Archive for August, 2006|Monthly archive page

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Our life as Continual Renewal

Our life as Continual Renewal

It is my pleasure to stand before you this day at the start of a New Year. It is a time of renewal in many of our lives and I hope the spirit of the words I say today may influence many of you for the better.

At the start of a New Year our minds are drawn to New Year’s resolutions and in preparing ourselves for these commitments I believe it important to review the Gospel Principles around the value of bettering ourselves or eliminating things from our lives.

The very heart of the Gospel is the ‘layout’ so to speak of our Mortal experience, what we refer to as the Plan of Salvation. It’s very easy for many of us to present the layout of that plan. We existed in some form before we came to earth, We passed through a veil to come to this earth, we go through our mortal experience, Faith, Repentance, Baptism, HG and Endure to the End, Resurrection, Judgement, and Kingdom… a

Elder Oaks, from the October 2000 General Conference said,

“…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts-what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts-what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”

It is this principle ‘On Becoming what our Heavenly Father desires us to become’ that I wish to speak. Theologically it has some definitions, what we refer to as Exaltation, but known in Christian circles as Theosis, Human Divinization, or Deification. The scriptures also speak of Partaking of the Divine Nature, or in other words,

How do we qualify for the Celestial Kingdom.

Mosiah 1:39 reads,

“For this is my work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of Man.”

Romans 8: 16-19 reads,

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God and Joint-Heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the suferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

From the very beginnings of the Christian Churches the centrality of Christ has been recognized; he is the one who makes Exaltation-Deification-a possibility. Two classic texts which come from the early centuries of the Church clearly demonstrate this belief. St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 130-c. 202)-who had known St. Polycarp, who had known the Apostles5-wrote, “the Word of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, who because of his immeasurable love became what we are in order to make us what he is.”6 St. Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373) also explained that “God became man, so that we might be made gods.”7 Thus, at the root and core of the doctrine of theosis was not only a belief in the centrality of Christ but also the belief that he makes theosis possible precisely because he is both God and human.

So it is this the very life of Christ and the Gospel he taught that paved the way that is marked by the Iron Rod.

It’s fitting that we are studying from the OT this year because, from the Creation-Drama of Adam and Eve we learn many things, one that has touched my heart is the symbolism of the differing scenes. We first meet them in a garden, or a beginning period, a place where sin has no hold on them. After their choice to take on mortality they enter the lone and dreary world a change of scenery introduces a beginning or a preparatory law (or covenant) with which Adam and Eve follow but often times don’t understand the reasons why. After a time, they are invited to participate in a higher Covenant which ultimately will enable their transition into the Celestial existence with Father. Now I see a similar pattern at a MACRO level being played out in the nation of Israel as a whole (as we read in the OT), but also at a micro level in our own lives.

– Much like our own lives. We all go through a period of ‘innocence’ in which our actions don’t count against us, after our baptisms we are under a covenant to follow the gospel, but are still in our homes where parents influence much of what we do or how we follow the commandments (much like an Iron Rod). As we grow we take on further commitments of the Gospel and are left to our own choices for Faith and obedience (much like the Liahona).

So, where are we on this path? Are we proceeding forward? Are we stagnant? Have we retraced our steps backwards because we felt safer back there? Are we too tied up in the things of this world that we only do an adequate job in the gospel while excelling at work or school or computer games or crafts or sports or whatever else we may choose to spend a large portion of our time?

Here is the Key from the scriptures, I believe,

2 Peter 1:4-8 reads,

4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Delbert L. Stapley in October Conference of 1974 said,

One of the best habits to be cultivated is that of reading the scriptures to become knowledgeable of our responsibilities. By learning God’s commandments and keeping them, we develop the ways of righteousness that are an expression of our faith. With good habits we prepare ourselves for excellence.

We need to ask ourselves, “Are my usual thoughts and present actions worthy of eternal life? Am I setting my sights on eternal goals and working to obtain them?” Anything short of our best isn’t good enough, especially in the service of the Lord.

The Lord has counseled us to repent and walk uprightly before him. Uprightly implies a strict adherence to moral principles and honesty of purpose. We are instructed to make our home an abode of righteousness and honor. Honor is almost an old-fashioned word in today’s world. It encompasses duty, responsibility, and respect for the eternal values. It also suggests a firm holding to codes of right behavior and the guidance of a high sense of stewardship.

Let us dare to be different from the ways of the world when its ways are not the ways of God. In a world troubled with selfish greed, dishonesty, and dishonor, let us set ourselves on a higher path, striving to develop and strengthen the qualities of unselfish service with wholehearted effort, dependability, honesty, morality, and every other good attribute that would lead us to integrity of character. We begin, then, with our thoughts and end with our eternal destiny. Our destiny is determined by our character, and our character is the sum and expression of our habits. Character is won by hard work.

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught,

“Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 255-56).

I will conclude with a repeat of an earlier statement from Elder Oaks:

“…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts-what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts-what we have become”

Testimony

The Beatitudes – Shoal Creek Valley Ward – Liberty Missouri Stake

Beatitudes

I hope today to share with you some of my feelings regarding the discourse our Savior gave known as the Sermon on the Mount in the Old World, and the Sermon at the Temple in the New World. We’ve already been blessed to examine these principles and I hope to add my thoughts with you as well. It is my prayer that the Spirit of the Lord may guide my words, and if not my words then your hearts so that we may all be edified together today.

The Sermon on the Mount, including the Beatitudes is some of the more beautiful prose in the New Testament and possesses allusion of the Psalmists of the Old Testament and the prophet Isaiah. It has been called the Constitution of Christianity and as such encompasses an easily identified set of standards or rules governing a community, in this case the Church and Kingdom of God. The Savior taught this sermon at a time when the vast majority of people were illiterate and would be unable to ‘read their scriptures’ every day or night. He taught in a manner that conveyed correct principles that were easily understood and transmitted from person to person. As the human family progressed these principles of the Gospel continued to be transmitted so this Constitution that encompassed Christianity would be continually before the us whether through word or works of art. How many of you know that for the vast majority of Christianity’s existence we learned from the pictures displayed in Churches, the very stain glassed windows depicted stories the Master told so that even the masses could internalize the lessons of the scriptures not widely available to them. And that gets to the heart of what I’d like to address today.

The Beatitudes have, although at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, been thought of as an introduction to what follows, However, they are much more, they are the heart of the Sermon, the heart of the Gospel, the heart of the Living Disciple of Christ. I want to go back a little so we have the proper context of what I mean when I say the Beatitudes are the Heart of the Gospel.

As we examine the Plan of Happiness our Heavenly Father sent us here to experience I see several phases to our progression. The first I will call a state of Innocence:

When a child is born, how else can you describe (at those precious moments with children) these little ones, Innocent, not yet feeling the weight of our responsibilities in this mortal probation. An allusion to Adam and Eve in the Garden.

The second I will call living the preparatory gospel:

As we grow, and in particular our Teen Age years (but can last well into our adult lives) we follow the gospel in varying ways, but many times we don’t know why, it’s just what we do in our family, or while you live under our roof, you will follow our rules, etc. Again an allusion to Adam and Eve, and I quote from Moses 5:6.

6 And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

This is perfectly acceptable to the Lord and is still living a life worthy of the Celestial Law because the Celestial Law encompasses progression from a state of innocence to living the preparatory gospel, to the third phase I’ll refer to as living the Higher Law of the Gospel. I’d like to share a couple of Quotes pertaining to our Journey from the preparatory gospel to the Higher Law. The first from President Heber J. Grant, and the second from one of President David O. McKay’s counselors in the 1st Presidency, Stephen L. Richards. Then Elder Grant shared in Conference 1909:

…Truth is the living, pulsing breathing of the virtues of life. Mere refraining from wrong-doing is but keeping the weeds out of the garden of one’s life. But this must be followed by positive planting of the seeds of right to secure the flowers of true living. To the negatives of the Ten Commandments must be added the positives of the Beatitudes. The one condemns, the other commends; the one forbids, the other inspires; the one emphasizes the act, the other the spirit behind the act. The whole truth rests not in either, but in both.

(Heber J. Grant., Conference Report, April 1909, Third Day—Morning Session. 116.)

President Richards relayed in Conference 1957:

The Beatitudes come to us as persuasion and incentive. They are not negative, but positive, in character. All who believe in the standards of righteousness and morality set up by the Ten Commandments know and understand that the gracious persuasion of the Beatitudes and other of the Savior’s teachings furnish the highest incentive to yield obedience to the commandments and attain the blessings which are held out as a reward for compliance. It is essential that this be made clear to youth, that they may understand that moral standards and principles are not just prohibitive and negative in character, but that they are the essential foundation to happiness and the attainment of joy. If they could once be persuaded that there is no enduring happiness in sin, but only in goodness, the battle would be won.

(Stephen L Richards, Conference Report, April 1957, Third Day—Morning Meeting 98.)

So we see that the Beatitudes, as the heart of the Gospel, bridge the divide between the Ten Commandments and the Gospel as taught by the Savior providing a context to our discipleship and showing us that Internalizing the principles of the gospel will lead us back to our Father In Heaven. If I may take some poetic license, Blessed are the Pure in Heart, having been true and faithful, for they shall enter into the Heavenly Court as joint-heirs with Christ and see God.

Elder Oaks gave one of the most masterful sermons on this topic in October Conference 2000, it is worth reading in whole and I encourage you to go home and review it again, let me just share a few of his thoughts:

The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord’s teachings and teachers were given that we may all attain “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.

…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.

Let me give you a couple of illustrations of why I think this a valuable principle to know and understand, especially one to teach our Youth just coming of age.

A few years back I complete my bachelor’s degree at Mid America Nazarene University in Olathe. The course work included courses in religious topics. A local Nazarene Minister was our instructor for these courses . The class had about 15-20 members all very active faithful Christians, it even included another Mormon besides myself. One assignment we were given by this minister was to write an essay and be prepared to read it to the class completing this sentence:

Life Is………..

Well, I came back after the next week and spoke of this Life as a probationary state, a time to prepare ourselves to live with the Father again, the importance of families and covenants, etc…. I spoke about the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes, and mentioned Elder Oaks quotes mentioned earlier. I was the first to read that day, as I finished I could tell many in the class were a little disturbed. Other presented their essays, most mentioning their religious commitments only briefly but described many fun activities etc… When the other member in our class got up he started out… Life is a probationary state, a time to prepare….. At the end there was much discussion about why the two mormon essays were so similar, one comment from another member of the class, and I believe he spoke for most of them when he said, I didn’t know we were supposed to base it on our Church lives.

Let me mention another interesting observation and then sum up these thoughts. On the very next block there is a church with a marquee which reads, Tired of Religion? Tired of Rules? Tired of Failing? An interesting sign to say the least, and I think not a few of us may think that very thing from time-to-time. However, it gets right to the heart of the matter. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has reintroduced back to the earth the proper understanding of faith, grace, and obedience, it is not one or the other, but a careful combination of both. We are participators in this personal development, we have the power to affect change in ourselves and by relying on the Spirit to guide us we’ll absorb the changes that will enable us to return home.

In Conclusion, brothers and sisters, let me add my testimony to the others we’ve heard today. I know that my Heavenly Father lives, he sent us here to earth to gain the experiences which will lead us to Eternal Life with Him. Those experiences shape our Character and as we internalize the principles of the Gospel that Character grows into or Becomes what our Heavenly Father desires us to become. I testify of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, that he died on the Cross and was Resurrected for our sakes. Joseph Smith was and is a true Prophet who restored again to the earth the Gospel and the priesthood, and the true understanding of the progression from our state of Innocence, living a preparatory gospel, to living the Higher Law. President Hinckley leads and guides our Church today as a successor to Joseph Smith. And I thank the Lord each night for Bishops and local leaders who are our battlefield commanders.

John M. Shaw, Shoal Creek Valley Ward, June 25, 2006

Appendix

Matt 5:1-5

1 AND seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

3 Nephi 12:1-12

1 AND it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and behold, he stretched forth his hand unto the multitude, and cried unto them, saying: Blessed are ye if ye shall give heed unto the words of these twelve whom I have chosen from among you to minister unto you, and to be your servants; and unto them I have given power that they may baptize you with water; and after that ye are baptized with water, behold, I will baptize you with fire and with the Holy Ghost; therefore blessed are ye if ye shall believe in me and be baptized, after that ye have seen me and know that I am.

2 And again, more blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify that ye have seen me, and that ye know that I am. Yea, blessed are they who shall believe in your words, and come down into the depths of humility and be baptized, for they shall be visited with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and shall receive a remission of their sins.

3 Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.

7 And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

8 And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

10 And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;

12 For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.

Adversity – Stanley Ward – Olathe Kansas Stake

Adversity, the building block of character

I’m grateful to have been given the topic of Adversity to base my message today, because who wouldn’t want to air out all their problems in front of a big crowd like this. But seriously, as I’ve grown in the gospel, I’ve learned not to think in terms of adversity or trials. I replace these words in my own thoughts as mortal or life experiences, and as character building opportunities. And this will be the approach of the words I share with you today.

As I look through the scriptures, and consider the early history of the restoration of the Church, it’s clear that there is great opposition to the work of the Lord. The plan of salvation proposed that we come to this earth, to gain a body – at least that’s what we hear said often in our teaching, but we should really think of that not so much as gaining a body, but gaining the life experiences that having a mortal body will bring. It is only under this apparent testing ground that we prove ourselves to see if we’ll put off the natural man by yielding to the enticings of the holy spirit (Mos 3:19), showing that we will do all things whatsoever that the Lord Commands us (Abr 3:25).

When we think of the topic of adversity, the scriptures that teach us about putting on the full armor of God come to mind. Eph 6 and D&C 27 both record the Lord’s directions to use in overcoming life’s experiences. Eph 6: 11-18 reads:

11. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15. And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

The example of armor brings to mind armies and great battles, in fact, the abridger of the Book of Mormon, himself a general, chose to illustrate many principles of the gospel through the continual conflicts contained in that book of scripture. Everywhere we read it seems the Lord wants to emphasize the point to us – that this is a literal battle being fought by individuals, wards, stakes all the way up to the general councils of the church.

I really love reading and learning history. For several years I’ve been intrigued by books, films, and shows depicting the battles of World War II. I’ve recently been listening to a book about the campaign of North Africa, the first battles of WWII that American troops were involved in, and under the supreme allied command of Eisenhower, an American General. This campaign revealed to the Americans that they had a lot of catching up to do to be the world leader in military strength. An extra year was needed just to recover from severe losses, to regroup, weed out poor leaders, and learn to coordinate multiple aspects of this type of war, Naval, Air and Ground forces needed to all be on the same pages, this was not demonstrated very well in the beginning in North Africa, but through it all our Military gained in strength and knowledge.

Then we invaded Italy, the military learned from its mistakes and grew tougher, stronger, and better at taking objectives and smarter at picking those objectives. The officers that remained were those that made the best decisions in the field and the fighting men who were left were veterans, hardened by previous campaigns.

It took time and experience to gain the upper hand, it wasn’t ours at first, but eventually the Allies won the day.

In our own lives we may not face an opponent in open battle militarily, but spiritually we will face situations that certainly make life difficult. And they grow in strength as we learn and overcome those placed before us. As a young man or woman we will face many difficulties, just to grow older and encounter different and stronger opposition to our progress. I think back to when I was a young man receiving my Patriarchal Blessing, I’m not one to talk about my blessing outside of my family, but there is a phrase from that blessing I feel it appropriate to share at this time. To paraphrase it the Lord told me that Satan will seek to destroy you – not hinder you, not get in your way, not be a nuisance to you, but destroy. As an 18 year old that didn’t mean a lot to me, because I was invincible, but as I grow older, I learned to respect those words more and more, to guard against the destroyer. Brothers and Sisters, it is my testimony that this is a literal battle.

Our stake has had its share of serious challenges to whole families, loss of jobs, military service, and some deaths in families. I have a good friend who lost his wife recently leaving him with 3 children to take care of. I recently had some good conversations with him about that situation, and Feel that he really has a solid understand of facing adversity in this life. He told me that they were very lucky to have had their time together to come back into the church, be sealed as a family and have the assurance that they will be together again. I remembered back several years to when he was coming back to activity, and she joined the church, I was a home teacher at a time of much change in their lives as they prepared to go to the Temple. Down came some of the art, to the garbage went movies, music, and more. Tears came to my eyes as I saw how grateful he was for just the short time he had with her. Here was a man who understood the plan of salvation, and his role within it. I’m glad to have known him. I’m a better person for it.

The new gospel reference entitled True to the Faith (hold it up) states, “Adversity comes to use from different sources, some times just as a result of the mortal experience, but other times it comes as a result of decisions made by you or those close to you… your success and happiness, both now and in the eternities, depend largely on your responses to these difficulties of life.”

I think that it is vital in this life to understand that most of these difficulties are naturally occurring. Sometimes I believe that we mistakenly say that the Lord wants me to learn something specific, and that’s why he gave me this particular challenge. I believe this is in error; otherwise, all of us would be given the exact same challenges to learn the exact same thing.

I think we have three options open to us when difficulties come our way, and any of them can help us build character and become better individuals, but I think they rank as a poor, good, and excellent way to approach our adverse life experiences.

The first, is just to get through the experience….. Hanging on for dear life, hopefully to the iron rod, in fact I’ve been known to say, that sometimes, I am repelling off the iron rod. This probably won’t help us learn and grow from the experience, but we can always repent and promise the Lord to do better next time.

The second is to take this on by ourselves or within our family, growing in our character and understanding of the gospel learning what the Lord wants us to learn.

The third is to do the second, but to include our church families, home and visiting teachers, quorum and group leaders, working together, everyone will grown from this experience.

It is my firm testimony that we in our ward organizations will be called upon at some future point to work as a cohesive group, and that if we don’t many will suffer.

Let me share an example from my life. A couple years back, on the day of the birth of my second daughter, I was laid off my job, a job that I was assured was safe, but nonetheless wasn’t. What a humiliating feeling, with both sides of the family around, I was distraught. I called my home teacher to come over and have a chat. I let him know what had happened. It was several weeks later that the Bishop and my EQ president talked to me about, you see my home teacher kept that information to himself. I was in contact with the Ward employment specialist within days, that person didn’t tell the Bishop either. I was teaching the gospel doctrine class, and half the ward knew I was out of work. It was pretty comical to me. Now you may say that It was my responsibility, but it shouldn’t be if the quorums and auxiliaries are functioning, my home teacher had the duty to report this to the EQ president, and thus on up to the Bishop. The Bishop shouldn’t be responsible for seeing to the needs of my family, the Quorum is. Anyway, things turned out well for me, and though many of my friends looking for work had been out for several months, within 5 weeks I had two offers to choose from.

During this time my wife and I realized that we needed to start doing some things that really hadn’t been done well in our family, we put our faith and trust in the Lord, redoubled our efforts at keeping our covenants, and it changed our lives. I think that I tried to use my previously stated third option, but ended up with the second option. My family and I grew, but that support structure within the church didn’t get much of a chance to grow with us (in this one case).

It is my testimony, that the four cornerstones of our faith should be a testimony of the Divinity and Atonement of Jesus Christ, a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s first vision, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and the restoration of the priesthood All of which are deep understandings that the spirit has spoken to me. 2 Peter 1:4-8 reads:

4. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

6. And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

7. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

8. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter has just explained to use how to be partakers of the Divine Nature, which is in all of us, starting with the basics of faith, grow in spiritual character following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ.

In closing, let me sum up my thoughts to you this day. It is the purpose of our lives to go through this mortal experience. It’s how we deal with those experiences that develop our character and potential divinity. We need to come together as a church and be there for one another, magnifying our callings and especially those veterans among us leading and teaching those of us who are green. I will close with the words of Elder Oaks, from the October 2000 General Conference:

…we conclude that the Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts-what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts-what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.