Life as Lou

I Spoke In Church And Here’s What I Said

  • November 16, 2011 4:46 pm

I was one of the speakers at church on Sunday, and received several requests for copies of what I said, so after e-mailing a few, I’m just going to post it here. For those of you not of my faith, we run a lay ministry, so members are asked to give the sermon from time to time.

Without further ado:

Under divine direction, Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness where they would wander for forty years before arriving in the Promised Land. These forty challenging years were intended to refine and sanctify the children of Israel. They were not being punished – they were being taught. During these forty years they had many opportunities to find out how the great Jehovah dealt with His chosen people. They learned obedience. They learned consequence. And most importantly, they learned that their strength and salvation was found in the Redeemer, who went before them day and night. In His constant care they progressed from ignorant, murmuring children to worthy, faithful inhabitants of the Promised Land.

The Israelites had many needs during this time. They struggled for want of food, safety, shelter- all things that kept them preoccupied and diminished their ability to grow spiritually. The Lord used fulfilling the most basic of these needs to increase their faith and to teach them to trust Him. One of the most famous miracles during this time is the miracle of the manna.

Manna was a small, white, flakey substance, compared to hoarfrost that could be gathered and made into bread or cakes. Moses told the children of Israel that this was the bread the Lord had provided for them. It was mild and simple, flavored like coriander seed and honey, and it satisfied their physical needs well.

Like most blessings, there were rules applied to the manna. They were instructed to gather only what they could eat in a day, and not any more. There was to be no hoarding or saving for a later date- they needed to have complete faith that Christ would sustain them every single day. When they were disobedient and gathered more than they could eat, the manna spoiled and was useless. The only time they were able to gather for the future was in preparation for the Sabbath. On the day before the Sabbath they could gather enough for two days, and the manna would remain fresh so they could keep the Sabbath with exactness.

The children of Israel feasted on the Savior’s literal bread of life and were sustained from day to day. In a situation of uncertainty and want, they were always provided for, if they would just follow the Savior’s commands.

Today we are commanded to feast upon the words of Christ. We are given the scriptures for daily nourishment, to strengthen us in times of uncertainty. The Lord knew that our mortal sojourn would be much like the wandering in the wilderness that the Israelites experienced, and that we would need spiritual sustainment just as desperately as they required food. We would need to increase in faith and trust so we could be sanctified and prepared to enter His promised kingdom. Just as the children of Israel were never left alone, we have the same opportunity to walk closely with Him, to be guided, strengthened, and at times carried by the strength of the Lord.

We have been counseled to study the scriptures daily, and promised that the words of Christ would tell us all things that we should do. We cannot gather manna once a week or even every other day and expect to be filled. We can’t expect one day of scriptural cramming to sustain us for a long period of time. Testimonies, like manna, spoil and become unprofitable when they are not attended to daily.

Just as skipping a day of food may not have an immediate effect, short term spiritual starvation may pass by almost unnoticed. But just like long term malnutrition can kill, chronic spiritual malnutrition will end in the same deadly result.

Of course, a person can survive on less than ideal nutrition. A person can muddle through with lackluster scripture study as well, but most of us are ambitious enough to want to do more than merely survive. Most of us want to thrive- our spirits beg to do so! We want to be the best that we are capable of being and then we want the Savior to make us even better. The point of being here isn’t merely to survive- it is to become sanctified, perfected and worthy of eternal life, and we have been given every tool necessary to do that.

The scriptures are one of those powerful tools, and they can truly tell us ALL things that we should do in this life to qualify for eternal life.

Several months ago I was invited to take a challenge concerning how I went about my daily scripture study. For a few weeks, I was to take a question with me every time I went to read, not just any random question, but whatever was concerning me most on that particular day.

My questions weren’t doctrinally deep ones- they were based on the ordinary struggles of life. My questions were things like, “how can I avoid contention with this person today?” or “how do I help my child with this issue” or “how am I supposed to get through all that I have to do today?”

There were the hard days where my questions were asked in frustrated desperation: “Why am I dealing with this trial?” “How can I possibly be enough for the challenges on my plate right now?” “What am I’m supposed to learn from this?” And the more humble inquiries of “Do I need to repent?” “What can I do to be more worthy?” “How can I better serve today?” and “How do I learn to hear Your voice?”

There are plenty of days where I feel so overwhelmed that I don’t even know what question to ask to get me to a solution- and I find that the most effective question for me to ask at those times is simply, “what would thou have me do?”

Now, I was familiar with finding answers through the scriptures. I have been blessed to find a considerable amount of guidance, strength and comfort in turning to the scriptures, and I know they contain answers. The thing that was new was that I hadn’t considered taking advantage of that on a daily basis. Of course I went looking for answers when things were tough, but when things were ok I was a lot more likely to take a casual approach, always enjoying the peace reading the scriptures brings, but not earnestly seeking, and not considering that they really were intended to help in all things.

The very first day I decided to start reading with a specific question in mind, I had pondered my question and then decided that I would have my morning scripture study with the kids and then after they were off to school, I would sit back down, formally ask my question and then read on my own for awhile.

I started reading out loud to my children when suddenly a particular verse hit me so hard, I literally stopped reading. It was a very good answer and it was presented from an unexpected angle and place, in the middle of the war chapters in Alma! It also came with a powerful witness of the Spirit. I was completely caught off guard. I hadn’t even asked yet!

I finished reading and got the kids out the door, and decided that I would start from the beginning as I had intended. I prayed about it and then opened up the scriptures again, not to where the kids and I were reading, but in a completely different book where I was in my personal reading. Within the first few verses, I was given the exact same answer. The verbiage was different, but the imagery and direction it presented was identical to the earlier answer, and I had the same resonating confirmation of the Spirit that told me this was what I was to do and how I was to do it. I knew my question had been answered.

Learning to ask and to utilize the scriptures on a daily basis is empowering. And that is what it is meant to be. We were intended to have divine help in every step of this life- we were intended to walk through these challenges with the full power of the atonement, saving covenants and priesthood blessings. It has been said that God wants a powerful people. We weren’t intended to be stupid, or to be wishy-washy followers of the world, vulnerable to every deception laid in our path. We were born to have every bit of protection, peace and clarity possible. We can access that through blessings of the priesthood, and through the tools of prayer and divinely inspired scripture. We are to be taught and guided by the Holy Spirit. The Lord has called us His elect, His chosen people, just like the Israelites of old. We need to rise to that because it takes the elect to gather the elect and we are charged with the responsibility of preparing a valiant branch of people to meet Him when He comes again. We are building Zion, and He has given us everything we need to do that. We choose whether or not to use those tools and in so doing, we decide how faithful, how protected, and how smart we will be.

I had an abnormally difficult time preparing this talk. I had a huge list of ideas written down. I read talks and quotes and did internet searches on my topic- and got absolutely nowhere. Come Friday night I was getting worried. I was told to speak for fifteen minutes and I had about two minutes of completely disjointed, incoherent ramblings.

I finally took the specific question of what I should talk about to the Lord and opened my scriptures- and, as always- I was answered. I read these verses in Jacob:

Jacob 4:4
For this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.

Jacob 4:3
Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow.

Brothers and Sisters, we read the scriptures daily so we can come unto Christ. We read them so we can become more like Him and have a mortal experience filled with joy. We read them that we might always hope in Christ and have that hope temper our sorrows. We read so we can rejoice in the Savior and have gratitude. And we read them so we can teach our children truth.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson said in the last general conference: “for the gospel to be written in your heart, you need to know what it is and grow to understand it more fully.”

The scriptures are given to us as answer books so we can understand the gospel and how to apply it to our lives. They were written under the direction of the Holy Ghost, and they are understood by His power as well. His sacred stewardship is to teach us, and this is His textbook.

Even knowing that, reading and studying every day can be really hard. I don’t think I ever have a day where I don’t have at least two options of how to fill each hour. I am a very busy person, as I am sure you are. But I know I am smarter and better when I make scripture study a priority. I am more able to resist temptation and more capable of managing my time. I am a more patient mother and better able to discern that which is truly needful for me and my family.

You often hear the phrase “work smarter, not harder”. When you are blessed with extra knowledge, abilities, grace and direction because you’ve been reading- you can work smarter not harder- that’s what the Lord wants for us.

The only thing more challenging than finding my own time to have scripture study is to make that time happen with my children. When we sit down to have our family devotional we frequently have silly kids and bored kids. Elder Holland’s label of “little bedlamites” is very fitting. They are, after all, children.

We started reading the Book of Mormon together almost three years ago, before our youngest was even born. We are keeping track of it on a chart that hangs on our refrigerator and we are only in 3rd Nephi. Some days we get through a few chapters, some days a few verses and sometimes we don’t get through anything but the prayer. That’s ok. I know that there are chapters my children don’t understand, even when I try to explain them in kid-friendly language. That’s ok too.

What I do know, and why I keep going despite occasional chaos, is that I know reading the scriptures provides an opportunity for them to create a habit of faithful obedience. It also provides an opportunity for them to feel the Spirit. They don’t need to have a perfect understanding to receive a witness of the truth. They are learning the language of revelation every time we read, and this will make all the difference, because they will need all the ability they can muster to understand how to hear the voice of the Lord for the rest of their lives. They will need answers every day of their lives and I want them to be spiritually self reliant enough to know how to find them.

One day at the end of our devotional, we closed our scriptures and my daughter turned to me and said, “I feel like I want to cry when we read that- but I feel so good.” The opportunity I had to explain to my six year old daughter that what she was feeling was the Spirit was so precious.

They need to know that. They need to know where to find answers, and they need to know how to hear the voice of the Lord. It is critical to our salvation and theirs that they learn the language of personal revelation, and in the scriptures we have the tools we need to learn that. The Savior has always spoken to His children through the scriptures and He always will speak to those who diligently seek Him.

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5 Comments

  1. carol in seattle :) says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this here. I am trying to get back in the habit of reading my scriptures and I struggle with it a LOT! What you said here really touched my heart. I can’t wait to read it again and again. Thank you!

  2. What a beautiful talk, Leah, and such a great reminder.

  3. Marinette says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this Leah! I’m so admirative of your speech!It always a great pleasure to read you! I learn so many things;-) So thank you!

  4. Sam says:

    Wow, Leah! This was just what I needed to read. Thank you :)

  5. CarolM says:

    i really needed that today….thank you ;)

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