Saturday, July 16, 2011

“Eternal Marriage”

(find the lesson here)

My first thought when I read this heading was “Really? More marriage and family?” It seems as if the last several topics I have been studying have been about marriage and family. But that is only appropriate, since marriage and family should be the top priorities of every Latter Day Saint (Mormon). After I came to it with this new attitude, I really felt like I got a lot out of this seemingly basic Relief Society lesson.


“As Latter Day Saints, we are living with an eternal perspective, not just for the moment.” I have to remind myself of this every single day. Especially as a mother of young children. Young children can seem to make every day seem like your last. I don’t meant that in a bad way – it’s just the truth. Raising children is hard. It is the most demanding, stressful, thankless job I have ever done in my life. But at the end of the day (and sometimes smack in the middle) I am reminded that it also the most rewarding, most precious, and most meaningful job I could ever have. And the latter part comes from having that eternal perspective. Even if I do have to remind myself about it every now and then.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “We know that our marriage can last forever. Death can part us from one another only temporarily. Nothing can part us forever except our own disobedience. This knowledge helps us work harder to have a happy, successful marriage.” This is most definitely true. Knowing that I can be with my husband forever encourages me to work harder at getting to know him, understanding him, and working together with him. We need to learn how to have a great marriage, since it will be a forever one.

russ_and_vincente_sleep_2 “We know that our family relationships can continue throughout eternity. This knowledge helps us be careful in teaching and training our children. It also helps us show them greater patience and love. As a result, we should have a happier home.”  I know that my understanding of our children’s nature and where they came HPIM2185from helps me love them better. But because they are mine for eternity, I feel a great desire to help them become the best followers of Christ they could possibly be. And when I am doing that, our home is a much happier place.

The manual gives a quote from Spencer W. Kimball that says, “In selecting a companion for life and for eternity, certainly the most careful planning and thinking and praying and fasting should be done to be sure that of all the decisions, this one must not be wrong.” I like this quote, but I was immediately reminded of President Thomas S. Monson’s talk from April General Conference. He said, “Perhaps you are afraid of making the wrong choice. To this I say that you need to exercise faith. Find someone with whom you can be compatible. Realize that you will not be able to anticipate every challenge which may arise, but be assured that almost anything can be worked out if you are resourceful and if you are committed to making your marriage work.” This is my very favorite quote about finding an eternal companion. Marriage takes faith, and I think that is important to remember. But like President Kimball said, we still need to be careful, and we need to plan, think, fast, and pray – and then, move forward with faith.

“When you ask for a temple recommend, you should remember that entering the temple is a sacred privilege. It is a serious act, not something to be taken lightly.” I love attending the temple. I am so grateful for my temple marriage. I know that it is a sacred privilege to be able to attend the temple, and I am grateful that I am able to live worthy of that beautiful blessing.

How does your knowledge and testimony of Eternal Marriage change the way you act? Does it change the way you treat your spouse and your children? How did you come to the decision to marry your spouse? How do you feel when you ask for a temple recommend, receive one, and enter the House of the Lord?

Friday, July 15, 2011

“To This End Was I Born”

(find the lesson here)

And here I thought writing about Gethsemane was going to be hard. This week’s lesson is on the crucifixion, and I’m sure I will do it even less justice than I did the first part of the atonement. But I do have a testimony of Christ’s atonement, so I will share what I have learned and what stood out to me, and then just bear my simple testimony – since that is just about all I can do.

I pointed this out last week, but I think it is important enough to point out again. Jesus Christ’s life was not taken, and the sins of the world were not put upon him. He, of Himself, took upon himself the sins of the world, and He, of Himself, gave His life. At any time during the life of Christ He could have stopped what was happening. He could have ascended into Heaven. He had the power to stop the Jews from taking Him. He had the power to save Himself from the cross. And yet, He didn’t. He gave His life for us.

In the Garden, when Peter wanted to fight the men who came to take the Savior, Christ said to Peter, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (here) Christ knew what had to be done, and He was willing. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” The Savior testified of His own power by reminding Peter that He could save Himself if He wanted to. Jesus didn’t need Peter to fight for His life – for He was willing to give it.

When the Savior asked the priests what they wanted of Him, He asked them why they never took Him when He had been teaching in the temples. He reminded them that “in secret have I said nothing.” Christ was not trying to be sneaky. He wanted the whole world, and all the Jews, to hear His message and accept Him as Christ. He had been very visible.

When the Savior was taken from the garden of Gethsemane, His disciples “forsook him, and fled” – all but Peter and John who stayed with Him as the priests took Him to trial. Later, Peter denied Christ three times, which Christ had prophesied would happen. Because I can’t say it any better the President Hinckley did, and because I completely agree with President Hinckley, I will just include this quote from him:

“My heart goes out to Peter. So many of us are so much like him. We pledge our loyalty; we affirm our determination to be of good courage; we declare, sometimes even publicly, that come what may we will do the right thing, that we will stand for the right cause, that we will be true to ourselves and to others.

“Then the pressures begin to build. Sometimes these are social pressures. Sometimes they are personal appetites. Sometimes they are false ambitions. There is a weakening of the will. There is a softening of discipline. There is capitulation. And then there is remorse, followed by self-accusation and bitter tears of regret. …

“… If there be those throughout the Church who by word or act have denied the faith, I pray that you may draw comfort and resolution from the example of Peter, who, though he had walked daily with Jesus, in an hour of extremity momentarily denied the Lord and also the testimony which he carried in his own heart. But he rose above this and became a mighty defender and a powerful advocate. So, too, there is a way for any person to turn about and add his or her strength and faith to the strength and faith of others in building the kingdom of God” (“And Peter Went Out and Wept Bitterly,” Ensign, Mar. 1995, 2–4, 6).

Peter didn’t deny Christ and then run away. Peter denied Christ in a moment of extreme emotional and spiritual turmoil – for all of the disciples. But later, Peter repented and continued to defend Christ until his death. The key here is that he repented and so can we, because life is hard, and we won’t be perfect, even though we want to be. Which is why Christ atoned for us and was crucified for us – so that we can be perfect, because we can’t do it alone.

I discovered something interesting in the scriptures about Pilate. When Jesus was brought to Pilate, Pilate knew that the Jews “for envy they had delivered him.” (here) So Pilate knew that the Jews were just being ridiculous and that they didn’t really have anything to charge Jesus with. That was why Pilate suggested that the Jews release Barabbas. Because Barabbas was such a vile murderer, Pilate was sure the Jews would rather have Jesus back than Barabbas. But the Jews chose Barabbas.

I know that the Savior lived for us, that He died for us, and that He was resurrected – all so that we can live with Him and with our Father forever. I know that as we study His life and His teachings and His words that we will grow closer to Him and that we will be able to understand the atonement so that we can apply it in our lives.

I am forever grateful that the Lord laid down His life for us. That He gave up His life to save us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Home and the Church

(find the handbook here)

The fundamental unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (and of society) is the family. If families don’t function, or don’t exist, or aren’t strong, then nothing else really happens. How do we all become well-adjusted, mature, educated adults? It’s not because we would just become that way on our own. It was because we had parents who nurtured us.

In our foster parent training, we learned that studies have found that children do better when they live and are raised by their biological parents, if that environment is physically and emotionally safe. No matter what – it doesn’t matter what kind of parenting style the parents have – being raised by biological parents who are at least semi-functional is a huge indicator of success in life. Of course that is not always possible, and children can do just fine in foster and adoptive families – but being raised in the biological family when it is a safe environment is always better for the child, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Not to mention that the natural way a human being is brought to this earth is through the most sacred intimate act that can occur between a man and a woman – and then comes a child. This would point to the truth that family is central to this whole world – and that a family is a husband and wife, and their children. The parent’s duty is to raise those children so that they will have families of their own some day and then the cycle continues in God’s eternal family.ArtBook__112_112__FamilyPrayer____
“To be a strong and vital organization, the Church needs righteous families.” Just as society doesn’t function without families, neither would the Church, since the family is the basic unit of the Church. The Church exists to strengthen families, and strong families help create strong families. The church has many “ordinances, teaching, programs, and activities that are home centered and Church supported.” Think about that for a minute – the ordinances of the gospel (baptism, the sacrament, and temple ordinances) are home centered and Church supported. But that only makes sense – the ordinances of baptism and the sacrament and the temple endowment are all preparatory to receiving the crowing ordinance of celestial marriage, which is what is ultimately necessary for exaltation. And what is celestial marriage? It is the beginning of a family, which will never end as far as the partners in that marriage fulfill their temple covenants.

Sometimes as members of the Church, it is easy to think about “outsourcing” our children’s gospel education to Church leaders, primary teachers, and seminary. However, “Priesthood and auxiliary leaders and teachers seek to assist parents, not to supersede or replace them.” We send our children to Primary to reinforce the gospel instruction they receive at home, not the other way around. It is our duty as parents to instruct our children about the gospel in the home, at every moment of every day, and in every conversation with them so that when they go to Church, it is comfortable and familiar, because they learned it at home first.

Strengthening the Home

“[H]oly places include temples, homes, and chapels. The presence of the Spirit and the behavior of those within these physical structures are what make them ‘holy places.’” I have always loved the concept of “holy places” and was taught early in my youth that any place can be a holy place. I remember a story was told once of a young woman who wrote inside of her shoes “holy places” to remind herself that everywhere she went could be a “holy place” if she would strive to have the Spirit with her. Our homes can be holy places if we will strive to have the Spirit in our homes by loving each other, serving each other, talking often of Christ and His gospel, and filling our homes with things that are “virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy.”

In Doctrine & Covenants section 88, the Lord gives some instruction about how the temple should be – and since our home should be like a temple, these things apply to making our homes holy places. He said a temple (and thus, a home) should be a “house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God”. This is a pretty straightforward list of things we should do to make our homes holy places.

As I mentioned earlier, children do better with biological parents in a safe environment. Of course, any safe environment is better than biological parents who create an unsafe environment. So what is a safe environment? “A home with loving and loyal parents is the setting in which the spiritual and physical needs of children are most effectively met. A Christ-centered home offers adults and children a place of defense against sin, refuge from the world, healing from emotional and other pain, and committed, genuine love.” I don’t think I could have put it any more eloquently or straightforward.

“Strengthening families is the focus of inspired Church programs such as home teaching (see D&C 20:47, 51), visiting teaching, and family home evening.” All the Church programs support the family, but these programs are especially focused on supporting the families. And notice that it is families helping other families – home and visiting teaching take mothers and fathers from one home and bring them into another home, so that as families we can help each other. We do not have to feel like we are alone in strengthening our families. Good home and visiting teachers can help us to strengthen our families.

Family Home Evening

“Family home evening is sacred, private family time under the direction of the parents. Priesthood leaders should not give directions as to what families should do during this time.” We try to be consistent with our family home evenings, and while we are not always perfect, we do try. We cherish family home evening time as a time to specifically address the gospel – although gospel discussion can (and should) happen every day, in every setting.

“Family home evening may include family prayer, gospel instruction, testimony sharing, hymns and Primary songs, and wholesome recreational activities.” This is more or less how our Family Home Evening goes. Since we have small children, the gospel instruction is usually simple, and consists mostly of a few questions we ask the children to gauge their understanding of the principle, and then we give a little instruction, and then we try to participate in an activity together that will help us understand and apply the principle. For example, this week we talked about cleanliness – physical as well as spiritual cleanliness. And then for the activity we washed the van (it had been on a camping trip with the youth for Youth Conference, so it needed it badly). Washing the van became the object lesson for our gospel discussion as well as the activity for our family home evening, and working together is never a bad idea.

Strengthening Individuals

“Church leaders should give special attention to individuals who do not presently enjoy the support of a family of strong Church members. These members may include children and youth whose parents are not members of the Church, other individuals in part-member families, and single adults of all ages. They are covenant members of God’s eternal family, deeply loved by Him. These individuals should be given opportunities for service in the Church. The Church can provide wholesome sociality and fellowship that these members can find nowhere else.” This is an especially tender topic for me and my husband, as one of our goals is to be a family that is a family for anyone who needs one (hence our strong desire to foster and adopt). If a person needs a family, we will be that family. I feel that Heavenly Father is pleased with our desire to do this, and will assist us in reaching out to those in need of the support of a family. It is the job of the Church to reach out to those individuals, but aren’t we, as members of God’s kingdom, responsible to do the jobs of the Church, when really the job of the Church is to support families – that should be our job, too.

What things do you do to strengthen your own home and family? How do you strengthen other families? How do you strengthen those who do not have a strong family?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Spirit of Revelation

(find the talk here)

I always love Elder David A. Bednar’s talks. He has a way of putting things that makes them easily digestable, and simple to understand. He speaks plainly and simply, so that even the tired and weary can hear his words and act on them. I never feel overwhelmed when I hear his talks – even though he very often takes on some very big topics.

In his talk about the Spirit of Revelation, Elder Bednar gave two experiences we have all had with light.

The first was the experience of entering a dark room and turning on the light. The second was of the gradually increasing light offered by the sun as it rises. Because I love his analogies so much I am going to organize my thoughts based on the two.

Turning on the Light

The first analogy Elder Bednar gave was turning on a light in a dark room. I made a little video to visually illustrate his example.

Elder Bednar said that these kinds of revelations are received “immediately and intensely” but also reminded us that “this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.”

He gave several examples from Church history and from the scriptures that show that revelation is indeed given in this way. However, he also cautioned that “We as members of the Church tend to emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations so much that we may fail to appreciate and may even overlook the customary pattern by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes His work.” When we only focus on getting the “light switch” revelations, we often miss the fact that revelation doesn’t only come this way.

The Rising Sun

The second analogy Elder Bednar gave was of the light we receive when the sun rises – this light is received gradually, almost imperceptibly. I found this really neat video and thought I would share it with you. I think it does a great job of showing all the different circumstances in which the sun rises, which Elder Bednar talked a little bit about in his talk.

“The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’. Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently ‘distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven’”

I think that Elder Bednar is exceptionally qualified to speak about the patterns of revelation – especially this line upon line one. When I was in college I took a class called Teachings of the Living Prophets in which we read biographies of all of the Apostles and Prophets. In Elder Bednar’s biography, he talked about how he knew that he should marry his wife. He said that he did not receive some strong impression that she was the one he should marry, but rather over the time he spent with her he gradually came to the conclusion that she was the woman he should marry. I loved this because as Elder Bednar said, “This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare” and I think that many of us saints discredit the line upon line version of revelation. We think that it is somehow less important or less accurate or less valuable than the immediate, intense version.

In order to really hit this point home, Elder Bednar quoted President Joseph F. Smith who said, “Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church, and I will show you members … who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God.” Those are strong – but very true – words by a prophet of God. We should be comfortable with the line upon line version of revelation, as it the most common in our lives.

I have struggled with this principle throughout my life. I have never sought out signs, but I have discredited all of the line upon line revelation because I have never received a big huge visitation of throngs of angels.

But Elder Bednar even mentioned that Joseph Smith, who was visited by the Father and the Son, did not receive all light and knowledge all at once. Sure, he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ – but the gospel was not all made known to that 14 year old boy all at once (and probably good thing, too – the missionaries sometimes overwhelm people with just one visit, or visitors to our three hour block can sometimes be put into a stupor from all the new information). Joseph received the gospel line upon line.

Since Elder Bednar’s talk I have been realizing more and more when I do receive the gradual inspiration. I know that I am being blessed daily as I study and pray and plead with the Lord for inspiration – I am being blessed with the inspiration that I need to be a good wife and a good mother. But Heavenly Father doesn’t usually say to me “Rebecca, do this.” “Rebecca, do that.” During and after my frequent prayers to the Father to help me know what to do in raising my children and developing an eternal relationship with my husband, I frequently feel quiet impressions in my heart and my mind – and most of the time is something I read in the scriptures, in another good book, or something I heard in General Conference or a talk or lesson in Church. But the Lord brings those thoughts to my mind by the power of the Holy Ghost.

I have been learning what Joseph and Oliver learned as they received inspiration and revelation gradually, piece by piece, “the spirit of revelation typically functions as thoughts and feelings that come into our minds and hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

The spirit of revelation “belongs to and should be operative in the life of every man, woman, and child who reaches the age of accountability and enters into sacred covenants.” It is not limited only to the General Authorities of the Church. It is not even only limited to those who have leadership callings – Primary presidents, Bishops, Stake Presidents, etc. The spirit of revelation is available and waiting for each and every member of the Church to receive it. When we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism, we are commanded to “receive the Holy Ghost” – the blessing does not say that “Okay, now you have the Holy Ghost and it will always be with you.” We have to receive it. Even – no, especially – when it speaks in quiet whispers to our hearts and minds. Especially when it brings us knowledge as the sun rises over the horizon.

May we accept revelation as it comes to us – line upon line, precept upon precept – and may we receive the Holy Ghost so that we can gain a sure knowledge of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

How does the Spirit speak to you? Do you receive inspiration like a light switch, or do you find that it comes more like the sunrise? Do you sometimes find yourself discrediting the “smaller” pieces of revelation, and find yourself waiting for the more immediate and intense revelation?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Companion Study: Verbal Intimacy

(this is a joint post with my husband, Russ.
My comments are italicized, and his comments are in regular font)

Hi. My name’s Russ. I’m the hubby. Becca’s finally convinced me to write something in her blog. One disclaimer; I lack the eloquence Becca has. But anyway, today we started companionship study (or something like it). I think it’s one of the best things a couple can do, and perhaps, one of the most difficult things. Not because it isn’t interesting or rewarding, but because you’re addressing things about a person you’re closer to than anyone else you know. No other relationship you have with anyone is quite (or nearly) as complex, or important, for that matter.

Our first study session started out really well, had some bumpy parts in the middle, but ultimately ended with both of us feeling more understood, more heard, and more loved. It’s the best I’ve felt in a long time.

Becca and I both have very strong personalities

(what he means is that we are both very stubborn)

So, once we get to talking, it can get pretty heated, pretty quick. Don’t get me wrong. The thing goes both ways. I mean, when we’re excited about something, or happy about something, it goes that way too. So, anyway, like Becca said, we started off well, and then, like always, our “personality strengths” kind of took charge for a while.

Which is why our first subject for study was a perfect one for us – verbal intimacy. Yesterday I was at the local DI (Deseret Industries – an LDS-run thrift store) and picked up a book called “Sacred Intimacy" by Brenton and Margaret Yorgason.

I liked the second part of the title, so I agreed to read it with Becca.

Today we read the first chapter, “Verbal Intimacy.” Like I said, this was a perfect place for us to start. Russ and I have been married for 5 years, and communication has always been… a struggle for us. We love each other very much, and we’re usually really nice to each other – but we both struggle with both communicating our ideas, and understanding each other. We are a lot alike (both stubborn, like I said – which also means we’re both a little prideful) and we are also very different. Our upbringings couldn’t be more different – our parents’ parenting styles and personalities; the places we grew up; our educational backgrounds; our talents; just about every single thing about us is different.

So there we were, reading, then stopping for discussion every other page or so.

Which was appropriate, since in the introduction, the author suggested to “read these pages together with your spouse. As you do this, when one of you reads or hears something you’d like to discuss further, speak up and say so. Stop at that moment and share your feelings and perceptions until both of you are fully satisfied with the exchange. Be as honest yet as gentle as possible. Then proceed.” (p. xiii) I think this was great advice for couples who want to study together – especially the part about both parties being “fully satisfied with the exchange.” When Russ or I would speak up about something we were reading, we would talk until someone would say “Okay, I’m satisfied with that” and then we would move on (if the other person was satisfied as well).

Then we finally came to one part which we agreed was one of the biggest factors in the problems we’ve run into with our communication. (I myself believe this to be a key factor in communication issues with most people).

“When we listen with our minds and hearts, we might first determine if we have heard what our partner meant to communicate. This can be done by asking something as simple as, ‘Do I hear you saying that you…?’

Once we receive a confirming signal that we are interpreting things correctly, it’s much easier to resolve the issue at hand.”

We talked about this principle for a long time. I’m trying not to get started on it right now. I’ll just say, people tend to open up to you much better once they know you understand why they think what they do. (Notice I didn’t say once they know you agree with them).

Remember how I said Russ and I had very different upbringings? One of the things we talk about a lot is how different our parents were in communicating with their children. This is one of the places where my parents did things a little better. When I was growing up, I always felt like my parents listened to me, and really wanted to hear what I had to say. Even if I was being a dumb teenager, they still wanted to know what was on my mind, and never made me feel dumb, and never put me down because of my opinions. They really made me feel like it was important to them to listen to me, and I think they really tried to understand me. Russ’ parents aren’t quite the same. They aren’t really the type to listen to children. Remember the movie Matilda and how all the adults in her life (except Miss Honey) don’t listen to her because they are bigger, smarter, or more “right” than her? Russ was kind of like Matilda in that way. So one of the things we work on in our communication is learning how to be considerate of each other’s sensitivities. Where I wouldn’t mind as much if Russ didn’t outright say “Did I hear you say…?” (I would just assume that’s what he meant), he needs me to actually say it.

So that was a big topic of discussion. Aside from that, there were some other big ones that we agreed are a must when communicating. One of them was the “I”, “I-You,” and “You” statements. The “must” here would be to avoid the latter two. Here’s one example – Instead of saying “I can’t believe you said that.” or “You’re so mean!” You might say, “I feel hurt.” Using the “I” statements instead of the other two demonstrates ownership of the feeling. “By using an ‘I’ statement you communicate that the feeling exists, and that it is inside of you. It is your feeling.”

I liked this part a lot because we have done a lot of “you” statements in our marriage, and they are never conducive to resolving negative emotions – most of the time, a “You” statement or an “I-You” statement just propagates the negative emotions.

There were also a few really good pointers regarding how to deal with negative emotions and how to navigate conversations involving them. Among other things, one pointer included being able to place certain discussions on the back burner until the environment is more conducive to resolving whatever type of conflict there is.

We agreed to try something new. If one of us has a negative emotion that needs to be shared or resolved and the environment isn’t the best (the dog just peed in the house, the kids just dumped a bowl of cereal on the floor, or it’s bedtime) we will say “Can we talk about this later?” That way we know we need to talk as soon as possible, but we can also do what needs to be done at the time.

Another thing we both liked a lot was the “Where are you now?” Question. Not like when she calls you wanting to know why you’re not home for dinner. Rather, it means more, “Can I share a feeling?”

This one is also important to me because sometimes Russ will have something on his mind and if I need to vent about the neighbor’s kids tagging our fence, or the kids being cranky all day he can’t focus on helping me resolve the problem until he’s in a better place emotionally.

Last but not least, there was the reminder not to overwhelm your partner.

“[D]on’t dump too much at once.” Try to not express every negative emotion you’ve ever had all at the same time. That can be too much for anyone to take. And if someone starts getting defensive or “shutting down” (what Russ says I do sometimes), you can just wait for things to cool down a little. We decided that at any point in a conversation, either one of us can call a “time out” where we back out of the conversation and take a few minutes to think (alone), maybe pray, and try to get the spirit back so we can have a productive conversation.

We wanted to conclude with this scripture Brother Yorgason quoted:

My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view. (Mosiah 2:9)

We know that if we communicate with open ears and open hearts, as King Benjamin counseled, we will have deeper intimacy in our marriage.

What are you doing to improve communication in your marriage? How is your verbal intimacy with your spouse? Do you find that deeper verbal intimacy in your marriage helps you have a fuller relationship with your spouse?

A Gift for Emma

Heather over at Women in the Scriptures has been doing a week-long celebration for Emma Hale Smith’s birthday, which happens to be today. As part of the celebration, she encouraged us to write our testimonies of the Book of Mormon as a birthday present for Emma. So here is my testimony.

I have read the Book of Mormon a few times, and I have studied it vigorously both in seminary, and later in college. When I was in high school, I read the Book of Mormon all the way through, took Moroni’s challenge (see Moroni 10:4-5), and I knew – I absolutely knew – that it was true. I have read the Book of Mormon all the way through twice since then, and although I don’t study the Book of Mormon the way I used to, I still know that it is true, and I love reading its words. As a mother now, I am grateful for the opportunity I have to teach my children about Jesus Christ and the principles of His everlasting gospel by reading to them from the Book of Mormon, and teaching them the stories from the Book of Mormon. 

DSCN5147To keep my testimony strong, I read the Book of Mormon every night. Sometimes it is a verse or two, and sometimes it is a page or two, and sometimes it might be a chapter or two. I use an “economy” version of the Book of Mormon so that I can mark it up as I read, and then when I start reading it again, I get a new book so that I can have a fresh slate as I read. It is interesting to read through my old books that I have marked up as I can see what things stood out to me at the time in my life.

I love to read the Book of Mormon. I am a happier person when I read the Book of Mormon. I am a better wife, and a more patient mother. When I am in need of inspiration, often that inspiration comes to me as verses or principles that I learned from the Book of Mormon.

I know that it is the most correct book on the face of the earth, and that you will get closer to God by reading it – and you will come to know, really know Jesus Christ our Savior. The book is a testimony of our Savior, and every page bears witness of Him and of His plan.

I am so grateful to Emma for supporting Joseph and doing what the Lord asked her to do so that this book could come forward. I know that she is truly an elect lady, and she inspires me to support my husband as a man of God.

Emma, thank you, thank you, thank you. The Book of Mormon has truly blessed my life. Thank you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Family Responsibilities

(find the lesson here)

The other day I was thinking about one of my favorite Ensign articles about motherhood. The author writes lovingly about her mother and how wonderful her mother was, and the things her mother taught her (and her 11 siblings and one cousin) about the gospel. It got me thinking – what do I want my children to write about me when they are grown and I am gone?

I decided that I would write down a description of myself from my grown children’s point of view. Maybe when they are much older and have children of their own.

Maybe some day I will post it here.

In the mean time, I will share my thoughts from this lesson from the Gospel Principles book.

The first thing that stuck out to me was “Parents should treat their children with love and respect, being firm but kind to them.” That reminded me of an article I read that was written by my institute teacher and good family friend. I feel like Heavenly Father has been trying to remind me of this great truth, because over the past four years of motherhood, I seem so have grown farther and farther away from truth. First, the article by Dr. Wally, then yesterday’s lesson on the atonement – justice and mercy – and then today’s article on family responsibilities, including balancing justice and mercy with our children. It is a hard thing to raise children – especially teaching them about the gospel, and extending mercy to them while at the same time teaching them about the demands of justice.

The next quote that I loved was one that spoke of the father’s responsibilities. “The father should spend time with each child individually. He should teach his children correct principles, talk with them about their problems and concerns, and counsel them lovingly.” In our family, each Sunday my husband takes each child into his “office” (actually a corner of our bedroom) and has a little chat with them. It is his time to bond with our children, teach them of a gospel principle, find out what is on their mind, and in general just let them know that he is there for them and that he loves them. I think it has been really good for both our children, and their father.

And of course, the most profound part of this lesson for me were the principles of motherhood, “motherhood is the noblest calling… a partnership with God in bringing His spirit children into the world.” “Every mother who has a testimony can have a profound effect on her children.”

This part really stuck out to me: “A mother needs to spend time with her children and teach them the gospel. She should play and work with them so they can discover the world around them. She also needs to help her family know how to make the home a pleasant place to be. If she is warm and loving, she helps her children feel good about themselves.” Like I said, I have been moving farther and farther from the truth as a mother in the last several years, and I am ready to start moving in the right direction again. I want to be this mother – the one that spends time with her children to teach them the gospel, the one who plays with and works with her children, the one who makes home a pleasant place to be. I want to be warm and loving. These are all things that I was a long time ago, and the past several years have kind of taken their toll on my, and instead of being more like the way I was, I have become worse and worse – and it is a horrible feeling, and I hope I can move back in the right direction again.

“A loving and happy family does not happen by accident. Each person in the family must do his or her part.” Being a mother of small children is hard. I mean hard. Horribly hard. It is by far the hardest thing I have ever done – emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. As I turn to the Lord for help, it becomes more bearable – but it is still hard.

And then I read this: “we must be thoughtful, cheerful, and considerate of others.” I thought, I can do that – I can be thoughtful, cheerful, and considerate of other, no matter what other do.

I can do this. I can be a good mother. I can take care of my family and teach them the gospel, and I can be cheerful as I do it.

Do you sometimes struggle to live the way you know you should? How do you apply the principles of family in your home?

Friday, July 8, 2011

“Not My Will, But Thine, Be Done”

(find the lesson here)

“We cannot of ourselves,
no matter how we may try,
rid ourselves of the stain which is upon us
as a result of our own transgressions.”
(Marion G. Romney)

This is kind of an intimidating post to write – and part II of this lesson (the Crucifixion) will be next week. The atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is so sacred, so important, and so meaningful that I feel like I cannot do justice writing about it. I don’t even feel like I completely understand His atonement, but I am learning more about it each time I study the scriptures, study the account of His atonement, and listen to the words and testimonies of our living prophets – and of my friends and acquaintances in the gospel.

There are three important blessings that we receive because of the atonement of the savior. They are peace, forgiveness, and eternal life. Sometimes I forget that the atonement can give me all three things. I think most of us agree that the atonement can give us eternal life in the physical sense. We usually have no doubt in our minds that we will all be resurrected. It’s a pretty straightforward concept, and a blessing that we all receive unconditionally, due to the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. And I think that maybe most of us are pretty solid in our testimony that through the atonement we can be forgiven for our sins (although sometimes we have serious misconceptions about that, too – which I’ll get to later). The concept I struggle with the most is remembering that the atonement can give us peace – even, and especially, when we are suffering due to either this natural world, or the sins of others.

There were a few things that stuck out to me as I read the three accounts of the Savior’s atonement in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew and Mark, the Savior is recorded as saying “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” In Luke’s gospel, he leaves that part out, but includes an account of an angel with Christ “strengthening him.” Another thing that Luke included in his account was the Christ was “wont” to visit the garden of Gethsemane. (wont = accustomed). It makes me wonder if the Savior was on the look out for the perfect place to atone for the sins of the world. Like Joseph, who prayed in the private grove of trees, I wonder if the Savior had noticed that this particular garden was relatively quiet and few people ever went there. Maybe a disciple owned the garden, and had told the Savior that if He ever needed a quiet place to go and pray, He was welcome to use His friend’s garden. The fact that the Savior was accustomed to being in Gethsemane makes the atonement seem very thoughtful. He didn’t just stop one day and take upon Himself the sins of the world. He had been thinking about it, probably since He was a child and was “about [His] father’s business.” I wonder how many times  He had prayed previously in Gethsemane, perhaps asking the Father to give Him strength, so that when the time came, He could do what was necessary to save the world. 

The Savior Took Upon Himself The Sins of the World

I think that it is especially important to remember that the Savior voluntarily took upon himself “suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind;” (Alma 7:11). No one made Him do it. No one took the Savior’s life. And no one put the sins of the world on His shoulders. The scriptures usually say that He “took upon himself” the sins, afflictions, and infirmities of the world. He took all the suffering and put it on himself.

And it was painful. Very painful. “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18) The pain and suffering the Savior endured in the garden was so painful that even He, the Son of God asked God the Father to remove the cup from Him. But even as He said it, He knew it had to be done, and so He said “Not my will, but thine, be done.”

Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men. (Doctrine and Covenants 19:19)

We Need the Atonement

As soon as Adam and Eve fell from the garden, we needed the atonement. Our bodies and this world are in a fallen state, and the only thing that can return them to their perfect state is the sacrifice of the Savior. When we sin, we move ourselves even farther from Heavenly Father, and nothing can return us except the Savior’s atonement.

My favorite talk ever is The Mediator, which was given in a Conference address many years ago by Elder Boyd K. Packer. I have included the video on this post so you can watch it. I can never get through it without bawling my eyes out – especially when Elder Packer starts talking about mercy and justice.

Mercy and justice are the two main reason we need the Savior’s atonement. Because I think that Alma says it best, I will include mostly what he says in Alma chapter 42. When Adam and Even fell from the garden, they became mortal so that “there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.” If Adam and Eve and been allowed to stay in the Garden of Eden after they had transgressed and partaken of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would not have been able to repent for their transgression and they would have lived forever in their sin, which means that they would not have been able to live in the presence of God. “But behold, it was appointed unto man to die—therefore, as they were cut off from the tree of life they should be cut off from the face of the earth—and man became lost forever, yea, they became fallen man. And now, ye see by this that our first parents were cut off both temporally and spiritually from the presence of the Lord; and thus we see they became subjects to follow after their own will.” Because our souls do not die (not in the same sense as our bodies die – our souls never end), the fall of Adam and Eve brought a kind of death to our souls – the inability to be in the presence of our Father. When we talk about spiritual death, that is what we mean – not being in the presence of the Father – because our spirit don’t actually die.

So now we have mortal men, who are in a state of spiritual death, and who will eventually experience a physical death. If the world had been left that way, God would have lost everything – His children and His world. And there would have been no way for His children to come back to Him again.

“Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God. And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.” It is important to note that it was the justice of God which cut us off from His presence. God follows laws – He has to adhere to justice. He cannot make His own arbitrary rules about justice. And so, in order to adhere to justice and save His children, “God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.”

And now, for my favorite verses of scripture of almost all time (this combined with Mosiah 4 would probably do it for me):

“But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

“But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.

“For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

“What, do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? I say unto you, Nay; not one whit.” (Alma 42:22-25)

Before you watch this video, I want you to read what Elder Packer said before he began his talk (from which this video was made). Read the words carefully, and take this video seriously.

“What I shall say I could say much better if we were alone, just the two of us. It would be easier also if we had come to know one another, and had that kind of trust which makes it possible to talk of serious, even sacred things.

“If we were that close, because of the nature of what I shall say, I would study you carefully as I spoke. If there should be the slightest disinterest or distraction, the subject would quickly be changed to more ordinary things.”

I have a testimony of the Savior’s atonement. I am amazed at how intricate and thought out and thorough the whole plan of salvation is. I am grateful for a perfect, just God who also found a way to be a merciful God. I know that the Savior took upon himself the sins and suffering of the world, and I know that through the atonement we can find peace, forgiveness, and eternal life.

Please share your thoughts and testimony about the Savior’s atonement with me.

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