Big Changes

This is the text of the talk I gave during sacrament meeting today.

I feel like this past year has been a whirlwind of changes one after the other in how things are done and administered in the church. It seems we are just getting a handle on the last change and a new change is announced. On the one hand I’m a little nervous that I won’t live up to what is being expected and on the other hand I’m excited about the changes because it feels like Heavenly Father is telling us that he trusts us to be more on our own while still doing what is necessary to build the church and take care of each other.

In April we were asked to change in how we teach with the introduction of Come Follow Me for adults and the launch of first Sunday council meetings in third hour. There were also significant changes to how we take care of each other with the shift from Home and Visiting Teaching to Ministering.

At the same time there were changes to some of the responsibilities in ward leadership and a combining of Elder’s Quorum with the High Priests.

We are still settling in and working on getting comfortable with these changes and kapow! More changes at the October Conference.

Our manuals are changing from lesson plans that lay everything out for you to basic outlines and we are required to fill in the blanks which means we need to know more and also, we need to know how to find answers to the things we don’t know.

And now, there will be a change to the length of the meeting schedule beginning in January. One hour sacrament meeting and Sunday School and Relief Society each being only 2 weeks out of the month. Primary will be only one hour each week. And that third hour is not supposed to be additional Sunday nap time. There is a new manual to help us teach in our homes on Sunday.

In all of the changes we are being called upon to reach into ourselves, to draw on what we already know, to learn more in a more meaningful way that will help us have the desire to change and to rely on the spirit.

These changes are pushing us (to quote President Nelson) to live in a higher, holier way. We can no longer expect to come to church to be fed by others. We are expected now to reach out to those around us.

Up until recently we have been riding with training wheels and I think that now the training wheels are coming off.

What is required for us to fully embrace these changes?

Increased obedience

More reliance on the Holy Ghost to lead us.

Deeper personal study with a focus on likening the scriptures to ourselves.

Taking responsibility to teach our family in our homes and no longer relying on the programs of the church to teach our children

This is a holier way. This new way of doing things will bring us and our families closer to God. Things are getting serious. Now is the time to become truly converted. But not in a panicked, worried way. If we trust that the Lord will help us, He most definitely will by the power of our faith in Him.

What does it mean to be Converted?

Recently I’ve been thinking about conversion and what it means and so while listening to the general conference talks I was more aware when speakers used the work in their talks. Here is what I know. Being converted is not the same as believing something or even knowing something to be true. Being converted is allowing that knowledge to change you and for you to want that change. For example, I know that sugar makes me feel really bad but I haven’t been converted yet and so I still eat it because I believe that those 5 minutes of pleasure are worth the 4 to 24 hours of misery. If we are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that means our lives will change and we will be willing to make the changes required to heal ourselves spiritually.

In conference Elder Shane M Bowen spoke about the role of the Book of Mormon in Conversion. He told a story of Mr Gonzalez who was a bible scholar and very active in his church. Mr Gonzalez met the missionaries and was excited to talk to them about all the ways they were incorrect in their beliefs. After reading the Book of Mormon in a very short period of time he received the missionary discussions and joined the church. Elder Bowen said “He called the missionaries, received the lessons, and gave up the life he had known to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Let me repeat that one part – He gave up the life he had known

I remember doing a similar thing when I was a 17 year old girl. The message the missionaries brought to me was powerful enough to cause me to give up some of the things in my life, walk away from some of my friends who were not a great influence in my life and to begin to change. Of course, there have been spiritual ups and downs and I expect that we all go through those. Some of my downs were further down than some people I know but I came back. I can tell you that the downs came because I wasn’t doing the basic things in my life that I should have been doing such as personal prayer and scripture study.

If you are a convert to the church you probably remember this dramatic change. Giving up things that were accepted in your family or friends circle. Working on changing the way you thought or acted. Changing your routines so that you could include time for scripture study and prayer and family home evening and at least three hours of church each week.

If you have been raised in the church, and have remained active, you may not have had these dramatic changes to how you live your life.

No matter where you come from, or your background, or how you came to be here in this chapel today we are all being asked to do the same things. We all have to take responsibility for our own growth and progress. We are also being asked to reach out to others to help them in their growth process. So, as I say you need to take responsibility for yourself I am well aware, and so is Heavenly Father, that it is really hard to do it alone and we need each other for support and a feeling of belonging.

Endure to the End

Matthew 24:13 says But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

When I was a new member of the church and for many years after that I had no clear understanding of what it meant to endure to the end. To me enduring was a negative thing. Like in the summer when I’m thinking, how long to I have to endure these 100 degree days? There’s nothing I can do to change the weather and so enduring is all I can do.

As I began to increase in understanding I found out that enduring to the end means more than just laying on my fainting couch with my hand placed dramatically on my forehead waiting for the trial to pass by.

Elder Claudio Zivic spoke about enduring to the end in April’s General Conference. He said, “To endure means “to remain firm in a commitment to be true to the commandments of God despite temptation, opposition, and adversity.”

So this means you’ve gotta put in effort and sometimes it means making sacrifices to get to where you want to go. Many of you know that I went to Disney World the last couple of years for the Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Now I do not in any way have a runner’s body but I really wanted to do it. The first year I was only signed up for the 5K. 3.1 miles. I didn’t really prepare and it was HARD! I finished but it was hard. I did endure to the end and then I got to go back to the hotel and take a nap.

The next year I went and I signed up for both the 5K and the 10K. I planned on running a little for the 10K so that I could finish under the required time to not get swept off of the course. This time I did prepare. I was at the gym at least 4 times per week and many weeks was 5 or 6 days. I had a goal and I worked on trying to increase my speed on the treadmill. I added a little running here and there and I was feeling pretty good. The 5K went great and I was very proud of myself. I wasn’t even close to last to finish. The 10K was a little less great. There was a point at about the 4 mile mark where I was just ready to give up. The finish line seemed so far away and I just wasn’t sure if I could do it.  I even slowed down to a slow walking pace. And then I gave myself a little pep talk. You’ve come all the way here. You prepared for this. You are so much better this year than you were last year! Look at how far you’ve come! Don’t give up. And then I began to move my feet faster and I became determined to not be last. And I finished.

Three things here. Lou Smith was by my side the entire time. He was awesome. He could have finished way ahead of me but he was next to me giving me encouragement and often slightly ahead of me, which kind of made me crabby, but he was inspiring me to keep going. Please think about that in terms of who you are assigned to minister. They need you by their side, cheering you on. You can’t do it for them, just like Lou couldn’t finish the race for me, but you can be there to encourage and sometimes even commiserate.

If I hadn’t prepared for that race I would not have been able to even get to the 3 mile mark just one day after doing the 5K and then spending 8 hours in the parks on my feet all day. Preparation is key in everything. How could I have done what I did without those practices and workouts? In the same way that going to the gym regularly helped me prepare for something that was very difficult, daily scripture study and daily prayer and family gospel discussions are going to give you strength and at those times when you want to give up because life seems hard or overwhelming, you will have all of that preparation to draw on to keep going.

Third, another thing that got me to move again was realizing how far I had come. To look at where I was just one year before and realize that just because I was way behind where I originally wanted to be I was way ahead of where I had started from. Don’t forget to evaluate and give yourself a pat on the back for the things you are doing right. Nobody can feel motivated by negative self talk. Yes, you need to be truthful and realize in what places you could do better but remember to also be kind while you make your goals. Be realistic about how much you can work on at one time and don’t set impossible time frames.

The Covenant Path

President Nelson has been using the term The Covenant Path for a while now, the first time I can find him saying those particular words was in 2014 but he’s been talking about covenants since way back in 1995. This conference is the first time I stopped and wondered exactly what he meant by that.

Convenants are what lead us back to God. It isn’t that we just make them and them go on with our lives, we need to be always striving to keep those covenants that we made at baptism and then in the temple. Keeping those covenants keeps us on the straight path back to our Heavenly father.

How often do we review the covenants we made in the temple. How often do we consider seriously whether we are living up to the promises we make each time we take the sacrament. I also like to regularly think about the temple recommend interview questions to make sure that if I needed to go through the interview process today that I could honestly answer each question and get my recommend renewed. If you haven’t yet had an interview for a recommend, don’t worry. The questions are basically about whether you are honest, have faith and sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.

I remember when I was working toward being worthy of a temple recommend. I had just come back to church after being inactive for more than 5 years. After about a year of being back at church I met with the Bishop and asked how I could go to the temple. He explained to me what would need to happen and I got to work. That bishop met with me at least every other month for a year to check in on my progress and to help me stick to the program. Most of you wouldn’t have to wait that long but I did have some things to overcome. But I remember that year. It was amazing. I felt the love of Heavenly Father in my life. I felt joyful even though I was a single mother of two young girls at the time. I made prayer and scripture study a priority. My knowledge and faith increased and improved monumentally and I believe it’s because I was focused and determined.

Moving Forward

So, if you feel your growth has stagnated or that you have moved off the path or you want to reaffirm your commitment to the Gospel or like me, want to get that feeling of joy back even in the face of difficulty, let’s begin together to get it all back.

Begin to gain a firmer testimony of the truthfulness of the things we talk about each week here at church. This doesn’t mean we need to delve into the deeper doctrine but it does mean that we need a firm and strong testimony of the basics of the Gospel:

the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon,

that this church is led by a prophet and apostles who speak for God and are His mouthpiece,

that we can have personal revelation for ourselves and our families if we learn to hear the voice of the spirit speaking to us,

and that we are truly sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents who are intimately involved in the details of our lives and care deeply about each of us.

All of this comes from evaluating our lives and choosing one thing at a time to get rid of that is stopping us from moving forward. That’s all repentance is and Jesus Christ atoned for our sins, the big ones and the little ones so that we could gradually become more and more like Him.

So I have a list of 5 things we should all implement in our lives if we aren’t already doing them. And if we are, consider whether you can improve.

  1. Think about the covenants you have made. Service is a big part of that very first baptismal covenant. Reach out to others and help them no matter what your time or circumstances seem to allow. If you tell Heavenly Father that you want to know who to serve He will tell you and then He will help you accomplish everything that is necessary to serve and to also accomplish all the other things that need to be completed.
  2. Read and study your scriptures daily. I’ve read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, I’ve studied by topic, I’ve studied based on just opening the book and reading where my eyes landed. There’s no wrong way. President Nelson has asked the Sisters to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. I bet if the brothers in our ward wanted to join in that would be ok.
  3. Pray in the morning and tell Heavenly Father about your plans and ask Him if He has any plans for you. Pray for your kids and your work and your home and the people you minister to and anything else that is important. If you have questions, ask them and you will get answers. You may not get everything you pray for but you will begin to develop a relationship with God and you will begin to know for yourself that He is paying attention to you and not just everyone else.
  4. Magnify your calling. Go above what is the minimum requirement. Blessings will come to you from serving your brothers and sisters in this ward. If you don’t have a calling at this time, say yes if one is extended to you. It will be hard but it will be worth it.
  5. Have Gospel Conversations in your home. Don’t be afraid to open your mouth to the people in your family and say with confidence what you know to be true.

These are small and simple things that we can do every day and it is amazing how doing these little things can change our lives and change us into the people that God wants us to be.


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