Updated: Oct 2
'See that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world' 3 Nephi 18:25 (Jesus speaking to the Nephites 34 AD)
I would like to offer a personal invitation to my friends, family, and friends of friends. This weekend 3-4 October 2020 is the general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is hosted online at ChurchofJesusChrist.org You can watch it from wherever you are, online, on your device. Why not come, see and listen, and make up your own mind?
It is worth considering what guides us. We are all influenced for better or worse by what we consume. Fed bitterness, we become bitter. Fed kindness we become kind. Fed deceit we find conflict. Fed truth we find empathy.
In choosing our guides we may seek proven tradition. These can bring safety, but it is worth considering the time and place they came from. Healthy traditions now were once profound revelations. If we hold too closely to tradition, we inadvertently miss light and truth for our time, now. Uniquely and beautiful, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not built on tradition. If all past literature were suddenly deleted, it would still contain the source of truth we require to thrive. It lives or dies on a quiet but bold and emphatic truth - Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, speaks here. 'What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.' Doctrine & Covenants 1:38 emphasis added
I have personally heard the voice of God through his living apostles and prophets for many years through my upbringing and life. The best examples I can share are talks which have inspired me to write songs. Here are some of them.
'We live in a mortal world with many songs we cannot or do not yet sing. But I plead with each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir, where we will be able to savour forever that most precious anthem of all—“the song of redeeming love.” Fortunately, the seats for this particular number are limitless. There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honours His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behaviour, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it. With divine imperatives of love and faith, repentance and compassion, honesty and forgiveness, there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there. “Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be'. Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Songs Sung and Unsung Hearing this talk I felt inspired to write these words and song:
Poverty, suffering, hungry and cold Lives stolen, children without one to hold How can I sing of sunlight? Love seems paler than moonlight
I cannot sing, I cannot sing Like a broken violin I cannot sing, pretending I hear and feel sweet songs of sunshine and music I cannot sing
Come as you are, there is room in the choir You do not have to sing Hum along and you’ll feel Jesus smile with pure love Bringing sunshine and music Till one day, we’ll sing hosanna!
Where lies my hope, when hope is gone? Who hears my song when I can’t sing along? Two hands were pierced for my sorrow Could they lift me tomorrow?
'Those who find a way to truly behold the Man find the doorway to life’s greatest joys and the balm to life’s most demanding despairs. So, when you are encompassed by sorrows and grief, behold the Man. When you feel lost or forgotten, behold the Man. When you are despairing, deserted, doubting, damaged, or defeated, behold the Man. He will comfort you.
He will heal you and give meaning to your journey. He will pour out His Spirit and fill your heart with exceeding joy....Our burdens are lightened, our peace deepened. When we truly behold the Man, we have the promise of a blessed future that inspires and upholds us through the bends and bumps in life’s journey. Looking back, we will recognize that there is a divine pattern, that the dots really connect.
'As you accept His sacrifice, become His disciple, and finally reach the end of your earthly journey, what will become of the sorrows you have endured in this life?
They will be gone. The disappointments, betrayals, persecutions you have faced?
Gone. The suffering, heartache, guilt, shame, and anguish you have passed through?
Gone. Forgotten. Is it any wonder that “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ … that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins”?
'Is it any wonder that we strive with all our hearts to truly behold the Man?' Deiter F Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Behold the Man
Who is this man, in scarlet robes? What wounds are these piercing his feet? Sun hides in shame, moon turns to shade Mountains depart hearing his name Nations forget, people ignore, Signs show in heaven, eyes watch the floor Is it not he, mighty to save From every sorrow from every grave?
Will you be blind? Or come and find Your journey has meaning, Broken minds healing, Believing in joy, seeing a plan, Coming to Father, when we behold the Man!
Accused, alone, Jesus the King Stood before Pilate and Sanhedrin No fault to find, yet they still cried Crucify him! Crucify him! Even their sins He meekly bore, But all for what if nothing they saw? In Gethsemane’s garden, Golgotha’s cross, An empty tomb, a temple’s torn cloth
What is the price? What is the fare? To walk with Christ his company share? Sacrifice pride, let enmity die, Forgive, forgive, look up and live. Burdens are light, lifting our soul, We see in life heavenly goals When gone are the heartaches, gone is the pain, Gone is the sorrow, anguish and shame
The same apostle gave another talk revealing five simple suggestions regarding how we can share our faith with others. They are '1. Draw close to God 2. Fill your heart with love for others 3. Strive to walk the path of discipleship 4. Share what is in your heart 5.Trust the Lord to work His miracles' Deiter F Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Missionary Work: Sharing What Is In Your Heart
I was at the time of this talk teaching a wonderful early morning seminary group. We spent early mornings in Staines chapel studying scriptures together. These young people 14-18 years old became great friends. When I wrote a rap based on this talk about sharing the gospel they happily participated. Isaac Holt took the lead and the girls sang the chorus. We also had a ward trip where we gained more footage for the video...
'I invite all who hear this message or read these words to have faith that the Lord is leading the Restoration of His gospel and His Church. He goes before us. He knows the future perfectly. He invites you to the work. He joins you in it. He has in place a plan for your service. And even as you sacrifice, you will feel joy as you help others rise to be ready for His coming.
I testify to you that God the Father lives. Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church. He knows and loves you. He guides you. He has prepared the way for you.' Henry B. Eyring, Second Counsellor in the First Presidency, He Goes Before Us
Inspired by this talk I wrote:
The Lord is leading, He goes before All I don’t know in time, He will restore Step by step is planned even steps I do not understand He goes before
O Lord I’m hearing a message true And it will lead me to pastures new Eye has never seen, ear has never heard Glory now prepared as I love Thy word He goes before
Because He lives Because He loves He goes before
'There is no room for fear in these holy places of God or in the hearts of His children. Why? Because of love. God loves us—always—and we love Him. Our love of God counters all fears, and His love abounds in holy places. Think about it. When we are tentative in our commitments to the Lord, when we stray from His path leading to life eternal, when we question or doubt our significance in His divine design, when we allow fear to open the door to all its companions—discouragement, anger, frustration, disappointment—the Spirit leaves us, and we are without the Lord. If you know what that is like, you know it is not a good place to be. In contrast, when we stand in holy places, we can feel God’s love, and “perfect love casteth out all fear.”' Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Be Not Troubled This talk, spoken in 2018 feels apt for our time. When I heard it I was considering composing hymns. I had written one or two, had a few ideas, but this talk was a catalyst, a huge encouragement for me personally. Like finding a voice. A traditional, SATB hymn, with original melody, harmony and words sprung from it:
Lord, I pray, open my eyes to see thy chariots of fire To be of good cheer knowing Jesus is near And let peace in Christ conquer fear Lord, I pray, open my eyes for they that be with us are more So be not troubled, be not troubled Seeing thy perfect love
Lord, I pray, open my mind though earth and death may combine Hosts may encompass, the world groans in darkness O Master, how shall we do? Lord, I pray, open my mind to hear Thee through thy servants voice Say 'be not troubled, be not troubled' Knowing thy perfect love
Lord, I pray, open my heart to recognise thy still small voice It’s not in the wind, it’s not in the storm O Father in heaven teach me Lord, I pray, open my heart to faithfully do the work assigned And be not troubled, be not troubled Wrapped in thy perfect love
Becoming familiar with General Conference, certain speakers stand out personally. We look out for and forward to them. Inspired by Be Not Troubled I re-researched Elder Rasband's other talks and found Lest Thou Forget: 'Jesus Christ knows about fierce struggles and trials. He gave His life for us. His final hours were brutal, beyond anything we can even comprehend, but His sacrifice for each one of us was the ultimate expression of His pure love.
No mistake, sin, or choice will change God’s love for us. That does not mean sinful conduct is condoned, nor does it remove our obligation to repent when sins are committed. But do not forget, Heavenly Father knows and loves each of you, and He is always ready to help.'
Take heed to thyself, lest thou forget
Teach them thy sons, lest they depart
Keep thou thy soul, do that which is good
And God's love will keep singing as you never forget
Verses (1&4 recorded)
In crisis of faith I look left I look right
I wonder where's heaven in the dead of the night
Remember, remember the dawn with its light
All doubt will depart as you never forget
Dear youth of old Zion with heritage sure
Think of your ancestors, noble and pure
Who gave all their life like Messiah of old
Their memory will guide as you never forget
Temptation is nigh, death lies at the door
I shudder and sink to my knees, I implore
O keep on thy pathway be true, O be true
Lord Jesus is near as you never forget
Remember Jesus, remember thy prayers
Remember your Father in heaven who cares
Who reaches to you as parent and friend
Inscribed in His palms you he'll never forget
Finally, the reason behind this invitation. I received on Wednesday 30 Sept a notification email from the church, from President Russell M. Nelson. As I read it I felt the Saviour speaking to me directly. I wondered how best I might extend an invitation and this is it. If you can find the faith, openness and courage to hear Him, He will speak to you too.
Dear brothers and sisters,
A pandemic cannot and will not stop the Lord from embracing us. His love is constant. He never stops watching over us. He has promised that He will be on our right hand and on our left, that His Spirit will be in our hearts, and that even His angels will surround us (see Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
You and I have a special opportunity to feel His love during the upcoming general conference on October 3 and 4. I pray that you and your family are preparing to hear the words the Lord will speak to you through His servants. I also hope that you will prayerfully consider inviting friends and family, including those of other faiths, to watch general conference so that they too may feel the Lord’s embrace.
President Russell M. Nelson