Sunday, February 24, 2013

Stake Conference Gone Viral

Speaking of Stake Conferences....below is a talk from a recent Stake Conference given by the Hidden Valley Stake President.  This talk made it into the Salt Lake Tribune.  A first that I know of.   He states that:" it is not my intent today to be controversial, political, or even dire."  But I think he covered all three so very well.  I have learned throughout my years that church leaders are mortal.  Their personalities and life experiences show up in the way they teach.  Some I enjoy more so than others.  Fact of life.  This talk received "cheers from the right and jeers from the left."  Ummm,  and it is not political.  As for me it received a  jeer.  Democrat and proud of it!  Yes, that pride of mine would have kicked into gear full force and I would  have  walked out of this conference.  Most likely I would have done that because otherwise I would not have  had a ride home!  Scott is far more left than his wife!  Can't wait to hear what President Shamo has to say today! But you can read the one below and decide if it receives a cheer or jeer from you.

"Another year has come and gone – the year 2012. A year about which much was speculated, predicted, and some would even argue prophesied. And while the most discussed prediction or prophecy – that of the Mayans concerning the end of the world – did not come to pass, I feel and believe that 2012 will still prove to be one of the more significant years in our life time.

Let’s take a moment and look back at a few things that happened in 2012:
- Gaza fired missiles on Jerusalem causing heightened unrest in the Middle East
- The Director of the CIA, a man considered to be of the highest moral integrity, resigned due to improprieties and adultery
- The UN Ambassador was instructed by the White House to cover up what happened in Libya, attempting to minimize the deaths of four Americans who were murdered
- There was an attempt to raise taxes during the worst economic times since the great depression
- Hurricane Sandy, called the “perfect storm” hit the east coast causing great devastation
- Iran became closer to a nuclear weapon
- The use of marijuana was legalized in Washington and Colorado
- Some states legalized same sex marriage
- 23 states began a petition to secede from the nation
- Russia strengthened its coalitions with North Korea and Iran
- Forces aligned to stop school prayer, but allowed the handing out of birth control
- The government used tax dollars to fund abortions
- Examples of violence, gambling, drug misuse, and infidelity were more prevalent than ever
- Hollywood promoted parenthood without marriage
- Education scores of our youth plummeted to their lowest levels ever
- And finally, we were brought to the edge of the fiscal cliff.
In my opinion, the first 30 days of 2013 have proven to be the same. In fact, my head is spinning at all of the insanity and craziness that is happening in the world.

Now, I want to make it clear that it is not my intent today to be controversial, political, or even dire. My intent is to state the facts as I see them, as the Stake President, having been moved upon by the Holy Ghost. When I speak from this pulpit as the Stake President, the primary intent of my voice is one of love and compassion, but I also have an obligation to use my voice as a warning when it is necessary. Today is a day when I choose to use it primarily as a voice of warning, hoping you will realize and understand that it is in love and compassion for you that I do.

Each of us has our agency and we are free to act for ourselves. We are agents unto ourselves and each of us is free to take what I say as he or she will. You may choose to disagree with me. You may even choose to ignore me, but I have been impressed by the spirit to say what I must say.

Never in my life have I witnessed a more stark difference between good and evil than I did in 2012. Never has there been a greater moral, economic, or political decline in society than there was in 2012 and over the last few years. The current moral condition of our world and country reminds me of the condition described in Helaman, chapter 5, verse 2, and I quote:
“For their as laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”

In 2012 the voice of the people spoke loudly and clearly as it chose:
- Socialism over capitalism
- Entitlements over free enterprise
- Redistribution and regulation over self reliance.

Unfortunate as it is, this should not come as a surprise to any of us who have spent the better part of our lives as members of this church. The scriptures and the prophets have warned us for hundreds of years, and have been trying to prepare us for this time. The scriptural and modern-day prophecies we have read and heard throughout our lives are no longer prophecies to us – they are now our living reality. Let me take a moment and share with you a few of the scriptural and modern-day prophecies and quotes that I find interesting and revealing.
First, on November 9th, 2012 ( just a few months ago) the First Presidency issued the following statement: “We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people.” The most glaring part of this statement, to me, is the acknowledgement from our prophet and the First Presidency that we are living in difficult and turbulent times. Now, listen carefully to these two quotes. To me, these quotes are fascinating, and they reflect the ability of our leaders to see and predict the future.

In 1976 (this statement was made over 35 years ago) while serving as a President of the Seventy, Neal A. Maxwell said the following:
"I fear, that, as conditions worsen, many will react to the failures of too much government by calling for even more government. Then there will be more and more lifeboats launched, because fewer and fewer citizens know how to swim. Unlike some pendulums, political pendulums do not swing back automatically; they must be pushed. History is full of instances when people have waited in vain for pendulums to swing back”.

In 1966 (this statement was made over 45 years ago) while serving as an apostle, Howard W. Hunter said this:
“The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have nots.” [When this happens] Both have lost their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not”, lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift”.

Now I quote from 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-4:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”.

Sound familiar? It does to me, and as the Stake President I not only see it happening throughout the world, but I also see it happening right here in our stake. These conditions described by Paul concerning the wickedness of the last days are being realized right before my very eyes. As the Stake President, I see and hear all manner of sin – violence, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, and immorality of every kind. I believe there are not many things left for my eyes to see and my ears to hear. Evil is escalating at an alarming pace even here at home. Just as the Savior prophesied concerning the conditions in the world that would precede his Second Coming: “iniquity does abound, the love of men does wax cold” (JS-Matt. 1:30) and “all things are in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts do fail them, for fear has come upon all people” (D&C 88:91).

I now quote Elder Bednar in a talk he gave one day after the tragic events that occurred only 45 days ago in Connecticut. He said:
“We live in a world that grows increasingly confused and chaotic - ever more evil and dark. Nothing could have emphasized that truth more than the tragic events that occurred yesterday in Connecticut.”
With his comments, Elder Bednar also quoted recent comments made by President Packer, who said: “The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace.” Now, pay close attention to this next sentence brothers and sisters – President Packer said: “I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.” President Packer goes on to say: “I know of nothing in the history of the Church, or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now. Words of profanity, vulgarity, and blasphemy are heard everywhere. Unspeakable wickedness and perversion were once hidden in dark places; now they are in the open, and even accorded legal protection. At Sodom and Gomorrah these things were localized. Now, they are spread across the world, and they are among us”.

Brothers and Sisters, as I said last year during Ward Conferences – “we are in the count down.” Again, I say to you, that the scriptural and modern-day prophecies we have read and heard all throughout our lives are no longer prophecies to us – they are now our living reality. If there was ever a time in the history of the world for a people to wake up, pay attention, and get it together – now is that time. This is a defining moment for us, and we cannot delay. We need to get our temporal and spiritual houses in order. It is a must. Difficult times are still ahead and we need to be prepared. In my opinion, the last 5 years have put us on notice, and they should serve as a wake-up call in both temporal and spiritual matters.
All throughout my life I have been counseled by our church leaders to live within my means and get out of debt. In fact, there was no topic talked about more by President Hinckley, during his time as the Prophet, than living within our means and getting out of debt. As I look back on the last 5 years, it is no wonder to me why he did. We experienced the worst economic, political, and spiritual times in the history of our country, and even globally. The words of President Packer during his visit to our stake 4 years ago still ring loudly in my ears when he mentioned this topic and warned us, by saying:
"This time is different. We have not experienced this in the past. This time it is global, and it will be deeper and last longer than anything we have economically and spiritually experienced.”

Now, while temporal and economic conditions appear to be getting somewhat better, let us not kid ourselves about what is really going on. Any improvement is only temporary, and the conditions we have experienced over the last 5 years will eventually and certainly return, and even get worse. Let us not forget the last 5 years, and let us learn from it. Let us all finally follow the counsel of our prophets to live within our means and get out of debt. It is possible to get out of debt if we live within our means, but it is not if we don’t. Now, not only is temporal preparedness vital for our mortal existence, but it also sets the stage for us to be spiritually prepared. The most important matter for us to consider right now and always is our spiritual preparedness.

“As the Stake Presidency we encourage each individual member to set their own goals based on the following question:
What goal can I make that will bring me closer to the Savior?
We trust that as you prayerfully consider and ponder this question, it will be clear to you what your goal should be. We also testify that your personal commitment and discipline to fulfill this goal will indeed bring you closer to the Savior and will give you spiritual strength to remain firm and steadfast in the gospel regardless of the circumstances. Two other things I would also like to suggest are:
1) Don’t let a day go by in your life when you do not humbly and sincerely kneel before God to thank Him for your blessings and plead with Him to give you the spiritual strength to meet the challenges which are coming.
2) Perform a spiritual self examination. Examine every aspect of your life. Identify those things for which you need to repent and then do it. Simply put, focus on your own personal worthiness.
In the end, the only things that will matter will be our personal worthiness and our relationships, especially the one we have with the Savior.

Brothers and Sisters, President Packer was absolutely right when he said: “I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.” As difficult as it may be to embrace, it is simply God’s plan. The moral, economic and political conditions of the world will not, overall, get better. You and I were held back for this special time to prepare the earth for the return of the Savior. I believe many within the sound of my voice will be part of, and witnesses to, all of the events that will transpire prior to the return of the Savior. This will require each of us to be temporally and spiritually stronger than we are currently.

In closing let me share a quote from Heber C. Kimball:
The time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to the extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brothers and sisters, look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a TEST is coming, and who will be able to stand?
This church and each member of it has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to be temporally and spiritually prepared, and have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess these things will fall.

Brothers and sisters, the test has come. It is now upon us. No man or woman will be able to endure what is happening now, or what is ahead, if we are not temporally and spiritually prepared. If you are not, you will not stand.

The Savior will return in glory and He will sustain us through the difficult times ahead if we do our part and are temporally and spiritually prepared. "

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pride and Penitence

Tomorrow is not an average Sunday.  Tomorrow is Stake Conference.  It was 6 months ago that we attended our last Stake meeting.  I do not remember so much as to what was said last conference, but I vividly remember a lesson I was taught.

One of the counselors in the outgoing Stake Presidency was speaking.  I am clueless as to what he spoke about. Can I blame that on my age or perhaps my adult A.D.D?  But I can most certainly tell you what his 'becoming' taught me.  As he spoke I was so very impressed with his humility.  Such a humble man.  The choices  he had made showed in  his face, his countenance, his appearance, his very life.  I could not help but reflect on his younger brother , who had passed away not long before. and the extreme difference in the two.  His brother lived life, as the world would say, in the fast lane.  Plagued by addictions. He died young, well what I would now consider young, probably 50's (my grandchildren would say that is old).  For one brother his life motto seemed to be 'my will be done' while the other brothers motto seemed to be 'thy will be done.'  Pride versus humility.  I spent my entire conference reflecting on the two brothers, how very different their lives  had been.  Not only for them, but also for their prosperity.  Here were two brothers, both loved by their Heavenly Father, both having a Savior who died for them, both given their agency to make their own choices.  I was reminded of two quotes:  

"When one makes a choice he irrevocably binds himself to accept the consequences of that choice."  Marion G. Romney

"Individuals and nations will continue to choose what they want, but they cannot alter the ultimate consequences of what they want."  Neal A. Maxwell

I know the speaker was not nor is not perfect.  I know he has made choices in  his life that he most likely regrets.  We all do.  But his humility and penitence, combined with righteous desires has served him and his posterity well.  I have given much thought to pride versus humility since that meeting.  Realizing I do way to well with the 'my will be done'.  Pride , unfortunately, comes easy for me, way too easy.  But I suppose the first step is recognizing that weakness.  That, for me, is obviously the easiest step.  Now to choose to change.  To choose to be humble.  To choose to follow Christ.  That is a little more difficult.  But I will attend Stake Conference tomorrow and move forward one step at a time.  Hopefully remembering this fine man, his choices, the blessings that followed his choices and choosing that path for myself.