Missions are Fun

Preston Temple photo taken 21 Nov. 2010

A missionary is someone who leaves his or her home for a little while so others can have their families forever.

Curious about Mormons? Go to the source and find real people at mormon.org--read what they believe and have live chats if you wish! (an official Church website)

Or, go to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, official web site: lds.org.

Note: The Blain's England Manchester Mission blog is a personal blog that is not endorsed, approved, or sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Our Mission Scriptures

Our Mission Scriptures:

"Oh, that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart . . . Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth." Alma 29:1-2 (Book of Mormon)

" . . . be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (Bible)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Love One Another

"Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;  Romans 12:10

The prophet, President Thomas S. Monson with his wife who was recovering from an injury and still very much alive.  (My apologies for the error mixing her up with President Hinckley's wife, who has passed away).
It is worth taking the time to listen to President Thomas S. Monson's message to the Relief Society women in the general meeting held last week.  The dirty wash story is one of my favorites, but he has some other stories in this address that will pull at your heartstrings.  Please take the time in your busy lives to listen to a prophet's voice.  Type in reliefsociety.lds.com and choose, "General Relief Society."  Choose "speakers" and click on President Monson.  I promise you will be well rewarded for watching his talk.

Watch General Conference this weekend, or check in on new.lds.org later and read or listen to the various talks at your leisure after conference is over.  If a people ever needed strength and guidance to cope, particularly in these last days, we do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Be a Light--Serve Others

"Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people.  Behold, I am Jesus Christ.  I am the Father and the Son.  In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters."  Ether 3:14
A sunbeam, a sunbeam, I'll be a sunbeam for Him.  This is a strange photo I took trying to capture two sunflowers running up the street yesterday.  They were really cute, but I cannot figure out what happened on this shot.  Maybe they were aliens.  This is proof they weren't figments of my imagination.

It seems appropriate for the Sabbath Day that mostly everything that was taught at Church focused on serving others.  I have a touching story to pass on that was told by the nice people (previous bishop's family) who had us for tea this afternoon.

A few years ago, a member of the Church visited England.  She found out, after talking to the bishop's wife (Sister M.), that their family didn't own a car.  The bishop walked everywhere on his assignments.  The family walked to church meetings.  This is a family that fostered 38 children over the years, and had three of their own children.  Sister M. said they'd get the children out of bed in their pajamas, load the sleeping children into the trams and head for the chapel with the childrens' church clothing, which they put on when they arrived for the meetings.  

Well, you get the picture of the dedication of this family,.

The American visitor couldn't believe that a bishop in England, with all of his responsibilities, didn't have transportation.  She went home and told the people in her ward in Utah about the hardships of the English saints who had so far to go to meetings and told them about the bishop with no car.

A few months after the American woman's visit, the bishop's family opened a package that had been sent from the United States.  In the package was enough money for their family to purchase a car!  The members in Utah had gotten together to pool their resources to perform an act of true charity.

When we hear of the struggles people here in England have had over the years to get buildings to meet in, to attend their meetings, and to do their assignments, we realize how fortunate we are in Utah and how little is asked of us compared to the sacrifices required in places where the population of church members is smaller and resources few.  

Sister M. told me today that she remembers having three districts to visit teach with 15 sisters in each district.  She and her companion visited all of their sisters every month!

The Gospel Principles class in Sunday School today focused on the blessings of service.  I am grateful for all the people who are charitable in their day-to-day activities.  All the good being done in the world is not always reported in the news.  I venture to guess, there is still more good than bad, and I believe it will always be so because light has the power to vanquish darkness.

That old saying that everyone is quite familiar with is very true:  "God does notice us, and he watches over us.  But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs."

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A joke:  Elder Blain was bragging about his genealogy the other day to a Jewish friend.  He said, "I have traced my ancestry all the way back to the first King of England!  The Jewish friend said, "That is wonderful family history work.  I have traced mine all the way back to God."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light

"Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:"  Luke 6:37

Leaving the Church meeting house last night (after a baptism) with the beautiful post-autumn equinox moon shining brightly above.  Just think, we were all seeing the same moon last night--unless you had clouds.
A young woman in the Stoke Ward was re-baptized last night.  It is a wonderful and hopeful thing to know we can receive forgiveness when we truly repent and there is always hope to go on from wherever we may be and do better in our lives.

We all know that the lack of forgiveness and judging others are two main reasons why people do not feel welcome in church meetings and why people feel a lack of respect and love from others.  People cannot get along until these two faults are exorcised (they are evil, right?).  It is a universal problem no matter where anyone is in the world.  We see it in families, the work place, in all religions, at schools, and in all communities--everywhere.

These are some favorite quotes:

"Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."  - Plato

"How wonderful it is that one need not wait a single moment to improve the world."  - Anne Frank

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"  - George Elliott

Idea:  Celebrate with a treat or a party on Red-Letter Failure Days (those days when everything goes wrong). - Judith Towse-Roberts

From the new.lds.org web site:

Forgiveness: My Burden Was Made Light

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another Birthday Present!!

 ". . . and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the Lord they God hath blessed thee."  Deuteronomy 12:7

It is a sunshiny day here in more ways than one--mail!  Oh, how I love cards, letters, and PRESENTS!  Knowing that a single card or small note can keep a missionary going for weeks, you can imagine when a package arrives.  Of course, it is a challenge to send stuff that can be used up and not heavy items that will create weight problems when returning home.  Hence, the practical items are just as exciting as anything else I could receive.  Here's a picture of what the Scadden clan sent today and you can see scripture ribbons, cards with the Savior on them (that can be given for birthdays, baptisms, thank yous, and such), and eye drops (since I couldn't find decent ones here).  I kid you not, I literally dance around all excited when I receive such bounty! 
The picture in the upper right side is of a 13 year-old granddaughter (we don't post names).  Even though we have discouraged sending anything because of the huge extra expense it is to mail stuff over here, some family members still cannot resist doing it.  They are the disobedient ones, but that is okay.  They can always repent.  LOL! 
Here you can see the fridge magnet the two Scadden grandsons sent.  Under it you will see a picture of three more darling grandchildren that was sent earlier.  We have our family pictures mostly on the computer instead of the fridge this mission.  It isn't quite the same as having our fridge totally filled with a collage of family like back home.  Our fridge is so small there is  no way we could get every family group and grandchild on there!  
District meeting today and transfers again (when some missionaries go to other areas), so we always take a picture to remember the great Elders we get to know.  Here represented are three from the U.S. (Texas and Utah), one from Germany (originally born in Africa), one from Finland, and one from Armenia.  No, my bangs are not really cut crooked, it is a bad hair day where it is doing what it wants.

One of two beautiful shrubs outside the meetinghouse where we met for district meeting today. 

The other shrub had these lovely little flowers on it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Yes, Virginia, There Are Still Flowers in England

"And now, behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and you whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out."  2 Nephi 25:29

Another great Sunday has come and gone.  Elder Blain spoke in the Stoke Ward today and did an excellent talk on commitment and blessings.  Since he tells lots of stories, I cannot post his talk, but one of the stories is on lds.org with one of the Mormon Message YouTube things entitled, "What I Learned as a Boy," under the topic of gratitude.  The first speaker only took about five minutes, so he had about 35 minutes to fill and he still had material left.  He only got a couple hours sleep last night, so he really put in a huge effort to prepare.  All his years of experience on the stand in his various positions pays off when he is a speaker and he seems comfortable at the podium. 

One more lost sheep returned today, so we were excited.  Several others continue to come, but one who promised to come didn't show.  Typical Sunday.  You win some and lose some.  I hope the "lose" part isn't permanent.

Speaking of lost, we almost lost a new member over something that can be a caution for all of us.  Some over zealous members may try to "reform" new members too quickly.  It isn't fair to expect a brand new member to know all of the standards perfectly.  They will learn step-by-step, here a little and there a little--precept upon precept.  What new members need more than anything is love, acceptance, and gentle guidance in the way of example.  Preaching at them about everything they "should" be doing as a member of the Church isn't helpful.  People forget they were once in the same place as far as understanding all the gospel principles.  Judging others isn't a member's duty, nor counseling, nor giving advice, but loving and serving others is.  I must remember the mote in my own eye!

On my walk the other day, I took more pictures of the last flowers still hanging in there after the weather has turned cold.  It is an assurance that winter isn't really here yet and that we shall still get to enjoy a rerun next spring and summer.

This is the queen of flower gardens.  I met her while taking pictures of her flowers.  She is a lovely lady who named all of the flowers.  Unfortunately, I didn't write them down and my memory bank is a sieve.
There are still a few hardy roses left, even after being beaten with rain and wind the past couple weeks.
Red, red rose . . .

A female Holly plant--no berries.
The Garden Queen pointing out the ladders on Jacob's Ladder
Chinese Lantern

English Pumpkin--no, just kidding--Chinese Lantern closer up
Pals--the last of the Begonias
Name that flower
Some kind of leaf plant

Bees are still busy

Looks like a fairy flower
Pink for Nick and Zalata's new baby

Ivy takes an opportunity to climb anywhere

Yes, this tree is saying it is fall and the roses are arguing it isn't

A pond near our home.  The white duck hasn't a clue it is not a Mallard.  Maybe I haven't a clue.  Are there such things as white Mallards?  It has been there with them for six months.

Water from the duck pond
Yes, there are palm trees of different kinds in England

Love this flower!
Another bee doing its work
Primrose?  Delicate and dainty
These are still hanging in there--long season!

A bit nibbled on but nice two tone

Light, shadow, color--such beauty

I marvel.  Is there no end to the variety?

These have been blooming all summer

Another shot of our address sign--we are still here!

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Matters Most--YOU, Duck!

Duck:  (Unique to Stoke-on-Trent, England) translation is a term of endearment the same as the word "love" is used, such as, "Okay, love, see you later" or,  "Iya, duck, yalrite?"  It also means "darling."

Each one of you matters most in our hearts and life.  Don't ask me how there are these little individual slots that each one of you can fit into within ourselves and we can love you uniquely.  That seems to be the miracle of family.  Perhaps that is a small insight into God's love for us.

Thinking of each one of you and feeling that love, I thought we should follow the Prophet's advice and let you know.  This love and gratitude goes out not only to family, but to friends as well (we are all family in the end anyway, right?).

Thank you for the joy you bring to us.

 Click on "What Matters Most" after clicking on "Gratitude" below.


Elder Blain Passed With Flying Colors!

"I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying:  Come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye also may be partakers of the fruit of the tree of life."  Alma 5:62

Hi, all y'all!  Happy days are here!

Sunshine this morning in England!  It has been pouring rain for so long I forgot there was a sun.  Actually, the sun does pop in and out throughout the day often.  The wind blows clouds through quickly here, which means there are gaps where the sun can peek through between downpours.

We taught our English family last night and had a lovely time.  S. baked us a special cake to enjoy and L. filled us in on the history of England.  She majored in history and is writing a book at present.  This faithful family is an example to us and we feel blessed to know them and have the opportunity to study the gospel with them.  Their family reminds me of one of our groups at home, so we feel very comfortable there.  Always lots of energy and interesting things going on.

These are the only flowers I had time to capture when answering an emergency call the other day.  The small container is for food waste that gets recycled.  England has an extensive recycling program with pink bags for plastic, blue bags for cardboard, blue bins for bottles, and other containers for metal and paper waste.  It looks like a rainbow of litter on the sidewalks when all of it is waiting to be picked up.  There has been many complaints about the different colored collection containers and problems of storing it all before collection!
My birthday gift investigator (angel), Gabriel, called to let us know he is moving where his job is and will continue the missionary lessons at his new home!  We are excited about that and know he will have many blessings in his life when he follows through and is baptized.  We plan to stay in touch with him.

Boume is home from Portugal with his two boys.  We missed them!  He called us yesterday and asked us to visit.  He now has 15 family members here in England trying to better their lives.  There is no work or promising future in Portugal.  His family members do not speak English, so we could just smile and shake hands.  The children are very cute.  We don't know how they are fitting into the small home, but that is the way of the African culture--share and share alike.  They help one another in all things even when they have nothing of material wealth to give.

Elder Blain got 100% on the theory section of the horrendous driver's test here.  He got a high score on the hazard part as well.  He is ready to move on to the actual road driving test, which is scheduled for mid-November.  He hopes to be able to take this test in a familiar place to give himself the best chance of passing.  They love to flunk you so they can collect approximately $90.00 every time you retake the test.  One more hurdle and he will have a permanent license to drive.

Today, Elder Blain is working on his talk for Sunday and I'll check out some lost members.  He certainly has a calm, collected manner of dealing with talk assignments.  I wish some of that would rub off on me! 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Someone Important is Missing on the New LDS Official Site

I just have a quick comment on the new Church web site:  Where is our Savior's picture?  I do not understand going in on a Christian site and not seeing a representation of Christ!  Change is good, and the site looks like there is better access to links, plus it is easier to search, but PLEASE, why couldn't our priority for "prettiness" of this site for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints manage to fit in His picture--the very reason why we exist?  I'm having a problem with this, especially with giving out pass along cards that have the web site on it.  Am I over reacting?

If you agree with my obervation, check out the site and send a suggestion to them directly.  If you don't, send me a message and reason away my concerns.  (Yes, I know there is a site specifically all about our Savior, which is very beautiful with lots of pictures, but it isn't our main official site).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Almost 52,000 Missionaries Preaching His Gospel--Sloan Joins Them Soon!

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." Isaiah 61:1

"For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have . . . "  Alma 29:8

It is nice to discover there are random people out there in the world who accidentally or on purpose find this blog.  I hope there is something uplifting or of value found in the midst of the rambling posts.  Thus far, 1,139 people have checked in.  That is a tiny number compared to popular blogs, of course, but I can't imagine anyone besides friends or family who would read it (most the time I don't think many family or friends do!--ha, ha--so much to do and so little time . . .).  The audience recorded from my blog stats show the majority of "hits" are from the United States and the United Kingdom.  Other countries represented are:  Australia (was that you, Janice?), China, Russia, Canada, Germany, Ukraine, Denmark, Ireland, Brazil, France (Sandrine?), Uganda, and Switzerland.  Isn't technology amazing?

What a fun thing to know there are people out there perhaps searching for something and they don't know where to find it.  Wouldn't it be a miracle if one of those individuals found Jesus Christ and the message of the restoration on line?  That certainly has happened already for many.  What joy that will bring into their lives to know where they came from, why they are here on this earth, and where they will go after they die!  Knowing our purpose brings peace and hope in a world of trials, sorrows, shifting values and false messages.

Speaking of taking the gospel to the world, Sloan (grandson) is going on a mission to Mexico City!  The same mission his father did years ago.  Some of you might ask why a soon-to-be 19 year old, just out of high school, would give up two years of his life and put a prestigious scholarship to play basketball on hold until he fulfills a mission.

Faithful Latter-day Saint youth commit themselves to missionary service for two years because they love Jesus Christ and wish to be obedient to His commandment to share the gospel with others in the world.  It is an errand to save souls and bring them back to God.  Jesus Christ commands his followers to, "Preach My Gospel."  Sloan is more concerned about eternity than the short time we are on the earth.  He has his priorities in the right place and his vision is far beyond his age as he looks heavenward.

This is our District with the Zone Leaders visiting.  There is Canada, Germany, Finland, and the U.S. represented in our small group.  30 countries have been represented in the England Manchester Mission and missionaries are serving from 25 different countries.  Groups are broken down into zones and districts to provide training and spiritual support on a more one-on-on basis.  We meet together in what is called a "Zone Conference" every six weeks and receive instruction and spiritual rejuvenation to continue the Lord's work at a high level of commitment.  There are seven zones consisting of around 200 missionaries.  England has experienced a 60% increase in baptisms.  Baptisms in other European countries are down overall.  Large increases in baptisms are being experienced in other parts of the world.
As I have said before, the young missionaries are a witness to us that this is God's work.  Where else but in His Church would you find the best training for young future executives than on a mission?  Where else could you send young men (and women) out at the ages of 19-21 and expect them to govern themselves, be obedient and personally motivated to arise at 6:30 a.m. each day and work diligently until 9 p.m. each night without pay?  They conduct trainings and meetings, organize with time management and consistent follow up, and do everything successful people do to accomplish goals.  Take any organization in the world that trains people to fulfill their duties and you will find nothing greater, more effective, and perfectly inspired as the missionary training program (which goes on the entire time a person is on the mission).  I could go on and on, and I have (previously as well), but it can only be God's work or it simply could never happen.

Thus, I congratulate Sloan today for his choice to join God's mighty army of faithful missionaries to go forth away from his comfortable home and loving family to take the greatest message in the world to others--Jesus Christ lives and He is our Savior who paid the price for our sins and conquered death that we may live some day with Him and our Heavenly Father.  His Church is restored once again on the earth, with the priesthood authority to do the saving ordinances necessary for us to receive Eternal Life.  There is one faith, one Lord, and one baptism.  I add my witness to these truths in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Present Spoken Word of God is Vitally Important

Saturday evening, after two people were baptized, we went to a member's home for refreshments.  This beautiful rainbow was in the sky!  There has been heavy rain and humidity throughout the week, as you can tell by my, ummmm, undo hair-done-in unstyle.  Look at the rainbow, for heaven's sake, not the hair!
Today in Sacrament meeting, the speaker said, "God's work is the pathway to perfection. It is progressive because things change over time. God's word moves on and we must keep up." I testify that we have a living prophet on the earth to guide us with present day revelation to meet the needs during this particular time. It makes sense that each period of time receives specific instructions for present circumstances. Below is a copy of an interesting handout our last mission president gave us. It presents an approach to objections members of the Church often face.

11 Golden Questions for Brassy Objectives
By Truman G. Madsen

The Master often faced questioners whose intent was to entangle Him in His own words, by returning a question.  When, for example, they said, “Who gave thee this authority to do these things?”  He replied:  “The baptism of John was it from heaven, or of man?  answer me.”  They reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?  But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people (that they would anger the people who believed), so they said, “We cannot tell.”  Jesus replied, “Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”  (See Mark 11:30-31)

This ended the discussion, spared Him vain dispute, and left them no ground for attack.  But questions can also be used to begin a discussion.  Leading to the heart of an issue, they can be so framed that regardless of one’s answer, he is awakened to the frailty of his own position.

When such questions are presented in the spirit of love, with the Spirit of the Lord, they are effective.  But if you use them as battering rams you will fail.  Remember.  What you truly want is for people (your children, your friends, a neighbor who might be interested in the Church) to pray about their stumbling blocks.  The answer or, better, the solution, to all “tough questions” is an earnest upward reach from the knees.  When you can inspire in your friend a promise to “really pray about it” you are far along.  Here, then, are queries that sometimes aid.  We will call them “11 Golden Questions for Brassy Objections.”

1.  My concern is to live a good life.  I am against formal or organized religion.
Can you speak without using a language, or be taught without knowing one?  Can you, then, be religious without expressing it in a particular way?  (And how do you know your way is God’s way?)

2.  In religion, sincerity is all that matters.  If you live up to your religion, whatever it is, that is enough.
I religiously believe that sincerity is not enough.  Does my sincerity make me right?

3.  Men are saved by belief alone, by grace, not by works “lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9).
Did Jesus become our Redeemer by His belief and the grace of God alone?  Or did he have to do something for us?  (Incidentally, if God does not bless us for good works, should He condemn us for evil works, like, say “boasting?”  Has there been any prophet or saint of whom God has not required more than belief?  Point:  We are saved by grace through works, Christ’s grace and works being our prime example.)

Would it convince you of the Church’s divine origin if a minority of its members were born into it?  (The majority of the present membership of the Church were born in other religions.  In the first generation, all of its members, and all of its leaders, were born and indoctrinated in other religions.)

5.  There are as many ways to God as there are ways of solving a problem in arithmetic.  We are all seeking the same thing.  All roads lead to Rome.
There are different ways of adding.  But is there more than one true sum?  Does two plus two sometimes equal five?  Are some circles really square?  (The churches radically disagree both on means and ends.)  Anciently all roads led to Rome.  The same roads led away from Rome.  Once there, whatever Caesar’s power, you could not enter the Imperial Palace without going up the steps and through the door, could you?

Today, again, all roads lead to Rome.  There the Ecumenical Council (including authorities within the same churches) disagrees on every issue basic to Christianity.  Could Christ solve all this simply by appearing before the Council?  “Verily, verily I say unto you.  Everything you say is true.  My joy is full in your disagreement (except those who think I should have joy in your agreement).  None of you are mistaken.  I bless you for moving in all directions at once.  All that you say about my nature, my will, my power, and my authority, and all the opposites, are correct.  Your only mistake is meeting together to discuss these things as if the truth is one.  Now dismiss the Council.  My peace be with you.”

Is that the solution?

6.  We need no more Bible.  The Bible is enough.  It is sufficient.
The Bible says, does it not, that knowing Christ is essential to salvation?  Did Christ ever say that knowing the Bible is the same as knowing Him?  (Both Christ and the Bible say clearly that knowing the past written word of God is not equal to knowing the present spoken word of God.)

7.  God is a mystery.  The finite cannot know the infinite.  Man cannot comprehend God.
Has God revealed to you that God cannot reveal more of Himself?  Then you depend on the word of others?  Is it wise to study those who have failed to find Him, and ignore those who have claimed He has revealed Himself?

8.  There are no grounds for accepting the Book of Mormon as the word of God since you don’t have the original plates.
Why do you and I accept the Bible as the word of God when we don’t have the original manuscripts?

9.  Church-goers bother me.  Too many hypocrites, too many people saying one thing and doing another.
Millions make a mockery of marriage, home and family.  Does that lead you to prize your own less?  Or more?  Are we to refuse the banquet because others only pretend to swallow it?

10.  I cannot believe that what a person eats or drinks is a religious matter.  Tobacco, tea, coffee, etc.  These are little things.
Do you think God is less concerned with the care of your body than your family doctor?  These things are not important enough to bring you into the Lord’s Church.  Are they, then, important enough to keep you out?

11.  But the God I believe in won’t condemn a man whose heart is right and who does what he thinks is right.
God cannot justly condemn the ignorant.  But can He justly save him until he knows the truth both in heart and head?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Reverence in Sacrament Meeting--Remembering His Atonement

Doc Christensen is the artist of this painting.  Free downloads are available for Sacrament Meeting covers.

The talk I gave a couple weeks ago described this painting.  Our Bishop's wife, at home in the states, e-mailed this to me and it is something all members of the Church need to see.  It has been on my mind a lot lately.

We were in the chapel last Fast and Testimony meeting and beautiful prelude music was being played by a talented member who volunteers his services wherever he is needed.  I was standing and talking in a normal street voice like everyone else in the chapel.  There was laughing and much visiting going on, and I was focused on being the friendly missionary, when a voice in my head said, "Sit down and listen to the music!"  I realized how irreverant I was being.  Later, a sister stood up, as moved by the Spirit, and called us all to repentence for being so disrespectful to our Savior and rude to the pianist.  She told us later that many people were nodding their heads in agreement.  At the end of the meeting, everyone stood up loudly and started where they'd left off before Sacrament Meeting, until someone asked all of us to leave the chapel!

My talk from two Sundays ago in case anyone wants an afternoon reading session:

Bruce R. McConkie states in Mormon Doctrine that “Nothing in the entire plan of salvation compares in any way in the importance with that most transcendent of all events, the atoning sacrifice of our Lord.  It is the most important single thing that has ever occurred in the entire history of created things; it is the rock foundation upon which the gospel and all other things rest . . . The Atonement is not part of the gospel; the Atonement is the gospel.”
In other words, EVERYTHING in the earth and heavens and eternity is about the Atonement.  Without it, there would be no hope, no life beyond death, and not anything to look forward to after our experience here on Earth is over.
Why was the Atonement necessary? 
There are three principle purposes of the Atonement:
1)  First:  To restore all that was lost by the fall of Adam when he & Even transgressed against God’s commandment not to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 
What was lost by Adam?  In Garden of Eden—immortality and being able to be in the presence of God.  When that relationship was no longer possible,  Adam and Eve suffered spiritual death, which is when we on earth are no longer able to be in the perfect, glorified presence of God.  We must now walk by faith and we can talk with God through prayer, but we are estranged from him—separated from him.
Adam & Eve also became mortal beings who eventually died, just like all of us, and the plants, animals, and the earth must face death.
Christ agreed in the pre-existence to offer himself as a sacrifice by dying and then overcoming physical death by resurrecting so all people could become immortal and be able to be in the presence of God for the purpose of being judged, which will remove the barrier of the first spiritual death that the fall brought upon us.
2)Second:  Christ’s atonement  provides for the possibility of repentance so man can be cleansed from his or her individual sins and overcome what the scriptures call the second spiritual death.
So, through Adam and our own sins we were doomed to never be able to stand in God’s presence again and death would have ended everything for us if it had not been for Christ’s atonement.
3) Third:  the Atonement provides a power necessary to make it possible for us to become gods some day.
Three R’s of Understanding the Atonement:   Word “Atone” means to reconcile or restore to harmony”
 Since we are estranged from God, we must be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ.
1.  At-one-ment:  being one with him again and being brought into agreement of God and us who have been estranged.
2.  Redeem—to save, rescue, take something back
2 Nephi 2:26   (Messiah came to redeem the children of men from the fall)- "And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall.  (Save us from our body dying and never being able to reunite with our spirit).  And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, . . . "  (We are given immortality—living forever with our spirits being restored to our physical bodies).
Mormon 9:12-13 "Behold, he created Adam, and by Adam came the fall of man.  And because of the fall of man came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son; and because of Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.  And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord; yes, this is wherein all men are redeemed, because the death of Christ bringeth to pass the resurrection, which bringeth to pass a redemption from an endless sleep, from which sleep all men shall awakened by the power of God when the trump shall sound; and they shall com forth, both small and great, and all shall stand before his bar, being redeemed and loosed from the eternal band of death, which death is a temporal death."  
Only through Jesus Christ came the redemption of man.  He paid our debts brought on by sin so we might stand in God’s presence with the Savior by our side to satisfy that we can be forgiven.
3.  Ransom—the giving up something of value to get something back.  Self sacrifice of Savior’s life to get our immortal lives back as when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before the fall.
Had power over life and death and chose to submit him to pain, ridicule and suffering, and offered his life as a ransom for our sins.
The build up to the Atonement and the actual act of the Atonement itself.
Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and His suffering and death on the cross, and ended with His Resurrection.
This triumph of Jesus Christ over spiritual death by His suffering and over physical death by His Resurrection is called the Atonement.
We take advantage of His great gift by exercising faith in Him, repenting, receiving baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost by those holding God’s priesthood authority, and then by striving faithfully to keep His commandments to the end of our lives.
All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
He paid the penalty for our sins, but He did not eliminate our personal responsibility.  We can choose to show Him we accept Him as our Savior and that we will follow him by following His commandments.
Only through the gift of the Atonement can we return to live with God.
While walking with Leah a couple days ago, she created an analogy I’d like to share with you.
We know we become a new person, washed clean at baptism, so let us imagine, at baptism, we are given a lovely, white, shimmering robe to wear, which soon begins to get smudged a little here and there as we live here on Earth.  It sometimes drags in the mud, getting spattered with dirt and grime at times when we sin by breaking God’s commandments.   Heavenly Father knew we couldn’t be perfect while on the earth and would have no way to ever go back to live with Him unless we could get cleaned up to His standards of perfection.  Not to worry, He loves us so much He sent His beloved eldest Son and our brother, Jesus Christ, to solve the problems created by Adam in the fall.
Jesus Christ volunteered to help us all to know the only way to return to our heavenly home to live with Him and Heavenly Father.  First, He gave us the gospel, which contained commandments that could help protect us from becoming unclean, which is like having a pair of wellies that keep our feet from getting all muddy as we follow our path in life.  AND, to clean the filth from off our robes, Jesus Christ also accomplished the Atonement  for us, which is like having a washing machine we can use over and over to keep our robes spotlessly white and shimmering.  He purchased that washing machine with everything He had—his blood and his very life, suffering beyond comprehension by taking upon himself every sin, every emotional and physical kind of suffering imaginable that human beings experience.  He knows us.  He relates to us because he felt what we felt while He was in the Garden of Gethsemane, bleeding from every pore as he prayed to His and our Father for strength to endure the agony He was going through and to be able to face the torture and death on the cross which awaited him.  This magnificent Atonement was accomplished at great price to our Savior and the suffering there is what Atoned for our sins.  Later, the torturous death by crucifixion, his burial and the crowning glory of the resurrection overcame physical death for all mankind, with the promise of immortality.
All He has asked of us in return for the sacrifice of His life is to use that wonderful washing machine through repentance—daily—and  try our best to keep ourselves in our white, shimmering robes as clean as possible by being obedient to His commandments.
Imagine, today, as you sit in this Sacrament meeting, that you are sitting at the back of the chapel where you can see the whole congregations.   Something different happens after the Sacrament is blessed.  You hear the words from the Holy Ghost in your head:  
“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Matt 26:26:  “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45
Sitting there contemplating that thought, you watch the Sacrament being passed by the faithful priesthood holders and marvel at the organized proceedings; you suddenly recognize that one of the persons passing the Sacrament is the Savior! You want to shout to everyone that He is here, but you can’t do that during the passing of the Sacrament.  People have their heads bowed, are daydreaming, or trying to keep the little ones quiet.  Some of the little children see Him and reach up their arms to Him or smile brightly up at Him.  One man actually has his hand on the Savior’s hand as He passes him the tray, but that man is too focused on the cup to notice the hand with the nail marks.   The woman next to the man looks at the tray and the hands and sees the scars in the palms of His hands and on His wrists, her hands go to her mouth in shock of recognition.  Do you think she knows right then and there what the bread and water represent?  As you watch this scene, are you feeling the depth of your love and commitment to the Savior?  Is gratitude overwhelming your heart? 
What is going through your mind as the Savior comes closer to passing you the tray?  He expects that we’ve all taken advantage of His great gift of His suffering and giving of His life by repenting so we can be forgiven and be worthy to be in His presence.  He heard us say, “Amen” as we agreed to take upon His name, keep His commandments, and serve others in love.
And after the meeting, will He ask us in a loving way, “Do you understand what I’ve done for you?”  “What is the reason you attend Stoke Ward each Sunday?”  “Do you do all I’ve asked so we can be together forever?”
What are you thinking now, as you visualize this scene?  Will it be easier to think of Christ’s Atonement the next time we listen to the Sacrament prayer and think of our baptismal covenant? To follow him and keep his commandments.  Will we be able to see him in the garden pleading with our Father in Heaven for strength to do what he has to do for us?  Will we think of the things we’ve done that caused him pain?  Will we repent quickly so as not to drive any more nails into His hands or pierce His heart with sorrow?  Will we see His blood flowing and His body wracked with pain when we take the water and the bread?  Will we see as the glorious resurrected God He is and feel the joy of what that means to us?
I’d like to share a gift of a poem written this week by a lovely young woman whom has not had an easy life.  She conveys the hopelessness of not knowing about the gospel at first, but then shares how she feels as she is being taught and has discovered hope in Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
You expect too much of yourself
so you can’t grow anymore.
You’re shrinking two feet downward
instead of going up four more
trying to reach the ceiling but you’re barely off the floor.
It all seems impossible like no open doors.
But you open your eyes
and let God see deep within
but He can’t see smile’s or happiness—just your pain and suffering.
You’re confused and tired of scanning and looking,
But, “Hear I Am,” Lord cries.
No need for any more searching
but now the truth is found
and a tear falls down your cheek,
a smile appears on your face;
your future is no longer bleak;
for now you have found the Lord.
No need for looking
no need to seek
for you faith has been uncovered;
your future is no longer bleak.
Everyone’s future is as bright as they choose to make it because of Christ’s Atonement.
Our Savior pleads with us to pray and read the scriptures so we know Him and understand what He has done for us.  He wants us to understand that EVERYTHING in the earth and heavens and eternity is about the Atonement.  He wants us to know we can reconcile ourselves with Heavenly Father and be reunited with Him through the Atonement.
Because He was without sin, He alone was capable to give us the gift of life beyond the grave—immortality—but better yet, He has told us the way to gain the degree of glory we would like to live in from eternity to eternity.  Of course, because He has promised Heavenly Father He would do everything in His power to bring the family of God back home, He teaches  through prophets; He has given us the Holy Ghost to guide us and keep us close to Him; He warns; He commands; He sends signs and wonders; He sends enlightenment to man through scriptures and revelation.
Above all and in all He says and does, He encourages us to work for the highest degree of glory, which is the Celestial Kingdom, where we can live with Him and Heavenly Father and with all our loved ones who partake of the saving ordinances available through priesthood power on the earth through baptism and temple ordinances. 
Our Savior desires more than anything that we deeply study and pray to understand what the Atonement offers us.  He wants us to take advantage of it so we will be ready to stand with Him before Heavenly Father and be judged and receive the grace and mercy He provides for us so we will be standing in our white shimmering robes as our H.F. opens his loving arms to welcome us back home to Him.