Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept 2012 Sacrament Mtg Talk on Self-Reliance

This summer our family had the opportunity of visiting the Mormon Battalion Historic Church Site in San Diego. Just like every other historic site the church owns, the Mormon Battalion has been restored in such a way, that you are able to put yourself right there in that moment of time. Not only was I able to catch a glimpse of what the early saints had experienced but I felt my heart turn in love and gratitude for what they had accomplished.

At this time in church history, the saints had endured extreme, on-going persecution. Their homes had been burned, their temple destroyed and their prophet murdered. An extinction order had been placed on their heads and once again, angry mobs had  driven them out of their communities, leaving the saints scattered over the plains of Iowa in makeshift encampments. With just the clothes on their back and what few personal items they could carry, the cold nights and the shortage of food left many ill and some died. It was at this time that the US Army approached the saints with the order to enlist the able men as soldiers to march 2000 miles and fight in the Mexican- American war. This was the very same government that stood by as they were driven out of their homes and persecuted. These saint-soldiers would actually march under the command of a military officer, who, a decade earlier had led a mob to run them out of state of Missouri. Now, consider for a moment not just the physical state of the saints, but also their emotional state. Would they not have every reason and right to stop in the plains of Iowa and say: “We will do no more. We are done!”

But they didn't.  And this is why. ( 1) They trusted in the counsel of their prophet, Brigham Young. (2) They knew that they were armed with power from on high because of the covenants they had made and because of this power, they could do hard things.

President Young did ask the saints to comply with the demands of the army, promising the soldiers that they would not loose their lives in battle and that their families would be blessed. Five hundred men, and about twenty women enlisted with the army, leaving behind wives and mothers with families to pick us the pieces of their shattered lives, and also the tremendous challenge of making their way west without their husbands. The soldiers marched 2000 miles in extremely difficult conditions and endured the demanding work of forging new roads. These saints, both those who enlisted and those who were left behind, did extraordinary hard things for their families to be spiritually and temporally self reliant. The soldiers received wages and money for a uniform allowance,and sent it back to their families to help buy food and supplies for their trek west with the rest of the saints. Although it had been an tremendous trial, the unmeasurable blessings of self-reliance and freedom were manifest when soldiers were finally reunited with their families in the Salt Lake Valley.

The circumstances may be different, but the effects of our trials are much the same today. Some have lost homes and jobs; others suffer from ailing health and troubled minds. We may find ourselves in a physical and emotional state where we want to say: “No more, we are done!” In these crisis situations, we are grateful for the help of church assistance, government programs, and aid from extended family. But that assistance and help must be short-termed and temporary. The Lord wants and needs self reliant families.

President Henry B. Eyring stated:
...All people are happier and feel more self-respect when they can provide for themselves and their family and then reach out to take care of others.”
Elder Robert D Hales adds: “The purpose of both temporal and spiritual self-reliance is to get ourselves on higher ground so that we can lift others in need.
The Lord hasn't left us alone to figure out how to do this. Just as the early saints, (1) we have been blessed with a prophet and leaders who have given direction and counsel on provident living (2) And we too have made covenants and been endowed with power from on high so we can do hard and difficult things.
We have been taught much about the bondage of credit card debt, the dangers of idleness, and the suffocating grasp of addictions; all which take away our spiritual and temporal self reliance. Elder Hales describes these things as: “Patterns of thought and action that diminish one's sense of worth. All of these excesses affect us individually and undermine our family relationships.”

In his recent general conference address, Elder Hales teaches about the power of our covenants and it's relationship to being self reliant and he issues us this simple challenge: “Have a talk with [yourself] in the mirror and ask, “Where do I stand on living my covenants?”

He emphasizes the importance of two things: 1. Preparing ourselves to partake of the sacrament each week and 2. The importance of being worthy to makes covenants in the temple.

Speaking of the sacrament he says:
As we sing the sacrament hymn, participate in the sacrament prayers, and partake of the emblems of His flesh and blood, we prayerfully seek forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. We think about the promises we made and kept during the previous week and make specific personal commitments to follow the Savior during the coming week.”

It is easy to get caught up in the “hoopla” of our church meetings and callings and miss the most important reason why we assemble on the Sabbath day.

A couple of months ago Sis. Muhlestein asked me to fill in for her as music director while she was out of town. I was happy to do that and didn't give it much though until Sunday morning came and I remembered my commitment.

Usually, I love my Sunday mornings. I am at a point in my life where they are quiet and I have the opportunity to be reflective and prepare myself for the sacrament. But this Sunday, my focus wasn't what it should be. I needed to get to church early so I could put the hymn numbers on the wall, get the stand and hymnal set up, and make sure I knew how to lead the songs that had been selected. My mind was preoccupied and very busy. 

The opening hymn was a very upbeat and fast paced “Called To Serve” and I could hear my primary children sing out. The sacrament hymn was “I Stand All Amazed” and the tempo was much slower. I began to beat the time and Sis. Lyon played the organ exactly according to how fast I was waving my arm. As we completed the first verse, I was a little embarrassed by how slow we were singing. With that in mind, when we began the second verse, I lifted my arm to pick up the pace but as hard as I tried, I could not lead the song any faster. I literally felt a physical resistance on my arm and even glance over to Sis. Lyon as if to motion to her to play faster. But she didn't. Being the amazing accompanist that she is, she followed my weighted arm and we continued to sing at a very slow tempo.

Not sure what to do and confused by what was happening with my arm, I started to focus on what I was singing. “I marvel that he would descend from His throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine, that he should extend his great love unto such as I, sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.”

As the words passed through my mind and found place in my heart, I became very aware of my Savior's love for me. At the realization that I  was worth rescuing, owning, redeeming and justifying, tears flooded my eyes and I could no longer see  the hymn book; a huge lump formed in my throat and I could no longer sing.

Through this sweet, tender mercy I was now prepared to partake of sacred emblems and focus on the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord. I felt renewed,  endowed with power to go and do better and be better.

 We need that power each week in our desire to overcome habits of dependency and exercise principles of self reliance.

Just as important as it is for us to return every week prepared to partake of the sacrament, we must return often to the temple to be reminded of the covenants we have made there. Although stake and ward temple nights are good incentives, and ordinances of family and friends are joyous to witness, our temple attendance should not be dependent on such events. Understanding and remembering that “the temple endowment is a gift that provides perspective and power” should be reason enough for us to attend regularly and often.

Regarding this power of the endowment, Elder Hales states: “As endowed temple recommend holders, we establish patterns of Christlike living. Through the Savior's Atonement and by following these basic patterns of faithfulness, we receive power from on high to face the challenges of life. We need this divine power today more than ever. It is power we receive only through temple ordinances.”

Establishing and maintaining a self reliant family is hard work. It's hard work for a young father to juggle his schooling, a job, a church calling, and the needs of a young family. It is hard work, but the power he receives through the covenants he has made, and his desire for a self-reliant family, gives him faith to act, and do hard things.

Consider the single sister, working full-time, facing the demands of being both father and mother, while diligently nurturing and teaching her children the gospel. It is hard work, but the power she receives through the covenants she had made and her desire for self-reliance, gives her faith to act and do hard things.

How sad it is to be asked to serve, whether it be in a calling, on a mission, or to serve another person and have to respond with the words: “I am sorry. I am not in a position to do that right now.”

Brothers and sisters, may we have the courage to examine our commitment to self reliant principles in our own lives. May we have the faith to act and do hard things. And may we find joy and peace as we work to establish a self-reliant family who stands ready and prepared to lift others to higher ground. 

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