Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Drawing on the Powers of Heaven in our Homes ~ talk given May 2015

On Sunday, my husband and I spoke in our ward's sacrament meeting.  In our Church, we have no paid clergy and regular members take turns speaking on gospel topics each week as part of our first meeting.  It's been a few years since I've had the chance to talk, but I was grateful to share my thoughts.  

I had my talk outlined, I tried to write out the words I said as I remember them.  

Drawing on the Powers of Heaven in Our Homes

My plan went well at first.  I loved being a mother and I had a perfect baby who smiled all the time.  People complimented me on her and asked me what my secret was.

Then after 18 months, the façade of peace was shattered.  I now had two children, not enough time or hands to do it all perfectly, and a toddler who liked to express her own views on life.  I remember talking to a friend when my kids were ages 2 and 6 months.  As I pulled one of them off the other, I said, “You know how King Benjamin said ‘Suffer not your children tofight and quarrel with one another?’  I didn’t realize before now that THAT’S MY WHOLE JOB as a mother.”  At that time, I felt like all I did all day was keep my kids from killing one another.

I began to realize that I needed HELP – a lot of it.  My humility and desire for God’s help and wisdom has only increased as the years have passed and more children joined our family.  Sometimes I wish for the easier days when all I had to do in the day was keep my kids from killing each other.  We now have nine children, and new challenges throw themselves at us all the time.

For instance, in July, we’ll be welcoming a little boy into our home for the first time in 13 years.  After six girls in a row, I’m not sure I remember life back in the Buzz Lightyear, lightsaber, buddy days.  My poor son might have to suffer a few months of being called “princess” and “sweetheart” before I adjust. 

We’ve all heard the quote that says, “Before I got married, I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children, and no theories.”  I feel a bit like that, except for one thing. 
I still have one theory left, and it goes something like this:   “The prophets know what they are talking about, and we can count on the promises of God in our lives.”

Today, I want to talk about how to draw down the powers of heaven into our homes and our lives.  Whatever our challenges and our family circumstances – married or single, too many or too few children, healthy or ill, stressed out or lonely, we need God’s help in creating peace in our homes that can sustain us in a troubled world.  I’ll be talking today about applying these principles in my life with my family, but I know that these can be applied in any circumstances.

In D&C 82: 10, it says, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

A few weeks ago, I passed out a handout in Relief Society about some of the promises the prophets have given us in association with studying the scriptures, compiled by Elder Scott.  (I then read a few of the promises given on the handout, which is below*)

Which one among us does not need more peace, more unity, more love, and more revelation in their lives?  We can count on these promises as we make the changes we need to make these things habits in our lives.

I’ll be taking a lot of my talk from Elder Scott’s Address last October about four tools to help us come unto Christ.  He says: “When these tools become fundamental habits, they provide the easiest way to find peace in the challenges of mortality.”

So what are “Fundamental Habits?”  What are some of the fundamental habits in your life?  Most of us go through routines without even thinking about why or how we’re doing them.  We brush our teeth, shower, dress, and go through a routine for our lives.  We may have the same things for breakfast every day or do the same thing for our lunchtime routine.  For some of us younger folks, the first thing we might do in the morning is pull out our phones to check our email and social media.

Do we have to think about whether or not we’ll brush our teeth every day?  Do we give much thought to whether or not we’ll remember to check our email?  These are fundamental habits. 

My hope is that we can turn the tools that the prophets have given us to bless our lives and our families into the same kinds of fundamental habits – so ingrained that we’ll feel weird if it doesn’t happen.
The four tools that Elder Scott focuses on in his talk are  Prayer,  Scripture Study,    Family Home Evening, and Temple Attendance.  I will take some time to talk about each one [because of time I didn’t get to say much about temple attendance].

1.       Prayer
·         Personal Prayer.  From Elder Scott:  “The first tool is prayer. Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.”
We need to be sharing with God our real experiences and feelings.  We might hold back from sharing some of our negative thoughts with him, but we need to change this.  I know I’ve felt a lot of strength from being able to say in my prayers, “Heavenly Father, I’m really mad right now.  I’m frustrated and I don’t feel like being kind.  Please help me.”  OR “I’m really tired right now and I don’t want to do anything.  Help me to find the motivation to get working.”  When we are honest and heartfelt in our prayers, God will answer and hear us.
·         Family Prayer.  From Elder Scott: “Parents, help safeguard your children by arming them morning and night with the power of family prayer. Children are bombarded every day with the evils of lust, greed, pride, and a host of other sinful behaviors. Protect your children from daily worldly influences by fortifying them with the powerful blessings that result from family prayer. Family prayer should be a nonnegotiable priority in your daily life.”

2.       Scripture Study   Elder Scott said, “The second tool is to study the word of God in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets. We talk to God through prayer. He most often communicates back to us through His written word. To know what the voice of the Divine sounds and feels like, read His words, study the scriptures, and ponder them.“

I love that we can learn to discern and hear the voice of the Divine through our daily scripture study.  In a world with lots of confusing and powerful voices and vices, we need to teach our children to know how to recognize and understand what God’s voice feels like in their lives.

A friend of mine recently wrote: “my end goal as a parent is to help each one of my children become independently dependent on the Holy Ghost. I want them to depend on the Spirit in every decision they make, the small things and the big ones.  I honestly could die happy tomorrow if I knew that my children could recognize the Spirit in their lives and would strive to have it with them always. Why?  Because circumstances vary and life throws curve-balls to us all. Because we will each make mistakes and sometimes outright stupid decisions. Because the way is unchanging and we can ALWAYS come back to it at any point.  Only when we learn to depend on the influence of the Holy Ghost to guide us will we truly be successful in life, will be truly be driven of our own accord to follow the prophets, will we truly be happy.“

I love that concept of being independently dependent on the Holy Ghost.  How do we teach that to our children?  By giving them opportunities daily to feel the Spirit and experience the voice of God through our scripture study.  It doesn’t have to be intense, long, or Pinterest-worthy.  It just has to be regular and consistent.

Elder Scott said, “Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”

As a mother, I don’t know if I think anything is as important as sleep!  But I’ll take Elder Scott’s words as true.  We need to not let other things crowd out our daily scripture study.  It may take some time and effort to make this a habit.  There are lots of ways you could do it.  Perhaps you set an alarm on your phone to go off every day to remind you.  Or maybe you set a goal that you will not allow yourself to check email or social media until you have read from the scriptures.  Whatever you need to do, do it.  Make the changes you need to.

Elder Scott promises, “As you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit. It will radiate out from you to influence others in the world around you. You will be doing something very significant to add to the cumulative peace in the world.”

3.       Family Home Evening
Elder Scott says the third tool is Family Home Evening.  “While you are working to strengthen your family and cultivate peace, remember this third tool: weekly family home evening. Be cautious not to make your family home evening just an afterthought of a busy day. Decide that on Monday night your family will be together at home for the evening. Do not let employment demands, sports, extracurricular activities, homework, or anything else become more important than that time you spend together at home with your family.”

We’ve all heard the talk from Elder Bednar about how important the small and simple things are in teaching our family.  He talks about the painting of a wheat field on his wall.  From a distance, the painting is gorgeous, but up close, it is simply many seemingly unrelated strokes of paint. 

Elder Bednar says, “Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes.”

I thought it might be helpful to share what some of our “strokes of paint” have been in regards to family home evening.  As I share, I hope you recognize that not all of our experiences have been powerful or amazing.  But the consistency over time adds up.

Four years ago, I wrote a guest blog aboutwhat Family Home Evening looked like in our home at that time, when we had eight kids ages 11 and under.  I wrote then about some of our more meaningful experiences:

What our family looked like back then
Here are a few of our memorable family home evenings:
o    We once taught a lesson on gratitude by cutting out pictures from National Geographic to show how people live in other parts of the world. We’d seen some entitlement attitudes creep into our family and we were able to teach “where much is given, much is required,” as well as humility.
o    At the start of each school year, my husband gives me and each child a blessing. It is always a powerful experience to hear directly from Heavenly Father through those priesthood blessings.
o    My daughter taught about the Word of Wisdom once by having three baskets, labeled “always,” “sometimes,” and “never.” She had all sorts of pictures she’d cut out from magazines or printed from the computer and had each child put their picture in the correct box.
o    Five years ago, we had a family home evening where we had the children, all under age six, share with us what they wanted in our next home. My husband and I added our own desires, and we began praying as a family that we’d find the home with those things.
o    Four years ago, we moved into our completed home and had a special prayer of dedication, blessing it to be a place of peace and refuge and safety for the children we had then and the children who would still join our family.

So those are some of our more meaningful experiences.  I also write a weekly email describing what goes on in our lives.  Here are some of the more ordinary, regular experiences we had that year:

·         On Monday, for our FHE lesson, we talked about the pre-earth life and what it might have been like there. I shared with the children how special it was for them to come to our family, and how exciting it will be when our baby is born and we get to know her again. Then we talked about each child in our family and everyone shared what they liked about them. It was wonderful to hear good things about each child and the children thrived on the positive attention from their siblings. When we tried to move from Sarah to Eliza, she protested, "Hey, you need to say more about me!" It also helped me to see my children more clearly and with more compassion.
·         [My husband] gave the lecture -- I mean, lesson -- last week on obedience. It was needed.
·         Lillian was in charge of the Family Home Evening lesson two weeks ago. She’s been wanting to address lying and stealing (especially from HER room!) for some time, and she did a great job of it. She had set up areas of the room labeled with “Sister’s Room” “Dad’s Office” and “Kitchen.” Then she and Joey acted out a skit about a boy who keeps taking things from each room and then lying about it. She had Joey carry a backpack and each time he lied about something, she put a rock in it. She said that lying makes life harder. She read a couple of short stories from the Friendmagazine and then we talked about what the boy in the skit could have done better.
·         Last week, we had a particularly tough sacrament meeting. The kids were all loud and had to be shushed and our zone defense was breaking down. Even Lillian was talking loudly to Eliza several times. It didn't help that Sarah lost her front tooth, one she's been wiggling for several weeks, right during the sacrament prayer. She had amazing patience and waited to show me until after the prayer, but that was all she could think about the rest of the meeting. She wanted to show her new smile to everyone around us, drew pictures of the "tooth bunny" and was very excited. The lesson on Monday was about reverence and the purpose of going to sacrament meeting -- to remember the Savior. I summarized the story out of the recent Ensign about the family who had memorized the Living Christ document, but that was about as far as we got because, ironically, no one was being reverent at Family Home Evening either. We sent the kids to bed early, without treats.

Our Family Home Evenings weren’t always wonderful or amazing, but I know that Heavenly Father blessed us.  I wrote back then:  “when we put the Lord first by making Family Home Evening a priority, we give Him a place in our home to work miracles, to have those moments where we KNOW our children are understanding us and places where the Spirit can dwell and perhaps become a permanent visitor. My husband had to work a lot of Monday nights a few years ago and sometimes, by the time Monday evening rolled around, the kids were cranky and tired and so was I. I wanted nothing more than to pull an “old woman in the shoe” and just send them all to bed, but I made it a point to have Family Home Evening even when my husband couldn’t be there. I was always impressed by the change in our home. I could be at my absolute wit’s end with no energy left, but as we sat down and I taught a simple lesson, the Spirit would be there. Some of those Family Home Evenings became very powerful spiritual experiences, and I could feel the Lord honoring my meager efforts. Just as Jesus could take five loaves and a few fishes and feed a multitude, He can take our noisy, busy Family Home Evenings and feed our children the Living Bread they will need for the rest of their lives.” (These quotes and experiences above are from this guest blog post) 

Elder Scott promises us, “These four tools are fundamental habits for securing your life in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Remember our Savior is the Prince of Peace. Peace in this mortal life comes from His atoning sacrifice. When we are consistently praying morning and night, studying our scriptures daily, having weekly family home evening, and attending the temple regularly, we are actively responding to His invitation to “come unto Him.” The more we develop these habits, the more anxious is Satan to harm us but the less is his ability to do so. Through the use of these tools, we exercise our agency to accept the full gifts of His atoning sacrifice.”

I’m grateful for the blessings and help I receive in my life because of prayer, and scripture study.  I’m grateful for the crazy kids that I get to raise.  I know I need the help of heaven to do it well.  We can count on the promises God has given us.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

*  Handout in Relief Society, taken from a footnote to Elder Scott's talk here:
President Thomas S. Monson said: “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. When scripture study is combined with our prayers, we can of a certainty know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. … As we remember prayer and take time to turn to the scriptures, our lives will be infinitely more blessed and our burdens will be made lighter” (“We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 122).
President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign or Liahona, Aug. 2005, 6).
President Howard W. Hunter said: “Families are greatly blessed when wise fathers and mothers bring their children about them, read from the pages of the scriptural library together, and then discuss freely the beautiful stories and thoughts according to the understanding of all. Often youth and little ones have amazing insight into and appreciation for the basic literature of religion” (“Reading the Scriptures,” Ensign,Nov. 1979, 64).
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes. We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings. We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions. We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple. All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom. But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come. Testimonies will increase. Commitment will be strengthened. Families will be fortified. Personal revelation will flow” (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, 81).
President Spencer W. Kimball declared: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball [2006], 67).
President Marion G. Romney said: “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (“The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, 67).
President Boyd K. Packer said: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior” (“Do Not Fear,” Ensign or Liahona,May 2004, 79).
Elder David A. Bednar said: “Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results” (“More Diligent and Concerned at Home,” Ensign orLiahona, Nov. 2009, 19–20).


Jenny Evans said...

I love your thoughts on FHE. I take (a lot) of comfort in the fact that I think it was Elder Bednar who said in Conference a few years ago that it's not the content of lessons that the kids remember, it's that they happened regularly. That's what we're shooting for, anyway!

Liz Wheeler said...

Great talk! Thanks for sharing


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