We are so grateful to all those in Utah who made her summer there so enjoyable. She loved her time there.
Last weekend, we went to Logan and helped Allison move into her new apartment. Courtney also came to help. It was fun to spend the day together. Allison's new apartment is very comfortable and her room mates and neighbors are great.
Nancy is getting back into the rhythm of kindergarten. She has "back to school night" tomorrow. It is fun to watch her do what she does so well. I've been going to meetings this week at school and students will arrive on Monday. I'm almost back in the rhythm, but summer was so fun seeing all of our family that it's a little sad to go back.
Nancy and Court are in the kitchen making home made pizza's together. It's fun to hear them talking.
The first set of pictures are at Allison's new apartment:
The second set of pictures are of the basement. Some have requested pictures so they can see the progress. It is now 95% done. Disclaimer: I didn't clean up or arrange anything, so Nancy might not be happy with me. What you see is what it is ... simple and clean. We love it. We still need to hang pictures, decorate, etc.
Here is my most recent church talk if you want to read it. If you don't . . . have a great day!
September 8, 2013
High Council Talk
Given in the Rexburg 16th ward
Topic: Personal Consecration
In reflecting on a family vacation back east, my daughter tells the following story. Other family members might tell it differently, but I only have time for one version and it’s hers. She says:
Once upon a time I went with my parents, grandparents, and my brother, Logan, and his cute family on a trip back east. We went all over – Lake Erie, Niagra Falls, Palmyra, Amish country in Lancaster County, the biggest tree in Connecticut, Boston, a bunch of college campuses, and old cemeteries. We went to a lot of places.
Because we were going so many places my parents bought a GPS to help us navigate the trip.
At one point we were going from New York to Amish Country in Pennsylvania. We typed the destination in the GPS and were on our way. Logan was driving and my grandpa was in the front passenger seat with his paper map. The rest of us were in the back of the van talking and dozing.
My brother was trying to follow the directions from the GPS, but my grandpa didn’t trust the directions it was giving and was giving other directions based on his map. Of course, Logan did what my grandpa said to do which caused the GPS to exclaim many times . . . recalculating. Which was ignored.
Then, there was some commotion in the front seat which caused us all to stop and take notice . . . to our amazement we passed a big sign that said “Welcome to Delaware.”
If you know your geography, you know that Delaware is NOT on the way to Lancaster County from New York. The GPS was telling us the right way, but we chose not to listen and to go our own way.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but I’m going to compare the GPS to the prophet and the paper map to the logic of man. The prophet can tell us the way … he can even tell us to recalculate, but if we choose not to listen we can still get lost.
Way back in 1948 President J. Reuben Clark said: “We do not lack a prophet; what we lack is a listening ear by the people and a determination to live as God has commanded” (Conference Rpt, Oct. 1948, p. 80).
I don’t usually talk about myself, but I want to give you some personal information to try to make a point.
On the professional side, I taught high school for 12 years in California. The first five years were spent teaching physical, life, and earth science. I got to work with some top notch students. The next seven years were spent working in what was called a new comer program which was
specifically designed for war refugees from around the world. Mostly from South East Asia and South America. Within the context of this experience I was able to work with many people from around the world. Because of existing circumstances many, though great people, were legitimate hard core gang members in legitimate hard core gangs. I talked with a lot of people of differing backgrounds during that time. I loved the diversity, and learned a lot.
Then, 17 years ago I came to Ricks College/BYU-Idaho to teach. One of my stewardships here has been, and is, to help international students from around the world improve their English skills and transition to the American education system. I’ve enjoyed the diversity of the people I’ve been able to teach, and have learned a lot from them too.
On the church side, I’ve served in three bishoprics, been a bishop twice, been an Elder’s quorum counselor and president, and then spent most of the remaining time working in the youth programs.
Now here’s the point I want to try to make: through these experiences I have been involved with thousands of individuals of greatly diverse backgrounds, beliefs, challenges, potential, goodness, and badness.
I’ve spent time with homeless people and very affluent people. I’ve visited people in prisons and in universities. But, to put it simply, every single one of them was looking for the same thing in the best ways they knew how. And I pray every day that all of them will find what they are looking for. Of course, that thing is a greater measure of happiness.
Brothers and Sisters, I believe that everybody who has ever been or whoever will be born is entitled to a certain measure of happiness just because they are children of our Heavenly Father and they made good choices in the preexistence. How this measure of happiness grows and develops depends on the choices we continually have the opportunity to make. For many of the people I’ve had the occasion of working with throughout my life, I encourage them to make life choices based on the best possible information. Most do a good job based on the information they have.
For us, in this congregation, we have been blessed with an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a knowledge of our Heavenly Father’s plan for happiness. Through personal revelation, the Holy Ghost has born witness of the truthfulness of these doctrines to many of us, and will reveal it to the rest of us as we continue to sincerely seek and live worthy to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in our lives. We know that one of the keystones to happiness is found in the gift of agency and how we use it. We know that the more we use our choices to abandon our own wills and align ourselves with our Heavenly Father’s will, the happier we will be.
The greatest happiness, then, is ultimately reserved for those who fully give themselves to our Savior Jesus Christ. This totality of giving includes body, mind, and spirit. Where everything a person thinks and does and chooses is what the Savior would think and do and choose.
This is sometimes called personal consecration.
Consecration is the path to happiness, and, as Elder Maxwell says, is the only path I’m aware of where littering is encouraged. As we walk our individual paths to a consecrated life, we should litter the way with negative attributes we cast off and leave behind … like selfishness, meanness, hurtful sarcasm, unrighteous competitiveness, obscenities, and intolerance. And, then, as we move forward on the path, we should strive to acquire the attributes of a consecrated life like kindness, understanding, forgiveness, and charity. For many of us, at first, these things take a concerted effort to cultivate. But after a while, and with God’s help, we begin to do them without thinking … simply because they become a part of who we are. At that point, Heavenly Father’s will and our wills become the same thing.
Elder Neil A. Maxwell said: “…those sincerely striving for greater consecration … keep the law of chastity, pay their tithes, and love and serve their spouses and children (and siblings). As good neighbors, they “bear one another’s burdens,” “mourn with those that mourn,” “comfort those … in need of comfort, “and valiantly “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” (Mosiah 18:8-9)
In a talk titled “The Gift of Self”, President Gordon B. Hinckley said “None of us may rightly say that his life is his own. Our lives are gifts of God. We come into the world not of our own volition. We leave not according to our wish. Our days are numbered not by ourselves, but according to the will of God.”
He goes on to say, “So many of us use our lives as if they were entirely our own . . . that is we do what we want when we want. This includes keeping the commandments and following the prophet. But, that becomes a betrayal of a great and sacred trust. As the Master made so abundantly clear, ‘For whosoever will save his life (meaning to use our lives as if they were entirely our own) will lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life (meaning to align our will with our Heavenly Father’s will) for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. (meaning, be happy)” (Mark 8:35)
In order to align our will with our Heavenly Father’s will, we have to know what our Heavenly Father’s will is. How do we know that? I submit that the best way to know the will of our Heavenly Father is to listen to our prophet; the best way to align our will with our Heavenly Father’s will is to follow the prophet.
Many of us who have sought answers to prayers know that following the prophet is also part of our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness. We also know that with the realities of the world we live in, this is not always the easiest way, or the most academically logical way … but I promise, it is the best way.
If we go back to the family vacation GPS story I told at the beginning of my talk . . . we can either follow the prophet and reach our desired destination, or we can do what we think is best and end up in “Delaware”.
NOW, sometimes, because we assume too much and try too hard, we look past the mark and miss the simple meaning of some things. For example:
A young kindergartner was badgering his parents to get him an Ipad. “My friend brought his to school and I want one too,” he insisted.
“Absolutely not,” said his father. “They’re expensive and fragile. Besides, what would you even do with an Ipad?”
The little boy replied, “I’d put it over my eye and play pirates with my friends.” (RD Feb 2013)
In the spirit of clarity, and not looking past the mark, I’d like to talk about the law of consecration in simple terms by giving 6 real life examples.
First, consecrated people give freely of their time to glorify God.
I know a young couple in Coeur D’ Alene Idaho (talents) who are very talented rock climbers. In fact, one of the reasons they live in the Coeur D’ Alene area is because of the many rock climbing opportunities there. They have four children and are in the beginning phases of starting their own dental practice. They are busy. But, whenever they are asked (and they are asked a lot) they freely share their talents with ward and community members of all ages by conducting rock climbing classes and clinics. Consecrated people give freely of their talents to help others.
Second, consecrated people give freely of their energy to glorify God.
I know another young couple in Bartlsville Oklahoma (energy) who have two young daughters and are launching themselves into their chosen fields of law and nursing. When the tornado of 2012 hit Joplin Missouri they were both still in school, but answered a call from their stake president for all the able men in their stake in Oklahoma to go to Joplin Missouri to help with the clean-up and humanitarian efforts. Consecrated people give freely of their energy to help others.
Next, consecrated people give freely of their time to glorify God.
I know a third couple in Fletcher Oklahoma (time)who have two young sons. They too are progressing in their career in the army. They too, are very busy. But, she serves in the primary and other callings as needed in their small branch, and he is in the young men’s presidency. Every Wednesday night, he leaves his wife and boys to pick up two young men and drive them 45 minutes to the church house for mutual so they can attend opening exercises with other youth. Then after the activity, he drives them 45 minutes back home. Consecrated people give freely of their time to help others.
Fourth, consecrated people give freely of themselves to glorify God.
I know a young sister in Logan Utah (self) who loves working behind the scenes in her church callings and has always dreaded the possibility of getting a teaching calling. But when the call to be the gospel doctrine teacher in her singles ward of many returned missionaries came . . . she accepted . . . almost totally against her will. She says it pushes her outside her comfort zone and she misses her weekends because she is always stressed and preparing lessons, but she knows the call came from the Lord. Consecrated people step beyond themselves to help others.
Fifth, consecrated people stand with God and His prophets.
I know another young sister who has had her values and belief system questioned and challenged by friends and family she loves very much. But, she has stood firm in her beliefs risking a sort of intangible but real strain in their relationships. Consecrated people stand with God and his prophets.
Last, consecrated people give freely of their means to glorify god.
My wife Nancy was a college student during the time of ward building funds in the church. Local people would be assessed an amount of money to give to help build their own chapels. One semester, Nancy went home from college so her tuition could be given to the ward building fund to help get a chapel. Consecrated people give of their means.
Regarding earthly possessions, a very good man came to me one year during tithing settlement and said, “Bishop, here is the deed to my house and property, and here is the title to my car. I want to give everything I own to the church.”
We had a nice visit and finally agreed that we should be willing to give our all, but that 10% of his annual increase is all he had to give. The “willingness” is what matters.
Our task then, is to learn the will of our Father in Heaven by listening to and following the prophet. Then, pray that our wills will be brought in alignment with His will.
I pray that we might all think more clearly, act more purposefully, and become more consecrated so we, and our families, can glorify our Father in Heaven and in the process receive the greatest happiness possible.