- the act of giving thanks; grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God.
- an expression of thanks, especially to God.
- a public celebration in acknowledgment of divine favor or kindness.
- a day set apart for giving thanks to God.
It's hard on me when the LDS church gets, what I perceive, as negative national attention. I love seeing it praised, loved, and admired because that's how I see it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the greatest blessing in my life without question. Because of my membership in it, every other blessing has been made better. And in turn, my sorrows are made lighter.
While I could go on and on about the blessings in my life, that's not what this blog post about.
This last week, a lot of national news was directed at the standing of just a few members of the LDS church. A lot of comments had been made about this and most are valid.
I think the main outcome we should watch is a demonstration of integrity. We now can have increased confidence that the LDS church leaders do not bend to the requests of individuals, groups, or other well-intentioned people.
They honor the doctrine that God has established (no matter what personal beliefs they may have about a topic). They do not bend to the pressures of negative national attention. They aren't bullied into making changes that God hasn't directed.
My testimony and confidence in the leaders of the LDS church has increased while watching these events unfold. We aren't being led by people who have any other motive than following what God directs. And I'm so grateful for that!
I love Spring! Tulips are my favorite flower, and watching all of them emerge out of the ground, and stretching for the sunshine after a long winter brings joy to my heart. Watching their tender, colorful petals spreading open with the sun's rays is magical to me. I don't have a green thumb, but I do love the beauty of this world, so I'm trying to learn how to best care for the plants that I have in my yard. We have quite a few rose bushes that stretch along our fence, and they have grown unruly from my lack of time and knowledge to care for them.
The other day I decided I was finally going to prune them, and watched some videos online to help me learn how to do the task. It looked fairly simple online, but as I went outside to my own bushes I suddenly felt overwhelmed. Where should I start? Some of these bushes were almost 6 feet tall, and I was supposed to cut them down to about 18 inches high. Not only that, but I was supposed to clear out all but 5 or 6 of the canes, leaving the strongest canes with the best shape for the plant. My roses have already started to bud so I didn't want to cut off the stems that were already growing so well. I was afraid that I would kill my plants.
I decided to start doing it anyway, and started cutting out the dead wood first. After that I had to decide which canes were the strongest and would stay, and which ones I had to cut down. Then I looked for the ones that were crossing in the wrong direction and were interfering with the proper growth of the plant. As I continued to get more brave with each plant, my son complained that I was "cutting them all off!" It was difficult to explain to my 4 year old that this would help the plant to produce more flowers and that it needed to be done.
Yesterday morning as I was reading my scriptures I ran across this verse that reminded me of my experiences with trimming the rose bushes just a couple of days before.
John 15:2 "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."
I knew that this scripture wasn't just talking about plants, but about our Heavenly Father's children. In the footnote for the word "purgeth" it says that it means to "purify", and to "test". I started to think about how difficult it was for me to cut down my roses. How fearful I was that it would be too much for them to handle, and would possibly kill them. I thought about my own children and how I see a need for discipline, but I hate to see my kids sad. These precious little boys that have been entrusted in my care mean so much to me, and I don't want them to be unhappy. But I also know that if I let them grow without guidelines and consequences, wild and free, that they won't achieve their full potential. I try my best to discipline with an increase of love afterward. And this led me to ponder on when I have been been "cut down" in my own life. At times it has seemed far too much to bear.
Didn't Heavenly Father know that it would almost break me? That I wasn't as strong as I thought I was before the trial came? But looking back, I can see that I have grown to be more than I would have been if I had just kept living my life without the "pruning".
At times I have tried to handle my challenges on my own. My rose bushes still require watering and the nourishment from the soil that they are planted in or they will die. And so it is with me. My challenges can be too much to bear and the heat will scorch me if I don't supply the proper nourishment to my Spirit. I have felt an increase of my Heavenly Father's love when I have searched Him out. I've learned so much from my trials. I've grown stronger, and I can see that Heavenly Father is shaping me into a more beautiful version of myself than I was before. The most remarkable part of all of it is that just because I've endured one trial, doesn't mean that another one isn't right there to follow the first. And I find myself saying, "Again? What did I not learn the first time? Why, again? Why more? I've already learned so much." But the truth is, I may have already blossomed more than I previously had, but I still have growth to be made. I still have things to learn. Just like my rose bushes need to be pruned again, and again, likewise, so do I. And with each "pruning", I am being shaped and am blossoming into a better version of myself. And this will continue my whole life long until Heavenly Father has made me into what He needs me to be.
I think the reason that I love watching my tulips emerge out of the cold hard ground year after year is
because they are a symbol of hope. Just like my tulips, I can emerge from my trials and sorrow if I reach for the SON. And even though the breeze may continue to toss me, I can blossom into something colorful, resilient, and beautiful!
I love Spring!
Four children stumble into a magical world where animals talk, the snow queen doesn’t sing, and hairy legs count as pants (at least if you’re Mr. Tumnus).
The search started at 11:47am. We looked in fields, tunnels, and backyards. Angie made flyers with a picture of Pancake on it asking for those who may see it to call her. However, efforts to find Pancake were coming up empty, and the failure to find the bunny was taking a toll on Angie. It was two hours later and the wind started to blow and clouds threatened to storm itself on top of us. My desire to find the bunny was starting to get anxious knowing that Pancake could be outside and alone. Angie and I were walking on the side of the street, hope seemed to be crawling further away from her grasp. She then sighed and nearly in the thought of giving up, asked, “We aren't going to find him are we?” My mind was ready to answer but before I could even take a breath Heavenly Father reminded me, in vision, that sincere and heartfelt prayer that Angie gave just a couple hours earlier, persuading me to respond....with no response at all. I felt it was my job to stay calm, and have faith..the same faith that I had when Angie ended her prayer. Another hour was coming to a close when I walked into a backyard, and then saw a barn. As I was about to walk in, something held me back. I all the sudden got spooked by something. Maybe it was the chickens in the cage (I've always hated chickens..except when cooked), maybe it was the some cords that were laying on the ground that looked like snakes..but nonetheless, I took a couple steps further in, and then saw, straight ahead of me behind two boards, a bunny. It sat there barely even moving. I didn't want to startle it so I slowly walked out then sprinted to the yard where Angie was, called her over and with her ran back to the barn. I told Angie that if it was Pancake then it would recognize her voice. She walked in, and called it by name, the bunny didn't move. She then squatted down next to the boards, reached out her hand to grab it and was able to bring it out from the trapped area. It was Pancake. Angie's voice said it all. She thanked me, and I in turn immediately thanked Heavenly Father. So many lessons to learn of this experience, for me. First, Heavenly Father answers prayers, as long as you keep believing and searching..He'll answer, in His own due time and in His own will. Second, Heavenly Father loves everybody and everything He has created. As I mentioned earlier, a daughter of Heavenly Father pleading for help to find one of His creatures..you'd have to be there to experience the feeling I had of love for both of them. Third, when doubt creeps in, take yourself back to when you first had that incredible amount of faith that it was all going to work out for you. Fourth, when Heavenly Father has answered your prayer, your fears are vanished, your heart stops trembling, and your doubts are washed away..remember why. When I returned home I quickly went to my room, got on my knees and offered a heartfelt prayer, and started to cry. This time, it was to thank Him for answering a prayer and teaching me that when we are in the service of our fellow being, we are in the service of God.
Just a few weeks ago, this phrase came to mean something totally different to me.
I was watching a friend being baptized, considering all that happened that brought her to this point and I was stunned. It had taken awhile and the hand of God was obviously there. And it was nothing that I did.
Enter General Conference. Boom! This is just what the doctor ordered to strengthen me in the challenges I face, the problems I encounter, and the responsibilities I have upon my shoulders. I always seem to desperately need my spiritual recharge just in time to partake of the living waters that flow from General Conference. (And I shamelessly admit that I get a little giddy when Conference is approaching—I can’t wait!!) What a blessing it is to listen to servants of God who speak under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost! In Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 the Lord declares that “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” It is priceless to know that God still speaks to His people, and one way He does this is through those who address us during General Conference. What a comfort that is, for who knows us better than Heavenly Father? He knows me and each of you intimately and loves us unconditionally. He knows the desires of our hearts, our struggles, and our insecurities. He sees the tears we cry. He sees the sacrifices we make that appear to go unnoticed. He watches us fall and waits to help us up. He. Speaks. To. Each. Of. Us.
President Howard W. Hunter said, “Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful . . . a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors.” Many times during Conference I feel that the speaker is talking directly to me—giving me just the personal counsel and comfort I need at that moment. My soul is indeed stirred and I make commitments to be a better disciple of Christ. Here are a few of the gems from General Conference in October 2013 that touched my heart:
“In the sight of the Lord, it is not so much what we have done or where we have been but much more where we are willing to go.” --Elder Edward Dube, “Look Ahead and Believe”
“Our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward . . . My dear friends, there will be times when you think you cannot continue on. Trust the Savior and His love. With faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the power and hope of the restored gospel, you will be able to walk tall and continue on . . . I give you this promise in the name of the Lord: rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal gratitude that you chose to trust the Atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength –President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “You Can Do It Now!”
“It is impossible for us to fail when we do our best when we are on the Lord’s errand.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Put Your Trust in the Lord”
“I testify that many of those who need our help are there waiting for us. They are ready for their valiant brothers and sisters to reach out to them and rescue them through small and simple means.” –Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela
“Yes, there are signs of storms forming all around us. Let us look up and prepare ourselves. There is safety in a strong testimony. Let us cherish and strengthen our testimonies every day.” –Elder Adrian Ochoa, “Look Up”
“Living the gospel and standing in holy places is not always easy or comfortable, but I testify that it is worth it!” –Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, “Be Ye Converted”
“Believe in miracles . . . Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.” –Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Like a Broken Vessel”
What a spiritual feast I enjoy during General Conference! At its conclusion, I feel uplifted and renewed. My spirit has been buoyed up, and I have been reminded of Heavenly Father’s love for me and the potential I have as His daughter. The chinks in my armor are filled in, and I am ready to face my battles with greater trust in God and a willingness to do whatever He asks me to do.
In his book, When You Can’t Do It Alone, Brent L. Top talks about the power and blessings of General Conference. He says, “How grateful I am that the words of living prophets and apostles can fortify my faith, strengthen my spirituality, and lift me up when I am down . . . challenges remain . . . enemies still gather . . . I still had to face the fight, but I was infused with a renewed sense of protection and power.” (p. 83) This infusion of strength and power can be ours. Participate in General Conference. Listen or watch or attend in whatever capacity you can. Bring your worries, fears, burdens, questions, broken hearts, sorrows, and weaknesses.
God will speak to you through His prophets and apostles. Your questions will be answered, your burdens lifted, your ability to endure increased, your perspective broadened, your testimony strengthened. God wants to speak to you through General Conference. And He will. I promise.
Spring reminds me of Jesus. It was in the springtime that He took his body up again, being resurrected and becoming immortal. Christ said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). He is our Savior. He came to this earth for the sole purpose of saving us… because He loves us. He loves you. I know this to be true. Each one of us can know this to be true.
Just as the flowers and trees grow and blossom this spring, so too can a testimony. We learn in Alma 32 that Christ’s words (and deeds) can be compared to a seed, which when nourished and experimented upon can swell and grow within us. “Therefore, if a seed groweth it is good… If ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof; it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life.” (Alma 32:26-41)
Seeds need sunlight, water and good soil to grow. A testimony needs things too: prayer, scripture study, and obedience to the commandments. When we do these things we are experimenting like scientists, testing the gospel out and seeing for ourselves what fruit it will produce in our own lives. I promise as you conduct your experiment, if you nourish the seed of your testimony, it will grow to fill your whole soul and you will find joy that lasts longer than any season, it will last eternally.
We all have 'winters' in our lives, those seasons of trial, darkness and cold loneliness. They cast a shadow upon everything, making it all wilt, strangling our growth. Remember what President Uchtdorf boldly said, "doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." They are called the trials of our faith for a reason, the whole point is to experiment with the tools God and Christ have given us, to see for ourselves what they can harvest. So, throw off the fog and doubts of winter, put on your work boots and plow ahead. Touch and feel and experience once again Christ's gospel. Spring is a time for renewal, let this year's be the renewal of your faith and testimony.
In a talk on trials and faith, President Gordon B. Hinckley once quoted a letter which had originally appeared in the Manchester, England Guardian. He said it was something which he turned to when life was hard and he needed a laugh. The letter was from a bricklayer who had been sent to the West Indies to repair damage to a building following a hurricane. It was addressed to his employers, and read:
When I got to the building I found that the hurricane had knocked some bricks off the top. So I rigged up a beam with a pulley at the top of the building and hoisted up a couple of barrels full of bricks. When I had fixed the building, there was a lot of bricks left over. I hoisted the barrel back up again and secured the line at the bottom, and then went up and filled the barrel with the extra bricks. Then I went to the bottom and cast off the line. Unfortunately the barrel of bricks was heavier than I was, and before I knew what was happening the barrel started down, jerking me off the ground. I decided to hang on, and halfway up I met the barrel coming down and received a severe blow on the shoulder. I then continued to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my finger jammed in the pulley. When the barrel hit the ground it bursted its bottom, allowing all the bricks to spill out. I was now heavier than the barrel and so started down again at high speed. Halfway down, I met the barrel coming up and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground I landed on the bricks, getting several painful cuts from the sharp edges. At this point I must have lost my presence of mind because I let go of the line. The barrel then came down, giving me another heavy blow on the head and putting me in the hospital. I respectfully request sick leave.
It's hard not to laugh when reading that, and perhaps equally hard to not feel guilty about doing so. I wonder how long it was before this poor bricklayer could laugh himself about his experience. Sometimes it can be hard to say, “I will look back on this 20 years from now and laugh about it.” Because the thing about trials is… that they are trials.
After reading the above letter, President Hinckley continued his address by saying (emphasis added):
“Life is like that—ups and downs, a bump on the head, and a crack on the shins. It was ever thus. Hamlet went about crying, ‘To be or not to be,’ but that didn't solve any of his problems. There is something of a tendency among us to think that everything must be lovely and rosy and beautiful without realizing that even adversity has some sweet uses.”
Currently, I'm in the midst of learning—anew—that adversity “has some sweet uses”. Is it a hard thing to have to learn? Most definitely. But when we are striving to live up to our divine potential as spirit children of Heavenly Parents, I think that there is great purpose to the adversity that God places in our lives—especially in regards to the realization of that potential.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once gave an address that has pretty much been on my mind ever since. To me, it is the talk on adversity. Titled Lessons From Liberty Jail, it was given as a CES fireside on September 7th 2008. In it, he discusses the time that Joseph Smith and others spent in Liberty Jail, referring to Liberty Jail as a sort of prison-temple. I love the symbolism and insight he shares:
“Certainly this prison-temple lacked the purity, beauty, comfort, and cleanliness of our modern temples. The speech and behavior of the guards and criminals who came there were anything but temple-like. In fact, the restricting brutality and injustice of this experience at Liberty would make it seem the very antithesis of the liberating, merciful spirit of our temples and the ordinances performed in them.
“So in what sense could Liberty Jail be called a ‘temple,’ and what does such a title tell us about God's love and teachings, including where and when that love and those teachings are made manifest? In precisely this sense: that you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.
“In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution, we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones, we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives.
“But the lessons of the winter of 1838–39 teach us that every experience can become a redemptive experience if we remain bonded to our Father in Heaven through it. These difficult lessons teach us that man's extremity is God's opportunity, and if we will be humble and faithful, if we will be believing and not curse God for our problems, He can turn the unfair and inhumane and debilitating prisons of our lives into temples—or at least into a circumstance that can bring comfort and revelation, divine companionship and peace.”
A Barrel of Bricks
The last few years I have spent living as a student in the UK. It is such a wonderful place filled with such wonderful people. Last spring, nearing what should have been the completion of my PhD in astrodynamics (I'm a bit of a space geek), I felt strongly impressed that I should return home to write up my thesis. And not only did I feel good about it, I was happy to have some time home—after having spent so long away from family—before being off again with a career. And so, at the end of June, I found myself back in the mountains of northern Utah (oh how I love and missed the mountains).
Unfortunately, though, about a year's worth of my PhD research didn't find its way back to me in the move. Of course, fate would have it that I didn't have any backup copies of my research notebooks; I had planned on making copies, but due to the time constraints in making preparations for the move was unable to do so. It was the embodiment of every PhD student's nightmare…
And I would like to tell you that, after much fasting and prayer, my boxes of notes miraculously appeared. Indeed, with absolutely adorable nieces and nephews praying and even fasting that my boxes would arrive, how could they not come? How could God hear such innocent, sincere pleading and not cave in? Nevertheless, it was not meant to be. I spent over three months doing everything I could to find them, to no avail (so much for tracking numbers and priority express mail).
So here I am, racing against a deadline—trying to do twelve months of work in half that time. And to do that work without all of my textbooks, as 50 of them were lost along with the notes (as well as a pair of scriptures [ouch], some personal books, and all of my British scarves; you may laugh about the scarves, but I'm almost as sad about losing my scarves as I am about losing my research—it's nearly impossible to find decent man scarves Stateside).
Admittedly, the situation is a little tough. When you get so close to finishing a project of such magnitude as a PhD, the thought of soon being done is both exciting and encouraging. But to then, at the very end, be set back so far as I have is quite the blow.
And you would think that that would pretty much be enough to have on your plate, but of course when it rains it pours (and here I thought I had left the British weather behind me). Although too personal to go into here, significant adversity has found its way to my family's doorstep; adversity that just keeps on compounding. Just when you think that the next straw will break the camel's back, you're given an anvil. And it's difficult because when things are rough, it's often the strength of others that carries you through. But when everyone around you is being battered by the tempest, it can be hard to find in each other the needed reassurance.
Faith or Bust
I have found that with the greatest of adversity comes an interesting situation. It has to do with faith. Through faith I will often seek from God the blessings I desire in life. Specifically, I approach Heavenly Father in prayer (and at times in fasting) to know if a blessing I desire is what God is willing to grant unto me—and whether there are further blessings he would have me receive. And although I may hope for a blessing, or even believe I will receive it, it is not until God has sent me a witness from the Spirit that he is willing to grant the blessing unto me that I can have faith in it. Faith can only be built on a sure knowledge. And when God promises me a particular blessing, I know that as long as I do my part it will be fulfilled (God always requires us to do certain things on our parts in order to receive some blessing). It has to be fulfilled, because God cannot lie and is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words.
But I tend to imagine in my mind how the blessing will be realized. Yet, it is not uncommon in life that just after God promises a blessing, the way towards its fulfillment becomes hedged up. And as that happens to me, the ways I see the blessing being fulfilled drop out one-by-one as possibilities. And sometimes, when things get really difficult, I'm left without any more possibilities (and I have quite the imagination). Now, if the blessing being sought is a luxury—something wanted but not necessarily needed—this situation might prove to be nothing more than confusing. But when it is something more fundamental, something necessary for you to simply keep going, it's an entirely different story.
And there comes this point, when you are left with no way of seeing the blessing's fulfillment, when you have no crutches left for your faith, where you simply have to make a choice if the one and only thing you have left—your faith—is enough for you to go on. Faith or bust.
It reminds me of the story of Abraham and Isaac. I can't possibly imagine how hard it would be to have to offer up your son (or Son), but it's not Abraham's unquestionable obedience or trust that I want to focus on—it's his faith. Previously, God had promised him certain choice blessings, known collectively today as the Abrahamic covenant, stating that those blessings would be fulfilled through Isaac. These blessing not only pertained to Abraham, but extended to all of his posterity—through Isaac—and even to all the world. But then, before Isaac had any children through whom the blessings could come, indeed, before he was even married, God commanded Abraham to offer him up as a sacrifice.
So there Abraham is, knowing on the one hand that in order for the promised blessings to be fulfilled he must be obedient to all that God requires of him, yet on the other hand realizing that being obedient to God would seemingly preclude the fulfillment of the blessings. Talk about being in a difficult situation (let alone the whole having to offer your son as a sacrifice thing).
But I think that there is a very important lesson to be learned, one that seems to me to be ever so pertinent to the times we live in. In Doctrine & Covenants 101:4 the Lord states that his saints must be “chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son.” Does that mean that we will have to offer up our children? No, of course not. But I do think that it means this: that there will come a time in each of our lives when obedience to God's commandments may seem to stand at odds with the fulfillment of our desired happiness and the blessings we seek (and have been promised).
And when that happens we will have a choice to make: to trust in God or to go our own separate way. The crux of the matter may be a doctrine of the gospel, a tragedy that has occurred in our lives, a trial before us we fear we don't have strength sufficient to endure, or uncountably many other things. But the choice is the same. And I can raise my voice in harmony with Nephi's: I know in whom I have trusted; my God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions; he hath filled me with his love; he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time; O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.
I love the hymn
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by thy help I'm come.
And I hope, by thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
I can say for myself, that very personal and sacred experiences come when a child of God, in their extremity, places their full confidence, faith, and hope on their God—without holding anything back. And although the answers to the questions we face aren't guaranteed to come when we make that final no-way-to-back-out-after-this-point commitment, it has been at this point—when I feel I cannot go on and yet am willing to yet trust in God—that I have immeasurably felt the love of my Father flood over me. And when I have felt his love to that extent, the need for answers to questions has simply disappeared in my knowing, my feeling, that everything is going to be alright.
Hold On, Hope On
Sometimes it's not easy to hold on, to keep going, to get back up after being knocked down yet again. Sometimes it's hard to muster the strength you need to have for others, when there is a mountain of adversity in your own path. But when I find myself at that point I'm reminded of two quotes—both from fictitious characters I highly admire. The first one is from Samwise:
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going.”
The other quote is from a conversation between Samurai Jack and the Mountain Monks:
Samurai Jack: What is at the peak of this mountain?
Mountain Monk: Truth.
If you are in the midst of a difficult trial in life, I invite you to plan a time where you can be alone and uninterrupted, and then to watch Elder Holland's talk Lessons From Liberty Jail (you can find it on the Mormon Channel here). I say “watch” because it is just one of those talks that needs to be watched and heard, not read. If you're having a bad day, I imagine that you will get a lot out of it. But to those who are at the end of their rope wondering where they will find the strength to go on, this is it—this talk is meant for you.
In the words of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Our destiny is greater than we can imagine. If only we understood who we are and what is in store for us, our hearts would overflow with such gratitude and happiness that it would enlighten even the darkest sorrows with the light and love of God, our Heavenly Father. The next time you feel unhappy, remember where you came from and where you are going. Rather than focus on things that dampen your thoughts with sorrow, choose to focus on those things that fill your soul with hope.”
The time will come when I will see more fully the reasons for the adversity I currently face. With all that he did to lead me to the specific means of sending my research home, I know that God has a purpose in my research being lost and in my being here in Utah longer than anticipated. His hand is so clearly apparent in my life, and I know and trust that he knows what he is doing. And the day will come when I look back on this period of my life not only with understanding, but with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. And when that day comes, I'll write Pt. 2 of this post.
Until then, “Hold on thy way. … Fear not … , for God shall be with you forever and ever” (D&C 122:9).
Several weeks ago I had misplaced my glasses. I searched everywhere. I couldn't understand how they could just "vanish." I tried to think of all the possible places they could be, but no luck. I prayed that I could find them. Still nothing. I had to use an old pair of glasses so I could read, but they were awkward and not the right strength. Soon the headaches started, so I prayed with more earnest. But I couldn't find them. After a day, Crismon (my husband) joined in praying for them, too.
I was baffled after a day past and then two. Why was I not being inspired where to look for them? I thought I had gone through every room in the house, even rooms I hadn't been in for awhile in the basement.
One morning as I was praying again, pleading for help to find them as I didn't have insurance for a new pair, the thought came so clearly to my mind and heart, "I have lost much. I have lost so many of my children." I immediately felt so humbled to think that Heavenly Father's loss was so much greater than any loss I would ever experience. I was making a big deal over the loss of my glasses, but suddenly I needed to change my desires and my prayers. I prayed this time, "Heavenly Father, who of your children have you lost that you want me to find?"
With that change of heart, also came an answer to my prayer to find my glasses. Just 15 minutes later I found them. I walked into the downstairs bathroom and there they were in plain sight on the counter! It almost scared me to see them. I then realized that I had searched the basement but hadn't gone into the bathroom. It was almost like I wasn't suppose to go in there. I remembered that because the garage was so frigid cold that I was going to do some wash in the basement, but instead didn't do it. Otherwise, I would have seen my glasses much sooner. I know that I didn't find them because I had a lesson to learn first.
Although, each day Crismon and I have been praying for missionary opportunities, this experience helped me feel that desire in a different way. That became clear to me after the Saturday evening Stake Conference meeting. Crismon had asked permission to use my story about losing my glasses as part of his talk on missionary work. He told the congregation that I was always the one in the family who would find everything if it was lost. It was like, "Mom, we need you to pray." The kids would call and ask me to pray for them if they needed something, because Mom's prayers were always answered. But this time, it was different. He shared my change of heart and my prayer to help find someone who was "lost."
Immediately after the closing prayer a brother in our stake approached me and said, "May I be the first one to ask you to pray for someone who is lost. It is my wife. She hasn't been to church in several years." I was surprised to hear this as I knew what a stalwart member she had been. Of course, I said.
I called this sister a few days ago. I was nervous because I was afraid how she might react to me calling her. To my surprise, she was kind, sweet, and appreciated my call, and....we're going out to lunch. The process has just begun.
The picture on this card is called "Winter Save." It is the story of the Shepard tending his flock, the cowboy rescuing the calf from the storm. Isn't it appropriate that he is bringing the calf in from the cold, just like rescuing one of God's children. We bring them in from the cold and warm them with the light of the gospel and the spirit of the Holy Ghost. This card was sent to us by a stake member after our Stake Conference, expressing her gratitude.
I got married and became a runner.
Running is not what I was expecting but I went from making fun of those who ran, to running multiple times a week, even through the winter. I was told marriage changes who you are for the better but this is not what I imagined. And it didn't stop with running, now I own a road bike, a gym membership, and shiny new goggles so I can swim.
What is going on in my life? How did this happen? When I get together with my in-laws guess what we talk about. . . Running!
They even plan vacations around races! Running is not a vacation! That is right, we drive somewhere not to sit on a beach but to run. Five years ago my in-laws were not runners, they were active but this wasn't who they were. They talked about other things, normal things. So what happened?One day one of them signed up for a 5k. That is all it took.Now people are loosing weight, watching what we eat, spending hours preparing to enter another event. Now I should say right here that none of us are the fastest runners, we are all very average. We all start a race knowing we are not going to be the fastest but we start anyway and then we talk about the race for the next day, week, month, even years. We are all converted runners. Little by little, step by step, mile after mile we have all grown to enjoy running in one way or another. There are days when I do not want to run, it is the last thing I want to do. I complain, I stomp my feet, I pull the covers back over my head hoping it will all go away. But guess what, it never does. Those miles sit out there waiting for me to check them off. Sure I can avoid it for a little while but it makes it so much harder to start again. Doing a little almost every day is so much easier than doing a lot every so often. (That concept took me about a year to figure out.) And usually what happens, once I am a couple of miles into a run and I glad I started. I have spent a lot of time passing mile after a mile in my running shoes, on my bike, or in the pool and all of this gives me time to think. I reflect on almost every aspect of my life including the gospel.
One aspect that has repeatedly come to mind is that the more of something I do the more I like to talk about it with others. Sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to close my mouth especially when I have performed exceptionally well in a race.
I have found this true with the gospel as well. When I am deeply involved in a scripture story or preparing for a lesson guess what I talk about with others. That is all I want to talk about and it really is all I want to think about. That is one way I believe to have an “eye single to the glory of God” just study a little bit more.
What do you think Enos’ father spent time doing? In Enos 1:1-3 we read “he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord . . . and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.”
What do you think Alma the Elder frequently talked about? In Alma 36:17 Alma the Younger shares his conversion saying, “And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of on Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world."
What did the Nephites spend time doing? In 2 Ne. 25:26 they share, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
What did a young Joseph Smith spend time doing? In JSH 1:8 he wrote, “During this time of great excitement my mind was called up in serious reflection and great uneasiness” He also shares of how he went to many meetings with many different religious groups. In verse 9 he says, “My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant.”
President Packer in a recent conference address shared an experience where he was working with Elder S. Dilworth Young of the Seventy. Elder Young asked President Packer to speak with a stake that was “struggling with tensions and difficulties among the members.” He relates: “I asked President Young, ‘What should I say?’ He answered simply, ‘Tell them to read the scriptures.’ I asked, ‘Which scriptures?’ He said, ‘It really doesn’t matter.’”
Want to become a better runner? Spend a little time as often as you can doing a little bit of running.
Want to become a better member missionary? Want to become more fully converted to the gospel? Want to make it easier to talk to friends about the gospel? Want to grow closer to our Heavenly Father?
From my experience and study the answer is the same spend a little time every day in the scriptures and it really doesn’t matter where.
You, who are looking at your smartphone while you hear chants of "MOOOOMMMMMYYYY........" in the background,
You who are taking a break from cramming for that ONE test that your aren't sure if you are going to pass....
Do you know what great worth is hidden within you?
Do you know that you are not just valuable, but indeed you are PRICELESS in the eyes of God?
Do you know that that worth, shines through your eyes, and almost everyone can see it?