Showing posts with label wisdom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wisdom. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I write with Real Intent

Behind the scenes for the past several weeks, I have been working with a wonderful group of bloggers getting ready for the launch of a new blog – Real Intent.

Since you are probably a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have been dissatisfied with the gospel conversation lately. It seems that most of the gospel conversation online is critical of the Church, fault-finding, and focused everywhere but on the atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the power that atonement can have in our lives. Unfortunately, a lot of the gospel conversation offline is shallow, often close-minded, and shies away from the hard questions.

Until today, the only place to discuss hard questions and gospel principles in a meaningful way was online in the “bloggernacle” – but finding people asking questions with real intent was hit and miss. Occasionally you could find a good post or two, and frequently there were parts of posts that were faithful and encouraging, but for the most part it seems like the entire world is dissatisfied with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or, at least, the entire blogging world).

Well, thanks to the amazing hard work and dedication of fellow blogger Bonnie, there is now a place for the hard questions to help us develop our faith, rather than tear it down.

RI Author Button 300

Announcing the new blog, Real Intent

from the blog:

We, the authors at Real Intent, are interested in promoting a journey of discovery through the experimentation of faith, aiding one another by sharing insights and solutions regarding issues that face individuals, families, and communities in an increasingly divided world.

We hope that you will join in the conversation and help to create a community where we can ask hard questions with real intent, and hopefully find answers and strengthened faith and renewed commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

See you there!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GCBC Week 26: Young Women General Meeting

Each spring, the young women of the world have the privilege of hearing from all of their leaders, and the prophet, in a special broadcast tailored specifically to them. I remember after I turned twelve and entered the Young Women program the thing I looked forward to the most was being able to attend the General Young Women’s Broadcast.

I can’t wait until my daughter is twelve and she gets to attend these meeting as well.

But thanks to the Ensign and other church publications and websites, the messages from the Young Women’s broadcast are available to everyone and the messages are excellent and pertinent to any member of the Church, not just the Young Women.

I felt like it was important to study the YW broadcast talks this year in GCBC. I have been listening to them along with the other General Conference talks, and I really felt the messages from the broadcast speak to me. They are timely messages for all Latter-day Saints, and we should all be studying them.

This week we will be studying the messages from the General Young Women presidency. Next week we will study President Monson’s talk to the YW, and the next week will be October General Conference and the start of the next round of GCBC! (which will be held back at Diapers and Divinity! Make sure after next week you head over there for the posts and discussion)

Arise and Shine Forth - Sister Ann M. Dibb
Now Is the Time to Arise and Shine! - Sister Elaine S. Dalton

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Follow the Prophet

Note: This blog post was originally posted on our private family blog on October 18, 2010. I first reposted it on this blog on March 23, 2011 so that I could refer to it in another post. I am reposting it today because I want to get some more feedback on these thoughts. How do you sustain our prophets when others seem to attack them from every side - and sometimes might even seem to have rational arguments for doing so?

On Sunday, October 3, 2010, President Boyd K. Packer, whom members of the church sustain to be a “prophet, seer and revelator” gave this talk.

As a prophet, President Packer’s responsibility is to call the world to repentance – much like Noah did in his day as he built the ark, like Lehi in Jerusalem, and like many other prophets in the past.

Unfortunately, as they did with Noah and Lehi, the world has rejected the words of the prophets, and have even gone so far as to petition him to withdraw his statements. This is not a new thing. It has happened again and again throughout history, and God’s word has always remained unchanged. As President Packer so bluntly put it:

...there are those today who not only tolerate but advocate voting to change laws that would legalize immorality, as if a vote would somehow alter the designs of God’s laws and nature...There are both moral and physical laws “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world” that cannot be changed...To legalize that which is basically wrong or evil will not prevent the pain and penalties that will follow as surely as night follows day.

I respect everyone’s right to an opinion. But I also believe in God’s word, and I firmly believe in God’s prophets who deliver His word to us – especially in these latter days.

Satan is stirring up the hearts of men. A war is waging. “Who’s on the Lord’s side, who? Now is the time to show...” This particular battle hits really close to home for me. I have had to make some really difficult decisions about some people who are very dear to me. All I can think about is how to “love one another” while still being devoted to righteousness, and not “look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” This article, a Q&A with Elder Oaks and a member of the 70, has been particularly helpful. I also read something Joseph Smith said in one of the first Relief Society meetings. He said, "God does not look on sin with allowance, but when men have sin'd there must be allowance made for them." We still need to be caring and compassionate - no matter the circumstance.

In response to the petition I mentioned earlier, the brethren had this to say:

Much of this was not new, but there were a lot of really great things said. A few of my favorites:

“As a church, our doctrinal position is clear: any sexual activity outside of marriage is wrong, and we define marriage as between a man and a woman.”

“None of us is limited by our feelings or inclinations. Ultimately, we are free to act for ourselves.”

“The Church distinguishes between feelings or inclinations on the one hand and behavior on the other. It’s not a sin to have feelings, only in yielding to temptation.”

I believe that people have same-gender, or homosexual, attractions, and that they can sometimes be very strong. But those people are still just children of God to me. I believe that there is nothing fundamentally different between someone who struggles with same-gender attraction, and the rest of God’s children who struggle with something else. We are all children of God experiencing trials and struggles on this earth with Satan tempting us and trying us. We inhabit imperfect bodies with imperfect emotions and chemical make ups. We all face trials. (read more about that here)

God made man and woman. He created them specifically different – to fulfill different purposes. From The Family: A Proclamation to the World, “Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

As I write this, I realize that I am not writing it to an audience of people who don’t believe in Christ and the atonement. I am writing it in hopes that someone who feels unsure about the word of God on this issue can maybe read my testimony and perhaps feel the spirit and have a little better understanding of God’s word.

It is not easy to stay true to the Savior. Especially in today’s social and political climate. There is so much of the Adversary’s influence in our societies that we can be easily confused by the arguments out there.

Sometimes I get very discouraged because the world is getting more and more wicked – good is called evil, and evil is called good. But I know that there is hope and happiness available to those who live the gospel – for those who earnestly call on God in the name of His Savior, Jesus Christ and ask for a confirmation of that which is true. The Spirit will guide us. I know that because I beg the Lord for His Spirit to be with me as I raise my children - often I feel like I don’t know anything.

If there is one thing I know is absolutely true, it is that God lives and loves us and has given us living prophets on the earth to help guide us when we become confused about how to live in the world and not be of the world.

And I hope and pray that you will try to get that testimony for yourself.

Recommended reading:

Cleansing the Inner Vessel by President Boyd K. Packer
The Q&A with Elder Oaks and Elder Wickman
The Response to the HRC Petition
Many of These Articles
This Proclamation
Another Good Article by Elder Oaks

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Title of Liberty and the Anti-Nephi-Lehis

Note: This post was originally published on November 18, 2010. I was reminded of some thoughts I had in this post when Paul at A Latter-day Voice wrote about the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. I forgot that I had written about it on this blog until I was looking through some of my first posts on this blog and I found this one. I think the story of the ANL's is one worth discussing in depth, and I enjoyed Paul's insights. If you're itching to read something after you read this, head over and check out his post. It was very good.

I was reading in the Book of Mormon last night (and honestly I’ve been in the same chapter for about 5 nights, because I’ve been so tired it’s been all I could do to read just one verse). I’ve been reading about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies(ANLs) and last night I got to the part where the Lamanites came against the ANLs in war, and the ANLs “prostrated themselves before [the Lamanites] to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord...” A few verses later we read that “the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people ... there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.” We also learn that the people who were converted were “actual descendents of Laman and Lemuel” and not other “mixed breeds” of Lamanites (Amalekites or Amulonites or those after the order of the Nehors).

This time reading the story of the ANLs, I was impressed with the statement that more people joined the ranks of God than were slain, and the only people that were slain were righteous people.

Should we all just lay down our weapons of war and let the wicked kill us?

The first thing I thought of when that question popped into my mind was of Captain Moroni raising the title of liberty.

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni is described this way: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”

He is the one who “rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”

So obviously, Moroni was a righteous man. So righteous that if every man was like Moroni, Satan would have no power over our hearts. Now there’s righteousness if I ever saw it.

But I had just thought the same thing about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies! So how can both laying down your weapons of war and taking up your weapons of war be righteous actions? Doesn’t that seem contradictory? We should either lay down our weapons of war to be righteous or take them up to be righteous.

How do we decide whether to fight, or whether to lay down our lives?

My next thought was that perhaps it isn’t the fighting for your lives that is bad, but just that the ANLs had chosen their weapons of war, and bloodshed, to be their chosen sign for their covenant of conversion with Heavenly Father. What if instead they had chosen to never take the Lords name in vain again, or if they had covenanted that they would always pray two times a day? What if they hadn’t covenanted to lay down their weapons of war? Well, think of all the thousand people who were converted because the ANLs did lay down their weapons of war. Those people probably would have been killed in their wickedness (because the ANLs were pretty fierce warriors, it seems like). That makes me never want any LDS member of the military anywhere to fight and kill.

But didn’t Captain Moroni and his fellow captains and soldier kill many wicked men in their wickedness?

I guess I just want to know that the ANLs were doing what was right, letting the Lamanites attack and kill them, but also that Captain Moroni was right in fighting for his family and children. And what about Nephi killing Laban? Sometimes wicked people are spared, and sometimes they are killed.

In my search for truth I found a neat article about this subject by Eugene England, a Mormon scholar and former professor at BYU.

He says this: “Like Moroni, Mormon refused to let the long, desperate fighting lead him to bloodthirstiness; instead, as the Lord directed him, he resigned his command to stand by ‘as an idle witness’ when their wickedness led them to fight in a spirit of vengeance.”

Perhaps because the ANLs had been so bloodthirsty before their conversion (killing just for the sake of killing), they chose their weapons of war and bloodshed for the sign of their covenant with Heavenly Father. Kind of like a recovering alcoholic who never takes another drink – even a sip – for fear it will turn them back to their alcoholic ways.

This probably speaks about the righteousness of captain Moroni – that he didn’t let all the warfare and bloodshed make him bloodthirsty, and when his soldiers became wicked and fought for vengeance instead of for freedom,  he stood idly by instead of fighting with them. Perhaps the ANLs were worried that if they ever fought again for their own lives and the lives of their families, once that righteous desire was obtained, they would want to avenge the deaths of their brethren.

My husband and I talk about the seeming paradox between the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” and Nephi killing Laban, and captain Moroni leading his men into battle. However, there is no paradox. Commandments (especially Mosaic law) are God’s way of keeping us out of trouble. Because we should not kill people, but God may use us as instruments to save others, or in the case of Nephi, to save a nation. Even when God gave the commandment “thou shalt not kill,” he still later led His people into battle, or instructed them to wipe out entire peoples. I think God also wants us to understand the grave responsibility of taking another person’s life. Two of the three most abominable sins have to do with life – wrongfully using our power to create life, and wrongfully using our power to take life. Human life is so important to Heavenly Father.

So I think that as long as we have not made a covenant with God not to take up arms, and as long as we are not bloodthirsty, and are not killing for revenge (for “vengeance is mine, Saith the Lord”), it is absolutely righteous for us to take up arms and go to war “In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children”.

What do you think about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and captain Moroni and other righteous people who waged war in defense of their families, freedoms, and religion? Do you think there is a hard and fast rule to when we should lay down our weapons and when we should take them up?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Myth of Equality in the Church

I read a great article today from the 2012 FAIR Conference this past weekend (I did not attend, and this was the only article I read). This particular presentation was given by Neylan McBaine, the founder of The Mormon Women Project. I first came across the presentation on a forum I participate in where the presentation was linked to with the following quote:

I don’t think gender tensions in Mormonism are due to inequality in the religion, but due to invisibility of that equality. The equality is embedded, inherent in Mormon theology, history, texts, structures. Gender equality is built into the blueprints of Mormonism, but obscured in the elaborations.

This was actually a quote from Maxine Hanks, a member of the September Six who was excommunicated in the 80s and re-baptized just last year. Ironically, the main argument of the presentation by Neylan McBaine actually supports the idea that there is not gender equality in the Church structure, or even in the doctrine. She says,

[I]n the outside world, when you say men and women have equal leadership opportunities, you mean — at least ideally — that men and women have the same cleared path to advance to the same positions of influence and authority…

Is there gender discrimination in the Church? If discrimination means separation according to gender, yes. If it means delineation of opportunities based solely on gender, yes. Many argue that different opportunities based on gender is unfair, adverse, and/or abusive by definition. The Church does not satisfy secular gender-related egalitarian ideals, period; and our institutional behavior fits that definition of gender discrimination in several inescapable ways. We shrink away from accurately representing how we work, thinking it condemns us as a church. And in the eyes of the world it might. But the Church does not, and should not, operate according to secular concepts of power, status, etc.; and if we attempt to justify ourselves in this paradigm we will not only fail, but betray our own ideals.

McBaine’s argument here seems to be that there is inherently not gender equality in the Church – not in the way the world would like to define it, anyway – and that the Church should not try to pretend it fits into the world’s definition of “equality”. I tend to agree. A few months ago I shared with you a lot of my thoughts about gender and equality, and how the whole argument seems to be a little messed up and misdirected. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I felt – I had only just recently started thinking seriously about gender roles and equality – and the doctrine we are taught about it. When I read McBaine’s presentation it finally made sense – there is not gender equality in the Church, the way the world defines it, and there shouldn’t be.

In society, the world calls that “separate but equal” – and so far it seems that the Church has tried to go along with that – which gets us into problems, because the last time “separate but equal” was used it ended up before the Supreme Court and eventually in the Senate, where judges and lawmakers in the United States ruled that separate is inherently not equal. Which is true. Separate is not equal. We shouldn’t pretend it is.

Equality Where it Matters

There are fundamental doctrines of equality in the gospel of Jesus Christ. All are invited to come unto Christ, and he denies none.

he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)

We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father, and as such have infinite worth.

we are the offspring of God (Acts 17:29)

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; (D&C 18:10)

The atonement of the Savior was for all men.

For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; (D&C 19:16)

Men and women are to work together as equal partners

In these sacred responsibilities, [men and women] are obligated to help one another as equal partners. (The Family: A Proclamation to the World)

It’s clear to see that there are definitely facets of equality in the gospel of Jesus Christ – and in my opinion, they occur where the equality needs to be. Women are not more valuable than men, neither are men more valuable than women. This doctrine is clearly illustrated in the highest ordinance possible in the gospel of Jesus Christ – the sealing ordinance. This ordinance can only be obtained by a man and a woman together. No woman can obtain exaltation alone, and no man can obtain it alone. We are “all alike unto God”.

Embracing ‘Inequality’

But what about the inequality? It certainly exists. Men are ordained to offices in the priesthood, and preside over the Church, and women preside over organizations in the Church, but will never preside over the Church itself. One interesting note to make (that doesn’t make it less unequal, but is important to understand that the equality of gender importance extends to these types of inequality) is that a man who is not married will never be ordained to the highest priesthood offices. Any man who serves in an authority position in the Church is married to a woman.

McBaine discussed a Washington Post article in which Michael Otterson, the Public Affairs director for the Church, had a hard time getting across what equality really looks like in the Church (which is to say, equality in the Church really looks like inequality). She said,

The prompt suggests women do not hold leadership positions, therefore women are inferior. I suggest we argue it is true that Mormon women do not hold an equal number of global leadership positions as men, but that is not because they are of lesser value. It is because we believe we are working in an eternal paradigm in which roles and responsibilities are divided up cooperatively rather than hierarchically. Mormonism is a lay church so the members are the ministers, and this is a completely different organizational structure than traditional Christian priesthood or ministry, which is defined as an exclusive or trained clergy…

The prompt’s logic doesn’t adequately leave room for our organization’s cooperative structure of service, where no one person is paid for his or her ministry or deemed of greater value than another and where each brings unique resources to his or her responsibilities…

[I]n a cooperative structure where people are rotating positions every few years and no one is materialistically rewarded over another person, that hierarchy is a flimsy currency on which to base one’s value.

Nowhere does the Lord intimate that various callings and responsibilities are intended to give one person power over another. In fact, the words “lead” and “leader” appear nowhere in this section, and similarly, the word “leader” appears no where in the Book of Mormon. Even that book’s most admirable leaders, like Captain Moroni, are described as “servant[s]” and “righteous follower[s] of Christ.” This emphasis on organizational stability, on the specific roles and responsibilities of various parties to act as facilitators within the larger community, is, we believe, of divine origin and eternal value.

Lastly, the world calculates in terms of top-down power; God’s calculations are exactly opposite. In the divine kingdom the servant holds the highest status, and in the Church every position is a service position. Given the obvious parallels between the Church’s administrative channels and a business organization, it’s easy to mistakenly assess the Church as a ladder-climbing corporation with God in a corner office at the top; but in this line of thinking we only reveal our shoddy human understanding of power.

I loved this break down of what power and authority really mean in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think that McBaine explained it better than I have ever heard it put – and she was very concise. I feel that her explanation of what she calls a “cooperative paradigm” perfectly illustrates what our prophets and leaders have stressed for centuries – that men and women work as equal partners, that the sisters “provoke the brethren to good works in looking to the wants of the poor” (Joseph Smith in Minutes of Relief Society Meetings), and that presiding officers should ask for and seek out the council of sisters in the ward (here).

What Women Really Do in the Church

In a post I wrote about women the priesthood, I mentioned a BYU Devotional by Sister Julie B. Beck in which she discussed how Relief Societies are basically priesthood quorums for women. The devotional is very good, and I encourage an in depth study of her words to help you understand what it means to be a woman in the Church, and what the Relief Society is really about.

McBaine mentioned this in her presentation. She said,

An appendage is “a thing that is added or attached to something larger or more important.” Are not the offices of elder or bishop or teacher or deacon appendages to the priesthood, and not the priesthood itself? Are these so different from the female organizations, which we routinely call “auxiliaries”?

According to Sister Beck, our Relief Societies, or “auxiliaries” are indeed not very different from the “appendages” that are priesthood quorums. And as women, we need to understand that – and when we do understand that position of the Relief Society we will be able to fully unleash the power that President Kimball promised was available to us when he said, “There is a power in this organization that has not yet been fully exercised… nor will it until both the sisters and [the brethren] catch the vision of Relief Society.”

Embracing the Inequality

McBaine concluded her presentation with suggestions ward leaders could implement (which are in keeping with current policies of the Church) to help women catch that vision. Some of my favorites were having Young Women assigned as companions to Visiting Teachers, as Young Men are assigned as home teaching companions. Or at least encourage adult women to bring Young Women along with them on visiting teaching assignments. Having more visibility of women in ward and stake leadership positions. My personal favorite – addressing Presidents of organizations as such “President Johns” rather than “Sister Johns” for the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidents (and I would add the Quorum presidents in the ward priesthood organization).

And for heaven’s sake, let’s teach our children the real doctrine about the priesthood and prophets. I was shocked at how McBaine seemed surprised to hear that her great-great-grandmother was referred to in her patriarchal blessing as a “prophetess and revelator”.

Can you imagine using such language of empowerment to describe the female leaders in your wards? If we grew accustomed to hearing our women leaders speak as authorities, as prophetesses and revelators, and referred to them that way ourselves, perhaps there would be fewer among us who feel the need for a soda or bathroom break when the female speaker comes on the screen during General Conference.

Why, yes I can, Sister McBaine. I have thought of my mother (and myself, and my aunts and my cousins, and the Relief Society and Young Women’s presidencies) as prophetesses since I knew what a prophet really was. It’s probably the reason why I don’t have a problem with men being ordained to priesthood offices. I’m sure it has something to do with the reason why I have always enjoyed hearing the General Young Women’s, Primary, and Relief Society presidencies speak. And I know it’s the reason why I am so confident that there is nothing in this gospel that I can’t have and a man can. The only things I can’t get on my own are things that a man can’t get on his own either.

Have you ever tried to “explain away” the inequality in the Church? How do you feel about embracing it? Do you believe that, in the ways of the world, there truly is an inherent inequality between men and women in the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it really inequality in God’s plan? Do we need to abolish all differences between men and women in order to truly be “equal”?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

But why?

Note: This post was originally published on April 16, 2010. I'm reposting it this week because I am on vacation! And because it was an awesome post from the very beginning days of this blog, and deserves to be republished!

Little children love to ask questions.

Why? What is that? What are you doing?

A constant stream of inquiry comes from their precious lips, and behind that is a genuine interest and need to know.

My freshman year of college, my religion teacher taught us to ask questions as we read the scriptures. Each day before class we were supposed to write a one page paper on our reading assignment for that day. Our teacher never gave us guidelines on margins or font sizes. It was simply to be one page. There was one requirement though – that we ask, and answer, a question about the reading.

That semester was probably some of the most productive scripture study of my life. I felt myself digging into the scriptures, asking questions, wanting to know more – and most important were the answers that I received to those questions.

“Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you…”

I haven’t been asking questions lately in my reading, but tonight, as I was studying Alma chapter 7, where Alma is teaching of the prophesies of Christ, and the events that will be His life, I found myself in a dialogue with the scriptures.

“And he will take upon him death…”

Why? My three year old knows this simple truth – that Jesus died for us. What does it meant that He died “for us”?

“…that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people;…”

Jesus died so that we can live again. His death was so significant because He had to die to be resurrected. He had to die so that He could live, and if He can live again, so can we. Thus, the bands of death are loosed.

“…he will take upon him their infirmities…”

Why? Why would He, in His glorious perfection, take up our burdens, our feelings of grief and pain and guilt because of our weaknesses?

“…that his bowels may be filled with mercy…that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12)

So Jesus suffered for us so that He could know how to LOVE us better! Do I think of suffering for others in this way? When I take upon myself the burdens of others (as I covenanted to do at baptism) do I learn “how to succor” those people? Is that what I am learning? Do I complain about the pain, or do I rejoice in my increased ability to LOVE others?

I feel increased in my gospel understanding. I feel renewed in my commitment to live the gospel and be more Christ-like.

When I engage in dialogue with the scriptures, instead of simply reading, I feel as if God’s word has distilled “upon [my] soul as the dews from heaven.” (D&C 121:45)

Do you ask questions when you read the scriptures? Do you feel like you find the answers? Have you ever felt like you had a dialogue with the words in the scriptures?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Anger Can Lead to Sin

Recently my husband and I have been discussing anger. Anger is a secondary emotion. That is, anger is not an emotion we usually feel just because we are "angry". Think about the last time you were angry. Why were you angry? Did someone do something that hurt you? Were you embarrassed? Were you afraid of something?

Think of a father who is angry with his son or daughter for breaking curfew. There are a few "primary" emotions he might be feeling. One is fear - he is afraid of what might happen to his child if he or she stays out past curfew.
Another is hurt - he may be hurt that his child disobeyed the house rules. This hurt can be a prideful hurt ("I'm the dad, I make the rules and you are going to follow them!") or it can be a humble hurt ("I know the spiritual consequences of disobedience and I thought she knew them, too.")

In 2 Nephi 5:2, Nephi explains that the anger his brothers felt "did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life."

We have to be careful how we deal with our emotions. Anger is almost never the right method of dealing with our emotions. Laman and Lemuel were likely hurt because their brother was more righteous than they were and therefore had more authority than they did. But rather than dealing with their hurt feelings (which were actually caused by pride, rather than by genuine concern for Nephi) constructively, they allowed anger to grow in their hearts until they wanted to kill Nephi.

Now, I am not saying that letting yourself get angry is going to lead you to commit murder, but how many times have you let your anger with your children lead you to yelling or spanking or "unrighteous dominion"? (I only ask because I am very guilty of this)

Also, how often do you see a child get angry and hit or bite or yell or push, etc? I am not saying these children are sinning, because children are innocent until the age of accountability, however, chances are that child is not really angry. The child is most likely hurt, or confused, or hungry, or tired, or afraid. Little children don't always understand how to deal with those emotions; and so they become "angry". It is our job as their parents to teach them how to deal with hard emotions.

And we all know the best teaching tool is our own example.

How do you effectively deal with your primary emotions? Has anger ever led you to sin? What primary emotion most often leads to anger for you?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Father's Testimony

We hear a lot about how the stripling warriors were taught by their mothers and that is why they had such great faith. This story is a favorite among Church members, especially mothers. In fact, when it comes to parents teaching their children the gospel, this is probably the most quoted scripture story.

But there is another, less well-known story I would like to share. This is the story of Helaman and his sons Nephi and Lehi.

Helaman was a great chief judge who was very righteous. The Nephites were mostly righteous and prosperous while he was the chief judge. After he died, his son Nephi became the chief judge.

While Nephi was the chief judge, the Nephites started getting more and more wicked (although Nephi was a very righteous judge - "he did keep the commandments of God, and did walk in the ways of his father.") After a while, Nephi got sick of all the wickedness, and he got out of government and went back to missionary work (probably with his wife at this point, I imagine this was like him serving a couples' mission after retiring from the senate in the United States). He and his brother Lehi "took it upon [themselves] to preach the word of God all the remainder of [their] days". They made this decision because they remembered the testimony of their father, Helaman. "For they remembered the words their Father Helaman spake unto them."

And it turns out that what Nephi and Lehi learned from their father Helaman is almost as famous as the story of the stripling warriors.
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.
"And it came to pass that they did preach with great power," and they were able to teach the Nephites who had left the Church "insomuch that they came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance."

I love this story as much as I love the stripling warrior story. It is interesting to me that in both cases, the young men were taught about faith and prayer and the Savior (basic principles of the gospel), but while the stripling warriors used their faith to fight valiantly in a war to defend their freedoms, Nephi and Lehi used their faith to powerfully preach the gospel.

How were you taught by your parents? Were both of your parents equally influential in your gospel learning? Were you more like the stripling warriors, who were taught by their mothers? Or did your father teach you the basic doctrines of the gospel? Or were you like Abraham, who didn't learn the gospel from his parents at all?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Lion Among the Beasts


As you may know, I tried to finish the Book of Mormon before the end of 2011 and it didn’t happen, and so now I am trying to finish it by the end of the week. (as of Wednesday I have about 80 pages to go!)

My husband told me that I will probably have to do a less thorough reading to get through it in that time, but I was sure I would be able to get through it quickly while still studying and gleaning.

Then I hit 3 Nephi 20. You think 2 Nephi is hard, try reading 3 Nephi 20. I kept reading, even though I didn’t really understand what the Savior was talking about, and about a page and a half into chapter 20 I decided that I really needed to understand what was going on here.

I went back to verse 10, when the Savior starts talking about the remnant of Israel. I read it over and over again and I still couldn’t figure it out. I was a little unnerved that I couldn’t understand this passage, and so I finally prayed for Heavenly Father to open my mind and my hearts (“and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which [Christ] prayed” – 3 Nephi 19:33).

And then I went back and read it again.

Behold now I finish the commandment which the Father hath commanded me concerning this people, who are a remnant of the house of Israel.”

Great. I’ve got this – the Nephites are a remnant of the house of Israel, and Christ had to come to the Nephites, because that was part of God’s plan. That’s all stuff I knew from seminary.

Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled – behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them – And verily, verily, I say unto you, that when they shall be fulfilled then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel.”

I had to stop here for a second and ask myself, “What words of Isaiah is the Savior talking about? Obviously not all of them, since there are some words that haven’t been fulfilled yet. And what covenant is He talking about?” The covenant God made with Israel was that Christ would come to them, and that He would gather His people. Also, that when Christ would come, the Mosaic law (which was part of the original covenant with Israel) would be fulfilled.

“And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them.”

The first line of this verse caught me off guard for a minute - “the remnants, which shall be scattered” – but I thought the House of Israel had already been scattered? And then I realized that he was talking about scattering the remnants of the House of Israel – the Nephites/Lamanites. We can see the “scattering” of the Nephites and Lamanites all over the American continents today.

Then the Savior must be talking about more of the words of Isaiah than just the Messianic prophecies. And the covenant He is talking about here must be the covenant to gather Israel.

Much clearer now (Note to self: praying before reading complex scripture passages is a great idea)

“And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance.”

Also a well-known fact – America is the “promised land”.

“And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people –”

Here I am pretty sure the Savior is getting ready to talk about what will happen if the Gentiles don’t accept the gospel after they scatter the Nephites and the Lamanites and are given the promised land – remember, the Gentiles were given America as well to restore the gospel, because of the wickedness and eventual apostasy of the Nephites.

“Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver. Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thing adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off.”

This is where I got stuck again. My first thought was that if the Gentiles reject the gospel, the Lord will allow the remnant of the Lamanites (the native people of the Americas) to destroy the Gentiles. *(see note at bottom of post)

(Image Source: Animal Planet)

Because I don’t like to speculate, I pulled out my old Book of Mormon seminary manual to see if there was anything in there. Nope. Just the “gathering of Israel” part. I even checked out this commentary video on BYUtv about it, but they did the same thing – talked about how important the words of Isaiah are, and about the gathering of Israel.

No one seemed to mention these verses, so I headed to Google (which I only use as a last resort when it comes to gospel study – I don’t like to find a bunch of stuff written by crazy people…)

I came across this blog, Feast Upon the Word, and discovered a series of posts discussing just this topic! The author is … very educated, it seems, and the posts are not for the faint at heart (I had to move to my desktop computer to read them, instead of my phone – it was really that intense – and I had to actually look up a few words he used online. And I consider myself pretty well educated with a decent size vocabulary).

I have a feeling that in order to really understand this part of 3 Nephi I am going to have to dedicate some time to studying Isaiah 52 and Micah 4-5, so I probably will just “skim” through these chapters and pick out what I can for now while I am trying to finish the Book of Mormon.

I am excited to study these passages in more depth, and hope to do so in the next few weeks!

*Turns out this passage is simply talking about the power of the House of Israel during the gathering of Israel to teach the gospel to the Gentiles and purify them. The Gentiles who won’t accept the gospel will be cut off from Heavenly Father.

Have you ever been absolutely stumped by a passage of scripture? Have you prayed to be able to understand the scriptures better? Where do you look for help understanding passages that stump you? Do you have thoughts on these passages in 3 Nephi?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Exactly One Line

(find the talk here – The Book of Mormon – A Book from God)

You may not know this about me, but a few years ago I finished my bachelors degree in Mathematics with a minor in Physics from Brigham Young University. I love math. I even love geometry. I didn’t at first, but the more I studied physics, the more I realized I loved geometry.

One of the basic postulates of geometry is that through any two points there is exactly one line. When I heard this postulate spoken of in General Conference by Elder Tad R. Callister I almost cheered! I love when the General Authorities talk about math and science concepts in Conference. I feel that there is something really divine about math and science.

But I digress.

The Book of Mormon. Elder Callister says that with it there is no middle ground, “It is either the word of God as professed, or it is a total fraud.” From a logical viewpoint, this makes sense. It can’t just be a “good book,” since it talks about the atonement of Jesus Christ and professes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God it either has to be from the devil or from God – because you can’t just write an untrue book about Jesus Christ without it being false. So either Joseph Smith received gold plates from an angel and translated them by the power of God as he said he did, or he was possessed by the devil and conjured up this book.

Elder Callister compared it to C. S. Lewis’ argument of why a person must either accept or reject the divinity of Jesus Christ – not merely think of him as a “good person” or a “prophet.” Said C. S. Lewis,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. …You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:or else a madman or something worse. … But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

I love C. S. Lewis. I enjoy a little bit of logic when it comes to the gospel – even though the ultimate test of truth comes through the Holy Ghost.

Back to the geometry lesson -  Elder Callister described why we need both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

The principles of geometry state that there are an infinite number of lines that can be draw through one point. In every direction – not just the lines we can think of on a plane, but an entire space. Lines going everywhere! Who wouldn’t be confused with all those possibilities?

But add just one more point, and suddenly you have only one possibility – through any two points there is exactly one line. There are absolutely no other possibilities.

When you think of it that way, it is easy to see why there is only one true Church of Jesus Christ, and why that Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. The doctrine of the Church is based on the Bible and the Book of Mormon, together as testaments of Jesus Christ. As Elder Callister puts it, “Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses.”

In his talk, Elder Callister described several instances where the Book of Mormon clarifies doctrine put forth in the Bible, but says, “none is more powerful nor poignant than the Book of Mormon’s discourses on the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” I love reading about the Savior, both in the gospels, and in the epistles of Paul in which he teaches people about the Savior. I love reading the words of Isaiah, which are rich in prophesies of the Savior. But by far my favorite place to read about the Savior and His mission is in the Book of Mormon. Some of my favorite passages are Mosiah chapter 4 and Alma chapter 42 – although nearly every page is full of testimonies of the Savior and His mission and atonement. There is something about reading the Book of Mormon that seems to pull me toward the Savior. My thoughts are turned to the Savior more often, my life is more in line with the teachings of the Savior, and my testimony of His divinity and atonement is strengthened.

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni teaches, “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” Which is exactly what the Savior taught when He said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every … house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” So, the Savior himself taught that if anything persuades people to believe in Him, it must be of God – because Satan cannot persuade people to believe in Christ, otherwise he would be divided against himself.

The Book of Mormon draws me closer to Christ almost involuntarily – without even trying, it pulls me to the Savior with an indescribable force. Then, as the Savior himself taught, it must be of God.

To any who have not read the Book of Mormon and think they know whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of Christ, I tell you that you cannot know if it is true if you do not know whether or not the Book of Mormon is true. Elder Callister testified, “An honest, unbiased reading of the Book of Mormon will bring someone to the same conclusion as my great-great-grandfather, namely: ‘The devil could not have written it—it must be from God.’”

And as the 14 year old girl testified, “I have read every page of the Book of Mormon and I know it’s true.”

I, too, have read every page of the Book of Mormon, and I know it is of God. Every page draws me close to the Savior and testifies of Him. How grateful I am for its power and its truths.

How do you know the Book of Mormon is true? Have you experienced “an honest, unbiased reading of the Book of Mormon”? Do you judge the truthfulness of the Church without having read that book?

Find more insight on this talk over at
Diapers and Divinity’s General Conference Book Club

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Charity Never Faileth

You know when you hear about some gospel topic over and over again and it seems like Heavenly Father is really trying to get something through to you – and maybe He feels like you’re not going to get it the first time?

Well, on Saturday morning I woke up feeling… well, a little less than charitable. I was extremely ornery. I hopped on my computer to check the blogs I usually read, and the first thing on my blog reader was this post by Corine over at Joy in the Journey. I read this quote, and immediately knew it had to be printed and taped up on the wall in my bathroom.

image I have read Moroni 7:44-45 (men is nothing with out charity, etc) and 1 Corinthians 13 (charity suffereth long, is not puffed up, not easily provoked, etc) countless times. I have listened to and studied talk after talk after talk after talk after talk at General Conference on charity, but for some reason (natural man, anyone?) it is so hard for me to remember, in all my actions, to have charity.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” But the greatest is charity. So if you have faith and hope, fine, but if you don’t have charity, you are “nothing” as Paul so eloquently puts it.

Since Saturday I have been working really hard at being charitable. You’ll be happy to know that I haven’t woken up ornery at all since then, and I don’t plan to start being ornery again any time soon. I am being more patient with my children and my husband, and I am learning to endure difficult circumstances without feeling like a martyr. Not feeling like a martyr when I am suffering because of the actions of others is probably the very hardest thing for me – charity doesn’t come easy for me, especially when I feel like someone who shouldn’t be hurting me is hurting me. But thanks to Corine’s post, I am putting that away (that feeling like a martyr). It’s not fun, feeling like a martyr. It makes me cranky and ornery and stressed (and it makes me break out – and that is never a good thing). It makes me short tempered with my kids. Basically, when I lack charity in one area of my life, it causes my charity to vanish in all the other aspects.

So if I want to have charity with my children, I’ll have to have charity with everyone in my life – even those I don’t think deserve my charity. What?! Did I really just say that? Yes – that attitude is the very thing that has been keeping me from having charity. I was honestly believing that this person didn’t deserve my charity. Fortunately, the Savior commanded us to love everyone – not just people we think deserve our love.

Basically if I can just remember to do everything Elder Ashton describes in the quote above, I should be fine. I’ve been working on it, and I am getting better – I have been able to have so much more charity the past few days. And it feels better.

A lot better.

Do you ever notice yourself lacking charity? How do you remind yourself to have charity throughout the day? Do you post quotes up by your mirrors like I do? Do you carry around a token in your pocket? What do you do to remember to be charitable to everyone?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wheat and Tares

For in that day, before the Son of man shall come, he shall send forth his angels and messengers of heaven, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them out among the wicked; and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. For the world shall be burned with fire. JST Matthew 13:42-44

What does it mean to be wicked or righteous? When the Savior taught the parable of the wheat and the tares and other parables about the kingdom of heaven, he said that at His coming, he would send angels and messengers to separate “all things that offend, and them which do iniquity” and “cast them out among the wicked.”

The Spirit World – levels of righteousness

In the Gospel Principles manual, we can read a little more about where those that “offend” and those “which do iniquity” will be sent. We know that during this life, those who have not accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ (whether or not they even had the opportunity) will be sent to Spirit Prison. “In the spirit prison are the spirits of those who have not yet received the gospel of Jesus Christ… also in the spirit prison are those who rejected the gospel after it was preached to them either on earth or in the spirit prison. These spirits suffer in a condition known as hell.” (p.244) In Alma we read, “ the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil – for behold they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord… these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity.” So does this mean that everyone who has not received the gospel in this life is “wicked”? We could assume that, since they are in “spirit prison” with those who suffer because they will not accept the gospel. But there is more to spirit prison than just suffering. “The spirits in paradise can teach the spirits in prison” (p.243) and “if [the spirits in prison] accept the gospel and the ordinances performed for them in the temples, they may leave the spirit prison and dwell in paradise.” (p.244) So being in spirit prison doesn’t automatically pass a judgment of “wicked” on a person. The wicked go to spirit prison and suffer in condition known as hell, while those who were righteous go to spirit prison to wait for an opportunity to accept the gospel, and to wait for their temple work to be done.

The spirit world, then, is just like the mortal world we live in right now. There are levels of righteousness and spirituality, and there are levels of suffering. In this life, when we are righteous and live the gospel, we have peace – we also experience suffering, because that is the nature of this world; however, we can experience peace as well. Those who do not have the gospel, yet live righteously, are also living in a measure of peace and happiness. Just because they don’t have the gospel does not mean they need to be tormented. There are those who have an even greater measure of the spirit and peace, those who believe in Christ, but do not have the fullness of the gospel. I think that when we realize how the spirit world is set up – that there are righteous people even in spirit prison, we can understand that there are righteous people on this earth who do not have the fullness of the gospel. This understanding of wicked and righteous helps me to be less judgmental of those I associate with.

Many of us have heard Christians who say anyone who has not accepted Christ is going to “hell” – and that they will be burned and all that. Thankfully we have a more understanding view of how the spirit world works, and those who are righteous, even if they have not had an opportunity to accept the gospel, will not suffer in “hell”, although they will dwell in spirit prison. But sometimes I think we are misguided in our understanding of what is wicked and what is righteous, and there are members of the Church who will tell you that those not of our faith will be going to hell.

The Second Coming of the Savior Jesus Christ gives us another opportunity to study the “wicked”and the “righteous”. “When Jesus comes again… the wicked will be destroyed.” (p.257) Again, who will the wicked be at the time of the Savior’s coming? Probably more those who are in the second category of the spirits who will be in spirit prison – those who reject the gospel after it has been preached to them, whether in this life or in the next. The Gospel Principles book gives us a little more insight into who will be left during the Millennium (after the Second Coming – remember, at the second coming the wicked will be destroyed, and the righteous will live on the earth during the Millennium). Who will be “the righteous”? “They will be those who have lived virtuous and honest lives. These people will inherit either the terrestrial or celestial kingdom.” (p. 263)

Will only members of the Church be living during the Millennium? No – all people who have lived virtuous and honest lives will be on the earth during the Millennium. I know many people not of our faith who are virtuous and honest people. They will all live with Christ as well. “Eventually everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is the Savior.” But until then, it will be just like living with our kind Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, black, Asian, Republican, and Democrat neighbors as we do today.

Puts it into perspective now, doesn’t it? If we cannot live in happiness and in harmony with people who are different than us now, what makes you think you will be able to live that way in the Millennium? It makes me want to be more kind and charitable to people I don’t agree with, especially if they are kind and charitable people. I want to be able to live during the Millennium, but I know that I won’t be able to if I don’t learn how to get along with people right now, in this life.

I hope it is easier for you now to understand the difference between “wicked” and “righteous” – and that not all those in spirit prison are horrible people – some of those people may even be resurrected during the Second Coming with the other righteous during the First Resurrection. (see Gospel Principles p. 260)

A sister in our Relief Society made this very profound statement, “Each person will be taught the gospel in a way that they perfectly understand what they are accepting or rejecting.” When someone rejects the gospel, we have a tendency to judge them as “wicked” – but as this wise sister said, they will have the opportunity to understand perfectly what it is they are rejecting or accepting, and maybe they don’t understand it perfectly.

How do you understand wickedness and righteousness as it pertains to the Spirit World and to the Savior’s Second Coming? Can you look around you now in your life and see people who you think might actually live during the Millennium that before you maybe thought wouldn’t? Does having a better understanding of who the righteous are help you desire to get along and associate with people you may not have before because of their beliefs?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Becoming a False Prophet

I was reading a post over on How to Be Superwoman about Personal Revelation, and I skimmed over an article she linked to that one of her readers had sent to her. The article was basically arguing that there is no such thing as personal revelation (or “personal words from God” – his words) because we can’t always be 100% accurate 100% of the time, and a prophet has to be 100% accurate 100% of the time.

I think the author of the article made a really good point. I don’t mean to say I agree that there is no personal revelation – of course I believe there is – however, I still think he brought up some valid concerns about personal revelation.

People who believe in personal revelation (especially us Mormons, since we rely so heavily on it) can be very susceptible to become false prophets to ourselves.

How do we avoid become false prophets to ourselves? Here is the (edited) comment I wrote on Amy’s blog. It is mostly my testimony of personal revelation, and maybe some of the scriptures or points I brought up will help us understand and discern between true personal revelation from God, and what we think is from God, but is not.

The Bible tells us to ask God "Ask, and ye shall receive... knock and it shall be opened unto you." (Luke 11:9, Matt 7:7) "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) I can tell you right now, I lack wisdom on just about every topic in my life. Especially as a mother. I have no clue what I'm doing - so I ask God, and He helps me. I am so grateful for that knowledge that God will answer my prayers.

I have asked, and I have received answers to many questions - including whether or not the Bible is true, whether or not the Book of Mormon is true, and most importantly, if Christ is my Savior. He is.

Paul said, "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." So if we have a testimony of Jesus, we have the spirit of prophecy (when we are testifying of Christ).

I would also add that I do not believe I (or anyone) will ever receive revelation from God that will be contrary to His word in scripture and from His prophets. (i.e., the person receiving "revelation" that he should not marry - that isn't from God, IMO). The scriptures make a really good measuring stick for what is revelation from God, and what is not. The Book of Mormon says, "all things which are good cometh of God...(see James 1:17 & 1 John 4:1-6) that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve Him, is inspired of God... for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." Moroni 7:12-13,16

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt 7:15-20)

I think that the author of the article makes a good point that people can become false prophets to themselves, and quite possibly to others. I see it all the time both in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and out of the Church. You have to be very cautious with personal revelation. It is very easy to become a false prophet if you aren't careful. But I think the author throws the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. If we don't have any revelation, how are we to know anything? How do you know the Bible is true? How do you know Christ is your Savior? If you know these things, how did you come to a knowledge of them? Or are you simply just hoping they are true?

Or did you get that knowledge from God? (knowledge from God = revelation)

I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that the fullness of that gospel is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that God loves me and that He speaks to me.

Maybe God doesn't speak to me in a burning bush, but He does speak to me through a burning in my heart. And I am grateful for it.

How do you recognize when personal revelation is from God? How do you avoid becoming a false prophet to yourself? Have you ever had what you thought was a prompting from God, only to realize, upon further inspection, that it was indeed not from God?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Counsel to Youth

(find the talk here)

Last night my husband and I watched the CES Devotional that President Boyd K. Packer gave. At the beginning of his talk, almost as an aside, President Packer mentioned how when he was first called as an apostle, when they would walk back to the Church office building from their weekly temple meeting, President Packer would hang back and walk with Elder LeGrand Richards. The other members of the Twelve would say to President Packer, “It’s so nice of you to stay back and help Brother Richards.” President Packer said they didn’t know why he did it. He then talked about how Elder Richards could still remember President Wilford Woodruff (the fourth president of the Church) – he had last heard President Woodruff speak when he was twelve years old. President Packer walked with Elder Richards so that he could learn from him. When my husband and I were looking for houses, I told him that I would rather live in an older neighborhood with established families, rather than the young military community near us. I told him the reason was that I would rather live around families who had already successfully raised children (and grandchildren in some cases) rather than families in the same situation as us – young, freshly married, small children – because I didn’t want to be around people making the same parenting mistakes I was going to be making. I wanted to be around people who could show me how to be a better parent.

I think in general as a society we don’t value the wisdom and experience of those who are older than us. We think that we can just learn it all, from books, TV, the internet, college. Last night my husband and I were talking about how it must have been when we were in Heaven talking with Heavenly Father about how this life was going to be. I’m sure He showed us what was going to happen, and we saw spirits with bodies and thought, “That is awesome! I want to do that!” but of course, we had never actually done that, so we didn’t know exactly what it was going to be like (which is part of why we are here). We can’t fully understand something we have never experienced. You can’t really know what it is like to loose a child unless you have lost one. You can’t really know what it is like to commune with God unless you have communed with Him. You can’t really know how to raise children until you have actually raised children.

President Packer read this poem as part of his talk at General Conference:

The old crow is getting slow.
The young crow is not.
Of what the young crow does not know
The old crow knows a lot.

At knowing things the old crow
Is still the young crow’s master.
What does the slow old crow not know?
—How to go faster.

The young crow flies above, below,
And rings around the slow old crow.
What does the fast young crow not know?
—Where to go.

That’s why it is so important to surround yourself with people who have experienced more than you have. Because they can help you learn the way to fly – even though you may be able to fly faster than them, it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know where to fly.

(Image credit: expertinfantry)

One thing that specifically stood out to me from President Packer’s talk was when he said, “you young people are being raised in enemy territory.” I heard this as, “You parents are raising your children in enemy territory.” That sounds pretty frightening, to say the least. But I know that if I listen to the prophets, and to Heavenly Father, I will be able to successfully raise my children in this world.

I really appreciated President Packer sharing with the youth (and all of us) how he gained his testimony, and how at first he relied on the testimony of his seminary teachers. I also thought it was interesting that President Packer had not received a Patriarchal Blessing before he had enlisted in the Air Force (he had to have been at least 18 years old at that point). That made me wonder a little what his upbringing was like – it was probably just normal like any other child, rather than particularly extraordinary. But thought correct use of his agency, look where he is now! Look at how valuable he has been to furthering God’s work. I am grateful that he was willing to share such personal tidbits about his youth with our youth. I will have to remember to share this talk with my children when they are a little older.

President Packer also talked a bit about agency and the importance of and proper use of our bodies. I have been studying Elder David A Bednar’s CES Devotional talk titled Things as they Really Are in which he talks about our bodies. It has really been an enlightening experience for me, and I feel like I am coming to understand the importance of our physical bodies a little better.

What stood out to you from President Packer’s talk? How do you learn from those who are older and more experienced than you? Do you look for opportunities to learn from them as President Packer did?

Find more insight on this talk over at
Diapers and Divinity’s General Conference Book Club

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Personal Revelation and Testimony

(find the talk here)

My very favorite quote from this talk, and something that has been on my mind since General Conference, was the quote from Eliza R. Snow, “Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise.” I have felt this principle in my life – as I seek for wisdom, as I study the scriptures and listen to the prophets and ask the Lord for revelation, I feel as if there is a power within me to do the right thing, to know what and how to teach my children, to know how to talk to my husband, and how to act in many other relationships in my life. I have a really hard time when I do not know what I should do in a situation, or when I do what seems like it would be the right thing, and it ends up hurting people or causing more trouble than there originally was. A few years ago, when my son was a toddler, I would get exasperated when he would cry endlessly and furiously and I could not figure out what the problem was. I would shut myself in my bedroom and pour out my heart to the Lord,  begging Him to reveal to me what I should do as a mother. I did, and still do, have faith that the Lord blesses my efforts as a mother, and that as I come to Him in faith, with an open mind and an open heart, He will reveal His will for me as a mother. And I testify that He has.

The story that Sister Barbara Thompson told of Nephi and his brothers, and their trouble receiving revelation, is a very good description of those who don’t seek revelation, and an illustration of the principles to follow in order to receive revelation. When his brothers did not know that what Lehi (their father) had taught them was true, Nephi asked them, “Have ye inquired of the Lord?” The brothers’ excuse for not asking was a little contradictory. They told Nephi, “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” Obviously the Lord would not make anything known to them if they hadn’t asked yet. The Lord tells us “ask, and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” We can’t expect God to just come down and tell us what we should do if we don’t even ask first.

In another talk in October General Conference, Elder J. Devn Cornish mentioned that “But because He will not infringe upon our agency, we must ask for His help.” Of course, revelation and testimony fall under the same principle. The Lord does not usually reveal things to people who do not ask sincerely for revelation. Some notable exceptions are Alma the Younger (whose father, and many members of the Church prayed for Alma to be “brought to a knowledge of the truth” – however, the choice to repent was still Alma’s), and Saul of Tarsus who saw Christ while he was running around persecuting Christians (who in the end had a choice whether or not to follow the Savior). And, of course, even Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel, had seen angels and miracles – and yet they still did not believe in the things their father was teaching them. Because in the end, it was their choice – whether to believe or not.

Revelation can come in a lot of different ways. Sister Thompson highlighted several of those. Sometimes, we don’t feel the spirit or receive revelation in just one way. When I received my patriarchal blessing, I was told that there was a principle of the gospel that I would know for sure and I would feel it was true by a burning in my bosom. For a long time, I thought that was how the Spirit would always speak to me. But as I have grown in the gospel, I have experienced the Spirit speaking to me in nearly all of the ways Sister Thompson pointed out. Specifically, I have heard a voice, clearly speaking to me. Other times revelation has come as a thought to my mind – recalling a scripture, or a quote, or something I had thought before. I have seen visions in my mind (which could probably also be classified under “thoughts”). Revelation and inspiration frequently comes to be when I listen to music – through the words of the songs I listen to.

Sister Thompson said, “Our testimonies fortify us and strengthen us as we face challenges in our daily lives.” I can’t tell you how true this is! This year has been full of many trials for me, serious challenges that have at times crushed my heart. But as I remember my testimony, I am given strength to bear my trials, and often I am given inspiration and revelation how to deal with those trials, and frequently how to make them easier to bear, or solve those trials that can be resolved. I echo Sister Hedwig Biereichal’s testimony as she said, “I didn’t keep a testimony through those times—the testimony kept me.”

Have you asked sincerely for revelation and received it? How have you obtained a testimony? How does the Spirit speak to you? Does your testimony keep you in hard times? How do you strengthen and preserve your tes

Find more insight on this talk over at
Diapers and Divinity’s General Conference Book Club

Some other good blog posts about Sister Thompson’s talk:
Whisperings of the Spirit
Living a Big Story

Thursday, September 8, 2011


(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:
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