Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Happy New Year
All throughout December people wish us "happy holidays". I appreciate Ramadan, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa, but I always reply, "Merry Christmas" as my witness of faith in Jesus Christ. Every day we use greetings to call down blessings upon our friends and family: "good morning", "good afternoon", "good evening", and "good night" are more than polite formalities; they function to wish the best for others. "Goodbye" is derived from "godbwye" (1573), itself a contraction of "God be with ye". Since the Babylonians started celebrating the new year about 4,000 B.C., it has also been a tradition throughout the world to express best wishes for the coming year ("happy new year").
Another tradition helps us be proactive in attaining the prosperity and peace we seek: "New Year's Resolutions", but only if we keep the resolutions. If you google that phrase, you can find a number of programs that will help you do that for a small investment of your money. This week I met a man who has found a better way. I baptized and confirmed him, which means he has entered the door (John 10:9), and is on the strait and narrow path that leads to life (Matthew 7:14). His decision to follow this path came after a full year of daily life changing reflection and effort. When the missionaries presented the Gospel message to him, he was ready. He had lived the principles and acquired the discipline of discipleship through daily scripture study. His resolutions for the new year will bring his family a sense of peace, security, unity, and power that they never could have imagined before.
Janeen and Roy plan to be proactive for a happy 2010: we have volunteered for a church service mission in Guayaquil, Ecuador. If we are accepted, we would be in the temple five days each week for at least 18 months. Soon after Jesus was born, his parents took him to the temple, where Simeon and Anna shared their testimonies (http://www.cantos.org/music/cantata/PraiseGod.pdf). We next see Jesus in the temple when he was 12 years old (Luke 2:42-49). during His ministries he taught both in the synagogues and in the temple (John 18:20). In the turbulent last days, it is important to "stand in holy places" (Matthew 24:15) and be as often as possible in a house built in "Holiness to the Lord" (Zechariah 14:20,21), for the Lord will come to His temple (Malachi 3:1). Our resolution for 2010 is to serve in the temple.
As you resolve to stand in holy places, may God bless you and yours with a prosperous and happy new year. Goodbye, good luck, have a nice day!
Information about temples: http://www.lds.org/temples/purpose/0,11298,1897-1,00.html
Mission Wish List
When I was four, each month was a major part of my life. When I was 20, two years was a whopping 10 percent, and seemed like a long time. However, the past 10 years I have lived in this area seems like a short time, as it is a small percentage of my life. What seems “wisdom of the elders” may be just a more patient view of each day, due to having seen so many days. The elders are beginning to see from experience that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now... for we are saved by hope... if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:22, 24, 25).
The One with the most experience put it this way: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Thus, it is our experience that strengthens our hope. Hope is the foundation of faith, and faith leads us to charity towards others and a personal path of healthy, happy living (1 Corinthians 13). Since charity and a broad experience can lead us to think of others and lift their burdens (Isaiah 58: 6, 7), as we begin the new year, let us take personal time to reflect on how these past years have prepared us to be of service to others. Let us take stock of our responsibility to those who have not had our years of experience, or built a strong foundation of faith, hope, and charity. Think of the children of our community and how we can influence them.
This new year portends perilous times of great tribulation (Matthew 24). Our children who are prepared will be blessed (Matthew 25). But we cannot leave children to raise each other. Adults must take an active role in their instruction. Let us resolve to take an active role in preparing the next generation for the challenges they will face. Here are a few suggestions.
Take time to read and talk to the children from birth. Today we see many children who cannot give attention in school to instruction or to books or even to the wonders that computers can offer. Such children not only do not prosper in school, but may not become self sufficient, responsible citizens and parents because of their undisciplined habits. It is never too late to start the habits of reading and discussing in the home. When the children of Israel returned from captivity in Babylon, it was hearing the scribe read to them that brought great changes in their lives (Nehemiah 8).
Introduce children to the best in music and the all the arts. Pay attention to the lyrics and the images and the effect they have on the children. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8). Children raised on popular styles alone are not prepared to benefit from the spiritual and intellectual opportunities of the classics. “I will pray with the spirit,, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Attend church regularly with the children. There we hear the good news and fellowship with others of similar values. Our children need the rituals, the instruction, and the example of peers and elders. They need to experience goodness to develop hope, faith, and charity.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). You will be blessed in this new year as you lead others in safe paths.
We have many opportunities to start a new path in life including major turning points such as graduation, job changes, marriage, and the birth of child. We also have the weekly opportunity to renew our covenants and start over as we partake of the emblems of the sacrament. Moving day is such an opportunity. We can reflect on our path and make course adjustments, and new beginnings.
I thought I had passed a great milestone of life’s path when I turned 50. “I guess I am over the hill”, I commented to my father. He gave me the advice he thought I needed. “You are only half-way, you had better start taking care of yourself if you want to have a good second half of your life”. If I live as long as my father, I need to make plans through the year 2038 for my health and financial security. I need to take time for my family every day during these precious years. I cannot put off my priorities for service until a better time. Today is the only time I have right now.
Christ’s visit to America was the most dramatic new beginning in history. The whole face of the earth was changed, and the people were changed dramatically. They responded to His words with such a change of heart that they lived in peace for 200 years! A study of his words might bring a change in our own lives, resulting in that same kind of peace.
He presented himself to them as the Savior and Redeemer. They witnessed for themselves that he suffered and died for their sins, and was resurrected to a glorious state. “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world”. 3 Nephi 11:14
He immediately organized the church and gave power to men to act in His name, and blessed them with baptism and the Holy Ghost. “And 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 shall 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 Nephi 12:2
Then He taught them principles of good living by reciting the Sermon on the Mount and admonished them to keep their priorities in order. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” 3 Nephi 13:33
He recounted the covenants he had made with His chosen people, and gave a sign: that when the Book of Mormon comes forth, “then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance...and then shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I will also be in the midst.” 3 Nephi 21: 26, 22, 25
A General Authority will speak at stake conference in two weeks. Next week is my last message to you, then a new branch presidency will be called. The Book of Mormon is in our midst, meaning the power of heaven will come among us. You can strengthen your family by attending church regularly and being sealed in the temple. It is a time of new beginnings for me and for all of us. The Lord will bless you with power in this new beginning as you follow Him.
In 1965 I received my patriarchal blessing. From time to time I read it again, searching for insights that might guide my choices and decisions. The beginning of a new year is a very good time for reflection and decision making. The world calls it “New Years Resolutions”. Whatever you call it, it is important to take a careful look at your path in life and make course corrections so you get where you want to go. Here are some highlights from my blessing.
“I give you this patriarchal blessing and inform you of the will of our Father in Heaven. May this blessing be to you as a guiding light throughout your life and give to you a stronger desire to live according to the principles of the gospel and an insight into you eternal past, the present, and things which will be of value in our future life.” I was told that I was of the tribe of Joseph and Ephraim and heir to the covenant of Abraham; I was blessed to rejoice in the priesthood and accept callings. I was promised the companionship of the Holy Ghost to constantly guide me; and health and strength to fulfill my callings. I was blessed to finish my schooling and to instruct and influence others with music. I was promised that I would run and not be weary and walk and not faint because of the blessings of the Word of Wisdom. I was promised prosperity if I would pay tithing. I was admonished to honor my parents and appreciate their strengths. I was blessed with a testimony of the restoration of the gospel and blessings for sharing my testimony with others. I was promised an eternal companion and children who would praise God if I would obey the law of chastity. I was promised eternal life with my family, and all this according to my faithfulness.
Surely I have not always walked a straight path. I have not always met the expectations of others or been faithful to the promises and covenants of my blessing. Although I can’t do anything about what happened before, I can change the future. I can plot a course to where I want to go based on where I am now. I can read the scriptures daily to stay in tune with the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I can attend church where I can share testimonies and have opportunities to serve others. I can live the law of chastity by rejecting offensive movies and internet content. I can pay my tithing as a first step toward solving my financial problems. I can live and make choices with more than myself in mind. I can think of the consequences of my actions on those around me and my descendants to the 7th generation. I need to think of teaching the Gospel to my children all the days of my life.
“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 yea are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).
Helaman’s sons shared this testimony among all the people of Nephi from one city to another, and among the Lamanites. Their testimony convinced many who had become inactive. The people they taught abandoned their sins and false traditions, and repented and remained faithful all their lives.
Let us be like the Lamanites of old by self reflection and course correction. Look ahead to where you want to be, and set a course that will take you there with your family.