By: T.F. Stern | Self-Educated American
In the October 2019 General Conference Stephen W. Owen of the Young Men General Presidency gave a talk, Be Faithful, Not Faithless, which began with, “We must deliberately take time each day to disconnect from the world and connect with Heaven”. There are so many opportunities to be distracted from the basics which connect us with Heaven; too many to list and most of them we’d consider as time well spent were it not for them keeping us from reading our scriptures, studying the talks given by our church leaders and our time talking to Father in Heaven in personal prayer.
It boils down to priorities; now doesn’t it? How many of us wake up first thing in the morning, lean over to turn off the alarm on our cell phone and then click on the weather app to see what kind of clothing to put on; that is, instead of thanking our Father in Heaven for letting us wake up to begin with? Have we made it a habit to study our scriptures prior to turning on the news or is that one of next year’s resolutions?
Jeffery R. Holland pointed out, “We wouldn’t expect our physical bodies to survive long on one meal a week – even if it is a very good meal. Similarly, if a one-hour Church class, even an excellent Church class, is the main setting for our “feasting upon the word of Christ,” then we are in danger of spiritual malnourishment”.
Getting back to the talk by Elder Owen, he explained how he got sidetracked; checking his messages, email, news items, and social media posts prior to his original intention of reading his scriptures. He’d spent so much time on the unimportant items that he’d run out of time and left for work that day without being nourished spiritually.
The scriptures teach that we’re made in the image of God, that we’re children of our Father in Heaven. In the Temple, we hear the blessings promised each of us as we stay on the covenant path. We begin to understand more and more that the Lord has his hand in our lives and desires our successful return while we travel through mortality.
Are we reaching up to Heaven daily and do our actions match our beliefs? That’s the key to appreciating all that has been done to prepare our hearts and minds to receive all the blessings of the gospel.
C.S. Lewis once said, “If we could recognize who we were, we would realize that we were walking with possible gods and goddesses, whom if we could see them in all their eternal dignity and glory, we would be tempted to fall and worship.”
While talking with Don Mangum, Patriarch in the Houston North Stake, several years ago, he shared how amazed and humbled he was each time he laid his hands upon an individual’s head to give them their Patriarchal Blessing. He was given the opportunity to see the nobility of the individual similar, as he put it, to the way the Lord sees each of us.
Once we’ve decided that we want to reach and partake of the Tree of Life, having entered the path, holding onto the iron rod, the iron rod being the Word of God, we have connected ourselves with Heaven.
As a side note, was it a coincidence that Joseph Smith reached out in prayer to the Heavens while in the middle of a grove of trees, what we now call the Sacred Grove? Just a thought…
Having begun our way toward the Tree of Life isn’t enough, is it? So many fall away down forbidden paths, going through the motions of spirituality; and as Elder Owen pointed out, “They were fed but not nourished”.
We all face challenges; so what works to our benefit, what is required of us? Scripture study, not simply reading the material and be done with it so you can visit your friends on Facebook.
Ezra Taft Benson made an important statement regarding the Book of Mormon, important enough that a friend of mine kept it on a small piece of paper tucked into his wallet so he could read it each morning.
“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called “the words of life” (D & C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.”
This year you have a little help in the form of the, Come Follow Me, home study course as it guides individuals through the Book of Mormon. The first week’s lesson directs your attention to the introductory pages and the statements from the Witnesses.
I should mention that I enjoy a hands-on approach to history. We visited several historic church sites one year, to include the Sacred Grove and Smith family farmhouse, rebuilt on the spot where it actually stood. Why is that important?
We made our way to the second floor, where, in the dark of night the angel Moroni visited with Joseph and explained how the restoration of the gospel would take place. Closing my eyes while standing in that room, imagining that moment in time was as real as if I’d witnessed the event.
In my library, there are a couple of ‘museum books’, for lack of a better term. Within the pages of each book are replications of original documents, carefully displayed in such a way as to be able to remove them and handle them. This permits my brain to time travel, to see things from a different perspective.
This would explain why we purchased a copy of the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon when we visited Palmyra, New York a couple of years ago. We found it challenging to read it from cover to cover, but did so while comparing it word for word with the newer edition.
We left this collector’s edition on the table after completing our reading for the evening. When we awoke the next morning we found that our puppy had chewed up the first ten pages completely and so we ordered another copy; it’s kept on the bookshelf and is there pretty much just for show.
As a matter of interest, Martin Harris lost 116 pages of the translated Book of Mormon that he’d been entrusted with. I guess my puppy wanted me to feel more a part of history by destroying those 10 pages.
While I’m thinking about it, with all the technology available, most of us have the scriptures available via the LDS App on our cell phone. It’s so easy looking up a specific scripture during Sunday School and lightning-fast.
That said, I find if more satisfying to pick up my old copy of the Book of Mormon or Bible when studying on my own. There are notes in the margins, verses highlighted and then marked again with dates from when someone gave a talk. These small things make impressions on my mind as I glean what the Spirit intends for me to learn on that particular reading.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a member of a family that came across the prairie as a member of a hand-cart company or whether you’re the first and possibly the only member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What matters is that you recognize the importance of your relationship with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ as you find your way back to their presence.
Are you willing to put your scripture studies to the test?
“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Nephi 3:7)
We watched a movie the other night, Field of Dreams, in which the owner of a cornfield hears a voice saying, “If you build it he will come”. Somehow he managed to figure out that he’s supposed to build a baseball field on his property by plowing under the crop that pays his mortgage payments.
If you’re familiar with the movie’s ending, he’s playing catch with his father, who’s been permitted to visit the Field of Dreams through the miracle of following the promptings of the Spirit. His father asks, “Is this Heaven?”
His son, looking about, taking in the setting sun, the baseball field set inside his crop of corn and then back towards his house; see his family sitting on the porch at the end of the day, all this while contemplating the question a little more deeply he replies, “Maybe it is.”
While going through this portion of our existence, the time we call mortality, we need to recognize that we are spiritual beings learning to cope with the frailties of our human bodies. We have to look beyond our current circumstances and reach out to Heaven since that’s really our home.
You must make a concerted effort, regularly connecting with Heaven as Elder Owen pointed out. While doing this you will find life to be brighter and the joy you’re seeking will present itself in the simple tasks of each day.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.