Saturday, March 5, 2016

Farewell - A copy of the talks we gave during church

We were asked to speak in church before we leave on our mission.  Here are copies of our talks.

Curt's Sacrament Meeting Talk:

2 Nephi 31:20
Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope. And a love of God, and of all men. Wherefore if ye shall press forward feasting upon the word of Christ. And endure to the end. Behold thus sayeth the Father, Ye shall have eternal life.

I would like each if you to think of times when your testimony was first starting to blossom. Can you picture in your mind those who were there helping, encouraging, showing the way. Even though you had good examples and support, did it or does it seem difficult to you?
 4th Article of faith: We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are; first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

 In first Nephi chapter 8, The prophet Nephi recorded his fathers’ vision of the tree of life.
1 Nephi 8:22, And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.
 23 And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.
     These people were on the path but had not yet encountered the rod of iron. As soon as the mist of darkness arose they were lost. This reminds me of my early years of flying.
      One time I had a request to go help some agents about 70 miles away. The weather was pretty bad, it was snowing and the clouds were pretty close to the ground. The agents said they had very good weather. So I just needed to get away from this localized storm and I would be ok. Now this was long before the advent of smart phones and easy access to local weather radar. So I headed their way, with a plan to just turn around if things got too bad. Well, as I went along my planned route I was following a power line. After maybe 20 miles I found myself getting crowded closer and closer to the ground by the lowering cloud deck.  I eventually decided to turn around. Visibility was getting extremely bad. As initiated a 180* right turn, I inadvertently entered the clouds. This was like putting a white sheet over all of the windows.  Now this little helicopter did not have any kind of reliable instrumentation to be flying in the clouds so I was flying completely blind. I could only guess if I was going up or down or turning left or right.  At one point I went through a thin part of the clouds, I remember seeing “brown” way up the side of my right window and I thought “that’s not good” so I rolled the helicopter slightly left. Well I don’t remember how long I was in the clouds but when I came out of the bottom the cloud, and I could see the ground. I was going backwards with the nose of the A/C about 45* up. With my wings pretty much level. I was maybe 50 feet from the ground. I had just enough time to get the nose of the aircraft down and stop my descent. I was able to bring the helicopter to a low hover and make a “normal” landing. As soon as I was on the ground I locked down all the controls got out of the helo and knelt down right there and prayed. I thanked God with all my heart and soul that I had survived the incident.
 I will never forget that day.
     I never want to be lost in that cloud or “mist of darkness” again.  Being able to see the ground to me that day is like holding on to the iron rod. Without that ground reference I was just wondering LOST! That was a HORRIBLE FEELING.  Brothers and sisters don’t ever lose sight of the ground, don’t ever let go of the rod of iron.  If you have let go, come back! Come back and hold tight. 
    Satan is very clever. He knows all the tricks to get us to let go. By being here in this meeting today we are on the path. We have the ground in sight.  When we walk out those doors we need the rod of iron to guide us. Many times we go along thinking we are doing ok, we think “all is well in Zion”, when some times its not.  Nephi illustrates this for us perfectly as he describes satans clever plan. 2 Nephi 26:22 and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever ... so he starts us off the path with a gentle tug or nudge, he says to our mind: just this one little thing won’t be a big deal…it usually seems to be just part of life, maybe someone said something that offends us, or we see a priesthood leader or our Sunday school teacher do or say something that we don’t think is right. Then we let go of the rod and it doesn’t take many steps and we are quickly wondering in the mist.  By daily scripture study, prayer and regular church attendance, we break those flaxen or subtle cords that Satan gets around our neck during the week.
 While I’m talking about daily scripture study. I know some don’t like to read. So how do us nonreaders accomplish this commitment of daily scripture study. Well if you have a smart phone and cell service or WIFI its easy.  Open the Gospel Library app, go to 1Nephi and tap play. In about 38 hours of listening you’ll have listened to the entire book of Mormon. There are also small electronic devices that can be loaded with large amounts of audio, there are also C/D’s we can listen to. But the key is to do something to get some form of scripture study daily.
 Then Nephi continues the account of the tree of life: And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.
 The good news brothers and sisters is we are here today partaking of that precious fruit. We feel Heavenly Fathers love for us and we are being nourished by the good word of God. At this very moment we are holding fast or even “CLINGING” as Nephi describes it, to the rod of iron. 
We feel good while we are here at church, we know this is the right place to be. Our faith in Christ is strengthened. But when we walk out those doors and get back into the daily grind of life. Then what? It seems to me we are constantly bombarded with temptations/distractions.
  While we are out there in that battle of life. Sometimes we are injured, spiritually. Maybe it’s a single incident or maybe it turns into a habit or addiction. I looked up addiction in Wikipedia, it reads,
  Addiction is a state characterized by “compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences”.
Bishop Dahl has taught. “Don’t let your addictions define you”. What does he mean by that? Last week brother Dever spoke about focusing on the positive.  Sometimes an addiction can make us feel unworthy or that we just can’t come and be part of this. or Why bother I’m messing up anyway. 0r I’m already doing this I might as well do that too. Or Whats the use?? Again Satan is very clever. He knows if we don’t attend these meetings. We will have a harder time over coming the thing that makes us feel un motivated.  So is church an “addicts anonymous” meeting? How many of us would be off in diverse directions stuck in who knows what rut or whole or pit if we didn’t attend these meetings?
At the end of many addiction recovery or 12 step meetings the Serenity Prayer is recited. It reads:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
  During this battle of life, we will be spiritually wounded. When we need help we come to the hospital, this is the place to see the doctors. Bishop is the head surgeon at this particular ward. Through his help and guidance all of our wounds can be healed. The auxiliaries are organized to help their respective members. The priesthood quorums help instruct and encourage  the priesthood holders. Brethren there’s a war going on outside and it’s our responsibility to protect our families. Every day we return from the battles of life. Our homes have to be a place of refuge.
The church is for the sick or the sinner. We all need something. Every Sunday the Aaronic priesthood affords us the opportunity to participate in the sacrament. That is our time to apply the “balm of Gilead”. To apply the atonement of Christ. To heal the spiritual wounds of the week. After this three hour block of healing I hope we spend some part of our Sabbath day binding the wounds of others as we prepare to return to the battles of life. 
  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explains the simplicity and directness of the “doctrine of Christ” as taught in the Book of Mormon:
“The ‘doctrine of Christ’ as taught by Nephi in his grand, summational discourse focuses on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. … As used in the Book of Mormon, ‘the doctrine of Christ’ is simple and direct. It focuses on the first principles of the gospel exclusively, including an expression of encouragement to endure, to persist, to press on. Indeed, it is in the clarity and simplicity of ‘the doctrine of Christ’ that its impact is found. …
“… The doctrine of Christ is not complicated. It is profoundly, beautifully, single-mindedly clear and complete”
My Testimony - I know that God lives, that he loves us. More than we can comprehend.I know that Jesus is our savior and redeemer. He committed his entire mortal existence to the salvation of the human family. I know that this is Gods church. There are many good people and organizations all around us. They do a lot of good.  What sets the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints apart is the priesthood. The authority of God, granted to men, to act in His name. To seal on earth and that sealing will be recognized in heaven for eternity. I know that president Monson is called of God to preside over the priesthood at this time. He has all of the keys necessary to enable us to return to live with our Heavenly Father. Under the direction of apostles and prophets the stakes and wards are organized. I know that president Nolan is called of God to direct the work in this stake at this time I know that Bishop Dahl is called to direct the work in the Patton ward. I love and admire these men I know  they are diligent in their service to God. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God. That the 38 hours required to listen to the entire book are the best way we can spend our days.   
There are a lot of distractions that will occupy our time and energy. But the work of God is the most important task we have.
I love the temple and admire those who dedicate their time and means to serving there.
I know that the priesthood of God has been restored to the earth. We have that same authority as all the prophets of old. The power to act in it is dependent upon our faith and faithfulness.
I am thankful for that priesthood that binds families together forever.
 I love my family….

Joyce's Sacrament Meeting Talk:

For those of you that know me well, you know I cry easily.  Our poor bishop probably thinks my definition of interview means sitting across from his desk and sobbing uncontrollably!  It’s not a pretty sight and I apologize now if anything like that happens today.
I’d like to start my talk by asking you to imagine a big pond full of ducks swimming around.  On the surface, everything seems peaceful and all the ducks seem to be swimming along happily and looking calm and beautiful.  Now, in reality, many of those ducks might be paddling around like crazy just trying to stay afloat and maybe they’re not making a lot of forward progress.
That is a lot like us.  Most of the time we don’t have any idea how hard or easy someone else has it. We do know that we were sent here to this earth to be tried.  So that means that sometimes life is going to be difficult and we might be that duck paddling around like mad and we might not feel like we’re making the progress we want to make.
Richard G. Scott “Even if you exercise your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires.  Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you.  He loves you to a depth and completeness you cannot conceive of in your mortal state.  Sincere faith gives understanding and strength to accept the will of our Heavenly Father when it differs from our own.  We can accept His will with peace and assurance, confident that His infinite wisdom surpasses our own ability to comprehend fully His plan as it unfolds a piece at a time” May 2003
Struggles can be faith building experiences because we are presented an opportunity to rely on a power far greater than our own.   It is through the Atonement and the Grace of God that we can receive strength to meet our most difficult trials. 
President Uchtdorf said the grace of God does two things for us.  First it “Unlocks the Gates of Heaven” and secondly it “Opens the Windows of Heaven.”  In talking about unlocking the gates of heaven, He says “We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stands as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own”.  So because of the sacrifice and Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, we can repent and be forgiven.  We have been provided a way to return to our Heavenly Father and we have a chance to live with Him again. That is much more than we would be able to “earn” by our actions. 
The second blessing Pres. Uchtdorf talks about is opening the windows of heaven.  I quote, “ Another element of God’s grace is the opening of the windows of heaven through which God pours out blessings of power and strength, enabling us to achieve things that otherwise would be far beyond our reach”.

I would like to compare one of my experiences to a story in the scriptures.  In order to do this, I want to bring up our son T.C. who died 5 years ago this month.  His death made me very sad and I will always miss that he is not here to be a part of our everyday lives.  His death left me confused and there are many questions that I will probably not have answered until I finish my mortal journey.  Another thing I had to face was an enormous anger toward myself and my feelings of failure.
Now let me jump into the scriptures, in Judges 7, We’ve got Gideon and he is leading the Israelite army and they are battling the Midianites.  He is really outnumbered, something like 4 Midianites to every one Israelite soldier.  Then the Lord told Gideon that there were too many Israelites and if the Lord helped them beat the Midianites, the Israelites would think they’d done it on their own. The Lord proceeded to have Gideon reduce the numbers of the Israelite Army. First, anyone that was afraid could just go home, then the Lord said there were still too many so He had Gideon have them go down and get a drink.  The army was separated again - those that got on their knees to drink versus those that lapped up the water.  By this point the army was reduced to 300! 135,000 battling 300 - God had ensured they would put their trust in Him. 
I felt I could relate to those verses.  It was going to be a battle dealing with the death of our son which was overwhelming.  Some people weren’t sure what to say or do around me and my insecurities made it hard to interact with people.   I had lost confidence and I wasn’t feeling some of the emotions that would generally help me get through something challenging.  Among our own family, we approach grief differently.  Although we love and support each other, much of what we go through is a personal journey and no one else can do it for us.  I needed to trust in our Heavenly Father.  It has not been easy, nor have I always dealt with things gracefully but He has guided me, carried me many times and I have felt His love and strength when I knew my “all you can do” was not nearly enough .
Our Heavenly Father wants us to recognize that we cannot spiritually survive without His help.  Pres. Henry B. Eyring, “We need strength beyond ourselves to keep the commandments in whatever circumstances life brings to us.” We don’t have to do it on our own, that is where the grace of God steps in.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
In the September 2013 Ensign, Brad Wilcox writes, “Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.  By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice – not even the smallest part.  Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His.”
He gives an analogy that I would like to share about a mom who arranges for her child to take music lessons.  She pays the piano teacher.  Now because mom paid, she asks something from the child – practice. Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay mom for the cost of the lessons? No. Practicing might show the child appreciates mom’s gift. By practicing, the child is taking advantage of an amazing opportunity mom is giving them to live life at a higher level.
Mom’s joy wouldn’t be from getting repaid the money.  Mom’s joy comes from seeing her child improve so she continues to encourage practice, practice, practice. If the practice gets to be overwhelming, the child might want to go out and play instead. Maybe that is because the child doesn’t see through the mother’s eyes how advantageous learning the piano might be. 
In the same way, because Jesus has paid justice, He can now turn to us and say “Follow Me”; “keep my commandments”. If we see His requirements as being way too much to ask, maybe it’s because we do not yet see through Christ’s eyes.  We have not yet comprehended what He is trying to make of us.
Dallin H. Oaks said, “Suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. It’s purpose is change”. 
Throught the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will all return to God’s presence to be judged, we will all be resurrected. We have covenants and the Holy Ghost that help us make changes in our lives.  We can ask ourselves, “Are we trying to abandon sin and become comfortable with God or are we trying to abandon God and become comfortable with sin?”
I know I get discouraged and feel that my best doesn’t seem good enough. Brother Wilcox reminds us that there are more than the two options of perfection or failure.  It’s not either piano playing at the Carnegie Hall or quitting.  Growth, development and change takes time and continuous effort.
When I was a little girl and I would get bucked off a horse – well really, it wasn’t usually actually getting bucked off, sometimes it was because my brother Scott would instigate some shinanigans and other times it was because I wasn’t paying attention – but anyway – when I would end up off the horse and on the ground when I wasn’t supposed to be, my dad would always have me climb right back on even when I was crying and did not want to be back on that horse.  I appreciate the life lessons my dad was trying to help me learn by making me get back in that saddle.  He tried to teach me not to allow fear to ever dictate what I would or wouldn’t do and that quitting shouldn’t be an option.
I believe that is what our Heavenly Father wants from us. He wants us to get back up no matter how many times we are knocked down. He wants us to trust Him.
Dennis Simmons Conf Report 2004:
Our God will deliver us from ridicule and persecution but if not…
God will deliver us from sickness and disease but if not …
He will deliver us from loneliness, depression or fear but if not…
He will deliver us from threats, accusations and insecurities but if not ….
He will deliver us from death or impairment of loved ones but if not ….
Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness but if not …
He will make sure that we are loved and recognized but if not ….
We will receive a perfect companion and obedient children but if not …

We will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that if we do all we can, we will, in His time, and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has.

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