November Relief Society Lesson – Spiritual and Temporal Self Reliance
Show video “They that are wise”.
When I was younger and had much yet to learn, I thought of the story of the 10 virgins as a story of meanness and selfishness. It came across to me as, we've got ours, you go get yours, of not sharing and not helping, and how could those who wanted to be with the bridegroom so badly just be turned away like that? And he says you know me not?
Now in Mr. Dalleys class I got pretty good grades in interpreting poems but I did and still tend to take things too literally. This story is a parable, and in the Bible dictionary it begins to define parables this way:
Most teachers, especially those in the Middle East, have used some form of parable in their instruction, but none so exclusively as Jesus at one period of His ministry. During part of the Galilean ministry the record states that “without a parable spake he not unto them” (Mark 4:34). From our Lord’s words (Matt. 13:13–15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10) we learn the reason for this method. It was to veil the meaning. The parable conveys to the hearer religious truth exactly in proportion to his faith and intelligence; to the dull and uninspired it is a mere story, “seeing they see not,” while to the instructed and spiritual it reveals the mysteries or secrets of the kingdom of heaven. Thus it is that the parable exhibits the condition of all true knowledge. Only he who seeks finds.
I was obviously dull and uninspired, probably still am in a lot of ways, but once again we come to understand that we are taught line upon line according to our own preparedness, study and desire to learn.
So now I have come to understand the parable of the 10 virgins like this: I cannot give you my testimony, my scripture reading, my repentance, my study and desire to know. I cannot give you what you must earn for yourself. As much as I would like to make sure all of my family returns safely home, I cannot make their choices for them nor give them of my oil. It also cannot be taken from me, we can lose it or throw it away, but it cannot be taken from us. And when the Lord responds that he knows us not, I believe that is because we do not know him. We have not learned of him, studied him, followed him and tried to be like him, so how could we possibly hope to know him when we see him?
So lets talk about being spiritually prepared.
We will start with Elder Jorg Klebingat of the seventy, he gave a talk titled Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence.
This one will pierce your heart! But stay with me and we will apply a healing balm as we go along.
So, on a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your spiritual confidence before God?
Do you have a personal witness that your current offering as a Latter-day Saint is sufficient to inherit eternal life?
Can you say within yourself that Heavenly Father is pleased with you?
What thoughts come to mind if you had a personal interview with your Savior one minute from now?
Would sins, regrets, and shortcomings dominate your self-image, or would you simply experience joyful anticipation?
Would you meet or avoid His gaze?
Would you linger by the door or confidently walk up to Him?
When I read those questions I found myself sinking lower and lower in my chair. When I read them to my return missionary daughter she remembered the talk and how those questions had instantly made her feel unworthy of even being on the earth. These are tough questions!
So let me read some of his talk for a little comfort and insight
Whenever the adversary cannot persuade imperfect yet striving Saints such as you to abandon your belief in a personal and loving God, he employs a vicious campaign to put as much distance as possible between you and God. The adversary knows that faith in Christ, the kind of faith that produces a steady stream of tender mercies and even mighty miracles, goes hand in hand with a personal confidence that you are striving to choose the right. For that reason he will seek access to your heart to tell you lies, lies that Heavenly Father is disappointed in you, that the Atonement is beyond your reach, that there is no point in even trying, that everyone else is better than you, that you are unworthy, and a thousand variations of that same evil theme.
As long as you allow these voices to chisel away at your soul, you can't approach the throne of God with real confidence. Whatever you do, whatever you pray for, whatever hopes for a miracle you may have, there will always be just enough self doubt chipping away at your faith, not only your faith in God but also your confidence in yourself. Living the gospel in this manner is no fun, nor is it very healthy. Above all, it is completely unnecessary! The decision to change is yours and yours alone.
Some time ago Sister Humes told me that she had learned that any time you were beating yourself up or having self destructive thoughts it was always good to step back and remember that those thoughts and feelings come from Satan. Our Father loves us, yes he wants us to be obedient and learn and grow and sometimes we need reminders. But he uses positives ways to encourage change in us and gives us opportunities to learn. He's not going to tell us that we are no good, not worth anything, never will achieve our goals, he will comfort, help and guide us. As humans, especially women we tend to beat up on ourselves a lot, to quote President Uctdorf, STOP IT! That is not God's way
So he makes these suggestions on how we can make changes in our lives in positive ways
Take responsibility for your own spiritual well being. Stop blaming others or your circumstances, stop justifying and stop making excuses
Take responsibility for your own physical well being. Feeding the spirit while neglecting the body, which is a temple, usually leads to spiritual dissonance and lowered self esteem. I think most of us get the struggle there, but maybe if we think of it in a more spiritual way we can do something about it
Embrace voluntary, wholehearted obedience as part of your life. Acknowledge that you cannot love God without also loving his commandments
Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly. Apply the Atonement generously
Become really, really good at forgiving. Don't hold grudges, don't be easily offended, forgive quickly
Accept trials, setbacks and surprises as part of your mortal experience. Remember that you are here to be tried and tested, to see if you will do all things the Lord commands you.
He says when trials come the adversary's minions begin broadcasting that you did something wrong, that this is a punishment, a sign that
Heavenly Father does not love you. Ignore That! Instead, try to force a smile, gaze heavenward, and say, I understand Lord. I know what time it is. A time to prove myself, isn't it? Then partner with him to learn and endure it well.
We need to acknowledge and face our weaknesses but not become immobilized by them. Learning helps us to become prepared and fills our lamps with oil.
What motivates us to make change?
Our motives and our thoughts influence our actions, so we need to watch our thoughts and find righteous motivation.
President Uctdorf tells of being a boy in Germany and then after WWII his family ended up in Russian occupied territory in East Germany. In the 4th grade he had to learn Russian and it was very hard for him, but he got along all right. Then at age 11 they moved to West Germany which was occupied by America and he had to learn English. He says that Russian was difficult but English was impossible! He became convinced that his mouth was not made for English. His teachers struggled, his parents suffered, but he simply could not do it.
Almost daily he rode his bike to the airport and watched airplanes take off and land. He read and studied everything he could get his hands on about becoming a pilot, he felt deep in his heart that this was his calling. Then he learned that to become a pilot he had to learn to speak English! Over night to the surprise of everyone it appeared that his mouth had changed and he became able to learn English. He had found his righteous motivation!
Having a testimony of Jesus Christ and his Atonement can motivate us to make needed changes.
Marion G Romney teaches us that
For members of the church the term testimony is a warm and familiar word in our religious expressions. It is tender and sweet. It has always a certain sacredness about it. When we talk about testimony, we refer to feelings of our heart and mind rather than an accumulation of logical, sterile facts. It is a gift of the spirit, a witness from the Holy Ghost that certain concepts are true.
A testimony is the sure knowledge or assurance from the Holy Ghost of the truth and divinity of the Lord's work in these latter days. A testimony is the abiding, living and moving conviction of the truths revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
A testimony is a very personal thing, we all come to it in different ways. Some have powerful witnesses and the burning in the bosom, some have quiet tender feelings, some can't remember not having one even from their youth, some have to puzzle it out one concept at a time. But all testimonies should include some simple truths, which are:
God Lives! He is our loving Father in Heaven, and we are his children
Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and the Savior of the world
Joseph Smith is the prophet of God through whom the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the latter days
The Book of Mormon is the word of God
President Thomas S Monson, his counselors and the members of the quorum of the twelve apostles are the prophets, seers, and revelators in our day.
We all know it's easier to talk about a testimony than to gain one, here we apply the law of the harvest, for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Nothing comes without work and sacrifice and the harder we work at something the more we love it and the stronger it becomes.
I cannot give you my testimony, so where do we start to gain oil for our lamps, for ourselves?
Desire to believe – we have been invited to experiment upon his words, even if we have only a desire to believe we will receive divine help in our quest
Search the scriptures – Take your questions, study the answers. A seed will be planted in your heart and the more you study the more it will grow
Keep the Commandments – if we are to come unto Christ we must learn to love being obedient
Ponder, Fast and Pray – To receive knowledge from the Holy Ghost we have to ask for it. Study it out, pray sincerely, fast, ask if the things you are learning are true. We have been promised answers
A testimony provides a solid foundation for all other choices, it gives us the foundation to build a life of purpose and growth. It is a constant source of confidence, it provides us with reason for hope, optimism and happiness. A testimony motivates us to choose the right at all times and in all circumstances, it is a personal protective shield and an iron rod.
A testimony is spiritual preparation!
Now lets talk a little about temporal preparation.
We have been taught numerous things about food storage and we have great people to help us with that so we're not going there today. I want to talk about debt and tithing
In the book, true to the faith – which we have copies of for you today, please take them!
It says this of debt
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord once told a group of Saints, It is my will that you shall pay all your debts. Since the early days of the church, the Lord's prophets have warned us repeatedly to avoid the bondage of debt.
One of the great dangers of debt is the interest that accompanies it. Some forms of credit, such as credit cards, have particularly high interest rates. Once you are in debt, you find that interest has no mercy. It continues to accumulate, regardless of your situation, whether you are employed or jobless, healthy or sick. It never goes away until the debt is paid. Do not be deceived by credit offers, even if they make debt seem attractive by promising low interest rates or no interest for a certain period of time.
Look to the condition of your finances. Discipline yourself in your purchases, avoiding debt to the extent you can. In most cases, you can avoid debt by managing your resources wisely. If you do incur debt, such as a reasonable amount in order to purchase a modest home or complete your education, work to repay it as quickly as possible and free yourself from bondage. When you have paid your debts and accumulated some savings, you will be prepared for financial storms that may come your way. You will have shelter for your family and peace in your hearts.
We all know what our circumstances are, we need to listen to the prophets counsel and do our very best. Remember that honesty is an absolute must! Do not fall into the trap of debt and then blaming others or believing that if you default on debt it hurts no one. Be honest with yourself and with God and do your best.
The very first principle in good money management is and always should be paying a full tithe.
I have been a full tithe payer and I have not been a full tithe payer and I can tell you that it makes a difference!
The first thing you come to learn is that tithing is not about money, it's about faith and gratitude. Before you even look at what bills are due this payday, pay your tithing. Now we can do it online, don't even have to write a check! But doing it first takes any question out of the equation, it shows your Father in Heaven that you desire to be obedient, it shows him that you are grateful for all that he has provided for you and it shows him that you trust him to take care of your needs.
We had an old washing machine, after about 5 years it needed a $125 part just about every year to keep it running, always the same part. We could afford that part more than a new machine so we repaired it for years and years. Then Adam lost his job and one of the tender mercies we received for the next 12 years was the machine never once required that new part again. I call that a tithing blessing.
I gave that washer to my daughter in January, told her to be faithful in paying her tithing and it would last her until she could do better.
We have sent out 3 missionaries, and had 4 weddings on an extremely tight budget, it always worked, there was always enough. We haven't gone hungry even when the checkbook said we should have, we have never been rich, but we have been richly blessed. Tithing isn't about money.
In the book, For Strength of Youth is says
Choosing to live the law of tithing will be a great blessing throughout your life. A tithe is one-tenth of your income. In order to enter the temple, you must be a full-tithe payer.
Paying tithing is a sacred privilege. When you pay tithing, you show gratitude for all that God has given you and return to Him a portion of what you have received. Tithing is used to build temples and meetinghouses, translate and publish the scriptures, do missionary and family history work, and in other ways to build God's kingdom on earth.
There was a thing that popped up on facebook the other day that said the church does more with 10% than the government does with 50% and it's true, but it's also because it's God's work that's being done and has nothing to do with the greed and cunning of man.
If you need help to learn to be better financial managers so that you are not in bondage I would encourage you to pick up these pamphlets we have here, they are very useful. You can also find it all and even more at lds.org/familyfinances. There are some great tools there to get you on track, to help you meet your goals and to teach your children so that they can learn early and never be in bondage!
Sisters, I have a firm testimony of tithing, I know the Book of Mormon to be the word of God and I am grateful to have a prophet here on earth to guide us safely home. I know that being spiritually prepared may be even more important than being temporally prepared, but I know the Lord will help us to be prepared in all things if we desire it, learn it and then do all we can to live it.