Monday, March 18, 2019

Be One: Being One with the Saints

Hi! 😀 Yesterday morning, I was a speaker in my ward's sacrament meeting! I had several friends ask if they could have a copy of my talk, so I decided to publish it here on my blog! 😃 While I had such a great time researching and writing my talk (I would have enjoyed the process even if it was only for me!), I'm so very happy others found my words to be helpful! 💛 I hope you enjoy them, too! 😘 Have a wonderful day! 😁

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Be One: Being One with the Saints 
Adrie Peterson
03/17/2019 

Good morning! 😀 I’m super excited with the topic I’ve been asked to speak about, which is: Be One: Being One with the Saints. 

To begin, let’s discuss what it really means to be considered a saint. We’re not talking about the worldly view of sainthood—you know, the one that engenders the image of perfection with a halo on top—rather, the true, foundational definition of saints contained in the scriptures.

While summarizing the Book of Acts with my daughter for her World Religions class, I enjoyed knowing that the first disciples of Christ—the believers—were always called saints—even though they fumbled their way through everything and frequently made mistakes. In the Bible Dictionary, it clarifies that in the New Testament, saints are all those who entered into the Christian covenant through baptism. In Guide to the Scriptures, a saint is defined as a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Mosiah 3:19 explains that we becometh saints through the atonement of Christ the Lord. Romans 1:7 tells us that those who are “beloved of God” are “called to be saints.”

From these examples, it’s evident that if we’ve been given the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we’ve been baptized in His name, and we’re striving our best to be His disciples, and we’re faithfully utilizing His Atonement, and we are obviously “beloved of God,” then we, too, are called to be saints—the latter-day version! 😊

Okay, so now that we know all current members of the Church of Jesus Christ are called to be Latter-day Saints, why is it important that we continually be one with the saints?

As you well know, we are currently living in a fallen world where things are definitely less than celestial.

Journalist and author, Sebastian Junger, has written a book that talks about how our modern society—while great for ease, convenience, physical health, safety, affluence, and other positives—is actually causing us significant psychological problems, which include increasing rates of depression, PTSD, and suicide.

He points out our great need for belonging in tight-knit communities that highlight loyalty, meaning, and opportunities to help others. He explains that when humans don’t have those close, interpersonal relationships with opportunities to participate, collaborate, and be involved in others’ lives, we will absolutely not do well. He further states that, “Humans do not survive alone in nature—they don’t survive psychologically, and they don’t survive physically—they die in every sense.”

He also writes about how contempt is especially corrosive to the unity we humans are seeking and yearning for because it implies that one group doesn’t deserve society’s benefits.

All of that said, Mr. Junger shares this good news: that being embedded in a close community buffers people from their psychological problems. He absolutely believes that the way to save humanity begins at the community level.

I couldn’t help but associate all of that information with the significant benefits of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s amazing to see how our Church—and all it encompasses—meets every one of his criteria for psychological health and well-being. We just have to be willing to fully participate in the Church—to the best of our abilities! 😊

To further back up my feelings, I’d like to share a little of what I’ve been learning through my study of positive psychology—which is defined as: the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.

Positive psychologists have found that the ancient Greeks were right in their definition of happiness, which is: the joy that we feel in striving for our potential. Researchers have also found that joy is inextricably linked to meaning, and happiness is linked to the way we live our lives. They’ve concluded that real social connection is as predictive of how long we’ll end up living as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking. Their findings prove just how much we genuinely need each other!

After all I’ve experienced and researched in my life, I can’t think of a better place where people can go to strive toward their potential, find meaning, and experience happiness, than our Church. Truly, living the gospel of Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness! 😊

For years, scientific studies have found that when people practice and experience more gratitude, they report feeling happier, healthier, and more connected to others. Grateful people also feel humble and have a larger response in the brain toward charitable giving.

Positive psychology research also shows that when meditation is combined with gratitude, the body relaxes, breathing is regulated, and the brain experiences feelings of safety and love. And those benefits last longer the more a person practices it. In fact, if a person meditates on gratitude for less than two minutes every morning for 21 days, they will become happier and more optimistic!

While that happy information is fantastic all on its own, neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has found through his research that prayer is much better and more powerful than basic meditation or mindfulness training. He has proof that when athletes—who believe in God—pray, something happens in their brains that actually improves their athletic performance!

But let’s take all of that information a spiritual step further. I find it fascinating that in our Church, we know through revelation that the second step of prayer—after lovingly addressing our Father in Heaven—is to express gratitude and thanksgiving. It’s wonderful that, from day one, we are taught the four principles of prayer. Yes, Heavenly Father created His plan so that every one of us will succeed in happiness throughout our entire lives if we will simply pray with gratitude every day! 😊

“Happiness researchers” have also discovered that when people write in their journals about gratitude—including reflecting on all the people and even their ancestors who helped them get where they are in their lives—their brains show a greater neural response to giving, their gratitude increases, and their overall happiness increases, which helps them rise to their challenges of daily living.

They also found that when people write in their journals about one meaningful experience they’ve had over the past 24 hours, their brain doubles the value of that experience. If they do that journaling exercise for 21 days, they’ll find an upward trajectory of meaning in their lives which results in greater happiness!

That reminds me of our Church leaders’ continual counsel to keep a journal, and the power that accompanies our writing efforts. It’s not a coincidence that the scriptures contain verses that urge record keeping. And just think about the amazing opportunity we’re given to do temple and family history work because of our Church. The blessings of turning our hearts to our fathers and mothers are legitimate!

I could go on for days about the scientifically-proven physical and emotional benefits of exercising! Every day, our bodies are meant to move at whatever level of ability we’ve been given. When we follow the crucial health principle of physical exercise, our brains understand that our behavior matters—which is optimism—which causes us to create an entire constellation of positive habits around us. And this falls right in line with the scriptural teaching that each of our precious bodies are temples of God, and we must care for them as such.

Positive psychologists have also found that random acts of kindness are happiness multipliers. Not only do random acts of kindness make the receiver happy, but as soon as the giver starts talking about those acts, or thinking back on them, they immediately start to smile. Random acts of kindness also show us how powerful we are—that we have the power to change the reality we see around us; that we can improve the lives of others!

Obviously, we can choose to do random acts of kindness for others every day of our lives—it’s exactly what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to do! But again, we have so many additional opportunities to bless the lives of others because of our membership and dedicated service in the Church.

I enjoy knowing that the science of positive psychology is now validating what many souls have found in religion for thousands of years. Science keeps showing that the things religious traditions have been teaching are actually valid. Oh how I would love to introduce those researchers, psychologists, and scientists to the benefits of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

But wait! There’s more! 😀

While researching stem cells, I came across a study that floored me. Dr. Omar Yilmaz, a gastrointestinal pathologist and professor, has discovered that a single 24-hour fast dramatically improves the function of stem cells and their ability to regenerate—regardless of the age of the patient.

I’ve personally experienced and witnessed the awesome and humbling miracles of following the Lord’s commandment of fasting, but this new information about stem cells was positively thrilling! And just as a side-note reminder from President Joseph F. Smith, “There is such a thing as overdoing. A man may fast and pray till he kills himself; and there isn’t any necessity for it; nor wisdom in it.”

Last year, I was excited to learn of the scientifically-proven physical and emotional benefits of singing in a choir which include: strengthened feelings of togetherness; regulated heart rates; reductions in stress levels and depression; improved symptoms of Parkinson’s and lung disease; improved feelings of social well-being; and increased life expectancies.

I’ve always loved singing in ward choirs because each musical experience fills my soul—so I would have kept participating regardless of what the research shows. But you must admit how fun it is that science is now backing up what D&C 25:15 has taught us for years: “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.”

Yet, when we really think about it, should any of this wonderful news I’ve shared today surprise us? Because as we know from Moses 3:5, “...the Lord God created all things…spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.” Of course, our Heavenly Father knows what is best for us! He has clearly told us that His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men and women—He has fully provided our way to happiness! All we have to do is follow His plan!

Three days ago, I was introduced to the amazing conversion story of Dusty Smith on one of my favorite podcasts, “This is the Gospel.” As I listened to his testimony of how he became a member of our beloved Church, was subsequently excommunicated, and ultimately and humbly came back into the fold 26 years later, I was overcome with emotion! His utterly miraculous story shows just how much Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each and every one of us, and how intimately involved They are in our lives! Brother Smith’s incredible experiences remind us how vitally important it is for each of us to be one with the saints.

Finally, we are taught in 1st Corinthians 1:10 and Ephesians 2:19–20 that we should strive to have no divisions among us, be perfectly joined together as fellowcitizens with the saints, and be of the household of God who are built upon the cornerstone of Jesus Christ.

What it all comes down to is that our Heavenly Father dearly loves each of us and wants us to be like Him! He wants us to experience true joy through continual learning and personal growth. He wants us to follow the supreme example of Jesus Christ and return home to His eternal family. 💛

I encourage each of us to follow Elder Quentin L. Cook’s wise words. He said, “As individuals, we would do well to evaluate our effort[s] in pursuing missionary work, temple and family history work, and preparations to meet God.” Yes, truly, this life is our time to prepare to meet God! 😊

I have a great love for our Heavenly Parents, our Savior, and His Church. I am a true believer in every sense of the word. I am enthusiastically and gratefully all in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 😊

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 💛

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