Sperry Symposium: The power of inspired invitations
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
The act of inviting is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ, said Brother Russell T. Osguthorpe, Sunday School general president, during the keynote address of the 40th annual Sydney B. Sperry Symposium held at BYU on Oct. 28.
“A calling is a particular kind of invitation,” he said. “In fact, a calling includes several invitations. … Invitations occur not only with callings, but they are woven into the fabric of our daily life as members of the restored Church.”
Drawing from the conference’s theme, “The Things Which My Father Saw: Approaches to Lehi’s Dream and Nephi’s Vision,” Brother Osguthorpe shared the central role invitations play in Lehi’s vision.
“One of the most powerful scenes in the dream — a dream in which all scenes are powerful — is the image of Lehi immediately after he tastes the fruit of the Tree of Life,” he said. “What is his first thought, once he knows how ‘desirable’ the fruit is? He wants his family to partake.”
It is then that Lehi goes to his family and invites them to partake of the fruit of the tree of life. This invitation, Brother Osguthorpe said, is an answer to Lehi’s prayer, and an invitation by the Spirit.
“Why are invitations so central to the gospel?” Brother Osguthorpe asked. “Because invitations are based on agency, and moral agency is a foundational doctrine.”
Three invitations emerge throughout Lehi’s vision — the first, a direct invitation to Lehi from the Savior, the second, an inaudible invitation of the Spirit, and the third, a direct invitation from Lehi to his family — each representing the call to come unto Christ.
Focusing on when Lehi saw Sariah, Sam and Nephi all standing at the head of the river — a river that represents the very depths of hell (1 Nephi 12:16) — Brother Osguthorpe shared insight into Lehi’s thoughts in his dream. Lehi wanted to protect them from the filth in the river, and desired that they would partake of the fruit — or love of God — as he had done. Because of that desire, he invited his family to come and. Although some of Lehi’s family partook of the fruit, his sons Laman and Lemuel did not, despite receiving an invitation from their father.
“They rejected the invitation,” Brother Osguthorpe said. “The scriptures do not provide any detail about the nature of their rejection. We don’t know if they were belligerent or if they simply turned away and ignored their father. But it really doesn’t matter whether their resistance was passive or aggressive. They chose to distance themselves from their family and from God.”
Just as the Lord invites everyone because He loves them, so did Lehi, because he loved his family. Individuals have the choice to accept an invitation from the Lord or yield to temptation.
“An inspired invitation is one that comes from God — an invitation to do good or to be good,” Brother Osguthorpe said. “A deceptive invitation comes from the adversary — an invitation to do evil or be evil. … The Lord invites us to come unto Him because He loves us. … An invitation is an act of love. Lehi wanted with all of his heart to have each of the members of his family partake of the fruit. … Satan and all of his followers, however, use coercion to accomplish their ends. Temptation is an act of manipulation and coercion — an attempt to cause unsuspecting victims to turn on themselves — to do something that somewhere inside they know will destroy them. …
“The results of accepting an inspired invitation are vastly different from yielding to a temptation. This is key to understanding why invitation, as a principle of the gospel, is so central to our eternal well-being. Accepting an invitation from God — whether that invitation comes directly from Him through the Spirit or from one of His servants — has both immediate and eternal positive consequences.”
Agency is a gift from God that permits individuals to follow His will, and because of that, every time an individual heeds the invitation to follow the Savior their internal power to choose the good increases.
“When we accept the invitation to pray often, we gradually do not need to work to make it happen,” he said. “Rather, we come to a point where we never want to miss praying. We draw near unto Him and He draws near unto us. Our will gradually becomes more in tune with His will — all because of our desire to accept His invitations.”
Every time individuals accept inspired invitations, they grow in their ability to express love, he said.
“There is great power in giving and receiving inspired invitations,” he said. “The power is divine. … The implication for those who receive invitations is clear: be as wise as a serpent in discerning an inspired invitation from one that is deceptive — follow the whisperings of the Spirit and don’t yield to temptations.”
One of the ways individuals are able to accept invitations from the Lord is through accepting Church callings. Brother Osguthorpe spoke of the concern he had with home teaching while he was serving as a stake president. Although he was worried about the members who were not being taught, it was the members who were not doing their home teaching that caused him to worry more.
“Although the home teachers may not have viewed it this way, they were falling short of the covenants they had made to visit those they had been assigned to home teach,” he said. “I explained … that when anyone fails to keep a covenant, he loses something — something dies inside that person. And when that pattern continues for a sustained period of time, the person’s faith can diminish. … Passively resisting an inspired invitation is dangerous. … Covenants come to us by invitation, and it is our privilege and duty to make and keep them.”
There is an infinite variety in the types of invitations, as well as the way those invitations can be given, he said. Some invitations lead to conversion, others can comfort, others can inspire, strengthen, heal or instruct. Invitations can even come in the form of correction.
“There are many types of inspired invitations one might offer,” Brother Osguthorpe said. “In fact, the variance is as wide as the variance among the individuals receiving the invitation. To be inspired, an invitation has to meet the unique needs of a certain individual. The invitation needs to be what the Lord knows that person needs.”
The restoration of the gospel began with an invitation from the book of James to the young Joseph Smith — an invitation that led to an endless series of additional invitations.
“So I ask myself, Am I open to the invitations that I need to receive'” Brother Osguthorpe said. “Am I in tune so that I can understand each invitation and act on it? … Lehi loved his sons enough to keep inviting them again and again. They did not return to the Lord in this life, but … one never knows which invitation will finally be accepted, so we never ever stop inviting.”