Saturday, June 5, 2010
Elder Richard J. Maynes
Yesterday the young adults in our stake had a rare privilege to sit at the feet of our own local General Authority, Elder Richard J. Maynes, a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy, whose home is Oakley, Utah. He has been abroad on Church assignments in South America and now the Philippines since his call to the Second Quorum of the Seventy back in 1989. Melanie and I were there.
His brother, Steve, is our newly-called Stake Sunday School President. I was with Steve, Tom Brown and Steve Edmunds early yesterday morning (I left high council meeting early to be with them in their presidency meeting as their advisor). He said Rick has decided his calling as a Seventy is all about being a teacher. Steve explained Rick has missed virtually every major event in the lives of his children (including his son Rick’s graduation from Harvard Law School this spring) because of his Church assignments. He and his wife have sacrificed everything for the kingdom.
This month he is home, enjoying what has only recently been inaugurated as “family leave time” for those Brethren with foreign assignments requiring them to live abroad. He said the new policy was implemented with the help of Elders Holland and Oaks, once they became acquainted with the family deprivations attaching to living for extended periods of time in third-world countries. Rick has succeeded Elder Oaks as the Area President in the Philippines.
President Stewart Grow, who was recently called as the new singles branch president in the stake, asked his good friend, Elder Maynes, to come for a combined priesthood and Relief Society two-hour block and to give them instruction. I have attempted to reconstruct his presentation for all of you, since it was such inspired counsel for all of us.
Chile and the Philippines
He began with some preliminary remarks about Chile and the Philippines. The one thing both countries have in common is a very high baptism rate (around 250 per month per mission, he said), but a very low retention rate (around 20 percent before the Apostles were deployed). He said they are now up to 82 percent retention in the Philippines after three years of concerted application of the principles he said he would share with the young people of our stake.
First, he quoted Tiger Woods from an ad that appeared in a travel magazine he had picked up on an airplane recently: “There comes a time when execution is more important than theory.”
Next, he read a statement and asked if we could identify its source. Which prophet, he queried, said the following? “The work of building up Zion is in every sense a practical work; it is not a mere theory. A theoretical religion amounts to very little real good or advantage to any person. To possess an inheritance in Zion or in Jerusalem only in theory — only in imagination — would be the same as having no inheritance at all. It is necessary to get a deed of it, to make an inheritance, practical, substantial and profitable. Then let us not rest contented with a mere theoretical religion, but let it be practical, self-purifying, and self-sustaining, keeping the love of God within us, walking by every precept, by every law, and by every word that is given to lead us to truth, to God, and to life eternal.”
Then he made this accurate statement that I’ve thought a lot about in recent years: “Children ALWAYS follow the traditions of their family to some degree, whether those traditions are true or false.” Abusers tend to come from homes where abuse in all its forms was the norm, and conversely faithful families tend to beget faithful families.
He then stated, “There is a big difference between activity in the Church (which is easy to measure), and faithfulness (which is difficult to measure).” What we appear to be on the outside is very often different than what is on the inside. Outward appearance does not always reflect inward levels of commitment. Too often we merely give assent to true doctrine, thinking it’s a good idea, but too often failing to implement what we merely believe into definable actionable events in our lives. The closest we come to measuring faithfulness is the temple recommend interview, but even then people too often lie.
The "Little Things"
Then he suggested three small things young people who are standing on the threshold of marriage and parenting might want to consider as they establish their own traditions. These are Family Home Evening, family and personal scripture study, and family and personal prayer. He said these are "little things" that are so seemingly insignificant as to be easily dismissed because they either happen or don’t happen on a very quiet and personal level.
Said he, “However, these are the only things that confound Satan and his hosts.”
He said these revolve around simple choices – we either DO IT (President Kimball’s motto), or we don’t. If we choose to hold Family Home Evening we establish a habit that establishes EITHER a celestial tradition or a false tradition, and that choice establishes a culture. This is true, he said, of families, of wards, of stakes and of nations. He arrayed these on the board as follows:
CHOICES lead to habits; HABITS lead to traditions; TRADITIONS lead to CULTURE.
Only Two Traditions -- Celestial and False
There are only two kinds of traditions, he asserted – celestial and false. Families are caught in the middle. We are choosing in our families each day to either embrace the celestial traditions or the world’s traditions. Influences from the World Culture and from the Gospel Culture blend and combine to create the Family Culture, he explained.
Celestial influences come from Gospel Culture. Negative worldly influences and false traditions come from World Culture, found most profoundly through TV – the World Culture’s greatest teacher in our homes. Through its expansive lens our children learn about adultery, dishonesty, murder, violence, pornography, unbridled desire for more and more materialism, and so forth. He allowed there are some worthwhile world culture attributes, such as patriotism and education, but not many.
Our Family Culture will always become the embodiment of good and evil influences, because we live in the telestial world. Only the “little things” – the seemingly insignificant things – like FHE, scripture study and prayer – can confound Satan’s influences.
He encouraged those who had come from a home where they had not experienced celestial traditions to establish those traditions for themselves in their own homes as parents. He suggested we list all the false traditions of the world we can identify within our family, then focus on them, take them on one by one, and kill them.
Replace all those false traditions with changed behavior based upon true repentance.
Establishing Zion in our Day
He said establishing the Church back in Joseph’s day was an important step, but even more important in our day is establishing Zion.
He admitted that changing culture, however, is tough work. If we don’t believe in change, we don’t believe in repentance. He defined repentance as changing one’s behavior, or heart or patterns. He said those who love the Savior, truly love him, will humble themselves through meekness and lowliness of heart and embrace the chance to change.
Only the poor and the meek, he reminded us, will inherit the earth when it is celestialized. Only people who repent and actually change their behavior through the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ will inherit the celestial kingdom. Proud people will NEVER become celestial beings. Proud people do not believe they need to change. Proud people are always demanding others to change instead of them, because they always believe they are right and everyone around them is wrong.
He said the wards are where Zion can most easily be established among us. Weak wards produce weak stakes. If you want to strengthen the stake, strengthen the wards, he admonished. The wards are where the action is. And all of it begins with each individual family’s choices.
When we choose not to hold FHE, we are establishing a pattern that can prove to be destructive when little children go to Primary and hear that FHE is a good idea, then return to a home where the tradition has been established not to have FHE.
Preparing the world for the Second Coming means establishing Zion – in our hearts, homes, wards and stakes by doing the little things that do not seem to be that important. Your faith and what you do to ACT upon your faith will be the only determining factor about whether you are prepared or not. It’s all about choices.
There is no such thing as “free agency” in the scriptures, he said – only “agency” or “moral agency.”
Most Important Choices in Life Happen Early
Imagine you are now in your eighties, old and gray-haired. A reporter from the Church News comes to your home to interview you. He asks you one question: “Tell me the four greatest decisions you have ever made (or wished you had made) in your life.” What would they be?
Would they be essentially the same for all of us? Probably. They would likely be 1) the decision to either join or to remain in the Church; 2) the decision to serve a mission for the Church; 3) the choice of whom you will marry; and 4) the decision to stay and be faithful in the Church. Wouldn’t everyone respond essentially the same way?
He said since he was addressing young people he wanted to point out, ironically, those decisions, those very basic and most influential decisions in our lives, are all made between the ages of 18 – 30, at a relatively young age. All of those decisions, those simple basic choices, essentially determine whether or not we will inherit Zion and celestial glory.
How we ACT upon those choices determines our eternal destiny.
As we choose, let us always remember that only the faithful saints can discern correctly (D&C 45:57) by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Doing Is More Important Than Talking
There’s a big difference between talking and doing.
The Lord said it this way: “For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves BY DOING the things which I have commanded you and required of you.” (D&C 78:7). The atonement, powerful as it is, only has power in the lives of those who actually change their behavior by repenting.
There is always room in the strait and narrow path of discipleship for mistakes, and there is also room to change.
Spirit of the Holy Ghost
The Spirit of the Holy Ghost always tells us when we are forgiven. Interestingly, he said, we don’t hear as many talks from the pulpit about this third member of the Godhead as we do the Father and the Son, because we tend to relate better to a Father figure and an Elder Brother figure, than we do some seemingly abstract spirit being like the Holy Ghost.
How would you describe the Holy Ghost? These were revolutionary concepts in the day of Joseph Smith – that our Godhead was really three separate and distinct individuals, two with tangible, glorified bodies of flesh and bone, and the third a spirit (see D&C 130:22). But we always pray, it seems, in the Church that we may have the Spirit to be with us.
We don’t have to be perfect to have the Spirit of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, but we must be worthy. Being worthy, he explained, means being on the path that leads toward eternal life. It means trying to do the best we can, even though we make mistakes while we’re in the path.
In the final judgment, Christ bridges the gap between our worthiness and perfection. Sanctification is a lifelong process, not an event that happens only once in our lives.
Scriptures Teach Truth of These Principles
Then he said, “Let’s go to the scriptures and see if what we’ve been talking about is scriptural.” Choosing means we are embracing the principle of responsibility for our own actions, and not blaming others for our sins or their sins and imperfections (which are always so much easier for us to see than our own).
He then quoted several verses from D&C 88, explaining it is one of his favorite revelations. He began with verse 15: “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” He stopped right there and observed the rest of the world has no idea about the full meaning of those few words. How blessed are we as a people to know what that means!
He said as we look around at each other we are dealing with living, breathing souls of our Father in Heaven, and we are all brothers and sisters in the literal sense of that meaning. “And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” (Verse 16). “And the redemption of the soul is THROUGH HIM that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.” (Verse 17).
These are powerful ideas, he said, and explained the root word for “quickeneth” in Spanish is the verb meaning “to give life.” He explained, “Therefore, it [the earth] must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it [the earth] may be prepared for the celestial glory;” (Verse 18).
If we are true and faithful, he taught, the earth will become our Celestial Kingdom, which we inherit through our repentance. He emphasized only those who actually repent and change their behavior, not those who just think it’s a good idea to repent, will inherit the earth. “For after it [the earth] hath filled the measure of its creation, it [the earth] shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father; That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they [those who repent] sanctified.” (Verses 19-20).
It was a powerful reminder of what we are seeking and how we must embrace repentance to inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.
Then he turned to some sobering reminders about how essential repentance really is. It’s not just optional to repent – it’s a commandment. “Therefore I COMMAND YOU TO REPENT – repent lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore – how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” (D&C 19:15).
He explained only one person in the whole universe comprising all our Heavenly Father’s creations could say those words, and that one person is the Savior. He is the only one who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to suffering because he experienced it in Gethsemane and at Golgotha.
He continued reading verse 16: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink — Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit. And I command you that you preach naught but repentance . . .” (Verses 16-21).
The plan of salvation, or happiness, or life, or joy, or mercy, or redemption (all synonyms) as described by Alma (see Alma 42), describes the need for repentance. Whatever degree of happiness we choose in this life, we inherit in the resurrection. The degree to which we repent determines the degree of glory we inherit.
Our body is a temple and the place we learn about the celestial ordinances that help us create a celestial body to inherit in the celestial kingdom is the temple. There are no other ordinances in the temple but celestial ordinances.
He concluded with his testimony. "None of this is new," he reminded us. God has always communicated these truths beginning with Adam through living prophets. There have been many periods of apostasy from the beginning, but God never gives up on his children.