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Auckland Woman Shares Sunday Sermon about Wild Weather Warnings and Being Prepared

We’re building a firm foundation when we realize that lasting happiness will come as we keep the commandments of God and as we put our trust in Christ, who is our Saviour.

Renee Leone with her son, Spencer. Auckland, New Zealand 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Renee Leone is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Auckland, New Zealand. In light of recent extreme weather events her family has experienced, she shared a sermon in her local congregation recently about wild weather and thoughtful preparation to face the storms of life with faith and courage. A transcript of her remarks follows.

Members of the Church, like Renee, are invited to give sermons in their local congregations. The first Sunday of each month is reserved for fasting and sharing testimonies during worship services, and anyone can share their beliefs in these settings. All are welcome to attend worship services, known as sacrament meetings, whether you are a member of the Church or not. Learn more about Latter-day Saints and worship here. Find a meetinghouse close to you, here.

When severe weather is forecast, what makes you decide to act upon or disregard the warning? Psychologists have found that not everyone responds the same way in these situations and so they’re always working together with meteorologists to evaluate and implement better warning systems.

Researchers have discovered that people tend to not want to change their plans for the weather unless they’re fairly certain it’s going to impact them. They’ve also found that people get desensitized to watches and warnings after many storms don’t materialize. 

The time a warning is issued to the public can also make a difference in their response. When people are given too much lead time, they can get tired of waiting and go back to their business. There’s also evidence that suggests that some people feel silly for taking shelter, that it somehow reflects poorly on their courage. 

Now I don’t know about you, but I used to feel a little bit that way when we would get a cyclone or heavy rain warning, because they never really seemed to eventuate into anything. So, I would think in my mind, oh we’ve got this warning, but last time it was nothing and so it’ll probably be nothing again. However now, probably like a lot of you, when I hear the warnings I actually stop and listen. Now that I know how bad it can be, I don’t want to be stuck out on the roads in a helpless and unpredictable situation. If I’m out and a warning comes, I’ll quickly head home and I’ll try to make sure we’re as prepared as possible.

Like everything temporal, these terrible storms also have a spiritual equivalent.

We know that the world will not glide calmly toward the Second Coming of the Saviour. The scriptures declare that “all things shall be in commotion.” Torrential rain is pouring out of the modern-day sky with increasing frequency and prophets have long foretold that this will test our spiritual foundations. 

Brigham Young said, “It was revealed to me in the commencement of this Church, that the Church would spread, prosper, grow and extend and that in proportion to the spread of the Gospel among the nations of the earth, so would the power of Satan rise.” I think we can all agree that we are clearly seeing that in our day. 

To weather these storms in this environment, we have been instructed by the prophets to become grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things. What does it mean to be grounded, rooted, established, and settled spiritually? It means having an eternal perspective and keeping our eyes open to Satan’s lies and distractions. When we’re evaluating decisions we can ask ourselves will this matter 5 years, 50 years or a hundred years from now? Or, the difficulties that I’m struggling with now, how important will they seem further on down the road?

We’re building a firm foundation when we realize that lasting happiness will come as we keep the commandments of God and as we put our trust in Christ, who is our Saviour.

Over these last couple of weeks as we’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount, I’ve heard it referred to as the recipe for a happy life and I really like that little summary of it. There are so many great teachings contained there and if we will practice these principles they will help us build a foundation so strong that the spiritual floods and cyclones of this world will not be able to dislodge us or carry us away. 

One of the first things in the Sermon on the Mount that stood out to me as a spiritual necessity for a firm foundation, is that we must pray always. We all remember President Nelson, during his first general conference as the Prophet, urging Latter-day Saints to increase their spiritual capacity to receive revelation. He said that “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting and constant influence of the Holy Ghost,” and prayer is that conduit to heaven. 

The Saviour teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that prayer isn’t about the words we use. We don’t pray so we can look good to others, we pray to build a relationship and connect with our Father in Heaven. When I read the line about not using vain repetitions, I see it as an instruction not to just recite the same things over and over again without feeling. I also think it’s an invitation that lets us know that we may speak freely and openly with Him. We’re not living off a script and when we pray to Heavenly Father we can speak about anything and everything that’s happening in our lives because He cares about us as a perfect Parent does.

My son Spencer was away at camp from Tuesday to Friday this week and by Thursday night I was hanging out for Friday afternoon to come. I’m used to seeing and talking to him every day. I missed that communication that we’re so used to having as a parent and child, and that’s exactly the way our Father in Heaven feels every time we come to Him in prayer. Hopefully it’s often, but even if it’s been awhile, I’m sure He’s thrilled when that line of communication opens up again.

The line in the Lord's Prayer in Matthew Chapter 11:6 that says “give us this day our daily bread” stood out to me. This made me think about manna and how the children of Israel received that sustenance from the Lord each morning while they were traveling in the wilderness. I like what it teaches us in terms of our spiritual fortification. Yesterday’s prayer is actually not going to be enough for today and today is going to require its own connection with heaven. Prayer invites Christ into our story and we can ask for what we need each day, because every day that can and will change. 

I’d like to share a story to illustrate another practice that I think is really important if we want to build our house upon a rock that will continue to withstand the spiritual storms that are upon us.

Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office address that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background. A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office.

The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They murmured among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons. They assumed the man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.

Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, “Gentlemen, thank you very much for coming, but the job has just been filled.” The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, “Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!”

The employer said, “I’m sorry, but all the time you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code, ‘If you understand this message then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it but this young man did so the job is his.”

As in that story, our world is filled with much noise and interference and if we aren’t intentional and can’t see beyond it, we too can easily miss the mark. It wasn’t that the other applicants didn’t know morse code, there was just too much going on in the office for them to hear it.

Matthew 6:24 it says that “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

In short, mammon can be defined as "earthly goods property or riches." Many of the things of this world divert our attention and love away from God as we focus too much on things of no lasting significance.

I don’t think any of us would intentionally choose the love of earthly goods, property and riches over God, but Satan is really good at blurring our vision and would have us distracted by and involved in anything and everything except what we came for.

After watching a magician perform a trick, our first thought is usually “How did he do that?” And the answer is simple: misdirection. A skillful magician leads us to focus our attention on something that seems important while he accomplishes his trick on the side and so we miss what’s really going on because something else distracts us and Satan’s tactics are exactly the same.

President Nelson has told the youth, “You have the capacity to be smarter and wiser and have more impact on the world than any previous generation!” That is a mighty and awe-inspiring statement when you sit back and let your mind ponder on all the generations that have gone before you! But whether or not that capacity will be unlocked all depends on you and your focus and those things that you give your time and attention to. And that’s true for all of us, not just the young and fresh ones.

I’d like to testify of the blessings that have come to my life by choosing to build it upon the rock of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. There have just been too many times in my life where I’ve thought to myself, "I don’t know how I would’ve done this without my testimony of the Gospel!" And I guess what I’m really meaning in that moment is that I don’t know how I would get through all the challenges and obstacles and difficulties without my Saviour, Jesus Christ. He is my strength and my protection and with Him I know that I have no need to fear.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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