The Opposite of Fear Is...

Faith. That's the correct answer. We've heard that often. As well as faith and fear cannot coexist. While I absolutely know this to be a true principle, it's actually really hard for me to implement. But I've found a stepping stone that is really helpful for me.

Maybe it can help you too.

For me, the opposite of fear is gratitude. 

I find that fear, for me, is often based around the unknown of the future. Or the outcome of something that I cannot control. When I notice that I am feeling fear, I take a minute and try to be grateful. And it refocuses me.

I don't know what the future holds. I can't control much of anything. But I can express gratitude to my Heavenly Father for prophets who are on the earth today. For the scriptures which can help me know how God guided people in times past. For the beautiful mountains that I can stare at all day. For my parents and siblings who are amazing examples. For a wonderful job. For a beautiful home. Incredible friends who let me talk their ear off.

The list could obviously go on and on. 

Gratitude helps me focus on the here and now. One of my former stake presidents said, "Jessica, you have a lot of haves and very few have nots. Make sure you focus on the haves and not the have nots."

That's probably when I first started noticing that the opposite of fear, for me, is gratitude.

The Pruning

By Jackie Leishman

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!

The Chronicles of Narnia and Easter

This post is by Adam Watson and was originally posted to his Sunday Movies Blog. Read it. Follow it. You'll love it.

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).

If you’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia series as an adult, you are missing out. Like seriously missing out. Like the kind of missing out where you spend all day inside only to later discover that outside, on the very same day, a massive sea of bacon had fallen from the sky.

I loved these books so much that I used to read them aloud to my roommates in college. Eventually my neighbors started sitting in. Soon I started holding weekly Narnia readings on Sunday afternoons while people took naps on the floor. Students came from miles around just to listen to my golden voice. (Not really, but by the time I got through all the books, I was by far the most well known Narnia-reader in southern Provo.)

But hey, let’s talk about the movie:

Walden Media (the ones behind other inspiring films like Amazing Grace) acquired the rights to The Chronicles of Narnia back in 2001. They co-produced the film with Disney and it was a huge success.

The lion, Aslan, is voiced by Liam Neeson — try not to think about how this was the same cold-hearted ninja-assassin who tried to poison Gotham City’s water supply the very same year.

OH, SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW: Did I mention I love these books? In fact, if C.S. Lewis were alive today, and I got to meet him in person, I would probably hug the man. For a long time. Like until it got really awkward. And then I would apologize profusely for being overzealous. And then he would say it was alright if I promised never to do that again. And then I’d say ok, let’s be best friends. And then we’d live next door to each other, and our wives would be best friends too, and our kids would play together, and he’d come over and read us stories in his golden voice. And then we’d feast on bacon that fell from the sky…

C.S. Lewis once said, “At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don’t know where the Lion came from or why he came. But once he was there, he pulled the whole story together.”

This brings us to the most important scene in the movie. Before going on, you should watch it:

This story, of course, is an allegory of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. As you saw in the clip above, Aslan sacrifices himself in behalf of Edmund, a traitor who belongs to the posterity of Adam and Eve.

Aslan is executed on the Stone Table, which cracks when he is resurrected, just as the law once engraved upon the stone tablets of Moses was overthrown when Jesus Christ’s Atonement enabled a higher law that satisfied both justice and mercy.

Taunting Aslan in his darkest hour, the white witch, who had ruled in his absence, whispers, “Did you honestly think by all this that you could save the human traitor? You are giving me your life and saving no one.”

However, when Aslan rises from death, he tells the women who are first to see him, “If the witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the deep magic differently — that when a willing victim who has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack, and even death itself would turn backwards.”

Such an infinite Atonement required an infinite Being. And since Jesus Christ was the sinless Son of God, it was He who wielded the priesthood power of resurrection.

On this Easter Sunday, may we remember that because of Him, all the “sons of Adam and daughters of Eve” will be resurrected, and that because of Him, all are given the chance to become kings and queens, priests and priestesses, and that because of Him, death is not the end, but the beginning.

“Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed…” – Revelation 5:5

An Answer to a Prayer, A lesson to be taught.

By Ajay

This past Saturday, I had a chance to serve and yet learned a valuable lesson. I had just returned from work early afternoon and was getting ready to go mow my lawn, when I received a phone call from Angie, a friend of mine. My phone was on vibrate so I barely heard it in time before I went to my room. When I answered the call, Angie's voice was in concern and she asked if I was busy. I told her that I was free and she then said that her bunny by the name of Pancake had escaped her opened cage and took off. Angie asked for help in looking for the bunny and I was out the door as quick as I could to get to her friends house where the bunny was staying. When Angie walked out the door, you could see the panic, and worry on her face. I tried to calm her, telling her it would be okay. Pancake was last seen next door to her friends house around 7am, but the neighbor didn't know that it belonged to an owner. The lady explained to us in what direction Pancake was going and we started there. We found ourselves in a big field and my thoughts of where Pancake could be, were overtaken by the many instincts of a bunny. What is it scared of? How fast can it run? Where does it feel most comfortable? I asked these questions to Angie and she did her best to answer them while still frantically looking. Angie then said, “Ajay, maybe we should pray?” I immediately agreed and we got on our knees to do so. Angie said the prayer, and it does it no justice in even the least bit to explain what I felt as Angie, with her voice quivering, mind spinning and heart poured out to Heavenly Father, prayed with sincere intent asking where Pancake might be and that we would find it. Think of it, a child of Heavenly Father pleading to find one of His loving creatures who was lost. I teared up just a bit, but was able to keep my emotions in check long enough to not let Angie see. Her prayer gave me hope that WHEN we would find Pancake, we would find him alive. We started our search and thought of where Pancake could have gone. Angie was surprised that Pancake had even left the yard. I called another friend, Brent, to come help and he was willing to do so.

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'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. 

Standing as a Witness

Between the ages of 12 and 18 on a weekly basis I said out loud, with my peers in Young Women, that I will "stand as a witness of God." That always seemed really straight forward to me... make sure to testify of God all of the time. This can happen in our dress and appearance, in our actions, words, etc.

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.

And at that moment, I was standing as a witness of God. I was just standing, witnessing what God had done. And it was incredible to me.

I find that the more I get out of the way and stand as a witness of God, a lot more gets done, and I get to join the ride on some pretty incredible adventures.

This weekend, I get to, once again, stand as a witness of God while I watch and learn at the feet of apostles and prophets. All that is required of me is to be there with an open heart and the Spirit is poured into my life. My questions get answered and guidance seems very obvious.

Oh the beauty that I find when I stand as a witness!