Monday, October 12, 2009

Faith Lifts and Firesides...

So, I have decided that I really should do more blogging. The difficulty is that because I work mainly during the day now, every time I get a good stream of thought going, I have to stop to answer the phone, which can be really frustrating, especially if it is some old guy wanting to tell you about all of the family history work he has done, dating right back to Noah!!!!!!!!!

But then I have been cleaning out things and organizing my little bookstore (a.k.a my bedroom) and have discovered that I have pages and pages and pages of what I lovingly refer to as 'Faith Lifts!' or alternatively, millions of ideas that I have had for firesides, spiritual thoughts, retreats, talks, my hero series bookmarks and other mildy exciting and not very relevant things!

So instead of storing them all in a box, a million sheets of folded paper, I thought I would type them up and store them on here, and then if anyone wanted to use any ideas (highly unlikely) then please feel free to 'nick' them in good conscience!

Part 1: For a Time Such As This: Queen Esther. (Also can be used for Spiritual Gifts and Patriarchal Blessings)

Please note that this is all in bullet point form and you would need to re-shuffle the information to fit your purpose, adding your own personality to it!

Queen Esther
Women of God: For a time such as this…

This retreat has been focused on ‘Hands’ – helping hands, serving hands, hands to work, hearts to God etc. We have looked at how we can become refocused on the work at hand – pun intended! And how we can rededicate ourselves to this great work in which we are currently engaged.

Sometimes when we are in serving organizations that are demanding and time consuming, we lose energy and sometimes focus and we begin to doubt ourselves and our purpose.
In fact one of the biggest challenges facing Relief Society Presidents today is not how to get your sisters to go visiting teaching or how to stop them quarrelling about who has the best recipe for zucchini bread. It is actually how to stop those feelings of self doubt from creeping in. In fact one of the biggest concerns facing Relief Society leaders in Utah today is one simple question – Am I enough?

Queen Esther: Scriptural Portrait

Mordecai’s response reminds Esther of her opportunity and duty “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14. With unselfish willingness to sacrifice her own life Esther replied to Mordecai’s letter and asked him to gather all the Jews and fast for her, and said that her and her hand maidens would also fast for her, and said that her and her hand maidens would also fast and then she would go in unto the King and would accept her fate. Here we see the strength and loyalty that women often give one another in times of trial. Recently the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued to the world a proclamation on the family centred on the importance of maintaining the family, it ends with this strong statement: “We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

The Latter-day Saints face evils even more wicked than Haman, evils that seek not only the physical destruction of the Children of God but their spiritual destruction as well. Paul described our more subtle opponent when he said: “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Paul further described our day with these words: “In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4)

The Lord has chosen, called and sent modern Esthers who have come to earth for such a time as this. They have come to save the family, to save the principles of decency, righteousness and honesty, they have come to save virtue, modesty and respect. They have come to inspire hope through their courage and their sacrifice. They come supporting each other, as Esther’s maids supported her. They also come fasting and praying, supplicating the Lord for his mercy, guidance and direction. They will step forward with courage, focused on the critical duty that lies before them, knowing they too, came into the world “for such a time as this.”

Just as Esther was God’s “enlargement and deliverance” (Esther 4:14) in Persia, so armed with the truths of the restoration and standing side by side with righteous men, latter-day saint women will be God’s enlargement and deliverance now. They, like Esther, will save their people. Like Esther’s maidens they will readily support, pray and fast for each other. Their courage, faith and sacrifices will be celebrated by a righteous posterity long into the millennium.

Biggest concern facing R.S Presidencies: Am I enough?

Spiritual Gifts

The Nature of Spiritual Gifts – What is it?

A gift of the spirit can be understood as a freely given endowment, delivered through the agency of the third member of the Godhead, which enhances the lide of the recipient and influences their heart.

The Origin of Spiritual Gifts – Where do they come from?

“Spiritual gifts come from God. They are the gifts of God; they originate with Him and are special blessings that He bestows upon those who love him, and keep His commandments.” – Bruce R. McConkie
Spiritual gifts are, therefore, the means whereby mortals become partakers of the power of Godliness.

Availability of Spiritual Gifts - who is entitled to spiritual gifts?
Sometimes we Latter-day Saints feel that the gifts of the Spirit are only available to or experienced by people who hold positions of high authority in the Church’s hierarchy, but this is simply not the case.

George Q Cannon – I hope the idea will never prevail among our people that God confines His gifts and graces to the First Presidency, or to the Twelve Apostles or to the Seven Presidents of Seventies. I know that God is the God of this people and every person who will seek for the power of God can obtain it.

Bruce R. McConkie – Where spiritual things are concerned, as pertaining to all the gifts of the spirit, with reference to the receipt of revelation, the gaining of testimonies, and the seeing of visions, in all matters that pertain to Godliness, and holiness and which are brought to pass as a result of personal righteousness, in all these things men and women stand in a position of absolute equality before their Lord.

God is no respecter of persons nor of sexes and He blesses those men and those women who seek Him and serve Him and keep His commandments.”

Manifestation of Spiritual Gifts – when and how are they given?

Dallin H. Oaks – spiritual gifts do not come visibly, automatically and immediately to all who have received the gift of the HG.

Joseph Smith – Even if spiritual gifts were bestowed upon an individual at the time of the Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost, that the recipient would not be aware if they had received the gifts of knowledge, wisdom or faith, interpretation of tongues, ability to heal the sick, power to work miracles or the discerning of spirits. It would require time and circumstance to call these gifts into operation.

The Lord’s Instructions

D&C 46:11 - One of the gifts of the spirit is bestowed upon each of his earthly disciples.

Joseph smith – it is by securing the gift of the Holy Ghost that an individual is enabled to regularly receive spiritual gifts such as prophesy, visions and dreams.

Orson Pratt – Whenever the Holy Ghost takes up residence in a person, it not only cleanses, sanctifies and purifies him, in proportion as he yields himself to its influence, but also imparts to him some gift, intended for the benefit of himself and others. No one who has been born of the Spirit, who remains sufficiently faithful, is left destitute of a spiritual gift.

George Q. Cannon – there is one general gift which we all receive. The gift of revelation. It becomes a source of knowledge of the mind and will of God. No man or woman can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost without the spirit of revelation also. It may be that those who have received this talent do not feel the full force of what they have received. They may not be aware of the full extent of the power of the gift that has been bestowed upon them.
Distribution of Spiritual Gifts.

In D&C 46 we learn that spiritual gifts are widely dispersed among the followers of Christ. “To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.” (vv.11-12)
The Apostle Paul referred to this concept when he compared the Church of Jesus Christ to the human body. He pointed to the fact that the body has many members or parts (1 Corinthians v 12.14), which gave the whole organism a variety abilities. If the entire body consisted of an eye, there would be no way for it to smell (v. 17). Paul explained that all of the parts of the human body are necessary for it to function properly (v22) so each of the gifts of the spirit need to be in the Church (v21) in order for it to function as a unified entity and for the individuals within it to be sufficiently cared for (v25). The Lord decides where Spiritual gifts will do most good for His people, He distributes them, accordingly (vv11,18).
This idea is repeated in D&C 46 where we are told that the gifts of the spirit are dispensed “as it will be pleasing unto the Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the Children of men” (v.15)

Orson Pratt – Spiritual gifts are distributed among the members of the Church, according to their faithfulness, circumstances; natural abilities, duties and other callings; that the whole may be properly instructed, confirmed, perfected and saved.

Purposes of Spiritual Gifts – Why

There are at least five distinct ways whereby these heavenly blessings can benefit mankind:

1. Strength
President Wilford Woodruff – Let us try to live our religion and sanctify ourselves before the Lord. Seek for the Holy Spirit, pray for it, and labor for visions, for dreams, for revelations and for the gifts of the Gospel of Christ, that they may strengthen us in the good work.

2. Guidance
Harold B. Lee – If we live worthy then the Lord will guide us, by a personal appearance or by His actual voice, or by His voice coming into our mind, ot by impressions upon our heart and our soul.

3. Protection
Section 46 of the D&C, verse 7 specifically states that the spiritual gifts of God are bestowed upon the Latter-day Saints so that they will not be deceived by the doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men.”

4. Improvement
George Q. Cannon – If any of us are imperfect, it is our duty to pray for the gift that will make us perfect… No man ought to say, oh. I cannot help this, it is my nature! He is not justified in it, for the reason that God has promised to give strength to correct these things, and to give gifts that will eradicate them”

5. Preparation
Oliver Cowdery – Visions dreams revelations and prophesying enlarge theur minds and prepare them for the society of the blessed.

George Q. Cannon – God does not expect or desire the Latter-day Saints to put off acquiring the gifts that rightly belong to the heavenly world till they get there – they have the ability here and now, to receive their fathers choice blessings. The Saints, believe in doing everything here that will prepare them for life eternal in God’s presence. They look upon this world as a place where they should attend to these things. By Baptism? Yes. By having hands laid upon them? Yes. By acquiring the gifts of the Holy Ghost? Certainly, have them here as well as hereafter; have them hereto a partial extent to prepare them for a life that is to come.

Seek Ye Earnestly
Joseph fielding Smith – More than one gift may be received by any person who diligently seeks for these things.
Harold B. Lee – We shall never be given more of the gifts of the spirit until we demonstrate our ability to use those he has already given us.

Ask in the Spirit
D&C 46:28,30 – he that asketh in spirit shall receive in spirit
He that asketh in spirit asketh according to the will of God, wherefore it is done even as he asketh.
The phrase in the spirit is interpreted to mean ‘as the spirit dictates.’
Bruce R McConkie – In the pure and perfect and proper sense, no-one can speak or pray in the name of Christ unless he speaks or prays by the power of the HG. It is within our capability, as the Lord’s people to do this because we have the mind of Christ (1 corinth 2:16). That is we have the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead, based on faithfulness.

Ask in the name of Jesus Christ.
D&C 46:31 – all things must be done in the name of Christ, whatsoever you do in the Spirit.
In 3 Nephi the Saviour explains to His disciples that whatsoever ye shall ask the father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.
Elder James E. Talmage explains why that is so. He said God the Father has one son who has done more than all the rest; one son who has been more dutiful than all the others; one son who never broke a commandment of His; one son who thinks and feels as he thinks and feels; who is so like unto Him that if you have seen one, you have seen the other. Therefore if a petition comes up to Him in the name of that well beloved son, depend upon it that he will be moved and His heart will be softened because of that. It is for that reason that we have been told to offer all our supplication, and to perform all our ceremonies and ordinances of the Church, in the name of Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that we partake of the sacramental bread and water in the name of Jesus Christ. It is for that reason that we administer to the sick in His name. For it is a name of power.

Ask in a State of Worthiness.
This requirement is laid out in vv7.33 of section 46. We are taught that those who desire to receive spiritual gifts must walk uprightly before the Lord; they must practice virtue and holiness before him continually. Deity makes a concession for the fact that no mortal is perfect.
In verse 9 we are told that these gifts are given for the benefit of those who love God and keep all His commandments, and him that seeketh so to do.” This is a merciful allowance for which we should all be most grateful.

Gratitude for Gifts Received
We must give thanks unto God in the spirit for whatsoever blessing we are blessed with – D&C 46:32
D&C 46 is a handbook for placing interested individuals in a situation where they can better themselves now with divine support and prepare themselves for the world to come. Perhaps most importantly section 466 teaches us that we have the potential to become a benefit to our fellow sojourners in the earth. In all of these things the Kingdom of God is built up and they Glory of God is increased and because of all those things, the gifts of the spirit can be seen as seeds of Godliness.”