My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Archive for the tag “Jesus Christ”

What I’m Expecting from General Conference

God the Father by Cima da  Conegliano.

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c 1515.

When people ask me what my favorite holiday is I always say Christmas, because y’know, it’s Christmas and it’s awesome, but then I always tell them it is followed by April General Conference and October General Conference. No lie. Members of the Church and nonmember alike get the same answer. This often leads to coworkers and friends asking if we actually celebrate these conferences in a liturgical calendar, which of course we don’t, “But,” I say, “we get to hear from living prophets of God, and that’s pretty awesome to me.”

Needless to say I’m “the religious guy” at work because of such answers, with many of my coworkers calling me a minister.

This evokes a lot of laughter from me.

But as the sun creeped over the horizon this morning and woke me up in our small apartment here in Mountain Brook, Alabama, I knew today would be a historic and memorable day. And it really does feel like Christmas morning. Not because there is a huge set of ornaments set up here in our home (unless you count the church paintings and the temple statues), but because it really is festive in the air for me! Today I will get to hear the word of the Lord from His mouthpieces. Imperfect men delivering a perfect message. There will be no physical gifts today, but instead there will be eternal gifts that will bless me and my family now and throughout the eternities. How could I not be excited for that?

I used to look forward to General Conference excited to hear the “next big thing”, the latest “revelation”, and monumental announcements. When President Hinckley announced the Perpetual Education Fund I remember sitting in my small chapel with my brethren in Jasper, Alabama and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Awesome sauce.” When President Hinckley announced in the first Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting (not conference, but close enough) that missionaries would now be “teaching by the Spirit” I remember sitting back in that pew in the Bessemer Alabama Stake Center and thinking, “Yep folks. That’s revelation right there. Cool beans.” And every time there are temples announced, from Rome, Italy to Cedar City, Utah I’ve sat back and thought to myself, “Yep folks. That’s some mighty fine revelation there. Jesus rocks.” However, in recent years as I’ve matured and grown spiritually I’ve come to realize that the “big” announcements at General Conference aren’t where most of the revelations from the Lord come. The true revelation comes in pondering and applying the simplest of words spoken over that pulpit in each talk.

When Julie B. Beck gave her “Mothers that Know” talk, I knew exactly the kind of wife I wanted. And I have been so blessed to find her.

When Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave his talk “Come What May and Love It” I knew he was speaking directly to me.

When President Uchtdorf gave the talk “Your Potential, Your Privilege” I knew it was just for me.

When Elder Holland has given pretty much any talk I’ve known it was given directly to me. And so it has been with every talk each and every conference, from Elder Whiting’s “Temple Standard” to Elder Soares’ “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart”, they have all been just for me. As I’ve listened to them, watched them again, played them on my Gospel Library App while driving, and pondered them in the hours of the night I’ve come to find that every single General Conference talk has been applicable to me and amplified my spiritual life.

Of course I have my favorite speakers. But even the most random of Seventy who speaks on Sunday afternoon has prepared the words the Lord has inspired him to give.

Since I was a teenager I have always imagined the Lord attending General Conference casually, unseen of course, but close by as the Brethren and Sisters speak. It is His conference after all (as Elder Hales reminded us so beautifully just six months ago). He is there, and He will be with us today.

This General Conference I am expecting a lot. I’ve put in a tall order for the guidance I’ll be needing for the next six months. This will be my first General Conference as a husband to my dear and sweet wife. It is my first General Conference as an expecting father. And recently I was called to a calling which will require far more time, commitment, and resources from me than I currently feel I have. This General Conference I will be listening with a new ear and a new heart, and looking for things not just for myself, but for my family and for those I am called to minister to. In short, I’m expecting a lot this weekend. And I know I will not be let down.

I imagine God sits and looks down on us rather lovingly during these weekends. A few million of His children gathering to try and listen to His voice. There, from celestial glory, I imagine His perspective is eternal and the love He wishes to convey is unending. Perhaps His arms are even outstretched to show His affection for us. If only we could hear Him more closely perhaps we could always see Him like this, as our Father trying to help us get back home.

This weekend we will hear His voice and the voice of His Son.

It’s better than Christmastime here in the Way Household!

 

If you would like to join in and enjoy General Conference live this weekend or re-watch it at a future date you can do so by clicking here.

Change Your Course

light house at night

On Mondays I go into work late. When my wife takes her lunch from work she drives the five minutes back to our home and we enjoy our Monday lunches together.

Today when Anna Melissa came home for lunch our conversation turned to our goals as a family, where we want to be personally in a few months as we prepare to be parents, where we want to live, our careers, and other imposing subjects. After a brief conversation and exchanging of thoughts and ideas she asked almost rhetorically, “What have you done today to get us towards those goals?” She then went on and shared some of her thoughts and aspirations for us as a couple.

The question got me thinking, even though it was asked in a passing and indirect manner, “What have I done today?” And I was happy to be able to affirm to myself that I was on the right course.

Yesterday I taught our priesthood quorum in our new branch. I taught from the talk given by Elder Ulisses Soares in our last General Conference, Be Meek and Lowly of Heart, and encouraged the brethren to change whatever might be in their lives that might be keeping them from the meekness that Elder Soares so beautifully describes. We discussed tempers, pride, family relationships, marriage, children, and how easy it is to get off course. In closing I told a story about once when my pride had gotten the better of me in my life. I told them how my arrogance led to a loss of the Holy Spirit, and how eventually coming to realize I was wrong and then asking forgiveness had brought a cleansing and peaceful spirit into my life. “Change your course brethren if your lack of meekness is causing a lack of the Spirit in your life,” was the gist of what I said.

Afterwards multiple brethren came up and thanked me for the lesson. It wasn’t me though. I hadn’t even wanted to teach from that specific talk. But a loving God knew what needed to be said to that group of people at that time and He said it through the weakest vessel He had.

You may remember the story about the ship captain who had a problem with his pride. One night at sea, this captain saw what looked like the light of another ship heading toward him. He had his signalman blink to the other ship: “Change your course 10 degrees south.” The reply came back, “Change your course 10 degrees north.” The ship’s captain answered: “I am a captain. Change your course south.” To which the reply came, “Well, I am a seaman first class. Change your course north.” This so infuriated the captain, he signaled back, “I say change your course south. I am on a battleship!” To which the reply came back, “And I say change your course north. I am in a lighthouse.”

Sometimes in our lives we just need to stop whatever we are doing and change. We need to change course. We need to let go of our pride, our intellect, and our own wills and admit that there is a better way. The greatest Way of course which is the Savior’s Way and example. Treating our family, friends, coworkers, and everyday associates with love, respect, and kind words is always the best path to follow. Jesus Christ is the ultimate lighthouse. The trick is making sure to change our courses according to His prescribed plan.

 

 

 

First Black Mormon Stake President in Alabama Took Winding Path to Leadership

Peter M. Johnson, president of the Bessemer stake and the first black regional leader for Mormons in Alabama, recently sat down for an interview with The Birmingham News. (Photo by Greg Garrison/ggarrison@al.com)

Peter M. Johnson, president of the Bessemer stake and the first black regional leader for Mormons in Alabama, recently sat down for an interview with The Birmingham News. (Photo by Greg Garrison/ggarrison@al.com)

From the Birmingham News and AL.com

By Greg Garrison | ggarrison@al.com 
on February 22, 2013 at 1:58 PM, updated February 22, 2013 at 2:14 PM

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Peter M. Johnson took a winding path to become the first black Mormon regional leader in Alabama.

Johnson grew up in New York, was recruited to play college basketball for a Mormon university in Hawaii, later moved to Utah and worked as an accountant in Salt Lake City, before eventually taking a job at the University of Alabama.

Being chosen as the first black Mormon to serve as a stake president in Alabama caught Johnson somewhat by surprise.

“I realize it’s significant now,” said Johnson, president of the Bessemer, Alabama stake, who serves as a regional leader for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for an area that covers central-west Alabama from the Mississippi line to Birmingham.

“I had no knowledge that I would be the first black stake president in Alabama. My goal is to invite all to come into Christ.”

He’d never served as a bishop of a congregation, or a branch president, which is often considered a stepping stone to regional leadership.

“I was awed, overwhelmed,” said Johnson. “It was definitely unexpected.”

Read the rest of the article at al.com by clicking here.

My Job Comes With Benefits

A snapshot of my Annual Charitable Cash

A snapshot of my Annual Charitable Cash Contributions Official Tax Summary Statement.

“The Church provided no goods or services in consideration, in whole or in part, for the contributions detailed below but only intangible religious benefits.”

Earlier today I came home to find a nifty little letter from Salt Lake City. It was a list of my contributions to the Church during the year 2012 which can be used for when I file my taxes.

I just liked that snippet at the top, and it brought this phrase to mind from The Book of Mormon:

“For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey…”

– Alma 3:27

My Master was very merciful when He hired me on to become His disciple. And although the work He’s called me to do is overwhelming in scope, relentless in in its demands, and truly leaves me physically tired at the end of each day, the wages I receive are literally out of this world.

Tithing, Fast Offerings, and a few bucks here and there to the other Church programs are monetarily nothing when compared to the monumental blessings I receive in return.

Malachi asks, “Will a man rob God?” when talking about those who don’t pay their tithing to the Lord. But I think the better question would be, “Will a man rob himself?”

For tax purposes I understand that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has to put “intangible religious benefits” on an official tax document. However, the blessings I see in my life are tangible, real, and endless.

My job as disciple of Christ comes with some real great benefits.

I’m already looking forward to my retirement.

Stan

We Don’t Even Own a Pornograph

The phonograph, first invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, was the first electronic device to deliver modern entertainment and media into homes.

This evening I spent a long time on the phone with a dear friend. Although we have not seen one another in years, we speak often on the phone and reminisce about times past.

Tonight as we were talking I could tell that my friend was struggling. His usual jovial demeanor had been replaced by a sullen sounding monotone of answers as I tried to stir up our conversation. “How’s life?” I asked.  Life was “okay”. “Did you watch the news on Tuesday night?” I prodded. He and his wife were rather sad about the results of this week’s elections. “Boy it’s getting cold here,” I had remarked. The weather where he lives is also chilly. “Excited for the NBA season to be starting?” Neither of us are expecting much out of the Utah Jazz this year.

Then, after a few minutes of idle chit chat he said out of nowhere, “I’m addicted to pornography Stan, and I don’t know how to quit.”

So much for being at a lack of things to talk about.

As a missionary I had learned that silence can be key in important conversations; so I sat on my end of the phone without offering a reaction, although if my friend had been here in person he would have seen the tears building in my eyes as I could hear him struggle to find his next words. After what must have seemed like an eternity to him, I finally asked, “Are you okay?”

And the floodgates opened. Both for my friend as he began to speak, and for myself as I wept over hearing of his struggles.

As we talked about pornography, its evils, its captive grab on much of society, and the way in which it so easily enters into our lives, I was surprised that my good friend had succumbed and allowed it to have a barbed wire grasp upon his soul.

As we talked it became evident that he does know how to “quit”, so to speak, but that its harder than anything he has ever done in his life. Most importantly, he recognizes his problem. Equally as important, his loving wife and priesthood leader know of his “thorn in [the] flesh”, and they are working together with the Lord to tackle his addiction head on.

My friend described how it all really started with one single night of television. His wife was out with some gals from their ward. He was home studying. He grew bored and turned on the television to relax from the math equations that were pressing his mind. As he was flipping through the cacophony of choices which he could see on the channel list before him, he could see the choices which were obviously inappropriate. He decided on a popular cable drama because so many people he worked with had mentioned how good it was. Although he noticed instantly that the language wasn’t exactly clean, “What could it hurt?” he had thought, and he kept watching. He enjoyed the show. The characters were engaging, the story line was compelling, and it was not only dramatic but also comedic. A perfect show to watch.

The next week when his wife went out with her friends again he decided to take a load off from studying and to watch the show for a second time.  As he settled comfortably on his sofa to watch the show he noticed the language was the same as the week before, but “it was okay” because it was just so entertaining. “Why doesn’t everyone watch this?” he’d said to himself. But when a blatant sex scene came onto the screen five minutes into the show he knew he probably shouldn’t be watching, and he flipped the television off and went back to studying.

Interestingly, that week my friend noticed a real internal conflict with himself. He wanted to watch this show. It was funny. It was interesting. It was popular. He liked it. But he also didn’t like that he’d been a witness to such a crude indecency on basic cable during early evening viewing hours. He knew it was wrong. The few seconds of flesh mingled with flesh he’d seen on his flatscreen had caused the Spirit to leave him that night. And he’d noticed that he couldn’t even concentrate on studying without inappropriate thoughts coming into his mind.

The third week in a row, as his wife went out with friends to leave him alone to study, he said he felt literally as if he were in a war. On the battlefield of his living room he sat prepared to conquer college algebra. On the coffee table were his weapons of war, a calculator and some graphing paper. And on the wall at the other end of his small apartment living room, the television. He knew he shouldn’t watch the show. He studied his book. He looked up and saw the black screen of silence facing him. Inviting him. “It was one simple sex scene,” he heard a voice keep saying within him. “It will be okay,” it continued. Then another voice opposing the first one, “You can’t afford to lose the Spirit. Your wife needs you to be clean.” The argument continued in his head and as he knelt down to pray for strength over something that seemed so simple, another thought came into his mind. Smooth as silk it seemed to say, “If you just watch the show all this struggle will go away.”

Without thinking my friend grabbed the remote, while steel kneeling at his coffee table, and turned on the television. He rapidly punched the numbers into the remote and the screen flashed. Instantly he saw it. As if perfectly timed by an evil director from the sidelines of life, my friend had tuned in at precisely the moment another sex scene was beginning. But this time, willfully drowning out the noises in his head, he watched.

That was three years ago. He says that every day has been a struggle since then.

Tonight as we talked about his daily struggles to reclaim his life, return to virtue, and try to heal his marriage, the Holy Ghost was in great abundance. He mentioned that as someone addicted to pornography he has a heightened awareness for society’s complete lack of virtue. He can look anywhere, listen to anything, and engage in any form of media and instantly be bombarded with crude images, words, and blatant sex.

I shared with him my approach to our most recent General Conference. As conference had approached I had petitioned Heavenly Father to bless me with revelation on subtle things in my life that could make a huge difference, among other things. As the weekend of General Conference came and went I was given a catalogue of personal improvement I could make in my life. One of the most subtle came the Monday after General Conference though.

As I took a break at work that day I pulled out my phone and responded to a couple of text messages. Then, with a few minutes to kill, I chose one of my favorite apps to browse through and look at funny internet pictures and memes. – The app is one I’m sure most of you could easily identify. – As I was scrolling through a particularly funny collection of Bad Luck Brian photos I noticed that nearly half were inappropriate in substance. “I can just skip those ones though,” I had said half defensively to myself. Then, as my finger scrolled on across my phone’s screen, there was a randomly placed picture of a young woman in a bikini. Her sexy pose in front of a mirror while making the peace sign was not something I had intentionally sought out, but there it was. And I confess, I was tempted to pause. The silky and inviting voice from places unknown seemed to say to my mind, “Click on it. Zoom in. Save it even. No one ever has to know.” But just in that moment of temptation another voice seemed to say, “Stan, delete this app so that you never have to stumble across pictures like this again.”

I instantly recognized the second voice as a literal answer to my previous week’s prayers, and I deleted the app from my phone before placing myself in a place of temptation again.

“It’s funny how subtle the devil is,” my friend said as I ended my story.

“Yes. He doesn’t want us to even notice when we’re slipping,” I responded.

Then, since I was already sitting in front of my computer as we spoke, I asked my friend if I could share another brief story with him. He consented, and I prefaced what I was about to read by telling him that this was a story from Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the October 1999 General Conference. I read Elder Featherstone’s words,

“Pornography is evil. I love the story told at the funeral of Henry Eyring’s father. When he was a young man coming across the border from the Mexican colonies to the United States, the customs man said, “Son, do you have any pornography in your suitcase or trunks?” He responded, “No sir, we don’t even own a pornograph.” It’s wonderful to be that pure and naive. We know pornography is addictive and destructive. It has companions it travels with: drinking, smoking, and drugs. It uses some types of music, dancing, the Internet, and television. Those who produce it are godless and have no conscience. They know the consequences, but they don’t care. Like those who peddle drugs, they will never be around to pick up the pieces when you’re all broken up. But we will—your parents, bishops, and leaders.”

I added, “And the Lord too.”

And then, as is far too common, I began what I’ve come to call a short Stan Sermonette. I told my friend how I am jealous of President Eyring’s father for having grown up in such a time as to have not been exposed to pornography in his youth. I bore testimony of the power of the Atonement in my friends life. I bore testimony of the Lord’s love for him, and also my love for him. And I invited him to rid him self of the pornographs in his life. Cable, internet, his smart phone, whatever it is that might deliver pornography into his life. “Because,” I said as I ended my soap box preaching on the phone, “nothing is more important than your soul.”

Then there was silence again.

This time we were both crying.

As the silence and sniffles slowly passed he said, “That was exactly what my bishop said last night, and I’ve been struggling with it all day.”

“Your bishop told you to get rid of your pornograph?” I asked light heartedly, trying to not come off so overbearing.

“No. But you know what I mean.”

He then told me that our conversation would make a great blog post. I explained that I usually don’t share such personal experiences of those close to me. He told me to at least consider it.

After some consideration, here is our conversation for the world to see.

We all have weaknesses in our lives. For some it is pornography. For some it is overeating. Others struggle financially and with the principle of tithing. Many battle daily Word of Wisdom challenges. And some, like myself, battle the weakness that is their tongue and saying what they aught naught.

Whatever it is though, I invite you as your friend and fellow sojourner through this experience we call life, to get rids of your pornographs, or whatever it is that might be contributing to your vice. I invite you to listen more carefully to the promptings from the Holy Ghost and to rid your lives of unholiness. And I promise that as you do so your life will be more fulfilling and happier in every way imaginable.

No weakness we have or shortcoming we struggle with is beyond the scope and cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Tonight a dear friend of mine will be discussing with his wife how he wants to trade in his iPhone for a flip phone.

I invite you to identify your own personal pornograph and get rid of it also, because nothing is more important than your soul.

You’ll be glad you did.

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

Veni Sancte Spiritus

I’ve written before of how before I joined the Church as a young man I had often thought of living my life as a priest. And although the Lord obviously had other plans for my life, I have always retained an affinity for certain things monastic. One of those things being Gregorian Chants.

Named after Pope Gregory I, Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, Gregorian Chants are liturgical music associated with certain masses in the Catholic faith. Pope Gregory I is traditionally credited for having ordered the simplification and cataloging of music within the church, and later, according to the Rule of Saint Benedict (a book of guidelines for practicing monks) Gregorian Chants were prescribed to be sung eight times a day by those living a monastic life.

Among my vast array of favorite Gregorian Chants, one ranks supreme:

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Although ascribing the authorship of the chant to a specific person has proven difficult for hymnologists, it is thought to have been written perhaps as early as the 10th Century, and by the 11th Century is found in many medieval  manuscripts.

The title itself, Veni Sancte Spiritus, comes from Latin, and translated means Come Holy Spirit. Written in short melodic stanzas, it is most often sang during the time of Pentecost on the Christian Calendar (the 50 days following Easter each year), and is literally an invitation to the Holy Spirit to come and move upon those who sing it.

The words to the chant, both in original Latin and translated into English, are as follows:

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, – Come, Holy Spirit,
et emitte caelitus – send forth the heavenly
lucis tuae radium. – radiance of your light.
Veni, pater pauperum, – Come, father of the poor,
veni, dator munerum, – come, giver of gifts,
veni, lumen cordium. – come, light of the heart.
Consolator optime, – Greatest comforter,
dulcis hospes animae, – sweet guest of the soul,
dulce refrigerium. – sweet consolation.
In labore requeis, – In labor, rest,
in aestu temperies, – in heat, temperance,
in fletu solatium. – in tears, solace.
O lux beatissima, – O most blessed light,
reple cordis intima – fill the inmost heart
tuorum fidelium. – of your faithful.
Sine tuo numine, – Without your grace,
nihil est in homine, – there is nothing in us,
nihil est innoxium. – nothing that is not harmful.
Lava quod est sordidum, – Cleanse that which is unclean,
riga quod est aridum, – water that which is dry,
sana quod est saucium. – heal that which is wounded.
Flecte quod est rigidum, – Bend that which is inflexible,
fove quod est frigidum, – fire that which is chilled,
rege quod est devium. – correct what goes astray.
Da tuis fidelibus, – Give to your faithful,
in te confidentibus, – those who trust in you,
sacrum septenarium. – the sevenfold gifts.
Da virtutis meritum, – Grant the reward of virtue,
da salutis exitum, – grant the deliverance of salvation,
da perenne gaudium. – grant eternal joy.

Perhaps you may never come to love Gregorian Chants in the same manner in which I do, but I invite you to read and then reread the words above as you listen to this singular piece of music.

I promise that as you do, and as you internalize them, the Holy Spirit will indeed Come and help you feel a touch of the divine.

It’s my prayer that we might all always live in such a manner that those feelings of divinity are never far away.

Stan Way

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No Matter Who Is President…

Jesus truly is King.

If you would like to learn more about Jesus Christ and receive a free copy of the Holy Bible you can do so by clicking here.

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

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