The other day our family was having a dinnertime conversation to which JT posed a question after the topic of birthdays came up. He said, “Mom, what day was I born on?” Finding this question puzzling since I knew that he knew the date of his birthday I reminded him, “February 26th.” He had the happiest most amazed look, and exclaimed with his sparkling eyes and raspy voice, “I was born on my birthday!” Of course this produced a round of laughter. Isn’t child like wonder a magical thing?
When I was a little girl, one of the questions I remember wondering to my parents was, “Why didn’t you name me a cute and more common name like Stephanie?” To which I felt like I was given a few unsatisfactory explanations, until one day my mom finally said; “We had a couple of names in mind, and we just thought you looked more like a Jodi than a Penny”. After that I decided that my parents chose the perfect name for me. My brothers and sister still call me by my nickname, “Jo”. Some of us have often heard the phrase, “just your average Jo” when referring to someone that is typical or common. A few years ago I connected something, I had an ah-hah moment when I realized; this is totally true about me! I let the idea roll around in my head until it stuck to my inner thoughts. I genuinely felt ok about it all because I tend to want to comfortably blend in most of the time. I wonder if any of you have ever felt this way too at times, even if your nickname isn’t Jo? I’ll explain later how this relates to my talk, so be just be patient with me.
But for now, I would love to take time with you to tap into our inner birthday child wonder and rediscover how awesome it is that we were born on our birthdays!
It’s actually amazing isn’t it that we were born and are living here on earth at this time? If we really have a testimony of the Plan of Salvation, in particular that we lived in Heaven as spirits before we came to earth in mortality, this notion is reason to celebrate big time! This is our chance to see how we are going to continue to choose Jesus Christ as our Savior, we know from what we’ve been taught that we did choose to follow him before we came and that is why we were given the privilege to receive an earthly body. We have been waiting a pretty long time to get our turn to see what we can do around here, somewhere roughly around the 6000-year mark. This is one of the reasons I want to believe that birthdays can still be just as magical at 39, 6 or 73 after all it’s the anniversary of the day you and I received these bodies we came to church in today, the bodies that were created in the image of God as we’ve been taught.
In His conference address entitled, “Decisions for Eternity”, Russell M. Nelson gave a beautiful description of these bodies that house our spirits. He said, “My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body. Created by God as a gift to you, it is absolutely amazing! Think of your eyes that see, ears that hear, and fingers that feel all the wondrous things around you. Your brain lets you learn, think, and reason. Your heart pumps tirelessly day and night, almost without your awareness. Your body protects itself. Pain comes as a warning that something is wrong and needs attention. Infectious illnesses strike from time to time, and when they do, antibodies are formed that increase your resistance to subsequent infection. Your body repairs itself. Cuts and bruises heal. Broken bones can become strong once again.” End quote. Isn’t this a WONDER?!
Elder David Bednar enlightened us with something very serious to consider during his conference address from April 2013, “As sons and daughters of God, we have inherited divine capacities from Him. But we presently live in a fallen world. The very elements out of which are bodies were created are by nature fallen and ever subject to the pull of sin, corruption, and death. … And yet we are dual beings, for our spirit that is the eternal part of us is tabernacle in a physical body that is subject to the Fall. As Jesus emphasized to the Apostle Peter, The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).Because a physical body is so central to the Father’s plan of happiness and our spiritual development, Lucifer seeks to frustrate our progression by tempting us to use our bodies improperly. The very tool he does not have is thus the primary target of his attempts to lure us to spiritual destruction.” Close quote.
Unfortunately, this is true, and as I’ve gotten older I’m see that the world’s influences swim upon us in big waves as we are trying to remember this. I want to again accentuate Satan and his followers didn’t get the honor of having an earthy body and they are more than jealous! I’m sure they are delighted to see things like: addictions to food, drugs, gaming, pornography; media influences that mock virtue; infidelity and immorality; and domestic violence and abuse to name just a few. These are all things that Satan and his followers throw at us, whether we are watching, participating, or a victim of somebody else’s choice these are a reality. All of these and more can truly leave us heartbroken, confused, and questioning.
Elder Russell M. Nelson gave us hope when he acknowledged, “Mistakes happen. Errors are made. Sins are committed. What can we do then? We can learn from them. And we can truly repent [and I am going to insert her forgive ourselves and others]. We can change our behavior. Our very desire can change. How? There is only one way. True change, permanent change, can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you, each of you! He allows you to access His power as you keep His commandments, eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain.” End quote
Our flesh and bones were the first gift we received in mortality. We only get one body. We must be watchful to not believe the lies of negative and destructive behavior or thinking that Satan places before us. In YW each week we recite, “We are daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love Him. We will stand (this sometimes means literally with our bodies) as witnesses of Him at all times, in all things, and in all places. It is true for sons and daughters alike and no matter what age we are! As we keep God’s commandments, we prove that we are worthy of our destiny to become like Him. We all matter and we each have a unique purpose, Heavenly Father loves us! IF this is true, and my testimony is that is absolutely is, that means that individually we can do amazing things that will become extraordinary when joined together as followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. We matter! Nobody is just an average Jo- not even me!
Lastly, I would like to say, “happy birth day” to each one of us. It is my testimony that God does have a plan for us. It was presented to us before the world began. We have been waiting for our turn to come here and have this experience to prove our willingness to continue to follow the Savior in these latter days! Our bodies, no matter the current condition, are amazing. Let us not take for granted the gift and opportunity it is to be living the mortal experience. Let us be grateful for the challenges our bodies give us to remind us that at least we have one. Let us have respect for them and other people’s and treat them with dignity and virtue, never to defile the miraculous gift for what it is. It is my hope and prayer that we may each cherish every day of our mortal lives and be found as one ready to become who the Lord needs us to be as we help the rest of our spirit brothers and sisters throughout the world understand this important truth.