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Be Thou an Example of the Believers

Elder Russell M. Nelson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

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As a member of the Church, reach out to those you do not know, and greet them warmly.  Each Sunday extend a hand of fellowship to at least one person you did not know before.  Each day of your life, strive to enlarge your own circle of friendship.

You can invite a friend to read the Book of Mormon.  Explain that it is not a novel or a history book.  It is another testament of Jesus Christ.  Its very purpose is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”  There is a power in this book that can touch the hearts and lift the lives of honest seekers of truth.  Invite your friend to read the book carefully.

The Prophet Joseph Smith said “that the Book of Mormon was the most correct o any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.  The Book of Mormon teaches of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and is the instrument by which God will fulfill His ancient promise to gather scattered Israel in these latter days.”

Many years ago, two colleagues of mine—a nurse and her doctor husband—asked me why I lived the way I did.  I answered, “Because I know the Book of Mormon is true.”  I let them borrow my copy of the book, inviting them to read it.  A week later they returned my book with a polite “thanks a lot.”

I responded, “What do you mean, thanks a lot?  That’s a totally inappropriate response for one who has read this book.  You didn’t read it did you!  Please take it back and read it;  then I would like my book back.”

Admitting that they had only turned its pages, they accepted my invitation.  When they returned they said tearfully, “We have read the Book of Mormon.  We know it is true!  We want to know more.”  They learned more, and it was my privilege to baptize both of them.

“Come Unto Me with Full Purpose of Heart, and I shall Heal You”

Elder Patrick Kearon
Of the Seventy

Tonight I would like to share a message of comfort and healing with any of you who feels alone or forsaken, has lost peace of mind or heart, or feels that you have thrown away your last chance.  Complete healing and peace can be found at the feet of the Savior.

As a 7-year-old boy living in the Arabian Peninsula, I was consistently told by my parents to always wear my shoes, and I understood why.  I knew that shoes would protect my feet against the many threats to be found in the desert, such as snakes, scorpions, and thorns.  One morning after a night’s camping in the desert, I wanted to go exploring, but I did not want to bother with putting on my shoes. I rationalized that I was only going for a little wander, and I would stay close by the camp.  So instead of shoes, I wore flip-flops.  I told myself that flip-flops were shoes—of sort.  And anyway, what could possibly happen?

As I walked along the cool sand—in my flip-flops—I felt something like a thorn going into the arch of my foot.  I looked down and saw not a thorn, but a scorpion.  As my mind registered the scorpion and I realized what had just happened, the pain of the sting began to rise from my foot and up my leg.  I grabbed the top of my leg to try and stop the searing pain from moving further, and I cried out for help.  My parents came running from the camp.

As my father battered the scorpion with a shovel, an adult friend who was camping with us heroically tried to suck the venom from my foot.  At this moment, I though that I was going to die.  I sobbed while my parents loaded me into a car and set off across the desert at high speed towards the nearest hospital, which was over 2 hours away.  The pain all through my leg was excruciating, and for the entire journey, I assumed that I was dying.

When we finally reached the hospital, however, the doctor was able to assure us that only small infants and the severely malnourished are threatened by the sting of that type of scorpion.  He administered an anesthetic, which numbed my leg and took away any sensation of pain.  Within 24 hours, I no longer had any effects from the sting of the scorpion.  But I had learned a powerful lesson.  

I had known that when my parents told me to wear shoes, they did not mean flip-flops.  I was old enough to know that flip-flips did not provide the same protection as a pair of shoes.  But that morning in the desert, I disregarded what I knew to be right;  I ignored what my parents had repeatedly taught me.  I had been both lazy and a little rebellious, and I paid a price for it.

As I address you valiant young men, your fathers, teachers, leaders, and friends, I pay tribute to all who are diligently striving to become what the Lord needs and wants you to be.  But I testify from my own experience as a boy, and as a man, that disregarding what we know to be right, whether through laziness or rebelliousness, always brings undesirable and spiritually damaging consequences. No, the scorpion did not in the end threaten my life, but it caused extreme pain and distress to both me and my parents.  When it comes to how we live the gospel, we must not respond with laziness or rebelliousness.

He Teaches Us to Put Off the Natural Man
Elder Juan A. Uceda
Of the Seventy

One morning, a family gathered to study the scriptures as usual.  As they gathered, the father felt a negative spirit:  some members of the family did not look very excited to participate.  They had family prayer, and as they started to read the scriptures, the father noticed that one of the children did not have her personal set of scriptures with her.  He invited her to go to her room and bring her scriptures.  She reluctantly did so and after a period of time that seemed like an eternity, she returned, sat down, and said:  “Do we really have to do this now?”  

The father thought to himself that the enemy of all righteousness wanted to create problems so that they would not study the scriptures.  The father, trying to stay calm, said:  “Yes, we have to do this now: because this is what the Lord wants us to do.”  She responded, “I don’t really want to do his now!”  The father then lost his patience, raised his voice, and said:  “this is my home and we will always read the scriptures in my home!”  The tone and volume of his words hurt his daughter and with her scriptures in hand, she left the family circle, ran to her bedroom, and slammed the door.


  Thus ended the family scripture study:  no harmony and little love being felt at home.  

The father knew that he had done wrong, so he went to his own bedroom and knelt down to pray.  He pleaded with the Lord for help, knowing that had offended one of His children, a daughter that he truly loved.  He implored  the Lord to restore the spirit of love and harmony at home and enable them to be able to continue studying the scriptures as a family.  As he was praying, an idea came to his mind:  “Go and say ‘I’m sorry.’” He continued to pray earnestly, asking for the spirit of the Lord to come back into his home.  Once again the idea came, “Go and say ‘I’m sorry.’”

He really wanted to be a good father and do the right thing, so he stood up and went to his daughter’s bedroom.  He gently knocked on the door several times and there was no answer.  So, he slowly opened the door and found his girl sobbing and crying on her bed.  He kneeled next to her and said with a soft and tender voice, “I’m sorry.  I apologize for what I did.”  And then from the mouth of a child came the lesson that the Lord wanted to teach him.  He repeated, “I’m sorry, I love you, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

She stopped crying and after a brief silence, she took her scriptures into her hands and started to look up some verses.  The father watched as those pure and delicate hands turned the pages of the scriptures page after page.  She came to the verses she sought and started to read very slowly with a soft voice, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the Fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”
While still kneeling next to her bed, humility overcame him as he thought to himself “That scripture was written for me…she has taught me a great lesson.”  Then she turned her eyes to him and said, “I am sorry…I am sorry, Daddy.”  At that moment the father realized she did not read that verse to apply that scripture to him, but she read it applying it to herself.  He opened his arms and embraced her.  Love and harmony had been restored in this sweet moment of reconciliation born of the word of God and the Holy Ghost.  That scripture, which his daughter remembered from her own personal scripture study had touched his heart with the fire of the Holy Ghost.

Pride and the Priesthood

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Uchtdorf_Dieter_F_smallPride is the great sin of self-elevation.  It is, for so many, a personal Rameumptom, a holy stand that justifies envy, greed, and vanity.  In a sense, pride is the original sin, for before the foundations of this earth, pride felled Lucifer, a son of the morning “who was in authority in the presence of God.” If pride can corrupt one as capable and promising as this, should we not examine our own souls as well?

Pride is a deadly cancer.  It is a gateway sin that leads to a host of other human weaknesses.  In fact, it could be said that every other sin is, in essence, a manifestation of pride.

This sin has so many faces.  It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position.  They count these blessings as evidence of being “chosen,” “superior,” or “more righteous” than others.  This is the sin of “Thank God I am more special than you.”  At its core is the desire to be admired or envied.  It is the sin of self-glorification.

For others, pride turns to envy:  they look bitterly at those who have better positions, more talents, or greater possessions than they do.  They seek to hurt, diminish, and tear down others in a misguided and unworthy attempt at self-elevation.   When those they envy stumble or suffer, they secretly cheer.

Perhaps there is no better laboratory to observe the sin of pride than the world of sports.  I have always loved participating in and attending sporting events.  But I confess, there are times when the lack of civility in sports is embarrassing.  How is it that normally kind and compassionate human being can be so intolerant and filled with hatred toward an opposing team and its fans?

I have watched sports fans vilify and demonize their rivals.  They look for any flaw and magnify it.  They justify their hatred with broad generalizations and apply them to everyone associated with the other team.  When ill-fortune afflicts their rival, they rejoice.

Brethren, unfortunately we see today too often the same kind of attitude and behavior spill over into the public discourse of politics, ethnicity, and religion.

My dear brethren of the priesthood, my beloved fellow disciples of the gentle Christ, should we not hold ourselves to a higher standard?  As priesthood bearers, we must realize that all of God’s children wear the same jersey.  Our team is the brotherhood of man.  This mortal life is our playing field.  Our goal is to learn to love God and to extend that same love toward our fellowman.  We are here to live according to His law and establish the kingdom of God.  We are here to build, uplift, treat fairly, and encourage all of Heavenly Father’s children.

Serve with the Spirit

President Henry B. Eyring
Of the First Presidency

Eyring_Henry_B_smallAll of us will be sent by the Lord to succor those in need.  That is another priesthood service in which we will feel the influence of the Spirit increase our power to serve.  You will find yourself more able to recognize pain and worry in the faces of people.  Names or the faces of people in your quorum will come into your mind with the impression that they are in need.

Bishops have that feeling come to them during the night and each time they sit on the stand looking at the members of their ward or thinking of those who are not there.
It can happen to them when they find themselves near a hospital or a care center.

 

  More than once I have heard the words when I walked in the door, “Oh, I knew you would come.


 

We need not worry about knowing the right thing to say or do when we get there.  The love of God and the Holy Spirit may be enough.  When I was a young man I feared that I would not know what to do or to say to help people in great need.

Once I was at the hospital bedside of my father as he seemed near death.  I heard a commotion among the nurses in the hallway.  Suddenly, President Spencer W.  Kimball walked into the room and sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from me.  I thought to myself, “Now here is my chance to watch and listen to a master at going to those in pain and suffering.”

President Kimball said a few words of greeting, asked dad if he had received a priesthood blessing, and then, when Dad said that he had, the Prophet sat back in his chair.

I waited for a demonstration of the comforting skills I felt I lacked and so much needed.  After perhaps five or ten minutes of watching the two of them simply smiling silently at each other, President Kimball rose and said, “Henry, I think I’ll go before we tire you.”

I thought I had missed the lesson, but it came later.  In a quiet conversation with Dad after he recovered enough to go home, our conversation turned to the visit by President Kimball.  Dad said quietly, “Of all the visits I had, that visit I had from him lifted my spirits the most.”

President Kimball didn’t need to speak many words of comfort, at least that I could hear.  He went with the Spirit of the Lord as his companion to give the comfort.  I realize now that he was demonstrating the lesson President Monson taught: “How does one magnify a calling?  Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”

The Three R’s of Choice

President Thomas S. Monson
President of the Church

Monson_Thomas_S_smallI have been thinking recently about choices and their consequences.  Scarcely an hour of the day goes by but what we are called upon to make choices of one sort or another.  Some are trivial, some more far-reaching.  Some will make no difference in the eternal scheme of things, and others will make all the difference.

As I’ve contemplated the various aspects of choice, I’ve put them into three categories: First, the right of choice; second, the responsibility of choice; and third, the results of choice.  I call these the three R’s of choice.

I mention first the right of choice.  I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father for His gift to us of agency, or the right to choose.  President David O. McKay, ninth President of the Church, said, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.”…

Next, with the right of choice comes the responsibility to choose.  We cannot be neutral; there is no middle ground. The Lord knows this; Lucifer knows this.  As long as we live on this earth, Lucifer and his hosts will never abandon the hope of claiming our souls.

Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal journey without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him God-given guidance to assist in our safe return at the end of mortal life.  I speak of prayer.  I speak, too, of the whisperings of that still, small voice within each of us, and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, written by mariners who successfully sailed the seas we too must cross…

I plead with you to make a determination right here, right now, not to deviate from the path which will lead to our goal: eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  Along that straight and true path there are other goals: missionary service, temple marriage, Church activity, scripture study, prayer, temple work.  There are countless worthy goals to reach as we travel through life.  Needed is our commitment to reach them.

Finally, brethren, I speak of the results of choice.  All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it.

Whether you wear a green tee shirt of a blue one makes no difference in the long run.  However, whether you decide to push a key on your computer which will take you to pornography can make all the difference in your life.  You will have just taken a step off the straight, safe path.  If a friend pressures you to drink alcohol or to try drugs and you succumb to the pressure, you are taking a detour from which you may not return.  Brethren, whether we are twelve-year-old deacons or mature high priests, we are susceptible.  May we keep our eyes, our hearts and our determination focused on that goal which is eternal and worth any price we will have to pay, regardless of the sacrifice we must make to reach it.