Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Temple is for the Living


(Note: Our presidency decided a few months ago to take turns writing a monthly message to our stake members. Since it is only accessible to stake members logged in to the LDS,org website, I thought I'd also post it here for a broader audience, should there be anyone out there interested :-)


While growing up in Oregon, I took a high school radio broadcasting class that included being an on-the-air disc jockey. In a time before digital music audio files existed, I would play music using vinyl albums on turntables. On occasion, while attempting to entertain myself while waiting for a long news story to be broadcast, I would place various objects on one of the turntables to see how quickly it would fly off the edge, depending on how fast the turntable was spinning.


I also discovered an interesting phenomenon. If I placed something right next to the spindle and then turned on the turntable, the object wouldn’t move; even if the record was spinning at very high speeds. Although I didn’t understand the significance of this at the time, I’ve since come to realize how this experience relates to an important gospel truth:


The closer we are to the Savior, the less likely we are to be pulled away from Him, even when the world may be spinning out of control all around us.


This has led me to a question I often ask myself, and which I now share with you:


What do you do to restore and retain quiet when the world is loud all around you?


You likely have more than one answer to this question, as do I. It has been my experience, however, that there is one especially powerful way for me to restore inner calm and “centeredness” when I feel my life spinning out of control - I go to the temple.


Only in the House of the Lord can I draw spiritual peace, power and strength sufficient to help me not only “get through” my challenges, but I can also receive specific direction in the temple regarding how to overcome those challenges. This is because the temple is not only for the dead, but for the living.


Without discussing sacred temple covenants and ordinances, I want to share three simple ways that the temple is intended to help each of us in our personal and family challenges and responsibilities.


Personal Revelation - In the temple we are invited to bring our questions and concerns with the promise that we will be “taught from on high.” President Ezra Taft Benson testified that "Temples are places of personal revelation. When I have been weighed down by a problem or a difficulty, I have gone to the House of the Lord with a prayer in my heart for answers. The answers have come in clear and unmistakable ways." (“What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple,” Ensign, Aug. 1985, p. 8 - http://www.lds.org/ensign/1985/08/what-i-hope-you-will-teach-your-children-about-the-temple?lang=eng).


I have discovered that if I come to the temple in a spirit of humble worship and earnest prayer, he will speak to me in quiet but unmistakable ways and will reveal to me the things I should do to either overcome problems or instead to better endure them. I know the temple is a place of personal revelation. I invite you to bring your personal questions and concerns to the temple. I testify you will find heavenly help in the House of the Lord.


Personal Instruction - One of my favorite passages of scripture in The Book of Mormon is found in the first chapter of the Book of Jacob. As Nephi’s younger brother began his prophetic ministry, he shared the following insight about his preparation for service: “Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord” (Jacob 1:19, emphasis added).


I know that we can be taught from on high regarding our callings, no matter how humble or insignificant we think our callings may be. Elder Henry B. Eyring taught the following regarding our right to receive revelation in our callings: “You must ask in faith for revelation to know what you are to do. With your call comes the promise that answers will come. But that guidance will come only when the Lord is sure you will obey. To know His will you must be committed to do it. The words “Thy will be done,” written in the heart, are the window to revelation” (Rise to Your Call, October 2002, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/10/rise-to-your-call?lang=eng).


The Savior has invited us to come to the temple to receive our “errand” from him, with the promise that in his house we can both learn our duty and also how to fulfill it. He taught that the temple is “a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices;


“That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you” (Doctrine & Covenants 97:13-14).


I invite you to come to the temple to receive your “errand from the Lord.” I promise you that in the temple you’ll be told what to do and also be shown how to better do what you have been called by God to do in the building up and establishing of his kingdom upon the earth.


Personal Peace -


We live in a noisy and often-irreverent world. Finding quiet places can sometimes be difficult. I return to my previous question - What do you do to restore and retain quiet when the world is loud all around you? I know of no better response than this: Come to the temple.


Help is waiting for you there. Do you have challenges in your marriage, your family, or in your personal life? Come to the temple. Are you struggling to find employment, to help a wayward child, or overcome a personal weakness? Come to the temple. Are you burdened with a secret wound, a troubled heart, or a wearied, worn-out spirit? Come to the temple.


In the ordinances and covenants of the temple we both discover and, over time, become "Holiness to The Lord." In the sacred temple covenants, ordinances and patterns we draw power and doctrine that are applicable to our everyday experiences and challenges.


Elder David B. Haight made the following promises to those that seek for peace in the temple: "You will come to know our Lord there. As your relationship with Him grows and deepens, you will grow increasingly confident in His love, in His compassion for your difficulties, in His power to bear you up and bring you back into His presence. As you avail yourself of that divine assistance, you will come to know that there can be no challenge, no difficulty, no obstacle in your life which you and He together cannot overcome." (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1992/04/come-to-the-house-of-the-lord?lang=eng)


I testify that the temple is for the living. I pray we will seek with greater diligence to first qualify for and to then receive the blessings of the House of the Lord. Come to the temple. Come to the temple. Come to the temple.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Footnotes to a call

I got a new job recently. No, not the one with Intermountain Healthcare. Which I love, by the way. Best job I've ever had.

 This new "job" isn't really a job at all. Although the work involved is immense. Stunning. And transforming.

On January 5th I was asked - or called, as we like to put it - to be the new stake president of the Pleasant Grove Utah Manila stake. It was an experience Ginger and I will never forget.

I've thought a lot about whether or not I should share the experience we had - not that there was anything "secret" about it. Rather, I don't want to convey any kind of "special-ness" about myself in relating the events of that weekend. I certainly don't feel particularly special. But I do want to express the certainty I have that I was called, if that makes any sense.

On the Sunday before Christmas - December 23rd - I received an email while at my parent's home in Oregon asking me to attend a five-minute interview with two Church authorities, on Saturday, January 5th, at 10:15 that morning. I accepted. This would be my second time going through this experience. The first was almost eight years ago while I was serving as a bishop in Eugene, Oregon.

Ginger and I tried hard not to think too much about the possibilities. When a new stake is organized, two General and/or Area Authorities from our church interview somewhere between 2-3 dozen local members as they attempt to find the person the Lord has chosen to preside over a stake. So I would be just one among a large number of men considered. The more the better, we both thought.

On Saturday morning I drove to our stake center and waited for my turn to be interviewed. The two Church leaders were Elder Craig A. Cardon and Elder Kevin B. Worthen. My moment came, and I sat with them in the stake president's office and answered a few questions about my church experience, my occupation, my family, and my health. They then asked me to recommend three men who might serve as the new stake president. It was very hard to limit myself to three (I actually gave them four...always the rebel.) They thanked me for my time and I was then headed back home.

Ginger and I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon cleaning the house (I cleaned three toilets...such a nice husband!) and helped Ging to put away Christmas. Inside my head and heart a battle commenced.

Head: "I hope they don't call."

Heart: "I wonder if they'll call?"

Head: "PLEASE don't let the phone ring."

Heart: "So many are so much more qualified than I am."

Head: "I'm so glad the phone isn't ringing."

Heart: "It would be a wonderful opportunity to serve. Why isn't the phone ringing?"

I remember distinctly at around 1:30 that afternoon thinking that they surely had decided by then and that the new president had no doubt been called. I was both relieved and confused. Relieved for all the obvious reasons. And confused because, well, because of many persistent whispers I'd had over many months previous. Whispers I'd tried very hard to ignore. And had mostly succeeded.

And then the phone rang. It was 1:55pm. The name on the caller ID was that of our current stake president, Ryan Richards.

I was in our front room putting away Christmas tree ornaments. Ginger answered the phone and came into the room, holding it out in front of her like it was radioactive. I'll never forget the look on her face. It likely matched my own.

"Brother Livingston - Elder Cardon and Elder Worthen would like to meet with you and your wife. How soon can you be here?"

A million thoughts raced through my suddenly terrified mind.

We quickly dressed in Sunday attire and then knelt in prayer, our trembling hands knotted together. We debated where to park at the building - worrying about being seen about anyone in our stake. Silly, huh?

We hastily walked into the building...and no one was there. All of the office doors were closed. That gave us a false sense of security. They must be meeting with the new presidency members already - perhaps I'll be asked to serve as the executive secretary...

Then the office doors opened and...no one we knew was inside. Ginger and I were each interviewed individually, and then we sat down together with the two General Authorities and President Richards.

The question I'd never imagined I'd be asked in a million years was then asked - "Will you accept the Lord's call to serve as the president of the Pleasant Grove Utah Manila Stake?"

I quietly responded. Ginger was asked if she would support me in the call. She tearfully nodded in affirmation.

An atomic bomb had just gone off in our lives.


The rest of the weekend was a wonderful and overwhelming blur.

Ginger and I were asked to counsel together about who my counselors should be - a very tender moment for us. We talked and prayed and cried together, and the Lord told us who He had prepared: President Jim Brinton and President Brent McAllister. They were invited with their wives to come to the stake center, and I was humbled to be in the room with them as they were called to serve at my side - instant brothers.

The Spirit was amazing.

The next morning at 10am, our names were read in as the new stake presidency. We were each given the chance to share our testimonies, as was Ginger. From everything I've heard (and I've heard it a lot) her testimony was the highlight of our conference for many stake members.

At the end of the conference we were each set apart. A spirit of love filled the room. I feel that spirit still. It is why I know I was called. I feel that we - my counselors and myself, along with our spouses, have been called to a mission of love. Of rescue. To let every member of our stake know that we love them and that the Savior loves and knows them. Each and every one.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Twenty five years of amazing

October 1st, 1987.
Manti, Utah.
I think it was a Thursday.

The most important day of my life.

The day I married the girl of my dreams.


My Ginger is adventurous:
A wonderful mom:



Tolerant:

Passionate:

Strong:

A loving daughter:

Beautiful:
Everyday is a celebration with my forever sweetheart. I'm the luckiest man alive.

Happy 25th, my one and only Ginger.

I love you.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Of Hospitals, Weddings, and Jobs

This story begins and ends at a hospital.

Our family has just completed one of our most memorable and amazing summers ever. Truly epic.
The excitement began in late July. McKenzie, our oldest daughter, began complaining of severe stomach pains. This continued off and on for a week, until it was clear we needed to get her to the hospital right away.

They quickly determined that she needed to have her gall bladder removed. Since graduating from college in April, she had been trying to find a job and had just barely (one week earlier) found a good one right here in American Fork. She was understandably concerned that the job she had tried so hard to find would now be taken from her. Several prayers and priesthood blessings gave her the assurance that God knew who she was and what she needed.

On the day after Pioneer Day, she had the surgery and it went very well. One of the worst parts of the experience was her inability to eat. She went over a week without being able to keep anything down. Even after she was admitted to the hospital she had to wait for four days before she could have anything besides fluids. As always, she was a trooper. We saw the hand of the Lord from start to finish in this experience.

As for her job? The first set of flowers she received after her surgery were from her new company. She's already been promoted in the short time she's been there. What a blessing.
Less than two weeks after McKenzie's surgery, we were off to Reno, Nevada to witness the marriage of our oldest son Isaac to the lovely and wonderful Anna Hansen. The timing of everything was amazing. If McKenzie had her gall bladder attack a week later, we may have had to postpone the wedding. It would have also been very difficult for her to endure the long trip to and from Reno. But the Lord was merciful, and our trip went without a hitch.

Everything about the wedding was absolutely wonderful. To watch our son marry his best friend in a sacred place was an eternally significant event. The wedding reception put on by Anna's family was perfect. Wonderful food. Lots of loving family and friends to support the new couple.

A week later we held an open house for the newlyweds at the home of our friends, Liz and Dave Macdonald. Ginger had put in countless hours of planning to make it all work. Many wonderful friends and family members provided us with many acts of "second-mile service" to make the evening possible, and the results were truly magical. For all those that supported us in any way through this exciting but strenuous week, thank you.

On the Monday after the wedding, I was informed by my employer that I was being laid off along with a number of other employees. This wasn't a great surprise, although it still came as a blow. On our way back from Reno we had an inkling that this was going to happen. Ginger and I counseled about it and both of us felt that we were supposed to "stay the course." We weren't 100% clear on what that meant, but felt confident that we were in the hands of the Lord.

About two weeks after I lost my job I applied for a position with Intermountain Healthcare in Heber, a beautiful little city on the backside of the Wasatch mountains. The job would combine several areas of expertise and would involve helping the hospital to establish a new addiction-recovery unit called Dayspring.

On Thursday, August 30th, I had an interview for the position. I was surprised and thrilled to receive an offer to accept the position the following Tuesday. One of the many exciting parts of this job is the fact that I will still be able to work from home. This was a wonderful answer to prayer! Interestingly, I didn't receive a single call-back on any of the many other jobs that I applied for. Not a single interview. Nothing.

We can confirm that we are in the hands of the Lord. Again we have been the recipients of His tender mercies.

Friday, June 8, 2012

To those weighed down or wondering...


I have just two things to say to you who are troubled about the future. I say them lovingly and from my heart.

First, we must never let fear and the father of fear (Satan himself) divert us from our faith and faithful living. Every person in every era has had to walk by faith into what has always been some uncertainty. This is the plan. Just be faithful. God is in charge. He knows your name and He knows your need.

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is the first principle of the gospel. We must go forward. God expects you to have enough faith, determination, and trust in Him to keep moving, keep living, keep rejoicing. He expects you not simply to face the future; He expects you to embrace and shape the future—to love it, rejoice in it, and delight in your opportunities.

God is eagerly waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can’t if you don’t pray, and He can’t if you don’t dream. In short, He can’t if you don’t believe.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Why are you YOU? Why are you NOW?

 Small thoughts in the creaky uncertain stumblings of approaching spring.

"Why are you YOU? Why are you NOW?"

I think about these questions sometimes when my mind is not otherwise occupied. Why of all the billions (or more...) of God's children am I me? And in all of eternity, why am I now?

I wonder about these questions as I think about my family. And about my country. I have a personal conviction that who, when and where we are matters a great deal in the overall Plan. And that something as eternally significant as our mortal placement on earth is not left to chance. In simpler terms: Who and where we are matters. Enormously.

Part of my thoughts on this have to do with gratitude. Of all the times in history that I might have arrived on stage, I'm privileged to be here during the final moments of the play. The climax of all history, when all of the conflicts are at their greatest and when the opposition is the most fierce. What does it say about God's trust in me that I am here now during such a time?

I also think often about accountability. No one in history has been given as much as I have. I am wealthy beyond the comprehension of someone even a mere one hundred years ago. In particular, I live in America, a land "choice above all others." But why? Is it so that I might advance my own interests and pursue wealth and material "things"? Or am I here so that I might seek to do all I can to extend the wealth bestowed by God to me upon so many of His children that lack even the essentials components of existence?

Thinking...thinking...thinking...

It is daunting to consider what I must teach my children. I tremble at what they must know in order to thrive in a world so warped and corrosive.

How to teach them WHO they are... And how to teach them WHY.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Be➜Do➜Have

I was recently introduced to the idea of Be➜Do➜Have. The concept has evidently been around for awhile in various forms. The basic premise is this: Before we can have we must first do. That seems obvious. The part I thought was most relevant was the idea that before we do, we must first be.

Another way of thinking about this is what we sometimes we refer to as having an eye of faith. One of my favorite verses in Ether 12 is verse nineteen: "And there were many whose faith was so exceedingly strong, even before Christ came, who could not be kept from within the veil, but truly saw with their eyes the things which they had beheld with an eye of faith, and they were glad."

In other words, they "saw" the thing they desired with spiritual eyes before they saw it with their physical eyes. It is no different for me.

As I work toward having goals, dreams and desires come true, I'm slowly learning that I must first be the person I want to become. Who I am will then affect in a much more permanent way what I do and will likewise determine what I have.  Elder Scott's wonderful insight comes again to mind: "We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day."

I think this could have significant implications in my life. This is a simple sequence to understand, but a hard one to deeply absorb. Being what it is I want to become is hard work and ripe with opportunities to make mistakes or to fall short. Having the understanding that I must first be whom I want to become will hopefully help me to more resolutely do. This will then help me to get the things I want to have. Something to chew on...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Laying hold on "every good thing"


A question I often wrestle with is this: How do I get the things I want? By things I don't mean "things," i.e. stuff. I mean dreams, hopes, desires, longings, goals. The things I think about when there's nothing else to think about.

The next question then comes close behind: Does God want me to have the things that I want to have?

Yes. Absolutely. 100%. Without question.

"God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe.”Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

So how is it done? How has God made a way for us to "lay hold on every good thing"? Mormon asks just this question:

And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?

And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak; and I will tell you the way whereby ye may lay hold on every good thing.

For behold, God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent angels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing. (Moroni 7:20-22)

In Christ there should come every good thing. Including the things that I want and wish for. My hopes, dreams and desires.

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace.

God loves us, he's watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we'll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew that there are heavenly hosts pulling for us--friends in heaven, whom we can't remember now, who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do--what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly bring to God. If we give our all, we will get his all from the greatest of all.  President Ezra Taft Benson

If I turn my dreams and desires over to Jesus Christ, I have the promise of Jesus Christ's help in obtaining them.

As I think about the year ahead and about goals yet to be reached, I take hope in the knowledge I have that "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." He wants me to "lay hold on every good thing." He is able to show me what I should do, where I should go, and whom I should know.

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." W. H. Murray

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!





Saturday, December 24, 2011

More Important Than Santa

 
By Susan S. Spackman
On the morning that Santa was coming to preschool, my daughter, Eliza, woke up early and was ready hours before preschool, which would start at 11:00 A.M. At about 8:00 A.M. Brenda, one of the young sisters in our ward whom I visit teach, telephoned me to see if I could take her to the doctor because the person who was going to do it had the flu. Brenda, who was only 24, had cancer. She said it was a routine visit and would only take 20 minutes. I was happy to help. Since the appointment was at 9:00 A.M., I was certain we could be back in plenty of time for the Santa party. After all, Eliza was ready to go.

When I saw Brenda, she seemed to be worse than I remembered. She was so sick and frail that she couldn’t walk without help. It took my breath away to help her into the car. When we arrived at the doctor’s office, we found out he was going to be late. By 10:00 A.M. I was starting to get worried. Santa would be at the preschool at 11:30 A.M. for a 30-minute visit. If I had known we’d have to wait so long, I could have arranged for someone else to take Eliza. I felt torn knowing how much Brenda needed me yet not wanting Eliza to miss the party.

Eliza did not complain. In fact, she sat by Brenda and talked to her about the pictures in the magazines. They always got along well. Brenda especially enjoyed it since she was anxious to have a family of her own. At 10:50 A.M., Brenda finally got in to see her doctor. It seemed to take forever. By 11:15 A.M. I was rushing a weak and nauseated Brenda to the car. She could barely make it.

I said, “Well, just let me get Eliza to preschool, and then I’ll take you home.” I probably sounded slightly impatient.

Once on the freeway, Brenda asked me to stop. I pulled over just in time for her to get out of the car, crouch down, and throw up. I got out of the car and stood beside her. She was so sick, and I felt helpless and frustrated. My daughter didn’t say a word. She could see that we were stopped in freeway traffic with emergency lights flashing and cars zooming past. Finally, Brenda was able to get back into the car. By now it was 11:45 A.M. Eliza would miss the party. It seemed that I could do nothing for either Brenda or Eliza.

Once at Brenda’s apartment, we helped her get situated on the couch, where she could stay until her husband came home. I fixed her some broth, and then we left. In the car I had just started to apologize to Eliza when she said, “Mommy, it’s OK. Brenda is more important than Santa Claus.”

I felt such love for Eliza as I heard those words. They put the whole morning into perspective and reminded me of what I already knew: Brenda was more important than Santa Claus.