Sunday, July 31, 2016


This is the talk I gave in church this morning.  I typically wouldn't post it here, but I typically don't write my talks out word for word either, and they're typically not finished two weeks in advance, and it's way too long to copy into my journal, so you don't have to read it, mostly I'm just posting it so I have someplace to find it later if I need to remember it...

What a great privilege to get to prepare a talk on baptism.  It has been so nice this month to hear the principles of this amazing ordinance and to re-solidify the commitments made when I was baptized so many years ago.  

We moved here 57 days ago from Allen, TX.

I only know that because I used to have a countdown app on my phone with a picture of our house on it that would count the number of days until we got to Birmingham.  I noticed the other day that the app keeps counting even after the event, so now instead of saying however many days UNTIL Birmingham, it says, however many days SINCE Birmingham.   Which is an interesting perspective to keep in mind.  I get frustrated sometimes that things are not moving along as quickly as I would like them to.  Rooms aren't completed, plants aren't growing, relationships aren't thriving the way I think they should be after what seems like a sufficient amount of time.  BUT if I remember that 57 days isn't even two months, 57 days is barely a summer, it's barely any time at all, and if I count the things I CAN do and HAVE finished, it makes me calm down a little.  Craig and I already have callings.  After today, I will have already spoken in Sacament, which I think will take me off the Bishop's radar for several years.  I've already gotten to know the YW and so many great people in this ward.  We've already established such a great relationship with the sister missionaries and LOVE having them in our home.  I can finally remember all the landmarks so I can get TO and FROM this building via Black Jack Rd without getting lost, even in the DARK!  That's a BIG deal.  

If I had had a BAPTISM countdown app in 1993, it would now say...8,534 days SINCE your Baptism, which is 23 years, 4 months, and 11 days.  If I've been on the earth for 16,958 days, then it happens to work out that the very day we moved to Alabama is the exact point when my time as a member of the church exceeded my time as a nonmember. That's kind of a cool coincidence, I think.  And since I don't believe in coincidences, then I guess it means I need to do something with that little piece of information. What an amazing perspective to have not just when you think about baptism and the covenants made, but about what has been done with the half a lifetime I've spent as covenanted members of this church.  

Do I still feel the same way about the Church as I did on the day I was baptized?  In March 1993,  I was excited.  I was hopeful for the changes that this step would bring in my new life. I have to say that part of that hope included a cute redhead I had had my heart set on for the better part of 7 years or so, but even without a guarantee that he would have been included in the package, I would have jumped into the waters of baptism gladly and happily.  I loved the Church.  I loved everything about it.  I loved the gospel and I loved the Prophet.  I loved the programs, and the Book of Mormon.  But what I was converted to and what I was missing in my own life was the state of relationships that I saw in the people around me.  Sometimes what you see on Sunday isn't exactly reality, but I made it mine.  I absolutely LOVED the close, happy families that I saw both in Craig's family and in all of the families in that first ward that embraced me when I was a newly investigating teenager.  I have come to know those families that loved and nurtured me in those early years, and other families that have nurtured and been an example to me in the years since, and I know now that what I was drawn to then was REAL and SINCERE.  Those families had what I longed for and what I have desired and attained in my own family in the years since my baptism. 

That's not exactly the best reason to become a member of the Church and I can tell you I absolutely did not understand at the time I put on that white jumpsuit what it meant to "take upon me the name of Jesus Christ."  But I do now.  

I did not, at 23 years old, have the ability to know how that one decision to step into the waters of baptism would change my life or how much joy it would bring to me and to my future family.  But I do now.  

Is this Church and your membership in it still wonderful to you?   This week I read a talk by that same title, by Bishop Gerald Causse, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.  Is It Still Wonderful To You?  If it sometimes doesn't feel wonderful, then let me suggest three things that Elder Causse outlines to help us make it wonderful to us again...

1. Never tire of discovering or rediscovering the truths of the gospel.
"Do you remember the first time you read a verse of scripture and felt as if the Lord was speaking to you personally?"  
"Can you recall the first time you felt the sweet influence of the HG come over you, perhaps before you even realized it was the HG?" 
It is possible to have ongoing, sacred, spiritual moments like this.  Look for them.  Make them a priority in your life.  
"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26) 
2.  Anchor your faith in the plain and simple truths of the gospel.  
Go to all the meetings at church.  Listen to the GD lesson that has been planned and prayed over on your behalf.  Invite the missionaries into your home and have them practice their lessons with your family.  Read the Conference talks.  Have daily scripture study.  
"Brothers and sisters, without reservation, I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord.  There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God."  - Gordon B. Hinckley
3. Seek for and cherish the companionship of the HG.  
"When we have the Spirit with us, our spiritual senses are sharpened and our memory is kindled so we cannot forget the miracles and signs we have witnessed."

I testify that the work in which we are engaged is a marvelous work and a wonder.  As we follow Jesus Christ, God bears witness to us "with signs and divers miracles, and gifts of the HG, according to his own will."  I bear witness that the wonders and marvels of the gospel are anchored in the greatest of all of God's gifts - the Savior's atonement.  This is the perfect gift of love that the Father and the Son, united in purpose, have offered to each one of us."

I testify that there is much work to do, and that by securing our own testimonies and seeking each day for the miraculous and wonderful things of the gospel that we have already seen in our own lives, we will have the ability to not only secure our own testimonies more fully, but also to enrich our enthusiasm and love of the gospel and then be more willing and able to go out and rescue those among us who are seeking those same wondrous and miraculous things in their own lives.  

Do not be complacent about this work or this magnificent gift we have been given.  Treasure it.  Seek to magnify it daily in your life.  And then let us find ways to share it with those around us so that they too may more fully enjoy the peace and comfort that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can provide. 

I did not fully understand the covenants I was making at the time even though my complete and utter joy when I stepped out of that font was sincere and heartfelt.  But I do now.  

I did not know then that baptism was only the first step in a long, challenging and continuous  process of growing and trusting the Lord.  But I do now.  

I did not know then what it would mean to be willing to mourn with those that mournyea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, But I have since gained greater experience and a greater testimony of those things.  

I can tell you that this gospel and that decision are still wonderful to me.  And as my perspective grows broader with age and experience, they become more wonderful to me.  More now even than they were on that day in March 1993.  I testify that it is possible to have our testimonies grow stronger within us.  It is possible to have those baptismal covenants written on our hearts.  It is possible to have a blazing love of the gospel that continues to burn brightly every day.  It is possible to take upon us the name of Christ and have that forever seared upon our hearts, and therefore be changed into new creatures.  I testify that that is the hope and the opportunity that the atonement offers.  I testify that that is the joy we find not just on the day of our baptism, but every week after when we renew our covenants as we take the Sacrament.  I testify that that is the desire of our Father in Heaven, for us to find absolute and complete JOY in the covenants we make and keep when we are baptized into His church.  I testify that this Church is true.  That the Savior is at the head of it.  And that there is no greater peace or joy that we can find in this life except by making and keeping those sacred covenants.

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