This past week has been extremely busy, but very edifying. We started with Zone Training Meeting on Tuesday where I gave a lesson on planning. Then, Wednesday, I did a split with Elder Miller, who had gotten here about three weeks before. Friday we had zone conference, which was fantastic! Saturday and Sunday we had District Conference, where I had to play piano for EVERY session and the district choir (kinda stressful - especially playing with a speaker system on an electric piano on Sunday; there was no return speaker, so I had no idea what I was actually playing). So yeah, busy week.
I decided this week for my blog post to share the messages from District conference. It was a continent-wide conference, which was pretty special already. The speakers were Elder Robert C. Gay, of the Seventy; Sister Jean A. Stevens; Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve; and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency. Yeah, powerful speakers. I will share with you some of my notes from this conference and my thoughts.
First, we must respect the commandments of God before the traditions of men. We must always remember the order of the first and second great commandments. So many times we can easily get caught in the ways of the world and in material things, which causes us to lose focus on the commandments of God.
Second, sacrifice is a necessary part of enduring to the end. If we are not willing to sacrifice ourselves, we are not worthy before the eyes of God. With an eternal view on life, the sacrifices that we offer up unto God are not really sacrifices. In fact, distancing ourselves from God and His commandments is sacrificing our Eternal Life, contrary to the Will of God. There is always a sacrifice that we must pay, but we must decide, if we hope to gain Eternal Life, to be agents to act for ourselves and pay that sacrifice now. If not, we will have to submit ourselves, being acted upon, to an eternal sacrifice of suffering.
Third, more specifically than the traditions of men, we must avoid the traditions of our fathers that distance us from God. Africa is a continent of traditions. Everywhere we go, we find traditions and customs. Three of the four talks addressed this, two specifically towards the dowry, or the fact that the parents of a bride require certain "gifts" from the groom before they allow him to marry her. This practice has led to marriage becoming a commerce, a way of income. Parents almost lierally sell off their daughter, thus detracting from the sacredness of marriage. The counsel that Africa as a continent received was to STOP participating in these traditions.
At first, I was a bit uncomfortable. This would certainly cause some waves across the continent, but then I was reminded of several recent General Conference talks, most specifically, Elder Holland from April 2014, when he explained that people ask for gods that not only don't rock the boat, but don't even row it. I was strengthed by this, and it became much easier to accept the boldness with which they spoke.
Elder Uchtdorf gave a powerful example. Many years ago, in an African village, the Church installed a water pump. In due time, this pump broke down, and the village returned to drinking and using the same dirty, infected water that they always had. Some time later, repairmen returned with a new pump and some repair supplies, which would enable them to continually have this pure, clean water. When met by a few villagers, these repairmen were astonished at the unwillingness of the people to have this new filter. Their reasoning: "Our father drank this water, and his father, and his father, and his father, etc. So why should we not continue to drink it; it worked for them, and it works for us!" With a bit of coaxing, the village accepted the new pump and training given to a few select men to be able to repair it themselves. They were then blessed with pure, clean water.
This pure, clean water is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The dirty, infected water are the traditions of our fathers that are not in compliance with the commandments of God. They invited the entire continent to STOP following the traditions of their fathers that lead them away from God, notably the need to pay the dowry.
This led me to think of how many traditions we have received in our modern, western culture that lead us away from God. One of the first that came to my head (and I'm not sure why) was football on Sundays, and yes, that means the Super Bowl as well. What is more important eternally, watch football or follow God's commandments with exactness. Elder Gay also spoke very strongly about how we should not justify our sins or search for technicalities, saying, "oh, God will understand." NO! He has given us comandments for a reason! It is up to us now to jump out of the current of tradition leading us away from God and follow in our Savior's footsteps.
Another thing that came to my mind was a question. "Do I have any personal traditions or sins that lead me away from God?" If so (and we all do), NOW is the time to STOP!
I was able to study the subject a bit, and here are a few scriptures that I like from my study: Helaman 5:50-51, Jacob 5:37, Alma 3:8, Matthew 15:3,13, D&C 93:39.
I know that these leaders that addressed us are inspired men that have paved the way now for us forward in Africa. I testify that these counsels apply to all of us as well. If you are reading this, I testify that you can find certain traditions in your life that are leading you awy from God and STOP them immediately. It starts with a decision, which is followed by a goal and a plan. I testify that the scriptures are true and contain many important truths and experiences that will strengthen us in our quest to be made perfect in Christ.
In invite all of us to search out the traditions of our fathers and our personal traditions that lead us away from God and to STOP them NOW. I also invite us to search out the traditions that truly lead us TO God and to continue to implement them in our lives. I promise that as we do, we will all fell of God's approval and acceptance through the power and influence of the Holy Ghost.
I love you all. Have a great week.