Saturday, August 28, 2010

Supernal Power of the Priesthood

Saturday, August 14, 2010
Priesthood Leadership Session

President Roger A. Carter

“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. Too many of our priesthood brethren are living below their privileges and the Lord’s expectations. We must go forward, confident of the supernal power of the priesthood. It is a source of strength and encouragement to know who we are and what we have and what we must do in the work of Almighty… Homes without the priesthood are to be watched over and ministered to by the quorums of the priesthood.” - President Boyd K. Packer

Priesthood Power

“It has been over 180 years since the priesthood was restored. We now number nearly 14 million members. Even so, we are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel.

“We have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.” - President Boyd K. Packer

Act in All Diligence

“We are to learn our duty from the Lord, and then we are to act in all diligence, never being lazy or slothful. The pattern is simple but not easy to follow. We are so easily distracted. Studying the daily news can appear more interesting than the priesthood lesson manual. Sitting down to rest can be more attractive than making appointments to visit those who need our priesthood service.

“When I find myself drawn away from my priesthood duties by other interests and when my body begs for rest, I give to myself this rallying cry: ‘Remember Him.’ The Lord is our perfect example of diligence in priesthood service. He is our captain. He called us. He goes before us. He chose us to follow Him and to bring others with us.

“This evening I remember Him, and it stirs my heart. This is the Saturday night before Easter Sunday, when we remember His Resurrection. I remember His example in the days before.

“Out of love for His Father and for us, He allowed Himself to suffer beyond the capacity of mortal man. He told us some of what that infinite sacrifice required of Him.

“Whenever we remember Him, it becomes easier to resist the temptation to want a rest from our priesthood labors. We must have remembered Him today, and so we are here to learn our duties, determined to do what we are covenanted to do, in all diligence. And because of His example we will endure to the end of the tasks He gives us in this life and be committed to do the will of His Father forever, as He was and is.

“This is the Lord’s Church. He called us and trusted us even in the weaknesses He knew we had. He knew the trials we would face. By faithful service and through His Atonement, we can come to want what He wants and be what we must be to bless those we serve for Him. As we serve Him long enough and with diligence, we will be changed. We can become ever more like Him.” - President Henry B. Erying

Be Ready

“Wherever I am in the day or night, there is nearby a small container of olive oil. This is the one which I keep in the middle drawer of the desk where I work. There is one in my pocket when I am working outdoors or traveling. There is also one in the kitchen cabinet in my home.

“The one I hold now has a date on it. It is the day when someone exercised the power of the priesthood to consecrate the pure oil for the healing of the sick. The young men of the Aaronic Priesthood and even their fathers might think that I am a little extreme in my preparation.

“But the call during the day or the knock at the door at night always comes as a surprise. Someone will say, ‘Please, could you come quickly?’ Once, years ago, it was a father calling from a hospital. His three-year-old daughter had been thrown 50 feet by a speeding car as she ran across the street to join her mother. When I arrived at the hospital, the father pled that the power of the priesthood would preserve her life. The doctors and the nurses only reluctantly let us reach through a plastic barrier to place a drop of oil on the one opening in the heavy bandages which covered her head. A doctor said to me, with irritation in his voice, ‘Hurry with whatever you are going to do. She is dying.’

“He was wrong. She lived, and contrary to what the doctor had said, she not only lived, but she learned to walk again.

“When the call came, I was ready. The preparation was far more than having consecrated oil close at hand. It must begin long before the crisis which requires priesthood power. Those who are prepared will be ready to answer.

“The preparation begins in families, in Aaronic Priesthood quorums, and mostly in the private lives of young men. The quorums and the families must help, but the preparation that counts will be made by the young men making choices to rise to their great destiny as priesthood servants for God.

“The destiny of the rising generation of priesthood holders is far more than to be ready to bring God’s power down to heal the sick. The preparation is to be ready to go and do whatever the Lord wants done as the world is preparing for His coming. None of us knows exactly what those errands will be. But we know what it will take to be ready, so each of us can prepare.” - President Henry B. Eyring

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life is the Challenges

Sunday Morning General Session
August 15, 2010

President Donald C. Fletcher

• List 2 things that you really hope to keep all the time you are in mortality.
• List 2 things that you would really rather have removed from your docket.


President Uchtdorf
• Once Upon a Time … Happily Ever After
• “Isn’t that what we all desire: to be the heroes and heroines of our own stories; to triumph over adversity; to experience life in all its beauty; and, in the end, to live happily ever after?”
• Whether Cinderella, Belle, or Harry Potter –
• “Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity.”
• Wouldn’t make much of a story without having to rise to challenges and wouldn’t make much of a life without having to rise to challenges.

1 Nephi 11:17
• And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

My work with the Blind
• “when – then” philosophy is common. When I get over this then I will be happy.
• Is that a helpful attitude? NO!
• it isn’t easy but life IS the challenges.

President Faust
• “Where in all the world is the son or daughter of God who is totally without blemish? Is life not worth living if it is not perfect?”


President Brigham Young
• “We talk about our trials and troubles here in life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you had proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses and disappointments, the sorrows...; you would be constrained to exclaim, "But what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory, with power to progress in all the boundless knowledge and through countless stages of progression, enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and Jesus Christ our elder brother.”

Greg Mortensen – author of 3 Cups of Tea
• Persian Proverb – “when it is dark, the stars come out.”

President Packer
• “No physical or emotional deviation from so-called normal, whether small or huge, should be allowed to determine one’s eternal destiny. The eternal outcome of mortal experience will be determined by the choices we make, not by an inborn or acquired mortal handicap.”

President Wilford Woodruff
• Reminded us of whom we would be with in celestial glory: “If we had no trials we should hardly feel at home in the other world in the company of the Prophets and Apostles who were sawn asunder, crucified, etc. for the word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ.”


Elder Dallin H. Oaks
• “If your faith and prayers and the power of the priesthood do not heal you from an affliction, the power of the Atonement will surely give you strength to bear the burden.”

Bruce C. Hafen
• Christ is the Creator, the Healer. What He has made, He can fix.
• “Christ will lift us up, not only at the end of life, but in each day of our lives.”

President Packer
• “For some reason, we think the Atonement of Christ applies only at the end of mortal life to redemption from the Fall, from spiritual death. It is much more than that. It is an ever-present power to call upon in everyday life. When we are racked or harrowed up or tormented by guilt or burdened with grief, He can heal us. While we do not fully understand how the Atonement of Christ was made, we can experience “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.” ”
• “The Atonement has practical, personal, everyday value; apply it in your life.

Elder Jeffrey Holland
• “Are you battling a demon of addiction—tobacco or drugs or gambling, or the pernicious contemporary plague of pornography? Is your marriage in trouble or your child in danger? Are you confused with gender identity or searching for self-esteem? Do you—or someone you love—face disease or depression or death? Whatever other steps you may need to take to resolve these concerns, come first to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trust in heaven’s promises. In that regard Alma’s testimony is my testimony: “I do know,” he says, “that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions.”
• “Brothers and sisters, whatever your distress, please don't give up.”


• “In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy.”
• “It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”
• “ “Happily ever after” is not something found only in fairy tales. You can have it! It is available for you! But you must follow your Heavenly Father’s map.”

• “What a wonderful life I have had. I only wished that I had realized it sooner.”

Exercise - review
• List 2 things that you really hope to keep all the time you are in mortality.
• List 2 things that you would really rather have removed from your docket.
• None of those 4 things are likely to change – so is your glass half empty or half full?

Hebrews 12:1
let us run with patience the race that is set before us

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Don't Be in a Hurry – Time for Christ in Your Life

Saturday Evening Adult Session
August 14, 2010

President Donald C. Fletcher

• Pres Carter is inspired in his calling.
• This meeting has important considerations for our stake now.
• Service – Closer we are to Christ the better our lives of service will be.
• Don’t Hurry - appropriate topic for SF – this is the fast lane

Brigham Young’s Dream
• 1845
• Recorded a dream in which he was visited by Joseph Smith
• Quite sternly told – “Don’t be in a Hurry” - X3

My Heart Attack
• Mar 2 not a pleasant night's sleep – I had a heart attack
• Pres Carter priesthood blessing said - I can return to the PACE of life I desire
• My goal – pace myself so that I can finish the whole race and not keel over in mid course!

Mosiah 4:27
• And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

Elder John C Taggart (Seventy)
• “Hardest of all is achieving the right mix or balance between competing good things. We must avoid the “false balance” that becomes a mere excuse for avoiding difficult choices.”

Elder Joseph B.Wirthlin
• observed how easily we fill our lives with “appointments, meetings, and tasks” and then act frightened at the prospect of some quiet time. Why would that be? He feared that we might “feel that the busier we are, the more important we are—as though our busyness defines our worth.” On another occasion, he reminded us that “being busy is not necessarily being spiritual”—for in fact, noise and busyness can actually crowd out the still, small voice of the Spirit.

President Spencer W Kimball
• "we will move faster if we hurry less"

President James E Faust
• "Our hurry to meet the relentless demands of the clock tears away at our inner peace."

Elder Neal A. Maxwell
• cautioned us against a “frantic, heedless busyness … [that often] crowds out contemplation and … leaves no room for renewal.”

President Hinckley
• prescribed a remedy for this fever of busyness: meditation or pondering or introspection.

President Monson
• “In these busy days there are many who have time for golf, time for shopping, time for work, time for play—but no time for Christ.”

Elder Richard G. Scott
• I've only once in life been able to personally sit and visit with an apostle - it was Elder Scott. He has a special place in my heart. Spirit confirmed to me that he was who he said he was – an apostle.

He Lives! All Glory to His Name! – General Conf. April 2010
- Delivered in his “not in a hurry” manner

• "The best way to make a permanent change for good is to make Jesus Christ your model and His teachings your guide for life."

- have you consciously decided to do that?

• "As you ponder--not just read but ponder and meditate--on scriptural passages, the power of the Holy Ghost will distill truths in your mind and heart as a secure foundation in this uncertain time in which we live."

- when did I last spend 5 minutes reflecting on a prophet's or apostle's direction?
- do I ever stop ... to listen to the still small voice after reading and see if it is trying to tell me something?
(my new 10 min read/5 min ponder each morning)

- do I need to make a change?
- can I improve?
- take some notes. Elder Scott said to always have a pen and paper (iPad) close by.

Listen carefully - I will have 4 questions for you

•" I energetically encourage you to establish a personal study plan to better understand and appreciate the incomparable, eternal, infinite consequences of Jesus Christ's perfect fulfillment of His divinely appointed calling as our Savior and Redeemer. Profound personal pondering of the scriptures accompanied by searching, heartfelt prayer will fortify your understanding of and appreciation for His priceless Atonement. Another powerful way to learn of Jesus Christ and His Atonement is through consistent temple attendance."

1. What type of encouragement?
- Energetic
2. What did he say to establish?
- a personal study plan (compare importance to
emergency prep plan)
3. Alliteration using letter P?
- Profound personal pondering
4. What type of temple attendance?
- consistent

•"Should you have been disobedient to His commandments and feel unworthy, recognize that this is why the Lord, Jesus the Christ, laid down His life. Through His Atonement He has opened forever the opportunity to overcome such mistakes, to repent of improper choices, and to conquer the negative effects of a life contrary to His teachings."

We all fit in that category.

"The Savior loves each of us and will make it possible for our every need to be satisfied as we qualify by obedience for all of the blessings He wants us to have on this earth. I love and adore Him. As His authorized servant I solemnly testify with every capacity of my being that He lives,"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Healing Power of the Atonement

Sunday Morning General Sessionm
August 15, 2010

Bishop Robert Roden

Repentance Through the Atonement

Regardless of our age and experience in the church each of us have the opportunity to apply the healing power of the Atonement in our lives.

Paul taught us that all of us have sinned (Rom 5:12), and as a result we will suffer the consequences of that sin unless we repent.

Repentance is made possible because of the Savior’s willingness to take upon him our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the Cross of Calvary.

We have been promised that through proper and complete repentance our sins “though they be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow”(Isaiah 1:18).

Repentance requires us to fully recognize, feel sorrow for, confess, forsake our sins and then forgive.

Today I extend an invitation to us all to unburden ourselves from the mistakes of the past, to get back on track, to make things right and to do it now.

I have been a Bishop for only a few short months but I can tell you that it has been a marvelous thing to see the healing power of the Atonement in the lives of people.

Peace comes, burdens are lifted and there is renewed hope for eternal happiness when the steps of repentance have been fully applied.

Unfortunately, there are some in the church who intentionally delay the process and carry burdens far too long.

Timing is Critical in Applying the Healing Power of the Atonement

I have a great respect for snakes. Actually it is more of a fear than respect especially those snakes that are the largest and the most venomous.

I recently watched a documentary on the 10 most deadly snakes in the world and the one that stood out to me was a very long grey colored snake that lives in the southern part of Africa called the black mamba. The reason why this snake is so feared is because its venom is among the most neurotoxic and lethal.

People of South Africa call it the “bottom up snake” because supposedly you have time for one last drink before you die. Actually, the time to death is within one hour but the important fact is that 100% of its bite victims will die unless anti-venom is administered immediately.

Anti-venom is a biological product in which the antibodies bind to and neutralize venom thus stopping further damage, but the antibodies do nothing to reverse the damage already done to the affected limb.

There are other snakes in the world with less potent venom and while they many not immediately lead to death, the toxins are far more damaging to blood and muscle which leads to gross deformations of a hand or leg – sometimes requiring an amputation.

Brothers and sisters in our walk of life we are sometimes confronted by spiritual snakes that lie in our path. Sometimes these spiritual snakes just happen to be on our righteous path of life but sometimes we choose paths that are more heavily infested with these very dangerous and aggressive spiritual snakes.

More often than not, in the world today, these spiritual snakes are sexual in nature – the most common of which is pornography but there are many others that are more dangerous. Regardless of the sin, each possesses a deadly venom that can maim or kill us spiritually unless we seek an anti-venom immediately.

Just as many snake venoms are neurotoxic, so are the effects of the spiritual snakes – they deaden our sensitivities to things that are wrong, impair our ability to see our lives clearly and without immediate treatment can result in a complete apathy towards spiritual growth and spiritual death.

Our hearts become hardened towards others, our necks stiffen and are less prone to bowing in prayer and our spiritual nerves lose their ability to feel.

In the book of Mormon we read about two brothers Laman and Lemuel who were clearly bitten by spiritual snakes. Listen to how their younger brother Nephi described them. And now it came to pass that I, Nephi, was exceedingly sorrowful because of the hardness of their hearts (1 Ne 17:19); then he tells them “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you,… but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; (1 Ne 17:45)
Just as time is critical in the case of an actual snake bite so it is with spiritual bites. Action is needed immediately to halt the damaging effects of our sins.

While antivenoms only neutralize the toxins and do nothing to reverse the damaged tissue, in the case of the atonement, healing CAN occur and our spiritual limbs can be restored.

The Lord told Thomas B Marsh “And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them.” (DC112:13).

This healing is needed by all of us and I am so grateful that the great physician and healer of our souls has made it possible to not only stop the venomous influences of our lives, but through his atonement made it possible to be healed and made whole.

The anti-venom of our day is the repentance and now is the time to apply it to our wounds.

Your Bishop will Champion Your Cause

Now before I conclude I want to share one last thought.

The steps of repentance can be challenging, lonely and can sometimes seem too much to bear but know that you will have many who will help you along the way – your principal champion and one who seeks your success is your bishop.

He wants to see you free from your past mistakes and it his responsibility to ensure that all of the appropriate steps are taken so that healing CAN begin.

• He may ask probing and detailed questions - but it is only to help you get the spiritual venom out of the wound.
• He may administer specific actions on your behalf - but they are designed to create an environment where the wounds can begin to heal
• He may require a certain length of time for the repentance process - but it is done with love and with an understanding that these kinds of wounds take time to heal.

In every step along the way the Bishop is your attending physician and seeks only your happiness and return to full spiritual health.

When necessary, use your bishops, solicit their help remembering that for some sins a full confession to him is needed before the healing can begin.

Invitation to Repent – NOW!

Brothers and sisters I re-extend the invitation

• Let us apply the steps of repentance - NOW! and
• Let us find the courage to solicit the help from our bishops so that we can feel the healing power of the Savior’s Atonement

He loves us more that we can comprehend and is eager to heal us.

Elder Holland said it this way “Even as He calls us to come unto Him and follow Him, His is unfailingly RUNNING to help us.” (pg 74 Trusting Jesus, Holland 2003)

Of this I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Facing and Overcoming Temptation

Sunday Morning General Session
Sunday, August 15, 2010

President James C. Hardy

This morning I would like to speak on the topic of facing and overcoming temptation. Temptation has been defined as “a test of a person’s ability to choose good over evil. It is an enticement to sin and follow Satan instead of God. Part of the experience of this life is to learn to overcome temptation and to choose right over wrong.” ( website) We know from holy writ that this mortal life would be a probationary period and that the purpose for the creation of this earth was so that we could prove to God that we would do all things whatsoever the Lord our God shall command us. (Abraham 3:25) In the Book of Mormon we are taught that it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things and that each of us is given our free agency to act for ourselves. We can choose liberty and eternal life through the atonement of the Savior or we can choose captivity and death through the power of Satan. (2 Nephi 2:11,26,27)

We are all tried and tempted. Even Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry was tempted. While Christ was capable of sin, He never yielded to temptation and set a perfect example for us of choosing the Father’s will over His own and being obedient to His every word. Knowing that we will be tempted throughout our lives, how then do we face and overcome temptation? I would like to offer six suggestions for your consideration.

First, know who you are. You are a spiritual son or daughter of the living God and as such, you have a divine heritage and divine potential. President Harold B. Lee once challenged the members of the Church “to be loyal to the royal within you.” One of my 16-year old son Jeremy’s favorite stories is about the son of King Louis XVI of France. When his father was dethroned and imprisoned, his captors took his young son. “They thought that inasmuch as the king’s son was heir to the throne, if they could destroy him morally, he would never realize the great and grand destiny that life had bestowed upon him. They took him to a community far away, and there exposed the lad to every filthy and vile thing that life could offer….He was surrounded twenty-four hours a day by everything that could drag the soul of a man as low as one could slip. For over six months he had this treatment—but not once did the young lad buckle under pressure. Finally, after intensive temptation, they questioned him. Why had he not submitted himself to these things—why had he not partaken? These things would provide pleasure, satisfy his lusts, and were desirable; they were all his. The boy said, ‘I cannot do what you ask for I was born to be a king.” (Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, p. 15) We, too, were born to someday be kings and queens in the kingdom of God if we but make and keep the sacred covenants and commandments given to us by God.

Second, develop personal religious habits. We sometimes call these habits the Sunday School “answers” to almost any question we hear at Church—we should pray, read our scriptures, hold family home evening, go to church and attend the temple. What we sometimes do is take for granted how powerful these personal religious habits are in developing a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, and in protecting ourselves from yielding to temptation. Jesus himself taught the Nephites: “Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. Therefore, ye must always pray unto the Father in my name; And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you. Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” (3 Nephi 18:18-22) Regular scripture study helps us learn and know the word of God. In interpreting the dream of the tree of life and the meaning of the rod of iron as being the word of God, the prophet Nephi taught that “whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Nephi 15:24) Family home evenings provide opportunities for gospel learning and building family strength and unity.

Third, stand in holy places. The most holy places on earth are the sacred temples of the Church. They are dedicated to be and literally are “the House of the Lord”. Holding a current temple recommend, living worthily to enter the temple and attending the temple to participate in and perform sacred temple ordinances are a great defense against the temptations of the world. Temples are where members can enter into the highest covenants available to man and where members can be endowed from on high with the knowledge that they need to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence. Likewise, church buildings such as this stake center are also dedicated for worshipping God and serving our fellow man. This year, the San Francisco Stake theme has been “Stand More Often in Holy Places”. President James E. Faust has counseled us: “We need to try harder to be found in holy places. I encourage our Saints all over the world, whenever possible, to strive to stand more often in holy places. Our most holy places are our sacred temples…surely another holy place on earth ought to be our homes.” We are pleading with the members of the San Francisco Stake to make our homes a place of refuge for us and our families from the morally destructive influences that destroy the sanctity of our souls.

Fourth, actively seek to fill your life with that which is virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy. (13th Article of Faith). When our lives are filled with activities that are uplifting, enriching and inspiring, there is not room left to do evil. Every mortal is given the same amount of time every day. It is how we use that time that makes the difference. If we are found in the service of our fellow men and in ministering to their needs, we will be given strength and confidence to face and overcome temptations. The prophet Joseph Smith, while incarcerated in the Liberty Jail, was taught this principle and promise: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly: then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.”

Fifth, avoid tempting places and situations. It would seem self evident that a bar would not be a good place for an alcoholic to hang out or that a casino would not be a good place for someone addicted to gambling to visit. It is important to know your weaknesses and take measures to strengthen them and to defend against them. We are taught that we will not be tempted above that which we cannot bear, but that promise is conditional upon us being humble, calling upon the name of the Lord and watching and praying always. (Alma 13:28) It is simply foolish to put ourselves in harm’s way. I remember as a young boy hearing a General Authority use the analogy of two stagecoach drivers who were competing for a job. Their test was to drive a team of horses pulling the stagecoach from the top of the mountain down to the valley below. The first driver showed exceptional ability in handling the horses while speeding around the sharp turns with the wheels of the stagecoach coming perilously close to the edge of the cliff. He arrived at the valley floor first. The second driver was careful to hug the mountainside as he made his descent around the sharp turns with the result that he arrived a little later. The second driver got the job because he took the safe route and did not flirt with the edge of the cliff where at the slightest miscalculation, the team of horses and the stagecoach would have plunged down the precipice to their death and demise. The moral of the story was to stay clearly on the Lord’s side of the line and not tempt fate or put your life or the life of others at the risk of being lost due to living life on the edge of the cliff.

Sixth and last, lead a Christ-centered life. The prophet Helaman taught his sons this gospel principle and promise. “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fail.” (Helaman 5:13) There is strength in righteous doing. I promise you that the Lord will bless you in your efforts to do good and be like Him as you choose good over evil. It may not always be the popular thing to do or the most expedient thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. Know that good will always prevail over evil and that light will always chase away darkness. Know that you have the same power that Jesus Christ had when he was tempted for the third time by Satan and Christ simply replied, “Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4:10)

I testify that if we will put into practice these six suggestions, we will be able to face and overcome any and all temptations. We have the God-given power to cast Satan out of our lives. He loses his power over us when we stand in holy places and when we strive for virtue and righteousness in our lives. As we pursue personal religious habits and place Christ in the center of our lives, we will draw closer to Him and He will draw closer to us. I testify that Christ is the Savior of the world and that through his atonement, we can be forgiven when we have sincerely repented of our sins committed when we have yielded to temptation. He is our only hope. He loves us. He wants us to remember our divine parentage and heritage. He wants us to live with Him throughout the eternities. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Working with teenagers and special needs children

Adult Session
Saturday, August 14, 2010

Gloria Dirkmaat

President Carter asked me to address the topic of teaching spiritual values to teenagers and challenging children.

Most of my years of church service have centered on the youth. I have had the blessings of service in primary, YW, Seminary, Sunday School and Girl’s Camp. And I really consider those opportunities blessings because there is something unique and energizing about working with the youth….albeit sometimes challenging. And my husband and I have survived four teenagers in our home.

The years 14-24 have been referred to as the dangerous decade because that is when we lose our youth. Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave us with a somber warning in 2004 when he said, speaking of the youth:

“Many of them are remarkable in their spiritual maturity and in their faith. But even the best of them are sorely tested. And the testing will become more severe.”

I think anyone who is working with the youth today would agree that the youth today have remarkable spiritual maturity and as my husband put it the other day, “our responsibility is to help them recall the knowledge and testimony they already had.”

Statistically, if we can hang on to them through those years, they will have a firm foundation and remain faithful throughout their lives. In reflecting on my experience of teaching youth in the gospel settings, I have always been impressed that my most important mission is to help the youth gain a testimony of the Savior and his atonement and come to understand the profound blessings for peace and forgiveness the Savior offers and the infinite love and comfort He gives in times of hardship and loneliness. If they can come to have a personal relationship and know that the Savior knows them by name, I feel I have accomplished a lot.

I have found six basic lessons I have learned in working with the youth both in the church and as a professional educator that I wish to share with you this evening:

Lesson One: There is no way you can do this alone. Teenagers don’t come with training manuals and they are all so unique the book would be too big to read and remember anyway. The Holy Ghost must be our co-teacher both as we prepare and teach the youth. In order to do this we have to be really well prepared. I don’t take my manual in class, but rather use post its and the scriptures so that 1) I can have on-going eye contact with the youth and move around if I need to and 2) I find I can more receptive to the Spirit if my nose isn’t in a book. I love a comment made by S. Michael Wilcox that we are the Savior’s eyes, ears, and hands and feet and through us the Spirit can reach the youth.

Lesson Two: You really have to care about the youth. Kids can tell in a heartbeat if you really care about them. Sometimes this can be a challenge. I am reminded of the comment from the story of Abraham and Isaac that they are not sure of Isaac’s age, but they do know one thing for sure that he wasn’t a teenager or it wouldn’t have been a sacrifice. Look for the good in each youth and their accomplishments or positive efforts…know something more than their name and care about what they do. Truly love them…It pays big dividends. When we are in the position of teaching or guiding youth, what we think about them—and whether or not we genuinely like being with them—often matters much more than what we do or say.

Lesson Three: Be fair and respectful. We will get what you dish out. If we treat the youth with respect and we take time to listen so we you can be fair…we do get the same respect back.

Lesson Four: Have a sense of humor and don’t be afraid to use it when appropriate. Take time to enjoy teenagers, they can be so incredibly entertaining and fun.

I can remember the day I came to teach seminary and couldn’t get in the room because all the desks were piled up in a tower against the inside against the door. We could see it through the window. I could have gotten all cross and grumpy, but we all had a good laugh about the amazing building abilities of a couple of young men and said we would start in the hall while the amazing architects turned into the demolition crew and put the room together. To this day, I have no idea how they managed to do that (the night before at YM’s) on the inside of the room because the window barely opened. Over the years, when I have come across these now men, we look back to that event and have a good laugh….they still won’t reveal their secret and building it.

Lesson Five: Keep the students engaged and always check for understanding. This past year the curriculum councils at the San Mateo High School District have been researching ways to improve student learning and these two strategies of engagement and checking for understanding are the focus for this school year by all teachers. Keep the class busy reading, discussing, or acting out a situation. One of the really effective ways to check for understanding is to pair up the students – and we do the pairing – making one an A and the other a B. Then after reading a scripture, stop and ask the A to speak to B for 1 minute on what application this has to our lives today and then stop them and have B tell A and at the end ask a couple of teams to share their ideas.

We need to be sure that we check to see if the kids understand our terms or the gospel principals we are teaching. Remember that not all the youth have been sitting through church meetings since they were 1 month developing gospel vocabulary. If we use a term, like “Sanctified”, we take the time to stop and make sure that all the kids know what that word means. Many of our youth are still in the toddler stage of acquiring gospel language.

Lesson Six: Know when to say no and don’t be afraid to set limits. The youth know how to behave; they sit in classrooms 5 days out of the week and keep the rules. Having solid and communicated expectations of behavior is important. The Lord’s house is a house of order and the still small voice of the spirit can hardly be heard in a noisy class setting. There will be times when noise and enthusiasm is great, but it is okay to stop, wait for silence, explain that only one person should be speaking (again, we show respect and they will show respect)

We may have some youth with special needs where “sitting still” for three hours may be next to impossible for their bodies. Which leads me to the other topic, “working with youth with special needs”. For the past twenty years I have been working in the school system with special needs children and teenagers. Statistically there will on average be one special needs youth for every nine to ten youth in the ward. Some of disabilities will be very obvious if they are orthopedically impaired or blind or deaf, but the majority of the disabled youth will have disabilities that may be less obvious at first. These include things like learning disabilities which makes reading and comprehension and processing what they hear challenging. Or other disabilities you will probably come across will include youth with mental health issues, ADHD and may be on the Autism spectrum or be Aspergers.

I would suggest that if you are asked to work with the youth and you notice that a child or young man or woman is struggling with behavior issues that you take the time to have a conversation with the parents, or previous teachers or leaders to find out “what works”. If the child is a little older there may be behavior plans and accommodations that have been developed with the schools that work in a teaching setting that they could share with you.

If a child has ADHD, sitting for three hours is so hard. You can ask my husband because I am. Those youth are constantly craving sensory input and need to the opportunity move or have things chunked in to shorter segments….so talking at them for 35 minutes isn’t going to work to well, but reading, doing an activity, sharing a story, doing an activity or engaging the youth in a frequent and ongoing way will make life better for both of you.

You may have a student who struggles with reading. Be sensitive and if you are doing a round robin reading give all youth the option to pass. Know that a struggling reader will have difficulty answering a question about what they just read as they were too focused on pronouncing the words, so ask another youth so summarize the scripture for that struggling reader. Some students can pronounce the words, but have no comprehension or idea of what they read…be sensitive to that need.

Two of the fast growing special needs populations are those with significant mental illness issues and youth diagnosed with Aspergers. You will most likely find kids in your wards with these disabilities. Work closely with parents as a team. Seek their advice on what the schools are doing and what they have found are triggers or ways to help these students cope and function. These students usually have incredible sensory needs, frequently a very low tolerance for noise, have difficulty managing “in the moment” changes of plans or unpredictable transitions and difficulty with perspective taking which means they think the whole world sees a situation the same way they do.

Every child is a precious son or daughter of our Heavenly Father. We need to see these challenged youth with an eternal perspective lens and seek the guidance through the spirit and families to be able to reach them and bring them to a testimony of the Savior. There is no greater joy than listening to a child or a young man or woman stand and bear their testimony of the gospel and the Savior.

May we serve as His eyes, His ears, His Hands, His Lips, and His Feet and helping these young people find their way back home to Him is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

The Power of the Priesthood

Priesthood Leadership Session
Saturday, August 14, 2010

President James C. Hardy

This afternoon I would like to speak about the power of the priesthood based on the talk given by President Boyd K. Packer at the April General Conference. As we know, the priesthood authority, powers and keys were restored in these latter-days by John the Baptist; Peter, James and John and by other heavenly messengers from Adam down to Elijah. They each conferred the priesthood itself or the priesthood keys. This line of priesthood authority traces back to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

President Packer told of the story of Gideon and how he was selected to lead the armies of Israel who, for this particular battle against the Midionite armies, were 32,000 strong. The Lord commanded him to reduce his army to 300 and then He would deliver the Midionites into his hand lest the Israelites would think that through their own strength they had won the battle. Gideon and his small band of 300 warriors were victorious in this battle because the scriptures state “they stood every man in his place” (Judges 7:21) and were obedient to their prophet leader. The purpose of relating this story was to remind us that we as priesthood holders are but a small number when compared to the total population. The Lord is counting on us to be his latter-day warriors to accomplish His work here on earth.

In the battle against wickedness and worldly ways, it sometimes seems that we are up against insurmountable odds. We live in an area where oftentimes what is “wrong” is considered “right” and what is “right” is considered old fashioned and passé. Hearts of men and women grow cold and are not receptive to the things of the Spirit. Missionary work can be difficult in the midst of so much paganism and apathy. Without a strong sense of values and a surety of our divine nature, it would be easy to be tossed to and fro by the waves of worldly influences and sin. President Packer states “We are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel.”

When I read these words, I was struck with the sense of responsibility that we have because “we are who we are, and we know what we know.” I have heard Church leaders ask, if we as the chosen people of the Lord will not do His work, who will do it? Brethren, there is a great work to be done and as priesthood leaders, we must be about doing the Master’s work and ministering as He would minister. President Packer assures us that “we can and in due time certainly will influence all of humanity. It will be known who we are and why we are. It might seem hopeless; it is monumentally difficult; but it is not only possible but certain that we will win the battle against Satan.” All of us who have played competitive sports or have participated in other competitive games or activities want to be on the winning team or side. We believe, and I testify, that being on the Lord’s side means that we will be on the winning team when all is said and done.

Having established that the priesthood has been restored in the latter-days and that as priesthood holders we are on the winning side, even if our numbers are few, President Packer then makes a distinction between priesthood authority and priesthood power. He states that the “priesthood is the authority and the power which God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. When priesthood authority is exercised properly, priesthood bearers do what He would do if He were present.” He then goes on to make this bold declaration, “we have done very well at distributing the authority of the priesthood. We have priesthood authority planted nearly everywhere. We have quorums of elders and high priests worldwide. But the distributing the authority of the priesthood has raced, I think, ahead of distributing the power of the priesthood. The priesthood does not have the strength that it should have and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.”

Power in the priesthood comes simply from personal righteousness, from being in tune with the Spirit and from “doing the will of the Father”. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith while he was incarcerated in Liberty Jail how power in the priesthood is obtained and maintained by teaching him the following principles and promises: “Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or authority of that man….No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile…Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (D&C 121:34-37,41-42,45-46). I would challenge us as priesthood leaders to review these principles and promises with the members of our priesthood quorums in quorum instruction and in personal priesthood interviews.

I remember as a young man listening to a talk about being in tune with the Spirit and the speaker used an analogy of turning the dial on a transistor radio in order to tune it to a particular frequency. The dial had to be turned just so until the static disappeared and the radio signal came through strong, loud and clear. Then it was easy to listen to and enjoy the message or music being broadcast. Similarly in our lives, we must move past the distractions and sins that cause lots of static when trying to listen to the Spirit. Instead, we must find that direct connection with our Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ, where we can receive clearly the inspiration and revelation that we seek and need. Once we know the will of God, we must have the courage to follow His will and not our own. I have long admired the prophet Nephi, the one who was the prophet just prior to the visitation of Jesus Christ to the Americas. The Lord spoke to Nephi saying: “Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments. And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will. Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.” (Helaman 10:4,5,7) Thus we see that power in the priesthood is inextricably tied to personal righteousness, being in tune with the Spirit and submitting our will unto the Lord and doing the Father’s will.

Brethren, President Packer issued the following challenge to all of us and especially to those of us who are priesthood leaders, which challenge has been printed on the order of service for this meeting. It reads: “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. Too many of our priesthood brethren are living below their privileges and the Lord’s expectations. We must go forward, confident of the supernal power of the priesthood. It is a source of strength and encouragement to know who we are and what we have and what we must do in the work of the Almighty…Homes without the priesthood are to be watched over and ministered to by the quorums of the priesthood.” Earlier in his talk, President Packer gave this sobering assessment: “The priesthood will lose great power if the sisters are neglected.”

In the San Francisco Stake, we have an enormous challenge and an incredible opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. President Packer is trying to teach us the importance of reverencing the sanctity of the home and respecting the role of the father in the family structure. He quoted President Harold B. Lee who stated, “As important as our many programs and organizational efforts are, these should not supplant the home; they should support the home.” President Packer cited a couple of stories where an inactive father was called upon to give his son a priesthood blessing or ordain his son to the priesthood, even when there was an apostle present, and how doing so changed both the lives of the fathers and well as the sons.

President Packer also is trying to teach us the need to minister to those homes where there are single sisters or where there is no priesthood in the home or where there are single brethren who have need of priesthood blessings and the power of the priesthood in their own lives. As we met with the priesthood brethren and the Relief Society sisters during the ward conferences this year, it was evident that much good is being done; but that there are many brothers and sisters who are feeling neglected when it comes to home teachers and priesthood blessings. The needs are very great and the numbers are daunting, but in your group leadership and quorum presidency meetings, will you seek out these individuals and motivate your group and quorum members to use the power of their priesthood to bless their lives? All we ask, and all that the Lord ever asks, is that we do our best to fulfill our priesthood responsibilities.

President Packer summarizes the principles found in his talk in the following manner: “That the work of the Lord will prevail is not a question. That we must marshal all of our efforts and unify ourselves are givens. The authority of the priesthood is with us….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.” President Packer concludes his talk with this insight into God’s plan of happiness: “The ultimate end of all activity in the Church is that a man and his wife and their children might be happy at home, protected by the principles and laws of the gospel, sealed safely in the covenants of the everlasting priesthood. Every law and principle and power, every belief, every ordinance and ordination, every covenant, every sermon and every sacrament, every counsel and correction, the sealngs, the calls, the releases, the service—all these have as their ultimate purpose the perfection of the individual and the family, for the Lord has said, ‘This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’”

I bear you my personal witness that we are engaged in the Lord’s work to bring souls unto Christ, to minister unto them with the power and authority of the priesthood, and to act in the name of Jesus Christ as if He were here. I am grateful to hold the priesthood and am humbled by the responsibilities pertaining to the priesthood. Like you, I desire more fully to live righteously that I may be worthy to have His Spirit to be with me and that I may know the will of God and act upon it. May we find joy and happiness in serving the Lord in our respective priesthood callings. May we be awakened to the power of the priesthood and not simply be content with having had the authority of the priesthood conferred upon us. May we live equal to our priesthood privileges and the Lord’s expectation is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.