In an effort to help members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to become “firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ” and to experience a “deep and lasting conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the leaders of the Church have introduced a new initiative or program. Last Sunday in Relief Society we had an interesting and informative lesson based on two talks presented in the October 2018 General Conference.
As you might remember the conference started with President Russell M. Nelson announcing some “organizational adjustments.” Before announcing the changes, President Nelson indicated that the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and possibly other leaders have “wrestled” with the problem of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ and its ordinances to “all of God’s children.” He indicated that Latter-day Saints are “accustomed to thinking of `church’ as something that happens in our meetinghouse, supported by what happens at home.” Saying that it is time to change the “pattern,” President Nelson said, “It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our … buildings.” He then explained that Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would introduce the details of the new changes.
When I heard the Prophet’s words, I immediately remembered something I heard as a child or youth. I do not know if it was a prophecy, an old wives’ tale, or a mere rumor, but it had something to do with a time in the future when members would hold Church meetings in their homes. I grew up in the Cold War, so I always thought that it would happen because of government suppression of religion. If it was a prophecy, that problem may arise in the future, and this would be good preparation for it. However, it could also have something to do with President Nelson’s announcement!
Elder Cook presented his talk titled “Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” and enlarged on the Prophet’s announcement. He indicated that the Brethren worked on the change for a long time with the desire for members to “learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.” He announced a change in the Sunday meeting schedule and how it would work. As he continued, he made a statement that I caught my focus as I read the talk last Sunday morning.
But there is so much more to this adjustment than just shortening the Sunday meetinghouse schedule. President Nelson has acknowledged with gratitude how much is being accomplished as a result of your faithfulness to previous invitations. He and the entire leadership of the Church desire to bring greater gospel joy … through a home-centered, Church-supported, balanced effort. The purposes and blessings associated with this adjustment and other recent changes include the following.
· Deepening conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthening faith in Them.
· Strengthening individuals and families through home-centered, Church-supported curriculum that contributes to joyful gospel living.
· Honoring the Sabbath day, with a focus on the ordinance of the sacrament.
· Helping all of Heavenly Father’s children on both sides of the veil through missionary work and receiving ordinances and covenants and blessings of the temple….
The goal of these adjustments is to obtain a deep and lasting conversion of adults and the rising generation….
The most important goal and ultimate blessing of deep and lasting conversion is worthily receiving the covenants and ordinances of the covenant pathway (emphasis added).
After discussing the purposes for the change, Elder Cook went into detail about how the home and Church teaching would be harmonized through the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum. Other talks throughout the conference support the new “home-centered, Church-supported balanced effort.” Elder D. Todd Christofferson spoke in the second session on the topic “Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ.” He shares the story of Elijah’s experience with the priests of Baal. The priests prepared an altar and cut up a young bull to place on it. They called on Baal to send fire from heaven to burn the sacrifice, but no fire came down. Then Elijah “repaired the broken-down altar of the Lord, laid the wood and the offering upon it, and then ordered that it all be doused with water, not once but three times.”
When the entire area was soaked with water and it was time for the evening sacrifice, Elijah called on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel to “let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant.” Fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifice, wood, stones, dust, and all the water. The people recognized the one true God of Israel and committed to serve Him.
Elder Christofferson continues his talk with several examples of people in the scriptures who are converted to serving the Lord. The Savior, of course, is the perfect example of always doing the will of Heavenly Father. He is converted to the work of His Father and is firm, steadfast, and immovable in keeping His commandments. Elder Christofferson suggests that we are all somewhere on a “continuum between socially motivated participation in gospel rituals on the one hand and fully developed, Christlike commitment to the will of God on the other” and hopefully moving “toward that blessed state.” He offers this counsel to help us along the way.
To persevere firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ requires that the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate one’s heart and soul, meaning that the gospel becomes not just one of many influences in a person’s life but the defining focus of his or her life and character…” (emphasis added).
I found the combination of the two talks to be quite inspiring. The shortened Sunday meeting schedule and the “Come, Follow Me” study guide can help us to become steadfast members of the Lord’s Church. As we strengthen our own conversion to the Lord, we can reach out to family members and others to help strengthen them.
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