News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Pittsburgh area, counsel from its leaders, and reflections from its members.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pittsburgh PA Stake Conference - Feb 22, 2015

We were blessed with a beautiful and peaceful snowy morning at the stake center in Plum.
Today was a momentous stake conference because it was the first stake conference since the Pittsburgh PA Stake was divided into the Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh West Stakes. (See our post on the division that happened last September.)

There was a wonderful spirit as the speakers discussed prayer—what it is, how we do it, how we see results from it. In this blog post we'll recap the messages and provide some links for further study. Unfortunately, what's hard to include in this summary is the powerful spirit that was felt as testimonies were shared and truths were taught. It's up to you to let that spirit in as you remember and act on these messages. 

First we heard from Sister Caitlin Snow, the youth speaker. She talked about the power of prayer, especially as shown by the example of Peter. She read some powerful quotes from the Prophet Heber J. Grant, who especially reminds us of the importance of family prayer. She also shared the thought-provoking story of John Burroughs, as shared by President Boyd K. Packer. 

Sister Martin with her kids after the conference
Next Sister LaShaun Martin (Pittsburgh 1st Ward) presented some important reminders about prayer. "Personal prayer is essential," she emphasized. "We need it to return to the Father and to have faith and power." She talked about the importance of preparing to pray, asking inspired questions, and using hallowed prayer language. She closed with this lovely poem by Eliza Hickok, which has been quoted by Ezra Taft Benson:
I know not by what methods rare,
But this I know, God answers prayer.
I know that He has given His Word,
Which tells me prayer is always heard,
And will be answered, soon or late.
And so I pray and calmly wait.
I know not if the blessing sought
Will come in just the way I thought;
But leave my prayers with Him alone,
Whose will is wiser than my own,
Assured that He will grant my quest,
Or send some answer far more blest.
President Ron Paul emphasized that all sincere prayers are heard and answered. He talked about the progression of how the Lord taught Oliver Cowdery when he was beginning to scribe for Joseph Smith as he translated the Book of Mormon. First, the Lord reminds Oliver and Joseph of the feelings they'd had through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 6). In D&C 8, He later tells them that He reveals truth through both the mind and heart. In D&C 9 they are reminded of the effort required of them if they want to receive revelation. Lastly, President Paul talked about the situation in which individuals receive no answer, and he quoted extensively from Elder Dallin H. Oaks's talk on revelation. Sometimes, we pray about a decision which, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. We still must make decisions, act, and experience the consequences of our actions in order to develop self-reliance and faith. He also reminded us of the powerful spiritual guides that patriarchal blessings are. 

President Johnson mentioned his gratitude for the support members
give the missionaries, who face challenges and rejection daily.

Next we heard from President Bradley K. Johnson, the mission president of the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission, and his wife, Sister Rosemary M. Johnson. (To learn more about them and their responsibilities, see an earlier blog post.) Sister Johnson related prayer to a cell phone connection. We need a secure connection with Heavenly Father (the ultimate source of power), which can only happen through Jesus Christ (see 3 Nephi 18:19). Just as a cell phone must be plugged in and charged, we must connect or align ourselves to our Savior who can enable us to overcome our limitations. As we align ourselves with God through Jesus Christ, we come to know Him and can gain eternal life (see John 17:3). We are also learning in the process to align our will with our Heavenly Father's will, which ultimately gives us peace and comfort in our trials and afflictions (see John 14:27).

President Johnson talked about some of the counsel he gives to missionaries. When they face decisions, especially after they go home from their missions, they should consider two questions: Does this help me keep my covenants? (If not, run from it!) Am I involving Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in this decision? He again referred us to D&C 9.

Patriarch Evan Stoddard (Pittsburgh 7th Ward) shared a powerful impromptu testimony of the many many blessings of the Gospel, referring to the beatitudes

Bryce Lunt and Su Liu (Pittsburgh 1st Ward) performed
a beautiful piano/cello duet, "Sweet Hour of Prayer"
Finally, President Erich Peterson spoke. He first talked about the excited changes happening in our stake. He particularly highlighted the need for local stake service missionaries. If you are interested in serving as a stake missionary, please contact a member of the stake presidency.

President Peterson proceeded to talk about the importance of action, in relation to receiving answers to prayers. He related that when Joseph Smith, as a young man, went into the grove to pray, he not only wished to know which church was true, but most importantly, he wanted to know that he might know which one to JOIN.  Because he prayed with the intention to ACT on the answer that our Father in Heaven would give him, he was praying with faith.  

Later, the Prophet would teach that faith is a principle of action.  The Book of Mormon promise in Moroni chapter 10 says "if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."  The term "real intent" means that if I get an answer from God, I intend to ACT on it.  This is the key to receiving revelation and answers to our prayers.  Our Father in Heaven will reveal to us His will as fast as we are willing to receive it.  And our willingness to receive the will of our Father, is measured by our intent to act on it.  Our Savior, Jesus Christ, was always willing to do the will of our Father, so He continuously had the will of The Father revealed to Him.

Thank you to the speakers and all who participated in this wonderful stake conference.

Bishop Chad Manuele (Pittsburgh 3rd Ward) helps clear the walks before the conference starts

Monday, February 2, 2015

Honesty - The Arbor - January 2015

Hear the story behind this picture in the January issue (link below).

The January 2015 issue of The Arbor focuses on Step 1 – Honesty:

Admit that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addictions and that your life has become unmanageable.

This edition has some great articles. One of them quotes Elder Russell M. Nelson saying, “Addiction surrenders . . . freedom to choose. Through chemical means, one can literally become disconnected from his or her own will!“

An anonymous writer reflected, “I have kept it a secret for over 40 years. I knew what I was doing was wrong but never looked at it as an addiction. I tried and did quit many times but I always started up again. As I look at things now I wished I would have reached out for help sooner.”

God’s plan of happiness does not say we must walk through life alone or struggle without help from Him or our brothers and sisters. The Lord has his arms stretched open to receive us if we will seek refuge in Him and His Atonement. He is all powerful, all loving. He can enable us to overcome our weaknesses and can heal us all.