An 11-inch holly blog with a phoenix feather core
by William on 2019-11-17
This is the transcript of a talk I gave in church on Sunday, November 17, 2019.
The phrase “concluding speaker” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Sometimes it means I have to be flexible and write a talk that I can give in 30 minutes or 5 minutes, depending on what happens first.
But today, for me, it means that after hearing these talks from Brother May and Brother Bartlett, I can see some threads of doctrine that have passed through all of the talks that you will hear today. Some of those threads are the need for us to center our life on Jesus Christ, or to increase our dedication to Christ, and our personal holiness. I will be touching on that a little bit in my talk today.
But first, to introduce myself, my name is William Jackson. My wife Rebecca and I met here in Austin and got married twelve years ago today (happy anniversary!). Weʼve been in the Merrilltown Ward since there was a Merrilltown ward, about seven years ago when it was created. We have three beautiful daughters, and they bring a lot of joy into my life.
So, to begin, Laodicea is an ancient city that is in present-day Turkey. It was one of the “seven churches which are in Asia” to which the book of Revelation in the New Testament was addressed.
To members of the church in Laodicea, the Lord revealed the following rebuke:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Some modern translations say “I will vomit thee out of my mouth”, which is a little bit more colorful.
Laodicea was near two other towns, each of which had a unique water source. To the north was the town of Hierapolis. It had a natural hot spring, which was often used for medicinal purposes. To the east was Colossae, which had cold, pure waters.
In contrast to these towns, Laodicea had no permanent good water supply. Efforts to pipe water to the city from nearby springs were successful, but the water would arrive lukewarm. So the saints in Laodicea knew what this revelation was talking about when they received it.
Hot water is cleansing and healing. Cold water is refreshing and energizing. As disciples of Christ we can be spiritually hot or we can be spiritually cold as we minister to others. Those are both good things. As we mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, we share from the source of all comfort, the Living Water of Jesus Christ.
This metaphor in the book of Revelation condemns Laodicea for not providing spiritual healing (being hot) or spiritual refreshment (being cold) to those around them.
The Lord commanded, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”. You may recognize this commandment as a charge to avoid foul language, especially invoking the sacred name of God in casual conversation. But let us consider these words closely, and perhaps we may find deeper meaning in the commandment.
First, remember that the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi taught that when you are baptized, you are “witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ”. Then, all who partake of the sacrament each week renew that covenant and are reminded by the sacramental prayer that they “witness unto … God … that they are willing to take upon them the name of [his] Son”, Jesus Christ.
Clearly, taking upon us the name of the Lord is a good thing. We are commanded to do it, and, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have covenanted to do it.
Second, what does it mean when something is “in vain”? It means that it is useless. It produces no successful results, no positive outcome. For example, if you stay up late into the night frantically studying, then oversleep the next morning and miss your exam, your studying is in vain.
Putting these two concepts together, we find new meaning in the commandment. If we enter the waters of baptism and take upon us the name of Christ, and then there is no positive outcome, whether in our own life or in the lives of those around us, then we have taken the name of the Lord in vain.
Nephi warned of this possibility when he said, “And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path [referring to baptism], I would ask if all is done?” He then answers his own question: “Behold, I say unto you, Nay”.
We have made a covenant and become disciples of Jesus Christ, but all is not done. As Nephi says, we “must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ”.
What does “a steadfastness in Christ” look like?
In General Conference last month, Elder Terence M. Vinson of the Presidency of the Seventy said, “We can feel enduring joy when our Savior and His gospel become the framework around which we build our lives.”
Iʼve never built a home, but I understand that when you build a home, you begin with a solid foundation and a framework. After that comes the furnishings and decoration. So, what is the most important part of your house? Is it beautiful furniture? Is it tasteful paintings on the walls? Or is it the unseen framework and the solid foundation?
In a violent storm, which would you rather have in your house? A well-built framework or a comfortable chair?
We live in a time when we are constantly buffeted by spiritual storms. We can only survive spiritually when the gospel is the framework around which we build our lives, and not just a decoration.
When the gospel is the framework of our lives, we will be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. This is important because our prophet, President Nelson, has said that “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
I will repeat again the words of Elder Vinson: “We can feel enduring joy when our Savior and His gospel become the framework around which we build our lives.”
Elder Vinson explains more about this promise of enduring joy. He said,
Giving our all doesnʼt mean that we will be continually enveloped in blessings or always have success. But it does mean that we will have joy. Joy is not fleeting pleasure or even temporary happiness. Joy is enduring and is founded on our efforts being accepted by the Lord.
President Nelson has often spoken of joy. He said, “the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
“When the focus of our lives is on Godʼs plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening — or not happening — in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy.”
While joy is often associated with feelings of happiness, they are not the same thing. Joy comes when we know our efforts to keep our covenants and be true disciples of Jesus Christ are acceptable to the Lord. This knowledge can only come through the witness of the Holy Ghost.
When we truly understand the plan of happiness, we recognize that we are on earth to be tried and tested, to show that we are committed to our Savior. We are here so we can grow to be more like Him. Discipleship is hard, but our burdens can be made light through joy.
Let us not be as the saints in Laodicea, lukewarm in our commitment to the gospel. Let us not take upon us the name of the Lord in vain. Let the gospel be the framework of our lives, not just the decoration. In Elder Vinsonʼs talk, he concluded:
There is no treasure, nor any hobby, nor any status, nor any social media, nor any video games, nor any sport, nor any association with a celebrity, nor anything on earth that is more precious than eternal life.
Our Savior was absolutely committed in His atoning sacrifice for us. So, let us be absolutely committed in our discipleship to Him.
Finally, President Nelson promised, “Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours.”
I also would like to testify that there is joy in keeping our covenants and in making the gospel the center and the framework for our lives. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.