Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spiritual Preparedness: Increasing Our Testimony

This Christmas when my family got together my folks decided that instead of presents the adults would do presentations and have discussions. I was given the topic spiritual preparedness. Here is my presentation. I used a lot of Church articles for my presentation.

Spiritual Preparedness: Increasing Our Testimony

Matt. 25:1-13 the parable of the ten virgins and the bridegroom. The wise virgins where prepared. Who are the virgins? What does the oil symbolize?

The ten virgins, according to Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “represent those church members who are looking for the Bridegroom to come; and the oil-filled lamps are symbolic of the Holy Spirit which lights the way before the saints.”

What does the Holy Spirit do?
• The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, fulfilling several roles to help us live righteously and receive the blessings of the gospel.
• He "witnesses of the Father and the Son" (2 Nephi 31:18) and reveals and teaches "the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:5). We can receive a sure testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ only by the power of the Holy Ghost. His communication to our spirit carries far more certainty than any communication we can receive through our natural senses.
• As we strive to stay on the path that leads to eternal life, the Holy Ghost can guide us in our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual danger.
• Through Him, we can receive gifts of the Spirit for our benefit and for the benefit of those we love and serve (see D&C 46:9–11).

What is a testimony?
A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior's true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.

How can we gain a testimony?
• The first step in gaining a testimony is to want one (see 1 Nephi 2:16).
• We must ask our Heavenly Father to help us gain a testimony (see D&C 42:51).
• We must want a testimony enough that we are willing to work to gain one (see Ether 12:6).
• We will enjoy our testimony as we study and grow and increase in our knowledge of the truth (see John 8:32).
• We must care for our most prized possession, our testimony, by keeping the commandments of our Heavenly Father (see Mosiah 2:41, Alma 32:41).

Why is desire so important?
• The laws of God are concerned with spiritual things. Spiritual consequences are brought about by our thoughts or desires, as well as by our actions.
• God judges us not only for our acts, but also for the desires of our hearts.
• Our heart is right with God when we truly desire what is righteous. It is right with God when we desire what God desires.
• President Joseph F. Smith taught that the “education … of our desires is one of far-reaching importance to our happiness in life.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939, p. 297.)
• How do we educate our desires? We begin with our feelings. [W]e should pray to have the right kind of feelings about our experiences—positive or negative—and about the people we knew. If our feelings were right, the desires of our heart would be right and we would be more likely to take right actions.
• If we refrain from evil acts, we have clean hands. If we refrain from forbidden thoughts, we have pure hearts. Those who would ascend and stand in the ultimate holy place must have both.

Why is prayer important for us?
• We are all children of God. He loves us and knows our needs, and He wants us to communicate with Him through prayer. We should pray to Him and no one else. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded, "Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name" (3 Nephi 18:19). As we make a habit of approaching God in prayer, we will come to know Him and draw ever nearer to Him. Our desires will become more like His. We will be able to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that He is ready to give if we will but ask in faith.

What kind of work must we do?
• President Kimball has given some direction on how to fill our lamps with oil: “Attendance at sacrament meetings adds oil to our lamps, drop by drop over the years. Fasting, family prayer, home teaching [and visiting teaching], control of bodily appetites, preaching the gospel, studying the scriptures—each act of dedication and obedience is a drop added to our store. Deeds of kindness, payment of offerings and tithes, chaste thoughts and actions, marriage in the covenant for eternity—these, too, contribute … to the oil with which we can [by] midnight [be ready].”

What does scripture study do?
• In order to come unto Christ and be perfected in him, each person needs to receive a testimony of the Lord’s words. Some individuals falter because they fail to open the books, others because they read casually. As one would expect, there is a difference between diligent searching or “pondering over the scriptures” and casual reading.
• A casual, infrequent exposure to the scriptures will generally not open the door to the whisperings of the Spirit or provide insights into the Savior’s life and character.
• President Howard W. Hunter said, “Those who delve into the scriptural library … find that to understand requires more than casual reading or perusal—there must be concentrated study. … One who studies the scriptures every day accomplishes far more than one who devotes considerable time one day and then lets days go by before continuing.”
• There are certain blessings obtained when one searches the scriptures. As a person studies the words of the Lord and obeys them, he or she draws closer to the Savior and obtains a greater desire to live a righteous life. The power to resist temptation increases, and spiritual weaknesses are overcome. Spiritual wounds are healed.

How does obedience help us?
• Many people feel that the commandments are burdensome and that they limit freedom and personal growth. But the Savior taught that true freedom comes only from following Him: "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31–32). God gives commandments for our benefit. They are loving instructions for our happiness and for our physical and spiritual well-being.
• The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that obedience to the commandments leads to blessings from God. He said: "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:20–21). King Benjamin also taught this principle. "I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God," he counseled. "For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it" (Mosiah 2:41).
• Our obedience to the commandments is an expression of our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The Savior said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He later declared: "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept
• my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (John 15:10).

Now that you have a process to follow, what should you do first?
• First take time to ponder your life and your testimony. Ask yourself what you would like to improve and work on. You can do this both individually and as a family.
• Make a plan on how you would like to accomplish this goal. Use the steps in your plan. Go and do it.
• Take regular times in your life to repeat the pondering of your life and make improvements as needed.

Are there any thoughts or comments?