Wednesday, February 18, 2009

10 Things

On February 8th our church had a kind of open house, like "Meet the Mormons". We were encouraged to bring our friends so they could get a first hand glimpse of what we believe. There was a reception after the service where there was food. I joked that our visitors would likely be very disappointed the next time they came and they found out that food was not a regular part of the Sunday services.

Anyway, I was honored that I was asked to speak along with our Bishop and Stake President. I don't really mind speaking in church, I like the study and preparation, although I do get really nervous. Pretty impressive for a girl who selected graduate programs based on whether or not there'd be a dissertation involved. Yeah, I've grown up. They asked me to speak on what the church has meant to me and my family, specifically from the perspective of someone who converted in their adulthood. This was the easiest topic I'd ever been given since I know A LOT about that topic already and wouldn't have to study very much!

Apologies to those of you who were there and heard it first hand, you can skip on to the next post. I debated posting this, but thought it was another opportunity to share things that are important to me with those I love. Here are some excerpts from my talk:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has become and integral part of who I am, of who my family is. There are so many things that I love about the Church that I’ve decided to boil it down to my top 10. It’s a very personal list—I’ve left out whole categories of totally awesome things about our Church, I’m sure every person’s list would be a little different, but here is mine:

10. I love that the Church is the same wherever you go in the world. The hymn books are the same. The lessons are the same. The scriptures are the same. The organization is the same. The doctrine is the same. There is security and power in that. When we moved to Valencia from Long Beach, we did not have to look for a new church. We are members of a worldwide church, and knew exactly what to expect when we walked in. The building was new, but the church wasn’t. Same thing when we travelled to London last summer. When we were visiting colleges last spring I saw my son noticeably relax when we visited the church building. Everything else was new and foreign to him, but the church was familiar. Since God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Mormon 9:9; Hebrews 13:8) it seems to me that His church should be as well.

9. I love that children of all ages participate in worship services from birth on. Families are the basic organization of the Church, so it follows that families would be together during Sacrament Meeting (our main church meeting). Yes, it can definitely be noisy. Truthfully, I don’t even hear it any more. The Primary organization helps prepare our children to make baptismal covenants and learn the fundamentals of the Gospel. Young Men and Young Women organizations stress values, virtue, and responsibility preparing the youth to make further covenants. Through it all, the family is supported in their primary role in nurturing and teaching our children.

8. I love callings. In our church, we all work. We are a church of doers. We are teachers or leaders or administrators at various times. We believe that jobs, or “callings”, are assigned by inspiration. No matter what our particular job, we serve each other. In this we also serve our God as we follow His counsel, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:40) I believe that this has been the single most satisfying part of being a member of the Church for me. I have learned way more by doing than I could have by study alone. I’ve learned to listen to the Spirit in performing my callings. I’ve learned the gospel by teaching it. I’ve learned how to love by serving.

7. I love accountability. Accountability is too little stressed in our world today but it is valued in our Church. We are accountable for our own choices and actions, not those of our ancestors. We are accountable for teaching our families. We are accountable to help ourselves and when we do need help, to repay that help through service and preparation for self-sufficiency. We are accountable for teaching others. We are accountable for reaching out to our sisters and brothers. As part of my exercise program, I have a walking partner. Where I might be tempted to sleep in some days instead of exercise, I get up anyway because I know she’s waiting for me. I might let myself down but I don’t want to let her down. The Lord, in his wisdom, has set up His Church similarly. We are the best version of ourselves when others depend on us.

6. I love that we are a "peculiar" people. I find it a compliment that we do not just blend into the world and its changing values but that we stand for something, even if we stand alone. Of course, it isn’t always easy. In the Young Women program we repeat this phrase weekly: “We will stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places.” We are often known for following the Word of Wisdom which includes prohibitions against alcohol, tobacco and coffee. This is one of the most public stances that we take, and I believe it only reinforces that we value the word of the Lord. It shows that we are doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22). Being a peculiar people means that we care more for God’s opinion than that of the world.

5. I love that we are a covenant making people. Covenants distinguish us further as committed to living by the commandments. Covenants become our foundation and strengthen our resolve. We make covenants when we are baptized, when we take the sacrament, and in sacred buildings dedicated to the Lord called temples. Covenants also allow the Lord to bless us even further.

4. I love that we have a prophet on the earth today. Before I joined the Church, a very wise man (who is now my husband!) asked me a series of questions: did I believe in the prophets of the Old and New Testaments? Did I think God loved us any less today than he loved the people who lived in those days? He then taught me a about having a prophet in our day. I believe that God would not leave us without direction at a time when we need it more than ever. All around us is change, but not this. We have a prophet who leads and guides us through the unique challenges of our day.

3. I love that we learn how to receive personal revelation. Even before I was a member of this Church, I felt like God answered prayers. However, as a member of the Church I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands by those who are in authority. That means that I am entitled through my faithfulness to receive personal revelation for myself, on behalf of my family, and on behalf of others for which I have stewardship, like the Young Women I serve in my calling. My membership in this church has taught me how to fine tune my “listening” and understand better what God would have me do.

2. I love the Book of Mormon. I love how it supports the Old and New Testaments in testifying of Christ, and yet offers important details that help clarify doctrinal points. I love how clear the language is. I used to wonder how God could only love the chosen people of the Old and New Testaments enough to give them prophets, holy scripture, and most importantly, visitation by the Savior. The Book of Mormon is the story of people in the Americas who also had prophets, holy scripture, and a visitation by the same Savior. Somehow that only serves to confirm and strengthen my faith in a just and loving God.

1. I love knowing who I am, why I’m here and where I’m going. I know that I’m a daughter of my Heavenly Father. I know that I lived with Him before I came to earth. I know that my earth life is but one step in the process and if I am faithful I can return with my family to live with him. The Gospel plan is one that will lead us to happiness. It just makes perfect sense to me. About a month ago my grandmother died. She was a very private woman who did not discuss the very personal matter of faith and so we really don’t know what she believed. We know that she was a good woman who served others and that she loved us and we loved her. I don’t want my children or grandchildren to ever wonder what I believe.

I love being part of a church family (I guess that’s number 1a) and I love knowing better my Savior and Heavenly Father, which was the whole reason I began searching for a church in the first place.

Since joining the Church, I have come to know my place in the world. I have a personal relationship with my Savior and with my Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus died for me and that he has prepared the way that I can return to live again with my Heavenly Father. The rest is up to me. I am a better mother, a better wife, a better person because of my faith. I know that my Heavenly Father hears my prayers and answers them, though not always in the way that I want or expect. I know all of these things not because someone has told me what to believe, but because I have tested them and received a witness for myself. I know that if you are truly desirous to know if what I say is true, that you can find it out for yourself. As in my own conversion, a desire to know prepares the way for God to work in your life. As it says in James 1:5: “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.”


The rlmmmmcaress family said...

The blog is the perfect place for this. I hope there were a lot of non-members there to hear this. Thanks for sharing. You are awesome.

Rebecca Whitcomb North said...

Hi, Lisa! Thanks for posting your talk on your blog. I was impressed by the message you shared and the way you presented your love for the gospel in written form. I had forgotten that you were an adult convert.

Hoskins Family said...

Leonard told me your talk was awesome! Now I know for myself....Thanks for sharing!

Tawny said...

What a beautiful talk. Thank you so much for sharing. Your testimony just shines!