I gave a talk in the Priesthood Leadership portion of Stake Conference yesterday. I'm posting it for your reading pleasure (or not). Just so all my kids know . . . I put funny stuff in, but it was 20 minutes long and I only had 10 minutes. So, I had to cut out all the funny stuff to get it down to 10 minutes. Wow, that's 10 minutes of funny stuff . . . gone with the wind. My students at school said to leave the funny stuff and cut out the other 10 minutes. I didn't listen to them. Anyway, here's my talk minus the introduction and the funny stuff.
Taking Time to Become a Disciple of Christ
Please think about this question as I go through my talk: What is the purpose behind every calling in the church?
Close to twenty years ago, I was called, sustained, and set apart as a bishop in a great ward in California. That night, as bishop, and not having a clue, I met with a ward member in my office. Now, look at my head, brethren. . . That day was the day I got . . . my first grey hair. It was also the day I recognized that good councilors, priesthood leaders, and Relief Society Presidents were going to save my life. And, they did. Then a little over three years ago, I was released as the bishop of another great ward. And, the scenario was the same. Great councilors, priesthood leaders, and Relief Society Presidents had saved my life.
I love bishops, and I love all of you who work so hard to make their lives easier. Because you are faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, you are changing individual lives and making the world a better place. Thank you for letting your lights shine.
The title of my talk is “Taking Time to Become a Disciple of Christ.” Serving well in our callings takes time and energy. It can be demanding and draining, but also very rewarding. As we serve others, I hope we are taking the time to replenish the oil in our own lamps so our lights can continue to shine and not get dim or worse, burn out.
On page 12 of the Handbook in section 3.1 it says: (quote) “All Church leaders are called to help other people become “true followers of . . . Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:48). To do this, leaders first strive to be the Savior’s faithful disciples, living each day so that they can return to live in God’s presence. Then they can help others develop strong testimonies and draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.” (end quote)
Because of our Heavenly Father’s plan and the atonement of our Savior, we have two gifts. These two divine gifts are Time and Agency.
As Priesthood leaders, we have an obligation to lead out in showing the members of our stake, wards, and our own families how to use our time to become better disciples of Christ.
I”ve asked myself, and today I ask all of us: “Are we using the divine gifts of time and agency in ways that will help us become better disciples of Christ, and keep our lamps burning bright?
I have a list of twelve questions about using time. Today, in the interest of time, I only want to share four of those questions, and invite you to think about them in the context of replenishing the oil in your lamps, and becoming better Disciples of Christ.
1. Am I taking time to read?
2. Am I taking time to ponder and meditate?
3. Am I taking time to pray?
4. Am I taking time to go to the Temple?
Number One: Am I taking time to read?
In a BYU Thanksgiving devotional, Elder Dallin H. Oaks said “We often hear it said that the scriptures have the answers to all of our questions. He continues, “We say that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because the scriptures can lead us to every answer. They will put us in a position where we can obtain inspiration to the answer to any doctrinal or personal question, . . .”
In last Conference, Elder Richard G. Scott said, “We need NOT be concerned about the validity of concepts contained in the standard works since the Holy Ghost has been the instrument which has motivated and inspired those individuals who have recorded the scriptures. “ (Elder Richard G. Scott, Quorum of the 12 Apostles, The Power of Scripture, October 2011 General Conference)
I haven’t always been a great scripture reader, and am no scriptorian, but for the past few years I’ve tried to read a conference talk and from the Book of Mormon every day. The difference this has made in my life is very real. I was never a bad person, but this has made me a better person.
Reading from the Book of Mormon, and the Conference talks every day has helped me feel the Holy Ghost, and has brought great comfort and joy to me.
Being able to read is a great gift.
To be better disciples and leaders, we need to take time to read.
Second: Am I taking time to ponder and meditate?
In the First Presidency Message from the February 1999 Ensign, President Hinckley said: “You need time to meditate and ponder…”
He says, “I heard President David O. McKay say to the members of the Twelve on one occasion, “’Brethren, we do not spend enough time meditating.”’
Then President Hinckley said, “We are entitled to spend some time with ourselves in introspection, in development.” (close quote)
In December of 1833, The saints in Clay County, Missouri had lost furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property, and many of their crops had been destroyed. In fact, there had been death threats against many of them. Under these remarkable circumstances the Lord gave the saints some good advice. He said simply: “Be still and know that I am God.” (D&C 101:16)
To be better disciples and leaders, we need to take time to ponder, meditate, and be still.
Third: Am I taking time to Pray?
In his conference talk “The Privilege of Prayer,” Elder J. Devin Cornish of the Seventy reminds us that “Heavenly Father wants to bless us. But because He will not infringe upon our agency, we must ask for His help. This is generally done through prayer. Prayer is one of the most precious gifts of God to man.” And it takes time.
The Savior tells us we must watch and pray always and that we should pray in our families so our wives and our children may be blessed. (3rd Nephi 18:18-21)
When I was about ten years old we had a pigeon cage in our back yard with about 25 pigeons. It was my job to feed the pigeons. One day after school I went to feed the pigeons. The door to the cage was padlocked shut. I had the key, but couldn’t get it to work. I tried several times. Then I finally knelt and said a prayer. I tried the key again and it worked and I was able to go in and feed the pigeons. A simple thing, but I recognized it as an answer to prayer, and felt like my Heavenly Father cared about me. And about the pigeons.
If Heavenly Father cares about 25 hungry pigeons, I know he cares about us and the people we have stewardship over.
To be better disciples and leaders, we need to take time to pray.
Lastly: Am I taking time to go to the Temple?
On page 27 of the handbook it says, (quote) “Leaders encourage each endowed member to hold a current temple recommend and go to the temple as often as circumstances and family needs allow.” (end quote)
We are bound and linked to God through temple covenants. As disciples and leaders, we should consistently be setting aside time to attend the temple to be reminded of our covenants and to strengthen our bonds to Heavenly Father.
For most of us in this room, the sacrifice we make to attend the temple is “time”.
To be better disciples and leaders, we need to be willing to take time to go to the Temple.
Back to page 12 of the handbook and the answer to our original question – What is the purpose of every calling in the church?
(quote) “Leaders can best teach others how to be “true disciples” by their personal example. This pattern – being a faithful disciple in order to help others become faithful disciples – is the purpose behind every calling in the Church.” (End quote).
I testify that this is true, and that Heavenly Father will bless us, and everyone in our stake, as we, the leaders, take the time to grow closer to Him by reading, pondering, praying, and attending the temple.