That’s what I’m doing. Therefore, this isn’t going to be that impressive for a little while.
One of the things that has always concerned me about my oaths and covenants with God was my fulfillment of the Law of Consecration. Did observance to the Law of Tithing satisfy the conditions of Consecration? During some research on a closely related topic, I found my answer and my testimony on the subject. This article will follow my progression on that other topic to my personal revelation and increase in testimony. Really cool, actually.
First, what is the Law of Consecration? The Law of Consecration can be defined as consecrating “our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the [God’s] Church.” In short, in all that we engage ourselves in for the prosperity of ourselves, family, and community, anything that is earned, should be given to God for the distribution back to us and others who are in need. In short, and on a temporal plane of thinking, it is the redistribution of wealth. But looking at it deeper, it is SO much more. (And by following the link above, you can find out more.)
United Order vs Socialism
First, I knew from past lessons that the United Order of God, from which is the manifestation of the Law of Consecration, is not the same as Socialism or its related political manifestations: Communism and Fabianism. Some definitions:
- Communism is the revolutionary component of creating a socialist government. That is, it uses a revolution, often violence, to force a government to change to socialism. An example is the United Soviet Socialist Republic and the People’s Republic of China
- Fabianism is the evolutionary component of creating a socialist government.. That is, it uses constitutional and societal means to change the government to socialism. An example is Nazi Germany, and several other Western European countries. Even the United States as it moves closer and closer to a fully enacted socialist government.
How is Socialism different from the United Order? Well, how is it the same? In 1966, President Marion G. Romney, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, spoke on the matter:
The following are similarities: Both
- deal with production and distribution of goods;
- aim to promote the well-being of men by eliminating their economic inequalities;
- envision the elimination of the selfish motives in our private capitalistic industrial system.
Where they are different is multitude. And you can read all about it in his talk, “Is Socialism the United Order?” Simply, the difference hinges on forced redistribution of wealth, which results in the destruction of wealth and loss of freedom. The other, the United Order, is the free will of the participant to join the Order and participate, freely giving up their wealth to the greater good out of their desire to follow God’s Law, which results in the creation of wealth and the increase of freedom.
The United Order, as directed by God through his Patriarchs and Prophets throughout time, have had varying levels of success. Mostly failure. Two known successes are the City of Enoch and the few generations after Christ visited the people in the Americas. Concerning the City of Enoch, the Pearl of Great Price teaches us:
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18.)
And of the time after Christ in America:
And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi 1:3)
I just noticed something. I stated above that God’s Law increased our freedom. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to explain that. But there it is, right there in 4 Nephi 1:3. Okay, back onto the main topic.
Of course, the failures are documented as well. The early church of Christ in the Old World tried for awhile to live the Law of Consecration and the United Order, but the distances between the seven churches was too great and they were having a hard time just living the basic tenets of Christianity. Not to mention the overpowering influence of the Roman empire. The early church in the Last Dispensation, while Joseph Smith was the living prophet, the United Order lasted for 3.25 years before it failed as President J. Reuben Clark Jr. noted:
The United Order lasted, in theory, for some three and a quarter years, and then it was discontinued, withdrawn by the Lord, because of the greed and selfishness of men. (“Testimony of Divine Origin of Welfare Plan,” Church News, 8 Aug. 1951, p. 3)
So where does this leave the Law of Tithing? Tithing is the giving of 10% of one’s increase to God. How is increase defined? Well, that’s between you and the Lord. For me, personally, I have evolved on the subject a bit, but will not add my personal thoughts on the subject here. You can figure it out for yourself. (Do I include *all* increase, including gifts, birthday present money, etc? Do I include money that is taxed away from me or discount the taxed monies that were given me in pay?) Whatever you decide 10% is, is what you should give to the Lord. And now we’re getting somewhere in relation to the Law of Consecration.
Tithing was always an active Law in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, before and after the United Order. Tithing was an active law during the time of Christ, during the Generation of the Israelites, even as far back as Abraham:
And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed. (Alma 13:15)
So we now understand that Tithing is an important Law, but how does it relate to the Law of Consecration. And am I fulfilling my responsibilities to the Law of Consecration by simply following the Law of Tithing?
The law of tithing, for example, gives us a great opportunity to implement the principle of consecration and stewardship (Enrichment L The Law of Consecration and Stewardship, L-8 Preparing for Consecration)
First, let’s answer the question about relation. And this is my big revelation… (not prophetic revelation, that’s already happened but the revelation and testimony I received): the Law of Tithing is the Law of Consecration, at least in part. Marion G. Romney writes:
As you will recall, the principles underlying the United Order are consecration and stewardships and then the contribution of surpluses into the bishop’s storehouse.
Notice the wording of the above statement. The underlying principles … are consecration and stewardships and then the contribution of surpluses. There it is! The tithe is a request of 10%, for many of us this is a contribution of surplus.
So what about those where a payment of tithe is a sacrifice and not a contribution of surplus? Well, certainly, if our society truly lived the United Order, the person for whom it would be a sacrifice would not feel the pinch at all. Since everyone who creates or earns a wealth keeps what they need and gives of the surplus, the surplus is returned to those who could not create an increase sufficient for their needs. For those with greater creation power they feel no superiority and those who receive feel no humility as the giving and receiving is done with an eye single to the glory of God and for the welfare of our brothers and sisters.
The United Order exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process both are sanctified. The poor, released from the bondage and humiliating limitations of poverty, are enabled as free men to rise to their full potential, both temporally and spiritually. The rich, by consecration and by imparting of their surplus for the benefit of the poor, not by constraint but willingly as an act of free will, evidence that charity for their fellowmen characterized by Mormon as “the pure love of Christ.” (Moro. 7:47.) (“Is Socialism the United Order”, Marion G. Romney)
But we are not living the United Order today and those who pay tithing just might feel the pinch of
sacrifice by doing so. The honest tithe payer will admit to being blessed, even if it is not monetarily or temporally manifest. However, their temporal needs may be met by the welfare programs of the Church, in counsel with the steward of the Lord’s Storehouse, the Bishop (or Branch President as the case may be). Having just served in such a branch and being privy to the financial needs of its members as the ward clerk, I can testify that NO ONE should look down on those who receive from the welfare of the Church. NO ONE. The decision of the Branch President or Bishop in these matters are given to him by the Spirit of God and for the benefit of our Father’s children. So, should you find yourself speaking ill of either a recipient of Church welfare or of the decisions of God’s representative, please check your pride. (And I exempt not myself as I must be continually watchful of my thoughts and demeanor toward the poor and needy.)
Wherefore, the office of a bishop is not equal unto it; for the office of a bishop is in administering all temporal things; (Doctrines and Covenants 107:68)
So, am I living the Law of Consecration by paying tithing? Yes! and no. Yes, because for me I am doing God’s will with an eye single to his glory. I am also a giver of Fast Offerings. Can I give more? Probably, possibly, maybe not? I have made decisions for my family and myself and I feel honest with God in my financial performances to him.
Now let’s review the Law of Consecration. It is that we consecrate our time, talents, and all things with which the Lord has blessed us. Are we consecrating our time? How about our talents? Do you have a calling in the Church? Do you fulfill that calling to the best of your ability? Do you spend the time necessary to fulfill that calling? Do you spend the time to fulfill other needs to bring to pass the immortality and eternal lives of God’s children by performing temple work, genealogy, missionary service, home teaching or visiting teaching, reading of your scriptures, prayerful supplication to Heavenly Father? I have need of much improvement and repentance in some of these matters. In others, I do quite well.
I’m not sure where to add this, so I’ll add it here. This is not new if you’ve read the links I’ve provided. In short, however, the Law of Consecration is the willingness of the participant to give of all they have and to receive all that they need and want. But they are to be stewards of what they receive. Jesus told of the three people who received talents of the master and how those three handled those talents and performed their duty in stewardship. In the United Order, we are to be stewards of what we receive and increase that to the best of our abilities. The product of our abilities may be more or less than others or more or less than our needs, but the Lord blesses us individually and as a society for proper obedience.
Well, with 2 house showings in 2 days right after Derby, I thought, perhaps, the housing market was picking up. But perhaps not. April wasn’t great for the market, and May doesn’t appear to be doing any better.
At the beginning of the year, bad weather was to blame. April could blame it on Derby festivities, but only partially. What is it then, that is causing such low interest? The report states that the house inventory is low, which should equate to higher prices, but that’s not happening. Why?
Here’s my theory: The market for the middle class housing is tepid. (Right where my house is situated.) But I’ve heard that the houses in the $400,000 range are moving. The problem is that, like all well intentioned mucking around with taxes, it’s the middle class that gets hurt. Gas prices have consistently stayed above $3.00 for 3+ years (Jan 22, 2011) in Louisville, KY,
health insurance is WAY high (what happened to that $2500/family savings?), and the costs of goods all around have increased.
The decrease for the middle class fall into wages, jobs, and purchasing power. A lot of people have not had raises for 5 years. A lot of people have lost jobs, despite the “fact” we’re coming out of a recession. And the pool of people in the Middle Class have decreased. (Some are getting wealthy, most are falling off the backside.) I also think that people are realizing that purchasing a house 2.5x their yearly salary really isn’t a wise move. And that’s a problem for the $40,000/yr wage earner and the available houses are $120,000+. From what I hear the renter’s market is up. Here in a couple of weeks, we may test those waters with our house.
Jeff and I have been called as Stake Missionaries, and have been assigned to attend and serve in the Shawnee Branch for the next 18 months. It was a difficult calling for me to accept because I am concerned about Rachel and Gabi. I don’t know any of the kids in Rachel’s school, so the only friends of hers that I know are the kids at church. Gabi’s best friend is her cousin Rose, and they love being in the same primary class. Anyway, I really struggled with accepting the calling.
Every Sunday, I have the girls watch an animated movie from the scriptures. Last Sunday, Rachel chose to watch the movie from the Old Testament where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac. Talk about a challenging assignment to accept! Although it was difficult, Abraham was willing to obey, and at the last second, an angel stepped in, and commended Abraham for his obedience, and renewed the promise that Abraham had received that his descendents would be numberless, like the sands of the sea.
I thought a lot about Abraham and Isaac. If Abraham could be obedient to the point of sacrificing his own son, I decided that I could attend church with a different congregation for a while. My job is to be obedient, and have faith in Heavenly Father to look after my children.
We attended the Shawnee Branch today for the first time, and both girls did great. They both made new friends, and are looking forward to seeing them again next week.
Ok, Drudge linked to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article that tries to make the argument that shoppers aren’t really getting a deal during the Christmas season because these retail outlets are making an 11% profit margin during the season rather than their normal 9% profit margin. Well, DUH! Somebody at Bloomberg BusinessWeek has failed math.
Sure, they are making more. They don’t call this Black Friday because Americans Corporations are racist. They are making more on volume. Their operating costs stay the same, but they are selling a lot more. Even with loss-leader items, people still buy the other items in the store which are not discounted.
“For every $98 flat-screen TV, there’s plenty more to buy at a 98 percent markup.”
Well, shock of shocks! Retail outlets that have to pay a bunch of employees wages, employee taxes, license fees (if they are a licensee outlet), business license taxes, property taxes, healthcare benefits, healthcare taxes, middle management wages, management wages, all on top of the shipping costs and actual costs of the product are actually marking up their products enough that they can actually cover these costs and stay in business.
I guess I shouldn’t find it odd in a country that “graduates” high school students that can’t think for themselves also graduates college business students that don’t understand basic economics.
I don’t remember the last time I went to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant. I have been many times to Palmyra and its surrounding area, but to actually see the Pageant has been a very very long time. On a whim, I wanted to go, asked Jeff what he thought. He thought we could do it, so with very little planning, we packed the girls and headed to Palmyra on Friday after Jeff finished his work day.
I hoped we could make it as far as Kirtland, OH which is a nice halfway point to break up the drive. As we drove that evening, we went through some serious thunderstorms. We made it to Kirtland at about 1:00 in the morning. Unfortunately all of the hotels there were sold out. That’s when it occurred to me that possibly all of the other people who were going to the Pageant had the same thought as I did, and spent the night in Kirtland. So we drove on. We checked out a few other hotels on the way, all of which were sold out. We did find one that had one spot left, and it was a suite for $150. We drove on. Finally at 3:00 in the morning I found a Super 8 just before we got to the New York State line that had room for us. We got everyone in bed as quickly as possible, and we slept.
We woke up the next morning and drove on, and arrived in Palmyra at about 12:00 noon. First we went to the E.B. Grandin Building which is historically significant because it is the print shop where the Book of Mormon was first published.
Then we went to the Joseph Smith farm where we toured the log cabin, the frame house, then walked through the barns and finally through the Sacred Grove.
Lastly we went to the Hill Cumorah. We started out in the visitor’s center. We sat down in the foyer, and Rachel fell asleep in my lap. After a while Jeff held Rachel. He was tired too, and needed a break, so Gabi and I climbed to the top of the Hill Cumorah. After we came back down, Rachel woke up, and we all climbed one more time to the top of the Hill Cumorah together.
We waited for darkness to fall, meanwhile the cast members of the Pageant mingled with the audience to welcome us, to take pictures and to proselyte.
At about 9:15 the Pageant began. With the opening trumpet call, I immediately felt tears in my eyes, and I remembered the many times I have heard that music in my youth and childhood. The Pageant has changed significantly since I last saw it, but we all really enjoyed it.
After it was over we drove to Ithaca College. On our way we passed through Trumansburg, which was where my family lived when I was born. I was 3 when we moved away. My sister Luella and her husband Tony are teaching at a string summer camp at Ithaca college, and their sons are participating at the camp. They had an extra dorm room, and they let us crash there. We woke up the next morning and went to church at the Ithaca Ward, which was the ward my family belonged to until I was 11 years old. I saw and spoke with several people I knew when I was a young kid. It was very nostalgic.
Later that afternoon we headed back home. We were pretty tired, so we found a Red Roof Inn shortly after we got past Cleveland. We got up the next morning, and continued on our journey. Again we drove through heavy rain for a while, but we finally made it home a little before 3:00 p.m.
For my politically active and religious friends. I was pondering the state of the country today and what an absolute mess it is in. I was also feeling a loss of being able to read what the majority of Americans are thinking. I don’t trust the polls since they only take a sampling of a few thousand people at most… and who knows if those people who (1) answer the phone, (2) stay on long enough to answer questions, and (3) answer truthfully. During the election cycle I had a pretty decent read on the state of affairs – but then that was shattered on election day. Our “Dear Leader”, Divider in Chief, won by cheating. While he may not have been directly involved, his supporters were.
Well, as I said, I was pondering my inability to get a good feel on the state of the People. Are they a majority that still uphold laws or are the majority happy in their free-loader state of being, railing against those evil people who have jobs and make money. Are the majority fighting for a race war, wealth war, war on women, etc, etc, or are the majority fighting to end those “wars.” (Hint, I’m on the side of ending them. I have no ill will towards other races, towards those who have more than I do, or towards women – though many on the opposite spectrum would accuse me of being so.) I just could not figure it out.
Then the Spirit confirmed to me that all was well and I need not worry about those things. God is in control and He has His spokesman on earth. We must look to His prophet for guidance and do what is right. We must warn our friends and let them know that God has a living prophet… and that is an absolutely wonderful message.
This doesn’t mean I have to silence my voice, but it does mean I can let the load off. In fact, my voice needs to be as loud as ever. I am grateful for this knowledge and invite all who don’t know to research and ask God yourself for the answers.
If you have heard about the LDS Stake President’s talk in a Stake Conference getting the MSM (main stream media) all up in arms, and even some members, because of the content of his message, it is because they don’t understand it. I have been essentially saying these exact same things since before this past election and after. But mostly after. And not as eloquently.
The signs of the End of Times are here. If this scares you repent. If this excites you, great! You understand that He is coming and very soon. For me, I will study and ponder the Book of Mormon, particularly Helaman and 3rd Nephi. Personally, I think we are closer to the 3rd Nephi times than the Helaman times.
Here is the talk as I’ve found it listed from a friend. Any editing is mine, emphasis added, etc.
Stake Conference General Session Talk: 2/3/13
President De Visser
My dear brothers and sisters, it has been a wonderful conference weekend. I have been inspired by those who have shared their stories and testimonies. I have been equally inspired by the music. I have learned that it is not an easy thing to plan a stake conference. Much fasting, prayer, and deliberation go into it and I have felt the spirit of the Lord guide me in selecting our speakers and topics. I express my appreciation to those who have participated. The spirit of the Lord has been with us in abundance, and I pray that it will continue to be with us as I now address you.
Another year has come and gone, but not just any year – it was the year 2012. A year about which much was speculated, predicted, and some would even argue prophesied. And while the most discussed prediction or prophecy – that of the Mayans concerning the end of the world – did not come to pass, I feel and believe that 2012 will still prove to be one of the more significant years in our life time.
Let’s take a moment and look back at a few things that happened in 2012:
- Gaza fired missiles on Jerusalem causing heightened unrest in the Middle East
- The Director of the CIA, a man considered to be of the highest moral integrity, resigned due to improprieties and adultery
- The UN Ambassador was instructed by the White House to cover up what happened in Libya, attempting to minimize the deaths of four Americans who were murdered
- There was an attempt to raise taxes during the worst economic times since the great depression
- Hurricane Sandy, called the “perfect storm” hit the east coast causing great devastation
- Iran became closer to a nuclear weapon
- The use of marijuana was legalized in Washington and Colorado
- Some states legalized same sex marriage
- 23 states began a petition to secede from the nation
- Russia strengthened its coalitions with North Korea and Iran
- Forces aligned to stop school prayer, but allowed the handing out of birth control
- The government used tax dollars to fund abortions
- Examples of violence, gambling, drug misuse, and infidelity were more prevalent than ever
- Hollywood promoted parenthood without marriage
- Education scores of our youth plummeted to their lowest levels ever
- And finally, we were brought to the edge of the fiscal cliff
In my opinion, the first 30 days of 2013 have proven to be the same. In fact, my head is spinning at all of the insanity and craziness that is happening in the world.
Now, I want to make it clear that it is not my intent today to be controversial, political, or even dire. My intent is to state the facts as I see them, as the Stake President, having been moved upon by the Holy Ghost. When I speak from this pulpit as the Stake President, the primary intent of my voice is one of love and compassion, but I also have an obligation to use my voice as a warning when it is necessary. Today is a day when I choose to use it primarily as a voice of warning hoping you will realize and understand that it is in love and compassion for you that I do.
Each of us has our agency and we are free to act for ourselves. We are agents unto ourselves and each of us is free to take what I say as he or she will. You may choose to disagree with me. You may even choose to ignore me, but I have been impressed by the spirit to say what I must say.
Never in my life have I witnessed a more stark difference between good and evil than I did in 2012. Never has there been a greater moral, economic, or political decline in society, than there was in 2012 and over the last few years. These climates combined, were as bad in 2012 as they have ever been in the history of the world. The current moral condition of our world and country reminds me of the condition described in Helaman, chapter 5, verse 2, and I quote:
“For their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening with destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”
In 2012 the voice of the people spoke loudly and clearly as it chose:
- Socialism over capitalism
- Entitlements over free enterprise
- Redistribution and regulation over self-reliance
Unfortunate as it is, this should not come as a surprise to any of us who have spent the better part of our lives as members of this church. The scriptures and the prophets have warned us for hundreds of years, and have been trying to prepare us for this time. The scriptural and modern-day prophesies we have read and heard throughout our lives are no longer prophesies to us – they are now our living reality.
Let me take a moment and share with you a few of the scriptural and modern-day prophesies and quotes that I find interesting and revealing.
First, on November 9th, 2012 ( just a few months ago) the First Presidency issued the following statement:
“We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people.”
The most glaring part of this statement, to me, is the acknowledgement from our prophet and the First Presidency that we are living in difficult and turbulent times.
Now, listen carefully to these two quotes. To me, these quotes are fascinating, and they reflect the ability of our leaders to see and predict the future.
In 1976 (this statement was made over 35 years ago) while serving as a President of the Seventy, Neal A. Maxwell said the following:
“I fear, that, as conditions worsen, many will react to the failures of too much government by calling for even more government. Then there will be more and more lifeboats launched, because fewer and fewer citizens know how to swim. Unlike some pendulums, political pendulums do not swing back automatically; they must be pushed. History is full of instances when people have waited in vain for pendulums to swing back”.
In 1966 (this statement was made over 45 years ago) while serving as an apostle, Howard W. Hunter said this:
“The government will take from the “haves” and give to the “have not’s.” [When this happens] Both have lost their freedom. Those who “have,” lost their freedom to give voluntarily of their own free will and in the way they desire. Those who “have not”, lost their freedom because they did not earn what they received. They got “something for nothing,” and they will neither appreciate the gift nor the giver of the gift”.
Now I quote from 2 Timothy chapter 3, verses 1-4:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God”.
Sound familiar? It does to me, and as the Stake President, I not only see it happening throughout the world, but I also see it happening right here in our stake. These conditions described by Paul concerning the wickedness of the last days, are being realized right before my very eyes. As the Stake President, I see and hear all manner of sin – violence, crime, alcohol and drug abuse, and immorality of every kind. I believe there are not many things left for my eyes to see and my ears to hear. Evil is escalating at an alarming pace even here at home. Just as the Savior prophesied concerning the conditions in the world that would precede his Second Coming: “iniquity does abound, the love of men does wax cold” (JS-Matt. 1:30) and “all things are in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts do fail them, for fear has come upon all people” (D&C 88:91).
I now quote Elder Bednar in a talk he gave one day after the tragic events that occurred only 45 days ago in Connecticut. He said:
With his comments, Elder Bednar also quoted recent comments made by President Packer, who said: “The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace.” Now, pay close attention to this next sentence brothers and sisters – President Packer said: “I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.” President Packer goes on to say:
“I know of nothing in the history of the Church, or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now. Words of profanity, vulgarity, and blasphemy are heard everywhere. Unspeakable wickedness and perversion were once hidden in dark places; now they are in the open, and even accorded legal protection. At Sodom and Gomorrah these things were localized. Now, they are spread across the world, and they are among us”.
Brothers and Sisters, as I said last year during Ward Conferences – “we are in the count down.” Again, I say to you, that the scriptural and modern-day prophesies we have read and heard all throughout our lives are no longer prophesies to us – they are now our living reality. If there was ever a time in the history of the world for a people to wake up, pay attention, and get it together – now is that time. This is a defining moment for us, and we cannot delay. We need to get our temporal and spiritual houses in order. It is a must. Difficult times are still ahead and we need to be prepared.
In my opinion, the last 5 years have put us on notice, and they should serve as a wake-up call in both temporal and spiritual matters.
All throughout my life I have been counseled by our church leaders to live within my means and get out of debt. In fact, there was no topic talked about more by President Hinckley, during his time as the Prophet, than living within our means and getting out of debt. As I look back on the last 5 years, it is no wonder to me why he did. We experienced the worst economic, political, and spiritual times in the history of our country, and even globally. The words of President Packer during his visit to our stake 4 years ago still ring loudly in my ears when he mentioned this topic and warned us, by saying:
“This time is different. We have not experienced this in the past. This time it is global, and it will be deeper and last longer than anything we have economically and spiritually experienced.”
Today, it is easy for us to reflect upon his words and know that he was right. Many of us would be better served today if we had taken his warning more seriously. For example, from 2008 to 2009 our stake experienced a 150% increase in welfare assistance to its own members. That assistance stayed about the same during 2010 and 2011. In 2012 we saw some improvement, and I am happy to report that we are now only 70% above our pre-2009 level of assistance. While there are some of us who could have done better, all in all, I commend you brothers and sisters. We are one of a few stakes in the entire church that remained a Fast Offering Giver rather than a Fast Offering Receiver during this time – meaning that we were able to meet the temporal needs of our own members and still have a surplus to pass on to the church to assist other stakes. I also want to commend you for following the counsel of your priesthood leader to prayerfully consider a more generous Fast Offering. It is overwhelming to me that during this temporal meltdown you have risen to the occasion and given more generously. I am very pleased to report that over the past 4 years our fast offering contributions have increased by 11%. This is amazing, especially since we now have 1,000 members less in our stake than we did in 2008. So, I thank you brothers and sisters. You are wonderful and I promise the Lord will continue to bless you as you continue to give generously.
Now, while temporal and economic conditions appear to be getting somewhat better, let us not kid ourselves about what is really going on. Any improvement is only temporary, and the conditions we have experienced over the last 5 years will eventually and certainly return, and even get worse. Let us not forget the last 5 years, and let us learn from it. Let us all finally follow the counsel of our prophets to live within our means and get out of debt. It is possible to get out of debt if we live within our means, but it is not if we don’t.
Now, not only is temporal preparedness vital for our mortal existence, but it also sets the stage for us to be spiritually prepared. The most important matter for us to consider right now and always is our spiritual preparedness.
Over the past 4 years, it has been a wonderful exercise for me to call upon the Lord for guidance and direction concerning this stake, and in particular the setting of stake goals. It has been an interesting evolution to witness. Let me share with you part of a statement we prepared for all of us this year (a copy of which can be obtained from your bishop):
“As the Stake Presidency discussed, pondered, and prayed about our stake goals for 2013, we were impressed by the feeling that goals should be a matter of focus and commitment at a personal level.
In conjunction with this direction, we encourage each individual member to set their own goal based on the following question:
What goal can I make that will bring me closer to the Savior?
Let me repeat:
We encourage each individual member to set their own goal based on the following question:
What goal can I make that will bring me closer to the Savior?
We trust that as you prayerfully consider and ponder this question, it will be clear to you what your goal should be. We also testify that your personal commitment and discipline to fulfill this goal will indeed bring you closer to the Savior and will give you spiritual strength to remain firm and steadfast in the gospel regardless of the circumstances.
We are impressed to share with you one goal you might consider, as you ponder the question: What goal can I make that will bring me closer to the Savior?
Spend time each day reading and studying the Book of Mormon.
Two others which are not in the statement but which I would like to also suggest are:
- Don’t let a day go by in your life when you do not humbly and sincerely kneel before God to thank Him for your blessings and plead with Him to give you the spiritual strength to meet the challenges which are coming.
- Perform a spiritual self-examination. Examine every aspect of your life. Identify those things for which you need to repent and then do it. Simply put, focus on your own personal worthiness.
In the end, the only things that will matter will be our personal worthiness and our relationships, especially the one we have with the Savior.
Brothers and Sisters, President Packer was absolutely right when he said: “I am sorry to tell you that it will not get better.” As difficult as it may be to embrace, it is simply God’s plan. The moral, economic, and political conditions of the world will not, overall, get better. You and I were held back for this special time to prepare the earth for the return of the Savior. I believe many within the sound of my voice will be part of, and witnesses to, all of the events that will transpire prior to the return of the Savior. This will require each of us to be temporally and spiritually stronger than we are currently.
In closing let me share a quote from Heber C. Kimball:
“The time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to the extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint, from the face of an enemy to the people of God. Then, brothers and sisters, look out for the great sieve, for there will be a great sifting time, and many will fall; for I say unto you there is a test, a TEST, a TEST is coming, and who will be able to stand?
“This church and each member of it has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to be temporally and spiritually prepared, and have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess these things will fall.”
Brothers and sisters, the test has come. It is now upon us. No man or woman will be able to endure what is happening now, or what is ahead, if we are not temporally and spiritually prepared. If you are not, you will not stand.
I love you brothers and sisters. I testify to you that I speak the truth. I have a personal witness of the Savior and I know that He lives. He is the Son of Almighty God. He will return in glory and He will sustain us through the difficult times ahead if we do our part and are temporally and spiritually prepared. And, I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.