Like many things in life we all get to experience a first time. These first experiences often go un-noticed and are never thought of again. First near miss in for a traffic accident, first bloody nose, or first sliver. Most forgotten firsts are often unpleasant or uncomfortable, so our mind tries to block them out, but how we cling to the experiences that are good, uplifting and precious. The firsts of our children, our first kiss, and other wonderful experiences. I will not say that this weekend is as memorable as that, but the first that I had was very uplifting and memorable. For the first time in my life I watched every session of conference, and I will say that I am no worse for the wear. If you would have asked me as a teenager I would have probably given you a different answer, feigning mortal injury or complaining of the time that I would never get back. As an adult however I found it to be beautiful, motivating and spiritual. Watching theses brethren and sisters talk of their faith and testimonies motivated me to increase my own.
One of the truths of conference is how it talks to each of us personally. Like scripture study we can each get a personal answer to so many things that trouble us. I have no doubt for me that conference spoke of a returning to faith. With my journey back to Christ, I was led astray by trivial things. President Uchtdorf asked “Have you let the dark god of the world overshadow the bright gospel of Christ?” I know that I had. I professed a knowledge of the truth of the gospel but stubbornly held on to something that was not important because I did not understand it fully. As I found out all that I needed to do was surrender to the conversion of Christ and his teachings, to let him take my fears and anger away. I needed to ask in honesty and in prayer to help me understand the fullness and truth of his words. I found that as I did this everything became clearer and the truth was made clear.
We see so many people that fall away from the church, and it is no surprise with the amount of media and outside pressure that all of us are feeling that there is going to be some that will go through some sort of crisis of faith. Our church is under attack. Our very core beliefs are being mocked and slated as outdated and barbaric. Our prophets and leaders are being ridiculed and are accused of being racists, bigots, and misogynist. Through all this the faithful must be loving and understanding and do what ever they can to help our accusers understand that this is not the case, that we are more than the slanderous media is describing us to be.
Whatever your opinion of the church is, there are truths out there that every Mormon wants the world to understand. The first and most important is that we are christian. Our very faith is centralized around Jesus Christ. The name of our church is his. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints. We do not worship Joseph Smith, we do not worship the man called Mormon. We worship God the Father as well as his flesh and blood son Jesus Christ. We pray to our heavenly father, baptize, bless the sacrament, and perform other spiritual ordinances all in the name of Jesus Christ. We seek only to serve God by serving his children. We want everyone to have the same feeling of peace and joy that our service to the Lord gives us. We share our messages with others not to ridicule their beliefs but to show them what we know to be the fullness of the gospel and a true path to redemption. We won’t hunt you down, black ball you, ridicule you or cause physical harm to get our ideas across. We will however fight for what we believe is the truth. We will do all we can to protect the sanctity of our churches and practices. This has made us a victim of hate and violence throughout the churches existence. Our beliefs in their most simple can be explained with 13 statements we The Articles of Faith. These articles were written by Joseph Smith to explain our religions basic beliefs. We want people to see these and understand what we believe. I will post an article on these and my understanding of them in a later article or anyone can read them in the Pearl of Great Price or at this link. Articles of Faith
We were told to concentrate on the basics of the gospel. This simple yet sound advice is what has built my testimony over the last couple of years. Many people leave while getting hung up on one thing or another. They state that they believe most of the things that they have been taught but can not get over this one thing. This sadly creates a paradox in our minds that can overshadow the beautiful simplicity of the religion. Questions have always been accepted by the leadership and even encouraged. We can grow and build our testimony as we diligently search for a greater understanding.
I was touched by a talk in the Saturday afternoon session that Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave. He was concerned of reports that he has heard of young members of our church that are ostracizing children that are not of our faith. This has happened to a child of someone close to me, the anguish that it has caused to both child and parent is something that pains me. The Savior’s example of this is so well known and told so often that I find it hard to believe that it still happens. Love one another is what He commanded. The young women that was caught in the act of adultery that was about to be stoned for her sins. Jesus stepped in and told all of them that He who was without sin may cast the stone. Ashamed, the mob dispersed. He then spoke to the women who was no doubt grateful for the help and instead of telling her that she brought this on her self, simply told her to sin no more. No judgement, just love.
We were asked to open our hearts to everyone, not to exclude those in our communities that do not worship in the same way that we do. We were asked to serve all of God’s children. There were several talks that told of the struggles that were witnessed in war and natural disaster devastation. How members of the church reached out to every one to ease pain and suffering. Water, food, first aid and even the clothing off of the backs of these relief workers were given without first setting up an appointment for missionaries to come and collect tithes. We are taught to be examples to those around us, that to plant a seed of the spirit can lead people to the gospel. It is not compulsory to accept. We are not crusaders to ride in and convert at the threat of death. Instead we serve no matter your faith or belief. As President Uchtdorf said “There are no signs that say that your testimony be at least this tall to enter.” We welcome all that seek love, acceptance, truth or relief.
Elder David A. Bednar talked of this so much better than I could in his talk in the Sunday afternoon session of conference. He addressed all those that were not members of the church. You can hear his talk here. This talk was delivered with love and kindness. It was one of the the best explanations of our desires that I have ever heard.
I heard in every talk a call to all those that have left or those that are searching to come to church, to ask and pray diligently to find the answers to the questions that are in you heart. Any member of the church should be more than happy to help you in this and the leaders of the church are always willing to counsel.
I feel that I should also offer any of you who read this the opportunity to discover the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church has always offered a free copy of The Book of Mormon to all people that want to discover the truth for themselves. In the epistles of James Chapter 1 verse 5 it is written “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” If you would read this book in prayer and fast and would desire to know if these things are true that God will give you the answer that you need. I would be willing to get a free copy to any of you, or you can ask any member of the church. You can also go to the LDS church website and request a free copy of the Book of Mormon by clicking here. You can also read the Book of Mormon online or download the audiobook of any scripture at http://www.lds.org
As I finish here I would like to leave each of you with my knowledge of the blessing of the atonement, we are all blessed in that we can be forgiven of our sins, and in doing so can return to our Father in Heaven and to Jesus Christ. Through the ordinances of baptism and eternal marriage with obedience and faith that we will be with our families through the eternities. That after death we will continue to grow learn and better ourselves. None of us are perfect, Christ does not expect us to be. I am most definitely not and continue to ask for forgiveness and absolution. All that is asked is that we strive every day to be better. To serve and follow his commandments to the best of our ability. To love and forgive others, even ourselves. To study the scriptures and fill our minds with those things that would be pleasing to the Lord. The amazing things about all of these is that they can be done together with family and friends. We can do all of these things as long as we put our trust in Christ and our Heavenly father. These things I leave with you in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.