Sunday, 24 February 2013

SERMON: On Virtue

Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s great tale of spiritual rebirth, begins with a powerful contrast. We first meet Monseigneur Bienvenu  a pure and charitable man whose life is “full to the brim with good thoughts, good works and good actions” Then we meet an unfortunate convict, Jean Valjean, who lives “constantly in the darkness, groping blindly as in a dream” Released from prison nineteen years after stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family, Jean Valjean seeks a nights refuge with the bishop.

That night the convict awakes and, possessed by the thoughts of the bishops silver plates, cannot sleep. Stealing into the bishops unlocked room, Valjean pauses at the good mans bedside. “At the moment when Jean Valjean paused before the bed the cloud broke as if purposely, and a ray of moonlight crossing the high window, suddenly lighted up the bishops pale face. He slept tranquilly….Over the side of the bed hung his hand, …which had done so many good deeds, so many pure acts. His entire countenance was lit up with a vague expression of content, hope, and happiness. It was more than a smile and almost a radiance. On his forehead rested the indescribable reflection of an unseen light. The souls of the upright in sleep have a vision of mysterious heaven.

“A reflection from this heaven shone upon the bishop. But is was also a luminous transparency, fro this heaven was within him; this heaven was his conscience. At the instant when the moonbeam overlay, so to speak, this inward radiance, the sleeping bishop appeared as if in a halo. But it was mild, and veiled in an ineffable twilight. The moon in the sky…added something strangely solemn and unutterable to the venerable repose of this man, and enveloped his white locks and his closed eyes with a serine and majestic glory, this face where all was hope and confidence, this old man’s head and infants slumber”

What was Bienvenu's secret? What was the radiant hope and confidence? Latter day revelation suggests a possible source to these secrets.
“Let thy bowels also be full of charity  towards all men,…and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall thy confidence was strong in the presence of God…The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy sceptre an unchanging sceptre of righteousness and truth” (D&C 121:45-46)
As Latter Day Mormons we should always be aware of the fact that virtue is a quality of soul that brings with it peace and power to those who possess it. The Latin word "virtus" means "strength." We often think of virtue as chastity, and indeed, moral purity is one important aspect of virtue that requires strength and yields confidence. It frees us from the tensions and guilt associated with wrongdoing; it brings blessings of health and a strong character. However it is important for us especially as Latter Day Mormons to remember that virtue is more that just chastity. In fact, the virtue that brings the confidence and serenity personified by the bishop in Les Miserable and promised by the Lord in scripture is really a composite of good qualities.

The teachings of Christ expanded mankind’s concept of virtue, and defined it in terms of moral, not just political, goodness. So the early Christians added to the four cardinal virtues three others, which they called theological virtues. These three are faith, hope and charity. Surely as Latter Day Mormons our own daily experiences confirm to use that all these virtues must be balanced. Without wisdom, the most loving parents may be too indulgent with their children. And we all sometimes face difficult situations where we need faith to guide us beyond the limits of our own wisdom. Virtue is more like well-rounded goodness, a wholeness of soul.

So as Latter Day Mormons, what is the process of becoming virtuous people in Christ? Perhaps it is not so much a frantic striving to master a long list of separate virtues. With our focus on Christ, and with a desire to follow him, our daily task becomes much simpler to follow his commandments and our own inner sense of right. Christian philosopher C.S Lewis put it this way “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature”

So in conclusion, as we follow principles of truth, acting on our impulses to do good and heeding the promptings of the Spirit, we will slowly become Latter Day people of virtue. We will gain the power to choose the wise thing, the compassionate thing, the temperate thing, the just thing in more and more situations that we find ourselves in. And as we do, we will gain the wholeness and confidence that are among the greatest blessings that followers of Christ we can have.

READING: "It is from these people that we have learned the value of motherhood" Jeraneck 9:5

"Now the children of the People of Ridnon and Limndon were taught by their mothers and they were taught that they were to be prayerful and to be contrite and be examples to the people around them, and it is from these people that we have learned the value of motherhood, for before we joined ourselves with the People of Ridnon and Limndon we held motherhood in no great esteem."

- Book of Jaraneck 9:5

Friday, 22 February 2013

READING: "I give unto you a commandment" D&C 12:9/1835 ed.

"And again I say unto you,  I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded.

And let your  preaching be the warning voice, every man to  his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.  And go ye out from among the wicked. Save  yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord: even so: Amen."

- D&C 12:9 (38:40-42/Utah)

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sermon: Our decision to follow Jesus Christ

Our decision to follow Jesus Christ is based upon faith. Faith is a keystone of our religion. Faith is required of us when we make the decision to join The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ. We must possess faith in order to be healed of our infirmities. Faith is what guides us and should motivate us. Faith is what brings us to believe the things which we hold and cherish as Latter Day Mormons. Where is our faith? How do we believe? What makes us unique? Do we know? Can we answer these questions?

Each member of this work, each member of this Church, no matter what calling we may hold no matter the depth of responsibility is no different. We each must possess faith—faith by which we can conquer and overcome. In the Scriptures, we are called upon to be “overcomers” so that we can stand as pillars in the “temple of God” (Rev. 3:11-12 KJV). We are not just mere members of any ordinary church—but, rather, we are members of a very unique Church—one by which holds the keys, the offices, the rights, and the authority bestowed upon us by Jesus Christ to be representatives of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, when he visited the Americas, told us that “Behold I am the light; I have set an example for you.” (3 Nephi VII.) Yes, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world has set for us an example—an example by which we are to go forth and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but more so, we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ—we are to have faith. Jesus Christ himself had faith—for even Jesus Christ had to overcome like we have to.

Yes, Jesus Christ had to have faith—faith to overcome the devil. Remember that three times he was tempted by Satan. For we are told that “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18.) Yes, Jesus Christ had to suffer temptations, he had to experience all that we ourselves experience—thus, making him the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

We need to remember that while he suffered all these things, he also had faith—faith to accomplish all that was laid before him. For Jesus Christ had to continually yield to the Father’s will. He had to continually seek to be obedient to the Father. “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Ps. 16:8.) For Jesus had lived by every word that came from the Father’s mouth. He put his faith in every word expecting the word to accomplish all that he said. According to his faith, it was then possible for him to accomplish what his mission was for him.

We are told that Jesus had faith so that he could overcome the world (1 John 5:4) and he knew that he needed the faith because he was sent to be the Messenger—the Word of God—and thus, he had to live by example since he was sent to be the Messenger (the Word) (John 1:1).

So how are we living? Are we living how we believe? Through our faith, we must live and be obedient to every word of God just as Jesus was faithful. For we must live with Christ being in us—letting his light shine forth through us. For we are told that “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20.)

Our faith must be a living faith—having the example of Jesus Christ living in us, bringing us to do good, and bringing us to do that which Jesus taught us to do. For through our faith, we will become overcomers, being able to “…hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown (salvation). Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, this is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my new name. (Rev. 3:11-12.)

How many therefore, would want to be overcomers, keeping fast that which we have received—that which we have learned and been given because of the knowledge which we have in this Church? I would highly ask each of us, over this remaining year and in to the new one that is soon to come upon us, to examine ourselves. Examine ourselves and see were our faith is at.

Over the months and years just ahead, we are going to need to rely more heavily upon our faith. We are going to have to make sure that our faith is greater than we thought because there are things which are coming that will greatly try our faith. We need to keep in mind what Jesus warned us of in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. We need to remember that trials are coming fast upon us and we have to begin doing our missionary work greatly because the Lord has many that will come to the Church—but only through our service and faith will we be able to reach them that are ready to come forth. We need to do this because time is very short.

Remember that Jesus told us that “But he that remaineth steadfast (faithful), and is not overcome, the same shall be saved.” (Matt. 24:11.) Yes, we need to remain faithful to Jesus Christ, being not taken in by the world and by falsehoods. We need to keep in mind that we are to be Latter Day Mormons—forever being lights to the world.

Brothers and sisters, let us examine our faith – being sure of what we believe. Making sure that we counsel with the Prophet and listen to the warnings as the Lord gives them to him because we are in a short time period in the coming years – therefore, let us keep faithful and remain true to the promises that we made at baptism to ourselves and to the Lord.

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