Tuesday, October 7, 2014

September 14, 2014 Sacrament Meeting Talk.

(The assigned Topic Was Obedience)
Brothers and sisters, it is such a pleasure to be here today!  I love seeing all of the familiar faces of family and friends (the weather’s nice too.)  But now, into the talk.  It can sometimes be difficult to fathom a God that is so full of love and mercy that he would sacrifice his only begotten son so that we might return to live with him, but one who also cannot rob justice for if he were to do so he “would cease to be God” (Alma 42:25).  Justifying all of the rules that seem to be imposed upon us can be difficult, and many people see the commandments as nothing more than that: rules.  I've heard of some people who said “it’s too hard,” or “the burden that is placed upon me by the commandments is just too heavy, I cannot bear it.”  All of us at some point or another have probably wondered why we have the commandments, and why strict obedience to them is so important.  As I pondered just that, it became clearer and clearer to me that there is so much more to the commandments than simple “do’s,” “do not’s,” and rules.  Rather, they go far beyond that.  Obedience to the commandments of God is how we gain access to the fullness of God’s grace, and through his grace become all that we can become.  It is this point that I wish to establish in my message.  To do so, I would like to consider a few different scriptural accounts of obedience, and see what we can learn about the connection between obedience and grace.
One of the archetypal examples of obedience is that of Abraham and his son Isaac.  In Genesis 22 we read the following instruction given by God to Abraham:
“Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2)
Before we dive into this, let’s try to wrap our minds around just what God had asked Abraham to do.  Isaac was Abraham’s first born son of his most beloved wife, and indeed he did love Isaac very much.  In spite of all this, the years of waiting for Sarah to bear a child, the countless prayers that I’m sure were said, in spite of all that, God wanted Abraham to offer up his son.  This comes into even starker relief when we recall that it was on the altar of the Egyptians that Abraham himself was nearly sacrificed by his father. 
Despite all this, Abraham submitted and went about keeping the commandment of the Lord.  He “rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.”  After three days of travel, Abraham saw the place where they were to perform the offering a ways off.  Instructing the young men that were with them to stay behind, Abraham and Isaac continued to the place of sacrifice.  The perceptive Isaac noticed that a crucial part of the sacrifice was missing, and said “My father: Here am I, thy son. Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  To this Abraham responded “God will provide himself a lamb.”  Continuing with the account: “And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.  And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.  And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.”  The angel that appeared told Abraham to stay his blade, and informed him that God now knew that Abraham truly feared him and would not withhold anything from him.  “And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.”  Abraham’s example of strict obedience is certainly one that we all can strive for, but there are also some key doctrines that we should learn from this.  God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, his only son, to him as a burnt offering.  The ram caught in the thicket truly was Isaac’s deliverance; it took his place as the sacrifice that God required.  I would like to draw special attention to the fact that simply laying Isaac on the altar is not enough to procure the delivering ram.  God did not ask Abraham to go out and find himself a ram, and bring it to the altar.  Rather, upon complete submission by both Abraham the father and Isaac the son, God provided the means of deliverance.
Now let us consider another incredible example of obedience: that of the widow of zarephath.  Here I will give an “extended quotation” if you will, from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s message in the April 1996 general conference, entitled “A handful of meal and a little oil:”
"As the prophet [Elijah] prepared for a final confrontation with Ahab, God commanded Elijah to go to the village of Zarephath where, he said, he had commanded a widow woman to sustain him.
"As he entered the city in his weary condition he met his benefactress, who was undoubtedly as weak and wasted as he. Perhaps almost apologetically the thirsty traveler importuned, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” As she turned to meet his request, Elijah added even more strain to the supplication. “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand [also].”
"Elijah’s pitiful circumstances were obvious. Furthermore, the widow had been prepared by the Lord for this request. But in her own weakened and dispirited condition, the prophet’s last entreaty was more than this faithful little woman could bear. In her hunger and fatigue and motherly anguish she cried out to the stranger, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks [which tells us how small her fire needed to be], that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.”
"But Elijah was on the Lord’s errand. Israel’s future—including the future of this very widow and her son—was at stake. His prophetic duty made him more bold than he might normally have wanted to be.

“Fear not,” he said to her, “but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son.
“For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.”
"Then this understated expression of faith—as great, under these circumstances, as any I know in the scriptures. The record says simply, “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah.” Perhaps uncertain what the cost of her faith would be not only to herself but to her son as well, she first took her small loaf to Elijah, obviously trusting that if there were not enough bread left over, at least she and her son would have died in an act of pure charity. The story goes on, of course, to a very happy ending for her and for her son."  (end of extended quote)
Now, as we all know, the cruse of oil did not fail, nor did the barrel of meal waste, until the famine had ended.  But let’s examine this a little bit closer.  Where else have we heard of a loving parent being called upon by God to offer up their son, and only upon the exact keeping of God’s commandments, and at the moment of complete submission, did deliverance arrive?  This widowed mother was indeed asked to make a sacrifice very similar to the one that was required of Abraham many years before.  By agreeing to feed Elijah the prophet first, the widow of Zarephath had effectively signed the death sentence for both herself and her son.  However, once the sacrifice was made God provided by keeping oil in the cruse and meal in the barrel for as long as was necessary to sustain them.  Once again, I would like to draw your attention to this fact: The act of preparing the cake for Elijah would not have put oil in the cruse and meal in the barrel.  Rather, it would have done quite the opposite.  We will return to this as well.
In order to illustrate the doctrine that I am attempting to share, I would like to share an allegory on the topic in addition to the two shared previously. 
 Imagine that you are stuck at the bottom of a deep pit, or      well.  You cannot climb out.  It seems that your fate is to remain at the bottom of this well until you whither.  As the realization finally sets in that there is nothing within your power that will allow you to exit the well, you might find yourself sitting in the bottom pondering upon what your life has been, and what it could have become.  At this point, in the very pit of your despair,
a rope falls in front of you and a voice calls out “Grab on!”  Hope suddenly rushes back as you realize that rescue finally may have come!  You grab hold of the rope, and do all that you can to maintain your grip as your unknown benefactor, a true good Samaritan, pulls you up out of this well.  Once on the surface again, your possibilities seem endless, your life once again has purpose and potential.  Now, let’s take a few steps back in time when you were at the bottom of the well.  Imagine that the rope had simply been dropped in your lap, and the passerby above once again yelled “Grab on!” but then simply walked off.  You follow the instructions perfectly and squeeze the limp rope laying in your lap with all your might.  Will this get you anywhere?  Squeezing the rope is exactly what you did in our first scenario, and you ended up on the surface!  Why wouldn’t squeezing the rope now put you on the surface too?  It is because it is not the act of squeezing the rope that moves you to the surface.  Rather, squeezing the rope serves to cause something that is normally beyond our abilities to come within their realms.  Likewise, it was not the act of placing Isaac on the altar that caused the Ram to appear, and it was not the act of using the last oil and meal to feed Elijah that placed more in their possession.  Rather, these actions served to help them achieve something that was beyond their abilities, and it was the grace of God that procured the ram for Abraham and the meal and oil for the widow.  Likewise, the commandments and obedience to them serves to put within our grasp that which we could not attain by our own strength: salvation and exaltation.  The commandments are the rope that was cast to us in the well, squeezing it tight is our strict obedience to them, and the atonement is the difference between the two scenarios we discussed.  Thus, we see the true freedom that accompanies obedience.  Without grasping the rope (keeping the commandments) one can enjoy free reign over the bottom of the well.  But by holding on we can experience the freedom and joy that accompanies the being on the surface of the earth rather than in the well.  The mountains, valleys, sights, and sounds that simply cannot be enjoyed from the bottom of the pit are available to those who grasp the rope.  So let us choose which of the 2 freedoms that we desire.  By keeping the commandments we choose the greater of the 2 freedoms, and avail ourselves to the full grace of God.  That we will do just that is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sunday September 28

Open House

Logan and Sheela, Note the shoe trade.
It was Tuesday when we were told Logan would be entering the Provo MTC the next week on Wednesday,  What we thought was six weeks to prepare became six days.  I lamented not having an open house for family and friends to say good bye before Logan left .  Sheela Logan's Girl Friend, jumped right in and said there was still time and we should have one and offered to help.

A song Logan liked

Some Things To Know About Brazil

  • Brazil is the largest country in South America.
  • The name Brazil comes from a tree named brazilwood.
  • It is called Brasil in Portuguese, the official language spoken in Brazil.
  • Brazil is the only country in South America that speaks Portuguese.
  • Portugal claimed the land of Brazil in the year 1500. Independence was declared in 1822.
  • Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world by both land area and population.
  • The population in 2012 was around 194 million people.
  • The capital city is Brasilia, while the largest city is Sao Paulo.
  • Other major cities include Rio de Janeiro, Salvador and Fortaleza.
  • In Brazil they drive on the right-hand side of the road.
  • Brazil has a large coastline on the eastern side of South America, stretching 7491 kilometres (4655 miles) in length.
  • Brazil shares a border with all South American countries except for Chile and Ecuador.
  • Brazil covers 3 time zones.
  • Brazil has one of the largest economies in the world.
  • The Amazon River flows through Brazil, it is the 2nd longest river in the world (after the Nile).
  • Around 60% of the Amazon Rainforest is located in Brazil.
  • The climate in the majority of Brazil is tropical.
  • Brazil is home to a wide range of animals, including armadillo, tapirs, jaguars and monkeys.
  • logging, mining fishing and agriculture are important to the Brazilian economy 
  • Millions of tourists visit Brazil every year.
  • There are around 2500 airports in Brazil.
  • Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Brazil with the national team consistently among the best in the world, winning the World Cup a record 5 times.

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