Monday, March 31, 2008

Onion/Lemon talk

Yesterday in Church, Cathi and I gave a talk. Here is my talk:
Who is Jesus Christ?

I sure love my wife and admire her social talents. Many times after we’ve both attended a party or a ward function, we’ll talk about the event and Cathi usually has a great time. She is a conversationalist, and the term “Chatty Cathi” fits her well. But for me its hard to know what to say. If I have to interact in an email, I’m much better off. After some social events I’ll confess to Cathi and say “I’m such a social moron”. Sometimes I try to be extroverted, but it is much more my nature in public to just take it easy, sit back and observe. One time President Calvin Coolidge had at a party, where a woman approached him and said “Oh Mr. President, you are so silent. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” The President took a second and replied ‘You Lose”.

I have been asked to discuss an article from this month’s Ensign. I’ll be talking about President Boyd K. Packers article “Who is Jesus Christ?” After reading this article and thinking about the Savior I was taken back in my mind to 1988 when I was a sophomore in High School and my seminary teacher was trying to illustrate a parable. I think of it as the onion and the lemon parable.

He asked for a brave and confident volunteer. One young man, James, stood up and came forward. My seminary teacher presented a whole onion which was cleaned and peeled. {HOLD UP THE ONION} He gave it to James and said “When Adam and Eve took of the fruit of knowledge of Good and Evil, the consequence was physical and spiritual death. This onion represents physical death. You have until the class ends to eat this onion.” James didn’t flinch. He went back to his seat and started nibbling at the first layer. While the teacher continued with his lesson everybody’s eyes were on James. He was actually eating it. He wasn’t going fast at all and he didn’t get through the first layer before looking sick. He did better than I ever could have. But he didn’t look well. There was no way he was going to finish it, especially in the amount of time.

The teacher then approached James and said that he would be willing to replace the onion with a small lemon. {HOLD UP THE LEMON} James eagerly agreed. James peeled the lemon and the strong onion smell was now overpowered with the sweet smell of the lemon. He ate it like an orange. When he first bit into the first section he gave a look worse than when he tasted the onion. It looked as if it was fairly sour, especially after what he eaten of the onion. But once he got past that initial transition to sour he was able to continue on and by the time the lesson was over he did finish the whole lemon. The teacher explained the parable he was trying to illustrate.

When Adam partook of the fruit he became mortal as well as separated from God’s presence. Each of us inherited the consequences of the fall. We were exposed to a world of choices heavily influenced by Satan. Mosiah 3:19 – “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.” There was no way that James would be able to finish that Onion, which represents the misery and punishment of mortality and spiritual darkness. The Savior offered to take that burden upon Himself.

Heavenly Father’s plan required a Savior. In Abraham 3:27 we read that Jesus came forward first: “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me….And the Lord said: I will send the first.”
President Packer said “The plan provided that each spirit child of God would receive a mortal body and each would be tested.” In order for us to come to this earth as mortals and to be tested we would need some opposition. Thus the Fall was essential if the condition of mortality was to exist and the plan to proceed.

Adam was given a choice. In Moses 3:16-17 it says: “16 And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,
17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

By partaking of the fruit the penalty would be death (Both Physical and Spiritual). In mortality men are free to choose, with each choice resulting in a consequence. Going back to the onion/lemon parable, {HOLD UP THE ONION} the onion represents death. Christ came and has freed us from the punishment of physical death through the resurrection. All men will one day have the gift of being resurrected. That gift is available to everyone. {HOLD UP THE LEMON} He has also given us the choice of accepting an atonement, being given spiritual everlasting life which is represented by the Lemon.

Through his offering of the atonement and by our choice to accept it and repent, our sins can be washed away. The choice in accepting the Lord’s atonement for us takes effort. It isn’t a matter of just exclaiming that we accept it without true repentance, which involves a change of heart. President Packer noted that it tells us eight times in the scriptures, particularly in the Book of Mormon that “No unclean thing may enter the presence of God.” To partake of the atonement we need to demonstrate Faith and Repentance. This isn’t easy, repentance means accepting consequences which we often consider punishment.

In Isaiah 1:18 it says: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” President Packer continues to say “Repentance is the key with which we can unlock the prison from inside. We hold that key within our hands, and agency is ours to use it.”

The Lord was a great example of submissiveness. During the time that Jesus was taken, accused, taunted, scourged, abused and crucified he remained silent and submissive. There was one time during the trail where Pilate afraid of wrongfully sentencing Him asked Jesus “Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” The Lord did reply “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” The Lord suffered all the events leading up to, and including his Crucifixion not because power was imposed over him, but because he had the will to accept it.
When I was a little boy my Grandma would often teach us about the submissiveness and gentleness that Jesus had throughout his life. She would say “Gordon, it takes two people to fight. A pendulum keeps going because each end constantly comes back with a reaction.” My Mother would often repeat the phrase. “Somebody has to stop the pendulum” and all the kids knew what that meant.

It takes more power to absorb insults and injuries inflicted upon us than to react often foolishly. If conflicts involved only one aggressor while the other accepted it, there would be less conflicts. An example of this is in the Book of Mormon in Alma 24 when the king Anti-Nephi-Lehi said in verse 16: “And now, my brethren, if our brethren seek to destroy us, behold we will hide away our swords, yea even we will bury them deep in the earth, that they may be kept bright, as a testimony that we have never used them, at the last day; and if our brethren destroy us, behold we shall go to our God and shall be saved.” That takes much more strength to do than to retaliate and the reward much greater. By becoming more Christlike we begin to get a sense of who we are and what we can become.

President Packer said “How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do no look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance. And this they are free to do, for agency is theirs.”

“But agency is ours as well. We look up, and in the universe we see the handiwork of God and measure things by epochs, by aeons, by dispensations, by eternities. The many things we do not know we take on faith.”

Centuries before Jesus was born, the Egyptians had a plague of death decreed upon them. Each Israelite family was commanded to take a lamb, firstborn, male and without blemish and to sacrifice it. The bones were not to be broken, and the blood marked the doorway of each home. The Lord promised that the angel of death would pass over those homes. The blood of the lamb saved those within.

After Jesus was crucified, the law of sacrifice required no more shedding of blood. The sacrifice after that time was to be a broken heart and a contrite spirit. The Passover is commemorated each week here in Sacrament meeting where we partake in remembrance of the body of the Lamb of God and of His blood, which was shed for us.

The Prophet Joseph Smith was often asked, “What are the fundamental principles of your religion?” I love how direct the answer was. “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”

In Mosiah 3:17 it says “I say unto you, that there shall be no other name, given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”
In closing, President Packer bears his testimony which is so powerful to me. He says “I cannot with composure tell you how I feel about the Atonement. It touches the deepest emotion of gratitude and obligation. My soul reaches after Him who wrought it – this Christ, our Savior, of whom I am a witness. I testify of Him. He is our Lord, our Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father. He ransomed us with his Blood.” “Humbly I lay claim upon the Atonement of Christ. I find no shame in kneeling down in worship of our Father and His Son. For agency is mine, and this I choose to do!”

What a blessing it is to be guided and directed by prophets, who are witnesses of the Savior. I am inspired by their testimonies and it strengthens my own when I feel the Holy Ghost confirm the truthfulness of their words.

I’m especially grateful for the sacrifice the Lord offers to all of us. I know that He lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He does offer us a choice to be freed from our transgressions. The love he has for each of us is overwhelming and for that I am also grateful. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Here is Cathi's Talk:

A mother with four children in tow boarded a bus. They gave the driver so much trouble that he said at the end of the trip, "Lady, you ought to leave half your kids at home."
The woman looked at him, sighed, and said, "I did."

We are commanded to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places (Mosiah 18:9). Heavenly Father relies on the weak and the simple to declare His gospel (D&C 1:19, 23). That means that Heavenly Father needs you and he needs me to be witnesses for Jesus.

There are three main ways to be a witness:
1.We are witnesses of Jesus when we have our own testimony.
2.We are witnesses of Christ when we live to reflect His teachings.
3.We are witnesses of Christ when we help others to come unto Him.

We are witnesses of Jesus when we have our own testimony. I was born into the gospel and my family was always active in the church. It was in my junior year at BYU that I discovered I wasn’t sure that the church was true. It was about four months later when my answer came. Here is an excerpt from my journal from that time:

I know that just as we’re promised in Moroni, if we pray in faith we will be given an answer. I challenge every person here that doesn’t know for themselves to find-out. Pray and ask Heavenly Father and He will answer you.

Until we know for ourselves we can rely on the witness of our parents, grandparents, and friends. My children and Gordon and I are blessed to have my parents on a mission in Hungary. They come home in one month. With e-mail, we have been blessed to keep in contact with them weekly. It is indeed a sacrifice for senior couples to serve. My parents were gone through most of my pregnancy and the birth of Oliver, the benefit of them serving outweighs what they’ve missed. It has been a wonderful blessing to have them serve the Lord in our little family. I would encourage all senior couples to go on a mission. It will be a great blessing for your children and grandchildren.

Here are a couple of excerpts from letters they have written to us:

My parents as a senior couple are also a tremendous blessing to the people in Hungary in helping people start to feel self-worth because of the Savior’s love. They have also been a fantastic help to the missionaries there. They go to the discussions and “back-up” the elders. They invite the elders and investigators over for Sunday dinner and for family home evening each week. Their tiny apartment sometimes has 12 or more people in it for dinner or family night. Missionary work is definitely not for sissies. They are a huge part of the mission in Hungary.

We are witnesses of Christ when we live so as to reflect His teachings. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. The way we act, speak, look, and think should reflect our testimony of Jesus.

The boy scouts have a principle called leave no trace, meaning to leave a camp site better then the way you found it. We have been attending an annual campout each year with Gordon’s extended family. Gordon’s grandmother, who is a wonderful woman that I admire can be found sometime during the two days we camp there weeding a flowerbed. Similarly, we can apply this boy scout principle in our lives to leave other people better then we found them. In the musical “Wicked” there is a song that says, “Because I knew you I have been changed for good”.

Are we the kind of person that zaps the energy out of people by our negative attitude and blaming others for our mistakes? Our attitude is one thing we have control over in our lives. We can see the cup as half empty or half full. Do we give others the benefit of the doubt. Jesus saw the best in people and made others better for having known Him.

When I go running, I try to be courteous of drivers that pass me. One day a man in a big old Cadillac type car honked his “boat horn” at me and scared me to death as he passed as close to me as he could. Shortly thereafter a woman I was passing in her yard said to me, “You’re looking good” or “You can do it”. I was startled by the contrast in these two people. The woman lightened my load by her positive comment and the man with the loud horn made my run harder, as if he’d put rocks in my shorts.

I have an older sister who lives in Pennsylvania. I only get to see her about once a year but that week I get to see her is the best week of the year. She has the biggest heart and is always looking out for a way to lighten someone else’s load. I am inspired to be better each time she comes.

One day she passed an old man in her car and she thought as she passed that it looked like he needed help. She kept on going, later wishing she had stopped to help him. Later on, she passed him again but this time she stopped. He was walking on his way home so she gave him a ride. She saw that his house was a shack. He has no running water, little food, and lives alone other then his dog. It is not clean. Her heart was so touched by his lack of possessions and people that she has been going about everyday to his house to take care of him. She recently took him to a hotel to take a shower and to a second hand store to buy some clothes. She takes him food to eat and kerosene for his heater. She has seen mice run around there and she is terrified of mice. Her children have learned from her how to care for someone who has less then you. Think of the difference she is making for this lonely old man. Think of the difference she is making for her children to learn compassion for someone else. Think of how her burdens seem small after she leaves his house. Think of how many people have seen that man walking before she did and kept on driving.

“To love people, to be indispensable somewhere, that is the purpose of life. That is the secret of happiness”.

Whether it is by being kind in small ways like at the grocery store when you’ve waited in a slow, long line or by helping to food and clothe someone in need, we can make a difference just as Jesus would have done. President Hinckley said,
“Cultivate the art of being kind, of being thoughtful, of being helpful.

I pray that each of us will be a little more kind, a little more thoughtful, a little more courteous. I pray that we will keep our tongues in check and not let anger prompt words which we would later regret. I pray that we may have the strength and the will to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile in lifting up the feeble knees of those in distress.”

We are witnesses of Christ when we help others come unto Him. In 2 Nephi 25:26 we read, “We talk of Christ, we rejoice of Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins”. “We talk of Christ” could be talking about at family home evening. “We rejoice in Christ” means we have a generally happy outlook that shows our faith. While we have trials and hard times, because of Jesus we can be eternally happy and live with our families. We show others who “labour and are heavy laden” how to find rest in him (Matthew 11:28-30).
Sherry Dew said, “When we live like disciples of Christ should live, when we aren't just good but happy to be good, others will be drawn to us...No woman has greater influence for good, no woman is a more vibrant instrument in the hands of the Lord than a woman of God who is thrilled to be who she is. I like to think of us as the Lord’s secret weapon."

“We preach of Christ” can refer to full-time missionaries but also to our church callings. When we teach a lesson in primary or make a comment in Sunday School, we are preaching of Christ, helping others to come unto Him.

“We prophesy of Christ” means that we know Jesus will come again. Also by turning our hearts to our fathers (Malachi 4:6) by taking part in temple work.

“We write according to our prophesies” means we keep records in a journal, including our testimonies. My mother has been an excellent journal writer and I have loved going back to her journals of when her children were small. When I finish reading, I think if she can do it I can do it and it is worth it. It strengthens my faith and resolve when I read her words.

We are witnesses of Christ when we
1.Have our own testimony of Him.
2.Live so as to reflect His teachings.
3.Help others to come unto Him.

Marjorie Hinckley said,

I don’t want to drive-up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coissed and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive-up in a stationwagon that has mud on the wheels from taking the kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors’ children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

I know that as we are witnesses of Jesus in our lives, we are happier and everyone around us is happier as well. Jesus is our Savior and example in all things. It is our job to pass along our testimony to other people, especially our children. Our lives are blessed as we witness of Him. I know the church is true. I love the Book of Mormon and know it is true. Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the sacred grove. I am grateful he was brave enough to stand as a witness for Christ. I love the gospel with all of my heart and am so grateful for it in my life. I am blessed to have a good husband and beautiful children, who make life meaningful. I am thankful for the good choices they make. I am grateful for each of you who are good examples to me and leave my life better for having known you.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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