Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Inspirations January 31, 2010

I had every intention of getting this posted before church, but for some reason I can't copy/paste here on blogger any more :( Silly blogger. My husband gave a wonderful talk today on being a member missionary and sharing our light with the world. I hope it's as inspirational to you as it was for us to put together. And if any of you heard it at church, I recommend you go ahead and read it again - he actually had to skip a bunch to shorten it :)

Imagine for a moment you wake up one morning to a dark world. You blink a few times just to be sure you eyes really are open. Maybe you pinch your arm to see if you're really awake. Turning your face left, then right, you can hardly believe it's possible to be left in such utter darkness. Not one tiny speck of light can be found. You can't even see your hand in front of your face.

How would you feel? What might it be like to live this way day after day, year after year? How might this constant state of living in the dark affect the way you act, think, and feel?

Now imagine what it might be like to wake up another morning, and off in the distance a single dot of light appeared. Would your heart begin to race? Would you rub your eyes a few times just to be certain it wasn't a fluke? Most of all, would you feel yourself drawn toward that light, be willing to traverse whatever it took until you could finally reach it?

In Matthew 5:16, the Lord teaches us to: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Let's turn our imaginations in the other direction. What might it be like to be the light those in darkness turn to? As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold a light far brighter than any other. We have been directed by the Savior not to hide those lights. Instead we ought to hold them high so others may be directed our way.

One of the most significant ways to help hold up these lights is to share our testimonies. Next Sunday is a wonderful opportunity to do so. It doesn't need to be here in Sacrament meeting, where I know standing up in front of everyone feels frightening for many. Many of our classes give those who wish an opportunity to share testimonies in a much smaller group. We can take time out during Family Home Evening to bear our testimonies to one another. A testimony - no matter how big or small - invited the Spirit in with such swiftness. It not only strengthens the testimonies of those around us, but works to strengthen itself as well.

Another way to hold up our lights is through love. Elder Henry B. Eyring spoke at length about the power of love, of true friendship, and it's ability to bring others to the light of Christ.

Elder Eyring states: "Love always comes first. A single act of kindness will seldom be enough. The Lord described the love we must feel, and that those we invite must recognize in us, with words like these: 'Charity suffereth long,' and it 'beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things' (1 Corinthians 13:4,7)."

He continues by telling us an experience he had with a neighbor. "I've seen what 'suffereth long' and 'endureth all things' mean. A family moved into a house near us. The home was new, so I was part of the crew of Latter-day Saints who spent a number of nights putting in landscaping. I remember the last night, standing next to the husband of the family as we finished. He surveyed our work and said to us standing nearby, 'This is the third yard you Mormons have put in for us, and I think this is the best.' And then he quietly but firmly told me of the great satisfaction he got from membership in his own church, a conversation we had often in the years he lived there.

"In all that time, the acts of kindness extended to him and his family never ceased, because the neighbors really came to love them. One evening I came home to see a truck in their driveway. I had been told they were moving to another state. I approached to see if I could help. I didn't recognize the man I saw loading household things into the truck. He said quietly as I drew near, 'Hello, Brother Eyring.' I hadn't recognized him because he was the son, now grown older, who had lived there, married, and moved away. And because of the love of many for him, he was now a baptized member of the Church. I don't know the end of that story because it will have no end. But I know that it began with love."

You might be wondering to yourselves, what can my one little light do? How can I bring others to the light of Christ when I never seem to be given the opportunity? You forget one of the greatest tools the Lord has given us - the ability to be a great example.

Some time ago Elder Eyring had the opportunity to both speak at and attend meetings involving the ministers and leaders of over 300 other churches. He states: "I visited alone with as many as I could. I asked them why they had been so attentive to my message, which was to recount the origins of the Church, to tell of the young Joseph Smith's First Vision and of living prophets. In every case, they gave essentially the same answer.

"They told a story of a person or a family - Church members they knew. Often I heard, 'They were the finest family I have ever known.' Often they spoke of some community effort or disaster response in which the Church members worked in a remarkable way.

"The people I met at those meetings could not yet recognize the truth in the doctrine, but they had seen its fruit in members' lives, and so they were ready to listen. They were ready to hear truths of Restoration - that families can be sealed forever and that the gospel can change our very natures. They were ready because of your examples."

Being a great example of the fruits of the gospel can and will warm even the hardest of hearts, but even this is not enough. If we are to help build up the light of Christ in others, we must take them into our hearts and give them the gift of friendship.

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated: "I hope, I pray, I plead with you, every one of you, to embrace every new member of the Church. Make a friend of him or her. Hold onto them." What might it be like to come into a new church, be unfamiliar with many things involving it, and not feeling the warm hand of friendship you experienced before your baptism?

We live in a wonderful ward where hearts seem to be open to all. I have seen time and again those who have felt a little lost, a bit scared, or so alone have been embraced and loved and befriended by others. At times when I can't be there for those in need, there has been no doubt I could call someone and ask for their help. You are as much an inspiration to those around you as you are to me.

A young man in Africa shared his conversion to the Church due to a friend he hadn't seen in many years.

"Two and a half years prior to my joining the Church in 1999, my good friend, Mbuti Yona, looked me up. We had been friends through grades 5 to 12, then [were] separated when we attended different [schools].

"Mbuti was baptized in April 1999, and four weeks later he visited me at home and introduced the gospel to me. Regardless of the rumors about the Church, I was impressed by the 'fellow Saints' who gave me a warm welcome on my first visit. It was this same Sunday that my friend introduced me to the missionaries. Arrangements were made to be taught. My friend was there for every discussion, and he kept inviting me to the activities. I really enjoyed being around people with the same values, interests, standards, and goals. It was during this same time period that I began attending institute [of religion]. It all seemed very natural: Thursday nights [5:30] - missionary discussion, followed by institute.

"I learned a lot in institute and especially enjoyed our class about how to achieve a celestial marriage. The first semester ended in May, shortly after I began attending, and I felt cheated. But I was fortunate enough to catch the second semester class, Teachings of the Living Prophets. While in institute, I bought myself the four standard works and I continued to learn and grow in the Church line upon line, precept upon precept, here and little and there a little. I was baptized September 17, 1999, by another friend I had made while attending institute.

"I am thankful for the institute program. It has not only shaped me, but it has also helped me qualify to become a missionary, which mission I started preparing for five months after my baptism. I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve and to teach prior to my mission.

"I am thankful for my friend. I hope he realizes what he has done for me. We have both served missions, I to South Africa Durban, he to South Africa Cape Town. All it takes is a friend to bring such a mighty change in one's life."

All it takes is a friend. To the youth in our ward, I highly encourage you to invite those around you to come to youth activities, to attend Seminary classes, and to come to church. President Monson gave us a beautiful example of what your friendship can mean to other youth around you.

"[Sister Monson] asked me to go to the supermarket and purchase a few items. This was something I had not done before. I had a shopping list which included potatoes. I promptly found a grocery cart and placed a number of potatoes in it. I knew nothing of the plastic bags in which purchases are normally placed. As I moved the cart along, the potatoes fell out and onto the floor, exiting through two rather small openings in the back of the cart. A dutiful clerk hurried to my aid and called out, 'Let me help you!' I tried to explain to her that my cart was defective. It was only then that I was told all the carts had those two holes in the back and that they were meant for the legs of children.

"Next the clerk took my list and helped me find each item. Then she said, 'You are Bishop Monson, aren't you?'

"I answered that many years earlier I had indeed been a bishop. She continued: 'At that time I lived on Gale Street in your ward and was not a member of the Church. You made certain the girls who were members contacted me each week and took me with them to Mutual and other activities. They were fine young women whose friendship and kindness touched my heart. I want to let you know that the fellowshipping you arranged for me led to my being baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. What a blessing this has been in my life,' she said, 'and I thank you for your kindness.'"

Even your one little light can mean the difference in someone else's life, but only if you are willing to hold it up high.

Elder N. Eldon Tanner once shared a story he'd read about the incredible example of some LDS youth. "A nonmember relates that about ten years ago he was assistant manager of a discount store where they hired 16-18 year old students to work the night shift. He stated"

"'I don't remember how I hired the first Mormon girl, who was about 16 or 17, and I don't even remember her name. But I'll never forget her example. She was unusually honest, dependable and neat and clean, yet those words can't fully describe her the way I'd like. Compared to other kids, she was really noticeable.'

"Soon he hired one of her friends and found that she, too was an exemplary employee. Both were friendly and helpful in their attitude towards other employees and the customers.

"'Pretty soon I tried to any more of their Mormon friends that I could find. Individually and collectively, they were the best people I ever had work for me,' he said. 'Never was there a single occasion when any of them disappointed me or proved to be untrustworthy. They were the finest employees and fellow workers that anyone could want.'

"One night he wanted a pizza for dinner but was unable to leave the store, so one of the Mormon girls went to get it for him. When she returned he found she had been in a minor accident. He offered to pay for the damages to her car because she was on his errand, but she refused, saying it was her responsibility. He said: 'I didn't think many young people that age would have that kind of character and I've never forgotten it.'

"This man...met some LDS missionaries through his son, has had some of the discussions, and has attended some meetings. 'I have found that the things I admired those girls 10 years ago are also found among the Mormon adults I have met,' he said. 'I like their emphasis on the family and they seem to me like the happiest group of people I have ever met.'

"How wonderful," Elder Tanner proclaims, "it would be if all of us could make that kind of impression on those with whom we come in contact! Another recent article about a conversion carried this headline: 'Example Is Vital Conversion Factor.' We hear many stories of conversions through the example of some of our members, but think of the impact if we all were living so as to influence others by our example.

"We are fortunate to have the gospel of Jesus Christ and to understand what it can mean to us as we prepare ourselves here to live forever in the presence of God. The world does not understand the meaning of eternal life; we have the opportunity and responsibility, therefore, to teach all nations this glorious principle."

One place we may not recognize as needing to show our greatest examples lies within the walls of our own homes. This is where, hopefully, we first learned what it means to be a member of God's Church. It should also be a place where those who are invited in will feel the Spirit of God, where they might find themselves wishing to know more because of what they experience in our homes.

Elder Tanner's father, he tells us, "...who was also my bishop and my best friend during my Aaronic Priesthood years, taught me to honor my priesthood. He emphasized the importance of the priesthood an having the authority to act in the name of Jesus Christ, the only perfect example we have to follow. If we can learn to feel his great love for us and always remember that he died to redeem us from our sins, we will always want to live the way he taught."

He continues to encourage us, saying, "Whether we are at work, at play, at school, or taking care of our spiritual needs, the power and influence of our good example can be exerted on our associates. We must never be ashamed of the gospel of Christ or of belonging to his Church. We must be fearless in our defense of truth and be able to withstand the persecutions which are sometimes brought against us. In this too we can be exemplary. Let us recall the words of the Savior:

"'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

"'Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

"'Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you' (Matt. 5:10-12).

"Today we are faced with new threats, new challenges, new methods of communication, and greater opportunities than ever before to be as a beacon on a hill. Again let us remember the Savior's admonition in the Sermon on the Mount:

"'Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.

"'Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

"'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matt. 5:14-16).

"A boy walking through a dense London fog was carrying a lighten lantern.

"'Guide me back to my hotel,' said a voice from out of the fog, 'and I'll give you a shilling.'

"'Yes, sir.'

"And so the boy, holding his lantern high, started walking in the fog and soon reached the hotel. As he paused, not one man, but four stepped forward with a shilling. The other three had seen the light and followed without question. It is so with any who lead the way to truth and light."

By our example, by our love, and by our friendships, even our little lights will help those who live in a world of utter darkness. As they come to join us, they will light their own candles by our own, until the world is bathed in the light of Christ. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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