Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for allowing me to a few minutes of your time today. I have prayed for the Spirit to accompany my preparations and my presentation this day. I hope you will do likewise.
I came to the Institute at the LDSBC with unexpected timing and somewhat unique circumstances. I did not expect this teaching assignment, but I have been so pleased and so blessed to be here. There is a very special spirit on the campus and among the student body at the LDSBC.
In addition to the wonderful spirit that is present on the LDSBC campus, one of the first things I noticed was a picture that hangs in the hallway across from the Institute on the second floor of the campus building.
It is a painting of a mother dividing her attention and energy between her child and her school studies. She appears to be multi-tasking and exhausted, but I also see her doing her best. This painting just speaks to me. I am glad it is hanging where it is hanging.
In this world of entitlement that we live in, I happen to still believe that an education is worth sacrifice and effort. So, regardless of your circumstances, I salute you.
I pay tribute to those students of LDSBC who are seeking deep learning, the kind of learning that is the stated goal and objective at LDSBC and that is only possible through the guidance and help of the Holy Ghost.
And more especially to those who are doing so amid specific challenges or limiting & trying personal circumstances.
President Russell M. Nelson’s recent emphasis and invitation to study the First Vision has been particularly rewarding to me personally. I’ve enjoyed the time I have spent there. My study has led me to look at this account of the First Vision word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase. I have also looked at the other accounts of this event and my testimony and understanding have been enhanced. As often happens, studying one true principle leads to others. I found myself looking at the different times that the Father has introduced His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
There are recorded in scripture four times that the Father has spoken to man and introduced His Son.
- Baptism of Jesus
- Mount of Transfiguration
- Christ’s Appearance to Nephites
- First Vision of Joseph Smith
As the Father introduces His Son, He said:
- First Vision - “This is my Beloved Son, Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:17)
- Nephite Appearance - “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name–hear ye him.” (3 Nephi 11:7)
- Jesus’ Baptism - “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17; also Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22)
- Mount of Transfiguration - “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35)
Looking at these introductions I had the thought, “How would my Heavenly Father introduce me?”, “Is it possible that my Heavenly Father, in introducing me, would use the same phrases?”
Let's consider two of the phrases.
I. “This is my Beloved Son [Daughter]”
Absolutely! I do not believe that our Heavenly Father would be reticent to withhold an expression of His love for any of His children. Everything He does and all He is about are expressions of His love. Every element of His perfect Plan of Salvation manifests His love. The Creation of this earth and countless others, the Fall of Adam and Eve ushering in our own mortal experiences and the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all manifest the love of the Father to each of us. Every divine law and every pattern by which He functions express His love. Of course He would declare it verbally. He already has and He does.
Our Heavenly Father possesses a divine ability to love each of us perfectly. He does not divide a finite amount of time or attention or love among His children, rather, He possesses a divine attribute which allows Him to give His time, attention and love to each of us as if we were His only child. What He does ask in return is that we treat Him as if He is our only God.
Paul taught that God loves us and that nothing changes His love for us. He said, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Rom. 8:38-39)
The first truth in heaven is that God loves us. He would surely introduce you as a beloved child!
II. “In whom I am well pleased.”
Perhaps He would use this phrase if we are conducting our lives and using our agency in a pleasing way, but, in judging yourself, be optimistic. He is probably more pleased than we will allow ourselves to believe.
I remember well the motivation I felt, as a child and youth, to choose wisely, because I did not want to disappoint my mother or my father. I am still motivated by that to this day. I love them. My mother has passed on and I only see my father on occasion now, but I still want to please them. I have always known they had high expectations for me and I have tried to meet them. Thankfully, their expectations were not for me to be perfect, but to be facing the right direction and striving to move forward. It has always been my blessing to have their desires for me be in line with my Heavenly Father’s desires for me.
That pattern made for an easy transition to my Heavenly Parents and my desire to please them. I love my Heavenly Father and I know He has high expectations for me as well. As I have matured and become more and more spiritually attuned, my love for my Heavenly Father is increasing and I desire to please Him at least as much as my earthly parents.
“Well pleasing to the Lord” is code for “doing His will.”
In order to do His will and have Him be well pleased, we must know His will. His will is not a grand mystery. It is accessible to anyone and everyone who seeks it. It is constantly before our eyes to instruct and remind.
The scriptures illustrate the high priority that Jesus placed on doing His Father’s will. Early in His ministry Jesus stated that, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Later he would proclaim, “No man can come unto me except he doeth the will of my Father who hath sent me. And this is the will of him who hath sent me, that ye receive the Son; for the Father beareth record of him; and he who receiveth the testimony, and doeth the will of him who sent me, I will raise up in the resurrection of the just” (JST John 6:44). At the close of his ministry, Jesus remained true to this pattern. In Gethsemane, when even He was astonished at the immensity of the task, He yielded and did that of the Father with the profound phrase, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
I do know that the scriptures contain the words of life. They teach true doctrines. Studying the scriptures is in line with the will of the Lord for each of us and doing so will invite the Spirit into our lives. As we search the scriptures we find the Savior showing the way. I also testify that when we are following the example of the Savior, we are doing the will of the Father for us.
The will of the Lord for all collectively is conveyed through living prophets.
I reviewed the latest conference addresses given by those we sustain as prophets so that we might consider the Father’s will for us.
Elder Soares - Bring forth the Book of Mormon in your own life by prayerfully and consistently studying its words and partaking of its promises and blessings.
Elder Gong - Sing Hallelujah! We live in a wonderful time and there are glorious days ahead.
Elder Renlund - Every day, consider the greatness of God the Father and Jesus Christ and what they have done for you.
Elder Stevenson - Shore up the spiritual cornerstones and other foundational elements in your life so as to be able to stand firm against tumultuous events that will come.
Elder Rasband - Study the prophesies of old and work to usher in their fulfillment in this Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.
Elder Anderson - Bolster your faith by recording, cherishing and revisiting spiritually defining moments in your own life.
Elder Christofferson - Lift up your voice to share the urgent message of the Restoration with all.
Elder Cook - Receive instruction from the Lord through His established channels of revelation.
Elder Bednar - Live with your focus on the sacred covenants.
Elder Uchtdorf - Although imperfect, we are to practice discipleship by hearing and following Him.
Elder Holland - Cultivate hope!
Elder Ballard - Cultivate gratitude & increase determination by remembering those who have sacrificed much to build God’s kingdom.
President Eyring - Pray in faith and the Lord will use you in His vital work of gathering and salvation.
Remember that it is the Lord leading this work. Trust Him. Follow Him.
President Oaks - Utilize the power of the priesthood by recognizing and honoring the keys of the priesthood.
Possessing testimonies and having made covenants, we now are to teach these truths.
President Nelson - seek to hear Jesus Christ, who speaks to us through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Put your faith into action! Hear Him! Go forward with faith in Jesus Christ, striving to keep him at the center of all you do.
If you are currently doing the Father’s will in all of these areas then feel free to study the talks by the other speakers in General Conference.
I do know that we are led by living prophets who convey the will of the Lord as a clean mirror–even as they teach us according to their language and understanding they do not distort nor alter the message and will of the Lord.
To paraphrase Isaiah, “How beautiful are those messengers that publish good tidings and peace; that turn us to Christ and urge us toward the salvation that comes through Him.
The will of the Father for individuals is conveyed frequently/continuously through the Spirit.
I have talked about sources for learning the will of the Lord generally, as it applies to everyone. But what about the individual instruction that the Lord has for each of us? How do we learn His will for us today?
President Russell M. Nelson has been counseling us with a two-word message, “Hear Him!” He is urging us to seek to hear Jesus Christ, who speaks to us through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Elder David A Bednar teaches this principle when he says, “You can take notes, but write down what is not said.”
President Thomas S. Monson taught, “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls” (“We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 122).
The Holy Ghost will take the general truths/doctrines that we find in the scriptures and the words of living prophets and apply them to our individual circumstances.
Consider a few examples.
1) My wife’s name is Cami. I hope you are able to meet her someday. She is a choice daughter and an elect lady. A turning point in our raising children came when she was reading the scriptures, as was then and still is her pattern. She received instruction from the Holy Ghost through the words of Jacob and the sermon by King Benjamin. Both instructed and modeled “working with” those among whom you labor. This was a game-changer for our family. We determined to do things together “with” our children whenever we could. We worked together. We played together. We mourned together. We rejoiced together. As a result, we are still loving doing things with our children whom are now adults and doing things with their spouses and children.
Not because King Benjamin labored “with” his people and Zenos taught that the Lord of the vineyard worked “with” the laborers, but because the Holy Ghost took that word, “with,” deep into her heart and taught her a principle that we have tried to live by.
2) Another simple example is Mikala, our oldest child. She, and her daughter, Millie, are currently living with us while their husband/father is deployed overseas in the Air Force. We love it! Mikala is a little anxious by nature. She recently shared in a Sunday discussion that she was worrying about the timing of a particular event in her life. As she was reading the scriptures the words “a little longer” seemed to speak to her heart. They were repeated three times in a few verses in Jacob 5. Who reads Jacob chapter 5? She is glad that she did. She acted on the impression to wait “a little longer” and the looming worry just seemed to take care of itself naturally in the Lord’s timing.
3) One last example. I told you that I was enjoying studying the First Vision account in the Pearl of Great Price. I am currently undergoing treatment for a cancer that I was diagnosed with last summer while serving with my wife in a mission. (Incidentally, I am pleased to report that the treatments seem to be having the desired effect and my cancer tumors are shrinking and disappearing.) It is not a stretch to say that the past year has been a roller coaster ride of emotions and an exercise in trusting the Lord for both my wife and I. At one point this past winter, I was feeling a little self-pity and I had kind of hit a plateau in my perspective on life and my purpose. I was reading in the Joseph Smith History when some words out of verse 13 seemed to jump off the page at me. I saw the words, “I must remain...or I must do.” They were out of context considering the scriptural text, but they were a message to me from the Holy Ghost to keep doing. To keep trying. This experience was just the motivation I needed at that moment to renew my energy and recommit to doing the daily tasks and patterns that the Lord expects of me. I love the Holy Ghost and his direct personal teaching!
My dear brothers and sisters, I do know that the Holy Ghost can and will speak to us and that scripture study is one of the quickest and surest ways to invite this influence and instruction.
I also know that our Heavenly Father makes His will known to us as quickly and as often as we seek it. It is my prayer that our relationship with our Heavenly Father will be such that we truly desire to please Him. I also testify that He has high expectations for us and that He loves effort. He does not expect perfection, but it is pleasing to Him when we are on the path, facing the right direction and doing our best to move forward. We find our place in His work and we find ourselves as we engage in doing His will. I further testify that it is worth whatever effort or sacrifice that we have to give in order to qualify for the Father’s introduction, “My beloved son [or daughter], in whom I am well pleased”.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Devotionals are streamed online on the Church's website (https://ldsbc.in/devotional) each Tuesday at 11:15 a.m.