29 September 2009

Conference Week: Learning the Lessons of the Past

The week before conference is my favorite time of year. To get in the conference spirit, I shall highlight one talk from the April 2009 conference each day this week. Ooh, I can't wait for Saturday.

Learning the Lessons of the Past
by Elder M. Russell Ballard

With all my heart I hope and pray that you will be wise enough to learn the lessons of the past. You don't have to spend time as a Laman or a Lemuel in order to know that it's much better to be a Nephi or a Jacob. You don't have to follow the path of Cain or Gadianton in order to realize that "wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10). And you don't have to allow your community to become like Sodom or Gomorrah in order to understand that it isn't a good place to raise a family. Read Learning the Lessons from the Past in ite entirety here.

 For many people, there are certain apostles that just seem to reach you every single time they talk. Elder Ballard is that apostle for me. With perhaps the exception of Elder Bednar, something about his word choice and delivery motivates me to evaluate my life in a much more pressing manner than other apostles. This talk is no different. I've always loved the story he shares about the Edsel dealership and wish I would have learned that lesson from the past before making a similar (expensive!) mistake in my own life. I guess I just needed to hear this talk three years ago ;)

When I read the following quote, i was immediately reminded of an interview President Hinckley gave with Mike Wallace. Mr. Wallace was commenting on how the Church is run by a bunch of old men and questioning the relevance. President Hinckley's remarks were witty as usual, but the concept is the same as Elder Ballard's point:
It is my message and testimony to you today, my young friends, that for the most important questions of your eternal lives, there are answers in the scriptures and in the words and testimonies of apostles and prophets. The fact that these words come largely from older men, past and present, doesn't make them any less relevant. In fact, it makes their words even more valuable to you because they come from those who have learned much through years of devout living.
It's true. The longer I live, the more I recognize this. When we rely on more than just our own limited experience, we are capable of greater understanding, and thus can make better choices.

Finally, this is my favorite part of the entire talk. It reveals why trusting in the lessons of the past is not outdated. Yes, the world is changing. Jonas will never sift through index cards to find a book at the library nor will he listen to cassette tapes. Those are things from my childhood that will not be valuable for him to learn. However, the way we gain a testimony is valuable to each person and can be taught in all generations, by all generations:
You gain a vibrant, life-changing testimony the same way it has always been done. The process hasn't been changed. It comes through desire, study, prayer, obedience, and service. That is why the teachings of prophets and apostles, past and present, are as relevant to your life today as they ever have been.

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