It was a wonderful Saturday of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was very much uplifted by the positive spiritual messages I heard and the spirit of the Lord I felt. I come away with a renewed sense that, although there are many things I am doing right, there are also many things I need to improve in my life to become more like Jesus Christ and more like my Father in Heaven. However, I never felt berated or belittled as I was reminded that I can do more than I am. Instead, I felt the constant love of a perfect Father who encourages me to grow and reach beyond myself and to try for things that he knows I can achieve.
I was also reminded of many of the thoughts and impressions I had last weekend as I prepared and delivered a lesson in my ward’s Elder’s Quorum. I was asked to choose from one of two conference addresses from last October, Elder Christofferson’s Abide in My Love or Elder Renlund’s Repentance: A Joyful Choice, though as I read and studied the two talks I found that they dove-tailed beautifully into each other and needed to be taught together. We feel God’s love for us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son” (As was quoted on three separate occasions during conference sessions today) and we show our love for God by accepting that gift and making free and frequent use of the Atonement of Jesus Christ through continual and constant repentance.
And that was one of the thoughts that I heard emphasized again today during General Conference: that we can and must repent – but that repentance needs to be much more of a part of our daily lives. Repentance is not just for great mistakes and huge sins, but we can and must repent of anything in our lives that is not perfectly in line with becoming like God. God is our perfect Father in Heaven and he wants so much more for us than we realize. He wants us to learn and grow and become like he is. That is the goal – to be like God. And everything in our lives that is not god-like, that is not godly, needs to change. Repentance is more like revision or editing a novel. No novel is perfect on the first draft. So, too, our lives. We need to make little corrections to sentences here and there, and at other times we need to rewrite whole paragraphs and chapters. It doesn’t really matter as long as we end up with the finished product. And our loving Father in Heaven sees what our finished product can be and he provides love and encouragement and hope and help until we reach that promised end.
Some of take longer than others, each of us have our own corrections to make in our novels – no two lives are the same. Some of us are strong where others are weak – and that is the joy and the strength of the Church. We can and we must help each other, without judgment and with nothing but love and encouragement, as our Father provides to us. There are times when I need to lean on you and there are times when you need to lean on me. It doesn’t matter as long as we all get to where we’re going in the end. And because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which allows us to repent and change and return to our Father in Heaven, we can all make it.
Today during the sessions of General Conference I heard great messages of encouragement and reminders that we are each of us children of God, which means that we are all literally family and must reach out to help each other. There can be no judgment in the Church of Christ of those who are not yet perfect – for none of us are perfect yet. And not only should we accept those who are not like us, we need them in our Church and in our families and in the family of God. Everyone has a purpose, everyone has a role they can fill, everyone is needed, just as they are and how they can become as they draw closer to Jesus Christ. We should not tell others how they need to act or look or be, we need only bring them closer to Jesus, and he will change them in all of the necessary ways to become more like the Father. For God wants so much more for us than we realize. And he is much more forgiving than we give him credit for. And he is more willing to help and to lift than we sometimes want to believe, because he is our Father.
That is the ultimate takeaway for me. And it is something I have been pondering for months. God is actually our Father. And because he is God he loves us more perfectly and eternally than we can comprehend, but he does have a perfect plan for us and so much waiting for us if we can return to him. And if God is my father, if I am literally a child of God then so are you. And you are just as much a child of God as I am. He loves you just as much and just as perfectly as he loves me. THAT is why he asks us to reach out to others, THAT is why he asks us to be a little kinder, to have a little more charity, to be a little more compassionate. Because this is his family. Because we are his family. There can be no room for hate or intolerance in the family of God.
God wants so much more for us. He wants us to be able to return and live with him again in his Heaven – but, if we cannot learn to live with each other and love each other down here, how can we expect to do so when we all live together in heaven with our Father? That is what God is trying to prepare us for, a beautiful eternity with our families, which naturally include all of God’s children who ever have or ever will live on this earth. God wants to save all of his children, no matter when and no matter where they live. Family History is every bit as important as Missionary Work because they both lead to the temple where individuals make sacred covenants with God and receive eternal blessings from him and where families are sealed together for eternity through the holy Priesthood of God.
The sentence that keeps coming back to me is from the Bible Dictionary entry for Prayer: “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.” But I believe we can apply this more broadly. As soon as we learn and understand that God is our Father and we are His children, then at once family history becomes natural and instinctive. At once Missionary Work becomes natural and instinctive. At once obedience to the commandments becomes natural and instinctive on our part. At once charity and service to others become natural and instinctive on our part.
I have some goals that I have written down for myself of things the I need to change in my life to more fully accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be a better son of God. I am grateful for the ability I have to edit my novel, to make the needed corrections so that I can be perfect as God wants me to be. And I want to reach out to my brothers and sisters in the family of God who may need my help and my love and my assistance. I want to make this a better world, I want to be kinder, I want to alleviate suffering and do whatever is in my power to make someone else’s life better. Because that is what my Father wants of me. And I am striving to say, as Jesus did, “I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.” (3 Nephi 27:13)
If today was as great as it was, I am excited for tomorrow with its two sessions of General Conference. And I am excited for the next weeks and months when I can reflect on what I have felt and learned today and the opportunity I have to change and improve. Please join me tomorrow on Twitter I will be tweeting and retweeting as @dteeps, and I will be watching LDS General Conference which you can check out at gc.lds.org or through the Mormon Channel app on various streaming devices or at YouTube or your favorite local LDS Church building. I promise, if you listen you will hear the voice of a Prophet and Apostles called by Jesus Christ in this day to serve and teach and lead and guide as He did when He lived on this earth. They speak for Him and they speak the words he would have them speak. Come listen to a Prophet’s voice and hear the word of God.