Sacrament meeting talks – New Castle Ward

Susan and were asked to speak in Sacrament meeting today and I’ve copied them below. We were not assigned a topic. Susan decided to talk about eliminating fear from our lives, having a positive attitude, and being grateful for blessings. She recounted the story of the robin who cheered her up many years ago when she was going through a dark time in her life.

I chose to answer a question posed by Brother Gruber last week during Fast & Testimony meeting last week.

Susan’s Talk:

“As a man thinketh so is he”. 

Good morning, I would like to start out my talk with a quote from Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Did Dickens see our times? Perhaps! His words definitely expressed the polarization we are experiencing today. 

“Without a doubt he understood that “there is opposition in all things.”(2 Nephi 2:11)

2020/2021

has thrown us some mighty obstacles that have challenged us in many ways, but I think mostly, it has dampened our attitude of gratitude.

With all that is going on in the world today it is easy to be so distracted by the yucky stuff that we lose sight of the marvels around us, and we let fear and doubt rob us of the joy the Lord wants us to experience.

This quotation from Shakespeare’s play, “Measure for Measure” may open our eyes to the trouble that follows doubts, fears, and distrust: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

Courage comes from the heart, but fear is formed in our thoughts. 

A good friend of mine shared this quote with me: 

FEAR stands for 

  • False
  • Evidence
  • Appearing
  • Real

My favorite quote on this subject is from the movie, “After Earth” Where Will Smith is trying to help his son overcome his fears as he takes on a most dangerous challenge. And I quote:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future.

It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.

That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me, danger is real, but fear is a choice.”

And then we have Roosevelts 1933 inaugural address: 

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Of course he was referring to the Great Depression.

Recently, John found a documentary titled, “The Secret” . It was all about the power of positive thinking.  This documentary was a group effort of highly successful business men and women, philosophers, medical doctors, writers, thealogins, psychologists, and scientists in various fields of study who shared what they called “The Secret” of life. In a nutshell, the secret is the power of thought.  And the key to developing a positive mental attitude is through developing the attitude of gratitude. 

You gotta love it when science catches up with scripture.

Brothers and sisters, gratitude is a heavenly, spiritual gift and a spiritual force in our lives. May we have hearts that can feel, ears that can hear, and eyes that can see our blessings and live in continual gratitude toward God and those around us.(Ray Huntington, Oct 2, 2012)

Pres. Oaks, “The children of God have always been commanded to give thanks. There are examples throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Apostle Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thes. 5:18). The prophet Alma taught, “When thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God” (Alma 37:37). 

In Mosiah, the Lord instructed the people, “to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things” ( Mosiah 26: 38-39). We also see James, in the New Testament, counsel the saints, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into many afflictions; (James 1:2; JST)

As two magnets are drawn together, so it is with our thoughts. Negative thoughts will draw in negative result, positive will drawn positive results. It has been scientifically proven. So if you want a more positive existence learn to control your thoughts because our thoughts control our actions, as well as, the reactions of others. It’s as simple as that! 

I decided to put this to the test, so I started a gratitude journal. On the first page I wrote out the YW theme. Which I read each day before I write what I’m grateful for on that given day. The rules I set for myself are these:

No one word list allowed

Each gratitude must be written out in a full sentence.

The routine is simple: Every day I write 5 – 10 things I’m grateful for. Then I offer a prayer of thanks to the Lord for these things. The next morning I read what I wrote the night before, and again offer up another prayer of gratitude.

Because I’m being specific and writing in complete sentences it’s easy to look back and remember exactly why I was grateful for that particular person or thing. This really comes in handy on days when I’m having a hard time being grateful. Taking a few minutes to read what has already been written opens my heart and eyes to the tender mercies of the Lord, and voila! No more writer’s block! 

By doing this I’m not only, “rising in the morning and letting my heart be full of Thanksgiving, but my sleep and dreams are sweeter as well. 

I would like to share an experience that taught me how fear can rob us of our happiness, while the spirit of gratitude can bring us joy while in the midst of our trials.

I believe in guardian angels. I know this may sound foolish and perhaps even childish, as many place guardian angels in the same category as the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, and the Tooth Fairy. 

I believe that guardian angels come in many forms. Such as a stranger that stops to help someone change a flat tire, or a neighbor who notices a need and is quick in coming to the rescue.  While guardian angels are usually ordinary people following promptings from the Lord, my guardian angel really did have wings.

Many years ago, when I was a young mother with three little ones in tow. The Lord sent me a guardian angel that saved my life. At the time my life was falling apart around me. I was feeling like a failure in the most important areas of my life.

My youthful expectations of marriage, family, and lifestyle dreams had all been shattered by reality. My life was nowhere near what I had hoped it would be. I felt there was no way out of the dark tunnel I had wandered into. 

How could I face Mother’s Day with the feeling of failure weighing so heavily on me?  I could hear the children in the kitchen with my husband preparing breakfast for me. Breakfast in bed is a wonderful Mother’s Day tradition, which I highly recommend! I should have felt loved and joyful in hearing such happy sounds dancing up the staircase, but instead, my heart was heavy and so full of sorrow that it overflowed into uncontrollable tears that washed over my face and soaked the bedding. 

As I rehearsed in my mind all my options I felt even more trapped by my circumstances. Then an option I had not thought of before popped into my head. Was this the answer? Would ending my life be best for everyone concerned? How could I do this without emotionally harming the children? Ideas started to swarm as a cloud of darkness hid the brightness of the sun that was streaming through my open window. Somehow I uttered, “Oh God, please help me!” 

For several months I had felt that my prayers weren’t strong enough to penetrate the ceiling, but at that moment the brightness of the sun shone through the dark mist that was overtaking my heart and mind,….and I heard a tapping sound coming from my second story bedroom window?! I wiped the tears from my face. As my eyes focused, I was surprised to see a scrawny robin tapping its beak on the closed side of the window. 

It appeared that the winter had not been kind to him. He was a skinny little bird and his colorful feathers were dulled probably from malnutrition. On top of that he was missing feathers from one side of his chest. I imagined he had a close encounter with a hungry cat. All in all, he looked like life had taken its toll on him. I somehow related to his apparent struggles.

As I watched him, he hopped to the open side and peeked in, as if to say, hello! Then flew to the power line that extended across the back yard. He continued repeating this routine even after my noisy little brewed came bouncing on the bed with their version of breakfast. He was fearless and undeterred.

The distraction lightened my spirits and I was able to enjoy and appreciate my children and the effort my spouse had made on my behalf. It also drew the attention of my family, so they never noticed my swollen tear stained face. The darkness was replaced with light, love, and laughter. I knew my Father in Heaven had heard my plea for help. I felt His loving embrace and knew I was not alone. 

Until we moved three months later, my little friend visited me on a daily basis with a good morning tap on my bedroom window. If I didn’t acknowledge him, he would tap on the living room window until I would say, “good morning”. It was as if his mission was to start my day out with a smile and to remind me that the Lord was mindful of me.  

This little bird didn’t resolve the issues that weighed so heavy on my heart, and I  still had no idea how to resolve them. He just let me know that the Lord heard me. This knowledge brought me hope that I would be led to the answers I needed. Gratitude replaced the fear and anguish I felt that day.

Through the Lord’s tender mercy he intervened on my behalf by sending me a guardian angel in the form of a scrawny brave little robin, who bore the scars of unseen dangers and survived life’s perils. (Mother’s Day 1987)

This experience taught me many lessons. One being, Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Don’t allow fear in! Fear is a very unwelcome guest who always overstays its visit!

Next, I learned that gratitude turns on the light for hope to take hold, and together they have the power to rejuvenate our spirit, enabling us to move forward, to continue to learn, grow, and succeed. Just as Spring brings the rejuvenating power that awakens all nature and encourages new life to come forth. So does the knowledge that God knows each of us and loves us individually, and knows how to sucker us.

Would I have learned that if my life had been perfect?

I don’t think so. Yes, afflictions teach us things we can’t learn in any other way.  I am so grateful for my affection because they draw me closer to my Savior and my Father in Heaven, and through them I have been taught and edified.  

Joseph B. Wirthlin stated: “By living with a spirit of thanksgiving we will become happier. Opening our eyes to the beauty around us will help foster gratitude in our lives.” 

I have experimented with Alma’s counsel to rise in the morning and let your heart be full of thanks unto God, and found it to be sound counsel. I promise you that this simple routine of counting your blessings and showing gratitude to the Lord for them will indeed make your life joyous! 

In the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and our Redeemer. Amen 

My Talk:

Last week, Bro. Gruber posed an interesting question when he bore his testimony: “Do you want to live because you love life or because you fear death?”

He told us that he didn’t have a ready answer to the question, and that he needed to ponder it further. I wonder if he’s had any additional insight in the meantime.

Sister Peacock got up after him and partially answered the question by stating that she did not fear death because of her faith.

Throughout the meeting, I pondered the question as well, and if time had allowed (and I’d been a little more bold), I would have gotten up to offer my 2 cents on the subject.

On the way home, my wife and I discussed the question as well. She told me that she doesn’t fear death, but she does fear dying. She’s okay with the end result. She just doesn’t want to go through the process! I think we can all relate. 

For me, the question was not an easy one to answer. It wasn’t until I started writing my thoughts down in preparation for this talk today that I finally felt I had some real insight as to how to answer the question.

Frankly, in the end I came to the conclusion that it’s a trick question. I’ll explain in a bit, but first I want to share my reasoning. 

So, in case you’re not sure, the question is: “Do you want to live because you love life or because you fear death?”

On the surface, it’s a simple question. You’re given two choices and you simply have to pick one or the other. In reality, however, it’s not that easy, and I believe it’s because there aren’t enough choices.

Given the choice of loving life or fearing death, I think most people would feel that they have to choose loving life, but, if you’re like me, you won’t feel quite right with that choice because you can’t honestly say you love life all the time. In fact, life can be pretty miserable at times.

While we do occasionally hear someone say “I love my life”, it’s the rare person who feels that way all the time. In fact, I don’t know anyone like that. 

So, we might ask how important is it that we love life? Surely we shouldn’t hate our life, but how important is it that we love our life?

We’re not commanded to love life. The Lord does commanded us to love somethings things – namely to love him and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-39), but nowhere does he command us to love our life.

The thought came to my mind that maybe we should define the word “life”. Are we talking only about our earth life? What about the life beyond?

If the question became “Do you love eternal life?” Now it becomes much easier to answer. Of course we love that!

That would be an improvement to the question, but I think we can do even better.

Instead of asking “Do you want to live because you love life or fear death, what if you shortened the question to simply “Why do you want to live?”.

In some ways this question is easier to answer, but still takes some thought.

Perhaps even better questions are “Why are you here?” and “What is your purpose for being here?”

These, of course, are life’s fundamental questions. Let’s think about those questions for a moment.

Some might answer that we’re here completely by chance, or by accident, and have no purpose. 

Others believe that a higher intelligence is in control, but still aren’t sure what our purpose is, if any.

Of course, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, know that we are part of a grand plan, and have a pretty good understanding of how to answer those questions. 

In the Book of Mormon the prophet Jacob teaches us, “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). 

That sounds fantastic! We’re here to have joy! 

Unfortunately it’s not quite that simple.

The Prophet Jacob also taught that “there is an opposition in all things.” (2 Nephi 2:11). So how does opposition fit in with the joy thing? It basically means that along with joy, there’s also sadness.  Some things will bring us joy, while other things will bring us sorrow. Life is a mixture of both joy and sadness, happiness and suffering. It’s a complex mixture of good and bad.

So we just have to figure out how to avoid those bad experiences so we can enjoy only good ones. Right? 

That’s not so simple either. While we definitely can take steps to avoid bad experiences by making wise choices, it’s impossible to entirely eliminate pain and suffering from our lives.

Even God himself can be sad at times because of what His children do. We read in Moses 7:28, “And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept;”.

So, we can’t completely avoid sadness. In fact, it turns out that sadness is actually a good thing!

During the winter of 1838-1839, things were falling apart for the saints in Missouri. They were truly living in a state of misery in the State of Missouri (pun intended). Mobs were attacking them and threatening their utter destruction if they didn’t leave the state. At the same time, Joseph Smith and a few leaders of the church were arrested and left to languish in the cold and dark Liberty Jail where they were given little food and forced to sleep on the cold stone floor of the jail. In the midst of this dark time, the Lord reminded Joseph that, despite how bad things were, they weren’t as bad as they could be! Then he added these comforting words: “all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.’ 

This was a very important truth – one that we have to be reminded of over and over. All of our experiences — both good and bad — are for our good. We can’t really understand how this can be, but it’s a comforting thought.

The bottom line is: there’s no such thing as a bad experience!

Does that mean we should seek out bad experiences? Definitely not! The Lord still expects us to use our intelligence and free agency to choose wisely. But it also means that we shouldn’t despair when bad things do happen to us because there is always something to be gained from them. We may not fully understand why bad things happen, but we’re given the assurance that there is always a wise purpose known to God.

Joseph Smith failed many, many times. He faced tremendous opposition. He endured untold suffering, and finally even gave his life for the cause he believed in. 

How do you think he would have said “I love life”, given all the suffering he endured? 

Let’s think about the Savior himself for a moment. He endured unimaginable suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Golgotha and gave his life as well. Would he, the most perfect being that ever walked the earth, say that he loved life?

I believe that both Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith would instead say something like this “I have little regard for my life. I love my Heavenly Father above all else, and only wish to do his will.”. 

So, the reason I think that was a trick question, Bro. Gruber, is because there aren’t enough choices. The best answer to the question is not that “we love life, but that we love God, and want to do his will”.

If you included that option, I believe that everyone here would have no trouble answering the question.

_______________

Now, let’s move on and talk about a couple more questions about life that I’d like you to ponder. 

Do you feel peace?

Do you feel gratitude?

Do you have a vision for your life? Do you see your grand potential?

In the Book of John, we’re taught that the Lord gives us peace. In the Doctrine & Covenants, we’re told that we should be thankful for “all things”. In the Book of Proverbs, we’re told that we need to have a vision for our lives. 

(“My Peace I Give unto You. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” John 14:27. “He who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious” Doctrine and Covenants 78:19. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” Proverbs 29:18 “As [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7)

Each of these subjects could be the subject of another talk. My wife touched upon the importance of gratitude in her talk.They are things that help us to have a healthy positive attitude.

Another question: Do you sometimes get bogged down with negative thoughts?

My wife has talked about that, but I would like my thoughts. I have been guilty of this myself. At various times I’ve felt sorry for myself because of things I’ve been through – divorce, business failure, bankruptcy, loss of my home, rejection by family members.

Everyone here has their own list. Maybe you’ve suffered abuse, poverty, neglect, injury, severe health challenges. The list can go on and on.

Yes there is much suffering and wickedness in the world. Many people believe that things are worse now than at any other time in the history of the world. 

But, just like the Lord told Joseph Smith, things are not nearly as bad as they could be. There’s a lot of good in the world if you will but open your eyes.

If you truly take time to ponder, you’ll realize that the list of negative things in your life is always much shorter than the list of positive things. You just have to open your eyes and look.

In addition, if you can accept, and truly embrace the fact that even the negative things in your life are for your good, you will really begin to see your divine potential.

If you focus on positive thoughts, good things will come to you.

On the other hand, if you wallow in negativity, you will only attract more problems.

I have seen this firsthand.

(Story of Jennifer Randall)

_________________

Let’s talk for a moment about our blessings. A popular hymn is “Count your many blessings”. Have you ever actually counted your blessings as the hymn suggests?  While preparing for a talk a few years ago, I decided to take up the challenge and make an actual list.  When I got to about 150, I realized that the list could go on and on forever.

Just to give you a sampling, here are some of the blessings I enjoy every morning. As I wake up, I can feel gratitude for my eternal companion, and for a warm, comfortable bed with clean sheets and pillows.  I can be also grateful for a good night’s rest, for alarm clocks, and for snooze buttons!  I can be grateful for the ability to wake up, get out of bed, and walk to the bathroom. I can be grateful for the opportunity to make a fresh start every day.

When I look out the window, I can feel gratitude for my eyes that allow me to see and enjoy the sunshine, and for windows that allow me to look through walls.  I can be grateful for a roof over my head – for the protection from wind and rain. As I went into the bathroom, I can be grateful for indoor plumbing – and for indoor toilets and showers.

As I dress, I can be grateful for clothing, for toothbrushes, and mirrors.

I can feel gratitude for the Sabbath – for this day of rest from our normal labors.  I can be grateful that we are only 25 minutes away from church.  I can feel gratitude for computers, spell-check, the Internet, Google Drive, and my smartphone because I needed them to prepare and deliver my talk.

As we drive to church, I can be grateful for automobiles, for my ability to own and drive it, and for roads to drive on. I can be grateful for oxygen that helps keep us alive, for birds and plants that beautify our surroundings, 

As we enter the chapel, I can be grateful for a nice building to meet in, for my membership in the church, for friendly ward members and beautiful music.  I can feel gratitude for all the people that serve here in our ward.  

As I stand here, I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to impart some of the things I’ve learned as I’ve prepared for this talk.  I’m also grateful that I won’t have to do this again next week!

I could go on and on, of course. It’s really impossible to count our many blessings. My list is different than your list. There’s no point in being jealous. I have some things you don’t. You have some things I don’t. It doesn’t matter what we have. Our attitude is what matters.

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