The broad brush stroke of a topic is, "Growing My Testimony through Action". The usual notions of how we increase our testimony, i.e. prayer, meditation, and scripture reading are of course actions. What I'm angling at is something that revolves more around things like sharing the gospel with others, service in the community, temple attendance, speaking in Sacrament Meeting on short notice, putting into practice charity, that sort of thing.
I didn't say yes at first. I tried to come up with something but nothing. Total stupor of thought. Until, as I mention in the talk, I was writing my weekly email to the elders quorum. Then it all came together and I wrote back and said yes.
Of course, it was made more complicated by http://www.motleyvision.org/2009/elder-callister-on-art/ in which I said that Mormon sacrament meeting talks should mean that we, as a people, take an interest in preserving the world's Great Oral Tradition. So, you know, no stress or anything.
I went through old svithe and found http://svithes.blogspot.com/2006/11/caught-in-svithe.html, http://svithes.blogspot.com/2007/05/who-wants-easy-svithe-main-difference.html and http://svithes.blogspot.com/2008/11/svithing-pure-religion.html, as well as http://theeccentricsage.blogspot.com/2008/03/post-100.html from my brother, all of which were used to throw this together.
Then, in rewrite, I used http://athenaminor.blogspot.com/2008/10/do-mormons-know-too-much.html from another brother to make sure I'd stayed on task.
This is not my final draft (although it is late enough in the process that I've removed the jackass), but it's roughly what I'll be saying tomorrow.
A new book will be hitting the shelves next month. If God Were Real by John Avant. The book looks to be a reaction to the books from the New Atheists that’ve been burning up the charts --- books like The God Delusion and God Is Not Great. Its cover is reminiscent of those books and the title isn’t exactly clear. If God Were Real? It took a bit of interneting to decide which side of the argument the author will come down on come his July 7 release date.
Anyway, Avant’s point is that most Christians don’t live as if they actually think God’s real. From some promotional stuff:
The author . . . agrees with atheists that many Christians are not living up to their claims and asserts that there is not much Christ left in Christianity. . . . Each chapter examines how a particular part of life might be different if God were real to us. The evidence shows that most Christians live as “practical atheists.”
Self-assessment query: Am I charitable like unto Christ? Do I turn the other cheek like unto Christ? Do I weep with my friends like unto Christ?
This struck me as I was writing an email to the elders quorum about today’s Joseph Smith lesson on redeeming the dead. And I asked myself: Do I live my life as if I really believe in redeeming the dead?
Looking at my day-to-day redemption activities for evidence, I have to wonder if I do in fact believe this doctrine. Shouldn’t my faith be borne out by my daily actions? By their fruits you shall know them etc etc and my fruits aren’t exactly nourishing to the dead. I’m not exactly on a first-name basis with Brother Whatsisname who checks recommends at the temple door.
This failure on my part raises a new question: Is that failure evidence of a weak testimony or is it simply a failure to act upon my testimony?
I like Peter. Simon Peter? The rock on which Jesus would build his church? You remember Peter. The schmuck who betrayed his god three times in one night? He was supposed to be this great spiritual leader and he started that career with complete and utter failure. Way to go, nimrod.
But Peter gets his act together, pun intended, in The Acts of the Apostles, which is the New Testament’s very next book. In Acts, Peter and the other apostles are no longer just sitting around enjoying faith. Now, instead of listening, they are speaking. Instead of following, they are leading. They are doing what their Savior taught them to do. Following his commandment to go forth into all the world bearing testimony of Him. In Acts, they are doing the gospel, acting the gospel. And Peter never denies god again. He’s done with “practical atheism.” He is a saint, an active saint.
Another active Saint of the time, James, spoke on this issue when he called pure religion visiting the fatherless and widows. I like to assume he wasn’t just writing epistles on it, but that he was actually visiting the fatherless and widows. Surely they didn’t call him James the Just for nothing.
Here, in America, 2009, it’s pretty easy to find the time, safety and gasoline to visit the fatherless and widows. Now consider for a moment Mormon’s situation. Here’s a guy who lived in a time of constant danger. Murdering and marauding were everyday activities. People were killed in gruesome ways—sometimes eaten—and widows were dying of starvation as they fled their homes. But when we read the doctrines that Mormon taught, what do we see? We see a Christian. We see a man who, even when everyone around him had fallen into irreparable evil, preached faith hope and charity. Who delighted in the innocence of children. He wastes no space chatting up his own good deeds, but a man who can focus on faith hope and charity when the world is crashing down around him in a cacophony of depravity, I think we can safely assume that he helped out where he could. He even agreed to lead his people when he knew full well they were on the brink of utter destruction. Even in a moment of—can I call it hopelessness?—he did what he could.
I was here at the church Friday night and on the stairs next to the bishop’s office was the muddy handprint of a small child. Splap! right there on the carpet. Couple of them, actually. I couldn’t find any proper carpet-cleaning spray in the bombshelter so I just rubbed it away with a wet paper towel --- in our Sunday morning sunlight the handprint may be visible again, but I tried to get rid of it.
Now I was here because it was our week to clean the church so of course I’m going to try to do something about an errant handprint. But I’m often here alone, at least once every other week, and I hope that I would try to do something about mud on the carpet, even if it wasn’t my week.
Faith is power we hear with some regularity, and that power is both developed and manifested through actions. But faith is intensely personal and no matter how much I say Hey! Pray!, that won’t develop your faith. It’s the same with actions. They are intensely personal and it’s a slothful and not wise servant who needs to be told to act. So we can wipe up handprints without being told. We can grab a crumpled bulletin from off the floor. Every week I see people picking up chairs in the cultural hall without anyone telling them to do it.
There are people in our ward much better than me about redeeming the dead and visiting the widows and fatherless. And it’s not because someone’s constantly pressuring them about Duty or Responsibility either.
As I read in a recent Church PR release:
Latter-day Saints take [James’s] interpretation of pure religion very seriously. Being a person of faith is something you do within the context of a world full of suffering, not just what you say or believe. . . . Learning Christ’s teachings and reading about the way He conducted Himself motivates individuals to look for ways to engage with others the way He did. And serving those in need functions as a refining process — humbling the server, bringing her or him closer to Christ and His example.
This is what Peter learned. As he served others his faith strengthened until nothing could sway him and he became the rock Jesus said he was.
Jesus, were he here today, would have kind things to say about each of us as well. And through action we can grow in faith, in power, and become the people he wishes us to be.
I know that as I spend more time in the temple, my faith in that work will grow, and I will spend more time in the temple, thus growing my faith even more.
And as I strive to live a life based on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, my faith and testimony in him will likewise grow, changing me into a person who follows the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.
In his holy name, amen.
Pretty short, yes. But I'm told there will be five other short talks and I don't want to be greedy with the time. So this is all for this week, folks. Move along.