Monday, April 27, 2015

Although prematurely, April 2015 according to my iphone

April 2015 brought lots of fun and lotsa changes for our family.
First of all, Elder Argyle has a new companion, Elder Tarawhiti.  WE have been praying for him as he has been going through some bumps and bruises that might also be called "character builders".
I cracked up at this.  I guess it is important to know how to spell, "annual".
 We got a big group together and went to Six Flags.  It was so fun!

 My favorite quote from General Conference, the talk is here.  
 We had a sad thing happen in our town and the PTO gave this flower arrangement to the family.  It made me want to grab the ones that I love the most and hold them close and remind them daily how much I love them.
 We sent a little love to Elder Argyle.  I hosted a fun Prosper Missionary Moms luncheon at my house and then we put together some care packages for our missionaries.  I hope to host another one soon.  We have ALOT of missionaries from Prosper - I think there are 12 total.  So fun.  Truly, the work is hastening.
 Still going strong on BOM365.
 McKinley and Reagan went to go visit a friend in the hospital.  She had an emergency appendectomy.  I wish I looked that pretty when I was straight out of surgery.  Such a cute girl.
 Read this book, among others.  Loved it.
 Had to get a gift for a birthday party that Brady was invited to and I shamefullly admit that I got this.
 But I drew the line at this.  Eewwww.
 My little Reagan stayed home from school one day with a sore throat and fever so I took her this bad boy.
 I can't believe he has been out for almost 9 months already.  This is my screensaver on my phone.  I still miss him every single day.
 Been trying to use my fitbit more.  I would say I did pretty well on this particular day, 17,000 +++ steps  Although, Brutus was worn out.

Reagan had fun performing at the Talonettes Spring Show with the rest of her cheer leading squad.  Here she is with two of her close friends, Emily and Cristina.

In other news, Brent started a new job TODAY.  He is so excited about this new opportunity.  When he was ill all those years he had to take a step back on the career ladder.  Now that we celebrate three years without a headache this very month - he is ready to jump back in with both feet and he feels like this new job puts him back on the trajectory he was on before he got sick.  We are so grateful for all the feelings of peace that we have experienced as we have been praying for a new opportunity.  Heavenly Father has been guiding us each step of the way.  I am especially grateful that Brent will be working from home for the most part which makes it nice for us.  His church responsibilities take him away from us but this will help compensate for that.

Jensen leaves for study abroad TOMORROW.  I was seriously stressed when we realized that Brent was going to be out of town and I would be needing to get kids up and running and off to school at about the same time she would need to be leaving for the airport, but a good friend stepped up and offered to take her.  She is almost beside herself with excitement.  This is something she has been looking forward to for so long.  I hope to be able to post lots of pictures of her while she is there.

I don't know what has me more shocked.  How much I love school?  How much I am learning?  I really love the class I am finishing up this week on treating people with substance abuse disorders.  I start a counselor's ethics class next.  In 8 more weeks I will be done with my first semester.  I got released from Primary and am really enjoying the chance to go to Gospel Doctrine and get my own cup filled.  I miss the kids but grab hugs from them when they are in the hall.  One perk is that  I am finally able to meet some of the people that have moved into my ward in the last year.   

That was our April.  
How was yours?  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Guest Post: No Such Thing as a Bulletproof Marriage (Chelsea Dyreng)

So I started dating this new guy.
We’d known each other for a couple of weeks. He was tall, blond, funny and a little cocky. He told me he was good at tennis. So when he invited me one weekend to watch him play in the annual Fourth of July tennis tournament in his hometown, I tagged along. I was curious if this guy was actually as good as he said he was.
Of course, I didn’t know anything about tennis. So I sat on bleachers outside the courts, next to his 14-year-old brother, who was clearly amused by my vast ignorance. But he was nice and patiently answered my questions and kept me updated on the score. As the tournament progressed, I began to see that my date really did seem to excel at this sport. I smiled. I sat up a little straighter. I flipped my hair. If anyone asked me who I was, I didn’t bother with my name. I just pointed out to the court and said, “I’m his date.”
But the best was yet to come.
During one match, my date jogged up to the chain-link fence and said to his little brother in mysterious tennis language, “Watch this. I’m going to ace him on the next serve.”
“What is an ace?” I asked loudly, not wanting to be left out.
Whispering, (because that is what you are supposed to do when you watch tennis) the little brother smiled and said, “Just watch.”
I peered wide-eyed through the fence as my date prepared for his serve by bouncing the ball a few times and casting a piercing stare across the net. Then he tossed the ball up in the air, at the same time bending his knees and pulling back his racket. Time stopped for just a moment as he waited for the ball to make its decent. Then, when the ball was in the perfect spot, he whipped his racket out from behind him and pummeled the ball, hurling it across the court. Before his opponent had a chance to even wet his lips, the ball crossed the net, hit the corner of the service box and shot passed him, rattling the fence. Without his opponent even touching the ball, my date had scored.
Then he turned, pointed his racket straight at me and said, “That is an ace.”
Six months later, we were married.
I loved this post from Chelsea Dyreng that I read in the Deseret News and I couldn't agree with what she has to say more.
Rising in love
Falling in love was so exciting. Scott was by far the most fascinating person I had ever met. But soon the “falling” part of love quickly got, well, impractical. Life happens. How are we going to divvy up responsibilities? How do we pay for the things we need and still have something left for things we want? Should we go into debt or wait till we can pay in full? Should we move or should we stay? Then children come along, and all of those fun, private couple moments are the first thing to be thrown overboard as each of us is just trying to do our best to keep the ship afloat. When all this is going on, who has time for each other?
In addition to that, those wonderful things that attracted you to each other in the first place can become unbelievably annoying. (“You are going to go play tennisagain?”)
That is when you stop falling in love — and you start rising.
Falling in love is spontaneous, unexpected, surprising, a little reckless and oh so easy.
Rising in love is deliberate, thought-out, scheduled and sometimes very, very hard.
I don’t know why some marriages work and some don’t. I am only an expert on my own marriage (although Scott probably thinks he’s the expert). I don’t think anyone gets married with the expectation that the marriage will fail. At the beginning, every bride and groom intends for their marriage to last forever. After all, we are soul mates. Nothing will ever extinguish the love we have for each other. We are bulletproof. Right?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Top Ten

Today in BOM365 we read Mosiah 8.  In this chapter, the King argues that seer is greater than a prophet.  Ammon explains that a seer is a revelator and a prophet and that there is no gift greater that a man can have.  He justifies his argument by explaining that a seer can warn of things which are to come and help understand what is to be learned from the things of the past.  Seers can help us better understand "Secret" things and bring to light those things that are "hidden".  He even states that there are some things that can ONLY be known through a seer.  The question for today was posed: "Thinking of past and present Prophets, what counsel has sunk DEEP into your heart and has been of great benefit to your life?"

I immediately thought of some talks that have sustained me, provided direction, and greatly influenced the path that I placed my feet.  It was fun to ponder what my ten all time favorite talks were that have profoundly influenced my life.  Some day I may do my top 100 because I seriously think there are 100 talks that have helped me so much.  I look to the words of prophets from General Conference regularly and listen to them when I walk and exercise.  At times, they have made all the difference.

10.  Judge Not and Judging by Dallin H. Oaks.
I love that he used to be a state supreme court judge.  I love that he helps us clearly understand righteous judgement from unrighteous judgment (which most judgment is in this category).

9.  Parents in Zion by Boyd K. Packer
This was exactly the counsel I needed when I was a mother of lots of young children and my hubby was serving a great deal in the church.  It provided all the answers when we searched for balance and it helped influence decisions with time.

8.  Continue in Patience by Deiter F. Uchtdorf
Oh man this was a big one for me when we were going through some financial challenges after Brent's illness.  I wanted so badly for things to improve on MY time table and it just seemed like things weren't happening fast enough those first few years.  President Uchtdorf was constantly reminding me that I needed to be patient and have faith in the Lord's timing.  I can see so much wisdom in that counsel now and I look back and think of all the things I learned from that time in our marriage that I might not have been able to learn any other way.

7.  The Ministry of Angels by Jeffrey R. Holland
I don't want to go into too much detail about why I love this one but I will testify that I know that the principles of which he speaks are absolutely true.  I can not deny it and I never will.  I have ministering angels in my life and I know that they are as real as anything else I know to be true.  So grateful for those experiences.

6.  The Tender Mercies of the Lord by David A. Bednar
For 5 years and 10 months life pretty much felt like it sucked.  I'm not going to sugar coat it.  Brent was sick.  Our income was drastically affected.  We were very unsure of our future.  I worried every day that he might not make it home.  I worried that he would develop an addiction to the pain killers that were perscribed for him.  HE was miserable.  I was miserable because there was so little I could do.  The ONLY thing that got me through was when I read this talk and started looking for the tender mercies.  Lo and behold they were there!  Sometimes we had to sit in bed each night and talk to each other about them just to stay positive.  Thank you Elder Bednar for this counsel!

5.  Why Do We Serve by Dallin H. Oaks
Believe it or not there are a spectrum of reasons why we serve others, some of them are not so great.  This talk helped me do a little soul searching to make sure my heart was in the right place.  It has been a beacon for me ever since.

4.  Good, Better, Best by Dallin H. Oaks
Elder Oaks says it best (he usually does), "We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families."

3.  And Nothing Shall Offend Them by David A. Bednar
If I am being completely  honest this talk was a complete game changer for me.  Prophets teach us what we NEED to hear, not necessarily what we WANT to hear.  This was something I needed to hear at the time that he gave this talk and I have gone back to it time and time again.  Being offended is a CHOICE,  I'm happy to say that I am pretty hard to offend these days and LOVE the feeling of giving people the benefit of the doubt.

2.  An High Priest of Good Things To Come by Jeffrey R. Holland
Oh how these word spoke peace to my soul!  I wish I had a buck for every time I have read this or watched the mormon message about it.  I would be a rich gal.  One of my favorite parts: "Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek. He does love you, and He knows your fears. He hears your prayers. He is your Heavenly Father, and surely He matches with His own the tears His children shed."  Here is the mormon message.  There is so much power in the final few seconds that are always hope filled for me.  I listen to Elder Holland speak words of comfort and I know it is going to be okay.
(drumroll please....)

1.  Beware of Pride by Ezra Taft Benson
There isn't a problem out there that isn't rooted in pride and that can't be overcome with a greater helping of humility.  Sometimes speakers talk about problems but don't really offer alot of counsel about how to fix it.  One of the things that I love so much about this talk is that he offers 8 suggestions about how we can choose to be more humble.  Tangible things that we can all apply.

This was fun!  Makes me want to go back and re read some of them.
Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ward Families

I have lived in wards where it was very hard to leave because it really felt like my family.  I have also lived in a ward where I struggled to feel included.  I love this talk by one of my favorite ladies, Virginia Hinckley Pearce.  She offers some great insight into the purpose of a ward family and how to learn to love the ward you are in. 

It is good to gather in this inspiring setting in the presence of thousands and thousands who are brought together through the satellite network. I believe that Heavenly Father recognized that even though our relationship with him and our accountability to him are intensely personal, we gather strength when we meet in groups. We need to be reminded often that we are a part of something big and grand as we continue to do our own part. Each Sunday in gatherings around the world, young women stand and say aloud together: not “I” but “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love him. We will ‘stand as witnesses’ … ” and so on (Young Women Theme; emphasis added).
Learning in groups is so important that Heavenly Father planned for us to be born into a group—the most basic, most hallowed, and most powerful group on earth: the family. We have heard good counsel about the family in these past two days. I would like to build on that by talking about the ward or branch family—the basic ecclesiastical unit to which we all belong as members of the Church of Jesus Christ. For simplicity this afternoon, I will use the word ward to include both wards and branches, since they both serve the same purposes. Wards are not designed to replace the family unit, but to support the family and its righteous teachings. A ward is another place where there is enough commitment and energy to form a sort of “safety net” family for each of us when our families cannot or do not provide all of the teaching and growing experiences we need to return to Heavenly Father.
It is my desire and prayer that during the next few minutes we will expand our appreciation of the power of the ward family and renew our commitment to participate positively in that community of Saints.
First, ward families provide a sense of belonging.
Robert Frost said in his narrative poem “The Death of the Hired Man”:
Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.
I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.
A ward is “something you somehow haven’t to deserve.” Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ gives us that home. In a ward, as in a family, every person is different and valuable. Paul said:
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; …
“For the body is not one member, but many” (1 Cor. 12:13–14). The Savior instructed that we should meet together often and forbid no one (see 3 Ne. 18:22).
Several months ago while visiting our children in another state, I walked with our 2 1/2-year-old grandson from the chapel to the nursery. As he moved rather energetically down the hall, at least five people called him by name—teenagers, children, adults. “Hi, Benjamin,” “Hey, Benjamin,” “Morning, Benjamin.” My heart overflowed with gratitude that Benjamin is learning that he, as an individual, belongs to a ward family. Over a lifetime, ward families will do for him what his family alone cannot do.
In April 1992 conference, Young Women General President Janette C. Hales asked adult members to “learn the names of the young people in [their] ward or branch and call them by name” (Ensign, May 1992, p. 80). Now, I would enlarge her invitation, inviting you young men and young women to learn the names of the adults and the children. Overcome your natural timidity and greet as many people as you can by name each week. Our wards will be better places if, like Benjamin, everyone hears his own name four or five times between the chapel and the classroom. We can each help that to happen.
Next, ward families provide the reassurance of listening ears. 
Someone has said that people would rather be understood than be loved. In truth, the surest way to increase our love for someone is to listen with patience and respect. I believe that our baptismal covenant demands this. How can we “mourn with those that mourn” and “bear one another’s burdens” (Mosiah 18:8–9) if we don’t listen to know what those burdens are?
We discover and develop our thoughts through conversation. Talking itself is a sorting and learning process. We feel such comfort when others listen with the understanding that our words are not our final statement, but a wondering and wandering process used to reach a clearer understanding.
But we must be careful not to listen as Laman and Lemuel listened to each other.  When fellow ward members complain, blame others, and repeat negative tales, it takes self-discipline to stop ourselves from adding more fuel to their fire of disgruntlement. Mutual murmuring is a smoldering fire that can burst into flame and destroy a ward.  They encouraged mutual murmuring. 
Third, ward families provide encouragement. 
Becky and Danny’s second child was born prematurely. Recounting the days, then weeks and years, of caring for a critically ill child, Becky says, “It was difficult for my mother to watch us dealing with this situation. She wished that she could take it away from me. We were living in a distant state, and Mother would call me on the phone and feel so helpless as she listened to our daily struggles. One day she said to me, ‘Becky, I don’t know how you will get through this, but I am confident that you can.’ That encouragement was a turning point for me.”
As a ward family, we can give the kind of encouragement that Becky’s mother gave.
When friends express confidence in me, especially when I feel overwhelmed by difficult circumstances, the light at the end of the tunnel burns brighter. A steady belief in ward members can often be of far more value than casseroles or loaves of bread.
A mother was busily preparing dinner when her little boy burst into the kitchen. “Mother, will you play darts with me?” “Just-a-minutes” didn’t seem to satisfy the little boy, so the mother followed him down the basement stairs. As they came into the playroom, she said, “I don’t know the rules or how to play.” “Oh, it’s not hard at all,” he beamed confidently. “I just stand right here and throw the darts, and you stand over there and say, ‘Wonderful! Wonderful!’” Pretty easy rules to remember, aren’t they?
“Wonderful, wonderfuls,” notes, handshakes, hugs—all work so well in ward settings. Positive reinforcement changes behavior for the better, while criticism stabilizes negative behaviors and blocks change.
George Eliot, a nineteenth-century English novelist, said, “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?” (Middlemarch, London: Penguin Books, 1965, p. 789). We can make life less difficult for each other as we make our wards emotionally safer places: by being kind, accepting, tolerant, supportive, and positive. Those of us who teach children and youth have a special responsibility to insist—in respectful and kind ways—that class members use language and behavior which shows respect for others. No one should be belittled or made to feel less than he is within the walls of a Church classroom.
Ward families are a refuge. 
I know a young family that lived in south Los Angeles during the violent summer of 1992. They could feel the heat from the fires as they sat terrified in their little apartment. They telephoned their parents in Salt Lake. Their families offered encouragement and their prayers. They could do no more at such a distance. It was a ward member who made arrangements for the Parkins to get themselves and their baby out safely. They stayed with members until they could go back to their apartment. They were safe.
Multiply this story by every natural and civil crisis. Bishops and quorum leaders accounting for families after hurricanes, members carrying food and blankets—it makes no difference where you live or what kind of chaos might occur, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will remain organized, and order will prevail. The wards and stakes of Zion will be a “refuge from the storm” (D&C 115:6).
Ward families provide ways for us to contribute.
There are no boundaries for contributing our time and talents. Hopefully, we will contribute everywhere we go, but the structure of a ward provides a good training ground.
After living for twenty years in the same ward, I married and moved to a distant city, where my husband continued his schooling. The people were friendly, but I was shy by nature and struggled to feel comfortable. One Sunday morning as I stood up from the bench at the back of the chapel and turned to go to Sunday School, a member of the bishopric greeted me with a smile and a handshake. Brother Goates was one of many who had extended themselves in becoming acquainted with us. As he shook my hand, he said, “Virginia, get off the back row and quit thinking about yourself!”
All at once I saw with a new perspective. He was right, but I didn’t quite know how to quit thinking about myself. However, as the weeks moved on, the acceptance of a calling automatically moved me off the back row, demanding that I think about someone besides myself. My comfort and confidence grew proportionately. Callings and assignments are easy ways to become involved in the lives of others. Paradoxically, as we concentrate on the needs of others, our own needs become less controlling.
Ward families provide a laboratory to learn and practice the gospel.
 A CTR B teacher taught a lesson on fasting. After talking with their parents, she arranged for the children to visit Brother Dibble, a ward member who was very ill. As they visited, Sister McRae explained that their class had learned in Primary about fasting. Most of the children had never fasted before, and it was their desire, as a class, to fast and pray for Brother Dibble on the following fast Sunday. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he expressed in tender words his gratitude—for them, the gospel, and the principle of fasting. On Sunday, having fasted, Sister McRae and her class members knelt together in their classroom to pray for Brother Dibble and conclude their fast.
I have always believed that if people are really going to learn something, they need more than an explanation; they need an experience. Alma taught that principle as he encouraged experimenting upon the word (see Alma 32:27). Sister McRae’s CTR B children received both an explanation and an experience. They learned and practiced the doctrine of fasting in a wonderful laboratory of gospel learning—their ward.
Like Sister McRae’s CTR B class, young women are taught gospel principles during their Sunday lesson time. Then they are invited to “experiment on the word” by participating in Value experiences found in theirPersonal Progress books—the same process: an explanation, then an experience.
Heavenly Father expects us to participate in our wards. It is part of the plan. But, Sister Pearce, you may be saying, you have such an idealistic picture of a ward—that’s not like my ward!
You mean, your ward has real people in it—ones who are sometimes selfish or self-righteous, unskilled or undependable? I’m so glad! How could it be a reallaboratory for practicing gospel principles like patience, long-suffering, charity, and forgiveness if there were no people or situations that would require the use of these principles? The miracle of it all is that we are real people put into an ingenious structure, designed by God, to help us become like him.
I would invite you to love whatever ward you are in—participate in it, enjoy it, learn from it.
Each of us can envision our ward or branch as a Zion community and then work to make it that way.
I bear witness that ward and branch families are a great and miraculous part of Heavenly Father’s plan. May we use them more fully to help us grow and ultimately return to his presence, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, April 13, 2015

He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things

I came across this talk in my BOM365 study.  It was attached to the reading for today.  I thought I had heard EVERY Jeffrey R. Holland talk there ever was!  I was wrong.  This one really spoke to me today.  I recently started graduate school and am taking a class this semester in treating individuals who are suffering from addiction.  All addiction.  I had an assignment to attend an Addition Recovery Program last week.  I will blog about it later.  It was honestly one of the most spiritual meetings I have ever been to.  I left with such a sweet understanding of the love Heavenly Father has for each of us, his imperfect children.  I think this talk resonates with me right now because of all of the reading I have been doing about people in bondage to their addiction.  There are obviously a great deal of things out there that we give our freedom to that results in some semblance of bondage.  Some of the things mentioned on the BOM365 page today were smart phones (distracting from the things that really matter), negativity and worry, being too concerned with what others think (more than God), pride, weakness from physical appetites (food, laziness).  This talk offers some answers.  I have highlighted my favorite parts.

If I could invite three people to dinner for a lively conversation.  Jeffrey R. would be in the list.  Just sayin'.  He is one of my all time faves.

Some time ago I read an essay referring to “metaphysical hunger” 1 in the world. The author was suggesting that the souls of men and women were dying, so to speak, from lack of spiritual nourishment in our time. That phrase, “metaphysical hunger,” came back to me last month when I read the many richly deserved tributes paid to Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One correspondent recalled her saying that as severe and wrenching as physical hunger was in our day—something she spent virtually her entire life trying to alleviate—nevertheless, she believed that the absence of spiritual strength, the paucity of spiritual nutrition, was an even more terrible hunger in the modern world.
These observations reminded me of the chilling prophecy from the prophet Amos, who said so long ago, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” 2
As the world slouches toward the 21st century, many long for something, sometimes cry out for something, but too often scarcely know for what. The economic condition in the world, speaking generally and certainly not specifically, is probably better than it has ever been in history, but the human heart is still anxious and often filled with great stress. We live in an “information age” that has a world of data available literally at our fingertips, yet the meaning of that information and the satisfaction of using knowledge in some moral context seems farther away for many than ever before.
The price for building on such sandy foundations is high. Too many lives are buckling when the storms come and the winds blow. 3 In almost every direction, we see those who are dissatisfied with present luxuries because of a gnawing fear that others somewhere have more of them. In a world desperately in need of moral leadership, too often we see what Paul called “spiritual wickedness in high places.” 4 In an absolutely terrifying way, we see legions who say they are bored with their spouses, their children, and any sense of marital or parental responsibility toward them. Still others, roaring full speed down the dead-end road of hedonism, shout that they will indeed live by bread alone, and the more of it the better. We have it on good word, indeed we have it from the Word Himself, that bread alone—even a lot of it—is not enough. 5
During the Savior’s Galilean ministry, He chided those who had heard of Him feeding the 5,000 with only five barley loaves and two fishes, and now flocked to Him expecting a free lunch. That food, important as it was, was incidental to the real nourishment He was trying to give them.
“Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead,” He admonished them. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.”
But this was not the meal they had come for, and the record says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” 6
In that little story is something of the danger in our day. It is that in our contemporary success and sophistication we too may walk away from the vitally crucial bread of eternal life; we may actually choose to be spiritually malnourished, willfully indulging in a kind of spiritual anorexia. Like those childish Galileans of old, we may turn up our noses when divine sustenance is placed before us. Of course the tragedy then as now is that one day, as the Lord Himself has said, “In an hour when ye think not the summer shall be past, and the harvest ended,” and we will find that our “souls [are] not saved.” 7
I have wondered this morning if someone within the sound of my voice might feel he or she or those they love are too caught up in the “thick of these thin things,” are hungering for something more substantial and asking with the otherwise successful young man of the scriptures, “What lack I yet?” 8 I have wondered if someone this morning might be wandering “from sea to sea,” running “to and fro” 9 as the prophet Amos said, wearied by the pace of life in the fast lane or in trying to keep up with the Joneses before the Joneses refinance. I have wondered if any have joined our conference hoping to find the answer to a deeply personal problem or to have some light cast on the most serious questions of their heart. Such problems or questions often deal with our marriages, our families, our friends, our health, our peace—or the conspicuous lack of such cherished possessions.
It is to those who so hunger that I wish to speak this morning. Wherever you live, and at whatever point in age or experience you find yourself, I declare that God has through His Only Begotten Son lifted the famine of which Amos spoke. I testify that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life and a Well of Living Water springing up unto eternal life. I declare to those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and especially to those who are not, that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Firstborn Son did appear to the boy prophet Joseph Smith and restored light and life, hope and direction to a wandering world, a world filled with those who wonder, “Where is hope? Where is peace? What path should I follow? Which way should I go?”
Regardless of past paths taken or not taken, we wish to offer you this morning “the way, the truth, and the life.”10 We invite you to join in the adventure of the earliest disciples of Christ who also yearned for the bread of life—those who did not go back but who came to Him, stayed with Him, and who recognized that for safety and salvation there was no other to whom they could ever go. 11
You will recall that when Andrew and another disciple, probably John, first heard Christ speak, they were so moved and attracted to Jesus that they followed Him as He left the crowd. Sensing that He was being pursued, Christ turned and asked the two men, “What seek ye?” 12Other translations render that simply “What do you want?” They answered, “Where dwellest thou?” or “Where do you live?” Christ said simply, “Come and see.”13 Just a short time later He formally called Peter and other new Apostles with the same spirit of invitation. To them He said, Come, “follow me.” 14
It seems that the essence of our mortal journey and the answers to the most significant questions in life are distilled down to these two very brief elements in the opening scenes of the Savior’s earthly ministry. One element is the question put to every one of us on this earth: “What seek ye? What do you want?” The second is His response to our answer, whatever that answer is.Whoever we are and whatever we reply, His response isalways the same: “Come,” He says lovingly. “Come, follow me.” Wherever you are going, first come and see what I do, see where and how I spend my time. Learn of me, walk with me, talk with me, believe. Listen to me pray. In turn you will find answers to your own prayers. God will bring rest to your souls. Come, follow me.
With one voice and one accord, we bear witness that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to satisfy ultimate spiritual hunger and slake definitive spiritual thirst. Only He who was so mortally wounded knows how to heal our modern wounds. Only One who was with God, and was God, 15 can answer the deepest and most urgent questions of our soul. Only His almighty arms could have thrown open the prison gates of death that otherwise would have held us in bondage forever. Only on His triumphant shoulders can we ride to celestial glory—if we will but choose through our faithfulness to do so.
To those who may feel they have somehow forfeited their place at the table of the Lord, we say again with the Prophet Joseph Smith that God has “a forgiving disposition,” 16 that Christ is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, [is] long-suffering and full of goodness.” 17 I have always loved that when Matthew records Jesus’ great injunction, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” 18 Luke adds the Savior’s additional commentary: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” 19 —as if to suggest that mercy is at least a beginning synonym for the perfection God has and for which all of us must strive. Mercy, with its sister virtue forgiveness, is at the very heart of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the eternal plan of salvation. Everything in the gospel teaches us that we can change if we need to, that we can be helped if we truly want it, that we can be made whole, whatever the problems of the past.
Now, if you feel too spiritually maimed to come to the feast, please realize that the Church is not a monastery for perfect people, though all of us ought to be striving on the road to godliness. No, at least one aspect of the Church is more like a hospital or an aid station, provided for those who are ill and want to get well, where one can get an infusion of spiritual nutrition and a supply of sustaining water in order to keep on climbing.
In spite of life’s tribulations and as fearful as some of our prospects are, I testify that there is help for the journey. There is the Bread of Eternal Life and the Well of Living Water. Christ has overcome the world—our world—and His gift to us is peace now and exaltation in the world to come. 20 Our fundamental requirement is to have faith in Him and follow Him—always. When He bids us to walk in His way and by His light, it is because He has walked this way before us, and He has made it safe for our own travel here. He knows where the sharp stones and stumbling blocks lie hidden and where thorns and thistles are the most severe. He knows where the path is perilous, and He knows which way to go when the road forks and nightfall comes. He knows all this, as Alma says in the Book of Mormon, because He has suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind … , that he may know … how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” 21 To succor means to “run to.” I testify that in my fears and in my infirmities the Savior has surely run to me. I will never be able to thank Him enough for such personal kindness and such loving care.
President George Q. Cannon said once: “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is [against] His character [to do so]. He is an unchangeable being. … He will stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and the purer for them, if we only trust in our God and keep His commandments.” 22
Those who will receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of their salvation will always lie down in green pastures, no matter how barren and bleak the winter has been. And the waters of their refreshment will always be still waters, no matter how turbulent the storms of life. In walking His path of righteousness, our souls will be forever restored; and though that path may for us, as it did for Him, lead through the very valley of the shadow of death, yet we will fear no evil. The rod of His priesthood and the staff of His Spirit will always comfort us. And when we hunger and thirst in the effort, He will prepare a veritable feast before us, a table spread even in the presence of our enemies—contemporary enemies—which might include fear orfamily worries, sickness or personal sorrow of a hundred different kinds. In a crowning act of compassion at such a supper He anoints our head with oil and administers a blessing of strength to our soul. Our cup runneth over with His kindness, and our tears runneth over with joy. We weep to know that such goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, and that we will, if we desire it, dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 23
I pray this morning that all who are hungering and thirsting, and sometimes wandering, will hear this invitation from Him who is the Bread of Life, the Fountain of Living Water, the Good Shepherd of us all, the Son of God: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, … and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” 24 Truly He does fill “the hungry with good things,” as His own mother Mary testified. 25 Come, and feast at the table of the Lord in what I testify to be His true and living Church, led by a true and living prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, whom it is now our pleasure to hear. I pray for these blessings and bear witness of these truths in the sacred and holy name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.