A Thread For Talks and Lessons

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DarkJedi
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by DarkJedi » 22 Sep 2015, 13:31

I was assigned to speak about keeping the Sabbath this past Sunday. FWIW, these assignments were made well ahead of the current Sabbath push but the timing was good. Several people came up to me afterwards and said how much the ward needed to hear this talk. here's a summary:

I started by reading the accounts of Jesus instituting the sacrament in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, followed by D&C 27 about the sacrament. I told them it was clear we were supposed to take the sacrament in remembrance of Christ. I then quoted lines from several hymns (146, 148, 190, 176) mentioning the sacrament/Sabbath/remembrance.

I said I was going to ask why we're here, but that there are a variety of reasons people are here and I modified the question to ask what God's purpose in us being there was. I told them it wasn't to hear talks, sing hymns, pray, or go to other meetings, although all those things are good - we're there to take the sacrament. I then quoted D&C 59:9-10 and used the following quote from a 2008 conference address by Elder Oaks:
The ordinance of the sacrament makes the sacrament meeting the most sacred and important meeting in the Church. It is the only Sabbath meeting the entire family can attend together. Its content in addition to the sacrament should always be planned and presented to focus our attention on the Atonement and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

...I sense that some in the rising generation and even some adults have not yet come to understand the significance of this meeting and the importance of individual reverence and worship in it….

...During sacrament meeting—and especially during the sacrament service—we should concentrate on worship and refrain from all other activities, especially from behavior that could interfere with the worship of others. Even a person who slips into quiet slumber does not interfere with others. Sacrament meeting is not a time for reading books or magazines. Young people, it is not a time for whispered conversations on cell phones or for texting persons at other locations. When we partake of the sacrament, we make a sacred covenant that we will always remember the Savior. How sad to see persons obviously violating that covenant in the very meeting where they are making it.
I then told them that the training had taken place at the stake level and was happening in the wards and quoted Elder Ballard from the training:
Of all of the organizational or policy changes or doctrinal training that could hasten the work of salvation at this time, we’ve determined that elevating the spirit and power of the Sabbath day would be most influential in drawing members and families closer to the Lord Jesus Christ.
followed by this quote from Elder Holland:
This is the most conspicuous and certainly the most repeatable ordinance in the church and I’m not sure we think of it that way...This is a very personal ordinance. This is the only ordinance really that we repeat for ourselves.
I told them the sacrament is a personal experience and we shouldn't be concerned with what others do or don't do during the sacrament, but that we should be respectful of those want to have a quiet experience free from distraction.

I quoted Elder Andersen from the training:
The title renewing our baptismal covenants is not found in the scriptures. It is not inappropriate, many of you have used it talks, we have used it in talks, but it is not something that is used in the scriptures and it can’t be the keynote of what we say about the sacrament. Spirituality is not stagnant and neither are covenants. … what we pray is that all of us as members are moving along a progressive growth both in our spirituality and in our covenants. Covenants bring not only commitments but they bring spiritual power. We should teach our members that we are moving toward our Heavenly Father. The sacrament is a beautiful time to not just renew our baptismal covenants but to commit to him to renew all our co
venants, all our promises, and to approach him in a spiritual power that we did not have previously as we move forward.
I reiterated that the sacrament is more than just renewing our covenants and asked rhetorically what else it is about, then read Matthew's account of the institution of the sacrament, and referenced back to the Nephites and how the word remember or remembrance is used frequently, and pointed out we are supposed to remember the sacrifice of the Savior. The I referenced the prayers and noted they speak of taking upon us the name of Christ and witnessing our willingness to God to do these things. I concluded that part by saying the sacrament is the most important thing we do on the Sabbath and testifying of the sacrament, followed by Elder Cook from the training:
The sacrament service should be a spiritual experience, inspiring us to remember [Christ], keep HIs commandments, and have His Spirit to be with us.
I told them our stake president quoted 2 Nephi 25 (we talk of Christ....) and then asked do we? I told them he counseled us that if a talk or topic is not Christ centered we should consider whether it is appropriate for sacrament meeting. I told them our stake leadership thinks we could do better and speaking about Christ, teaching Christ, and testifying of Christ in all of our meetings, but especially sacrament meeting. I ask how we cold go wrong by emphasizing the Savior more? I asked what about topics in Sunday School and PH/RS about tithing or family history and bore testimony that if we look in the scriptures we can relate any core gospel principle to Christ.

I said the training included keeping the Sabbath at church and at home and quoted Elder Nelson from last conference:
How do we hallow the Sabbath day? In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father. With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.
I told them how I admired the Jewish Sabbath observance but not all of the rules that orthodox Jews have for the observance and quoted Pres. Uchtdorf from 2009:
How do we become true disciples of Jesus Christ? The Savior Himself provided the answer with this profound declaration: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him. But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.” This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.
I told them it could become very easy to make lists of rules for that Sabbath but I didn't think that's what the purpose of the Sabbath is, and quoted from Mark 2 (the Sabbath was made for man...). I said the Sabbath is your day and my day and what I consider restful or worshipful on the Sabbath may not match what you think. I told them I wasn;t concerned with what anyone else did on the Sabbath, and nobody else should be concerned with what I do and like so many other things Sabbath observance is between the individual and God and used Exodus 31:12-12 and Ezekiel 20:20 to illustrate the point.

I closed with Elder Cook from the training:
Brothers and sisters can you help us give back the sacrament meeting to the Savior? ...our prayer and our hope is that the same feelings that emanate from these scriptures can be captured across the church in sacrament meetings where we rejoice and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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mom3
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by mom3 » 22 Sep 2015, 13:39

Well done DJ.

Two weeks ago we did our Stake Day of Service. The head high council guy of our committee is new. On the day of the event we were closing up and someone said, "We'll meet next week to go over everything?" He shook his head and said, "No. My wife has a goal to cut church meetings in half." Everyone looked a bit stunned. Then he went on to say. The only meeting we should have is Sacrament Meeting - it's the only place entire families can do ordinances together. Every other meeting is overkill.

I don't know if my Stake President agree's, but I was jumping up and down with Brother New Guy. He can't fix everything but he is a voice. Go High Councilors.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Sep 2015, 15:27

I didn't speak this month, but the High Councilor who spoke in my home ward gave a wonderful address about loving service.

He began by stating, slowly and clearly, that reading scriptures, praying, attending church meetings, attending the temple, etc. don't mean anything if we don't have charity and if we aren't willing to serve and help others in need, no matter their situations or circumstances. He mentioned political affiliation, race, religion and sexual orientation as things that should not influence our love and service of others.

It truly was a wonderful talk.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by Curt Sunshine » 25 Oct 2015, 13:09

I was assigned to talk today about Mariage and Family. The following is the general outline and content of my talk:

First, at the risk of further embarrassing your good Bishop, I appreciate the mistake he made earlier when he announced the wrong opening hymn. I have made far worse mistakes from the pulpit, and those mistakes actually are a good introduction to the topic I have been assigned.

Second, I don't want this talk to be a downer in any way, but I have felt impressed to address my topic in a way that will not be traditional and might seem depressing at first. I hope this approach was inspired and can help someone here today in some way.

There are a lot of tension points in the Church and the Gospel that deal with our desire to teach what we see as the ideal while living lives that are not ideal. We say there is opposition in all things, but I'm not sure we understand how true that is. As an example, we teach that reverence, including quietude, is important for proper worship, but we also bring our little children with us to our worship services each week - and we all know those two things often are incompatible.

Ideal vs. Reality (caterpillar / butterfly)

I love the analogy of a caterpillar to resurrection and the Atonement (a creature that lives, seems to die and then emerges as a whole new, beautiful creature), but I have been struck by another application of caterpillars as metaphors for our lives. We often describe caterpillars as "ugly" and "worthless" prior to their metamorphosis into butterflies, simply because of our perception of what beauty and worth mean - but caterpillars are of great worth ecologically and can be seen as beautiful in a very real way by those who are willing to see them that way. How we talk about them is dependent totally on our view of them, NOT on anything objective about their individual lives.

It is important to accept and value the caterpillars as caterpillars and not just future butterflies - and this applies directly to my topic today: marriage and family.

1) I have been blessed greatly in the area of marriage and family (described that a bit), but I know many faithful, sincere, wonderful, worthy members who have struggled in many ways with their marriages and family situations. Let me tell you about a few of them.

a) Sister Renlund (from "Just Call Me Ruth") - only having one child in a Church culture that can be dismissive and even derisive toward those with no children or only one child.

b) friend whose husband got addicted to prescription medication and ruined his life and their marriage, causing her to become a single mother who heard (along with her children) over and over again in church how broken and non-ideal her life and family was.

c) friend in her 50's who has never married and hears regularly that she is lacking worth as an ideal Mormon woman because she is not a mother.

d) young man who is one of the most talented, good-looking, smart, kind-hearted, Christian people I know who walked out of church one day and never returned because a high counselor said people like him (gay) are enemies and are destroying the world. This young man believes he has no realistic chance to have our ideal marriage and family.

e) a dedicated Relief Society President who finally left the man she had married in the temple who subjected her to years of terrible abuse.

I have no idea why I have been blessed so much in this regard, but I do know it has nothing to do with being more righteous or better in any way than those without the blessings I have experienced. What I have come to believe about marriage and family, given my exposure to so much suffering and fervent faith of others, is the heart of my talk today.

I appreciated the intermediate hymn today, "Where can I turn for peace?" I believe we have two places to which we can turn: the divine (our Heavenly Parents and Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer) and to each other. I want to focus on our responsibilities to each other with regard to marriage and family.

1) Help each other become what we desire to become (Perfect = complete, whole, fully developed) in our own unique situations and as a community, no matter the structure of our individual marriages and families.

2) The ideal of the Proclamation to the World (equal partners, helping each other in all aspects of marriage), applies to our interactions with everyone, not just to spouses.

3) Ward as family (hospital ward and automobile repair shop)

4) Advice to those with "ideal" and "non-ideal" families

a) To those who struggle, listen to those who express gratitude for family and marital blessing with kindness and charity, even when those expressions sometimes hurt. We don't mean to hurt others in those situations, and it is important to express thanks and gratitude. As a friend once said, "Bear my joy a while."

b) To those who don't struggle, express thanks for your blessings but be aware of those who might be hurt by your words. Accept them and their lives as valuable and worthy, and never, ever, ever judge them personally based on their situations. Truly, there but for the grace of God go you, and they have much to teach and contribute to you personally and the Church as a whole.

Seeing all as children of God (why we call each other brothers and sisters) - Atlanta temple experience when the Lord was black

Zion is possible within our ward families, but it is possible only when we see each other as beautiful caterpillars, first and foremost, and we love and serve each other no matter what, without exception. Each of us is loved by God right now, for who we are, not just for whom we may become. As we come to church, often carefully clothed and groomed and made-up in ways that mask our struggles and brokenness, may we see past those facades and love each other in that same way - for our humanity and not despite it. May we model among ourselves as a ward what marriage and family are meant to be ideally.

That is one way we can comfort those who stand in need of comfort rather than heaping more discomfort upon their heads. That is one way we can talk of marriage and family in a way that uplifts and heals rather than oppresses and hurts. That is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus, of Nazareth - true, deep, unconditional love, acceptance and service.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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mom3
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by mom3 » 25 Oct 2015, 20:43

Wow - You left no stone unturned. I missed Sacrament Meeting today, lucky for me this covered it. Thanks.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by Curt Sunshine » 08 Nov 2015, 13:52

I spoke today about gratitude. My daughter is sick, so I don't have time to do a full outline or summary, so the following is a condensed version:

Colossians 2:6-7 - "abounding therein with thanksgiving"

Two-edged sword - (Ammonihah = gratitude on steroids; public acknowledgment can be boastful, especially when righteousness is implied, and can hurt those who don't share the same blessings [talk on marriage and family last week as example])

Gratitude does not mean constant happiness. Life is difficult and brings trials and grief - moments that make gratitude hard. Also, biological issues like depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety, etc. can inhibit one's ability to feel gratitude and joy. None of those things constitute sin. I pray that nothing I say will add in any way to the burdens carried by anyone here today.

Being grateful also does not mean we have to be thankful for our trials themselves. Rather, it means being thankful for what we learn from those trials. Let me give two examples of what I mean:

My mother's schizophrenia (not grateful for it but grateful for what I learned as a result of it)

Friend from Cincinnati whose adult daughter died in freak accident during routine surgery (He wasn't grateful she died, but he was grateful he was able to draw closer to God as a result. Nobody should ever say he should be grateful for that trial.)

I hope nobody here feels unworthy in some way if you can't thank God for a particular trial, but I also hope you can be thankful, now or in the future, for what you will learn as a result of that trial.

Three degrees of love, gratitude and service: God = telestial; friends / same (including family) = terrestrial; enemies / different (including family) = celestial

Michelle's weekly blessing list that has helped her see and recognize her blessings as they happen, rather than only in hindsight

My blessing list (Due to time constraints, only "For the Strength of the Hills" and a description of John Daniel Malan's sacrifice for his testimony.)

Definition of praise and honor in our theology being centered on doing and becoming - need to show gratitude and not just to verbalized it (although saying it is critical, too)

Plan of Happiness works for some people; Plan of Salvation works better for other people. I pray I can help everyone be grateful as a result of their interactions with me, whether pursuing happiness or receiving salvation is more powerful to them.

Invitation to count our blessings every day and then work to bless others - to show our gratitude in visible, tangible ways
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Katzpur
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by Katzpur » 16 Nov 2015, 15:50

I've got to teach Relief Society this coming Sunday (Teachings for Our Times lesson). The topic is supposed to be Dieter Uchtdorf's conference talk called "It Works Wonderfully!" "It," of course, is the gospel. I've been staring at my computer for two days now and haven't thought of a good way to approach this. When the gospel is working just marginally for me, particularly in light of the new policy, I just don't know what I can say without being a total hypocrite. Any suggestions?
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." ~Rudyard Kipling ~

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Heber13
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by Heber13 » 16 Nov 2015, 15:59

I think you can read some of these quotes and make people think by asking them:
But I also recognize that there are some who have a less-than-fulfilling experience—who feel that their membership in the Church sometimes isn’t quite what they had hoped for.

This saddens me because I know firsthand how the gospel can invigorate and renew one’s spirit—how it can fill our hearts with hope and our minds with light. I know for myself how the fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform lives from the ordinary and dreary to the extraordinary and sublime.

But why does it seem to work better for some than for others? What is the difference between those whose experience in the Church fills their souls with songs of redeeming love2 and those who feel that something is lacking?
We all know people in our ward that don't feel like coming to church anymore. But do we UNDERSTAND them? Or do we just write them off as "lost sheep"? We should try to understand. And we should try to make a safe, welcoming place for all to come, whether they think different than us or not. If the church isn't working for some...maybe its how we run things in the church.

Check out the talk "People to People" by David B Haight. Use quotes from that to show how some people don't find it working, and what changes their minds.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Katzpur
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by Katzpur » 16 Nov 2015, 16:05

Heber13 wrote:Check out the talk "People to People" by David B Haight. Use quotes from that to show how some people don't find it working, and what changes their minds.
Thank you! I'm going to do that right now!
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." ~Rudyard Kipling ~

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mom3
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Re: A Thread For Talks and Lessons

Post by mom3 » 17 Nov 2015, 12:47

Katzpur - I second Heber13 thought. Also use other Uchtdorf talks about inclusion, not judging, etc. I also posted and LDS Living article yesterday, you could probably cheat and mention that you happened to read it at the same time you were prepping the lesson and use some quotes. Lastly Chieko Okazaki has some great quotes and pieces on inclusion. You can drop my FMH to get those lessons or face book Chieko Okazaki. Good luck.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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