For the past several years we have shared tips to prepare and become self-reliant. Much of this discussion has been temporal in nature. We have talked about hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, dust storms, flooding, wildfires, and more.
While not everyone lives in a location where large-scale natural disasters have a strong potential – like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle (for earthquakes), or the Midwest (tornado alley), or the Gulf Coast (hurricane country). Nevertheless, Latter-day Saints in the USA are all exposed to the solar flare we call “media news”, and the presidential campaign that continues to heat up week by week. The likely questions that will rain on Latter-day Saints are gathering like clouds on horizon.
With all our preparation to be self-reliant, shall we talk today about preparing spiritually for the microscope we are about to be under as members of the church?
I recently re-read the talk given by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf to the sisters at the October 2011 General Women's Meeting:
“Sometimes, in the routine of our lives, we unintentionally overlook a vital aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, much as one might overlook a beautiful, delicate forget-me-not. In our diligent efforts to fulfill all of the duties and obligations we take on as members of the Church, we sometimes see the gospel as a long list of tasks that we must add to our already impossibly long to-do list, as a block of time that we must somehow fit into our busy schedules. We focus on what the Lord wants us to do and how we might do it, but we sometimes forget why.
My dear sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is not an obligation; it is a pathway, marked by our loving Father in Heaven, leading to happiness and peace in this life and glory and inexpressible fulfillment in the life to come. The gospel is a light that penetrates mortality and illuminates the way before us.
“While understanding the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of the gospel is necessary, the eternal fire and majesty of the gospel springs from the ‘why.’ When we understand why our Heavenly Father has given us this pattern for living, when we remember why we committed to making it a foundational part of our lives, the gospel ceases to become a burden and, instead, becomes a joy and a delight. It becomes precious and sweet.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Forget Me Not, October 2011 General Relief Society Meeting.
As you prepare to become spiritually self reliant in your ability to answer questions which will surely come, from neighbors and workmates, ask yourself “Why?.” Why am I a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why do I believe Jesus Christ is my personal savior? Why do I choose to live the commandments and follow the counsel of church leaders? Why do I choose to live differently than so much of the world? Find your “why” and you will be on your way to answering the likely questions about your faith and priorities in life.
Consider the questions that are likely to come. You know them. Questions about the traditional family, temples, prophets and revelation, Mormon ideas about the trinity, pioneer plural marriages, missionaries and missions, modern scripture, stay-at-home moms…
Once you decide which questions you are not well prepared to answer, it is time to focus on the ways you can search out answers. How can you improve your study habits? Is it time to renew your commitment to scripture study, and to seriously explore the resources available online to enhance our research of gospel topics?
Pray. The Bible Dictionary records: “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings.”
If we hope to be spiritually self-reliant then we can put forth as much effort as we would to be temporally self-reliant. We must make it a part of our family culture. Prayer is a crucial step. Heavenly Father wants all of his children to return home to live with him. He will help you to be prepared to answer questions, but we must first do the work necessary to increase our understanding by study, and to pray to confirm this knowledge for ourselves. The answers I may give to a question might sound contrived or silly coming from someone else. Each of us must find the answers and testimony available to us - Heavenly Father is waiting for us to ask.
Pray for the spirit to be with you as you begin every day. Of course, as you do this you are making the commitment to follow the promptings you receive. They will come, and as we prove obedient to those promptings, many of life’s questions are revealed by the Spirit to those who seek truth.
No question is too big or too small as a subject of prayer. You may be prompted to read and study specific scriptures, to study church history, to research pioneer journal entries, to learn more about the family proclamation or even to memorize selected scriptures or quotations.
Consider what steps you might take now to share an understanding of gospel questions. There are many terrific resources available from the church, including Preach My Gospel. Of course, we are not preparing to do the job that others, like full-time and ward missionaries are set-apart to do. Only to have words and understanding that when asked, we can share our innermost convictions, testimony, and understanding of “things as they really are”, in words that may be plainly understood by those with sincere questions about our faith and practices. No need for confrontation and debate!
If asked a question, it is still okay to hand someone an Articles of Faith card, for example, and tell them you will be happy to answer specific questions if they should have any.