Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Convict and the Mouse: a story of sympathy

By bestowing sympathy on others we increase our own. Sympathy given can never be wasted. Even the meanest creature will respond to its heavenly touch, for it is the universal language which all creatures understand. I have recently heard a true story of a Dartmoor convict whose terms of incarceration in various convict stations extended to over forty years. As a criminal he was considered one of the most callous and hopelessly abandoned, and the warders found him almost intractable. But one day he caught a mouse - a weak, terrified, hunted thing like himself - and its helpless frailty, and the similarity of its condition with his own, appealed to him, and started into flame the divine spark of sympathy which smoldered in his crime-hardened heart, and which no human touch had ever wakened into life.

He kept the mouse in an old boot in his cell, fed, tended, and loved it, and in his love for the weak and helpless he forgot and lost his hatred for the strong. His heart and his hand were no longer against his fellows. He became tractable and obedient to the uttermost. The warders could not understand his change; it seemed to them little short of miraculous that this most hardened of all criminals should suddenly be transformed into the likeness of a gentle, obedient child. Even the expression of his features altered remarkably: a pleasing smile began to play around the mouth which had formerly been moved to nothing better than a cruel grin, and the implacable hardness of his eyes disappeared and gave place to a soft, deep, mellow light. The criminal was a criminal no longer; he was saved, converted; clothed, and in his right mind; restored to humaneness and to humanity, and set firmly on the pathway to divinity by pitying and caring for a defenceless creature. All this was made known to the warders shortly afterwards, when, on his discharge, he took the mouse away with him.

From Byways of Blessedness by James Allen

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Real Growth in the LDS Church

Today's Elder's Quorums lesson (which I'm teaching) is from Teaching For Our Times with the focus on two talks, both from the April 2012 General Conference:
The Rescue for Real Growth by Bishop Edgley
Was It Worth It? by Elder Evans

These two talks, along with the many other talks from the April and October 2012 General Conferences are in response to the alarming trend of members leaving the Church.

Consider this quote from Elder Marlin K. Jensen, "Maybe since Kirtland, we've never had a period of - I'll call it apostasy, like we're having now."  He told this to a group of Utah State students back in January of 2012.  This Reuters article summarizes the discussion held between Elder Marlin and the college students: Special Report: Mormonism besieged by the modern age.

For my lesson, which I'm calling REAL GROWTH, I plan on dividing it up into three parts:
1) on the chalk board, write a list of all less-active people in our ward - it is more of an awareness activity for members of the class (i.e. do we know who we should be rescuing?)

2) ideas, comments and discussion from Rescue for Real Growth

3) ideas, comments and discussion from Was It Worth It? which is really a talk about one's personal testimony.

Each of these parts will have a column on the chalk board.  Then I'll have a 4th column entitled "Real Growth" and I'll be writing in that column what "real growth" means.  Besides comments from the class, I will draw and share ideas from a couple of LDS links: What is Real Growth? and Worldwide Leadership Training Highlights Path to Real Growth.

Rescue For Real Growth
- one of the most meaningful and important ways to establish real growth in the Church is to reach out and rescue those who have been baptized yet are wandering in a less-active state.
- story of visiting a ward as stake president; bishop wanted to split ward; he interviewed and called a less-active member to be a stake missionary w/o knowing she was less-active
- from this he learned:
* many less-actives have loved one praying for them
* it's not easy for less-actives to just walk back into church
* some less-actives are trying and willing to come back
* many less-actives will hold callings if asked
* less-actives deserve to be treated as an equal (to an active) and to be viewed as a child of god

- we should see less-actives not only as a single child of god, but as generations of blessed lives (story of older member who fell away, came back, but now laments the inactivity of all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.)

Was It Worth It?
- our most important work is always within our own home and family.  it is within families that the church is established and real growth occurs
- attending church, fhe, prayer, scripture study, fulfill callings, visit the sick and lonely, teach, share testimony, write letters to missionaries and military service personnel, show love and forgiveness
- share the gospel with others; naturally and normally
- story of Dave; his friend was in college, returning to activity, invited Dave to the next interview with his bishop; was later baptized, married and sealed in temple.
- story of Eileen who felt inspired to send her less-active friend a book.  Eileen later learned from her friend that she too felt inspired to send a letter to the same less-active friend
- seek the spirit in inviting others; "never delay a prompting"

- growth in the number of active members
- increased faithfulness of members (daily prayer, scripture study, fhe, love at home, personal experiences with the atonement
- receive the temple blessings and covenants
- achieving the end goal of eternal life and exaltation for all of god's children requires real growth in our homes and wards
- whole families = real growth
- the making and keeping of temple covenants
- 'real growth is a constant effort, and it is a blessing that comes when we are able to save and help one another, particularly one by one.'
- we aren't just trying to get people back to church, but rather, to the temple
- real growth comes as we apply gospel principles in our daily lives

direct link to talks from 2012 Worldwide Leadership Training

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Divided States of America

I find the secession movement quite fascinating.

Let's rewind back to October 2008.  George W. Bush is president; McCain and Obama are running for president.  There is nary a thought about the Union falling apart.

November comes; Obama is elected and people are either elated about the first Black president ... or people just shake their head and know that America will be different after 4 years of Obama.

Then in December 2008 an amazing and bold prediction comes out - from a Russian academic - that America will collapse in 2010.  I noted this article on my Book of Mormon Inspection blog because of the similarities between the prediction and what happened in the Book of Mormon (see United States Divided).  If you click on the WSJ link, be sure to read the comment section as it shows a progression of "this is a bat-crazy idea!" to "wow, this Russian might be right!"

Now in November 2012, a week after the re-election of Obama, numerous states have signed a petition to peacefully secede from the Union.  Texas has accumulated the required number of petitions to have the White House formally review it and respond to it.

To put an LDS slant on all of this talk of division and secession, let me reference the I Have a Question section from the June 1976 Ensign.  In this response, Richard Bushman, Dallin H. Oaks, and Charles Didier, among others, addressed these exact same concerns.

other articles:
White House 'secede' petitions reach 675,000 signatures, 50-state participation
Notes on the Decline of a Great Nation