This past Sunday I was asked to give a talk during Sacrament meeting about how the gospel is changing my life. The spirit has prompted me to share my talk with you here too, perhaps someone reading will gain some inspiration from it.
When I was first asked to give a talk about how the gospel is changing my life I really didn't know that I had a lot to say, but then I got down on my knees and prayed to Heavenly Father to ask Him to allow the Spirit to be with me and to lead me to prepare a talk which someone in the ward needed to hear. Almost instantly things started flying into my mind, beginning with a very obvious one: PRAYER!
When I was first being taught by the missionaries, I openly admitted that I really struggled with the act of prayer. Praying to Heavenly Father just wasn't something that came naturally to me. When I was growing up my family rarely went to Church - only for weddings, christenings, funerals etc., yet we used to bid each other good night and God bless every evening! The fact that I now pray repeatedly to Heavenly Father throughout the day is a big change for me.
Over time, I have come to realise that prayer is the tool that Heavenly Father gave us to communicate with Him. He is our Father in Heaven and He is our family. I would like to think that we talk with our families regularly - that we ask them how they are doing, we share our ups and our downs, ask for advice or ask for someone to listen to us - that's what Heavenly Father wants from us - He wants us to communicate with Him - that's how we build our relationships spiritually and temporally. Prayer is so very important!
In 3 Nephi 18:19-20 Jesus tells us:
"Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name; And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you."
We must always pray unto the Father and we must have faith and believe that we will receive an answer from Him, even if it may be an answer that we didn't want to hear!
So, we are commanded to pray - but more importantly, we need to want to communicate with Heavenly Father, even though He already knows what's in our hearts, He needs us to counsel with Him each day and to spend time with Him. Of course, I'm still very much a "baby Christian" - I'm still learning and I'll forever be learning but praying each day to my Father in Heaven is a big change for me, even if I'm taking baby steps each day, I'm pleased to be building my relationship with the Lord my God.
Every day I'm learning a little bit more about what it means to be a woman of God. I'm learning about obedience to the Lord; that I am a strong-willed and sometimes ridiculously stubborn individual, yet I am slowly coming to realise that I must learn to exercise patience; that things will be done in God's own time, not necessarily when and by what means I want them to happen.
If I miss Church due to illness, or travelling, it now feels strange: my week just doesn't feel complete without taking the Sacrament, which is like my weekly spiritual recharge.
I'm learning that my scriptures are my best friend and counsellor - they are the first place I should seek guidance and comfort (as well as through prayer to Heavenly Father).
Finally, the biggest change is taking place in my heart. I just need to learn to trust more in the Lord. He knows where I am going and what lies ahead. I can take my struggles to Him as well as my gratitude for my blessings and He will always guide me. I'm so grateful that He softened my heart enough to receive the gospel into my life.
In just over a week we will be celebrating Christmas. This will be the first CHRISTmas for me in a long time and I am so excited to be learning about my Saviour and building upon my relationship with Him. Having a Christ-centred Christmas is a big deal for me and I'm also a little bit nervous but as my husband recently reminded me: there's no need to be nervous when you know that God's backing you up.
There are so many other lessons I'm learning every day as my testimony grows but I will leave those for another time.
I know that this Church is true, that our Saviour, Jesus Christ, lives as the Head of the Church and that through Jesus' Atonement, we can all have eternal life with Heavenly Father and our Saviour. I'm so grateful for the restored gospel, so grateful to Joseph Smith who I know was a prophet of God and I'm grateful to our living prophet, Thomas S Monson for his guiding and leading the Saints to salvation. I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ.