Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's been a great week.  We love the transitions between seasons and are beginning to welcome spring into our little valley.  The snow is melting, the birds are coming back to their feeders, the days are getting longer, and the grass is returning.  Friday as I walked with three friends, in near 50 degree weather, to the racquetball courts we noticed flowers coming up.  Wow, that was a good feeling.  We know our racquetball days are numbered.  Once the snow is gone, we put racquetball on hold and move outside to enjoy other things.

The basement is coming along well.  Choosing paint colors, flooring, and a bathroom vanity are next on the list.  It's a bit stressful, but mostly fun, and we are enjoying it. 

Here are pictures of the boy's room as a representation of progress in the basement.  Central heat and air conditioning vents and real walls are a big change from iced over windows and a deer mural.  Some may argue for the return of the mural, but few will miss the icy windows.  The memories of the icy windows, however, will make good stories for the grand-kids.

We talk with our kids every week and they are a great source of happiness.  They are all exceptional people in their own ways, and together make a fantastic family.  Check out their blogs for updates.

I talked about burning weeds on Papo's farm in my latest talk in church.  Good memories!  I'll post it here in case anyone's interested.

High Council Talk – Rexburg 16th Ward, Rexburg East Stake
March 10, 2013

Do you ever pretend to be something you’re not?   

For example:  Back in the day, before cell phones, a young businessman had just started his own firm. He rented a beautiful office and had it furnished with antiques. Sitting there, he saw a man come into the office. Wishing to appear the hot shot, the businessman picked up the phone and started to pretend he had a big deal working.  
He threw huge figures around and made giant commitments. Finally he hung up and asked the visitor, "Can I help you?"
The man said, "Yeah, I've come to activate your phone lines."
The point is . . . I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not, so even though I might look calm, I’ll tell you I’m a little anxious because I know your time is precious and you came to church today to be spiritually fed.  I hope our time together is meaningful.  As you listen, I hope the Holy Ghost will communicate something very real that will help make your life better.
My wife and I serve in the temple on Saturdays.  Last week, we were running a little late.  Then, when we got to the recommend desk, Nancy couldn’t find her recommend.  She told me to go on without her while she looked.  So, I did.  I went to the chapel for our preparation meeting and although the chapel was nearly full, I felt lonely without her.  I was surprised at the relief, peace, and joy I felt when she walked in halfway through the meeting.  It really was good to be in the temple together.  I thought about what heaven would be like without her and came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t be that much fun.  I am so grateful for priesthood authority that makes temple covenants and eternal marriage possible.  

I grew up in San Jose, California.  My dad was a high school teacher. Every summer we would go to Filer Idaho and Twin Falls Idaho to visit grandparents and other relatives for the summer.  For some reason, we called my mom’s parents “Mamo” and “Papo”.  Mamo and Papo lived on an 80 acre farm in Filer, and this was where we spent the bulk of our time.

One of my favorite memories on the farm is burning weeds.  Papo would rent a giant propane tank on a trailer to pull behind his big red tractor.  One person would drive and another person would walk behind the propane tank with a torch and burn the weeds along the ditch banks so the water could flow more easily. 

 In the beginning, Papo did both the driving and the burning.  He’d go back and forth from tractor to torch.  My brother and I would sit on the propane tank and watch.

Then, my brother was allowed to drive the tractor while Papo burned the weeds, and I sat on the propane tank and watched.  I would relay the message to stop and go at just the right times.  It was a very important job.  

Finally, one day he let me drive the tractor while my brother walked behind and burned the weeds, and he watched.  It took everything I had to push the clutch in far enough. 
Ultimately, he left and allowed us to trade off driving and burning by ourselves. That was a great day.  We had a blast and looked forward to doing that every year. 

I can still remember the talk about, how if the fire got out of control, we would burn all the wheat in Idaho, and the world would starve to death.  So, being careful and responsible was very important.  

In retrospect, I think Papo was somewhat of a Tom Sawyer, but I also think he wanted to give us an opportunity to grow and improve.  He wanted us to feel the satisfaction and enjoyment of helping with the work on the farm.  

To this day I love the smell of burning weeds.  It’s like a fifth season for me.  In fact, one of the best parts about living in Idaho is being able to roll down the car window and smell the burning weeds.  It’s magical!  I believe this is what Peter Pan’s “Neverland” would smell like.

Papo could have kept all the fun for himself, but he didn’t.  He taught us line upon line and progressively gave my brother and me more and more permission, and responsibility, to carry on the work. 

I knew we were trusted and that was humbling, scary, and fun.  I also knew that Papo was never far away and always watching to make sure we didn’t get in too much trouble.  That was comforting.  

I felt that being trusted to drive the tractor and burn the weeds was a great privilege. 

This is a little like the priesthood.  Heavenly Father could do everything Himself, but in order for us to learn, grow, and progress, He gives us permission and responsibility to help carry on and accomplish His work of the gospel.  We learn line upon line, precept by precept as we go from deacon, to teacher, to priest, and from the Aaronic Priesthood to the Melchezidek Priesthood. 
Through the process, we know that Heavenly Father is watching and never very far away.  He wants us to feel the satisfaction and enjoyment of helping others, and being helped by others through the power of the priesthood.  

Having this gift in our lives is a great privilege. 

In Alma 50:39 When Pahoran was appointed to fill the judgment-seat he took an oath to grant to the people their “sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God”.  (Alma 50:39)

I like the phrase “sacred privileges.”   

Remember President Uchdorft’s talk from General Conference about living beneath our privileges.  He talked about a man saving all his money to go on a cruise, but didn’t realize that the food and activities were included in the price of the ticket, so he spent his time in his room eating canned food that he’d brought, and he didn’t participate in any of the activities on the cruise ship.  He was living beneath his privileges.

As members of the church, we have many sacred privileges.  One of them is having the priesthood.  President Uchtdorf says “The fact that our Heavenly Father would entrust this power and responsibility to man is evidence of His great love for us . . .” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference April 2011, Your Potential, Your Privilege)

The priesthood is the power by which the earth was created.  It is the power by which Noah built the arc, and the power by which Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt.  It is the power that made the restoration through Joseph Smith possible.  It is the power by which Jesus made the blind to see and the lame to walk.  It is the power by which the greatest miracle of all, the atonement, is made effectual.  So we can repent, be forgiven, and experience new beginnings when necessary.  And it is the power that allows all those who have it to act in the name of God, to serve others, and to help with His work. 

We believe that a man must be called of God to administer in the ordinances of the gospel.  (5th Article of Faith).

In Matthew chapter 4, Jesus calls the 12 apostles.  In Chapter 10, He instructs, empowers, and sends them forth to preach, minister, and heal the sick.  He tells them that those who receive them, receive Him and His Father.  In chapter 16, Peter is promised the keys of the kingdom.  In chapter 18, all of the twelve receive the keys of the kingdom.  In chapter 19, He tells them that they will judge the house of Israel.  And, finally in chapter 28, after his death and resurrection, He sends the apostles to teach and baptize all nations.  Clearly, they had been called of God and given permission and responsibility to do these things. 

We call this authority the priesthood.

Sadly, because people stopped listening to those with priesthood authority, and in fact, killed them, the priesthood was taken from the earth until the time was right for it to be restored.  

Happily, as you know, this restoration happened on May 15, 1829, when the Aaronic priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery  by John the Baptist along the banks of the Susquehanna River, near Harmony, Pennsylvania(D&C 13). 
Then, a bit later in that year, they were given the Melchezidek or higher priesthood by Peter, James, and John.  

Now close your eyes and remember . . . well, don’t close your eyes, but try to remember before we came to earth. Heavenly Father made some rules for us to follow in order to gain the kind of life He had, and the kind of eternal life we wanted.  We all agreed to the rules.  Some of those rules are the Ten Commandments, loving God, loving others, and receiving sacred ordinances.  

To be clear, we do not need the priesthood to keep the Ten Commandments.  We do not need the priesthood to do good things.  We don’t need it to be kind, or tolerant, or loving.  We don’t need it to give meaningful service to others.  We don’t need it to be good moms and dads or to be good sons and daughters.  It might help, but we don’t need it.  

So then why do we need priesthood authority?   It’s one of our Heavenly Father’s rules from the beginning.  Matthew 7:21-23 and Mark 3:13-15 and John 15:16 and
 “We must have priesthood authority to act in the name of God when performing the sacred ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism, confirmation, administration of the sacrament, and temple marriage. If a man does not have the priesthood, even though he may be sincere, the Lord will not recognize ordinances he performs (see Matthew 7:21–23). These important ordinances must be performed on the earth by men holding the priesthood. “ (Page 81 of Gospel Principles).

I’ve been known to tell my wife and kids that rules are made to be broken and policies are made to be petitioned.  That the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.  But, I confess, when we are talking about the rules of Heaven, I do not believe this.   

These rules are made to be kept.  We need to receive the saving ordinances, and we need to receive them form someone with authority.  We need the priesthood.

I respect and admire good men and women of all faiths.  For example, I think it would be fabulous to be in a room with Benjamin Franklin, C.S. Lewis, Billy Grahm, Joseph Smith, Abraham Lincoln, Joan of Arc, and the Savior.  What a wonderful conversation that would be.  

In fact, I just finished a book about Benjamin Franklin written by Walter Isaacson.  “Franklin was instrumental in shaping every major document that led to the creation of the new republic.  He was the only person to sign all four of its founding papers:  the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France, the peace accord with Britain, and the constitution.”  (Benjamin Franklin, An American Life by Walter Isaacson, Simon and Schuster, 2003, pg. 460-461) 

The most important religious role he played was as an apostle of tolerance.  He contributed to the building funds of every church and synagogue in Philadelphia. ( Isaacson, pg. 468)

He said:  “I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe.  That he governs it by his Providence.  That he ought to be worshiped.  That the most acceptable service we render to him is doing good to his other children.” (Isaacson, pg. 468)

He died on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84.  As his funeral procession made its way to the Christ Church burying ground, a few blocks from his home, the clergymen of the city, all of them, of every faith, including the rabbi of the Jews, marched in front.  (Isaacson, pg. 470) which was a great tribute to him.
I admire his tolerance.  I love tolerance.  I advocate tolerance.  I love the 11th article of faith “. . . let them worship how, where, or what they may.” But I should not make the mistake of rejecting the need for authority in the name of tolerance.

Benjamin Franklin was a great man, and I believe that the hand of God was in his work, but I don’t think he would ever claim to have authority from God to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel.

In addition to the need for the priesthood to accomplish sacred ordinances, it also blesses our lives in countless other ways.  Father’s blessings, blessings for the sick, blessings of comfort, and dedicating homes are all examples.

I’ve always liked war stories, and now, that I have a son-in-law who’s in the army, I like them even more . . . or less depending on the story.
Hugh B. Brown, who later became an apostle and member of the First Presidency, related this story on the subject of authority.  He says:

“I was at one time an army officer. As such, I became accustomed to having men stand at attention and salute me and call me ‘sir,’ and frankly, I liked it.
“Often men came and asked for favors—perhaps a furlough or a leave or some thing that they thought I could grant—because they knew that I was an officer of the King [of England] and that I had the right to speak in his name. And so as they came I handed the ‘blessings’ down to them and I became more haughty and self-important with each event. “One day a messenger came to my hotel just off Piccadilly Circus. He said, ‘You are wanted immediately in the hospital.’
“I thought, ‘Well, here is another boy that wants something. I will go down and see what is wanted.’
“I called a taxi and went to the hospital.
“When I arrived the doctors stood at attention and saluted, and that fed my ego. The nurses treated me with great respect and that pleased me even more.
“They directed me to a little room and as I pushed open the door, I saw an emaciated young man lying on a cot . . .
“When he greeted me, . . . he said, . . . I sent for you to ask if you would use your authority in my behalf.’ (I thought, ‘Well, this is what I expected. What does he want?’)
“ . . . (Then)he said, ‘you know I have a widowed mother; I am her only son; the doctors say I cannot live; will you give me my life!’
“I thought, ‘My goodness, the King of England can’t give him his life. To what is he referring?’
“Then he startled me with a request: ‘Will you administer to me!’
“At that moment … my uniform, with the insignia on it, seemed to melt away, . . . and I was humbled but inspired.
“I went over to his cot and knelt beside him. I put my hands on his head and said, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ and by the authority of the holy priesthood, I bless you and promise you that you will get well and return to your mother.’ God honored that promise.
“I went into that hospital a proud British officer, and I came out a humble Mormon elder. Ever since then I have earnestly tried to remember that there is a power and authority given to man, not from the king or the president, but from the King of Kings, and if we live properly and do not forget that we have been so endowed, we may exercise that authority in behalf of those who need our ministration.”  End quote.

Miracles are everywhere to be found when the priesthood is understood, its power is honored and used properly, and faith is applied. When faith replaces doubt, when selfless service eliminates selfish striving, the power of God brings to pass His purposes.  In my own life, I have seen miracles.  Friends and family members in my own home and neighborhood have been healed through priesthood blessings and prayers.

I testify that we need the priesthood because it helps us to grow and progress.  It allows us to administer and receive saving ordinances, to serve others, and to help with the work of the gospel.   It is a manifestation of God’s love for us and his trust in us.

I feel much like President Uchtdorf when he said, “I feel a certain sadness for those who do not grasp and appreciate the wonder and privilege of the priesthood.  They are like passengers on an airplane who spend their time grumbling about the size of the packet of peanuts while they are soaring through the air, far above the clouds – something ancient kings would have given all they possessed to try and experience just once!”  (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference 2012, The Joy of the Priesthood)

It is my prayer, along with his, “That we may always have eyes to see and a heart to feel the wonder and joy of the priesthood of our great and mighty God . . . “

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