Updated: Feb 15, 2022
Brothers and sisters, it is a blessing to be meeting with you in person today. We are in the midst of a global pandemic that just seems to be unrelenting. There are more families in our ward struggling with this disease now than ever before. For those of you joining us remotely by Zoom because you are affected COVID please know that we love you and you are in our prayers. I wish to share a quote from President Ballard that comforted my family during our latest bout,
“Just keep smiling. The pandemic will wear itself out, but don’t let it wear you out. Just keep getting up in the morning and keep raising your families. Things will be OK.”
I share President Ballard’s optimism and faith and echo his counsel to not let it wear you out… If you are at the end of your rope, physically, emotionally or in any other way know that we are a family here in the Beachside ward. Please do not keep it a secret, if you are struggling. Let us know! We love you and want to minister to you. I know that by working together in faith we will get through this as a ward family.
I want to speak about another pandemic that is happening in the world today that is receiving far less attention. It is not a medical pandemic but a spiritual pandemic. This pandemic is not causing a loss of lives but a loss of faith, a loss of direction and a loss of truth. There are spiritual midst of darkness covering the earth to blinding the eyes and confuse the hearts of all people. Our’s is a world that is increasing losing touch with the only true source of truth and light - our Savior Jesus Christ.
Last month, the Pew Research Center, a non-partisan fact tank - published an update on religious trends in America. They gathered data by interviewing over 50,000 individuals over the phone, online or through mailers. I found 3 of the questions especially interesting…
How important is religion in your life?
Very important 41%. Down from nearly 60% 10 years ago
Not too important 33%
Not at all important
Outside of attending religious service, how often do you pray?
Several times a day
Once a day. 45%. Down from 58% 10 years ago
A few times a week
Once a week
A few times a month
Seldom or Never 32%. 2x decade ago, Last 2 years prayers pandemic sharp decrease
One of the most concerning findings was that 32% of American’s seldom or never pray and when you study the curve there has been a sharp decrease in prayers in the past 2 years. It blows my mind that American’s are praying less during this pandemic. I contrast that to the days and weeks after 9/11, when Americans turned to religion and faith in large numbers. Most Americans 78% said they were praying more often.
Aside from weddings and funerals, how often do you attend religious services?
More than once a week
Once a week. 25%
Once or twice a month
A few times a year
Never. 27% 53% Seldom or Never
This question correlates closely with the Gallup Poll referenced by President Oaks in conference. It marked the year 2020 as the first time in the Poll’s eight-decade history that Americans' church membership dropped below 50%. (Only, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque.)
In response Pres Oaks -“Need for the Church”
“If we cease valuing our churches for any reason, we threaten our personal spiritual life, and significant numbers separating themselves from God reduce His blessings to our nations.”
Brothers and sisters while these statistics are disheartening, they are not shocking to any true student of the Book of Mormon. The pages of this book prophesy that this continent is “a land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people” and the stark warning that, “wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off..” (See Ether 2:7-10) is illustrated by the extinct Jaredite and Nephite civilizations.
For the remainder of my thoughts, I wish to reference a chapter in the Book of Mormon that closely mirrors our day. Approximately 30 years before Christ’s birth, the Nephite dissenters had joined forced with the Lamanites and took over the land of Zarahemla. The church of God was shrinking, “the spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them (Hel 4:24)
Like us “their laws and their governments were established by the voice of the people” and in Helaman 5 verse 2 it reads “and they who chose evil were more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for destruction, for the laws had become corrupted.”
At this time they were governed by a system of judges and their chief judge was Nephi the son of Helaman.
Vs 4 - And it came to pass that Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the judgement seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days;
Vs 5 - For they remembered the words which their father Helaman spake unto them.
President Spencer W. Kimball once asked: "When you look in the dictionary for
the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be 'remember.' Because all of (us) have made covenants ... our greatest need is to remember.”
4 things we must remember:
Remember to keep the commandments of God. v6
Remember that salvation is only through Jesus Christ v9
Remember to repent v10-11
Remember to build your foundation on the rock of Jesus Christ v12
#2 - The Pew Research Center found in 2021 that only 63% US Adults identify with Christianity or as followers of Jesus Christ. This is down 15% in the past decade.
#4 - This past October a modern-day Prophet by the name of Russel M Nelson spoke in conference in a strikingly similar way about this same topic of foundations.
“My dear brothers and sisters, these are the latter days. If you and I are to withstand the forthcoming perils and pressures, it is imperative that we each have a firm spiritual foundation built upon the rock of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”
Do you remember the short video of President Nelson wearing a hard hat explaining the measures to improve the Salt Lake Temple’s foundation? He said,
“We are sparing no effort to give this venerable temple, which had become increasingly vulnerable, a foundation that will withstand the forces of nature into the Millennium.
In like manner, it is now time that we each implement extraordinary measures—perhaps measures we have never taken before—to strengthen our personal spiritual foundations. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.”
I remember shivers going down my spine when I first heard this quote? Did this quote hit you with as much force as it did me? Well, it has been 3 months since this prophetic counsel was given, what extraordinary measures have you implemented in your life?
As your Bishop in this 2022 ward conference, I invite you to make and share the extraordinary measures you are taking to remember the Savior Jesus Christ and build your spiritual foundation on Him. Sister Penny Nichols has the inspired idea to place this poster on the Bishop’s door and invite all members who felt comfortable to anonymously fill out a post-it note and stick it to the poster to share the measures that you are implementing to build your foundation on Jesus Christ.
The Stake President will speak further about the essential role of temple worship in this effort to strengthen our spiritual foundations so I will close with a plea and a promise from our prophet,
Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear. As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power. Then, when spiritual earthquakes occur, you will be able to stand strong because your spiritual foundation is solid and immovable.
My dear beachside brothers and sisters, I testify that Jesus is the Christ and that when our foundation is built upon Him that we have no need to fear. We need not fear the global viral pandemic nor the spiritual pandemic plaguing our day. I promise you that as you implement extraordinary measures in your life to remember the Savior Jesus Christ that you will be protected and preserved in the days ahead. I pray that this year your spiritual foundation will become solid and immovable.