Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Divine Gift of Gratitude

(find the talk here)

When I was a child, I was somewhat afraid of President Thomas S. Monson. He was a counselor in the First Presidency for as long as I can remember, but something about his face always made me think of a villain from a children’s story. Before you think I am being blasphemous, you should see a picture of him:

This is what I’m talking about! I’m not saying he looks evil – but he has that prominent nose and forehead that you usually see in villain characters.

Thankfully, the Spirit is a good testifier of truth, and when he was called as the prophet I was able to receive a testimony of his calling as prophet and President of the Church. It might also have something to do with his softened appearance as he has aged:

Doesn’t he look a lot more friendly now? I love this man. Even though I have never met him in person, I love him, and I know that he is a prophet of our Savior Jesus Christ. I know that he speaks the things that Heavenly Father would have us do, and I know that if we follow his teachings, we will be led closer to our Savior and to our Father in Heaven.

President Monson’s talk about gratitude was another of those that I really needed to read before I could understand what was in it for me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Two Lines of Communication

(find the talk here)

I always enjoy Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ talks. I think I have enjoyed listening to him speak since I was a little child. He is definitely the Apostle I most distinctly remember, which may be why I enjoy his talks so much. That or I just really like the way he speaks – always very rational, to the point, and authoritative. He tells it like it is. And I like that.

This particular talk is very important to me, because I have such a strong testimony in this topic, and I see confusion about this principle everywhere around me – in and out of the Church.

Elder Oaks points out the two lines of communication with God – there is a personal line, and there is a priesthood line. The problem with most people is that they either believe and rely disproportionately on one or the other, or they completely discredit the one. More often in the Church, members simply rely too much on the one or the other, and fail to recognize the importance of the other.

For example, we have some LDS friends recently who underwent surgical sterilization for personal reasons (i.e., they didn’t want any more kids). The Church Handbook explicitly says in what conditions surgical sterilization should be considered, and personal preference is not one of them. At all. Our friends are righteous, active members of the Church. They are not apostate, they are not deliberately trying to ignore what the brethren have instructed us to do. Honestly I believe that they didn’t even know about this policy. Even if they did consult their bishop, he may not have known about the Church policy. However, in many cases, couples make decisions like this and will say that it was a personal decision between them and the Lord. In his talk, Elder Oak describes it this way, “Unfortunately, it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose.” Many people will suppose that they can receive inspiration and make decisions for their family which are contrary to the laws of God. Not so. This is a serious misunderstanding of the personal line of communication – God will never inspire us to do something that is contrary to the laws He has given to us through His prophets.

On the other hand, though, some people misunderstand the place of the Priesthood line. I learned a good lesson about this when I was preparing to go to college as a youth. I had some great opportunities to attend a very good in-state university in Arkansas. I also had been accepted to BYU with a one year full tuition scholarship. I knew that I could get more than a full tuition scholarship to the University of Arkansas, and the school was just as good as BYU, as far as academics. Stuck in what decision to make, I went to my bishop, who basically turned me back to the personal line and said that both schools were great, and both would give me wonderful opportunities, and that I should attend which ever school I wanted to. At the time I was disappointed, because I thought for sure my bishop would know better than me which school I should attend – but it taught me a great lesson in the places of the Priesthood and personal lines of communication. If my bishop had weighed in on the matter (and he did give me some good counsel about general decision making), I would have gone back to my bishop to ask which boy in the ward I should marry, which classes I should take, what major I should pursue, when I should start having children, whether or not I should work outside the home – I could keep going. Instead, I had a great bishop who reminded me that these kinds of decisions are mine to make with the Lord, and that if He had a particular place for me to be, He would let me know. Sometimes the Lord does give us personal instruction through Priesthood authorities, but more often than not, it is up to use to make those personal decision for ourselves – as long as the decisions we make are in harmony with the Priesthood line.

Similarly, we are not expected to blindly follow what the Priesthood authorities tell us. I am always reminded of the book reviews from Reading Rainbow (remember, that PBS show about reading and books? Take a look, it’s in a book?). The host of the show says something about how you can learn about the topic in a book, but you don’t have to take his word for it, and then a bunch of kids give book reviews. The prophets and apostles do the same thing. When we listen to them speak in General Conference, or on any matter, they expect us to receive our own confirmation of their testimony. They don’t want us to take their word for it – they want us to receive our own testimony, our own revelation that what they say is the truth.

We must use both the personal line and the priesthood line in proper balance to achieve the growth that is the purpose of mortal life. If personal religious practice relies too much on the personal line,individualism erases the importance of divine authority. If personal religious practice relies too much on the priesthood line, individual growth suffers.

I am grateful for the priesthood line of communication, and for the personal line of communication, and I am so grateful for my knowledge of the two, and the place each has in my life. I hope that I can keep them in balance so that I can live the life Heavenly Father would have me live.

How do you balance the personal and priesthood lines? Do you sometimes find yourself using them out of place? Do rely more on one line than another? How can you grow in your personal testimony?

Monday, March 28, 2011

181st Annual LDS General Conference

The 181st Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will begin on April 2, 2011 at 10:00 am in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, UT.

I can’t even begin to express how excited I am for General Conference. I think I am even more excited about Conference this April because of the depth of study I have undertaken of the October General Conference. I think consistently, carefully, and deeply studying the words of October’s General Conference has really prepared me to be anxious for these upcoming sessions. I have really eaten up the words of the prophets, and I am anxious to hear the “new” word. I was telling my husband that I know that the General Authorities will not say anything particularly new at this General Conference – but I know that their words will be direct inspiration from our Heavenly Father, and I am excited to listen and learn from Him through the mouths of His holy Prophets.

I have a lot on my mind right now, so I think that General Conference is coming at just the right moment (or it’s my worries and stress that are coming at the right moment – but either way, this weekend is promising to be pretty awesome).

I like to have questions that I am praying about that Heavenly Father will help me answer at General Conference. Right now I have quite a few.

I would like to finish all the talks from October General Conference on this blog, but I think I may just have to do a few of the Apostle’s talks, and then begin with April General Conference next week.

Also, I am going to start studying the Church’s Handbook of Instructions (book number 2), along with studying some other topics that I may feel particularly drawn to. This intensive study of the General Conference talks has been great for me, though. I think that I will review one talk a week, and I will start with the talks from only the Apostles. I will try to include the other talks in my study of other topics (and maybe in my study of the Church Handbook), but I don’t think I will continue to study the other talks in such depth on my blog, unless, of course, I feel inspired to.

There are several ways to experience General Conference these days, so no one has an excuse for not listening to, reading, or watching this Conference. Go here for more information.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Holy Ghost and Revelation

(find the talk here)

I have to admit that I was a little distracted while reading Elder Jay E. Jensen’s talk. I’ll share my thoughts on this talk, and then I’ll probably have to write later about the thoughts that distracted me.

I liked that Elder Jensen talked about “trees of testimony.” I like having visual representations of abstract ideas. Elder Jensen said:

… I witnessed the results of Alma’s counsel to “awake and arouse [my] faculties … to [conduct] an experiment upon [His] words.” These words or seeds have grown into trees, indeed giant trees of testimony. The process continues with more experiments upon the word, resulting in additional trees of testimony, now a veritable forest based on revelation through and by the Holy Ghost.

I would like to say that I have a “veritable forest” of testimony trees, but it’s probably more like a small grove. Maybe a dozen trees. What would it be like to have a forest of testimony trees? Each time I experiment on the word and let a little tree grow, it makes it easier to grow other trees. It’s much like developing any other skill – we work and work at it until we are professional foresters.

One thing that Elder Jensen mentioned struck me probably the first time I listened to it after Conference. We had moved in to a new home and we started attending a Portuguese ward about 10 minutes from our home. The boundaries for our neighborhood ward are quite small and the ward building is nearly in our backyard. Because we weren’t attending that ward, we didn’t get to know very many of our neighbors – and we usually get to know people really quickly. I was going through some tough times, feeling pretty lonely and pretty alone. I was so used to a close-knit ward family with people who would just drop by to say hi and chat for a bit. I felt like no one was around to “minister” to my needs. But Elder Jensen reminded me that “sometimes there is no one … available to minister in time of need. In those situations I have come to find solace and direction from the Comforter, another role of the Holy Ghost.” This was something I really needed to hear. It didn’t matter if there was no one around to “take care of me” – I could find the comfort and peace and ministration in the gift of the Holy Ghost which I received at baptism.

Have you ever felt alone, only to realize that the Holy Ghost was there all along? Do you have a forest of testimony trees? Or are yours more like a few saplings?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cleansing the Inner Vessel

(find the talk here)


I don’t want to say much about President Boyd K. Packer’s talk, because a lot of what I would say, I said back in October.

Sometimes, I am worried about the world and how wicked things seem to be getting. But then I see good people, repentant people, righteous people, and I remember that in the last days, the wicked will become wicked, and the righteous will become more righteous. I can definitely see that happening. And I hope that I am becoming more righteous.

Recently, I have been hearing this quote from President Packer’s talk constantly in my mind:

“And the Gods said: We will bless them. And … we will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”

This commandment has never been rescinded.

We are still commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. I thought this was interesting, especially in today’s world of having 2.5 children.

Even more interesting was when I found this policy from the Church’s Handbook 2: Administering the Church:

21.4.15 Surgical Sterilization (Including Vasectomy)

The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. Surgical sterilization should be considered only if (1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or (2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgment and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer.

Definitely if the commandment to multiply and replenish the earth still stands, then surgical sterilization would be strongly discouraged. Of course, as President Packer points out in his talk, “Lehi taught that men are free and must be ‘free … to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day.’ … our agency is more powerful than the adversary’s will. Agency is precious. We can foolishly, blindly give it away, but it cannot be forcible taken from us.” So, of course, it is given us to choose what we will do. But it behooves us to choose the path that follows the Lord’s will for us. “There is something very liberating when an individual determines of his or her own free will to be obedient to our Father and our God and expresses that willingness to Him in prayer.” My mind always goes back to the example of a kite being held by a kite string. When the kite is being held taught by the string, it can soar. If the string were to be cut, the kite would fall to the ground.

What can obedience do for us? It can help us break the chains of addiction and bad habits. “If one is obedient, the priesthood can show how to break a habit and even erase an addiction.” I have bad habits in my life – maybe not particularly heinous sins, but there are parts of my parenting, and parts of my actions towards others in general that have become habits, and I would like to change them. President Packer’s message is one of hope:

Every soul confined in a prison of sin, guilt, or perversion has a key to the gate. The key is labeled “repentance.” If you know how to use this key, the adversary cannot hold you. … If you are bound by a habit or an addiction that is unworthy, you must stop conduct that is harmful. Angels will coach you, and priesthood leaders will guide you through those difficult times.

I am so grateful for the power of the atonement, and the power of the priesthood to heal my life, and the lives of those around me. As a mother, I worry that some of my bad parenting will have a lasting a permanent effect on my children. But just when I feel that way, President Packer offers even more encouragement. “The priesthood has the power to unlock the influence of our habits …  however tight the grip. It can heal over the scars of past mistakes.” If I can change how I parent – if I can become more patience, more humble, and more charitable toward my children – then my past mistakes of impatience, scolding, and punishment will be healed by the Savior, and I will still be able to raise healthy, well-adjusted, righteous children.

What scars would you have Christ heal? Are you willing to be obedient to the laws of God? Are you willing to submit to our Father and be obedient so that He might heal you and your family?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trust in God, Then Go and Do

(find the talk here)

President Henry B. Eyring’s talk from the Sunday morning session of General Conference was timely for several reasons. The first reason I can think of is because President Boyd K. Packer spoke just after President Eyring’s talk, and President Packer’s talk garnered a lot of criticism among the world, and, ironically, among members of the Church. When a prophet of God speaks, we should trust that he is speaking for the Lord. We have even  been instructed to pray and learn for ourselves that what the prophets say is true. I’ll say more about President Packer’s talk when I read that talk again for this blog (probably tomorrow).

It’s interesting how I end up re-reading the conference talks at exactly the right time for me to hear some counsel that I am particularly needing at that moment. Maybe I didn’t need to hear President Eyring’s counsel to “Trust in God, Then Go and Do” back in October last year, but I surely need it now.

My husband and I are in the process of making a few very significant, very important decisions for our family. About both of which we have recently received individual promptings from the Spirit. However, we, in our “perceived” infinite wisdom (“I know my circumstances, so I know how to proceed in my situation.”) have attempted to postpone, put off, or other wise ignore the promptings we have received. On Sunday afternoon, the Lord sent one of his messengers to help us understand His will for us. President Eyring says that he “trust[s] His apostles and prophets today and those they call to serve God.” (emphasis added) The Lord has called righteous bishops to preside over our wards, and the bishop from our neighborhood ward visited us on Sunday and confirmed our feelings from the past few months. Now the job is ours to decide if we will “go and do.”

The other decision is much more personal and I will not share the details here, but I will mention that both my husband and I feel completely inadequate to go forth with the Lord’s plan in this regard. We both feel that we do not have what it takes, that following what we have felt prompted to do would make our lives more crazy and stressful than we are right now, and that we lack the strength necessary to do the Lord’s will. But President Eyring reminds us of Nephi’s proclamation of trust and obedience:

Nephi … said these words of trust that we can and must feel steadily in our hearts: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

I want to have the kind of faith where I will obey the Lord’s will for me even when I think that I know that there is a better way.  President Eyring says that kind of trust “comes from knowing God.” In my talk yesterday I spoke about President Uchtdorf’s talk Of Things that Matter Most and one of the relationships he mentioned was our relationship with Heavenly Father. President Uchtdorf even taught us how to improve our relationship with our Father. He said:

We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him,by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by[Christ].” To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

I can learn to trust God by improving my relationship with him and coming to really know God. Studying the scriptures to learn about Him, looking in the world around me to learn about Him, looking into my heart and listening to the Spirit to learn about Him. As I stay close to God, I know that He will make known to me the things he would have me do.

I must trust in the Lord, and then go and do.

I can learn to trust more in the Lord, and I do have a desire to do His will. And as I learn to trust in the Lord, I know that He will be able to trust me, and that He will reveal more and more of His plan for me, as I show Him that I am willing to do His will, trusting that He will prepare a way for it.

President Eyring closed with this remark, and I think it is appropriate for my post as well:

You show your trust in Him when you listen with the intent to learn and repent and then you go and do whatever He asks. If you trust God enough to listen for His message in every sermon, song, and prayer in this conference, you will find it. And if you then go and do what He would have you do, your power to trust Him will grow, and in time you will be overwhelmed with gratitude to find that He has come to trust you.

May we learn to have trust in the Lord – and then be willing to go and do what He would have us do. I know that our power to trust Him will grow as we demonstrate that trust to Him.

Have you struggled to trust in the Lord? How do you feel when  you work to find out His will for you, and then go and do the things He has asked for you to do? Do you feel like He prepares a way for you to do all the things He asks you to do?

Monday, March 21, 2011

As Coisas Que Mais Importam

This is my talk that I gave in our Portuguese speaking ward on Sunday, March 20. I wrote the talk in Portuguese and my husband translated it for me. Apparently I did a pretty good job reading Portuguese. I hope they enjoyed the talk as much as they enjoyed my Portuguese! (You should be able to translate this talk if you have a Google translator add-in for your browser – it won’t be perfect, but it will be close)

Sou grata pela oportunidade de dar um discurso hoje, e especialmente pela oportunidade de praticar o portugués. O irmão Niscimento me disse que eu teria um tradutor, mas já que eu posso ler portugués melhor do que falar (e eu pensei que me sentiria estranha com um tradutor) decidí pedir a Russ que me ajudasse a escrever o meu discurso em portugués, e depois eu iria ler para vocês. Me perdoem se por acaso eu pronunciar algumas coisas com um sotaque europeu – aí a culpa é do meu marido porque serviu em Portugal, e não no Brasil.

O bispo me pediu que falasse a respeito do discurso do Presidente Uchtdorf da Conferência Geral em Outubro, As Coisas Que mais Importam. Eu já escutei este discurso muitas vezes (em inglês) e eu já o tenho lido algumas vezes. A meu ver, a leitura dos discursos da Conferência é diferente de escutá-los. Eu aprendo coisas novas ao ler os discursos, que não tinha aprendido ao escutá-los.

Neste discurso, o Presidente Uchtdorf nos relembra que devemos ir mais devagar e nos focalizar nas coisas que importam mais na nossa vida. Hoje em dia, as nossas vidas estão aterefadas e a vida corre numa velocidade bem acelerada. Somos constantemente bombardeados com informação e experiências. Temos a escola, trabalho, esporte, música, dança, afazeres, a lista continúa. Muitas dessas coisas, em sí, são boas e retas. Mas o Presidente Uchtdorf nos dá esta admoestação: “Por complicarmos desnecessariamente a vida, geralmente sentimos mais frustração, temos menos alegria e não achamos muito sentido na vida.”

Em Helemã capítulo cinco, versículo trinta, lemos: “E aconteceu que quando ouviram essa voz, notaram que não era uma voz de trovão nem uma voz de ruído tumultuoso, mas eis que era uma voz mansa, de perfeita suavidade, semelhante a um sussurro que penetrava até o âmago da alma.”

O Senhor fala com uma voz mansa e delicada. Por acaso já alguma vez estiveram num lugar cheio de barulho e ouviram alguma coisa que atraíu a sua atenção, mas que era um som mais delicado do que o barulho ao seu redor? Talvez aparecesse como alguém a chorar, o qualquer outro som delicado. Você provavelmente tentou estar o mais quieto possível e o mais silencioso possível para poder ouvir o som de novo. Talvez até pedisse aos que se achavam com você que estivessem silenciosos. Ou talvez até você lhes perguntasse se eles ouviram o som. Escutar a voz mansa e delicada quando enchemos as nossas vidas com reuniões, atividades, e projetos pode ser como ouvir o choro de um bebé numa sala cheia de gente e barulho. Mas com qué freqüência será que desmarcamos reuniões, interrompemos atividades, ou adiamos projetos para que possamos ouvir aquela voz mansa e delicada? Muitas vezes, nós não nos paramos para poder ouvir a voz mansa e delicada.

O Presidente Uchtdorf nós encourajou a focalizar nas coisas que mais importam. Ele citou o Elder Oaks, que disse: “Temos de renunciar a algumas coisas boas em prol de outras muito boas ou excelentes, pois elas desenvolvem a fé no Senhor Jesus Cristo e fortalecem a família.” Em vez de fazer demasiadas boas coisas, devemos estar fazendo algumas das coisas melhores. Precisamos ser particular em como passamos nosso tempo. E temos que nos certificar de que estejamos passando tempo fazendo as coisas mais importantes.

Eu concordo com o Presidente Uchtdorf ao dizer que “a maioria de nós compreende intuitivamente quão importantes são os fundamentos. Mas simplesmente nos distraímos, às vezes, com inúmeras coisas que nos parecem mais emocionantes.” Eu entendo quão importantes são as coisas básicas, porém muitas vezes eu fico destraida por toda a informação e esperiência que este mundo me oferece.

O Presidente Uchtdorf nos ensina que as coisas que mais importam são “quatro relacionamentos fundamentais: com nosso Deus, com nossa família, com nosso próximo e com cada um de nós mesmos.”

O nosso relacionamento com o nosso Pai Celestial é o mais importante, porque nós somos os seus filhos espirituais. “Melhoramos nosso relacianamento com o Pai Celestial ao aprender a respeito Dele, ter comunhão com Ele, arrepender-nos de nossos pecados e seguir ativamente Jesus Cristo.” Nós precisamos passar um tempo quieto cada dia com o nosso Pai Celestial orando, estudando, e escutando essa voz mansa e delicada. Para mim, este tempo vem cedo nas manhãs antes de se acordarem os meus filhos. Já acordou os meus dois pequeninhos, o meu lar já não está nada quieto. Há estómagos para encher, caras e mãos para limpar, desordens para arrumar, fraldas para mudar, e jogos para jogar. Se eu não tiver tempo pessoal a só com o Pai Celestial antes de se acordarem os meus filhos, eu já não vou ter esse tempo de sossego.

Eu tento ensinar os meus filhos a passar tempo com o Pai Celestial ao orar com eles, ler as escrituras com eles, e cantar as canções da primária com eles. Este tempo com o meu Pai Celestial junto com os meus filhos também ajuda a fortalecer o meu relacionamento com o meu Pai Celestial. Também me ajuda com o próxfimo relacionamento importante do qual falou o Presidente Uchtdorf – o relacionamento com as nossas famílias. O Presidente Uchtdorf disse, “No relacionamento familiar, o amor se soletra assim: t-e-m-p-o, tempo.” Nós temos que passar tempo com as nossas familias para lhes mostrar que as amamos e que nos preocupamos com eles. Muitas vezes eu não inclúo os meus filhos ao fazer as tarefas de casa, o que tira do tempo que eu poderia estar passando com eles. Eu lhes dou algúns brinquedos para brincar, ou filmes para ver, ou jogos para jogar enquanto eu faço a louça, lavo a ropa, e arrumo a casa. Em vez disso, eu devo usar o tempo de afazeres para ensinar os meus filhos a trabalhar, e assím poder passar mais tempo com eles.

Também precisamos cultivar o nosso relacionamento com os nossos próximos ao ter “sensibilidade para com as necesidades das pessoas, servindo-as e doando-lhes de nosso tempo e talentos.”

O último relacionamento do qual o Presidente Uchtdorf fala é o relacionamento com nós mesmos. Nós precisamos passar um pouco de tempo sozinhos para melhor conhecer a nós mesmos. Isto pode parecer estranho, mas precisamos aprender a amar nós mesmos e visualizar a nós mesmos como nos vê o nosso Pai Celestial – como os seus filhos e filhas amados.

Eu sei que é importante que vamos mais devagar para fazer decisões sobre a maneira na qual passaremos o nosso tempo. É tão importante passar tempo nos relacionamentos que importam – com Deus, com as nossas famílias, com os nossos próximos, e com nós mesmos. Eu sei que a medida que colocamos as nossas vidas mais em alinhamento com o evangelho de Jesus Cristo e focalizamos nestes relacionamentos, sentiremos que as nossas vidas são mais significantes, e seremos mais capazes de sentir e ouvir os sussurros da voz mansa e delicada. No nome de Jesus Cristo, amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Three Rs of Choice

(find the talk here)

This is the last of the talks from the Priesthood session, and then I have 18 more talks to study before the next General Conference, which convenes in 23 days. I am going to try to study them all before General Conference comes around again so that I can focus on the new talks after that.

I think that this talk stuck out to me first because of the title and the fact that this week we have been learning about the letter “R” in our casual at-home preschool.

And then I read the talk and I loved it. I didn’t remember listening to this talk until I got to a story President Thomas S. Monson tells at the very end of this talk. I’ll share pieces of it later.

President Monson laid out the doctrine of choice clearly in this talk. I liked his “Three Rs” of choice. They are:

1. The right of choice.
2. The responsibility of choice.
3. The results of choice.


Here, President Monson mostly speaks about the gift of agency. He quotes President David O. McKay who said, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.” And a gift I find myself more and more grateful every day. We have the right to do with our life what we will. God did not write out every detail of our life before we were born. He did not force us to become who we are, and He does not force us to make decisions. He may plead, cajole, and send the strongest promptings of the Spirit, but in the end, it is up to us to make the decision.

We are in the process of becoming licensed to be foster parents, and we have taken a lot of parenting courses in this process. One of the things that always comes up in parenting and child development is teaching children how to make choices. It is so important that we teach them how to make decisions (preferably correct decisions – but as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, We teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves). This is what God wants – He wants to teach us correct principles and then have us govern ourselves. It is given to us to do so. God cannot force us to make correct choices. Which puts the pressure on us to teach our children (and each other) how to make correct choices.

President Monson speaks of Lucifer and his plan for us. “He insisted that with his plan none would be lost, but he seemed not to recognize – or perhaps not to care – that in addition, none would be any wiser, any stronger, any more compassionate, or any more grateful if his plan were followed.”

Making choices does make us wiser. When we make incorrect choices, we (hopefully) learn from our mistakes, and when we make correct choices, we are blessed with more light and truth from Heavenly Father. Making choices makes us stronger. As we make correct choices, we receive even more strength to make future correct choices – which may be even more difficult to make. We are more compassionate, because we understand that others have to make choices as well – and because we  are making choices, we respect the seriousness of that challenge. Being able to make choices certainly makes me grateful. I think about living in this great land of America, instead of in a land in the Middle East, or in Asia, in which people are not free to choose their own life. This land is truly a promised land. But that’s a topic for another day.

The only “down” side to choice is that men are “free to choose liberty and eternal life … or to choose captivity and death.” Which means that we can choose incorrectly and damage our eternal souls. President Monson reminds us that “within the confines of whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we will always have the right to choose.”


Because we have been given the gift of agency, we must choose. We have a divine responsibility to act and not be acted upon. President Monson says, “We cannot be neutral; there is no middle ground. The Lord knows this; Lucifer knows this. As long as we live upon this earth, Lucifer and his hosts will never abandon the hope of claiming our souls.” This reminds me of the saying “You’re either with me or against me.” Which is a very true statement when it comes to the Lord.

We can choose not to choose – because that right is given to us. However, if we choose not to choose, then we are choosing Satan, who will lead our souls miserably down to @#!*% .

President Monson reminds us that Heavenly Father didn’t send us to Earth with the power to choose and no help to make correct choices. We know that “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, tha the may know good from evil.” More specifically, we have prayer, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and latter-day Prophets (like President Monson).

Satan is not content to have only the “so-called refuse of humanity” but “seeks all of us, including the very elect of God. … whether we are 12-year-old deacons or mature high priests, we are susceptible.”

We need courage to make decision correctly.


“All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it.”

President  Monson talks about the difference between whether to wear a green or blue shirt one day, and whether or not to view pornography. What color shirt to wear doesn’t make a difference, but the choice about viewing pornography “can make all the difference in your life. … you are taking a detour from which you may not return.”

We are the person accountable for our choices. Brigham Young said, “Salvation is an individual operation.”

Paul stated, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

President Monson closes with a story of a basketball player who was the first string center on his team, and chose not to play in the championship game because it was to be played on Sunday.

That fateful, difficult decision was made more than 30 years ago. Brother Christensen has said that as time has passed, he considers it one of the most important decisions he ever made. It would have been very easy to have said, “You know, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy is the right commandment, but in my particular extenuating circumstance, it’s okay,just this once, if I don’t do it.” However, he says his entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.

How do you feel about being given the right to choose? Do you take the responsibility to choose seriously? How do you deal with the results of your choices? Does knowing that there will be consequences help you to choose wisely? How does the atonement help you to correct your wrong decisions?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Serve with the Spirit

(find the talk here)

This is another talk from the Priesthood session of General Conference. President Henry B. Eyring spoke of serving with the spirit in Priesthood responsibilities and callings, but I think that it can apply to anyone serving.

President Eyring talks about how the power of the Priesthood is magnified by the Holy Ghost. His message, in short, is “let us do whatever is required to qualify for the Holy Ghost as our companion, and then let us go forward fearlessly so that we will be given the powers to do whatever the Lord calls us to do.” I think that this message is applicable to all Saints everywhere who would serve. Women as well as men. Young and old, anyone who would serve would do best to strive to have the Holy Ghost to magnify their work.

So how do we have the Holy Ghost with us? President Eyring reminds us that “the companionship of the Holy Ghost, the manifestations of it in our life and service, requires us to put our lives in order to qualify.” He then describes what it means to put our lives “in order.” He mentions keeping the commandments, trying to live a blameless life, and then, of course, because we are not perfect, having faith in Jesus Christ to repent when we have made mistakes so that we can be made new through the atonement of our Savior. “Just as we must be cleansed of sin to have the Spirit with us, we must be humble enough before God to recognize our need for it.” The Savior’s disciples in the Americas recognized their need for the Spirit. They prayed “for that which they most desired…” which was “… that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.” President Eyring states, “Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.”

I know that as a mother my need for the companionship of the Holy Ghost is very real. I know that as I pray with faith – with “deep faith in Jesus Christ” – I can qualify for that gift. The “deep faith” is probably the part I struggle with the most. I feel like I have faith, but I have often wondered if I have enough faith to move mountains. Often I wonder what that even means. Obviously I don’t need to move literal mountains – but there are mountains in my own life that I need to move.

President Eyring mentions that “Our humility and our faith that invite spiritual gifts are increased by our reading, studying, and pondering the scriptures.” Well, this may be one of the reasons my faith is somewhat lacking. I read the scriptures each night (the Book of Mormon, particularly) – but that is just it! I read the scriptures each night. I study the scriptures in the morning when I record my thoughts on this blog, but I feel like that isn’t enough, and I don’t do it consistently. “We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder, we invite revelation by the Spirit.” For President Eyring, “Pondering … is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying the scriptures carefully.”

Because I like to “think out loud,” writing plays an important role in my pondering. But sometimes I find myself pondering the meaning of scriptures and words of the prophets in my heart, and receiving revelation. And then sometimes, the revelation comes later, after I have read, studied, and pondered. Maybe later in the day, something will come to me that is sparked by the scripture and words of the prophets that I have been studying.

In the Relief Society, one of our most important duties is to bring relief. President Eyring promises to priesthood holders (but I am sure it extends to the sisters) “You will find yourself more able to recognize pain and worry in the faces of people. Names or the faces of people … will come into your mind with the impression that they are in need.”

In closing, President Eyring quotes President George Q. Cannon who said, “When we are filled with the Spirit of God we are filled with joy, with peace, and with happiness, no matter what our circumstances may be; for it is a spirit of cheerfulness and of happiness.” I think that is probably a good way to measure how fully we are feeling the Spirit. When we have the companionship of the Spirit we should have joy, peace, and happiness – no matter what our circumstances may be.

I know that is is vital for us to serve with the Holy Spirit, no matter what our calling – whether as visiting teachers, priesthood bearers, simply as mothers, or wives, or daughters, or members of Christ’s Church.

What do you do to be worthy of the Holy Spirit? How do you make sure you are qualifying for it’s companionship on a daily basis? Has the Holy Spirit magnified your service? Do you feel the joy, peace, and happiness that accompanies the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pride and the Priesthood

(find the talk here)


President Dieter F Uchdorf’s talk was given during the Priesthood session of General Conference. This session is broadcast on a closed circuit, instead of being publicly broadcast. Those who are not Priesthood holders have to wait until the transcripts or recordings come up on to hear or read the words from that session.

President Uchtdorf’s talk is exactly what I have been needing lately. I have found myself become less patient, more depressed, and easily convinced of my sometimes perceived lack of worth. All of these things I have been able to connect to an increase in pride. So I enjoyed studying President Uchtdorf’s talk – especially the part at the end “How do we become more humble?” But rather than start at the end, I’ll start at the beginning, highlighting some of my favorite points.

President Uchtdorf referenced a talk given by President Ezra Taft Bensen called “Beware of Pride”. After this talk, President Uchtdorf says he remembers that “pride” practically became taboo in the Church.

President Uchtdorf reminds us that there are different meanings and uses of the word “pride”:

In the scriptures we find plenty of examples of good and righteous people who rejoice in righteousness and at the same time glory in the goodness of God. Our Heavenly Father Himself introduced His Beloved Son with the words “in whom I am well pleased.” … I believe there is a difference between being proud of certain things and being prideful. I am proud of many things.

I think it was a good thing for a prophet of God to come out and tell people that it isn’t a sin to be proud of your family, your accomplishments, or other things that you are pleased with.

The meaning of pride that President Bensen and President Uchtdorf warn against is the on which “at its core … is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with ‘Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,’ it always seems to end with ‘Therefore, I am better than you.’”

President Uchtdorf then reminds us that pride involves worshipping ourselves instead of worshipping God. I thought he explained the sin of pride with great clarity when he mentioned that simply acknowledging the good things you have done is not a sin, until it ends with “Therefore, I am better than you.” This is where I have been slipping recently.

As a child, I had a hard time accepting the fact that I could do anything wonderful. When people gave me compliments, I simply shrugged them off, “No, no, not really.” It took me several years to begin to graciously accept compliments. In the recent years, however, I have found myself slipping toward the other extreme – accepting the compliments and “inhaling” – as President Uchtdorf says. I accept the compliments, and then think that because I am getting so many compliments, I must be better than other people in that way. I have been learning that one of the best ways to counter this tendency is to find things to compliment in other people, especially if I can compliment the same thing. Someone says I have a great voice, and I look for people to compliment on their voice. People say I’m a wonderful mother, and I find another wonderful mother, and give her the same compliment. Doing this helps me realize two things: 1.) I can be a great ____ (fill in the blank) or great at ____ (fill in the blank). 2.) So can other people, which means me being great is not the same as me being better.

President Uchtdorf explains this phenomenon that I have experienced. He says “sin has many faces. It leads some to revel in their own perceived self-worth, accomplishments, talents, wealth, or position. … This is the sin of ‘Thank God I am more special than you.’… For others, pride turns to envy: they look bitterly at those who have better positions, more talents, or greater possessions than they do. … When those they envy stuble or suffer, they secretly cheer.” I used to be on the “pride as envy” side – back when I couldn’t accept compliments. Then I slowly drifted into the “Thank God I am more special than you” camp. I am still working on moving back to the middle.

So, how do we do it? How do we become more humble? President Uchtdorf reminds us that “It is almost impossible to be lifted up in pride when our hearts are filled with charity. … When we see the world around us through the lens of the pure love of Christ, we begin to understand humility.” Filling our hearts with charity is hard, but it is not impossible. I know that praying for that charity is one of the biggest, and best, steps we can take toward humility.

The moment we stop obsessing with ourselves and lose ourselves in service, our pride diminishes and begins to die. … There are so many ways we could be serving. we have no time to be absorbed in ourselves.

How have you become more humble? How do you keep yourself humble? Do you struggle more with pride as envy? Or pride as self-glorification? Do you work each day to have charity in your heart? Have you lost yourself in service to others and noticed your pride begin to die?

Friday, March 4, 2011

He Teaches Us to Put Off the Natural Man

(find the talk here)

The thing that touched me the most about Elder Juan Uceda’s conference talk was the story he told of a father who lost his temper with his daughter. She had been defiant about having family scripture study, and he had lost his temper with her. As he was praying for Heavenly Father to help the Holy Spirit return to their home, he was prompted to go apologize to his daughter. At first he just kept praying, but then, he went. As he apologized to his daughter, she opened her scriptures and read the following verse:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

Her father thought that she was reading the scripture to him – about him. But then she said “I am sorry. I am sorry, Daddy.” This sweet little girl wasn’t trying to teach her father a lesson. She was showing him that she had learned a lesson from this scripture.

I lose my temper with my children more often than I care to admit. But they are sweet and innocent, and often they understand that they have done something wrong before I even mention a word to them. If only I could have more patience.

But I can!

This talk is a beautiful testimony of the power of the Holy Ghost and of prayer. I know that as I pray for the testimony to be in my heart, I will be able to have patience and “become as a child.”

Why is it so important for me to have patience and be humble? Because “our homes have to be places where the Holy Spirit may dwell. ‘Only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness.’” Which means that it is most important that we learn to keep the Holy Spirit in our homes – and that means being “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, [and] willing to submit to all things” without murmuring or fretfulness.

“Contention departs our homes and our lives as we strive to live … Christlike attributes.” I can testify of this. I have experience this so many times. When I am practicing patience and humility (especially with my children) the spirit of the Lord abounds in our home, and there is no contention. And it is my job as their mother to teach them about living these principles. I want them to look back and think “Mother was such a Christlike example and was always patient and humble.”

I read a blog post recently where the author wrote about building character and how in order to decide what we want to be in life, we should go to the end of our life and decide what we would like to have people remember us for. Then we take that information and shape our lives so that we will be remembered that way.

What qualities do you want to be remembered for? What do you want you children to look back on their childhood and remember about you? How do you keep the Holy Spirit in your home? How do you remind yourself to be patient and meek with your children?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

“Come unto Me with Full Purpose of Heart, and I Shall Heal You”

(find the talk here)

Elder Patrick Kearon begins his talk by recounting a story from his childhood in which he disobeyed his parents – mostly out of laziness, but also a little rebellious – and suffered a sting from a scorpion because of it. He uses this metaphor as the underlying theme throughout his talk.

He says “disregarding what we know to be right, whether through laziness or rebelliousness, always brings undesirable and spiritually damaging consequences.” This is something I definitely know to be true. More than I like to admit, I find myself being disobedient to what I know to be right – mostly, for me, it is because I am lazy. However, I too have been a little rebellious at times. No matter the “reason” for my disobedience, it always brings “undesirable and spiritually damaging consequences.”

The problem with disobedience is that rarely do we disobey and then say “Oh, man, I feel less spiritual than I did before.” More often, we disobey and then rationalize our behavior, so that it is easy to say, “I am just as spiritual as I was before.” Elder Kearon says it this way:

We tell ourselves we’re not really doing anything that wrong, that it doesn’t really matter, and that nothing all that bad will result from letting go just a little from the iron rod. Perhaps we console ourselves with the thought that everyone else is doing it—or doing worse—and we won’t be negatively affected anyway. We somehow convince ourselves that we are the exception to the rule and therefore immune to the consequences of breaking it.

Elder Kearon stresses that “when it comes to how we live the gospel, we must not respond with laziness ore rebelliousness.”

The Lord’s invitation to come and be healed is somewhat conditional upon the intent of our heart, and our obedience. “If they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted and I will heal them.” The Lord requires our heart – our whole heart. When we give it to him – when we are truly obedient – He can heal us.

Elder Kearon reminds us of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and how before their conversion they were rebellious, but after their conversion they laid down their weapons of war and became a righteous people.

We must lay down our weapons of rebellion (and we each know what they are). We must lay down our sin, vanity, and pride. We must give up our desires to follow the world and to be respected and lauded by the world. We must cease fighting against God and instead give our whole hearts to Him, holding nothing back. Then He can heal us. Then He can cleanse us from the venomous sting of sin.

Elder Kearon then quotes one of my favorite men of all time – President James E. Faust – who said, “When obedience becomes our goal, it is no longer an irritation; instead of a stumbling block, it becomes a building block. … Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated.”

One of my favorite metaphors for the principle of obedience is a kite. Without a kite string, held taught, the kite will fall to the ground. However, if the string is held tight and let out ever so slowly, the kite soars into the atmosphere. When we are obedient to the commandments of the Lord, we are like a kite, held tightly by a string, and we are able to soar up and up, and ‘round and ‘round. If we disobey, and the string is let loose, we will come crashing to the ground.

My husband likes to say that “An airplane, though it flies, and we don’t, obeys the principle of gravity more perfectly than we do.” Because an airplane obeys the principles of gravity and thrust (which is an extension of the principle of gravity) it is able to fly through the air.

Obedience really does liberate us. I feel more restricted when I disobey – when I am lazy – than when I am obeying the principles of the gospel. If I am living the standards, I feel as if I can do anything I put my mind to. If I become lazy and a little rebellious, I often doubt myself and my ability to accomplish tasks.

Elder Keaton finishes his talk with this statement, “Deviating to the right or the left of the safe track ahead of us, whether because of laziness or rebelliousness, can prove fatal to our spiritual lives. There are no exceptions to this rule.” (emphasis added)

There are no exceptions to the consequences tied to disobedience. They are laws decreed before the world was, and when we disobey, no matter who we are – no matter our reasons, we will suffer consequences.

There are also no exceptions to the positive consequences – no matter who we are, God will bless us for our obedience, and we, like a kite held taught by a string, will soar into the healing light of Jesus Christ who will heal us.

Have ye any that … are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them.

Have you ever disobeyed – whether it be out of laziness or rebellion? Did you get stung? Do you feel the liberation and healing that comes from exact obedience to the laws of the gospel? Have you felt the healing power of the Saviors atonement as you come to him with “full purpose of hear”?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Be Thou an Example of the Believers

(find the talk here)

It never seems coincidental to me that more than one speaker will choose the same topic for General Conference. Usually I see it as an opportunity to learn and study a truth that is particularly important to our Heavenly Father at this moment.

In October, both Elder Russell M. Nelson and a counselor in the general Young Women’s Presidency spoke on the exact same subject: Being an example of the believers.

I recently listened to this talk (and Sister Cook’s talk) during a run. I enjoy listening to the General Conference talks as I run. I become lost in their words, and I can feel the Holy Spirit around me. I think it helps me as a runner.

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

Elder Nelson begins his talk by speaking to the missionaries of the Church (the talk was actually given in Priesthood session). He reminds members of President Monson’s impassioned plea for more members to prepare for missionary work – whether as full time missionaries in the field, or as member missionaries.

Every time I hear the prophets speak of missionary work, especially senior couples, I am reminded of how much I look forward to serving a senior mission with my husband. I want to prepare the very best I can for that sacred mission, and I know that we need to prepare financially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally for that responsibility. It gives us something great to work towards. I think we shall serve mission after mission after mission until the day we die.

Elder Nelson goes on to talk about every member a missionary. He reminds us that “as followers of Jesus Christ, each of [us] can live in accord with His teachings.” We should be always living the standards of the Church and the commandments of God, and people will notices us and ask us why we are so different. I have had this experiences several times.

Once when my sister and I were young and took on babysitting jobs together, one of our clients who was a friend of our father asked him why we seemed so mature and confident, and why we were so radiant. We answered by sharing with this family a Book of Mormon and literature about eternal families (they had a daughter who had passed away several years ago). Elder Nelson admonishes us to “Let your response be warm and joyful. And let your response be relevant to that individual.” It is significant that we shared with them the importance of eternal families, because that was relevant to them. We have since lost contact with this family, but I like to believe that something we said prompted them to read and study the Book of Mormon and the other words of the prophets about eternal families. Something in me hopes that they come to Christ and are baptized so that they can enjoy the sealing ordinances of the temple and be sealed to their deceased loved one.

You can invite a friend to read the Book of Mormon. Explain that it is not a novel or a history book. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. Its very purpose is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” There is a power in this book that can touch the hearts and lift the lives of honest seekers of truth. Invite your friend to read the book prayerfully.

This is one of my favorite comments in this whole talk. I believe with all my heart that the Book of Mormon is more than a novel or a history book, just as Jesus Christ was more than just a nice man, or just a prophet. This book testifies of the divinity of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and that He is indeed our Savior – the Savior of the world.

I had a dream last night that I was able to bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to a friend in high school. The girl in my dream is one I didn’t even really recognize, and I don’t know if the dream was in particular about her, or just about my responsibility to share the gospel and bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but I have been affected by that dream. I hope that I can bear testimony more often and more fervently of that book. I am realizing as I grow that bearing testimony of the gospel to my friends who are already members of Christ’s church is not in vain – for when we bear testimony to each other, we build up one another’s testimonies, which enables us to go forth with more power and the Spirit to testify of the gospel to others.

Elder Nelson also reminds us of the wonderful tool technology can be in sharing the gospel. That is the reason I have this blog. It’s not big, and I only have three followers, but I hope that through my writing about the gospel I can perhaps share the gospel with more people than I could if I didn’t write.

I am grateful for every opportunity that I have to share the gospel.

How do you share the gospel? Do you live the gospel in a way that people ask questions? How do you answer them? Are you looking for the truth? Have you prayerfully read the Book of Mormon?

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