Thursday, April 21, 2011

Palms for the Lord: My Talk on Worshiping God

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This is the talk that I gave in church this week (on Palm Sunday).  I spent a lot of time in prayer and fasting to prepare for this talk.  After listening to Elder Holland describe the process that speakers in General Conference go through to prepare for their talks, I figured a Sacrament talk was worth the same effort.  It was really a wonderful experience.  I learned some wonderful truths and had my testimony strengthened.

I hope that you enjoy it and receive it with the Spirit in which it was originally delivered.  I was the final speaker.  There were two men who spoke before me.  One was a youth speaker.  Here are my talk notes.  I tried to add things that I threw in during the delivery:

Assigned Topic: The 1st commandment:  Thou shalt have no other God’s before me.  I have chosen to speak specifically about WORSHIPING GOD.

As the spirit children of the Eternal Father, we have been placed on earth to be tried and tested, to see if we will keep his commandments and do those things which will qualify us to return to his presence and be like him.

Bruce R. McConkie has said, “[The Lord] has planted in our hearts an instinctive desire to worship, to seek salvation, to love and serve a power or being greater than ourselves. Worship is implicit in existence itself."

            (If you have ever witnessed a younger sibling following around his or her older siblings around the yard, you know that this instinctive desire to worship a “higher power” is indeed instinctual!)

I repeat:  "The issue is not whether men shall worship, but who or what is to be the object of their devotions and how they shall go about paying their devotions to their chosen Most High.”  Bruce R. McConkie

The 1st commandment states “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.”  This commandment echoes a great debate over “who has the right to rule”.  This was the subject of that great battle we call “The War in Heaven” which had its beginnings before the earth was created and which continues today.

The Family Proclamation states that in the pre-mortal existence, we knew and worshipped God as our Eternal Father.  Sadly, 1/3 of our spirit brothers and sisters did not choose to follow God.  They chose to follow Satan and were cast out.

Satan and his band of sore losers are determined to continue their fight by trying to sway our allegiance away from God.

During Christ’s mortal life, Satan brazenly attempted to persuade even the Savior of the world to bow down and worship him.  Satan promised on “easy terms” that which was not his to give.

Christ’s response was “Get thee hence, it is written ‘thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.”  Later to his apostles Christ said, “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all they heart.”

Satan is not picky.  He will take whatever he can get.  He would be happy to have us merely split our allegiance between God and…something else.  Anything else.

This was a weakness for the ancient Israelites, who the Bible Dictionary indicates, fell into idolatry by worshipping gods of the surrounding heathen nations IN ADDITION to worshipping Jehovah.

In our day, Satan has increased his efforts.  There is MUCH to worship in both the physical and virtual world.  Although we live in a world of great material wealth, the images that we can worship are no longer just limited to “graven images”, they are also digitized, fantasize, even imagined.

President Kimball once said:  “If a man worships a cow or a crocodile, he can gain any reward that cows and crocodiles happen to be passing out this season. ...But if he worships the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon him, and he will have power to raise the dead, move mountains, entertain angels, and walk in celestial streets.”

Whatever cause or desire is edging out God for first place in our lives, needs to go.  However, there are many good activities to enjoy in this life.  How can we tell if we are idolizing something? (Dennis Largey “Refusing to worship today’s graven images”:  “If by idolizing an activity we become less than “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” (D&C 76:79), we have violated the (first and) second commandment.”

The scriptures tell us that “no man can serve two masters”.  Oft-times our most unrelenting master is ourselves.  President Faust once said, “Today many of us are trying to serve two masters—the Lord and our own selfish interests.”

In a 1955 devotional, Marion G. Romney said, “Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the Devil.”

“Choose you this day whom ye shall serve.”

So how do we move from “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me” to a life where we “Love the Lord God with all of thy heart” as Jesus Christ has instructed?

Let us reflect on the example set by followers of Christ during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the original “Palm Sunday” and consider how it translates into what we must do in order to Love the Lord with all our heart.

Source:  Palms for the Lord” by Dorothy D. Warner (Friend Magazine, Mar 1996).

"Much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord (John 12:12–13).

The Sunday before Easter, often called Palm Sunday, reminds us of Christ’s entering Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. We picture Him riding a donkey, with crowds scattering palm branches along His path.

Many people think that palm branches were used because there were so many palm trees in that part of the world, but there were more reasons than that for choosing them. The palm branch was the emblem of Judea and appeared on the coins of that land, thus symbolizing one of the riches of that country. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, it was when the trees were in bloom, so in covering the way with palm branches, the people were offering a symbol of luxury.
It was a symbol of necessity too. To the Jews, palm branches represented a gift from God because of its many uses in their lives. The palm was so important in that area that when countries there went to war, the first thing they did was cut away the palm branches, causing their enemy to suffer the loss of food and livelihood (jobs).
This important tree has many different species (kinds of trees), ranging in size from less than ten feet (3 m) to over one hundred feet (30 m) high. The date palm supplied dates, of course. The coconut palm supplied both coconut and coconut milk. The sap of the sugar palm was dried, beaten, and ground into very fine sugar. Its leaves could also be boiled and used as a vegetable. The trunk of the sago palm supplied a strong starch that was ground into flour and made into unleavened bread.
Palm trees had almost no waste parts. Their coarse fiber was used to make brooms, mats, and baskets; their fine fiber was used to make sewing thread, and their heaviest fiber was used to make strong ropes for ships. Palm oils have been made into both butter and soap.
Coconut shells, too, were used. Fine bowls, cooking utensils, even tools were made from them. The timber of some palms was resistant to rot and salt water and was especially good for making boats.
The seeds of palms were boiled into a medicinal drink or were dried and eaten as nuts. If they were allowed to dry a long time, they became as hard as rock and transparent, and made durable beads and trinkets.
The palm’s yellowish-white flowers had an odor similar to that of violets, and they were made into perfume. The lovely, waxy flowers also were worn by the women as decorative headdresses.
On Palm Sunday, the followers of Christ, laid down symbols of wordly goods, both necessities and luxuries, that they were willing to lay at Christ’s feet to welcome him into their city, to praise, and to worship their Lord and Master.
In our day, there is a parallel.  We each have palms to lay at the feet of the Master, in order to praise and worship him, and to bid him enter our hearts.  In offering up these palms, we will truly come to “love the Lord God” with all of our heart.
First I will tell you of some palms that we can lay at Christ’s feet which will help us to stay true to our testimonies until the end of our days, then I will tell you of palms that each of us can give to worship God every day of our lives:
1.   Trusting in God and not in the arm of flesh
2.   Confront your weaknesses.
3.  Live your temple and baptismal covenants, and partake of the Sacrament worthily.
4.  Align yourself with the words of God’s prophet on the earth today.
 5.  Feast on the words of Christ.

6.  Acknowledge where all of your blessings come from.
7. Pray daily, even hourly for strength to overcome temptations.
When we are doing these things, when we are laying down these all-important palm leaves at the feet of the Savior, we can joyfully worship him daily in many, many other ways.
Consider again, the many practical uses for the palms which the people laid at the feet of Jesus.  When I say we should lay these things at the feet of the Savior, it doesn’t necessary mean laying things that we need to give up.  We worship God in the many small acts we perform daily for others.  By "laying these acts at the Savior's feet", we are dedicating them to the Lord.
We worship God with our talents.  Some people worship God through artwork, music, or dance.
Just as the palms represented the making of food, we worship God with every meal that we lay before our families, with every word of comfort that we bring to a sick friend.
Thread was made from palms, which makes me think that sewing a hole in my son’s jeans can also be an act that I lay before the Master.  Dressing modestly can also be part of my daily way to worship him.
As I think about palms...I consider my palms...the palms of my hands.  (At this point, I held up and pointed to my palm.)  The scriptures tell us that "When you are in the service of your fellow beings you are only in the service of your God."  I can offer up my palms and the work of my hands in service to others as an offering to the Lord as well.
When I think of my palms, I think about the Savior's palms and the fact that he has "written our names" on his palms in the marks of his hands.

The palms that the followers of Christ laid on palm Sunday represented luxury and necessity, work and play...and what is life made up of, but work and play.  So whether they were aware of it or not, the laying down of palm branches was laying down a symbol of their willingness to give their whole lives to know him.  I wonder how many of them realized that later that same week, the Savior would do just that...lay down his life for them.
It's possible that people misunderstand the role of Grace in our religion, because we talk so much of works, but this is our way of worshiping God.  We do these things, not as a way of "buying our ticket into heaven", but instead it is our way of showing our love for the Lord.  We worship him by loving and serving our fellow men.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.  


(The rest of this was part of my talk, but I did not include it for the sake of time.  But it's a good read.)
President Kimball:  “In other words, true and perfect worship consists in following in the steps of the Son of God; it consists in keeping the commandments and obeying the will of the Father to that degree that we advance from grace to grace until we are glorified in Christ as he is in his Father. It is far more than prayer and sermon and song. It is living and doing and obeying. It is emulating the life of the great Exemplar.”
To worship the Lord is to follow after him, to seek his face, to believe his doctrine, and to think his thoughts.
It is to walk in his paths, to be baptized as Christ was, to preach that gospel of the kingdom which fell from his lips, and to heal the sick and raise the dead as he did.
To worship the Lord is to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, to center our whole hearts upon Christ and that salvation which comes because of him.
It is to walk in the light as he is in the light, to do the things that he wants done, to do what he would do under similar circumstances, to be as he is.
To worship the Lord is to walk in the Spirit, to rise above carnal things, to bridle our passions, and to overcome the world.
It is to pay our tithes and offerings, to act as wise stewards in caring for those things which have been entrusted to our care, and to use our talents and means for the spreading of truth and the building up of his kingdom.
To worship the Lord is to be married in the temple, to have children, to teach them the gospel, and to bring them up in light and truth.
It is to perfect the family unit, to honor our father and our mother; it is for a man to love his wife with all his heart and to cleave unto her and none else.
To worship the Lord is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
It is to work on a welfare project, to administer to the sick, to go on a mission, to go home teaching, and to hold family home evening.
To worship the Lord is to study the gospel, to treasure up light and truth, to ponder in our hearts the things of his kingdom, and to make them part of our lives.
It is to pray with all the energy of our souls, to preach by the power of the Spirit, to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
To worship is to work, to be actively engaged in a good cause, to be about our Father’s business, to love and serve our fellowmen.
It is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort those that mourn, and to hold up the hands that hang down and to strengthen the feeble knees.
To worship the Lord is to stand valiantly in the cause of truth and righteousness, to let our influence for good be felt in civic, cultural, educational, and governmental fields, and to support those laws and principles which further the Lord’s interests on earth.
To worship the Lord is to be of good cheer, to be courageous, to be valiant, to have the courage of our God-given convictions, and to keep the faith.
It is ten thousand times ten thousand things. It is keeping the commandments of God. It is living the whole law of the whole gospel.
As I mentioned when I began my talk, it is not a question of if we will worship but who we will worship and how and for how long.
Hopefully, we follow our Father in Heaven, by laying these palms, these holy acts, every day, at the feet of our Savior, as we become each day more like our Father in Heaven and learn his ways.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing your talk Jocelyn. I love the Palms and the " palms" analogy.

  2. EXCELLENT talk Jocelyn...good job.

  3. Wonderful talk! Thank you for sharing!!

  4. Wish I could have heard it in person! I loved the palm information, which I did not know, and how you likened it to us.


  5. This could be your "The Talk I Would Give in General Conference!" Excellent with so many wonderful points and analogies.

  6. Totally loved this today. Isaiah 49:15-16 is one of my very favorite verses and I reference it often. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thanks for your insightful message - I must think of what palms I should lay down before the Lord.

  8. wow, that was an awesome talk. I learned so much about the Palms and the symbolism. Again this was a lovely message. Ilearned a lot.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing this.  I loved it!

  10. Jocelyn, this was wonderful! Thank you for sharing and helping me understand the symbolism with palms, Palm Sunday and everything else in between. This would be a fantastic FHE lesson.

  11. you did a beautiful job...on the 27th of April I have to give a talk on "pride & humility". I started by trying to memorize a lot of Ezra Taft Bensen's conference talk on this subject and now that Elder Holland spoke on it in this last conference the knowledge on this subject has grown much more...wish me luck because I need it.

  12. I want to echo others' thanks. I am so grateful I found this and read it today. These insights will certainly add to our Palm Sunday tradition. Thank you, Jocelyn, for inviting us all to Christ through your words. Keep it up.