Heidi and I spoke in church today. Here are our talks. Mine:
3 Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!
These words were written by John Taylor, a witness to the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, as accounted in D&C 135:3.
Joseph’s story is quite a remarkable one. As a youth in the days of religious buzz, Joseph was confused about which church to join, as they all seemed to differ on certain matters. I encountered this same confusion when researching Joseph Smith on wikipedia.
As Joseph sought God’s help in deciding which of the churches was correct, he read in the Bible, book of James, chapter one, verse five: If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally.” Joseph went to a nearby grove to pray and ask Heavenly Father which church to join. Since the Lord doesn’t condone confusion, Heavenly Father and Jesus visited Joseph Smith, giving him instructions on what his mission was to become. During that visit, Joseph learned that
1. Heavenly Father and Jesus were different persons.
2. Heavenly Father and Jesus had bodies in the form of man’s.
3. None of the churches at that time was entirely correct.
From that point on, Joseph was vehemently persecuted. He writes, in Joseph Smith History 1:
22: I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
23It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.
24However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision. I have thought since, that I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
25 So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.
We owe a lot to Joseph Smith. Recently I’ve been able to talk about the gospel in work settings. A colleague and I were having lunch one day and he said, “There has to be more to life than just making money and retiring.” We talked about how kids give us a new focus and he said he didn’t want to bring kids into this crazy, wicked world. I told him that there has always been wickedness on earth, but we know about it more easily because of the internet.
I told him there was a book that chronicles the rise and fall of civilizations for 1000 years. When things were bad, they looked to God. When they became wealthy, they forgot God and destroyed each other. I gave him the Book of Mormon.
A few weeks ago, he came to my office at lunch and asked, “Are you happy with your life?” Once again, I had to tell him about the church and the “big picture” it gives us.
Many times, people ask me how I know Spanish. I explain that I served a mission for the church in Spain. Once, a colleague from Holland asked me what I believed in. I told him about Joseph’s experience in the sacred grove, and how Moroni buried the plates in the hill Cumorah and Joseph dug them up hundreds of years later. I told him that only by the power of God could such a thing come to pass.
Each of us gains our testimony individually. I was born into the church and never doubted anything I learned in church. In the MTC, one of our teachers challenged us to pray to know whether Joseph Smith really was a prophet who brought about the restoration of the gospel and translation of the Book of Mormon. I took her up on the challenge. In my prayers, I said that I knew Joseph was a prophet, but would the Lord give me the burning feeling that other people talk about?
I felt a tremendous warmth encircle me and I knew that Joseph Smith had been a true prophet and that his work was also true.
Verse 1 reads,
1. A poor, wayfaring Man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief,
That I could never answer nay.
I had not pow’r to ask his name,
Whereto he went, or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love; I knew not why.
This first verse teaches us that the very first step of service is having a willing heart. This man was asked to serve and he did. We learn that he didn’t know much about the person he was serving, where he came from or what his name was. He just felt it was the right thing to do. The Spirit that is within each of us gives us this same desire to serve. As we follow that gentle prompting to serve, the desire grows and it becomes easier to serve.
Verse 2 reads
Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
And ate, but gave me part again.
Mine was an angel’s portion then,
For while I fed with eager haste,
The crust was manna to my taste.
In verse 2, He sacrificed his things for the man. He gave him all he had and in return he was blessed. I love that he was blessed with Manna, the bread of life. I know that when we serve, the Lord blesses us. I have seen that in my own life. I often visit Gayle Adams with Kira. She loves Kira and Kira loves her. We sit together, sing primary songs, talk about being moms. Last week, we had a wonderful visit and had the opportunity to quickly visit with the others in the home. Everyone loves seeing Kira, holding her and talking to her. When I left, I was filled with love. I was filled with appreciation for such wonderful people in my life. Whether it be a quick phone call, visit, meal or being patient with a child, I am filled with the bread of life.
Verse 3 reads
I spied him where a fountain burst
Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
The heedless water mocked his thirst;
He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
I ran and raised the suff’rer up;
Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
Dipped and returned it running o’er;
I drank and never thirsted more.
In this verse, the man was looking for opportunities to serve. He no longer needed to be asked to serve, like in verse 1, but watched out for his friend and didn’t walk but ran to help him. Are we serving just when asked or are we seeking out opportunities to serve? Another lesson I love from this verse is that he not only raised his cup once or twice but said, “thrice from the stream he drained my cup”. When Tyler was in the hospital my mom and Robin Bogner took Scott for me everyday. They could have very well said that they had done there part and served enough, but they wanted this 18 month old boy, whose parents seemed to dissapear overnight to have consistency in his life. How grateful I am that they were willing to serve, doing the same thing time and time again, never complaining or feeling like it was someone else turn to serve.. I know I sometimes serve once, thinking I have done my part as if my part as if service was part of a checklist. As we make service a part of our lives, it doesn’t feel like an act of service or duty but instead a wonderful part of the day to share love with family and friends and to help another.
4. ’Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest,
Then made the earth my bed and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
In verse 4, we begin to see the sacrifices that the man is taking to serve. He goes out at night into a storm to find his guest. He begins to care for him emotionally by conversing and cheering him up. What a change from verse 1 when he barely knew who he was serving to verse 2 when he was just taking care of his physical needs. I know that as we serve another, our love and friendship for each other grows. He gave him his couch to rest while he made the earth his bed. Anothers needs are placed ahead of his own.
5. Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment—he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.
In verse 5, we see how much he loves the man he is serving. He takes care of him physically, showers him with his finest things, wine and oil, and shows undeviating devotion to protect and care for him even when it meant putting his own life and reputation at stake. From that moment he forgot the smart and peace bound up his broken heart. Doing what is right isn’t always easy, but ultimately, the Spirit will lift and bless our lives.
6. In pris’n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor’s doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him ’mid shame and scorn.
My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, “I will!”
This man was now living a consecrated life. He had given his finest things in verse 5 and now he had given up worldly honor and respect to follow the Lord. His own life if needs be to follow the Savior. This doesn’t happen overnight. This mans love and devotion grew as he served. His willingness to serve evolved into a life of sacrifice, a life of devotion and eventually into a life of consecration. It is a gradual process that we are all undergoing.
7. Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
“Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”
Finally we learn that when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God.
I encourage everyone to go home and ponder how the Lord would like you to serve. I know he will guide and direct you and give you opportunities to serve.
Last year, I evaluated service in my life and realized that it was very easy for me to give of my time and much harder to give of my things. I decided that I was going to work on that. I prayed and sought opportunities to overcome this fear I had of giving up my possessions. At first this was very difficult, but with time, prayer and repetition it became much easier and has emmensely blessed my life. I don’t have this fear of holding onto things that I really don’t need. As we work and seek after opportunities to serve, we are blessed and recognize the Lords hand in every aspect of our lives.
I think it is also important to realize that the areas we serve change. When Tyler was sick for the first year of his life, Danny and I were recepients of service. We were in survival mode, spending every ounce of energy serving each other and our children. Now that Tyler is a little better, we are able to serve outside our immediate family. It is ok and actually good to say no sometimes. That doesn’t mean we have an unwilling heart, it just means that we are focusing our energy in another area of service.
I have been blessed in my life with people who have taught me the power of love and service. I have been blessed with a family who is the perfect example of service. My mom and dad would do anything for anyone. They were always making meals, sometimes feasts, to help another. It seemed that our spare bedroom always had someone living in it in time of need always accompanied by large meals and a welcoming smile.
They taught me and my sister by example.
This ward family is an incredible example of service. I have had people by my side lifting me in times of need, teaching me in times of ignorance and helping me in times of need.
Just this week, people within the ward have blessed my life. We were supplied with dermabond to repair Scott’s head. We were prepared a fabulous dinner after casually stopping by a friends house. The entire ward came to my rescue in putting together a beautiful funeral luncheon for 100 people in just one day. There wasn’t a person that wasn’t willing to help. Several woman spent their afternoon setting up and serving a wonderful meal to lighten the burden of a family in need. A friend watched Tyler for me on Friday. I was given boxes to move. I was given clothes for my kids. I was told that my child was cute. I was offered babysitting for my kids from several people. I received help unloading furniture from our truck.
As you have each served me in very unique ways, I have been blessed. I have been blessed with increased love and appreciation for each of you. I have been blessed with a lighter load to carry. I have been blessed with knowing that I am not in this alone. I am truly blessed.
As we serve and allow others to serve us, we come to understand the Saviors love. As all of these wonderful men and woman have served me this week, I have come to see them as the Saviors angels here on earth. Never judging my imperfectness or imperfect family, always being willing to help and lift and make my burden lighter.