I was asked to speak this week in my ward, seeing as though it was my last Sunday here in Texas. This may sound weird, but I have never felt more guided in a talk than I did in this one, so I thought I would post it. I cried through the whole darn thing.
When I read over the talk the bishop asked me to speak on, I thought, ‘Oh great, I get to be ‘That girl’ who talks about the temple and the sealing power and how she is getting married.’ So if at any moment you feel yourself about to gag, blame bishop. I won’t ever stand up here and tell you that you are doing it all wrong, that there is one right way to find someone to spend eternity with, because eternity is long time to spend with someone you mildly like. I will tell you, however, that the Lord is aware of you, that he knows you, and that He has a plan laid out specifically for you.
I honestly actually feel like I have been preparing for this talk for about five years. I am an avid blogger, nerdy I know, but I really love it because I have had the opportunity on a few choice occasions to share some really deep feelings about the gospel and its principles that I probably wouldn’t have shared otherwise. Several times I have come across talks that have touched me enough to write about them, and I will reference a few of them today.
Today I want to talk about the word Remember. Now, normally when people say things like that, they start out with the Webster’s dictionary definition of the word...I’m going to go ahead and spare you that, but it would be interesting to note that the word remember is found in the Old Testament 167 times, the New Testament 36 times, the Book of Mormon 157 times, the Pearl of Great Price 1 and the Doctrine and Covenants 44 times. Add those all together and you get 405 times that the word remember is used in the scriptures, which is interesting because that is the exact number of really bad first dates I have been on in my lifetime. Kidding. But it is interesting to realize how often information is repeated to us over and over again, and how often, when in the depths of despair, some of the most vile sinners in the scripture were brought to a remembrance and that act alone saved them.
Enos remembered the words and teachings of his father, an act that helped him receive blessings that had long been awaiting him. He was granted, according to his faith, the desires of his heart, which was that the welfare of his brethren be preserved that they too would be able to partake of the blessings of the gospel and thus also be saved by his righteous desire.
Alma the younger remembered not only his sins, but the words of his father. In Alma 36 we read: 13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God and that I had not kept his holy commandments. 15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. 17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. 18 Now, as my mind caught hold up on this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. 19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. 20 And oh what joy and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
Isn’t that AWESOME! Now you are probably thinking to yourself, what on earth does this have to do with the temple and the sealing power. In President Eyring’s talk to the Priesthood last conference, he talked about the sealing power, giving guidance to father’s on how to lead their families so that they would be covenant families. He spoke about how nothing we did meant anything without the sealing power. In his words, : The Holy Spirit of Promise, through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come. President Harold B. Lee explained what it means to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise by quoting Elder Melvin J. Ballard: “We may deceive men but we cannot deceive the Holy Ghost, and our blessings will not be eternal unless they are also sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Ghost is one who reads the thoughts and hearts of men, and gives his sealing approval to the blessings pronounced upon their heads. Then it is binding, efficacious, and of full force.”
The first piece of advice he gave to fathers was this: “First, gain and keep a sure witness that the keys of the priesthood are with us and held by the President of the Church. Pray for that every day. The answer will come with an increase in determination to lead your family, in your feelings of hope, and with greater happiness in your service. You will be more cheerful and optimistic, a great blessing for your wife and family.” Essentially he is saying to remember the power and the blessings that come from the Priesthood, and lead your family accordingly. We see how important it is to lead your family in remembrance of the covenants you are founded on. If Enos and Alma hadn’t been taught the importance of covenants, repentance, if they hadn’t been taught the gospel, they wouldn’t have had anything to remember! Now none of us are sealed to spouses, but it is important to remember that most of us are sealed to our parents. So the blessings of sealing power are already available to you. Isn’t that amazing! To me that is the sign of a truly merciful father in Heaven.
The scriptures teach us that The blessings that we seek are READILY available to us, but those blessings are predicated on our faith in his gospel and his plan. At the very heart of our faith in Christ is the assurance that through His atoning sacrifice, we can become clean, every whit. The Lord has revealed that ‘When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. The Lord makes generous promises, and He certifies that He will not vary from these promises. ‘I the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.’ The Lord has also promised that ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask the FAther in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.’
WHAT AN AMAZING PROMISE!! But the key is that we have to live as though the blessings our already ours. We have to push forward, we have to be patient, we have to be worthy of the blessings of the temple, and if we aren’t, we have to repent.
That may seem impossible at times, but I testify that it isn’t. The apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:9 testified that, ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering towards us.’ In our time of fast food, one hour photos , pizza delivery in 45 minutes or less, it may seem like God has misplaced our precious promises or He has put them on hold or filed them under the wrong name. We aren’t alone in feeling like the promises of the Lord don’t apply to us, either because we do not feel worthy of them, or we feel like he has forgotten us. I have felt that. I know what its like!
I hesitate to share this story because it might be a bit of an over share as far as my life is concerned, but I feel it is necessary to illustrate my point. When I was 20 years old, I moved home in order to prepare myself for a mission. I hadn’t really prayed about it, but I knew I wanted to go. I went home, was called as a ward missionary, and began to prepare for what was to come. In the process, I became really good friends with the ward mission leader. As any disastrous boy/girl friendship went, I started to like him. I prayed to ask whether it was something I should pursue or not and got a very clear answer that I was not to date him, I was go go on a mission. I didn’t listen. After a very painful relationship for both of us, we broke up, and I went on a mission where I learned Spanish and fell in love with the country of Chile. I wasn’t what you would call a ‘successful missionary’. I didn’t baptize thousands or hundreds or even dozens. I would often think of the promises in my patriarchal blessing and wonder why ‘many’ weren’t coming to the truth because of my testimony. I blamed it on my hesitation to go on my mission. After I returned home I learned that many people I had taught had indeed been baptized, just not when I was there teaching them.
After my return I found dating to be hard and again I remember thinking that my hesitation to serve when I knew I should have had cost me blessings, I remember distinctly one day receiving an email of encouragement from my dad reminding me of ‘promised blessings’. He said, ‘As you know, they neglected to give us the most current addition of the 'Parents Manual' when you were born so I am sure that we have and will continue to make mistakes in giving advice in your life. Understand that I, we, only have your best interests at heart and would not intentionally give you advice to hurt you. But alas, your Dad, at least, is a bit of a twit, and at times, does silly stupid things. Hopefully this is not one of them.
I sense when we talk that all is not right with you from an emotional view and you are anxious for your life to go to the next step, which opportunity has not presented itself to you . . . a least for the moment. You should not focus on nor stress over such matters. Know that the Lord knows what is best for you and will guide you in your journey as you stay close to him and seek his guidance. This is fact.”
While his advice was meaningful and heartfelt, it was hard for me to hear. I thought to myself, ‘I have served a full time mission, I deserve these blessings now!’ To make a short story much too long, I had many failed relationships before I eventually met the man that is going to be my husband. Many of those relationships were with guys who could not take me to the temple. Elder Spencer R. Condie gave a talk called ‘Claim the Exceeding Great and Precious Promises’. In it he said the following:
Sometimes, in our earthly impatience, we may lose sight of the Lord’s precious promises and disconnect our obedience from the fulfillment of these promises. The Lord has declared: ‘Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled? I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing. Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. but wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above.”
So what do we do about it? In that same email from my dad, he sent me a talk given by Elder and Sister Holland when they were the Presidents of BYU Provo Campus called ‘However Long and Hard the Road’. The talk began with a letter written by a student to Elder Holland which read: Dear President Holland, I am completing my undergraduate experience this month and will be graduating in our upcoming commencement ceremonies. My parents are relieved, my professors are surprised and I am holding my breath. Things could go wrong you know, even at this late of date. And that brings me to my one grievance with you. It is this late date business. My dates have been so late, that they have never shown up! I thought it was an assumed part of my BYU contract that I would be married before graduation. Well you have just under three weeks to come up with somebody or I want my tuition back!’ President Holland went on to commend the young woman on her sense of humor in what could be a very difficult situation and then gave the following counsel:
My concern is that you will face some delay and disappointments in these formative years of your life and feel that no one in the history of mankind has ever had your problems or faced your difficulties. And when some of those challenges come, you will have the temptation common to us all to say, ‘The task is to difficult, the burden to heaven, the path too long.’...To you I say this morning, ‘Be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.’ That great work is YOU! Your life, your future, the very fulfillment of your dreams. That great work is what, with effort, and patience and God’s help, you can become. When days are difficult and problems seem unending, I plead with you to stay in the harness and keep pulling. You are entitled to ‘Eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days,” but it will require your heart and a willing mind. It will require that you stay on your post and keep trying.
There will be many times where we all stumble and fall. We will make wrong decisions and will be forced to deal with the consequences. The beauty of the gospel is that we can ALWAYS rely on the atonement to become clean, we have the ability to ALWAYS be worthy of the sealing power. Those who are sealed in holy temples and who faithfully keep their covenants will receive God’s glory, which ‘shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever’ When Christ went to the America’s, after teaching for a time, he says to them, ‘HAve ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame or blind...or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.’ Christ wants to heal you, of your sins, of a broken heart, of ANY affliction that prevents you from having the faith necessary to receive the promised blessings He and His Father have prepared for you.
The Apostle Paul in Hebrew’s 11:4-13 talks about the faith of Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sara, concluding that these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth.’ They knew that earth life was a journey and not a final destination.
Now I hope to come full circle with this last explanation. One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament (yes I read the Old testament) is the story of Rachel. I have read it many many times over the course of my post mission life, relating at different moments to different characters in the story. Just to refresh your memory, Jacob, the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham goes to his Uncle’s house, Laban and falls in love with Rachel. He works 7 years for her, but on the night of their wedding, Laban pulls a fast one and Jacob ends up marrying Leah. HE was mad, but agrees to work another 7 years for Rachel. He loved Rachel so it wasn’t a big deal, but he neglects Leah. The Lord sees this and blesses Leah with children while Rachel remains barren. Leah bares child after child, which is so hard for Rachel that she goes to Jacob one day and says, ‘GIVE ME CHILDREN, OR ELSE I DIE!’ Leah then bares two more sons. Jacob says to Rachel, ‘Am I in God’s stead who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’ Essentially saying, its not me!
Many of you may be feeling like Rachel, angry or upset because your life isn’t exactly the way you had hoped it would be, with all the blessings you have been promised. It is tough at times to feel like the Lord recognizes your trials and difficulties, but I am here to testify that He does. HE is aware of every one of your struggles, and is waiting to bless you. GO TO HIM in prayer and as he has healed so many before, he will heal you. He will bless you, in his own due time, with the righteous desires of your heart. Elder Condie ended his talk with the following words:
But with the passage of time, we encounter four of the most beautiful words in holy writ: ‘And God remembered Rachel” And she was blessed with the birth of Joseph and later the birth of Benjamin. There are millions on earth today who are descendants of Joseph who have embraced the ABrahamic promise that through their efforts ‘shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. When heaven’s promises sometimes seem afar off, I pray that each of us will embrace these exceeding great and precious promises and never let go. And just as God remembered Rachel, God will remember you.
Remember that the ultimate goal is the temple. Remember all that that encompasses and remember that you are entitled to it's blessings. I stand as a witness that our Father in Heaven has our individual needs in mind. Be true to your covenants, repent if necessary and move forward with a smile on your face. The blessings of the sealing ordinance are already available to you, through your worthiness and willingness to stay the path. Be faithful in your pursuits and in the due time of the Lord, you will be blessed with what you so desire, this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, AMen.