Individual Stewardship in the Miracle of Millennial Healing

 

Piena DevotionalDevotional Talk Given at
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

November 16, 2010
Lupe Piena
Director of International Student Services
Brigham Young University-Hawaii

I have always had an interest and love for people from different countries and different backgrounds.

Consequently, this passion has compelled me to participate in various activities where I have been "different" in many respects, yet anxious to learn and absorb new ideas and styles that would help me to grow and develop.  My parents always supported my ambitions and interests, but often warned me to beware of being "in" the world, but not "of" the world.  This was wise counsel which I tried to remember as I got older.  Today, the headline news give evidence of how Satan convinces people to be "in" and "of" the world only to leave them lonely in their sadness when their lives fall apart.  The Lord clearly declared that "wickedness was never happiness."

For us today, our reality is that we will only see things get worse, before they get better.   But my talk today is not to burden us with the evils of the world, but rather to remind us of the great blessings we have to look forward to.  These  blessings associated with literal gathering of Israel and the Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is what I believe we have an opportunity to become participants in if we choose to do so.  This is what I refer to as our "Individual stewardship in the Miracle of Millennial Healing." 
My hope is to share with you my perspective and understanding that we may all be more committed to doing our part in building God's Kingdom here on earth by being "in" the world, but not "of" the world.

When I was 12 years old, I had the opportunity to play the part of "Annie" in the Broadway musical "Annie" at the Honolulu Community Theater.

To date, this remains one of the greatest mysteries of my life because I have come to realize how bad of an actress I really am.  At any rate, the attitudes and perspectives of this little orphan girl have stayed with me all these many years.  I suppose I survived in the character because in my own personal life, I truly desired to emulate the optimism that Annie had and freely expressed about the best things in life.
"Annie" is a story about a little orphan girl who believes whole heartedly that her parents will return to get her, and together they will be a happy family.  It is a story that is set in America during the Great Depression of the 1930's.  In one of the scenes, Annie stumbles into a shanty town of homeless adults who are complaining about their economic troubles.  When they learn she has been "looking" for her parents for the last 11 years, one responds sympathetically--

"Don't worry kid, you'll find them."
To which Annie replies, "You bet I'll find them!"
Another responds, "Now that's something I haven't heard since 1928."
"What's that?" 
"Optimism!"
Then with the next series of questions and answers, Annie shows them just how bright life can still be even during the depression.   
"What do we have to be optimistic about?  Look at us; life's a nightmare!"
"You gotta have some kind of dream."
"Traffic rattling over head all night?
"To wake you up from your nightmare."
Empty pockets?
"At least you got them pockets."
"Freezin' fingers?
"Lucky you got them empty pockets."
"Newspapers for blankets?"
"You can read in bed!"

For many of us, the difference in life is not so much in our circumstances but rather in the way we see our circumstances.  If we could all see life the way little orphan Annie saw her life and opportunities, we would find more enjoyable experiences and probably even get more accomplished.

We need Annie's optimism in real life; especially with regard to what the old and modern prophets have testified will happen in the last days.  Things will get worse before they get better.  Hence, in order to be guided through such turbulent times, we need to make sure we have the right perspective.

But getting the right perspective is not as simple as ordering pizza.  If we persist in behaviors and choices that limit our view to portions of our own possibilities, then we will never see our divine potential as God intended for each of us.  Instead, we must be willing to travel the journey that will take us to greater heights and afford a ,wider perspective that is deeper and more beautiful.  I understood this much more clearly on a special trip I made with my brother to the Philippines.
The trip was a surprise to pick up our youngest sister who served in the Baccolod Philippines mission.  The mission president was a gracious host who not only introduced us to the delicacies of Filipino dining, but allowed us opportunities to see the many wonders of the country. One such sight was the Mambukal Resort in Negros Occidental.  

Mambukal Resort is considered first class with its natural feeding place for thousands of fruit bats, natural hot springs and abundant waterfalls.  President walked us towards the 5-layered waterfall and instructed us to go and see from the top.  Obediently we started up the trail with full intent to return quickly so that the President could return to his work.  However, by the third waterfall, my breathing began to get heavy, my legs were sore, and the areas of extra pounds started to feel itchy. 

"You go ahead," I said to my brother.  "When you get to the next
one, call down and tell me if it's very far."

My brother refused and insisted on waiting for me to make the hike together.  Not wanting to disappoint him, I took a deep breath and started up again to the next water fall.  With each step up the windy trail I could feel my legs tremble and my muscles starting to pull tightly.  I took deep breaths to try to calm the pain, and focused on the weeds that crossed over the trail path. 

Upon reaching the fourth water fall, a sudden feeling of relief and joy overcame me.  For just a moment, I forgot my itchy joints, my shaking legs, and the tightness in my muscles.  The water was amazing, and the view was grand.  Was there only one more? 
"No, you go ahead," I said again to my brother.

"Please just go so we can get back to President.  Don't wait for me.  I am too slow and out of shape."
My brother would not go. 

"Please," I pleaded.  "Just go.  And tell me what it's like when you get back."

But my brother just stood there and shook his head.  Thinking of the President waiting at the bottom of the falls, I started again reluctantly up the last trail to the fifth water fall.  Each sight truly had been beautiful and refreshing ”but with the physical discomforts that increased with each step, I was not as desirous about seeing the last water fall as I had been in the beginning.

The last trail was longer than the first, and again every step was such a struggle I could not afford to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us.  I don't know how long we were gone, but when we finally reached the top, the greatest feeling overcame us both.  Not only were we enjoying the beauty of God's nature in this vineyard, but we had shared the experience together.  For a moment, we stood in silence admiring the beauty that surrounded us.

I saw many parallels with the types of "hikers" who attempt the trek to higher grounds to see a grander view of the land, but often come up short for one reason or another.  Some of us start the trek for a worthwhile goal, and then decide once we have reached our "comfort zone" that we don't need or want to extend ourselves anymore.  We agree that the top of the waterfall must be beautiful, but because we are tired, out of shape, unprepared or weak, we convince ourselves that we do not want to go the extra mile and ask others to go on our behalf so we don't feel too guilty about coming short on the challenge.

If you can relate to my style of hiking at Mambukal Resort, I invite you to consider changing your perspective so you can be an optimistic hiker that makes more of his/her travels than I did.  Had my brother not insisted on me continuing with him up the trail, there are several views and sights I would have missed due to my own personal limitations and challenges.  I want to note that having the right attitude is part of the journey ”having the right support is the other.  And so it is useful to note that in order to help another person achieve and move forward, it is important to stand on higher ground and to be firm footed in the places we stand.


With this broader perspective from higher ground, we have a better chance at seeing God's Plan of Happiness more clearly and fully.  What then, is the Miracle of Millennial Healing?  Simply put, after the earth becomes saturated with wickedness and God-forsaken traditions, the Great Jehovah will show His power by restoring all things to their proper order.  Bruce R. McConkie taught: 


"[that] every truth, doctrine, power, priesthood, gift, grace, miracle, . . . [and] any age of faith shall come again. The Lord's chosen and favored people shall once again possess the Kingdom; they shall dwell again in all the lands of their inheritance.  Even the earth shall return to its paradisiacal state and the peace and perfection of Enoch's city shall swell on the earth for a thousand years."


The scriptures teach that the millennium is a period of 1,000 years when the people who remain on the earth will be so righteous that Satan will have no power over their hearts and peace will abound.  Healing will come through the priesthood and the saving ordinances that must be performed for every individual who ever lived on the earth.  AS the tenth article of faith states, the millennium will also include "the literal gathering of Israel" and the "restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory"


To catch a glimpse of what this means for all of us tells me that life was intended to be purposeful not random or even casual.    Ancient and modern day prophets have spoken time and time again of these last days.  Isaiah from the Bible and Nephi in the Book of Mormon, as well as prophets in our dispensation, continue to repeat the signs and conditions that will come in the last days.  If we are prepared, we need not fear.
Perhaps it is wise then, to consider the words of Bruce R. McConkie who gave perspective on how we should approach learning the prophecies foretold by Isaiah and Ezekiel centuries ago:

If I expect to go where Nephi and Isaiah have gone, I had better speak their language think their thoughts, know what they knew, believe and teach what they believed and taught, and live as they lived. It just may be that my salvation (and yours also!) does in fact depend upon our ability to understand the writings of Isaiah as fully and truly as Nephi understood them.  (Bruce R. McConkie)

While this is not a talk to discuss the metaphors of Isaiah's prophecies, I reference it to suggest that in understanding more deeply doctrinal concepts that relate to our day and age, we will we will have a clearer perspective in order to prepare optimistically for what is to come.  Studying the words of the prophets will be our spiritual climb to a clearer view of God's great plan for all of us.  And if we are faithful and endure, that view will be grand just as it was at Mambukal. 

A significant part of the millennial healing is the gathering of Israel, which serves three main purposes:

  1.  Learn the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness
  2. Build temples to perform sacred ordinances,
  3. Spread the gospel to every land, and
  4. Be a blessing to all the world.

Through the Prophet Joseph Smith the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in its fullness and those who are baptized into His Church, have the responsibility to share this Plan of Happiness with others. 

But the building of temples in this dispensation ought to remind us that God is a God of miracles, and He will show forth His power for the purposes of moving His work forward.  In 1977, Bruce R. McConkie said:

We are living in a new day.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is fast becoming a worldwide church.  Congregations of Saints are now, or soon will be, strong enough to support and sustain their members no matter where they reside.  Temples are being built wherever the need justifies.  We can foresee many temples in process of time.  (Bruce R. McConkie)

Elder McConkie was teaching us what the prophets had foretold, and since 1977, we have seen tremendous growth in the building of temples around the world.


From the earliest temples through the 1800s, 6 temples were built in America.  Then, from 1919, with the Laie Hawaii Temple becoming the first temple built outside the continental U.S. through the 1950s, 8 more were built.  4 followed in 1990 until 1998.  Then in 1999 we saw 15 erected, 34 in 2000, 5 in 2001, 7 in 2002, 2 in 2003, 3 in 2004, 3 more in 2005, 2 in 2006, 4 in 2008, 2 in 2009, and 4 in 2010.  23 are currently under construction or announced as new sites for new temples to be built. 

This is one of God's great miracles in these latter days.  And it is this miracle and symbolizes the greatest of all God's blessings for His children not only here on earth, but even throughout the eternities.  

Elder McConkie once said,

[God's] work includes the building up of Zion in the last days.  He has commissioned us to do that work for him.  The foundations of Zion have already been laid in North America, in South America, in Europe, in Asia, in the South Pacific and in every place where there are stakes of Zion.  But Zion is not yet perfected in any of these places.  When she is perfected, it will be as it was with Zion of old " the Lord will come and swell with his people.  (Bruce R. McConkie)

It is clear from these words that the building of temples throughout the world not only reemphasizes the literal gathering of Israel, but suggests that in addition to becoming temple-worthy and participating in sacred ordinances for ourselves and those who have gone beyond, by so doing we must also become a Zion people.  And the temple is intended to help us develop these attitudes, perspectives and values of higher spiritual living.

Moses 7:18 teaches us about the city of Enoch as an example of what Zion is and needs to be for us today.

"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."

Other conditions of a Zion-like people are described in 4 Nephi, after Jesus Christ visited his people in America. 

We read that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.  And there were no envying, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murder, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God."  This is the condition we must work to achieve by having the blessings of the temples in our midst.

How do we do this?  By committing to live up to our divinely appointed stewardship.  This is what I refer to as our "individual stewardship."

  1.  Engage in purposeful preparation
  2. Cultivate those cultural values that are in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ
  3. Live worthy of the Holy Ghost to know where the Lord needs you to be for His work and purposes, and
  4. Work with faith unceasingly.
  1.  Engag[ing] in purposeful preparation means taking advantage of

opportunities to grow spiritually, physically, mentally and socially.  This includes taking on the optimism of Little Orphan Annie, to believe that regardless of our natural strengths and talents, our preferences or dislikes, we can teach our minds and our bodies to understand and desire the things of God.

Student s of BYU-Hawaii should remember that this is a place dedicated to your preparation in every facet of life. 

President Wheelwright has said BYU-Hawaii's mission is focused on two themes.  First, we must educate for eternity, integrating the divine with the academic.  And second, we must prepare leaders of character and integrity who can make a difference in their homes and communities, and in building the kingdom throughout the world."  (President Steven Wheelwright)   

Doctrine & Covenants 88: 78-80 also gives instructions on how the Lord expects us to prepare ourselves.  He said,

Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms”

That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.
While you are here, take advantage of every opportunity to prepare purposefully.

2) Cultivate those cultural values that are in harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I have always believed that God created us each differently for a purpose.  He blessed each nation with different strengths and weaknesses so we would have to come together to learn from each other, and with each other how to build Zion.  Find your treasures that come from your cultural heritage; those treasures that promote living the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I have found mine, and I want to share that with you.

As my children say, I am "whole" Tongan.  And as a young girl, I learned and felt very deeply the richness of my cultural heritage.

Although Tonga is a small dot on the map, it is known as God's dot because of King Tupou Taufa'ahau I.  He was the King who united the Tonga islands, and after her personal conversion to Christianity offered a prayer to God dedicating all of its lands and people to Him, the great Jehovah, for His work and purposes.  This conversion to Christianity was no mere form of "political speech," but total transformation in the way he governed his country and people.  Many old traditions became outlawed, and even today, continues the law which prohibits work and activities on the Sabbath.

What became of Tonga, I believe, was an opportunity for them to become more Zion-like.  As observed by a Catholic Priest, Father Edward Tremblay, he said:

In Tonga you have no silver mines or gold mines, as some countries have.  But you have a far more precious treasure, fe'ofo'ofani (brotherly love).  You have that wonderful family spirit, that willingness to help each other.  That is your God-given gold and silver.  That is your treasure.  That is why the royal coat of arms bears the words:  "Ko e 'Otua mo Tonga ko hoku Tofi'a." (God and Tonga are my inheritance) Father Edward Tremblay

Even today Tonga does not have any worldly possessions that are worth boasting about, but God blessed its people with a far greater gift, as noted by an American Doctor, Sylvester M. Lambert, who came to the islands to provide medical attention for Queen Salote.  He said:

The time will come when he [the islander] will become our teacher.  Not in the science of war, God deliver us, but in the more difficult art of living together in harmony and Peace (Dr. Sylvester M. Lambert)

That is my treasure.  What is yours?  Find it.  Cultivate it.  And share it with others that they might also learn to live the gospel more fully as you do.

3)  Live worthy of the Holy Ghost to know where the Lord needs you to be for His work and purposes.

To live worthy of the Holy Ghost requires that our personal choices consistently reflect our desire to be obedient to God and His commandments.  If we will do this, we will be in tune to know God's will for us individually.  It is important to remember that God's purposes are always bigger than ourselves, and it requires great faith to follow the promptings of the Spirit when we cannot always see His full purposes.  It is like the trek to the highest water falls in Mambukal.  To see the full view, we must be willing to go the distance all the way. 

And as we do, I pray that we will remember to 4) work with faith unceasingly. 

The Lord reminds us in Doctrine & Covenants 64:33, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.  And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

Photo by Monique Saenz.