Why Does it Seem that Some Priesthood Blessings Don’t Work?

Posted by Devin Miller on

When my first child was only three or four years old, he was frequently found with his hands upon his baby brother’s head, praying earnestly to his Heavenly Father. What a precious sight it was and how it blessed me to see how he would one day hold the priesthood and needed to be prepared for such a responsibility.

I have always looked at priesthood blessings primarily as a source of strength and comfort through difficult trials. Occasionally, I have requested them in faith to be assisted through an illness. Whatever the need, we have the blessing and privilege of feeling the heavens open on our behalf from time to time to help us over rough roads. Sometimes the words which have been spoken have lifted my spirits immediately, breaking away the darkness and blessing me with perfect love. Other times, promises are made which inspire hope and bring great peace, yet the trial persists a while longer. I have always written down my understanding of the blessings pronounced upon me. I like to let the Lord know that I am grateful for them and treasure the gifts He bestows. I consider His direct words to me a priceless treasure.

As I look back through my writings, I see how the Lord has fulfilled the promises made. It brings joy and reverent gratitude to my heart. Sometimes I laugh through tears as I recall how heavy my burden felt at the time then I watched as the Lord liberated me.

There was one blessing that included a phrase that I have always looked back on and wondered about. I haven’t seen it come to fruition yet. It’s hard to believe sometimes that it can still happen.

Perhaps, there are those who were told they would be strengthened to succeed only to fail miserably or perhaps were told they would have children yet remain childless. What of those who are promised a faithful spouse, yet they remain unattached? There are numberless blessings that may seem to go unfulfilled.

For as long as I can remember, the prophets have told us that God will always keep His promises, whether in this life or next. When we receive priesthood blessings, we ought to keep that in mind. For example, if an ill person is commanded to live but dies, was it a spiritual or a temporal meaning? Perhaps we make assumptions that Heavenly Father means to answer our prayers the way we wish but he answers by what He knows to be best for the individual.

What we can do is continue to live with the hope of promised blessings and be patient as we learn to trust the Lord’s timetable. Sister Anne C. Pingree said, “It matters not where we live or what our individual circumstances may be. Each day our righteous living can demonstrate a faith in Jesus Christ that sees beyond mortal heartaches, disappointments, and unfulfilled promises. It is a glorious thing to possess a faith that enables us to look forward to that day “when all that was promised the Saints will be given.”1

I am reminded of the poem entitled “The Weaver” by Grant Colfax Tuller.

“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”

The day will come when He flips that weaving over for us to see the glorious tapestries of our lives with all the blessings that stemmed through our mortal afflictions. Don’t be quick to give up, the reward of faith and patience is worth it.

1 “Seeing the Promises Afar Off,” Anne C. Pingree, October 2003 General Conference
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How Do We Find God's Lost Sheep?

Posted by Devin Miller on

I love the parable of the lost sheep. We learn that The Shepherd loves us so much that He will leave the ninety-nine in the safety of the flock to find the one who wandered and became lost. Since our Savior cannot be with us physically at this time, it is our privilege to do the work He would do. Seeking out those who love Him, those who are lost to the truths of the gospel becomes our work.

Anyone can be lost, whether a member or not a member of His church. Those who are struggling or suffering yet still come to church can be wandering. Whether it is a friend or family member who has never been to church or a lifelong member who is aching, there are people everywhere. When we bring the sheep into His fold, we are bringing them into the love of Jesus Christ. Every rescue attempt may not result in baptism but when the love of the Savior is expressed and felt, we are walking them to the pasture. It is up to the sheep to walk through the gate, however.

The lost are found as we share the gospel with friends, as we support and encourage those within our circle of influence and especially as we search for our ancestors who never had the chance to learn about the Savior’s restored gospel for themselves.

Elder Robert K. Dellenbach recounted an experience he had with searching out the lost. “A few years ago, while on a Church assignment in St. Petersburg, Russia, my wife, Mary-Jayne, and I had the unique opportunity to feel the blessings of family history work. We visited the vital statistics archive to view the Church’s efforts to microfilm some of the records of western Russia. As I watched the archivist photographing pages of moldy old books from the city of Pskov, the names became real people. They seemed to leap right off the page and say: “You have found me. I am no longer lost. I know that someday, somewhere, someone in my family will take my name to the temple, and I will be baptized and endowed, and my wife and children will be sealed to me. Thank you!” 1

What a beautiful testimony to the work we are called to do. The Prophet Alma discovered a people who were ready to be found as he preached on the hill Onidah. Another group of people came, telling him that they had been cast out of their synagogues by the priests because of their poverty.  “And now when Alma heard this, he turned him about, his face immediately towards him, and he beheld with great joy; for he beheld that their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in a preparation to hear the word. Therefore he did say no more to the other multitude; but he stretched forth his hand, and cried unto those whom he beheld, who were truly penitent…” (Alma 32:6-7) The Lord knows who is truly prepared to receive the gospel.

If we are prayerful, asking the Lord to guide us to those who are ready, He will help us find His sheep either in the mundane or by miracles. We then need to be faithful and have the courage to open our mouths to extend the invitations as the Spirit whispers. The Lord needs only our willing hearts. He will do the rest as we seek to follow the command to find His lost sheep.

1. “Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven”, Elder Robert K. Dellenbach, October 2002 General Conference
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Helping a non-member spouse accept the gospel

Posted by Devin Miller on

No marriage is perfect. Those marriages performed inside the holy temple do not get a stamp of guaranteed success on the certificate solely because it was officiated by a person with the sealing authority. There are couples in civil marriages who have beautiful relationships that others might envy but without the promise of eternity. For some, marriage can be a bit more difficult when their spouse does not share the same religious beliefs. For example, if the wife chooses to get baptized in later years and the husband does not, there will be some differences of opinion.

Of course, we would love to say that our spouses saw our gleaming examples of the love of Christ and ran for the waters of Mormon but that is a pretty lofty expectation. We cannot force anyone to accept the gospel, not spouse, children, friend or stranger. The Savior himself never compelled anyone to come unto Him. His invitation is always by one’s own free will. We should remember the same for our non-member spouses. Your spouse will always have their agency to choose to listen or to turn away from the principles of the gospel that we know and love. 

Do not let the doctrines of the church become a source of contention, rather focus on the truths you share. You can find ways to strengthen your marriage while building your love of God. With the presence of the Holy Ghost in the home, you will be able to help bring more peace as you build upwards together instead of drifting apart.

In an Ensign magazine article written by several sisters whose husbands were not members, one of them said, “For a while, any contact [he] had with the Church was very stressful for me. I was constantly praying that someone would say the thing that would open his eyes and that no one would do or say anything that would offend him. Five years passed before I finally realized that during my own trip down the road of Church investigation, no one had smoothed out every bump or homogenized every personality for my benefit. There had been rough spots here and there; but through it all, I had retained my agency. When I decided to be baptized, I did so because I knew through prayer and study that the Church was true. Now I have accepted the fact that my husband is capable of making the same mature investigation of the Church whenever he is ready.”1

The Savior taught the parable of the sower whose seeds fell on different types of ground. This parable is symbolic of one’s readiness to receive the doctrines taught by the Lord. Perhaps some of the following ideas can help prepare the soil of your spouse’s heart.

-Share truths from the Book of Mormon that touch you personally.

-Talk about the experiences with the Holy Ghost if they are not too private.

-Be willing to show gratitude for your spouse’s desire to give you room to grow closer to Heavenly Father.

-Invite your spouse to activities or service projects where other members can offer friendship.

-Pray and study the Bible together.

-Express gratitude about what brings you peace.

Lastly, not all spouses want to hear anything regarding the Church doctrine, so please do not push your beliefs on someone who is not open to learning more. Please do not compare your spouse to members, or make your spouse feel like they have taken a back seat to your new life. The relationship between husband and wife is sacred no matter where the marriage began. 

Elder L. Whitney Clayton said, “I have observed that in the happiest marriages both the husband and wife consider their relationship to be a pearl beyond price, a treasure of infinite worth.”2 Continually treat your spouse as your treasure and perhaps someday, he or she will treasure what you love as much as they treasure you.

1. When your spouse isn’t a member, March 1990 Ensign
2. “Marriage: Watch and Learn,” Elder L. Whitney Clayton, General Conference, April 2003
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Should We Seek for Certain Callings in the Church?

Posted by Devin Miller on

The Pharisees of the New Testament were the religious leaders of their day. They twisted the Law of Moses into a strict set of “can-do’s” and “can’t-do’s” instead of living by the word of the Lord. They made quite a show of their obedience to the Law and proclaimed themselves more righteous than other groups of people at the time. Did they aspire to these positions in society to gain favor and social status? It is quite possible. “Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42–43.) Is it any wonder that the Lord taught them about cleansing the inner vessel first?

When we receive a calling, we can think of it as the Lord asking us to fulfill an errand for Him. He knows the areas in our lives in which we need to grow, or the gifts or special talents we may have to help others within our circle of influence, then extends the call to serve. Sometimes we are called to organizations that make us uncomfortable at first. That is called growth. Those callings have a two-way benefit. One benefits our personal development, the other benefits the others around us.

When we desire a certain calling, it may be because it is something we sincerely enjoy and feel that we can be good at. I know there have been times in my life when I have struggled in service and felt that I had given the Lord a mediocre offering when I only wanted to give Him something worth having!  However, I have come to understand that He doesn’t rate our finished product. He accepts the gift given from the heart.

Other times, do we desire a certain calling to feel that we are special, so others can see us and think highly of us? If that is the case, we would need to repent of our Pharisaical thinking and then humbly stalk off to primary with our tail between our legs!

When we desire a specific calling, we might compare it to telling the Lord, “I want to serve you, but I am only willing to do it in this capacity.” Not a very humble attitude, is it? If we seek solely for the honors of men and glory for ourselves, doesn’t that align with how Lucifer thought before he was cast down from heaven? In service to our Lord, we should only aspire to follow the Lord’s will.

In the second conference after which Elder Bednar was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, he addressed an important point.

“To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us. Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen. Please now note the use of the word chosen in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants: Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men. D&C 121:34–35.

 “I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit “the chosen” to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God’s chosen.” 1

I hope we can always serve the Lord with pure and humble hearts and be ready to choose our Father’s will in every circumstance.

 1. “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Elder David A. Bednar, General Conference, April 2005
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How to Get Confirmation that What is Said in Conference is True

Posted by Devin Miller on

I used to look forward to General Conference two times a year. I don’t simply look forward to it anymore. Now, I find that I need it. I often envision myself crawling across the scorching desert sand calling out “water…water…” as I drag myself by my fingertips to the feet of the Prophet and the Apostles for Living Water. It’s a little dramatic but you understand.

When the Prophet says, “There is much more to come.… Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting,”1 then we know we had best be prepared for what comes next. We have experienced changes happening rapidly as the Savior leads His church to keep ahead of the adversary’s attempts to thwart Heavenly Father’s plans.

When we hear something during these precious days of inspiration that takes us by surprise, how do we respond? We could compare our reactions to the parable of the sower with the seed falling on different types of soil. If we want to know that something said during conference is true, then we had better follow Alma’s counsel and treat the topic as a precious seed instead of letting the message fall onto dry, rocky ground. Let us nourish it by placing it in good soil, watering it and tending it. We would do that by first, keeping our hearts open. Sometimes we want to shut out anything that doesn’t feel familiar to us. Second, we need to ponder the words spoken. What does the message mean for you? How is it supportive of the Lord’s purposes? Third, we ought to spend time on our knees, pleading with the Lord for a witness that what was spoken is right. Fourth, we need to continue seeking for answers for as long as it takes. Nephi taught us about enduring to the end. Sometimes seeking answers can feel like we might reach the end before they come but keep going. The witness will come.

Not only can you seek for confirmation after a message has been given, you can also prepare yourself to receive before conference starts. I have personally made a list of questions that were weighing upon my mind and prayed about them for weeks ahead of time. You might consider fasting beforehand or during the conference to be able to recognize the answers you seek or to be able to feel that the messages are true. There is a special power during conference weekend. I imagine that the power of the Holy Ghost is glorious as it reaches across the entire world at the same time. I have felt the difference between participating in the conference with millions of faithful people and then going back to watch it alone. The difference is tangible. Prepare yourself to receive.

President Nelson encouraged us to seek answers for ourselves, teaching, “What will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.

“Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.” 2

What a beautiful privilege to be able to “sit at the feet of the Prophet and Apostles” while the Holy Ghost testifies to our hearts of the power of what is spoken from on High! Keep seeking answers by petitioning and pondering until you have received your own witness of the truth.

1. Russell M. Nelson, in “Latter-day Saint Prophet, Wife and Apostle Share Insights of Global Ministry,” Newsroom, Oct. 30, 2018
2. “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” President Russell M. Nelson, April 2018, General Conference
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