My Life in Zion

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

Archive for the tag “Joseph B. Wirthlin”

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.

120 Days Closer to Jesus Christ – Day Three

A depiction of the Tree of Life from Lehi’s vision.

Study Assignment: 1 Nephi 8 — 10
Daily Scripture: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.” – Proverbs 3:3
Daily Thought:

When Mother Teresa received her Nobel Peace Price she was asked the question, ” What can we do to promote world peace?” She replied simply, “Go home and love your family.”

I am worn plumb out. New job. Church stuff. Family. Daily crises of multiple forms and fashions. And, to top it all off, I have this giant pimple on my forehead that looks like a red-faced chubby gremlin that got stuck to my head in some sort of Frankenstein-Like experiment. I can literally feel my pulse via in the little gremlin guy.

Thanks Acne Fairy for blessing me.

Thus is life.

At the beginning of the “120 Days Closer to Jesus Christ” booklet that we received on Sunday there is the list of habits I am supposed to be practicing, and I am doing rather well. The two I feel like I might be struggling at though are these.

  1. Commit to say only positive and uplifting statements about others.
  2. Serve one person daily.

My mouth is my weakness, and sometimes it just flies loose with my highly esteemed opinions. I’m trying hard to overcome this (and have been for years). This commitment has me working extra hard though, and although I’ve only slipped up a couple of times, I want my mouth to be filled with words of truth and love. Paul’s words come to mind,

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

– Ephesians 4:29

Sometimes I feel like the only way to tame my tongue would be to cut it out. Luckily the Lord spoke of our right hand offending us and cutting it off, because if He had said tongue, I would probably have to get in line for the guy with the scissors.

I’m also trying hard at this “serve one person daily” thing, but sometimes it’s hard to help those who don’t want the help, whether it is temporal or spiritual. – I suppose the Lord has great sorrow over those who don’t accept His service of sacrifice through the Atonement, but He has infinite love… – I have a hard time persisting in helping those who don’t seem to want to help themselves. That’s a personal fault, and I’m working on changing it.

So it’s day three already. Time seems to be flying. Not only are we already complete with the first ten chapters of The Book of Mormon, but this blog post also just so happens to be my 100th published post. It’s hard to comprehend that by the end of this project I’ll have over 200 published posts. Like I said last night, it’s too late to quit now. Besides, I am liking the rigorous pace.

1 Nephi 8

V. 2 I wonder if when Lehi gathered his family together to tell them, “Hey kids, I had another vision,” if Laman and Lemuel were in the back of the crowd exchanging looks as if to say, “Crazy old visionary man.” – I can’t really say it enough, but I think to be called a visionary man is a huge compliment. Kudos to Lehi.

Before I go any further here, I want to share this graphic though from The Book of Mormon Student Manual used in the Church’s Institutes of Religion. I know of at least two recent converts who are following along on the blog here, and I want them to get the full meaning of the symbolism we’re about to encounter in our reading. So here it is.

The Symbolism from the Visions of the Tree of Life

V. 12 I love that when Lehi partakes of the fruit of the Tree of Life the first thing he wants to do is share that joy with his family. What a true patriarch.

Vs. 21-22 It has always amazed me at the “numberless concourses of people” that “commenced” on the journey to the Tree of Life, but would never make it. How many people do we know that have started down the Gospel Path, entered the waters of baptism, but been lured away from the Iron Rod?

V. 23 I like the word that Nephi used here and Joseph Smith translated. “Wandered”. Upon consulting once again with my good friend Merriam-Webster, I find that to wander is “to walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way”. The amount of leisurely feelings and apathy within the world and even within the Church is staggering. It brings to mind the words of the Lord,

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:15-16

V. 24 Once again, Nephi and Joseph’s choice of words here is terrific. To cling is to hold fast or adhere to something, as by grasping, sticking, embracing, or entwining, and to resist separation. That’s some might strong love for the Iron Rod.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained not only the importance of “holding fast” to the rod but also explained how to get back if we lose our hold:

“You must hold firmly to the rod of iron through the mists and darknesses, the hardships and trials of life. If you relax your grip and slip from the path, the iron rod might become lost in the darkness for a time until you repent and regain your grasp of it.” – From the October 1989 General Conference of the Church

V. 27 Yes. The world mocks us. And sadder still, many of our own faith mock the more faithful, but those in that great and spacious building will eventually feel its foundations crumble.

V. 31 Next to this verse I have written: This is a “How much can I sin?” kind of attitude.

V. 34 This is the scariest part of the whole vision for me. While it is strikingly beautiful with the Tree of Life, it is also strikingly grim with the opposing great and spacious building. Frankly, just thinking of the place gives me the creeps. But what scares me is that “as many as heeded” those in the spacious building fell away. Life Goal: Pay no heed to those who mock and scorn the Gospel.

1 Nephi 9

This is one of just many points in The Book of Mormon where we’re told of the other records, how there’s so much that couldn’t be written on “these plates”, and of the overall commandment to write only the best of the best on the plates. When I was younger I would often think, “Jeez Nephi, if the room was so precious why did you and all of your ancestors waste soooo much room telling us how there wasn’t a lot of room and to keep it brief?!” As I’ve matured I’ve come to realize that maybe it is the prophets’ way and the Lord’s way to continually remind us that The Book of Mormon truly is the best of the best.

It’s been some real food for thought for me.

1 Nephi 10

Vs. 4-6 The first use of the word “Messiah” in The Book of Mormon, and a time frame for when He would come.

Vs. 7-10 Have you ever noticed in the New Testament how John the Baptist appears, starts dunking people in water “baptizing” them, and the Scribes and Pharisees don’t freak out over this weird and freakish ordinance? It is a clue to all that the Doctrine of Christ, including baptism, has been around since the beginning of time. And in these verses we see baptism taught plainly 600 years before Christ would come.

V. 11 Well there’s the Cliff Notes to the New Testament if I ever did see them.

Vs. 12-14 The footnote to Genesis 49 is mighty important here, and something that most of the world just doesn’t understand.

Vs. 17 Nephi was awesome. Sure, he wanted to see his dad’s vision, but he truly wanted to know that Lehi’s vision was true “by the power of the Holy Ghost”. As mentioned yesterday, there is no greater witness than that given by the power of the Holy Spirit.

V. 19 Nephi has used that word “diligently” twice now in reference to gaining testimony. The Gospel is a Pearl of Great Price, and cannot be gained by that leisurely attitude I’ve already referenced. Testimony is gained, and kept, only through hard work and obedience.

Vs. 20-21 I wanted to talk a little bit about this at the beginning of reading at Verse 8 of the first chapter.

I often think of coming before God the Father’s throne of grace, and kneeling at the judgement seat.

I don’t believe I’ve ever shared that with an individual, and I consider it a very sacred thing to me. However, it is something I ponder in my mind’s eye, often during prayer, so as to know more fully the things I must do in my life to get my life on the proper course. I often think of Isaiah’s experience before the Lord and having his sin purged, and in those reverent moments when I picture myself kneeling before God’s throne, the shortcomings I have in my life are made self evident, and I know what needs to be purged.

I want to be clean, and I want to get back to my Heavenly Father’s presence.

That whole being “cast off forever” thing isn’t for me.

I hope that during the next 118 days I get a little closer to being as clean as I need to be, and I hope that you join me in growing closer to the Lord. If you haven’t started reading with me and the rest of my branch yet, it’s not too late to join in!

– Stan Way

If you’re just joining me on my journey in reading The Book of Mormon in 120 days please click here to see how this all began, or just go to the Home Page and read through my previous posts.

If you’re not a Mormon and you’ve stumbled upon this blog post somehow, thank you for reading. But don’t stop reading now! Please click here or on the “I’m a Mormon” picture on the side of the page, and take a few moments to learn more. The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches that He is our Savior, and shows how we can return to live with him some day. I know it is the Word of God to be used alongside with the Holy Bible. It is true scripture, and I invite you to find out for yourself whether or not it came from God. So go ahead and click on the link above. I promise that you’ll be glad you did.

As It Was In the Days of Noah…

If you’ve watched the video above there is really not a lot I could add to the message I wanted to convey today. However, if I were to add one thought or admonition, it would be to review Elder Holland’s talk from General Conference a couple of weeks ago. After expounding beautifully and concisely upon the Master’s Parable of the Laborers he said,

This parable—like all parables—is not really about laborers or wages any more than the others are about sheep and goats. This is a story about God’s goodness, His patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace. It underscores the thought I heard many years ago that surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.

I do not know who in this vast audience today may need to hear the message of forgiveness inherent in this parable, but however late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.

Whether you are not yet of our faith or were with us once and have not remained, there is nothing in either case that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. “Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,”1 and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast “without money and without price”2 at the table of the Lord.”

Simply put, even if you feel you can never prepare for the Master of the Vineyard’s return, you can. No follies too foolish or sins too scarlet can keep you from earning the full blessings from the Master of the Vineyard upon His return. If you have mistakes in your life, fix them. If you have sins that need confessing, confess them. If you have debts to pay off, pay them. And if you haven’t started your supply of food storage, start now. Today. Start today. As Elder Holland said at the close of his address,

Don’t delay. It’s getting late.”

Let us get our arks ready brothers and sisters, because we don’t want to get caught in the rains. No umbrella is tough enough for that.

– Stan Way

References:

1. Hebrews 4:16

2. Isaiah 55:1

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you don’t have a clue who Jeffrey R. Holland is, chances are you aren’t a Mormon. If you’d like to learn more about our faith and how Christ has restored His church exactly as it was founded anciently in the New Testament please click here. You’ll be glad you did.

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