Personal Priesthood Responsibility – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Personal Priesthood Responsibility, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2003 Priesthood Session of General Conference.

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I don’t remember this talk a single bit. I’m not a bearer of the Priesthood. Personally, I’m more than okay with that. Usually, I don’t really read much of the Priesthood talks. I kind of feel they are directed for another group. But since I’m trying to read all of these talks, I decided to include the ones addressed at Priesthood sessions.

This talk is pretty self explanatory (based on its title). It’s about the personal responsibility that priesthood bearers have. Today, I’m just going to ponder a few things from the talk. This might seem a little disjointed. I hope you don’t mind.

The Strength of our Faith

President Nelson stated:

“…[T]he strength of the faith within each of us is developed individually, not as a group.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel like the recent changes of our church meetings reflects what President Nelson taught in this quote. We can’t rely on the church, the Relief Society, or our Priesthood quorums to give us faith. We must develop our own faith. Obviously, I do think that we can learn from others. We can be taught by others. We are blessed by the testimonies of others. But ultimately, we must do the work of increasing our own faith.

President Nelson taught:

“Only as an individual can you develop a firm faith in God and a passion for personal prayer. Only as an individual can you keep the commandments of God. Only as an individual can you repent. Only as an individual can you qualify for the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.” – Russell M. Nelson

How can we increase our own faith? Experiment on it! Try living the gospel. Pray. Keep the commandments. Repent. Search the scriptures. Read good books, magazines, blogs. Increase our knowledge and then we apply that knowledge. Listen to the little nudges of the Spirit, and then trust in God!

Our Most Important Responsibility

President Nelson stated:

“Throughout life you will have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Many of these are temporary and will be relinquished upon your release. (You probably won’t object to your release from a call to pull weeds at the welfare farm.) But you never will be released from responsibilities related to your personal and family development.” – Russell M. Nelson

family in sedona

I know that this quote resonates with me because it means so much to me. It is so easy to get caught up in all of our duties and responsibilities. I don’t want to suggest that many of the “other” hats we wear are not also important. But I do think that it is so easy to overlook ur most important responsibilities – our personal and family development!

I know it’s easy for me as a mother to feel guilty sometimes when I spend time working out or doing things for “me.” Yet these are vitally important not only to my own spiritual and physical health, but also to the health of my family!

It is easy to get so busy with our callings, jobs, hobbies, etc that we can overlook the simple needs of our own children and spouse.

We will never be released from these relationships. They matter more than the many other things we will do in our lives. Of course, it’s not an “either / or” kind of a thing. The Spirit can guide us to understand what the needful thing is for each of us to do. The Spirit also will help us to understand that the needful thing for us to do will change from day to day and season to season. But it is important for us to keep the perspective that we will never be “released” from the responsibilities related to personal and family development..

Living True to Personal Promptings and Commandments

President Nelson:

“We are to be true and faithful and live by every principle and doctrine that He has given to us. We cannot compromise a revelation or a commandment committed to our charge.” – Russell M. Nelson

This last part is really standing out to me today. We cannot compromise a revelation or a commandment committed to our charge. I want to think about that for a moment. How might I compromise revelations or commandments given to me???

I found a definition of the word compromise – to make a shameful or disreputable concession.

Do we ever do that? Make a shameful concession of the revelations that have been committed to our charge? And if so, why do we do that?

I’ll give you an example. Forgive me if this has already come up in other blog posts recently. It’s been on my mind a lot. In my Patriarchal Blessing, I’m warned – to keep the Word of Wisdom. Now, I don’t go out and drink alcohol. I don’t drink what we consider “hot drinks” (coffee, etc.). I don’t smoke. I don’t use illicit drugs. Whatever. I’m not special—there are a lot of people like me. I’m keeping the word of wisdom, right?

Well…maybe and maybe not.

I have to admit, even though I have studied the Word of Wisdom, I haven’t always done the best to pay attention to the majority of it!!! I have always found a way to justify eating plenty of meat daily. I have always found a way to justify not eating many fruits and veg. I have always found a way to justify treats (it’s my birthday, it’s Halloween, it’s national chocolate chip cookie day!!!)

Recently I have started counting macros. I want to lose some weight. I have followed a pretty conventional path as far as macro counting goes. I was consuming about 1 gram of protein per POUND of lean muscle mass. In other words, each day, I was supposed to be consuming 136 grams of protein.

That’s a lot of protein.

It’s really hard to consume that much protein without eating meat. So I was eating meat.

Actually, it’s hard to consume that much protein without eating a lot of meat. So I was eating a lot of meat.

I was doing this for a few months, and things were going well enough physically. But then, it started getting really hot outside, and I was starting to have issues with my heart – shortness of breath. Dizziness. Etc. It wasn’t going away, and I set up an appointment with my doctor.

In the early morning before my doctor appointment, I was even having chest pain. What do you do when it is 3 AM, and you are dizzy, short of breath, and having chest pain? Bargain with God!

I felt frustrated. What should I be doing?! Why was my heart acting up?! Should I be eating more protein? Less protein? Saturated Fat? Low Fat? Keto? Paleo? Vegan??? What was I supposed to do? There is so much conflicting advice. So many people have said so many different things. The still small voice spoke an impression to my Heart – God only said ONE thing.

I realized, I didn’t need to listen to all of these other doctors, scientists, etc. I just needed to put my trust in the commandments of God! It didn’t need to be a mystery! And I knew it. I have known the Word of Wisdom my whole life. And then, when I received my patriarchal blessing, I was given an even clearer emphasis/warning on this revelation – Always follow the Word of Wisdom!

Yet I had compromised this revelation and commandment committed to my charge. I vowed to keep the W.o.W from that point on. And I have. Oh…by the way – it only took a few days of keeping the word of wisdom: dialing down the protein, the calories, and amping up the veggies, fruits, with a backbone of grains…and guess what – no more dizziness. No more palpitations. No chest pain. And I’m losing weight really easily now. I’m at the beginning of this journey, but pretty excited to see where it is headed.

But the point is – we do this! We compromise our personal revelations and commandments. Sometimes I think that we accidentally downplay how important these things are because we usually call them: promptings or impressions. But they are personal revelations and commandments! If we don’t follow through with the promptings, impressions, personal revelations, and personal commandments we receive, then we cannot expect to be led by His Spirit in the future!

I’m grateful for this reminder. Sometimes it is scary to follow a personal prompting, revelation, commandment, or impression. Why is it scary? Well, I guess because it’s an act of faith. Was that the Spirit or was it just me? … often goes through my head. I let myself doubt my impressions, then I ignore them. Or allow myself to be distracted. And then, I miss the opportunity, the blessing, the protection, or whatever it was the the Lord was offering.

I really want to stop doing this!!!

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Well, this is another long post, no matter how much I try to shorten them. I’m so thankful for the Prophet. Though today’s talk wasn’t really addressed to the women of the church, there were a few things that I gleaned from the talk. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson is a man who has worked hard to study and learn more about the Priesthood he holds. I’m grateful to know that he honors it and doesn’t abuse his position in the church. I’m grateful, also, to know that we have the priesthood on earth now. I have been blessed by this great power in my life.

Sweet Power of Prayer – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Sweet Power of Prayer, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2003 session of General Conference.

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Okay – so I remember this talk. I remember the examples President Nelson gave. I don’t remember anything about the moment I heard the talk…nothing like that. But I remember what was taught. It made an imprint on my soul.

Otherwise…let’s see. I had two little children at the time. Life was difficult being the mother of two toddlers, plus my marriage was iffy. But I tried my best to be faithful, and I was grateful for talks like these. I’m still grateful for them!

prayer

What is a Prayer

We will begin by defining what a prayer actually is:

Prayer (Noun):
1 a (1): an address (such as a petition) to God or a god in word or thought
// said a prayer for the success of the voyage
(2): a set order of words used in praying
b : a earnest wish or request

2 : The act or practice of praying to God or a god
// kneeling in prayer” – Merriam – Webster Online Dictionary: Prayer

So – simply put, prayer is a communication between us and God. Prayer has always been a part of the tradition of faith – since Adam and Eve. Even though the above definition of prayer says it may be a petition to God, this doesn’t mean that we always must use a request. Our prayers can also be full of gratitude and praise to God.

Prayer is communication with our Creator.

Who Can Pray

Every single one of us can pray.

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered:…” – Joel 2:32

 

Whoever calls on the name of the Lord—whoever prays—will be delivered.

“And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” – 2 Nephi 32:8

Any one of us can pray – happy, sad, good, evil, man, woman, child, etc…we can all pray to God. He pleads for us to ask, to call on Him, to pray! If we feel incapable or unworthy of prayer, then banish the thought! It comes from the devil. We can pray, and Heavenly Father rejoices in the soul that humbly prays.

Where We Can Pray

In the Book of Mormon, we read:

“Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.

Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.

But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.” – Alma 34:20-21, 26

We can pray anywhere. We can pray in our hearts or aloud. We can pray at church, home, work, school, supermarket, car, etc. The Lord will hear our prayer if we will say them!

Now – all of this being said, there are sometimes when conditions may be better than others. We need to be mindful of the Spirit and the control that we have over these physical conditions when we pray.

When To Pray

Always!!!

President Nelson explained:

“We pray privately, with our families regularly, at mealtime, and in daily activities. Simply summarized, we are a praying people.” – Russell M. Nelson

Why We Pray

I’ve thought about this a lot over the years. Why do we pray??? I have to admit that I haven’t always been the best with prayer. I know that I can still improve. But I have searched, and I have learned more.

We pray because the Prophets have told us to pray. We pray because the Savior has asked us to pray. Above all, we pray for the reason that President Nelson shared:

“Through prayer, we can show our love for God.” – Russell M. Nelson

Okay. So one of the reasons that we pray is to show our love for God. But how does this actually happen? What is it about prayer that communicates such a feeling toward Him? And is this the only reason to pray???

I think that the Bible Dictionary can really help us understand why we ought to pray.

“As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.” – Bible Dictionary: Prayer

We pray because we love God. We pray because we understand that we are nothing without Him. We pray because we need His influence, strength, and help in life. We pray because we desire blessings for ourselves, our families, our friends, and even our enemies. We pray so we can learn to align our will with His and have peace in our lives.

A few years ago, there was a mass shooting. I can’t remember where (unfortunately, they all kind of blur together. This is a sad, sad fact). I remember that after the shooting, there were a lot of people on Facebook pledging and encouraging one another to pray for those afflicted.

I also remember someone commenting that we don’t need to pray for people, we need to do something. It seems like there was a push in this direction – deriding the power of prayer, as if it is inactive and a cop-out. I felt saddened by this sentiment because I’ve prayed for people, and others have prayed for me. I know that there is power in prayer.

I remember when I was going through a particularly difficult trial, I reached out to a friend (via email). This friend responded and said, “I’m praying for you.” I felt so humbled and grateful to know that there were people praying for me!

I remember when my brother passed away, I knelt down and prayed – so saddened by the news of his death, and so worried about my dad who was also going through a divorce at the time. As I prayed, I realized that I was not alone, my ancestors who had passed on were also praying with me. Though the grave separated us physically, we were still united by prayer. Prayer transcends time, space, and even death. This was one of the most deeply comforting things I’ve ever felt in my life.

I also know that from personal experience, when I take the time to pray – truly pray for another, often I’m also inspired on how to help them! My “anti-prayer” friend had it wrong. Not only is prayer a way to actively help another, it provides an opportunity for us to put brain space and thought towards those in needs – so we can be prompted on how to act to help them.

Thoughts and words always come before deeds. What better way to hone our good deeds than by honing our words and thoughts through prayer???!!!

How to Pray

In the New Testament, the Savior taught us how to pray.

President Nelson explained:

“Jesus taught us how [to pray]. We pray to our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost. This is the “true order of prayer,” in contrast to “vain repetitions” or recitations given to “be seen of men.” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s really pretty simple. We say the words that are in our hearts to our Heavenly Father. We say them in Christ’s name. The gift and power of the Holy Ghost will attend us as we pray. Prayer, I have found, is very personal and takes practice. I don’t want to really prescribe a method of prayer here. But I will say that if you search within your heart and seek the guidance of the Lord, then you will know how best to pray. There are many tips in the scriptures.

I have found that I have my own specific needs to really help me get into a good state for prayer. I try to breathe deeply. I try to eliminate distractions and noise (I put my phone on “do not disturb”). I either sit (like you would to meditate) or kneel. In fact, usually I do both of these things in a prayer. I have found that it is easier for me to calm my mind and get into a really good mental and spiritual place for prayer by doing some light activity first – I like yoga and stretching. Or walking. Something about this physical activity really helps me, personally.

We can find a way to pray that helps us to eliminate “vain repetitions” or recitations. We can find a way to express the deepest desires, fears, concerns, gratitude, and praises of our heart to our Heavenly Father.

Words

What about the words of our prayers???

President Nelson stated:

“One can think a prayer, especially when words would interfere.” – Russell M. Nelson

Don’t you love that?! At this point, I’ve already used 1614 words in this blog post. I’m a wordy person, and if you have read my blog before, then you know it. But still, there are times when I just can’t put words to my thoughts, feelings, impressions, fears, concerns, etc. I can’t put words to my joy. I can’t always put words to what I want to say to my Heavenly Father. It is so refreshing for me to know that as I pray, I can be silent, even wordless!

Song of Prayer

At this time, President Nelson presented a song that he wrote. I still remember the tabernacle choir singing it. The song of the righteous is a prayer to God. I love this song, and actually made an arrangement for it some time ago. You can find it here: Our Prayer To Thee

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Every time I study one of President Nelson’s talk, I find that I have grown to love him more. I’m so grateful for the prophet. What a blessing to be guided by a prophet of the Lord in these latter-days. I’m grateful that he is a man of prayer. During the talk, he shared his own experience with prayer as a heart surgeon. For President Nelson, prayer was not simply a thing to be done at church or at mealtime. He prayed for his patients and before performing surgery. He was guided by the Lord during surgery, and his willingness to pray and open himself to God revolutionized an aspect of surgery on valves in the heart. President Nelson shared his experience:

“Many of us have had experiences with the sweet power of prayer. One of mine was shared with a stake patriarch from southern Utah. I first met him in my medical office more than 40 years ago, during the early pioneering days of surgery of the heart. This saintly soul suffered much because of a failing heart. He pleaded for help, thinking that his condition resulted from a damaged but repairable valve in his heart.

Extensive evaluation revealed that he had two faulty valves. While one could be helped surgically, the other could not. Thus, an operation was not advised. He received this news with deep disappointment.

Subsequent visits ended with the same advice. Finally, in desperation, he spoke to me with considerable emotion: “Dr. Nelson, I have prayed for help and have been directed to you. The Lord will not reveal to me how to repair that second valve, but He can reveal it to you. Your mind is so prepared. If you will operate upon me, the Lord will make it known to you what to do. Please perform the operation that I need, and pray for the help that you need.”

His great faith had a profound effect upon me. How could I turn him away again? Following a fervent prayer together, I agreed to try. In preparing for that fateful day, I prayed over and over again, but still did not know what to do for his leaking tricuspid valve. Even as the operation commenced, my assistant asked, “What are you going to do for that?”

I said, “I do not know.”

We began the operation. After relieving the obstruction of the first valve, we exposed the second valve. We found it to be intact but so badly dilated that it could no longer function as it should. While examining this valve, a message was distinctly impressed upon my mind: Reduce the circumference of the ring. I announced that message to my assistant. “The valve tissue will be sufficient if we can effectively reduce the ring toward its normal size.”

But how? We could not apply a belt as one would use to tighten the waist of oversized trousers. We could not squeeze with a strap as one would cinch a saddle on a horse. Then a picture came vividly to my mind, showing how stitches could be placed—to make a pleat here and a tuck there—to accomplish the desired objective. I still remember that mental image—complete with dotted lines where sutures should be placed. The repair was completed as diagrammed in my mind. We tested the valve and found the leak to be reduced remarkably. My assistant said, “It’s a miracle.”

I responded, “It’s an answer to prayer.”

The patient’s recovery was rapid and his relief gratifying. Not only was he helped in a marvelous way, but surgical help for other people with similar problems had become a possibility. I take no credit. Praise goes to this faithful patriarch and to God, who answered our prayers. This faithful man lived for many more years and has since gone to his eternal glory.” – Russell M. Nelson

We are guided today by a prophet who not only believes in prayer – theoretically – but has chosen to live that belief. Our prophet has witnessed and taken part in miracles through his willingness to pray. We can learn from his words and his example! We can choose to pray and live as faithfully as the words we utter in our prayers. I know that I am inspired to improve my prayers because of him.

“Blessed Are the Peacemakers” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2002 session of General Conference.

So…Notice…President Nelson gave this talk in October 2002. One year after 9/11. The U.S. had entered into a “war with terror” shortly after 9/11 in 2001. And I can kind of recollect that there was a big debate whether or not to go to war with Iraq at the time in 2002. Many people were undecided on the subject.

On a personal level, I was quite pregnant in October 2002 (my second child arrived in December). My own married life was one of turmoil. But I do remember happy times with my kids.

It’s interesting to think about it. Both the conditions of my life and the world at large were anything but peaceful. But there is a way to find and make peace in our lives.

I don’t really remember this talk specifically. As I read this talk today, I can’t help but feel the prophetic nature of it. I really love President Nelson’s understanding of the gospel, of peace, and his philosophy in general.

Onto the talk!!!

Morning Sun in Phoenix

One

“Peace can prevail only when that natural inclination to fight is superseded by self-determination to live on a loftier level.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! It is pure and simple truth. Having peace is one hundred percent up to us. We cannot fight enough wars, twist enough arms, or write enough laws to force peace. Treaties, armistices, de-militarized zones…may cause a cessation of bullets, but they do not create actual peace. Instead, if we want to experience peace, then we must put off the natural man and yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit. We need to become Saints. We need to be kind, benevolent, and patient.

As much as I love to think of this on a world-wide scale, I think that it is important to apply this same principle to our own lives. We will only have peace when we give up the natural desire to fight and instead determine to live in a more celestial manner.

Sometimes this can be hard. In fact, I feel that right now – in our current environment, we are constantly being goaded into fighting. There are 24 hour news cycles that seem bent on stirring people up to anger. And, I have found that the more these types of media are consumed, the quicker anger we become with everyone around us.

So, first and foremost, we must make a determination to “give up” the cantankerous contention and instead treat others with patience, love, and respect.

Two

“The commandments to love God and neighbor are interrelated. We cannot fully love God without loving our neighbor. We cannot fully love our neighbor without loving God. Men really are brothers because God really is our Father.” – Russell M. Nelson

I get it. Sometimes it is hard to love our “neighbors.” Sometimes people hurt us – purposely or not. Sometimes we forget that people are our brothers and sisters because they look differently than we do, talk differently than we do, walk differently than we do, think differently than we do.

But the thing is, we are all children of God. I am of the opinion that if we all really understood that we were children of God, and if we all really sought to forge a relationship with Him, then world peace would be a natural result of such understanding and conviction. I know that as I’ve grown closer to the Lord, I have also been given the insight that everyone around me is one of God’s children. And though I might not always agree with that other person, God loves them as much as He loves me.

Even if I have a difficulty with someone, I’ve learned that I ought to love them – if only for the fact that it is God’s child, and I love Him so much, I don’t want to hurt Him by hurting one of His sons or daughters.

Obviously, I’m not perfect at this! But this mentality has helped me to have more peace and patience in my life.

Three

“We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than are our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this statement! It is so incredibly applicable right now! We can learn to love one another. We don’t have to overreact, freak out, revolt, or organize against other people. It’s interesting, here President Nelson made a list of obvious differences in our world – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists…Maybe now, the list would include conservatives, democrats, vegans, hunters, liberals, libertarians…etc, etc, etc.

I hate to say this, but I don’t know if we have done a great job of following the counsel of an apostle. Of course, I know that many people didn’t hear this message. But to those of us who did, have we become kinder, gentler, and more peaceful? Or are we fed up, frustrated, and fighting?

We really can live together with mutual admiration and respect. It will take humility, but think of the result: Peace! Joy!!!!!!! Isn’t peace and joy worth a little bit of compromise? It is worth saying, “will you forgive me?” or – sometimes even harder, “I will forgive you,” so that we can have peace and joy in our lives!!!

Peace is worth every effort!!!!!!!!!!

Four

“These prophecies of hope could materialize if leaders and citizens of nations would apply the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ours could then be an age of unparalleled peace and progress. Barbarism of the past would be buried. War with its horrors would be relegated to the realm of maudlin memory. Aims of nations would be mutually supportive. Peacemakers could lead in the art of arbitration, give relief to the needy, and bring hope to those who fear. Of such patriots, future generations would shout praises, and our Eternal God would pass judgments of glory.” – Russell M. Nelson

So…I really love this talk. I am a bit of an idealist at times. I’m hopeful. I’m optimistic. I know that peace is possible, if we will but choose.

I love what President Nelson taught in this paragraph.

Benefits of Choosing Peace

  • Unparalleled Peace and Progress
  • End of War

Imagine that!

Actually, in some ways it is kind of easy for me to imagine living life in peace. I’m so blessed to live in a safe place. I can go out for a walk in the morning without much fear. (It’s not perfect, of course, but I’m just trying to say that I’m not living in a war-torn country). I keep my eyes open for suspicious activity, and don’t run into it much. Usually, the only threats I face when going out are: unaware drivers, coyotes, and tarantula hawks…

Tarantula Hawk
You don’t have to know that this is a tarantula hawk to know that you should give it some space!!!!! It’s nearly as big as a hummingbird! 

In all seriousness, I just want to express that I understand I live a privileged life here in the U.S. Things are pretty good, but really they could be better!!! Unparalleled peace and progress? Sounds amazing. End of war? Doesn’t everyone want that!!!???

What We Need to Do

  • lead in the art of arbitration – settle the dispute!!!
  • give relief to the needy – desperation is often a cause of unrest and lack of peace
  • bring hope to those who fear – Hope…that leads me to the next quote.

Five

“The hope of the world is the Prince of Peace—our Creator, Savior, Jehovah, and Judge. He offers us the good life, the abundant life, and eternal life. Peaceful—even prosperous—living can come to those who abide His precepts and follow His pathway to peace. This I declare to all the world.” – Russell M. Nelson

I can’t even estimate how many mental fist pumps I did when I read this paragraph. The Lord is our Hope. He offer us a good life, the abundant life, and eternal life!

The Abundant Life! I love the sound of that. Abundant blessings, joy, peace. This is what the Savior offers us. We cannot have peace unless we will abide His precepts and follow His pathway to peace.

Six

“Now, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what does the Lord expect of us? As a Church, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace.” As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace.” We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peacefully—as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule. We have writings of the descendants of Judah as now merged with writings of the descendants of Ephraim. We should employ them and expand our circle of love to embrace the whole human family. We should bring divine love and revealed doctrines of restored religion to our neighbors and friends. We should serve them according to our abilities and opportunities. We should keep our principles on a high level and stand for the right. We should continue to gather scattered Israel from the four corners of the earth and offer the ordinances and covenants that seal families together forever. These blessings we are to bring to people of all nations.” – Russell M. Nelson

Even more mental fist pumps!!!!!!

This is a call of action to each of us. We can be peacemakers in our corners of the world. We can be peacemakers with our significant others, our friends, our siblings, our children. Instead of “being right,” we can “be excellent to each other.” We can live the golden rule. We can learn from history – that hatred and anger never amount to anything good for anyone. Anger doesn’t bring peace. Humility and love brings peace.

We should be very careful not to falsely label our contentiousness as “righteous indignation.”

Instead, we should seek to have charity – which is kind, patient, and not easily provoked. As we each develop the attributes of charity within the walls of our own homes, we can then extend our loving arms outward – to neighbors, friends, outsiders, and even enemies.

We can become peacemakers! And we will be blessed!

Six

I love this talk. I feel like my writing about it is a pitiful attempt to shed any other light on what I learned. Of course, you should go to the source.

As I read this talk, I kept feeling—over and over—that President Nelson truly was an apostle of God bearing a special witness to the world. Who knew that President Nelson would end up being the prophet seventeen years after giving this talk? God, I guess! But in reading this, I felt that the Lord has molded President Nelson and refined him into the loving, kind, peacemaker that leads our church today. In fact, just a few weeks ago, President Nelson met with the NAACP. He stated:

“We don’t have to be alike or look alike to have love for each other. We don’t even have to agree with each other to love each other. If we have any hope of reclaiming the goodwill and sense of humanity for which we yearn, it must begin with each of us, one person at a time.” – Russell M. Nelson at 110th Annual NAACP Convention in Detroit

President Nelson was proclaiming peace and exhorting us to extend love to all – even a year after 9/11 when emotions were still so high and anger seem justified. He begs us to proclaim peace and extend love to all still now.

I’m grateful to know that President Nelson, who leads our church, is a peacemaker.

How Firm Our Foundation – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying How Firm Our Foundation, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2002 General Conference.

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April 2002. By then, I had been a mom for about nine months. As I’ve said about many of these talks, I don’t really remember them, specifically at this point. But I know that I watched General Conference. I know that this was a part of my life.

Even though we may not always remember the specific words we hear or read, I do think that they become a part of us. I know that my testimony is a cumulative of daily experiences, rather than a sampling of a few singular ones.

***

Onto the talk…

Foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Obviously, based on the title of this talk, this is a talk about our foundation.

foundation
Foundation of our home when we lived in Arkansas.

Interestingly enough, I had a discussion with someone around this time in my life. I was working as a manager of an apartment complex. There was a maintenance man who came often, named “Art.” He was a nice guy. Humble. Funny.

If you can, recall what life was like immediately after 9/11. The world was both somber and resolute. Somber because of the tragedy that had happened on our own soil to so many innocent people. Resolute because we had decided to pray, to stand up against terrorism in any form, UNITED. I remember that the streets were lined with American flags. It was an interesting time.

One day, I was having a chat with Art. He was not a member of my faith. But we ended up having a discussion about faith – within the context of why God lets bad things happen to good people. I explained my position (which I won’t really get into here). He seemed receptive to what I had to say.

I was living in Utah, so there was a large population of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I admitted to Him that I was a member of this church. He hadn’t had very positive experiences with the Church, sadly. And I tried to make amends, shaking my head, and understanding his concerns. (Again, not really time to get into here)…

I can’t remember why, but at some point, he asked me, “Who was the first member of your church.” I thought for a moment. Prayed for help, then said, “I believe it was Adam.” He said, “That’s what I wanted to hear.” He asked me more about what I believed, and by the end of the conversation, he requested a Book of Mormon. I’m so grateful that the Spirit attended me at that moment. I don’t know what happened to Art (he ended up getting a job elsewhere, and I ended up moving. Our paths never again crossed. But I’ve thought about that experience a few times. The gospel is eternal. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored Gospel. It didn’t start in 1820. And Joseph Smith wasn’t the “first Mormon.”

President Nelson taught:

“This Church stands on a unique foundation, anchored to a bedrock of timeless truth. Brothers and sisters, the holy cause in which we are engaged did not begin in 1820 in the state of New York. It did not begin in Bethlehem. It did not begin in the Garden of Eden. The underpinnings of the everlasting gospel were in place even before the world was.” – Russel M. Nelson

Notice – The gospel began even before Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. The gospel, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, was not some scrappy solution to a big “oops” made by Adam and Eve. The Gospel was the plan, the Atonement was in place even before the Earth was created. Heavenly Father really is “in charge!”

So – the foundation of this church are structured by “pre-mortal pillars.” These pillars existed before the creation of the earth, and help to form the foundation of the gospel.

They are:

  • The Plan of Redemption and Possibility of Inheritance in the Kingdom of God
  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ
  • Opposition from the Adversary
  • Foreordination for and Conferral of the Priesthood
  • Sisters Empowered to Glorify God
  • Children of the Covenant
  • Blessings Predicated upon Obedience to the Law
  • Sacred Things to Be Revealed in the Latter Days
  • Redemption of the Dead

The Church’s foundation is sure. It is eternal. It has been carefully prepared and strengthened by eternal “pillars.” Because the foundation of the church is sure, it is the ideal foundation for each of us.

Foundation of Individual Members of the Church

President Nelson states:

“Just as buildings and institutions have foundations, so do we as individuals have foundations that support our faith. Some are weak; some are strong. We can waffle “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed,” or we can stand on a firm foundation and anchor ourselves with straps of spiritual steel, rooted and grounded to the timeless pillars of the gospel.” – Russell M. Nelson

We need to have a foundation that supports our faith! Even while writing this blog post, I’m amazed at how much the world around us has changed since the times after 9/11. There is so much information, yet so little knowledge. We have so many experts, but so much confusion.

I’ll share another personal example.

A few weeks ago, I started having shortness of breath.

Then, I started having dizziness.

This all culminated with some pain in my chest. Was I having a heart attack???!!! I didn’t know. The pain in my chest came at 3:30 AM. I didn’t really know what to do. What did I know??? That I had been warned in my Patriarchal Blessing* that I should keep the Word of Wisdom. I also knew that – though I wasn’t drinking alcohol, hot drinks, or using drugs, I also wasn’t doing the things I should do.

About 4-5 months ago, in fact, I started counting macros. Everything you find online suggests that when counting macros to lose fat, you need to have plenty of protein. I was consuming 135g protein in a 1500 calorie daily allotment.

Personally, I was struggling with getting plenty of protein. I had to eat a lot of meat. Lots of chicken, cans of tuna, ground beef, etc. You name it – I needed to have about 150g of chicken breast, for example, with at least three meals a day, and still I wouldn’t get enough protein to hit my macros.

Now, just so you understand. I was hitting my macros. So I was eating lots of egg whites, chicken, tuna, etc. Lots and lots of protein. And because my calories are reduced, I had to be pretty picky about what carbs and fat I consumed.

Anyway – those were my physical conditions. Yes I was losing weight. But there I was, wondering if my days were numbered. And I couldn’t help but think of the word of wisdom – which I have studied in depth. I, personally, couldn’t really make any peace with the advice of the word of wisdom and how I had been eating. I knew that I needed to keep the Word of Wisdom, as it is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, and I was praying that I still had enough time on earth to change my ways.

I made a change that night. The next day, I changed my macro balance (I know that I need to lose weight still), and I decided that I would eat meat – in times of cold or famine.

Oh – by the way, I’m in Phoenix right now. It is not cold. Not even close. In fact, it has been super hot (over 110° for a while now…which is also when I started feeling worse).

Even while I was lying awake that night, I wondered – there are so many conflicting opinions. Are carbs bad or good? Should we be worried about saturated fat or not? Am I going to lose weight if I reduce my protein to 65g a day??? You can find a doctor or a study that can support any argument – so what should I listen to???

Thankfully, the Lord is merciful and patient with me. His Spirit whispered to my soul (as an impression), “Just do what I have said to do.”

DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t need to worry about scientific evidence supporting this or that. (There were doctors and scientists who used to say smoking was good!!!!!) I just need to listen to God, the creator of my body. I want knowledge. I want endurance. Instead of basing my actions on the flavor of the day, I can instead listen to the words that the Lord gave to Joseph Smith. Even when it is so hard to know who we can trust, we can always trust God!

All of this is to say. Even in these times, we don’t need to be confused. We can build on the sure foundation of the gospel.

***

There is so much more in this talk that could be pondered or discussed, but I need to wrap it up for now. I’ll finish with this quote:

“How firm our foundation? The foundation of this Church was forged long before the world was. It is strong. It is true. It is eternal. The foundation of one’s individual faith, if anchored firmly to eternal truth, allows each of us to reach upward with an eternal perspective. That faith will give hope when there is no hope. It will give us joy here and eternal life hereafter. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this. I want joy here and eternal life in the future. I know that if I build on His foundation, I will be able to weather whatever storm comes my way (and they will come!). I’m so grateful to know that the gospel wasn’t some kind of quickly cobbled solution to a big “oops” when Eve was beguiled by the serpent. I’m grateful to know that the gospel has an eternal foundation – long before the world was created.

I’m also grateful to know that our prophet understands this. I’m grateful for the principles and foundational truths that he has taught. I’m grateful for his example, service, and testimony.

***
P.S. I didn’t have time to proofread. Please be kind and ignore any glaring mistakes!!!

“Set in Order Thy House” – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk “Set in Order Thy House”, by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the October 2001 General Conference.

October 2001. Once again, I don’t remember this specific talk, even though I know that I watched general conference. One thing that is interesting to me about this is that I had become a new mother. My oldest daughter was born during the summer of 2001. Even though I don’t remember this talk specifically, talks like these have always impacted me and inspired me to do my duty as a mother.

So – onto the talk.

Larsons at Grand Canyon
At the Grand Canyon

Our Divine Mandate

It’s really interesting to read this talk now – after we have had the changes we experienced last year – to a shorter church time on Sundays. I’m not looking this up right now, but the way I remember it is that this change was made because we are supposed to be a home-centered church.

I also remember after all of those changes and then talks, there was so much excitement – about teaching our families – as if this was a new charge. Reading President Nelson’s talk from eighteen years ago has reminded me that this isn’t a “new program.” God’s kingdom has always been centered on families.

President Nelson stated:

“With the Lord, families are essential. He created the earth that we could gain physical bodies and form families. He established His Church to exalt families. He provides temples so that families can be together forever.” – Russell M. Nelson

Did you notice that – the earth was created for us – so we could gain physical bodies, form families, and learn what we needed to know here. (Aside: this doesn’t mean that I think we extort the earth. We need to remember it is a gift, and we should treat it as such.)

Did you notice, that temples are here so that families can be together forever? My family has been blessed by temples and the ordinances performed therein.

the beginning
Washington, DC Temple – on our Wedding Day

Also did you notice – He established His Church to exalt families. This is exactly what the prophet taught to us less than a year ago! The family isn’t supposed to be “supporting” the church. It’s the other way around! The church is supposed to support the family. We can’t outsource gospel learning to another institution, no matter how good it is.

President Nelson taught:

Not only are parents to cling to the word of the Lord, but they have a divine mandate to teach it to their children. Scriptural direction is very clear: “Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion … that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

That commandment places responsibility and accountability for the teaching of children squarely upon the shoulders of the parents. The proclamation to the world regarding the family warns that individuals “who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.” Today I solemnly reaffirm that reality.” – Russell M. Nelson

As I write this, I realize that in 2001, we had an apostle of the Lord warn us that we needed to be teaching our families the gospel! This wasn’t the first time we have been warned by the Lord to teach our families the gospel. President Nelson continues:

“In 1833 the Lord rebuked young leaders of His Church because of parental shortcomings. The Lord said:

“I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.

“But verily I say unto you, …

“You have not taught your children light and truth, according to the commandments. …

“And now a commandment I give unto you … you shall set in order your own house, for there are many things that are not right in your house. … First set in order thy house.” – Russell M. Nelson

What To Teach

Okay. It seems obvious. We need to teach the gospel to our children. President Nelson explains more of what that means. He teaches that we should teach our children the following:

  • Faith in Jesus Christ
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • The Gift of the Holy Ghost (by the way, these three things would be considered “the law of the gospel!”)
  • The Plan of Salvation (and the Law of Sacrifice)
  • The Law of Obedience
  • The Law of Consecration

I suppose that this isn’t an exhaustive list. But then again, I think that really teaching our children these things could take a lifetime. They seem to take a lifetime to learn!

me with fam and dad
Fun with Grandpa in Sedona, AZ

Why???

Why should we teach our children the gospel? What’s the big deal? Isn’t there plenty of mercy and grace in God’s plan? Doesn’t Christ love us? Why do we need to take this teaching seriously?

Well, first of all, we need to remember what President Nelson taught:

“God has revealed the eternal nature of celestial marriage and the family as the source of our greatest joy.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is why! So we can be happy. This is not a selfish pursuit. Our joy comes as we fulfill the measures of our creation – which includes the relationships we make with our families. President Nelson continues:

“Brethren and sisters, material possessions and honors of the world do not endure. But your union as wife, husband, and family can. The only duration of family life that satisfies the loftiest longings of the human soul is forever. No sacrifice is too great to have the blessings of an eternal marriage.” – Russell M. Nelson

Do we really understand this? I wonder.

A few years ago, I kept a “joy is…” journal. I simply wrote a line or two every day starting with “Joy is…” I tried to find joy each day. I did this for a few years. One interesting thing I found was that one of my most consistent sources of joy was my family.

me and the girls

Yet so many people have been hurt so badly by members of their own family. I know that that some of the deepest grief I’ve felt has been in connection with problems and pains in my family. It is one thing, for example when a stranger lies to you. But when a family member does? It hurts so much worse.

Satan understands this. He understands that families are the biggest source of potential joy. President Nelson explained:

“Parents and children should realize that strong opposition will always come against the work and will of the Lord. Because the work (and glory) of God is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life as a family, it logically follows that the work of the adversary will strike directly at the heart of the home—the family. Relentlessly Lucifer attacks the sanctity of life and the joy of parenthood.

Satan wants us to be miserable just as he is.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes. Satan attacks the family. And why? Because he wants us to be miserable. He understands the potential joy to be found in families. He also knows that the potential misery is inversely proportional to the joy (is that making sense). So – if we can feel infinite and eternal joy with our families, then the inverse is also true – we can feel infinite and eternal pain. Satan will always try to tip us toward misery and pain.

Some of you reading this may have felt intense pain at the hands of “loved ones” and family members. My heart aches for you. And I guess the thing I’m trying to say is – there is hope to be found. The Lord can take your exquisite pain and transform it into exquisite joy through His eternal sacrifice.

Not only that, but this pain can serve as a testimony – that truly the family is of God; that truly Satan is attacking it; that truly one can find great joy within it if we abide the principles taught to us by God.

What Am I Doing???

larsons in arkieland
Christmas in Arkieland

I hope that this hasn’t been a totally boring post. I have actually been excited to read it today.

My family is in an interesting position lately. We have moved around a lot and haven’t really had a stable “house.” But soon, I know that we will be settling down again. When I saw the title of this talk – “Set in Order Thy House”, I wondered will this be about finances, chore charts, and food storage? If so, then what will apply to me right now?

As I read the talk though, I saw that it had little to do with a physical house. Of course it is important to do the practical things to bring order to your house. But when you don’t have a physical house, there aren’t many practical things to do!

Even though my family and I don’t have a physical “house” right now, I can see that I still have to complete this mandate – as setting in order my house has less to do with physical organization and more to do with what is eternally more important – imparting my children with a testimony of God, their Savior, the Book of Mormon, the Church, and our living prophets.

I know that this can be done anywhere and in any circumstance. I’m not a perfect parent, but I’ve been able to teach my children the gospel! Interestingly enough, if we simply try the Lord’s grace comes to our rescue!!!!!!!!!

I have been a woman in a relationship where I was married to someone who wasn’t faithful – to me or to the gospel. In fact, when this talk was originally given (in 2001), this was the exact situation I found myself in. Gospel study in my family at that time didn’t look like the cover of the Ensign magazine. My children were young (infants/toddlers). For the most part, scripture study was attended by me, myself, and I. I would also read my little ones stories from the Friend. But the Lord attended me, and I was blessed with the grace I needed to make it work. What I had was enough.

Gospel study did not save my first marriage. I couldn’t study enough, attend the temple enough, or do enough to make up for the decisions of my ex. This is not how grace works! It cannot trump agency or rob justice. Instead, the Lord’s grace strengthened me, and it enabled me and my daughters to eventually get out of that abusive situation.

It worked.

I have been a divorced, single mother. We had scripture study time, but it did not look like the cover of the Ensign magazine!!! But my daughters and I would read a few verses of scripture each night. We said prayers together. Our house was a mess. Sometimes, my second daughter (Panda) wouldn’t say anything – she would only hiss at me.

We didn’t cover much ground in the scriptures.

And even though we didn’t get through much of the scriptures, and even though my daughters were sleepy and hissing at me, we still snuggled together – them in my lap and tried. The Lord sanctified my efforts with His grace – and it was exactly enough. Those were not easy times, but I look back on them with so much love, gratitude, happiness, and joy.

It worked.

I have been a married mom in a good relationship with a great husband. I’m currently married to a man who honors his priesthood. He magnifies my womanhood. And I understand, poignantly, how blessed I am to experience this blessing. Together, we lead our children in family scripture study. And guess what? This does not look like the cover of the Ensign magazine!!!! Kids fight, roll around, get bored.

But you know what – it still works. We still have those moments when one of our children will say something that will absolutely floor us. They are learning the gospel! The Lord is able to make something out of our meager efforts! The kids are both learning and teaching us. And these efforts have blessed our family – both as a whole and as individuals.

It works.

I have been without a consistent home for over four years. We have had scripture study in our hotels, parents’ houses, condos, cars, bedrooms, you name it. It doesn’t take much. I figure that if Lehi could teach his family in a tent in the wilderness, then we can do it anywhere, too. Most of the time our scripture learning is simple – a few verses and good discussion. But this experience bonds us together – despite any perceive physical limitations. Once again, the Lord always comes through. Just as he took only a few loaves and fishes to feed 5,000, He can take our simple efforts to spiritually feed our families.

So – what can I do? What can you do? Just show up. Just try our best. And just keep at it. Day after day, night after night. We will see the Lord at work in our lives, if we will give Him something to work with. And when the Lord is at work in our lives – we experience joy and peace. Even in these troubled times, we can live in peace with our families.

family

Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings—Russell M. Nelson

Today, I will be studying the talk, Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2001 General Conference.

I like to think about where I was when I first heard these talks. In April 2001, I was living in Ogden, Utah. I was about 6 months pregnant. I don’t really remember the talk, specifically. But I’m sure that I watched conference and I’m sure I enjoyed it enough at the time.

On to the talk…In this talk, President Nelson taught about temples. Well, more specifically, he talked about our preparation to go and worship at temples.

Dallas Temple
Dallas Texas Temple – the First Temple I ever visited. I came here a few times as a youth.

As I mentioned earlier, this talk was given in 2001. President Gordon B. Hinckley was the prophet, seer, revelatory, and president of the Church. His tenure as prophet was pretty historic. He built temples.

When President Hinckley was first called as the prophet, there were 47 temples. By the time he passed away, there were 124 operating temples and 14 still under construction.

I remember when this change began. I remember when he announced the construction of like 4 or 5 temples. I remember that people gasped. It was an exciting time. And, of course, temple construction has not slowed down since. Temple worship is a very important part of our beliefs, and ever since President Hinckley accelerated temple building, more people have been able to go to the temple.

Washington DC Temple
Washington, D.C. Temple – I went here as a youth, I have gone regularly as an adult (when I lived in PA), and I was married in this temple.

The Temple and Its Blessings

President Nelson stated:

“Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have to admit. Sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I get caught up in the routine, mundane, or even cultural aspects of church. I forget that everything centers around the temple.

And why is that? Why would we say that everything points to the Lord and His holy house? Why wouldn’t we say that everything we do points to baptism, or the sacrament, or some other ordinance???

Ogden Temple
Ogden, Utah Temple – This is where I received my endowment. I also attended this temple often while I lived in Ogden. It has been completely redesigned. I have only attended this temple back when it had its old construction.

Well, maybe it is important for us to remember what the Lord’s purpose is:

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

God’s work, His purpose is our immortality and eternal life. President Nelson taught:

“Eternal life is more than immortality. Eternal life is exaltation in the highest heaven—the kind of life that God lives.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this. And there is so much we could study based on this single statement. For now, though, I’ll just express my own excitement and desire. I want to live the kind of life that God lives. It might not sound exciting or interesting. It is easy to get confused and think of covenants, laws, and obedience to those covenants as laws as confinement.

However, we must also remember that the nature of God is the nature of happiness (See Alma 41:11). I truly want to be happy. I want to have joy. And I know that this is the nature of God. I know that as I cultivate my relationship with Him, and as I become more like Him, then I will be happy. Therefore, I need the temple. I need the covenants. I cannot become like Him on my own. I need the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I need the ordinances, anointings, endowments, and sealing that will enable me to overcome my natural, immortal tendencies and become like our Father in Heaven.

I need the temple.

Bountiful Temple
Bountiful, Utah temple. I was able to attend this temple on occasion while living in Utah.

President Nelson taught:

“Temple ordinances, covenants, endowments, and sealings enable individuals to be reconciled with the Lord and families to be sealed beyond the veil of death. Obedience to temple covenants qualifies us for eternal life, the greatest gift of God to man.” – Russell M. Nelson

So…once again…If we want to live as God lives – in a nature of happiness and joy, then I need the temple. You need the temple. We all need the temple. Of course, it isn’t the edifice, itself, that we need. It is what happens inside of the temple that matters. We need the ordinances, covenants, endowments, and sealings that take place in these special buildings.

Jordan River Temple
Jordan River Temple, Utah – I was able to attend this temple when one of my dear friends received her endowment.

Temple Recommend

First of all, in order to prepare to attend the temple, we need to have a special recommend for entry. Unlike regular church buildings, the temple is very sacred. In the temple, covenants and promises are made. These are eternal covenants. So, they aren’t to be taken lightly.

Not only that, but the temple is a holy place. It has been dedicated and set apart for specific use. The temple is the Lord’s house. He is the one who has set the standards for its use and its admission. All are invited to the House of the Lord, but we must qualify to enter.

Salt Lake Temple STormy
Salt Lake City, Utah Temple – I have been privileged to attend this temple on several occasions.

As president Nelson stated:

“To hold a temple recommend is a priceless privilege and a tangible sign of obedience to God and His prophets.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel so blessed to be able to hold a temple recommend. I know that it is a privilege. I know that there are many good people who would have lived there lives worthy of temple recommends, but they lived on this earth during a time when temples did not dot the earth. I know that I’m fortunate – to have the gospel and to have an understanding of it that inspires me to live worthy of a temple recommend and to attend the temple.

Physical Preparation for the Temple

President Nelson taught:

“One prepares physically for the temple by dressing properly. It is not a place for casual attire.

Within the temple, all are dressed in spotless white to remind us that God is to have a pure people. Nationality, language, or position in the Church are of secondary significance. In that democracy of dress, all sit side by side and are considered equal in the eyes of our Maker.” – Russell M. Nelson

Manhattan Temple
Manhattan, NYC, NY Temple – If you ever have the chance to go to this temple, I urge you to do it! What a remarkable experience – to go to the temple right inside of New York City. Busy and bustle outside, but then you enter the temple and it is quiet, peace, reflection…

There are other things that we can do to prepare, physically, for the temple.

  • Appropriate dress – I know that President Nelson already stated this, but I’m listing it again. The temple is not a casual place. It is sacred. Our dress doesn’t have to be showstopping or expensive. It simply needs to reflect a reverence to the Lord.
  • Shower or Neaten Up – I like to do what I can to be physically clean when I go to the temple. I know that this can be somewhat cultural. But I think that it also shows our reverence to the Lord when we brush our hair, clean ourselves, etc. Once again, this doesn’t have to be ostentatious or extreme. It should just be humble and reverent.
  • Get Enough Rest or Sleep – Obviously, there have been times when I’ve gone to the temple tired. I suppose it is better than nothing, but the physical preparation of getting enough sleep and rest beforehand can really help with the entire temple experience.
  • Watch Your Posture – Now, some people may have physical issues that prevent them from having good posture, and this may seem like a really strange thing, but I’ve found that my posture has helped my temple experience. So many of us spend so much time hunched over – at a desk, driving, etc. This puts us in a state of stress. So, throughout my own temple experiences, I try to think about my posture – sitting up straight, taking a deep relaxing breath. It helps me to focus on what is happening. It helps me to slow down and really experience the temple.

    Frankfurt Temple
    Frankfurt, Germany Temple – I was blessed with the opportunity to attend a wedding at this beautiful temple.
  • Smile – Though the temple is a holy, sacred place, this doesn’t mean that it needs to be somber or sad. As mentioned earlier, God’s is the nature of happiness. His house, then, should be a happy place. It may not be jovial, but it can be sublime and joyful. Sometimes, because of the reverence, this can be hard to remember. One thing that I do is just smile. I don’t mean a cheesy, huge grin (if you want to do that, go for it!). However, I have learned that if, while we are meditating or praying, we have a slight smile, then our whole being will change. The smile will make us happy. When I have joy in my heart, I tend to be more receptive to the Spirit. This joy and receptiveness to the Spirit helps my entire experience. So – try smiling here and there. See how it changes your experience.
  • Wear the Garment – When you have received your endowment at the temple, you are blessed with a special garment. Wearing it appropriately will also help to physically prepare for the temple.
  • Other logistical and logical preparations – Map your route, hire a babysitter, put gas in your car, check the temple schedule, make sure you have anything you might need – temple clothes, food or money for food if it is a long trip, etc. All of these physical preparations will help your entire experience go better.
Mesa Temple
Mesa, AZ Temple – This temple is one of my favorites. I spent quite a bit of time living in AZ. This is an old temple. It is so beautiful and special. I love it.

Spiritual Preparation for the Temple

The temple is a place of learning—especially spiritual learning. If we want to get the most out of our temple experiences, then not only will we prepare physically, but we will prepare spiritually.

Oklahoma Temple
Oklahoma City, OK Temple – While we lived in Arkieland, this was our temple. It took over four hours to get to the temple. This is the longest I’ve had to drive to get to a temple. It required a lot of physical preparation to get there, but also gave a good chance for spiritual preparation. This is a special temple to me.

President Nelson said:

“Teachings of the temple are beautifully simple and simply beautiful. They are understood by the humble, yet they can excite the intellect of the brightest minds.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote about the temple. The teachings there are simple and beautiful. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I forget this. Sometimes, I make the mistake of “looking beyond the mark.” Sometimes, I feel like – with all of the symbolism – that the temple is complicated or “advanced.”

But nothing about the gospel is really all that “complicated.” It is all simple.

The temple reinforces what we learn throughout our church experiences – in the scriptures, lessons, etc. President Nelson gave great advice on spiritual preparation:

“Spiritual preparation is enhanced by study. I like to recommend that members going to the temple for the first time read short explanatory paragraphs in the Bible Dictionary, listed under seven topics: “Anoint,” “Atonement,” “Christ,” “Covenant,” “Fall of Adam,” “Sacrifices,” and “Temple.” Doing so will provide a firm foundation.

One may also read in the Old Testament and the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Such a review of ancient scripture is even more enlightening after one is familiar with the temple endowment. Those books underscore the antiquity of temple work.” – Russell M. Nelson

I first went to the temple when I was 12 years old. I went to the Dallas, Texas temple. I went to perform baptisms. As a 12 year old, I was only able to perform this one ordinance. The temple was a peaceful place, but I have to admit, I never really felt like I “learned” anything there.

Gilbert Temple
Gilbert, AZ temple – We lived in AZ when this temple was built and dedicated. What a beautiful place.

I received my endowment when I was 19 years old. I was overwhelmed in some ways. I can’t say that I really understood everything about the temple, the ordinance of the endowment, or the covenants I was making. I understood enough, though. And I felt peace. I knew that I was doing the right thing, and that – over time and repeated attendance of the temple, I would grow and understand more.

So, I kept going to the temple. I have always tried the best I can to have a regular pattern of attendance. Sometimes that has meant I’ve gone weekly (when the temple was a 15 minute drive). Sometimes, that has meant that I’ve gone monthly (when the temple was further away, or when my kids were small and it was harder to find a babysitter, or when I was really strapped with cash, plus the temple wasn’t close by, and I had to work a lot…there were various reasons.) Sometimes, that has meant going only a few times a year (when I lived over 4 hours away from the temple, and was in the late stages of pregnancy, or had a young infant).

The point is, a regular pattern of attendance can look like different things at different times in our lives. If we are going to the Lord and determining – with Him, and not because of what someone else has said or expected of us – the pace of our pattern of attendance, then it works. It seems like the dosage is always just right. When it was right for me to go weekly, I would find that at about day 6, I needed to go to the temple! The “dose” was wearing off. When it was right for me to go monthly, then it was at about day 30 or so that I needed to get there. When it was right for me to go only a few times a year, the potency of my temple visits lasted for the span between more sporadic visits.

It’s amazing how the Lord’s mercy works.

Phoenix Temple
Phoenix, AZ Temple – We lived in the temple district when it was built and then dedicated. It was such a special experience, and I love this beautiful temple.

The point of this, I guess, is to say that I’ve been blessed to attend the temple for over 2 decades now. When I look back on what I’ve learned through temple attendance, I can see that it has been a cumulative experience. I have been blessed with light and understanding degree by degree – like the light of a sunrise. There have been a few singular experiences in my temple attendance, to be sure. But even these momentous learning events were reliant on steady attendance and commitment to the covenants made in the temple.

So – what does this have to do with spiritual preparation???

One – Go to the Lord to Determine a Pattern

To spiritually prepare for the temple, we should go to the Lord and determine a pattern of temple attendance that works for us.

I have to admit, I kind of hate it when leaders or others at church make “challenges” for us – regarding when or how often to attend the temple. This is personal, and it has to be personally determined between you, the Lord, and possibly your significant other.

Laie Hawaii Temple
Laie, HI temple (in the background) – FAVORITE temple. I love this place. I love the Spirit. I love the Islands.

Two – Set Realistic Expectations

Instead of thinking that we should be having a certain type of experience, we need to keep our expectations realistic and faithful. This is why I shared the above example. Most of us will have “cumulative” temple experiences – meaning that what we learn and the blessings we experience will happen line upon line, with repeated attendance.

So, we don’t need to get too hyped up on what we learned, what questions were answered, etc. Instead, we can focus on peace and communion with God. We can try to follow our spiritual instincts rather than pressure ourselves to “learn” something.

Boston Temple
Boston Temple – I have been able to go to this temple when my sister was married, and when we lived in the Boston area.

Three – Keep a Practice of Regular Study

A key way of preparing for the temple is through regular, daily study. This doesn’t mean that you need to study about the temple each day. (Of course, if you are feeling prompted to do a specific temple study, then do it.) But I have found that I’m often learning about the temple during my daily scripture study. It just happens – when we open our hearts to the Lord, through the conduit of the scriptures and prayer – then the Lord will teach us what we need to know and when we need to know it.

Provo Temple
Provo, UT Temple – This temple runs like a fine machine. When we lived in Wasatch County, we attended this temple. Some of my favorite people work at this temple. And I LOVE going to this temple and seeing all of the missionaries. 

Four – Keep Temple Covenants

Finally, the key way to prepare spiritually for the temple is by keeping your covenants. I know this is fairly obvious, but it is worth mentioning. None of the other preparation is worth our time if we aren’t keeeping our covenants in the first place. We can know the covenant, we can know the scriptures, we can be “clean” in appearance, but if we aren’t living it, then we are like the Pharisees – hypocrites.

Does this mean we need to be perfect? NO! We just need to do our best.

Mt Timpanogos Temple
Mt. Timpanogos, UT  Temple – when Provo was closed, we came to this temple. What a blessing to have so many temples. Not only that, but Timp (itself) is special, so it is cool to go to the temple named after it.

Conclusion

Super long post, I know. I hope you have enjoyed the pictures. I hope this has been helpful to you. I know that it has been helpful to me. But I want to ponder one final thing. President Nelson stated:

“…In this world smitten with spiritual decay, can individuals prepared for temple blessings make a difference? Yes! Those Saints are “the covenant people of the Lord, … armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” Their example can lift the lives of all humankind.” – Russell M. Nelson

The blessings of the temple, we know, are eternal. We often think of these blessings “afar off.” But they are also here for us right now. About 12 years ago, I was at the temple. I was overcome with my overwhelming duties as a mother in these latter days. I felt like wickedness was so rampant that I didn’t know how I could combat it. It seemed to me that we were (and are) living in a world where good is evil and evil is good. I wondered How do I keep my family and children safe??? How do I teach them to discern? How do I guide them back to Heavenly Father in this environment????!!!

I went to the temple, and was only there for a short period – doing Initiatory work. I didn’t have much time, but I wanted to go. It was nice to feel the peace of the temple, but I was still feeling a bit overwhelmed.

While in the temple, I had a realization. The temple work – the work that we need to do in these latter days wasn’t an accidental assignment. It has a purpose. Not only are we helping the family members who have passed on, but we are helping our family members here on earth, too.

The Spirit of Elijah is that the hearts of the children will be turned to their fathers and that the hearts of the fathers will be turned to their children. Because of my duty to my ancestors, and all of the temple work I need to do, I have a reason to go to the temple A LOT!!! And there, I’m filled with peace, understanding, and hope. Not only that, but as I do the work for my family, their hearts will turn to me and my children. Their covenants will bless me and my children.

How do we survive these last days? By doing the work that God has given us – gathering Israel through temple work.

Provo City Center Temple
Provo City Center, UT Temple – An absolutely stunning temple. Just like all temples it is peaceful, beautiful. And I love the artwork in this temple. In fact, I love how temples have tons of art and flowers. My favorites!!!

I’m so grateful for the gospel. I’m grateful for the temple. And I’m grateful for our prophet. I’m grateful for His testimony of temple work and blessings. I’m grateful to know that he has put temple attendance into practice in his life, has obtained a testimony, and can share with us. I’m grateful to know that he is carrying on the legacy of President Hinckley. We are still building more temples. We are refurbishing aging temples. This work is becoming available to more people – which means that the blessings of the temple are becoming available to more people!

I know that I can improve my own temple attendance, preparation, and worship. And I know that as I do, I will have more peace, joy, instruction, and hope in my life.

Living by Scriptural Guidance – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Living by Scriptural Guidance, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2000 General Conference.

I’m sure I was watching this conference. But I don’t specifically remember the talk. This was my last semester of college. Nineteen years ago. Wow. I’m getting old.

***

First of all, I want to say that I love this talk and I think it is mostly because of confirmation bias. That’s probably the wrong way to say it. I’m not biased about this talk in an unfair way. I know that the scriptures can guide and direct us in our lives. This is the way I’ve chosen to live. Though I’m not perfect at it, the scriptures have been a touchstone in my life – helping me to draw closer to the Spirit and personal guidance from God.

So – I like this talk. It confirms what I know and believe. It reminds me to keep forging ahead. It isn’t confirmation bias, but the good feeling I have is a witness from the Spirit that yes – scriptural guidance is good and necessary.

The talk begins with a real blast from the past…President Nelson talks about using…a map.

paper map
A relic!

Okay, so we don’t often use paper maps these days (at least I don’t), but we still rely on map apps, so the metaphor works. President Nelson and his wife were in Denmark. They wanted to visit a few places, but they were unfamiliar with the country. They had a good map (and a good driver), and were able to reach their destination.

We are also on a journey, and the Lord hasn’t left us alone. He has outfitted us with maps (paper or even an app!).

Why We Need Guidance

It seems like a pretty obvious question. Why? Why do we need the scriptures? Why do we need the prophets? Why do we need guidance?

I love asking why. Why is that, well, President Nelson sums it up nicely:

“The question why focuses on the purpose of life.” – Russell M. Nelson

It always helps for us to know our purpose. In fact, it seems like the primary motivator. Why? Why do we need a roadmap in our lives? Because we are trying to get somewhere. Because there is, in fact, a purpose to our lives, but if we don’t live with purpose then we will never reach our destination.

President Nelson teaches:

“The ultimate objective in our mortal journey has been revealed by our Creator, who said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7.) – Russell M. Nelson

So what is our purpose – our big why – eternal life. I agree with this, but sometimes this purpose feels too big for me. It is so abstract. It is overwhelming. And I can’t really get a huge handle on it all of the time.

I mean, when I start to think about eternity my brain starts to hurt.

Not only that, but I believe in an extremely personal God. Yes, each of us on earth are trying to achieve eternal life. Yes, that is the greatest gift that God can offer us and that we can experience. But I really think that there are both “macro” and “micro” level purposes.

We each have our own unique mission and purpose on this earth. When we will fulfill these missions, when we will fulfill the measure of our specific creation, then we will feel joy. So, we desperately need guidance from God. He will help us to see our unique mission on this earth. He will also help us to see how to get to our unique destinations so we can do what we were each sent here to do.

Where Can We Obtain Guidance

So – we have identified why we need guidance:

 

  • Macro Reason

 

    – to receive eternal life

  • Micro Reason – to discover and fulfill our personal, divine missions on this earth

Now we need to ask ourselves where to find this guidance. President Nelson states:

“We turn to Him who knows us best—our Creator. He allowed us to come to earth with freedom to choose our own course. In His great love, He did not leave us alone. He provided a guide—a spiritual road map—to help us achieve success in our journey. We call that guide the standard works, so named because they—the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—constitute the standard by which we should live. They serve as a standard of reference, as are standards of time, weights, and measures that are kept in national bureaus of standards.” – Russell M. Nelson

brazil-family-studying-scriptures-1374752-gallery

I know that the scriptures will give us guidance. They have guided me in my life every single time I have opened my heart to them. I have had both cumulative and singular experiences with the scriptures.

There have been times when I read a scripture and it feels so personal, so specific to me – as if the Lord had the author write this – hundreds (if not thousands) of years ago, just for me.

But, more often than not, I find that daily reading – really feasting on the words of Christ, have made me into something incrementally.

I know it seems simple and trite to think that the scriptures are the guidance we need in life. However, being a simple, trite answer doesn’t mean that it is untrue. We are all a little like Namaan – we want that more complicated and grand answer when really a simple directive is what will bring about the miracle.

How We Can Achieve Scriptural Guidance

So…now we know why we need guidance, and where to find it. Finally, we can ask ourselves how is it done?

I have already hinted at it above – we need to turn to the scriptures regularly. Interestingly, the scriptures themselves teach us how to use the scriptures:

“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

This scripture answers all three questions!

  • Why? – Ye shall have eternal life.
  • Where is Guidance? – the word of Christ.
  • How? – feasting!!!

President Nelson explains feasting:

“To feast means more than to taste. To feast means to savor. We savor the scriptures by studying them in a spirit of delightful discovery and faithful obedience. When we feast upon the words of Christ, they are embedded “in fleshy tables of the heart.” (See 2 Corinthians 3:3.) They become an integral part of our nature.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love the idea of feasting.

Well. I love feasting.

And you know, when I think about feasting, I think of Thanksgiving dinner. I think of turkey, stuffing, pie, and stretchy pants. I think of eating so much I can explode. Is this the way to approach the scriptures? Maybe sometimes, but like eating, I’m not sure that we should do this every day.

President Nelson says that feasting means to “savor.” And I agree, that’s a part of it.

But maybe it is helpful to think about the reason that we eat – and what happens when we do eat. Before we even begin to eat, we start to produce more saliva which is full of enzymes that will help us to break down the food. Then we put that piece of food in our mouth. If we want to get the best nutritional bang for our buck, we will chew that food well – which then causes both our mandibles and our enzyme-rich saliva to begin the digestion process.

(I try to remember this when I eat, as I often wolf my food down…maybe not the best practice. This might be like reading the scriptures quickly – better than nothing, but I might not be getting as much of a nutritional benefit).

Then we swallow our food, where our stomach acids continue to break down the food we have eaten. This breakdown is done chemically and then the food is now broken down into macro-molecular structures.

So – think about our scripture study. We need to not only ingest the word, but really digest it – maybe breaking it down to a “macro-molecular” level. I suppose that the way to do this is, look for the parts, the patterns, the themes. We can read the scriptures and then synthesize them so that we see what is making up the whole.

Next, our body sends the food from the stomach to the small intestine. This is where the nutrients – which have been made available through our chewing and digesting – will be absorbed. The small intestine is semi-permeable – allowing the nutrients from our food to pass through its wall and go to the cells throughout the body where they are needed. Additionally, waste from our cells passes into the small intestine and then onto the large intestine for elimination and discarding.

So – this is where I really wanted to focus. We want the “macro-molecules” from our scripture study not to simply pass through us. We want these to be absorbed. We need our spiritual (and physical!) cells to be nourished by faith, hope, charity, and the many other things that we learn from the scriptures. As we continue to nourish our spirits with these good things, we will also work to eliminate the “waste” that is in our Spirits.

Doo Doo cupcake
Did I just cross a line?

Okay…I don’t want this to get graphic…so we will end with the comparison there. But I think that it might help us to think about feasting in this way. Not in the over-abundant, over-indulgent, Thanksgiving way. But the daily feeding and nourishment way.

This is how the scriptures have given me guidance in my life. Yes, I have had singular experiences. But, really, what has changed my life is going to the scriptures daily. The change has come by degrees. Daily feasting on the word has helped me to be fortified and strengthened. Daily feasting prevents spiritual starvation and malnourishment. Daily feasting on the word of God has helped me, and will help all of us, to press forward toward both my big purpose (eternal life) and my personal purpose (my own personal mission to fulfill).

***

I’m so grateful for the Prophet. He gives us good advice. His words, though spoken generally, if we will “feast” on them, can be incorporated and applied personally. I know that he speaks from his experiences. I’m grateful that we are guided by those who do have experience. I’m grateful that we have a prophet who wants to fulfill His divine mission on this earth. I’m grateful that we have a prophet who has applied what he has learned through thoughtful prayer, scripture study, and pondering – and has shared it with each of us.

I know that President Russell M. Nelson is a prophet, and that if we will consider his testimony and teachings, we will be blessed to make it to our own personal destinations in this life.