Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Mormon "hello": miracles and heroes

As if it needed saying, we LDS (Mormons) have a culture with some unique characteristics. One such characteristic stems from our lack of paid clergy. Because weekly sermons (we call them "talks") are delivered by various men, women, and youth from the congregation at the request of the lay leadership, ANYONE can expect to be the speaker on a Sunday morning. It's often the case that recently arrived or departing members of the congregation are invited to speak as a way of getting introduced or saying goodbye. In our recent move from the Redmond Washington 3rd Ward, to the Holladay Utah, Valley view 24th Ward, Amy and I  were invited to speak at both ends of our move.  Because my symptoms increase with the effects of adrenaline, Amy agreed to deliver my talks if I would write them.  Amy did a great job and, I think, was a much prettier speaker than I am :-)


 Redmond 3rd Ward, Sacrament Meeting, May 4, 2014

I am grateful that  Amy is willing to read a few of my thoughts to you. If this works out I plan to outsource all future speaking and teaching opportunities :-)

As we have prepared to move, I have been struck by a recurring theme in the Book of Mormon: the central role of memory in one's faith.  My favorite example is found in 1 Nephi  7:12 as Nephi reminds his brothers when their faith is shaken.

10 How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?
 11 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?
 12 Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.
In the 6 years our family has lived here in Redmond, we have been given a lifetime of memories that we will rely on during future trials. These  miracles have come, most often, through you. Whether it be your service to our family after Ellie's bike accident, your fasting and prayers during my health project, your  mentoring of our children, your priesthood blessings, or your endless cleaning, packing, or repackaging of our house, we see these as miracles. Nephi continues:

13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain thealand of promise

This simple  passage reminded me that remembering the miracles I have seen in the past is critical for maintaining my faith when it is stretched thin in the future.
Because of the miracles we have seen, we have faith that we are making progress towards our own promised land, and the pain of our current trials is eased by this knowledge.

I leave with you my gratitude and my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I look forward to hearing of your progress and miracles.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


"The Priesthood Man"-sacrament talk
Seth Christensen, Sunday, June 15, 2014

Good afternoon brothers and sisters. I realize this method of speaking is not what any of us are used to, but I beg your pardon since of my body does not react well to the adrenaline of public speaking. I am grateful Amy is willing to read a few of my thoughts… Think of this as a pilot program in the Church, exploring the effect of allowing only pretty speakers to address us on a father's day :-).

In the Elder Eyring's recent Gen. conference talk "The Priesthood Man" he recognizes three characteristics of his priesthood heroes: a pattern of prayer; a habit of service; and a rock hard decision to be honest. I would like to share examples of these three attributes, as well as one other, in my scriptural heroes:

A pattern of prayer: Enos is my prayer hero. We all know how he, while hunting, knelt and prayed all day for a remission of his sins. We also know that he next sought blessings for his people, and then for his enemies. This man is not my hero because of his  "knee endurance" or because he included everyone in his prayer, but because of what he records AFTER his second prayer. We read in verse 11:

" 11 And AFTER I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord…

It wasn't until AFTER this man had received a remission of his sins, AND had heard the voice of the Lord on behalf of his brethren, that his faith began to be unshaken in the Lord. This means that he offered his first two prayers, some of the mightiest in all of Scripture, using faith not dissimilar to my own imperfect faith.  Because of his example, I too have hope to hear the voice of the Lord as I seek him in prayer. For this, Enos is my priesthood hero.

A habit of service: My service hero is Alma the younger. We all know how this man, the first chief judge of the Nephite nation, stepped down to dedicate himself to the spiritual needs of his people. We also know that his ministry was not a bed of roses--he suffered hunger, imprisonment, ridicule, and frustration. He saw, what he must of felt, was success and failure. Alma is not my hero because of his success or failure on a macro scale, but because, in the midst of his national spiritual campaign, he did not forget the individual. We read in Alma 15:18 that, after their work among the Ammoniha-ites, Alma recognized  and acted on a need in his junior companion:

18 Now as I said, Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him in the Lord.

I aspire to be the friend, brother, and servant that Alma was to his people and to Amulek. I aspire to never be so busy that I am unable to recognize the individual needs and suffering of those around me… And to never fail to do what I can to address those needs. For this, Alma is my priesthood hero.

A rock hard decision to be honest: Amulek is my hero for this attribute. We know that he was a well-known and successful man from a good family in Ammoniha. This is why his words to his people shocked them. In Alma 10, Amulek recognizes his place in his society, and then continues:

5 Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
 6 Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart, even until the fourth day of this seventh month, which is in the tenth year of the reign of the judges.

If these words had come from a man who was known to be dishonest, they would have meant nothing. But they came from Amulek, who, though spiritually unwilling to recognize God’s promptings, was respected in his society as an honest man. Because of his reputation, I can imagine the shock his words must have inspired because of the questions they would have stirred in the hearts of Amulek’s fellow citizens:  "why is Amulek doing this?" "I know he is honest, what explanation could there be?" And, "could I also have been wrong?"

I aspire to be like Amulek.… Honest in all things BOTH with myself and with others… willing to admit when I am wrong. For his example, Amulek is my priesthood of   hero.

I would like to add one attribute to Elder Eyring's list: a hunger for righteousness and knowledge. My priesthood hero for this attribute is Abraham. In Abraham 1:2 we read of Abraham's priesthood aspirations:

2 And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers.

I have a perfect knowledge of the "greater happiness and peace and rest" that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the ordinances of his priesthood. Because of this knowledge I am overwhelmed to relate with Abraham and his desire to follow righteousness and to possess a greater knowledge and to be a better father and priesthood holder. Because of this knowledge, I desire the same for all of my brothers and sisters.

For his perfection of desire, Abraham is my priesthood hero.

I give thanks this is day for all of my priesthood heroes, both scriptural and present. And say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.