Youth: Involving them in the Lord's Battalion

At the age of 3 my daughter, Brooklynn, was playing a game with her siblings and the babysitter.  The game was set up with all but one person sitting on one end of the room and the person who was "it" standing on the other.  The person who was "it" would shout out a characteristic and those with that characteristic would race to touch the person who was "it" first.  When it came to be Brooklynn's turn she started with things such as, "Whoever is wearing purple pants" or "Whoever has blue eyes."  Then, as is natural for her, she shouted out, "Who has Jesus in their heart?"  This question came from a Sunbeam teacher who's number one goal was that each child in her class would leave knowing that Jesus was in their heart.  Brooklynn has internalized this message from that early age and has never lost it.  She is a natural at ministering to the one!

Sister Bonnie D. Oscarson spoke of using the young women in the ministering. She said, "Brothers and sisters, our young women are amazing.  They have talents, unlimited enthusiasm, and energy and they are compassionate and caring.  They want to be of service.  They need to know they are valued and essential in the work of salvation.  Just as young men prepare in the Aaronic Priesthood for greater service as they advance into the Melchizedek Priesthood, our young women are preparing to become members of the greatest women's organization on the earth - - the Relief Society."

These characteristics: unlimited enthusiasm, energy, the desire to use their talents, and compassion are all things we can embrace and utilize by incorporating the youth in the work of salvation.  Already we are seeing women who are more energized and enthusiastic about ministering because of their interactions with the young women or their daughters.

Another blessing for the Relief Society sisters is that there are more opportunities to take on leadership roles.  The training and leading are no longer only in the hands of those with leadership callings.  One sister expressed to me that involving the young women in the work makes her want to be a do better so that they will have a righteous example to follow.  Another sister spoke about the privilege of modeling what she'd like her daughter to see and learn.  This will require stretching on our parts as we involve the young women and learn to let go, allowing them to take the reigns.  Through this process of mentoring future leaders, we have the opportunity to learn to trust them and they in turn will trust in themselves as they take on leadership roles in the future.

"[Involving the youth] mayh also simplify and srengthen these efforts within families as mothers and daughters, fathers and sons serve together (Ministering instructions, p.7)."   One sister recognized that she could now see her daughter as a person not just her daughter.  This mother finds joy in watching her daughter utilize her gifts and talents to bless the lives of others.  This can't but help the love between mother and daughter grow as they continue to serve their sisters together.

"Involving youth in ministering assignments incrases the reach of caring for others by increasing the number of members who participate (Ministering FAQs p. 7)."  Rather than carrying the load ourselves, we can reach out to the youth and utilize their strengths in furthering the work of the Lord.  I have noticed that weight lifted while serving with my daughter.  It is refreshing to ask her, "What do you think we can do for this sister?"   One mother also shared with me that one of the sisters they visit loves to do crafts, but she does not enjoy that!  However, her daughter loves doing crafts so now they can go visit and this sister no longer feels the burden of needing to fill that need herself.   Our youth have gifts, talents and personalities that can enhance our own gospel service and reach the hearts of those we serve.

Elder Robert D. Hales has taught us, "[Brothers and sisters], we are engaged in a battle between the forces of light and darkness. If it were not for the Light of Jesus Christ and His gospel, we would be doomed to the destruction of darkness."  The Lord has consistently used youth to do His mighty works.  Think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, so young and yet so necessary to the plan.  Christ Himself was found teaching in the temple at the age of 12.  And of course, the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored on the earth today because a young boy was will to pray and do the work necessary to obey the answer.

My favorite example is the story of Mormon.  At the age of 10, Ammaron gave him the task of retrieving the plates when he became 24.  When he was 11 years old, he was carried into the land of Zarahemla - - a very populous city and on the bring of war with the Lamanites.  Later we learn, "And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and new of the goodness of Jesus.  And I did endeavor to preach unto this people...but I was forbidden to preach unto them, because of the hardness of their hearts....Therefore, it came to pass that in my sixteenth year I did go forth at the head of an army of the Nephites, against the Lamanites (Mormon 1-2)."  Think of the burdens that were placed on such young shoulders!  The Lord knew Mormon could accomplish the great tasks placed upon him.

And then there is David who, at a young age, defeated Goliath.  His response when confronted with the Philistine giant was, "Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou has defied.  This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand... (1 Sam. 17:42-46)."

How do we instill such strength in our youth?  We use them!  We rely on and trust them!  Why does Heavenly Father entrust so much of His important work in the hands of the youth?  Because He knows they can do it!  President Nelson knows this as well as he has reached out to the youth of the Church inviting them to join the Lord's Battlion. The youth are being called upon again to usher in the 2nd coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It is exciting! And we as leaders need them.  Again Sister Oscarson has counseled, "...the [youth]...are...needed and essential in accomplishing the work of the Lord in their families and in His Church."

The youth have been born "for such a time as this." They are equipped to do all the Lord has and will continue to require of them.  It is our opportunity as their leaders, parents and teachers not only to train them, but also (and more importantly) to give them opportunities to rise to the occasion.  We are not meant to teach them how we think things should be done, but to empower them to be their strongest selves as they learn to be the future leaders of Christ's Church.  We as leaders get to not only watch this happen, but make it happen for them!  What a challenge!  What a blessing!

  - - - - - - - - 

“Is it any wonder that following the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, they lived in peace and righteousness for two hundred years? Because of miraculous instructions, blessings, and attention they and their children received, righteousness was perpetuated by their children’s children for many generations.  Let us not underestimate the capacity and potential power of today’s children to perpetuate righteousness.
President Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary General President, Oct 1992



image from lds.org

"Whoop-de-do! The Gospel’s true!"

Growing up one member would use this declaration at the beginning of every testimony he bore.  As a child, it was humorous and endearing.  As an adult I think, "Amen!"  The gospel is something to be excited about, something to cheer for.  

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, “This is a season of a thousand opportunities. It is ours to grasp and move forward.  What a wonderful time it is for each of us to do his or her small part in moving the work of the Lord on to its magnificent destiny(CR Oct. 1997)." 

Likewise, Bishop H. David Burtain declared, “As we recognize and act on our opportunities, progress, happiness, and spiritual growth follow.  We need to be involved in moving the Lord’s work forward (CR Oct. 1998)." 

You know when you are drawn to a word and then seem to hear it again and again fora while?  The word opportunity has been that word for me lately.  An opportunity is a "suitable time combined with other favorable circumstances (Webster's 1828 Dictionary)."  

Further we learn this about the origins of the word opportunity: 

“The word opportunity comes from the Latin term opportunitas, which is composed of two other terms: ob, meaning “toward”, and portus, meaning “port”.  This word came about in the realm of navigation, where sailors used the phrase ob portus to denote the best combination of wind, current, and tide to sail to port. However, the only way to seize such weather conditions was if the vessel’s captain had already sighted the port of destination. Knowing the weather conditions without knowing the destination was useless. Therefore, a ship was in a state of opportunitas when its captain had decided where to go and knew how to get there. Later, however, the word evolved in a different direction to denote only external conditions while excluding the individual who would seize them (Leramero)."

As ministering sisters, we know our destination!  We know the port to which we need to land:  in the homes of those for whom we have stewardship.  As we prepare ourselves spiritually to serve in this capacity, we are then ready to sail when the wind, current and tide align and we are able to assist those we serve.  

"The Savior calls His disciples to work with Him in His ministry, giving them the opportunity to serve others and become more like Him...By assigning our women to do visiting teaching, we give them the opportunity to develop the pure love of Christ, which can be the greatest blessing of their lives (Daughters in my Kingdom, pp.105, 120." 

Called to be ministering is not just something we are asked so we can have more to do on our endless list of tasks.  The Lord gives us, His children, opportunities to learn and to grow so we can live with Him again.  Ministering is one of those opportunities and when we are prepared, He can use us to fulfill His great purpose in bringing His children home. 

In Alma 19:16-17  we read of one young woman who was ready for her opportunity.

16 And it came to pass that they did call on the name of the Lord, in their might, even until they had all fallen to the earth, save it were one of the Lamanitish women, whose name was Abish, she having been converted unto the Lord for many years, on account of a remarkable vision of her father— 17 Thus, having been converted to the Lord, and never having made it known, therefore, when she saw that all the servants of Lamoni had fallen to the earth, and also her mistress, the queen, and the king, and Ammon lay prostrate upon the earth, she knew that it was the power of God; and supposing that this opportunity, by making known unto the people what had happened among them, that by beholding this scene it would cause them to believe in the power of God, therefore she ran forth from house to house, making it known unto the people. 

Abish had prepared herself spiritually so when the opportunity arose she was ready to spread the word, ready to be a blessing to the people and she acknowledged the Lord's hand in creating such an opportunity.  This is our call as ministering sisters, to be thus prepared that we, too, can recognize the Lord's hand and take advantage of the opportunities He can (and will) place before us! 

“Visiting teaching gives women the opportunity to watch over, strengthen, and teach one another. Through visiting teaching, the Relief Society president helps the bishop identify and resolve short-term and long-term needs of the sisters and their families” (Handbook 2, 9.5).

A brief note on the new visiting teaching focus: 
In 1916 the Relief Society established that the sisters would take a message into the homes of those they visited.  In 1923 there was instituted a uniform message churchwide.  For 95 years the leaders have been directing this message.  That's a long time! As our stake Relief Society President has expressed, it's like the leaders are "taking off the training wheels."  This does not mean we don't go into the homes of our sisters.  We need to be going into the homes of our sisters.  This new focus is simply another opportunity the Lord is giving us to use personal revelation in blessing the lives of those we visit.  This new focus is not about doing less, this is about being more! 

"Since each sister's circumstances are different, visiting teachers need specific guidance from the Holy Ghost so they can know how best to help each one (Daughters in my Kingdom, p. 114)." 

As Elder Uchtdorf reminded us at the last conference, "No one else is responsible for your personal journey.  The Savior will help you and prepare the way before you, but the commitment to follow Him and keep His commandments must come from you.  This is your soul burden, your sole privilege.  This is your great adventure. Please heed the call of your Savior.  Follow Him  (emphasis added)."  

Ministering is our opportunity, a part of our great adventure.  We must prepare ourselves so that when the tide changes and the weather is right, we will be there to minister to the ones we are called to serve. 

 - - - - - - 

"The Lord has established the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to help you in this commitment to serve God and fellowmen.  Its purpose is to encourage, teach, lift and inspire.  This wonderful Church provides opportunities for you to exercise compassion, reach out to others, and renew and keep sacred covenants.  It is designed to bless your life and improve your home, community and nation…  Lend your talents to His wonderful work.  Reach out, encourage, heal and support all who desire to feel and heed the yearning for our supernal home.  Let us join together in this glorious pilgrimage to heavenly climes."  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, CR October 2017


Paradox and the Gift of Discernment

Paradoxes of the Gospel
For years I have been fascinated with the many paradoxes of the gospel.  For example, we've been asked to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, but also to not run faster than is needful.  We have been taught to "let you light shine that they may see your good works" and yet also warned to not "fast as the publicans, to be seen of men."  Men are that they might have joy, but there must be opposition in all things.  If we lose our life, we shall find it.  When we are weak, then we are strong.  The last shall be first and the first shall be last.  The Lord commands us to judge not and yet Moroni teaches us the way to judge.  In all of these paradoxes, we must find balance.  It's in this last paradox about judging that I think we find our answer on how to do that.

In D&C 46 we learn that we are given spiritual gifts so that we might not be deceived.  One of those spiritual gifts is the gift of discernment.  On the surface this gift is the ability to know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.  In Moroni chapter 7, Moroni teaches that it is with the light of Christ that we are to judge, or to discern.  Every person who comes to the earth is given this light by which to judge good and evil.  Only after the gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed upon us can we begin to develop the gift of discernment, the ability "to see things not visible and feel things not tangible." Elder Bednar expands our understanding by teaching that the gift of discernment is also the ability to see the good and bad in others and ourselves.  It is by strengthening this ability in us that we learn to balance the paradoxes and all that we need to do in this life to learn and grow to become like our Father in Heaven.

Adam and Eve:  The First to Discern
Adam and Eve are the first and greatest example of developing this gift.  They transgressed the first commandment (partaking of the fruit)..."and becoming as Gods, knowing good and evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good."  This decision caused Adam and Eve to become discerning agents - - agents unto themselves, agents to act and not be acted upon.  It wasn't until after this choice that Eve understood "because of my transgression my eyes are opened and in this life I shall have joy (Moses 5:10)."

Did they really make a wrong choice?  Well, yes.  They did not obey the commandment of God.  However, I believe that they would have had to take the fruit eventually in order to experience "opposition in all things (2 Ne. 2)." Maybe their transgression lied more in the fact that they listened to the wrong voice. "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat," Eve says (Moses 4:19).  The choice may not have been wrong, but the timing and the way in which it was made likely was the transgression here, yet our Father still provided the way in which we could repent and be redeemed because of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Learning to discern, then, is obviously a large part of why we are here in mortality; for in this lesson from our first parents we learn that even they were beguiled by "one who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light" (2 Nephi 9:9).

Examples of  Using the Gift of Discernment
Allow me to share a personal example first.  I am an emotional person.  I cry easily and readily.  When I feel the Spirit in my life, I am often drawn to tears.  From the time I was young I received mixed messages about this.  I was told frequently to pull myself together.  And yet, I remember once bearing my testimony at a youth conference and no tears came.  I was so thrilled I ran home to share the news and was told, "Well, the spirit must not have been there." I was confused and have had to practice all of my life to discern if the tears truly were coming from the spirit or if they were due to nervousness, sleep deprivation (my latest plight), sadness, or some other emotion.  Likewise, those who hear me speak and see these tears have to discern for themselves where they are coming from and judge accordingly.

Another example can be found in how we sustain our leaders.  President Eyring states, "Without [the faith of the members], the bishop, who was called of God, will find it harder to get the revelation he needs to help them.  He will not succeed without the faith of the members to sustain him ."  In Moroni chapter 7 we learn that the Lord has sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ, and in Christ there should come every good thing.  Likewise, our current prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, teaches, "It is the right of [our leaders] to obtain the word of God with regard to the duties of their presidencies that they may more effectually carry out His holy purposes. [Leaders} seek to understand the will of God, and then carry it out;  and see that is it carried out by those over whom [they] have the charge."  Sustaining our leaders, however, requires that we become discerning agents.  This involves not only taking our leaders' words and actions by faith, but also taking their words and actions we don't understand and determining what to do with those feelings. 

Sheri Dew shares a beautiful story of wrestling with the policy on children of gay couples not having the opportunity to be baptized.  Without doubting her leaders, she began to search in the scriptures, deepen her prayers and attend the temple to seek understanding of the doctrinal basis behind the policy.  Eventually, she came to a clear understanding for herself and was then more able to support and even defend this policy.  Similarly, but with somewhat different results, President Eyring shared another example. When he was a bishop, President Eyring had a young man come to him for counsel and counsel was given.  A week later the young man returned and said, in essence, "Bishop, that counsel you gave was wrong.  Let't try again. (The Lord Leads...)."  Both Sister Dew and this young man were discerning agents as they sought answers to their questions.  In their quests they strengthened the gift of discernment in their lives.

More examples can be found in the scriptures.  In the early day of the Church, many spiritual manifestations were upon the earth.  The saints were confused in how to tell the difference between those associated with the spirit of God and other sources.  In D&C 50 we learn that we reason together and come to a clear understanding of the truth.

The Sons of Mosiah were men of sound understanding, searching the scriptures, praying and fasting much so they would be able to discern. Ammon's ability to discern the thoughts of King Lamoni and teach his people are a result of that spiritual preparation (see Alma 17:2-3, 18:18).

We can develop this "supernal gift of discernment" by following these examples to "search diligently in the light."  Ultimately, it is the light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost that show us the way to navigate the many voices and paradoxes we must traverse.  Most of the time the decisions aren't going to be between good and evil, but much more subtle.

The Gift of Discernment:  Love and Practice
One more paradoxical story from the scriptures may help to illuminate this  principle.  We all know the story of Mary and Martha.  When the Lord seemingly reprimands Martha I don't believe he is not telling her that Mary is better than her.  Martha was judging her sister, criticizing her choice at the time.  Maybe the Lord was teaching Martha about using the gift of discernment and teaching us all that sometimes it is needful to serve physically and other times it is needful to sit at Jesus' feet and be still.  Discernment will always come from a place of love, wherein judging will come from a place of criticism, disgust, fear, envy or even hate.

When we judge others or worry about making the right decision, we can become paralyzed with fear.  In order to become discerning agents we must push that fear aside, fill our hearts with love, and practice!  This past weekend Ethan had a basketball game.  His dad had motivated him to just shoot basket.  When that little boy got on that court I could see his eager desire and energy as he tried to make a basket, shot after shot after shot.  After the game, J said, "Hey good job shooting out there!"  Ethan responded, "But I didn't make any baskets." J's response hit me, "You don't make shots by not shooting!"  It's the same with developing the gift of discernment.  We will make mistakes and sometimes listen to the wrong voices, but we will never learn if we don't try.

Mortality is the time to try!  Adam and Even came to learn and understand that we needed this probationary time on earth to learn how to discern our Father's voice from Satan's.  We all needed a chance to practice so we could become like the Gods, knowing good and evil.  And so, let us fill our hearts with love so that we can "chase away the darkness." Let us become discerning agents, acting for ourselves and not being acted upon.  Let us love one another and recognize that we are all just practicing and learning to play the game.

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"He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love (1 John 4:8)."


"Good Job, Honey"

image from Polyvore

I just got a phone call from my friend. 

As I answered, I heard her say, "Good job, Honey." 

She was speaking to her 3 year old, and yet it was just what I needed to hear.

Good job!  You got out of bed! 

Good job!  You read with your boys.

Good job!  You took the time to visit with a friend, someone you haven't had time to visit with lately.

Good job!  You made dinner!

Good job!  You just tried to smooth over some hurt feelings and did your best even if things still aren't settled.

Good job!  You took care of your baby's needs....all.day.long.

Good job!  You listened to your daughter talk about her day even though you were distracted by what you thought were weightier matters.

Good job!  Good job! Good job!

 My friend and I joked that maybe we could record those words and put them on replay.  Haha!

In reality, we all need someone on the other end of the phone telling us these words each and every day!  For most of us, the demands placed upon our shoulders are almost too much to bear.  We have to make decisions that affect other people, we meet the needs of those who can't help themselves, we manage the home relentlessly trying to make our reality match our ideals.  This is life.  And it's a good life.  But sometimes we just need someone to say, "Good job, Honey." 

Fortunately, we all have Someone to do just that....if we will take the time to listen for it. 

I recently reread a talk by Sister Sheri L. Dew, you may remember it.  She was speaking to the students of BYU-Idaho in May of last year.  She encouraged the students to ask two questions: 

1) How does the Lord speak to you, what does it feel or sound like? 

2) How does the Lord feel about you?  

These are such essential questions because I bet when we ask them we will receive an answer something like this,  "Good job, Honey.  I love you and am so proud of you."  I bet we will feel love, peace, satisfaction, contentment and joy.  I bet at the end of the day, if we truly turn to Him, He will give us that message we may not get from anywhere else.  And isn't it His love and approval that really matters most?  If I could just allow myself to feel that at the end of every day, I know my doubts and fears would subside.  I have that hope, anyway.

It was a simple call from a friend and I got a message from the Lord.
Thank you.

 -   -   -   -   - 

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." 
Matthew 25:21
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