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Thursday, April 16, 2015

I built something out of wood! Sofa Table DIY

So for a long long long long long long (like in 9th grade) long long long time now I have been greatly desiring to pick up some wood working skills. Sometimes, when I am really interested in learning something new that I know will be more challenging to me, I read and study and visualize and read some more about how to do that thing. Then, when I think I have a solid enough understanding (or when I'm desperate enough to try to create that perfect thing I can't seem to find anywhere else) I take the plunge.

So armed with plans for a console table from Ana White, a friends Kreg Jig, and lumber, I dove in. Here are most of the pieces for the table, all cut up by the lumber store employees:

I changed the length of the original design to fit behind our couch. Here is a picture of one of the frames in progress. At first I was having a hard time getting the pocket holes centered, but eventually I figured out how to be consistent.

And here is the table all put together, awaiting a good sanding. I didn't add the x-braces. I tried but couldn't cut them to fit just right.

To finish the table I started by staining the top. I used Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Then over that I used Minwax Polyshades Stain & Polyurethane in 1 Step in Honey color with Satin finish. I did three coats.

Then I primed the base of the table with Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Primer for all Surfaces. The paint I used to coat the primer was Behr Premium Plus ULTRA Stain-Blocking Paint & Primer in One, Interior Satin Enamel. I had it tinted to Crisp Linen White.

After the paint dried I went over the base with more of the Honey Stain, brushing it on and wiping it off almost immediately after each segment was coated. This gave some depth and weathering to the look and gave it a richer tone. Compare the picture above and below, though it's not as easy to see in photos.

And here it is behind our sofa, waiting for some decor. It may have been crazy as a very first woodworking project but I do crazy well the majority of the time. I definitely made some errors in building and finishing but because of that I learned a lot. I think my next project will go much smoother.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Joseph Smith - A True Prophet of God

The lesson I prepared and taught in Relief Society today, April 12, 2015

When Elder Ezra Taft Benson served as a full-time missionary in England in the early 1920’s, he and his companions experienced what he called “great opposition to the Church”. He later recounted:

“The newspapers, the magazines, even anti-Mormon movies were all over Great Britain….But up in northern England where we were laboring,” he said, “we had a group of people out at South Shields Branch who were very faithful and very devoted and very loyal, and they had invited my companion and me to come over and speak in their sacrament meeting. They said, ‘Many of our neighbors don’t believe the lies that are being printed. If you will come, we will fill the little chapel.’

And so we accepted the invitation and we started preparing and I started studying about the apostasy. It was a subject I liked, and I thought they needed it; and I worked and I studied, and I thought I could talk fifteen minutes on the subject.

We went over to the little chapel and it was filled. Everyone was happy. And after the opening exercises my companion spoke, then I spoke with a freedom I had never enjoyed in all my life. And when I sat down and looked at my watch, I had talked twenty five minutes, and I hadn’t mentioned the apostasy, I hadn’t even thought of the apostasy. I had talked about Joseph Smith, and I had borne witness that he was a prophet of God and I knew it. I told about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon as a new witness for Christ, and I had borne testimony. When I realized what had happened, I couldn’t hold back the tears.

At the end of the meeting, many of the Saints came forward and expressed their gratitude that something had been said about Joseph Smith. They said, ‘Several of our neighbors have said, “We can accept everything about the Church except Joseph Smith.” And then some of those same neighbors came up and said, ‘ We are now ready. We are ready tonight. We have received the witness that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.”

I want to discuss how we can know if a man is a true prophet of God and in what ways Joseph Smith displayed the attributes of a prophet of God.

1. A prophet will boldly claim that God has spoken to him.

Quote 1: “As a young man, Joseph Smith was a seeker after truth. Confusion among existing churches led him to inquire of God which of them was true. In answer to that prayer, he asserted that a pillar of brilliant light appeared. These are his words: “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (JSH 1:17)

2. A prophet will declare his message(s) without concession to public opinion or fear of repercussion.

Quote 2: Joseph asked the second personage, who was Jesus Christ, which one of the Christian sects was correct. He was told that he must not join any of them, that none were correct. Some treated his testimony with great contempt and began to incite false stories and persecution against him. The young prophet, like that Apostle Paul of old, would not recant his testimony, but defended his claim in these words:

“I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” (JSH 1:25)

Countless times the prophet was threatened, beaten, tarred, feathered and never would he recant his declaration. The following are the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from his talk Safety for the Soul, speaking of the Prophet Joseph and Joseph’s loyal brother Hyrum,

“I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth? Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon...In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”

3. A prophet may predict future events in the name of the Lord and they come to pass.

Quote 3: President Benson taught, “The ultimate test of a true prophet is that when he speaks in the name of the Lord his words come to pass.”

“In 1832, [Joseph] prophesied that the southern states and northern states would shortly be divided in civil war, that this war would be the beginning of world wars which would eventually involve all nations and result in the death and misery of many souls. Specifically, he said that the great Civil War would begin with a rebellion in South Carolina. (See D&C 87). This prophecy was published to the world in 1851.

As every schoolboy knows, the Civil War began with the secession of South Carolina from the Union, and other states followed. When Lincoln sent provisions to the Union forces at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, the Confederate forces opened fire on the fort...nearly one-half million souls died in the civil war.”

Will every prophet God sends forth fortell future events? Not necessarily. But if they do, then their words will come to pass, unless of course the foretold event is conditional. i.e. Jonah prophesied that the people of Ninevah would be destroyed, IF they did not repent. They did repent so that prophecy was not fulfilled.

4. A prophet receives revelations and directions from the Lord for our benefit.

Quote 4: President Ezra Taft Benson said: “If we are living the gospel, we will feel in our hearts that the First Presidency of the Church not only have the right, but are also duty bound under heaven to give counsel on any subject which affects the temporal or spiritual welfare of the Latter-day Saints” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1950, p. 148).

Joseph Smith received the Word of Wisdom in 1833. Of all the treasures unveiled in the Word of Wisdom, perhaps the most precious gem is that “tobacco is not for the body, neither for the belly, and is not good for man.” This simple and profound truth was offered to the world more than a century ahead of the scientific literature that now supports it. Today medical science has validated the soundness of that revelation.

A 14-year selective study conducted by UCLA epidemiologist James E. Enstrom tracked the health of 10,000 moderately active LDS Church members in California and ended in 1987. Of these non-smoking, monogamous non-drinkers, Enstrom concluded from the study "that LDS Church members who follow religious mandates barring smoking and drinking have one of the lowest death rates from cancer and cardiovascular diseases—about half that of the general population. ... Moreover, the healthiest LDS Church members enjoy a life expectancy eight to eleven years longer than that of the general white population in the United States."

While we may sometimes be able to see the wisdom in a Prophet's council, such as with tobacco use, there are times where things he asks us to do may not make sense, but we should follow his council regardless.

5. A prophet testifies of Christ

Quote 5: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only begotten of the Father - that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” (See D&C 76:22-24)

We know that Joseph Smith stood as a witness for Christ, time and again throughout his brief life.
6. A prophet may be recognized by the fruit of his labors
Quote 6: “Another test of a true prophet was established by the Savior Himself. True prophets should be distinguished from false prophets by that standard, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20)

Consider just some of the fruits of Joseph Smith’s teachings that Ezra Taft Benson mentions:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints takes care of its poor and needy by tithes and offerings from church members

  • The Prophet Joseph Smith said the Church was not fully organized until the women had their own organization. So he organized, in 1842, the women’s Relief Society, which is today the largest women’s organization in the world.

  • This is a missionary church...Jesus said one of the signs of the times before His second coming was that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached to all the world as a witness unto all nations. (Matt 24:14) We are seeing that fulfilled in our day!

  • The Book of Mormon, containing a fullness of Christ's gospel has been published in 82 different languages today and contains many truths that were lost during the period of apostasy.

In addition to those fruits, that President Benson mentioned I would like to mention another. It is no coincidence that the first genealogical society within the United States was established only a few years after Joseph Smith was visited by Elijah in the Kirtland temple. Today, the Family History Library has the largest genealogical collection in the world.

Are there other “fruits” you can think of that have come as a result of the Prophet Joseph Smith?

7. A Prophet may be recognized by personal revelation from the Holy Ghost

While the previous six guidelines for identifying a true prophet of God can be helpful, the only witness on which we can unequivocally rely, is that of personal revelation on the matter from the Holy Ghost.

Quote 7: "No claim is put forth by the prophets of God to suggest that they are infallible, that everything they say and do is what the Lord would say and do. Only when they act in harmony with the will of the Lord do they become the Lord’s mouthpiece… The Prophet Joseph Smith said, ‘A prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.' "

Elder John A. Widtsoe commented on the Prophet Joseph’s words: “That statement makes a clear distinction between official and unofficial actions and utterances of officers of the Church. In this recorded statement the Prophet Joseph Smith recognizes his special right and duty, as the President and Prophet of the Church, under the inspiration of the Lord, to speak authoritatively and officially for the enlightenment and guidance of the Church. But he claims also the right, as other men, to labor and rest, to work and play, to visit and discuss, to present his opinions and hear the opinions of others, to counsel and bless as a member of the Church.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 1:182.)

We also have a promise in the words of Wilford Woodruff that, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."

Again this does not mean that the Prophet will be without error in personal opinion or action in all things, but a prophet of God will never lead us away from the doctrines and revelations necessary for our personal exaltation. We can pray to our Heavenly Father to witness to us the divine calling of our Prophets today and of Prophets of the past, like Joseph Smith.

Suggestions for additional study:

Joseph Smith - Prophet of the Restoration by Tad R. Callister

The Profile of a Prophet by Hugh B. Brown

Joseph Smith: Prophet to Our Generation - by Ezra Taft Benson

Revelations in Context: The Word of Wisdom

Gospel Principles Chapter 9: Prophets of God

As if from mine own mouth: The role of prophets in the Church

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus Christ, the son of God, our Savior and Brother

Last month I taught a lesson about agency and the Plan of Salvation, the very reason we exist upon this earth right now, and central to that plan is a Savior. We did not explore in great depth the reason humanity needs a Savior but on the heels of that lesson we’re going to do so now.
As we discussed, part of the Plan of Salvation is knowing the law and the consequences for both breaking and following the law. I’d like someone to read the quote I used last month for talking about the Savior’s role in the plan and then we’ll expound on it.Quote 1: Each law has consequences, opposite and equal. Whenever a law is kept or obeyed, the consequence is a blessing which results in happiness. Whenever a law is broken or disobeyed, the consequence is a punishment, which results in misery or unhappiness...the law of justice then always requires a payment. But another law also operates in the moral realm - the law of mercy, which in no way robs or violates the law of justice but which makes possible the vicarious payment of broken law. For example, the law of mercy permits the disobedience of a person to be atoned for or paid for by the obedience of the Savior, providing that the person who disobeyed the law will repent.”
To make vicarious payment for broken law, certain characteristics must be present in the one willing to pay.
  • Payment must be voluntary
  • The one paying must be divine
  • The one paying must have mortal attributes
  • The one paying must be free from sin
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “We have one man out of all eternity—one man among the infinite hosts of the spirit children of God our Father—who is born into the world, inheriting from an immortal exalted Father the power of immortality and inheriting, on the other hand, from a mortal woman—the power of mortality. Now the power of immortality is the power to live. It is the power to elect to continue to live. The power of mortality is the power to die. And so here is one being who had a dual nature, who could elect to live or elect to die; and having made the election in accordance with the plan of the Father, having elected to separate body and spirit, then by the power of the Father, which is the power of immortality, he could elect to live again.”

QUOTE 2: “Jesus Christ...came to this earth at a fore-appointed time through a royal birthright that preserved His godhood. Combined in His nature were the human attributes of His mortal mother and the divine attributes and powers of His Eternal Father. His unique heredity made Him heir to the honored title - The Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. As the Son of God, He inherited powers and intelligence which no human ever had before or since. He was literally Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

Because he chose to die for us and rise again, all mankind will also be resurrected. But the atonement blesses us with more than that.

Elder David A. Bednar has taught: “It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us.”

Elder Holland said, “Following the Last Supper, Jesus left Peter, James, and John to wait while He ventured into the Garden of Gethsemane alone. Falling on His face in prayer, “sorrowful … unto death,” the record says, His sweat came as great drops of blood as He pled with the Father to let this crushing, brutal cup pass from Him. But, of course, it could not pass.”

At this point in the lesson we watched part of a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I started the video at 9 minutes in and we watched until 15:48. The words of the clip are as follows:
"Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually - that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.”  Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”

A few days before the lesson I asked 6 sisters to share with us how Christ’s atonement had affected their lives. Each sister read the question I had given her to ponder and then shared their experience with that question. As each sister shared her story I put a new letter/word combination on the board.
Credit for the acronym and questions goes to Anthony Sweat and The Red Headed Hostess
I just decided to design my own version for each word to display on the board. They are pictured below along with each question which you yourself may want to ponder. 

What has been your experience with being cleansed from sin by Christ?

When and how have you felt the Atonement of Christ heal you, physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually?

How has your belief in the concept of divine restoration (where God will correct the wrongs of mortality) influenced your everyday actions or influenced your faith in Christ?

When and how have you been blessed by Jesus’ ability to empathize with you and understand what you are going through?

When have you been strengthened by Christ to do good works, or to overcome temptation, or any other thing that you otherwise would not have been able to perform without his help?

In what ways and how has the Atonement of Jesus Christ changed your attitude, desires, disposition, or character—literally transformed you or aspects of your life?

When we were done we saw that the beginning letters of each word obviously spelled Christ and each had on it a blessing that Christ, through his atonement, through his perfect understanding of and love for us, desires to give us. Blessings that each of the sisters bore testimony of. 
But even with the recollection of certain graces we have been given in our lives we may still struggle to feel truly worthy of exaltation.
In the book Believing Christ, by Stephen E. Robinson, he says, “ Unfortunately...many members of the Church...though they claim to have testimonies of Christ and of his gospel, ...reject the witness of the scriptures and of the prophets about the good news of Christ’s atonement..My favorite example of this kind of thinking was a man who once said to me, “Look, bishop, I’m just not celestial material.” I guess I finally lost my patience and responded by saying, “So what’s your point? Of course you’re not celestial material. Neither am I. Neither is any of us. That’s why we need the atonement of Christ, which can make us celestial….You believe in Christ, you just don’t believe Christ. He says he can make you celestial material, and you have the audacity to sit there and say, “No, he can’t”...If we believe only in Christ without believing Christ then we are like people sitting in cold, dark houses surrounded by unused lamps and heaters, people who believe in electricity but who never throw the switch to turn on the power….This is why genuine faith in Christ - active acceptance of his power and not just passive belief in his identity - is and must be the very first principle of the gospel.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Agency - The Plan of Salvation and the peace it can bring us during troubled times

I've been given the opportunity to teach the women of my church lessons on lds doctrine once each month. This does not mean I am an expert on lds doctrine. It means that I learn and add to my knowledge each time I prepare a lesson and that is the biggest reason I love this calling to serve!
This past Sunday I taught the sisters about The Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation is often referred to as The Plan of Happiness and in short, is a way that God has enabled us to one day become like Him. I will include the basic layout of my lesson along with visual aids that I prepared. These aids are free for personal use.
I began by having various women read quotes I handed out and then we identified an eternal truth represented by those quotes.

#1 The prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end...There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [that is co-eternal] with our Father in Heaven.
#2 D&C 93:29: Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
Eternal Truth 1- We have always existed

#3 In the process of time each of our intelligences was clothed with a spiritual body by Heavenly parents, and we became personages of spirit with bodies of eyes and ears and hands and feet.”
#4 President Benson said: “I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father.”
Eternal Truth 2 - We are children of God.

#5 President Benson said: [The Lord] has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys.”
#6 “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” - Lorenzo Snow
Eternal Truth 3 - We can become like God

The way we can become like God is through the Plan of Salvation

#7 “Our spirit bodies were capable of tremendous accomplishments, but they also had some serious limitations. There were some laws that they could not obey, and therefore there were some blessings not available to them. Thus our Heavenly Father called us into a grand council in heaven where he proposed a plan that would give us further opportunities of growth and development by giving us further opportunities of choice”
There are several components to this plan, seven of which we'll discuss today. For a full explanation of all aspects of the Plan of Salvation please see the suggestions for further study at the bottom of this post.
First we needed a physical body.

Doctrine & Covenants 88:15 - "For the spirit and the body are the soul of man."
Second we needed an Earth
Abraham 3:24 & 25 - "And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [the children of God] may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.
Third we had to forget our pre-mortal life.

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting.
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.”
—William Wordsworth

We'll discuss in more detail the purpose of the veil in a moment.
Fourth, the earth we were put on needed to have the existence of opposites

#8 “That the Lord is displeased with wickedness is true. That He desires that it not occur is also true. That He will help those who oppose it is true, but that he allows wickedness to occur at all through his children here in mortality is proof of His having given them their freedom to choose, while reserving for Him a basis for their final judgment...There are boundaries beyond which Satan cannot go. But within those bounds, he is presently being permitted to offer an unrighteous alternative to God’s righteous principles, thus allowing men to choose between good and evil and thereby determine the station they shall occupy in the next life.” - Ezra Taft Benson
Fifth, we needed to be free to make our own choices, and this is also where having a veil of forgetfulness placed over our minds is important.

#9 “When we lived with our Father in heaven we did not need to exercise faith...We knew he existed and were convinced of his existence, but we were not necessarily converted to him and his great principles because our knowledge of him had come from external sources without virtually any effort on our part. So that we would come to a knowledge of him in and of ourselves, our Heavenly Father proposed that when we came into this earth life a veil of forgetfulness would be placed over our minds so that we would not remember our pre-earthly existence with him. Only then could the choices that we made here upon this earth truly come from within us. -Daniel H. Ludlow
Sixth, in order to make informed choices we needed to have a knowledge of the law and the consequences for obeying or disobeying it.

#10 “Our Father in Heaven promised us that while we were here on the earth he would give us law and would...send angels and prophets to teach us and give us scriptures so we could learn the laws and why we should keep them. President Benson has taught us that, “We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices.”
“Abraham was shown the spirit children of our Heavenly Father before they came to earth. He, too, was shown the creation of the earth, and the Lord said to him: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Life is a testing time in man’s eternal existence, during which he is given...the right to choose between right and wrong...On these choices hang great consequences, not only in this life, but, even more important, in the life to come. -Ezra Taft Benson
Seventh, we would need a Savior.

#11  “Each law has consequences, opposite and equal. Whenever a law is kept or obeyed, the consequence is a blessing which results in happiness. Whenever a law is broken or disobeyed, the consequence is a punishment, which results in misery or unhappiness...the law of justice then always requires a payment. But another law also operates in the moral realm - the law of mercy, which in no way robs or violates the law of justice but which makes possible the vicarious payment of broken law. For example, the law of mercy permits the disobedience of a person to be atoned for or paid for by the obedience of the Savior, providing that the person who disobeyed the law will repent.
President Benson has said, “I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation.

This plan is everything! This is why we are here. To prove not just to God, but to ourselves what kind of person we can become. Sometimes we call mortality a test and that can make it feel like we’re here to pass or fail, but it’s so much more than that. Do we really want to be like God or are we willing to settle for less? We have to decide what we want and then act each day to achieve it and the gift of agency makes this both possible and at times difficult.  
Because of agency all of us have been and will continually be affected by our own choices and the choices of others. And because of agency we can choose to respond to the things that happen here in mortality in a way that will help us grow or in a way that will stunt our growth.

Each of these roses was once a seed. A seed is a plant in a state of arrested development, supplied with food materials and protected by a seed coat. It is able to remain alive, although dormant, until suitable conditions cause it to grow.
Seeds tend to remain dormant as long as they are dry. Introduce water to them and the water will penetrate the seed coat, the seed will begin to swell and the seed coat will rupture, allowing the seed to sprout. As the emerging seedling begins to grow, its dependence on stored food diminishes and the transition to its own food production begins. However some seeds require specialized pre-conditioning before water can penetrate their outer coat. For example, alternate freezing and thawing may be required to break down and crack hard seeded shells. Some seeds must be singed by the heat of forest fires before they are able to germinate. Calvaria tree seeds must be ground around  in the gizzard of a turkey , enough to weaken  the shell but not damage the seed, and then passed through the intestinal tract of the turkey before they are able to germinate.
We’re a lot like seeds. We start out under the protection of the law of the age of accountability and our gospel knowledge or food stores, come from our parents or others. Eventually, to move onto our next stage of growth we need the water of baptism and we have to start making our own food so to speak, gaining our own testimony.  Sometimes our testimony of Christ and the plan of salvation can come only through being singed by fire, or being nearly ground to bits in affliction. It seems an odd thing, but because I’ve experienced my faith and other good qualities grow through the most harrowing times in my life, I know it’s true.
#12 “It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him... As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.” - Ezra Taft Benson
The title of the fourth lesson that I’m also covering today is, Living Joyfully in Troubled Times. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a time since the fall that wasn’t a troubled time though we do know that in the last days things are worse than they ever have been before. I want you to just think for a moment about how knowing the plan of salvation helps you find peace.
I know when I first started to really grasp all of the elements of the plan, some of which we’re not covering today, I started wondering how well I really knew the laws of God. This instilled  a desire within me to make sure I knew exactly what he expected of me and I started studying the scriptures with real intent and learning things I hadn’t been open to before. Knowing exactly what God expects of me and of the gift of the Savior has brought me great peace and helps me strive to choose the best things in my own life, I’m not perfect but I’m more aware now than I was before of whether something is right or wrong or is worth my time and energy in the long run.
Cheiko Okazaki once said, “Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs of your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations. Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others - nearly always this will make you despondent. Don’t accept somebody else’s interpretation of how you should be spending your time. Make the best decision you can and then evaluate it to see how it works.”
At this point I opened up the meeting for discussion. Different sisters talked about how knowing the plan of salvation brings them joy or inspires them to choose wisely. I reminded everyone that we are capable of greater things than we know and that we are the ones who impose our own limits in life. I closed with a poem I've loved since I was a youth and that encourages me to keep trying.   
Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day;
It rings in our ears like a timely sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.
Can’t is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and halfhearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.
Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man’s purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgement it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you someday shall gain.
Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed ’twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying                                                                                 

And answer this demon by saying: “I can.” 
-Edgar Guest              


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Our Eternal Life (Article with links)

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