Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Lord's Work Is On The March – Despite the Opposition of Hell©

I still have a bit of the teacher in me.  In today’s blog I share something very precious and important with you.

A Modern Apostle Teaches an Important Principle

How do you react when you read a statistic like, 41 percent of all births in the United States in 2013 were to unmarried women, compared to 18 percent just 35 years earlier?(1) Or, how about the fact that there are now more than 43 million refugees worldwide who are displaced from their homes because of conflict and persecution? If you are like me, first they sicken you, then they discourage you. It is really easy to think that this world is going to hell in a hand basket. Two weeks ago, though, I read something that changed my perspective and gave me great hope.

Neil Andersen, one of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke to a devotional assembly at the “Education Week” held at BYU in August 2015. The title of his remarks was, “A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous.” I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this extraordinary talk or why I had not come across it earlier, but it changed my life. After reviewing the two statistics above and several others, Elder Andersen said he had come to teach those attending Education Week an important principle. It is: As evil increases in the world the Lord provides a compensating spiritual power for the righteous. He stressed it three times. Here are his statements:
As we find our way in a world less attentive to the commandments of God, we will certainly be prayerful, but we need not be overly alarmed. The Lord will bless His Saints with the added spiritual power necessary to meet the challenges of our day.  
Here is my major theme this morning: As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling.The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.
...  
My brothers and sisters, as evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory power, an additional spiritual endowment, a revelatory gift for the righteous. 
This added blessing of spiritual power does not settle upon us just because we are part of this generation. It is willingly offered to us; it is eagerly put before us.But as with all spiritual gifts, it requires our desiring it, pursuing it, and living worthy of receiving it.
...
I emphasize once again: As evil increases in the world, the Lord does not leave us on the same footing.In a world that would diminish or discard or impair belief, there is an added spiritual power for those who are willing to set their course on increasing their faith in Jesus Christ.
Members of the Church sustain Elder Andersen as a “prophet, seer, and revelator.” I believe he proved himself as such in this address. He taught the Education Week attendees a vitally important principle and thereby gave the entire Church a “prophetic perspective” that it sorely needs today. As he said above, this perspective will give us “greater assurance, greater confirmation, and grater confidence” in the spiritual direction we are traveling.

Four Examples of the Principle

Elder Anderson then went on to gives three examples of things transpiring in the Church which “reveal the Lord’s hand at work in bringing more spiritual power to His Saints.” They are so important that at the risk of the length of this article I am including the relevant excerpts for each one. His first example involved the youth of the Church. He reminded his audience of the challenge which was given to the Church youth in 2013 to go to the temple and do baptisms for the dead, but to bring as many names of their own dead which they have found by research as baptism they perform. His commentary follows:
It has only been in the last few years that technology has allowed us to link our generations more completely. A year and a half ago we gave the challenge to the youth to bring as many names to the temple as baptisms they perform in the temple.
...
...the youth of the Church have responded by the thousands and tens of thousands, and names submitted by youth have more than doubled since the challenge was issued only eighteen months ago. As the hearts of the children have turned to their fathers, the youth have been given an added gift of spiritual power. If you have not seen this yet in the youth, go to lds.org and read of their experiences or, better yet, talk to those youth who are in your family or who live near you.If you or members of your family have not committed yourselves to finding names from your family for your ordinances in the temple, now is the time to begin.
His second example also involved temples. He pointed out that in the 22 years he has served as a general authority the Church tripled the number of operating temples from 44 to 147. He asked why and then answered his own question:
We now have temples closer and more accessible than ever before. But in these times of commotion the Lord expects us to adjust our habits and be in His house more often.
...  
The temple is an added gift from heaven to us. We need to embrace it with renewed dedication. Our children will need the temple even more in the years ahead. Teach them to love the temple. Help them to be ready to receive their endowment and eventually their sealing. Teach them how to prepare for these sacred ordinances and help them see how doing these ordinances will be a constant gift to them throughout their lives. As they do temple work, they will not only go through the temple but, as Brother Truman G. Madsen used to say, they will allow the temple to go through them.
The third example really surprised me. I have heard two messages from our leaders about modern technology. First, it can be a distraction and even lead us into forbidden things, therefore its use must be closely monitored and disciplined. Second, it can be a means of spreading the gospel and doing the Church great good. Elder Andersen, gives us a third and new perspective–totally new.
Our world of technology and communication, with all of its distractions, provides the third example of a compensatory spiritual blessing for the righteous. The words of the Lord’s prophet, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve are always available to lighten our path and help show us the way. Their united voice, if followed, will help set aside the enticing voices of the world. The men who occupy these positions would claim no personal perfection, but I witness to you that as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve prayerfully approach the Lord, He shapes our thinking and direction and reveals His will for His covenant people, and indeed for all the world.
He went on to share an example of this–the recent stress upon keeping the Sabbath Day holy. To me it became a fourth example.  He said:
In recent months the First Presidency and the Twelve have felt an undeniable direction from the Lord to declare and reemphasize the Sabbath day and the importance of worthily partaking of the sacrament. As we take the sacrament, we remember the Savior and His Atonement. We come repenting of our sins, pledging our loyalty to covenants made with Him, and hearing again the promises He makes to us. To always have His Spirit with us is a pearl of enormous value. Receiving the sacrament on Sunday is more and more like an oasis in the desert—bubbling with cool spring water, quenching our spiritual thirst and relieving our parched souls.
In summary, Elder Andersen tells us that the Church’s emphasis on youth and temple work, greater accessibility to temples, the Lord’s most recent word is available 24/7 through modern technology, and the Church’s emphasis on the Sabbath Day, are all part of the Lord’s effort to help his righteous Saints receive greater blessings and power in the day when Satan’s power has greatly increased. The question is, have we as Church members had the inspiration and wisdom to see the emphasis on these things in this context? If not, has that led many to be indifferent and even lazy in following the counsel of the brethren? It doesn’t really do us any good for the Lord to provide the help we often feel we need in the face of Satan’s onslaught if we don’t recognize it or take advantage of it.

Many, Many More Examples of the Principle

Another important insight Elder Andersen gave in this talk, is that these are only three or four examples of “many, many, more.” “As we recognize and embrace them, he said, “they heighten our spiritual sensitivities, offering greater assurance and confidence.The precious gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a stronger beacon, and we more clearly see those things that are unseen.” As I suspect Elder Andersen intended, that set me to thinking about what those “many, many more” things the Lord is giving us as compensating power against Satan are.

This perspective changes a lot of things. One is what I get out of General Conference. On Friday evening, before I fell asleep I read two conference talks from the April 2016 General Conference, one by Elder Ballard and one by Elder Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve. To my surprise and joy both of these addresses discussed helps the Lord is giving us in what some describe as “the day of Satan’s power.”  

Family Councils

Elder Ballard talked about Family Councils. He said he has devoted much of his ministry to teaching the Church the value of governing the Church by councils and has even written a book on the subject and recently updated a second edition. Yet, he said, he had not discussed with the Church the most important council of all–the family council. He couched his counsel in the following context:
A family council, when conducted with love and with Christlike attributes, will counter the impact of modern technology that often distracts us from spending quality time with each other and also tends to bring evil right into our homes.(2)
He also said:
Now, brothers and sisters, there was a time when the walls of our homes provided all the defense we needed against outside intrusions and influences. We locked the doors, closed the windows; we shut the gates; and we felt safe, secure, and protected in our own little refuge from the outside world.
Those days are now gone. The physical walls, doors, fences, and gates of our homes cannot prevent unseen invasion from the Internet, the Wi-Fi, the mobile phones, the networks. They can penetrate our homes with just a few clicks and keystrokes.
Fortunately, the Lord has provided a way to counter the invasion of negative technology that can distract us from spending quality time with each other. He has done this by providing the council system to strengthen, protect, safeguard, and nurture our most precious relationships.(3) 
Did you hear it? The Lord has “provided a way to counter” the negative effects of modern technology! Let him who has eyes to see and ears to hear, read and listen and hearken.

Greater Power of the Priesthood in the Lives of Men and Their Families

President Nelson’s address was the very next one in that conference. He spoke in the Saturday night priesthood session to the men about “The Price of Priesthood Power.” Again note the context of his counsel:
I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.(4) 
He also spoke of the things which block the flow of priesthood power in the lives of men.
Well, brethren, in like manner, I fear that there are too many men who have been given the authority of the priesthood but who lack priesthood power because the flow of power has been blocked by sins such as laziness, dishonesty, pride, immorality, or preoccupation with things of the world.
I fear that there are too many priesthood bearers who have done little or nothing to develop their ability to access the powers of heaven. I worry about all who are impure in their thoughts, feelings, or actions or who demean their wives or children, thereby cutting off priesthood power.
I fear that too many have sadly surrendered their agency to the adversary and are saying by their conduct, “I care more about satisfying my own desires than I do about bearing the Savior’s power to bless others.”
I fear, brethren, that some among us may one day wake up and realize what power in the priesthood really is and face the deep regret that they spent far more time seeking power over others or power at work than learning to exercise fully the power of God. President George Albert Smith taught that “we are not here to wile away the hours of this life and then pass to a sphere of exaltation; but we are here to qualify ourselves day by day for the positions that our Father expects us to fill hereafter.(5)
This is a serious list of indictments of many of the brethren of the priesthood. It was to me as if this talk was an inspired addition to an address given by the then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Boyd K. Packer in the April 2010 general conference, on “The Power of the Priesthood.” He too, addressed the men–the fathers of the Church. He reminded the fathers of the sacred nature of their calling:
You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home. There will be times when all that stands as a shield between your family and the adversary’s mischief will be that power. You will receive direction from the Lord by way of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The adversary is not actively disturbing our Church meetings—perhaps only occasionally. By and large we are free to assemble as we wish without much disruption. But he and those who follow him are persistent in attacking the home and the family.
...
I bear witness of the power of the priesthood given to the Church to protect us and guide us. And because we have that, we have no fear of the future. Fear is the opposite of faith. We move forward, certain that the Lord will watch over us, particularly in the family.(6)
Elder Packer was concerned. Every man ordained is given the authority of the priesthood. However, he said he was worried that the men of the Church did not enjoy the degree of the power of the priesthood they should. He urged the brethren to awaken and activate the power of the priesthood in their lives.
While the priesthood is presently all over the world, we call on every elder and high priest, every holder of the priesthood to stand, like Gideon’s small but powerful force of 300, in his own place.  We now must awaken in every elder and high priest, in every quorum and group, and in the father of every home the power of the priesthood of the Almighty.(7)
...
The authority of the priesthood is with us.  After all that we have correlated and organized, it is now our responsibility to activate the power of the priesthood in the Church.  Authority in the priesthood comes by way of ordination; power in the priesthood comes through faithful and obedient living in honoring covenants.  It is increased by exercising and using the priesthood in righteousness.(8)
Elder Packer did not give more direction about how to gain this power beyond the last half of statement two above–“faithful living and honoring covenants” and by “exercising and using the priesthood in righteousness.” So, as I say, Elder Nelson’s address seemed like an inspired addition to Elder Packer’s because Elder Nelson give 6 or 7 ways men can increase the power of the priesthood in their lives. Again, at the risk of the length of this article, I believe it is very worthwhile to read what he had to say about each one.

1.   Diligently seek to be taught by the Lord.  [These remarks were preliminary to his discussion of six things to follow, but to me it was important enough to include as number 1.]
I urgently plead with each one of us to live up to our privileges as bearers of the priesthood. In a coming day, only those men who have taken their priesthood seriously, by diligently seeking to be taught by the Lord Himself, will be able to bless, guide, protect, strengthen, and heal others. Only a man who has paid the price for priesthood power will be able to bring miracles to those he loves and keep his marriage and family safe, now and throughout eternity.(9)
2.  Develop the Christlike attributes spoken of in 2 Peter 1.
What is the price to develop such priesthood power? The Savior’s senior Apostle, Peter—that same Peter who with James and John conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery—declared qualities we should seek to “be partakers of the divine nature.
He named faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity, and diligence. And don’t forget humility! So I ask, how would our family members, friends, and coworkers say you and I are doing in developing these and other spiritual gifts? The more those attributes are developed, the greater will be our priesthood power.(10)
3.  Pray to know how to pray for more power!  The language of this one surprised me.  See if it surprises you too.
How else can we increase our power in the priesthood? We need to pray from our hearts. Polite recitations of past and upcoming activities, punctuated with some requests for blessings, cannot constitute the kind of communing with God that brings enduring power. Are you willing to pray to know how to pray for more power? The Lord will teach you.(11)
4.  Search the scriptures, feast on the word, and study earnestly.
Are you willing to search the scriptures and feast on the words of Christ—to study earnestly in order to have more power? If you want to see your wife’s heart melt, let her find you on the Internet studying the doctrine of Christ or reading your scriptures!(12)
5.  Worship in the temple regularly.
Are you willing to worship in the temple regularly? The Lord loves to do His own teaching in His holy house. Imagine how pleased He would be if you asked Him to teach you about priesthood keys, authority, and power as you experience the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood in the holy temple. Imagine the increase in priesthood power that could be yours.(13) 
6.  Follow President Monson’s example of service to others.
Are you willing to follow President Thomas S. Monson’s example of serving others? For decades he has taken the long way home, following promptings of the Spirit to arrive on someone’s doorstep and then hear words such as, “How did you know it was the anniversary of our daughter’s death?” or “How did you know it was my birthday?”(14) 
7.  Cherish and care for your wife and embrace her counsel.
And if you truly want more priesthood power, you will cherish and care for your wife, embracing both her and her counsel.(15) 
Elder Nelson concludes this list with the following observation:
Now, if all of this sounds excessive, please consider how different our relationships with our wife, children, and associates at work would be if we were as concerned about gaining priesthood power as we are in progressing at work or increasing the balance in our bank account. If we will humbly present ourselves before the Lord and ask Him to teach us, He will show us how to increase our access to His power.(16) 
Conclusion

I am convinced that Elder Neil Andersen taught a true principle at BYU in August 2015. And I am also convinced there are many ways the Lord provides opportunity for compensatory spiritual power for the righteous in a day when great wickedness reigns and the polarization between the two grows wider almost by the day. This understanding has changed how I read the conference addresses–with one ear to the rail listening for clues from the Lord’s chosen servants about the Lord’s work among his people today.  I am also convinced that with this prophetic perspective we can live at this time with optimism, happiness, and great hope.   

I conclude with an amazing example of this optimism, happiness and hope from the pen of an early Latter-day Saint sister, following her expulsion from the state of Missouri. She and her compatriots were literally refugees on the banks of the Mississippi River in Quincy, Illinois. It was a time of great persecution, suffering, hunger, chaos, and the Prophet was for part of that time imprisoned in Liberty Jail. To family members she wrote two lengthy letters in February and September of 1839. The following excerpts from those letters are not only articulate and eloquent, but more importantly they constitute a remarkable statement of powerful faith, hope, and optimism. One has to ask oneself how, under the circumstances, she could possess the perspective to say, “The work of the Lord is on the march.” Read carefully and you will discern the keys.
...some, who a few months ago did seem to run well in the strait an narrow path have to our astonishment and grief forsook us and fled; our Prophet is still in jail, and many others whom we love.  To look at our situation at this present time it would seem that Zion is all destroyed, but it is not so; the work of the Lord is on the march!  
...
The Spirit of the Lord has rested upon me within a few months as it never did before and although I have labored hard, over the sick, night and day, yet communion with my Heavenly Father has sweetened many hours of toil and acts....
...
With courage bold let us stand, putting our trust in the Lord which alone will disable the power of darkness to flee before us.  Be of good cheer amidst opposition, faint not on the way.  I know the path is very narrow and straight for weary pilgrims like us, and only here and there a traveler do we find to accompany us on our journey, but the Lord will conduct us safely to the end.(17)
Let’s think together again, soon.


Notes:

1.  Neil L. Andersen, “A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous,” address at the BYU Education Week devotional, 13 August 2015.  Available online at:
https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neil-l-andersen_a-compensatory-spiritual-power-for-the-righteous/

Note please that all further references and quotes by Elder Andersen come from this address.

2.  M. Russell Ballard, “Family Councils,” Ensign (May 2016): 63.

3.  Ibid, 65.

4.  Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Priesthood Power,” Ensign (May 2016): 68.

5.  Ibid, pp. 67-68.

6.  Boyd K. Packer, “The Power of the Priesthood,” Ensign (May 2010): 9.

7.  Ibid, p. 8.  

8.  Ibid, p. 9.  

9.  Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Priesthood Power,” Ensign (May 2016): 68.

10.  Ibid.

11.  Ibid.

12.  Ibid.

13.  Ibid.  

14.  Ibid, 69.

15.  Ibid.

16.  Ibid, emphasis in the original.

17.  Excerpts of letters of 24 February and 21 September 1839, from Elizabeth Haven Barlow to her family, reproduced in Ora H. Barlow, The Israel Barlow Story and Mormon Mores (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1968), 143, 161-62.  See a video reenactment of this at: https://www.lds.org/refugees?lang=eng

12 comments:

  1. You shared Elder Anderson's talk a couple weeks ago and I, in turn, shared it with my folks. Thank you for the added commentary that highlights the vision and foresight of our living prophets. "There is hope smiling brightly before us and we know that deliv'rance is nigh."

    "An again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you" (D&C 50:25).

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  2. I hope your folks liked it. When I shared this with my children I told them I had a very nice spiritual experience both discovering and understanding the principle, and then seeing that, in fact, he was correct that there are other examples, and then to find the talks by Elders Ballard and Nelson back-to-back in the same conference. I'm sure that know that my eyes are open I will see more.

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  3. It is amazing how an experience like yours can change the course of how we read, understand, hear, and see. I've long believed the adage that we get what we're looking for but through what you've shared have now considered examining how we are doing the looking.

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  4. Yes, that is important. It is how reading really can change us. New ideas, facts, relationships, and perspectives, if we are open to them, can bring about significant adjustments in our perceptions and thinking. If we only find what we are looking for the alterations come much more slowly. Incidentally, I have learned another method of doing this. That is, to 1) read all you can find on the same subject, and 2) reread some of the fundamental literature on that subject. I have been doing this with the subject of "ordinances" in the gospel, and I have to say that my thinking about them has greatly altered. From Elder Sorensen I got the idea that through ordinances we can get the fulness of the blessings of the atonement. I had not through about receiving only partial blessings of the atonement before, but when I started to think and study about that idea a lot of things began to fit together for me. We need the required ordinances to receive all of the promises and blessings available through the atonement. Leave one out and you don't get the "fulness." Ah ha! Then when I began re-reading what Joseph Smith and others have said about the endowment and temple, I started finding the idea all over the place. Most did not elaborate on it, but used the evocative phrases like "fulness of the blessings," etc., etc. Changed my thinking about them in a powerful way, and as I continue my studies other things I encounter along the way continue to expand my understanding about the importance of ordinances.

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    1. That is an amazing example about something that could seem so basic (ordinances). Those discoveries remind me of the quotation in PMG by Hyrum Smith:
      “Preach the first principles of the Gospel--preach them over again: you will find that day after day new ideas and additional light concerning them will be revealed to you. You can enlarge upon them so as to comprehend them clearly. You will then be able to make them more plainly understood by those [you] teach.”

      Thanks for sharing further.

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    2. Thanks for reminding me about the HS quotation. It is true!

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  5. "The question is, have we as Church members had the inspiration and wisdom to see the emphasis on these things in this context? If not, has that led many to be indifferent and even lazy in following the counsel of the brethren? It doesn’t really do us any good for the Lord to provide the help we often feel we need in the face of Satan’s onslaught if we don’t recognize it or take advantage of it." As always, this remains the challenge. Thank you President, this was a great article. It provided great insight, and for me it provided a great reminder to redouble my efforts in improving spiritual connectedness.

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  6. Well Kolby, thank you. That was my hope for this piece.

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  7. I love this! Thank you for posting!

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    1. Leah, you are kind. I'm impressed you got all the way through it.

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    2. Well it's right along with a comment I made in church the other day about how I believe that the law of opposition works both ways - so if wicked is increasing, so does righteousness and good. I really liked his thoughts about compensatory blessings, I think I'll just go ahead and ask for some of those in raising kids!! It also give a lot more courage in moving forward no matter what happens, instead of feeling hopeless, we can feel excited for God's work to move forth and His blessings to be poured out. I think we will see a significant increase in miracles and spiritual gifts in the years to come.

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  8. Leah, a re-read may convince you to add considerable effort along with those prayers. 😉

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