Sunday, June 29, 2008

God's Great Gifts

I set about this evening to write a post about the folly of the "Prosperity Gospel" that is preached in some chapels across the country. I was so bothered by the false God that is set up by those preachers and how they set people up for disappointment.

As I was looking for the articles I'd read on the subject of Dollar, Osteen, and Warren (three prominent preachers of the prosperity gospel) I got bored of the subject.

I started looking for an unrelated story that I remembered hearing at a recent BYU devotional. I couldn't find the story, but as I was browsing through the BYU Speeches site, I found two articles that really touched my heart. They turn out to be the positive version of the message I wanted to share in this post, rather than the negative cast I had started with.

First, I read Ardeth G. Kapp's talk from Women's Conference 2004. The title phrase, "Pray Not for Light Burdens but for Strong Backs," immediately evoked strong emotions for me. I've been pondering recently about the plight of so many poor people in the world, including those here in my own community.

Why does life have to be so hard for them?

Sister Kapp quotes Elder Maxwell,
We can say: “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17.)

There have been and will be times in each of our lives when such faith must be the bottom line: We don’t know what is happening to us or around us, but we know that God loves us, and knowing that, for the moment, is enough. [Not My Will, But Thine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 119]
After reading Sister Kapp's beautiful talk, I read a talk from Elder Featherstone (given before I was born.) His sermons have always touched me when I've read them in a reverent mood. He shared the story of a stuttering boy who overcame his obstacle, of a woman who overcame great trials and then lost and regained her faith in God, and of his own very difficult boyhood where he dealt with poverty and a difficult father.
What I am saying is that if the Lord will take a scroungy little kid like that, who had to wear nurses' shoes to church and had to go and beg for groceries, and if he will make him a high councilor or a stake president or the second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, can you believe what he would do for you? Many of you are covenant children. Your parents were married in the temple, and so you are born in the covenant. The rest of you are going to this great institution, BYU, where the greatest learning process in the world can take place. God bless each one of you that you'll feel your sense of worth, that you'll understand who you really are. You are a royal generation. You have a great deal to offer. I don't care what the handicaps are that you think are so severe; you can overcome them. God bless each one of you, I pray from the depths of my soul as I ask a blessing upon you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The final conclusion for me? God does want us to prosper. He does want wonderful things for us. He won't always give them to us immediately (the pitfall of the proponents of the prosperity gospel), but he will give them; and the rewards will be greater than we can presently comprehend. God is great. I invite you to share my journey by reading the two talks I've linked above when you have a quiet moment.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oxygen Tank Moments

Brother L. is one of the members in our ward who must wheel an oxygen tank with him to sacrament meeting. A few weeks ago, right in the middle of a young speaker's talk, his oxygen tank malfunctioned and started emitting a loud hissing noise.

It took Brother L. a good 30 seconds to get the tank shut off to stop the loud noise. (It seemed a lot longer.) All the while, the speaker continued to speak, as though nothing was occurring.

Weeks later, we joked about this in Elders Quorum where I mentioned the Oxygen Tank Principle. "If you're giving a talk and an oxygen tank goes off, don't bother continuing to talk because no one is hearing a word you're saying." We all had a good-natured chuckle.

Moments later, I volunteered to read a quote from the manual as part of our quorum lesson. When I was about two sentences from the end of the quote, my little boy (17 months) started making a loud moaning noise and squirmed like crazy in my lap. I soldiered on and finished reading the quote. It then immediately struck me that I'd just violated the oxygen tank principle. I'd read something when everyone in the room was busy being entertained by my rambunctious kid. Then we all had another good-natured chuckle at my expense.

As I ponder back over this principle, I wonder if it is correct. Should a sacrament meeting speaker really stop speaking if something occurs in the room that naturally draws everyone's attention? Would that only embarrass the unwilling disturber? How long do you wait before you continue in the face of a continuing disturbance?

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