Okay, my talk was hilarious.
What I mean to say, is that my talk was actually very dry and serious – which, my BFFVT pointed out, is more ME than most people realize. But it was not an “entertaining” talk. This was different than my teaching talks, or lessons I have done, because there was no silliness mixed in to hold people’s attention. It was just testimony-doctrine, straight up, no apologies, no softening, or cushioning.
What was funny though, was that we had extra time because the people who were supposed to do the music were sick and cancelled… and then on top of that, my email inviting me to speak said 15-20 minutes, when really I had 45 minutes to an hour and a half! So there was some confusion, and I did not know until I sat down that I had more time. I thought someone was speaking after me. But no, it was just me.
However, I would have spoken just as quickly in 45 minutes as I did in 15 – just said more! Slowing down is hard, when I waited so long with so much to say! Do you know how much I could have said in an hour and a half?! Too funny.
But alas! Due to recent teasings from my Institute teacher about my lack of brevity, I was determined to stick to my fifteen minute time limit! So, I spoke way too fast, determined to stick to my fifteen minute time limit.
Someone asked if I was nervous, and I really wasn’t. I was just trying to say everything in fifteen minutes. My Institute teacher said that saying it all that fast does NOT count as brevity. HA!
So, while I was determined to stick to my fifteen minute time limit, what I did not know was that the whole 45 minutes was mine to speak. Which meant our meeting was thirty minutes short of time! DOH! But I really did not realize until the end that I was the only speaker and had more time – except I really felt I had said what needed to be said. So I had to trust that, and so I sat down.
Some expected me to share more of my personal conversion story, but I was given a very specific topic and I tried to stick only to that. So this was not the time to share that story. A time will come for me to share that story, but this was not that night.
That is my explanation of the talk, for why it was so serious, and for why it was so short, because it is a funny story to know that I did not realize I would be allowed the whole time to speak!
My apology is not for topic or presentation, for I presented what was asked of me, but my apology is for the confusion of time, for I know many people drove a bit of distance to come hear the talk.
So, for those who could not listen as quickly as I could speak, here is the talk I gave tonight:
What have you learned about the Savior since you became a member?
How has it changed your life?
What have you become since being baptized?
I have learned that before the world was made, our Savior was our oldest brother and His name was “Jehovah”. When our Heavenly Father presented His plan for us to receive bodies and have the opportunity to learn how to make good choices, Jehovah was the one who volunteered to help accomplish this plan the way Heavenly Father had designed it. Jehovah created Earth by the will and power of Heavenly Father.
When our Savior was born on Earth through His parents, Mary and our Heavenly Father, He was born in Bethlehem, and primarily raised in Nazareth. He began His physical, earthly ministry at age 30. Three years later, He was betrayed and crucified on the cross and buried in a tomb. I quote “The Living Christ”:
He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth.
He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. He also ministered
among His “other sheep” (John 10:16) in ancient America. In the modern world, He and His Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith, ushering in the long-promised “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10).
I know that He will return again to Earth, and reign as King for a thousand years. I know that it is by His atonement it is possible for us to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence, if we also follow His physical and spiritual example through obedience, faithfulness, and service. We must submit to Heavenly Father’s will and wholly consecrate our lives to Him just as our Savior did.
I know that my Heavenly Father loves me, and that it was long ago – even in premortality – when I chose to follow our Savior. I know that I accepted my “allotment” in life, these bounds of time and place in which I live, and that I did this knowing that Heavenly Father knew what would best teach me and prepare me for returning home with Him. I know that I was prepared and trained for this life before I was ever born. I know that my early life here was difficult, and that even though I thought, as in Jacob 5:22, that I was “planted in a poor spot of ground”, Heavenly Father and the Savior “nourished me this long time”.
I know that before my baptism, I broke nearly every commandment there was. I know that my greatest and best efforts at making something of my life left only a trail of destruction behind me. I know that I was in no state to be returning to my Heavenly Father, and that I could not succeed this mortal life alone. I know that the Savior died for my sins, for my failings, for my transgressions. I know that when He resurrected, it brought me immortality so that I might never cease to be. I know that His atonement and the Spirit that works to sanctify me is what make eternal life (celestial-ness) possible. I know that the Savior lives, and that He loves me. I know that as I do my best at keeping my covenants, He does provide and protect and bless me. I know that when I fail, He does chastise me and urge me toward repentance so that I might be in that shiny place again. I know that even in my little corner of the world, the Savior has work for even me to do. I know that I can visit His house, our Temple in Oklahoma City, and feel even closer to His presence and experience things too sacred to discuss outside of that place.
I know that through His Spirit during prayer and Scripture s
tudy and through priesthood leaders, and through our Prophet, He tells me what to do and what is next and what to understand. He shows me things and teaches me things and unfolds His story before me. I know that He does not forget me. I know that He means business, but He is also gentle and kind and nurturing and good. I know that He forgives. I know that He makes all things possible, even returning home to my Heavenly Father.
What and How has it changed your life?
Understanding who the Savior is has changed my life because, for the first time, regardless of circumstances, I am not alone. I have a Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me. For the first time, I am not lost or abandoned or rejected. I know His plan teaches me who I am and what I am to do with my life. For the first time, I am not overwhelmed by trying to survive impossible circumstances; I know the atonement makes it possible and the Spirit teaches me how to do so. For the first time, I am not stuck thinking I cannot make something of my life; my baptism cleaned me up and qualified me for the learning, and my endowment empowered me to begin practicing. For the first time, I am not hopeless for thinking I am not good enough; as 1 Corinthians 6:11 teaches me that the atonement has justified me and the Spirit does continue to sanctify me .
I do not know these things myself, but I know them because the Spirit has taught me.
This is what Alma says in chapter 36. He is giving his first father-son chat, the one to Helaman, and then he tells of his conversion, of which I share a part starting in verse 12:
12 But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
13 Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
14 Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
15 Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
16 And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
17 And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
19 And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
I know that I am not worthy, because I rebelled against God. I did not keep his commandments. I did almost everything wrong, and one thing I did right – stay in school – even that, I did in the wrong order (instead of getting married first). I know that I proved very well that I am nothing without Him.
I know that two years ago, my literal physical heart was dying because my spiritual heart was rotting. Ezekiel 36: 25 says Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
The Lord gently brought me to the Gospel, and I learned – remembered – His plan, and that plan included the tender mercy of the atonement. This is how I learned about repentance. I had to be scrubbed clean from so much, and then had to learn what to do with myself once I was shiny-ed up. And so it was, that in my year between my baptism last year and my endowment two months ago, I learned that getting rid of the bad stuff was not enough. Following the rules was not enough. It is more than just following the rules. I had to be so completely changed so that I was not just NOT-DOING bad things, but also producing good things. I needed to be changed in who I was, not just what I did. I needed to become something MORE.
My testimony is 2 Nephi 4:
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually
upon the things which I have seen and heard.
17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.
23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them. …………………
28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
As I prepared for baptism and since my baptism, through repentance and by the atonement of the Savior, and through His work accomplished by the Spirit, my life began to change. Isaiah 55:6-7: Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Every piece of me has not only been redeemed, but is also being restored. This is me, no longer condemned, but rather a work in progress. Every piece of me, to the smallest of details, is being healed. This is how complete and precise is the atonement of our Savior. This was my experience of 3 Nephi 9:13 when it asks, “will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?”
When I began to soften my spiritual heart, my physical heart was healed. As I began to be obedient, I began to learn to HEAR. As I began to demonstrate my love for the Lord by being obedient, He began to demonstrate His love to me by pouring upon me blessings of provision and protection. When I began to be diligent in prayer and Scripture study, He began to pour His Spirit into me so that I knew, so that I understood, so that I saw.
What have you become since being baptized?
I do not ha
ve words in English to describe what I have become since being baptized. I have become new. I have become created. I have become a spirit daughter of God. These things I already was, technically, but they were rights-of-Being that I had not yet claimed. I held within me, by design, those things, that divine nature, that origin – but I had not yet chosen to become those things or to begin the journey of fulfilling that potential.
Through repentance, and by the tutoring of the Spirit, I have begun the process of trying to become more like my Savior simply by doing what He says. It is an effort of emulation, not just adoration. D&C 35:21 promises that “they shall be purified, even as I am pure.”
Ezekiel 33:14-16 explains: “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.”
It is the process of becoming aware of what I have done wrong, or what good I have failed to do, and seeing clearly how this affects myself, those I love, and my Savior.
It is the tears cried out from my soul, while stretched out on my bedroom floor as physically humble as I can be, covered with the comforter pulled from my bed – for feeling I am not even worthy enough to pray (though President Packer says I am, that we can always pray).
It is the mercy that comes then, the peace that I am still His child, and the grace of added correction and instruction and guidance from my Father. It is the saying these things out loud to my Heavenly Father and my priesthood leaders. It is the exercise of my agency to choose to stop doing what is wrong, and to start doing what is right. It is the effort put into restitution
, no matter the cost, no matter in what form it comes, no matter how long it lasts, because I know the cost paid for me was infinite and in most horrific form.
Then it is the still, small voice that comes – during my own prayers, at the Temple, during a talk, or from a priesthood leader – it is the still, small voice that says “it is settled”, that says “It is finished”.
Though it may be days or weeks or months since beginning to wrestle with that layer or issue or incident, it is after that voice has confirmed to me that repentance has been completed, it is then that Sacrament is sweetest to me. I am washed clean once more, and I am covered, and I am forgiven.
But still even then, the process of progress has not finished or stopped, for the evidence of all of it comes when I am next presented with that same choice – the opportunity to sin in that way again, and yet am able and have the power not to do so. When I have the opportunity to sin, and yet do not, then I know not only is the past sin settled, but that my repentance is complete and that sin has no power over me. And when I demonstrate obedience, then my Lord knows it, too.
In President Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness book, he says (p. 362), “There is a glorious miracle awaiting every soul who is prepared to change. Repentance and forgiveness make a brilliant day of the darkest night. When souls are reborn, when lives are changed – then comes the great miracle to beautify and warm and lift. When spiritual death has threatened and now instead there is resuscitation, when life pushes out death – when this happens it is the miracle of miracles. And such great miracles will never cease so long as there is one person who applies the redeeming power of the Savior and his own good works to bring about his rebirth.” ENDQUOTE.
This I have wrestled with for the last year. I know, as Alma says, that I am nothing, and yet I am called to be something, someone. I could not figure out how to reconcile this in my mind, and struggled with it for more than a year. In D&C 43, both in verse 11 and verse 16, it tells us to “sanctify ourselves”. I wondered how in the world I am supposed to do that, when I am the one who needs sanctifying? And I am just a girl, with no keys to anything? What authority do I have to be sanctifying my own self?
I found the answers in that same chapter, in those same verses. When it says to sanctify myself in verse 11, it also says to purge out iniquity. That is my job; my responsibility; my repentance process; my line-upon-line as I grow in the Gospel. In verse 16, it says that as I sanctify myself , I will be endowed with power from on high. This connected me back to verse 9 in the same chapter, where it there – finally! – outright defines what it means to “sanctify myself”. Sanctifying myself is ACTING IN HOLINESS.
I have been given agency so that I might choose to return to my Heavenly Father, but that means I must choose to become like Him. I will not be changed if I do not choose. My choosing is an act of faith. As I act in holiness, the Lord does make me holy. As I bring that holiness to the Lord, even my very self, He does bring me into His house and make me one of His children.
Everything follows the pattern of the physical and the spiritual, the Aaronic and the Melchezedek priesthood. The Aaronic priesthood has always cared for the physical things, and the Melchezedek works the spiritual things. So even at the Temple, when I see it say “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord”, I know it has both a physical and a spiritual meaning. The Temple is a physical place that is set apart and consecrated as the Lord’s house, where we can go and meet with Him there and be in His presence. But it also has a spiritual meaning of going there to become His children.
When we study the different royal families of Europe, we call them Houses. Each family is a “house”, such as England’s current House of Windsor (name change!). We are descendents of the twelve tribes of Israel. We are of the House of Israel. All of us, in all the worlds the Lord has created, are of the House of the Lord. We go to His house, the Temple, to become of His house, his family.
But we must do this by acting in holiness.
Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.
This is why we seek after righteousness.
I have become confident in the Spirit teaching me righteousness by teaching me how to act, one choice at a time. It is possible, Elder Christofferson said at our most recent conference, “ because those who come unto Him have claim on His grace!” The atonement has released me from the bondage of my past, and yet reconnected me to my real past – that divine spark that is within me, and has always been there, as a spirit daughter of heavenly parents, and that spark does grow within me each time I act in faith or obedience. This “growing larger” makes more of me than there was before, as His Spirit leads me higher, line upon line, climbing Jacob’s ladder one rung at a time… except the ladder is twisted, for I am always repenting, and so it becomes the spiral staircase designed within me, even my very DNA. I am ever led forward and upward by His presence. The same pillar of cloud by day, the same pillar of fire by night, that very same light, the Hebrew sheckinah itself that led the Israelites through the wilderness has led me through my own wilderness, released me from bondage, and set me free. D&C 58:42 says “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord,
remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”
It is my Saviour who does make me Holy. D&C 60:7 says, “And in this place let them lift up their voice and declare my word with loud voices, without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you.
To be holy is to be set apart; it means to forsake the world, and to leave the past behind. It means not being afraid to move forward, and to seek after righteousness with all my being. The atonement makes this possible, and at my baptism I said I was willing to take upon me the name of Christ, but it is at the Temple that I do so. To become holy is to become at-one with my Father, through the embrace of the Prodigal Son and His Father. Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.
Recently, Elder Bednar taught us in an interview, saying that “through the atonement we are not only cleansed from sin, but we also receive strength to accomplish His work, no matter how ordinary we are… Every member has a testimony and knows what is true, but not every member is converted. Being converted is more than just having a testimony of what is true. The more you are converted, the more you become consistent and true to what you know. It is one thing to know what is true, but another thing to be consistently true to what you know. When you are converted, you will produce spiritual fruit that will be evident to others.”
What I have become since getting baptized is a divine spirit daughter with the potential to become like her heavenly parents.
“I have learned,” to quote Brigham Young, “that of myself I have no power, but my system is organized to increase in wisdom, knowledge, and power, getting a litter here and a little there. But when I am left to myself, I have no power, and my wisdom is foolishness; then I cling close to the Lord and I have power in his name. I think I have learned the Gospel so as to know, that in and of myself I am nothing.”
I testify that our Savior lives. He died innocent in place of our guilt, and now He is resurrected, and He lives. He is the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten of the Flesh, and He is my Redeemer.
I testify that He has set prophets as the flaming sword that guards the path to the Tree of Life, and that Thomas S. Monson is our prophet today.
I testify that as we study the teachings of the prophets, ancient and modern, we will be led along that path, and that we will find life – if only we will HEAR.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.