Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Need a miracle? See the sixth item God wants us to REMEMBER.

This is the full version of the talk I gave a year ago after my 30-day Book of Mormon challenge. I got it ready to post today, and then realized I had posted a short version of it. 
Guess how many times people in the Book of Mormon used the word “remember” or something like it? It was 240 times.

Why is remembering so important to Heavenly Father, and what does He want us to remember?  I’d like to share six things I think God is telling us to remember, and then I’ll share some personal experiences of why I think these are important. 

1. The first: Spencer W. Kimball said: “When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be ‘remember.’" 

Because all of [us] have made covenants … our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day—to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that [we] ‘… may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us].’… ‘Remember’ is the word” (Circles of Exaltation [address to religious educators, Brigham Young University, 28 June 1968], 8). So first thing to remember is Jesus Christ. 

2. A second thing to remember is to build our foundation on Christ, and that protects us from Satan. 

Helaman used the word “remember” over and over as he taught his sons Nephi and Lehi. He tells them, “My sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12).  

3. Third, President Eyring, back in 2007, taught us to notice God’s hand in our lives each day, and to find a way to document and remember it. 

He kept a gratitude journal where he would ask himself each evening, “How have I seen God’s hand in my life or my family’s life today?” And then he would write it down. So a third thing to remember is that God loves us and His hand is involved in our lives every day. 

4. A third thing to remember comes from Nephi's tree of life vision. Remember to hold tight to the iron rod, or the word of God. 

He saw four groups get on the path toward the tree of life and it’s fruit, which represent Christ’s love and atoning sacrifice for us – the greatest of all God’s gifts, the most beautiful, white, desirable, joyous, precious, sweet, purest fruit ever. So let’s see what happened to these four groups. 

  • The first group started on the path toward the tree without grabbing the iron rod, or the word of God, and when they encountered mists of darkness, or temptations, they wandered off and were lost. 
  • Second group clung to iron rod but once got to tree, noticed great spacious building (which represented pride, wisdom of the world, and worldliness), felt embarrassed, let go, fell away into forbidden paths, were lost.  
  • Third group continually held onto the iron rod (word of God), made it to the tree, ate that delicious fruit, and stayed there. They didn’t leave Christ’s delicious presence. 
  • The fourth group were headed for the great and spacious building. Some drowned in depths of fountain, others lost and wandering in strange roads. 

Continually holding to the iron rod, or the word of God, will lead us to Christ’s love and atonement. Of course the word of God comes in different forms  – scriptures, prophets, guidance from local church leaders, promptings from Spirit. 

5. And the fifth thing to remember is to Keep our eye on the tree of life, or Christ, and off the building, or worldliness and caring about what the world thinks of us.  

Lehi told us “For as many as heeded them [those in the building fell] away” (1 Nephi 8:34). 

6. A sixth thing to remember is that God is a God of miracles. Remembering the many times that God has make the impossible become possible, against all odds, fuels your faith and courage that God will help you now.  

This message shows up in Nephi's repeated pep talk to his doubting, murmuring, resisting brothers Laman and Lemuel. Nephi used the pattern of remembering. He reminds his brothers how God helped Moses free the Israelites from Egypt, part the Red Sea so they could cross on dry ground, drown the Egyptian army, feed the Israelites with manna so they wouldn’t starve, and smite a rock to get water so they wouldn’t thirst to death. He reminds Laman and Lemuel how God saved their own family by having them leave Jerusalem before it got destroyed. (See 1 Nephi 17, among others.)  There is something transforming about remembering the many times that God has made the impossible become possible, against all odds. It rekindles and fuels your faith and courage that God can and will help you now. 

One place this is described is in Nephi’s tree of life vision. Nephi saw the future Gentiles who would sail across the ocean out of captivity, and that God’s power would be with them. He was seeing the pilgrims seeking religious freedom (which is being threatened in America today). Nephi saw the Americans’ “mother Gentiles,” the British, would be going battle against the Americans.  And he saw that God’s power would be with the Americans, and against the British.  Nephi saw 2,400 years ahead of the event, that the Americans would be “delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations.” (1 Nephi 13:16-19). Modern prophets have told us the main purpose for God helping America win the Revolutionary War and become an independent nation with a Constitution based on religious and other liberties was to pave the way for Joseph Smith to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ here in America.

I just read the book 1776 by David McCullough. Once I studied the details of that war, I see more than ever before that the ONLY way the Americans could have won the Revolutionary War was because God was on their side.  In our book discussion we marveled that the American army had any successful battles, let alone winning the whole War. Especially after so many losses. It wasn’t logical. It didn’t make sense. They had less men, supplies, food, weapons and ammunition. They had less training, discipline, tents, clothing and ships. And the British had the most powerful army in the world. But as one person in our book discussion said, “God is more powerful than the most powerful army in the world.” And it’s true. 

I’d like to share three experiences of my own about how REMEMBERING God’s past miracles and divine help gave me the faith and courage that He will help me again now. 

The first experience happened in the fall of 2011 when God prompted us to homeschool our children. 

I didn’t want to, I didn’t think I could, and quite frankly, I was terrified. But I kept remembering Nephi’s story, and it gave me faith and courage to “go and do what the Lord has commanded” knowing that God would prepare a way for us to accomplish what He commanded us. 

  • I remembered how God told Lehi’s family to leave their comfort zone of Jerusalem, just as he told us to leave our comfort zone of school.  
  • I remembered when Nephi tried to get the brass plates, after two failures and two death threats, he remembered his commitment not to return without those plates. He still went forward, trusting that the Spirit would guide him how to get those plates. This helped me stay committed to obey, even when it felt scary and I wasn’t sure how to get started.  
  • To fuel my faith and courage to do something hard that God had asked me to do, I asked my family to help me brainstorm a big list of scripture people for whom God had made the impossible become possible, and helped them succeed against all odds. People like Nephi, Abinadi, Alma and Amulek, Samuel the Lamanite, Captain Moroni, Enoch, Ether, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Joseph in Egypt, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Abraham, Elisha, Paul, and of course Jesus Christ. Then we brainstormed others we could think of -- family and friends, and ourselves. Writing this list was remarkably faith-building to help me believe God would help us do something we didn’t think we could do. 

The second experience happened recently. The past couple weeks our family felt inspired (and desperate) to conquer a weakness our family has struggled with – bedtime.  

I had to remind myself and my family that no matter how many times before we have tried and failed to make that weakness into a strength, with God’s help, we can conquer this. This is nothing compared to the brass plate miracle, right?  Well, maybe not. Certainly if God can help Nephi get the brass plates against all odds and after two failures and two death threats, surely God can help the Edwards family conquer bedtime... maybe.  Just kidding. Of course He can!  I’m happy to report that this past week, the Edwards family has seen some miracles in our home, like the whole house being dark and quiet and everyone being in their beds or bedrooms before 9 pm. It is music to a mother’s ears. And there is no question to me that we are seeing God’s power in our lives, because we tried about 1.2 billion times to conquer bedtime before. And now we’re doing it with God’s help. He is making the impossible become possible for us. 

The last experience I’d like to share is that a loved one of mine recently fell away and lost her testimony, bringing her husband and young children. 

She and her husband are both returned missionaries. This was heart wrenching to me. After the shock, the pressing question that kept going through my mind was how to protect me and my family from anything like that. I was fasting to ask that question on December’s fast Sunday, and that’s the day my son Adam told me about his seminary teacher's, Brother Chang's, challenge to read the whole Book of Mormon in 30 days. I felt right about it, and it wasn’t easy. 

But at the end, I realized that was the very best thing I could have done to reaffirm and fuel my own faith, testimony, and conversion, and to REMEMBER how deeply I know this book is true, and this Church is true, and Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and President Monson is true prophet today. 

And that God is at the head of it all. I know that more than I’ve ever known it before, and I am committed to keeping up the habits that will help me keep remembering these things. I invite you to do the same. 

May I invite you to remember these things too.  What does God want you to remember?

Is there a hard thing God is prompting you to do? I testify that remembering God’s hand in your life in the past, and remembering how God has helped scripture people, family, friends, and yourself in the past, will fuel your faith and courage that God will help you accomplish the things He has commanded you to do today. 

How has remembering God's miracles for you blessed you with faith and courage knowing God will help you again? 

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