Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Didn't Know Him, But He Was a Wonderful Man

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On Monday, I attended the funeral of a man I did not know. Loyal Hastings was a brother-in-law of Bruce Mendenhall. (Bruce's sister Janice was married to Loyal.) He was 76 and died unexpectedly. Though I did not know him, it was an honor to learn about his life and example.

Let me share a few things that his daughters said about him.

"There was no service too small or too inconvenient for Dad." —Deena Hastings

He had been released as High Priest Group Leader just six months ago. His way of supporting the new group leader—who felt Loyal's shoes were too big to fill—was to volunteer for everything he could, small or great, to help lift that weight off the shoulders of the man who lead him.

"The message of his life rings true...He gave his all. What more was there to give?" —Debra Mitchell

What more could you and I give?

All his children who spoke knew deeply that their father loved them, and expressed as much. It reminds me that a great reassurance to us is that when death separates us, love does not die.

Finally, one of his sons, David, read this poem by Mary Lyman Henrie, entitled “To Any Who Have Watched for a Son’s Returning.” The poem, it seemed, described his father's constancy and loyalty.

He watched his son gather all the goods
that were his lot,
anxious to be gone from tending flocks,
the dullness of the fields.
He stood by the olive tree gate long
after the caravan disappeared
where the road climbs the hills
on the far side of the valley,
into infinity.
Through changing seasons he spent the light
in a great chair, facing the far country,
and that speck of road on the horizon.
Mocking friends: “He will not come.”
Whispering servants: “The old man has lost his senses.”
A chiding son: “You should not have let him go.”
A grieving wife: “You need rest and sleep.”
She covered his drooping shoulders,
his callused knees,
when east winds blew chill,
until that day …
A form familiar, even at infinity,
in shreds, alone, stumbling over pebbles.
“When he was a great way off,
His father saw him,
and had compassion, and ran,
and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

May we all likewise sit in "a great chair," as Loyal Hastings did, "facing a far country," waiting for the return of our beloved children or spouse or friend, no matter how old they are, or how far they have gone.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Weight and Force of the Covenants I Have Made

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Thanks to President Munk for sharing this quote today:

"The ordinances are not deep, dark secrets to be kept as such from the world. It is easy to get a temple recommend and then later apostatize and spread abroad the so-called secrets of the temple. The basic idea of the ordinances from Moses back to Adam is separation from the world.

"Why are these temple ordinances guarded with such secrecy when anyone who really wants to can find out what goes on? Even though everyone may discover what goes on in the temple, and many have already revealed it, the important thing is that I do not reveal these things; they must remain sacred to me. I must preserve a zone of sanctity which cannot be violated, whether or not anyone else in the room has the remotest idea what the situation really is.

"For my covenants are all between me and my Heavenly Father ... I can never share my understanding of them completely with anyone but the Lord. No matter what happens, it will, then, always remain secret: only I know exactly the weight and force of the covenants I have made—I and the Lord with whom I have made them—unless I choose to reveal them. If I do not, then they are secret and sacred no matter what others may say or do. Anyone who would reveal these things has not understood them, and therefore that person has not given them away. You cannot reveal what you do not know!

Hugh Nibley, Temple and Cosmos (Salt Lake: Deseret/FARMS, 1992), 61-65.

Friday, April 17, 2009

There Once was a Hand Named Dale

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I spoke briefly at the funeral of Dale Castagno (1935-2009) today. After the service, Dale was carried to the cemetery in this horse-drawn hearse, built in 1805, and driven by two of his sons.

In honor of Dale, I wrote this poem last Sunday—Easter morning—the day before he died.

I will dearly miss you, old friend. We will do our best to take care of LaRae.

There Once Was a Hand Named Dale

There once was a hand named Dale
Who rode a long, lonely trail
A trail of sadness and grief
But blessings, too, beyond belief.

He was tough as an ox, you know,
He’d ride in the rain and the snow.
But he’d always get the job done,
Long after the setting of the sun.

He could flank a calf with one hand,
And give ‘em shots with his teeth.
And if a bull ever came charging,
Boy, were they in for a lot of grief!

He could saddle two horses at a time,
And he never committed a crime—
Well, at least he never got turned in,
You see, he never was much on sin.

One day he roped a calf and a cougar
All in one, giant loop.
That night he ate a heap of veal
And a bowl of mountain lion soup.

One day he rode alone in the hills,
Far above the din and the crowd,
When he heard a still, small voice,
It wasn’t very loud.

It spoke of a story long ago
Of a Man, a garden and a cross,
A Man of many sorrows, who
Knew of sadness and loss.
Who walked alone up a hill
Where he gave His life for all.

Dale told himself that day,
“I’ll walk up that hill, too,
And give my all for You.”

Life has come hard at Dale since then,
But his toughness has served him well.
He has seen a lot of heaven,
And a little too much of hell.

But he’s made it through it all,
With a prayer on his lips, and a
Song in his heart—oh, the goodness
Of that man is way off the chart.

There once was a hand named Dale
Who rode a long, lonely trail
A trail of sadness and grief
But blessings, too, beyond belief.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday Evening

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The Same Day at Evening

Afterward, the same day at evening, as they thus spake, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus himself, and appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat and stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you.”

But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?

“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”

And when he had thus spoken, he shewed unto them his hands, and his feet, and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.

And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, “Have ye here any meat?” And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.

And he said unto them, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” And upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

And ye are witnesses of these things. then said Jesus to them again, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.”

And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

Mark 16:14; Luke 24:35–48; John 20:19–23

Sunday Afternoon

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A Village Called Emmaus

And, behold, after that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went that same day into the country, And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs.

And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.
But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

And he said unto them, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”

And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?”

And he said unto them, “What things?” And they said unto him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.

“But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel, and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.

“Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre. And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.

“And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said, but him they saw not.”

Then he said unto them, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?”
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went, and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And he went in to tarry with them.

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him, and he vanished out of their sight.

And they said one to another, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”

And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.”

And the told it unto the residue, what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread, neither believed they them.

Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–35

Sunday Morning

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Touch Me Not

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they say unto her, “Woman, why weepest thou?” She saith unto them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Jesus saith unto her, “Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?” She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Mary.” She turned herself, and saith unto him, “Rabboni”—which is to say, “Master.”

Jesus saith unto her, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them, ‘I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’”

And Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, as they mourned and wept, and that he had spoken these things unto her. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.

Mark 16:9–11; John 20:11–18

Be Not Afraid

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “All hail.” And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Then said Jesus unto them, “Be not afraid. Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”

Matt. 28:9–10

And the Graves Were Opened

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

Matt. 27:52–53

We Will Persuade Him and Secure You

Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done.

And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, “Say ye his disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.”

So they took the money, and did as they were taught, and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

Matt. 28:11–15

Early Sunday Morning

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Who Shall Roll Us Away the Stone?

And when the sabbath was past, very early in the morning, when it was yet dark as it began to dawn upon the first day of the week, behold, there was a great earthquake.

For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.

His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.

At the rising of the sun came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the mother of James, Salome, and Joanna, and certain other women that were with them, bringing the sweet spices which they had bought and prepared that they might come and anoint him.

And as they came to see the sepulchre, they said among themselves, “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?”

And when they looked, they found that the stone was rolled away from the sepulchre—for it was very great.

Matt. 28:1–4; Mark 16:2–4; Luke 24:1–2; John 20:1

Then She Runneth

Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.”

John 19:2

He Is Not Here

And they, entering into the sepulchre, found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, they saw two young men—one sitting on the right side and one stood by them—clothed in a long white, shining garments.

And they were affrighted and bowed down their faces to the earth, and the angel answered and said unto the women, “Fear not ye. For I know that ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

“And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’

But behold, go your way, and tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. There shall ye see him—lo, I have told you. And they remembered his words.

Matt. 28:50–7; Mark 16:5–7; Luke 24:3–8

They Went Out Quickly

And they departed quickly and fled from the sepulchre, with fear and great joy—for they trembled and were amazed, and did run to bring his disciples word. Neither said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid.

And told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.

It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.

And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.

Matt. 28:8; Mark 16:8; Luke 24:9-11

They Ran Both Together

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.

So they ran both together, and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.
Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.

For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.

And then the disciples went away again unto their own home, Peter wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

Luke 24:12; John 20:3–10

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saturday

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Ye Have a Watch

NOW THE NEXT DAY, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, ‘He is risen from the dead,’ so the last error shall be worse than the first.

Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch. Go your way, make it as sure as ye can.”

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.

Matt. 27:62–66

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Early Evening

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The Veil of the Temple Was Rent

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in the midst—in twain, from the top to the bottom. And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.

Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45b

Truly This Man Was the Son of God

Now when the centurion, which stood over against him, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, they feared greatly, he glorified God, saying, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

Matt. 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47

With a Spear Pierced His Side

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him.

But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs, but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true, and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, “He keepeth all his bones. Of him shall not one of them be broken.”

And again another scripture saith, “They shall look upon him whom they have pierced.”

John 19:31–37; Psalms 34:20; Zech. 12:10

Many Women Were There Beholding Afar Off

And there were also many women there, and all his acquaintance, who stood afar off, beholding these things.

Among whom was May Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed Jesus, and ministered unto him—and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.

Matt. 27:55–56; Mark 15:40–41; Luke 23:49

Then Took They the Body Of Jesus

And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, behold, there came a rich man named Joseph of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews—an honourable counsellor, and he was a good man, and a just who also himself waited for the kingdom of God—and was Jesus’ disciple, but secretly for fear of the Jews (the same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them).

This man came, and went in boldly unto Pilate and begged the body of Jesus, that he might take away.

And Pilate marvelled if he were already dead. And calling unto him the centurion, he asked him whether he had been any while dead. And when he knew it of the centurion, then Pilate gave him leave and commanded the body to be delivered to Joseph.

He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.

And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.

And when Joseph bought fine linen, and had taken the body of Jesus down, he wrapped it in clean linen cloth, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and laid him, in the garden, in his own new sepulchre, which he had hewn out in the rock, wherein never man before was laid.
And he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.

And there laid they Jesus, therefore, because of that was the Jews’ preparation day, for the sepulchre was nigh at hand. And the sabbath drew on.

And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, the mother of Joses also, which came with him from Galilee, who followed after, sitting over against the sepulchre, and beheld where his body was laid.

And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome returned, and prepared sweet spices and ointments, and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.

Matt. 27:57–61; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:50–56; John 19:38–42

Friday Late Afternoon

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There Was Darkness

Now from about the sixth hour, there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44

Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani

And at about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is to say, being interpreted, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

And some of them that stood by there, when they heard that, said, “Behold, this man calleth for Elias.”

After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, “I thirst.”

Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar, and straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and put it to his mouth, and gave him to drink.

The rest said, “Let alone. Let us see whether Elias will come to take him down and save him.

Matt. 27:45–49; Mark 15:33–36; Luke 23:45a; John 19:28–29; Psalms 22:1;69:21

It Is Finished

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished.”

And when Jesus had cried again with a loud voice, he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Matt. 27:50–51; Mark 15:37–38; Luke 23:45b–46; John 19:30

Friday Afternoon

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Simon of Cyrene

And after that they had mocked him, they took the purple robe off from him. And they took Jesus, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.

And as they came out and led him away, they laid hold upon a man, Simon of Cyrene by name, who passed by, coming out of the country—the father of Alexander and Rufus.

And on him they laid the cross and compelled him to bear it, that he might bear the cross after Jesus.

Matt. 27:31–32; Mark 15:20–21; Luke 23:26; John 19:16

Daughters of Jerusalem, Weep Not for Me

And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.

But Jesus turning unto them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.’

“Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us, and to the hills, cover us.’

“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”

Luke 23:27–31

A Place Called Golgotha

And when they were come, he bearing his cross went forth unto the place which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha, that is, being interpreted, “The place of a skull.”

And they gave him to drink vinegar, mingled with gall, and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink, and received it not.

Matt. 27:33–34; Mark 15:22; Luke 23:33; John 19:17

There They Crucified Him

And it was the third hour, and there they crucified him.

Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

With him were there two thieves crucified, on either side one, the one on his right hand, and the other on his left, and Jesus in the midst.

And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, “And he was numbered with the transgressors.”

Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:25,27–28 Luke 23:33b; John 19:18; Isaiah 53:12b

The Superscription of His Accusation

And Pilate wrote a title, a superscription of his accusation, written and set up over his head on the cross. And it was written in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, “THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, “Write not, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’”

Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26; Luke 23:38; John 19:19–22

They Parted My Garments Among Them

Then he soldiers, when they had crucified him, they parted his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part, and also his coat—now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.

And they said therefore among themselves, “Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, what every man should take,” that the scripture might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophet, “They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.”

And sitting down they watched him there. These things therefore the soldiers did.

Matt. 27:35–36; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34b–34c; John 19:23–24; Psalms 22:17b–18

Save Thyself and Come Down from the Cross

And the people stood, beholding. And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

And likewise also the chief priests and the rulers also with them mocked and derided him, with the scribes and elders, and said among themselves, “He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be Christ, the King of Israel, the chosen of God, let him now come down from the cross, and we will see and believe him.

“He trusted in God. Let him deliver him now, if he will have him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, and saying, “If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself.”

Matt. 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35-37

To Day Shalt Thou Be with Me in Paradise

And one of the malefactors, which were crucified with him, reviled him and cast the same in his teeth, saying, “If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.”

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds, but this man hath done nothing amiss.”

And he said unto Jesus, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”

And Jesus said unto him, “Verily, I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Matt. 27:44; Mark 15:32b; Luke 23:39–43

Behold Thy Mother

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, “Woman, behold thy son!”

Then saith he to the disciple, “Behold thy mother! “And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

John 19:25–27

Friday About Midday

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Behold the Man!

Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, “Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him.” Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe.

And Pilate saith unto them, “Behold the man!”

When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Pilate saith unto them, “Take ye him, and crucify him, for I find no fault in him.”
The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.”

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, “Whence art thou?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
Then saith Pilate unto him, “Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?”

Jesus answered, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above. Therefore, he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.”

And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, saying, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend. Whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.”

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour. And he saith unto the Jews, “Behold your King!”

But they cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him.” Pilate saith unto them, “Shall I crucify your King?”

The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

John 19:4–15

And Pilate Gave Sentence

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person. See ye to it.”

Then answered all the people, and said, “His blood be on us, and on our children.”

And so Pilate, willing to content the people, gave sentence that it should be as they required. Then he released Barabbas unto them (him that for sedition and murder was cast into prison), whom they desired.

And when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Jesus therefore unto their will to be crucified.

Matt. 27:24–26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:24–25; John 19:16a

Friday During the Morning

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A Notable Prisoner Called Barabbas

And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, said unto them, “Ye have brought this man unto me, as one that perverteth the people. And, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him—no, nor yet Herod, for I sent you to him—and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.”

Now at that feast of the passover, the governor was of necessity wont to release unto the people one prisoner, whomsoever they desired.

And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas, which lay bound with them that had made insurrection with him, and who had committed murder in the insurrection.

And the multitude crying aloud began to desire him to do as he had ever done unto them.
Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate answered them, saying, “Whom will ye therefore that I release unto you: Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ, the King of the Jews? For he knew that for envy the chief priests had delivered him.

When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.

The governor answered and said unto them, “Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you?” And they cried out all at once, saying, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas.” (Now Barabbas was a robber who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)

And Pilate, therefore, willing to release Jesus, answered and said again unto them, “What will ye that I shall do then with Jesus which is called Christ, the King of the Jews?”

And they all cried out again say unto him, “Let him be crucified! Crucify him! crucify him!”
And then Pilate the governor said unto them the third time, “Why, what evil hath he done? I have found no cause of death in him. I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.”

But they were instant with loud voices and cried out the more exceedingly, requiring that he might be crucified, saying, “Crucify him! Let him be crucified!”

And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.

Matt. 27:15–23; Mark 15:6–14; Luke 23:13–23; John 18:39–40

Into the Hall, Called Praetorium

Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him. Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus led him away into the common hall, called Praetorium. And they call together and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.

And they stripped him, and clothed him with a purple robe. And when the soldiers had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand. And they, bowing their knees before him, worshipped him, and mocked him, and began to salute him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

And they did spit upon him, and took the reed and smote him, and they smote him on the head with their hands.

Matt. 27:27–30; Mark 15:16–19; John 19:1–3

Friday After Dawn

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When the Morning Was Come

And as soon as it was day, straightway when the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people and the scribes took counsel against Jesus to put him to death, and led him into their council, saying, “Art thou the Christ? Tell us!”

And he said unto them, “If I tell you, ye will not believe, and if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
Then said they all, “Art thou then the Son of God?”

And he said unto them, “Ye say that I am.”

And they said, “What need we any further witness? For we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.”

Matt. 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66–71

I Have Betrayed the Innocent Blood

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.

And they said, “What is that to us? See thou to that.”

And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
And the chief priests took the silver pieces, and said, “It is not lawful for to put them into the treasury, because it is the price of blood.”

And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, ‘The field of blood,’ unto this day.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value. And gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”

Matt. 27:3–10; Zech. 11:12–13

Friday Before Dawn

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Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought for false witness against Jesus, to put him to death, but found none. Yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.

And at the last there arose two false witnesses, and bare false witness against him, saying, “We heard this fellow say, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, that is made with hands, and within three days, I will build another made without hands.”

But neither so did their witness agree together.

And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, “Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee?”

But Jesus held his peace and answered nothing.

And the high priest answered and said unto him, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

And Jesus saith unto him, “I am, as thou hast said. Nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, “He hath spoken blasphemy! What further need have we of any witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye?”

And they all condemned him and said, “He is guilty of death.”

Matt. 26:59–66; Mark 14:55–64

Prophesy Unto Us, Thou Christ

Then the men that held Jesus mocked him, and some began to spit on him, and when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face.

And the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands, and say unto him, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ. Who is he that smote thee?” And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.

Matt. 26:67–68; Mark 14:65; Luke 22:63–65

Thou Also Wast with Jesus with Jesus of Nazareth

And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there one of the maids of the high priest that kept the door came unto him. And when she saw Peter as he sat by the fire warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.”

But he denied him before them all, saying, “Woman, I know him not, neither understand I what thou sayest.”

And when Simon Peter was gone out into the porch, and stood and warmed himself, the cock crew.

And after a little while another maid saw him again and began to say to them that stood by, “This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.” They said therefore unto him, “Art not thou also one of his disciples?”

And again he denied with an oath, and said, “Man, I am not. I do not know the man.”
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and confidently affirmed again to Peter, “Did not I see thee in the garden with him? Surely thou also art one of them, for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech bewrayeth thee and agreeth thereto.”

Then Peter began to curse and to swear, saying, “Man, I know not what thou sayest of this man of whom ye speak.”

And immediately, while he yet spake, the second time the cock crew.
And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.

And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, how he had said unto him, “Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

And when he thought thereon, Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Matt. 26:69–75; Mark 14:66–72; Luke 22:56–62; John 18:17,25–27

Friday Early Morning

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Betrayest Thou the Son of Man with a Kiss?

AND JUDAS ALSO, WHICH BETRAYED HIM, knew the place, for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples. And immediately, while he yet spake, lo, he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, cometh thither, and with him a great multitude—a band of men and officers, with swords and staves, lanterns and torches—from the chief priests and the scribes and Pharisees, and the elders of the people.

And Judas drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. Now he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he. Take him and hold him fast, and lead him away safely.”

And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to Jesus, and saith, “Hail! Master, master,” and kissed him.

But Jesus said unto him, “Judas, friend, wherefore art thou come? Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?”

Matt. 26:47–50; Mark 14:43–45; Luke 22:47–48; John 18:2–3

Whom Seek Ye?

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, “Whom seek ye?”

They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus saith unto them, “I am he.” And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

As soon then as he had said unto them, “I am he,” they went backward, and fell to the ground.
Then asked he them again, “Whom seek ye?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus answered, “I have told you that I am he. If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way”—that the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, “Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”

John 17:12b; 18:4–9

All They That Take the Sword Shall Perish with the Sword

When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?”

And, behold, one of them, Simon Peter, which was with Jesus, stretched out his hand, and having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.

And Jesus answered and said, “Suffer ye thus far.” And he touched his ear, and healed him.
Then said Jesus unto Peter, “Put up again thy sword into the sheath—for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
“The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

And in that same hour said, Jesus answered and said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and with staves for to take me? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.”

Matt. 26:51–55; Mark 14:47–49; Luke 22:49–53; John 18:10–11

All the Disciples Forsook Him

Then came the band and the captain and officers of the Jews and laid their hands on Jesus, and took him and bound him. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body. And the young men laid hold on him, and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

Matt. 26:50b,56; Mark 14:46,50–52; John 18:12

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Thursday Night

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Arise, Let Us Go Hence

“Arise, let us go hence.” And when they had sung an hymn, he came out and went as he was wont, to the mount of Olives, and his disciples also followed him.

Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26, Luke 22:39, John 14:31b
A Place Called Gethsemane

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron unto a place where was a garden which was named Gethsemane, into the which he entered and he saith unto the disciples, “Sit ye here, while I shall go and pray yonder.”

And when he was at the place, he said unto them, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful, sore amazed and very heavy.

Then saith he unto them, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Tarry ye here, and watch with me.”

And he went a little further from them, about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and fell on his face on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. “Abba, o my Father, if thou be willing, all things are possible unto thee. Let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

And when he rose up from prayer, and was come unto the disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, and saith unto Peter, “Simon, sleepest thou? What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

And again, he went away the second time, and prayed and spake the same words, saying, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.”
And when he returned and he found them asleep again—for their eyes were heavy—neither wist they what to answer him. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

Then he cometh the third time and saith unto them, “Sleep on now, and take your rest. Behold, it is enough, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
“Rise, let us be going—behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”

Matt. 26:36–46; Mark 14:32–42; Luke 22:40–46; John 18:1

Thursday Evening

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With Desire I Have Desired to Eat This Passover with You

And when the hour was come, in the evening, he came and sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.

And he said unto them, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer.
“For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves, for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.”

Matt. 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14–18

There Was Also a Strife among Them

And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so. But he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.

“For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth.

“Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Luke 22:24–30

For I Have Given You an Example

Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, and Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God, he riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.

After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter, and Peter saith unto him, “Lord, dost thou wash my feet?”

Jesus answered and said unto him, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.”

Peter saith unto him, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” Simon Peter saith unto him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”

Jesus saith to him, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit. And ye are clean, but not all.” For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, “Ye are not all clean.”

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, “Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord, neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.

“I speak not of you all. I know whom I have chosen, but that the scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.’

“Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”

John 13:1–20; Psalms 41:9

One of You Shall Betray Me

“I speak not of you all. I know whom I have chosen, but that the scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.’

“Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he. And when Jesus had thus said, as they sat and did eat, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you which eateth with me shall betray me. The hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.”

Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake. And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. And they began to be exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, “Lord, is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?”

And he answered and said unto them, “It is one of the twelve, that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. And truly the Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him. But woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born.”

Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, “Master, is it I?”

He said unto him, “Thou hast said.”

Matt. 26:21–25; Mark 14:18–21; Luke 22:21–23; John 13:21–22

That Thou Doest, Do Quickly

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered, “He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it.” And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

And after the sop, Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, “That thou doest, do quickly.”

Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, “Buy those things that we have need of against the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
He then having received the sop went immediately out. And it was night.

John 13:23–30

Jesus Took Bread and Blessed It

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and gave thanks and brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat. This is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.

And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks and he gave it to them, saying, “Drink ye all of it,” and they all drank of it.

And he said unto them, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But verily I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Matt. 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:19–20

Before the Cock Crow Twice

Then saith Jesus unto them, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night, for it is written, “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after that I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee.”

But Peter answered and said unto him, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.”

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

Simon Peter said unto him, “Lord, whither goest thou?” Jesus answered him, “Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me afterwards.”

And Peter said unto him, “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. I will lay down my life for thy sake.”

And Jesus answered him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily I say unto thee, that this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.”

But Peter said unto him the more vehemently, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee in any wise.” Likewise also said all the disciples.

And he said unto them, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing?” And they said, “Nothing.”

Then said he unto them, “But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip, and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

“For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, ‘And he was reckoned among the transgressors,’ for the things concerning me have an end.”

And they said, “Lord, behold, here are two swords.” And he said unto them, “It is enough.”

Matt. 26:31–35; Mark 14:27–31; Luke 22:31–38; John 13:36–38

Thursday Afternoon

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Go and Prepare Us the Passover

THEN CAME THE FIRST DAY of the feast of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.

And he sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.” And the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?”

And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, “Behold, go into the city, and when ye are entered in, there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water. Follow him into the house where he entereth in. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, ‘The Master saith unto thee, “My time is at hand. I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.”

“And he will shew you a large upper room, furnished and prepared. There make ready for us.”
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them, and went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them. And they made ready the passover.

Matt. 26:17–20; Mark 14:12–16; Luke 22:7–13

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Preparing for Conference Today

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There is hardly anything I enjoy more than conference weekend. I really mean that. It draws us together as a family. I love our special foods. I love being with my wife and children all weekend long.

When we honor ourselves by paying close attention to the words of the living prophets. it seems that the Lord's promises distill on us like spring rain. "And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought...and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (Isaiah 58:11).

I really appreciated my wife's counsel during family night this past week. She quoted a talk given by Wendy Watson Nelson at BYU-Idaho in 2002 about taking a question to conference. She was engaged to a man at the time and had a concern. Here's an excerpt from that talk. It's a long excerpt, but it is powerful:

"In preparation for April general conference, which was just two weeks away, my bishop taught me a truth I had never known before. Although I hadn't spoken to him about my engagement or my concerns, when my bishop offered this truth over the pulpit, he was speaking to me. He didn't use my name—but I knew he was talking directly to me. He even let others listen in. But clearly, he was speaking to me.

"Here's the truth my bishop spoke: 'If you have a question that you need answered, if you will prayerfully and humbly listen to general conference, you will get it answered every time. Perhaps at the time, perhaps over time, but you will get your question answered every time!'

"Did I have a question? Absolutely. And I was desperate for an answer from the Lord.

"I prepared myself for that general conference by fasting and praying, and by purchasing blank audiotapes. Now, I realize that audiotapes are not typically requisite for listening to general conference; however, this was in the days that not all conference sessions were broadcast to Canada, and I wanted to audiotape the sessions for my Mom and Dad.

"I can still picture the Saturday of that April general conference. I listened eagerly to every talk. I listened with my ears, mind and heart poised and ready to hear the answer to my question: 'Should I marry this man?'

"I experienced this day of general conference unlike any other. It was a highly unusual day of talks, because each and every talk was on marriage! Every single talk! Multiple speakers—but only one topic: marriage—or so it seemed. And the most amazing thing to me was that at the end of all those Saturday addresses on marriage, the clear answer I received was, 'Don't marry this man.'

"I can still picture, at the conclusion of conference, turning off the TV, shutting off the cassette recorder, and walking directly and calmly to the telephone, and dialing my fiancé's number to cancel our engagement.

"I wasn't nervous at all. I was at peace. I had asked. And I had received my answer. So, what's a young woman to do when she has asked, and then heard and felt the voice of the Lord telling her what to do? What's a young woman to do but to follow through?

"Fast forward several years. My ex-fiancé is married and he appears to be happily involved in family life. I have completed my masters degree, have worked a couple of years, moved to a new city, dated some great men, and continued to be directed by the Lord to pursue further education.

"Another fast forward a couple of years: It is Christmas time and among the cards and letters is something from my ex-fiancé. It is a lengthy, hand-written letter from this now no-longer-young man, declaring that he is choosing a lifestyle inconsistent with gospel teachings and Church standards, and telling me of the sorrow that has come to his wife and family since their recent divorce and his declaration.

"My dear young brothers and sisters, things are not always the way they appear to be!

"Years ago on that Saturday evening when I ended my engagement, it seemed to many people—many who chided me for the breakup, many who tried to convince me to change my mind—that I was terminating a relationship with a marvelous young man, a man with whom I could experience much love and joy, as we entered into the covenant of marriage, and commenced raising up a family to the Lord.

"How unkind could I be? How cruel! How unwise to turn away from this great man and his love—especially at my age (I was 24 after all!!) To many people, it seemed like I was throwing away an opportunity of a lifetime. But things are not always the way they appear to be.

"The Lord knew this young man's heart, mind and actions. And when I asked, with as much preparation and faith as I could muster, and as I listened to the messages of general conference, I was guided (some days it still feels more like 'snatched') away from something that looked good but wasn't."

I am taking my question to the Lord this morning. And I have complete confidence and faith that I will get my answer. I encourage you to do the same. Then I'd love to hear from you—not your personal and private answers, but whether you tried it and whether it worked for you. I know it will work for any of us, if we just have faith.

Have a wonderful conference weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Important Questions

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Last week, President Munk sent a list of 18 questions to the bishops in the stake, questions to ask newly engaged couples, or those who are about to be engaged. A few of them really jumped off the page at me. Even if you have been married for years, why not ask yourself and your spouse a few of these questions, as if you were courting again?

Spoiler alert! Brace yourself. These questions are not easy to ask or answer, but they get at the core of what is really important in a relationship. If you want a vital, healthy relationship, you've got to give your fears a rain check. Emotional pain is a gift that reminds us of where we need to place our attention, where we have conflicts (mostly inner conflicts) that we need to resolve.

Ready? Buckle your seat belt. Here goes.

How would you rate your fiancé’s testimony. Is it strong? Is it independent? Does it stand alone or does it depend upon you? Does he or she pay a full tithing, attend all meetings, fulfill callings, and obey church leaders?

Have you talked extensively about spending and money priorities? Are you on the same page on this? Do both intend to pay a full tithe? How will you calculate the tithe and how will you determine your fast offering?

Have you talked about what kind of a church family you want to be, that is, what you will do on the Sabbath? What will you do when the bishop extends a calling to you? What will your church attendance be like? How will you magnify your callings? Are you going to try to live every commandment? If not, which ones will take a back seat? Are you on the same page on all this?

Are you both happy and confident in the man’s career choice? What is it? Are you confident that this career choice will be adequate to keep the mother in the home? Are you both committed to having Mom in the home?

Have you discussed roles that each of you will play in the home and are you on the same page? Are the dishes women’s work? Is car maintenance the man’s responsibility?

Are you each making this choice to marry completely of your own free will? If between now and the marriage date you feel as though it is not right, do you feel completely free to delay until you do feel right? Is this the case even if the announcements are out? Are there any other forces at work here other than your sincere love for this person and desire to be married to him or her?

Have each of you told the other everything about your past, that, if found out later, might lead to disappointment or distrust? Many women never knew that their husbands had a pornography issue in his past until it reoccurred after marriage. I encourage every woman to ask the man point blank if he has ever looked at pornography and explore that question carefully. He owes her a complete explanation.

Do you really love each other?

Questions that make us break out in a sweat are probably good for us. There is no intent here to embarrass or ridicule. The point is to get to the truth, because, ultimately, there is only one truth in God's universe, and that truth is love. Yes, there are many expressions of that truth, but they all lead to love. Without it, what do we have? Why else would there be an atonement? marriage? children? church? heaven? It's all about love, and that love is light and the "truth is light" (D&C 84:45).

Remember, as the apostle John said, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18). There is a truth more important than the apparent stability of your relationship. Pursue the truth—love—fearlessly. May God bless us all to find it.