Sunday, December 14, 2008

Charity is the pure love of Christ

Charity is the pure love of Christ


Written by Craig Conover on 12/13/2008

This last summer, my wife and I decided to start homeschooling our girls. It works out nicely because I do most of my work for the year during the summer which gives me freedom to focus on other things for the rest of the year. The first thing we wanted to focus on was homeschooling and then finish up my schooling at BYU Hawaii in January. Our school is called, Zion's Academy, and I am the Principle and Seminary teacher, and my wife is the Vice Principle, and teacher, but we actually do the teaching together, it is kind of fun. Our girls even gave us names while they at school, Mrs. Mom and Mr. Dad. I still get a kick out of it when they call me, Mr. Dad. I have to tell you that I never realized that teaching could be so much fun; we just have tons of fun every day.

I have really been thankful for the opportunity of spending 30 minutes every day teaching my girls about the Gospel. They learn so quickly and it is neat to see how their little minds work. I had to learn a lot also, because I tend to teach at a higher level than could be most effective. I have noticed that when I bring it down to their level they really soak it all up.

I tell you this because for just a minute I want to talk specifically to the children and try to help them understand what Charity is and some suggestions on how to help them learn to develop charity in their own lives and then I will finish by addressing the whole congregation.

For starters, I bet many of you children already know what Charity means, but for those that don't, “Charity is the pure love of Christ. It is the love that Christ has for the children of men and that the children of men should have for one another" LDS.org. Now lets see... What does the "pure love of Christ" really mean? To start off with we need to understand what pure means. Hopefully, all of you like ice cream, I know my girls do. It seems that they would do about anything for ice cream. Each of you children close your eyes and imagine that you have a big bowl of your favorite kind of ice cream, maybe Rocky Road, or cookies n' Cream, or whatever is your favorite. Imagine taking a few bits... I can almost taste my bowl, it creamy and just absolutely yummy? Go ahead and take another bite, but now instead of yummy goodness, it has loads of salt in that bite. Hopefully none of children have ever had a bite of salt because it is very yucky. Ok, back to our imagination, did that bite taste very good, of course not? What if every other bite of your yummy ice cream was salt instead of ice cream? Would that bowl of ice cream be very good? No, it would not. So, we could say that a pure bowl of ice cream was simply that, just creamy, yummy ice cream goodness, right? Now that is the same with the pure love Christ. It is simply that, pure love without any salt or in other words, angry thinking, mean actions, selfishness, and things like that.

Now, that we have a better understanding of what pure means let's see if we can understand what the pure love of Christ means, at least in part. Let me ask a few quick questions to all the children, but first can I have all you children raise your hand high in the air, like this, and keep it up to show me that you are ready for the question... Let me see all those hands…

?-That is perfect!... Now, keep your hand raised high in the air if you have a favorite toy, that you just love? If you are like my girls you probably have several.

-Very good!... Now for the next question, can you switch hands and put your other hand high in the air.

?-Good job!... Ok, now keep your hand raised high in the air if you love your mom very much? Wow, look at all that love. That is the reason that I choose moms instead of us dads, because I was a little nervous of the outcome.

-Ok, are you children ready for the last question? Lets see how ready you are. For this question can you raise both of your hands really high in the air.

?-You children are so good. Ok, here is the question. Keep your hands raised really high in the air, if you love your mom more than your favorite toy?... Again, keep your hands raised really high in the air if you love your mom more than your toy?

-Look at all those hands, this is so cool looking. Let’s see if you children can impress your mommies and daddies by taking both of those amazing hands of yours and folding them up real tight in your lap... Like this… Good job! You are all so awesome.

Now, can each of you see the difference in love between the love that you have for your toy and the love that you have for your mom? Can you see how the love that you have for your mom is much greater than the love that you have of your toy? You love your mom and I know that she loves you even more. But, did you know that your Father in Heaven and your older brother Jesus Christ love you with an even greater love? Isn't that amazing. You are loved by your parents and you are loved even more by your Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. Hopefully, now you can see, how charity or the pure love of Christ "is the highest, noblest, and strongest kind of love and the most joyous to the soul” LDS.org. How can you children learn to love with such great love? You are probably thinking of a few ways right now, but there are many ways to develop such great love. Each of your parents, try and help you on a daily basis to develop such great love. Let me give you just two quick examples that my wife and I have done to help our girls learn to develop charity or the pure love of Christ. These two examples should help each of you children to think of some ways that you can learn to love with Christlike love.

The first example is that in our home, our girls have a daily routine chart that they complete each morning, well… we are not perfect at it, but they do a good job. Anyway, one of the things that they have on their chart is, to do one nice thing for someone that day. Once they do one nice thing, then, they get to put a star on their chart. They do different things each day, whether it is helping their sister make their bed or helping their younger sister get dressed. The result is always the same. They feel very happy inside and the sister they served feels happy inside as well. Because of this small act of service they both, now, have an increase of Christlike love in their hearts. It is so neat as a parent to see your children serving each other.

The last example has to do with the time of year that we are in. Do you children know what time of year it is? Yep, its Christmas time. This month is a easy month to learn to love with a more Christlike love. As a family we go to Chick-fil-a on Tuesday nights because they have family night with kid crafts and of course, cheaper food. It is always fun. Well, the last time we went, they had a Christmas tree with ornaments all over the tree. Each of these ornaments had a child's name on it and something they would like for Christmas. Each of these children were in need and less fortunate. My wife grabbed one for our family to buy a gift for, and then on the way to the car she asked if she could get one for each of our girls so that they can have that wonderful experience themselves also. It was such a great idea of hers. I just wish that I could think of others even a fraction as much as my wife does. If I could do that, I would be much better off, but that is why I married her, she is just awesome. So each of our girls went back in and picked out their own ornament and child that they wanted to buy a gift for. When they got in the car they were so happy, it was just neat.

Now I would like to shift my remarks back to everyone. I was so excited when I heard that one of the topics we were to speak on was charity. I told my wife the two topics that we were given and told her to pick which everyone she wanted. I thought for sure she would pick service but she picked charity. I have to say that I was quite disappointed. It was weird, but, it almost felt as if something precious and dear to me was taken from me. Well, to my great joy, and I mean it literally, when my wife sat down to prepare her talk she decided to change to service and I got back my precious topic of charity.

Well, my talk preparation took an unexpected turn on Friday night just before I went to bed. I had been praying about my topic and I felt strongly that I needed to direct my initial remarks to the children. At first I was a little reluctant because I had already been preparing and gathering my thoughts which consisted of many of my favorite prophets and their powerful words on charity. But as I started to prepare for the children my talk just seemed to fall into place. I had a renewed desire to help them understand this vitally important God-like characteristic that we all must be found possessed of it at the last day. So, here I am with just a few minutes left and I pray that the Spirit will be with us as I try to convey to your hearts a little of what is in my heart.

If you have your scriptures please grab them and follow along because theses verses are so very powerful. I want to use Moroni 7 as my guide and wow there is so much in this chapter it is crazy. So let’s get started.

We read in verse 1:

1 And now I, Mormon, speak unto you, my beloved brethren; and it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and his holy will, because of the gift of his calling unto me, that I am permitted to speak unto you at this time.

This is great, Moroni took precious room left on the plates to record the words of his father. It is not hard to understand why he would do that. All you have to do is read it and it is all clear. This is one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon and it had to of been one of Moroni’s also. Ok, moving on. So we come to the great three, faith, hope, and charity.

I used to want to look at these three as a ladder, where you can take one at a time and could advance to the next. But no matter how I looked at it they still got all twisted together. I now look at them as a bike. If you separated the bike and the two peddles would the move forward? No, but together they propel forward. I consider the bike frame to be charity and one peddle is faith and the other is hope. Let me show you in the scriptures. Turn with me to verse 40-42.

40 And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
41 And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
42 Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope

Background image by: Jarno Lindroos https://flic.kr/p/H79Sa1

Do you see why they can’t be looked at as a ladder, but as peddles, each giving a little at different times but also each constantly present. Now for the frame, but remember that the frame is not necessarily next it is just more evident now that the bike is in motion. Turn to verse 43-44

43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
44 If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.


Now that we see the correlation between these three God-like attributes we can talk in more detail about what charity is. We don’t have to travel very far, just to the next verse, 45-47:

45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.


There is no summing that up, it is very clear to the simplest of minds. Now I must close and I want to close with the big why. Why; is charity so important, Mormon tells us this as well, verse 48:

48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.

Is that not the goal, to see him as he is and to be purified even as he is pure?

I want you all to know that I love this Gospel with all my heart. I know that it is the only true church upon the face of the whole earth. I know that it was restored again upon the earth by Joseph Smith, whose sacrifice and focus causes my heart to overflow with love and gratitude. I also know that Moroni under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost gave us chapter 7, that if we learn and apply these teachings we will one day become like our Father in Heaven and give glory to Jesus Christ for giving us such teachings. I also know that we will one day embrace Moroni and shed tears of joy and gratitude for him being an instrument in the Lords hands in giving us these great teachings, and then we will have an opportunity to embrace and thank Mormon for his inspired words. If we heed these teachings, there will be such a day as I have testified and our joy will be full and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Source: http://ldstalks.blogspot.com/2009/01/talk-on-charity.html

Craig

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unity in Marriage

My wife, Kiera, and I were asked to teach a combined 5th Sunday lesson in our ward back in August. I kept meaning to compile this lesson into a talk and still will at some point, but until then here is our lesson notes. I took the sections in black and my wife took the sections in blue. For my sections I have changed the text color to red for the things that I taught that were not in the lesson.

Unity in Marriage

The Lord has commanded husbands and wives to be one.

To begin the lesson, write on the chalkboard 1+1=1.

- How does this describe the marriage relationship?

Unity Game:

1. Have everyone take a min to think about a vacation that they have not taken but would like to. Think about how to explain it to someone in 60 seconds.

2. Now turn to whoever is next to you and I want both of you to explain your vacation in 60 seconds. You will do it at the same time and be prepared to report on the vacation.

3. Have a few explain their experience?

- How does that apply to unity in marriage?

Read Genesis 2:24 with them.

“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

-What does it mean for a husband and wife to be one?

Read Three Principles of Marriage

Three Principles of Marriage, Matthew O. Richardson, Ensign, Apr 2005, 20–24

Leaving

All couples can review their relationships, regardless of how long they have been married, to see if they have left or are allowing others to leave appropriately. Our personal hobbies, the choice of how we use our discretionary time, the people we choose to spend time with, or our quest and love for things may be dampening our relationships.

Cleaving

By scriptural definition… we find that God expects us to “cling” to our spouse or to “stick” with him or her. But it should also be understood that this is not a one-time event but a condition that lasts throughout a couple’s marriage.

In 1831 the Lord revealed the law of the Church to the newly gathered Saints and commanded, “Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else” (D&C 42:22). This is the only place in scripture where the Lord asks us to love anything or anyone with all our hearts besides Himself. President Hinckley has… said that a husband should regard his wife “as the greatest treasure of his life.” 8 In Matthew 6:21 [Matt. 6:21] we read, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (see also 3 Ne. 13:21).

Becoming One

When a man and a woman fully understand that they can be complete only with each other, they learn to appreciate their differences and adjust their behavior as required in the Lord’s plan of happiness… the Lord taught Joseph Smith, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

Unity in marriage is not achieved simply by kneeling at an altar and accepting a spouse. It requires effort for a couple to become one… [It] requires a change of heart, a change of mind, and even a change of living… Today we find that too many people are trying to change the Church, the scriptures, or gospel principles to match their designs rather than changing themselves to match the message of the Savior. How many couples try to shape marriage to fit their own perspective rather than undertaking the process of trying to shape themselves to the type of marriage God has ordained?

Circles

-Many times marriage is represented by circles interlocking.

Read Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

“If Ye Are Not One Ye Are Not Mine”

The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, said of those who would be part of His Church: “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). And at the creation of man and woman, unity for them in marriage was not given as hope; it was a command! “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Our Heavenly Father wants our hearts to be knit together. That union in love is not simply an ideal. It is a necessity.

Triangle

-Another representation of marriage puts the Savior at the top signifying our journey toward him and then the wife on one side and the husband on the other. Notice now how as we move closer to our Savior we draw closer to each other.

I personally like to visualize the circles on each corner and as we draw closer and closer to our Savior we truly become one. We become a new creature, Paul says, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17), I believe this applies to marriage, we become new creatures as we become united and one with the Savor at our head.

This lesson discusses several ways in which husbands and wives can be unified.

Husbands and wives are to value each other as equal partners.

An important principle of unity in marriage is that husbands and wives should value each other as equal partners.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have” (“I Believe,” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 6).

  • • Why must husbands and wives value one another as equal partners to be one?
  • • What are some attitudes or customs that keep husbands and wives from being equal partners in their marriage? What can husbands and wives do to overcome such challenges?
    • Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
    • “It was not meant that the woman alone accommodate herself to the priesthood duties of her husband or her sons. She is of course to sustain and support and encourage them.
    • “Holders of the priesthood, in turn, must accommodate themselves to the needs and responsibilities of the wife and mother. Her physical and emotional and intellectual and cultural well-being and her spiritual development must stand first among [their] priesthood duties.
    • “There is no task, however menial, connected with the care of babies, the nurturing of children, or with the maintenance of the home that is not [a husband’s] equal obligation” (“A Tribute to Women,” Ensign, July 1989, 75).

As I read this I thought of the Joseph Smith movie. Joseph is out cleaning the rug and one of the other brother came by and said that he didn’t think that the prophet of the church should be seen doing such menial chores. I can’t remember exactly what he said but it was something to the affect of marriage is intended to last for eternity and we should only hope that our wives will want us for eternity.

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled priesthood holders: “As a husband and worthy priesthood bearer, you will want to emulate the example of the Savior, whose priesthood you hold. You will make giving of self to wife and children a primary focus of your life. Occasionally a man attempts to control the destiny of each family member. He makes all the decisions. His wife is subjected to his personal whims. Whether that is the custom or not is immaterial. It is not the way of the Lord. It is not the way a Latter-day Saint husband treats his wife and family” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1999, 32; or Ensign, May 1999, 26).

• What are some things husbands and wives do when they value each other as equal partners? (Have Craig Right them down)

    • a. They share responsibility for ensuring that the family prays together, conducts family home evening, and studies the scriptures together.
    • b. They work together in planning how family finances are used.
    • c. They consult together and come to agreement on household rules and how to discipline children. The children see that their parents are unified in such decisions.
    • d. They plan family activities together.
    • e. They both help with housekeeping responsibilities.
    • f. They attend church together.

Husbands and wives should allow their individual characteristics and abilities to complement one another.

Read 1 Corinthians 11:11 with participants.

Nevertheless neither is the aman without the woman, neither the bwoman without the man, in the Lord.

Read Elder Richard G. Scott:

“In the Lord’s plan, it takes two—a man and a woman—to form a whole. … For the greatest happiness and productivity in life, both husband and wife are needed. Their efforts interlock and are complementary. Each has individual traits that best fit the role the Lord has defined for happiness as a man or woman. When used as the Lord intends, those capacities allow a married couple to think, act, and rejoice as one—to face challenges together and overcome them as one, to grow in love and understanding, and through temple ordinances to be bound together as one whole, eternally. That is the plan” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 101; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 73–74).

Conduct the following exercise:

Give each participant a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Ask each participant who is married to list some of his or her characteristics and abilities and some of the characteristics and abilities of his or her spouse. Ask each participant who is single to think of a married couple and list some characteristics and abilities of the husband and wife. After participants have had a few minutes to write, ask the following questions:

In what ways can the characteristics and abilities that you have listed help married couples be unified? (Ask participants to share specific examples.)

In what ways have you seen differences between husbands and wives become strengths in their relationship?

-My blessing that I received where the Lord told me that Kiera was my strength and that I was her strength. I can't tell you how many times my mind has reflected back on those words and now I see how true that really is. I am nothing without her.

Read the following statement by Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley, wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley, about her first year of marriage:

“We loved each other; there was no doubt about that, but we also had to get used to each other. I think every couple has to get used to each other. Early on I realized it would be better if we worked harder to get used to each other than constantly try to change each other” (Church News, 26 Sept. 1998, 4).

In what ways might the results be different when couples try to “get used to each other” rather than “constantly try to change each other”?

-experience of preparing this lesson

Husbands and wives must be loyal to one another.

There is a little story I want to read from the 1982 Liahona it is by Hugh W. Pinnock:

“Several years ago while visiting in Florida I talked with Frank Shorter, a world-class marathon athlete. He won his event in the 1972 Olympics, placed second in 1976, and has won many other long-distance races. As we talked about his training schedule, I learned that he has dedicated a great part of his life to success in athletics. He knows exactly what foods to eat, how many kilometers to run each day for his needs (which is about 20 miles,) the attitude he needs to have if he expects to be victorious and a number of other characteristics relating to perfection in his chosen field.

While thinking of Frank Shorter and others who have succeeded in their chosen line of work, hobby, or profession, I asked myself, “Why couldn’t more of our husbands and wives have the same type of dedication to a successful marriage?”

I know of nothing worthwhile in life that comes easy—and nothing in life is as valuable as a strong marriage and a secure family.”

He goes on to say:

“Most strong marriages have been severely tested. Husbands and wives who encounter and surmount suffering, pain, misunderstanding, and temptation can enjoy a marriage that is beautiful and eternal. But I do not want us to look to the past—let us look only to today and the future.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Determine that there will never be anything that will come between you that will disrupt your marriage. Make it work. Resolve to make it work. There is far too much of divorce, wherein hearts are broken and sometimes lives are destroyed. Be fiercely loyal one to another” (“Life’s Obligations,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 2, 4).

  • • What does the word loyal mean to you? (Answers may include being faithful, true, and trustworthy in a relationship.)

The Lord emphasized the need for husbands and wives to be loyal to one another. Read Doctrine and Covenants 42:22 22 Thou shalt alove thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt bcleave unto her and none else.

This commandment applies equally to husbands and wives.

  • • What does it mean to cleave to a husband or wife and none else?

President Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th President of the Church, taught: “The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes preeminent in the life of the husband or wife, and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 143).

  • • How can a person keep social, occupational, and Church commitments from interfering with loyalty to his or her spouse?

• What are some specific ways in which couples can show loyalty to one another?

    • a. A husband can reschedule work, recreation, or other appointments to celebrate his wife’s birthday.
    • b. A wife can pray daily for the success of her husband in his activities.
    • c. They can listen to each other, even when doing so may not be convenient.
    • d. They can speak lovingly and respectfully about each other in conversations with family members and friends.

Conclusion

This whole week my mind kept coming back to the question of why is it so important to be unified and the thought kept coming back to me that one reason is for our children. Then I found the quote that sums this up, it is by Spencer W Kimball.

When two Latter-day Saints are united together in marriage, promises are made to them concerning their offspring that reach from eternity to eternity. They are promised that they shall have the power and the right to govern and control and administer salvation and exaltation and glory to their offspring, worlds without end. And what offspring they do not have here, undoubtedly there will be opportunities to have them hereafter. What else could man wish? A man and a woman, in the other life, having celestial bodies, free from sickness and disease, glorified and beautified beyond description, standing in the midst of their posterity, governing and controlling them, administering life, exaltation and glory worlds without end.

In order for us to achieve such an honor we need to learn to be united with our spouse and serve them as if their comfort is all that matters because in the eternal scheme of things that is all that does matter.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stick of Joseph

I have a non-member friend who came to church with me and really enjoyed himself. He wanted to study the book of Alma because he was intrigued by its teaching and so the missionaries got him a Book of Mormon. I started talking to him about the book and how it is a history of the stick of Joseph who was sold into Egypt. I told him about how the scriptures explains how Joseph testified how his posterity would be broken off and preserved and how this book is the history of Joseph and that the Bible is the history of Judah. He then asked me where he can find that in the Bible? I was unsure and told him that I would find out for him. That led me to a quick search during the beginning of Elders Quorum in hopes to quickly find an answer for him. I must say that my mind was given flight and the Spirit guided my search and thinking and I was able to piece together an answer for him. I found support in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith Translation. I am thankful to the guidence of the Spirit and also realized that I needed to study the Bible in greater detail. This talk is the result of my search in an effort to be able to show by ways of the scriptures the reality and existence of the stick of Joseph.
Lets start by reading the prophecy of Ezekiel:

16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 ¶ And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. (Ezekiel 37:16-19)
Mormon Doctrine explains "sticks" as follows: "Ezekiel, in foretelling the preparation and coming forth of the Book of Mormon, called it the stick of Ephraim, and the stick of Joseph in the hand of Ephraim. In similar imagery he called the Bible the stick of Judah. The promise was that these two records would become one stick in the Lord's hand in the day of the gathering of Israel. (Ezek. 37:15-28.)

"Here then was a symbol," Elder Orson Pratt said, "represented before their eyes in language that could not he misunderstood; it was a symbol of two records; for it is well known that records were kept in ancient times on parchment; rolled upon sticks, the same as we keep our maps at this day. All the prophecies of Jeremiah for many years were written and rolled round a stick, and were called a book; so in Ezekiel these sticks represent two records, one the record of the tribe of Joseph, and the other of Judah." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, pp. 290-291.)"

Here we see only two sticks but were there not 12 sons of Jacob or Israel, which were given blessings? Yes, there were but they are the lost tribes of Israel and there in lies the secret. In order for the gathering to take place all 12 must be gathered together. It is interesting to note that many look to the Bible as the only word of God, and that is where it gets interesting because there in the Bible it talks about the lost 10 tribes of Israel and how they will be gathered again to gain their inheritance, but counting Judah and the lost 10 tribes of Israel that is only 11, why because the reminant of Joseph is not lost but is present with Judah and their history is contained in the Book of Mormon. Nephi, helps us understand this very well, even in a language which is plain that it can't be misunderstood.

To start off with Nephi talks about the Bible:

3 And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.
4 But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? Yea, what do the Gentiles mean? Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?
5 O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.
Then, Nephi explains the true gathering of the word of God:
6 Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
12 For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
13 And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
14 And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.

Now for what purpose are the sticks of Judah and the sticks of Joseph and some day the sticks of the lost 10 tribes of Israel brought to one? Nephi unfolds this mystery unto us:

2 Nephi 30:3-8
3 And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed.
4 And then shall the remnant of our seed know concerning us, how that we came out from Jerusalem, and that they are descendants of the Jews.
5 And the gospel of Jesus Christ shall be declared among them; wherefore, they shall be restored unto the knowledge of their fathers, and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, which was had among their fathers.
6 And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.
7 And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land; and as many as shall believe in Christ shall also become a delightsome people.
8 And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth."

The whole grand purpose of all of this is to bring all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people to knowledge of the Savior of the world even Jesus Christ and not just to a knowledge but to a full inheritance. What great wisdom does our Father in Heaven and His son have and what great love, that they remember all people that have ever lived upon this earth and that does now live upon the earth. It is sweet to me and it brings me great joy.

So we see that the Lord is mindful of all people, the question now at hand is where is the stick of Joseph? The Lord himself declares in D&C 27:5:

5 Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim;

Remember in Ezekiel the Lord said, "I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim." So we now see that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Joseph. This is very well documented in the Book of Mormon but not quite as clearly described in the Bible. Why is it not as well documented or prophecied in the Bible because the prophecies of Joseph are contained in the brass plates which we know from the Book of Mormon were taken by Lehi into the wilderness and therefore were not present to be compiled into the Bible.

" 1 AND now, I, Nephi, speak concerning the prophecies of which my father hath spoken, concerning Joseph, who was carried into Egypt.
2 For behold, he truly prophesied concerning all his seed. And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater. And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass." (2 Nephi 4:1-2)

Even though we do not have the great prophecies of Joseph we still have evidence of the whereabouts of his posterity.

Genesis 49:22
" 22 ¶ Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall:"

A bough is a vine, whose branches run over the wall signifying that his posterity, symbolized by branches, shall be led to a new land symbolized, by running over, and the wall symbolized, the land that the original vine is on. Again, the Book of Mormon is clear and uses the same type of imagery in Jacob 5 refering to the house of Israel as an olive tree. Contained in this chapter is a representation or prophecy of what is to befall the house of Israel from the begining to the end. Here we see the bough or branches being grafted into another spot of ground or land.

Jacob 5-8
8 And behold, saith the Lord of the vineyard, I take away many of these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will; and it mattereth not that if it so be that the root of this tree will perish, I may preserve the fruit thereof unto myself; wherefore, I will take these young and tender branches, and I will graft them whithersoever I will.

As I studied this parable I realized that Ezekiel used similar imagery as well in descibing Joseph's seed.

Ezekiel 17:22
22 ¶ Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon an high mountain and eminent:

Joseph Smith by the power of God retranslated the Bible and one of the verses that was left out or removed from the original translation of the Bible is the following found in Genesis 50:24 in the JST:

25 And it shall come to pass that they shall be scattered again; and a branch shall be broken off, and shall be carried into a far country; nevertheless they shall be remembered in the covenants of the Lord, when the Messiah cometh; for he shall be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the Spirit of power; and shall bring them out of darkness into light; out of hidden darkness, and out of captivity unto freedom.
Another prophecy that I happened to stuble upon in my reading is found in Alma 46:23 and is quoted by Captain Moroni after he rent his garments and wrote the title of Liberty upon it and the people came flocking to him willing to convenant that they will maintain their freedom and fight for the cause of the Christians. Here are his words:
23 Moroni said unto them: Behold, we are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; yea, we are a remnant of the seed of Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces; yea, and now behold, let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain.
24 Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea, let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.
25 Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son, because of that part of his seed which shall be taken unto God.
26 Now behold, this was the language of Jacob.

It seems to me that here is evidence that sets forth most positively the existence of the stick of Joseph and that it is in reality the Book of Mormon, but there is only one true way to know without a shadow of doubt and that is to ask Him to whom it is that knows all even our Father in Heaven. He will testify to your heart the truthfulness of this sacred record.
Ezra Taft Benson said, "We do not have to prove the Book of Mormon is true. The book is its own proof. All we need to do is read it and declare it! The Book of Mormon is not on trial- the people of the world, including the members of the church, are on trial as to what they will do with this second witness for Christ. (also found in Conference Report, Oct. 1984)
With that I testify to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and know through the Holy Spirit that it is true and that it contains the words of Christ and it testifys of him. I would like to close with the following quote by Ezra Taft Benson which reads, "The Bible sits on the pulpit of hundreds of different religious sects. The Book of Mormon, the record of Joseph, verifies and clarifies the Bible. It removes stumbling blocks, it restores many plain and precious things. We testify that when used together, the Bible and the Book of Mormon confound false doctrines, lay down contentions. and establish peace. (BofM Study Guide, ch 1)
Amen.