27 June 2011

MTC--Week 1

After much confusion at the airport, I finally arrived at the Provo MTC. From the moment I shook the host's hand, there has been a new happiness that has entered my life that I can't describe as anything other than the Spirit of God.

I'm grateful for that abiding joy because it has helped me to adapt to everything I've had to face here.
I soon discovered that I've entered the ranks of special sisters called solo-sisters--sisters who are alone in their districts, and who therefore are not able to have conventional companions. I have two companions from the ESL program, two sisters preparing to serve in the Temple Square mission--one from Japan, and one from Brazil. I love them both, but with the exception of P-day I almost never see them. I spend the majority of my time with the Elders in my district.




For the first day or so I was here, I felt like a drop in bucket--a rare female face among a sea of Elders in white shirts and suit jackets. The lack of time I spend with my sister companions made the difference even more pronounced, and for several hours I felt alone--even though I was surrounded by people.

But since my first day, my Elders and I have come to grow in respect and Christ-like love for each other. They treat me with sensitivity, chivalry, and respect and I've come to love being a solo-sister. I've had and will have an experience that few other sisters in the MTC ever get to have.



The influence that I have on my elders is important, and I've come to appreciate how important it was for me to come here instead of going to the Brazil CTM. I wouldn't trade the experiences I'm having here for any other I could've had. As has been true in so many other times in my life, the Lord gave me what I really needed instead of what I thought I wanted, and it has made all the difference in how He has been able to bless me and others.

I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is the restored church of Christ on the earth today. I bear that witness with love and gratitude to my Savior, and in his name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

--
I am, as ever, your humble servant and never-deviating friend,
Sister Doyle

20 June 2011

Farewell

Brothers and sisters, I’m not one for long introductions. Suffice it to say, the last time I was a member of this congregation, it was the Rising Sun branch and I was a teenager.

I love this place. I received my testimony of the restored Church here. I was baptized here. This ground is holy ground for me, and I pray that it will always be to every heart and soul who enters this sacred place.

I’ll be leaving shortly on a mission to the Brazil São Paulo Interlagos mission, and I’m here today to deliver a farewell message to you. I pray that the Lord will help me to have the courage to deliver this powerful message, and that we all might have the Spirit to be lifted and edified together on the subject of talents.

The talents we’ve been given are gifts from the Lord to increase our spirituality. They make up our unique identity as a child of God. If you wonder what makes you different from everyone else that Heavenly Father has created and brought into His fold, look to your talents. If you think the purpose of the gospel is to make you into something you’re not, look to your spiritual gifts. Your talents were given to you in the preexistence, and developing them is not forcing you to become someone you’re not. They’re hidden treasures of your soul that will help you to more fully become the person you were then—the amazing, beautiful son or daughter of God you already are.

Our talents have been customized and given to us based on our personalities. Heavenly Father gave us specific talents and capacities we need to be happy, and to make our contribution to His kingdom. It was true of our first parents, Father Adam and Mother Eve, and it’s true for us today.

Look at Mother Eve. Of all the things Lucifer could have used to persuade her, he chose knowledge and wisdom. He compelled her with the assurance that she would become like God. Out of all the ways he could have chosen, why did Lucifer choose those particular ways?

12 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it became pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.
Moses 4

If she had not yet fallen, and could not yet know good from evil, how could she understand knowledge and wisdom enough to desire them? Even in her innocence, she felt desires for wisdom—to use those talents which God had given her. They would show through regardless of whether or not she knew about them. They drove her towards her roles and responsibilities in the gospel, towards her motherhood and her greatest happiness. If Eve had never fallen, she would have remained a stranger to herself, to her great power and potential as a divine daughter of exalted parents.

Adam’s motivation was different because his talents were different. In 2 Nephi 2: 25, Lehi teaches us that:

“Adam fell that man might be, and men are that they might have joy.”

I always understood that to mean that the Fall was imposed upon Adam because it was necessary. He needed to stay with Eve, and everyone who has ever lived on the earth needed to be born and receive the gospel. Until very recently, I thought that because of God and because of Lucifer, Adam fell.

But Adam fell willingly and deliberately. He took a bold and fearless step into the unknown, Adam FELL, caused himself to fall, that man might be. To him, transgressing the law was a real act of faith because everything in him desires so much to be obedient. I personally don’t believe the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth and the law not to partake of the fruit are contradictory. They work together to accomplish the same one purpose of the Lord—to allow us all to come to mortality. But to Adam, they would have been a test to see if He could distinguish which law was more important to obey. If he was going to be the father of all living, he needed to be able to choose his children before his own security, his own blessing. To say that Adam fell that man might be is a statement that tells us why Adam chose to Fall, and what we all mean to him.

Adam and Eve’s talents were essential to the Fall. They came to earth, and discovered talents and capacities they never dreamed they could have. Adam begins by doing much of what he did in Eden, caring for the grounds and the animals. Eve labored with him, and they learned to appreciate hard work. Then the Lord begins to institute and organize his priesthood among them, and they begin to grown in their spiritual talents.

Adam and Eve needed to learn how to live separated from God, and the Lord teaches them what He expects of them so they can return to Him. The truths that Adam and Eve learn from the Lord at this time are simple and complete. They focus on repentance and the redemption Adam and Eve will find in Jesus Christ. The truths, doctrines, and power they received were never more simple and unified than they were in Adam and Eve’s hands at that time.

In Moses 5: 5, we see that Adam and Eve first learn to sacrifice. The angel teaches them:

…This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
8 Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.
Moses 5

Adam and Eve both have their eyes opened, and the voice of the Lord tells them of their redemption from the Fall.

…I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.
Moses 5: 9

Nothing could’ve been a greater comfort to them than to realize and remember that they and their generations were not lost forever in their mortal state. What Adam and Eve say then are two of the most beautiful statements in all of scripture.

Adam says, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.”

Brethren, do you live in the joy of knowing you will see God again? Does being strictly obedient bring you joy? If not, how can you use your talents to make obedience a more pleasant experience for yourself, your families, and for others?

Eve says, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.”

Sisters, do you treasure your children and grandchildren, even if you are not yet married? Do you actively grow in your understanding of good and evil, and share your wisdom with your children? Have you used your talents to become a better gospel teacher? Do you exercise your talents through visiting teaching to help other sisters grow?

Adam and Eve progress in their covenants for the rest of their lives, and every time they do so, it’s because they grew sufficiently in their individual talents. But how is that accomplished? What do our talents do to bring us closer to the Lord and His Spirit?

Developing our talents is a crucial part of genuine repentance. If we are not including our talents in that repentance, we are not giving the Lord all of ourselves, and our repentance is being frustrated. We may learn the wrongness of our actions, and we may even feel remorse for what we’ve done. But we need to change our behavior and our hearts. This happens as we make powerful personal sacrifices, and I know of no better way to do this than by consecrating talents and abilities to the Lord.

When that is the kind of repentance we live by, a greater capacity to be obedient comes into our lives. That obedience allows us to progress towards the work of our day. Just as Adam and Eve had great purposes of the Lord attached to their talents, we too have a work to perform which depends on us growing in our talents.

After Adam blesses Enoch, he began to build the holy city of Zion. It’s a city built entirely of consecrated talents, where the inhabitants “had all things common,” (4 Nephi 1: 3) and were “of one heart and one mind.” (Moses 7: 18) I bring him up because Enoch’s work in his Zion is inseparable from our work today in this dispensation. The Lord told Enoch of our great work when He said:

…As I live, even so will I come in the last days, in the days of wickedness and vengeance, to fulfil the oath which I have made unto you concerning the children of Noah;
61 And the day shall come that the earth shall rest, but before that day the heavens shall be darkened, and a veil of darkness shall cover the earth; and the heavens shall shake, and also the earth; and great tribulations shall be among the children of men, but my people will I preserve;
62 And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem.
Moses 7

We have each been given talents which will help us to stand in our place in our day—to build Zion to our God. We are progressing as individuals and families in positions to which every previous dispensation has looked and eagerly anticipated, hoped and waited. They knew the talents that would be extended to us specific to our positions, and they wanted to be a part of our day. (Alma 29: 1-2)

Do we have talents specific to our work in Zion? Absolutely! Read any prophecy about the latter days, and you will read about the righteous and the power they will possess.

…I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.
Joel 2

That description is powerful because the potential of our talents is a marvelous sight to behold. Visions, prophecies, miracles—these experiences do not belong solely to prophets, apostles, or general authorities. You can have them too if you prepare yourself in righteousness, as they have; and if you have real need of them, as they do. And I promise you and warn you this day, you will never have greater need for inspiration than you will as you strengthen and bless your families, and build the kingdom of God.

Visions, prophecies, and miracles attend those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost. Use your talents as the Lord directs, and you will magnify the gift of the Holy Ghost in your life.

If you ponder, in all honesty, what it means to have the Spirit to be with you—to have a member of the Godhead under binding covenant to dwell with you and guide you—it is exciting, and daunting, and humbling all at once. It awakens us to a sense of our greatness in the sight of God. But it is only a precursor to the talent and defining blessing of Zion and her inhabitants.

What is the talent which all men and women in Zion possess—the thing that makes Zion different from any other place on earth—so difficult to build, but worth hoping and sacrificing for, even unto death?

What is Zion?

And Enoch and all his people walked with God, and he dwelt in the midst of Zion;
Moses 7: 69

To walk with God means to see Jesus Christ exactly as He is, and to be able to speak with Him, “even as a man talketh one with another, face to face.” (Moses 7: 4) It is the talent which is extended to the inhabitants of Zion who have earned it through sufficient repentance, honoring their covenants, and consecrating their talents. As we discover, explore, and develop our individual talents, that great talent of Zion will become a clearer and more attainable reality.

Adam-ondi-Ahman in Daviess County, Missouri
There is a reason I’ve spent so much time talking about Adam and Eve this morning as a precursor to talking about Zion and our latter-day work. It’s because our return to Zion and their return home to Eden is the same journey.

Everything we need to build Zion was originally extended as a blessing to Adam and Eve, which they handed down to their generations. Those blessings were changed, lost, taken away, restored, lost again, and fragmented many times throughout the history of this earth. A restoration, not a reformation, is the only thing which has ever reinstated those blessings. A restoration of truth, of priesthood, of the gospel of Jesus Christ is exactly what we claim to have here today.

But sometimes we think of that Restoration as something that happened once in 1820 and ended after the First Vision. That is when the Restoration began. The Restoration continued on as the offices of the Priesthood were restored, the temples built, and the keys restored. It continues today, and will continue until Adam returns to Adam-ondi-Ahman “the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet.” (D&C 116)

Joseph Smith never intended to hide that fact, which is why we find it clearly stated in the Articles of Faith:

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.

When the Prophet Joseph Smith entered Jackson County, Missouri in July of 1831, I have no doubt that he understood where he was standing was a deeply significant place. It’s the place where Eden once stood, and the Lord revealed that to him and to us in D&C 57:

“This is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion.”
D&C 57: 2

About two weeks later, the Saints who were gathering wanted to know what the significance was of Missouri. The Lord reveals it to them, which we read about in D&C 58:

6 Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you—that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come;
7 And also that you might be honored in laying the foundation, and in bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand;
8 And also that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor; yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail;
9 Yea, a supper of the house of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited.
10 First, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble;
11 And after that cometh the day of my power; then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf, come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord, prepared for the great day to come.

The marriage of the Lamb is the feast of the faithful—the Sacrament Meeting to end all Sacrament Meetings. The righteous in attendance will return to Eden, to the New Jerusalem, in preparation for the Savior to begin His reign on the earth. Those who have received their celestial inheritances will be gathered there with Adam and Eve into the rest and service of the Lord forever. Among the rich symbolism behind the Sacrament we partook of this morning, one of the most important layers of meaning points to that feast. By partaking of the Sacrament, we promised to be at that feast of the faithful—having given all we possess, talents included, to be there.

Brothers and sisters, I hope we meet again in that holy place. I hope we all are counted worthy to stand in the presence of God. I pray we will all seek that redemption and live in that hope. As hard as things may become for you, as much as you may be tried, be strong. Know that God loves you, and He is leading you to that good place.

I know that God lives, and I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is the reason for everything we do here today. We love Him. We worship Him. We believe that He atoned for our sins in Gethsemane, died for us on Calvary’s cross, and rose on the third day that we might rise, conquerors over death. He bids us to follow Him, and by making and keeping covenants with Him, we are saved.

I bear you my witness that this Church is true, that the gospel is real, that Joseph Smith was a prophet and a good man. I am so happy and excited to serve a mission wherever the Lord will send me in addition to Brazil, and I bear you my witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

18 June 2011

Called to Serve

Because I had such a great time making a temple prep playlist, I thought it only appropriate to make one for mission prep. However, I feel like such an undertaking needs to come with a disclaimer.

The temple is a beautiful representation of everything that is best in life, in eternity, in mankind, and in righteousness. It's beautiful in every imaginable way--serene, quiet, and approachable. That constant peace and calm, the comfort of the Spirit, is among the many reasons why the temple is such a pleasant place to be.

Missions are not like that.  

Going on a mission is a very different experience from going to the temple. That is why I find it so odd that even to this day, some members of the Church associate qualifying for a temple recommend with being mentally and emotionally prepared to serve a mission. The whole purpose of raising the bar for missionary service was to eliminate this assumption because a mission requires so much more than the spiritual bare minimum.

I've never heard anyone anywhere say that their mission was perfect--totally devoid of all problems, a season of perfect peace, enjoyment, and relaxation. If I ever heard a returned missionary say such a thing, I'd be strongly tempted to ask them if they were called to serve in a cardboard box.

What you do with the gospel in powerful, meaningful ways is infinitely more important than what you know about it. As such, these talks I've assembled are not meant to impart information in the same way my temple playlist did. This list is meant to inspire action--changes of habit, heart, and mind. They give meaningful, important suggestions for how we can become better missionaries--not just how to go on a mission.

Materials and Resources:

Talks:

Scriptures:
  • D&C 4
  • D&C 11
  • D&C 79 (The mission call of Jared Carter, who would bring John Tanner into the Church)
  • Luke 9: 59-62
  • Acts 1: 6-8
  • Acts 3: 11-15
  • Acts 9: 1-31
  • 1 Peter 3: 8-16
  • Alma 19: 16-18, 28-29
  • Alma 22: 13-18
  • Alma 26
  • Helaman 5
  • Judges 4 (It occurs to me that in the mindset of the Old Testament, missionary work and idolatry are both totally synonymous with military might and conquest. Therefore, reading about the armies and battles of Israel in the Old Testament is like reading about the great missionaries of the ancient world.)
  • Judges 7: 1-9 
  • Joshua 1: 9-11
(As always, feel free to leave your favorites and suggestions in the comments.)

This is only a cursory look at one of the most important responsibilities we have in the Church. Missionary work has such a rich history, with so many men and women working together at the battlefront. I have waited for many years to be able to join them, and in a few days time I will begin my own ministry in the Lord.

I've been reassigned to the Provo MTC until further notice, due to delays with my visa. If it comes before the end of my training, I will go straight to the Brazil CTM and finish my training there. I was disappointed about the change at first, but have since embraced the idea of returning to Utah to train with my comrades in arms there. I know that as long as I serve with willing men and women who desire to bring others to Christ, it doesn't matter where I train.

I know that the ministry I'm about to enter is for the true and living Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth today. His authority and power have been restored, and all who will seek those blessings can receive them if they will follow Jesus Christ and be baptized in His name. I know that the name of Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which we can saved, returning home to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

That desire to return home, having given all, is the defining expression of my faith--the greatest desire of my life. I am privileged to take my testimony to the world, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

07 June 2011

Receiving the Endowment

I went through the temple to receive my endowment a few weeks ago. It was the most beautifully profound, the most peaceful experience of my life. I was comfortable and prepared for what I saw and the promises I made. It was a simple, yet powerful display of truths I've been taught and have been living for many years. Years of scripture study, fervent prayers, and teaching from the Holy Ghost came together before my eyes. I could see plainly that in every blessing and hardship, the Lord had been leading me to this beautiful place.

In the Celestial Room, I felt at home. I had no questions. I needed no answers, no visions, no voices from heaven or signs from the earth. All was still and quiet, and I was at peace with everything--including myself. In the silence, I was healed and blessed by God. All my problems became weightless, and I felt a quiet triumph as many years of waiting were finally lain to rest.

Not everyone has that experience. For some, the covenants and symbolism of the temple ceremonies are strange and unfamiliar territory. I've watched as dozens of my friends and associates have gone through the temple before me and come out staggering, claiming the only thing they learned was how much they didn't understand. Even after a lifetime of reading scriptures, going to Church, and going through standard temple prep classes, the ordinances can still seem strange and confusing.

So, I'm using this post as a temple preparation playlist. Below are a compilation of talks, scriptures, and other odds and ends which explain the doctrines of the temple. I've also included talks that explain the history of the ceremonies. Some of the talks I've included do not clarify ordinances directly, but they explain aspects of the covenants associated with the ordinances--thereby making the covenants easier to keep.

If you have suggestions for talks or addresses to add, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Initiatory


Endowment


I haven't as of yet experienced the sealing ordinances, so I'll have to redo this list after I have that experience. It'll be interesting to see what I add to it once I've been through it myself. In the meantime, here's my list:

Sealings


I know the temple is the House of the Lord, and I'm grateful for my opportunity to go there. There is no better place in the world to be because the Lord is there. I know that as we prepare ourselves to go there in soberness and with quiet and reverent joy, we will be blessed with the Holy Ghost and the revelation he brings. Our spiritual strength will increase, and we will have greater happiness and faith in our lives than we have yet experienced.

I love the temple, I love the Lord, and I love the covenants I've made with Him. I share that testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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