Dwell in These Words

18 07 2013

Prophet-President Steve Veazey recently talked with Linda Booth, president of the Council of Twelve Apostles and director of Communications, about the words of counsel he presented to the World Conference in April. These excerpts are the first of a three-part series from their conversation. See the entire interview and view or read the words of counsel at www.CofChrist.org/presidency/041413wordsofcounsel.

President Steve Veazey

President Steve Veazey

Linda: In the introduction, you spoke about your prayers for direction on behalf of the church, as well as for the world that we serve. You said the words of counsel are an expression of your role as prophet-president, and as you prayed, you made yourself vulnerable to the Holy Spirit. You spoke of being surprised by that Spirit. Could you tell us about that experience?

Steve: I’d be glad to. I try to maintain a regular schedule of spiritual practices, but over the last six months or so, I’ve tried to give even more attention to that. It was during that time, as I took more time for reflection, prayer, but especially silence, just being in the presence of God, where I began to experience what I’ve learned to recognize as the impulse or prompting of the Spirit.
I knew I needed to pay attention to that. So I became even more focused. As I spent time in prayer and reflection, I began to have a sense of certain themes that I knew were intended for a broader audience—the church. So I began to make note of that.

I was surprised because I really felt the counsel that had been given to the church was still needing a lot of attention, and I had sort of concluded…words of counsel would not be coming to this Conference. Then I was caught up in an experience where it became obvious to me that was going to occur. That was the beginning of the words of counsel I shared at World Conference.

Linda: Yes, and you encouraged the church to go more deeply into these concepts and the words, which for me have great power and meaning as we prayerfully consider them. And you asked the church to take that journey with you with these words. It’s almost as if we, as a people, are being directed to be more prophetic as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Steve: Yes, it’s a continuation of the journey we’ve been on. I think if we look back over the last two or three decades, there’s been this call from God to us to continue to become a prophetic people.

I think we’ve come to understand it’s more than just individual discernment. It’s something we actually do together; we experience it in community together. So, for the last several decades, we’ve been growing in our experience of discernment around important issues in the life of the church. As we’ve gained experience, and developed new processes and tools, we’ve seen the blessings and benefits that come to the church.

So…I did experience a sense of the Spirit saying to me, “Encourage the church to spend a lot of time with these words, and dwell in these words in order for the church to continue to grow as a prophetic people.” Which means discerning what God is doing in the world to bring about God’s purposes and what God will be doing in the future…and coming to understand that not just individually, but together as a faith community. That’s why I make it so essential that we spend time in that way.

Linda: I remember one phrase that we are “to advance the response God desires.” Is that what you’re meaning?

Steve: Yes, that’s part of it. The words of counsel are meant to draw us into experience with God.So if we just stop at the surface and read the words, we haven’t gone near deep enough. They are to be a doorway into individual—and especially corporate or community—experience with the divine nature and will.

So, the call is, yes—go deeper. And spend plenty of time doing that, because there is insight and meaning that can unfold and blossom. That becomes part of our experience as a church community.

Linda: Oftentimes, we’ll note in words of counsel, Doctrine and Covenants, and even some scriptures in the New Testament that God lifts up continuously themes and concepts for our attention. It’s true in these words of counsel, as well. What do you think God is trying to emphasize to Community of Christ?

Steve: Well, I think the key is to look back over the last 20 or 30 years and recognize that as we read those words of counsel, certain themes are consistent, though maybe expressed in somewhat different ways. But multiple prophet-presidents have identified these themes and concepts for us to pay attention to as a church community. So it is the consistency of the themes, and the persistence of certain themes that really should emphasize for us how important they are.

What are some of those themes? The importance of spiritual formation to be effective in mission, I think is a theme that runs throughout a number of recent sections of the Doctrine of Covenants. The call is to continue to explore and go deeper in what it means to be communities of diversity that have unity in the love and Spirit of Jesus Christ. Oneness and equality, as the recent words of counsel express it. Generosity runs throughout a number of sections, and in these words of counsel especially is lifted up as a concept of spiritual practice that helps us grow as disciples. It also frees the capacity of the church’s mission to fulfill its potential in the world.

Others are the Worth of All Persons, giftedness of persons, and the opportunity that should be afforded in the church for people to express their God-given giftedness. The continuing call to holistic mission that includes evangelism, but also abolishing poverty and establishing justice throughout the world, ending needless suffering.

And there’s a constant theme of the relationship between being peacemakers, and the coming of God’s peaceful reign on Earth. Those are some themes that really stand out for me.

Linda: And the words of counsel go a little deeper, even, into the Mission Initiatives, or Christ’s mission is our mission. You brought up new understandings in these words, in particular with Abolish Poverty, End Suffering. It’s the added word of “needless” suffering.

Steve: That was a very interesting experience, as I thought about the human condition. I think the succinct statement Abolish Poverty, End Suffering is right, yet the words of counsel say “End needless suffering.” That’s a recognition that, as human beings, we do suffer, and sometimes through suffering there is growth.

But a lot of needless suffering is caused by greed, conflict, violence, and other people’s actions that take away the sense of an individual’s worth. That’s all needless suffering. And that is the suffering we are especially called to address.

Then, in terms of Pursue Peace on Earth, it had always been my understanding that peace on Earth included environmental peace—peace for the Earth itself. But as I was shaping these words of counsel, the emphasis really came through very strongly that it…has a lot to do with human interactions, and that is also pursuing peace for the Earth. I think that’s an important insight into the meaning of that statement.

Linda: I was also struck by the words of counsel where it says that we’re on a spiritual venture. I really like that it says, “Boldly follow the initiatives into the heart of God’s vision for the church and creation.” That’s a profound way of looking at God’s vision.

Steve: Yes. The vision of God was embodied in the life and the ministry of Jesus Christ, and as Jesus grasped that vision, he said, “This is what I’m called to do.” There were certain themes of that mission that became very important to him, which we have identified as our Mission Initiatives. We need to understand in the church today that the Mission Initiatives are not just programs or optional activities. They’re the very essence of what it means to be the body of Christ. It’s actually very spiritual in terms of engaging in those ministries and experiencing the Spirit of God with us and the affirmation that this is what is important to God.

Linda: So as we deepen spiritually to capture God’s vision for not only the church but for the world, we will continue to shape communities that live Christ’s love and mission. That’s a bold call for the church. Not just for individuals, but for communities of individuals who will boldly and passionately love like Christ and fulfill Christ’s mission.

Steve: Yes, it is a bold call. It’s not necessarily new, but the very purpose of the church is to embody the love, the life, the mission, the hope of Jesus Christ and express it in ways that others can experience it. That’s what we mean by incarnation—not just God being an incarnating Christ, but Christ being enfleshed in our lives and relationships.

It means the church is not about a schedule of activities, so much; it’s about what we do together that frees us to share Christ’s love with each other and in the world with those who have need so they, too, can experience God’s love in Christ.

It’s a deeply spiritual venture. It also says that as we develop relationships with others and share in ministries of inviting, of addressing poverty and suffering, of justice and peacemaking, that not only are others blessed, but we become spiritually transformed as we learn to dwell more and more in God’s life and love. That’s why the words of counsel talk about it being a spiritual venture. It grows us, as well as being a blessing for others.

Linda: So we truly then do become Community of Christ.

Steve: Which requires spiritual transformation.




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24 07 2013
Dwell In These Words – Part 1 | Young Adult Ministries

[…] Read the first part of the series here: Dwell In These Words […]

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