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!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

10 Keys to Winning the War

I love the book of Alma.  It is filled with gospel doctrine: The Fall, justice and mercy, the Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and so on. I would take my time studying the fist part of the Alma, then find that I would be skimming over what have been called "the war chapter" near the end.

A few years ago I made a point to really study these chapters.  I wanted to find the deeper meaning and messages contained within.  When I went about this in the proper light I found invaluable lessons that I had been missing my whole life.

One of which is the keys to winning the war against the Adversary.

Throughout the battles in chapters 43 through 54, the Nephites used many tactics in their war against the Lamanites.  These same tactics can be applied to our battle with the Adversary today.

They are as follows:

1. Know your cause and what you are fighting for. (43:9)
2. Recognize the enemy (43:10-11)
3. Arm yourself and prepare well (43:18-19)
4. Seek and follow the Lord's counsel (43:24,47)
5. Make a strategic plan (43:29-44)
6. Remember your cause (43:45)
7. Cry to the Lord for strength  when you need help (43:49)
8. Fight with Divine Power - you are not alone (43:50)
9. Acknowledge the Lord's hand (44:4)
10. Give thanks to the Lord (54:1)

The Stripling Warriors followed a similar  pattern:

1. Know your cause and stand fast (58:40)
2. Remember the Lord each day (58:40)
3. Keep the commandments continually (58:40)
4. Have faith in the words of the prophets (58:40)

One of the key lessons we can glean from these war chapters, and the keys to winning our war against Satan, is found in 58:37: "But, behold it mattereth - we trust God will deliver us, notwithstanding the weakness of our armies, yea and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies."

What a wonderful lesson nestled in between the pages of "the war chapters."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You Will Be Freed

Here is the latest video from the Churches Mormon Messages Channel on You Tube. There are close to 40 great videos on their page. Check it out!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

And Thus We See... The Bottom Line

My mom is a bottom-line kind of woman. She likes to know the point to what she is reading, hearing, thinking or doing. So much so that when she gets a new book, she reads the last page first, just so she knows the end before she starts.

When I was visiting my mom a few years ago I walked in on her reading the Book of Mormon. High-lighter in hand, she looked up and said, "I love the 'and-thus-we-see' verses. They get right to the point."

They other day I decided to look up all the "and-thus-we-see" verses in the Book of Mormon and I can see why my mother loved them. They get to the bottom line. In 18 verses they teach 9 important lessons. They teach the bottom line of the gospel - the Plan of Salvation.

1. All mankind are fallen and lost (Alma 12:22)

2. Men became mortal and subject to sin and their own will (Alma 42:14)

3. Sin brings inequality, misery & distance from the Lord (Alma 28:13, Alma 42:14, Alma 50:19, Helaman 6:35, Helaman 6:40, Ether 14:25)

4. God is merciful and just (Alma 50:19)

5. He is willing to help us when we come to Him (1 Nephi 16:29,Alma 50:19, Helaman 6:34, Helaman 6:36)

6. Bad things happen when we choose wrong. We lost His support and must experience the consqeunces (Alma 28:14, Alma 30:60, Helaman 6:34, Helaman 6:35, Helaman 6:40, Helaman 12:3, Ether 14:25)

7. Good things happen when we choose good (Alma 24:19, Alma 28:14, Alma 50:19, Helman 6:34)

8. This life is a time to use our agency to follow the Savior. (1 Nephi 17:3, Alma 42:4)

9. One of the most important things we can do is teach others about the plan and how to repent (Alma 28:14)

And thus we see that the bottom line - the moral of the story- the importance of The Plan of Salvation. Everything in the Gospel is a part of it.

How wonderful it is to have a Father in Heaven that created such a wonderful plan, and how wonderful it is to have a mother in earth that sees is so clearly.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fast and Pray For Them

During this time of tremendous fear, pain and loss, let us fast and pray for those in Japan and others who have been affected by the tsunami and earthquake.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Know a Bad Word

My current calling in my ward is the CTR 5 teacher. I have never taught primary before, and I truly love it. The other day during singing time, one of the kids in my class (imagine a blue-eyed, curly blonde-haired darling boy) leaned over and whispered in his lispy 5-year old voice, "Sistow Wiwson, I know the "D" wowd, but I'm not gonna say it."

It was all I could do to not fall off my chair laughing.

"Where did you hear the "D" word?" I asked, almost hoping it was his mother (she and I are friends and it would have been wonderful ammo for teasing.)

"Mike Woah on Doty Jobs spiwwed someting on his pants and said it."

"What did your mom say?"

"She said we shoodnt say it or watch that show anymow."

Thank goodness for mothers who teach her children what is right and what is wrong.

The chasm between what the church teaches and what the world teaches is growing larger by the year. Things that were taboo 50 years ago, even 10 years ago, are the norm now.

Tolerance has become a mask for Satan's appeal to "be who you want to be" as he whispers "you shouldn't change, other people's opinions of you should." He tries to teach that standards rob people of agency and identity, that heeding to a higher power is a fool's crutch.

But we know better. We know the freedom that comes from obedience, the guidance that comes from the Holy Ghost, the blessings that comes from paying tithing, the miracles that happen as we visit and home teach each other, the unity in our forever families, the joy of a clean and virtuous life and the peace that comes from a testimony of the Savior.

Just like the father of King Lamoni pleaded that he would "give away all my sins" to know the Lord, we, too, know the price of a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and redemption is to give up carnal desires, pride and many times comfort and fun, to know Him. Though imperfect in performance, we are fervent in our desires to give away all our sins to know Him. Even a 5-year-old who knows his first bad work refrains from saying it because he knows it is wrong to.

We give up a lot- but the returns are great. We trade a swear word for a blessing, addiction for joy, sorrow for peace, fear for courage, doubt for faith, and solidarity for unity. We trade who we are alone for what we can, and should, be with God's help.

The Savior says we should be as a little child. Does my little CTR 5 child mind not swearing, or even watching a show that contains swear words? No. He shared proudly with me that, even though he knew how, he wasn't going to. He was happy to be obedient, and he will be blessed for it, as will his mother for teaching him.

We all struggle with certain things. What are you willing to give up to know Him? What do you think you will get in return?

Save Only One

I was reading in the Book of Mormon this morning in the book of Alma. Through the great missionary efforts of the sons of Mosiah, thousands of Lamanites had been converted to the gospel.

There was a group that lived among the Lamanites called the Amalekites. They were once Nephites, but had hardened their hearts and forsaken the gospel. In fact, because they had once seen the light of the gospel then rejected it, they had actually become harder and more fierce than the Lamanites who had never been exposed to the truth.

I chapter 23 it tells of the Lamanite converts and how "thousands were brought to the knowledge of the Lord..." And of the Amalekites they "were not converted, save only one."

Who was this "only one"? We don't know. That is all is says about the one.

But I couldn't help but wonder about this "only one." What kind of qualities could this "one" have possessed: Humility, faith, courage and love. It took all of these qualities to be the "only one" out of his people to listen, repent, believe, then leave. Can you imagine his/her conversion story? Someday I hope we will be able to read it.

I know a many people who are converts who have had to give up a lot to join the church. Some have been the "only one" in their family to have been converted. They have those same qualities that I imagined this single Amalekites had.

I have been a member of the church my whole life, but there have been times when, either at work, on my mission, or in other settings, that I have felt like the "only one" who believed. It takes courage and faith to stand up for what you believe. But even if we, at times, can feel alone - the "only one", we must always remember that we are never alone.

They that are with us are greater than they who are with them. We are supported by God, our Savior, those who have passed before us, by our brothers and sisters in the church and so on.

Being the 'only one' is not a bad thing. It means we, ourselves, had the humility to listen to the Spirit. We had the patience to nurture the seed of faith. We were faithful and obedient, repentant and forgiven. We had courage to live the gospel and keep His commandment. And when we stand before the Savior to account for our lives, it will be us alone - the "only one" talking to Him.

May we able to stand there with head held like and, like Paul, say that we "fought the good fight" - even if were were the only one.

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