Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ


Original Talk Given July 28th, 2013

At the beginning of the year our State Presidency introduced the Stake Priorities, known as the Divinely Appointed Responsibilities. An outline of these can also be found in Handbook 2: Administering in the Church, Section 2.2

When I heard this originally, I thought, great idea. “It’s good that the Stake has some goals. I hope they do really well at that.” I didn’t really recognize they were asking US as a stake to help them achieve these goals. As high council, we have been asked to reintroduce the priorities, and encourage each member of the stake to set some goals for the remainder of the year in relation to each of these priorities.

Let me review with you what those are again:

Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ by loving, serving, and ministering to others in their personal lives.

Gather Israel Through Missionary Work by prayerful personal preparation and “seeking after the one.”

Care For the Poor and Needy through faithful payment of tithes, and other offerings of time, talents, and temporal means.

Enable Salvation of the Dead by qualifying myself and my family for the blessings of the temple and seeking out ancestors who are awaiting my assistance in this great work.

Today we’re going to focus on: Live the Gospel of Jesus Christ (by loving, serving, and ministering to others in their personal lives).

I shared with my daughter my topic for this week and she told me she knew what two of those words were, loving and serving, but wasn’t sure about Ministering. So I thought I would focus specifically on Ministering.

This topic is much more simple that the word makes it sound. The definition reads: to give service, care, or aid; attend, as to wants or necessities.

In the Doctrine and Covenants section 18:5 it reads: “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”

At baptism, we covenanted with the Lord that we would perform this work for others: This is Alma speaking:

Mosiah 18:8-10

8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

At first glance, ministering feels or sounds like it’s to be done, aligned with a particular calling, or only certain individuals are supposed to perform such work. But in reality it’s a calling we all share. The ways we minister vary, but all of us have the ability to perform the work.

As I prepared four areas of focus stood out to me:

Be Prepared

Recognize needs

Build Relationships/Gain Trust


*** Warning, each of these will help us to be a better ‘Minister’, but only Acting is truly necessary. Each focus just allows us to be more effective and possibly efficient in our service.

1. Be Prepared

How do you feel about your neighbor? Do you love your neighbor, as we are commanded to. I think most of us have a positive feeling about the people we’re surrounded by but I wonder if we have that love for others that keeps our minds and hearts open to their needs. I like to think I have love in my heart for others, but often times my pride gets in the way, and it blinds me from doing or feeling the way I should towards another. Yes, the spirit will direct our efforts, but doesn’t it help the Lord if we know someone well enough to see the need and not have to wait for an impression to do something.

Listen and be in tune with the Spirit

Ministering is doing what the Savior would do if he were here upon the earth. How could we hope to do His will if we don’t know what that will is? The only way we can know is to stay in tune with the spirit. This requires the typical “primary answers.” Go to church, read your scriptures, pray regularly, fast, be obedient to commandments, pay your tithes and offerings, and attend the temple regularly.

I think there is a tougher challenge to being in tune with the Spirit. Listening. This is one of those areas where Satan has the ability to stop our efforts. He does this through all the interruptions we face daily. Movies, Music, Facebook, Pinterest, hobbies, sports, our jobs or other worldly pursuits are the things that can keep us “out-of-touch”. These distractions keep us from knowing who really needs our help, or from what we could do to assist them.

For me, work can definitely be a challenge that interrupts:

A few years ago, I was preparing for a special training with my agents and I kept feeling like what I did for a living was a complete waste of time. I felt good about what I did, I knew I was helping people, but I felt as though I was wasting my time and not doing the Lord’s work. The training I was preparing at this time was about Associate Engagement. It was to help others to be more comfortable in how they felt with the company, what they did, and how they did it. By increasing Associate Engagement, productivity and consumer engagement would then increase. For some reason I was feeling hypocritical because “I” was lacking that engagement. YES, I know that what I did helped people, but that was in a worldly sense. I wanted to feel like I was doing more.

I felt inspired as it came to my mind that in most everything we do, we have the ability to touch lives. In most work places, we interact with people. Every interaction is an opportunity to lift someone else’s burden, to offer assistance, or to influence someone in a positive way. This way of thinking has changed the way I look at a meeting with an associate or an appointment in a perspective client’s home. I can be a disciple, look for ways to minister, and still perform my mundane worldly duties of the job.

Can you think of instances where you normally wouldn’t consider it a good time to “minister”?

We have the chance to make a difference in every area of our lives. Have you ever thought how you could minister in the most of annoying situations? At the DMV? When a telemarketer calls you at dinner-time? or even when you have a difference of opinion with a coworker?

How in tune we are with the spirit could determine how well we act in those situations.

Let’s turn to the scriputures and follow an example of the Savior:

In Luke 8:43-48 the Savior has been alerted by a father Jairus that his daughter is close to death if not already passed away so Jesus was on his way to see her:

43 ¶And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,

44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?

46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.

47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.

48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.

Could Jesus have just kept going at this moment when he had an important task he was asked to do? Yea, maybe, but instead even after the woman has been healed, HE gives her a statement of confidence and love to reassure her she was right, and good, and it was ok what she did. In a brief 30 second passing, could we say or do something that might help someone to feel the love of the Savior, or our Heavenly Father?

I have conversations everyday with many different people. Some of those conversation, discussing the delicate things of life; sickness, death, family changes, financial duress, and unemployment. I get the opportunity EVERYDAY to minister to others, but only if I’m in tune and choose to Minister instead of just do WORK. This is definitely an area of my life where I know I can do better. I’m far from where I need to be.

2. Recognize needs

I remember a lesson a while ago where the teacher lead a discussion about what attributes you and I possess as Sons and Daughters of Heavenly Parents. Our earthly parents passed down things like eye color, hair color, attached ear lobes/unattached ear lobes, etc. Sympathy, compassion, and empathy are a few of the characteristics I believe were passed down to each of us as traits from Divine Parents. The light of Christ in all of us may be another way to say it. It’s evident when we hear about a family with a sick child, a father who loses his job unexpectedly, or when a close friend loses a loved one. I think each of us feel something. Some of us are moved emotionally, others are driven to their knees in prayer, still others go into to-do-list mode, considering all the things that need to be done to help that individual. Regardless of our reaction, we all recognize when there is any degree of human suffering or need.

These characteristics are meant to cause us to feel uncomfortable, or to feel sadness for the individual in need. It’s these feelings that are meant to drive us to action. When someone stands in need, our divine make-up has us wired to move our bodies into action!

During the April 2011 General Conference President Erying spoke about this. “When the Lord hears the cries of those who suffer or stand in need, and He hears the prayers and pleading of those who want to help, He sends his guidance through the power of the Holy Ghost to those who can lift in the way necessary.”

Don’t discount the feelings you have when you hear of someone in need. Learn to understand, open your mind and your heart, and turn to the Lord when you feel one of those heavenly emotions: sympathy, compassion, and empathy.

3. Build Relationships/Gain Trust (this doesn’t have to be there in some situation, but if you are striving for it, it means much more when the message comes out of love rather than duty)

This is something I spend a ton of time talking about at work. I’m in sales. I train other agents regularly about the sales process. There are many important parts of a sales presentation but to me the most important is to build the relationship. To build common ground, to have perspective clients recognize you as “human” a real person with similar challenges and issues, and have them trust you is so important. I teach my folks to ask questions and then sit and listen.

I think it’s best to be involved in building relationships all the time. Then when someone needs help, it’s easier to draw from what you know about them to better fill the need.

It’s understandable that in many situations you don’t know the individual at all before the Spirit called you to their assistance. That’s ok too, but it’s crucial that when you have the chance, even if it’s a brief period, that we do our best to understand them, listen to the things they have to say, and listen to how they say things.

I like this advice from Elder Holland found in Preach My Gospel. In this case he is speaking of someone investigating the LDS Church, but I believe it applies:

“More important than speaking is listening. These people are not lifeless objects disguised as a baptismal statistic. They are children of God, our brothers and sisters, and they need what we have. Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends.”

I remember when I was very new to sales, sitting in a home with a lady that was very negative towards us being there. I couldn’t tell if she just wanted to yell at somebody, or was in a foul mood. Either way, I was getting it “both barrels.” I was training a new agent and he was making faces like we needed to get out of there.

At one point the lady had to go get something down the hall while we sat in the front room. I remembered we had not taken the time to get to know her (because we were getting chewed out from the moment we walked in the door). I quickly scanned her living room for anything that might bring us some common ground. Two things caught my eye and I was impressed that there was something special about them. She had a coffee table book about Dance, and then a beautiful glass figurine of a ballerina. My four-year-old daughter had just begun dance classes.

When the lady returned I asked her about the figurine. It was incredible, she melted with emotion on the spot. She told us how she had been a professionally trained dancer, then taught dance to hundreds of girls over the course of 20 plus years. Upon retiring, her students had a special event to honor her contributions and gave her the figurine as a token of appreciation. I shared my daughter’s recent dancing attempts, and the walls fell! Needless to say, the rest of our visit together (even the business part) was pleasant and enjoyable. By showing genuine interest I was able to change the climate of the situation and offer sincere help, and it was then well received.

Here is a little reminder I use to help me get to know someone better. I remember the acronym:


H ome – how long they have lived there, where they are from, who lives there with them, notice and comment on beautiful/unique things in their home.

E mployment – what they do for a living ? How long they have worked there? Where did they prepare for work? College, Tech School, etc.

L oved Ones – Children, grandchildren, spouse, brothers and sisters

P urpose – What’s important to them? What they like to do? Where do they spend down time? What brings them joy?

4. Act

This is the only required step of ministering and does not require the other three to be completed first. When you are prompted, Go and do. Don’t prepare, don’t wait for the right time. Step outside your comfort zone, and just DO.

Christ was a perfect example of ministering Christ knows how to minister perfectly… if we are his hands, should we not be able to do the same? The blessing of discernment will be yours. You WILL be guided in what to say and do.

There are so many different ways to minister. Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching, Quorum and Group Leader visits to name a few. It’s the meals to the sick, it’s the phone call to say hi. It could be a text message or an email. It could even be an invitation to do something, a commitment, a request of change in someone’s life. It could be an invitation to share Family Home Evening with you, or to come over and visit with the missionaries.

There was a comment I heard from the CEO of our company Mike McAllister. He made a comment that when we act this way to serve others, “We move into peoples’ lives.” I love that phrase for some reason… We Move Into People’s Lives. Doesn’t that feel like something our Father-in-Heaven wants of us. For his son’s and daughters to be actively involved in each other’s lives?

I think it’s difficult to explain exactly what ministering looks like, but I think these are some of the intentions: support, comfort, kindness, attention, encouragement, inclusion, acceptance, and a chance to feel the love from others and of our Heavenly Father. I pray that each of us will prayerfully consider what kind of ministers we are, and what we need to change in order to be the ministers our Heavenly Father needs us to be. I promise, that as we do so, we will have the ability to bless the lives of the people around us and help them to recognize the source of all goodness, even Jesus Christ, and want to come unto him. I leave this message with you in his name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Enable Salvation of the Dead


Original Talk Given:  June 23rd, 2013

Enable Salvation of the Dead: by qualifying myself and my family for the blessings of the temple and seeking out ancestors who are awaiting my assistance in this great work. 

Malachi 4:5-6

5 ¶Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

And then fulfillment to that prophesy in the Kirtland Temple on April 3rd, 1836

Doctrine and Covenants 110:13–16

13 … for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said:

14 Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—

15 To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—

16 Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.

The work that we are involved in of Salvation of the Dead is a blessed work. It is a priority to our Heavenly Father, and as we perform whatever level of this work we do, we are NOT alone. There is the “Spirit of Elijah” with us, inspiring us, and (for those of you who have done this work you know) in many instances leading or revealing to us.

What is this “Spirit of Elijah” we always hear about?

Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught that the Spirit of Elijah is “a manifestation of the Holy Ghost bearing witness of the divine nature of the family” (“A New Harvest Time,” Ensign, May 1998, 34

Doctrine & Covenants Section 128 gives us some incredible instruction from Joseph Smith. As Joseph was in hiding he wrote this letter of revelations he had received specific to work for the dead. I share two of those verses to show the urgency of the work we do:

Doctrine & Covenants 128:15

15 And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.

18 … It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children, upon some subject or other—and behold what is that subject? It is the baptism for the dead. For we without them cannot be made perfect; neither can they without us be made perfect. Neither can they nor we be made perfect without those who have died in the gospel also; for it is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time …

I guess I’ve never looked at the work in this regard. This work isn’t just doing service for our ancestors but it is essential to my own salvation. To assist in this connection of the eternal family is our duty and responsibility. There is a TON of work we have been asked to do in relation Salvation for the dead:

Family History – documenting family history, finding family names, entering and extracting data in,

Indexing, Arbitrating, Researching

Temple Service – helping to perform all the different vicarious ordinances

Baptism, Anointing, Endowment, Sealing.

The Work in the Spirit World

So while we are performing temple work on this side of the veil. What is happening on the other side? We turn to section 138 which contains revelations given to Joseph F. Smith about this:

Doctrine and Covenants 138

29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;

30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to fall the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.

31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.

32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets.

33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,

34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

So here we learn or are reminded that the work to teach and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the other side of the veil is moving forward at an intense pace. If “from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers”, think about some of the righteous that have gone before us. This is a powerful capable army working with those in the spirit world. I can’t help but think maybe they are a bit ahead of us in the work, and we have little catching up to do.

As I prepared for this talk, I had a bit of an excitement. In recent years I have done quite a bit to be involved in the salvation of the dead. I think the thing that really got me going was the Open House and Temple Dedications of the Oquirrh Mountain and the Draper Temples. To be able to participate in two of those in one year is what got me inspired to begin my own family’s work.

Temple Dedications, Open Houses

I’m sure most of us feel the same way when President Monson announces a new temple to be built. We hear the city and country and most of the time we think, ah that’s amazing… So and so will love having that temple so close, or wow, there are a lot of diligent Saints there. Occasionally, you’ll hear a location and the spirit testifies to you it’s time for that place to have a temple. Often times an area you are very familiar with or have lived is announced and you’re overwhelmed with joy and immediately start planning your trip to be at the open house. Of course others, you hear the location, and think… I don’t even know where that is, but yay! Another temple?

Regardless, we are a temple loving people. It is one of the most exciting things for us to hear the Lord has another house to poor out blessing to his saints in that corner of the globe.

Whenever possible my wife and I make it a point to get to temple open houses with our family. I’m sure many of us want that. It is not coincidence that each of us wants to see our whole family in the temple together. Obviously, making covenants and performing ordinances someday, but for today, to walk through the temple and see our children inside the temple with us is an incredible feeling. It feels much like a prelude of the future. Our family together in the presence of the Lord. Could we want for anything more? I look forward to a repeat of this as the Payson Temple and the Provo City Center Temples provide the same opportunities.

One memory I have of the Draper temple open house wasn’t as reverent as I would hope. As I turned to admire and look at some room.. I think it was an endowment room, my middle son, somehow got past the ropes keeping us away from a beautiful couch. He climbed up on the couch and for some reason actually bit the banister on the staircase behind. I was horrified! I share this to illustrate that if you’re ever frustrated that your temple experiences with your children don’t promote angel like behavior, I think that’s ok. It’s still a good place for us to be.

Touch the Temple

Somewhere around this same time my wife and I heard this talk from President Monson: I’m pretty sure it was in a conference talk but it really had an impact on me.

President Monson related this story: “The late Elder Matthew Cowley, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, once recounted the Saturday afternoon experience of a grandfather as hand in hand he took his small granddaughter on a birthday visit—not to the zoo or to the movies but to the temple grounds. With permission of the groundskeeper, the two walked to the large doors of the temple. He suggested that she place her hand on the sturdy wall and then on the massive door. Tenderly he then said to her, “Remember that this day you touched the temple. One day you will go inside.” His gift to the little one was not candy or ice cream but an experience far more significant and everlasting—an appreciation of the house of the Lord. She had touched the temple, and the temple had touched her.

President Monson, ‘As we touch the temple, the temple will touch us.”

Having very young kids my wife and I thought this might be a good thing to do with our kids for family home evening, and then it branched out to something we looked forward to as we went on vacation. Please don’t think by some imagination it is this quite reverent stroll through the temple grounds. With three little boys, there is always someone trying to swing from a tree, swim in the fountain, pick a flower, or steal rocks and put them in their pocket. Each time we make the kids pose at the door of the temple and put their hand on it, and we take a picture. To date, we have done this at 18 different temples. The visit usually ends with someone getting yelled at in a hushed, whisper. But I have confidence in knowing that my children know the temple, and they know it’s important to our family. I hope this is a good start to a life-long love of the temple. I do have faith in President Monson’s promise that the “temple will touch them”.

100 Names in 100 Days

A few years ago the ward we belong to participated in an activity where we took 100 NEW names to the temple. I really felt the impression to begin my temple work. I wanted to have some names that were included in this batch we were working on. At the time I was in young men’s and we needed to come up with names anyway to take for our next temple assignment. Fortunately, the ward hosted a family history class during Sunday School. Our ward family history consultants patiently helped us navigate through the After talking with my dad and an aunt I got started. My number one goal was to find where my Brown line came from. My father had traced it back five generations in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, but I didn’t know where it went from there. I traced the line back to New York… for now. But in the process, uncovered dozens and dozens of names. I became hooked!

How amazing it was to have the tools at my figure tips, in my home that I could do at any time. I encourage you all to just get in and try it. It will take a couple of hours to get your bearings and understand the landscape, but after that, each time you return you’re moving forward.

It has been such a wonderful feeling to connect to these ancestors I never knew.   I have felt a special spirit as I do this work late at night. It’s kind of detective work in a way. I love to uncover forgotten names, or run across a mistake or something missed. I know I’m not alone in the work.

Madison to the Temple

The final thought I want to share with you about my maturing down the path of Salvation of the Dead involves my daughter Madison. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but the moment Madison turned 12 we made it a priority to get to the temple for the first time together. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Madison loves the temple. It has been so inspiring to hear her talk about the temple and see the importance it already has in her life. I know my testimony of the temple wasn’t anywhere near that level when I was Madison’s age. One Sunday afternoon Madison took some time to set up her It took us a few hours, but she found six names we were able to take to the temple. I had to guide her for a little bit to get started, but it wasn’t long before she was correcting me and directing where I made mistakes or was being inefficient. The last time we did baptisms for the dead it was with these names. I testify that the spirit was very strong as I stood in the font with my daughter to perform these names. One of the workers pulled me aside afterwards and commented on the spirit he felt as well. I can’t help but think this was a welding link that we allowed to be put into place that day.

To conclude I wanted to share a few promises or blessing promised by our leaders of family history, temple work, and temple attendance:

President Monson:

Closeness to the Lord

Clearer perspective

Sense of purpose and peace

Will be able to bear every trial

Overcome each temptation

President Packer:

Receive Spiritual Perspective

The dust of distraction the haze seem to lift, we can see things that we were not able to see before and find a way through our troubles that we had not previously known.

Our labors in the temple cover us with a shield and a protection

Elder Bednar (October 2011 General Conference)

…Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.

Doing the work of Salvation of the Dead is challenging and rewarding. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity I have had to dig in just a little so far. I’m very humbled by the mini successes I have had and the spirit I have felt as I perform the work. I hope we each make the time to make the Temple more of a priority in our lives and be able to partake of the blessings that come because of it. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Care for the Poor and Needy

Widow's Mite

Original Talk Given:  May 26, 2013

Care for the Poor and Needy; through faithful payment of tithes and other personal offerings of time, talents, and temporal means.

My talk today may very well resemble a patch work quilt of quotes and stories from prophets and apostles, but I pray the spirit will help to connect the concepts together to share a message that will benefit your life and increase your faith.


Before we dig into the topic assigned today, I wanted to bring to light some of the things our prophet said during this past general conference (April 2013) about obedience. I think it sets a good tone as we begin a conversation about personal offerings.

From President Monson:

My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience.

The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.

from: D&C 93:28 “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things

“There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.”

“There are a lot of uncertainties in life. Many of which we have little control over. What we learn from the prophet’s instruction is through obedience we are able to navigate this life and find comfort in the knowledge and blessings He gives unto us. I think this may be the answer many of us are looking for in the challenges and trails we each face.”

What amazing instruction from a prophet of God. I never considered the power that exists when following obedience to commandments. So, now into the assigned topic:

Payment of Tithes and Offerings

To review… we are asked to pay tithing equivalent to 10% of our income/or increase. In addition we have been asked to pay fast offerings. We have been given a guide of the amount that would cover the cost of the two meals we fast for on fast Sunday. This is merely a guide. Many pay much more than this on a regular basis.

So, why do we pay tithing and other offerings?

Elder James E. Talmage once described this as a contract between us and the Lord. He imagined the Lord saying: “‘You have need of many things in this world food, clothing, and shelter for your family, the common comforts of life. You shall have the means of acquiring these things; but remember they are mine, and I require of you the payment of a rental upon that which I give into your hands. However, your life will not be one of uniform increase so instead of doing as mortal landlords do, requiring you to pay in advance, whatever your fortunes or prospects may be you shall pay me only when you have received; and you shall pay me in accordance with what you receive. If it so be that in one year your income is abundant, then your 10 percent will be a little more; and if it be so that the next year is one of distress and your income is not what it was, then your 10 percent will be less. Whatever your circumstance, the tithe will be fair. “Have you ever found a landlord on earth who was willing to make that kind of equitable contract with you?”

Another reason some pay tithing is because of the blessings we receive. We’ve been promised the in 3 Nephi 24:10… the windows of heaven will be opened up and blessing will pour out that there will not be room enough to receive it.

Before we go picking what blessing we want the Lord to give us for the tithe consider this comment by Robert D. Hales:

“The temporal and spiritual blessings of tithing are specifically tailored to us and our families, according to the Lord’s will.”

I think this can be difficult sometimes, especially when finances are tight. To have the faith to KNOW the Lord will bless us according to what we really NEED is not always easy.

Elder Hales continues to council us:

Would any of us intentionally reject an outpouring of blessings from the Lord? Sadly, this is what we do when we fail to pay our tithing. We say no to the very blessings we are seeking and praying to receive. If you are one who has doubted the blessings of tithing, I encourage you to accept the Lord’s invitation to “prove [Him] now herewith.” Pay your tithing. Unlock the windows of heaven. You will be abundantly blessed for your obedience and faithfulness to the Lord’s laws and commandments.

I think it important to mention for us to be careful here. The blessings WILL come. They have come to me in my own life, but they have not come in the exact way I had hoped for but they have come to me and my family in ways I had not realized we needed.

Let’s turn to the scriptures for a moment for an example of tithes being paid:

Mark 12:41-44

We read an account of the Savior observing those paying offerings in to the treasury:

42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

If we dig deeper into these scriptures, you can almost see the woman drop the two mites. I envision an older lady, in ratty clothing, with grey hair. She has a tired or worn look about her, but has a brilliance in her face being interpreted as immense gratitude to her Father in Heaven, for the blessings he has put before her. Not to mention the suffering she has experienced. Many years, without her husband. Her children, if she had any, were not around and it is assumed she was left to care completely for herself. Loneliness accompanied her much of the time. She had no well-paying job to speak of, only odd jobs enough to get by. But even with the concern of where she would get her next meal, she, in complete faith must pay her offering to the Lord again in Gratitude for all that she has received even though meager by normal standards. I’m sure she thought, as she dropped the coins, about how happy it made her feel that she could do something to help others… that may be poor and needy. What an amazing example to us all. When we hand our tithing envelope to the Bishop, is it done with this level of reverence or thought. What an uplifting opportunity for each of us that draws us closer to our Father in Heaven and our older brother!

Care for the Poor and the Needy

I want to switch gears here a little and talk more about caring for the poor and needy through personal offerings of time and talents.

Back in 2006 and my wife and I were faced with one of the largest challenges our family had experienced. We were expecting our fourth child (Taylor) and in order for him to survive when he was born, he needed to have fetal surgery. It was a process that required my wife to be in San Francisco for six weeks, and possibly longer if pre-term labor was triggered. This was such an overwhelming time for us. The thoughts of the unknown overwhelmed Paige and I’s minds almost completely. We received so much service at the hands of our families and especially our ward family.   It was amazing. I never had to wonder where my kids were at, who was picking them up, who was watching them next, or what we were going to eat that night? I got to focus on what I needed to, spending time with my three children (while their mother was away), being freed up to consider what we needed to do and how, then being able to go and do, at the drop of a hat. We were blessed in innumerable ways. I’m sure there were services performed I’m not even aware of. Fortunately, the surgery was a success, Paige was able to get back here… be it only a few days, then Taylor was born at the University of Utah close to home where we could manage the next three months. Today, Taylor is just a typical eight year old…healthy and strong.

In this past General Conference (April 2013) we were reminded of many statistics about the efforts of the church in helping people around the world. Literally thousands of people, put in thousands of hours, and millions of dollars in aid and other assistance have been given.   Our financial offerings are definitely being multiplied into great benefits to our brothers and sisters on this earth.

One might ask why we give such aid, sometimes in countries where the Gospel cannot be preached, but our aid is gladly accepted. As a salesman, trainer, and coach I really appreciated this next story. One of the things we always try to teach our sales people is to ask enough questions to truly understand the prospective client’s needs, then deliver a solution to their “true” problem:

In 1897 a young David O. McKay stood at a door with a tract (religious pamphlet) in his hand. As a missionary in Stirling, Scotland, he had done this many times before. But on that day a very haggard woman opened the door and stood before him. She was poorly dressed and had sunken cheeks and unkempt hair. She took the tract Elder McKay offered to her and spoke six words that he subsequently would never forget: “Will this buy me any bread?”

This event has been related as some of the very first roots of the Welfare program we have thriving today. In many cases, we must first feed people temporally before we feed them spiritually.

I wanted to take some time now to give a few examples of Caring for the Poor and the Needy. As I begin, please recognize in each of these examples, the individual “Giving” in each of these stories is equally or even more needy than the “Receiver.” (Much like the story we just read about the Widows mite). As you sit pondering the things going on in your own lives, and consider how busy each day is, it can seem very easy to push under the rug an opportunity to lift one of our brothers or sisters. I pray these will motivate and inspire you to do more… even with your own trials at hand.

I have used this story in a previous talk, but it crosses over to this subject so well.

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

This is such a great example of showing concern for the one and putting the needs of the one before your own. Think of the blind man. He could have just told the other man he had no idea what was outside and was blind… the man would have understood. Instead he took the time and effort to do something unexpected. To bring a desperately needed happiness at someone else’s time of need.

What inconveniences should we be willing to endure to bring that into someone else’s life?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

As a boy I witnessed my own mother’s actions to redeem a woman in need. Many years ago when her children were young, my mother underwent a serious operation that nearly took her life and left her bedridden much of the time for nearly a year. During this time, family and ward members helped Mother and our family. For additional help, the ward Relief Society president, Sister Abraham, recommended that my parents hire a woman in the ward who desperately needed work. In recounting this story, I will use the fictional names Sara and Annie for this woman and her daughter. This is my mother’s account:

“I can see it as plain as if it were only yesterday. There I lay in bed, and Sister Abraham brought Sara to the bedroom door. My heart sank. There stood the least attractive person I had ever met—so thin; scraggly, unkempt hair; round-shouldered; head bowed looking at the floor. She wore an old housedress four sizes too big. She wouldn’t look up and spoke so softly I couldn’t hear her. Hiding behind her was a little girl about three years old. What in the world was I to do with this creature? After they left the room, I cried and cried. I needed help, not more problems. Sister Abraham stayed awhile with her, and they soon whipped the house into shape and prepared some good meals. Sister Abraham asked me to try it for a few days, [saying] that this girl had had a really hard time and needed help.

“The next morning when Sara came, I finally got her to come over by the bed where I could hear her. She asked what I wanted her to do. I told her and then said, ‘But the most important thing is my boys; spend time with them, read to them—they are more important than the house.’ She was a good cook and kept the house clean, the washing done, and she was good to the boys.

“Through the weeks, I learned Sara’s story. [Because she was hard of hearing, she didn’t do well in school and eventually dropped out. She married young to a dissolute man. Annie was born and became the joy of Sara’s life. One winter night her husband came home drunk, forced Sara and Annie into the car in their bedclothes, and then dropped them off by the side of the highway. They never saw him again. Barefoot and freezing, Sara and Annie walked several miles to her mother’s home.] Her mother agreed to let them stay in exchange for doing all the housework and cooking, and caring for her sister and brother who were in high school.

“We took Sara to an ear doctor, and she got a hearing aid. … We got her to take adult schooling, and she got her high school diploma. She went to night school and later graduated from college and taught special education. She bought a little home. Annie was married in the temple and had two children. Sara eventually had some operations on her ears and was finally able to hear well. Years later she retired and served a mission. … Sara thanked us often and said she learned so much from me, especially when I told her that my sons were more important than the house. She said it taught her to be that way with Annie. … Sara is a very special woman.”

What can we learn from these two examples?

Is it possible that the way each of these individuals… the blind man in the first example and then Elder Christofferson’s mother in the second story were able to deal with their own trial was to forget themselves and focus on someone that had a need only they could fill? I KNOW the Lord puts us in positions to do exactly this.

I would like to finish where I began… with a reminder about obedience. We talked about tithing, fast offerings, and other personal offerings, where does this all tie together for you?

To reinforce what President Monson taught:

From Richard G. Scott

“I have learned a truth that has been repeated so frequently in my life that I have come to know it as an absolute law. It defines the way obedience and service relate to the power of God. When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord.”

Todd Christofferson

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.

I would like to add my testimony, that through our service to others, the Lord’s work is done upon this earth. It can come in many forms. Tithing, Fast Offerings, and sharing of our individual time and talents are a few of the ways. I further testify that by giving of ourselves, it may be the one thing that helps us to overcome our own trials and relieve our own pain and suffering. I say these things, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.