Sunday, March 7, 2010

Words of the weak and simple.

jenn's conference notes

{my notes from Stake Conference last Sunday...}

In a recent post, I mentioned my experience while attending a Stake Conference and how inspired I was after this particular meeting. I had truly felt the Spirit during this meeting because of the 10 different speakers who gave talks on this particular Sunday. I left this meeting feeling grateful for these sweet speakers and for the time they took to prayerfully seek the Spirit in preparing their talks. This experience was further confirmation to me that "talks" given in Sacrament meetings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is an inspired system. It has purpose and meaning--to touch the hearts and minds of its members and those investigating the church.

I said that I would do a post about why we Mormons give "talks" on Sundays in our sacrament meetings. Here is my simple explanation to a question that I am asked often..."Why do your rank and file members give talks instead of a seminary-educated pastor?"

First let me explain that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there is no paid ministry. It is a lay ministry comprised of all its members. In modern revelation, the Lord declared "that the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world and before kings and rulers." Now, why in the world would the weak and simple be sent to kings and rulers and be sent to proclaim the Gospel? I will rely upon President Henry B. Erying {member of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints} to explain the answer to this question:

"You and I sometimes feel that we are wise and know a good deal. We have increasing experience. So why should a Sunday School teacher who seems weak and simple and less experienced be called by inspiration to teach us? {And I would add...why would someone weak and simple and less experienced be called to give a talk at church?}

One reason is that it requires humility on our part. It requires a humble heart to believe that you can be taught by someone who apparently knows a good deal less than you do and perhaps seems less likely to give revelation. When I was president of Ricks College years ago, I remember having a man who was my priesthood leader come to my house each month to interview me about my home teaching {where we visit other members of the church} he brought with him a notebook in which he wrote notes. He recorded not only my report as a home teacher but my observations about life as well.

I remember at first being very flattered. Then one Sunday he and I were visiting what was junior Sunday School, he was sitting a few rows in front of me, the speaker was a little girl no more than six or seven years old and not yet baptized. I glanced over at this man and noticed with surprise that he had that same notebook open. As the little girl spoke, he was writing with as much speed and intensity as he had in the study of my home. I learned a lesson from him that day that I haven't forgotten. He had faith that God could speak to him as clearly through a child as the president of a college.

I watched this man over the years. He kept listening even to children and novices called to teach him. He lived the commandments...he seemed to grow in wisdom...and served as a Bishop in the church {Bishops are the head lay minister over a congregation}. Tragedies of both illness and sin came to his family. Many years have gone by now...all of his children have come back to productive, happy lives through the blessings of heaven, the power of the Atonement and the ministrations of that humble father. Those miracles came I believe in large part, because he could hear the voice of God in words of the weak and simple.

I doubt that what he wrote in the pages of that binder over those many years held the secrets he needed to help his children. He may not have even kept the notes. But he practiced listening and he learned to hear. And so when he was desperate, as you and I will also be desperate, he could hear through the Spirit, the voice of comfort, direction and then peace."

This message above from President Henry B. Eyring illustrates the reason for talks shared by everyday people who have prayerfully sought and studied a particular topic.

Therefore, as an example, as I reflect on my notes from Stake Conference last Sunday, I learned the following from my fellow members of the church:

Speaker #1: Brother Martinez...he is leaving to serve a full-time mission in California in 2 weeks. He had recently enrolled in college and had begun this path, but felt prompted that he should instead serve a full-time mission for the Lord at this stage of his life. While this was a difficult decision for him, he knew it was the right one. His simple testimony of faith and following the promptings of the Lord touched my heart and reminded me that our Father in Heaven has a special plan for us. We don't always "get it" wh
en we receive inspiration or an answer to our prayer, but it is important that we listen and follow those promptings.

Speaker #2: Brother Rocha...he is a convert to the church. He shared his conversion story and a special experience he had while listening to the Primary children sing, "A Child's Prayer" one Sunday. I learned from Bro. Rocha that the Lord speaks to us at times through beautiful hymns and other worthy music. We are allowed to feel the Spirit often times just by listening and singing hymns.

Speaker #3: Sister Rocha...she was baptized 19 years ago; however, shortly after became inactive. She had been inactive for almost 18 years and had been feeling she needed to come back to the church, but was afraid what her non-member husband would think. She feared it would ruin her marriage. She prayed one day earnestly for help with a wayward son and a few minutes later, a knock was heard at her door. It was the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She initially turned them away, but her husband saw how distraught she was with her trial with her son, so he jumped in his car and found the missionaries and asked them to come back to their home. They began teaching this sweet family and now they are active members of the church and happier than ever. Sister Rocha shared sweet testimony about members of the church befriending less active and converts to the church. She said that the kindness that members of this church showed her were crucial to her and her family joining the church. I was reminded by Sister Rocha how important it is that I stay mindful of how much newly active or newly baptized members of our church need us. They need to feel welcomed each and every Sunday with a smile and a hug.

Speaker #4- Sister Trevino...shared how she prayerfully sought inspiration on what she should share in her talk. She is the mother of 5 children and shared a wonderful message on motherhood and how it is a sacred calling from the Lord. One quote she shared that I loved was, "Awake, Arise and Go Forward in your callings as Mothers..." She also shared how mothers are the heart of their homes. We have a responsibility to bless the lives or our children and husbands. She then asked the mothers in the audience to ask ourselves the following questions:
1.) How am I the heart of my home?
2.) What are the small things you do on a daily basis to strengthen your child(ren)'s testimonies?
3.) Do your children feel loved and listened to?
4.) Does your husband feel loved and listened to?
5.) Are we preparing our children to go out into the world on their own?
6.) Are we giving our children the tools they'll need to be successful in their battle with Satan?

I personally learned a great deal from Sister Trevino's talk. I felt the Spirit so strongly while she was speaking {so much I had to keep wiping away the tears...} and knew that the Lord was loving on me during this sweet woman's message. At one point, she spoke to mothers in the audience who could not bear children of their own. She shared that our Father in Heaven is mindful of our desires and all that we do to raise other children who come into our lives--and how we will be blessed for our efforts in caring and loving these sweet spirits. I have no doubt I was supposed to hear this talk on this day from Sister Trevino. Many of her points were things that I have been personally struggling with and questioning as a wife and mother. They were sweet reminders of where my priorities should be and why my calling at this time in my life as a wife and mother is so important.

Speaker #5: Sister Buhidar...this woman is a ROCK in the gospel. She is so straight forward in her manner of speech and bore a strong testimony of the church and its mission. Her talk was centered on Luke, Chapter 17-the story of Christ and the lepers where after being healed, only 1 returned to give thanks and show their gratitude. She asked the audience to ponder this...

How can we show our love for the Savior in our own lives?

She gave us tips on how we can do a better job of showing our love for Him:
1.) Show greater faith in Him in our actions and deeds
2.) Show trust in Him--avoid putting your trust in the arm of flesh
3.) Study the life of Christ, his resurrection and the Atonement
4.) Strive to have the relationship with Christ as the apostle John did

She reminded us that He knows us better than we know ourselves.

6 Qualities Sister Buhidar shared that we should strive to have in our own lives:
1.) Have greater self-respect
2.) Have integrity
3.) Do not be easily offended
4.) Develop a capacity to be loved by others
5.) Do not murmur -- think positive
6.) Become some one of REAL faith

I was inspired to be more proactive in my life and my faith by Sister Buhidar's talk. I was reminded how important it is to place Heavenly Father and Christ first in my life.

Speaker #6: Sister Miller (wife to the McAllen, TX Mission President)...she shared that God loves ALL of his children...even those who do not have the Gospel. The Lord wants to work miracles in our lives and he is waiting for those of us who have the Gospel to open our mouths and share it with others. I was reminded during Sister Miller's talk of the responsibility I have to be more willing and confident in sharing my testimony with others. I need to pray to know who I need to share the Gospel with and pray more diligently for inspiration on how to do so.

Speaker #7: Brother Miller (current Mission President for McAllen, Texas mission)...he shared a strong testimony of the church and its mission here on earth. He has a firm testimony in the leadership of the church and that it is led by a prophet of God. I was impressed by Brother Miller's powerful and heartfelt testimony of the priesthood here on earth.

Speaker #8: President Hernandez (2nd counselor in Stake Presidency) a verse from the hymn, "Praise to the Man" and shared his experience of touring Carthage jail where Joseph Smith was held captive. He became emotional as he shared how he felt being there. He talked about the fact that we do not worship Joseph Smith -- rather, we revere him as a faithful servant of God. I found this to be very powerful and a great explanation of what Joseph Smith is to us as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. So often I am questioned why we worship Joseph Smith...this simply is not true.

Speaker #9: President Berry (1st counselor in Stake Presidency)...his topic was from Matthew 7:12--"Do Ye Even So To Them..." He asked us to ponder in our lives this teaching and ask ourselves, do we live this principle in our lives? i.e. do we turn down a visit from our home teachers? ... do we welcome the missionaries into our homes?... President Berry reminded us that when we deny others opportunity for service, we in essence deny them the opportunity to receive blessings in their own lives.

Speaker #10: President Wilson (our Stake President)...his talk was on cultivating our testimonies. He shared a story of a blackberry bush he had in his backyard. It had grown a little out of control and he tried to clear away some of the thorny bushes and suffered many cuts and scratches as a result. He equated our testimonies with the thorny bushes. If we care for our testimonies, they will flourish and thrive...however, if we allow weeds to grow through sin and temptation, the cuts from the thorny bush can be painful and take time to heal. The same is true for the repentance process...we can heal through the Atonement of Christ; however, the process can be a painful for us. He explained that we must battle the temptations of this world for Satan will tempt us in all manner of carnal desires. We must find and maintain our testimonies daily through scripture study and prayer. I was especially grateful for the stake president in sharing his story of losing his mother a few weeks ago. He shared a special experience he had just before her death and how Heavenly Father answered a question he had about his mother. It was very touching and a reminder of how closely Heavenly Father listens to our prayers and answers them in his own, unique way.

In closing, this particular Stake Conference is further confirmation to me of why our church is set up the way it is. It truly is inspired. Talks given in our Sunday sacrament meetings have extra meaning and purpose because they come from everyday people, just like you and me, living ordinary lives. That's the beauty of it...words of the weak and simple are often how we hear the voice of God.

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful, Jennifer! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights. Beautiful!


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