If you missed the LDS General Conference – no worries, you can still read or watch any talk you would like, there are many subjects covered or just the one. Depends on how ya look at it, but believe me they’re all GREAT! 🙂
When I was a teenager, if someone asked me about Mormonism, about what differentiated it from other faiths, I usually listed off a few outward expressions of what made our church stand apart:
Since these things tended to outwardly distinguish me from the rest of my friends quite notably, they became what I thought were the “biggest deals.” They came to define my religion, becoming the benchmark of a successful Mormon in my mind. No coffee or beer? Wore sleeves to prom? Didn’t see American Pie? Check, check, check. I’m a success!
I see now that these things easily became my standards of success because they were measurable. They were the outward stuff. Anyone could see them and check them off lists.
As I’ve grown older I’ve come to see the gospel as much, much more than those “outward” commandments. I’ve grown to trust and love the inward ones as well:
These inward features have largely formed my new standard of “successful” righteousness. But there is one main problem with these new measurements: they are almost impossible to measure!
Do I have enough humility? faith? Do I love enough? I don’t know! How much is enough, anyway?
I think it is human to want to know how we’re doing, how we’re measuring up. We yearn to know if we are doing OK. As humans we also crave acceptance and validation. Often in this quest to know where we stand, we gravitate toward that which is easiest to measure—outward commandments.
Additionally, in order to know where we stand, we want to know where those around us stand so we will have points of reference, so these outward commandments become further ingrained as benchmarks. It is easier to see if someone is showing their shoulders than to determine how much faith they have, so we tend to judge that instead—both in ourselves and in others. (Facebook makes this brand of judging so easy!)
This isn’t a new phenomenon. The people of Christ’s time became so focused on those outward measurements of righteous success that they forgot almost entirely the inward stuff, which is why Christ spent most of His efforts preaching and discussing inward improvement.
So often this realization wants to make us reject all the outer (bad measurement—not as important). But it’s not a contest between the outward commandments versus the inner commandments. Neither should be neglected. Certainly they go together, but the danger for the Pharisees is the same for us—when the outward stuff is our primary benchmark, we miss the mark—both in judging others (which we really should leave to God) and in judging ourselves.
As President Uchtdorf recently warned: “How easy it would be to select our favorite gospel topic, draw a bull’s-eye around it, and then make a case that we have identified the center of the gospel. … The two great commandments are the target.” Those two great commandments he’s talking about are loving God and loving our neighbors. Unfortunately, neither of them can be easily measured with a checklist.
Wanting to know how we stand with God isn’t a bad or unworthy desire. So if we can’t measure our success on the outward stuff, how do we measure how we’re doing? The best answer I’ve found to this quandary I found in Preach My Gospel. Perhaps at no other time in my life was I as desparate to know if I was successful than when I was a missionary (since those outward standards of success, like baptisms, were not working out for me). Then one day I read, “You can feel certain that the Lord is pleased when you feel the Spirit working through you.”
Huh, that’s it? That’s so easy! I felt the Spirit all the time!
I found myself equally eager and frightened to believe this statement. But it stuck in my mind. I read it, reread it, printed it, and laminated it. Satan knew just how to get me down, and that was by making me feel like I was a constant failure. When I was tempted to believe that, each time I felt the Spirit I would think, “I’m not failing right now. I’m succeeding. I feel the Spirit.” That helped me keep things in check because it was shocking how often I was tempted to feel like a failure and how often that feeling kept me from feeling the Spirit.
How do you know if you are successful? You feel the Spirit.
Can it really be that simple?
Well, it depends. “Feel the Spirit” may be an overly simplistic measurement, since a feeling could be a one-time event. Living with the Spirit, praying for the Spirit, repenting regularly so we can keep the Spirit, and loving the feeling of having the Spirit would all be better measurements. Because when we feel the Spirit, we feel God. Done with regularity, we become close to God. And if we’re truly close to God, we’re treating ourselves and others as we should. Since at the end of our days God is going to put us where we are most comfortable, if we are most comfortable in His presence, that’s where we’ll end up. And that is the ultimate success, right? Eternal life with God.
So, yes. I think our relationship with the Spirit is actually an excellent way to measure our success (thanks, Preach My Gospel!) since with it comes all those inward and outward commandments included in the package, with loving God and loving our neighbors at the forefront.
The funny thing is, even after all this good lesson-learning of success-measuring I did on my mission, I seem to have completely forgotten it in my life as a mother. I find myself having to relearn and reteach myself these exact same lessons over and over again. Life is funny like that.
What makes the success of a mother? Righteous, obedient, clean, happy, non–fit-throwing children?
What marks the success of a day? Checking off everything on my to-do list? A clean house?
Based on these outer criteria for success, guess how often I feel successful? (If you guessed often, you were sadly mistaken.)
I’m always tempted to measure my success in any realm on the outer measurements, particularly on how much I accomplish. Unfortunately, I’ve found that obsessing over accomplishing the outer as my primary goal almost always comes at the expense of working on and valuing the inner (a change of heart, love, gratitude, feeling the Spirit).
So instead of making my only benchmark of a successful day/month/year “How much did I get done?” maybe better questions would be:
As Mother Teresa says: “It’s not how much we do, but how much love we put into the doing. It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving.”
And again, it’s not inner versus outer. I still need to get things done. But a focus on the outer at the expense of the inner is where things get dangerous.
So if you, like me, find yourself tempted to measure your own success on the outer stuff, remember these wise words:
“Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
When you’re working on getting your heart right and feeling the Spirit, you, my friend, are a great success.
Celeste graduated from BYU with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sociology. Her proudest accomplishments include her marriage, her three kids, and that one time she had all the rooms in her house clean at the same time.
“The temple is beautiful,” said local member Joshua Ramirez. “It’s just like a big beacon.”
“I believe that when people come to visit the temple, they will feel something special as they visit the house of the Lord, as they come here and view the insides of this beautiful structure,” expressed member Daniel Post, who is excited the temple in Tucson has been completed.
Calvin Caldwell, project manager for the temple, explained that going to the temple is like finding an oasis in the desert. “They have that opportunity to take a deep breath and relax and all their worries kind of go away,” said Caldwell.
The design and colors inside the new 38,000-square-foot temple are influenced by the Art Deco style and reflect the green desert landscape of the American Southwest, including native plants, red cactus flowers and orange hues that represent the desert sun. Designers used the native ocotillo plant and the flower of the paddle cactus or prickly pear as inspiration for the décor, such as the art glass. Paintings feature stories of the ministry of Jesus Christ from the scriptures and desert scenery.
One of the unique features of the exterior of the Tucson Arizona Temple that sits on seven acres of land is the blue dome constructed of imported tile from Germany topped with an angel Moroni statue.
“As you notice around the valley and throughout the city, there’s multiple domes or cupolas, and we took that into our design so that it would be able to fit in and match the area itself,” said Caldwell.
“The structure itself is totally Southwestern and just is the feel of Tucson. It’s the old pueblo,” described local Latter-day Saint Lucinda Contreras. “Its unique dome [with] the beautiful blue … is representative of the sky and the beautiful colors that we have here in Tucson.”
Her 15-year-old daughter, Candace Contreras, said residents are curious about the new temple. “Now people are wondering what it is, and even my friends at school are like, ‘Hey, what’s that big building with the statue on top? Like what does that mean?’ And it gives me an opportunity to share with them what I know to be true and what it means to me.”
“I see the dome at night when they illuminate it,” said Emmanuel Vouvakis, who lives next door to the temple. “It’s very tastefully done, and the Church has done an exceptional job in building this temple.”
Vouvakis believes the temple will benefit the community. “It brings a more diverse aspect to the city,” he said.
“It’s the realization of a dream, the realization of many prayers and hopes that someday we would have a temple in Tucson,” shared lifelong resident and member Duane Bingham, whose family arrived in Tucson from Utah in 1893.
“The patrons are going to love it, and they’re going to use it,” said Caldwell.
“It will give us the opportunity to be influenced by the Savior Jesus Christ. He is the water, and those who partake in the blessing of the temple will be filled and be quenched,” said Post.
The Church has more than 150 temples around the world where sacred ordinances such as eternal marriages and family sealings are performed, as well as baptisms for deceased family members. The 156th temple was recently dedicated in Paris.
“I’m grateful [the temple] is a place where my daughter can come and be married to her future husband, my son can come and be married to his future wife,” said member Lucinda Contreras.
A cultural celebration featuring Mormon youth will be held Saturday, August 12. The temple will be dedicated the following day, Sunday, August 13, in three sessions at 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
The temple dedication will be broadcast to Church members in Arizona. The three-hour block of meetings will be cancelled for that Sunday so local Latter-day Saint congregations can participate in this sacred event.
“We dedicate it to God. And in turn, we’re able to come to the temple and to feel the Spirit and to be able to feel the closeness to our Heavenly Father here in the temple,” said Lucinda Contreras.
The Tucson Arizona Temple will be the sixth in Arizona, known as the Grand Canyon State. Temples are currently operating in Mesa, Snowflake, The Gila Valley, Gilbert and Phoenix. There are more than 416,000 members of the Church in Arizona.
Ground for the temple was broken October 17, 2015. The temple is located at 7281 North Skyline Drive in the Catalina Foothills of Tucson. Visit templeopenhouse.lds.org to make a reservation to attend the temple open house.
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