This past Sunday I spoke in our ward's sacrament meeting. Here is a copy of my remarks. 😊
Good afternoon Belmead Ward family.
In 1972, President Spencer W. Kimball spoke about a principle he called Reservoirs of Faith. He spoke about how we are encouraged to store reservoirs of water, food, and money. But "…especially reservoirs of faith so that when the world presses in upon us, we stand firm and strong; when the temptations of a decaying world … draw on our energies, sap our spiritual vitality, and seek to pull us down, we need a storage of faith that can carry [us] … over the dull, the difficult, the terrifying moments, disappointments, disillusionments, and years of adversity, want, confusion, and frustration."
I love this analogy. I imagine that every good thing I do, every holy habit, every act of kindness, and every spiritual experience, adds a drop to my faith reservoir. I want to share two brief experiences that recently added multiple drops to my reservoir of faith.
In November, our family went on a short vacation. On the last day, I got food poisoning. As you can imagine, the return day of airports and airplanes was unpleasant. Luckily the natural consequences of food poisoning passed within a couple of days, but for the next week and a half, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Completely exhausted and not feeling quite right.
To make matters worse, I had decided to jam-pack my schedule the week after to make up for the time I had lost on vacation. In just my "Bishoping" life, I had appointments Tuesday night, Thursday night, and most of the day Saturday and Sunday (Plus the ward Christmas dinner). It felt like a virtual impossibility that I would make it through that week in my current condition. I thought about canceling all my appointments, but the Tithing Declaration deadline was coming up fast, so I decided to power through.
Before my first set of appointments on Tuesday night, I knelt and prayed. I explained the situation to my Heavenly Father and asked for a miracle. As you can imagine, the miracle I wanted was to be made whole. To be healed. Hallelujah! I didn't get it. But I did get a miracle. Every time I walked into that office, I felt fine. For the duration of my appointments, I had energy and could fulfill this calling. Unfortunately, once I was done, I felt completely wiped out. So, I didn't get the miracle I wanted, but I did get the heavenly help I needed.
Through this experience, faith was added to my reservoir.
As you know, our oldest son Davis decided to serve a mission. All young men and women who are called to serve first go to the Temple to receive their endowment - Giving them increased access to divine power as they embark on what, for most, will be the most challenging experience of their lives up to that point.
So, in November, we accompanied Davis to the Temple to receive his endowment. As we walked in, the kind brother officiating the session asked me if there were "any members of my family here that would be blessed by serving as the witness couple?" I explained that we didn't have any family present and recommended a couple I knew were there (Most of our family live in the Lethbridge area. They are incredibly supportive of our family, but it is just not feasible for them to come up for everything).
As I sat down, I was overcome with sadness that no one from our family was there for this pivotal moment in my son's life. I wasn't angry and didn't blame them, but I was sad we don't live closer to our family.
But… As my son entered the Celestial Room, and there was a line of members from the Belmead Ward family to congratulate him and give him a hug, I realized that I did have family there (Some of which didn't even know Davis was attending the Temple for the first time. They just happened to be there).
In 2011, we moved from Lethbridge, where we have family EVERYWHERE, to Edmonton, where we had very little. This was a big change for us and a little scary. But what a blessing it has been to have the Belmead Ward become our family. Thank you. We love you.
I would like to draw three lessons from these two experiences.
Lesson #1 - Being in the right place, doing the right things, increases our chances of having spiritual experiences
There are many things about the gospel of Jesus Christ I don't understand. And there are many things I don't have a solid testimony of. But if there is one thing I know as well as I know anything, God supports his servants.
In Isaiah 41:10 we read: Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
When we are serving, ministering, fulfilling our callings, when we are lightening the load of others, God will support us. God will strengthen our backs. When I'm having a bad day, when life seems more than I can handle, 100% of the time that I attempt to make someone else's life better, my life gets a little more manageable. I testify this is a true principle.
Spencer W. Kimball said it like this: "Only when you lift a burden, God will lift your burden. Divine paradox this! The man who staggers and falls because his burden is too great can lighten that burden by taking on the weight of another's burden. You get by giving, but your part of giving must be given first."
Lesson #2 - Our Heavenly Father does hear and answer our prayers, even if it is not the way we want or expect.
As we studied the Old Testament last year, we read of the widow of Zarephath. This single mother is in a bad way. She and her son are out of food. She has just enough for one more tiny meal, and then she is fully expecting that she are her and her son are going to die. We have to assume that this faithful woman has said many a prayer begging God to intervene and save her family. And I imagine the answer to prayer she hopes for is a magical influx of money or food. But what does she get? Some guy named Elijah shows up and asks for the last of her food with a promise that "the barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth." Miraculously, she obeys, and her prayer is answered. Not in the way she likely wanted or expected, but the Lord sent the help she needed.
I testify that our loving Father in Heaven does hear our prayers. Elder David A Bednar testified of this well when he taught that "Every sincere prayer is heard and answered by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we receive may not be what we expect or come to us when we want or in the way we anticipate."
Lesson # 3 - We need to seek out, find, and/or create spiritual experiences.
When I was in the Temple, saddened by my situation, I could have let that ruin my Temple experience. Instead, I chose to see the miracle.
All of us being here today potentially adds to our individual reservoir of faith. But it does not guarantee it. If you're playing a game, doom-scrolling social media, or checking the scores of your favorite footsketball team all through sacrament meeting, the chances of you having a spiritual experience are slim to none. If you're busy cursing the speaker or teacher for being boring, you will not feel the spirit. If you're consumed with all the things you don't like about church or the church, it's going to be tough for God to kick down that door.
We learn in 1st Kings that "the Lord was not in the wind: and … not in the earthquake … not in the fire … [but in] … a still small voice."
Elder Bruce R. McConkie once compared the Spirit of God to a radio. A cell phone is probably a better analogy for today's younger audience. There are cellular signals everywhere around us. But the only way to take advantage of them is with one of these high-tech devices, a sim card, and paying for access with one of the cellular providers. Without all of that, this is just an overpriced Gameboy.
The Holy Ghost works the same way. His presence is everywhere around us. But we need to do those things that will enable us to feel him. Be in the right place at the right time. Eliminate distractions. Open our minds and our hearts. And desperately desire the experiences that our Heavenly Parents want to give us. I promise you will find the spiritual experiences you want if you are willing to find them.
I love the promise Sister Tracy Browning gave us at this past General Conference. Of Jesus, she said, "…where we look for Him we will find Him—each and every day."
In 2022 we introduced our Ward Vision. It of course, was designed to have each of us set a goal to increase our faith. I hope you set a goal, and I hope you saw the hand of God in your life as you worked toward that goal. My goal was to increase the power of my prayers. To be honest, it didn't work. My faith did not grow in that area. But that is 100% my fault. As part of my goal, I was going to do several things to increase the power and meaningfulness of my prayers. And for the most part, I didn't do these things, and therefore did not get the blessings.
So, as a Ward Council, we've felt impressed and to keep the Ward Vision the same moving forward. My plea for you today is to double down on increasing your faith. I plead with you today to seek out, find and create spiritual experiences in your life. Please don't wait for them to come to you. Don't wait for the stars to align to increase your faith. Fight for your faith. Fight for your spirituality. Fight for your testimony.
Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, recently reminded us that building our faith and testimony "require[s] effort—much effort." He pled for us "to take charge of your testimony. Work for it. Own it. Care for it. Nurture it so that it will grow. Feed it truth. … Engage in daily, earnest, humble prayer. Nourish yourself in the words of ancient and modern prophets. Ask the Lord to teach you how to hear Him better. Spend more time in the Temple and in family history work. As you make your testimony your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life."
"Take charge of your testimony." I really like that.
Similar to Elder Neil L. Anderson's advice, "The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice."
I started today by discussing President Kimball's "reservoirs of faith." Because you're here today (or watching virtually), I know each of you has a reservoir of faith. But I need to let you in on a secret. Tour faith reservoir has a hole in the bottom. Everyone does. President Nelson's does, Elder Holland's does, even Kurt Kronebusch's does. Because we live in a world full of terrible things, our faith is slowly and inevitably seeping away. So, the only way to keep that thing full is to continually add drops of faith in the top.
I pray that each of us can commit today to strive to fill, drop by drop, our personal reservoir of faith to overflowing.
In the name of he who are faith is built upon, Jesus Christ, amen.