Becoming Christlike

I had the opportunity to speak in Stake Conference 1 year ago. It was a daunting task, but I learned so much from having the experience. Here is a copy of the talk (as close as I could get it)

Becoming Christlike
Stake Conference April 19, 2009

I would like to begin by telling a story for all the children who are trying so hard to sit reverently AND for the youth and adults who may be getting a little fidgetty themselves! :-)

Years ago when my son was a Sunbeam, he had a primary teacher who had a mission. Her mission was to instill in the children the idea of having Jesus in their hearts. Our son would come home and talk about this, and his 2 year old sister really caught onto this principle. One day they were playing with friends a game where one person sat on one end of the room while the others sat on the opposite side of the room. The person alone would shout out, "Whoever's wearing purple" or "Whoever likes cookies", etc . . . Then, those with that charcteristic would come running to try to be the first to touch the speaker. Well, it came to my 2 year old daughter's turn to be the speaker and with all the energy of her soul she cried, “WHO HAS JESUS IN THEIR HEART?” And all the other kids went running to her. I am forever grateful for that special primary teacher. Likewise, I ask here . . . Who here has Jesus in their heart?

When I think of our Savior, I think of His unending compassion, His indefatiguable service (having 1 demand placed upon Him after another), His devotion to His Father and His disciples, and His lack of unrighteous judgement. In studying these past few weeks about Becoming Christlike, I’ve learned it’s really all about the heart!

One of the first things Christ taught in his earthly ministry as well as to the Nephites in the Americas was, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God!" (Matt. 5:8)

Joseph Smith: “We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object”

One definition of Zion is "the pure in heart" and for all of you professional texters out there you know that all capital letters means emphasis! Very few phrases in the scriptures are written in capital letters, but in the Doctrine and Covenants is states that Zion is the PURE IN HEART (D&C 97:21)

Elder Wirthlin “ to be pure in heart [is] an essential virtue of those who would be counted among true followers of Christ.”  So, how do we become Pure in Heart, or in other words, how do we build up Zion - -

We learn how to do this in two simple scriptures: 4 Nephi 1:2-3 " And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. " In this scripture we find three characteristics of the Pure in Heart.

UNITY “All Things Common”
4 Nephi 1:12-13, met together to pray & hear word of the Lord

Elder Christofferson - - Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizen.  Remember, “the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18) . . . We will become of one heart and one mind as we individually place the Savior at the center of our lives.

Christ’s Example: Prayer to the Father during his visitation of the Nephites . . . 3 Ne. 19:23 " And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one.

UNSELFISHNESS “No Contentions. . . Did Deal Justly

Now, I am selfish with my Oreo cookies! I buy them for myself, my kids don't eat them, my kids know not to even ask for them! That is tangible selfishness , but that’s not the form of selfishness I would like to talk about here, though it's something we all could work on a little bit more. I am talking about the selfishness in which we esteem others, ourselves and God.

First, esteeming ourselves above others. We learn about this in the Parable of the Laborers (Matt. 20) where laborers are called by the master to go work in the vineyard and they will receive a penny at the end of the day. Later on in the day more laborers come seeking work, and the master sends them out to labor, also offering a penny for their work. But what happens at the end of the day? Those who had been there all day start to complain saying, "Hey, we worked harder than them. Why do we get the same pay." The master's response to this question is, "Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way..." (vv. 13-14)

In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn “let every man esteem his brother as himself” (D&C 38:24 ) “the Church has need of every member” (D&C 84:10 )

The second in selfishness is esteeming others, the world, or ourselves above God

Story of Ezra (Ezra 7-8)

- Ezra was a scribe, taught the law & set up a judgement system

- Had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord (7:10)

- Esteemed God above man (8:21-23)

Elder Oakes on Unselfish Service has said, "We do not serve our Savior well if we fear man more than God. . . . The plan of the gospel of Jesus Christ lifts us above our selfish desires and teaches us that this life is all about what we can become."

SACRIFICE “All Converted Unto the Lord”

What is the first step to being truly converted? In scriptures we learn that the Lord requireth the heart of His children (see D&C 64:34), and that we must first come to Him with a borken heart and contrite spirit (3 Nephi 9:20)

Elder Oakes (this Conference) "Our Savior teaches us to follow Him by making the sacrifices necessary to lose ourselves in unselfish service to others.

There is comfort in this statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “We are not always called upon to live the whole law of consecration and give all of our time, talents, and means to the building up of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. . . . But . . . to gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so.”
Elder Oakes has said that we are "unique in cooperative efforts" "we are unique in unselfish service" "we are unique in our committment to sacrifice." But we still need to follow the counsel of President Hinckly and "Do a little better."

IV. Christlike Love - “The Love of God did Dwell in their Hearts” (4 Nephi 1:15)

Ultimately each of these characteristics of a Pure Heart (Unity, Unselfishness, and Sacrifice) lead back to one great whole: Christlike Love

Elder Marvin J. Ashton has said, “We come closest to becoming Christlike when we are charitable and understanding of others . . . .We will never approach godliness until we learn to love and [to] lift.”

I testify that the Lord wants us to purify our hearts, so that we can build up Zion here upon the earth.

Elder Christofferson has said that, “We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen.”

“Now let us rejoice in the Day of Salvation, no longer as strangers on earth need we roam . . . For Christ and His people will ever be one.” In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Here's one quote that I wish I had have used in the conclusion of the talk, one of my very favorites from our newly called apostle.

Elder Neil L. Andreson: “I know that I am not what I must become . . . Our knowledge of the divine mission of the Church should . . . take us to our knees, pleading for the Lord’s help that we might be what we should be.” Which is, as the Savior said, “Even as I am.”


Julia Ives Pack

This morning I stumbled across an autobiography of my great, great, grandmother, Julia Ives Pack (I am her namesake). I found it actually several years ago but haven't been able to find it anywhere for a long time. Recently, I've been praying and thinking more about it and then today I found it! I wasn't even looking for it, but just opened a folder about family history and there it was! I swear I'd looked in that folder several times, but it wasn't there before (in my recollection). I am so excited. It's fun, too, because John is taking an autobiography writing class right now. When I showed it to him he's like, "Can I have a copy? I want to read it."

There's a book out called 111 Days to Zion we have been using as our devotionals each morning. It just has two short pages for each day of the trek to SLC starting on April 5th to July 24th. So, each day we read that day's journey. It's gotten the kids really excited about pioneers, and I'm learning new things along the way as well. So, finding our own peice of history was all the more exciting for them.

One funny story is that Julia had a son named Joel (where we got the name for our Joel) who died when he was 10 yrs. old from getting kicked by a horse. Julia's comment about it was, "He was a fine little fellow." Joel wanted me to read that to him over, and over, and over again. :-)

Julia Ives Pack was married to John Pack (and I married a John!) who was a member of the first pioneer group that forged the trail to Salt Lake City with Brigham Young.  They were sealed in the temple by Hyrum Smith.  Julia herself was the 1st counselor to Bathsheba Smith, a Relief Society president in Salt Lake City. She was also friends with Parley P. Pratt and the biography talks of going to him while both families were sick, plus other faith-building stories and words of testimony in the 4-page biography.

There is strength in connecting generations.


Eve in Eden: The Power of Agency

Agency has been a much studied topic of mine for the past year or so and so I'm guessing that is why all of the agency quotes stuck out to me  while reading, Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, by Beverly Campbell.  I have been struck all the more with how deeply God honors that precious gift of agency, the trust he has in all men (including women) to use that agency, and the power we receive as we properly use that gift.

"In mortality we fill our minds, our discussions, and our bookshelves with a search for insights into the qualities that will make us like unto God. The list becomes long and daunting and our hope of developing those qualities seems as a dream that cannot be realized. Yet He has given us the asnwer in these words: 'Then your eyes shall be opened , and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil' (Gen. 3:5)." (p.40) Wow! So, is she saying here that it is simply knowing good and evil that allows us to be as the gods? We all know it's more than that, and yet I think we don't appreciate just how much just having that knowledge, physical bodies and an earthly experience allow us that opportunity. A couple of pages later the author states, "Discernment, the ability to see beyond the literal to the divine essential, has ever been God's gift to women. . . . the Lord has such abiding faith in women's judgment and wisdom. By His very actions, He has shown women that He wants them to claim and properly act on this gift." (pp.41-42)

We all have heard time and time again how there must be an "opposition in all things." But from reading Eve, I got the sense that it is so much more than that. Adam and Eve had to have had knowledge before properly making any choice. "Without some knowledge of right and wrong, there can be no true exercise of agency." (p. 67) It was so enlightening for me to better understand how Adam and Eve were instructed in the garden by angels before partaking of the fruit. I loved how the author used Moses 4:12, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat." Here the author is implying that Eve gained knowledge (and I will infer "line upon line") before making that decision. Adam and Eve were given choices, maybe one better than another, just as we are given every single day. I guess we could say that Eve "chose the better part." Why was it Eve instead of Adam who took the first bite, I don't know. What I do understand more clearly now is that "Eve was sufficiently prepared for a proper exercise of agency" (p. 75) and we are responsible for doing the same in our own lives.

As women, and mothers, we have the responsibility to learn for ourselves, to act for ourselves and on behalf of our families based on the truths that we learn. For a lack of a better plan I'm just going to quote some of my favorite passages from the book to sustain this point.

"Our conscience might be described as a memory, a residual awareness of who we really are, of our true identity. It is perhaps the best example of the fact that we can become aware of truths because we feel them rather than by knowing them because we perceive them through the physical sense." - Pres. Packer, pp. 71-72

"The prophets have warned that the women of the last dispensation . . . will need to fortify themselves against the onslaught of the adversary . . . We will need to find spiritual sustenance in sure and steady truths garnered from divine and correct sources. Not only will women need to seek truth for themselves, but they will need to speak up courageously and articulately as half-truths or faulty premises are presented to their sisters in the guise of progress and enlightenment . . . Women, particularly Latter-day Saint women, can and must identify truth." pp, 78-79 (italics added)

This quote tells us to pay strict attention to truths and watch out for the half-truths that are presented to us. There is much judging and criticism among women. I have learned through the years that what is right for one family, is not right for another. This does not mean that gospel truths are altered, but the way we live them are very personal and individual. We can only know the answers by seeking out the truths, knowing good and evil and then acting for ourselves based on the knowledge (spiritual and academic) that we obtain.

Women are to search out, learn, and articulate all spiritual truths, . . . they are to concern themselves with all matters relating to the gospel, and with all matters relating to salvation, to the heavens, and to the earth. p. 120 (italics added)

"Both men and women must have more confidence in women's thought processes and in their judgments." p.178

The more I've learned about agency, the more I have understood and realized just how much this great gift and power demonstrates Heavenly Father's love and trust in His children. Doesn't knowing that He trusts us to make the right decision, give us more faith that we actually will! This book opened my eyes to the fact (feminist or not) that Eve was a strong woman. I had never viewed her as weak before, but I hadn't ever really given it much thought either. It's just what she did. Similar with my own feminitity, I haven't given it much thougth (thus causing me to be more defensive when feminism has been discussed in the past). I just who I am and I've always been happy to be a woman, a mother. Though having not really thought about it more deeply (for fear of becoming too feministic, I guess) I have realized just how belittling I have been by not recognizing the full power I have in that role as an "agent unto [myself]."

There is so much more I have gained and want to write about from this excellent book. So much could be said about marriage, our missions in life, prayer and the protection we can recieve against Satan! My favorite chapter, and one I'm going to make my husband read, was the very last about women and guilt. Good stuff! Really it all comes down to the power of agency and using that agency to make the best choices we personally need to make in becoming closer to our Heavenly Father.

2 Great Pleasures

There are two things that I do each month just for me:  Bunco and Mentoring Mothers Meetings. 

Once a month I get together with 11 other moms to eat a delicious meal (most of which I don't need to prepare) and play a game called Bunco.  We are now going on our 4th year and lately we don't even play the game, we just sit and visit over delicious food!  Some of us are new moms, some of us have been around for a long time!  Some of us work, but most of us stay home to raise our children.  We are a mixture of different religions, but all centered on Christ. 

Why do I love (and need) Bunco?  I think women in general need two things:  friends and a place of no responsibility.  Bunco serves as both for me.  It took us a good year or two to really become friends, I will admit.  Those first few times being a tad bit awkward and unsure.  But even as I've contemplated leaving the group, I've been drawn back by the fact that I really would not see these women if it weren't for our monthly dinners.  We laugh together (a lot!), mourn together, share with one another the woes and joys of motherhood, eat together, and we are all energized by the end of the evening - - ready to take on yet another day in the home. Oh, and I did forget to mention the pounds of chocolate consumed throughout the night . . . always a must! 

Mentoring Mothers Meetings (MMMs)
I just started this group in January (with some great support and coaxing from a friend of mine). This is a group of mothers who are trying to implement Thomas Jefferson Education in their homes.  We meet once a month to discuss the TJEd principles.  We've organized it so that each month we discuss one or two of the 8 Keys (Classics, not Textbooks; You, not Them; etc.) and have hired a couple of youth to watch the children while we chat. 

Why do I love MMMs?  First of all, it's the friendshipping again, with those who have similar ideals for their families. Secondly, it gives me a boost to keep on going, keep on trying!  Most importantly, through these meetings I have learned that each and every home is different but we will all hopefully reach the same outcome.  That has been a huge awakening for me this past year.  Because we are all from the conveyor belt generation, I think we have tendencies to think if we aren't doing TJEd exactly as described, we are failing and will never raise excellent children! I've been thinking about this with life in general, so many different parenting styles can still get the same results (with slight variations, of course).  :-)

With both of these groups I realize they fulfill one desire in my life:  RELATIONSHIPS!  I need strong relationships with other people and with myself.  These are two ways in which I reach fulfillment in that great yearning I have.  Both groups, likewise, rejuvenate me to then build stronger relationships in my home.  Maybe this is why I'm opposed to Facebook, it doesn't fulfill that longing for deeper relationships.  Twice a month, I get that richness of building long lasting relationships.
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