Sunday, April 6, 2014

#129: Apostle Doodles.

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I love General Conference. It is one of the best weekends of the year. Sometimes though I have a hard time paying attention through all ten hours, and I will start to drift off. But not this year.

To help me pay better attention this weekend, I drew some of the brethren on my iPad as they were speaking. I still don't know how to effectively shade a drawing, and for the life of me I can't draw a normal looking woman (out of respect, I won't post my attempt at drawing Jean R. Stevens), but overall, I am pleased with the results (although I won't be quitting my day job). Drawing awesome old guys may just become my new hobby.
Elder Robert D. Hales
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
President Henry B. Eyring
President Thomas S. Monson

Sunday, January 26, 2014

#128: "Becoming A Disciple of Christ" by Hillary Bowler.

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Today in sacrament meeting, we had two fantastic speakers--Greg Bilbao, our visiting high councilor, and Hillary Bowler, a recently returned sister missionary. Hillary, in particular, gave one of the best talks I have ever heard. She radiated both her testimony of the gospel and her love for the Lord. As I listened to her, I felt a desire to be a better disciple of Christ. With her permission, I have posted her talk in its entirety below. Thanks Hillary!
Hillary also writes freelance articles for the Deseret News.
You can read her recent articles here.
Copyright Shelbi Jia Photography
Brother Bilbao asked me to speak on becoming a disciple of Christ. He offered a link to a talk and asked me to reference Alma Chapter 5. My first thought with Alma Chapter 5 is usually along the lines of “Oh, no….” You see, I’ve come to discover that most scriptures fall in one of two categories: Pat-on-the-back scriptures—you know, the encouraging kind that are great pick-me-ups—and kick-in-the-pants scriptures. I have often categorized the whole chapter of Alma 5 as a “kick-in-the-pants” and it became a go-to of sorts for any time I feel like, “Hey, I’m doing pretty good.’ It is a healthy dose of humility to just about anyone. Works every time!

But of course, as I prayed and studied a few different talks and scriptures, I found myself coming back again and again to Alma 5 and will reference much of it today.

The first question of this topic is what is a disciple? When you look the word up in the dictionary it usually has a generic definition like “One who embraces and assists in spreading the teachings of another,” or “an active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.”

However, even most of the worlds definitions allude to Jesus Christ. In fact, if you google “disciple,” “disciple of Christ” is one of the first things that comes up. Even the world knows what a disciple is. A disciple is a follower of Christ.

I like to look at Alma 5 as a sort disciple checklist. Literally. I go to it thinking, ‘Alright, how good of a disciple are you being lately?”

(Vs 6:) Have you retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers?
(Vs. 14:) Have ye spiritually been born of God?
(Vs. 15:) Do ye exercise faith?
(Vs. 16:) Can you imagine unto yourself, that ye hear the voice of the Lord saying unto in that day: Come unto me, ye blessed?

This is where I start sweating:
(Vs. 17:) Or do ye imagine unto yourself that ye can lie unto the Lord?
(Vs. 18:) Can ye imagine yourself brought before the tribunal of God with your soul filled with guilt and remorse?
(Vs. 19: )Can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands?
(Vs. 20:) Can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourself to become subject to the devil?

A few more hypothetical questions, and skip to the current self evaluation.
(Vs. 27:) Do ye keep yourself blameless before God? Have ye been sufficiently humble?
(Vs. 28:) Are ye stripped of pride?
(Vs. 29:) Are ye stripped of envy?
(Vs. 30;) Do ye mock your brother?

So do you see how this works as a nice dose of humility? I want to dispel one myth about becoming a disciple. I’m not sure I can speak for all of you, but when I hear the word “disciple” I often think of the actual 12 disciples, or rather, apostles. I think of being a true disciple of Christ as something I couldn’t possibly achieve because I am not at their level.
I love this reference in D&C 8:2: “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.”

A lot of us are familiar with that verse, but we forget to go on to the next one: “Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”

Wait a minute—the same spirit? We’re talking prophets and parting seas. I can get that same spirit? Yes!

One of my favorite parts of Alma 5 is found in verses 45 and 46, near the end of Alma’s sermon. It reads: "And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.”

Brothers and sisters, this is Alma the Younger speaking. This is the very same visited-by-an-angel-and-in-a-coma-for-days Alma. Talk about a "wow" conversion experience. But what strikes me most here is that Alma doesn’t say anything about angels. Alma still had to get and retain his testimony and his admirable discipleship. He did it with fasting and prayer--some things we are taught to do regularly. I think that’s something that I can pull off OK. In the book "True to the Faith," it says, ‘You can receive a sure testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ only by the power of the Holy Ghost. His communication to your spirit carries far more certainty than any communication you can receive through your natural senses.”

I can testify to this fact. I have seen and experienced some pretty memorable things by the worlds standards, but nothing blazes in my memory quite like my sacred experiences with the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that has guided prophets. God is no respecter of disciples.

In the October 2012 General Conference talk “Becoming a True Disciple,” Elder Daniel L. Johnson of the Seventy shared a temple president’s story that I will repeat here:
“It had been a beautiful spring for the fruit-growing communities in northern Mexico. The fruit trees were in full bloom, and expectations were high for a bounteous harvest. Plans were already being made to pay off loans, replace needed equipment and aging orchards, and meet personal commitments such as school tuition for family members. Plans were even being made for family vacations. There was a general air of optimism. Then, on a Monday afternoon in late March, a winter storm moved in, and it began to snow. It snowed until about three o’clock in the morning. Then, as the clouds moved out, the temperature plummeted. Throughout the night and early morning, every effort was made to save at least a part of the fruit crop. It was all to no avail. It simply got too cold, and the crop was totally frozen. There would be no fruit to be harvested and sold this year. Tuesday dawned with the sickening and disheartening loss of all those wonderful plans, expectations, and dreams of just the day before.

I received an email regarding that terrible Tuesday morning from Sandra Hatch, the wife of John Hatch, then-first counselor in the presidency of the Colonia Ju├írez Chihuahua Temple. I quote portions of that email: “John got up early—about 6:30—to run up to the temple to see if we should cancel the session this morning. He came back saying that the parking lot and road were clear, so we decided to go ahead. We figured that maybe some of the workers who didn’t have orchards would come, and we could put all the workers into the session. … It was so inspiring to see the men come in, one after another. There they were, after no sleep at all, and figuring their crops were lost. … I was watching them during our preparation meeting, and they were having a hard time staying awake. But instead of figuring they had a good excuse to not come, they were there. And there were 38 people in the session (a full session)! It was an uplifting morning for us, and we thanked Heavenly Father for good people who do their duty, no matter what happens. I felt a special spirit there this morning. I am sure He was pleased to know that we love His house and felt that it was a good place to be on such a difficult morning.”

Elder Johnson goes on to sum it up very simply: To become a better disciple of Jesus Christ, we need to keep the commandments and serve others. These good people understood that being a disciple sometimes means sacrifice, but it mostly means that you’re just trying to do good and be good.

As I was preparing this talk, I had had another General Conference talk come to mind, and it surprised me. I’m honestly not sure if I’d even read it before. It’s called “A Child and a Disciple” by President Henry B. Eyring from the April 2003 General Conference. In the talk, President Eyring focuses on an extremely important part of discipleship that I mentioned briefly in its definition before. A disciple is one who embraces and assists in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On my mission, I learned that most of the “teaching” I did didn’t take place in a normal teaching setting. It wasn’t always informational. I taught people more by becoming a better disciple myself than I did by telling them how to be one.

President Eyring pointed out that sharing the gospel comes naturally for some people. Those people, he explained, know that they are children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ. He said,“Your worthiness and your desire will shine in your face and your eyes. You will be excited about the Lord’s Church and His work, and it will show. You will be His disciple 24 hours a day in every situation. You won’t need to build up your courage for one great moment to speak to someone and then retreat. The fact that most people are not interested in the restored gospel will have little bearing on what you do and say. Speaking what you believe will be part of what you are.”

Then he touches on a very important point:

“To be part of that miracle, you must not wait until you feel closer to Heavenly Father or until you are sure that you have been purified through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. … you will find yourself feeling and saying things beyond your past experience. And then in time you will feel yourself drawing closer to your Heavenly Father, and you will feel the cleansing and the forgiveness the Savior promises His faithful witnesses. And you will feel His approval, knowing you have done what He asked of you, because He loves you and trusts you.”

I couldn’t wait until I had a perfect testimony to share it. That was never an option in the mission field, and I’m grateful every day that I was put in that tight spot. It meant I could grow. And I did.

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve spent a lot of time talking and a whole lot of it not sharing stories from my mission. In all honesty, I could’ve come up with a million different experiences to illustrate the topic of this talk, but I decided to take a different direction.

I highly recommend missions to just about anyone. I don’t, however, recommend coming home. It has been a struggle for me to transition from becoming a direct representative of Jesus Christ to coming home and trying to figure out how to apply it all and just be a better disciple.

In my study, I did revisit one old friend from my mission. I was blessed to be in the field during the many changes that followed the official age change. I was called as one of the first sister training leaders in my mission. This gave me the beautiful opportunity to work with and counsel many of my fellow sisters. Time and time again, I found myself pointing them to a tiny section in Preach My Gospel titled “A Successful Missionary.”

How can we know we’re being successful? How can we know we are good enough as disciples?

It’s answered pretty well in this one sentence on Page 11 of Preach My Gospel: “You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.”

I slowly began to focus less on the disciple checklist and more on feeling and listening to the Spirit. When I do that, I not only feel inspired to be better. I realize I’m actually doing OK.

As I read through Alma 5 and begin to feel like a proud, vain and rotten human being, I quickly realize that I will always come up short. But I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ it will all be made good. He asks us to follow Him, then He helps us follow Him. I know He loves us, and I love Him.
President Eyring also once said,“If you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost today, you may take it as evidence that the Atonement is working in your life.”

As Alma said near the end of chapter 5, “Come ye out from the wicked and be ye separate.” Good for you for separating yourselves today and for being here. May we each continue to seek, feel and listen to the Spirit—using all of the basic tools we have always been taught to use—and become true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

#127: Priesthood Preview and Duty to God.

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Just a short, simple post tonight. My current ward calling is 2nd Counselor in the Young Men's Presidency. This means that I get to spend a few hours each week working with the 12 and 13 year-old young men in the Deacon's Quorum on Sundays and Tuesday nights. I love those young men. They have become some of my best friends. It is wonderful to watch them develop testimonies, serve others, and grow into future missionaries.

Tonight, we had a "Priesthood Preview" for the 11 year-old boys in our ward. I told them how excited I was for them to join our Deacon's Quorum this year, and then I was able to speak briefly to them about the Church's "Duty to God" program. I love the Duty to God program. It is one of the best ways for the young men to prepare for their missions (which are now just six short years away!). I was able to bear my testimony to them of Christ's gospel and of the truthfulness of the restored Church. It was a really nice meeting.

Man, I have a great life.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

#126: Final General Conference Talks of the Apostles.

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The final general conference talk of Elder Bruce R. McConkie, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane", was given on April 6, 1985, just 13 days prior to his death on April 19, 1985. Due to the clear and powerful testimony of Jesus Christ he gives in the talk and due to its proximity to his death, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane" is remembered by Latter-Day Saints as one of the most beloved talks ever given. Every time I hear or read his concluding words, they stir my soul: "As pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person. I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears. But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way. God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen."

As I have pondered Elder McConkie's final talk, I became curious about the final talks given by other Latter-Day apostles. Below is a reverse chronological look into the final talks given by all of the apostles who have passed away since Elder McConkie. I love and admire these men so much. Reading their final talks has brought back many wonderful memories, and I recommend them to everyone.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin"Come What May and Love It" (October 2008) given 2 months prior to his death on December 1, 2008.

"Although my mother has long since passed to her eternal reward, her words are always with me. I still remember her advice to me given on that day long ago when my team lost a football game: 'Come what may, and love it.' I know why there must be opposition in all things. Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. We can learn to love it. As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, 'Come what may, and love it.' Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

President Gordon B. Hinckley - "The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain" (October 2007) given 4 months prior to his death on January 27, 2008. President Hinckley also gave brief closing remarks to wrap up the Sunday Afternoon session of the conference, but I consider "The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain" given during the Sunday Morning session to be his final full talk.

"Scholars not of our faith, who will not accept our singular doctrines, are puzzled by the great unrolling of this work, which is touching the hearts of people across the earth. We owe it all to Joseph the Prophet, the seer and the revelator, the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was foreordained to come forth in this generation as an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring to the earth that which the Savior taught when He walked the roads of Palestine. To you, this day, I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. Each of you can bear witness of the same thing. You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth. I leave with you my testimony of the truth of these things, and I invoke the blessings of heaven upon you. May the windows of heaven be opened and blessings showered upon you as the Lord has promised. Never forget that this was His promise and that He has the power and the capacity to see that it is fulfilled. I so pray as I leave my blessing and love with you in the sacred name of our Redeemer, even the Lord Jesus Christ, amen."

President James E. Faust - "The Healing Power of Forgiveness" (April 2007) given 4 months prior to his death on August 10, 2007.

"When tragedy strikes, we should not respond by seeking personal revenge but rather let justice take its course and then let go. It is not easy to let go and empty our hearts of festering resentment. The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. For all of us who forgive 'those who trespass against us,' even those who have committed serious crimes, the Atonement brings a measure of peace and comfort. Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. In the words of one of my favorite hymns, 'Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be e’en forgiven now by me.' With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior 'to forgive all men.' In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."

Elder David B. Haight - "How Great the Wisdom and the Love" (April 2004) given 4 months prior to his death on July 31, 2004.

"We chose to come here. And so we’re here assembled in this vast auditorium, where we can speak to each other and bear witness and bear testimony. I assure you that in those sleepless nights that I’ve had at times, when you attempt to solve all of your problems and to make new resolutions of things that need to be done, I have had those heavenly thoughts that lift us. God our Heavenly Father loves us, as we should love Him. He selected His Son to come to earth and bring the gospel of Jesus Christ, for whom this Church is named and which we bear witness to. I am honored to stand and bear witness today of the foundation of this Church and of our love for President Hinckley, who leads us today. The gospel is true. I know it; I’m a witness of it. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen."

Elder Neal A. Maxwell - "Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been" (April 2004) given 4 months prior to his death on July 21, 2004.

"Brethren, as you submit your wills to God, you are giving Him the only thing you can actually give Him that is really yours to give. Don’t wait too long to find the altar or to begin to place the gift of your wills upon it! No need to wait for a receipt; the Lord has His own special ways of acknowledging. I testify to you that God has known you individually, brethren, for a long, long time. He has loved you for a long, long time. He not only knows the names of all the stars; He knows your names and all your heartaches and your joys! By the way, you have never seen an immortal star; they finally expire. But seated by you tonight are immortal individuals—imperfect but who are, nevertheless, 'trying to be like Jesus'! In His name, even Jesus Christ, amen."

President Howard W. Hunter - "Follow the Son of God" (October 1994) given 5 months prior to his death on March 3, 1995.

"And now, my beloved brothers and sisters, through the power and authority of the priesthood vested in me and by virtue of the calling which I now hold, I invoke my blessings upon you. I bless you in your efforts to live a more Christlike life. I bless you with an increased desire to be worthy of a temple recommend and to attend the temple as frequently as circumstances allow. I bless you to receive the peace of our Heavenly Father in your homes and to be guided in teaching your families to follow the Master. I again testify that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I feel very deeply my dependence on the Lord for the guidance and direction of his kingdom. I thank you again for your sustaining vote and your faith and prayers in behalf of myself and my Brethren, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

President Ezra Taft Benson - Due to his declining health, President Benson's actual last general conference talk ("To The Elderly of the Church") was given in October 1989, almost five years prior to his death on May 30, 1994. However, in the April 1994 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk titled "What He Would Have Us Do" (April 1994), in which he mentioned what he thought President Benson would say if he could have been there.

"President Benson’s chair, situated between President Hinckley and me, has been unoccupied at this conference, although he has viewed the conference proceedings at his apartment by television. Our hearts are full of love for the prophet of God, and his teachings ring in our ears. If he were standing before us at this moment at the conclusion of the conference, I believe he would say, 'Lord, it has been good for us to be here.'”

Elder Marvin J. Ashton - "A Yearning For Home" (October 1992) given 1.5 years prior to his death on February 25, 1994

"When we have a yearning and don’t know what it is for, perhaps it’s our soul longing for its heartland, longing to be no longer alienated from the Lord and the pursuit of something much higher, better, and more fulfilling than anything this earth has to offer. After Joseph, youngest son of Jacob, had been reunited with his brothers, he asked them to return home to Canaan to bring his father, Jacob, to him in Egypt. As the brothers were preparing to depart, Joseph said to them simply, 'See that ye fall not out by the way.' Might our Heavenly Father have given us much the same counsel as we departed his presence to begin our earthly sojourn? May our yearning for home be the motivation we need to so live that we can return to our heavenly home with God our Father on a forever basis, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

President Marion G. Romney - "Unity" (April 1983) given 5 years prior to his death on May 20, 1988.

"Surely we need this unity and this strength in this day in which we live. We have a great opportunity, the opportunity to rise heavenward, to gain the spirit of the gospel as we have never enjoyed it before. This we can do by developing among us that unity required by the laws of the celestial kingdom. If, in the expediency of the moment, we set God aside to follow the teachings of men, we disown him. Only a united people, keeping God’s commands, can expect the protection which he alone can give when the floods come, and the rains descend, and the winds blow, and beat upon our house. It is my conviction that, since we are engaged in the Lord’s work, we can accomplish everything he requires us to do if we will but be united. That we may so be, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

President Spencer W. Kimball - "The Lord Expects Righteousness" (October 1982) given 3 years prior to his death on November 5, 1985.
"For the past century and a half since the Restoration, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, the latter-day prophets of God have raised their voices in clarity and with authority and truth as they have borne their testimonies of the divinity of this great latter-day work and the redemptive power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To the testimonies of these mighty men I add my testimony. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that He was crucified for the sins of the world. He is my friend, my Savior, my Lord and my God. With all my heart I pray that the Saints may keep His commandments, have His Spirit to be with them, and gain an eternal inheritance with Him in celestial glory."

Sunday, December 8, 2013

#125: Sacrament Meeting Doodles.

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I've always enjoyed doodling during Sacrament meeting, even though I realized it isn't the best use of my church time. But then I found out that President Eyring sometimes draws during church too, and all my guilt was swept away. Lately I've been doodling on the iPad, because it's more permanent than the back of the meeting program. Here are some of my doodles from the last few weeks:
My Elder's Quorum President has the best hair in the ward.
Returned missionary spoke today. He still had that glow.
Our neighbor's son is one of the cutest kids ever.
Spying on my friend from the pew behind her.
High councilman. This drawing may be boring, but his talk wasn't.
Last but not least: hymn holder for the win.