Sunday, April 15, 2012

"What is to be, is up to me"

We have a really great Sacrament Meeting today all about Work.  Though initially it didn't sound like a captivating topic, the speakers did an amazing job with their talks.  I came away very motivated to work harder.

One of the speakers, my friend Monique, described a cross-stitch she made when she was in Young Women's.  It simply said, "What is to be, is up to me." That short saying resonated in me.

I love the gospel because it is empowering.  The Savior has done His job, and know my destiny, my happiness, my joy and my path is completely in my hands.  What ever is to be is truly up to me.

So many people in this life feel they have no options.  They live in under the false pretense that they have no choice in life.  They mistakenly think that circumstances are more important than choices. But the Savior teaches us just the opposite: our choices are more important than our circumstances.

The Savior, through His Atonement, has empowered us with the ability to choose for ourselves who we are, will be, and where we will end up. It truly has little to do with the specifics of your trials and circumstances.  It has to do with how we choose to react within the trial that matters.

Decisions determine destiny.

The gospel has given me a glimpse of my potential.  I know who I want to be.  I know where I want to go.  I know I am far from both.  But, as Bryan, another speaker said today, I will make mistakes, but I will never, never stop trying.

Because we have a vision of perfection as out goal, we, as Latter-day Saints can be prone to feelings of inadequacy and guilt because we aren't perfect now.  These feelings can hamper our progression.

Our Relief Society teacher, Marianne, talked about making good choices in the moment we are in, as we work towards our goal.  We cannot throw in the towel as soon as we make a mistake.  We would be giving up constantly because we make mistakes every day!  They key is to understand that our best efforts will not equal perfection here.  We won't reach perfection, but we will reach progression.

Ask yourself: Am I a better person now that I was last year, last month, last week?  Am I trying everyday to keep an eternal perspective and make good choices? Am I striving to keep the covenants that I made at baptism or in the temple?

Am I trying?

I hope the answer is yes, because if you don't try, you will die (spiritually.)  (I didn't mean to rhyme, but it's catchy!)

Thanks to all the wonderful people in my ward who lifted and inspired me today!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Packing for the Trip

Have you heard the story about a woman who packed for an upcoming trip?  She went to the store (her favorite thing to do) and bought new slacks, heels, money, makeup, curling iron and a nice black dress.  She was determined to be prepared, so she also packed another pair of dress pants, a few blouses, her blow dryer, her cell phone, her ipod and a nice sweater, in case it got chilly.

The woman was quite pleased with her provisions tucked neatly into her new suitcase.

Her happiness lasted only a short time until she was told her trip was to a remote rugged campground- no electricity and very cold-  that could only be reached by a 5-mile hike.

To her disappointment and despair she found that she had not packed the right things. She was not prepared.

In 3 Nephi 27 11 the Savior is teaching his disciples and tells them, "but if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the words of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return."

He went onto say that "their works to follow them..."   Whatever we pack here is what we will have there.

I used to wonder why some people seemed happy when they weren't living the gospel principles.  This, to me, explains why.

They might find the things that they like and spend time and money on them.  Those things might even bring them joy for a while- like the woman shopping and packing. She found great joy in purchasing and packing for the trip.  But, her joy was for just a short season.

But, the woman realized that she had not packed the necessary things to survive her true destination.

Some people love packing (whatever they feel like) and find joy in it. They find joy in the packing- even though they take little to no thought of what they are packing for.

Our destination is to live with God again- the ultimate goal being the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.  There are many who are "packing accordingly."  They make and keep sacred covenants, are humble and serving, are tithe payers and follow the prophet.  They feast upon the scriptures and attend their meetings.  Their oil lamps are full.  They are packing the essentials, and then some.

But, there are others who are are "packing" for the wrong destination.  They give importance to material wealth, worldly honors, pride and status.  They focus on fulfilling selfish desires at the expense of others, degraded morality and virtue and raising themselves up.

They seem happy, and some actually find a certain level of joy in their pursuits.  But, as the Savior said, it will only be for a season.  Just as the woman was ill-prepared for camping, they will be ill-prepared to meet the Savior and be judged as kind and righteous people.

Perhaps that is why missionary work is so important: we tell people where are going after this life, and what they need to "pack" for here. Later in the chapter Jesus gives the commandment- that we repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost.  These things are necessary for eternal life.  They are the necessities we should be "packing," and so should those around us.

I went camping last week. It was lovely. I packed all the necessities: chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers; old jeans; a baseball cap; a sweatshirt; comfortable shoes and a good book.  I was prepared and I had a great time.

As I read this scripture this morning, it prompted me to do an inventory of my spiritual suitcase, what I am purchasing and packing.  It was a great reminder to me to always remember where I am going, and prepare accordingly.

That way I will not only have joy on the journey, but also at my destination.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Prove It

I was reading out of 'Preach My Gospel' this morning with my 15 year old son and 20 year old nephew.  We were talking about Heavenly Father and the purpose of life.

I asked them what the purpose of life was, and they gave the answers that we hear weekly in church: to gain a body, be tested and return back to Heavenly Father.

While that is all true, I asked them this question: If the whole purpose of life is just  to return back to Heavenly Father, then why did we leave Him in the first place?

The answer: This life is not about getting back to Heavenly Father, it is about becoming like Him.

We are not here to prove to Him that we can use our agency for good, we are here to prove to ourselves that we can.

My daughter wanted to take swim lessons when she was young.  She was so nervous.  I knew she had natural talent, I knew her potential, and I kept telling her so.  She doubted.  It wasn't until she actually got in the water and swam herself- and proved to herself that she could- that her confidence and joy came.

In the preexistence Heavenly Father presented a plan so we can become like Him. We fought for the right to be here, to become like Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father knows our potential.  He tries to tell us every day.  He has given us the gospel, prophets, personal revelation, commandments, His Son- all so we can reach that potential.  But, it isn't enough to be told. We need to prove ourselves to ourselves that we can do it.

Sometimes we doubt that we can, life looks scary, we don't feel strong, and we are just plain tired.  But, we need to get in the water, so to speak, and swim for ourselves.

When we succeed, God is not surprised.  He rejoices with us. We are the ones that need convincing, not Him.  He is our biggest fan.

One of my favorite quotes is "Mortality is the proving grounds for eternity."

We know what can achieve and who we can become. Do we want it bad enough? "Well," I told the boys, "Prove it."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just a Visit

Before you read this, check your guilt, excuses and complex at the door.  This post is in no way a judgment or call to repentance.  Take a deep breath and wait for a second.

Now, are you ready?

Visiting Teaching.  

What kind of response did those two words create? Peace, frustration, guilt, satisfaction?  Did you roll your eyes and think to yourself, "Here we go again. Another lecture about visiting teaching."? Have you already tuned out?

Remember, check your guilt, excuses and complex at the door and just read with an open mind and heart.

Now, are you really ready?

Visiting Teaching.  Why do are we not all doing our visiting teaching? I know for me, sometimes it's hard to get together with my companion, or I am really busy, or sometimes (terrible admission here) I simply forget.  Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with life that I just don't do it.

BUT- I have to check and re-check not only my priorities, but my principles.  Has God asked me to visit a handful of sisters? Yes. God has also asked me to be a good wife, mother, homemaker, family historian, temple attender, scripture study-er, healthy live-r and so on.  He has asked me to do a lot of things.

So, how do I balance everything?  How do I prioritize when everything seems so important and time-sensitive.

I could make a list.

I could alphabetize the list.

I could prioritize the list.

Then I would probably misplace my list.

God doesn't care so much about numbers.  He cares about His daughters.  We are not assigned a monthly quota.  We have been given stewardship over the welfare of one of our sisters. When I visit teach (and I am sooo not a perfect visiting teacher) I may not hit %100 every month.  But, there are two things that I think Heavenly Father does want me to do: 

1. Love them.

2. Give them an opportunity to feel the Spirit.

That's it.  

Do the ladies I visit teach know that I love them?  I hope they do.  Through getting to know them, visiting with them and praying for them, I have come to love each of them.  Because I love them, they come to my mind not just once a month as an appointment, but throughout the months as sisters I care about.  

Sometimes the sisters on our list aren't active in the church.  Our visits might be one of the few times they they feel the Spirit on their homes.  Don't be afraid to share the Visiting Teaching Message with your less-active sisters.  

I have become friends with the sisters I visit teach. But, they all have lots of friends.  Heavenly Father didn't create visiting teaching so we can all be better buddies.  He wants each sister to feel love and feel the Spirit on a regular basis.  It is love that softens people. It is the Spirit that teaches and converts. 

Visiting Teaching is also a vehicle that God uses to mold our characters to be more like our Savior.  We learn to love (and some are harder to love than others), serve, sacrifice, pray and teach sisters in the gospel.  We have an opportunity to work hand in hand with Him through personal revelation in doing good. As we strive to become great visiting teachers, we will find that it becomes less of a burden because we find that we are loving our sisters, and that we, ourselves are changing, too. 

This isn't coming from me because I am claiming to be an amazing visiting teacher.  Like you, I am always trying to do better, to be better.  Below are links to a number of great articles from our leaders about this very sacred calling of Visiting Teacher.  As I read them I feel humbled and repentant. 

You might already be an amazing visiting teacher.  That is wonderful!  But, for others like me, there is room for improvement. 

I hope as you read them you will feel the Spirit testify to you of the divinity of the calling of Visiting Teacher.  We may not see miracles each visit - but still,  let us go forward with glad hearts and willing hands.  We are His hands here on earth, and there is much work to be done.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Small Blade of Grass

There is a saying: Ignorance it bliss.  But is it?

We are the sum total of our experiences.  When we die, we do not take our possessions with us.  We take our knowledge, our character.  We will continue to gain knowledge and progress in the next life. 

President Lorenzo Snow said, "There is divinity within ourselves that is immortal and never dies.  Thousands and thousands of years hence we will be ourselves, and nobody else...We are as children growing and increasing in knowledge and wisdom."

I think a truer saying is: Knowledge is power. 

President Snow went on to say, "Some of the great prophets advanced themselves to the degree of knowledge, and developed their immortal possibilities to an extent that is perfectly astonishing. And you and I will have to advance in this line until we control those things that the world cannot possibly do."

The key to growth and advancement is knowledge.  But, knowledge of what? Science? Religion? Math?  Perhaps.  We do need to learn all things at some point. But, I think the prophet was referring to the things of an eternal nature: the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation and where we fit into that plan.  The gospel is not just a plan to teach religion on the earth.  It is a plan of redemption and happiness that was established before the world began.  There is so much to learn and understand!

I often times-most times- feel like a child standing in an endless green field holding a single blade of grass. The blade is small and easy to see.  But, the field is vast and overwhelming.  There is no way for us to comprehend the plan in it's entirety here. But, to know that we are on the path, that we can learn what has been given to us line upon line, precept upon precept- one blade of grass at a time- that we can follow the path of the prophets in learning and growth, until we can control those things that the world cannot gives me hope and joy.

Yes- there is so much to learn and understand: The Fall, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Gathering of Israel, The Atonement, The Apostasy, The Restoration, The Second Coming, The Millennium. Everyday I am studying and learning, trying to increase my knowledge and understanding of this great gospel.  The more we understand how it all fits together, the more we see how we fit it, and how what this life is really about.

But- there is so much to learn and understand! At times, when I begin to feel overwhelmed by the endless field of doctrine, I take a step back and look at my favorite little blade of grass and echo the words of Nephi: I do not know all things, but I know that God loves His children.  It is OK not to know it all.  We are not expected to, nor is it possible to.  We do not know all things, but we do know that God loves us and he has provided a way for us to learn.

All the resources we need to grow in knowledge has been given to us: Scriptures, modern-day revelation, books, manuals, videos, church websites and not least of all, personal revelation. They are all here for our learning and benefit.  It is the pursuit of knowledge that advances our paths. The more we learn in this life, that much farther along we will be in the next.

So, become a student of the gospel.  Ask questions, research answers, read the scriptures and words of the prophets and pray for understanding (especially when you tackle Isaiah!) and line upon line, one blade of grass at a time, we develop or own astounding immortal possibilities. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daily Book of Mormon Reading

I've started another blog called 'And I Looked' to help me in my daily reading of the Book of Mormon.  I read a chapter a day, and jot down a few things that caught my eye.  Then, others read the same chapter and comment as well.  I just started last week, but have already learned some great things from others.

Please come and join us!

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