Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount

My body,  as amazing as it is… is flawed… and getting…”flaweder”. For my whole life, I have had heightened senses.. more so than most.

I have been able to hear higher frequencies than most cannot – able to detect from across the house when the old crt television was on by hearing the very high frequency pitch from the technology. I had an inner pride that my senses kind of gave me a kind of super-power. That heightened sense is beginning to fade.. and I find myself having turn my head and ask people to repeat what they’ve said when speaking directly to me.

I also used to have better than 20/20 vision, able to see further and more clearly than most. That sense has been diminishing over the past few years and now I have to wear glasses in order to see clearly. I often feel like a cyclops as I get used to the constant single frame around my visual scene.

As I look around the congregation, I see I am in good company with fellow glasses wearers… I hate that my senses are becoming more dull, but I’m glad that the rest of my body is still working fairly well.

My eyesight began diminishing about 2 years ago – very slowly. Because I had some heightened acuity I noticed that something was not right… but because the diminishing sight was gradual it was not an easy thing to notice… but over time I began to be aware that one eye was not as clear as the other. I would try closing one eye and testing myself. Since one eye was still mostly good I just got along..but finally I decided to go and get tested and sure enough I needed glasses.

While the optometrist was testing my eyes and flipping between my regular sight and what my eyes could best see, it was like a blurry veil had been taken from my view and everything was in high definition. Or, in other words, it was like switching from an old low-quality television to an HD TV.

If you’re like me, you find yourself having a similar experience spiritually in life.

At baptism and conversion, we are perfect. The excitement and clarity of the gospel makes us see everything clearly. But then, as time goes on, we can,sometimes, if we’re not careful, feel a diminishing of spirituality, or closeness to God. We sometimes get complacent in living the gospel. Maybe our Sabbath day observance gets lax, maybe we watch movies that are not what they should be…it could be that we skip some church meetings that could help us grow or fellowship with good people or… maybe we do only the bare minimum in our callings.  

This, surely, is a recipe for reducing our happiness. If you notice that happening to yourself, maybe it’s time to review the Saviour’s teachings during his Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is the longest piece of teaching from Jesus in the New Testament, occupying chapters 5, 6, 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. These chapters contain many of the most widely quoted elements of the 4 gospels and to most Christians, contains the central tenets of Christian Discipleship.

So central to the Saviour’s teachings, Jesus repeated many of these same teachings when visiting the America’s as recorded in the Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 12-14.

The sermon on the Mount outlines many of Jesus’ teachings including the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer and a charge for us to become perfect. Essentially, it’s a pattern for us, that, when studied and applied, will help us come unto, and be like, Christ.

Also interesting to note is that Joseph Smith, when under the direction of the Lord, did an Inspired Translation of the Bible, revised 84 of the 111 verses in the sermon on the mount (a full 76%), including the addition of 5 new verses. A few of these inspired changes are in the footnotes of the LDS edition of the Bible, but to see all of them, you’ll need to refer to the JST appendix.

Before the Sermon on the Mount, the Saviour had been “all about Galilee” preaching and “great crowds followed him” from all around the area. The setting for this sermon is in Matthew 5: 1-2. Jesus sees the multitudes and goes up into the mountain, is followed by his disciples and begins to preach. The audience of the sermon is the 12 apostles and the Saviour’s disciples… that’s us. No introductory fluff here… it’s hard-core gospel teachings.

It begins with the Beatitudes.

The beatitudes are 8-10 blessings pronounced by Jesus (depending on how literal you interpret each statement in the teaching), each one precise, specific. Each consists of a condition and a result, such as “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”.

If taken only at face value, they are just quaint, cryptic proverbs, devoid of actual applicability. But, to a student of the scriptures and the Saviour’s teachings, they are deep chasms of meaning and mentorship.

Before getting into a few of the details, I want to first correct an issue I had as a youth.

As a youth, I had a hard time letting the beatitudes into my heart, because my mind kept blocking them… and for a silly reason. My reason for difficulty in understanding came from not grasping exactly what does the word “beatitudes” mean? I always read it as something like beautiful, which sounded like of like a girly thing… and never really latched on to the BE-ATTITUDES play on words… having studied a few foreign languages, plays on English words don’t hold a lot of weight for me.

Well, it’s actually quite simple. Each of the Beatitudes begins with the phrase “Blessed are the”… such as “Blessed are the meek, for ey they will inherit the earth”.  

This “Blessed are the” is the translation of the latin “Beatus”, meaning “to be fortunate” or “to be happy”, or “to be blessed”. In the 15th Century, the Catholic church standardized a translation of the bible which labelled this section of Matthew, “Beatitudines”, which later became anglicized as “beatitudes”. If we skipped that whole latin history, the beatitudes would probably be called the “Blessed be’s”. I find it easier to think of the word “Beatitudes” as meaning “Happiness”, which is why I’m suggesting some brushing up on this teaching if you’re find some diminished spirituality in your life.

Let’s listen to these beatitudes once over. We often see them delivered on video in a slight English accent because, we often connote a clear English accent with intelligence and so the filmmakers want to portray Jesus as a superb teacher, which He of course was…  Originally, of course, these words would have been spoken by Jesus in Aramaic.

Here we go:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. (5:3)

Blessed are those who mourn: for they will be comforted. (5:4)

Blessed are the meek: for they will inherit the earth. (5:5)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled. (5:6)

Blessed are the merciful: for they will be shown mercy. (5:7)

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they will see God. (5:8)

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God. (5:9)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (5:10)

Probably it would not be hard to spend the entire direction of a talk review a single one of these beatitudes, so I’ll not go into any one in detail….  but I’d like to point out that receiving any of these blessings are not based on you being tall or thin, black or white, male or female, young or old… the conditions of these blessing are states of mind or circumstances for which each of us can be personally responsible for… behaviors we can all adopt and chose as our character. (except perhaps being persecuted… but if we share the gospel enough, that’s bound to happen some time).

The beatitudes  present a new set of ideals that focus on love and humility rather than the Old Testament force and exaction. They echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion.

Following the beatitudes, Jesus compares us as the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World. In this part of the teaching Jesus explains that we, people who understand the gospel and are seeking to become like Christ, must season the earth by spreading our knowledge and passion. We must help illuminate the understanding of humanity’s purpose by shedding forth our light. In short, having first become disciples, we must now become missionary minded disciples.

After the salt and light metaphors, we come to the longest portion, sometimes referred to as the Antitheses. In this section, Jesus fulfills and reinterprets the Old Testament and, in particular, the 10 commandments by contrasting what “Ye have heard…” from others and upgrading old doctrines and societal norms.

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. (Matthew 5:38-40)

Following these antitheses, Jesus teaches that doing “good works” simply for praise and recognition is not the higher way, but we must do things from the heart. He condemns materialism and its superficiality, calling his disciples to not worry about such things, and instead emphasizes that we must “Seek first the kingdom of God”.

Christ then teaches us a pattern for prayer, now called “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Second to last, Jesus teaches that we should forgive and not judge others.

And finally, Jesus spends some time warning us against false prophets and emphasizes that we cannot do right without God.

As you can see, each of these parts of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount are rich in doctrinal understanding and applicability. Easily we could spend more than an hour on a minuscule part of these teachings to more deeply appreciate and apply what the Saviour intended for us.

Amid these teachings we are commanded to be perfect. Note the small difference in the Saviour’s teaching while in Jerusalem and then after to the Nephites in America. When in Jerusalem, Jesus taught that “Ye are therefore commanded to be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)… then when appearing the America’s and teaching the same things, he changed it slightly by saying,” Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. (3 N 12:48).  After being resurrected, the Saviour was now perfect. So the commandment for us to be perfect, oft cited as impossible in this life, is actually a commandment to be eligible for perfection at judgement and the resurrection by keeping and obeying the commandments and coming unto Christ. Hopefully you can see how comparing sources can shed additional light on what may initially appear to be cryptic or impossible-to-obey commandments.

Studying these teaching in some details can deepen your understanding and help you improve.

If you are looking for a way in 2016 to study the scriptures rather than simply read them, may I suggest beginning with a systematic study of the sermon on the mount from all its angles and sources and particularly how you put these teachings of the Saviour into action in your life.

Sure this is a way to greater happiness, spiritual fulfillment and a way for us to better quality for perfection as we come until Christ.

I love learning about the gospel. Its amazing!

Millions of people all around the world draw strength from the words of the Saviour and prophets and apostles through the scriptures.

Have you ever noticed how one passage of scripture seems to impact certain people and maybe not you… and certain scriptures really hit home to you, but maybe not as much as others? Truly the scriptures speak personally to us.

However, there are some scriptures which seems to universally resonate. Either they teach doctrine so unmistakable and clearly, or they touch on something that affects the whole human condition. I find it very interesting how we are all able to recognize brilliance, even if we don’t quite understand it fully. Let me explain by focusing on a single scripture that I’d like to discuss today – a scripture that was a topic of discussion in our High Priest Group a few months ago.

Ether 12:27 (this one is so universally applicable, its a scripture mastery)

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that  humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Such a beautiful concept, such wisdom. But what does it really mean? I mean, the idea that Christ can turn my weaknesses into strength is AMAZING.

I want that!

But seeing as I’m very practical and pragmatic… I want to understand the mechanism… At least I want to know how to go about “doing” that.

For years, since I was a child actually, I’ve read that scripture and loved it. I have plenty of weaknesses that need overcoming and the promise of turning my weaknesses into strengths – well, that’s fantastic! But I’ve always struggled with the how? How exactly do I turn a weakness into a strength? But I never explored the idea far enough to come to a good answer – not until recently.

Before I get into the details of this particular scripture, let me preface it by explaining how this whole thing came up… because I think it may be helpful for you to both discover deeper understanding of the gospel, and help with a method to gain that understanding.

Every 3 months or so, I get the opportunity to teach a lesson in High Priests. Beginning about 2 years ago – whenever I have that chance, I decided to use the opportunity to explore some of these “hard questions” I’ve had. The truth of the matter is, I’m a relatively young man in the company of much more experienced and wise men than me in this group… so I decided that I would try to tap into their collective knowledge and life experiences. I’m comfortable enough with myself to not need to pretend to know everything and ask questions to increase my knowledge. So, when I teach, I allow myself to explore some of these questions that I’ve had for ages, and verbalize them in the form of a question to the group. Very often it stimulates excellent conversation and I always come away having learned much from the process. In this way, you truly become a lesson facilitator instead of the instructor. You might try that when you are teaching a lesson too… let the students teach you! Often the reason you’re stumped on a particular question is because you always approach it the same way – the change in perspective from other class members is often just what the doctor ordered to resolve my long-standing questions.

Well – in this particular example – I was wondering about the specifics of how to turn my weaknesses into strengths. So – if I recall, the lesson was this past June on a 4th Sunday, which meant it was from 2 recent General Conference talks. Somehow the topic of weaknesses came up, and since I have plenty of weaknesses and haven’t managed to overcome many of them, I thought – “Aha! An opportunity to tap into the combined knowledge of the High Priests!” So I planned in advance to bring up the topic, which was already somehow part of the lesson. The scripture from Ether came up, which I’ll repeat once again just for clarity:

12 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that  humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Ether 12:27

So I explained to the High Priests, the following…

“So – the Lord gives us weakness (singular) that we may be humble. I get that our individual major weaknesses can humble us. I mean, our weaknesses are bigger than us and overcoming them is difficult. And since self-improvement is what the gospel is all about… making us better individuals – more Godlike — essentially that’s what repentance is – trying to change our evil natures to something Godlike. Got it. So I get that God gives us our weaknesses to make us humble. Thanks for that God. I’m humble.

The challenge comes in the next part of the scripture. We often read it, and agree because it sounds like a wise platitude, but I’m not sure we really understand what it means… or rather I don’t feel like I properly grasp the practical applications. Lets assume I let my weakness humble me and I have faith… check.

So now, somehow the Lord will “make weak things become strong” unto me. That’s the part I’ve always had a hard time understanding. How does that work? Lets take a few examples:

How does an individual who is addicted to pornography have that weakness turned into a strength?

How does an individual with a habit of swearing or addicted to substance abuse have that turned into a strength?

Keep in mind that these words are written to the converted who have faith. So faithful members of the church who are trying to repent, but perhaps struggling with addiction (because I think all long-term sin is like an addiction – we are trying to repent but we keep falling back to old habits). How does a humble member using faith but struggling with an addiction (even a small one.. like watching too much TV instead of making productive use of their time) have their weakness turned into a strength? What is the practical method here that I can go and apply?

As often happens when I ask such a question, everyone pauses for a moment and the wheels start turning.

Some of us posited that the weakness that God gave us was mortality – the weakness of the flesh. I wasn’t sure it was that simple, but it did make sense. Our flesh is weak, no doubt, and we often succumb to physical addictions and desires that get us into trouble… but I was more interested in the next part… how does becoming humble from our weakness and having faith in Christ enable Christ to “Make weak things strong?”

We discussed that fact that people with a history of sin (weakness) can help teach other not to do that… but that is a strength to *others* not necessarily to them.

Our High Priests Class was not long enough to get to the bottom of it all and we left with the conversation still going. Bro Walcer and I kept the conversation going in the church parking lot and got Robin and Sis Walcer in on it. We weren’t convinced that the whole having weakness is good so you can help others idea was not right. After all, its way better to never have a weakness right?

Well, I got home still thinking about it, and wasn’t willing to give up yet. Then I remembered once someone from the Oshawa ward wrote me a letter while I was serving a mission with a question that I was easily able to answer… There’s something about being the Lord’s service full-time that allows the spirit to just flow more readily…  Then I thought – “Hey my parents are missionaries – and my Dad is kind-of part of our High Priest Group still – let me ask him!”

So I did. He gave, what was for me, the most insightful answer that really answered my long-lived question. Maybe he just knows how to speak to me so I understand, but his response was awesome. With his permission, I’m sharing his response, that perhaps it will be a blessing to you too.

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Hi Eric,

You will have to excuse my quoting a few well known sayings, that I’m sure you already know, but bear repeating as there is great knowledge and wisdom embedded in them.

The first one is a quote from Pierre Teilhard De Chardin 1881-1955 who was a Jesuit priest (there is a lot of wisdom also out of the church such as C.S. Lewis also a great philosopher and thinker) “We are not Human beings having a spiritual experience, we are Spiritual beings having a Human experience.”

So what does this have to do with being humble and experiencing weakness? It is always good to remember that we are eternal beings and going through stages, this earthly sphere for example. Here we gain this physical body that is in the likeness of our Father in Heaven. It is also needful to remember that everything on this earth was first created spiritually. So this spirit thing is THE most important factor that exists for us.

The weakness part depends on our free agency. Yes the mortal state exposes us to the temptations, appetites and passions (all gifts from HF) and to Satan’s power while on this earth and the test for us is to go through life with the knowledge that although we will not be perfect and will succumb to appetites that are not in keeping with how our HF would have us behave and grow, we are created and sent here to gain a body to be perfected ultimately as our HF is.

So this leads me to the next axiom, that part of our test and going through the pains of weakness and repentance is that we “can bring our human-ness or bodies and passions under subjugation of our spirit….not the other way around!”

Also, we are created that we might experience JOY both here and through the eternities. So our choices…agency (which is NOT free) allows us the opportunity to become better, like our HF with our resurrected bodies.

Now you mention becoming humble as quoted in Ether. […and this was the mental leap for me…]  Humble = teachable  If we say we are humble we probably aren’t! But being repentant leads one naturally to being teachable and thus we expose ourselves to the light of Christ if we aren’t Christians or to the HG if we are confirmed members of the church. Following this path leads from a state of weakness to a position of power over sin and thus we become stronger!

Then we can bear testimonies to others and reinforce our learning from a position of strength. Although this transition does involve the light of Christ or the HG in our lives it doesn’t remove our agency in any way. So, different degrees of glory in the eternities await us according to our choices here on earth.

It’s kind of like the allegory of the footprints in the sand thing where we are unaware of divine help as good choices are made to repent or improve our condition. I think of millions who do family history research, who are really unaware that the spirit of Elijah is being fulfilled in our day.

Don’t know if this fits with your thinking or gives any further light on the subject, but as I see it this earthly experience is glorious, not really a place of weakness but a place of transition to perfection made possible by our HF great plan for us to BECOME like him. We all agreed to it and looked forward to it, and now let’s go forward boldly, honourably and with hope through Christ that all will be well with us into the eternities.

That answer finally sunk in in a way that made me understand it. I was so excited, I sent it to the High Priests group and many replied back continuing the conversation and thanking for the response.

So, as it turns out, Christ gives us weakness to make us teachable and if we are teachable, we can learn how to overcome our weaknesses because we look for answers guided by the Spirit. The way that Christ’s grace is sufficient for all those who humble themselves is that we use our faith to follow Him and through the atonement of Christ and inspiration we can repent and find way to overcome. Then we move from a place of weakness to a place of strength because we now know HOW to overcome our weakness… but we’d never have arrived at this answer if we had simply trusted in the “arm of flesh” or our own thoughts and hadn’t first become humble or teachable.

When I think back in my life about my greatest weaknesses, I’ve struggled for years with many of them thinking that I must be smart enough to figure out how to overcome them, but still couldn’t. Finally when I became sufficiently humble to ask for help from the right resources, the answers came, and almost immediately. Looking back now I wonder why I was so stubborn in the first place which a little humility could have spared me much heartache.

Even the weakness of not understanding certain passages of scripture, when I sufficiently humbled myself to ask about it from the right group of people, and was willing to listen for the answers – God provided the answer to me through my own father, but only once I became teachable.

I love when a conclusion comes round in a circle and finishes so nicely. :)

I know by the very fact that this experience happened that weaknesses can be turned into strengths. I seem to become more humble and get over myself more often that I can move from a place of weakness to a place of strength, both for myself, my family and those around me.

I hope you too have grown some by having heard about my experience and learning from the wisdom of others and pray we can all continue to humble ourselves and have faith in Christ so we can become teachable in all things and maximize our strength as a ward.

You might find this talk a little different than a traditional Easter talk.

But I hope you’ll join me on a mental voyage into the past, and then into your future.

You see, Christ’s life can be viewed as a series of amazing and escalating comebacks.

Let’s travel into Christ’s past for a fast-paced, partial review of how He merits a new title I’ve come up with for Him – “The Great Comebacker”

  1. First, in the pre-existence, Jesus held a pre-eminent position as the only begotten of the father. In the pre-mortal Council of Heaven, God the Father presented his plan, requiring a Saviour. Jesus came forward volunteering. But then Satan also stepped forward and put forth a very convincing argument that his alternate plan be considered. A HUGE number followed him… 1/3 of the hosts of heaven. Things were looking bad, but Jesus and Michael rallied the spirits and evicted the dissenters, casting them out of heaven. COMEBACK!
  2. Jesus was born in the most unsanitary conditions one can imagine, in a stable for beasts of burden… but grew into the worlds strongest leader – COMEBACK!
  3. When King Herod heard about young Jesus’ birth, he feared being overthrown by the coming King of Kings and ordered all infants 2 years old and younger to be killed. Jesus family, warned by an angel, fled to Egypt. Later Jesus’ family returned to Israel after an angel appeared declaring that Herod was dead and it was safe to return. COMEBACK!
  4. Young Jesus, while on a trip to Jerusalem went missing on the way home. His parents returned to Jerusalem with great worry and found him teaching the Pharisees in the temple. Jesus very likely had only studied in synagogues with all other Jewish children, yet here he was… an underdog educationally, but had greater understanding of the Law and scriptures than all of the religious leaders of the day – teaching them in the temple… then finally his parents found him and he returns to his family – COMEBACK and COMEBACK!
  5. From relative obscurity during the first 30 years of his life and coming from the most meager of beginnings and circumstances, the son of a carpenter, he began His ministry. Rejected by those in his hometown, he showed miracles, taught radical teachings and gained a large following, becoming the greatest teacher His day and of all time. COMEBACK.
  6. And biggest of all — mankind was literally lost. Since no imperfect thing can enter the kingdom of heaven, and we are all imperfect, our return to heaven was impossible. But then, during his last evening as a mortal, and as had been fore-ordained from the very foundations of the world, He wrought the Atonement on our behalf – taking all of the sins of the mankind upon him – making Himself a sacrifice for sin. His atoning sacrifice satisfied the demands of justice making it possible for us all to return to Father in Heaven’s presence. MAJOR COMEBACK!
  7. Finally, Jesus overcame the final obstacle… death. Through His own power, He was resurrected and broke the chains of death, and returned to convince His disciples and the world of his divine lineage. COMEBACK!

Maybe you too are convinced that Jesus is “The Great Comebacker”.

Now we all know that Jesus is our great exemplar… that we should follow His example in all things.

I hope that each of you have a goal to be more like Jesus and follow Him – to try to emulate Him.

I suggest to you today that His example as “The Great Comebacker” is a key characteristic we all need to cultivate every single day.

Now I’m not going to insult your intelligence or your will-to-succeed by saying its easy. In fact, I’m sure you’ve learned that life is not easy. It’s hard.

Many of you have your own dreams and goals and passions you want to follow, but maybe life has struck you down.

Maybe there are obstacles in the way of your success.

  • Maybe as a youth you find it hard to get the grades you want
  • Maybe you haven’t been able to find the right spouse to share your life with
  • Maybe your spouse and you don’t always see eye-to-eye and you feel like its slowing you down from reaching your goals and dreams
  • Or maybe, like me, you’re trying to follow your dream, but every step forward is a constant fight and you don’t feel like you’ve got a lot to show for it

You may look up at heaven at times and wonder, “Why God? Why is this happening to me? I’m just trying my best to do what’s right? Why can’t things go my way?”

Maybe Jesus thought that very thing when he was going through the ultimate sacrifice.

Well if there’s one lesson from Jesus’ life that will serve you day-to-day its DON’T GIVE UP!

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life is that “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Said another way, there’s a COMEBACK in embryo for all situations.

If we are to follow Jesus’ example, we MUST not give up when adversity strikes. We must FIGHT for our dreams.

As Elder Bednar explained just a few weeks ago in General Conference, we must be prepared and willing to bear the loads the Lord puts on our backs.

Instead of praying for our burdens to be TAKEN FROM US, we should learn to pray for the STRENGTH TO BEAR them. We must learn to OVERCOME. We must look at our failures and seek for our own COMEBACK!

I heard a story from renowned speaker Les Brown about his son learning to play checkers.

 

Its not over until I win

Its not over until I win

Les’ son asked him to play connect 4 and Les agreed. His son was just learning, but Les was not one to simply throw the game to bolster his confidence. They played game after game after game and his son lost every game. Eventually Les became bored and said “Son, I’m bored, I’m going to do something else now”.

As he was walking away his son called back and said “No, dad”. Les looked back, confused and said asked, “What?”. His son replied, “It’s not over until I win”. Curious about how far this would go, Les kept playing and game after game went by and finally Les’ son won a game.

Immediately after winning, Les’ son stretched his arms, yawned and said, “I’m tired, I’m going to bed now” and proceeded to leave.

What if we all could adopt an “Its not over until I win” attitude about our dreams and goals.

What if we all had that type of attitude about the way we approached our baptismal and temple covenants, our duties and responsibilities as members of the church and the Bowmanville Ward and the Oshawa Stake.

Now brother and sisters, I don’t know what all of your dreams and goals are. I hope I know some of them as it relates to your eternal progression.

But you need to ask yourself, are there some things you currently love MORE than your own success that you can make a COMEBACK from?

  • For some of you, how much you eat is in the way of you reaching your goals. You may like food more than success.
  • Some of you like TV more than success – you work towards your goals, but when your show comes on, your dreams and goals have to wait!
  • Some of you like sleep more than you want success.
  • Speaking towards your spiritual goals… some of you like your favorite sin more than you want to get to the celestial kingdom… that’s what it comes down to.

BUT

  • What if we would sacrifice a Sunday afternoon nap or the Sunday sports channel and not rest until our Home and Visiting Teaching was done
  • What if we sacrificed sleep by getting up 30 minutes earlier every day to study the scriptures and pray
  • What if we would struggle through the obstacles in the way of our dreams and goals and when the proverbial night blackens upon us and all appears to be lost… if we would fight and claw our way back to the light and say to ourselves “It’s not over until I win”, or rather “My work is not finished until the Lord wins”

You have to be willing to GIVE UP some things to reach your goals. You need to be willing at any moment to sacrifice WHAT YOU ARE TODAY for WHAT YOU WANT TO BECOME TOMORROW.

You may need to SACRIFICE snack food, and TV shows and sleep to meet the opportunities that present themselves.

You have to be willing to give up some things to make it to the celestial kingdom. You DEFINITELY need to man up and make a serious COMEBACK from your favorite sin.

You have to be willing to become a changed person… and no one is going to change you… YOU have to make the change yourself… and the only way to do it is with faith, repentance, determination and enduring to the end and saying to yourself – “Its not over. Until. I. Win.”

Brothers and sisters, you have the seeds of godliness in you. God has given you all of the mental fortitude, endurance and determination you need to make your personal COMEBACK from life’s follies in order to reach your goals.

Brothers and sisters, be like Christ… Become a master of the comeback. Don’t let temporary failures define who you are.

Become the person you know you can become.

Fight for your goals… fight to overcome sin… fight for the light… because the Lord wants to give it to you, but you need to show your determination and Never. Give. Up… and the blessings will surely come.

I am grateful for the lessons learned from “The Great Comebacker” and pray that we may ALL be able to have the courage and determination to pursue our dreams and goals, make personal COMEBACKS from our weaknesses and say to ourselves, especially in our darkest moments, “Its not over. Until. I. Win.”

Higher Law = No more goat slaughtering

Higher Law = No more goat slaughtering

Church services used to be very different. Back in the day, we’d gather on a Saturday in a synagogue to hear the priest read from the Old Testament prophets. But, our main worship was done at another time and was not even done by us. We’d have to go to a local market and buy a goat or some other prescribed animal and bring the goat to the temple where an Aaronic Priesthood holder would slaughter the goat on our behalf according to a specific ritual – making sacrifice on our behalf. This sacrifice was how we showed our true devotion to God.

When I was growing up as a young man and received the Aaronic Priesthood, I remember thinking how great it was that we don’t do that anymore!

When the Savior came, he brought in a higher law. In 3rd Nephi, Jesus teaches:

19 And ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings.

20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost

(3 Nephi 9:19-20)

As a young man I remember thinking “Wow, we have things WAY easier. A broken heart and a contrite spirit seems so much easier and better than slaughtering goats.”

As I got older, however, I began to wonder more about it. First, I wondered why God would want me to have a broken heart. I mean, as I went through my teenage years, I experienced a broken heart many times through personal disappointments and while dating. Having a broken heart is not a pleasant feeling. It didn’t make sense to me that God would want me to feel like that. Afterall, 2 Nephi 2:25 says “Men are that they might have joy.”, right?

I became confused with what appeared to be contradictory scriptures.

However, I had learned early, probably from working through computer problems, that confusion usually means I need to be persistant, give sustained thought and get a good helping of revelation to overcome it. Either that, or you can give up and remain confused and tell yourself it’s not worth the effort to figure out. But… I figured that giving up was the best way to remain ignorant of greater understanding, and I didn’t want that for myself, so I determined to learn more.

As a quick side note — I’m always surprised by people who give up way too early in their thinking/learning – especially in the gospel. There’s a reason we’ve been told to study the scriptures… not just read them. Studying essentially means critical reading and asking the right questions. We can’t receive answers if we don’t ask questions. You’ll note that many of the revelations that Joseph Smith received in the D & C are answers to questions he asked while studying/translating the scriptures. I’m definitely not the poster-boy for great scripture study, but when I do apply that principle, my understanding increases.

Anyway… you’ll recall I was feeling confused about why God would want me to have a broken heart. So…. I went to the manuals. But most of them talked about feeling sorrow for sin as part of the repentance process – so for many years I left it at that… realizing that repentance was an ongoing process, so it kinda made sense. I knew God wanted me to repent and of course I’d feel bad for my sins.

But part of me felt like there must be more. If a broken heart and a contrite spirit were to be my personal sacrifice to the Lord and evidence of my worship, there had to be some kind of positive way to do so. As I looked at the Apostles and church leaders I thought – there’s no way these people are feeling broken hearted all the time – they look happy and positive. I must be missing something.

Then it came to me. It came, as a matter of fact, while I was preparing a lesson on having a broken heart and a contrite spirit for young Aaronic Priesthood holders. I remember thinking I can’t leave these amazing young men in the same conundrum I was in growing up. I began look at the words a little differently.

Broken Heart.

I remembered hearing about a horse being broken – probably an obscure reference in some movie. I looked it up. Turns out that, as many of you know, breaking a horse is the process of making it rideable or useful for work. In horse training, “breaking” is synonymous with training. It’s a long process that teaches the horse respect for the trainer line upon line, precept upon precept. The idea is that the trainer takes a wild horse and breaks its will so it matches that of its trainer. Once a horse is trained, it is deemed as having been broken… in this case being broken is a good thing – it’s trained and ready for use.

When we present a broken heart as a sacrifice to the Lord, it is not sadness or sorrow that we offer… it is our will that we subject to His will. It is our willingness to do what the Lord wants – our willingness to let the things of righteousness supercede the natural man – it’s us bending our will to become holy.

All of a sudden, the repentance process became much more to me than a sorry feeling for my sins and just trying to not do them anymore… it was a process of becoming Godly.

It’s amazing to think that one of God’s greatest gifts to us is our free will – our agency, and what does he require of us? He requires that we subject that gift to Him so that we can be trained and made useful instead of remaining as wild souls that roam the plains and graze our lives away – never making much of a meaningful contribution.

With this understanding, offering a “broken heart”, one that is trained and in the process of becoming Godly)…and a contrite spirit is way harder than goat slaughtering. Now I was beginning to understand how and why this was a higher law, not an easier one.

This way of thinking is summarized by the following story:

A potter once moulded soft clay into a beautiful statue. Unfortunately, the clay cracked when it dried, leaving many weaknesses and flaws in the statue. The potter tried unsuccessfully to fill the cracks with new clay and to correct the flaws in the hardened clay. But despite his best efforts, he could not restore the beauty and grace of the original statue.

He did the only thing that can be done to hardened, cracked, and imperfect clay. He broke the statue with a hammer, pounded the hardened clay into dust, added fresh water, and began shaping a new statue.

This story helps explain why the scriptures often refer to the hard-hearted, and why the Lord requires a broken-heart. Our imperfect hearts often need to be broken down in order to be remade into a better shape.

Perhaps that what the Lord meant when he said to Ezekiel:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

(Ezekiel 36:26-27)

So, that’s what broken means to me… and contrite goes right along with it. Contrite means repentant.

In the end, having a broken heart and a contrite spirit means being willing to change and be moulded by the Lord.

Now, sometimes I do feel sorrow and sadness as I change my ways. Often I do feel regret for poor choices I’ve made. So that old way of thinking of a broken heart can still apply, but I think it misses the mark. Most of the time I don’t feel that way. I marvel at what the Lord is changing me into as I permit that change to take place. Most of the time, my offering of a broken heart and contrite spirit is in the attitude of a willing student, anxious to learn and pass a forthcoming test.

And so, with this new understanding, I’ll pose a question to you, that will only make sense in the context of what we’ve just reviewed….

“How broken is your heart?”

Or in other words. “What’s the quality of your sacrifice?”

If the purpose of the sacrifice is to become Godly, to become changed into something more like what God would have for us, if we are simply going through the motions… it all seems like a waste of time doesn’t it?

If you take an honest look at yourself and see some cracks in your hardened-heart that are not likely to be successfully filled and repaired with new clay… maybe it’s hammer-time!

And what hammer should you use. Well, I’m fairly certain that nothing I could possibly say to you would be very practical. After all, we all have different cracks in our own hard-hearts in different places, for different reasons. What I am confident in telling you is that if you will take a few moments of introspection — that is, considering what you believe to be your own cracks… I’m sure that you’ll come up with a pretty good starting place. Then, if you begin to study the scriptures on that subject, with some questions in mind, I’m sure that the spirit will show you what you need to know. You may hit a roadblock or two, but persist past the urge to give up and and settle with a half-answer. And once you find your answer be sure to put it into practise – because all your intellectual effort will be wasted if you don’t act on your knowledge. You don’t need to be a scriptorian or particularly gifted as a student to do this – you just have to be willing. The Spirit of God is ever-willing to help mould you into a better form. You need to bring a teachable attitude and a willingness to change. You need to be willing to listen for the still small voice which will guide and direct you.

I look at the example my parents, Ed and Narda Poulin, set for me and my family. While in the comfort of their retirement, they listened to a recent General Conference address. They prioritized God’s call to service through his prophet above their own wants and desires by deciding to serve a mission. They are now in Salt Lake City, taking in the church sites and preparing to entering the Missionary Training Center this week. What you didn’t see and what I saw, was the preparations behind the scenes. The seemingly endless doctors appointments, phone calls, trips to government agencies to secure all the right papers, passport photo retakes and retakes and retakes, diligent and daily scripture study and review of the book, Preach My Gospel. And thats all just in preparation of the mission. All of this time and energy and worry invested is part of their sacrifice of a broken heart and contrite spirit. They are already great people, but I can see that the Lord is moulding them into something even more amazing.

The same is true of any missionary who serves and subjects their time and will to God, letting him direct their footsteps. The same is true of any individual who serves in a calling, or offers service even when tired or busy or has other opportunities for leisure.

What will the Lord mould you into? Maybe a more important question is… will you allow the Lord to mould you by offering His supreme gift – your will and agency – back to Him by following His commandments and serving will all your might, mind and strength?

Serving God is a choice. Repenting is a choice. Changing our ways and subjecting our will to His is a choice… a hard one that we can make. It’s a choice that brings joy and fulfillment and a lot of hard work… and yes some sorrow and sadness. But in the end, you will be fit for the kingdom of God, a beautiful spirit that can help God lift others higher and higher. That what the higher law is all about…

I bear testimony that these things are true and commend them to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

Light Dispells DarknessThere is no such thing as darkness. Darkness is not a tangible thing you can touch, create, manipulate or otherwise perceive. There is only the absence of light, which we call darkness. Similarly, there is no such thing as emptiness… only lack of substance.

We can attempt to fill the void with false hope, temporary satisfaction or instant gratification, but, it will leave the soul after a short time, hungering again, desiring something that will last. The spark of light from a match will quickly burn out.

If we feel empty or dark, we simply need to fill our lives with the Light of Truth. Light dispels darkness… Does it take a while for darkness to disappear when light it present? No. Darkness isn’t a thing that needs to be moved out of the way, its just a word to describe the absence of light. Once light is present, darkness is no longer present – instantly.

In our minds, when we describe ourselves as having dark thoughts its really just a lack of Truth. The Light of Truth can rid our minds of darkness instantly. And what is the Light of Truth? Intelligence. (D&C 93:36). The scriptures tell us that the “… wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth through disobedience” (D&C 93:39). Thus disobedience, or sin, diminished our light and truth, or in other words, reduces our access to infinite intelligence.

Satan’s goal is not to bring darkness, but rather to take away the light, or more specifically, to take us away from the light by causing us to be disobedient. However, we also read that “Light and truth forsake that evil one” (D&C 93:37). Or in other words, intelligence separates one from Satan. When Moses beheld the Saviour, and then was confronted by Satan, he said “where is the glory, for it is darkness unto me” (Moses 1:15) Or in other words, he did not have nearly the light or lustre that Christ has.

As we go though life we, at times, experience what feels like tangible darkness. But always it is simply a lack of light.

For example, imagine a beautiful blue sky, with some scattered fluffy white clouds. The sun shines bright. Think clearly about the colors, the pureness of the blue sky, the billowing white clouds, as though they where pure white snow or soft clean cotton balls.
Now imagine the sunset and the onset of night on that scene. Darkness falls over the world and now at midnight, what color is the sky? Now, what color are those clouds?
In fact, the sky is still blue, and the clouds are still white – they are as fluffy and pure as they were during the day, you just can’t see it, because the light of the sun is not shining on them for you to see clearly.
Sin is like voluntarily having the color taken from life, by turning from the light – inviting darkness to cover the beauty of Gods creations – the beauty of your soul, the clarity of your mind and spirit. But your mind, soul and spirit have not changed color. They are only clouded by darkness, a darkness which can be dispelled with an invitation of light.

When darkness is descending on me, can I see the light in that darkness? Can I believe deep enough to realize that in any time, in any place, God’s love can reach me, if I reach for it? How can I choose it when the darkness seems to overwhelm me – when my body strains to enter the darkness and my spirit takes a backseat.

Bright blue sky

The light of Christ, through repentance, is ever willing to shine upon you to restore you to your full beauty. The gospel of Christ is that He has overcome our sin, paid the price and made it possible for us to return to Him. His light is contingent on our asking for it, in submitting our will to Him – the only true gift we can offer to God. Under your individual clouds of darkness, you are beautiful, and pure and clean. Christ invites us to come unto him by repenting of our sins, and by doing so His light will shine upon us, our darkness will disappear and we will be restored to full color, to our full beauty.

Never come to believe that you are inherently ugly or dark. We only ever lack the light of the Lord to dispel any darkness on our soul.

Too many of us live our lives in the twilight… Where the sun is just below the horizon; we still see the light, but there are many shadows and not everything is seen as it really it.
As we open the door to redemption, we can look up at the blackened sky and exclaim as the lyricist:

night descends
could I have been a better person?
if I could only do it all again
and the sky is filled with light
can you see it?
all the black is really white
if you believe it
as the time is running out
let me take away your doubt
we can find a better a place
in this twilight

Come forth from the twilight of your life and invite the Light of Christ into your heart. Let His light shine forth upon you and live your life lit by the noon day glory of Jesus Christ.
I invite the light of the Lord to shine upon me. May I recognize, even in my own personal darkness, that any blackness I see is really white if I but choose to move into the light. May the light of the Lord ever shine upon us all, and may we ever choose to make that happen.

I will remove your heart of stonePerhaps some of you don’t know this very interesting fact about me, but… there is something I am very skilled at – even more than with computers. I am an expert – at sinning.

Now, I can see by looking over the congregation that most of the perfect people have stayed home this week, so that means I can speak plainly to you who may share my skills at sinning.

I do it every day and have for most of my life. With such frequent practice at something, I’m sure you’d agree that I’ve become very good at it. I know how to hide it, disguise it, how to act like I don’t sin, and I’ve learned how to cope with the guilt that sin brings into my life.

The real dilemma I have is that… although I sin so often and although I’m so very good at it, I don’t WANT to be good at it, in fact, the opposite its true, I ACTIVELY want to NOT sin. I have my personal favorite sins, as I know you do also – and I’m not about to declare them to you… but I do want to discuss is — why is it that…. If we want to NOT sin, WHY do we continue to do it.

I mean, I’m mature person right? …and smart enough. If I make my mind up about something that I have control over, like my own behavior… why is it that I just CAN’T seem to do it (or STOP doing it, as the case may be)? This is the age old question… “How can I change myself?” How can I truly change? I do feel deep sorrow when I consider my imperfections and commit to change my ways to be more perfect, but somehow I am not perfect… somehow., I continue to sin.

To illustrate the problem better, let me describe a scenario from my past work experience.

I used to be a tech lead over a team of about 6 people – and we were often called on to debug a problem…. to find out why some complicated computer software was not doing what it was supposed to do. Several of my team members were from India and although we could communicate fine, I often found that their problem determination skills only treated symptoms of a problem instead of finding the root cause.

To put that in perspective it’s as if a patient with a virus who had a high fever went to see a doctor, and the doctor did a cursory overview and suggested the patient get air conditioning to treat the fever instead of diagnosing what was causing the fever and seeking to fix the real problem. There could be many different things causing the fever – but a good doctor knows how to narrow the potential causes down and prescribe treatment to cure the problem, not simply treat the fever and let the virus fester and multiply. I was constantly training my team at work to dig deeper – past the symptoms – and not be satisfied until they knew exactly what was causing a system problem and could figure out how to fix it. Some improved, others never quite “got it” and did not progress well in the team.

You see, I am convinced that we here – since we know of the goodness of God and the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us – that we are all on a quest to overcome sin . But, my personal experience and my experiences in Priesthood leadership have often demonstrated that we often attempt to overcome sin by treating the symptoms, instead of addressing the root cause.

How is that you may ask? Well – who among us hasn’t tried to change themselves by changing their appearance. Maybe if my hair was blonder or darker I’d be more perfect. Maybe if I just move and get out of this environment I’ll change. Maybe if my clothes were different, or if I had more money or if I were married, or single or whatever other external thing –… if only I can change that I’d stop sinning. The problem with that is… at least in my experience… its only treating the symptom. It may produce temporary change – you may be able to overcome sin for a while… but in the end, the root cause will surface again, perhaps with the same but stronger symptoms, perhaps with different symptoms… yet the virus in our soul is still there.

Forcing change like that is like fighting against a really strong habit. You can use your conscious mind to and your will to overcome anything for a while, but eventually you will become exhausted and return to your default state—back to the habit. It reminds me of the scripture from 2 Nephi 27:3, “And all the nations that fight against Zion, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision; yea, it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite; yea, even so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against Mount Zion.”

When we force a change by working on the symptoms or external circumstances, eventually our mind will wake up from the self-deception and our desire to overcome sin will be thwarted.

The change needed – the real treatment needs to be on the inside – in our thoughts and hearts.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said once said,  “Of what use to make heroic vows of amendment if the same old lawbreaker is to keep them?”  How many times have you said, “I’m going to change that – I’m never going to do that again.”  But you never change the inside – your self-image – your heart.  It’s the mind and heart that’s the lawbreaker, and that’s what we want to change.

To think of it another way… imagine our lives are like a movie… Our behavior – what we do, is the movie screen – but it’s just the projection. To change the movie, we don’t try to change the screen, or play the movie in a different location, or wear different clothes while playing the movie -– we go to the DVD player and change the DVD. In our lives, to change our behavior we can’t just force ourselves to act differently, we need to change the source, the way we think – our subconscious – our spirit.

Before we attempt to seriously change… we need to take a careful look at where we are. We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that we are the source of our problems. In life there are always those who look to blame anything but themselves for their circumstances… the weather, their neighbors, parents, the economy, the devil or even God. But the reality is… God allows us to choose for ourselves and the blame for our circumstances lies with ourselves.

To give an extreme example, consider this… if someone jumped off a building we wouldn’t say that the law of gravity murdered them… we’d say that they chose to ignore the law of gravity and plummeted to their death of their own choice. But so many of us are prevented from changing our ways by blaming external circumstances or people or events for our problems… we create a scenario in our minds where we are powerless to change our environment and therefore cannot change ourselves, but this is a lie we tell ourselves. This can be hard to hear sometimes, especially if our situation is unpleasant.  Even if it’s not the case that your choices have brought about your current situation, taking responsibility for it empowers you to make the changes in your life to get out of your problems.  If you are under the burden of guilt from sin… stuck… taking responsibility will empower you to make the changes necessary for growth and progress.

Once we take full responsibility for our own situation, we are ready for change. Again, what we need to change is on the inside… our heart and mind — but how exactly do we do that?

The scriptures tell us the following:

Proverbs 3:1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

Psalms 40:8  I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

When I was a newly called Bishop, I needed to give counsel to someone who wanted to change their heart but didn’t know how. Before I gave that advice I happened to be in a Priesthood class and asked the following question of the group, “What would you say to someone who is wanting to do the right thing, but who’s heart is not in it yet.” President Senter gave a beautiful answer. He said “I’d say that’s a good start.” He went to explain that doing the right things, even out of duty with no emotion is still better than not doing the right thing at all. The right internal motivation will come with time. Eventually, through service to others and prayer, God will soften a person’s heart and they will experience the change of heart that is referred to in the scriptures. That advice has stuck with me since – I’d like that counsel to describe me, where my heart is softened and I experience that change of heart.

Rather than my practiced sinning, here’s what I want to be like.

Mosiah 5:2  And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.

So, we know that the Spirit of the Lord is the agent of change… true change in our heart.

I love this scripture from Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:25 – 27 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

It comforts me to know that the Lord can make me a new heart… one that is not only pure and clean – which I know I get from baptism and partaking of the sacrament each week, but a heart that will purge my evil nature and make me want to do good continually. And perhaps I need to seek the Lord to do this continually because even a new heart is prone to wander back to forbidden paths if left unchecked. That is what the good news of the gospel and the power of the Lord’s Atonement can do in my life. This is why constant nourishment from the good word of the Lord is so important… My new heart needs nourishment so it can remain strong enough to overpower the natural man.

Does having a new heart and a new spirit mean I won’t be tempted any more… oh no. Temptation will always be there – especially since the adversary knows my personal weaknesses… he’ll keep hammering away at it, patiently waiting for it to break. He has all the time in the world. Even with a new heart, we need to wear the armor of God to protect our new heart… and what is the amour that protects our heart? The Breastplate of Righteousness. God has equipped us with all things necessary for our salvation – all we have to do is chose the right. We can take comfort in knowing that god won’t give us any challenge we cannot overcome.

 Paul said it this way: (1 Cor 10:13)  “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

I also like how Mother Teresa put it:

I know God will not give me anything that I can’t handle.
I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.
~Mother Teresa

One of my favorite hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, which more than a great hymn is a beautiful poem from a desperate soul yearning for the Lord to help in changing his heart.

 

1. Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

2. Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
hither by thy help I’m come;
and I hope, by thy good pleasure,
safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God;
he, to rescue me from danger,
interposed his precious blood.

3. O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

This song was dissected line by line by the choice director of the Missionary Training Center as he taught us to sing from the heart. Now every time I hear or sing this hymn, I remember that I too want to heart to be bound like a fetter to the Lord. Heaven knows that my heart is prone to wander, but I too would have the Lord seal it for His courts above.

I’ve come to learn that “change is not easy”… and I don’t mean to say that as a cliché, I REALLY mean it – “CHANGE IS NOT EASY”… it’s really hard. I know this from experience from constantly trying to change myself.

Another issue to consider that can sometimes stop us from taking the steps we need to overcome sin and change depression stems from the obvious fact that everyone else at church seems to getting along very well and progressing towards perfect excellently… Some people come across as having it all together… But really it’s a facade–we all struggle with the same issues trying to be people we want to be– trying to change our carnal nature.

Consider someone you think is really righteous. We all know someone in the church who is really smart or who is an excellent speaker, or just seems super spiritual – at least on Sundays. I know who I think of when I think of that type of person.  This person may appear über-knowledgeable and experienced because of their knowledge or ability to speak… But in their mind and private life they are struggling the same as you and I. No one has it all together.. We all struggle with feelings of unworthiness and wonder if we’re on the right path enough to merit the eternal reward we want. It’s not easy overcoming that persistent natural man.

Now, I’ve used the word change a lot in this talk, but we all know the gospel word for this is “repent”. We all need to do it – and not just treat the symptoms. Treat the root cause. Again. it’s not easy, but the reward is a clear conscience and knowing that your life is in harmony with God’s plan – and that my friends is a SWEET deal. If you need help or have some serious sins to recover from – make an appointment with our good Bishop. He’s one of the best men I know and God has put him in place at this time in your life to help you get where you need to be. He will love you and help you.

I’ll conclude with a modification of a well known saying that applies to us.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.” – Author Unknown

May God grant us the ability to change – may he make for us a new heart and a new spirit that we may have desires to do good continually is my prayer, the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Let me start by saying that there are many people who would have us shaken from our faith. There are those who don’t understand why we believe and fight against what they don’t undestand. There are those who do understand us and fight even harder to destroy us. Let me just say that the adversary is very real and would shake us from any faith in God, and all the more so when faith is founded on true principles. During my conversion I read nearly all of the anti-Mormon material that was available and found it all to be rubbish.

I had a conversion that – to me – really anchored me in my faith. It’s not a really exciting story and doesn’t sound interesting unless you lived it as I have…  So, I thought rather than tell my conversion story, it might be more interesting to talk about why I continue to believe – on a week to week, day to day basis. Why do I have a faith that drives me to action and causes me to live my life in a way that many would consider constrained?

One of the ways I like to set up a persuasive argument is to first set the stage for the opposing view and then explain why that reasoning is faulty. I figured we could try that in my brief remarks. Let me set the stage for one reason why I might not be compelled to believe, in fact, why it’s so inconvenient to believe and then I’ll talk about why I bother exert the time and effort to continually overcome these real concerns.

As some of you know I am an employee turned entrepreneur. I am trying to get 3 businesses off the ground which keeps me more than fully occupied. To put it lightly, time is a premium resource for me – as in there isn’t enough of it. Until these businesses are actually making money, anything that takes time from this work makes me feel like I am not providing for my family. For this reason, I tend to be very selfish and guarded with my time.

As we all know being a member of this church is not without its time commitments. Many of you will remember that I served as Bishop for 5 years before our current Bishop. That is a HUGE time commitment. After that I was working with the youth, which while it’s a very rewarding responsibility, the time commitments were also quite large. I was recently called to a responsibility that doesn’t take up too much of my time, however, at the same time, Robin was been called to a responsibility that takes even more time than my previous calling used to take, which results in me having less time for work than I used to – since time when she is gone with her responsibilities I am alone in charge of our 5 girls – and you can imagine how I don’t end up getting much work done when that happens :)

Add that to the time it takes to do Home Teaching, attend Relief Society meetings, Priesthood meeting, trainings, activity girls, primary activities, lesson prep, scripture study, and never working on Sundays…. that’s a LOT of time required for active membership in the church. That’s a lot of time that my competitors are working on building their businesses and I cannot.

Yet, week after week, I never work on Sundays, I attend these meetings, try to magnify my calling and support Robin in her calling. Why? I often ask myself this very question :)

The answer is  – it’s a matter of perspective  and priority.

My faith gives me many unique perspectives different from the average person. Even different from other Christians, but hopefully common amongst members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’ll review just 3 of them that immediately came to mind.

PERSPECTIVE #1) I know that God has a plan for all of us. As part of that plan I know I am here on Earth to go through some trials and to prove to myself whether or not I merit a greater reward. This perspective helps me know that true success is not found in the accumulation of wealth, the creation of amazing products, or in anything I can create with my hands or skill. True success is achieved by living my life in a way that is in harmony with Gods Laws and His plan for me. Having an eye single to the glory of WORK is not going to get me where I truly want to go. I need an eye single to the glory of God. This knowledge comes with it specific responsibilities, such as living how I know I should and teaching my family these things. It should also be telling others about this truth that I know. I invited about 30 people to attend tonight. As we can see by looking around, not everyone is looking for truth…

PERSPECTIVE 2) I know that my relationship with my wife and family is an eternal one. Unlike others who may feel like relationships exist only to satisfy personal gratification and when things get a little rough, you can just move on to the next temporary gratification, I know that these relationships are to be nurtured, constantly cared for and worthy of sacrifice. These relationships will last for eternity and decisions I make day to day will affect that relationship. It’s one that I cannot and will not simply cancel. I know that rough times are part of my test and enduring them well while helping my family endure well will be a blessing to me for all time. When difficulties arise in a relationship, never is divorce, separation or other such things even an option. This perspective makes me work on solutions to problems, makes me work on effective communication and conflict resolution rather than fighting and dreaming of freedom from a hard problem. In fact, because of this perspective, I rarely have any disputations at all. A little perspective goes a long way.

PERSPECTIVE 3) I know that God is not dead, but lives, and is a continual source of inspiration and direction for me – so long as I live my life in a way that allows me to tap into that communication.

A recent example that demonstrates a process that has happened over and over again for me.

Recently, we sold our home to fund further development and nurturing of our business endeavors. This was a HUGE decision for us, one that would affect our entire families future and needless to say we were very anxious about it. After considering the options and coming to what we felt was the right decision, we held a family council, explaining to the kids what we were thinking. This meant a school change for them and moving to a new neighborhood, so their feedback and support was essential. They all agreed with us. Together we had a prayer to help us know if this decision would be right for us and then we went on our way. Not 30 seconds later, I had a wash of peaceful calm wash over me, which I know was an answer from God indicating that we had come to a good decision. Then we moved forward without reservation. This self-same experience has happened at every major decision point in my adult life. God truly does direct us if we let Him. Inspiration from God is very real and I both appreciate and depend on  it to help me make good choices. I know that God has not put me here to fail, but to succeed and He wants me to be successful and guides me to that end. This perspective makes me want to live my life in such a way as to qualify for this guidance. To qualify for this guidance I follow His plan and keep his commandments.

These 3 perspectives, along with others we don’t have time to discuss, change the priorities I have in life.

When I have urges to work instead of do those things I should be doing, I remember the famous saying that “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” Or, put another way… At your funeral no one is going to comment on how you were at work every day and did such quality work. Our legacy is how we live. These perspectives help me properly prioritize my life.

I continue to believe because I know that these perspectives are true and correct – and I allow these perspectives to guide my priorities. Over the past 3-4 years, I’ve spent a lot of time studying self-development material – all of which completely agrees with the tenets of the gospel of Jesus Christ which I know and love. It is amazing to me that so much self-development material takes pieces of what Jesus taught and focuses on small parts of it. I love what President Hinckley once said when being interviewed – In the church we welcome all truth and say to all – bring your truth to us and let’s see if we can add to it.

Many people get socially converted to the gospel before a spiritual one. I personally do not have a high need for social interaction, however, the examples of the many faithful people around me inspire me to do more, to be better… and I know that my family is continually blessed by all of you.

For these reasons and a compelling inner sense of right and direction, I continue to believe.


But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 5:5)

Here – Lehi is responding to complaints from his wife Sariah who was obviously worried that her sons had perished on their journey back to Jerusalem. It probably took weeks. I love Lehi’s faith language here. He says “I have obtained a land of promise.” Now, they are in the wilderness… that was definitely not the land of promise. But, he knew the Lord’s word was good and so in his mind, he had already obtained it by his obedience and his obvious commitment to continued obedience.

We should also speak thusly about our goals… as if we have already obtained them – its just a matter of time, obedience and action to achieve them.

This warning from a Batman costume is very telling.

Caution: Cape Does Not Enable User To Fly

One cannot simple put on church clothes and expect to be able to perform Priesthood duties with no other thought. It is not a white shirt and a tie that makes a Priesthood holder… it is personal worthiness, sacrifice and service.

I see it so often, even in my own life, where I put on the costume and act the role without giving real thought to the fact that I am acting as a representative of Jesus Christ. We don’t become the powerful priesthood holder by the way we dress or “act”, its through our actions, through choices we make when no one is looking, by consistent obedience and service. For my part, its time to up my game some; tighten up the loose ends in my life and make adjustments here and there to make sure I’m on the right path—and am not simply putting on the costume and acting the part, but being the part.

[Commence introspection here]

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