Sunday, July 13, 2014

My talk - "Bearing One Another's Burdens"

Jack and I were asked to speak in Sacrament Meeting again in the Chapin Branch.  The subject for the month is Bearing One Another's Burdens.  We both prayed about our assignment, and I feel like I was prompted to talk about the many opportunities for service within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I know there are millions of good people all over the world who provide loving service to God's children - members of our church are certainly not alone in this.  But I love the way our church is organized to provide service.  It really is known the world over for its humanitarian service.  Anyway - I thought I'd post my talk so I can remember where I put it, and just in case anyone wants to read it.  If any of y'all read it and see stories about yourself, I want you to know that I wrote according to my memory of how things were.  Hope it's pretty close to how it actually happened.  :o)

If any of you have teenaged friends of FaceBook, you’ve probably seen them post from time to time, “I’m bored!”  or “There’s nothing to do!”  Every time our oldest daughter Sharon saw her nieces and nephews, or her own children posting  this, she would add this reply, “Go do some service!”  It got to be a regular routine in our family and we all joked about it.  Last week, Sharon got a short email from her nephew Justin (our grandson) who is serving as a missionary in Paraguay.  It said, “Shron, I think I finally figured out why you always told us to go do some service.”  That made us smile!  Service is what it’s all about! 
As we serve, we can become more like our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  As we serve, we learn to love and appreciate our brothers and sisters as He does.  We can do many acts of service on our own.  One of my friends back home wrote me a few days ago…

I have a dear friend in Montana I have known for 30+ years who has truly helped me bear many burdens. Through the years she has fed us, watched my children, done our laundry, helped clean my house, and even weeded my garden but her greatest ability is her willingness to listen. One of my greatest burdens has been a wayward son who has made many, many poor decisions including multiple suicide attempts. This woman has been there to help console me, offer a shoulder to cry on, give useful advice when needed, cried with me, laughed with me and helped me to remember that the Savior is in charge and he has not forgotten me or my Son. She has had her share of issues in her own family and we have helped one another get through these trials. Sometimes through tears, sometimes through laughter but always with love. Never judging, never pointing fingers, never placing blame. Just a continual listening ear and a kind heart. We can't fix each other’s problems but we can certainly be the pillar for others to lean on when they can no longer stand alone.
Another friend, Craig Wales, who actually used to live in Chapin, told me of an experience he had just two weeks ago.  His wife was three months pregnant and he was leaving for a week at scout camp, because he is scoutmaster in his ward.  His wife, Janae has had 13 miscarriages over the course of their marriage.  Craig and Janae have two young daughters, but Janae has been hoping for one more child.  Everything was progressing well, but Craig promised to call Janae every day from Camp Bartlett so see how she was doing.  He got to camp on Monday.  Tuesday he called Janae.  Everything was fine.  He went back to camp and just a few hours later, he got a prompting that he needed to call his wife again.  He didn’t act on it right away because he had just talked to her.  The prompting kept coming, however, so he went to where he could get cell phone coverage again.  When he did, he saw a text from Janae.  She said she thought she might be miss-carrying again.  She had an appointment with her doctor 30 minutes from when she sent the text.  Craig called her up and they cried together on the phone.  She had been to the doctor already and an ultra-sound had revealed that the baby was okay, but the doc put her on bed rest.  She didn’t know how she was going to take care of their two girls with Craig gone.  He asked if she wanted him to come home, but she said she thought he should stay at camp with the boys, since that was his calling.  He told her he would contact the bishop, which he did.  The bishop gave her a priesthood blessing and blessed her with peace and the ability to accept help from others.  Then the ward came to Janae’s rescue while Craig was as scout camp.  They bought milk and a few things that she needed from the store.  The home teachers brought in dinner.  Her visiting teachers stopped to check in on her and made sure she was okay.  Craig said it was an amazing experience of service.  He said, “Even though I was off serving and helping out far away with many of their sons, and unable to comfort my wife, the ward was there.  It was truly a blessing to see the church function the way it was supposed to -everyone serving each other.  It’s just neat that we have the church and that it is organized in a way that we are never alone.  We have these organizations that are there to help support those who are in need and are struggling.  We are all in this together.  Sometimes we are serving and other times we are the ones being served.”
I had a similar experience with my younger sister, Dena.  She had not been active in the church for many years.  She was married to a man who was emotionally abusive to her and their two young boys, so she finally made the decision to divorce him.  She moved to another city in OK, bought a home and was doing well, and then disaster struck.  Her roof had been stripped down to the plywood so new shingles could be put down when a heavy rainstorm hit the area, soaking her house to the point that her ceiling was literally falling down around her.  She called in tears – and my sister doesn’t cry!  I told her that she needed to contact her bishop for help.  She refused.  She said, “I can’t call the bishop!  What do I say?  Hello, you don’t know me.  I don’t go to church.  But I need help.”  She didn’t feel comfortable calling him, but my other sister, Elaine, and I did.  We had been on the giving end of church service for many years, and we just knew that the ward there in OK would come through for our sister.  Elaine called the bishop and within minutes, men from the ward arrived with tools and materials to prevent any more damage and began to repair the damage that had already been done.  This disaster turned out to be a blessing in my sister’s life.  It was a turning point for her.  She went back to church, attends regularly and has since served in Primary and Relief Society.  This church works!
Our church organization also provides ways which allow us to provide service to others.  We can help bear one another’s burdens when we are faithful in our visiting teaching and home teaching.  The main purpose of these two callings is to teach and to minister to the needs of those we are assigned to visit.  If we truly learn to love and serve those whom we home teach and visit teach, they will feel comfortable confiding in us and asking for help when they need it.  If we know them well enough, we can discern their needs before they ask for help.
Within the church, we also have the law of the fast.  We are asked to refrain from eating two consecutive meals the first Sunday of each month and then contribute generously to the fast offering.  That money is then used by our bishops or branch presidents to provide help for those in need.  In that simple way, we can bear one another’s burdens.
Church humanitarian services is another arm of the church while gives us the opportunity to service others and lighten their burdens.  There are five areas of concentration in Humanitarian Services.  (1) Wheelchairs, (2) Emergency Response, (3) Immunization, (4) Neo-natal Resuscitation, and (5) Clean Water.  I’m sure that most of us have had the opportunity to help with Emergency Response.  Many of you have probably had the opportunity to help victims of Hurricane Katrina or Hugo, which impacted many people in the area here.  At home, in North Ogden, calls went out one spring afternoon for every able-bodied person to assemble at the City Shops to fill sand bags.  An entire subdivision on the east part o the city was being deluged by flood water from the spring runoff.  Within minutes, hundreds of men, women and teenagers were standing shoulder to shoulder filling bags with sand and loading them onto truck beds.  The response was so impressive that a story landed on the front page of Time Magazine.  Stories of Mormon Helping Hands are all over the papers and the internet when disasters occur anywhere in the world.  What a blessing this is for the opportunity it give us to serve our brothers and sisters!  I’ve not had the chance to serve right on site of any disasters, but I have been able to join with sisters in my home ward Relief Society to assemble hygiene kids and newborn baby kits and backpack kits for school children.  I’m sure that many members of the Chapin Branch have done this as well.
We can lighten one another’s burden by contributing to the missionary fund, the Perpetual Education Fund and the Humanitarian Fund.
Next month, we will have two new missionaries come to our mission – both of them will have two other siblings in the mission field.  I don’t know that the families supporting three missionaries at one time will receive assistance from the general missionary fund, but that is a possibility.  Our contributions to this fund can help relieve the financial burden of a family that has 3 or even 4 missionaries out at the same time.  Our contributions to this fund will allow young men and women to serve missions who would not otherwise be able to serve
The Perpetual Education Fund of the church was announced in April General  Conference of 2001 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.   The Perpetual Education Fund…
  • Is an inspired program to help ambitious, worthy young members of the Church receive training and education that lead to employment.
  • Is modeled after the Perpetual Emigration Fund developed for the Church's early pioneers. As loans are repaid, the funds are re-circulated to provide opportunities for others.
  • Provides student loans to young people in selected developing nations.
  • Helps young people better provide for their families and grow in leadership and responsibility in the Church. It will strengthen individuals, families, and communities.

Kevin is from Antigua and Barbados and is the first member of the Church in his country to receive a loan from the Perpetual Education Fund. His story, as he now pursues further education and a better job, is interwoven with faith, courage, sacrifice, hard work, and prophetic promise.
Just prior to Kevin’s mission, he received his patriarchal blessing, wherein he was given an unlikely promise. If he would serve a faithful mission, he was told, a miracle would occur to allow him further education upon his return—an opportunity that would help lead his family out of poverty. While this seemed virtually impossible, he prayed with faith throughout the two years of his mission. Then, on March 31, 2001, just prior to Kevin’s return home, President Gordon B. Hinckley made the historic announcement of the Perpetual Education Fund. Kevin was overwhelmed with joy and hope. The promised miracle could now be fulfilled.

Upon his return, Kevin sought out his priesthood and institute of religion leaders. With help from his mother and branch president, he developed a realistic career plan, selected a school, and organized his meager finances. His loan application was approved and he worked hard to save money before entering school—a two-year program to become a construction manager. Now, after just one year, his hopes are high. While his meals come irregularly, he says he remains filled with hope. He is teaching an institute class in addition to his school efforts, and he works as much as possible to eke out a basic living.
“Please,” says Kevin’s mom, “tell the First Presidency thank you for the miracle of hope! Now all our sons may have this miracle in their lives, so we can provide better for our families and serve more effectively in the Church. This will change everything! We are so grateful and so anxious to repay the loan. Kevin’s blessing is finally being fulfilled!"
Another way we can bear one another’s burdens is by working in one of the church-owned farms, ranches and orchards. 

• Fifty farms and orchards located across the United States and Canada produced some 83 million pounds of wheat and dry beans; 6 million pounds of fruit (apples, peaches and pears); 250,000 pounds of fresh vegetables; and 20 million pounds of row crops such as sugar beets.
• An LDS-owned turkey farm in Moroni, Utah, yielded 5 million pounds of turkey.
• The Church-owned vineyard in Madera, Calif., produced several tons of raisins.
• The Church’s peanut farm in Texas supplied the essential ingredient for the Church to produce its own protein-rich peanut butter.
• The Church’s five working cattle ranches—staffed largely by “cowboy” missionaries—yielded hamburger and other fresh beef products that stocked the meat section of bishops’ storehouses.

A few years ago, a Harvard University professor contacted Wade Sperry, an agricultural specialist in the Church’s welfare department.
The professor explained that he was working on a case study about the welfare department’s vast and varied agricultural projects. He asked if he could spend a few days visiting Church-owned farms, orchards, and beef ranches.
Brother Sperry accompanied the professor and a team of graduate students on their agricultural tour. At each locale, the Harvard contingent witnessed crews of happy volunteers picking fruit, harvesting crops, and wrangling cattle.
They returned to Boston both humbled and inspired by the charitable spirit of cooperation and compassion they found in each volunteer who donated time and muscle to produce food that would feed families in need.
A short time later, the professor sent Brother Sperry a copy of his case study on the Church welfare agricultural projects.
“He wrote that there is nothing like this anywhere on earth—it’s unique,” said Brother Sperry.

Our home stake is involved in the North Ogden Peach Orchard, which produces 500,000 pounds of peaches a year.  We have the opportunity to prune, thin and pick peaches in that orchard every year.  We have also lived in stakes where we were able to harvest grapes, tomatoes and green beans.  Elder Arrington grew up in the Ogden Stake.  Their welfare assignment was to haul hay and mend fences at a cattle ranch in Huntsville, UT.  When I was young, our stake was assigned to work at a hog farm in Farr West.   I never worked at the hog farm, but my dad and brothers did, and when they came home from working there, my mom made them stand out on the back porch and strip off their clothes for the washing machine before they were allowed to come into the house.  The hog farm was a smelly place!

I am grateful for the opportunities I have had to serve God’s children.  I love this church!  It is the Lord’s church!  I love my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  I love the scriptures, wherein we are told, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ... “   I love serving the Lord in His church.  It has brought great happiness into my life.  I love working in the mission office and serving the missionaries in this great mission.  It is my privilege and my joy. 

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