Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Family Home Evening Russian Spiritual Thought.

One of the girls at YSA, Mikyla Young, gave this spiritual thought at the Young Single Adult Family Home Evening. Her father was Mission President when she was a girl. When she got her own mission call, she served in the Ukraine. She adapted her favorite Russian folk tale into this spiritual thought.

The Firebird 

The Firebird

Once upon a time there was a tsar named Berendey, who had three sons. The tsar's palace was surrounded by a beautiful orchard, and among the trees in the orchard was a wonderful apple-tree which bore golden apples. One day the tsar discovered that someone was getting into the orchard and stealing his golden apples. He was furious, and sent his guards to catch the thief. But though they watched all night they were quite unsuccessful.
    The tsar was so upset at the loss of his golden apples that he lost his appetite too. His sons tried to comfort him, and the eldest told him: "I will go and guard the orchard against the thief tonight, father."
    And he went off to the orchard. But although he arrived there quite early in the evening and walked about for some time, he saw no one. So he lay down on a grassy bank and soon fell asleep. Next morning his father asked him:
"Well, have you good news for me? Did you see the thief?"
"No, father," his son answered. "I did not sleep a wink all night, I did not even close my eyes. But I saw no one."
    The following night the tsar's second son went to guard the orchard. But he, too, slept all night, and next morning he told his father he, too, had seen no sign of a thief, although he had not closed his eyes.
    Now it was the turn of the youngest brother, Prince Ivan, to guard the orchard. And he was so anxious not to miss the thief that he was afraid even to sit down, let alone to lie down. When he felt he was getting drowsy he washed his face with dew, and this made him wide-awake again. About halfway through the night he thought he saw a light in the orchard. It grew brighter and brighter, until all the trees were lit up. Then he saw that the light was coming from a Firebird, which was sitting on the apple-tree and pecking at the golden apples.
    So he crept up very quietly to the tree and caught hold of the bird by the tail. But the Firebird spread its wings and flew away, leaving only one tail feather in Prince Ivan's hand.
    Next morning, when he went to report to his father, the tsar asked him:
"Well, Ivan, did you see the thief?"
"Dear father," Ivan answered, "I cannot say I caught him, but I have found out who is eating our apples. And I have brought you a tail feather in proof. It is the Firebird."
    The tsar took the feather and looked at it, and no longer felt sorrowful; but he thought a great deal about the Firebird, and one day he sent for his sons and told them:
"My dear children, I want you to saddle good horses and ride forth into the world to see whether you can find and bring back the Firebird."
    The young men bowed to their father, saddled good horses, and set out on their travels: the eldest in one direction, the second son in another, and Prince Ivan in a third direction.
    He rode near and far, high and low, along by-paths and by-ways - for speedily a tale is spun, but with less speed a deed is done - until he came to a wide, open field, a green meadow. And there in the field stood a pillar, and on the pillar these words were written: "Whosoever goes from this pillar on the road straight before him will be cold and hungry. "Whosoever goes to the right side will be safe and sound, but his horse will be killed. And whosoever goes to the left side will be killed himself, but his horse will be safe and sound." Prince Ivan read this inscription and went to the right, thinking that although his horse might be killed, he himself would remain alive and would in time get another horse.
    He rode one day, then a second day, then a third. Suddenly an enormous gray wolf came toward him and said: "Ah, so it's you, young lad, Prince Ivan! You saw the inscription on the pillar that said that your horse would be killed if you came this way. Why then have you come hither?" When he had said these words, he tore Prince Ivan's horse in twain and ran off to one side.
    Prince Ivan was sorely grieved for his horse; he shed bitter tears and then continued on foot. He walked a whole day and was utterly exhausted. He was about to sit down and rest for a while when all at once the gray wolf caught up with him and said: "I am sorry for you, Prince Ivan, because you are exhausted from walking; I am also sorry that I ate your good horse. Tell me why you have travelled so far, and where you are going"
"My father has sent me to ride through the world until I find the Firebird."
"Why, you could have ridden even on your good horse for three years and never found the Firebird for only I know where it lives. I ate your horse, so now I will serve you faithfully and well. Get on my back and hold on tight."

    Prince Ivan seated himself astride the grey wolf, and it loped away, past the green forests, and the azure lakes. At last they came to a very high fortress. There the grey wolf told Ivan:
"Listen to me, and remember what I say. Climb over the wall and do not be afraid; all the guards are asleep. In the attic you will see a small window; in the window hangs a golden cage, and in that cage is the Firebird. Take the bird and hide it under your coat; but be sure not to touch the cage."
    Prince Ivan climbed over the wall and saw the attic. And, just as the wolf had said, in the attic window a golden cage was hanging, and the Firebird was in the cage. He took out the bird and put it under his coat. But as he looked at the golden cage he could not help coveting it. It was made of precious gold; how could he leave it behind? He completely forgot what the wolf had told him. But as soon as he touched the cage the alarm was sounded all through the fortress; drums rolled and trumpets blared, the guards woke up, captured Prince Ivan and took him to Tsar Afron. The tsar was furious at this attempt to steal the Firebird and the cage, and asked the prince:
"Who are you, and where are you from?"
"I am Prince Ivan, the son of Tsar Berendey," Ivan replied.
"How shameful! The son of a tsar coming here to steal!" the tsar exclaimed.
"That is as may be," the prince retorted. "But your bird flew to our orchard and stole the golden apples."
    In that case you should have come to me and asked me for the Firebird and I would have given it to you out of respect for your father. But now I shall see to it that all the world knows of your behavior! And in order to earn my forgiveness you will have to enter my service. A certain Tsar Kusman has a horse with a golden mane. Bring that horse to me, and I will give you the Firebird and the cage."
    Prince Ivan was downcast at the thought of having to undertake such a task, and he went to tell the grey wolf what had happened. But the wolf said to him:
"I told you not to touch the cage. Why did you disobey me?"
"I know I did wrong; but forgive me, grey wolf."
"It is easy enough to ask forgiveness," the wolf answered. "All right, get on my back again. We will not turn back now."
    Once more the grey wolf loped off with Prince Ivan on its back. And at last they came to the fortress where the horse with the golden mane was stabled. Then the wolf told Ivan:
"Climb over the wall; do not be afraid, the guards are asleep. Go to the stable and bring out the horse. But be sure not to touch the bridle you will see hanging there."
    The prince climbed over the wall into the fortress, and saw that the guards were asleep. He went straight to the stable and found the horse with the golden mane. But his eyes fell on a bridle hanging up; it was of gold and studded with precious stones: the only bridle fit for a horse with a golden mane. And he put out his hand to take it. But at once the alarm was sounded all through the fortress; drums rolled and trumpets blared, the guards woke up, took the prince a prisoner and led him before Tsar Kusman.
"Who are you, and where are you from ?" the tsar asked Ivan.
"I am Prince Ivan."
"To attempt to steal a horse shows little wisdom! Even a peasant would not try to do that. But I will let you off, Prince Ivan, if you agree to enter my service. A certain tsar named Dalmat has a daughter, the beautiful Helen. Carry her off and bring her to me, and then I will give you the golden-maned horse and the golden bridle."
    At this verdict Prince Ivan was even more downcast than before. Again he went to see the grey wolf. But the wolf said:
"I told you not to touch the bridle. You did not obey my orders."
"Nevertheless, forgive me, forgive me, grey wolf," the prince pleaded.
"It is all very well, saying “forgive”. All right, get on my back."
    Once more the grey wolf raced off with Prince Ivan on his back, until they came to Tsar Dalmat's fortress. But this time the grey wolf said to the prince:
    You have done enough. You stay here and I will go get the beautiful Helen. The grey wolf soon returned with the beautiful Helen for the prince.

In this act, the grey wolf is like the Savior. How many times have we disobeyed and fallen short? How many times have we repented and asked for forgiveness? When we have fallen short, the Lord says, it is enough and He makes up the difference.

In April conference 2016, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave this talk, Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You
The Lord declared to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Verily I say unto you, [the gifts of God] are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep … my commandments, and [for them] that seeketh so to do.”6 Boy, aren’t we all thankful for that added provision “and … seeketh so to do”! That has been a lifesaver because sometimes that is all we can offer! We take some solace in the fact that if God were to reward only the perfectly faithful, He wouldn’t have much of a distribution list.
Please remember tomorrow, and all the days after that, that the Lord blesses those who want to improve, who accept the need for commandments and try to keep them, who cherish Christ like virtues and strive to the best of their ability to acquire them. If you stumble in that pursuit, so does everyone; the Savior is there to help you keep going. If you fall, summon His strength. Call out like Alma, “O Jesus, … have mercy on me.”7 He will help you get back up. He will help you repent, repair, fix whatever you have to fix, and keep going. Soon enough you will have the success you seek.
“As you desire of me so it shall be done unto you,” the Lord has declared.
“… Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously. …
“… [Then] whatsoever you desire of me [in] righteousness, … you shall receive.8
I love that doctrine! It says again and again that we are going to be blessed for our desire to do good, even as we actually strive to be so. And it reminds us that to qualify for those blessings, we must make certain we do not deny them to others: we are to deal justly, never unjustly, never unfairly; we are to walk humbly, never arrogantly, never pridefully; we are to judge righteously, never self-righteously, never unrighteously.
My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep trying to improve, keep seeking forgiveness for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor.
Now, with that majestic devotion ringing from heaven as the great constant in our lives, manifested most purely and perfectly in the life, death, and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can escape the consequences of both sin and stupidity—our own or that of others—in whatever form they may come to us in the course of daily living. If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth “that all things work together for good to them that love God.”10 So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.

Lots of love,
Robyn, Mom, Grandma, and Sister Brown

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