Thursday, January 14, 2016

Worldwide Devotional with Pres. & Sis. Nelson

I'm not going to reprint the entire talks of Pres. and Sis. Nelson, but I wanted to do some highlights and analyze.

Sister Nelson:

As I offer a few ideas, I pray that you will use your agency to invite the Holy Ghost to teach you.

-- This is a very Bednar line.

I’d like to talk with you about something that I believe can help. See if you can figure out what it is.
Think of the woman who, for 12 years, endured an incurable disease. She stretched out her hand to touch the Savior’s robe. This was her only chance to be healed.

Think of the man at the pool of Bethesda who, for 38 years, suffered with an illness and had never been the first one into those healing waters.

Think of the Savior’s disciples who, with life-threatening waves crashing around their small fishing boat, cried out to the Savior, “Carest thou not that we perish?”

What did these people have in common?

They were desperate! Desperate for the Savior to heal them, help them, cleanse them, guide them, protect them, and save them! They were desperate for Jesus Christ to help them do things they could never do on their own. They were desperate to have the Savior’s strength and power in their lives. Do you know that feeling? Believe me, I do.

-- Yes. I was desperate for the Lord to heal my daughters, or let a cure for SMA be found before they died. They still died, but let's see where she goes with this.

Well, here’s the good news: Desperation can actually be a great motivator...
When we’re desperate to be guided by heaven, we work harder than ever to tune in to heaven. When we’re desperate to be physically healthy, we eat and exercise accordingly. No excuses! When we’re desperate to have more money, we eagerly follow the Lord’s law of finances—which is, of course, tithing!

Consider President George Q. Cannon’s approach to tithing when he was an impoverished young man. When his bishop commented on the large amount of tithing poor young George was paying, George said something like: “Oh bishop, I’m not paying tithing on what I make. I’m paying tithing on what I want to make.” And the very next year George earned exactly the amount of money he had paid tithing on the year before!

-- This prosperity gospel is a little dangerous. She's basically saying if you're broke, send the church even more money. Televangelists prey on this type of behavior. On the other hand, I had one experience where I decided to be more generous with my fast offerings and I got a raise that week. Coincidence?

When we’re desperate to become the people we were born to be, our vision changes. We wake up from the spiritual amnesia the adversary so cleverly administers, and suddenly we see things about ourselves, others, and our lives we’ve never seen before. The world’s “fun” and “entertainment” start to look almost ridiculous, perhaps even spiritually dangerous. We begin to see the adversary’s tricks and traps for what they really are—temptations to make us forget our true identity and our destination.

-- Ever feel like Satan gets too much credit?

When we’re desperate to be our true selves, we use technology righteously. If you don’t know how to do that, I urge you to go to and learn.

-- This made me chuckle.

Would you be willing to try an experiment for 30 days?
Daily kneel and thank your Heavenly Father for the scriptures. Tell Him the one question you most need to have answered that day. Plead to have the Holy Ghost with you as you read. Then open your scriptures anywhere, and read until you find the answer. Try it for 30 days and see what happens...

-- I'll have to try this.

Gratefully, the Savior has paid the price for every gift of the Spirit we will ever need to help us.11 It’s up to us to prayerfully discover which gifts we need. We may need the gift of self-discipline or of cheerfulness. Perhaps we need the gift of patience, or the gift to be healed, or the gift to forgive. Perhaps we need the gift to have our sexual feelings be in harmony with eternal laws. Perhaps we realize that we cannot live one more minute without the gift of unshakable faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. When we’re desperate for any gift of the Spirit, that is when we will finally pray with all the energy of heart for that gift. And the great news is that each spiritual gift we receive takes us one more step forward into our true selves.

-- Interesting she puts that in the middle there. Is she now saying heterosexuality is a gift of the Spirit? Is she actually saying that if you pray with desperation, that feelings of homosexuality will go away? "Pray the gay away"? How many LDS teenagers attempted suicide or succeeded in suicide because they desperately did not want to be gay, and couldn't pray it away? I'll have more on this, but I want to go to Pres. Nelson's talk.

I pray that this year you will have some moments of anguishing desperation that will propel you further along the path to becoming the man or woman you were born to be. Your true self is spectacular! Never settle for less. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Her entire talk is here.
His entire talk is here.

Pres. Nelson:

I bring you greetings and love from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We are thankful for your devotion to the Lord and His restored gospel. We are grateful for each time you stand up and speak up for truth—especially when it is not popular.

-- Sis. Nelson's talk is prologue to what unpopular truth he is about to refer to.

The question is “How can you stand and live as a True Millennial?” I have four recommendations.

My first recommendation: Learn who you really are.

Take time to think prayerfully about these facts:
1. You are an elect son or daughter of God.
2. You are created in His image.
3. You were taught in the spirit world to prepare you for anything and everything you would encounter during this latter part of these latter days. That teaching endures within you!

You are living in the “eleventh hour.” The Lord has declared that this is the last time that He will call laborers into His vineyard to gather the elect from the four quarters of the earth. And you were sent to participate in this gathering. Again and again I have seen firsthand the powerful influence of True Millennials as they bring others to a knowledge of the truth. This is part of your identity and your purpose as the seed of Abraham!

-- I remember getting these talks 25 years ago. We were the chosen select generation to really usher in the Second Coming.

Therefore, my first recommendation is to learn for yourselves who you really are. Ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, how He feels about you and your mission here on earth. If you ask with real intent, over time the Spirit will whisper the life-changing truth to you. Record those impressions and review them often, and follow through with exactness.

I promise you that when you begin to catch even a glimpse of how your Heavenly Father sees you and what He is counting on you to do for Him, your life will never be the same!

My second recommendation: Expect and prepare to accomplish the impossible.

God has always asked His covenant children to do difficult things. Because you are covenant-keeping sons and daughters of God, living in the latter part of these latter days, the Lord will ask you to do difficult things. You can count on it—Abrahamic tests did not stop with Abraham.

-- They really should end, though. Abrahamic tests are cruel.

You will be asked to accept challenging assignments and become an instrument in the Lord’s hands. And He will enable you to accomplish the impossible.

How will you accomplish the impossible? By doing whatever it takes to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ by increasing your understanding of the doctrine taught in His restored Church and by relentlessly seeking truth. As a True Millennial, anchored in pure doctrine, when you are asked to do impossible things, you will be able to step forward with faith and dogged persistence and cheerfully do all that lies in your power to fulfill the purposes of the Lord.

You will have days when you will be thoroughly discouraged. So, pray for courage not to give up! You will need that strength because it will become less and less popular to be a Latter-day Saint. Sadly, some whom you thought were your friends will betray you...

-- "Betray." Interesting word to make you suspicious of your friends.

My third recommendation: Learn how to access the power of heaven.

Every one of us has questions. Seeking to learn, understand, and recognize truth is a vital part of our mortal experience. Much of my life has been spent in research. You too will learn best by asking inspired questions...

Some may question why the Church does some of the things it does. Perhaps many of you are not sure how to get answers to your prayers.

Our Heavenly Father and His Son stand ready to respond to your questions through the ministering of the Holy Ghost. But it is up to you to learn how to qualify for and receive those answers...

Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift so that when confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not.

-- What do we do when someone in the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve says something that we don't discern to be true? Like, say, Joseph Fielding Smith saying in 1960 that man would not reach the moon before the Second Coming, or the church's stance on race circa 1975?

We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When a thorny problem arises—and they only seem to get thornier each day—these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord. After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my Brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned. And my Brethren have the same experience.

The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively. And then we watch the Lord move upon the President of the Church to proclaim the Lord’s will.

-- I would LOOOOVE to be a fly on the wall when they have their weekly meeting in the temple.

This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries and again with the recent additions to the Church’s handbook, consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration.

-- Wait for it...

And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.

-- This is the first time someone has referred to it as a revelation, or that all of them were on board. When the initial policy change happened, it happened quietly. The church's Handbook 1 is only given to a few thousand leaders. The initial policy also excluded any child whose parent lived in or had lived in a same-sex relationship. The outcry from the leaked policy change was so loud that the church had to respond, and a clearly uncomfortable D. Todd Christofferson put his stamp on it with Michael Otterson with a "clarification" interview. He never referred to it as a revelation. He referred to it as a policy change.

-- Then a week later, the First Presidency put out a letter further clarifying the policy. The policy was now changed to only be against children who currently lived with their gay parent and that parent was in a same-sex relationship. I've heard from multiple people with connections in the Church Office Building that Pres. Monson has dementia, that he goes in and out of clarity, that he's good at the podium, but they have to carefully escort him whereever he goes. (This may explain why Pres. Monson never gives interviews while Pres. Hinckley gave them regularly.) They also say that this policy came from Monson and/or Nelson, and many department within the church were taken by surprise when this new policy went out.

-- Now, two months later, it's a revelation.

My dear brothers and sisters, you have as much access to the mind and will of the Lord for your own life as we Apostles do for His Church. Just as the Lord requires us to seek and ponder, fast and pray, and study and wrestle with difficult questions, He requires you to do the same as you seek answers to your own questions.

-- And the very next paragraph he says we're entitled to as much access to the will of the Lord as they are. And this is what I struggle with. This policy didn't make sense when it first came out, and every time I pray or ponder over it, it makes less sense. It's wrong. Going after children is just flat-out wrong. Maybe he perceives it as a revelation that all 15 signed on to, but I really wonder, if they were being 100% honest, that all 15 perceived it the exact same way.

My dear young friends, you can know the mind and will of the Lord for your own life. You do not have to wonder if you are where the Lord needs you to be or if you are doing what He needs you to do. You can know! The Holy Ghost will tell you “all things what ye should do.”

My fourth recommendation: Follow the prophets...

Prophets see ahead. They see the harrowing dangers the adversary has placed or will yet place in our path. Prophets also foresee the grand possibilities and privileges awaiting those who listen with the intent to obey. I know this is true! I have experienced it for myself over and over again.

The Lord has promised us that He will never allow the prophet to lead us astray. President Harold B. Lee declared: “You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory’ (D&C 21:6).”

-- Harold B. Lee was the last prophet who refused to change the church's stance on blacks and the priesthood, which the church now acknowledges was wrong. He also wrote that people born black or handicapped or in a third-world country were being penalized for something they did in the pre-existence. When did the Lord promise us the prophet will never lead us astray? Wilford Woodruff said it after he distributed the Manifesto of 1890, ending polygamy. (Except Woodruff did allow a few more polygamous marriages to take place after 1890, and there were enough wink-wink polygamous marriages happening that Joseph F. Smith had to issue a second manifesto in 1904.) Anyway I don't think they'd knowingly lead us astray, but it's clear they've led us astray on this issue or that issue from time to time. They just haven't completely derailed the church.

You may not always understand every declaration of a living prophet. But when you know a prophet is a prophet, you can approach the Lord in humility and faith and ask for your own witness about whatever His prophet has proclaimed.

-- So far my witness has been that this policy is not the Lord's will. The First Presidency letter did not categorize this as revelation.

The somber reality is that there are “servants of Satan” embedded throughout society. So be very careful about whose counsel you follow.

-- Another reference to Satan. Fear-mongering tactic?

My beloved brothers and sisters, you were born to be True Millennials! You are a chosen generation, fore-determined by God to do a remarkable work—to help prepare the people of this world for the Second Coming of the Lord.

-- There it is again. Generation X was a chosen generation, and so are the Millennials, and in 20 years, so will whatever we call Generation Z.


As people who regularly read me may know, 2015 has been a rough year for my testimony. My wife's left the church because (among other things) she's received answers to prayers that directly contradict what the Brethren are saying about LGBT issues. These talks by the Nelsons serve as a capstone as to why my faith is a lot more nuanced than it used to be. Let's review what's happened in the church since Pres. Monson has taken over as President in 2007.

1. Proposition 8. Pres. Monson assigned M. Russell Ballard, Quentin L. Cook, and L. Whitney Clayton to oversee the church's efforts to pass Prop 8 in California, which would reverse a judge's order that made same-sex legal in that state. If it was really the Lord's will that the church do this, then why did it backfire so spectacularly? Prop 8 galvanized gay-rights activists, and it really led to the Supreme Court ultimately legallizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states much sooner than it otherwise would have.

2. Apostles. Pres. Monson has had the chance to call five Apostles to the Quorum so far. All of them have been white guys born in Utah. There isn't one I point to of the five and say "This one should not have been called" but I wonder how much consideration Pres. Monson gave to all of the candidates who weren't white guys born in Utah. The church has now had 100 Apostles in its history. We've had six from England, one from Ireland, one from Norway, one from Denmark, one from Germany, and the other ninety from America. All 100 have been white guys, and for a church with an uncomfortable racial past, isn't it way past time for more diversity in the top 15?

3. Excommunications. The church has seen an increase in high-profile excommunications in the past year or two, and they've all been for apostasy, aka disagreeing with chuch leaders. Why kick out people who don't want to be kicked out? And why not excommunicate louder critics, like CES Letter author Jeremy Runnels?

4. Church Growth Stagnation. Last year was the first time since 1947 that the church didn't see at least 2% growth in total membership, and this is after the number of full-time missionaries almost doubled when the age of eligibility was lower to 18 for men and 19 for women.

It's worth noting that this is the longest in church history that no Apostle is under the age of 60, and it's been this way since David A. Bednar turned 60 in June 2012.

So, to this year specifically, in June, Elder Oaks gives a talk in Boise called "Who's on the Lord's Side?" where he says that the Apostles are on the Lord's side so if you disagree with them, Satan is deceiving you. The demonization of doubt increases. He also insists that if any of them have seen Christ, they're not going to tell us because that would be putting pearls before swine. Which solidifies to me that they haven't seen Christ.

Then in November... I've outlined my thoughts on this policy and its genesis enough I think. But don't you think it would have been a good idea to consult the General Primary Presidency on this policy that would affect children?

We don't really know what goes on when those fifteen men meet, and we may never know. The Church is not transparent with how many decisions are made. They haven't been transparent with finances since 1959, but outside sources have put together that they take in billions each year and just under 1% of tithing funds goes to charity. We do know they give extreme deference to seniority, so if Monson has dementia, and we don't necessarily agree with what Nelson and/or Oaks are saying... Do we just need to suck it up until they die and Pres. Holland takes charge in about 12 years?

Why is the Lord revealing that certain children should be forbidden from baby blessings or baptism? Why can't he reveal where homosexuals fit into His eternal plan? For the longest time, the church's stance was to pretend they don't exist, and then that it was a base perversion, and now... well, we don't know where it comes from, but you have to be celibate your entire life to stay in good standing.

If they meet regularly to wrestle with what the will of the Lord is on weighty matters, why don't they ask for further light and knowledge on, say, Heavenly Mother?

The truth is that each member is as entitled to personal revelation as the Brethren. And you know what, every once in a while they get it wrong. And there's no mechanism for them to back up when they're wrong. They have to plow forward. Only after they're dead is it okay to go back and massage this policy or that talk to get things aligned and then admit in the past, church leaders have made mistakes. As long as they don't enact emeritus status over health reasons, and as long as each prophet serves as long as he's alive, even if he's senile in his final years, like Kimball and Benson and now maybe Monson, and as long as the next prophet is always the senior-most apostle, well, I suppose we just wait patiently.

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