I started with my fairly usual testimony of the sacrament and explained that I had once been in a SM where the topic was missionary work and the best talk was about why we do missionary work instead of the usual who, when, where,how stuff (It really was a good talk) and said I planned to follow that model.
Then I said I was not a travel agent for guilt and whether or not you do family history or go to the temple is between the individual and God and nobody else - like lots of other things in the church. I used the following Uctdorf Quote:
And I said that even though I find family history tedious and have to be in the mood, I have nevertheless done a great deal of research and that I am a direct Mayflower descendant, my ancestors fought in all major wars from the Revolution onward and struggled and worked and farmed and faced adversities we probably can't comprehend fully in our day of technology and convenience. I told them that there were no families more broken than mine, but I knew my earthly heritage, but I also know my spiritual heritage and quoted BKP:Why Then Obey?
If grace is a gift of God, why then is obedience to God’s commandments so important? Why bother with God’s commandments—or repentance, for that matter? Why not just admit we’re sinful and let God save us?
Brothers and sisters, we obey the commandments of God—out of love for Him!
Trying to understand God’s gift of grace with all our heart and mind gives us all the more reasons to love and obey our Heavenly Father with meekness and gratitude. As we walk the path of discipleship, it refines us, it improves us, it helps us to become more like Him, and it leads us back to His presence. “The Spirit of the Lord [our God]” brings about such “a mighty change in us, … that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”
Therefore, our obedience to God’s commandments comes as a natural outgrowth of our endless love and gratitude for the goodness of God. This form of genuine love and gratitude will miraculously merge our works with God’s grace. Virtue will garnish our thoughts unceasingly, and our confidence will wax strong in the presence of God.
Following is directly from the talk:You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!
Not only are you a child of God, so is everyone else here in this room and every other human who lives, has lived, or will live on the earth.
It doesn’t matter if you were born here in the United States, or in the most primitive of places.
People of different skin, hair or eye color, different religious or political beliefs, very much like you or very much different from you are all children of Heavenly Parents who love them just as much as they love you.
We’re all of divine heritage.
In Acts Paul referred to us as “offspring of God” (Acts 17:29) and later to the Romans he said:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.(Romans 8:16)
Said the Psalmist:
Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. (Psalms 82:6)
I have struggled from time to time with the idea of the “great apostasy.”
Isn’t the gospel of Jesus Christ eternal, having always existed?
And won’t it continue to exist forever?
Since the time our Lord walked the earth, have there not always been believers in His word?
I think the answers to all of these questions is yes.
Even during the so called dark ages, it is apparent there were believers in Christ.
They may not have understood all there is, but neither do we.
They did understand the very essence of the gospel:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)
How, then, could there be an apostasy if there were always believers in Christ?
Of course the answer is that the apostasy was not total, either in believers or in knowledge.
They certainly had part of the gospel, but not all of it.
Our latter-day saint theology holds that we all lived together with our Heavenly Parents as spirit children before coming here.
One of the greatest misunderstandings of the apostasy, as far as I can tell, is the loss of the idea of the pre-mortal existence.
Much of our understanding of the gospel hinges on the theology of our pre-mortal lives.
Said Joseph Smith:
At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it. (TotPofC:JS 209)
The plan of salvation is something we knew about and agreed to be a part of, understanding what we have now forgotten - that we were to come here to learn and grow through our experiences.
The great plan included the fall, which was not a sinful tragedy but rather a necessary part of the plan which brought death to the world.
Death itself is not a tragedy, either, but is another step forward in eternal progression.
Adam’s sin was not an act of rebellion, it was a necessary part of the plan that we all knew was going to happen.
Because of the lack of belief in the eternal context of the fall, that it was always part of the plan, in Christian theology the atonement of Jesus Christ became the back up plan instead of the primary plan it really is.
I don’t believe the restoration is as much about correcting false doctrine or theology as it is about restoring the eternal context of the doctrines.
Casting Adam out of the garden was also part of the plan.
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Ne 2:25)
However, joy is not something that just comes to us.
Another key part of the plan is that we experience pain, sorrow, and suffering for without knowing these things we could not know their opposites.
Mark Twain, a contemporary of early church leaders, understood this:
What is joy without sorrow? What is success without failure? What is a win without a loss? What is health without illness? You have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. There is always going to be suffering. It’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you.
Because God so loved the world, his plan was presented in the council in heaven.
Because of his plan, his purpose - to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life - can be fulfilled.
The loving God described by Paul - who surely knew of the love and mercy that transitioned him from Saul to Paul after very grievous mistakes - is not the same sovereign God who craves our servitude and worship as described in the Christian creeds the boy Joseph was told were abominations.
In The Christ Who Heals, How God restored the Truth That Saves Us Fiona and Terryl Givens summed it up like this:
Heavenly Father established his covenant with us in the beginning, having in mind our eventual unification with him and Heavenly Mother. As children of divine parents, we were invited to be perfected and sanctified with the assistance of an atoning Savior, so that having acquired ‘the divine nature’ we could live in holy sociality with other celestial beings. We were understood to be children of the Most high, and our Heavenly Parents’ concern for us was and is intimate, familial, and compassionate. The Fall was anticipated as a deliberative step our first earthly parents would undertake to pave the way for our embodiment, that we might enter upon the educative, soul-stretching enterprise of life in this pain-strewn world.
We believe that the first principles of the Gospel are: first Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance.
Complicating matters further may be our understanding and translation of certain words like repentance.
Elder Theodore M. Burton of the Seventy explained the meaning of repentance in a 1988 Ensign article.
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the word used in it to refer to the concept of repentance is shube.
That is the message of the Old Testament. Prophet after prophet writes of shube—that turning back to the Lord, where we can be received with joy and rejoicing. The Old Testament teaches time and again that we must turn from evil and do instead that which is noble and good. This means that we must not only change our ways, we must change our very thoughts, which control our actions.
The concept of shube is also found in the New Testament, which was written in Greek. The Greek writers used the Greek word metaneoeo to refer to repentance. Metaneoeo is a compound word.
In the context in which meta- and -neoeo are used in the New Testament, the word metaneoeo means a change of mind, thought, or thinking so powerful that it changes one’s very way of life. I think the Greek word metaneoeo is an excellent synonym for the Hebrew word shube. Both words mean thoroughly changing or turning from evil to God and righteousness.
Confusion came, however, when the New Testament was translated from Greek into Latin. Here an unfortunate choice was made in translation; the Greek word metaneoeo was translated into the Latin word poenitere. The Latin root poen in that word is the same root found in our English words punish, penance, penitent, and repentance. The beautiful meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words was thus changed in Latin to a meaning that involved hurting, punishing, whipping, cutting, mutilating, disfiguring, starving, or even torturing! It is no small wonder, then, that people have come to fear and dread the word repentance, which they understand to mean repeated or unending punishment.
The meaning of repentance is not that people be punished, but rather that they change their lives so that God can help them escape eternal punishment and enter into his rest with joy and rejoicing. If we have this understanding, our anxiety and fears will be relieved. Repentance will become a welcome and treasured word in our religious vocabulary.
Our Heavenly Father’s part is to bring us joy, our part is to turn to him.
This life, said Amulek in Alma 34, is the time for us to prepare to meet God. (verse 32)
All we have to do is look around us to see that not everyone is engaged in the lifelong process of repentance in turning toward God through His Son’s atoning sacrifice.
But again in his infinite wisdom and love, there is a part in Heavenly Father’s plan to accommodate this situation.
We can have the saving ordinances performed vicariously, and in a way we may not fully understand they can repent and experience the same grace we will.
Quoting the Lord in Ether 12, Moroni wrote:
...my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me….
In his April General Conference address, Elder Quenten L. Cook reminded us of an important event that occurred in the Kirtland Temple and recorded in D&C 110.
Among other things Elias appeared and committed the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, which includes the restoration of the Abrahamic covenant.
That covenant, as contained in the Book of Abraham, in part says:
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
10 And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (2:9-11)
Paul told the Galatians:
For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (3:26-29)
Elder Dale G. Renlund told us in April:
...as we participate in family history and temple work today, we also lay claim to “healing” blessings promised by prophets and apostles. These blessings are also breathtakingly amazing because of their scope, specificity, and consequence in mortality. This long list includes these blessings:
Increased understanding of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice
Increased influence of the Holy Ghost to feel strength and direction for our own lives
Increased faith, so that conversion to the Savior becomes deep and abiding
Increased ability and motivation to learn and repent because of an understanding of who we are, where we come from, and a clearer vision of where we are going
Increased refining, sanctifying, and moderating influences in our hearts
Increased joy through an increased ability to feel the love of the Lord
Increased family blessings, no matter our current, past, or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be
Increased love and appreciation for ancestors and living relatives, so we no longer feel alone
Increased power to discern that which needs healing and thus, with the Lord’s help, serve others
Increased protection from temptations and the intensifying influence of the adversary
And Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole
Finally, keeping our own temple covenants can affect our own posterity.
Joseph Smith taught:
When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother.
And Orson Whitney said:
Our Heavenly Father is far more merciful, infinitely more charitable, than even the best of his servants, and the Everlasting Gospel is mightier in power to save than our narrow finite minds can comprehend.
That is my testimony as well.
Our Heavenly Parents love us so much that built into the great plan of happiness is not only the opportunity but the means by which we can each return to them and progress eternally.
As we partook of the sacrament today we took upon us the name of Christ - again.
His atoning sacrifice is eternal and it applies to each and every one of us and everyone else who has ever lived or will ever live upon the earth.
His is a message of hope, not only to those who lived in a time and place where they were oppressed by such as the Pharisees and Sanhedrin, but to each of us today.
We can be forgiven through the Way, the Truth and the Light.
So it doesn’t matter if you do your family history and temple work out of blind obedience, or because you want a reward or fear a punishment or because you love God and your neighbors or any other reason.
As we are sealed together we not only become united as earthly families, but we become united in the much, much larger mosaic of the human family headed by loving Heavenly Parents who want nothing more than for all of us to return to them.
May we recognize that divinity in everyone and the love of Godly parents for each of us is my prayer...