And now! I was planning to say "I'm going to embarrass Athena," but I already told her I was going to do this, and she said it was okay. I just couldn't help it--the day went on too long. But anyway, she gave a talk in sacrament meeting, and it was really good, so I wanted to share it here. She wouldn't let me watch her write it, so not only was it all new to me, but it has none of my influence whatsoever! So if you're interested in seeing what Athena's like without me, this might be your best chance for a while (unless you live close to us, and then you can visit or see us at church or something).
Good morning. The last time I gave a talk in Sacrament Meeting, I was in high school, which was longer ago for me than most of you. I get very nervous in front of people and I have a tendency to talk fast even when I'm not nervous, so I hope you will not mind if I read my entire talk. I'm hoping having the paper in front of me will encourage me so that I can slow down. I'll try not to be too monotone, and to look up occasionally.
I'm sure there is a certain question on many of your minds that you are hoping I will answer for you today, and that is, “How do I tell you apart from your twin sister?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to that question. Like many things in life, different things work for different people. But there is one thing that will always work--come up to us and ask us. We love talking about ourselves, and we usually don't bite. But I know that approaching people you don't know very well can be rather intimidating--I'm very bad at it myself--and so I offer another method, which will also bring us to the real subject of my talk. In Moroni, chapter 10, verse 5, we read, “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
That's right--my talk is on seeking the spirit. There are lots and lots of really good talks on this subject that you can find at lds.org, and I'm pretty sure my talk won't be nearly as good as any of them, especially since I've never considered myself to be very good at asking for or receiving personal revelation. So I pray that the Spirit will be with me and with you and that something I say will help all of us get closer to the Lord.
As we all know, life is hard. And unfortunately, it's supposed to be. This life is a time for us to be tested, to see if we will be worthy to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. If it was easy, it wouldn't be much of a test. We wouldn't learn anything--we wouldn't grow. We'd just be the same as we were when we left our premortal existence, and then what would have been the point? So life has to be hard.
Allow me to make an analogy. I like to play video games. My favorites are the role-playing games, like Final Fantasy. In these games, you play the main character, and you fight monsters, make your way through various dungeons and puzzles, and ultimately save the fictional world in which it takes place. Sometimes the monsters are really hard to beat, and sometimes the puzzles are nearly impossible to figure out, which can make it rather difficult to get through the game. Sometimes there are secret treasures and side quests that will make your character stronger, but these secrets can be very hard to find without help. So to help players beat the game and find all of the secrets, they've created guidebooks, which will walk you through every step of the game.
The Holy Ghost is our guidebook through life. He knows what challenges are ahead and how to face them. And the Holy Ghost knows where all the secrets are so we can have the best equipment. And when we are well-equipped, we can face our challenges without fear. The Holy Ghost also gives us the assurance that no matter how hard things may get, thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will have a happy ending.
Julie B. Beck said: “We are told to put our trust in that Spirit which leads us 'to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously.' We are also told that this Spirit will enlighten our minds, fill our souls with joy, and help us know all things we should do. “
So now that we know how great the Holy Ghost is, what do we do about it? As I said before, we are all given the gift of the Holy Ghost when we are confrimed members of the church. It's a gift our Heavenly Father is happy to give to us. But it's our job to actually make use of this gift. If my friend gave me a guidebook for a video game, and I put it on the shelf where it gathers dust for years, that book isn't going to help me find all the secrets in the game. Then is it the book's fault if I couldn't figure out that the sleeping guy in the cave will be awake when the number of total battles I've fought is a multiple of eleven? Is it my friend's fault if I didn't know that the door will unlock if I whack the treasure chest with my sword? No--I had all the help I needed. I just didn't use it.
So how can we make use of the gift of the Holy Ghost? There's a Primary song that goes like this: I'll seek the Lord early while in my youth, and He will help me to know the truth. I'll search the scriptures and find Him there, then go to our Father in fervent prayer. I'll seek the Lord early, and I'll obey His living prophets in all they say. I'll keep His commandments; His love will abound. I will seek the Lord early, and He will be found.
In that simple song we find many ways to seek the Lord through the companionship of the Holy Ghost. They all sound very familiar, because they are the answer to lots of questions that get asked in Sunday School and Relief Society. We are told over and over again to read our scriptures, to pray, to listen to the counsel of the Lord's prophets, to keep the commandments. We'll add to the list keeping covenants, attending church meetings, and service. This advice is repeated so often that we might sometimes take it for granted. Maybe we tune it out, thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know all that. Tell me something new to help me get through life. But the reason we keep getting the same answers and the same advice is that, even though it's not anything new, it's still what works. By doing these things, we keep the covenant that we made at baptism to remember Christ, thus qualifying for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Elder Bednar had this to say: “Praying, studying, gathering, worshipping, serving, and obeying are not isolated and independent items on a lengthy gospel checklist of things to do. Rather, each of these righteous practices is an important element in an overarching spiritual quest to fulfill the mandate to receive the Holy Ghost. The commandments from God we obey and the inspired counsel from Church leaders we follow principally focus upon obtaining the companionship of the Spirit. Fundamentally, all gospel teachings and activities are centered on coming unto Christ by receiving the Holy Ghost in our lives.”
And so we have a lot of good ideas to help us seek the spirit. If it seems like a lot, then remember that it's okay to take things one step at a time. You don't have to be perfect all at once.
Like I said, I've never thought of myself as being good at receiving personal revelation. Sometimes I'm not quite sure which hymns to choose for Sacrament Meeting. When I mention my concerns to the bishopric, I always get the same advice, “Go with the Spirit.” This can be frustrating, because I never get clear promptings saying anything like, “This week, Heritage Ward should sing these three hymns.” And it makes me think I'm not trying hard enough, or that I'm doing something wrong. And I'm still not sure if I'm doing it right.
That's why I was very happy to hear Elder Bednar's talk at the latest General Conference, which was also about the Holy Ghost. I liked it so much, I might go on to quote it excessively. He compared the way we receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost to two experiences we have all had with light. The first experience is when we turn on the light in a dark room, and the light hits us all at once. The second experience is when the sun rises. The light comes very slowly, so that we might not even notice a difference. In both cases, the light comes.
Elder Bednar assures us that instantaneously revelation is the more rare kind. Most of the time, guidance from the Spirit comes more slowly. He quotes President Joseph F. Smith, who said, “As a boy … I would frequently … ask the Lord to show me some marvelous thing, in order that I might receive a testimony. But the Lord withheld marvels from me, and showed me the truth, line upon line … , until He made me to know the truth from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, and until doubt and fear had been absolutely purged from me. He did not have to send an angel from the heavens to do this, nor did He have to speak with the trump of an archangel. By the whisperings of the still small voice of the spirit of the living God, He gave to me the testimony I possess. And by this principle and power He will give to all the children of men a knowledge of the truth that will stay with them, and it will make them to know the truth, as God knows it, and to do the will of the Father as Christ does it. And no amount of marvelous manifestations will ever accomplish this.”
Then Elder Bednar adds, “We as members of the Church tend to emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations so much that we may fail to appreciate and may even overlook the customary pattern by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes His work. The very 'simpleness of the way' of receiving small and incremental spiritual impressions that over time and in totality constitute a desired answer or the direction we need may cause us to look 'beyond the mark'. ... Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you 'cannot go amiss.'”
I'd like to add one more thing before I bear my testimony and then retreat to the safety of the back row. In Walt Disney's Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy assigns Jiminy Cricket to be Pinocchio's conscience. It's similar to the gift on the Holy Ghost, but not nearly as good. Anyway, Jiminy Cricket tells Pinocchio that whenever he needs advice from his conscience, to “give a little whistle.” “Not just a little squeak,” he says. “Pucker up and blow. And if your whistle's weak, yell!” Well, we probably shouldn't yell for the Holy Ghost, but we can learn from this advice. When praying for guidance, don't do it half-heartedly--do it with sincere desire and faith. And if you feel like your faith isn't strong enough, you can always ask your friendly neighborhood priesthood holders for a blessing.
*After this, Athena bore her testimony extemporaneously...which I don't remember exactly, but was pretty much along the line of, "I know that the Lord loves us and wants to help and guide us," and then she came and sat down with me, in the back of the stand (where the bishopric and choir (when the choir's performing) sit, and where we sit because Athena leads the music for sacrament meeting while I play the organ).
Today I'm thankful for being done giving talks and teaching lessons (after Athena's talk, I taught Relief Society today), having a nice time at Mom's house, getting to watch Mary Poppins, Oreo hanging out with us even after he's gotten his food, and the Elder's Quorum giving us chocolate instead of flowers this Mother's Day.