Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Mormon Mother's Christmas Message 2012

Several years ago I put together a lesson on Mary and Joseph as they were to become the parents of the Messiah. A few weeks ago my husband asked me to speak for our Sunday Christmas program, to relate a portion of that lesson, and continue on. At first I had no idea how I was possibly going to do this, but I should never have doubted. Here is my talk. I hope it gives you pause to remember our Savior during this beautiful Christmas time.


In the small village of Nazareth there lived two very special young people, though to look at them you may not find anything that would make them stand out. One was a handsome young man in his early twenties, a carpenter named Joseph, who was betrothed to his cousin’s beautiful daughter, Mary.

One particular night Mary had been peacefully sleeping when a most remarkable thing happened - an angel appeared and spoke unto her, saying:

“Hail, thou that art highly favored. The Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:28-33).

Mary, though only in her late teens, readily accepted the words of the angel, and had only this to ask: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (Luke 1:34)

“And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:35).

Before Mary could take all this in the angel also spoke of her cousin Elizabeth, who had been barren and was well past child bearing years, but was now blessed with a baby. “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:36). Mary answered this, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy Word” (Luke 1:38).

The angel Gabriel departed, leaving Mary alone to ponder the incredible news. Can you imagine her thoughts in this moment? All her life she’d been told of the coming of the Messiah and knew of the circumstances by which He would come. She knew herself to be of the proper lineage. Perhaps she had dreamed, not once but many times, that it could be a blessing bestowed up her, all the while never truly believing it would actually happen.

Yet it was happening, and she had a heavy responsibility laid on her tiny shoulders. How long did she live with the secret before taking leave of Joseph and her family, departing for another city where her cousin Elizabeth lived? What hopes lay in her heart that this woman, who she may not have known very well, would understand, could comprehend what had happened? The angel had told Mary that Elizabeth was also pregnant. Could they find comfort with one another, a comfort only womanhood could bestow?

While in her sixth month Elizabeth received a surprise. Her young cousin, Mary, came to visit. At Mary’s salutation something remarkable happened - Elizabeth felt the quickening of the spirit of the baby growing inside her belly as it moved in response to the voice of the Messiah’s mother. Did Elizabeth shout out her knowledge right away, unable to repress the joy and wonder? Or did she invite her weary cousin inside, giving her refreshment, before saying:

“Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43).

The relief Mary must have felt at those words. She had traveled all this way at the angel’s bidding, not knowing what would wait for her there. These words must have poured out of her mouth:

“My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1: 46-55).

Mary stayed with Elizabeth and Zacharias for three months before heading back home. The journey must have been intolerable for such a young woman who was very aware of what she must now face. Did her parents know she was pregnant? If not, what would they do? What would they say? And what could she possibly tell Joseph, knowing how hurt he’d be - would he even give her a chance to explain? A betrothal was every bit as binding as a marriage.

Mary would have been about six months along by now, her condition obvious. Can you picture Joseph, excited beyond words that Mary had returned after being gone for so many months. He must have missed her terribly. What do you think happened when he walked in to greet her? Did he welcome her immediately, too happy to notice her swollen belly? Or as she stood to greet him was he suddenly stunned, incapable of speaking? Did they quarrel - Mary frantic to make him understand and Joseph so hurt he couldn’t hear what she was saying? Did immediately turn away, unable to face what he thought to be unspeakable betrayal?

I would suppose neither of them slept well that night, both unsure of what to do next. One can only hope Mary knew that as the mother of the Christ-child nothing could be done to hurt her. No, the truest wound was in knowing that at any time Joseph, the man she’d been counting on to provide both love and protection, would most likely put her aside.

Jewish law provided for the annulment of a betrothal in one of two ways - by a public trial and judgment, or by private agreement. Joseph was a good, kind man and truly loved Mary. He did not want her to face public humiliation and embarrassment. He had decided to annul the betrothal in as much privacy as possible, though the thought of doing so rested heavily on his heart.

It was then an angel came to him in a dream, and said, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying: ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’” (Matthew 1:20-23).

The elation Joseph must have felt upon waking! The woman he loved was carrying the Messiah. Was he ashamed of his first reaction? Did he rush right over to her house, hoping she could forgive him? Did he sit there in awe of the woman in front of him, and wonder at the child and mother placed under his protection? Was he scared of not living up to his Lord’s expectations as the guardian of this most heavenly son?

As the angel had directed, Joseph quickly set about making the marriage happen as swiftly as possible in order to give Mary the protection of his name, for it was obvious to all she was not far off from delivering her child. At this time a decree went out from Rome ordering a taxing of all the people. It was a way to take a census upon which the basis of taxation would be determined among the different peoples. Had the census been taken by the usual Roman method each person would have been counted at the town in which they currently lived. The Jewish custom, for which the Roman law had respect, required registration at the cities or towns claimed as their families respective ancestral homes.

For this reason Joseph left for Bethlehem, with Mary choosing to accompany him. Certainly the journey was long and hard, but no harder than the people of their day were used to.  The inns were full, something they may have expected, but one innkeeper told them of a kahn, or enclosure, nearby, one large enough for them to keep their animals sheltered and watered. On that night, in early springtime, Mary gave birth to her son, Jesus, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.

Angelic visitations to shepherds, magi traveling from distant lands to offer gifts, a new star in the sky. Many miracles occurred during the brand new Messiah’s life. His life was saved due to the obedience of his parents, who took him away to Egypt when warned that Herod, whom Rome had appointed king over Judea, feared the prophecies of one who might overthrow him. Only at his death was Joseph told it was safe to bring his family back to Israel.

Very little is said regarding the life of our Savior once the family went to Nazareth, where Jesus was raised. The scriptures remain silent on his growing up years. But we are allowed a little bit of insight in the life of the young Jesus by studying a little about what Jewish boys were doing in that time. At the age of five he would have begun school. Over the next five years he would have memorized the Torah, or the first five books of the Old Testament. Six days of the week would have been spent in memorization while the seventh would be for review. At the same time he would have begun to learn the trade of his father, a carpenter.

I have wondered, during my studies, if the young Jesus recognized the words and teachings spoken in the Old Testament. Did they seem so familiar to his ears, to his heart? For they were his own words. Did he begin to receive an inkling of his own divine nature, or was he simply a boy doing his best to be a good son, a good brother, and a good student?

From the ages of 10-14 Jesus would memorize the rest of the Old Testament. Added to his memorization would be the art of rhetorical debating. The Rabbi would ask a question which the student would then have to ponder before answering by asking another question. It was this ability to answer a question with a question that set the best students apart, which we see in his debates with other spiritual leaders during his ministry. Only those who were exceptional students were allowed to continue their schooling at 15.

We are granted one short story in the life of the young Messiah. Every year at the time many families, including Jesus’, traveled together to Jerusalem to attend the Passover, finding safety in numbers. Their journey, especially in keeping up with such a large group, could take anywhere from three to four days. When Jesus was twelve, he and his family were in Jerusalem for the Passover. On the return trip Mary and Joseph realized their son was not with them. After what would have been, or so I assume, a rather frantic search, He was found at the temple, debating with the rabbis, who marveled at the knowledge such a young man held.

When Mary and Joseph found him at the temple he simply stated that he was “about His Father’s business.” Did he, at the age of twelve, realize that his true Father really was his Father in Heaven? Or was he speaking of the Father in the same way any of us who are attempting to be about our Heavenly Father’s business might do? Jesus had learned of the gospel line upon line and precept upon precept, just as every one of us must learn. He did not come into this world with a head full of precisely who he was and what was in store for him. He had to be taught, to be led, in order to become who he was meant to be and do what he was meant to do.

Jesus moved forward in his religious training, first continuing on at fifteen to train under a specific rabbi, until the time came when it would be determined if he would have to go ‘ply his trade,’ by ending his education and practicing his father’s business, or if he would begin a closer relationship with his rabbi until he entered his public ministry at the age of 30. Of course we know this is what happened with Jesus, as we are told he began to minister at 30. He was referred to many times by the title of “Rabbi”, or “Master.” In an article which depicts the life of Christ as a Jew it is stated: “Every word that came out of Jesus’ mouth indicated that He had spent a lifetime being educated as a teacher or rabbi. His words and actions, as well as teaching methods, displayed that of a master Jewish rabbi who had spent a lifetime in study. In actuality, His knowledge and wisdom far exceeded that of any master rabbi.”

When studying for this talk my mind was repeatedly drawn to another given by Elder Holland at the most recent General Conference. I kept pushing the thought to read it aside, as it had nothing to do with Christmas. Still the notion persisted, and I was led to a particular part I know I am supposed to share with you now.

Quote: “After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, ‘Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?’ Peter said, ‘Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.’

“The Savior responds to that reply but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, ‘Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.’

“The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, ‘Peter, do you love me?’ By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically - but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher’s question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, ‘Lord,…thou knowest that I love thee.’

“To which Jesus responded (and here again I acknowledge my non scriptural elaboration), perhaps saying something like: ‘Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples - and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.’

“Then turning to all the Apostles, He might have said something like: ‘Were you as foolhardy as the scribes and Pharisees? As Herod and Pilate? Did you, like they, think that this work could be killed simply by killing me? Did you, like they, think the cross and the nails and the tomb were the end of it all and each could blissfully go back to being whatever you were before? Children, did not my life and my love touch your hearts more deeply than this?’

Elder Holland continues: “I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgement Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: ‘Did you love me?’ And if at such a moment we can stammer out, ‘Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,’ then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.

“ ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments,’ Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without ‘a single synagogue or sword’ to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live.” Unquote.

Just as the gospel did not end with the death of our Savior, neither did it begin with His birth. I testify to you now that each person sitting in this room, regardless of how old you may be, how much of the gospel you understand, nor how long you’ve been a member of this church, lived with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, before we all were born. I testify that the spirits in this room are some of the strongest and most valiant, who fought by the side of our Savior, and chose with passion and excitement to come to this earth in the hopes of making decisions that would enable us to return triumphant to that Home we left.

This is a life of choices. Every one of us is given the opportunity to rise above the evils of this world and make a choice to do good, even as the young Jesus learned to do as he grew. Each of us must learn this beautiful gospel by studying the scriptures and attending meetings that will help us gain understanding in those things we find ourselves confused about, just as the Savior did. And each of us must take up our calling and do our best in what the Lord asks us to do, just as the Messiah did for His Father. Not because it’s expected of us. Not because it’ll make us look good in the eyes of others. Not even because our bishop or stake president or prophet told us to. We will do it because we are loyal to the Lord. Because we are still standing with passion and excitement in furthering His work here on Earth. We do all of this because we love Him.

In a world where evil overwhelms us to the point where we may despair, remember this: the smallest acts of kindness can cause mighty changes in the hearts of others.

This Tuesday we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Remember this: He may have been the Messiah, but just like every person here, He started out as a baby. He needed to be taken care of. He needed to learn right from wrong. He needed to be taught His own gospel. Just as we all must do. Learn from this beloved Son of God. And love Him.


For those of you who would like to read more on what Jesus would have done as a Jewish boy go to Bible School: Jesus as a Rabbi

For those who would like to read Elder Holland's talk go to The First Great Commandment 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When it Comes to Forgiveness, Seek First to Understand

I'm not certain why it caught my attention, nor do I recall where I saw the words, but it has remained with me for several days now:

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

The meaning behind such simple words has been indelibly marked into my soul over most of my life, at first like an etching made with a pocketknife into a piece of wood, only growing deeper with the passing years. The desire to be understood by others is a hallmark of humanity, of our individuality. To know someone cares enough about who we are and why we think the way we do can be marvelously affirming. It gives substance to the inner thoughts and ideas we constantly carry around in our heads. Indeed these ideas, beliefs, or whatever else may be roaming around in the confines of our minds, when validated or dismissed by someone other than our self, will form so much of who we become as more years go by.

One little act by another person, to put aside one's own ego long enough to discover what makes another person tick, can change lives. While we appreciate the effort someone takes in understanding us, we must strive to do the same for them. Do not ask someone to do for you, what you are not willing to do for them.

It seems like such a simple task, doesn't it? The recent election for president of the United States would certainly not lend toward such thinking. Instead it shows what too many of us are apt to do - assert our own beliefs, citing our reasons for insisting our way is the best way, but not taking the time to listen to the beliefs of others when those beliefs contradict our own. Nor do we want to hear why they think the way they do.

It's not only in politics that we see this happen. It can occur within any relationship we experience. Sometimes we are at fault, not taking the time to understand where others are coming from. Other times we are the ones who suffer because someone else refuses to understand.

This was me just a few days ago. What I am about to share with you is not done in the hopes of wanting to hurt another person - I won't share any specific details, nor is it to find validation for my own side in this, but rather my hope it to share why the above quote seemed to have been given to me as a reminder of why I should, and can, forgive this woman. Because I understand where she is coming from.

My friendship with this woman has never been an easy one. It is, for the most part, one sided. I have had to put up barriers once before, but as she appeared to have many good things happening and had a much happier countenance I thought we could give being friends another try. For a while it went well. We attended the temple a couple of times together. We chatted at church as well as online. From my point of view life for her appeared to be a happy one.

I got sick over this last weekend. It's just a cold, but one that refuses to go away. While I'd been a bit better on Monday, Tuesday I was miserably exhausted. Around 11:30 in the morning I fell back to sleep and didn't wake up until around three in the afternoon. I received a message from this woman saying she showed up around 2, knocked and knocked and knocked but I never answered, tried calling but I didn't answer, and she was clearly upset with me.

The thing is, I had no idea we were supposed to get together. I looked back over our messages and saw that she had, indeed, asked to drop by at 2, but her words indicated she was just going to drop something off. I wrote back, apologizing, explaining that I was sick, and asked why she didn't leave the item inside the screen door.

Her answer the next morning floored me. She accused me of several things, all of which were simply not true. I was hurt in ways that are impossible to describe, especially when she had never indicated anything was wrong. I spent the rest of the day crying, contemplating, and praying. By the end of the day a few things had come to my mind.

First, the Lord helped me to understand why she said everything she said. In every accusation, in every word of reproach, I saw where she was coming from. In her mind the things she said were just and true.

Second, though we may see some of what is going on in the lives of others, we do not know everything. This woman has fantasized what my life must be like, and has somehow made herself believe I can make her life better. She does not know my joys and heartaches, my daily triumphs and struggles, nor my priorities. She cannot comprehend why I place certain people at the forefront, while others must take a back seat.

At the same time I do not know all of what she struggles with. I am not in her head, nor her heart. I cannot begin to comprehend what hardships caused her to feel as though taking it out on me was okay. And that's something I simply need to understand, even if I don't always like it.

Third, forgiving someone their trespasses against you comes from seeking first to understand where they are coming from. When we can do that, we release their tight grip on our conscience, and allow the Lord to step in and replace the hurt.

And fourth, forgiving someone does not have to mean lying back down to be a door mat for them again. I don't know what it'll be like to see this woman on Sunday. I haven't decided if I'll talk to her on the off chance she approaches me. Though I understand enough to forgive her, I know for my own sake I need to keep her at more of a distance, at least until my heart has healed enough to know where to go from here.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Eight words given to me this week by my Lord to help me through a difficult situation. I am grateful for His loving hand in my life.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Mormon's Really Believe: Did a 15 Year-Old Boy Really See God?

In 1820 a young man of 15 years old found himself confused. 

"There was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, 'Lo, here!" and "Lo, there!" Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some fr the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

"For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faith expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued - priest contending against priest - and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions."

Though four members of his family opted to join the Presbyterian faith, this young man was more inclined associate with the Methodist sect, but even this did not bring him much peace. 

"My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.

"In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?"

This young man had been raised on the words of the Bible, and turned to them repeatedly for answers. One day he read in James, chapter one, verse five: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

"Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible."

After much studying, pondering, and prayer, the young man at last decided it was time to ask of God, as was encouraged in the scripture that so touched his heart. Little did he know what was to follow.

"I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

"After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

"But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction - not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being - just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

"It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'"

Many stories have been told of Joseph Smith, Jr, the man who brought forth the restoration of the Lord's Church in this day and time. Some of those stories are true, others are not. For one to understand the truth of what we, as Mormons, believe it is important to read the words of the man who we believe was a prophet of God. He was a young man, confused by the words and beliefs of mankind and their interpretation of scripture, of the seeming hatred between each church, and the claims of each of them being God's one true church. He prayed, as each one of us are encouraged to do, in order to discover the truth as promised us by the words James taught.

We can learn much through his example: read the Bible. Study the words out in our minds. Ponder over what is being taught. Decide on a question to be answered. And pray with a sincere desire to know the truth.

Because of one prayer some precious truths were taught. First, that Satan is a real being. Joseph Smith, at 15 years old, was about to start on a journey that would be fraught with hardship and happiness, a journey that would shake some of the foundations of Christianity. The second truth we were taught - that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ stood side-by-side, that they are two distinct individuals, and that Heavenly Father is pleased with what His Son had accomplished.

One more thing we learned in these brief moments: God the Father knew Joseph's name. Just as He knows all our names. Just as He knows each and every one of us, and has a plan in store for our lives. Though Satan may howl and bring us low, he has no more power than that - God's power, the Lord's power, that is strong than anything Satan can throw our way.

I testify of this experience, one we refer to as 'The First Vision', as having happened. Like unto Joseph, I have read the Bible as well as other scripture that has been brought forth. I have pondered on the words, I have decided on particular questions to ask, and with a humble heart and a sincere desire to know, I have prayed about each point related to you today. And I have received a witness of it's truth, just as you can receive that same witness. 

However, if you desire no more than to simply understand what we believe Joseph Smith experienced in the hopes of knowing why we believe in him as a prophet, and another reason as to why we believe Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are two separate beings, then I hope I have done at least a little of this today.

If you would like to read more about the beginnings of this Church in Joseph Smith's own words, you can go to Joseph Smith-History and read more.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What Mormons Really Believe: The Godhead

In order to understand more fully why the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormons) believe as they do and act as they do, I feel it is important to have knowledge of what our core beliefs are. It is not my intention to make believers out of everyone who reads this. I have no doubt many will shake their heads in wonderment that such fanciful things could be believed. My hope is to simply inform those who are looking for enlightenment in why we believe what we do.

I should also state that while I am a member of this church, I do not speak for them in any official way. This is simply me taking what has been taught and trying to help you understand.

To start I would like to make this important statement: we worship Jesus Christ. It is in the name of our church. We believe the Bible to be the word of God so far as it is translated correctly. I point this out because many comments have been made that we worship Joseph Smith, a man who we believe restored the gospel of Jesus Christ in these days.

The second portion of that sentence is true. The lack of truth lies in one word: worship. We do not worship Joseph Smith. We revere him as a prophet, just as we revere prophets of old: Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, and many others from the Old and New Testaments. But there is only one person we worship, and that is Jesus Christ.

One of the largest reasons we, as Mormons, are not considered Christian by other Christian faiths is our belief system in the Godhead. It is here I would like to focus this first post.

God the Father

One of the core beliefs of our faith states: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” Where our views tend to depart from that of other faiths is in the belief that these are three distinct, separate individuals. Jesus Christ is literally the spirit child of the Father, but he is also the only ‘begotten’ of the Father – meaning Christ is the only mortal child as well.

Christ talks often of Heavenly Father during His time on earth.

“My Father is greater than I” John 14:28.

And again:

“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:…And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” John 17:1,3.

For me, the moment of Christ being baptized is one of the greatest proofs of these three beings as separate, as is shone in Matthew 3:16-17.

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

“And lo a voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

For us as Mormons the idea that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two separate beings was solidified when both came to Joseph Smith as an answer to a simple prayer. Joseph saw each individual, similar in appearance but definitely not the same person.

“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!” Joseph Smith – History 1:17.

Again there is the proclamation of God the Father declaring Jesus Christ to be His Son, only this time there was a witness who acknowledged them as two separate Beings.

We were created in God the Father’s image.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” Genesis 1:26-27.

We are His children.

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” Psalm 82:6.

As Mormons we also believe that we might also become like God.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if it so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” Romans 8:16-17.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” 1 John 3:1-2.

I will, as I begin to study a lot more about this particular subject, write a separate post on this belief. For now, I simply hope it helps you to understand just a little of our belief in the Father.

Jesus Christ

“In giving revelations our Savior speaks at times for himself; at other times for the Father, and in the Father’s name, as though he were the Father, and yet it is Jesus Christ, our Redeemer who gives the message” (Smith, Joseph Fielding, Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, p. 19).

I referred earlier to the visitation of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith. If we continue reading in the next few verses we can see Jesus speaking in behalf of the Father.

“…When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) – and which I should join.

“I was answered that I must join none of them” (Joseph Smith – History 1:17-19, italics added).

Though God the Father could have directed Joseph in what to do, He left it up to His Son, who did so as though He were the Father.

Think for a moment of a Mother and Father who are in harmony, that work together to raise their children. At times we are able to answer for the other, even when the other is not present to affirm a decision. The simple word, “I” is often used in place of “we” because it’s simply not necessary to differentiate between the two. The child knows if one parent says so, the other parent will agree.

So it is with the Father and the Son. Often Jesus Christ speaks in the first person, “I” or “my”, but is actually speaking in behalf of the Father. He is the mediator between the Father and mankind.

When Adam transgressed one of the commandments he could no longer stay in the presence of the Father. Christ stepped in as our advocate. In the scriptures we often witness Him praying to the Father in our behalf.

Christ was the Firstborn in spirit and the Only Begotten in flesh. “…The firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15).

Though Christ was the literal Son of God, he still grew up in a mortal world and needed to live and learn as we all do. He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Though He never sinned in this life, He was still required to learn as the rest of us: line upon line, precept upon precept.

Jesus Christ did what we all must do: He lived, He died, He was resurrected, and then He ascended to the Father. This we must do also, in our own way, though it will take longer to accomplish.

Holy Ghost

I once read a woman’s article on how Mormon’s bear their testimony. In it she made the comment that “you have to say Holy Ghost. That’s what they call it.” I found it to be such an odd comment as he is often referred to in the Bible as the Holy Ghost. We are not the only ones who refer to him as such. He goes by many different names: The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Truth, and the Comforter.

The mission of the Holy Ghost is simple: to teach truth. Not the truth of Man, but God’s truth.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

Christ was speaking of the time when He would no longer be among his disciples, though they fought hard not to believe that time would fast approach. In His place would be the Holy Ghost to guide and comfort and direct them in proclaiming the Gospel.

The Holy Ghost reveals things to us. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

Not only were the prophets directed by the Spirit of God, but as individuals we are given the right to personal revelation as well. He will reveal truth to those who are humble, obedient, and worthy to receive truth and light. These are the basis behind one’s testimony (or personal witness). No other being has that same convincing power. Some hearts are too proud and minds are too closed to receive revelation and become more easily influenced and tricked into believing falsehoods.

In our Church we believe that all have access to that beautiful influence of the Holy Spirit, that ability to have revelation of truth and light. We also believe there is a difference between having the influence of the Holy Ghost, and having the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The influence of the Holy Ghost is not constant. It is here and there as truth and light are humbly searched after and prayed for. The gift of the Holy Ghost comes after one is baptized by immersion by those who have the proper priesthood authority, and are then confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked to receive this gift. For us, we believe that so long as we are worthy, we might have access to the Holy Spirit to guide, guard, and direct us.

That is a basic overview of what we, as Mormons, believe regarding the Godhead. It is not a perfect summary, but it is what I felt guided to share with you at this time. Perhaps there are those out there who might be able to add to this information, especially when it comes to scriptural evidences, or who can clarify things far more than I was able to accomplish.

As I continue to put up posts like this I will attempt to link them together. My next post will center around what Mormons believe when it comes to life before mortality.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Unusual Way to Gain a Blessing

Without a doubt this has been an unusual week. Not bad, just unusual. Tonight, though, takes the cake. Not only for weird things happening, but for the blessing it provided us.

Last weekend my husband noticed our older son's bike had been stolen. Again. This marked the second time this year it had been taken from our backyard.

Earlier tonight my husband and I were called out to a friend's house who was greatly struggling. Upon arriving home we were met with the sight of a young man (maybe 12 or so) entering our back yard. When he realized we were there to stay he tried to look as though he was heading toward our neighbor's yard. My husband got out to confront him, and was told the kid's friend was making him try to take a bike from our yard.

It was then I remembered the three boys kind of hanging around on bikes just a few houses down. I jumped back in the car and started chase. Two of them weren't fast enough and I managed to catch up to one. He was scared, that's for certain, and he led me back to an apartment where one of his "friend's" just happened to have 'found' a bike at the local park.

Guess what? Turns out this bike just happened to have belonged to my son! Another kid rode the bike back to my house where the police was just arriving so we could get a handle on what was going on with the first boy.

So here's what I figured out from the few things the boy said to the police: he and three other kids were looking for another bike to steal for him. The older brother of the guy I caught up to pointed out our house as a good place to look, but we arrived just as he was heading into the back yard. When the other three realized what was happening they took off, leaving the boy at our house alone.

The policeman told the boy to walk over to his house and he'd follow in the car. I could not just let him leave without saying something - he was so scared. As he walked off I kept asking him not to follow along with what someone says to do when he knows it's wrong, especially if it's just to impress some other kid. I wish now I had at least asked his name.

I'm not certain what happened after they left. My husband and I had another appointment we needed to get to and the policeman stopped by while we were out, basically saying he'd be keeping an eye on the boys.

I'm very happy J got his bike back, but oh I hate the way it all had to happen, in particular for the young man who was left behind by his so-called friends.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I am a Member of the Mormon Church, and I am Not Afraid

I have spent a good majority of my life afraid. It has nothing to do with physical danger or of any threat to me, or anyone I love. In my youth I was afraid of looking dumb, of being made fun of (and trust me, I was a chubby redhead with freckles, glasses, AND braces – there was plenty to make fun of), or not having any friends. As I grew the fear became not having any guy like me, of disappointing my parents, of not being good enough. Upon becoming a wife and a mother I began to fear for my family. Was I a helpmate to my husband? Was I a good mother? I also feared hurting others. Having been made fun of and chastened while growing up, I knew the damage an unkind word or correction done incorrectly could do. Looking back there are so many things I wish I could undo, but that would also take away all the lessons I learned from my mistakes. 

For the most part I’ve gotten over many of those fears, in particular through the last few years. I have grown to know myself better, and appreciate my foibles as well as those things that make me awesome. I can see myself more and more through the eyes of my Heavenly Father, and know He has a plan for me. One big part of that plan is to preach the Lord’s gospel, as is my duty as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church.

Therein lie my greatest fears of today. Several months ago during a Fast and Testimony meeting I stood to bear my own testimony (or express the witnesses I had received from the Holy Ghost as to the truthfulness of the Lord’s gospel). The Holy Spirit had been working on me so hard during that entire meeting and I finally could not ignore it any longer. Before bearing my testimony I spoke of what I felt the Lord was asking me to say. You see, a trend had begun of telling many a story or experience before bearing the testimony, and often the story was longer than the testimony. One person was so focused on relating his experience by the time he began to speak to us of the testimony he'd gained he actually said the words, “Blah, blah, blah” to help relate what was supposed to be the entire point of standing up in front of the congregation.

On that Sabbath morning I stood and tried, in my imperfect way, to express the Lord’s desire: that the hour appointed to bearing one’s testimony return to it’s purpose. Stories and experiences are beautiful things, as they are what help to bring that special witness to us. But there is a time and a place for the stories, and we had forgotten this. Though the feeling in the chapel was warm, and sweet, and loving, the Spirit had to wait through the stories before it could do what it was meant to do: bear witness to the truths told by those who felt inspired to relate them.

How important is that special witness to our church? I would imagine just as important as it is in any church. Vital, even. In fact, once a month our main meeting is set aside from having regular speakers to allow those in the congregation to bear their testimonies as they feel inspired to do. Once a month! When done suitably the Holy Spirit is allowed to witness to all who are willing to listen, which not only strengthens the one standing at the microphone, but all others in the room as well. It is a beautiful, marvelous experience. One our Heavenly Father knows we need.

Let us go back to the day I stood, as prompted by the Spirit, to remind everyone of this. I know my words, my actions, did not sit well with many, and as the bishop’s wife both he and I are under major scrutiny. I also knew my husband might not be so happy with me. I even knew I might hurt those who had been at the microphone before I got up. Which is why it took me until almost the end of the meeting to finally obey, for it came down to this: whom was I more prepared to disappoint – my husband and people I love, or my Heavenly Father and my Savior?

I was terrified of the moment my husband got home, not because he’d yell or anything, but because I knew he’d feel let down by my actions. We chatted for a few minutes until I couldn’t take it any more.

“Did I do bad?” I asked.

“I don’t know, honey. I just don’t know.”

My heart broke. I began to doubt that I’d really been listening to the Spirit. Was it just me? Had I made a horrible mistake? We talked a little more and I agreed to at least apologize to those who had born their testimonies that day. Unfortunately in doing so I made one of them feel worse than if I’d just left it alone, which preyed on my more, and placed me on a cycle of self-recrimination I could not work my way out of.

I was a horrible person. I couldn’t differentiate between my own feelings and that of the Lord’s. I hurt people I purported to love. I disappointed my husband and placed him in an awkward situation that could get him in trouble with his own leaders. These thoughts and more circled through my head for days and days.

I began to try to make up for being such a wicked person. I kept telling myself, “If I just do this then it means I’m not bad.” “If I get this done then maybe I’m not so horrible.” “If I give up this and that it means I might be a good wife and mother.” By the end of the week I had myself so worked up I even had thoughts of harming myself. Because who was I to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t do? I. Was. No one.

Satan worked me over thoroughly that week. It didn’t help that my doctor had toyed a little with my depression meds to see if it would help with my constant exhaustion, but they were not the true cause of my turmoil. Things came to a head Friday evening. I’d gotten some pizza for the kids for dinner and stood in the kitchen washing dishes. My husband, who’d just woken from a nap, came in and told me I didn’t have to do those. He’d do them later. In my mind came the thought, "But if you have to do them it means I'm not doing my job. I'll have failed you again."

I couldn’t stop. My headed shook no and I refused to look him in the eye. All week long I’d been able to hide the torrential storms of emotion I’d dealt with, but no longer. When asked why I wouldn’t come eat dinner I finally admitted, “If I can just get these dishes done, maybe it’ll mean I’m a good person.”

It took some doing but he finally got me into our room and we began to talk. I still couldn’t look him in the eye and I know I frightened him with my ramblings. At one point he asked, “Does this have something to do with what I said on Sunday?” He sounded horrified, which only confirmed in my mind that which I already knew: now I’ve hurt my husband. I really was horrible!

Because we hadn’t discussed my actions since Sunday I didn’t realize he’d been thinking about it too. Granted, it was not to the extent my guilty mind had done, but he said something that offered a tiny sliver of hope in my overtaxed mind: Did you ever think the Lord asked you to do it because I didn’t have the courage to do it myself?

It was the first mention that maybe, just maybe, I hadn’t goofed up as royally as I’d convinced myself. My husband, the sweet, remarkable, amazing man, then picked up the phone and called my parents to come down. My mother held me in her arms as we discussed what I’d been through that week, and gave voice to the words that maybe, just maybe, I was simply a soft-hearted woman who didn’t want to hurt those I love. When I’d calmed down more my father placed his hands on my head, along with my husband, and gave me a priesthood blessing.

Therein was my grace, the balm to my aching soul. I was told, in words that could not be mixed up, twisted, or doubted, that I had done exactly as He had wanted me to do.

I honestly don’t recall anything else from that blessing, but it’s okay. That was all I needed. Turns out I wasn’t a horrible person. Turns out I wasn’t imposing my own thoughts on Him and attempting to pass them off as His. Turns out I had done what was right. What I’d done wrong was fearing man more than I feared God, once my task had been done.

Since that time I’ve been learning more about what it means to do that which the Lord asks of me without fearing the outcome. I still struggle with what is me being a passionate person, and what is of the Lord or the Father. Perhaps I always will.

This morning I had the opportunity to attend one of the sacred temples here in Utah. From the moment I awoke there was an intense feeling of happiness at the thought of going. In the car on my way there I couldn’t stop tears from forming, my happiness was truly so complete. A part of me knew there was Someone who loved me deeply by my side, though I could not say whom that Someone might have been. Nothing grand occurred during my time at the temple, no angelic visitations or life-changing revelations as I might suppose would occur with such remarkable feelings. It’s more what I walked away with today that has reaffirmed what I need to do with some of my time spent here at home now that the kids are all in school.

It is time to teach. I was blessed with a desire to learn, a desire at times so intense I can hardly gobble up books fast enough to quench the thirst for knowledge. I was also blessed with a gift for teaching, something I love to do and am able to accomplish in my Primary class every Sunday. But more than this I was given a gift to express myself through writing, and it is this gift especially I have been told to concentrate on.

There has been a mighty focus on the Mormon Church with Mitt Romney running for the office of President of the United States. Media, much as it may try to keep from doing so, is biased and more often than not it is biased in the negative when it comes to this church. So be it. Many out there will choose to believe what they are told by the media, or what they hear by word of mouth, much of which is not, and has not, been kind.

There will also be those who will want to know more, and it is for them I am to begin teaching in earnest about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is what was confirmed to me today while at the temple. It is time to stop being afraid. No more fearing I might offend or hurt someone by what I have to say, so long as those words I put down are inspired of the Lord. No more fearing I might disappoint anyone but my Father and my Brother, and if I am doing what I do in faith then there is no need to worry.

There are three particular subjects I’ve avoided as much as possible, due to fear, that I will attempt to address in my limited ability over the course of the next few…well, however long it takes me. Those are polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, and homosexuality. My sincere hope is that in knowing where we come from, light might be shed as to why we believe as we do, and why and when things have happened as they have.

I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior. I am not afraid to show this, no matter what the consequences may be. If I am to disappoint anyone, let it not be Them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Blessings Behind a Broken Microwave

WE...are a microwave loving family. From warming up pancakes in the morning and melting cheese over corn chips for some quick nachos, to heating up a bowl of Chef Boy RD and defrosting chicken, this quick-cooking contraption has long been one of our favorite kitchen appliances.

Our white microwave died earlier this year. We were heartily saddened at it's passing, as it had been with the family for a long, long, long time. Many years, in fact. Of course, things were made to last back in the days we purchased it. Not so these days, as you will soon read.

Out my hubby and I went searching for an awesome-possum microwave. The color didn't matter. We just wanted to find something from a brand we'd trusted in the past, and were willing to pay a mid-range price for it. Not too expensive, as we're not rolling in waves of money. Not the cheapest either, as that typically says, "I'll break on you in no time."

We ended up picking a black one by Emerson. I put down the name knowing full well the company has a reputation of being good, and our one bad experience won't keep me from purchasing it again.

I loved our new microwave. It had all sorts of buttons, and popped the kids' popcorn to perfection - a very important consideration in our house. All four of them had tons of fun using it, which may have contributed just a smidge to it's premature death.

That's right. Only six months and our beloved new microwave passed away, refusing to heat a thing. It'll happily blow cold air on whatever you want to stick in it, but no more heat.

Sadness, I know.

One thing I haven't loved , but will accept as there's nothing I can do about it, is the sudden increase in the amount of dishes we must now do. We are not ones who have an electric dishwasher. Two hands and a sink full of suds is how we get things clean.

Our utter dependence on this one appliance for the nourishment of my children became apparent as suddenly my kids began to declare there's "nothing to eat!" In truth I realized they were proclaiming, "We don't know how to eat things you don't cook in the microwave!" Here we come to blessing #1.

1. Mom's cooking things for the kids again. Whether it's warming up last night's leftover burger patties or mixing up some pancake batter, Mom has actually been in the kitchen, at the stove, actively participating in the feeding of her children. And since she's already cooking up things for lunch, why not get a few things prepared for dinner! Which brings us to...

2. The evening ritual of dinner prep isn't as hectic. Don't get me wrong, it's still hectic, just not AS hectic. Yet it has freed up enough time to enjoy having the kids come in to help finish putting everything together, like preparing a green salad, setting the table, and slicing up some veggies. Of course, that's all dependent on what we're eating that night.

3. Another unexpected blessing has come in the form of teaching the younger ones to use the stove. Both of my boys are old enough, but until now I hadn't taken the time to do anything about teaching them until the last two weeks. I'm not talking about anything huge, just warming up a can of spaghetti and meatballs or cooking up some Ramen noodles.

4. The last blessing I have noticed in this short time has been an increase of my children's gratitude for providing a simple meal for them. It may not be exactly what they want, but the fact that I took time out of my busy day to prepare something just for them has been noticed, and I've felt the increase in gratitude and love.

I'm still hoping we'll be able to get a microwave someday soon, but until then I find myself oddly happy that for a time our microwave is broken.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Value of a Dollar Earned

Our boys came to us about two weeks ago begging for a game. They really, really, really, REALLY wanted this game. Would we buy it for them? Pretty, pretty please?

The irony here is we've been talking about needing to cut back on a lot of stuff to get certain debts paid off. We're not rich, by any means. We don't spend an awful lot of money. But due to not enough income to supplement the inflation in prices, as well as several emergencies that have required the use of a dreaded credit card,  we're not doing as well as we have in the past. So looking into the faces of our two little boys who really, honestly thought we'd just buy them a new game was a wake up call in our need to help our own kids realize money is not always there whenever we need something.

A plan was devised to help them earn some money. The car needed a good cleaning both inside and out. There was a flower bed in desperate need of weeding. the pantry needed a thorough examination to see what had expired, what would expire soon, and what would last us a while longer. We agreed on a price for each job. These jobs plus a few others would help them to pay for their own game.

At first the boys were all excited. Halfway through the weeding job their excitement waned, especially when friends came over hoping for someone to play with, but they plodded on. Halfway through cleaning the car Mr. B was disheartened to hear about all the little places they needed to get in and dejunk, but he hitched up his shorts and kept going. I could hardly believe the commitment these two young boys had in regards to earning the money for something they really wanted.

When the pantry job remained Mr. J was called away to participate with a scouting event. I thought this might keep them from finishing with the pantry this week, but Mr. B surprised me by tackling this all on his own. He rocked it! I couldn't have been prouder to see him figuring out what could stay and what needed to go (though I have a feeling many things that could have stayed now reside in the garbage can).

I have paid my boys for these jobs. Someone will be paying them to keep watch over their house while they go on vacation.  It has been awesome to see their dedication to doing a job well done. On a whim I thought I should try looking on Amazon for the game. Not only did I find it for half off, but we found two controllers for a discounted price as well, something they eventually also hoped to earn money for. Their excitement over getting both put them over the moon!

I told them two things had to happen before they got their game and controllers. First, they had to pay tithing. Second, they had to pay me for the "merchandise."

Tithing is really important to me. I have seen the blessings that have come from returning to the Lord 10% of what we have been blessed with. Tithing is the first thing out of our paycheck. I want my kids to have that same reverence and respect for what they have also been blessed with. We have gone over exactly how much they'll need to pay, and both are so happy to do it.

I want them to pay me the money so that they can see this is not just something I did for them. This is something they accomplished though their own hard work.

Ms. M has had a babysitting job for the last two weeks. She works with a friend Thursday and Friday from nine to five watching a couple of kids. It's not an easy job, but she's very proud of what she's accomplishing, of the responsibility being handed to her. She too knows tithing is important, and is also planning to get many of her own school things so we don't have to.

The last unexpected blessing has been in seeing our littlest want to earn some money as well. Her skills are limited, and she wants to give up mighty quick. It's taken a lot of prodding to make certain she does the job she's been assigned, and does it well. We want to see her recognize even this early what it means to do a job well done, to know what it means to earn an honest dollar.

Today the boys' game arrived. Their faces as money was traded for the merchandise was awesome to behold. This was in every way their game! I may never get my living room back, but it's been worth it.

One last unexpected bonus: this week Mr. J was helping me with the grocery shopping. We were in a crunch for time and by the time we got home from the store and brought the groceries in the house I was desperate for a shower. "Mom," he said, "you go ahead and take a shower. I'll put everything away." "Are you sure?" I asked, both surprised and delighted by his offer. "Sure," he said with a shrug. I got in my shower, and he put the groceries away. A little act of service from a boy who'd been working hard all week. LOVE IT!!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Could You Please Turn Off the Computer?

Earlier today my younger son, Mr. B, came in and asked if we could start reading a book together. Mr. J had just finished reading it himself and wouldn't stop telling his little bro about all the seriously cool stuff going on. Mr. B likes to have someone else do the reading for the most part, and seems to enjoy it when his Mama does the reading, hence his coming in to my room and asking.

Before Daddy came home and we left for a quick family outing, Mr. B would read one page, then I would read the next. After a while he was getting frustrated by the appearance of the others who kept grabbing my attention. He also wasn't digging the fact that I was trying to do something on my little computer at the same time, even though I proved I was listening to every word he read.

When Dad said, "Let's go everyone!" my little guy grabbed the book and said, "Should I bring it with us?" I said we'd better not, as we really wouldn't have a chance to sit down and read while we were out. At his disappointed look I promised, "When we get back home the two of us will read again."

Immediately he said, "Can it be just the two of us? With no one else?" I said yes, though I couldn't promise someone might need me here and there for the unexpected not being able to put the toothpaste on the toothbrush. A feat not to be trusted to Dad, apparently.

"And can you please turn off the computer and just read with me?"

I laughed. I really did. He totally had my number. For a woman who was frequently after her kids for spending so much time on the computer and not doing other things, I was guilty of doing the same thing. From my lips came the sacred oath that, "Yes, honey, I'll turn off the computer and give all my attention to you and the book."

And I did :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Confuddled Mind

Well hello there. Yes, it's true. I am still around. Lately I've had so many things running around in my head it's been difficult to sort it all out. I used to be able to do that here, but one of the unexpected after-effects of the depression has been not enjoying the things I used to do. This has included, much to my dismay, blogging. Recent events has reminded me, however, that I made a promise to myself to try and represent my Heavenly Father, my Savior, my church, and my family in a positive and informative way. I've neglected that sorely as of late. So be prepared - this blog post is representative of a plethora of thoughts that have been rumbling around in my mind. Hence the post title. It won't flow nicely, and may make no sense whatsoever, but that's why I'm so confuddled.

When first starting my therapy sessions back when I finally admitted I couldn't work out my depression on my own, my counselor began what's called "Cognitive Therapy" with me. He was basically attempting to help me dispel some beliefs I had about who I was and what was expected of me, and then begin to look at the situations of my life in a different light. It sounds easy enough. Some I know have laughed at it. This was precisely what I needed, however. It's been a few years since I went through this process, but recently some things have reminded me I need to get back in the habit of seeing the positive.

Our Church is instituting a new portion of the missionary program in our area. It's going to take work. It's going to take a LOT of work. It's going to require much faith, much time, and getting out of our comfort zones. When we first heard about it my husband and I felt despair. How could we put in the required effort when we were all ready super-planned with other Church and kid related things!?!?!

Take this last week as an example. We attempted to get as much home and visiting teaching done as possible. Monday I went on a walking field trip with one of my kids' classes which took up the majority of my day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday my husband was asked by his work to head down to the Provo Temple cafeteria to work, which required an extra 40 minutes of driving time each way. M has had play practices, and then the play itself on Wednesday. M had youth activity on Tuesday night. Wednesday was Field Day at the school, and so I was able to help out with games all the day long! It was fun, but by the end of the night I was badly burned and exhausted! Friday was the last day at school. The assembly went for over two hours, then the car didn't start. That's right. The car died. So hubby and I spent a few hours in the heat of the afternoon trying to jump start the car, taking out the battery, getting a new battery, and finally being able to start the car again. Add to all this cleaning the house, getting laundry done, grocery shopping, and keeping the kids fed.

And that's not all! But it's enough. All that in one week. So hearing at the last minute that hubby has an extra meeting on Wednesday night that will keep him from seeing his daughter's play...let's just say neither of us, nor our darling M, was too happy. "Talk me down, honey," my hubby said. Then both of us had to help talk M down. We continued to have a bad attitude for a few days until we both realized a few things. 1> Neither of us was supporting our priesthood leaders. 2> We weren't setting a good example to our children. 3> The new program being presented that night to the leaders of each ward was inspired by the Lord. And 4> By proceeding in faith and a good attitude we would certainly be blessed.

Since those realizations came to me I have been constantly reminded of one of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 3:7 we are shown so much of what sort of man Nephi was. When asked to do something not only hard physically, but emotionally and mentally he said, "...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 prepapre a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

Those two words, "I know" are powerful things. Nephi had a firm testimony of what he could accomplish when obeying the Lord. How could I, who also "knows" what can be done when I act in faith, complain and whine about things being too much? Simple: I couldn't.

So I've done some major attitude adjustment this weekend. I went to our ward barbeque last night with the intention not to hide away, but talk with those who wanted to talk. Yes I felt rather drained when I got home, but I also felt a greater love for those I spoke with. I felt energized and ready to attack another day. All because I changed my attitude.

My camera died a few months ago. You have no idea how much this pained me, as I loved my camera. It had been given to me several years ago by my older brother and his adorable wife when our last camera even before that had died. I've taken some pretty awesome pictures with that camera. So it's inevitable death made me very sad. Until Mother's Day, when I officially took out my new camera :) It's a Kodak I purchased online through a discout site called Love that site. I'm still figuring out the intricacies of this new camera (it's purple!).

My dad had surgery on his back. That was no fun, for him or us. More so for him, of course. He's finally home and doing well, all things considered. I'd say more but it'll just make me cry. I really love my dad.

My oldest was a youth representative for this year's youth conference. It was held on a stake level this year. They went up to Utah State University in Logan, and had a great time. She lost her glasses, which did not make for a very happy mom and dad, but there's nothing we can do about it other than wait until she can get another pair next year :P

Both boys went to a school-funded camp. It was Mr. B's first serious time away from home, and he was having an extremely hard time leaving. Of course once he was gone he was fine. And once he was home he was so happy to be here. I'm very happy he went.

Mr. J had his new bike stolen. This made the whole family sad! He was having so much fun with this bigger bike. Having it stolen (and it's not the first time this has happened) was a serious blow. We've found another bike at a yard sale, but need to replace the tires before he can ride it.

I was released from the young women's program and placed in the Primary. I've been going through teenage girl withdrawal. Luckily I have one in the house and she brings her friends over. That way I get a thorough fix of teen drama. I'm teaching J's class in Primary. The first day I taught I managed through a series of unfortunate events to incur injuries on two of them, one of them being J who had a mighty bloody nose. When trying to look for the 'bright side' I decided any lesson that doesn't end in injury will be a huge success!!!

I've started making friendship bracelets - revisiting my past. Funny thing is Mr. B is the big one who has liked giving it a try. He's made a few bracelets for a few friends.

Are you all still here? Have you left this particular post thinking, "Don't know why I'm reading this!"? Ah well. Kuddos to those of you who have stuck around. Just for you, I have a funny brought to you by M.

The last day of youth conference she and her dad were dropping off one last person, whose house happened to sit where she could see into the driveway. "Oh no!" she cried in desperation. "What?" asked Dad. "Mom's not home!" In confusion he asks, "How do you know?" "Because, the car's not there!" Shaking his head Dad says, "Honey, we're in the car right now."

I love that girl!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shhhh, Don't Tell Anyone I'm Here

I've been in hiding for about the last week. I have to do it, every once in a while. People are just plain lucky if I answer the phone or even type a few words in an e-mail.

I can say with confidence it's not depression, for I'm a happy little camper. I've even been mighty productive. Two or three years ago one of the maple trees in our front yard died. My hubby chopped it down, and a year later even managed to get the stump dug out. Not to long after that the stump in our back yard was removed as well. I only mention that one because it would explain our need for a giant pile of dirt. Not just any dirt. Oh no. This is awesome dirt given to us freely by our local cemetery. We have a friend who works there. It was he who told us we could get a nice large pile of dirt, no charge.

I'd never thought of where the cemetery's put their extra dirt. Well, I have a bit of an idea now :)  The giant hole in the back yard was filled (a significant feat considering the stump was three or four feet across). The hole in the front yard was filled, and then I had an idea to put in a slightly raised flower bed. I didn't think it was going to happen for a while there, as the sheer amount of bricks needed was going to cost a pretty penny. But this Spring I decided if we were to wait for the money to be there, we'd never get it done. So off to Home Depot I went and the first two layers are down.

I'd take pictures and post them but my camera died. Sad day for Laurie.

The first layer sits flush with the grass so my husband doesn't have to worry about how to maneuver the lawn mower around it. The next layer is of a different type of stone set a bit further back. I have a few stones to begin the second row, but it may be a while before I'm able to finish it. I'd like to go up one more set, but that may have to wait even longer.

My boys want to plant vegetables. I'm still debating. I definitely need to find a spot to begin an actual vegetable garden, but I want to wait until I know I can keep up with little things like...weeding (shudder).

I've also put together two picture collages that sit at the doors of a cabinet in our living room. I've talked about doing it for about two years, but finally managed to make it happen. And I must say it looks marvelous! Instead of focusing on pictures of my family, as I've done on the main wall of our living room, I put up more artistic pictures. One side is strictly black and white photos, while the other is color.

A few months ago I was asked to write a story for our ward's Relief Society birthday dinner. It was postponed for a few weeks, which turned out to be a blessing as I could not focus long enough to really get my thoughts together. I knew what needed to be portrayed, but figuring out how to make it happened continued to elude me. The idea of what needed to happen didn't come to me until the day before I was supposed to read it. I wrote frantically, prayed about it hard, and felt as though it was enough. I'll post it in my creativity blog if you decide to read it. It's called 'Nissa's Dream.'

So I've been a happy girl, but I'm tired. My brain has been drained, my emotions are running on low, and I've been pulling away from 'stuff' that keeps me busier than I need to be. I don't handle being too busy for too long very well. I begin to shut down, and need time away from people and things and activities so I might allow myself a chance to recover.

I don't know if I'm ready to come out of hiding just yet. It may take another week or so before I feel confident in my abilities to take on my world again. In the meantime I'm enjoying my family, especially my children and my husband. I'm enjoying some good reading time and music, and times to be creative. Feeding my soul, I guess you could say. Only this time, unlike the last several years due to depression and it's horrible effects, I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Teenage Girls

Just a quick funny.

The other day my husband went to pick up our teenage daughter and a few of her friends from school. The moment she got home M came into my room, plopped down on my bed, and said in a sorely afflicted voice, "Dad just doesn't understand what it's like to be a girl!"

Being the super understanding, serious minded mother I am, the first thing out of my mouth was, "I certainly hope not! We'll have a whole new set of problems if he does!"

She rolled her eyes at me.

Apparently I'm not as good understanding teenage girls either.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wholehearted Avoidance

There are dishes in my sink at this moment. They're making fun of me. They taunt me with the need to get them done. I don't like them. At least, not when they're dirty. When they're clean they tend to be much nicer.

There's laundry in my basket, waiting to be put away. If I got them done there might be actual socks to put on in the morning. Pretty white socks. Not the Christmas ones with the hole in the toe. Or the St. Patrick's Day green set with the black band along the top that makes my impossibly white legs look even more glaringly white.

There's a bed in my room that hasn't been made. The sheets are actually inviting me to climb on in and spend some quality time being unconscious. Just for a little while. Temptress.

There are leaves around my rose bushes. Last fall a pipe burst and flooded the street, bringing with it leaves and mud and twigs that all nestled happily around my roses. I didn't have the desire nor the energy to get them taken care of last fall. Apparently I still don't, though I've made a little bit of progress by purchasing some new gardening gloves. They're still sitting in a bag.

There's a story that needs to be worked on. It's for a Relief Society activity I'm doing in a few weeks. I have the basics put down, but filling it is far too taxing on my brain. My brain is too delicate these days. Maybe it needs a nap. What was I saying about my bed?

There are e-mails to write. To darling people whom I absolutely love and adore. But again, brain energy required. And my brain is screaming at me to stop writing on this blog. How can I possibly put together witty letters to entertain the masses? Or the few? Or even just one?

There is a window screen to fix. It kinda, sorta came apart yesterday when I walked out of the house and realized the jacket I grabbed was not the jacket I needed. The jacket I grabbed belonged to my son. The jacket I needed had a certain pocket that held a certain set of keys. Keys that would get me back into the locked house. Keys that would make the car go so I could get my kids to school. So Mr. B and I headed around the house quickly praying I'd been neglectful with at least one window - and I had. Happily for me Mr. B is still small and spry enough to fit through said window without injury and let me back in. To find the jacket. With the keys.

Yep. I am living a life of wholehearted avoidance this morning. I just don't wanna. Well, maybe the nap thing I wanna, but everything else will have to wait until the enormity of the situation at last drives me to at last make a little dent in the to-do list. The dishes MIGHT get done, and the socks may ACTUALLY find a home in my drawer. We'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Seven words I typically dread: You have GOT to read this book!!! For the most part the only one who really seems to know what I like is my mom. That's right, my sweet mama. I also have this odd habit of not wanting to read what's really popular at the time. Well, except when the Harry Potter books came out. I was all over that magic train.

The last time I listened to those words I got sucked into the world of Twilight. To be honest, I didn't care for the books that much. I couldn't stand Bella, I hated Jacob. I'm married to a man I think of as my Edward. Don't even get me started on the vampire genre. Let's just say, it's not my thing.

Fast forward to a few months ago when all the talk was of a trio of books about some big game where kids have to kill each other. Uh, no thank you. So I pushed it off. And off. And off. Then I did something weird and bought the books. Maybe my hubby would like to read them. He did. The next thing I know my husband is among the ranks of individuals telling me I HAVE to read these books. Suddenly there's a movie coming out and I am informed I will be taking him.

Monday evening, at long last, as I'd just finished reading one book and was on the prowl for another to sink my teeth into, my eyes settled on 'The Hunger Games'. I sighed, picked it up, and barely 24 hours later finished the trilogy. It is now Friday night and I still can't get the books out of my head.

Let me start off by saying this is not a story about kids killing each other. I can hardly wrap my head around everything these books are about, and cannot do them justice without giving up important details. I can tell you what you will find if you choose to read; we see the effects of oppression, hypocrisy, love, hate, jealousy, forgiveness, a need for change, to run away or stand and fight, being weak, being strong, standing alone or together, trust, deceit, acceptance, rejection, fear, and in keeping with today's obsession with reality TV - what limits must be drawn for the entertainment of the masses.

So far as book reviews go this is definitely lame, but I do that on purpose. I don't want to sit here and give away details of the trilogy. I want you to experience them for yourself, as I did. I don't want to tell you what lessons you are supposed to glean from the pages, I want to see you discover your own lessons. I don't want to make you see the characters, the society, nor the complicated relationships as I perceive them, but would much rather allow you the opportunity to figure out what they mean to you personally.

If you want to see what the books are about you can read the back of each book or find some other review that will go into details. If you want to KNOW what the books are about, pick them up and read. I promise they will leave you with a lot to think about. I highly recommend this trilogy.

P.S. I will be taking my hubby to see the movie, but it'll have to wait until the crowds die down a little. SIGH!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Service in the Ward

Yesterday my husband gave a talk in what could possibly be (depending on when he's released) his last talk for ward conference. He focused on service, specifically in the ward. I wanted to share this talk with you today. I realize there will be many terms and people in this talk those of you not familiar with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will recognize. Feel free to ask if you'd like to understand more.

In a letter President Monson received, Sister Mori Farmer explained that her family had experienced difficult financial times. One week, the Farmers attended a family reunion, and when they returned they found a letter taped to the garage door. The note read: “We hope you had a great family reunion. While you were gone, we and about 50 of our friends had a great party at your house. We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the years of unselfish service you both have given to us. You have been Christlike examples of untiring service to others. We can never repay you for that—but just thought we’d like to say thanks. Signed, your home teachers.”

The Farmer family was shocked as they entered their house.

“Our home teachers had decided that they would fix our carpet while we were away. They had moved the furniture out into the front yard so the carpet could get stretched and finished. One man in the ward stopped and asked what was going on. He returned later with several hundred dollars’ worth of paint and said, ‘We might as well paint the house while everything is out.’ Others saw the cars out front and stopped to see what was going on, and by week’s end 50 people were busy repairing, painting, cleaning, and sewing.

“Our friends and fellow ward members had fixed our poorly laid carpet, painted the entire house, repaired holes in the drywall, oiled and varnished our kitchen cabinets, put curtains on three windows in the kitchen and family room, did all the laundry, cleaned every room in the house, had the carpets cleaned, fixed broken door latches, and on and on. … All of this had been accomplished between Wednesday and our return on Sunday.”

Those who served the Farmer family said they felt spiritually uplifted and humbled as they demonstrated the pure love of Christ by serving those who had unselfishly served others for years.

“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

I have been a member of this ward for the last 13 years or so. I have served in a number of callings, have been a firsthand witness to the generous spirit that resides here. I have even been a recipient of this service, a few examples of which I will discuss later. Many have remarked over the years about the special Spirit that resides in this ward. I am convinced a major reason for this is because this is a ward that loves to serve.

A few weeks ago in a leadership training meeting that was broadcast by the general leaders of the Church, which many of us in the ward attended, a question was posed that received an unexpected answer. The question was, “Are Mormons Christians?” To this question Elder D. Todd Christofferson answered:

“You’ve said that the answers to life’s challenges and problems come from the gospel and applying the gospel, which means following the teachings and the commandments and the example of Christ. And I think that it’s in this Christlike conduct and service that we present our best and most persuasive argument of our own Christianity. I know that there are those who contend that we don’t fit their particular definition of Christian orthodoxy. So be it. But our example should be such that no one can deny that the Latter-day Saints love the Savior. No one can deny that the Latter-day Saints seek to emulate the Savior. And so we demonstrate, I think, by our actions. As the Savior said, “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). I happen to live, by the way, in a wonderful ward where this is really the environment and the pattern of life.

“One quick example. Amy has five children, is expecting a sixth, and has had a lot of illness herself during this pregnancy. Tiffany probably has more children at home right now than anybody else in the ward. But Tiffany makes it a point, from time to time, of taking Amy’s children to be with her for a while and giving Amy some time alone to rest and recuperate. That’s a simple example, but I think if you multiply that hundreds and thousands of times, that’s what it means for us to be a Christian.”

Every day we present ourselves as members of the Lord’s Church. Whether at school, at the store, at home, or at Church we are what others look to as examples of what this Church stands for.

The Lord spent the majority of His life in serving others. There were times those acts of service were miraculous, attracting the attention of many. Other times the service was small, known only to a few. It didn’t matter how grand or small those acts of service were, each counted as a work of love. Each brought with it a marvelous warmth, not only for those who Christ served, but for Himself.

What can service do for the individual who chooses to serve? Elder Christofferson says, “The focus in service always has to be outward. We’re thinking of what we can do to help others, but there’s no denying that it has an effect on us at the same time. There’s something about empathy and compassion, I believe, that changes our perspective, that adds courage and strength, I think, to deal with our own needs. It refines us. It sanctifies us.”

President Thomas S. Monson repeats what the Savior said—that in order to find purpose in life, lose yourself in the service of others.

“Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives,“ he says.

He also said, “Unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives.”

Many years ago a new missionary in England was frustrated and discouraged. He wrote home saying he felt he was wasting his time. His wise father replied, “Forget yourself and go to work.” Young Elder Gordon B. Hinckley went to his knees and covenanted with the Lord that he would try to forget himself and lose himself in the Lord’s service. Years later, as a mature servant of the Lord, Elder Hinckley would say, “He who lives only unto himself withers and dies, while he who forgets himself in the service of others grows and blossoms in this life and in eternity.”

This Church is a Church of service. Just this last week our youth were able to take a tour of the Humanitarian Center, where they could see first hand some of the service this Church renders not only on a world-wide basis, but for those who are employed there locally. As the leaders of the Granger 6th ward over the youth, we have asked these young men and young women to perform at least six hours of service between now and June 14th when many of them will attend Youth Conference. That means a half an hour of service every week between now and then. One half hour of service. Such a short amount of time that will yield so many blessings.

What if we were all to commit to this? One half hour of service a week. For many in this ward it will come naturally as they all ready give acts of service to others, acts which go unnoticed by many as they are done quietly.

One sister used to write notes to an older, and greatly loved, member of the ward. Another goes around to many of our sick sisters and willingly takes their laundry to do. A couple in the ward has been helping out wherever they can financially those who are hurting. Many members of this ward have been blessed with meals brought in by loving friends, even when it wasn’t asked for. There are several out there who willingly drive those who cannot to places they need to go.

As a bishop I have seen great and marvelous things performed by members of this ward for members of this ward. I have witnessed the love that passes between you all due to the acts of service given. I have witnessed the pure love of Christ. His image has truly been in the countenances of many here.

Another part of service that many pass over is a willingness to allow others to serve us. For many of us this is difficult. We are embarrassed at needing help, or feel as though it is a burden on others to help us when we are capable of doing things ourselves. But when we deny others the chance to serve us, we are denying them the opportunity to share that Christlike love, and receive the blessings that would be given to them.

A Sister Randall shares her experience with this:

“It was with awe that our children first heard the story about a family who gave away their entire Christmas—tree, food, and gifts. It all began when their neighbor’s home burned early on the morning of Christmas Eve. When the children heard of their friends’ situation, a family meeting was called and they all agreed, without exception, that they would share their Christmas.
“The day’s activities soon centered around switching name tags on gifts and boxing up Christmas goodies, turkey and all. And at the last minute, they even took the tree! When they gathered back home after delivering their project in secret, they had feelings
of excitement and love.

Questions came from our children: “Wasn’t it hard for the first family to give?” “Wasn’t it difficult for the other family to receive?”

“A short time later we had our own opportunity to be receivers of service. After living in a community for only one month, it became necessary for me to stay completely down for two months while expecting our eighth baby. Our first reaction was that we could handle this challenge all alone. The children were used to helping and had regular jobs around the house. However, we soon recognized that despite careful planning and added responsibilities, we needed help.

“Even after years of teaching and hearing lessons on serving others and accepting service, we found that to actually let someone help us was difficult to do. But, as we allowed them to help us, we soon found our hearts full of thanks for their thoughtfulness.

“A retired couple came by and picked up the youngest children for a morning outing. Our bishop organized a sacrament meeting and brought it in our home. Several busy sisters came by regularly just to chat, because they knew that I enjoyed adult company. A couple prepared and brought in a candlelight dinner to share with us for a date night. A batch of white shirts disappeared and then reappeared, freshly ironed.

“The phrase “Call me if I can do anything” took on new meaning. We learned that you will rarely take someone up on such an offer. Instead, we witnessed people who came by saying, “Is it the kitchen you want cleaned, or would you rather have me vacuum?” Many were good examples to us as they not only thought of helpful things to do, but did them.

“Another thought came forcefully to mind. Any time service was rendered they could probably have been doing the same thing for their own family at home. Yet a large family brought a canister of homemade ice cream to us. A lovely lady made our daughter’s eighth grade graduation dress. A sweet friend brought fresh loaves of homemade bread by the armful each week, insisting that our family was used to homemade, not store-bought, bread. One of our grandmas left her home and came to stay with us for two weeks.

“A line from my journal says: “If only I can remember the same gift of kindness to others when I am well.” Service had become a living principle, and we felt an overwhelming desire to be able to serve others.

“Then we could truly answer our children’s questions. “Is it hard to give?” Yes. It’s a sacrifice on someone’s part. “Is it difficult to receive?” Yes. But we love those who serve us and those we may serve.

Next month our family will celebrate the 12th birthday of our son. Most of you have heard us talk about him, but many of you who are new may not. When our oldest was only two my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He lived an hour and twelve minutes. The next few days were a blur. Had it not been for the service of family and ward members I honestly do not know how we would have made it through that time.

Bishop H___ and his wife, along with a good friend of my wife’s, stopped by that evening. Bishop and I gave my wife a blessing. Her friend brought to us a picture we have cherished since that day. My father was by my side as I planned my son’s funeral, with the help of a wonderful friend in the ward, Brother N____. Bishop H____ conducted the graveside service, where many friends, family, and ward members stood by our sides, offering love as I have rarely felt before.

One small act of kindness during that time, one which has meant the world to me, was done anonymously. A sister in the ward had crocheted a beautiful white baby blanket which was given to our son to be wrapped in as he was buried. Such a beautiful gift done with a beautiful talent. It may not have been a huge sacrifice on her part, but the love behind it touched my heart more than she can know.

One of the greatest ways I have been able to serve in this ward has been to visit with the members, especially those in the hospital, who are sick or otherwise afflicted. It has required much sacrifice both on my part and that of my family, but it has brought so much love into our home, into the lives of those I am able to visit, and the blessings we all have received have been wonderful.

As your bishop I encourage you to continue in the service you render to the members of this ward. I encourage you to speak up if you need help, especially to our youth who need the opportunities and the blessings from giving service. Even the littlest of children can give service to those in need. It is important to teach them this from a young age. Why? In the words of President Marion G. Romney, “Service is not just something we do to get into heaven, but service is the way of life in heaven. You know, it’s God’s way of life. It’s what we do there.”