if you want. But remember that every choice is a sacrifice. You can sacrifice breakfast and lunch now and eat whatever you like during your eating window. Or you can eat all day long and sacrifice future health.

I know what my future holds. I can look at my parents and my grandparents and I see type two diabetes, stroke, dementia, heart disease, and obesity. I can choose to be like everyone else.

But I want to be different!

Five: Choose to Exercise

Isn’t this prescription great!

President Nelson explained:

“Exercising the body and the spirit will aid in the climb toward recovery. Appropriate physical activity helps to combat depression, which so often accompanies addiction.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel very fortunate because for some reason I really love to exercise. Though it can be hard to get up and go for a run or do a workout,  I have been able to see the way that exercise can reward our lives. It keeps my head clear. I like being able to move my body. I love feeling strong.

The same goes for my spirit. I love having knowledge, faith, and strength. These only come with spiritual exercise. When we sacrifice the time to exercise – spiritually or physically – we gain so much more than the initial sacrifice. We are blessed with peace and confidence.

These blessings reinforce the other choices – to be alive, to believe, to choose, and to be different. As we exercise – spiritually and physically – we come to know who we are – spiritually and physically. We see the blessing our bodies and spirits are. We want to take care of them.

This is such good advice!

Six: Choose to Be Free

I love this final choice so much, I don’t even know what to say about it.

One thing that strikes me as interesting is how freedom is often misinterpreted.

When I was younger, there were people who thought my religion and its Word of Wisdom sounded confining and restrictive. They confused “freedom to” and “freedom from.”

All of us are free to choose. This is the agency that God grants us and that we fought for in our premortal life. But this freedom to choose is not the same as being free.

President Nelson taught:

“Often, however, agency is misunderstood. While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices, we are tied to the consequences of those choices.” – Russell M. Nelson

We are all free to choose. However, we must understand that the consequences of our choices may result in either liberty or captivity. This is the essence of choosing to be free – we want to choose liberty. We don’t want to be held captive by the consequences of the choices that we were free to make.

Freedom to = agency. The freedom to make a choice.

Freedom from = liberty. The freedom from captivity.

When President Nelson urges us to be free – he is talking about being free from captivity. Having liberty. Choosing to keep the Word of Wisdom does ensure a measure of liberty in our lives. We will not form addictions when we keep the Word of Wisdom. We might also be kept safe from some of the other enslaving consequences and diseases that come through dietary choices.

Of course there are exceptions. I knew a man that had never smoked a day in his life. He was fit and healthy. But because of a genetic mutation that he did know he had and that he could not alter, he ended up dying from lung cancer. This was a result of immortality – not a choice he made. And though he had to suffer this adversity, he was still free.

***

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands and lives the Word of Wisdom. He has a very intimate understanding of it as a medical doctor. I’m grateful for his sound advice – that not only is helpful if we are addicted to drugs, but it is also helpful if we have more “minor” yet just as difficult addictions. I’m grateful to know that our prophet leads and guides us to have happier lives – both spiritually and physically. I’m also impressed because not only does President Nelson understand these principles, but he lives them. He’s 93! He has chosen to be alive, believe, choose, be different and be free.

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President Nelson on a Swing click for source

 

Lessons from Eve – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Lessons from Eve, by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the October 1987 General Conference.

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I am always both excited and ambivalent to read about Eve.

Excited because I love her! I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of this, I never really knew that Eve was anything but a hero. Her choice, to partake of the fruit, ushered in mortality – for all of us. If she hadn’t made the choice to partake, Adam and Eve would still be in the garden right now, and we would be waiting for their choice to take on mortality so we could have a chance to be here!

Ambivalent because I love her! And I’m a woman. And sometimes I feel a little nervous to read/hear what a man will say about a woman. But President Nelson, when he gave this talk, was an apostle of God. Throughout his talk, he spoke of Eve with great respect and understanding.

I will organize this blog post the same way he organized his talk – the five fundamental lessons from Eve.

Lesson One – She Labored Beside Her Companion

In the story of the creation, Heavenly Father creates Eve from the rib of Adam. Now, I don’t know the details of the Lord’s creation of man and woman. Was the explanation that Heavenly Father gave to Moses (as recorded in Genesis) 100% literal? I don’t know, but I do know that Heavenly Father probably didn’t even explain every single detail to Moses.

So – here’s the thing. Heavenly Father was speaking to Moses. I’m not convinced that Moses had a deep level of understanding of astrophysics, chemistry, botany, biology. He was raised by the daughter of Pharaoh in ancient Egypt! I’m not saying that Moses was a stupid man, but I just don’t think that God could have him come to the burning bush and then understand every single detail of how the world was created.

Instead, I have always thought that Moses was taught what he needed to know in a way that he could understand. This does not make God a liar! God just understood his audience.

Here’s an example: When I was in elementary school and middle school, in math, I learned that you can’t solve for the square root of negative one. If I tried to find the square root of negative one on my calculator, then the answer was “error.”

Then, in high school, when I was taking algebra, we did a unit of study about how the square root of negative one is an imaginary number! Even though the answer to the square root of negative one could not be found on the number line as a real number, didn’t mean that it didn’t exist. There was now the possibility of an answer to the problem that before taking Algebra I was deemed something that we could not do – an error.

Did imaginary numbers make my math teachers in elementary and middle school liars? No. They were teaching me the basics.

Now, to think about this example in the context of the creation of the world. I suppose that if the Lord was showing how he created the world to Einstein, he would explain things differently.

Yet he revealed the creation to Moses, and that is the account that we have today. Why would the Lord reveal the creation to Moses and not to someone who might understand the workings on the creation better? My guess is – it doesn’t matter.

As President Nelson explained:

“The very purpose of creation was to provide bodies, to enable these eagerly awaiting spirits to enjoy mortal life and experiences.” – Russell M. Nelson

The story of creation, then, answers the question of why…not how. And, for now, the why is much more important.

Keeping the why in mind, now think back on how Heavenly Father taught that he created Eve from the rib of Adam. Again a quote from President Nelson:

“I presume another bone could have been used, but the rib, coming as it does from the side, seems to denote partnership. The rib signifies neither dominion nor subservience, but a lateral relationship as partners, to work and to live, side by side.” – Russell M. Nelson

Adam and Eve are partners. They didn’t compete with one another. They worked together on a team for a common purpose.

***

One more thing:

“Adam held the priesthood. Eve served in matriarchal partnership with the patriarchal priesthood.” – Russell M. Nelson

For the most part, the concept of “patriarchy” has a negative connotation in this modern time. The Lord never intended for His priesthood – which is patriarchal – to be the vehicle for abuse or unrighteous dominion.

Instead, the patriarchal priesthood, like Adam with Eve, works in partnership with matriarchy. You can’t have a father without a mother! It’s impossible. The very purpose of the creation of the world was to provide bodies to the children of God – who prior to the creation existed only as spirits. God knew that in order for this to happen, he would need to create a mother. So he did. And she labored alongside her husband – equal in value and purpose – each with a different role to fulfill so that this huge task could be accomplished.

Lesson Two – As Adam Bore Responsibilities of Fatherhood, So Eve Bore the Responsibilities of Motherhood

Again, we must remember God’s work and His glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men and women. This is why He created the earth – so we could obtain bodies. Though our bodies are mortal, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can be saved and then inherit immortality and eternal life.

That’s the big-picture, macro level goal we’re working on here right now. With this in mind, we can then begin to understand the micro-level, too. The same purpose applies to our lives no matter how “small” or inconsequential the tasks of our lives seem to be.

We have responsibilities.

Generally – men bear the responsibilities of fatherhood and women bear the responsibilities of motherhood. Generally!

Some of us are mothers. This means that we need to take motherhood seriously. It’s why we are here. It is the most important thing we will do in our lives. It will bring us fulfillment and joy.

Now, this is just a blog post, so I don’t want to get too much into the weeds – other than to say that motherhood is a lot more than changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking. Motherhood means reading to our children, laughing with them, developing our individual talents (without our children!) so that we don’t feel depleted, exercising and maintaining good health…it can mean that we like to bake or we hate it. Motherhood can mean that we send our kids to public school or we homeschool them. Motherhood can mean that we work for others full-time or part-time, or it can mean that we don’t work for others, but of course we are all still working! Motherhood can mean that we are class-moms or not! (I was never a class mom. Instead, as I told my kids, I drew them books. Class-momming was not my forte). Motherhood looks different in different parts of the world. Motherhood looks different at different times in our lives. The only way that motherhood is the same for each and every one of us is – we are trying our very best. We are praying about our children, our situations, our strengths, our weaknesses, our needs, our riches, and then we are making decisions on how to “mother.”

I love this quote by President Nelson (about his wife, the mother of their children):

I’m glad Sister Nelson has not tried to be a “supermom.” But she has been a “soothing” mom. This she has done simply by being herself.” – Russell M. Nelson, emphasis added

This she has done simply by being herself! Even though I know that I simply need to be myself, I still need this reminder.

Recently, I’ve been a little worried – we have been moving a lot recently. And I have kids from the ages of 17 to 7. Really, we’ve been moving a lot. My sister’s family – a military family – has had more stability than we have. It has me so worried about my kids sometimes.

The worry and fear causes me to question the choices that I’ve made – with the Spirit – and then I find myself expressing my worries to the Lord. I may have “expressed” these worries a few nights ago. As I did, I felt a gentle reminder: Don’t worry. Your children NEED you.

My children need me and they need the experiences that come with me. I think that this is true for us all. We can be the best mothers simply by being ourselves, and remaining confident that our children need what we can offer them – not what is being offered by other (good!) mothers around us.

***

Of course, not all of us are mothers. President Nelson stated:

“For you childless sisters and those without companions, remember the eternal timetable of the Lord is much longer than the lonely hours of your preparation or the total of this mortal life. These are only as microseconds when compared to eternity. Your willingness and worthiness are surely known to Him. The spiritual rewards of motherhood are available to all women. Nurturing the young, comforting the frightened, protecting the vulnerable, teaching and giving encouragement need not—and should not—be limited to our own children.” – Russell M. Nelson

One of the kindest, most nurturing women I’ve ever met was not a mother. I worked with her in a Young Women’s presidency. She did so much for the young women in our ward. And she did so much with her nieces and nephews. And, as a parent, I can say that I’m grateful for these kinds of relationships that my own children have with other good, nurturing adults. Though I do so much for my own children, I know that they need other positive relationships, too.

Lesson Three – Eve and Her Partner Worshipped the Lord in Prayer

A few days ago, I studied the talk “Joy Cometh in the Morning.” I love the promise that joy comes in the morning, and right now, I’m working through a long, dark night which requires so much faith. Yet I forget that prayer will change the night to day! I truly believe in the power of prayer, yet I let my prayers become so casual. Why is that?!

President Nelson pleaded:

“I plead with the women of the Church to accept individual responsibility to know and to love the Lord. Communicate with him. He will impress upon your mind inspiration and personal revelation to give you strength.” – Russell M. Nelson

Eve and Adam prayed together. We don’t know much about Eve, but I know that she was a seeker. Her desire for knowledge is what led her to partake of the fruit in the first place. Because she was a seeker, I think that it is safe to presume that she was also a pray-er – not only in companionship with her husband, but also individually.

Prayer helps us to keep an eye of faith. Prayer will calm our trouble souls. Prayer is also the work we need to do in order for Heavenly Father to give us blessings He is willing to grant.

Lesson Four – Eve and Her Husband Heeded Divine Commandments of Obedience and Sacrifice

YES!

So often we think of Eve as being the one who transgressed by partaking of the fruit. But she is an example of obedience!

Eve and Adam learned about the connection between sacrifice and obedience. President Nelson teaches us about the result:

“As we comply with these and other commandments, something wonderful happens to us. We become disciplined! We become disciples! We become more sacred and holy—like our Lord!” – Russell M. Nelson

There is nothing more that I want than to be a disciple of Christ. I am grateful to know that the mother of all living was an obedient disciple of Christ who sacrificed so much in order to be obedient. We are all beneficiaries of her discipleship.

Lesson Five – Adam and Eve Taught the Gospel to their Children

In order to teach, we must know. President Nelson stated:

“Study the scriptures and internalize them. Teach faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Then let your commitment to the mission of the Church be evident in all you do.” – Russell M. Nelson

I really think that this lesson could be combined with Lesson Two – bearing the responsibilities of motherhood.

Adam and Eve received the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. Sometimes it seems like we focus a lot on the “multiply” aspect of this commandment. Have children.

But the phrase “and replenish” keeps ringing through my head. The idea of replenishment is more than simply multiplying. Instead, replenishment implies that we are also nourishing. I’m having trouble expressing this.

I bought a house plant a few years ago. I set it on my windowsill with the intention of repotting it. The plant sat on the windowsill for days, weeks, and months.

For those initial days, weeks, and months it was doing fine. I still watered it, and it was growing. But over time, the plant was suffering. I tried watering it more, but the plant didn’t respond well. I tried placing it in a spot with more sunlight, but still the plant struggled. Nothing I did was helping.

I finally realized that for nearly two years it had been sitting in its original plastic pot (that it was in when I bought it! Yikes!) and though the plant had been growing, though the leaves had been multiplying, nothing was being replenished. And over time, the soil became depleted, which had a deleterious effect.

I got a bigger pot, some brand new potting soil, and transplanted my tender, dying plant. I worried that it was too late, but it was worth a shot.

And wouldn’t you know, in just a few days the plant looked amazing!!! Then it really grew. I mean, it took off growing! I couldn’t keep it on the windowsill or in the kitchen.

All because the nutrients had been replenished.

In my mind, our command to “multiply and replenish” the earth is the same. Not only are we supposed to have children, but we are supposed to create an environment that will “replenish” our societies and our world. This is best done when we teach our children the gospel.

***

This is a long post, so I’ll wrap it up.

I’m so thankful that we know the story of Eve – though it is so short and often so misunderstood. I’m so grateful to know that it was a woman that was brave enough to seek knowledge and make a choice that would even put her at odds with God in order for her and her husband to progress.

I’m also grateful to know that this was a part of the plan. Heavenly Father honors our agency so much that He wouldn’t force Adam and Eve into mortality. He would let them choose, and they both did.

I’m grateful that we are led by a living prophet who not only understands these stories, but champions them! He loves his wife. He is grateful for Eve. I’m so grateful to know that President Nelson doesn’t bear his priesthood in an abusive or oppressive way, but understands that it works in lock-step with motherhood and womanhood.

There is just so much more I could say about this subject, but I must stop for now. Thanks for reading. And thanks for being patient with me and my rambling thoughts. 🙂

Keys of the Priesthood – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Keys of the Priesthood, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1987 General Conference.

I want to begin this post by saying that I’m so grateful for both the Priesthood and those who righteously bear and it.

What is the Priesthood?

President Nelson taught:

“The potential of the priesthood is so vast that our comprehension of it is a challenge. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity.”

President Brigham Young added that the priesthood is “the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever.”

Priesthood is the authority of God delegated to man to minister for the salvation of men. “The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood” ” – Russell M. Nelson

The Priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man to act in all things for the salvation of man.

I know that there are many people who think that the “priesthood” is a bit sexist, but that is because they misunderstand what the priesthood is. It is not just some men’s organization.

The Priesthood is Power – God’s power – delegated to each of us.

We have to remember that God has a purpose for this world and for each of us:

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

Sometimes we forget this purpose of God’s, we get caught up with both the perceived and  also real injustices in this world. We forget that this mortal life is only a part of God’s eternal work – which is OUR eternal life and immortality. Forgetting this purpose is the root of why we misplace our trust in Him.

God knew that in order to accomplish His work, we would need His help. This help comes in many forms, but one major way is through His Priesthood. This is HIS Power! And He is letting us use it so that His purposes can be accomplished! What a blessing!

The Extend of the Priesthood

President Nelson taught:

“Jesus revealed the extent of priesthood authority. To his Apostles, the Savior said, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”” – Russell M. Nelson

The authority of this priesthood extends beyond mortality and into the eternities. I have had the great blessing of growing up in the church, so I have heard the above scripture quoted often. Usually, I applied it to temple marriage (which of course is extremely important). However, I don’t think that I’ve always been appreciative of the eternal nature of the power that God has blessed us with.

Let me explain.

For the past few years, my husband and I have been working really hard. At my suggestion, he quit his conventional, “safe,” corporate job, and started working for himself. It has been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever even contemplated – let alone done – in my life. It has also been a major test of my faith.

There are ups and downs in everyone’s life, and as a mother there are times when I see the sacrifices that have been made by my family which causes me to question the decisions I’ve made, even though I’ve made them with the comfort and assurance from God.

Last night, I decided to ask my husband for a priesthood blessing.

I was blessed to have increased faith, and I was reminded of the eternal repercussions that these choices have. And now, as I study these words by President Nelson, I’m reminded that the Lord gives us power to act, to have faith, to do what we need to do in this life so that we can have joy and exaltation in the next life. This power, His Power, is the priesthood power, and though I don’t administer it, the Priesthood power is fully accessible to me through the covenants I’ve made. It powers my life. And if I live in such a way that honors the covenants and commitments I’ve made, then there are eternal repercussions that will bless my family now and in the eternities.

Through the power of the Priesthood, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. What is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. Through the Power of the Priesthood, I have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through the power of the priesthood, and this gift, I’ve made decisions like – going to college, having children, studying my scriptures, getting married – and these decisions have had eternal repercussions. These eternal repercussions are possible because the Lord has mercifully endowed us with His power.

Priesthood Limitations

Because of the eternal repercussions of our choices and God’s power, the Priesthood seems limitless. Indeed it is eternal, but there are still some limitations on its power.

President Nelson stated:

“To understand the power of the priesthood, we must know its limitations. If an automobile is used recklessly, future permission from parents is likely to be denied. So, if priesthood power be abused, ‘the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man'” – Russell M. Nelson

The Priesthood isn’t magic. It isn’t a carte blanche that will excuse every selfish whim and desire of man. It is God’s Power! We can remember that God is a god of order. He abides by the laws of the heavens. He has declared this law to us, and if we try to use His Priesthood in a way that breaks the laws that govern the priesthood, then it is nullified. We are powerless.

This has happened before. President Nelson shared:

“After Christ was crucified, and even before the early Apostles completed their labors, the Apostasy began. This occurred as prophesied when priesthood authority was abused and sacred ordinances were defiled.” – Russell M. Nelson

Because the priesthood was abused, the Lord took His priesthood away. What followed were the dark ages. If we want God’s power to power our lives, then we must live according to the laws that govern His Priesthood and His Power.

***

I’m so grateful for the power of the Priesthood. I know that it has been a major blessing in my life. I know that because of the power of the Priesthood and because of the men who were worthy and capable to bear it, I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have received endowments from God. I have been blessed to be able make my life something better than I would have without such power and blessings.

I’m also very grateful to know that our prophet – Russell M. Nelson honors and respects the Priesthood that he bears.

He shared:

“Surely a sacred moment of my life occurred April 12, 1984, when the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles laid their hands upon my head. As had been done for others before me, all the keys of the priesthood were conferred. As it is with each member of the Quorum of the Twelve, some keys are not used until called upon by the Lord, or as directed by his senior Apostle.

I feel the weight of responsibility and the burden of timeless trust.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m grateful to know that President Nelson feels the weight of his responsibility. I’m grateful to know that he has lived for a long time and has held various offices of the priesthood for many decades. He has learned the care must be taken in order to hold the keys that he holds. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson is both loyal to God and obedient to the commandments of God. We are so blessed to have the Priesthood blessing our lives – both on an individual basis and as a world-wide church.