Now Is the Time to Prepare – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk Now Is the Time to Prepare, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2005 General Conference.

April 2005…that was an interesting time in my life. In February 2005, I discovered that my ex-husband was having extra-marital affairs. We separated and I filed for divorce. So, during April 2005, I had just filed for a divorce, was looking for work, and had started a new phase of life as a single mom.

I suppose I could describe this time in my life as a crucible, refiner’s fire, pruning…It was one of those growth periods that was difficult, but in the end – so rewarding. The Lord helped me to endure my trials and I was eventually brought to blessings that were beyond my comprehension and seemingly beyond the sacrifices I made to receive them. The Lord is merciful and kind – even while we struggle and suffer.

Anyway – that is what was happening when I heard this talk. I know that I watched general conference, I even took notes. But I don’t remember this specific talk. Regardless, it was good to study again.

I don’t have much time, so I’m just going to pick out a few quotes/concepts I liked and write a little bit about them.

One

“After my efforts to revive her proved fruitless, feelings of shock and sorrow overwhelmed me. My closest friend, angel mother of our 10 children, grandmother of our 56 grandchildren, had been taken from us.” – Russell M. Nelson

This quote isn’t about doctrine, beliefs, principles. It isn’t about the gospel, faith, or even the Savior. This quote isn’t philosophical or scriptural. It isn’t abstract. But I love this quote.

It is real.

Pres Nelson and Wife
President Russell M. Nelson and his wife Dantzel White

Can you imagine being President Nelson – a world renowned heart surgeon – who had saved the lives of so many – being with his wife and unable to help her?! I cannot imagine the sorrow, pain, and helplessness that he must have felt. And though President Nelson knew that he would see his wife again one day, he still missed her.

Even though this isn’t a doctrinal statement, I love that President Nelson shared this with us. This is a reminder that the prophet and apostles are real people. Yes they serve the Lord in callings that are not common, but they are not exempt from any of the realities of life. They struggle. They experience happiness and sadness. They have joyful moments and times of heartache. They can lead and guide us with both sympathy and empathy.

Two

” We came into this life to acquire a physical body. We may fall in love and be married. We may have children and experience the trials of mortal life. (Please forgive me for mentioning children and the trials of life in the same breath. I sense that they are both part of our growing process.) The Church was restored—the earth was created—so that those families could be sealed in holy temples. Otherwise, the whole earth would be “utterly wasted.”

We came to be tried, to be tested, and to choose. Our decisions determine our destiny. – Russell M. Nelson

I have been thinking a lot about the idea of suffering and believing in a God who would allow suffering. God created this earth. God is good. And yet, God allowed slavery to happen. God allowed the holocaust. He didn’t interfere to stop the atrocities that we have committed.

Because God has allowed suffering, there are some people who use this as proof that He doesn’t exist. I want to think about this more, but for now, I suppose I want to remind myself that to get better answers we need to ask better questions.

So – people ask “how could there be a God if He would let this happen?” But it really isn’t a good question. There isn’t much of an answer. Beside that, the framework of the question presupposes that there isn’t a God. In other words the question isn’t much of a question at all.

Instead, maybe we should ask, “Why does God allow suffering?” – Keep in mind: this ought to be asked in an inquisitive, rather than accusational, manner.

In doing so, before I really even dig into why God would allow suffering, if I ask myself this question, I immediately think of my own role as a parent with my children. And you know what – I allow suffering. I have allowed them to get shots. I have allowed them to fall off of their bikes. I have allowed them to have some negative experiences because I know that they have to fall off the bike in order to learn to ride it.

In fact, my oldest is 18, and I will be allowing her to leave the house and choose her own way in this life. It is out of love and respect for her autonomy and sovereignty that I do so.

So – why does God allow suffering? Because he knows that in order for us to grow and experience joy, we have to suffer a little bit. He even allows suffering because He respects our autonomy and sovereignty.

Now, I know that there are still a lot of holes in this argument. Allowing a child to fall when he is learning to walk is one thing…but allowing the holocaust? It’s hard to understand.

So, if we keep asking with real intent, then I think President Nelson’s quote can help. Why does God allow suffering? That may lead to the question – “why are we here in the first place if we are going to suffer?”

What do we learn from President Nelson’s quote:

1) We are here to get a physical body.
2) We came to be tried, to be tested, and to choose.

So – on the most basic level, when we think of these two purposes, then we can see that suffering will not necessarily interrupt either of them. Suffering will not keep us from having a body. Suffering is part of the trial, and we can choose how we will respond to it.

Oh there is so much more to this, and I’m afraid that I opened a giant can of worms. All of this leads to faith. Why does God allow suffering?

Because He also offers a solution. He has offered us His Son.

I suppose the Lord allows suffering because he has a fix. Sometimes that fix won’t happen during this lifetime. But there will be justice. Every right will be wronged. We can have hope. And in the meantime, we can keep our eyes on the real purposes for our being here.

We aren’t here to just live a life devoid of challenges. We aren’t here to live in ignorant bliss. We are here to get a body, to choose, so that we can be happy. All of this is possible only because:

1) God allows us to live our own lives, even if it means we are exposed to great suffering.
2) God has given us a Savior who is like an alchemist. He can, through our faith, turn our leaden experiences into gold.

I could write and think about this all a lot more. In fact, this is worth a deeper investigation so that we can galvanize our own faith and comfort others who experience trial. But for now, I want to keep going on with President Nelson’s talk.

Three

Now is the time to show reverent respect for one’s physical body. It serves as the tabernacle for one’s spirit throughout all eternity. Physical appetites are to be controlled by the will of one’s spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

Okay – this is like a completely different subject than the last one, but this quote is also standing out to me.

Our preparation to meet God isn’t merely spiritual. It isn’t only physical. IT IS BOTH! We are not only spirits. We aren’t only bodies. The body and the spirit aren’t separate entities. They are a complete being. We learn:

“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:15

We also learn:

“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:33-35

We aren’t only spirit. We aren’t only flesh. We are inseparably connected, and when separated, we cannot receive a fulness of joy.

So – how do we prepare to meet God? We learn to be good stewards of the tabernacle of flesh He created for us. I haven’t always been the best at this, but I’m changing. I feel pretty confident that I will be held accountable for this gift of my body. How have I cared for it???

And as I think about “caring” for my body – the answer is right in President Nelson’s quote – we use the will of our spirits to control destructive physical appetites.

When we use our spirit to care for our bodies, not only are we blessed physically, but our spirits are also strengthened. This will help us not only ensuring that we don’t meet our maker too soon, but also that we will be able to stand at the judgement seat of Christ and show that we have been grateful for the gifts of our bodies.

***

Thanks for reading my thoughts today (if you made it this far). They are all unrelated, but come from the talk by President Nelson. His talk was actually very cohesive (unlike this blog post), and I encourage you to give it a read.

I’m so grateful for the prophet. He has had experiences that have shaped him into the man he is today – prepared him for his calling as the prophet. He understands the purpose of this life, and doesn’t get hung up on perceived injustices. And he can teach us the basics on how we can prepare to meet our God – because we will.

 

Senior Missionaries and the Gospel – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying Senior Missionaries and the Gospel, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2004 General Conference.

Okay, so I can remember more details about the October 2004 General Conference. First of all, two apostles had died between then and the April conference – so two new apostles were sustained: Dieter F. Uchtdorf and David A. Bednar. It’s always an exciting thing when new apostles are called.

In my own personal life, I had recently moved from Utah back to PA with my (then ex-husband) and two daughters. We were living at my mom’s house while we were trying to find a place to live in PA.

Otherwise, I can’t say that I specifically remember this talk – especially given the subject matter. (I was a young mom, being a senior missionary seemed a ways off). Even now, the topic doesn’t feel totally relevant for me, but I’m still studying the message. There are good things to learn.

Missionary couple

Hasten Your Shuffle

A cute quote from President Nelson:

“I express gratitude for our senior missionaries. They are young in spirit, wise, and willing to work. They even tolerate remarks from their fun-filled children who might change President Spencer W. Kimball’s plea “Lengthen your stride” to “Hasten your shuffle.” – Russell M. Nelson

I can recall that around the time that this talk was given, there were a lot of pleas and requests from our own local authorities to have senior couples serve missions. I was in my early twenties at the time, and there wasn’t really a way that I could go and serve, but I was inspired by these requests. I remember hearing testimonies of returned senior missionaries. I didn’t serve a mission in my younger years, and I knew that I wanted to go on a mission one day.

In fact, in 2002, when the Nauvoo temple was rebuilt and dedicated, I went to the dedication broadcast with one of my good friends. She happened to know the couple who had been called to be the temple president and matron of the temple. She made a remark to me about them, and I had a very strong prompting at that moment. I needed to do what I could then (when I was only in my early 20s) to prepare spiritually, physically, and financially to be able to serve a mission in my later years.

Any time I read talks like President Nelson’s, I’m reminded of this experience, and I pray that I will be prepared – spiritually, physically, and financially so I can serve God in my later years (they are much closer now!!!)

Gratitude

During his talk, President Nelson quoted Heber J. Grant:

“At general conference in October 1925, President Heber J. Grant issued a clarion call for “men of mature years and sound judgment, who have had experience in the preaching of the gospel, … to go forth and labor in the mission field.” – Heber J. Grant as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson continued:

“That need persists.” – Russell M. Nelson

Again, I don’t currently have the opportunity to serve a mission right now, but I feel pretty sure that the need for missionary couples will still exist when I am in a position to serve. So, I wonder, will I be ready? Even though I cannot serve now, I can express my gratitude to Heavenly Father for the gift of the gospel by doing what I need to prepare for a mission.

Preparations

Even though President Nelson didn’t directly address this in his talk, this is where I feel like my own study and application of it is taking me. So, I will study three ways to prepare for a mission.

Spiritual Preparation

This is the most obvious type of preparation that we will need to make. I suppose to really prepare spiritually for a mission, we will first need to identify what it is that we will share on a mission.

Simply put: the gospel.

President Nelson taught:

“All of us may preach the gospel by precept and example. The word gospel means “good news.” The good news is the Lord Jesus Christ and His message of salvation.” – Russell M. Nelson

We can prepare ourselves for our missions by learning and living the gospel. This is done in the obvious ways – prayer, studying the scriptures, attending church meetings. Another important thing we can do to spiritually prepare for our mission is to find and hone our talents.

My piano teacher chose to serve a mission in her later years. When she served, she was often teaching the piano to members of her wards so they could have accompaniment during sacrament and primary. Had she not spent the time to cultivate her talent, she wouldn’t have been able to serve as richly.

There are so many other examples, too. Whatever it is we are good at, I’m sure that the Lord will utilize. Gardening, cooking, art, accounting, speaking a foreign language, cleaning teeth, etc. These are all ways that we may be asked to serve in the future. Not only that, but we can also do more to study new interests and curiosities. This may also help us to serve the Lord later on.

It’s important to remember that spiritual preparation for a mission (whether your serving when you’re young or when you’re a little older) is not relegated only to scripture study/prayer/church. Yes – that kind of spiritual preparation is important. We need to have testimonies. We need to know what it’s like to grow our testimony. We need to have the ability to teach others, testify to others, to bear one another’s burdens and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. This is of critical importance.

But we shouldn’t overlook how our many other talents might be utilized by the Lord to spread the good word of His gospel.

Physical Preparation

The hard thing about serving a mission in later years is that…you’re old.

I’m currently in my 40s. I can absolutely tell that I’m not the spritely young woman I was 20 years ago. My hips crack all the time. I need more sleep. I’ve even starting spotting grey hairs! But for the most part, I have great health. My mind is sharp and active. I can walk for miles and miles. I am capable physically of doing most things that I need or want to do.

I’m at a point in my life where I am realizing that this will not always be the case! And I’ve come to a really brutal awakening recently (with a mild health scare) that if I don’t take steps now to manage my health, then I’ll have real problems as I age.

I don’t want real problems as I age.

Not only that, but as I study President Nelson’s words, I realize that if I want to prepare to serve a mission in my later years, then I need to manage myself physically so that I will be able to do so. President Nelson stated:

“As I extol the work of senior missionaries, I realize that there are many more who would like to serve but are not able to do so.” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s interesting to think about physical preparation and its effect on our ability to serve as we age – while reading a talk by President Nelson. The man is turning 95 YEARS OLD September 9th. He just doesn’t seem like a 95 year old!

Last year, President Nelson happen to come to our sacrament meeting one week during the summer. Seeing him in person, I admit – he looked old. But he moved well. His mind was so sharp. He just didn’t seem to be in his 90s.

620president-russell-m-nelson-a-renaissance-man_20
This picture is fun…and the cardigan makes me think of Mr. Rogers…
President Nelson Fishing
Gone fishing’!
President Nelson Skiing
President Nelson is in the Light Red jacket – fourth from the left. 

I’ve been trying to research more about President Nelson’s health habits. I can’t find anything about his specific choices. But, from what I can conclude – having read so many of his talks and knowing of his background in medicine – I figure, he is probably following the word of wisdom.

So much has been physically expected of President Nelson – and others who serve in the church. Even though I can’t serve now, I can prepare myself by taking good care of my body so that I will have a strong and active body that is ready to serve my God.

Financial Preparation

Though nothing is stated about financial preparation in this talk, I do feel like it is worth pondering for a moment.

First of all – President Nelson talked about “qualifications” for service:

“Many humble Latter-day Saints fear that they are not qualified for missionary labors. But to such a prospective missionary, the Lord has given this assurance: “Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” – Russell M. Nelson

There is no financial, physical, or spiritual “qualification” for serving God. We simply need to have a desire to serve, and faith, hope, and charity. Yes, there are logistical and even financial concerns when it comes to a mission, but we don’t have to worry about that. As President Nelson explained:

“Opportunities for senior missionaries are varied and vast. Their calls to serve are officially made after prayerful consideration has been given to their occupational background, language experience, and personal capabilities.” – Russell M. Nelson

I don’t think that we need to get all stressed out about this kind of preparation. Yet, I also feel that it is appropriate to ask – are there things that I can do now to prepare, financially, for a mission? I don’t think that there is one single answer to this question that is applicable to everyone.

In fact, I feel that this is probably a question that we should take to the Lord as individuals. And then, the Lord will direct us on what we need to do.

The answer might be something like “save some money from every paycheck.”

The answer might be “get out of debt.”

Then again, the answer might be “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?…Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take athought for the things of itself.” (See Matthew 6:31,34.)

I don’t know what the Lord will direct you to do if you feel prompted to seek his counsel in this regard. But I do know that if we go to the Lord, He will help us to understand how we ought to personally prepare for the future.

Confessional Conclusion

I’ll wrap this up right now. I’m so grateful for the words of the prophets. I have to confess: I was about to skip this talk. Based on the title, it just didn’t seem applicable to me at all. I’m at least a decade away from being in a position where I can serve a mission. I have things to worry about right now. It just didn’t seem all that applicable.

But as I studied, I realize I’m at a really important part of my life right now. I’m fully in mid-life mode. I kind of glided through my 20s. I had some real defining moments in my 30s. I’m realizing that I’m laying the ground work for my own “old age” years RIGHT NOW. The pathways in the brain are getting pretty worn in, but I can take stock and ask myself – If I continue on in these habits, where will I be in 20, 30, 40 more years???

I know that our brains are “plastic,” and that we can always change, but it sure gets a lot harder to change when we hit the same synapses over and over and over again. It will be easier for me to blaze some new trails now and get them nice and worn rather than try to fight my way through the jungle of habits and my brain in the decades to come. (Does any of this make sense?!) These choices now will impact my future – when this talk will be applicable to me!

So – what am I doing now? Spiritually? Do I bear sweet fruit? Or am I starting to become cynical, impatient, and bitter? Is there a spiritual “pathway” that I need to forge so I can better serve the Lord in the future (and just live a better life, in general!)?

What am I doing now, physically? Do I keep the Word of Wisdom? Am I treating my body like a temple by eating lots and lots of veggies, fruits and plants? Do I eat plenty of grains? Am I reserving meat for times of utter desperation and famine? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I walking and exercising? Or am I doing destructive things? These choices (dietary, etc) may not seem harmful today, but they will be compounded day by day. What will my life look like in 2 decades – will I be spry and skiing with the best of them? Or will I be suffering with a condition that was avoidable??? The time for me to make this choice is right now.

What am I doing now, financially? Am I working hard so that I can be capable of serving the Lord? Am I paying my tithing? Or have I made possessions and material items my god???

***

I’m thankful for a prophet who has been willing to serve. President Nelson was called as an apostle in 1984. He has been serving as an apostle and now prophet for 35 years. Wow. He lives what he preaches. And we have been blessed by his humble and dedicated sacrifice.

Every People Shall Be Blessed – 1 Nephi 19:13-17

You can read 1 Nephi 19:13-17 here. You can also find the rest of the Blogging the Book of Mormon entries here.

Context and General Information

  • Nephi is continuing his prophecy about the Savior
  • Those who are in Jerusalem (the remainder of the House of Israel that crucified their God), shall be scourged by people.
  • They will wander in the flesh.
  • However, the day will come that they will no longer turn their hearts against their God. When they remember Him, He will remember them.
  • The Lord will remember the isles of the sea and gather all of Israel.
  • Through the scattering and gathering of Israel, all will be blessed.

Every People Shall Be Blessed

Nephi taught that after the crucifixion of the Savior, the house of Israel would continue to be scattered.

Sometimes, this is kind of difficult doctrine to really understand and even accept because it sounds like God doesn’t love his people. We read:

“And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet, they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel.

14 And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.” – 1 Nephi 19:13-14

In a way, this can be hard to take because I don’t really think of God as one who exacts vengeance. And I suppose that’s why this is so important to understand. The scattering of Israel wasn’t an angry lash-out from an impatient God. The scattering of Israel was a natural consequence to the decisions Israel had made.

The Lord wanted to be their God. He wanted to extend to them protection, healing, and power. Think of what the Lord has said:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” – Matthew 23:37-39

The Lord lamented the choice that those in Jerusalem had made. He kindly, tenderly made every effort to gather them in love. But they would not!

Because of this choice, their house is left to them – desolate. They have rejected their God, so their God isn’t “in their house” anymore, I suppose.

Of course, even though this sounds hopeless and maybe even harsh, the Savior ends with hope for the future – when they once again accept Him, they will again “see Him.”

We have hindsight in all of this. We can see that the prophecies given by the Lord in Matthew and by Nephi in 1 Nephi 19 have come to fruition. Does this mean that I agree with the way that the remnants of Jerusalem (the Jews and other members of the House of Israel) have been treated over the years – by wicked people? NO! Oppression, hatred, racism – those are not Christlike qualities.

I also think that it hurts God to see His children treated that way. But He had to leave them alone. He had to let them go on their prodigal journey. And, because He is a good Father, He had to let them experience the natural consequences of their decisions.

There is hope!

Thankfully, God is a God of miracles. Though the house of Israel would be scattered, it wouldn’t always remain so. The Lord would perform a marvelous work and a wonder in the latter days. We are living in the latter days. We are experiencing the blessing of this marvelous work and wonder. It is the gathering of Israel.

salt lake temple
Salt Lake Temple, source here

Even though the Jews and the rest of the house of Israel would experience hardship and affliction, they could have hope: the Lord would consecrate their afflictions for their gain. The Lord would gather them.

And, through the gathering of Israel all of us are blessed! Those who are not naturally members of the house of Israel (Gentiles) are blessed to receive the gospel and then share it with others. Through the scattering and gathering of Israel, we are all blessed. As Nephi teaches:

“Yea, and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet; every nation, kindred, tongue and people shall be blessed.” – 1 Nephi 19:17

The gathering of Israel will expose us all to the gospel and salvation of the Lord. The gathering of Israel brings the blessings of Christ’s Atonement to everyone who believes. The gathering of Israel not only blesses the remnant of Israel, but those who are also involved in the gathering.

The gathering of Israel is the way that the Lord consecrated the affliction of Israel (her scattering) for her gain. We are all blessed. We will all see the salvation of the Lord.

***

Understanding this is helpful to me. We have heard a lot about participating in this great work – the gathering of Israel. President Nelson has stated:

“My dear young brothers and sisters, these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Prophet continued:

“When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They decide for themselves if they want to know more.” – – Russell M. Nelson

It’s an exciting time to be alive. This is the time that Nephi prophesied of…and we will read many of the prophecies of Isaiah concerning this time.

In another talk, President Nelson stated:

“This gathering is “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth today”!

It is a cause that desperately needs women, because women shape the future. So tonight I’m extending a prophetic plea to you, the women of the Church, to shape the future by helping to gather scattered Israel.” – Russell M. Nelson

Sometimes I feel a little guilty-ish. What am I doing to help to restore and scattered Israel?

That above quote from President Nelson was followed by four challenges:

  1. One – Take a 10-day social media fast
  2. Two – Read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018
  3. Three – A Pattern of Regular Temple Attendance
  4. Four – Participate fully in Relief Society

It’s interesting to think that these are the four invitations that the prophet extended to us to help us to restore scattered Israel. They don’t seem all that intuitive – none of them were “go out and gather Israel!” And maybe the thing I’m learning is that helping to gather Israel is a personal and individualized effort.

As we clear our minds, commune with the Savior through both studying His word and worshipping in His house, and as we participate in the Relief Society, we will figure out the individualized work the Lord has for each of is in regards to this great work. And, as we participate in the gathering of Israel – as the Lord directs us individually, we will find the truth of what Nephi taught: every nation, kindred, tongue, and people shall be blessed.

Roots and Branches – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m reading the talk Roots and Branches, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 2004 General Conference.

Let’s see. When this talk was given, I was living in a basement apartment in Ogden, Utah – with my ex-husband and our two children. I was nearing a pretty low point in my life and in my relationship then. There are happy memories (my kids, my friends) and I’m so grateful that the Lord lets us experience morsels of joy even in our dark times.

I don’t really remember much of this talk, specifically. But it has been good for me to review it.

Lineage

Roots and Branches. It’s an intriguing topic – our personal roots and our personal branches – truly we are each a part of a whole, both spiritually and physically.

Roots

President Nelson stated:

“Personal roots are really important.” – Russell M. Nelson

Often, when we think of our personal roots, we immediately think of our DNA; our ancestors, the genetic imprints that our ancestors have made on our lives and the genetic imprints we make on future lives.

And of course there is something to this. But I have had a bit of a different experience. On my mom’s side, I can look back at my ancestry. They are my blood relatives and my personal relatives.

grandma and grandpa
My Grandma and Grandpa (maternal)
Severin Grundvig Family
The Grundvig Family
Carol Chambers
My mom
Wedding Day
Some of my roots and branches

My Dad’s side of the family is where it gets a little tricky. I have my dad that adopted and raised me. Through my adoption, his roots are my roots. His personality, beliefs, hard work, and life has shaped who I am. His ancestors have also shaped who I am, and I when my dad adopted me, I was “grafted” into their family tree.

dad and patti
My dad and his sister. This picture is just so adorable.
Ryan family
Classic Ryan family photo
Eileen Garvey
My grandma (paternal)
Ryan
Just a picture I absolutely love of some of my family

A little over 9 years ago, I miraculously found my biological father (on Facebook!). Now I have come to know a little bit about my physical roots and branches. This is half of my DNA that I finally got to know!

Cacciato
Cacciatos
jack
My Bio Dad

So, we each have personal physical roots. But there is more. President Nelson stated:

“Because we have a spirit as well as a physical body, we also have spiritual roots that go way back. They shape our values, our beliefs, and our faith. Spiritual roots guide our commitment to the ideals and teachings of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have been blessed with really amazing spiritual roots. On my mom’s side of the family, I have pioneer ancestors. Some of them gave up their lives and died while crossing the plains. They lived the gospel until their dying breath.

My father’s family came to the U.S. for the most part from Ireland. My dad’s side of the family has always valued education, hard work, and a sense of humor.

These principles of faith and work, of sacrifice and a sense of humor – and of so many more things – have shaped me. They make me who I am. And I hope that my works will make my own ancestors feel that the hard work and sacrifices that they made for their future generations were worth it.

***

Not only do we have personal roots, but we have religious roots. These roots are the truths, laws, and principles of the gospel. President Nelson explained:

“Truths from previous dispensations have now been gathered, amplified, and clarified. For us as parents and teachers, we have an excellent teaching resource in the Articles of Faith…What a treasure-house of truth is this precious document as we teach of our religious roots.

Other revealed doctrines at the root of our religion include the Creation, the Resurrection, the law of tithing, prayer, and the consummate blessings of the temple. As we teach of these doctrines, we realize how very firm is our foundation. As we apply these doctrines in our lives, the roots of our religion become part of our own spiritual strength.” – Russell M. Nelson

I find this whole analogy interesting. Even though we sometimes look at “our roots” as our ancestors, or in this case a set of principles and beliefs – it is easy to feel somewhat distanced from the roots. The roots are underground, unseen. Yet, the roots must be tended or else the life of the entire plant could be jeopardized.

Branches

Not only do we have roots, we also have branches. So, what is significant about a branch? Well, leaves…and fruit. President Nelson stated:

“Just as our roots determine to a significant degree who we are, our branches are also an important extension of our identity.” – Russell M. Nelson

What comprises our “branches?” The first, most obvious thing that may be considered a fruit on our branch would be our children. But, not everyone has children. And those who do have children aren’t only their children (does that make sense?)

The fruit we bear is any way that we may multiply and replenish the earth. Multiplying and replenishing is more than simply having kids. We replenish the earth through seeking and cultivating our talents, serving others, through our professions, and more. So – what does this look like? Being an artist, a scientist, baking bread, growing tomatoes, babysitting children, running a 5K, writing a poem, hugging a grieving friend, etc. etc. etc. I can’t even list the many ways we can, personally, make good fruit that will adorn our branches.

***

Just as we have “religious roots” we have “religious branches.” The fruit that we bear in this way will be related to and reflect what we consume through our roots. If we are focusing on learning and living the principles of the gospel, then the fruit we bear will be sweet. If we are focused on the cares of the world, then – who knows what kind of fruit we will bear. If we are allow ourselves to be rooted in pridefulness and sin, then there is no doubt about it – we will bear bitter fruit.

President Nelson’s Testimony

President Nelson closed his talk with his testimony. I liked it and will include it here:

“Personal identity is much more than a passport photograph. We also have roots and branches. Divinity is rooted in each of us. “We all are the work of [our Creator’s] hand.” We are eternal beings. In premortal realms, we brethren were foreordained for our priesthood responsibilities. Before the foundation of the world, women were prepared that they may bear children and glorify God.

We came to this mortal experience to acquire a body, to be tried and tested. We are to form families and be sealed in holy temples, with joy and loving relationships that endure eternally. To these everlasting truths, we are personally rooted.

Branches of our families and of the gospel bear fruit to enrich our lives. God’s work and His glory—“to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”—can become ours. We can dwell with Him and with our families forever. Those blessings will be granted to the faithful in His own way and time.

God lives. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith is the revelator and prophet of this last dispensation. The Book of Mormon is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom established once again upon the earth…If rooted to these truths, the fruit of our branches will remain. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m so thankful for a prophet who understands who he is – root, trunk, and branch. I’m grateful that he has learned of his true identity and that this understanding has led him to increase his talents and testimony. I’m grateful that He leads and guides our church today.

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!!!

***

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.