Beautiful Mornings

Original Talk Given:  December 15th, 2013mary-joseph-with-baby-jesus-39533-wallpaper

“…And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Imagine in your mind this great event. A “multitude of heavenly host”. How many individuals was that? I imagine a group the size of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, all in white, singing with all their energy because of the excitement of what had occurred. Jesus Christ had been born. The significance of the birth overshadowed only by the life and sacrifice he made for each of us. I don’t see my imaginary Mo-Tab singing just because a baby was born, but they were singing because of the chain of events that was about to unfold. The most important, long awaited event for the salvation of man was finally going to occur.

During the Great Council in Heaven it was decided we would all be blessed with the chance to come to earth, to learn, to grow, and to choose. It was also decided that our elder brother Jesus would choose to come to earth, suffer for our sins, and die for us all that we might live again. Do all this so that we might be together as a family forever again someday. THIS is why my Mo Tab was singing! This baby’s birth led to the events that would save us all from sin. This is one of the happiest times in the history of the world.

One of the challenges with the commercialization of Christmas is the overwhelming concept of “Enough”. We live in a world where the culture all around us is telling us the tree isn’t tall enough, there aren’t enough lights, it doesn’t sparkle enough, there aren’t enough presents under the tree, and we didn’t spend enough on those presents. The only way Christmas is going to be good is if the house looks perfect, my family is dressed perfect, the meal is perfect, and everyone is happy with the gifts they received. Any slight deviation from the “plan” and Christmas will be ruined!

Because of these unrealistic expectations, many feel extreme amounts of angst about the Holidays. There are feelings of inadequacy, unhappiness, depression, or even anger about what is supposed to be the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” How do we as followers of Jesus Christ rise above all this and make sure this year is the year we feel the true spirit of Christmas in our hearts and in our homes?

I was specifically asked to speak on a talk given by Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy from the April 2013 General Conference. It is titled Beautiful Mornings. In the talk, he repeatedly shared stories in the scriptures about intense challenges like that of the Savior’s suffering in Golgotha where He suffered for our sins as well as the difficult moment of his crucifixion. He also mentioned Brigham Young’s time when the Saints suffered great persecution, even death and destruction. All of these situations could have been times of horrible despair. Times where faith could give way to uncertainty or even disbelief. In each situation it could have led to an END of some kind.

Imagine if you will the line of history being a great sporting event. As each of these sad, dark times occur you can almost see the adversary and all his followers jumping to their feet, the cheers the waving of their flag in approval. The excitement of an eminent win!

But then can you see as they all look across the field to see the opposing fans. Our Father In Heaven, angels, our ancestors, and our other brothers and sisters. As each of these tragedies occur, you can see each of them wipe the tears from their eyes out of compassion and empathy for the suffering that occurred. But behind the tears you see a strong resolution, the confidence, the strength, the KNOWLEDGE, knowing that His plan will be fulfilled, we can’t lose and those who had to pass through sorrow and tribulation will rise above and grow greater than the challenge that beset them. This crowd begins to chant, a cheer of inspiration pulling us participants towards the next obstacle that leads us to an ultimate victory.

A few of these “Cheers” from the scriptures:

(John 16:33) “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”.

(D&C 68:6) “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you”

In some of the most difficult times of history we are commanded to be of good cheer. Is that commandment only for extreme times of trouble. No. No matter what trail has been placed before us. We are commanded to be of good cheer… Why, because we have knowledge of, faith in, and a testimony of He who rose about it all, our Savior Jesus Christ. And that is what he has asked us to do.


So how do we tie this back into the Holiday Season? How do we move past a Christmas that is never “Enough”, or that is lacking Christ, to a Christmas that is full of true Joy, Happiness, or Cheer?

I turned to President Monson’s Christmas Devotional talk from this December 2013. He instructed us that in order to make the Savior the focus of the season, we must GIVE to the Savior. We should be considering gifts that reflect the love and selflessness like that of the example our Savior set while he was here upon the earth.

1.) Seek out a bright particular star

Our prophet suggested we seek out a star. This translates in my mind to seeking out a direction. This may involve stopping where you are, dropping to your knees, and praying to our Father in Heaven.   Plead with our Heavenly Father to help you know what to do this holiday season, and how he wants you to celebrate His son’s birth. Don’t be surprised if the way you receive an answer is to have the Holy Ghost place names and faces in your mind. These are the individuals you are called to serve. So what should you do for them?

2.)   Journey to Bethlehem

The prophet asked us to Journey to Bethlehem. That doesn’t sound easy. If we were really going to do that it would take considerable time and effort. I think what President Monson was saying is it may require a little work. It may require some time (you already “don’t have”:). Which means it may require you to re-prioritize some activities you had planned this holiday season. Use the Good, Better, Best measuring stick. With the Lord’s hand, you will know what needs to be done, and what can be let go.

3rd: Give as the Savior Gave

Keep it simple. None of the Savior’s gifts had bows, pretty ribbon, or gold leafing on them. But each of them were laced with wonderful eternal consequences. Here are a few of the examples President Monson gave us to consider:pictures-of-jesus-smiling-1138511-wallpaper

Show more interest in people than in things.

Help those less fortunate

Forgive our Enemies

Remember old friends

Obey God – simply give a gift of obedience. Perhaps just a change of your own personal behavior is the BEST gift you can give.

Give of yourself, give of your time, give gifts of understanding, compassion, service, friendship, kindness, gentleness.

Finally: A Special Gift

As Christ walked the earth… he had one goal: To be about His Father’s business. Christ spent each and every day preaching His Gospel. He taught everyday about Faith, Repentance, Baptism, the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. His words, His deeds, His every thought was for us. This was His Father’s business. This is what he would do again if he were on the earth. As Disciples of Christ, this is what he has asked each of us to do… especially at this time of year; to let all of his children know the way to return to their Heavenly Father.

The birth of our Savior was and is one of the greatest events in the history of this world. Let’s not get caught up into anything that doesn’t help us to have and feel that Joy this holiday season. Don’t let the adversary have the next three weeks of your life. This is your time to feel the Spirit of Christ in your life, grow your testimony, do our Heavenly Father’s will, and perhaps bring someone else closer to their Savior. Don’t miss out on it.

I want to share my testimony about Jesus Christ. I have often felt uncomfortable about sharing it, because I couldn’t put into words the way I felt. In the October 2013 General Conference President Uchdorf started out his talk with a story of a man asking all that is required of Latter Day Saints. At the end of this huge list showing requirements of time, talents, money, and sacrifices, the individual inquiring about our church he then asked: “Why would anyone want to join such a church?” I remember I was in the kitchen doing some dishes from breakfast as I listened to conference. I thought to myself how I would answer that question. A lump formed in my throat as I almost felt a bit of embarrassment for even asking that in my head. The answer: Because it is True, and I KNOW my Savior lives. Because He lives, I have no choice but to do all that he has asked of me. I pray that each of us will act as He would have us do as we celebrate His birthday. And that as we keep Him at the center of the holiday season we will feel the happiness and joy He has commanded us to.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Enable Salvation of the Dead: Building Confidence in Gospel Service

Original Talk Given: November 24, 2015payson-temple-lds-947052-wallpaper

This talk is similar to one I gave previous this year, but there are a few added insights and personal details worth sharing.

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.

In the last five years. This work has begun to hit my radar. I think some of that motivation for me was the ease of use with many of the resources that have been created. I could not come up with any more barriers (excuses) not to do the work.

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. This is an area of the Gospel that I actually feel like I’m kind of good at.

You see I am not an amazing speaker, or a great scriptorian. I grew up as second generation LDS, so I know all the primary songs, I understand the culture, I even served in leadership growing up, but because I made the decision to not serve a mission at age 19 like most young men, I was significantly behind in matters of scripture knowledge, using my priesthood, and feeling comfortable with the language of the gospel. I often times feel a lack of confidence in my abilities to perform certain church functions. For example, of my four children, I had to baptize three of them twice because I missed a word in the prayer, or didn’t dunk them the whole way. Each time I knew what to do, and knew what to say, but my nerves were so frazzled that it was difficult for me to perform the ordinance perfectly.

Family history and temple service has been a little different for me. This area of the gospel gives me a chance to “practice” the ordinances, the language of the gospel, and become more familiar with feeling the spirit on a regular basis. I’m able to do this in private and practice. By regular temple attendance and work on Family History, I’ve been able to build my confidence in gospel matters, which has now rolled over in other areas of service.

This has benefited me a few different ways. I’m able to be calm at the temple, and not nervous that I’m not doing or saying something right. I just enjoy my time and attempt to feel what the lord has for me.

When I’m asked to perform blessings, setting aparts, or perform priesthood ordinances, it’s not new to me. It’s something I feel more comfortable with.

Finally it’s something measurable for me. I can set goals and track my progress with indexing and family history. I can see the stack of blue and pink cards grow and shrink as the work is completed. I also enjoy the technology side of the coin… I love playing with the technology but if I don’t have something constructive to do with it, it feels like a waste.

So it’s in this spirit of humility and knowing my own shortcomings that I share a few stories surrounding Enabling Salvation of the Dead.


Attending the temple hasn’t always been an easy thing for me. I always envied those that went the temple and had these amazing revelatory experiences and felt so good when they went to the temple. When I first began attending, I didn’t feel that way at all. I was nervous, uncomfortable, and I felt like I was the only one that didn’t know where to go or what to do. There was one point where I actually couldn’t find my way back to the changing room. I just felt stupid. I left the temple on many occasions frustrated and not wanting to return.

A little over 9 years ago, I had made some really bad employment decisions that basically made our family homeless. I had started down the path of correction and got a new job, but my pregnant wife and kids had to go live with my in-laws for two months while I started a new job and tried to find a new home. I ended up living with a good friend of mine in his basement. I felt horrible for intruding on him and his family and I wanted to be there as little as possible so as to not intrude. I decided to attend the temple every week. I went after work on Wednesdays. I think the most I had been to the temple previously had been quarterly, or less. But I thought while I was away from my family, I might as well do everything I could do to work on me. By the end of this two months, I felt much more comfortable in the temple. I felt as though I belonged, and I know the Lord blessed that temple attendance. The home we were directed to is the home we live in now. My life has been richly blessed because of that decision to be in the temple… despite my past reservations and feelings of inadequacy.

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 pour 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. I believe it is a brief prelude of the future. Our family together in the presence of the Lord. Could we desire anything more? I look forward to a repeat of this as the Provo City Center Temple 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 son, somehow got past the ropes keeping us away from one of the couches. He climbed up on the couch and for some reason actually bit the wooden banister on the staircase behind. I was horrified! But now I think back to a memory that is so locked into my mind. My son, in the temple! There is no picture that could leave a deeper impression in my mind. I’m sure many of us feel like their kids are not reverent enough to go to an open house, or do Family Home Evening walking around the temple grounds. But I know the Lord wants our children familiar with the temple. For many of them, it just takes some getting used to. Don’t keep yourself or your family away from the temple, for any reason.

Los AngelesTouch the Temple

Somewhere around this same time my wife and I heard this 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.

Elder 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, wade through a fountain, pick a flower, or steal rocks and put them in their pocket.

Each time we have 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”. In this day and time, they will NEED the temple to touch them.


100 Names in 100 Days

Each year, our ward participates is something to do with 100 names and the temple. One year it was to do 100 ordinances in 100 days of family names in our ward. Another was to have a member of our ward in the temple EVERY day the temple was open for 100 days. And then this year we did a special indexing effort of encouraging every to do 100 names indexing for the 100 days.

The year we decided to do 100 ordinances 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 trip. We were going to be doing baptisms for the dead in the Monticello Temple as part of our youth conference. I had no idea where to begin. Fortunately, the ward hosted a family history class during Sunday School. A husband and wife in our ward, 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 was so touched as the names I knew were done in that small temple. It was an incredible experience to do that for the first time.

How amazing it was to have the tools at my finger 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.

One thing that moves me each time I’m looking over a family record, or a census is the lack of the back story to go along with the ancestors I’m looking at. I’m moved when I see a child’s name on one census and then not there on the next census ten years later. Then in another record I find a death certificate and learn the child passed away at a young age. I have a few ancestors that were in second marriages with kids that are hers, mine, and ours. My heart is softened as I sit considering what those experiences must have been like; the suffering or the sadness that must have been felt. The sacrifices and trials my ancestors had to endure are humbling to me. To know that much of what they went through has gotten me to where I am today, and possibly shaped my character in some way.

Madison to the Temple

Another thought I want to share with you about my maturing down this path 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 spirit was very strong as I stood in the font with my daughter to perform baptisms for these relatives. It will be an experience I will always remember.

President Monson has offered a few of the benefits of this work:

Closeness to the Lord

Clearer perspective

Sense of purpose and peace

Will be able to bear every trial

Overcome each temptation

President Packer’s benefits of this work:

Receive Spiritual Perspective

The dust of distraction the haze seem to lift, we can see things that 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. This gospel is a very hands on and there is a lot expected of us as saints. Many times we are expected to just know what to do or what to say at the right time. For some of us, this can be difficult. I testify that  I’m thankful for that growth and strength it has brought to my life. I hope we each make the time to make the Temple more of a priority in our lives and be able to take of the blessings that come because of it. I say these things 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.

Gathering Israel, Missionary Work, Seeking after the One

Jesus and the Children

Original Talk Given:  April 21, 2013

Gathering Israel Through Missionary Work: by prayerful personal preparation and seeking after the one.

As I begin my talk I feel inspired by the true doctrine of the concern for “the one”. As I speak today I pray that you listen with your heart and consider the individuals the Lord wants you, specifically, to reach out to in order to minister and lift in the way that only you know how.

Gather Israel

So to begin let’s get a little doctrinal and talk about the Gathering of Israel.

In past dispensations there has been a scattering of the tribes of Israel. Revelations in our day have given us direction about this and what will occur in the future.

Article of Faith 10 reads:

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 110

After participating in the sacrament, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were then on the stand in the Kirtland Temple praying: Jesus Christ appears to them (I’m quoting just parts of the section):

9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.

10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen.

11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

There are two parts to this gathering, the Physical gathering and the Spiritual gathering of Israel. As the restoration of the church began to unfold, there were a few physical gatherings required of the saints:

  • In December 1830, the saints were first called to organize in Kirtland,
  • Then in the following year some saints were called to gather to Independence, Missouri
  • After persecution became unbearable the saints were gathered to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839-1846
  • Then finally the saints were gathered to Utah and surrounding areas from 1846-1972 Utah

So why are all members of the church not gathered to Salt Lake City or living in Independence, Missouri exclusively?

In an area conference held in Mexico City In 1972, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“[The] revealed words speak of … there being congregations of the covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again. …

The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth… every nation is the gathering place for its own people”

Then in April 1973, President Harold B. Lee, quoted those words in general conference. In doing so, he “in effect, announced that the pioneering phase or physical gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation”

So why is this idea of Gathering so important?

Ezra Taft Benson talks about the gathering.

Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion. … A stake has at least four purposes:

1.) [Stakes are] to unify and perfect the members who live in [their] boundaries by extending to them the Church programs, the ordinances, and gospel instruction.

2.) Members of stakes are to be models, or standards, of righteousness.

3.) Stakes are to be a defense. They do this as stake members unify under their local priesthood officers and consecrate themselves to do their duty and keep their covenants. …

4.) Stakes are a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth”

Missionary Work – The Spiritual Gathering

The way we normally describe the efforts of spiritual gathering is Missionary Work.

In the April 2013 General Conference a particular scripture stood out as truly coming to pass in our day. It has been a tag line of sorts but with great meaning:

Doctrine and Covenants 88:73 Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.

Between the last two General Conferences of the church we have seen the faith of young people bring this prophesy to pass.

During the October, 2012 General Conference, as President Monson reveled the new ages for missionary service I sent a quick text message to one of the Young Men from our ward. He was away at college in his first semester. I think my text went something like: “So are we having a farewell before or after Christmas?”

I know you young people are a cut above my generation and previous. You are being challenged and tempted to a greater degree, and that’s because our Heavenly Father has incredible things for you to do. This young man answered the Prophet’s call. He was one of the first from our ward affected by the agent change. He served an honorable full time mission in the San Bernadino, CA mission from February 2013 to February 2015. This is just one of the thousands of examples that are occurring each and every day with our young people.

The responsibility of the gathering of Israel through missionary work is not the sole responsibility of the individuals wearing the black tags. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to be a member missionary.

Doctrine and Covenants 38:40–42.

40 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded.

41 And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.

Did you catch that scripture. It is for you and I. We are to be the voice of warning to our neighbors… The Lord is speaking, directly to us, in OUR neighborhoods, right here in the place where we live.

What does missionary work look like where you live?

Is it doing our Home or visiting teaching?

Is it simply a homemade treat?

Is it actual Proselyting? or Door Knocking?

Is it service in a neighbor’s yard?

Is it taking a co-worker out to lunch and talking about what’s most important?

Is it handing someone a Book of Mormon?

Is it having Family Home Evening with more than your own family?

Is it inviting a friend from school to church with you?

Is it just being a good example?

Is it a family fast for someone you have been thinking about?

Is it a ward/neighborhood block party?

Is it a four wheeling or snow mobile ride with neighbors?

Is it church basketball?

This one has hit our home recently:

Is it making that tough “uncool choice” to tell your friends you don’t play “M” rated games, or watch those “inappropriate” shows, and then leaving?

Yes, I believe it’s all these things and everything else you have been and are directed to do from our Heavenly Father and his Son through the Holy Ghost.

We are His children. He already wants us to be happy, find the gospel, live righteously, and return to live with Him. It’s our inability to tune into the direction He is giving us, that prevents his work from going forward. It is OUR responsibility as members of His church to carry His gospel to those we come in contact with.

Prayerful Personal Preparation

That leads to the next part of the priority: Prayerful Personal Preparation

My wife was a convert to the church when she was about 10 years old. Paige grew up in a home where even at a young age, she realize how bad alcohol abuse was. She saw this in her own home and then in the homes of other extended family she would babysit for. On one occasion one of her aunts asked Paige to go to a church she belonged to… not the LDS church. Paige remembered that for the sacrament (or communion) wine was served. Immediately, Paige was put off by this church (because of her distain from witnessing the affects of alcohol) but still had the desire to learn more about religion. She began searching for another church to go to. During school one day, Paige had the phone book open looking for a church. One of her friends, passing by, inquired what she was doing and invited her to the church right in their neighborhood. This was the LDS church.

At Paige’s very first meeting she remembers the testimony of a newly wed young woman. She bore testimony about the temple. She spoke of something Paige had never heard of. It was the concept of eternal marriage and eternal families. Paige was hooked… she knew this was something different and she needed to be a part of it. Shortly thereafter, the same friend from school invited Paige over for dinner with her family. Of course arrangements had been made for the missionaries to be there. Paige was baptized soon after. By the time she was 15 her entire family was sealed in the Idaho Falls temple. Her family never would have made it to the temple if it weren’t for members extending a hand of fellowship and unconditional love.

I bring up this story to focus on the missionary efforts it illustrates.   Paige’s aunt who recognized Paige’s need and desire to go to church. Paige’s good friend, who did nothing more than observe, ask a question, and invite. Is this missionary work? Then, the young bride who simply bore her testimony in church; was that missionary work? Do you think it crossed her mind that the words she was about to say about going through the temple and getting sealed to her husband were going to be a catalyst that got an entire family into the church. Then of course the dinner lessons at Paige’s friend’s home. Obviously, that was missionary work.

With more focus, and the direction of the Lord, could we all do more?

So how do we prepare.


The first important step is to study, learn, and be striving to increase our knowledge of the gospel. We don’t need to know everything to be an effective missionary, but I believe studying the scriptures, the words of the modern day prophets, and Preach My Gospel are a good start. It’s important to learn the language of the gospel. It’s kind of tough to share something you care about deeply in your heart if you don’t know the words to describe it.

WARNING: Do not use this as an excuse not to act. You may think you don’t know as much as you should, or think that others know more, but I promise you that most primary children know more than enough to be effective missionaries.


For the next step I quote a scripture brought up in conference about our Savior:

We’re in Mark Chapter 6, after Jesus fed the 5000:

45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

So after a long day of teaching our Savior had the need to step away, refuel, and prepare with his father for additional ministering and teaching.

Turn to our Heavenly Father and seek inspiration on whom He wants you to minister to, and what He wants you to do. It may not come at first, it may take a few different occasions on your knees to get yourself in the frame of mind to receive that revelation… but it will come.

As you think through this consider a line I heard in a talk recently:

*If the Lord came to your neighborhood today, whom would He visit first?

Another WARNING. Don’t over think this; don’t wait for a major sign, the individuals you’ve been thinking about throughout this message are probably the ones you need to turn to first. While praying, names will come into your mind. Have faith to know this is the Lord’s will for you and for the one you have been called to serve.

*If you’re waiting for someone to just come up to you, ask you all about the LDS church, and where the closest baptismal font is …you may be waiting a LONG time.

Depending on the situation it may be good to include the potential missionary efforts in a fast, or even a Family Home Evening to discuss how your family together could reach out to someone.

It’s really tough to reach out to someone if you don’t know them. I’m as guilty as anyone on this. Get to know the people around you.

When I received the phone call to come in and interview with the stake president for this calling, I was out of town. I was in Cincinnati for a full week before I could get back here to learn what my calling would be. I had no idea what it was for. I know some of you have great inspiration and know exactly what’s coming and when, but I was oblivious. One night I had a horrible time sleeping and the thought occurred to me that I might be called as some sort of missionary or mission leader, or something like unto it. This horrible feeling came over me. (probably not the best response). There are three or four neighbors around me that I have never taken the time to visit with and get to know and I was worried that I would now be “called” to make my first visit to their homes attempting to share the gospel with them when I had never taken the time to visit them socially or even build a relationship of any kind. This fear reenergized me and helped me to realize how important it is that I reach out to these neighbors. How selfish of me not to have done so previously!


The next step in the preparation is to go and do. Don’t wait until next Sunday when you’re not as tired. Don’t wait for the “right” excuse to show up and do. These opportunities do not get better the longer you put them off. Don’t sit down and overanalyze it. I know this is a horrible example but don’t avoid taking the cookies over just because you don’t have doilies to put on the plate you’re putting the cookies on. A brother in our ward made the comment once: don’t spend all your time putting the ‘gold leafing’ on an idea just move forward and do it.

I think many of us feel a sense of fear or reluctance as we think of reaching out to our neighbors or friends. I found this great scripture that perhaps helps us into the right frame of mind. It’s found in:

2 Timothy 1:7-8

7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.

Seeking After the One

That brings us to the final part of the priority, and the one I will end on. “seeking after the one”.

Again we turn to the example of the Savior. This is my favorite example in the scriptures of Jesus focusing on the one.

3 Nephi 17:19-22 – Jesus is visiting the people in the Americas after his death and resurrection. He has spent his time teaching and blessing the people:

19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.

20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.

21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

22 And when he had done this he wept again;

I’m touched by this scripture and my mind is filled with a beautiful image of the Savior with little children all around Him. Each of them getting His full attention, if even just for a moment. Jesus knew each of these little ones, and loved them.

Our Savior is mindful of each of us. But I believe he is even more mindful of those he loves that are NOT here today.

Do we know who they are?

What does the Lord want YOU to do for them?

Some of you may have seen this next story passed around on email or Facebook, I’m not sure who the author is but I think it illustrates who can be a missionary:

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 desperately needed happiness at someone else’s time of need.

How much greater is the message of the gospel? To share of the true plan of happiness (the plan of salvation), and the only way for our families to be eternally with our Father and Heaven and our Savior again someday. What inconveniences should we be willing to endure to bring that into someone else’s life?

I do know this church is true. I know this gospel is the source of true joy and happiness and by living by it’s teachings we can find that happiness. I also know there are individuals seeking the peace and happiness this gospel brings. I have had opportunity in my own life to touch others and watch their lives change. I pray that each of us will have the courage and confidence to act on the impressions we get in this meeting here today and do whatever we can to gather more of our brothers and sisters. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.