Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pointing the Way

I think she was an angel, just a different sort. The woman had beautiful white hair and she was dressed completely in white to match. Were it not for the fact that I had just arrived at the temple, and that this is not an uncommon experience there, she might have given me enough reason to think she was a heavenly messenger. Instead, her life is still grounded by mortality and a desire to serve others.

Upon my entering the Salt Lake Temple, the woman in white greeted me. She stood waiting to point the way for me to go, wanting to make sure that my experience was as pleasant as possible. Though I have been to the temple many, many times and am quite familiar with finding my way, her presence provided a good reminder of what a difference one person can make in the experience of another. As I approached, she smiled and said hello. She made me feel welcome.

There are many who go to the temple for the first time, either to receive their own endowment, or because they have come from a far distance to visit a particular temple. Even in a place that is as holy and beautiful as a temple, one can feel a little disconcerted if he or she is not sure what to do or where to go. You may know that you are in the right place at the right time, but beyond that you might ask, “Now what?”

On any given visit to the temple, I may meet six or seven temple workers who are there just to greet me at various points. I have thought about how different my experience would be if they were not there. What would it feel like to be greeted by signs instead of a person? Would I feel more like a stranger in the Lord’s Holy House? Because the temple is the House of the Lord, signs are not enough. A house suggests hospitality. It is a place for family, friends, and warm welcomes. A home is a place of belonging.

As children of our Father in Heaven, we have all left our heavenly home for a time with the expectation of returning. In order to go back, we are required to demonstrate to Him that we really do want to – that we are willing to do anything to get there. While we are mere strangers here, this earth is intended to be our temporary home until we can again enter the presence of the Lord. It is the right place, and this is the right time to be tested. Though this is by design, signs from heaven may not be sufficient to make us feel welcome and comfortable for this earthly home that God has prepared for us. Someone who cares, standing at the crossroads of life’s decisions, can make all the difference in helping a fellow brother or sister to feel completely welcome.

Throughout my life there have been many individuals who have stood at the crossroads of my decisions, ready to greet me and offer some direction.
They have provided comfort just when it was needed most. Their experience has provided a sense of familiarity that I could not get on my own. Throughout my life I have relied heavily on my parents and family. My wife has supported me unlike anyone else in the world and has provided a spring of hope and encouragement. Close friends have been an invaluable blessing to me. At times when I have felt weakest, I have become much stronger as I have learned to depend on them. Those who are closest to me have greeted me with their hearts and have shaped who I have become. Without them, this life would not even closely resemble home.

There is great power in presence, and not just physical presence, but presence of heart and mind. Most often when I am going through a difficult change in my life, a friend may not be able to take the difficulty away. Doing so may actually defeat the purpose of being here on earth. The presence of a friend, however, seems to distribute the load that I carry in a way that is more bearable. It helps me to feel that I am not alone and allows me to focus on what I am supposed to learn instead of the difficulty of the moment.

Another presence that has shaped my decisions is that of the Holy Ghost. Similarly, the Holy Ghost won’t take away my challenges, but He will bring me comfort. His presence strengthens me. It inspires me to do great things. He helps me to believe that I can, and then He reminds me that I did, so I will have the faith to do it again.

Some of the most influential moments in my life have come when I have experienced the combined presence of those pointing the way – when I feel the warmth of those who are closest to me along with the presence of the Holy Ghost. The presence of God seems to cement any relationship. It amplifies and enriches. If a friend can do much to bring comfort, then a friend who brings the spirit with them can work miracles, and all just because of presence.

In life there are individuals, and even organizations, that are willing to point a direction, but they point the wrong way. Instead of pointing towards the happiness that comes from restraint and discipline, they are busy directing traffic towards selfish motives and gainful employment for the adversary. Occasionally, this comes from those who are well-intended and are not meaning to distract me. As comforting as it is to have the presence of friends, I am quick to see what friends they bring with them. Do they bring the spirit with them? Do they take the Holy Spirit as their guide? While a friend may not be able to receive revelation for me, I can judge the power of their presence by what I feel, and by how much I feel the power of the Holy Ghost.

There are individuals who do have the authority to receive revelation for me. I will never forget that my parents will always have that stewardship, and that I will do well to honor them in righteousness. Additionally, local priesthood leaders who hold priesthood keys have been called of God to guide me and point the way. I honor and respect them as I do my own parents. While neither my leaders nor my parents are perfect, I can judge the power of their presence by what I feel.

In a week from now, I will have the opportunity to be taught by other friends, most of whom I have not met. I call them friends because I feel they sincerely have my personal interests at heart. I have found them to be unwavering in their efforts to lead me to faith in Jesus Christ. They have been diligent in helping me to return to my home with Father. They are consistent in helping me to feel the Spirit of the Lord. These friends provide me good counsel and direction that enable me to make good decisions.

God speaks to living prophets today. They hear His voice in much the same way I do when I receive answers to my prayers. They hear His voice through the gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost. The presence of the comforter directs them to teach the things that Father wants us to be taught. That presence also confirms the truth of what we hear in our hearts.

The prophet Nephi taught that the will of God is “manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh… both temporal and spiritual….” (1 Nephi 22:2-3) Further he taught, “when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Nephi 33:1)

The Lord also revealed to Joseph Smith, “Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God. Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.” (Doctrine & Covenants 50:17-22)

What a blessing it is to receive personal revelation and learn how to communicate with God. What a gift it is to receive the Holy Ghost by receiving revelation.

During the times where we still feel alone, Father places others in our lives who can stand at the crossroads of difficult experiences. He provides family and friends who can help point the way. Their presence combined with the presence of the Holy Ghost can restore our faith and secure our hope. The signs of the second coming are increasing, but they may not be sufficient to bring us all the comfort we need. It is when I put my faith in those whom God has called to testify to His children that I find lasting peace. As I listen and affirm my willingness to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, I find the strength to do the most difficult things. It is after those moments of trial, whether clear or ambiguous, that the confirming feeling of peace settles in my heart that Jesus lives and He will come again.

If you have not had a chance to listen to the words of living prophets and apostles, I invite you to join with me this next weekend in the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to hear their words and judge for yourself the direction that they point. If you have listened to them before, then I invite you to listen again and again, and seek the confirming voice of the Holy Spirit that what they say is true.

I add my witness that God speaks to His children today. I know His servants the prophets speak His will. These are heavenly messengers, grounded to mortality through their service. As I listen to the Holy Spirit and follow, there is a peace that fills my heart unlike any other.

I am grateful for family, friends, and dearest loved ones who have been there for me during difficult times. They are the angels in my life who have pointed the way. You know who you are. Thank you!

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