President and Sister Dunn

Monday, May 8, 2017

President Dunn speaks!

President Dunn was asked to speak in Stake Conference and I thought his talk was so relevant for all our missionaries, both at home and in the field.  Enjoy!:)

“Securing your own oxygen mask”
Mount Olympus Stake • Stake Conference 7 May 2017
Michael A. Dunn

Good morning, my dear brothers and sisters. What a joy it is to be with you in Stake Conference today. As much as we miss the Saints and missionaries of South Africa, that ache in our hearts is more than made up by being home with you, our dear friends and neighbors of Mount Olympus.
Between our return from Johannesburg, a few weeks ago, and then catching up on family and business, I have been doing a lot of air travel lately. And it was on one of those recent trips where an important airline safety protocol, brought me great clarity about the topic I’ve been assigned to
speak to day which is, “how do I help strengthen the faith of others?”
There are many obvious answers and even covenantal obligations to this age old question. Such as we need to love unconditionally, not be judgemental, and like the father of the prodigal son, always be ready and in waiting to receive those who have strayed and return, with the utmost joy and celebration. We also need to find a way to meaningfully serve those who have strayed, just as Ammon taught us with his simple offering of tending a king’s sheep.
But today I want to suggest that the most powerful and effective way to strengthen the faith of others, is by simply being a stellar example of a faithful latter-day Saint.
As I mentioned, this idea is taught in a very simple airline safety protocol each of us hears every time we board a plane. Or some of us hear, anyway, provided we have not yet put on our headphones or dived into that latest spy thriller novel.
It usually goes something like this: the flight attendant says “if we experience an unexpected loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the ceiling.” Which is a very nice to know, and especially if it were to happen at 36,000 feet. But what then follows is a puzzling, almost counter- intuitive dichotomy; “Please put on your own mask first before assisting children or other passengers.” Really? Isn’t that the epitome of selfishness? Kind of like the sea captain being the first one into the lifeboat
of a sinking ship? And doesn’t it fly in the face of Christ’s seminal instruction in the Gospels that, "He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it?” Not exactly. In fact, as I want to argue today, it is exactly the most important thing we can do when turbulence shakes someone’s testimony or faith. And here’s why it works in the case of a loss of cabin pressure at 36,000 feet or a loss of testimony at 5,246 feet—our altitude right now.
I believe in matters of faith, that there is nothing more important and influential than the power of another’s example.
Writing in Psychology Today, Dr. Alex Lickerman said:
“Nothing can encourage us as powerfully as someone else's good example. Want to create value with your life? Become a good influence. Stop and think. What better service can you provide someone else besides being a good example to them? Not with conscious intention, which always seems contrived and has little power to encourage, but by simply becoming the examples you yourself want to see. When you've actually become something, others see it in almost everything you do.”
The American humourist Mark Twain said it a bit more succinctly—and sharply— when he penned:
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”
In 1st Timothy Chapter 4, verses 12-16, where the Apostle Paul teaches some profound things about the power of our example as committed latter-day Saints:
“Be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee which was given thee by prophecy...Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profitiing may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine, continue in them; for in doing this thou shall both save thyself and them that hear thee.”
In other words, the way that we save ourselves and those around us is by making sure that in all we do, think and say that we give ourselves “wholly,”...and that’s “Wholly” not “H-O-L-Y”, as Paul says to the things of God. We need to have our oxygen mask on..and not just on, by the way, but as the FAA proscribes, “securely” so we are fully equipped with oxygen—or the Spirit— flowing, and be able and willing to assist others. As Jesus told Peter: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31–32).
But to really give ourselves “wholly,” we clearly need to be committed ourselves first to God and then committed to love and
serve others, as Christ detailed in the two great commandments.
In defining what committed means, President Howard W. Hunter said:
“The ability to stand by one’s principles, to live with integrity and faith according to one’s belief—that is what matters, that is the difference between a contribution and a commitment. That devotion to true principle—in our individual lives, in our homes and families, and in all places that we meet and influence other people—that devotion is what God is ultimately requesting of us.
A successful life, the good life, the righteous Christian life requires something more than
a contribution, though every contribution is valuable. Ultimately it requires commitment—whole-souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment to the principles we know to be true in the commandments God has given.”
As I hear a prophet’s words, I am thinking— as I hope you are— of people in this stake and in this valley who were once very much committed to the church, but who now have—for lack of a better description—are oxygen deprived. Simply put, these are our brothers and sisters who once felt the life- giving light of the Gospel in their lives and now—for a variety of reasons ranging from sin to plain old laziness—are no longer, “...fellow citizens with the saints.”
To you, and to them, and to anyone shaken by the rough air which surrounds us, II ask the question which Alma of old so aptly put:
“...And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren (and sisters), if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)
As Alma challenges us, Can we recall, feel and be buoyed by that first spark of testimony which eventually brought us faith? A testimony that brought a perspective of the eternities to you, and a glimpse of heavenly happiness here on earth that you could have never before imagined?
Yet, as the author Charles Stanley said, that bar is too high for most people. Wrote Stanley:
“Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They'll stay faithful as long as it's safe and doesn't involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going. “
Which is exactly my point. If we are an example of standing firm, we allow our friends to see the blessings of doing the things that will keep us strong. And they see a commitment to a direction regardless of which way the winds are blowing.
When Joshua who was leading the tribes of Israel was told to destroy the city of Jericho, many people under his leadership must have felt a strong need to reach for their oxygen masks when they came upon the imposing, twelve meter high walls that surrounded that fabled city. Except that they also knew that Joshua was a 100% committed disciple. And although they knew not the means, they were assured as to the outcome, because they were certain that Joshua was, indeed, on the Lord’s errand.
And sure enough, hose walls not only fell, but certainly some doubt and disbelief did as well.
Years later, with their enemies subdued, peace achieved and the wars and
destruction behind them, a weary and aged Joshua called all Israel for his farewell testimony.
This great military and spiritual leader, now 110 years old then urged an unflinching and unequivocal commitment, when he said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; ... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:15.)
Clearly, each of us must work out our salvation before God. That is the beauty of the nexus between faith and agency. But if we can do as the Savior enjoined; and be that dazzling light on a candle stick, we will dispel the “dark veil of unbelief” as Alma called it, and help others continue on their covenant pathway.

If we are “all in,” on the Gospel then we have to go “all out” in living the Gospel, immersing our entire beings in it, and live it with verve and gusto. And that is the greatest way to influence and perhaps save any friends or family who are struggling.
Brother’s and Sisters, there is no doubt that there is turbulent air around us and ahead of us. But may we through our personal faithfulness give ourselves and others a flowing and unfettered pipeline to the sweet air of the Gospel is my prayer in the sacred and glorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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