Thursday, September 29, 2011

Relief Society – a Priesthood Organization

I had the privilege of attending the General Relief Society Broadcast on Saturday at the Stake Center. I call that a privilege because I didn’t have to watch it with the kids clamoring at my feet. My sweet husband kept the kids, put them to bed, and took care of the house while I sat at the feet of our General Relief Society presidency and the prophets and soaked up what they had to teach me.
Lately I feel like I have been learning a lot about the Relief Society. A lot of that is due to the new manual that has been published by the Church, Daughters in My Kingdom. But to be honest, I have only read the first chapter. Most of what I have been learning I think has been listening to the prophets speak. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to read the Daughters in My Kingdom book, I have just been immersed in other scripture right now, including General Conference talks, which are my lifeline, usually.

The thing has really been striking me lately (and I think that a lot of it is due to Heather’s inspired words over at Women in the Scriptures) is that the Relief Society is a Priesthood organization. Between Heather, the new manual, and the Relief Society broadcast on Saturday I have a very firm testimony that the Relief Society is a Priesthood organization. That changes things for me. No longer is Relief Society just about doing nice things for people and taking care of the sisters – it is a divinely appointed organization with leaders called the same way prophets and apostles are called.

We believe that a man (or woman) may be called of God by prophesy and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

Growing up, and even in my first few years in Relief Society I thought of Relief Society as just that – a society that provides relief. We find people who need help, and we give them help. Of course, that is part of the Relief Society – but the larger part is the Priesthood calling of the Relief Society. Just as Deacons, Teachers, Priests, Elders, and High Priests have Priesthood responsibilities, so do the sisters in God’s Kingdom.

They are very explicitly spelled out in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” Over at Empowering LDS Women, Kels quoted Sister Julie B. Beck from her Women’s Conference 2011 talk where she said, “the priesthood duty of sisters is to create life, to nurture it, to prepare it for covenants of the Lord. Don’t confuse the power with the keys and the offices of the priesthood. God’s power is limitless and it is shared with those who make and keep covenants.” If we as women are not covenant makers, I don’t know who is. God’s power is available to us as women. We do not have keys or offices of the priesthood, but the power of the priesthood is limitlessly available to us as we serve the Lord.

Do you feel like you have the power of the priesthood in your life and service? Do you feel that you have the power of God to assist you in your righteous efforts?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sanctifying Work of Welfare

(find the talk here)

I have been gaining a stronger testimony recently that many Church programs are not simply organizations made up by man to help the members of the Church. They are revealed programs by the Lord, and existed in the ancient Church, whether they were called by the same name. Recently the leaders of the Church have been testifying of the organization of the Relief Society and the Welfare program, reminding us that these programs existed in Christ’s day, even if they were called something else.

Bishop H. David Burton said, “It is in the benevolent practice of sacrifice and giving of ourselves to others that we learn the celestial principles of sacrifice and consecration.” Since celestial glory is the goal of members of the Church, learning to live celestial principles is definitely our goal here on earth. The principles of welfare are really principles of sacrifice and consecration, two covenants that we make with our Father.

The welfare work is led by bishops all over the world to help the members of the ward – not just those who attend their congregation, but those within their ward boundaries who are in need of assistance. That seems like a huge responsibility, but the bishops are assisted by ward councils including Relief Society presidents, who, President Eyring said, may receive revelation for how to help before the bishop does.

I was really impressed by the story Bishop Burton told of the priesthood leader in South America who was distressed by the hunger and poverty of the members of his ward. Instead of writing to Church headquarters for food or clothing, the priesthood leader found a little plot of land, and with help from the brethren and sisters in the ward cultivated the land and grew crops to feed the ward member – despite trials and setbacks.

I think this is the key to the welfare program of the Church – it is not simply to help people, but to “help people help themselves.” The whole gospel message is that – the leaders of the Church can teach us the principles of the gospel, and can provide a place to meet, and manuals and scriptures to study, but we have to do the actual work. We have to want to become spiritually self-sufficient, just as we have to want to become temporally self-provident. Of course, we cannot become self-proficient at anything without the necessary tools, so it is our job as members of Christ’s kingdom to help give our neighbors the things they need to learn how to help themselves.

Bishop Burton gave a great illustration of how we have to take care of the temporal needs of those who also have spiritual needs.

In 1897 a young David O. McKay stood at a door with a tract in his hand. As a missionary in Stirling, Scotland, he had done this many times before. But on that day a very haggard woman opened the door and stood before him. She was poorly dressed and had sunken cheeks and unkempt hair.

She took the tract Elder McKay offered to her and spoke six words that he subsequently would never forget: “Will this buy me any bread?”

This encounter left a lasting impression on the young missionary. He later wrote: “From that moment I had a deeper realization that the Church of Christ should be and is interested in the temporal salvation of man. I walked away from the door feeling that that [woman], with … bitterness in[her heart] toward man and God, [was] in no position to receive the message of the gospel. [She was] in need of temporal help, and there was no organization, so far as I could learn, in Stirling that could give it to[her].”1

The Savior himself often healed physical infirmities before healing spirits. He knew that when people feel taken care of they are more likely to accept the gospel. I would not believe in a gospel or a Church that preached anything but left its members out in the cold. President Gordon B. Hinckley told members in distress that, “As long as the Church has resources, we will not let you go hungry or without clothing or without shelter. We shall do all that we can to assist in the way that the Lord has designated that it should be done.” Bishop Burton quoted President Heber J. Grant who said he would “close the seminaries, shut down missionary work for a period of time, or even close the temples, but they would not let the people go hungry.” What a beautiful statement – the welfare program of the Church is truly inspired.

It seems to me that the success of the Church’s welfare program is based on the self-sufficiency of the members, and the education and eventual self-sufficiency of those who may receive assistance at one time or another. Bishop Burton listed the foundational principles of self-reliance, “avoid debt, implement principles of thrift, prepare for times of distress, listen to and follow the words of the living oracles, develop the discipline to distinguish between needs and wants and then live accordingly.” I thought it was interesting that a principle of self-reliance would be to listen to and follow the words of the prophets. But, indeed, following the prophets leads not only to spiritual prosperity, but temporal prosperity as well.

Bishop Burton’s talk is inspiring me to be more self-sufficient so that I can contribute to the welfare work of God’s kingdom. It also gives me the courage to ask for help when I need it. When we help each other and consecrate our time and means for each other and for the Church, we are truly learning the meaning of sacrifice and consecration.

In what ways do you participate in the Church’s welfare program? Have you had to accept help from the welfare program? Did you feel more able to provide for your family because of the assistance of the Church? How have you been able to help others as you have become self reliant?

This is the last week to enter my 100th Blog Post giveaway! I’m giving away framed prints of the Salt Lake Temple. Make sure you enter!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sabbath Part II – Staying Unspotted

(This is Part II of a five part series on The Sabbath)

To Keep Ourselves Unspotted from the World

In President Kimball’s article, he gave several examples of communities which kept the Sabbath, and communities that broke the Sabbath. He spoke of communities where the hay balers stood idle in the field and the businesses were all closed. He spoke of other communities where people were lined up at the theater, or heading off for the hunt on the Sabbath. The Lord expects us to avoid recreation and business transactions on the Sabbath. Elder Perry called these “worldly distractions.”

President Kimball clarified the problem with recreation and business on the Sabbath. “There is no criticism of legitimate recreation—sports, picnics, plays, and motion pictures… But there is a proper time and place for all worthwhile things—a time for work, a time for play,a time for worship.” It is good to have one day where we remove ourselves completely from the world and simply worship. He went on to say, “Sometimes Sabbath observance is characterized as a matter of sacrifice and self-denial, but it is not so. It is merely a matter of shifting times and choosing seasons. There is time enough, particularly in our era of the world’s history, during the six days of the week in which to do our work and play. Much can be done to organize and encourage weekday activities, avoiding the Sabbath.” There is a time and a season for all things, and with careful planning, we can do all our work and play in the other six days of the week, and save the Sabbath for worshipping the Lord. As I have been working on preparing for the Sabbath each Saturday (all the while singing in my head the song “Saturday is a special day, it’s the day we get ready for Sunday.”) I have discovered this counsel from President Kimball to be true.

There is some work that must be done on the Sabbath. People don’t stop getting sick on the Sabbath, no matter how healthy we all try to be (although there are probably people who would go to the hospital on the Sabbath instead of waiting for Monday when they really could wait), people don’t stop breaking the law on the Sabbath, and accidents and tragedies don’t rest on the Sabbath, unfortunately. So there is a place for those jobs that never sleep. However, President Kimball pointed out, “Many industries have processes which, it is said, cannot be interrupted for the Sabbath—in those industries the workers ‘have to work’ on Sunday.This may be true. But ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and I have often wondered how long it would take to invent new methods of production, which would not require Sunday work, if everyone in a particular industry simply decided to keep the Sabbath day holy.” There are certainly industries where I think this is true, but there are also industries (such as the ones I mentioned) that truly do have a need on the Sabbath.

There are some “jobs” that we must do on the Sabbath that may actually be good to do on the Sabbath. President Kimball said, “some of the work that is truly necessary—caring for the sick, for example—may actually serve to hallow the Sabbath.” Because caring for the sick, and offering that service to the feeble is something that we may do to keep the Sabbath even if it isn’t our paid job, working that job can be an experience that brings us closer to Heavenly Father, and helps us honor Him. President Kimball, however, cautioned, “in such activities our motives are a most important consideration.”

“When men and women are willing to work on the Sabbath to increase their wealth, they are breaking the commandments.” To me, this would be like a nurse taking on Sunday shifts at the hospital because she wants to earn more money to buy a car or a house. On the other hand, I’ll share an experience my sister had. She works in a hospital lab. She normally works a week day shift, but a few weeks ago, when they were working out the winter holiday schedule at work, a mother who usually works the Sunday shift asked if someone would take her shift on Christmas day (since Christmas day this year is a Sunday). My sister doesn’t have any children of her own, and she offered to take the shift – not because she wants to work on the Sabbath, but because she knew that this woman would be able to spend Christmas (and the Sabbath) with her children if my sister took her shift. My sister was also more than willing to switch a shift with this woman. My sister’s motivations were pure – she wanted her colleague to be able to spend Christmas with her children. Her heart was not set on the extra money she would earn from the shift, but helping the other woman’s family. If we work on the Sabbath, we would be wise to carefully consider our motives, as well as the need – is it really necessary?

Sometimes, even if we do not work on the Sabbath, the ox may fall in the mire, and we are not condemned if we pull out our ox to save it. However, President Kimball pointed out that “no one deliberately puts the ox in the mire every week, or lets him get in the mire with no effort to keep him out.” I like both parts of this – we should not deliberately put the ox in the mire (that is, we shouldn’t try to make there be situations where we must break the Sabbath) and we should try to keep the ox out of the mire. An example of deliberately putting the ox in the mire would be choosing to cook a meal on the Sabbath that requires an ingredient you don’t have, therefore “requiring” that you go to the store to obtain the necessary ingredient. An example of taking no steps to keep the ox out of the mire would be letting your car run empty on Saturday evening and thus you must purchase gas on the Sabbath in order to get to your Church meetings. I think most of us would not deliberately put ourselves in a situation in which we must pull the ox out of the mire, but I know that I have sometimes neglected to take the necessary precautions to keep the ox out of the mire.

Elder Perry also explained that the way we dress on the Sabbath has something to do with keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. “We know that when Sunday dress deteriorates to everyday attire, attitudes and actions follow…by the clothing we encourage [our children] to wear and the activities we plan, we help them prepare for the sacrament and enjoy its blessings throughout the day.” I think this is important. And at the same time, I worry that sometimes the Saints judge each other because of their Sunday dress, perhaps thinking that Sister So-and-so isn’t as righteous because she brings her children to church in sneakers and a t-shirt. The greatest thing I ever learned about the term “Sunday best” is that “best” is relative to the other things in your closet, not the other things in someone else’s closet. The reason I don’t put my children in sneakers for church on Sunday is because I have dress shoes and a suit for my son, and I have nice dresses for my daughter. The reason I don’t wear flip-flops to Church is because I own dress shoes. We should wear our Sunday best, but we should also be careful not to judge others whose Sunday best might be more casual than our Sunday best.

How do you keep yourself and your family “unspotted from the world” on the Sabbath? If you work on the Sabbath, what is your motivation? What steps do you take to keep the ox out of the mire? How do you organize your week so that you can devote the Sabbath to the Lord? What does “Sunday best” mean to you?

Part I            Part III

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

That Our Children May Know

I put my two year old down for a nap in my bed a few weeks ago. When I came back to check on her, this is what I found:

DSCN5786 If you can’t tell or don’t know what the book is, it is an economy edition of the Book of Mormon (I have a picture of one on the sidebar over there ----> ) I use an economy edition when I read the Book of Mormon straight through so it is like a fresh slate and I leave myself open to new inspiration.

She even had a pencil (she was marking her favorite scriptures, I’m sure!)

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

                               ~2 Nephi 25:26

And in Church on Sunday during sacrament meeting, our four year old pulled out his Book of Mormon and started underlining the words. I showed him the word “Cristo” (Christ, in Portuguese – it was his Portuguese edition) and “Deus” (God, in Portuguese). He proceeded to go through the pages, underlining those two words when he found them. This honestly surprised me, because he doesn’t read (yet). What touched my heart, though, was how excited he was to be finding “Christ” and “God” in the scriptures (and I’m sure part of it was how excited he was to write in his scriptures).

“For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.”

                           ~2 Nephi 4:15

This is why I study the scriptures. This is why I write about them. And this is why I talk to my children about them. I may start adding a post for Tuesdays and Thursdays about teaching your children about the scriptures.

How do you teach your children about the scriptures? How do you feel when your children seem to understand something important about the scriptures?

The Eternal Blessings of Marriage

Remember to enter my 100th blog post Giveaway!

(find the talk here)

I loved Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk when I heard it in Conference, and I have loved it each of the 10+ times I have read or listened to it since. The love that he expresses for his wife was really touching, and made me crave to have that in my own marriage.

“Two of the vital pillars that sustain Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness are marriage and the family.” Marriage and family are under attack by Satan, because he wants to do everything he can to destroy God’s plan for us. We need to fight back with strong, righteous families and rock-solid temple marriages.

I struggle sometimes with the words of the prophets on marriage, because they are usually speaking to the men about how to treat their wives, or to both partners about how to have a strong marriage, but the prophets don’t usually speak about how to be a good wife. I have been married for six years, and I still feel like I’m just doing the best I can, but that I don’t have a clue how to be a good wife.

“Marriage provides an ideal setting for overcoming any tendency to be selfish or self-centered.” I am a very stubborn person, so I think that marriage has helped me to become less stubborn. It also helps me to look outside of myself and serve others. I can serve my husband and my children. “I think one of the reasons that we are counseled to get married early in life is to avoid developing inappropriate character traits that are hard to change.” Hopefully by being married early in my life I will be able to avoid developing inappropriate character traits! I feel myself softening as the years go by in my marriage. Marriage is hard, and I can feel my soul stretching and expanding as I try to be a righteous wife and mother. Sometimes the stretching hurts, but I am trying to be open minded and humble. I don’t always succeed (actually, most of the time I am still just stubborn – but I am trying!)

Finally, I want to be more like Elder Scott’s wife who, “in her morning prayer she would ask her Father in Heaven to lead her to someone she could help. That sincere supplication was answered time and again. The burdens of many were eased; their lives were brightened. She was blessed continually for being an instrument directed by the Lord.” Sometimes I feel like I am barely able to keep my own head above water, but I think that as I continue to look outside myself for ways to help God’s children He will give me strength to bear my own infirmities.

What blessings have you received from Eternal Marriage? Do you share sweet messages with your spouse, like Elder Scott described with his wife? Does marriage stretch you? If you are not married, are you actively seeking someone to spend eternity with?

The Miracle of the Atonement

Remember to enter the giveaway of the temple prints!

(find the talk here)

Sometimes we have to get to the depths of despair in order to experience the depths of humility necessary to partake of the atonement. Elder C. Scott Grow said, “We access the Atonement through repentance. When we repent, the Lord allows us to put the mistakes of the past behind us.” But finding our way to repentance is not always easy. Sometimes we have a lot of bitterness and anger and guilt. Finding my way to humility is usually my roadblock to repentance and partaking of the atonement – not only in my own weaknesses, but in my hurt.

“He heals not only the transgressor, but He also heals the innocent who suffer because of those transgressions. As the innocent exercise faith in the Savior and in His Atonement and forgive the transgressor, they too can be healed.” There is something required of us to be healed when we are suffering because of the sins of others – we have to forgive. “The Atonement is available to everyone all the time, no matter how large or small the sin, ‘on conditions of repentance.’” For the one who has been wronged, that repentance comes through forgiving the person we feel has wronged us. “Repent—repent, lest … your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not,how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” If we don’t come to the Lord and partake of the atonement our suffering will be so hard to bear. I find myself carrying around a lot more than I really need to be carrying around because of that lack of humility that will allow me to repent and forgive.

“As you consider your own life, are there things that you need to change?Have you made mistakes that still need to be corrected?” I know that there are things that have need to change, but getting to the depths of humility where repentance is possible can be hard, especially when there is bitterness and hurt. I know that I need to let go of the hurt and forgive so that I can be healed, and so that I can change. “Forgive those who have wronged you. Forgive yourself.” It sounds easy, but it is hard – both to forgive others and to forgive ourselves. I struggle with both sides of forgiveness – both forgiving myself and forgiving others. “When we sin, Satan tells us we are lost. In contrast, our Redeemer offers redemption to all—no matter what we have done wrong—even to you and to me.” Satan’s lies come when we deny forgiveness, too. Maybe we aren’t good enough to forgive. Maybe the person we need to forgive isn’t worth it. All these are lies. The atonement covers all sin and all pain.

Elder Grow mentioned that Christ “inherited power over physical death.That allowed Him to sustain His life as He suffered ‘even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death;’” I have always understood that the Savior had power over death and that’s why he was resurrected, but it is profound to think that the suffering that Christ endured would have caused a man to die – but Christ had power over death. He was the only one who could suffer for us.

What changes do you need to make in your life? Do you need to more freely forgive, whether yourself or another? Do you need to be more humble so that you can change things in your life? How have you allowed the atonement to work in your life? Have you come unto Christ and been healed?

Monday, September 19, 2011

To Be and a Christ Centered Home

(find the talks here and here)

I am a parenting how-to junkie, especially when it comes to parenting methods that line up with gospel principles, such as Doctrine & Covenants 121:41-44, which I think is the one scripture that sums up exactly how we should parent. Whenever I read parenting books, I measure the advice next to this scripture. If the advice fits, and if I feel confirmation from the Holy Ghost that the principles in the parenting book echo the principles of the gospel, then I accept the advice and try to apply it in my parenting. I have read a lot of parenting advice (in books, on the internet, etc) that makes me feel so dirty and wrong just reading it that I would never dream of applying it in my parenting with my children (not knowingly, anyway).

I love the way Elder Lynn G. Robbins speaks. His sentences are simple, his concept easy to understand, and his language straightforward. While Elder Robbins seemed to speak about being, Elder Richard G. Maynes focused a little more on the doing part of parenting and our children’s behavior – however, the things that he stressed doing are really a part of being, too. “We learned that our children might not remember everything about the family home evening lesson later in the week, but they would remember that we held it. We learned that later in the day at school they would probably not remember the exact words of the scriptures or the prayer,but they would remember that we did read scriptures and we did have prayer. Brothers and sisters, there is great power and protection for us and our youth in establishing celestial traditions in the home.”

I realized this same thing as I have grown and left my parents home. I couldn’t tell you what we studied in the scriptures, or what the topics of our family home evening were. I couldn’t even really tell you how often we did any of these things. Because we did have family scripture study, family prayer, and family home evening, it seems to me like we did it consistently, ever day and every week, even though I know that’s not true. But the point is that my parents made an effort, and what I remember is that we read scriptures together as a family (and I remember how we read scriptures), I remember that we prayed as a family (and I remember how we prayed), and I remember that we had family home evening (and I remember how we had family home evening). The content probably just blended in with all the other gospel content I have learned over the years. I am sure I cannot tell you where I first learned a gospel principle, but chances are I learned them in the home.

Elder Maynes also talked about the be. He said, “Learning, teaching, and practicing the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ in our homes helps create a culture where the Spirit can dwell.” The principles of the gospel are what will help us be like the Savior and what will help us teach our children to be like the Savior. Elder Robbins said, “When we teach children doctrine by the Spirit, that doctrine has the power to change their very nature—be—over time.” Teaching those principles of the gospel will change our children (and ourselves).

Elder Robbins counseled us to focus our parenting on teaching our children how to develop Christ-like attributes. We need to teach them to learn to be like the Savior, and not just do good things, or “behave” properly.

Elder Robbins’ talk reminded me of a talk by President Boyd K. Packer in which he said, “The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. Preoccupation with unworthy behavior can lead to unworthy behavior. That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.” Elder Robbins reiterated this sentiment when he said “Because be begets do and is the motive behind do, teaching be will improve behavior more effectively than focusing on do will improve behavior.” When we worry about what our children are doing, we forget that more important than what they do is who they are becoming. If we want our children to become Christ-like, then we need to teach them about Christ and teach them how to become like Christ.

Elder Robbins gave a lot of good advice on how to focus on teaching our children be while still talking about the do. I challenge everyone to read his talk. A really good parenting you might want to check out for more advice is The Soft Spoken Parent by my former institute teacher, Bro. Wallace Goddard. He teaches correct principles in all of his books and talks and lessons. He is probably my favorite parenting expert because he bases his parenting advice on the scripture, the prophets, and gospel principles.

I really liked Elder Robbins’ inclusion of the quote from Alma that “the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword.” I recently read this exact verse in my personal scripture study and I was struck by the same principle – punishing the do – whether in children or adults – is not half as powerful as teaching the be. This is one thing that I learned from Brother Goddard and his teaching of the scriptures – Heavenly Father doesn’t usually punish us. There are, of course, consequences for our actions, and our Father does not shield us from those consequences. However, our Father’s number one method of parenting is to teach us. He teaches us daily, through the prophets, the scriptures, prayer – however we will come to Him, He will teach us.

I think of my role as a parent the same way – I was given children to teach, not to punish or consequence. Sometimes I think that as parent we get carried away thinking that it is our job as parents to “make” our children behave in a certain way. That is grossly false. First of all, thinking that we can make our children do anything is to laugh in the face of our Father and His Son who provided agency for everyone – even (and especially) little children. Second, our job is to teach our children. Going back to D&C 121, we should discipline (teach) our children “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge.” Elder Robbins said, “Discipline comes from the same root word as disciple and implies patience and teaching on our part.” We are not task masters, we do not parent with a whip. We teach.

Elder Maynes ended his talk with this statement, that “we understand and believe in the eternal nature of the family.This understanding and belief should inspire us to do everything in our power to establish a Christ-centered home.” I feel like I can do a much better job of having a Christ-centered home by teaching my children about Christ-like attributes and focusing on be rather than do, both with them, and with myself.

Do you find yourself wanting to “make” your children behave? Have you seen changes in your children’s behavior as you teach them correct principles of the gospel? Do you follow the counsel given in Doctrine & Covenants 121 as you parent your children?

PS – Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for framed prints of the Salt Lake Temple! (see more information on the sidebar, or follow this link)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Sabbath Part I – A Holy Day

(this was going to be one article, but it started getting really long, so I decided to divide it into a five part series. I will be posting one part of the article each week for the next four weeks. I hope it can help someone who is trying to deepen their understand of the Sabbath)

I have been thinking a lot about Sabbath day observance lately, thanks to Elder L. Tom Perry’s General Conference talk at April General Conference

I had already had proper Sabbath day observance on my mind because of a post I read over at LDS Women of God about the Sabbath day.

From the Church website, I read, “Because the Sabbath is a holy day, it should be reserved for worthy and holy activities. Abstaining from work and recreation is not enough. In fact, those who merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath fail to keep the day holy.” This is similar to what Elder Perry mentioned in his talk. It is not enough just to “rest” from our labors. We need to devote the time on the Sabbath to the Lord and His work.

So I decided to do a little more research on about the Sabbath, and I found a few really helpful articles. The first was an article by President Spencer W. Kimball, The Sabbath: A Delight which gave a lot of really great insight into the purpose of the Sabbath and what kinds of activities are and aren’t appropriate for the Sabbath. The other was an issue of The New of the Church which outlined the change back in the 80s from the old, spread-throughout-the-week schedule of Church meetings to the current three hour block of Church meetings on Sundays. These two articles together really helped me get a better understanding of the Sabbath, and helped me recommit to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

President Kimball mentioned that we have “become a world of Sabbath breakers.” He pointed out that while some may think the breaking the Sabbath is not a very serious sin, “to our Heavenly Father it is disobedience to one of the principal commandments.” The commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy has been around since before this world. And when God created the world, He even rested on the seventh day. Moses was given the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy in the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. The commandment was reiterated in latter day revelation. And yet, so many faithful Latter-day Saints (I say faithful because they are faithful in all other respects – paying full tithes, giving service, etc) break the Sabbath and barely bat an eyelash. President Kimball was concerned that “in their breach of the Sabbath they often take their families with them.”

When the Church switched the Church meeting schedule to the three hour block, about two years after President Kimball’s article, they mentioned that one purpose for the change was to “emphasize home-centered Sabbath activities.” Which leads us to the age-old question: “What activities are appropriate for the Sabbath?” or perhaps, the question many ask, “What can I do on the Sabbath?”

Elder Perry said, “As we consider the pattern of the Sabbath and the sacrament in our own lives, there appear to be three things the Lord requires of us: first, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world; second, to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments; and third, to rest from our labors.”

The articles and talks referenced in this series will be:
The Sabbath and the Sacrament, Elder L. Tom Perry, April 2011 General Conference
The Sabbath – A Delight, President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign January 1978
News of The Church, March 1980
Sacrament Meeting and the Sacrament, Elder Dalin H. Oaks, October 2008 General Conference

The parts of this series will be:

Part II – Staying Unspotted: What it means to keep ourselves unspotted from the world
Part III – Offer Up Thy Sacraments: The Sacrament, sacrament meetings, and what it means to offer up sacraments
Part IV – Rest From Our Labors: a discussion about resting on the Sabbath and appropriate Sabbath day “labor”
Part V – Worthy and Holy Activities: a few pointers to help you decide if your Sabbath day activities pass the test

What questions do you have about the Sabbath? Do you feel like your Sabbath day worship is in line with gospel principles? How do you determine if an activity is appropriate for the Sabbath? Do you feel like Sabbath day worship is a chore, or is it a delight for you?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

100 Blog Posts Giveaway!

In honor of my 100th blog post here on My Soul Delighteth, and in response to the counsel of our prophet President Monson from April 2011 General Conference, I will be giving away framed prints of an original edited photograph of the Salt Lake Temple for you to display in your home. The colors are somewhat subdued so that it will hopefully fit in with any decor.

To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.”
I think that it is important for all of us to have pictures of the temple in our home, regardless of whether or not we have small children.
So, I will be giving away the following prints:
DSCN5899DSCN5895 DSCN5897DSCN5898
- a framed 8x10 print in a 11x14 frame with mat
- a framed 8x10 print
- a framed 5x7 print
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on my blog and tell us what temples you display in your home. Is it your local temple? The temple you were sealed in? Your favorite temple?
For extra entries, you can do any of the following (leave a comment for each entry – if you only leave one comment for everything you did, you will only get ONE entry. You MUST leave extra comments for each entry)
- go read President Monson’s talk about the temple and copy and paste your favorite quote from his talk.
- quote your favorite scripture about the temple
Winners will be chosen on Friday, Sept 30, 2011 at midnight – just in time for October General Conference! I will post the winners here on the blog, and attempt to contact you  by email, so either make sure your blogger profile has an email address attached, or leave your email address in your comment (I will delete the email addresses after the giveaway is over). For added security of your email address, you can write it like this: myemail – at – (that way web crawlers won’t be able to steal your email address and spam you).
The winner will be chosen by a random number generator at

The Postmortal Spirit World

(find the lesson here)

(Author's Edit 6/25/2012: I haven't read this post since I wrote it nearly a year ago, and I think that I wrote it when I was in a bad place emotionally and spiritually concerning my brother. If you've read some recent things I have posted about my brother, you'll know that his passing was really hard on me. Due to the other circumstances going on in my life around the time of his passing, I didn't really get the chance to grieve properly. So I spent most of 2011 working through all the grief. I think that I wrote this post shortly before I started going to therapy to work through some of the grief that I had bottled away, among other things. Fortunately, I don't feel this way anymore. I have also had some really great experiences that I won't share specifically, that give me a lot of hope for my brother. I am grateful for my family beyond the veil who I am sure are helping him and loving him. What a beautiful thing this doctrine is of a spirit world and of eternal families.)

The Gospel Principles manual asks this question “What comfort do you receive from your knowledge that there is life after death?” Well, let me tell you how not comforting this knowledge has been for me recently.

My oldest brother passed away just over a year ago after a fierce battle against cancer. He and his wife (both baptized members of the Church) were not married in the temple and had no desire to be affiliated with the Church in any way. My brother served a mission, but he was married shortly after he got back. My heart always longed for them to accept the gospel again and come back to the Church, but that didn’t happen. And then my brother was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, which he fought valiantly, but in the end, the cancer won.

When my brother passed away, my heart completely broke. I love my brother and I looked up to him my entire life. I wanted to be just like him. But the thing that broke my heart the most was not knowing what would happen to him in the next life.

When someone dies in the Church, our knee-jerk reaction is to remind the grieving family about the possibility for eternal families. The problem with those “comforting words” in our situation is that they are not entire comforting. To me it is a devastating reminder of my brother’s lack of faithfulness in the gospel. I have tried to reason it away, telling myself that Heavenly Father can be the only judge, and maybe he will be lenient with my brother. Regardless of what I tell myself, the doctrine is clear.

I was reading the Book of Mormon a few months ago and this passage from Alma 34 sat on my mind like a weight:

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

35 For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

You can see how that scripture would not be comforting to someone like me, concerned about the spiritual welfare of my brother. I stewed over this for a few days, until I got to Alma 41 and read

3 And it is requisite with the justice of God that men should be judged according to their works; and if their works were good in this life, and the desires of their hearts were good, that they should also, at the last day, be restored unto that which is good.

If you know my brother, he was a very good person. He cared about people, he was kind, and he always sought out good things. He was not, by any standard, and “evil” person. He was a good person. And although he rejected the gospel in this life (and may reject it in the next) I have hope for him because “if their works were good… and the desires of their hearts were good… they should… be restored unto that which is good.”

When I asked my brother why he and his wife did not get married in the temple, he told me that they were not sure that the gospel was true, they didn’t believe in Christ, so they felt that it would be worse for them to get married in the temple – they felt like they would be lying. I can’t see that being anything but good. Their motives were pure, I felt.

Returning to the question about the comfort I get from a knowledge of life after death – I think that in the end, it is comforting. I know that I will be able to see my brother again. We may not be able to live together in the Celestial Kingdom, but I will be able to see him. I will be able to talk with him, walk with him, hug him. He is not lost to me.

I have always known that the Spirit world is all around us, but I seem to forget just how close it is. “Sometimes the veil between this life and the life beyond becomes very thin. Our loved ones who have passed on are not far from us.” (President Ezra Taft Benson). I believe this with all my heart, and I have experienced it. Most often in the temple, where the veil is very thin. It is comforting to know that we don’t go to some far off place when we die. We stay here, we get to be with the people we love (even if we can’t see them all the time). “President Brigham Young taught that the postmortal spirit world is on the earth, around us.”

As far as our spirits go, like Alma 34 mentioned, “Spirits carry with them from earth their attitudes of devotion or antagonism toward things of righteousness.” I would add that they may have an attitude of indifference toward things of righteousness. Although, my brother did have a devotion to many things of righteousness – he was just indifferent, I believe, toward the basic tenets of the gospel. He did love good things, and was a very kind person.

I wish that I could say I believe my brother will be in Spirit paradise – where there is “rest from all… troubles and from all care, and sorrow.” However, I am certain it is more likely that he will have to endure spirit prison (which is not necessarily a bad place – just a place of learning, and repenting, and suffering for ones sins). Since he did not accept the gospel in this life (or rejected it after he had received it) the scriptures teach that he will have to suffer for his own sins and then, “after suffering… [he] will be allowed, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, to inherit the lowest degree of glory, which is the telestial kingdom.” But I think perhaps he will be happy there. And maybe he will get a second chance to receive the gospel in the Spirit world and be able to inherit a higher kingdom. I don’t know. Maybe some day I will know.

The lesson taught a few more interesting things about the Spirit world. The priesthood is organized the same way it is here. Also, families are still organized. This part got me upset again because President Jedediah M. Grant said “When I looked at families, there was a deficiency in some, … for I saw families that would not be permitted to come and dwell together, because they had not honored their calling here.” I know that I will see my brother again, I just don’t know if we will be permitted to dwell together. Sometimes I feel like part of that is my fault for not trying harder. But I know that it was his choice.

Spirit prison is also not a horrible place to be. “These spirits have agency and may be enticed by both good and evil. If they accept the gospel and the ordinances performed for them in the temples, they may leave spirit prison and dwell in paradise.”

It seems to me like the postmortal world is simply a continuation of this world. “Heaven” is not until after judgment. Spirit paradise and spirit prison are simply the next step. Until the judgment comes, we just continue the work we did here (and for the righteous, they will get to rest from care and sorrow – not necessarily from work).

I am grateful that I had the opportunity to study this lesson, because my mind has been filled with so much lately concerning my brother. While I am not completely comforted (I feel sorrow because of some of the things I know) I am grateful that I have a better knowledge of what will happen to him. And I do know that I will see him again – and that is a comforting thought.

What comfort do you receive from your knowledge about life after death? What things did you learn about the spirit world from reading this lesson in the manual? Do you feel the spirit world around you sometimes? Does the thought of continuing the work on the other side of the veil make you excited, or tired?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Guided by the Holy Spirit

(find the talk here)

Wow. If you want to know what it means to be “Mormon” or a Latter-day Saint, just read President Boyd K. Packer’s talk. I mean, I think that he basically laid it all out, right there.

And if you couldn’t tell that William Tyndale was a really important guy, just check out how many Conference talks have mentioned him. It makes me want to read a lot more about him.

President Packer has a knack for speaking bluntly. Remember his October 2010 General Conference talk? He had all these people up in arms, they (over 100,000 of them) petitioned him (a prophet of God) to retract his words. It was the most incredible (incredibly disturbing) thing I have seen in a while. I felt as if Christ was going to come in that instant. Even members of the Church were wishing he hadn’t said what he had said. That was hard for me to take.

I, personally, love listening to President Packer speak.  He makes me squirm. And when a prophet makes me squirm it means I have some changing to do, and that means I have an opportunity for growth. While I don’t exactly go around looking for people to tell me how wrong I am, and while I usually get grouchy and self-defensive if anyone ever criticizes me, in the end I usually end up looking back on the situation and realizing that I actually did need to change, and the change made me such a better person. I just have a lot of pride, that’s all.

I know that the name of the Church was revealed by the Savior himself, but I had forgotten that when the Lord asked the Nephites what they wanted Him to give them, they asked for a name for the Church. Interesting, because I can think of a million things that I would ask the Savior for and none of them are the name of anything. Those Saints knew about the principle of unity and I think they were concerned that they didn’t have a name to unify them. Can you imagine if we all called the Church by a different name? I think that having a unified name, and that name being Christ’s name, unifies the Church and gives us great power. “If ye are not one, ye are not mine.” (here)

“The world will refer to us as they will, but in our speech, always remember that we belong to the Church of Jesus Christ.” When I think about what Church I belong to, sure I think of the name of the Church – but the thing that I think about the most is that I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ. This is His Church, no matter what the rest of the world says, and no matter how the rest of the world refers to us. It is the Church of Jesus Christ. (the “Latter-day Saint” part just means that we are in the Latter-days, instead of anciently with Christ).

What makes our Church unique? Well, lots of things (including not drinking coffee) – but the thing that really sets us apart is the priesthood (the authority to act in God’s name) and the gift of the Holy Ghost which is only available through priesthood ordinances. “This authority and the attendant gift of the Holy Ghost, which is conferred upon all members of the Church after baptism, set us apart from other churches.”

The gift of the Holy Ghost (and the priesthood) are really what give us all the things that President Packer talked about.

“The work in the Church today is performed by ordinary men and women called and sustained to preside, to teach, and to administer. It is by the power of revelation and the gift of the Holy Ghost that those called are guided to know the Lord’s will. Others may not accept such things as prophecy, revelation, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, but if they are to understand us at all, they must understand that we accept those things.”

“The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith a code of health, the Word of Wisdom,long before the dangers were known to the world. All are taught to avoid tea, coffee, liquor, tobacco, and of course varieties of drugs and addictive substances, which are ever present before our young people.”

“In another revelation, the Lord’s standard of morality commands that the sacred powers to beget life be protected and employed only between man and woman, husband and wife.”

All of these revelations President Packer spoke of come through the power of the priesthood and the Holy Ghost. After spending some time talking about the effects of having the Holy Ghost that make our Church somewhat unique, he said, “A Latter-day Saint is quite an ordinary individual…We are taught to be in the world but not of the world. Therefore, we live ordinary lives in ordinary families mixed in with the general population.” So we have unique principles in our Church, but we are “quite …  ordinary individual[s]” – living ordinary lives with ordinary families. This is actually quite true. Other than those significant principles of the gospel and gifts of the Spirit, we aren’t really extraordinary.

I feel extraordinary sometimes, especially when I feel the Holy Ghost or witness the hand of the Lord in my life and the lives of others around me. But when you look at my life compared to another person, we do just about the same things – get an education, work, have kids, raise families, go camping, etc.

I am so grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My membership in Christ’s kingdom is by far the most precious thing to me. I hope that I can remember all the things President Packer reminded us about, and taught the world about. I want to live the gospel more fully.

What did you get out of President Packer’s talk? Do you feel unique? Or ordinary?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

“Being Mormon” - Priesthood Authority

I think that my Wednesday feature from the Church Handbook of Instruction, along with Saturday’s Gospel Principles feature, is going to be my “Being Mormon” section of this blog. Both the Gospel Principles book and the Church Handbook of Instruction can explain almost anything that a person could want to know about being Mormon.

(find the handbook here)

Perhaps one of the fundamental truths of the restored gospel is the priesthood. No part of the Church would exist without the priesthood power being restored. The key part of the actual gospel in the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, but the key part of the functioning of the gospel, and the administration of the gospel is the priesthood authority.

Christ Himself administered His Church in His time under the direction of God the Father. Before that, Christ’s people, the Israelites, administered His Church through the power of the priesthood. And now, in this day, the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) administer His Church through the restored power of the priesthood. “The priesthood is the power and authority of God. It has always existed and will continue to exist without end.”

The priesthood power is conferred by the Savior, Jesus Christ, but it is in fact the power of God. “Through the priesthood, God created and governs the heavens and the earth. Through this power, He exalts His obedient children, bringing to pass ‘the immortality and eternal life of man’” The Father is the orchestrator of this life, the one preceding it, and the next life. Christ is His Son, just as we are His sons and daughters. So the power of the priesthood is the power and authority to act in God’s name. But since Jesus Christ and the Father are one, we sometimes talk of the priesthood as being able to do what Christ would do if he were here on the earth.

“The blessings of the priesthood are available to all who receive the gospel.” All who want the blessings of the priesthood have to accept the gospel. The gospel and the priesthood were both restored in these latter days by the prophet Joseph Smith. The blessings of the priesthood come through ordinances and covenants.

There are two parts to the Priesthood. The first is the preparatory, Aaronic Priesthood. “Those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood may be authorized to administer the ‘outward ordinances’ of baptism and the sacrament.” And the second is the greater, or Melchizedek Priesthood. “The Melchizedek Priesthood is the higher or greater priesthood. It is present and functional whenever the Church of Jesus Christ is upon the earth in its fullness.” “Through the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, Church leaders guide the Church, direct the preaching of the gospel throughout the world, and administer all the spiritual work of the Church.”

Young men are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood when they turn twelve. At that time they are ordained to the office of deacon. At fourteen, they receive the office of teacher, and at sixteen, the office of priest. When they are eighteen and preparing to leave to serve a mission, they receive the office of Elder and are ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood. From there, the only other office of the Priesthood is High Priest. We’ll talk more about the offices of the Priesthood in a few months.

Priesthood Keys

What we call the “keys” of the priesthood are “the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth.” How and when and who gets the priesthood is governed by those who hold Priesthood keys. All members of the Church who hold the priesthood have some keys. But most of the keys rest with the presidents of Quorums, including Bishops and the President of the Church. All other keys are given by delegation from one of these High Priests.

“Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction.” This “jurisdiction” is very important and significant in the Church. It means that a bishop from Omaha has no priesthood jurisdiction over the member in South Africa. Bishops have jurisdiction over the people who live within their ward boundaries.

“Jesus Christ holds all the keys of the priesthood pertaining to His Church.” He has every key, and all the authority to govern in any jurisdiction. Which only makes sense, since He is the head of the Church anyway.

“The senior living Apostle, the President of the Church, is the only person on earth authorized to exercise all priesthood keys.” The president of the Church also has jurisdiction over every part of the world. The problem with that is that the president is human and cannot be everywhere at once. So the president calls Area Authorities, members of the Quorum of the Seventy, to preside over different areas of the world. (you can learn more about the Seventy here – this link is the first of a three part series about the Seventy) “Seventies act by assignment and by the delegation of authority from the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”

The President also delegates priesthood keys to others to perform ordinances and work that no one man could ever do alone. “Priesthood keys are bestowed on presidents of temples, missions, stakes, and districts; bishops; branch presidents; and quorum presidents. This presiding authority is valid only for the designated responsibilities and within the geographic jurisdiction of each leader’s calling. When priesthood leaders are released from their callings, they no longer hold the associated keys.”

Counselors in presidencies do not receive keys, and neither do presidents of Sunday School, Primary, Young Men, Young Women, etc. Those presidents and counselors act under the delegation of the Bishop, Branch President, or Stake President who called them.


“Priesthood authority is required to perform the ordinances of the gospel.” The purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is to provide the organization and authority “to administer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.” It is through the priesthood authority that these ordinances are performed. If you are unfamiliar with what “ordinance” means, “An ordinance is a sacred physical act with symbolic meaning.” Ordinances are accompanied by covenants. For example, the ordinance of baptism comes with a covenant that we will take upon ourselves the name of Christ and stand as a witness of Him “at all times, and in all things, and in all places” as well as bear each other’s burdens and comfort those who need comforting – basically, that we will help each other out and love each other.

Ordinances are symbolic, and “The symbolism helps the participants remember the Father’s love, the Son’s Atonement, and the Holy Ghost’s influence.” For example, the ordinance of baptism is symbolic of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior into a perfect being. When we are baptized, we are completely buried under the water, and when we are brought out of the water, we become spiritually “clean” – perfect, as our sins are washed away. Each week when we take the sacrament (which is symbolic of the atonement of our Savior – that He gave His body and His blood) our baptismal covenants are renewed.

“Some ordinances are required for exaltation in the celestial kingdom for all accountable persons. These ordinances include baptism, confirmation, Melchizedek Priesthood ordination (for men), the temple endowment, and temple sealing.”


What exactly is a covenant? “A covenant is a sacred and enduring promise between God and His children. God gives the conditions for the covenant, and His children agree to comply with those conditions. God promises blessings that are conditional on the person faithfully fulfilling the covenant.”

As we make and keep these sacred covenants and receive the ordinances that are connected with the covenants, we will be “greatly blessed in mortality and become eligible for exaltation.”

I am so grateful for the restoration of the gospel, and for the priesthood power on the earth. Even though Christ does not walk the earth today, His power is still here, and can be found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Are you grateful for the priesthood power? What are your thoughts on ordinances and covenants?

PS – This is the 100th post on My Soul Delighteth, and in honor of this momentous occasion, I am going to be having a giveaway! It will begin this weekend, so check back on Saturday for information about my first giveaway ever!

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Atonement Covers All Pain

(find the talk here)

This subject is one I feel particularly strongly about. I have a sincere, deep testimony that the Atonement is real, that the Savior feels all that we feel, and that through the atonement we can be healed. It is the most important part of my testimony, and the thing I feel that I know is true.

Elder Kent F. Richards’ talk covered all that I feel is true about the Savior’s atonement. We feel a lot of different kinds of pain in this life. “Pain is a gauge of the healing process.” And healing comes through the atonement. The purpose of this life was to experience pain and loss so that we can “know good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5:11)

Elder Richards quoted Elder Rober D. Hales who said, “Pain brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder. It is an experience I am grateful to have endured. …I learned that the physical pain and the healing of the body after major surgery are remarkably similar to the spiritual pain and the healing of the soul in the process of repentance.”

There are three different sources of pain. The first is the pain we experience simply because we live in an imperfect world. This would be physical pain that happens simply because it happens – pain caused by natural disasters, pain caused by health problems, and so forth. The second pain is pain caused by the actions of others. And the third is pain that we bring upon ourselves due to our sins.

No matter the source of our pain, no matter the severity, the Lord’s atonement will cover it. “The Savior is not a silent observer. He Himself knows personally and infinitely the pain we face.” When we truly believe that the Lord intimately knows our pain, I think we are more likely to come to Him for healing and saving. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 – emphasis added) I love the word “boldly” in this scripture. We do not need to be timid when coming unto the Savior. When we have faith the the Lord knows our pain in a complete and personal way, we can come to Him boldly, and partake in His grace, and be healed.

When the pain is caused due to our own sins, we may fall into Satan’s trap and think that atonement cannot (or maybe should not) heal us. But the Elder Richards’ testifies, “For this pain too there is a cure that is universal and absolute. It is from the Father, through the Son, and it is for each of us who is willing to do all that is necessary to repent. Christ said, ‘Will ye not now return unto me … and be converted, that I may heal you?’”

When are we done repenting? When have we been fully healed? “Perhaps His most significant work is in the ongoing labor with each of us individually to lift, to bless, to strengthen, to sustain, to guide, and to forgive us.” Until the judgment day, we are never done. The Lord is working on us every day until the perfect day.

This year as we studied the New Testament in Gospel Doctrine class, I was struck profoundly by the reminder that Christ chose to suffer for us. “He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience.(President Henry B. Eyring) No one made Him do it. Sure, he was foreordained for the atonement, but He still had to make the choice. “During His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes.” I never thought of the second half of this statement – that perhaps our mortal experience is to help us understand Him. How can we ever understand the Savior? Perhaps by passing through the trials of mortality we can begin to understand the Savior and our eternal purpose.

As we approach the Lord for healing, it would be good for us to remember that sometimes the healing comes in a way we don’t expect. “Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry,suffering, and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.” But it is significant to also remember that “All souls can be healed by His power. All pain can be soothed.”

I testify that through the atonement of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we can be healed – not matter the cause of our pain. He did, indeed, feel all our pain. He will heal us.

Have you experienced the Lord’s healing power? Do you boldly approach the Savior for healing? How patient are you in waiting for the Lord’s healing power?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Fragments



Since this is my first “Friday Fragments” post (from Heather’s Friday meme over at Women in the Scriptures) I thought I should share a few things about myself. I mostly post about the scriptures, and not so much about personal things, so here is my chance to show you a little bit about my personal side!

2Other than about 9 months where I team-taught the 11-12 year old Primary kids, and my freshman year at college when I was the Relief Society Secretary, I have been either a choir or Primary pianist/accompanist, or choir director. That’s been almost 6 years. We just started attending our neighborhood ward (we were attending a Portuguese speaking ward a few minutes away) and will probably getting new callings soon. I won’t be surprised if I get called to a music calling again. It seems either 1) Heavenly Father needs me in music callings or 2) I didn’t learn what I was supposed to learn from my last music callings or maybe 3) Heavenly Father wants me to use my talents to bless the lives of others.


I recently stumbled on a blog titled “Becoming LDS” and it prompted me to think about focusing some of this blog on introducing people to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am going to start writing some posts that have to do with becoming LDS, and familiarizing people with the Church. It will be a new section on my blog, but I haven’t come up with a title for it yet. You’ll know when I do, though.


I don’t coupon. I’m not completely against it, but I just don’t do it. We eat mostly fresh and whole foods, and there are rarely coupons for fresh and whole foods, so I just don’t feel that the time it would take me to find coupons and deals is worth it. However, I do shop the sales papers for produce, and try to plan my meals around the cheap produce. The one thing I will always pay whatever they are asking for is Gala apples. I am trying to learn how to have a good garden so that I can put up fresh vegetables and fruit for the winter. We’ve got more tomatoes this year than we know what to do with, so I will be canning lots of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. (PS – my sister is an extreme couponer and shares “whole food” deals with me when she finds them).


I like to run. I wish I could run more, but my children are a higher priority than my running. When my kids are a little older I will be able to run more often, but right now, it’s about my kids. I am training for a relay in October, and I haven’t been running because of how crazy things have been here, but hopefully I can start running soon… otherwise I might have to switch legs with someone.

Well, that’s my Five Things for Friday! This is actually pretty fun, and I look forward to doing it more often!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Become as a Little Child

(find the talk here)

When I wrote about Elder Cook’s talk a few days ago, I mentioned that Heavenly Father has given me an indescribable love and profound regard for children. Sister Jean A. Stevens’ talk reminded me of that love.

I get emotional whenever I see, hear about, or read about children being children. My husband and I went through foster care training classes earlier this year and I cried through just about every class. When I think about or talk about children, I am overcome with a feeling of how precious and sacred little children are. I can barely get through singing the songs in the Children’s Songbook about children. One of my favorite songs is “How Dear To God are Little Children”

How dear to God are little children
With Him their spirit life began
So priceless their security, their innocence and purity
They are a part of His eternal plan.

To earthly parents God sends children
To guide and teach protect and love
Oh let us keep the sacred trust that He has placed with each of us
And help to guide them back to God above.

How dear to God are little children.

Sister Steven’s talk makes it clear exactly why little children are so dear to God. Their innocence and purity is a guide for us to learn from them. We have so much to learn from little children. Too often we think that it is our job to “make” our children “be good.” But Heavenly Father places us on earth as little children so that we can learn from the examples of their innocence and purity. “These precious children of God come to us with believing hearts. They are full of faith and receptive to feelings of the Spirit. They exemplify humility, obedience, and love. They are often the first to love and the first to forgive.”

One of the things I believe most strongly in is the innocence of children. Too often I see mothers who talk about how their children are “trying to make them mad” or “testing them” or their kids want to make life hard for them. What these mothers would do well to realize is that their children are actually perfect, innocent, and precious and it is our job to become like them. The other part of our job is to “guide them back to God above.” But I think that we learn to lead by following. As we learn to become like a child – meek, submissive, humble, and willing to submit to all things – we become better able to lead our children.

“Have some of life’s experiences taken from you the believing heart and childlike faith you once had? If so, look around at the children in your life. And then look again… If we have a heart to learn and a willingness to follow the example of children, their divine attributes can hold a key to unlocking our own spiritual growth.” If we could help children stay like children – if we could help them recognize their divine attributes of meekness, humility, and faith – we might be able to help them grow into much more faithful adults. And we might actually become more faithful adults ourselves.

How do you help children recognize their divine qualities? Do you see the divine in your children, or do you assign “adult” motives to their actions, rather than recognizing their innocence? Do you strive to become more like your children so that you can lead by following their Christ-like examples?

Find more great comments on Sister Stevens' talk over at the General Conference Book Club on Diapers and Divinity:


(find the talk here)

I had the privilege of attending Brigham Young University, and President Cecil O. Samuelson was the University President during my studies there. I received a lot of counsel from President Samuelson over the years at the University, and I have always been very appreciative of his wisdom and guidance. He gave a really pivotal talk to women in the fields of math, science, and engineering when I was just starting out in my educational path. That talk influenced my understanding of a lot of gospel principles. Perhaps I will post my notes here later.

On the topic of President Samuelson’s Conference talk, I have to admit that I only listened to this talk during Conference and maybe once since then. I usually focus on listening to the talks of the Apostles, since those are the words of those called as prophets. But I do find strength and wisdom in all the other talks from General Conference, and I try to make sure that I study all of them, because their words are still inspired and inspiring.

President Samuelson testified that “the fundamentals of gaining and retaining a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ are straightforward,clear, and within the capacity of every person.” “Within the capacity of every person” means that no matter who you are, no matter what your trials and struggles, no matter your situation in life, you are eligible to receive a testimony of the gospel. Heather over at Women in the Scriptures recently posted about this. She wrote, “Like the Nephites, modern Later-day Saints, often get conceited in thinking that we have the monopoly on faith and testimony.” We do not have to be baptized to receive a testimony – which makes complete sense if we remember that the first principle of the gospel is Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. What prerequisite is there to faith? Absolutely none at all. And faith is the only perquisite to testimony.

Growing up not in Utah, one of the most important lessons I learned was that we can find truth anywhere (and the Spirit will testify of the truth) and that when we were sharing the gospel, we needed to build on the existing faith and testimony of the person we were talking to. Most people already have, to some extent, some kind of faith and testimony. To tell them that they are faithless and testimony-less will only drive them away. A more effective method for conversion would be to build on their existing testimonies, like Ammon did with King Lamoni – when King Lamoni recognized something in Ammon that was like the “Great Spirit” Ammon didn’t say “You don’t know what you’re talking about, there is no ‘Great Spirit’ – only God.” Instead Ammon said, “I am not the Great Spirit, but tell me what you know about the Great Spirit!” Ammon then proceeded to build on King Lamoni’s faith and testimony of the Great Spirit, which Ammon helped him understand was really God the Father.

“Everyone who is willing to pay the price—meaning keeping the commandments—may have a testimony.” The Lord says that anyone who “will hear may hear.” (emphasis added) All we need to do is be willing, and the Lord will grant us a testimony.

So how do we gain a testimony? President Samuelson quoted the greatest scriptural quote on testimony-building.

“And when ye shall receive these things”—meaning you have listened, read, studied, and pondered on the question at hand—“ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true”—meaning you will pray thoughtfully, specifically, and reverently with a firm commitment to follow the answer to your prayer—“and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things”(Moroni 10:4–5).

President Samuelson then likened a testimony to a living organism – one that could live or die, depending on how we take care of it.

Of the observations and suggestions President Samuelson recorded from his young adult friends, he said, “Unfortunately and especially at times of our own struggle and distress, we may temporarily forget or discount their applicability to us personally.” This is all too true for me. Sometimes I forget principles, but more often than not I find myself discounting their applicability to me.

“We must understand [a might change of heart] often occurs gradually, rather than instantaneously or globally, and in response to specific questions, experiences, and concerns as well as by our study and prayer.” I frequently find myself lamenting the fact that I cannot change overnight. But when I look back to the person I was ten years ago, I realize that my heart has changed – mightily. My “mighty change of heart” has come through experiences, and through much study and prayer, and I am sure through the prayers of others, as Alma the Younger’s change of heart was brought about by his father’s prayers. When I remember that my heart has changed (for the better) I get overwhelmed at the ability of the Lord to touch my heart and allow it to change.

When I am in the midst of trials and adversity, I sometimes doubt what I know. “We must learn to trust the things that we believe in or know to sustain us in times of uncertainty or with issues where we struggle.” I have been giving many great blessings in my life that have at time sustained me during times of uncertainty, but sometimes it takes me a while wallowing in my uncertainty before I realize that I know things, and that I will never not know those things. “We must learn to grow from our challenges and be grateful for the lessons learned that we cannot gain in an easier way.”

Alma taught that “gaining a testimony is usually a progression along the continuum”. I had never thought of testimony this way, but I am very familiar with continuums. I believe most things in life are continuums, and that Heavenly Father meant for this world to be that way. The continuum President Samuelson is speaking of is “of hoping, believing, and finally knowing the truth of a specific principle, doctrine, or the gospel itself”. In some principles and doctrines, I may be still in the “hoping” area of the continuum, while in others, I have already moved to the “knowing” stage.

And of course, President Samuelson couldn’t leave out the “primary answers” to “How do we build our testimonies?” “Prayers, scripture and gospel study, attendance at Church meetings,temple worship, fulfilling visiting teaching, home teaching, and other assignments all strengthen our faith and invite the Spirit into our lives.When we neglect any of these privileges, we place our testimonies in jeopardy.” Remember when the answer to every question in Primary was “read your scriptures, say your prayers, and go to church”? Well, turns out the answers haven’t changed.

“It is good to remember that being too hard on yourself when you make a mistake can be as negative as being too casual when real repentance is needed.” This is a great piece of advice because I often err on both accounts – being too hard on myself in some instances, and in other instances denying my need to repent.

And perhaps President Samuelson’s most profound remark:

We must always be clear that the Atonement of Christ is fully and continuously operative for each of us when we allow it to be so. Then everything else fits into place even when we continue to struggle with certain details, habits, or seemingly missing parts in the mosaic of our faith.
Too often I see people (including myself) discounting the atonement because we are not perfect all at once. When we continuously struggle with a habit or sin that we are trying to repent of, we feel as if the atonement is not working for us. But as President Samuelson says, the atonement is “fully and continuously operative for each of us when we allow it to be so.” When we remember that fact, things will not seem as bleak when we continue to struggle.

President Samuelson closed his remarks with his personal testimony and then with the comment that “if you are struggling, you can rely on the truthfulness of the testimonies you hear from this pulpit at this conference.” What a great principle of the gospel! That we can strengthen our testimonies by listening to the Spirit testify of truth through the testimonies of others.

How do you take care of your testimony? Do you sometimes have to rely simply on the testimonies of others when your testimony may be weak? Do you believe that everyone is eligible to receive a testimony of the gospel?

Find more great comments on President Samuelson’s talk over at the General Conference Book Club on Diapers and Divinity:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

LDS Women Are Incredible!

(find the talk here)

Being a woman, of course I enjoyed this talk by Elder Quentin L. Cook! While he did spend a lot of time extolling the wonderful qualities of women, I was also impressed with how strongly Elder Cook testified of the divine role of women, and their significance in God’s kingdom.

“God placed within women divine qualities of strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children.” Sometimes I don’t feel very strong, virtuous, or loving, but I do have a persistent desire to raise generations of God’s spirit children. Since I was young I have wanted to have many children of my own, as well as help to teach and love any child I come in contact with. I was talking with my husband on Sunday about my profound regard for children, and my sincere belief in their innocence, and our sacred duty to help them return to Heavenly Father. It seems like the desire in me to love, teach, and protect children comes from a place beyond my own desires. Elder Cook says that God placed it inside me, and I believe that He has.

Elder Cook went on to talk about equality between men and women. I attended a class from Brother Richard Miller at BYU Campus Education Week about the Patriarchal Order and Equality in Marriage. It was very enlightening and gave me a completely new perspective on equality between a husband and wife, and the patriarchal order. The two doctrines sound contradictory, but when you fully understand them, they make complete sense and give the marriage relationship a completely different meaning.

I thought it was interesting when Elder Cook mentioned that “Women by divine nature have the greater gift and responsibility for home and children and nurturing there and in other settings” but instead of going on to talk about how women should stay home with their kids rather than work outside the home, he mentioned how amazing it was that faithful latter day saint women in the pioneer era would take their children and leave their homes and travel across the continent. It gave me a new understanding of my responsibility to nurture my children “in other settings.”

Going back to the patriarchal order and the Priesthood, I loved Elder Cook’s comment about the Priesthood and women working together, “it is a beautiful thing to see the priesthood and the Relief Society work in perfect harmony. Such a relationship is like a well-tuned orchestra, and the resulting symphony inspires all of us.”

Elder Cook did a good job of reminding me that even though my work in the home is not paid monetarily, and may have no economic compensation, the eternal blessings I receive from being a righteous mother are more significant. I frequently find myself wondering if my husband and I made the right decision to have children as early as we did. What if we had waited and I had started a career and been a career woman for a while? Sure it would have put us in a better financial position. But would it have been worth it, spiritually? We knew that our ultimate calling in this life is to raise children up to the Lord. Could we have postponed fulfilling that calling simply to have a little more money when we did? We are learning to live frugally, within our means, and we are raising beautiful children to the Lord. Elder Cook said, “no woman should ever feel the need to apologize or feel that her contribution is less significant because she is devoting her primary efforts to raising and nurturing children.” Sometimes I feel like I could make a greater contribution to society outside the home, but Elder Cook testifies that my contribution to society inside the home is much more significant, both in this life and in the next.

It is really easy to judge women who choose to work out of the home, just as it is easy to judge women who choose not to work out of the home. One of the chief principles of the gospel is that of agency and accountability. “Husbands and wives should prayerfully counsel together, understanding they are accountable to God for their decisions.” This principle is repeated several times in the Church Handbook of Instructions when talking about Church policies. We make our own decisions, and we are accountable for our actions. We can never blame anyone but ourselves, and we must make sure that we carefully make choices – and try to make the righteous choice.

Do you find yourself discounting your contribution as a wife and mother? Do you sometimes find yourself judging women who make choices differently than you do? Do you feel the divine qualities of “strength, virtue, love, and the willingness to sacrifice to raise future generations of His spirit children”?

Find more great comments on Elder Cook’s talk over at the General Conference Book Club on Diapers and Divinity:
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