Last Sunday on September 15, I took my family down to the Conference Center for our Regional Conference. It was special Regional Conference for 116 stakes that live in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley. (See footnote at bottom of post) Elder Russell M Nelson presided and spoke in the meeting. I wanted to share much of what he said on this blog post. As many of you might be aware, Elder Nelson presides over the Strengthening the Members Committee, as well as a member of the Council on the Dispensation of Tithes. His wife just recently published a book that has been gaining much attention and promoted to be used in Family Home Evenings.
He began his talk by telling the congregation of the importance of their financial contributions for the building up of the Church throughout the world. He said, that those of us who live in the Salt Lake Valley are the "heart" of the Church and much of the burden falls on us to sustain the growth worldwide.
“Each one of you is an important part of the Church , I love a good strong heart. A heart works better if each muscle fiber works in sync with the others. I also know that if they don’t work in unity that the heart will stop pumping. A large heart is needed to support a large body. And the body of this church gets larger every day.... At this moment, there are 3,033 stakes in the church. Three more are being created today. As the Church continues to grow, it will bless the lives of more people around the world. So a larger heart and greater resources will be needed. From where do those resources come? It comes from you… the faithful tithe paying members in the heart of the Church. You dear members bear much of the burden of the growth. President Packer and I are members of the Council on the Dispensation of the Tithes. We can assure you that those resources are carefully budgeted and appropriated. As we are all under covenant to obey the Lord’s commandment to go unto all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, Yes we need to keep the heart of the Church strong in order to keep pace with the growth elsewhere. That means we rescue those among us that are not currently participating as actively as they might. We need their strength and more importantly they need the blessings that will come to them and their families."
He then went on to talk about how his own dear parents were among the many third generation members that had let other interests take a higher priority in their lives. He said that they had lost their anchor. (Sidenote: I will post more about this later) He spoke about his deep concern, even anguish over the eternal welfare of his beloved mother and father. He wanted to teach them about the glorious truths of the gospel. Decades later, he said, they learned the doctrine and became truly converted, and sealed in the temple. He went on to say:
"Yes, loved ones in our own families and neighborhoods in the heart of the Church, are just a precious in the sight of the Lord, as those who live far away. Missionary work in the Lord’s Kingdom is a rescue effort. We love to bring people back to their previous covenants just as we love to bring them to their first covenants. We do that best with caring love. Caring love means loving care. Genuine care for their eternal welfare. They need to be nourished by the good word of God. That good word is spelled. D.O.C.T.R.I.N.E. "
"May I focus a little of the word doctrine. In the church do we use it as a singular noun or as plural noun? Scriptures refers to the Doctrine of Christ and the Doctrine of God. We also hear references to important doctrines, plural, of the Church such as tithing, chastity, the atonement, the Word of Wisdom, caring for the needy and more. One day, I wanted to find out just how many doctrines there really are. So I searched the scriptures. This is what I found."
"Whenever a scripture refers to the Doctrine of God, or the Doctrine of Christ, the word Doctrine was used in its singular form. In contrast, when a scripture used the word in its plural form, doctrines, it was used in its negative connotation, such as doctrines of men, the doctrines of devils, or diverse and strange doctrines. Now I wouldn’t want anyone to be overly concerned or offended for a word, but this information has given me a new appreciation for the power of the singular form of the word doctrine.. as in Doctrine and Covenants."
Elder Nelson then compared what he referred to as the Doctrine of God or the Doctrine of Christ to a diamond with many facets. He explains that there is 9 definable facets or doctrine, which is the same 9 topics to be taught each month in the new Youth Curriculum.
He said, "We employ the knowledge that the list to be memorized and for its components to be understood and taught. Then we can teach them to relatives, friends and neighbors who would like to know more about the true Doctrine. Real and expensive diamonds may have many more than nine facets, but my leaner model might be more affordable."
He then went on to outline each of the nine facets of this "leaner model diamond that is affordable".
Facet 1: Godhead: Three separate personages comprise the Godhead. God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost, They are separate and distinct beings.
Facet 2: Plan of Salvation: In the premortal existence, Heavenly Father introduced a plan to enable us to become like Him and obtain immortality and eternal life. The scriptures refer to this plan as the plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, the plan of redemption, and the plan of mercy. The plan includes the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection, the Final Judgment, and all God-given laws, ordinances, doctrine, and commandments.
Facet 3: Atonement of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect Atonement. His Atonement included His suffering for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, His death on the cross, and His Resurrection from the tomb.
Facet 4: Dispensation, Apostasy, and Restoration. All of the previous dispensations were limited in two ways. They were limited in time, because each ended in apostasy. They were limited in location to a small segment of planet earth. In contrast, this last dispensation, the dispensation of the Fullness of Times will not be limited in time or place. It will not end in apostasy, and it will fill the entire earth. The Church has been restored to accomplish three major objectives. To gather scattered Israel, to seal the families of gathered Israel in the Holy Temples, and help prepare the people of the world for the Second Coming of the Lord.
Facet 5: Prophets and Revelation: A prophet is one who is called of God to speak for Him. Throughout history, prophets have testified of Jesus Christ and have taught His gospel. Through prophets, revelation is communicated through God to his children. And where the entire Church revelation comes from through his prophets and apostles. For each worthy member, revelation comes from the Holy Ghost for one’s personal guidance and blessing. Sacred scripture are priceless revelation to previous prophets. President Packer and I and others have seen portions of the original manuscript of the book of Mormon. Rare are the marks of editorial correction. This amazing Book is a record of revelation as the words flowed from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith to his scribes. And we know that present and future revelation will come according to the will of God and the needs of His children.
Facet 6: Priesthood and Priesthood Keys. Priesthood is the authority and the power that God has granted to men on earth to act for Him. Adam held the Priesthood, which is without beginning or end. Keys are given to bearers of the Priesthood to direct the work of God’s Kingdom on Earth. There are two orders to the Priesthood, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek, each with specific offices and quorums. The Priesthood and its’ keys were restored by heavenly messengers specifically John the Baptist, Peter, James and John, Moses, Elias, Elijah, and Moroni. The Priesthood was restored so that ordinances of salvation and exaltation could be performed by proper authority. And the priesthood was restored to provide blessings to all of God’s sons and daughters along their challenging journey in mortality.
Facet 7: Ordinances and Covenants: An ordinance is a sacred, formal act of spiritual significance. Ordinances are accompanied by covenants. A covenant is sacred agreement or promise between God and a person. Ordinances and covenants of salvation pertain to an individual such a baptism, sacrament. Ordinances and covenants of exaltation pertain to families such as sealings in the temple.
Facet 8: Marriage and Family: Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the family is central to His plan of salvation and to happiness. The highest responsibility of a man who bears the priesthood is to love and care for his wife. Brethren on each day that God’s lends you breath, with that breath tell your dear wife that you love her. She is most precious to you here and here after. God’s glory of eternal life allows for the (continuation) of the family throughout all eternity. That is why we have temples. So that families can truly be together forever.
Facet 9: Commandments : Commandments are given from God to man to protect and to bless his children. We show our love of God by obeying his commandments. We are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to have Christlike love for others. The ten commandments have never been rescinded. They are still in force today. Other commandments include fasting, praying, tithing, observance of the Sabbath day. Keeping the Word of Wisdom. The Law of Chastity.. and more. Such as caring for those in need. We are invited, even commanded, to emulate the example of the Savior in all that we think, and do.
He closed by apologizing to the congregation and then closed with his testimony. He said,
"Dear Brothers and Sisters those are nine facets of our diamond of Doctrine. No doubt you can think of others. I apologize if you feel that I have given you a heavy load of doctrine this morning. But the truth, if you know the doctrine and live by it, your load in life will be much lighter and easier. You won’t have the burden of guilt to way you down. You won’t be bothered by decision that could have been made once well in advance. Yoked with the Lord you will have faith needed to endure whatever challenges you face in life.
What are my hopes for you, members of 116 stakes. I hope you will love the Lord, and yoke yourselves to him. Be one of his true disciples. Accept his sweet invitation, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me. And ye will find rest to your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. I hope you will learn of the Lord and learn of his doctrine. You learn best by teaching it. Teach your families, your friends. We invite you on occasion to meet with the missionaries, teach the doctrine as your rescue your loved ones. As you do so, my loving prayers will be with you.
God lives, Jesus is the Christ, this is His church that he directs through his prophets and apostles. President Thomas S Monson is His senior and presiding Apostle on the Earth today. This testimony I leave with an expression of gratitude and love for each of you in the sacred of Jesus Christ. Amen."
Footnote: I find the number 116 to be quite symbolic. When I think of the number 116 , I associate that with being lost.