Archive for the ‘Accountability For Our Stake.’ Category

Accountability For Our Actions, Accountability For Our Stake   2 comments

Brothers and Sisters,

Coming up in October of this year (2011) marks a pivotal and monumental time for me in my personal life. Next to the decision of marriage, I cannot see where there ever was a more important time in my life where a decision to own up for my sins, shortcomings, offenses, mistakes and any other word that could fit into the vocabulary of those who literally live with enmity between themselves and the Supreme Being, The Lord Jesus Christ, could mean so much. Indeed, could have so much more profound an impact on how the future of my life would pan out. 
The scriptures remind us that, “…the natural man is an enemy to God…” and the scripture that reminds us of this, also tells us why, “…and has been from the fall of Adam…”. (Mosiah 3:19) And though Adam did fall, there was a greater purpose behind all things that happened in that fashion. In short, the Book Of Mormon Prophet said it best, when he said, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2nd Nephi 2:25)

This is a basic reminder of a common fault that all mankind has, but we sometimes forget that though we have made the mistake, we can correct it. 

That brings me back to the first item on the list which is also the first word of the title of this blog entry. Where does accountability sit in the list of things that the scriptures list are needed to return to our Heavenly Father? Let us look back at the first scripture I mentioned in this blog. I encourage you to open to it in your personal scriptures, and if you do not have this scripture marked, mark it now. Turn to Mosiah 3:19. It reads as follows:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Let us first address the “…yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit…”. I know in this day and age, the word “yield” or anything close to it, say “submit”, is far from anything that any “Man” (Speaking more directly of the imperfection and impurity that we are naturally full of, and not so much towards gender) in this day and age would ever want to surrender. Our pride, indeed our very nature demands -the world might say- that we are opposed to anything that is something outside of what we can see, or touch and feel. Very rarely do we realistically wish to completely look far enough down the road to see just whether or not we can make it without putting our vehicle at a complete stop when the sign only reads “Yield”. So what does the word “Yield” mean?

If we use Yield as a verb with reference to an object, some definitions read:

1) : “to give up, as to superior power or authority”
2) : “to give up or surrender (oneself)”

Now, if we use Yield as a verb without reference to an object, some definitions read:

1) : “to surrender or submit, as to superior power”
2) : “to give way to influence, entreaty, argument, or the like”
3) : “to give place or precedence”

In all of those definitions, you will notice “To give up”, or “To surrender”, and even, “To give way or place”. Are those any words of which any man likes to use in reference to himself doing the will of another? If we yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, nothing but good can come of it. But why is that thought so unpopular? 

Allow me to share with you, a powerful way that Elder Jeffrey Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles once shared the significance of yielding to the will of another. In his reference, he refers to the Savior, and we can tie that into yielding to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, because that Spirit helps us to know and then do the Lords will.

“I Have Suffered the Will of the Father”
Let me take a moment to set the stage. I use the word advisedly. I want to imply divine theater. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown [them]!” (Nature [1836], section 1).
In the spirit of that very provocative thought, I invite you to consider another startling–and much more important scene that should evoke belief and adoration, a scene which, like the stars at night, we have undoubtedly taken too much for granted. Imagine yourselves to be among the people of Nephi living in the land of Bountiful in approximately A.D. 34. Tempests and earthquakes and whirlwinds and storms, quickened and cut by thunder and sharp lightning, have enveloped the entire face of the land.
Some cities–entire cities–have burst into flames as if by spontaneous combustion. Others have disappeared into the sea, never to be seen again. Still others are completely covered over with mounds of soil, and some have been carried away with the wind.
The whole face of the land has been changed, the entire earth around you has been deformed. Then, as you and your neighbors are milling about the temple grounds (a place that has suddenly seemed to many like a very good place to be), you hear a voice and see a man clothed in a white robe descending out of heaven. It is a dazzling display. He seems to emanate the very essence of light and life itself–a splendor in sharp contrast to the three days of death and darkness just witnessed.
He speaks and says simply, with a voice that penetrates the very marrow of your bones, “I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world” (3 Nephi 11:10).
There it is–or, more correctly speaking, there he is! He is the focal point and principal figure behind every fireside and devotional and family home evening held by those Nephites for the last six hundred years, and by their Israelite forefathers for thousands of years before that.
Everyone has talked of him and sung of him and dreamed of him and prayed–but here he actually is. This is the day, and yours is the generation. What a moment! But you find you are less inclined to check the film in your camera than you are to check the faith in your heart.
“I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.” Of all the messages that could come from the scroll of eternity, what has he brought to us? Get a pencil. Where’s my notebook? Turn on every tape recorder in town.
He speaks:
I am the light and the life of the world; . . . I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of. the world, . . . I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.

That is it. Just a few lines. Only fifty-two words. “And. . . when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth” (3 Nephi 11:11-­12).
This introductory utterance from the resurrected Son of God constitutes my only text today. I have thought very often about this moment in Nephite history. I cannot think it either accident or mere whimsy that the Good Shepherd in his newly exalted state, appearing to a most significant segment of his flock, chooses first to speak of his obedience, his deference, his loyalty, and loving submission to his father. In an initial and profound moment of spellbinding wonder, when surely he had the attention of every man, woman, and child as far as the eye could see, his submission to his father is the first and most important thing he wishes us to know about himself.
Frankly, I am a bit haunted by the thought that this is the first and most important thing he may want to know about us when ‘we meet him one day in similar fashion. Did we obey, even if it was painful? Did we submit, even if the cup was bitter indeed? Did we yield to a vision higher and holier than our own, even when we may have seen no vision in it at all?
One by one he invites us to feel the wounds in his hands and his feet and his side. And as we pass and touch and wonder, perhaps he whispers, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
If such cross-bearing self-denial was, by definition, the most difficult thing Christ or any man has ever had to do, an act of submission that would, by the Savior’s own account, cause him, “God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” –if yielding and obeying and bowing to divine will holds only that ahead, then no wonder that even the Only Begotten Son of the true and living God “would that [he] might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink” (D&C 19:18)!
Even as we rehearse this greatest of all personal sacrifices, you can be certain that with some in this world it is not fashionable nor flattering to speak of submitting–to anybody or anything. At the threshold of the twenty-first century it sounds wrong on the face of it. It sounds feeble and wimpish. It just isn’t the American way.
As Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote recently,
In today’s society, at the mere mention of the words obedience and submissiveness hackles rise and people are put on nervous alert. . . . People promptly furnish examples from secular history to illustrate how obedience to unwise authority and servility to bad leaders have caused much human misery and suffering. It is difficult, therefore, to get a hearing for what the words obedience and submissiveness really mean–even when the clarifying phrase, “to God,” is attached. [“Not My Will, But Thine” (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), p. 1]
(The will of the Father In All Things; Elder Jeffrey R. Holland BYU devotional 17th January 1989)

Accountability is shown of the Savior when he speaks about doing all that the Father has asked to be done. And the Savior, being that great and shining example to us all- indeed the Israelites forefathers, the Nephites and every man woman and child who has lived or ever will yet live. So what does Accountable mean? If we check our dictionaries, I feel the definition that will suffice is : 

responsible to someone or for some action; answerable

The Lord is sure to help us answer for what we ourselves could not do. He led the way in that example, a great sacrifice it was…. a powerful and profound amount of pain and suffering to answer for our actions as mankind was from the beginning, an enemy to God.

Now that we have the understanding of yield, and submission, and accountability- I suppose we ought to know for what and unto what degree we are to be accountable for. The Lord, throughout the entire standard works of his Gospel, the Scriptures, gives us laws and commandments. We learn precepts, wisdom, traditions and the means of making them all to work for our benefit. 

Did I just say benefit? Yes! The Gospel is for our benefit! Its not a code of restrictions, although some of the people in the world, perhaps a few of us here and there see the Gospel as a restrictive lifestyle as opposed to the real way it should be viewed- a real guide to the real path of happiness. Its no wonder why the scriptures, the word of God is referenced the way it is. As Nephi said:

“… I beheld that the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; which waters are a representation of the love of God; and I also beheld that the tree of life was a representation of the love of God.”

Every portion of his description was of a good thing. The word of God, the scriptures…. His very Gospel led to the tree of life: “The Love Of God.” how much better could we hope to get? None.

Our beloved Stake President, President Shumway, has expressed the will of the Lord for the Lubbock Texas Stake- And make no mistake, it is the will of the Lord. All things in “The Vision Of The Vine” are in store for the Lubbock Texas Stake and the will of the Lord will happen whether we are on the bandwagon or not. Though this work is not going to be easy, it certainly will be worth it.

It reminds me of a phrase my Step-Father continually told me and my siblings growing up. In talking about all the work involved in the Gospel, he said that the Lord could probably be quoted somewhere along the lines of eternity as saying, 

I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”  

Really, the keys to “The Vision Of The Vine” are told us not just by President Shumway’s council, but also throughout the scriptures. No man can be taught a doctrine he is not willing to learn, and to learn something, one must understand it. You cannot understand something unless you dedicate some portion of time in studying it. It’s a principle that we all know well, because it was the first thing that allowed us to take Moroni’s challenge. Like our fore bearers, we read, then asked our Heavenly Father, in the name of Christ if those things of which we were reading were true. In doing so, we demonstrated to the Father that we were Humble enough to seek direction outside our own temporal wisdom. 

Humility is the first of those three keys, and make no mistake, we cannot even touch the door handle of the next step, or key, in “The Vision Of The Vine” until we have adopted and put into action that first key. 

The second key that President Shumway has said was crucial to “The Vision Of The Vine” , is one that we all should know well, because it is “The first law of Heaven” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland; The will of the Father in all things: 17 Jan 1989) That first law of Heaven is “Obedience”. We can all too easily push off the significance of just how important this law is, and in doing so, rob ourselves the chance to grow more- even when that law of obedience means throwing all we have thought was wisdom in us, and seeking for the wisdom of the Lord. To best illustrate this law, allow me to share another segment where  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talks about just how hard and uncomfortable that can be!

It is as follows:

As the Great Exemplar and Daystar of our lives, is it any wonder that Christ chooses first and foremost to define himself in relation to his father–that he loved him and obeyed him and submitted to him like the loyal son he was? And what he as a child of God did, we must try very hard to do also.

Obedience is the first law of heaven, but in case you haven’t noticed, some of these commandments are not easy, and we frequently may seem to be in for much more than we bargained for. At least if we are truly serious about becoming a saint, I think we will find that is the case.

Let me use an example from what is often considered by foes, and even by some friends, as the most unsavory moment in the entire Book of Mormon. I choose it precisely because there is so much in it that has given offense to many. It is pretty much a bitter cup all the way around.

I speak of Nephi’s obligation to slay Laban in order to preserve a record, save a people, and ultimately lead to the restoration of the gospel in the dispensation of the fulness of times. How much is hanging in the balance as Nephi stands over the drunken and adversarial Laban I cannot say, but it is a very great deal indeed.

The only problem is that we know this, but Nephi does not. And regardless of how much is at stake, how can. he do this thing? He is a good person, perhaps even a well-educated person. He has been taught from the very summit of Sinai “Thou shalt not kill.” And he has made gospel covenants.

“1 was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but . . . I shrunk and would that I might not slay him” (1 Nephi 4:10). A bitter test? A desire to shrink? Sound familiar? We don’t know why those plates could not have been obtained some other way–perhaps accidentally left at the plate polishers one night or maybe falling out the back of Laban’s chariot on a Sabbath afternoon.

For that matter, why didn’t Nephi just leave this story out of the book altogether? Why didn’t he say something like, “And after much effort and anguish of spirit, I did obtain the plates of Laban and did depart into the wilderness unto the tent of my father?” At the very least he might have buried the account somewhere in the Isaiah chapters, thus guaranteeing that it would have gone undiscovered up to this very day.

But there it is, squarely in the beginning of the book–page 8–where even the most casual reader will see it and must deal with it. It is not intended that either Nephi or we be spared the struggle of this account.

I believe that story was placed in the very opening verses of a 531-page book and then told in painfully specific detail in order to focus every reader of that record on the absolutely fundamental gospel issue of obedience and submission to the communicated will of the Lord. If Nephi cannot yield to this terribly painful command, if he cannot bring himself to obey, then it is entirely probable that he can never succeed or survive in the tasks that lie just ahead.

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Nephi 3:7). I confess that I wince a little when I hear that promise quoted so casually among us. Jesus knew what that kind of commitment would entail, and so now does Nephi. And so will a host of others before it is over. That vow took Christ to the cross on Calvary, and it remains at the heart of every Christian covenant. “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.” Well, we shall see.

Did you catch the significance of what Elder Holland was sharing?

That is just what Obedience is! Now, Am I, or anyone else on this planet perfect? Absolutely not. Can we do more to secure the blessings the Lord has prepared only through obedience to the principles of which He has set? You bet we can!

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught:

Joseph Smith taught the following in April 1843, later recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 130:20–21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

He also taught in similar manner:

“All blessings that were ordained for man by the Council of Heaven were on conditions of obedience to the law thereof.”  (Discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 16, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Franklin D. Richards, in Franklin Dewey Richards, Scriptural Items, ca. 1841–44, Church Archives.)

That is a good measure of what Obedience is, but the Prophet Joseph Smith taught much more on that subject. I invite you to read about it, in The teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 13: Obedience, “When The Lord Commands, Do It.”

The final of the three keys to “The Vision Of The Vine” is Teach (And might I add Live) the pure doctrine. There was a phrase mentioned by President Gordon B. Hinkley, in which he said, “Keep the doctrine pure.” We are all teachers in some way and teachers can keep the doctrine pure by using the scriptures, as well as official words and documents that have been written and given to us from the prophets and apostles. They also share the fruits and blessings that will be received as the doctrine is taught with purity.

It is my testimony to you that we can see “The Vision Of The Vine” through. Plainview is that torch between the Lubbock and Amarillo Stakes, and when we adhere to the 3 Keys Of The Vision Of The Vine, Tied In harmony with our living the principles that President Shumway has placed great emphasis on, which I later drafted into a document I named “The Shumway Sequence” we will see the hand of the Lord work miracles in our lives. I know we will see it, but we must be willing to do all things the Lords way, as instructed to us through our beloved Stake President, President Shumway, and his wise counselors President Kimball and President McCombs. I know this to be true, down to the fibers of my soul. I leave that testimony with you, in the only name under Heaven in which mankind can be saved, even the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.