Recently we had an apostle, Elder Todd D. Christofferson, visit our area of the country and hold a special fireside for couples. My wife and I braved subfreezing weather to hear what the Lord had to say to us through him. In all engagements with ordained church leadership, there is always two intertwining streams of consciousness flowing- 1) what is actually said, and 2) what the Savior is trying to teach through Holy Ghost. In analyzing apostolic advice, The Mormon Third Eye will present his version of what was taught and what was learned.
What was taught: technically, nothing. The first significant learning experience occurred before he arrived.
What was learned: I felt an unusual sense of holiness and reverence envelope my life and soul the day before the fireside. The Holy Ghost was warning me to be prepared for the spiritual feast that would take place the following day. My wife and I also noticed that adversary was working on us in subtle ways to persuade us to stay home or at least attend with a bad attitude.
What was learned: I need to work on strengthening my testimony, and as I do, my love for my wife will deepen in more meaningful ways that are hard to express in words.
What was taught: The leadership of the church worries about societal trends to put the happiness of adults above the happiness of children in a family.
What was learned: Losing yourself in the service of others is a divine principle of success, and nowhere is it more true than in the dynamics of family relations. Children are suffering in untold ways that will perpetuate failed family relationships through generations because parents vainly spend so much time selfishly seeking personal satisfaction. Parents will find true happiness only by wholly investing their minds and hearts in raising righteous progeny.
What was taught: Women need to spend less time comparing themselves to each other; men need to be better listeners and spend more time doing the same thing.
What was learned: In the polite gender battles stirred by the pressures of church cultural norms, women are buried by trying to do too much, and men are submersed in self-righteous desires to not do enough. Everyone needs to repent. Women need to relax and work on their personal relationships with God; men need to get out of their spiritual recliners and spend more time learning from other model men and women about how live the gospel.
What was taught: Remember that we are all practicing-none of us is perfect.
What was learned: Am I learning from my mistakes? Do I embrace my failures as opportunities for improvement? God's plan is to take bad things and turn them into good. We can learn from our sins AND sorrows- the Atonement makes this possible.
What was taught: Couples should treat time together as an earned reward for their service.
What was learned: What great advice for LDS couples caught up in serving others at the expense of shortchanging their own marital relationships! Do I treat time spent with my wife as a treat? If not, why not? Does my service in the church ennoble the relationship I have with my wife?
What was taught: What happens when the Spirit takes over our prayers? Instead of merely providing answers to our prayers, he prompts us to ask the right questions so that he can give the right answers- this is how He respects our free agency.
What was learned: God loves us so perfectly that He wants us to learn via spiritual discovery through asking the right questions. I need to ponder more in my prayers about what I really should be asking for.
What was taught: “As I watched my wife over the years, I was impressed with how, over time, she was maturing and growing in the gospel. Later on, however, I realized that she always had a firm testimony of the gospel- I just wasn't listening very well.”
What was learned: Brethren, we need to be humble, listen better, and learn more often from our wives. We need to realize that every good thing in our lives flows from the relationship we nurture with our wives.
What was taught: In surveys among active LDS families, less then half- 41%, were praying and reading scriptures together daily as a family, and holding family nights weekly. Leadership is very concerned about this trend among active LDS families and don't know to fix it. He asked the congregation that if they had any ideas/suggestions on how to improve these activities in families, please tell them. We need help. Meanwhile, please be among the minority to persuade the majority to adopt these practices.
What was learned: The brethren are frustrated. If daily prayer and scripture study and weekly family home evenings are reliable markers of strong testimonies and families, why do so many active members of the church fail to follow? They know they do not have all the answers and are seeking constructive advice from all worthy sources. They are practicing the divine principle that valid information and input can come from many sources, but revelation comes from above. Meanwhile, they plead with us to be part of the solution, not the problem.
What was taught: The purpose of counsels, whether they be in ward councils, families, or marriages, is to seek revelation, not consensus.
What was learned: Wives and husbands must humbly seek counsel from each other and the Lord on raising families. If both are humble and earnest in their search, He will bless them with revelation to guide their families together in righteous paths.
Elder Christofferson's wife also dispensed timely wisdom. If husbands and wives are supposed to seek unity in marriage, and she is married to an apostle who is offering instruction on healthy, happy marriages, then certainly his wife's counsel is worth considering:
What was taught: The church fielded focus groups of less-active church members to seek honest input as to why they do not frequently engage in activities- attending church, serving in callings, etc. They received a lot of frank feedback, but one statistic she found interesting was that almost every less-active member in the focus group had never completely read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover.
What was learned: The results are in. We have empirical evidence that the Book of Mormon is truly the keystone of our religion. It is another Testament of Christ that brings souls unto Christ, and that perhaps answers to the concerns that keep many less-active members away from church activity could be found within its pages.