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Monday, August 28, 2017

Church News I missed reporting on

Hello, everyone! In looking at past Church News articles, I realized that there were two on which I had not reported that positively impacted me. Continuing the report of BYU Campus Education Week, a couple who work in the fields of psychotherapy (Dennis Ashton) and grief counseling (Joyce Ashton) spoke together on how married couples can hold on to faith in the midst of great affliction and loss. This especially touched me as my wife and I have had a lot of health challenges lately and as one of the hardest was finding out about and accepting the fact that, barring a miracle, we will not be able to have the children we always wanted. You can read more on what they said here.

As for the other article, that was also posted recently. The Church News, which published a viewpoint each week, posted this one about how, as then-Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught in the April 2006 Priesthood Session, each of us will be able to see the end from the beginning as we put ourselves and our circumstances and day-to-day difficulties into the capable hands of our loving Heavenly Father. I was touched by that message when it was given, and that is why President Uchtdorf has become one whose General Conference talks I almost always study repeatedly. He has such a tender way of putting things into perspective, and as I listen to his words or any words spoken by the other 14 apostles with whom he serves, I know how much of a difference it always makes in my own life. While I am sure each of us have our favorites among the Brethren, one thing of which I am absolutely certain is that they are truly inspired and could not be more aware of what each of us individually are going through.

I also know that I am grateful for the opportunities that I have had over the years to allow the Lord to mold me through the hard times I have had. The one constant in the circumstances of my life that has always grounded me is the testimony I have that this life is merely a speck in the grand course of eternity, that "weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning", that, as said so well in one of our hymns, "trials make our faith grow stronger" and that there is no difficulty any of us will face that has not been experienced in full by our Savior. To any of my readers going through trials right now, I would encourage you with the words that have so often sustained me.

These words were the response the Savior gave to Joseph Smith when Brother Joseph was incarcerated in Liberty Jail on false charges for several months. Given the dismal conditions under which he and his companion prisoners were forced to live, and keeping in mind that he and they were not able to be with the rest of the Saints as they were driven from their homes in Missouri and greatly persecuted, he pleaded with the Lord to remember His suffering saints, asking why he had been forsaken and when the trials he and all the Saints were undergoing would come to an end. The Lord provided the following encouragement:

“My son [or, as He would say to women, my daughter], peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

“Thy friends do stand by thee, and shall hail thee again with warm hearts and hands.

“Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither do they charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.

“And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall melt away.”

This is encouraging to any of us who deal with trials of any kind. And it should likewise be helpful and reassuring to anyone who is subject, through no fault of their own, to unrighteous judgment and inaccurate conclusions.

Indeed, I have found that the entire content of D&C 121-123 very instructive on dealing with trials. I would further add a thought or two. In the 123rd section of the Doctrine & Covenants, the Lord describes many dire situations, some of which Joseph had actually gone through at that point, and others of which the Lord shared for the purpose of making His point. He concluded by saying that whatever happened to Joseph in particular and to any of us going through challenging trials, that “all these things will give [us] experience and will be for [our] good.” He then ends with this this powerful thought at the end of D&C 123: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?”

Just think of that. In earlier sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord talks about how, with what he experienced in the Garden and on the Cross, He is now able to fully serve in His divine role of “[our] advocate [or defense attorney] with the Father” who “is pleading [our] cause at [His] Father’s throne.”

I’m sorry. I got off on a bit of a tangent. My point was to demonstrate how, since the Savior has gone thorough what each of us has experienced, there is no trial He does not understand, no challenge, pain, or tribulation he has not himself vicariously experienced for us all, and therefore, no wounds He is not perfectly able to heal. To any of us (myself included), this should give us hope.

Since Christ gave all for us, what can we give to Him? As the days when He required animal sacrifice have long passed, all He asks is that we offer Him “a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” I would also add that, while the course of mortality requires all of us to feel sadness, sorrow, pain, and illness at varying degrees at various times, perhaps one of the very best things we can do is to ensure that we are doing our level best to the fullest of our ability to not transgress His laws and commandments. If we can resolve that we will exert all our power to ensure that He has not experienced any unnecessary pain in our behalf, His eternal sacrifice will easily transcend any trial, tribulation, afflictions, or adversity that comes to us as a natural part of living in a less than perfect world.

Of course, even the very best of us will never be 100% perfect. That has only characterized the entirety of our existence. The Only Perfect Man I know of is the Savior. So while we exert every effort not to transgress, at times, it will happen. The key for us in those times is to not live too long with the burden of our sins and transgressions, and, as soon as we are able to do so, to initiate the process of repenting from our sins and doing our best to make them right and not repeat them, and to rely completely on His atonement to make up the difference for anything we do lack.

That this may be our blessing and privilege every day of our lives for whatever remains of our brief opportunities to experience this mortal life is my humble prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Two New Stakes Created

Hello, everyone! I am back again, this time to report on how the Church created two stakes yesterday: 1 YSA Stake (in Lethbridge Alberta; AFAIK, that is the first YSA stake to be created in Canada) and the Eagle Mountain Nolan Park Stake. I will not attempt to analyze what this might mean in the context of Church history, nor do I intend to report on which units comprise these new stakes. Other resources do that well, and it's not my specialty. Others do that so well, and I will not take that from them.

For the details that are known, you can find information here (the LDS Church Temples page devoted to newly created units) and also within the next few days or so on the LDS Church Growth Blog (where Matthew Martinich, a Church growth expert, will put these developments into their proper context). For now, I wanted to mention that, with recent unit developments, there has been a net increase of 37 stakes, a net decrease of 11 districts (though some of that is due to districts being upgraded to stakes) and a net increase of 53 wards and branches.

That said, I do also want to note what has been so well observed by a couple of you that have commented on this blog: the number of wards & branches do not reflect what are called "sensitive units" that are counted on the Church's end of year report but are not counted by many sources that track general units developments. I am told there are around 100 of those. That being the case, the number of stakes now stands at 3,303, while the number of districts is 545, and the total number of units counted by most sources is 30,357, with the actual number of total units somewhere around 30,475 or so. That does it for this update. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. For now, thank you for the privilege of your time, and may the Lord continue to bless you all.

Church News Articles Describe Devastation in Texas; Face-to-Face with Young LDS Musical Artists

Hello, everyone! The Church News this evening released this article describing how Hurricane Harvey has devastated Texas, including how it has impacted Church members. Among the highlights of the article are that all missionaries are safe and accounted for, some Church buildings have sustained damage, and that some Church units cancelled their block meetings yesterday to allow members to focus on cleaning up and helping their neighbors, both their fellow Saints and friends of other faiths. As I previously reported a day or two ago, the Church has made preparations to send aid to the state of Texas, and it is badly needed.

Connected to that storm, the Deseret News published this article about the Houston Texas temple being threatened by the storm, along with reiterating missionaries safety and the damage done to some meetinghouses. That article mentions that the Houston Texas Temple Presidency is requesting prayers for that temple and those who serve there. The temple closed before the devastation began, and it is unknown at present when it will be able to reopen.

To stay up-to-date with the latest on the storm, how it is affecting local members and missionaries, and how each of us can help the Saints in that area at this time, click here. Updates will be regularly shared at that link until the devastation and the storm both end.

The Church News also released this article about the featured guests scheduled for the next Face-to-Face event for LDS youth. While I am not familiar with any of these artists, I am grateful to hear how they have used their talents to spread their testimonies. The youth of the Church will be greatly blessed by the opportunity to ask these talented individuals the questions they have.

That does it for this Church News update. Comments are welcome and appreciated. For now, thank you for the privilege of your time, and may the Lord bless you all.

Minor Progress Reported on the Arequipa Peru Temple

Hello, all! This will just be a brief post to provide a minor update on the construction of the Arequipa Peru Temple. While I last reported that that temple was having rebar set for the main floor structural walls (as of yesterday), I got word today that rebar had expanded to the second floor structural walls. That was great to hear about, and I am happy to pass that minor update along. For now, any comments are welcome and appreciated, as they always are. Thank you for the privilege of your time, and until my next post, I wish you all the best.