Monday, June 22, 2009

Redemption for the Dead

This week, our lesson (Chapter 35 in the JS manual) was taught by Sister Diane Smith. She did a GREAT job! She made the words of Joseph Smith come alive and created a desire in all of us to read our lessons to learn more of his teachings.

Diane started by telling the story of the prophet's older brother Alvin. Alvin was about 8 years older than Joseph. When Joseph was almost 18, Alvin got very sick. When he realized that he was not going to get better, he called his family together to tell them all goodbye. I love that he told Joseph to "be a good boy." In those days, age 17 was a man, but Alvin loved Joseph as his little brother.

13 years later, Joseph had a vision in which he saw his mother and father and Alvin in the celestial kingdom and he "marveled how it was that [Alvin] had obtained an inheritance in that kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins."

It was at this point that the Lord revealed great truths previously not known about redemption for the dead.

It is not hard to imagine the great joy that filled Joseph's heart to know that his dear brother was not lost and to begin to understand that all men would have an opportunity to learn and live the Gospel whether in this life or in the life to come. A few years later, after the ordinance of baptism for the dead was introduced to the church, Hyrum was baptized for Alvin.

Diane taught us that God loves all his children, not just those who find the Gospel while they are here on this earth. She reminded us that Jesus offers forgiveness to both the living and the dead. She quoted Joseph Smith,

"The situation of the Christian nations after death, is a subject that has called forth all the wisdom and talent of the philosopher and the divine, and it is an opinion which is generally received, that the destiny of man is irretrievably fixed at his death, and that he is made either eternally happy, or eternally miserable; that if a man dies without a knowledge of God, he must be eternally damned, without any mitigation of his punishment, alleviation of his pain, or the most latent hope of a deliverance while endless ages shall roll along. However orthodox this principle may be, we shall find that it is at variance with the testimony of Holy Writ, for our Savior says, that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men wherewith they shall blaspheme; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come, evidently showing that there are sins which may be forgiven in the world to come, although the sin of blasphemy [against the Holy Ghost] cannot be forgiven [see Matthew 12:31–32; Mark 3:28–29]." (emphasis added)

We then talked about the fact that God is merciful to all people, living and dead. And we were reminded that we have the duty and privilege to be baptized and confirmed for those who have died without the Gospel.

Diane closed with this scripture, D&C 18:15-16

"15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one asoul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the akingdom of my Father, how great will be your bjoy if you should bring many csouls unto me!"

Sister Smith reminded us that doing temple work, like missionary work, brings souls into the Kingdom of God. We are promised that we will have great joy with the souls we do temple work for.

Sisters, how blessed we are to know that the Lord loves all of his children. In the Prophet Joseph's words, "...While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard."

What a fitting thought to end with on Father's Day. Let us strive to honor our Heavenly Father this Father's Day by looking upon the whole of the human family with His eyes. Let us love one another and serve one another as He does.

We love you sisters! Thanks for everything you do for each other and for all of those around you. Keep it up!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ

This week's lesson was taught by our fearless leader, Kerinda. She took many of her thoughts from a conference talk by Elder Kevin W. Pearson entitled, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You can find the talk here. Kerinda began by reminding us that we all need faith in Christ. She spoke of the trials we all face and talked about the fact that sometimes it is hard to stay as faithful as we would like to be. Even Elder Pearson said, "I acknowledge my own need and desire for greater faith as a disciple and witness of Christ. There has never been a greater need for faith in my own life than now."

Kerinda then had us open to our Bible Dictionaries and read the definition of faith found here. That was amazing. It is something that we all should read over and over and over. Click the link and read it now. Kerinda reminded me that sometimes I forget to use the Bible Dictionary as I should.

We then focused on the fact that, "strong faith is developed by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ; in other words, faith comes by righteousness...." Elder Pearson said, "As patterns of obedience develop, the specific blessings associated with obedience are realized and belief emerges. Desire, hope, and belief are forms of faith, but faith as a principle of power comes from a consistent pattern of obedient behavior and attitudes. Personal righteousness is a choice. Faith is a gift from God, and one possessed of it can receive enormous spiritual power."

We spoke of how fear and faith cannot coexist.

Elder Pearson said, "We do have a choice. We get what we focus on consistently. Because there is an opposition in all things, there are forces that erode our faith. Some are the result of Satan’s direct influence. But for others, we have no one but ourselves to blame. These stem from personal tendencies, attitudes, and habits we can learn to change. I will refer to these influences as the “Six Destructive Ds.”"

The Six Destructive Ds are:

Doubt which leads to
Discouragement which leads to
Distraction or lack of focus and reduced commitment which can lead to a lack of
Diligence which leads to
Disobedience which ultimately can lead to

The good news is that it does NOT have to happen that way. We have the power to choose differently.

We ended with the words to Hymn #128, When Faith Endures

I will not doubt, I will not fear.
God's love and strength are always near.
His promised gift helps me to find
An inner strength and peace of mind.
I give the Father willingly
My trust, my prayers, humility.
That fear departs when faith endures.