I know of a husband and wife who are working themselves hard just trying to raise their family and struggling to make ends meet.  Even though both of them work and have fairly good jobs, when the paycheck comes and it’s time to pay the bills, they find themselves “in the red” before they’ve even started spending any money!   They’re not extravagant.  They only buy what they need in food, utilities, and supplies for their kids.  They don’t go on vacations.  They don’t even go on dates as a couple.  Still…their income isn’t enough.  Even thoughts of a second job (or, really, a third job for part time) are becoming part of their conversation.  So, every paycheck, when the subject of paying tithing comes up…one tenth of all your earnings to give to the Lord…there’s a sigh of “what are we going to do?  We sure could use this to pay our bills.”

Moments of desperation have a way of testing our faith….and our loyalty…to God.

As I studied and listened to the LDS General Conference a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a few main themes pop up in the 5 sessions I listened to. Here they are, and my thoughts on them…especially since I had a lot of questions forming in my mind before Conference regarding this couple’s situation:

(1) Lots of focus on Testimony, your personal spiritual witness that something is true
– the importance of gaining one
– how to gain one
– if you must work on getting any at all, get one of Jesus Christ
– be sure of what you believe: do you know what you believe in?  And does what you believe in actually work?  Is it firm?  Can you count on it to see you through hard times?

(2) Lots of focus on Personal Revelation (communications from God)
– How vital it is for these days
– How it is what the prophet and apostles use to guide the Lord’s people
– personal cleanliness in order to qualify for revelation, for drawing on the powers of heaven, for using the priesthood…

(3)  Lots of focus on following the counsel, guidance, and instructions coming from the Prophet and Apostles.  (I say it this way instead of “following the Prophet and Apostles” to distinguish the messengers…from the messages and the true giver of those messages…who is the Lord.)

(4) Focus on taking care of the widows, the poor, the needy, and any one who needs help.

(5) A special focus on teach your children how to gain experience on each of these things:
– help them gain a testimony of Jesus Christ
– help anchor their faith in the gospel and the principles of the gospel
– train them in how to gain revelation
– train them in how to use the priesthood to bless
– basically, teach them to be anchors of faith in God’s kingdom

Why is it necessary now for the Prophet and Apostles to urge and encourage the LDS population (and the world, for that matter) about these things now?  What will be happening 5 to 10 years from now that would require us to have these things in place in our lives?   The things spoken of at this (or any) Conference isn’t just for our time now;  it’s to prepare us for what’s to happen in the near future.  When The Family: A Proclamation to the World was first introduced in 1995 by the late Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, little did we know how vital it would become 20 years later…and little did we know how great the attacks on the principles of family, gender, roles of fathers and mothers and children, and their relationship with respect to God would become.  In other words, in 1995…what would the world look like 10-20 years later that would cause such a proclamation to be necessary?

The world would look like what it does now.

That proclamation was prophetic in its nature.  It was given at a time sufficient to prepare a people for what was to come.

What kind of a world will we be living in that would try to cause us to:
* question what we believe in?
* question whether or not we truly believe there is a Jesus Christ?
* question whether or not we would still do what we claim to believe in…?  Whether or not we would still pay our tithing, follow the Lord’s law of health, keep the sabbath day holy, to pray anywhere, to even speak of Jesus Christ or anything about God or how we practice our beliefs?
* question whether or not we will continue to follow the Prophets and Apostles of the Lord?
* question whether or not we actually receive communications and instructions from God…even directly?

What kind of a world would it be for us…and our children…where taking care of the poor, the needy, the widows would not just be necessary…but IMPERATIVE!

What kind of times would try to cause us to reject our beliefs, to reject our families, our neighbors…to reject God…even after all that we’ve known, all that we’ve been blessed with, all that we have enjoyed?

What kind of times would try to cause us to forsake all those things that we claim to know to be true?

For me…I see that kind of world and those kinds of times as this:  DESPERATE.  Those are not just “hard times”.  Those are desperate times, desperate moments.  Moments that may mean either life or death.  And when we find ourselves in that desperate moment, surrounded by desperate times…would I give up my God?  Would I give up my family?  Would I give up the knowledge I now have?  Would I give up even my very soul….for a chance to spare my life?  For me to keep my current comforts and lifestyle?  To avoid confrontation?  For a piece of bread?  Would I turn you in because you’re a Believer…to save my life?  Would you turn me in?  Would I give up my children just so I could eat?  Would I turn away the needy, the hungry, the desperate….when I, too, am needy and hungry and desperate?  Would I stop following the commandments of God because they’re now beginning to appear as burdens to the lifestyle I want or am struggling to maintain?  Would I turn to immorality, deception, and every other debasedness in order to spare my life?

And I speak to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to any other believer of Jesus Christ…because these messages come to them first!  Why?  Because it is God’s challenge to the believer that they be Lights, anchors, and shelters in the coming storms…when the wrath of God will be poured out over the whole earth without measure.  And He wants us to be sure of ourselves: Are we deeply anchored in truth?  How firm is your (spiritual) foundation?  Is your line of communication with God in place?  Is “focusing on and serving another” a part of our life?  Do we believe in God….and do we truly trust Him?

Yes, there are those who do not care to believe that there is a God or don’t believe in religion and whatnot.  Still, there will come many moments where you will be faced with a moral dilemma…one that appeals to whatever goodness you claim to have within yourselves.  Will you act according to whatever good there is in you?  Or will you forsake a fellow human being…in whatever desperate situation…in order to preserve yourselves?  Will you be at peace knowing that you served yourself first, that you saved yourself first, that someone else suffered instead of you….or will you have compassion for those who struggle, forget yourself in that moment, and go out of your way to be their Hand of Help?  Do you truly believe that there is no God…that there is no power, no authority greater than yourself….or have you just doubted because your eyes couldn’t see the evidence of His hand in your life as immediately as you would have liked?  Have you just doubted because everyone else around you never really believed it either?  Have you just avoided wanting to know because you’re comfy with the lifestyle you live…and don’t think that you really even care?  Judge yourself.  Just know that denying the existence of God doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist.  It just means that you aren’t willing to accept it…yet.

Whatever your view is about God….is that view true?…and will that view sustain you in the storms coming our way?  Will that view preserve you while you are *IN* those storms?  Whatever our beliefs are…whether in the hand of God or in the solutions of Man…those beliefs will be tried…tested…challenged in the coming days, months, years.  And we will see what remains standing and what…of our souls…remains intact.

My friends…the storm clouds are about us in this world.  There are storms raging already.  Many are suffering…and dying…because of their beliefs.  Often, Believers and their families are the targets, and death is the outcome.  Such is the case with the Christians in Iraq at the hands of ISIS.  Those storms are beginning to appear in many forms: in attacks on the family, in financial distress, in spiritual hollowness, in military and governmental powers, in plagues, in political upheavals, wars and other times of distress.  These will not diminish anytime soon.  These times will try “the patience and faith of the saints.” (Rev. 13:10)

There was one Man on this earth who calmed a storm that came suddenly.  In another storm, that same Man walked on water despite the storm around him….and invited another to come with Him.  That man is Jesus Christ.  His message to us now?  Come.  Get to know Me.  Learn to hear Me…and those whom I call.  Follow Me.  Trust Me.  Stand, and be ready.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works… I am the Light that you should hold up…that which you have seen me do, that shall you do also.  Abide the day of My coming.  Teach your children to believe Me, trust Me, listen to Me, follow Me, and be My hands in doing My work…for this is what is required of you.

From the messages of this past General Conference, from the Lord’s Prophet and the Apostles of our day, this is what I see…and the path required of us, now, for whatever it is that is coming upon us.