Monday, January 20, 2014
Bednar January 2014 Devotional
On the evening of January 14, 2014, Elder David Bednar and his wife Susan spoke at the Provo MTC Devotional (it was also broadcast live to 6 other Missionary Training Centers worldwide). Only three weeks before, the Bednars had visited the MTC on Christmas Day. On that occasion, they had distributed 200 cell phones so that the missionaries could text their questions to Elder and Sister Bednar. Simultaneously, from the International MTCs the missionaries sent emails with their questions. At that time, they received about 1000 questions. Adding the answers given on Christmas Day to those given on January 14th, 15 questions have now been answered. “Only 985 to go,” said Elder Bednar, with a smile.
The first question addressed at the Devotional on January 14th was, “What is the difference between faith and belief?” Elder Bednar, citing the “Lectures on Faith,” said that faith entails action, while belief is passive. He said the best example of faith in action is found in the Old Testament: the feet of the Israelites were wet before the waters of the Jordan River were parted (in faith, they walked into the waters of the Jordan River, not waiting for the miracle to occur first). Similarly, said Elder Bednar, the Lord will give you words to say after you open your mouth. The trial of your faith is always will you go and do (or act)?
As an aside to the topic of faith, Elder Bednar spoke of an “inordinate desire for miracles” among the missionaries. He strongly cautioned: don’t press for them; don’t demand them. Instead, pray for eyes to see and ears to hear the miracles that are happening every day. Pray for faith; there are plentiful miracles every day, he said.
Another question was, “Why does God let good people go through hard things?” Elder Bednar’s answer was, because God trusts them to learn from the experience of opposition. He read from Doctrine and Covenants 122:5-8, which is about the opposition that Joseph Smith endured. Then he alluded to the trial that the Savior endured during the Atonement. Finally, he retold the account of opposition in President Kimball’s life – his needing surgery for throat cancer and then in learning to speak again. Elder Bednar pointed out that the thing that a prophet needs the most is his voice. Nevertheless, Heavenly Father let President Kimball have this trial of his faith for a purpose. Elder Bednar recounted how, after Elder Kimball’s surgery, President Lee asked Elder Kimball to speak during each session of that particular Conference in spite of Elder Kimball’s earnest pleas that he not be asked to speak. At first he could only “croak and squeak” into the microphone. But by the end of that Conference, however, Elder Kimball was on his way back to being able to speak again.
Sister Bednar addressed the question, “What is the worth of women in the Lord’s Kingdom?” After referring to Biblical accounts of women and the Savior’s regard for them, she said God “divinely designed” men and women to be different. Thus they are different, but equal. Equal does not mean they are the same. She recounted a personal story of one of their sons who became ill, and how a priesthood blessing by Elder Bednar and Sister Bednar’s prayers and faith combined to help the boy to recover. As a follow up on Sister Bednar’s remarks, Elder Bednar alluded to the question about women and the priesthood. Elder Bednar gave the following analogy: The priesthood is not male. The priesthood is like an umbrella under which all members of the Church – men, women, and children – are blessed. Men hold the priesthood—like holding the handle of the umbrella.
Among the questions was a request that Elder Bednar bear his testimony about the Book of Mormon. In doing so, he said he had received a witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon by the Power of the Holy Ghost. He then expanded on the outward evidences that refute the notion that Joseph Smith made it all up. He talked about the 90 days of writing time to translate the Book of Mormon, comparing it with his own personal two year task of writing an 800 page book. He noted that he has held in his hands and looked through the pages of the manuscript of the translation of the Book of Mormon. It was translated as one continuous stream with no punctuation and no revisions. He compared that writing with his own writing task which employed many editors and revisions, only to discover to his dismay after it was published, that there were still mistakes. He, as a writer, is a well-educated man with advanced writing skills and tools such as computers. Joseph Smith had a second grade education and only scribes to assist him.
He also pointed out the internal evidences in the Book of Mormon. For example, how the tree in Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life in 1 Nephi chapter 8, is echoed [some 275 pages later] in Alma’s discourse in Alma 32 about planting the seed of the Word that becomes a tree springing up unto eternal life (v.41). Here is just one example of how intricately woven are the ideas in the Book of Mormon: Joseph Smith could not have written the book. No man could write the book.
Additionally, the Book of Mormon clarifies such doctrines as Faith and Works which the Bible presents incompletely. Elder Bednar referred to such clarifications as “nuggets of truth” – of which there are many. Furthermore, he spoke of the Bible as one nail that pins the truth. However, with only one nail, the truth can be made to “spin.” The Book of Mormon is the second nail that pins the truth, and thus it prevents spinning.
In answer to a question about spiritual gifts, Elder Bednar pointed out that to desire spiritual gifts in order to “show off” is priestcraft. Spiritual gifts are given to you in order to bless other people. You will receive spiritual gifts only if God trusts you. You must focus on others in love and service. For example, the gift of tongues is given to you so that others may hear the gospel preached unto them in their own language. ~PLH
MY HUSBAND'S TAKE:
If you live long enough, you get to know everyone
Watching Elder Bednar in action was a delight. I first met him many years ago when he and I were both working on our Doctorates at Purdue University. His course of study was in Organizational Behavior and mine was in English Language and Literature. I was the Director of the LDS Institute of Religion at that time and had a fair amount of interaction with the students, whether undergraduate or graduate. He finished his degree in 1980, and I two years later.
As his star rose in the Church and Kingdom of God, I was one who always watched that ascent with some pleasure. When he was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I sent him a short note, reminding him of our brief association in West Lafayette, Indiana. I suggested to him that while I had had an opportunity to serve as his teacher for a time, I would spend the rest of my life being his student. He, in turn, sent a short, kind reply that acknowledged that brief crossing of paths.
Yesterday, I was again reminded of the connections that we make during our mortal sojourns here upon the earth, ones that seem to surprise and delight us. Because of some heating problems in the “Bubbles” on the West Campus of the Missionary Training Center, our Branch has been temporally merged with another for the past three weeks. We have alternated in our assignments in presiding, conducting, and teaching in Sacrament and Priesthood Meetings. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I had the assignment to teach Priesthood meeting. One of the counselors in the other Branch Presidency came up to me afterwards and asked if I have been an Institute teacher at some point in my life. When I acknowledged that fact, he said “I thought so, You have that way about you when you teach.” I was a little flattered, I suppose, and mentioned it to my wife later that day.
This past Sunday morning we met again together in the Wyview chapel and between meetings this same counselor sat down next to me and asked again, “You did say that you taught Seminary and Institute, didn’t you?” When I confessed again that that was the case, he said, “Where did you teach?” I said that I had begun my career at Bountiful Seminary, north of Salt Lake City. He brightened and said, “I knew it! I was one of your students.” I looked at his name tag which had his last name on it. I laughed out loud, saying, “And your first name is Mike…” I almost burst out in tears when he nodded his head.
We had but little time to share, so many experiences had happened to us since we had last been together. But as Priesthood Meeting began, a session during which my former student was going to teach the Elders in the two Branches, I asked leave to say a couple of words. I told the missionaries about my brief association with Elder Bednar that I described above. I then related the exchange that the two of us counselors had had just a few moments before. I said, turning to my newly found friend, “More than forty years ago you sat at my feet as my student; for the next forty minutes I will sit at yours.”
I had occasion during the rest of the day to talk about the life-long, and certainly eternity-long, connections that we make with others, just as Elder Bednar and I had momentarily connected, just as my former student and I were reconnected. Two of our Districts left for Mexico today, fully half of our little Branch. Some of them will not see each other during the remainder of their mortal lives, but I testified to them yesterday that there already existed connections between them, indestructible connections, that will be rejoiced in at some future day. I have loved all of my students, the hundreds that passed through my classroom during my thirty-five years as a religious educator. I have felt much the same toward the scores of missionaries who have passed through our Branch during the last year. We are linked together for good. I believe that in the end of time, all of that good that we have shared will bring us together again, never more to be separated. ~PNH