Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meet weekly in congregations (wards) presided over by a Bishop. Twice a year the several wards that comprise a Stake, meet together under the direction of the Stake Presidency for a weekend of 3 conference sessions. The primary purpose of stake conference is to strengthen members’ faith in Jesus Christ.
The stake presidency comprises of the Stake President and two councillors who throughout the year, preside over, care for and train the various leaders and members of the wards. As one of these councillors I was assigned by my Stake President, to be the final speaker at the Saturday evening session of conference. As a regular blogger I though I would share the talk I gave here.
Tonight, I would like to speak boldly about who we are and what is expected of us.
At a time when the world and even some church members are saying that we should do as we please and that there is no place for following the wisdom of Prophets and Apostles, I am reminded of the great Nephite leader Captain Moroni.
In their day, the people of Nephi had been deceived by the power-hungry desires of Amalickiah, despite great victories by the hand of God. Perhaps in our day the modern version of Amalickiah lurks in online media and forums, in the form of confrontational literature or even just tiny words of doubt such as “the prophet didn’t mean that literally”
Moroni was a man of action, when he learnt of these dissentions, he didn’t think all was lost or that there was nothing he could do to bring people back to the fold. He donned his armour and wrote on his rent coat…
“In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”Alma 46:12
After making himself ready he “poured out his soul” in prayer for those who were being deceived. But he didn’t stop there, he then went forth in power with his title of liberty to the people inviting them to the next covenant…
“crying with a loud voice, saying: Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them.”Alma 46:20
Tonight as a gathered group of faithful saints we have the power to go forth and do the same, pour out our hearts in prayer then inviting others to the next covenant. It is not just the responsibility of our church leaders.
But to do this we ourselves need to decide that from tonight WE will be faithful.
I chose our closing hymn “We are all Enlisted” Those words have been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. I spoke to my dad yesterday about his time in the military. He is old enough to have been conscripted to National Service, but instead he made a decision to enlist. He reasoned that although this would mean a minimum of 3 years instead of 2, he would be able to choose a trade to learn, have better deployments, get paid more and following his discharge he would have more freedom. Note at this point the closing hymn says we are enlisted not conscripted, we sit here tonight because we chose this lifestyle of faith, we were not forced!!! And because we enlisted, great blessing can be ours. But remember unto he whom much is given, much is required.
Continuing our military theme, I would like to look at a couple of mottos from the elite US Navy Seal teams. And hopefully remind us of what we signed up for and how we can make it count.
First “ Get comfortable, being uncomfortable ”
Navy Seal candidates spend hours linking arms lying, sitting, or standing in the freezing Pacific Ocean, until on the brink of hyperthermia they are commanded out. Then they roll in the sand and spend the rest of the day uncomfortable wet and itchy. Those of you who can’t leave the beach with sandy toes need not apply. The purpose is to teach the Seals that they must function in the worse possible conditions, hardly ever the best. If you can be your best in the worst of times, you stand a good chance of succeeding anytime.
Sometimes as church members we forget we didn’t join a luxurious country club, rather a hospital ward full of broken people trying to get better, led by other broken people in the same boat. We were “called to the WORK” not the party. But we share the yoke with non-other than our Saviour who has told us “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The work is not impossible, we just need to know what to expect and WORK at it.
Second “ No plan survives first contact with the enemy ”
Or as Mike Tyson put it “Everyone has a plan til they get punched in the face”
What relevance does this have to our lives as church members? Well, we have all had our own plans that have been abruptly changed. Loss of a job, illness or passing of a loved one. In times like these we need to remember that our plans are not the Lords. His are better.
Remember the parable of the little tree that was upset when trimmed by the master?
We have in our garden a large flowering shrub, last autumn our girls “pruned it” and when finished they stepped back and thought it would never recover!!! This spring it has had more flowers and looked better than ever. The bush (and the gardeners) didn’t fully grasp the plan of Joanne until the result came into bloom! Trust the masters plan, because our own may have to change to match it anyway!
Third “ The only easy day was yesterday ”
Perhaps the most famous of Seal quotes. Often abbreviated to “Easy day” this serves to remind the elite soldiers, that if you expect to constantly improve and become better, you have to face opposition EVERY day. Or as Lehi said to his son Jacob “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” The only easy day is the one you survived. If you want a life without challenges, you are wishing for a life without growth.
If you own an apple watch you will understand this principal.
I am firmly in the Samsung camp; my smart watch praises me when I get out of the chair or stroll around the block. Joanne on the other hand, is a purchaser of Apple products, life for her equates far more to that of a Navy Seal. Her watch calculates what she achieved fitness wise yesterday and adds on a bit for today!!! There literally is no end to how far it will push you to achieve improvement. Hence apple watch wearers everywhere do the “arm shake shuffle” to fool their device! But guess which of us is the fitter, not me, probably because the apple watch constantly tells Joanne “The only easy day was yesterday”
Remember that the Saviour told us to be perfect, we probably won’t achieve that lofty goal in this life, but whatever we do achieve will only be by continual repentance or that other word I prefer “Change” If we pay the price to change even a tiny bit of ourselves for the better EVERY day, eventually we will become much better people.
Finally ” All in, all the time “
Seals are taught that you literally have to give everything you have just to make it to the next day in life, if you want it to count. They have no room for mediocracy.
In our lives, our eternal welfare depends on what we are prepared to give. We just have to focus on one piece at a time. So don’t worry about the test you have in the afternoon. Your goal is to make it to breakfast. Then lunch, and so on. Don’t get overwhelmed with being all in for the rest of time and eternity, just try to be all in for the next moment, then repeat. Tonight, we make the commitment tomorrow we repeat even if we fell off the wagon.
Last Monday morning I stood in a sealing room of the temple, many of you will know that on opposing sides of the room are large mirrors. Like most things in the temple, they serve a symbolic purpose. As you stand in the room the mirrors reflect in each other, again and again and again both forwards and backwards.
I spoke earlier about inviting ourselves and other to “the next covenant” As we look into these sealing room infinity mirrors, we are reminded that the covenants made in that room, reach back through eternity to our ancestors and forward through eternity to our descendants. However, I realised for the first time as I stepped over the threshold, in order to see ourselves in those mirrors we have to be All In the room!! I even tried moving in and out and confirmed you must be “All In” to see yourself as part of this reflected timeline. Then as I stepped back out, I realised, I must be All in, all the time to remain in the chain.
Now you may be sat there thinking I’m not sealed. I get that sentiment. I am not sealed to my parents, so in turn I am not sealed to the countless ancestors I have done temple ordinances for. But I take comfort in the fact that through the covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants, which by baptism we all become heirs of, Salvation and Exaltation can be ours as an unbreakable promise. We just need to do our best and by the Grace offered through the atonement of Jesus Christ all else will be added unto us.
Brothers and Sisters. I stand before you as a fellow patient in the hospital ward that is the church. I love the word included in so many of the Temple recommend questions “Strive” Sometimes all we can do is strive, but sadly many of our fellow saints have ceased to strive, they have chosen to step off the covenant path. It is not to late, we can invite them back. You may be sat here tonight with only one foot on the covenant path, Choose now to be “All in-all the time” You may be spiritually or physically tired, to you I say – cast your mind back to the hour your first believed, what greater witness do you need, allow that excitement to lift you.
Follow RJR Daydreamer on any of these…