Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thoughts on President Monson’s talk “Stand in Holy Places”

President Monson starts out telling how technology had changed during his life and continues to change. “In fact, yesterday’s science fiction has become today’s reality. And that reality, thanks to the technology of our times, is changing so fast we can barely keep up with it—if we do at all.” Then he tells us about the moral changes that have called increasing decay in society, but assures us that God’s laws are eternal.
Although the world has changed, the laws of God remain constant. They have not changed; they will not change. The Ten Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not suggestions. They are every bit as requisite today as they were when God gave them to the children of Israel. If we but listen, we hear the echo of God’s voice, speaking to us here and now…
Three important principles also help.
[W]e know that morality is not passé, that our conscience is there to guide us, and that we are responsible for our actions.
Like Abinadi speaking to King Noah, President Monson repeated for us the Ten Commandments, and we can test ourselves to see if we have them written on our hearts.

We know we are accountable for our actions, but we also seek joy, and sometimes we may get confused as to where to find it. President Monson understands this well.
It may appear to you at times that those out in the world are having much more fun than you are. Some of you may feel restricted by the code of conduct to which we in the Church adhere. My brothers and sisters, I declare to you, however, that there is nothing which can bring more joy into our lives or more peace to our souls than the Spirit which can come to us as we follow the Savior and keep the commandments. That Spirit cannot be present at the kinds of activities in which so much of the world participates.
Watch and Pray

President Monson talked about how we can’t allow ourselves to become complacent or inattentive because there are so many moral dangers everywhere.
We must be vigilant in a world which has moved so far from that which is spiritual. It is essential that we reject anything that does not conform to our standards, refusing in the process to surrender that which we desire most: eternal life in the kingdom of God.
This implies that we need to be more committed to our standards (and the promise of eternal life that comes with them) and notice when we are tempted to violate them. According to the dictionary, vigilance means “keeping careful watch for possible danger and difficulties.” It means we have to be able to notice situations that lead to temptation and be ready to diffuse or flee it. It means we have to be able to notice when it becomes difficult to keep our standards and prepare ourselves to take steps.

Vigilance won’t do much good though, unless we can access the power of God to resist the temptations we face.
As a means of being in the world but not being of the world, it is necessary that we communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer. He wants us to do so; He’ll answer our prayers. The Savior admonished us, as recorded in 3 Nephi 18, to “watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you. …
“Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name;
“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”
This implies that we need to learn to pray always and learn to pray when we are being tempted. Certainly the Lord will help us overcome the temptation so that it doesn't appear desireable any more.

President Monson then tells the story of how he gained his testimony of prayer as a 12-year-old boy, after having lost $5 in the wash. ($5 would have been the equivalent of $77 today, so it was a substantial sum for a 12-year-old, especially at the tail end of the Great Depression.)

Certain phrases from this story could make it a type of all stories about prayer:
  • “I had worked hard”
  • “I just remember how important that...was to me”
  • “I was sick with worry”
  • “The chances…were extremely remote”
  • “I wanted…;I needed…;I had worked very hard…”
  • “I turned to my Father in Heaven and pleaded with Him”
  • “somehow”
  • “relief flooded over me”
These phrases remind me of so many situations of need that I have faced when the Lord answered my prayers.

I love that President Monson didn’t omit thanks to Heavenly Father.

I suppose that just as many of us have gained a testimony of Heavenly Father's ability to help us regain our lost possessions, each of us has to gain a testimony of Heavenly Father's ability to help us resist temptation through our prayers.

The next paragraph is something so indicative of President Monson’s character and something I aspire to.
Since that time of long ago, I have had countless prayers answered. Not a day has gone by that I have not communicated with my Father in Heaven through prayer. It is a relationship I cherish—one I would literally be lost without. If you do not now have such a relationship with your Father in Heaven, I urge you to work toward that goal. As you do so, you will be entitled to His inspiration and guidance in your life—necessities for each of us if we are to survive spiritually during our sojourn here on earth. Such inspiration and guidance are gifts He freely gives if we but seek them. What treasures they are!
When President Monson says that he would be literally lost without his relationship with Heavenly Father, it gives me a sense that prayer acts for him like a road map and guide. I love that he says Heavenly Father freely gives inspiration and guidance if we seek it.

If we’re looking for our marching orders from this talk, it has to be this bit from the above paragraph: “If you do not now have such a relationship with your Father in Heaven, I urge you to work toward that goal.” He calls it a treasure and a necessity of survival. I suppose that we may not fully realize how truly necessary it is to our survival until we have it, so it may be we have to take his words on faith.

The second story President Monson tells is quite an extraordinary one: that of being inspired to announce Peter Mourik would speak at a temple dedication, even after having specifically told that Peter Mourik was not there. At the same time that President Monson announced the speaker, Peter Mourik received an impression that he had to get to the temple as soon as possible, which he obeyed, and not a moment too soon.

This story was truly striking and even somewhat disturbing. It causes me to wonder if I could have such confidence if I had been in President Monson’s position. President Monson’s words after how he felt afterward are instructive:
I have pondered the inspiration which came that day not only to me but also to Peter Mourik. That remarkable experience has provided an undeniable witness to me of the importance of being worthy to receive such inspiration and then trusting it—and following it—when it comes.
There are three important things there for us to do:
  1. Be worthy to receive inspiration
  2. Trust the inspiration
  3. Follow the inspiration
I also notice that President Monson pays tribute to Peter Mourik for being worthy of inspiration, trusting it, and following it. The situation wouldn't have worked out if President Monson had been the only one to receive that inspiration. This shows just how necessary it is that we as members receive our own inspiration as well as the prophet. It also shows that individuals may be partners in inspiration and work together to bring to pass the purposes of God without even knowing that they are partners.

I have to point out that President Monson’s preface to this story also provides us with additional insight about it.
I am always humbled and grateful when my Heavenly Father communicates with me through His inspiration. I have learned to recognize it, to trust it, and to follow it. Time and time again I have been the recipient of such inspiration.
President Monson has had so much acquaintance with the feelings of inspiration and guidance and so much practice following that they have become unmistakable to him and he follows with confidence. It isn’t necessarily that they always make sense; in fact, President Monson specifically said the “unmistakable inspiration” he received that Peter Mourik should speak “was counter to all [his] instincts, for [he] had just heard from Elder Asay that Brother Mourik was definitely not in the temple.” He had to trust the inspiration he received and act upon it with faith, knowing it would cause chagrin to some.

This then was the difficulty in the inspiration he received—it appeared against all common sense. It appeared completely irrational. This is why the story is disturbing. It causes us to wonder how we would be able to tell whether we are truly inspired or simply being irrational. It is beyond explanation in words and requires experience (of both painfully wrong and joyously successful varieties) to learn to be able to tell the difference. (And perhaps praying always can bring us the positive experience we need to tell the difference.)

President Monson then says that prayers and inspiration is necessary to weather the storms and trials of life and shares the comforting promise from the Lord:
The Lord invites us, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me.” As we do so, we will feel His Spirit in our lives, providing us the desire and the courage to stand strong and firm in righteousness—to “stand … in holy places, and be not moved.” As the winds of change swirl around us and the moral fiber of society continues to disintegrate before our very eyes, may we remember the Lord’s precious promise to those who trust in Him: “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.”
In summary, the message in President Monson’s talk is that we must keep the commandments, watch and pray, and develop a relationship with Heavenly Father such that we, like President Monson, would be lost without it.

I have to say that I was kind of confused about why President Monson titled his talk “Stand in Holy Places” when there was more talk of keeping the commandments and praying than there was of temples. But part of that last quote above explains it. “stand strong and firm in righteousness—to “stand … in holy places, and be not moved.””


Anonymous said...

During general conference, in my notes, I wrote down, "President Monson reminds me of Abinadi. in the same spot you mentioned. I'm so thankful that we have a current prophet.

Also, I'm inspired by his relationship with the Lord and revelation. I know that I don't take enough time to pray as fervently as I ought. I have a lot of progress to make with my relationship with God. It is kind of pathetic because I know better, but I don't always do better.

Jen said...

I loved reading your comments about President Monson's talk.

Curls said...

This is an excellent companion piece to the actual talk.

Thank you!