Sunday, September 15, 2013

TFOT - The Hope of God's Light, Dieter F. Uchtdorf; Beautiful Mornings, Bruce D. Porter

The Hope of God's Light, Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Beautiful Mornings, Bruce D. Porter

*President Boyd K. Packer once spoke of his grandchildren and the increasingly troubled world in which they live. He said: “They will see many events transpire in the course of their lifetime. Some of these shall tax their courage and extend their faith. But if they seek prayerfully for help and guidance, they shall be given power over adverse things.”*It sounds so simple – seek prayerfully for help and guidance, and they will be given power over adverse things.  Yet with much pondering I have to ask – then why are we not a happier people?  Why are we struggling so much with faith and hard things?  Why aren’t we using this power (and where is it hiding?)

In his talk beautiful mornings, Elder Porter told the story of a roommate who was always optimistic. One day his friend was walking across campus early on a cold and snowy day. His friend spotted this roommate in the middle of this dreary morning spreading his arms out wide singing,  "oh what a beautiful morning!" Of that story Elder Porter said, "In the intervening years, that bright voice in a dark storm has become for me a symbol of what faith and hope are all about. Even in a darkening world, we as Latter-day Saints may sing with joy, knowing that the powers of heaven are with God’s Church and people."

Pres. Uchtdorf shares:
*I have a cherished painting in my office that is titled Entrance to Enlightenment. It was created by a friend of mine, the Danish artist Johan Benthin, who was the first stake president in Copenhagen, Denmark.The painting shows a dark room with an open door from which light is shining. It is interesting to me that the light coming through the door does not illuminate the entire room—only the space immediately in front of the door.To me, the darkness and light in this painting are a metaphor for life. It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. We might have lost a loved one; a child might have strayed; we might have received a troubling medical diagnosis; we might have employment challenges and be burdened by other everyday doubts or fears; or we might feel alone or unloved.

*Reader #1
Among the first recorded words of counsel that Jesus gave to His newly called disciples in Galilee was the two-word admonition, “Fear not” (Luke 5:10). He repeated that counsel many times during His ministry. To His Saints in our day, the Savior has said, “Be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you” (D&C 68:6).

Reader #2
There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.

Elder Porter felt inspired to remind us that the Church stands as a bulwark of safety for its members. Though conditions in the world may become very vexing at times, faithful Latter-day Saints will find sanctuary in the stakes of Zion.

What does this mean? 

Are we doing the work to help make our church a refuge from the world?

Part of this safety Elder Porter talks about comes from the perspective we gain by fully embracing the Gospel of Christ and actively implementing our daily routine using an eternal perspective of hope and light.  As we’ve discussed in previous lessons – faith is a verb, an action.  It is not an emotion, it is not a nice thought – it is an action based on our own personal revelation that allows us to believe that all things are possible.

President Uchtdorf said, "If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."  What a powerful statement. If you don't feel like rejoicing it is not because you don't have a reason rejoice. As an individual I can choose to see the storms or I can choose to find something to rejoice about. Some days i have to dig much deeper than others, but there is always a blessing to be found. I have discovered even in the midst of great trial there is always a reason to rejoice, you can always find the hand of God quietly leading you along if you stop, refocus, and look. It has made me realize that truly, every morning is a beautiful morning, even the scary ones, the hard ones, the confusing ones, and the dark ones.Nevertheless, light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ. 

Spiritual light cannot be discerned by carnal eyes. Jesus Christ Himself taught, “I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” For “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

So how do we open our eyes to the hope of God’s light?
Divide into three groups – one step for each group.  Answer the following:
1.       How do we complicate this process?
2.      How can we combat our own human-ness?

First, start where you are.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that we don’t have to be perfect to experience the blessings and gifts of our Heavenly Father? We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light.

The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you may think you are or how far behind others you may feel. The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul. The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night always gives way to dawn, the light will come.

Remember the message that President Holland shared - He says “The size of your faith or the degree of your knowledge is not the issue—it is the integrity you demonstrate toward the faith you do have and the truth you already know.”  God isn’t asking anyone to pretend they have a stronger faith than you do, just to be true to whatever faith you do have, and allow him to work through that to increase. 

Second, turn your heart toward the Lord.

Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice. Ask that your eyes may be opened, that you may see His light.

Until recently – I can say that I struggled to really put all my own feelings out there.  Having been raised in the church I knew he was always there in prayer, but I had been ashamed of my own feelings of inadequacy, that somehow the fact that I was angry with Him, or felt a loss when my own planning didn’t turn out to be His will prevented me from having a real connection to Him.  But what I recently came to KNOW was that He doesn’t want me to paint on the happy face and pretend…  he doesn’t WANT me to just endure to survive – He wants me as I am, however I am so that my heart an truly be open. 

Third, walk in the light.

Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes. He knows that you will stumble—perhaps many times. This saddens Him, but He loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.

To that end, He sent His Son to this earth to illuminate the way and show us how to safely cross the stumbling blocks placed in our path. He has given us the gospel, which teaches the way of the disciple. It teaches us the things we must know, do, and be to walk in His light, following in the footsteps of His Beloved Son, our Savior.

Every one of us, and our families, can be armed with the power of God as a defense if we will but remain true to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and let the Spirit be our guide. Trials may come, and we may not understand everything that happens to us or around us. But if we humbly, quietly trust in the Lord, He will give us strength and guidance in every challenge we face. When our only desire is to please Him, we will be blessed with a deep inner peace.

Yes, we will make mistakes.

Yes, we will falter.

But as we seek to increase our love for God and strive to love our neighbor, the light of the gospel will surround and uplift us. The darkness will surely fade, because it cannot exist in the presence of light. As we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. And day by day, the hope of God’s light will grow within us, “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”

To all who feel they walk in darkness, I invite you to rely on this certain promise spoken by the Savior of mankind: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

I invite each of you to open your heart to Him. Seek Him through study and prayer. Come to His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Learn of Him and of His gospel, participate actively, help each other, and joyfully serve our God.

We have heard this invitation so many times and I challenge you to accept it today. 

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