While listening to general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I wrote copious notes and jotted spiritual impressions in the margins. I sang with joy during congregational singing. I even shed tears when the last speaker finished and the Prophet closed the session for another 6 months. But even though the messages resonated profoundly in my soul, the intensity of that experience fades as I jump back on my treadmill of busyness. Elder Russell M. Nelson posed a solution—to ask and answer this question: Because of what I have heard and felt [during the conference], how will I change? It’s not enough to hear, feel and rejoice for two uplifting days. I need to act upon what I hear and feel. I want to be a better person for this spiritual infusion. I want to change in some way. So, after reviewing my notes and pondering, I wrote a page in my journal of ways I will change as a result of this experience. I will review this page often to remember. I feel the change already beginning. “In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us…What is said is not as important as what we hear and what we feel…We gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them” (Robert D. Hales).
I was planning to move our garage refrigerator to the basement. It looked like an easy task if I could secure some help. Eyeballing the clearance of the doorway, it appeared to be sufficient. At the last minute I decided to actually measure the width to assure clearance. Wouldn’t you know, the doorway was too narrow! How embarrassing it would have been to get help from my neighbor and wrestle the fridge down the stairs only to find that it wouldn’t fit. Hefting it back up the stairs would even be more difficult. Taking a measurement of things can be most helpful in a variety of settings. For example, it’s a good idea to regularly assess how we measure up in keeping the commandments, thus allowing us to draw closer to Heavenly Father. Here is an excellent metric to assess personal measurement: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). When I complete my mortal mission, I want to stand with confidence before God and hear the words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant… Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
I will never forget the time I wanted to stoke my wood-burning fireplace with a lump of coal to extend the flame. Being in a hurry and not wanting to take time to change out of my white sweater dress, I decided to just be very careful retrieving the coal. (Silly me!) I went to the garage and gingerly opened the bag while slowly extracting a lump. Holding it out in front of me with extended arms, I walked back into the house and slid the lump of coal on top of the fire. I smiled smugly at my family for this amazing feat before rushing out the door to my meeting. But as I was about to make my presentation, I was horrified to notice a black smear of soot on my sleeve. Here is the lesson I learned that day: It is pride to think I can deviate even a little from the covenantal path without getting smudged in some way. I can’t tango with sin without its dirt rubbing off on me. The smear may not be immediately discernable but it is there all the same—and will bring me down. The Lord gives commandments to protect, not restrict us. He is a loving God—not a punitive God. I trust Him. “The discipline contained in daily obedience…builds an armor of protection and safety from the temptations that beset you as you proceed through mortality” (L. Tom Perry). This I believe with all my heart.
I’m trying to practice the attributes exemplified by Jesus Christ. The following incident helped me see an area I need to improve—patience! The other night I grumbled impatiently as I waited for another driver to slowly direct his vehicle into a parking space. But when I was able to see the driver, I was ashamed because it was a dear friend of mine. As I looked inside the car, my feelings changed. This experience demonstrates the need to look beyond the exterior appearance of things to develop patience. I need to look inside the heart of others to better understand why they behave as they do. I want to practice patience with people as well as trusting God’s timetable in answering prayers. Patience interlinks with fellow virtues of forgiveness, tolerance, and faith. Elder Neal A. Maxwell linked patience with faith when he taught: “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than His.” I can grow in faith when I am willing to wait patiently for God’s purposes to unfold. And I can learn patience with His timetable. I can also grow in patience with people when I take time to look inside with empathy.
How can I get out of a situation that doesn’t feel right to my soul? The answer can be really simple, especially if I decide beforehand how I will handle it. “If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step—so watch your step” (Jeffrey R. Holland). A wise leader once said that in her early teens she wrote a list of things that she would do in her life, and another list of things that she would never do. Over many years, she has remained true to that list. Deciding beforehand what actions I will take in a variety of circumstances will provide courage to make difficult choices in a moment of wavering. For example, I have already decided that while watching a film, if an inappropriate scene appears or crude language batters my ears, I will immediately switch channels or walk out of a theater. The decision is made in advance so that there is no need to weigh pros and cons in the moment.
Do you know how many Mormon temples there are in the world? Presently, there are 144 operating temples, and 14 more under construction. There are 15 new ones announced for construction—which will soon bring the total to 173. The recently completed Payson Utah Temple will have a free open house to the public starting Friday, April 24, and run through Saturday, May 23, 2015. It will be open every day except Sundays. Please accept my invitation to tour this wonderful temple prior to its dedication June 7. What is the purpose of a temple? It is a house of the Lord, a holy sanctuary in which sacred covenants are made and ordinances are performed for the living as well as in proxy in behalf of deceased ancestors. In this way, all have an opportunity to accept God’s Plan of Salvation. The central purpose of holy temples is to unite families for eternity. When a man and woman marry in the temple, their marriage is eternal if they keep their covenants. Stepping through temple doors, a person closes out the noisy world of chaos and contention to feel the Lord’s peace. His Spirit is felt in abundance. It is the Lord’s work performed in these holy places of worship. Participating in these sacred ordinances gives me Reasons to Rejoice.
I ask myself: What blessings have come from sacrifices made to fully live my religion? This blog follows the former one about sacrifices required to live one’s religion. I have discovered that blessings far outweigh the sacrifices. Each sacrifice is rewarded tenfold with an outpouring of tender mercies, miracles, and manifestations of God’s love and approval. Here are just a few blessings that come as a result of striving to live my religion with all my heart:
- Feeling peace of conscience that God is pleased—engulfed in His light.
- Extending my understanding and view of God’s eternal plan.
- Communicating with God. Hearing His answers.
- Feeling JOY and optimism—untouched by circumstance.
- Recognizing God’s tender mercies, even during trials.
- Feeling gratitude for everything.
- Recognizing God’s grace. Feeling His love and enabling power.
- Feeling the comfort, guidance, and companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- Feeling personal growth beyond my own ability.
- Being enabled to let go of offenses.
- Rejoicing in seeing my family members grow in testimony and conversion.
- Witnessing miracles unfolding before my eyes.
- Being transformed, changed. Feeling clean.
And more—many, many more! Aren’t these Reasons to Rejoice?