A daily portion of love

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1977 Conference.
In Elder H. Burke Peterson's talk, he describes a new father talking about his new baby boy:
He expressed thanks for this, his first son. He then said in a rather perplexed way that since the little fellow didn’t seem to understand anything they said, he wished he knew just how to communicate with him. “All we can do,” said he, “is hold him, cuddle him, gently squeeze him, kiss him, and whisper thoughts of love in his ear.” 
With a brand-new baby in the house, I can relate to that. It is so easy to pour out love on this little baby boy. I feel like I'm feeding him constantly, but that also allows me (and reminds me!) to constantly be loving him: talking to him, watching his little face as he sleeps, hugging him, patting his back. How could he help but feel my constant stream of love? But what Elder Peterson said next made me feel a little guilty:
After the meeting I went up to the new father and said that in his testimony he had given us a success pattern for raising healthy children. I hoped he would never forget it; even as his children grew to maturity I hoped he would continue the practice.
Then Elder Peterson continues:
Among the tragedies we see around us every day are the countless children and adults who are literally starving because they are not being fed a daily portion of love. We have in our midst thousands who would give anything to hear the words and feel the warmth of this expression. We have all seen the lonely and discouraged who have never been told.
That phrase, "a daily portion of love," made me wonder if my other children are getting as constantly nourished by my love? With a new baby, you have to make time for it. You have to stop what you're doing to attend to his needs. But as Elder Peterson points out, we ALL need that daily nourishment! Our spouses. Our older children. And because, unlike babies, they don't have obvious and easy times built-in for receiving that love, I need to make a more conscious effort to make time to give it anyway!

This talk reminded me a lot of Elder S. Mark Palmer's address in the most recent Conference, "Then Jesus Beholding Him Loved Him." I re-read that one recently and was impressed by how necessary it is to love someone in order to influence them. Our children cannot truly learn from us until they feel loved by us! And the "daily portion" metaphor helped me understand that idea better, too: just like our physical bodies can't function well without daily nourishment, our spiritual selves need love in order to progress. This really made me resolve to do better at showing love to the older, less obviously "needy" members of our family. I do pretty well at making sure they're getting regular and nourishing meals every day. But this daily portion of love might be even more important!

Elder Peterson also advises that
One of the most effective secrets for happiness is contained in the fourth chapter of 1 John, verse 19. It is only eight words long--listen carefully: “We love him, because he first loved us.” This will cause a change to happen because it is right. Do you get the message? “He first loved us.” Your children will love you; your brothers and sisters will love you; your eternal companion will love you--because you first loved them.
 Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are constantly pouring out Their love for me. I certainly feel a "daily portion" of it—always when I take the time to seek it out, anyway, and often even when I don't! I want to do better at following their example in my own family, so that not only the squeezeable, snuggly little babies feel constantly nourished by my love, but everyone else does too!

Other posts in this series:




With fervent desire

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the April 1977 Conference.
You've probably seen this video of President Packer's parable, The Mediator. I've always liked it, but I haven't ever read the whole talk before. Here was my favorite part, which was not even part of the story, but a personal note about why he told it:
I have carried with me a great desire to bear testimony of the Lord, Jesus Christ. I have yearned to tell you in as simple terms as I can, what He did, and who He is.
Although I know how poor mere words can be, I know also that such feelings are often carried by the spirit, even without words.
At times I struggle under the burden of imperfections. Nevertheless, because I know that He lives, there is a supreme recurring happiness and joy. 
There is one place where I am particularly vulnerable—when I know that I have abused someone, or caused them hurt, or offended them. It is then I know what agony is. 
How sweet it is, on those occasions, to be reassured that He lives, and to have my witness reaffirmed. I want, with fervent desire, to show you how our burdens of disappointment, sin, and guilt can be laid before Him, and on His generous terms have each item on the account marked, “Paid in Full.”
I love this glimpse into the personal feelings of a man I have so looked up to. He felt inadequate and imperfect. He hated to hurt people—but he knew he DID sometimes hurt people, and this caused him great anguish. His testimony of Jesus Christ's atonement brought him actual comfort for his actual struggles. And he wanted, "with fervent desire," to share that comfort with everyone else! It gave me a different perspective on this talk, thinking about President Packer writing it with that personal goal in mind.

It also makes me wonder what things the general authorities who are preparing their talks for Conference right now want to tell us. What insights do they have a "fervent desire" for us to gain? I read an Ensign article today about another apostle who asked President Eyring for input on the 22nd draft of his talk for Conference. President Eyring says:
In general conference twice a year, we are blessed with the opportunity to hear the word of the Lord for us from His servants. That is a privilege beyond price. But the value of that opportunity depends on whether we receive the words under the influence of the same Spirit by which they were given to those servants… Just as they receive guidance from heaven, so must we. And that requires of us the same spiritual effort… 
The servants of God fast and pray to receive the message He has for them to give to those who need revelation and inspiration….To gain the great benefits available from hearing living prophets and apostles, we must pay the price ourselves of receiving revelation.
I know the General Authorities have the fervent desire to bring us closer to Christ. Do we have an equal desire to receive their wisdom?

Other posts in this series:

Are we ready for it?

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Priesthood Session of the April 1977 Conference.
My interest was caught as I read President Spencer W. Kimball's talk "Our Great Potential," when he started talking about Priesthood Keys we don't yet have on the earth. He brought up resurrection, which is one of the only ones I could think of offhand, but he also mentioned the power to create spirits, the power to control the elements, and the power to manipulate and organize matter. He quoted a lot from Brigham Young and other early church leaders.

It was interesting because this is the sort of thing we don't talk a lot about in church…it seems more esoteric, I guess, or less relevant to our progression now. But President Kimball wasn't just speculating or wondering—he was coming to a specific point:
Can you realize even slightly how relatively little we know? As Paul said, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor. 2:9.) 
We talk about the gospel in its fulness; yet we realize that a large part is still available to us as we prepare, as we perfect our lives, and as we become more like our God. Are we ready for it? In the Doctrine and Covenants we read of Abraham, who has already attained godhood. He has received many powers, undoubtedly, that we would like to have and will eventually get if we continue faithful and perfect our lives.
I was thinking about how it's sometimes hard to want to do much thinking about "perfection." For me, at least, it seems so far away that incremental thinking is easier: in other words, "well, ____ is too hard right now, but at least I can do ______." I guess this is probably okay (and I've read other talks that give great ideas about willingness to fail, and about changing bit by bit, line upon line). However, President Kimball's words combined with a story in another talk I read this week made me reconsider my reluctance to dwell on the "perfect" solution:
A few years ago a large American computer company decided to have some parts manufactured by a Japanese supplier as a trial project. The American company told the Japanese firm it would accept up to 2 percent defective products in the 10,000-piece order. Later, the shipment arrived with 100 percent of the order without defects. In a separate box was a note: “Sorry, we do not understand American company production practices. However, this box contains the 2 percent defective product you wanted. Sorry for the delay in producing, but these parts had to be made separately, which required changing our process in order to make the bad product. Hope this pleases you.” 
This was from a BYU Devotional talk I read by a professor in the Manufacturing Engineering and Engineering Technology Department. He explained:
When we design a part we always determine a target dimension that is the desired value at which the part should be produced. Making the part to that value results in the “perfect” product. Because every process has variation and it is difficult to produce exactly to the target value each time, every part also comes with tolerance limits. These limits are the amount of deviation from the target we can tolerate and still expect the part to function at least reasonably well. If there is more deviation from target than the tolerance limit allows, the part will be rejected. However—and this point is critical—as soon as the part deviates from target, it is in error, and the farther a part deviates from the target, even if it is within the tolerance limit, the worse it performs. 
Some companies are concerned only with producing products within the tolerance limits, but wise companies constantly seek to produce on target. The differences between these companies in focus and attitude are quite significant, as are the results. The difference comes not because of the distance, which is often only a couple thousandths of an inch. It is the difference between an average company and an excellent company. For a company to move from the tolerance mind-set to the target mind-set requires an entirely different way of looking at targets, processes, tolerance limits, and improvement. It is a new way of thinking. 
Companies that desire to produce excellent products are not satisfied at producing just within tolerance. They strive, constantly and forever, to produce at target. And they believe it is possible. Average companies, or those that are known for average or poor quality, tend to focus on the tolerance limits because they believe being just within the limits is good enough.
He goes on to discuss the application:
Think of it this way. Imagine yourself on a line between the target value, or the mark of perfection, on one side and the tolerance limit on the other. We can ask ourselves, “Which way am I facing?” and “What do I take as my guide?” If the tolerance limit is my guide, then my tendency is to move as close to the limit as I can and, if at all possible, try to relax those limits to make more of my behaviors allowable. However, there is an even bigger problem with facing the tolerance limit. It is that my back is to the target. I am not looking toward the mark of perfection. Also, since I am facing the limit, if the limit moves, then I move with it and, therefore, accept more defective behavior. 
On the other hand, if I am facing the target, the mark of perfection, and constantly striving to reach that mark, then my back will be to the tolerance limits. If the limits move, they have no effect on me because my focus is not on the relaxing tolerance but on approaching the mark of perfection.
I know there is a place for incremental learning and approximation. It's what we all HAVE to do, because we're imperfect mortals! But from these talks, I'm thinking about how a focus on perfection—a willingness to look for it, and try for it—is not incompatible with incremental learning! As this professor said, the difference is not so much in the actual products (or in a person's case, the actual behaviors) but in the focus and mindset of looking toward the target! We somehow need to be willing to make Christlike perfection our goal and focus—and also ready to accept whatever discomfort that awareness may cause us!

I am sometimes afraid to think ahead to the eventual goals of godhood and perfection. I'm afraid of getting too discouraged or overwhelmed. I'm afraid of losing sight of the simpler things [Similarly, President Romney's talk in this session encouraged seeking the ultimate promise of the Holy Ghost and having your calling and election made sure, which is another thing I've heard can cause people to stumble if they get too focused on it. But perhaps I have gone too far in deciding not to think about it at all?] But as described in the BYU talk I quoted, focusing on "the target" is essential if I really want to improve. And "the target," is, of course, Jesus Christ. Studying His perfect life and seeking to be like Him may indeed be overwhelming, but it is the only way to become like Him!

So, I appreciated President Kimball's reminder that there are many, many great gifts and powers still to come in our progression, and that we should be pondering them and even actively seeking after them. And I appreciated President Romney's reminder that we can always be more urgently striving toward not just glimpses, but "the full light of Christ." I'm hoping to figure out a way to balance a reasonable awareness of my limitations, with a stronger focus on Christ and His perfection—and on the amazing things He can make possible for me!

Other posts in this series:

Eclipse trip: the non-eclipse and non-Yellowstone part

We always become so fond of the rental houses we stay in. Teddy called this one our "Cabin House" and soon we were all calling it that. It was in a much less-wooded area of Island Park than the place we stayed last time, so it felt very different. This place had a wrap-around porch, with beautiful views of the sunset across the open meadows. We loved it.
One of the first thing the boys did upon arriving was to put up their hammocks. These were hung in many configurations over the few days we stayed here.

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