I spoke in a small branch today, and a sister in my ward was the other speaker. I asked her to read Pres. Wixom's talk Sunday morning and Pres. Uchtdorf's talk in the Priesthood session and speak about whatever she took from them.
She shared two stories: one about a relative who was away from the Church for years due to a really bad experience with some members and a local leader and one about herself and her struggles to accept that she doesn't get answers to prayers like most people who speak and teach and lead in the Church. It was heartfelt, personal and moving.
I changed my talk almost completely as I was sitting on the stand during the meeting. The assigned topic was "Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ", and I prepared a talk combining elements of talks in General Conference from Pres. Uchtdorf, Elder Holland and Elder Nielson. As I sat on the stand and looked at everyone in the chapel (about a dozen people), I decided to scrap that talk and talk about two things, primarily: looking at who Jesus was as a mortal and whom he served during his ministry.
I mentioned that Jesus was born in a manger/stable/barn/grotto cave, that his father worked with his hands (that he wasn't a doctor or lawyer or professor but a carpenter), that his mother was (almost surely) an unwed teenager, that he was moved to and raised in Egypt (in order to escape Herod's rage), that he returned in a way as an outsider or foreigner, that he grew up in Nazareth (of which the Old Testament includes a question asking if any good thing can come out of Nazareth), etc. in almost every way, he would not have been accepted as an insider by the "important" people of his time.
I pointed out that when it came time for his ministry he served others like himself in some way: the outcast, the sick, the diseased, the obvious sinner, the poor, the hated and marginalized.
I repeated Pres. Uchtdorf's description of church as a repair shop, not a showroom, and I talked about how we all are fallen, failing, broken, etc. in some way and how we should be able to come to church for help being repaired/healed. I said we exercise faith in Jesus when we recognize ourselves as needing repair and accept other broken vessels to meet with us, no matter the nature of their brokenness - when our congregations are not just geographic wards (and branches) but also hospital wards.
I summarized the degrees of glory as conditions of the heart: unrepentant Telestial, no real effort Terrestrial and best effort Celestial. I explained that nothing in the descriptions includes a required checklist of actions but, instead, focuses on effort only. I talked about the statement, "We know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do," with a reference to Pres. Uchtdorf, and rearranged the statement to say what he taught, "(Even) after all we can do, we know that we (still) are saved by grace."
I ended with the parable of the sower and simply pinted out that the good soil produced different amounts of fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred. Again, it wasn't the amount produced that mattered, since ALL of it was called good, but simply that it produced good fruit. I told them that having faith in Jesus, at the most basic level, is about accepting that he will call us good if we do our best to produce good fruit, no matter how much we end up producing. It isn't about numbers; it is about loving effort, recognizing and accepting that we already have been saved by God's grace and will inherit the ultimate divine glory simply for trying to follow Jesus' example and love and serve ourselves and others.
Edith Russell: Associate Editor
32 minutes ago