From Stake Presidency

Recognizing and Following the Spirit

During our Stake Conference on February 7th, Brother John Evans gave a talk about how we can recognize and follow the Spirit. Below is a portion of his talk that can help each of us in living our lives in a way that we can recognize the spirit and be ready to follow the promptings we receive.

“…Recognizing and following the Spirit will be a great guide and protection in our lives. How do we recognize that voice? How do we know when it is the Lord guiding us and not just us listening to our own desires?

You have the Spirit when: you have a sense of deep gratitude for the leaders of the Church—that they have lived lives that enable them to be trusted agents for Heavenly Father and give us reliable guidance; when you sincerely want to sustain them in building the Kingdom.

You have the Spirit when: you accept others as they are. This doesn’t mean you accept sin as not-sin, or participate with them in unwholesome activities, but that you accept them as they are. You don’t demand that they live up to your expectations. You acknowledge they are dealing with their own challenges, perhaps the best they can, just as you are dealing with your own.

You have the Spirit when: you encourage people. Your desire is to build others up, not tear them down.

You have the Spirit when: you have an intense desire to help others and are willing to sacrifice for their well-being.

You have the Spirit when: you are in awe of the Book of Mormon because it is filled with the most profound truths and knowledge relevant to your personal success in life.

You have the Spirit when: you are not defeated by your past mistakes. You know Christ did not bleed from every pore in the Garden of Gethsemane and cry out to His Father from the cross for nothing. You know, deep down, that He was doing something essential for you. It was so you could be cleansed from the sins you have committed and others could be healed from the harm you have caused them.

You have the Spirit when: you love the hymns of the Church. They change your mood from anxiety and fear to tranquility and hope.

You have the Spirit when: you pray a lot. You know that there are many things that matter a great deal to you that you have no control over. But you know all things are possible for Heavenly Father. You lay those problems at His feet.
ou have the Spirit when: you forgive yourself. No message comes more strongly through the Holy Ghost than that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love you. Knowing that they love you, you can love yourself—or learn to love yourself again if you have forgotten how.

You have the Spirit when: you can accept the challenges of life: the physical handicaps, the illnesses, the setbacks, even the failures. You trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with your life and that your experiences here are necessary preparation for a future wonderful beyond the mind of mortal man to comprehend.

You have the Spirit when: you love the temple. You go there to marinate in the Holy Spirit.

To have the Holy Spirit we must implement procedures that will invite His presence. Many of you already do what is needed, and your list may be different than mine. I am intensely aware, however, that when someone comes to receive a patriarchal blessing it is the only one they will ever receive and that both Heavenly Father and the individual expect me to do it right. It is a heavy responsibility. My only job—one single thing—is to say the words the Holy Spirit puts into my mind. There is nothing unusual about that, however. It is exactly the same process every Elder uses when he gives a blessing for healing or comfort. It is exactly the same process a bishop uses when he is giving counsel, or a mother when she is thoughtfully advising a child. All of us need inspiration daily.

Here are some of the things I do to invite the Spirit:

I read a chapter from one of the four gospels about Christ every day because the Sacrament prayer promises that if we remember Him we will have His Spirit. When I read about Him, I remember Him.

Mary Ann and I read a chapter of the Book of Mormon together every day. There is such a power in that book I am afraid not to read it each day.

I read a conference talk every day. I believe it is easier to be in tune with what the Spirit wants said to this generation if I study what that same Spirit has instructed our Church leaders to teach us.

I seek and pray to be forgiven of my sins. I believe the Lord can do that so there will be less impediment to inspiration.

I pray, before giving each blessing, that I will say everything Heavenly Father wants me to say and that I will not say anything He doesn’t want me to say.

I don’t speak disrespectfully of Church leaders nor dismissively of revealed doctrine. If I disrespect what has been revealed through them, how can I expect the Spirit to reveal more to me?

I write down and review the personal revelations I receive. Receiving personal inspiration and direction is not rare. It is not unusual. If I don’t value what I have received, why should I expect to be given more?

I try to avoid conflict and contention. I don’t always succeed at that—after all, I’m an attorney. But I’m aspiring to get better at it.

Learning to recognize the Spirit is important because His touch is often a very soft one—just a gentle nudge…”

These are some great ideas for us to try and implement in our own lives, as well as a reminder for small steps we can take each day to be more like our Savior.
Happy Sabbath Day!

Having Faith

During Stake Conference on February 7, 2016 President Morris gave a wonderful talk that reinforced the importance of strengthening our relationship with Christ.
Since one part of our Katy Stake Focus is “Strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ and in His Atonement and deepening our discipleship” I felt this was a perfect reminder.
Below are some excerpts from his powerful testimony…

“In our November conference, I said “If we merely have a social conversion and conform our lives only when it is socially expedient, the day is quickly coming when it will be too uncomfortable socially to belong to the Church. Those who are built on a sandy foundation will be swept away by the tide of the world.” I would like to talk about building upon the rock and the role of our testimonies in pressing forward through the storm.

In a world that is increasingly challenging and even hostile to faith – those of faith are viewed as weak-minded, naive, and even the source of the problem. Cynicism is fueled by citing the many atrocities that have occurred over time in the name of God and faith, or by declaring the hypocrisy of those whose actions are far from their words. As the Lord said to Joseph Smith, “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” And so, declaring religion a failure, they are free to chart their own course. If there is no God, or he doesn’t really care what we do, then all is well. In that context, the scriptures don’t matter, or at best, they are open to interpretation. They can be distorted to fit in any image man desires – as we mingle the philosophies of men with scripture.

So, how do we immunize ourselves against these aggressive forces of opposition? We need to be settled on four fundamental truths of which I bear you my solemn witness today.

1) We are children of a loving Heavenly Father – we existed before this life and we will after. We have a divine nature and purpose. We are created in His image. In all the vastness of his creations, ultimately, his plan is very personal and individual to each one of us. He loves us and he has reserved his choicest blessings for those who love him.
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
How do I know this – because he has shown me that it is so as he hears and answers my prayers, as I see the blessings of his gospel and the gift of his Son in my life – I know it is all for a far greater purpose than to just exist for this lifetime and then vanish.
He loves us and wants each of us home.

2) Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of mankind. It is a fact that he existed. Who he really was, and what his purpose was are the subjects of debate. Let us settle it in our hearts and minds brothers and sisters and be witnesses of Him.
He lived a perfect life, he fulfilled the Law of Moses and established the new covenant, he established his Church led by apostles under priesthood authority, he performed many mighty miracles including power over death, he suffered the pains, sickness, infirmities, and sins of all mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then submitted himself to the hands of vile and evil men to be crucified. He voluntarily gave his life. Three days later by the Jewish accounting of time, he took it up again – and broke the bands of spiritual and physical death.
He heals all who will exercise faith and come unto him – through both the redeeming and strengthening power of His Atonement. Because of him, we are never trapped in our past – we can become new and we have hope. I testify of these truths borne out of very personal experiences that I cannot deny.

3) The restored Church is upon the earth. I speak with many of my Christian friends who declare that revelation and authority all ended with the Bible and the death of the apostles. There was no more need for anything further. I find that surprising on many levels. I have spoken with some members of the Church who are struggling with or who declare that they no longer believe the Church is true or that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I am reminded of those who were offended by various things the Savior said and did and “walked with him no more.” He asked Peter, “wilt thou also go away?” Peter responded, “Where wilt I go – thou has the words of eternal life.”
To those who have decided to go away, I ask in a similar fashion, where will you go? And I ask the question, did Christ intend for his Church to be organized and directed under apostolic authority? If so, and it is not here, where is it? You better go find it.
The scriptures make it clear Christ did intend for His Church to be led under such priesthood authority. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” Was that just referring to a period of 100 years 2000 years ago, when throughout millennia, he spoke through prophets? Do we no longer need to come to the unity of the faith? Are we no longer tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine?
So, assuming he did intend for it to endure – it could only happen through one of 3 two means – unbroken line of authority, or a restoration. So then, the Restoration either occurred as we declare, or it has not come, because no other church makes such a claim.
Brothers and sisters, I testify that Christ intended for priesthood keys to direct his church – through revelation and through the ordinances of salvation. The Church is not perfect – it is led by imperfect men and women, because that is all God has to work with on this earth – but it is done under His authority and direction. Its fruits are a testament of that reality.

4) Finally, two interrelated points – Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is the word of God. If the Church and priesthood authority were intended to endure, and the line of authority was broken, how did it return? It occurred as a young boy declared when he asked the question – “where was Christ’s church?” He received a very emphatic, personal answer as he saw God the Father and the Son. This began a cascading of revelation and restoration – the Book of Mormon, Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood keys, the church organization, keys to the gathering and sealing power.
“To those of faith who, looking through the colored glasses of the 21st century, honestly question events or statements of the Prophet Joseph from nearly 200 years ago, may I share some friendly advice: For now, give Brother Joseph a break! In a future day, you will have 100 times more information than from all of today’s search engines combined, and it will come from our all-knowing Father in Heaven “
A word about the Book of Mormon – it was translated in 90 days, never reviewed, seen by 11 witnesses that never denied it. Again, facts – but I know of its truth borne out of the confirmation of the Spirit and the fruits as I have studied and applied it. It teaches powerful, fundamental truths that complement, clarify, and reinforce the doctrine of the Bible. It bears a powerful witness of the reality of Christ, who he is, and how we must come unto him.
For example, the Bible uses the word Atonement once. In the Book of Mormon, it is used 39 times. It testifies of Christ and was written for our day. I love the Book of Mormon – and I bear my solemn witness, it is true. Only a prophet would able to bring such a book forward.
There is much we don’t know or understand but that does not negate the truth that we do. The Lord has always revealed truth through his chosen servants – sometimes via messengers, sometimes by vision, and sometimes by the whisperings of the Spirit. This was done anciently and again today – they witness and then they testify. Their witness is then left for us to accept or reject.

You should not be discouraged or feel shaken because of things you may not know or understand. Focus on what you do know and move forward in faith – with great resolve, urgency, and focus as we did in the storm.
I have always loved the account in Mark of the man with the afflicted child. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. . . Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” I love the integrity of his response – recognizing what he wanted more than anything but acknowledging that he was still imperfect in his understanding.

Never lose courage, hope, or focus. Press forward with steadfastness in Christ – be not faithless but believing. As you do, you will withstand the tempest and he will guide you safely to the harbour. And just as I relied on my father to get us safely through the storm, your children are relying on your faith and testimonies to develop their own and to help them navigate through the spiritual storm.
Elder Neil A. Maxwell said, “Small equivocations in parents lead to large deviations in children.” We should not take such accountability lightly. I testify of the anchoring power of these four truths.”

Invite One

We have been challenged by our Stake Presidency in recent months to Invite One person to one church event. It could be a church meeting, church basketball, dance, seminary, Relief Society, the family history center. There are countless ideas!
Stake conference is coming up in just 2 more weeks (21 February, Saturday, at 7pm ADULT Session of Stake Conference and 22 February, Sunday, at 10am) which provides yet another opportunity.
We would love to share some of the experiences of the members of our stake as they participate in this initiative, so please let us know if you have a story to share!

Here is one member’s recent inspiring experience:

“I read Brother Moriss’ challenge to them on Monday and they decided they would put their faith in action this very week. They each prayed about a name of a friend they could invite to seminary on Friday, and once they shared the name they’d chosen, we prayed for those names as a class all week. Two girls invited their whole swim team. One young man challenged his whole soccer team to attend, assuring them they’d win their game if they attended seminary at 6am on game day. Not every invitation was accepted, but Friday morning, we had an additional FOUR young people attend seminary with us. We read from the scriptures, several students bore testimony of personal revelation and God’s plan for us, and then we enjoyed a LOT of donuts. It was awesome.

I’ve learned some things this week…

That when the Lord, through His servants, extends a challenge, the youth are willing and eager to demonstrate the faith enough to accomplish the request.

I learned that we need only be brave enough to extend the invitation… that if a teenager is willing to attend a 6am prayer meeting, then my neighbor or co-worker or relative just might attend a 10 am church meeting or a fireside or a Family Home Evening with me, too.

I’ve learned that the youth of this world who are not of our faith are just as hungry for truth and light as we are, and that I, as is everyone else in our Stake, am under obligation to help them find it.

And I learned that the youth of our Stake are born missionaries, we need only teach them and show them an example worthy of following, and they will perform the work they’ve been born to do.

I know that as teachers, we issue challenges and invitations to our students all of the time. I was especially humbled and impressed that these kids took this one to heart and that our experience was such a positive one. I know the Lord is mindful of these youth and that this is one of many miracles we can witness when we help these children understand His ways.

Thanks for letting me share!

G Woolwine
Cinco West Ward

PS One guest has said he will attend next Friday, when one of my students (his friend) will be teaching a 5 minute lesson
PSS The soccer team won their game, 4-0. Whew!”

Becoming Perfected in Christ 

In a recent Stake Conference, President Russell Shurtz gave a talk about how we can become perfected in Christ. This something that is so important for us to be reminded of as we go throughout our busy and often complicated lives. Here are some excerpts from his wonderful talk to brighten your Sunday!


Becoming Perfected in Christ
Where is your heart with the Lord? Where are you in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
Tonight I have felt impressed to share a few thoughts about how each of us can:
* Turn our hearts more fully to the Savior
* Learn to trust Christ more, to accept and appreciate his Atonement more fully in our lives, and let Him help carry our burdens
*Understand what the scriptures mean by “perfection” and how we can become perfected in Christ without being overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations we may have of ourselves.

When I was in high school, I can remember sitting at the lunch room table with a group of my friends one day. Somehow the conversation turned to religion. In my graduating class of just under 300 students, there were only 3 members of the Church. We lived in small town South Carolina in the heart of the Bible Belt, where even today the Church is still relatively small. Many of my friends knew precious little about our Church. On this particular day, we started talking about some doctrinal things like whether there could be any scriptures beyond the Bible and what it meant to be “saved”.
This was perhaps the first time that I can recall ever thinking deeply about these important Gospel principles. I realized that my friends had very different views than I did. This forced me to do some real soul searching and pondering and reading. I spent time talking with my parents and my seminary teachers.
One thing that really struck me was my friends’ view that in our Church, we placed too much emphasis on “earning” our way back to Heaven and thus didn’t really believe in Jesus Christ, the power of the cross, and His saving blood.
I was puzzled a bit. Was it my faithful obedience to the commandments and my personal righteousness that would help me return back to Heavenly Father? Or, as some of my friends felt, was it solely the Grace of Jesus Christ that would bring me back to Heavenly Father, regardless of what I actually did in terms of my obedience. They felt adamantly that after accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, there was very little to do beyond that.
And so for several years after this conversation I grappled and struggled to understand what was true. It was while serving as a full-time missionary in Venezuela and gaining a deeper knowledge of God’s word that I developed a more clear understanding of our relationship with Christ—and what He and Heavenly Father expect of us.

I came to realize that while it was NOT true that we could simply profess Jesus and all was done, there was actually some truth in what my friends had shared with me. I knew that “faith without works is dead”—and that each of us must endure faithfully to the end, but I still found an important grain of truth in my friends’ faith. I saw that some of my friends were actively striving to embrace Christ, to let him carry their burdens, and to allow his Grace, love and mercy to strengthen them and fill them with joy and optimism in the journey. They clearly were not trying to do it all on their own. In contrast, to some extent, I had been.
In short, I had not fully appreciated the lifting and strengthening power of Christ’s grace. I had instead been primarily focused on dutifully following all of the commandments—mostly on my own. As a young person, I had some gaps in my testimony and my faith. I had sincere questions. I struggled sometimes with self-esteem, with wanting to know whether God really heard my prayers and would answer them. Whether He truly had a plan for me in this world. Whether He knew me individually.

In the 25 years since this enlightening conversation with my friends, I have come to see how we as members of this glorious Church may occasionally leave divine help on the table. We sometimes “live beneath our privileges”. We may be under-utilizing and under-appreciating the Atonement. We sometimes seem to unwittingly pull the load alone, not accepting Christ’s heartfelt offer to “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest . . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28, 30).

Brothers and Sisters, sometimes we and those we love may struggle with feelings of inadequacy. We worry that we’re not measuring up. We’re so far from being perfect. We may do fine for a while, but then we slip and fall. We then beat ourselves up. We see so clearly our shortcomings—and tend to compare our weaknesses with the strengths we perceive in those around us. No matter how hard we try, we simply will NOT be able to be perfect in this life.
My message and invitation tonight is NOT that we should stop striving to be like and follow Jesus. Indeed, if we are to reach God’s ultimate goal for each one of us to become more like Him, we MUST strive to emulate the Son in all that we do. But my invitation tonight IS that perhaps each of us, IN OUR STRIVING, can better understand and draw upon the transforming power of Christ’s Atonement, his love, his mercy, and his grace—all of which are freely offered to us. We can realize that its not just about us and our strivings—its about Christ and what he’s already accomplished for us.

I recently came across some beautiful insights shared by Elder Gerrit W Gong of the Seventy on this topic. Listen to what he’s learned:
“Understanding the Savior’s freely given atoning love can free us from self-imposed, incorrect, and unrealistic expectations of what perfection is. Such understanding allows us to let go of fears that we are imperfect—fears that we make mistakes, fears that we are not good enough, fears that we are a failure compared to others, fears that we are not doing enough to merit His love. The Savior’s freely given atoning love helps us become more forgiving and less judgmental of others and of ourselves. This love heals our relationships and gives us opportunities to love, understand, and serve as our Savior would.
His atoning love changes our concept of perfection. We can put our trust in Him, diligently keep His commandments, and continue in the faith (Mosiah 4:6)—even as we also feel greater humility, gratitude, and dependence on His merits, mercy, and grace (2 Nephi 2:8).”

The word “perfection” as used in the scriptures is often misunderstood. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior commands us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). Note the footnote here indicating that the Greek word for perfect means “complete, finished, fully developed”. This is far different from the mistaken view when the scriptures speak of perfection, it means never making a mistake.

So how can we do what Elder Gong describes and more fully accept the Savior’s Atonement, trust Him more, and let Him carry our burdens—avoiding the pitfalls of perfectionism?
Tonight I’d like to propose that it largely comes down to our heart. This is why I started my remarks by asking you where your heart is with the Lord? The scriptures have some beautiful insights about how our heart ultimately is the key.
1 Kings 8:56-61
King Solomon offered a beautiful dedicatory prayer for the temple. They had just placed in the Holy of Holies the ark of the covenant, containing the sacred tablets with the 10 commandments. Solomon then offered this inspired blessing upon all those who were in attendance:
57The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us:
 58 That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways
60 That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else.
 61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.
We find a similar teaching in 2 Chronicles 16:9
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.
I believe there is vital lesson for us in these verses. They indicate that the Lord wants us to make our heart right with Him. To get our desires right. To strive to love him and trust him. Our hearts are then perfect with the Lord and toward the Lord.

As we are struggling through this life, we often will be reminded that we are far from perfect. We will make mistakes. We likely will not be the perfect student, the perfect athlete, the perfect musician, the perfect artist, or the perfect missionary. We won’t have the perfect body or the perfect mind. And importantly, we will not be the perfect parent or the perfect child, the perfect homemaker or the perfect breadwinner. And occasionally we will stub our toe and sin. Sometimes our sins may feel like far more than just stubbing our toe.
Satan would have us believe that we should just give up because it is impossible for us to be the best—or to perfectly live the Gospel in this life. Indeed, many of us have fallen prey to this defeatist attitude at one time or another—because discouragement is such an intensely powerful tool of the Adversary.
But the scriptures teach the important principle that God is really looking on our heart. Are we trying to turn to Him? Are we striving to stay close to Him? Do we recognize that its His perfection, not ours, that ultimately will carry the day? In our weakness, are we actively trying to draw upon the power of the Atonement for strength to resist temptation or to overcome trials and tribulations?
In short, we cannot and should not try to do this on our own. God simply expects us to do the best we can, knowing that we will make some mistakes along the way.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell cautions us: ‟What can we do to manage these vexing feelings of inadequacy? . . . We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon. (“Notwithstanding My Weakness,” Ensign, November 1976, p. 14.)”

We need to get our heart right with the Lord. As we strive to be like Christ and to follow his perfect example, let’s remember to be patient and kind with those around us and with ourselves. God’s word has made clear that we do well when we strive for our hearts to be full of compassion and Christ’s love.
Listen to these beautiful words in Colossians 3:12-14
12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.

If we ultimately want to become like our Savior, more perfect and more holy, we need to be filled with His pure love—which the scriptures call Charity. How fitting that the scriptures equate charity with being perfect—“perfectness.” I want to close with a powerful doctrine from the Book of Mormon about how a loving Heavenly Father helps us ultimately become more like him. The scriptures of the Restoration shed such remarkable light on the Savior, his Atonement, the Great Plan of Happiness, and our journey back home to Heavenly Father.
Moroni 10: 32-33 
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

How beautiful it is to note that perfection here is never referenced without being followed by the words “in Christ.” How comforting that our “perfection” is not measured by never making a mistake in life. God is fully aware that our performance on this grand stage of life will not be flawless. Indeed, we couldn’t become who He wants us to become without making some mistakes along the way. I love how Elder Gong described this process of becoming perfected in Christ.
Becoming perfect results from our journey through physical life, death, and resurrection, when all things are restored “to their proper and perfect frame” (Alma 40:23). It includes the process of spiritual birth, which brings “a mighty change” to our hearts and dispositions (Mosiah 5:2). It reflects our lifelong refinement through Christlike service and obedience to the Savior’s commandments and our covenants.
Our learning in this life comes line upon line, struggle by struggle, and repentance upon repentance. As I watch my precious little 3 year old boy growing and learning, the only time I really get frustrated is when he’s not willing to try. I see so visibly how he’s learning when he touches something that’s hot. How sad he is when others are eating ice cream that he can’t enjoy because he didn’t eat his vegetables. And how he’s trying so hard to get the button to button or the shoe to fit on his foot.
Brothers and Sisters, God sees us in a very similar light. He wants us to learn and to grow. He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to keep striving and not give up. But he doesn’t want us to do it all on our own. He sent the greatest source of Help and Support that any of us could ever need in the gift of his beloved Son.
May we turn our heart more fully to the Savior—and strive to fill our heart with His pure love, which is charity—the bond of perfectness.
And may we understand God’s beautiful message about how through the Atonement we can become perfected in Christ without being overwhelmed by our own imperfections and unrealistic expectations

How Fathers Can Provide Spiritual Leadership to Their Children

During the Priesthood leadership session of our Katy Stake Conference in August, President David Sosa gave a wonderful talk. Below you will find some inspired ideas for fathers that he mentioned.
I think they are helpful for all of us as we work to strengthen our families and lead our children in the gospel.
father 1
How Fathers Can Provide Spiritual Leadership to Their Children
1. Use our priesthood to bless our children. Look for opportunities to share our priesthood with them. Give them father’s blessings. Baptize and confirm them. Ordain our sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in their lives. This will also help them gain a testimony and appreciation of the priesthood we hold.
2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. It is our responsibility as a priesthood holder and a father to make sure these important activities take place in our homes. Our personal involvement will teach our children how important these activities really are.
3. Whenever possible, attend church meetings together as a family. Family worship under our leadership is vital to our children’s spiritual welfare.
4. Spend time with our children. Go on dad/daughter dates and on father/son outings. As family, go on campouts/picnics, to ball games, recitals, school programs and so forth. Having dad there and being emotionally present makes all the difference.
5. Build traditions of family vacations, trips, and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by our children.
6. Have regular one on one visits with our children. Let them talk about what they want to discuss. Teach them true values. Teach them gospel principles. Tell them we love them. Personal time with our children will show them what dad considers to be important.
7. Teach our children to work. Show them the value of working towards a worthy goal. Establish mission funds and education funds for your children. This will teach them what you consider to be important.
8. Encourage good music, art, and literature in our homes. . Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of our children forever.
9. Attend the temple regularly with your wife. This will set a powerful example for our children. Our children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
10. Have our children see our joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This will help them want to also serve in the church.
father 2

What to Remember When Looking for a Spouse

Thank you to President Russell Shurtz of our Stake Presidency for this great piece! Although it is aimed to the young single adults of the stake, I think there is something for everyone.

What to Remember When Looking for a Spouse

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As a young single adult in the Church, there are both tremendous opportunities and challenges. Your ability to learn, to serve, to minister, and to get involved in the community is extraordinary. Compared to those who are married, you likely have more time to travel, develop your talents, study the Gospel, and explore the beautiful world in which we live. For those who are actively seeking a spouse, however, it can still be a discouraging time. You may feel a deep sense of frustration at not having found the right person yet, particularly as you see others around you starting their families and “moving forward” with their lives.

I remember very vividly this time period in my life when I was anxiously seeking to find the right person—but seemingly not having much success. Sometimes I didn’t seem to be meeting any new people at all. I felt stuck in a routine of seeing the same people over and over. Other times I was meeting new people, but none of them felt like the person I had been searching for—the right “fit” for me. And so for a period of years I hoped and prayed, sought to exercise my faith in God’s plan for me, went to the temple regularly, and reached out to meet as many new people as I could.

During this season of life, I remember receiving wise counsel from my bishop and other trusted friends and family members. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that their counsel was indeed spot on—and helped me get through this particular season of my life. I share below some of their counsel with the hope that it may also prove valuable to you.

First, they invited me to focus on becoming the person that God wanted me to become. Sometimes that involves waiting and trusting. Personal growth and development often take time. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed, “The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best?” [Even As I Am (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 93]

Rather than despairing and pulling our hair out, we can focus on building a meaningful and rewarding life without a partner, recognizing that if we can’t learn to be happy on our own, chances are that we’ll struggle to find happiness even when that special someone comes into our life. In short, we need to learn to be happy now, even when things are not ideal.

Life doesn’t necessarily get easier once we are married. In fact, it often becomes much more complex, particularly when children enter the equation. So learning to be happy now, even when we are single, is vital to our future happiness in married life.

While we are still single, we can focus on using this time to further our education, strengthen our future career and work opportunities, and more fully develop our testimony. Looking back, much of the Gospel knowledge and strength that I draw upon today came from that season of being single, when I had more time to study and ponder the scriptures—and to think deeply about what mattered most in my life. It truly was foundational for the rest of my life.

Second, they encouraged me to focus on becoming the type of person that I ultimately wanted to attract and be with. We generally will tend to attract people who are like us. If we are not focused on strengthening our testimony, if we don’t attend the temple, if we don’t share the gospel, and if we are generally unhappy, then it is unlikely that we will attract someone who loves all these things, who actively does them in their life, and who is happy.

Sometimes God moves in unexpected ways in our lives. I never cease to be amazed as I hear stories of people I meet (both in and out of the Church) who met their spouse in a highly unexpected way—or who married someone with a completely different background—and yet are now so grateful to have their spouse.

I am incredibly thankful for the inspired counsel that was shared with me when I was single and struggling. Those lessons have remained close to my heart even today. Lessons about learning to trust God, to use each season of life productively, to become the kind of person that God wants us to become and that will attract the type of person that we hope to attract.

God’s ways are indeed higher than our ways—and His timetable often differs from our own desired timetable. Blessings sometimes come sooner and sometimes come later. But come they will. I thank Him each day for the wonderful lessons He’s taught me—and for the blessing that eventually came into my life when He orchestrated events to eventually help me cross paths with Sister Shurtz on a blind date. That led to the greatest blessing in my life: an eternal marriage with a Christlike person and a family that is sealed to us forever in the temple. God undoubtedly has our best interests at heart. May we build our faith in Him and trust Him to lead our lives in the ways He knows will bring us the greatest joy and personal growth.