Friday, October 31, 2014

Alma the Younger: Hope and Redemption

Growing up I always loved the story of Alma the younger… who wouldn’t love a story with angels and good overcoming evil? Now, I go back and read it because it gives me hope and shows me the power of redemption and a father’s love.

Under the reign of Mosiah there were many unbelievers and they desired to lead members of the church to sin. The prophet at the time was Alma. Alma and Mosiah watched the rising generation struggle with sin and understand the word of God. Those who were members of the church of God were persecuted. So great was this problem, King Mosiah sent a proclamation throughout the land that persecution would not be tolerated between any groups. There began to be peace in the land. However, there were still unbelievers. Alma’s son, Alma the Younger, and Mosiah’s four sons, were among the unbelievers and they desired to destroy the church. Mosiah 27:8 describes Alma the younger;
 “He became a very wicked and an idolatrous man. And he was man of many words, and did speak much flattery to the people; therefore he led many of the people to do after the manner of iniquities.”
One day as they were going about in their attempts to destroy the church, an angel appeared before them and spoke with a voice of thunder. These young men were so astonished that they fell to the earth, not understanding the words which the angel spoke. The angel repeats the words and they hear. Alma was so overcome by the experience that he could not speak; his body was so exhausted that he could not move. The sons of Mosiah carried him back to his father and told him of their experience. Alma, the prophet, rejoiced because he knew it was the power of God; he gathered many together and they fasted and prayed that Alma the younger would soon awake and speak to them. After two days and two nights Alma awoke and began to speak to them. Here is some of what he said, located in Mosiah 27:23-31;

“I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit… all mankind… must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God…and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God…My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."
Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah spend their life teaching the word of God. King Mosiah proposes there be no more kings but a system of judges to rule the people. The people chose Alma the younger as the chief judge; he is also became the prophet when his father died. Later in life he gives up his seat as chief judge so that he can devote his time to teaching others.

I have spent a few days thinking about what it means to be redeemed of God and Alma is a great example. To redeem means to make better. When Alma was redeemed of God he was made better; so much in fact, he became a different person. I have experienced this myself. As I seek to learn to the word of the Lord and also seek repentance, I feel a change in my heart. I become better as I learn to rely on the atonement.  When I’m feeling low, like I just don’t measure up, I think about Alma and the change that came upon him. It gives me hope because I know I can change as well and become better. 

Who was too lazy to do anything for Halloween this year... except eat candy pumpkins.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nephi: I Did Believe and I Will Go and Do

Nephi and his brothers returning with the record.

There is a lot to like about the story of Nephi. He plays such a huge part in The Book of Mormon that I won't even attempt to get it all into this post. One of the reasons I like Nephi and his story so much is because I can see development in Nephi; the story doesn't start with him as a wise and experienced prophet. In fact, he tells us right off that he was "exceedingly young," which I would guess is between 12 and 18.

A well-known scripture to member of the LDS Church comes from early in Nephi's story. He is asked by God, through his father (Lehi), to make a difficult trip and procure a written record of their people (the Israelites). Some of Nephi's brothers are resistant to this request, and Nephi says:

7 ...I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them. 

Everyone loves this verse and the idea that Nephi was so faithful, and rightly so. However, I don't think it is the key verse in Nephi's development. A chapter earlier we learn that Lehi has been teaching his children the gospel of Christ, and that Nephi desires to know if what his father has said is true:

16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers...
 19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.

Like all of us, Nephi had to find out for himself what was true; he didn't automatically know, but he was willing to make the effort to find out. And because he found out for himself, he could make the bold statement of faith that he would do whatever the Lord commanded.

The next part of this story (1 Nephi 3-4) is Nephi and his brothers 'going and doing.' I love this part, too, because even though Nephi knows what God wants from him, and knows God will help him accomplish it, the task isn't much easier for knowing. In fact, the group almost loses its life, they do lose property, and a sacrifice is required of Nephi that is greater than anything he imagined (I suppose). 

I have thought about this many times in connection to my own life. How many times have I received a witness from God regarding some principle of the gospel, committed to obedience, and then when the task became challenging, failed in my effort? Too many, I'll just say that. Which is why I love the example of Nephi.

--Who is ready for a relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Who was Mormon? Leader of Armies, Husband, Father, Historian, Prophet

Painting of Moroni, the prophet Mormon's son. He "sees our day" and knows that the words
 in the record will be pertinent to us in our day.

For some reason, the story of Mormon is one of my favorite stories in the Book of Mormon. This is a strange thing because the time in which Mormon lived was a time of wickedness, self-destruction, and war. But that just makes the person Mormon was all the more inspiring and ennobling.

Yes, this is Mormon, the prophet-historian who abridged the plates of Nephi. This is Mormon, who then added his own brief record to those he had abridged and then gave the entire record to his son, Moroni, before he died. This is the Mormon who is the reason this book of scripture is called The Book of Mormon. I wonder if Mormon had any idea that his name would one day be used as a nickname for people who believe his words were God's words--a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So without further ado, here is why I admire Mormon:
Mormon was a descendant of Nephi (the one who begins the record found in the Book of Mormon and who I gave some background about in a previous post) who lived about 321 AD. He had been taught the gospel of Jesus Christ as a youth and was a "sober child" and "quick to observe." But by the time he was a pre-teen, the two groups of people living on the land, the Nephites and the Lamanites, had regressed so much in their knowledge of God and even in their belief in the natural freedoms due to humanity, that hatred and war consumed their world. (The Nephites and Lamanites had a long history of hatred and war--but this time they weren't going to settle their differences or call for peace.)

Mormon writes that:

wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus." (Mormon 1:13-15)

At 16 years of age, the Nephites, admiring Mormon's large stature and probably his aptitude for leadership, asked him to be the leader of their armies. And he accepted. Under his direction, the Nephites, despite numerous casualties, won several big battles against their enemy. However, despite Mormon's constant pleas to turn away from their selfish, hard-hearted ways and to turn back to God, relying on His perfect strength and love, the Nephites refused to change and believed that any victory they gained was a reflection of their own strength and might. They did not want to bring God into the equation. Mormon writes:

"behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed." (Mormon 4:5)

There comes a point that Mormon refuses to lead them anymore since he knows God will not fight their battles for them while they are living the way they are. But eventually, as the Nephites are basically being obliterated, Mormon decides to lead them again. He says:

"they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions.But behold, I was without hope, for I knew the judgments of the Lord which should come upon them; for they repented not of their iniquities, but did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them." (Mormon 5:1-2)
Why do I admire Mormon? Because he knew exactly who he was and he refused to let go of that knowledge and he stood firm in what was right and true--even when almost no one around him would acknowledge that truth.  He had a great love for Heavenly Father. His great love for Jesus Christ is always at the center of his record. And he loved and mourned the loss of his people despite the choices they made (like in this passage). He knew they were children of God too.
"My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever."  Mormon's words to his son Moroni (Moroni 9:25)

Who is grateful for saltines and apple juice today.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Enos: My Soul Hungered

Enos is a prophet in the Book of Mormon whose father, Jacob, was also a prophet. When Jacob was old and about to die he met with his son. He gave his son the record he had been keeping, which had been passed down to each prophet, and Enos promised obedience. After Jacob died, Enos went out hunting one day and began to ponder the things which Jacob had taught him. He says,
 "And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens."
Enos prayed for a day and a night. He prayed for his own soul, for the souls of his people, and also for his enemies, the Lamanites. He also prayed for the record to be preserved, this record is The Book of Mormon. As Enos prayed he received answers and he went about preaching to the people. In his lifetime he saw many wars and when he was about to die he handed down the record to his son, Jarom. His final words in the record are,
"And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen."
(For the full story, check out Enos 1.)

 There are so many things I love about Enos. He had so much faith and charity. He prayed for the welfare of his enemies. As I read the book of Enos, which is just one chapter, I feel the desire to be better. I pray to have the hungering in my soul that Enos experienced. I used to wonder how Enos spent so much time in prayer and now as I pray, with real intent, I feel like I understand a little bit better. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles spoke about pray and compared it to a combination lock. He said,
"Petitioning in prayer has taught me, again and again, that the vault of heaven with all its blessings is to be opened only by a combination lock. One tumbler falls when there is faith, a second when there is personal righteousness; the third and final tumbler falls only when what is sought is, in God's judgement--not ours--right for us. Sometimes we pound on the vault door for something we want very much and wonder why the door does not open. We would be very spoiled children if that vault door opened anymore easily than it does. I can tell, looking back, that God truly loves me by inventorying the petitions He has refused to grant me. Our rejected petitions tell us much about ourselves but also much about our flawless Father." Neal A. Maxwell, “Insights,” New Era, Apr. 1978, 6 
Who forgot to include a fun tidbit about herself so Elin will just say that being around Ryanne is like being around a big burst of sunshine. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ammon: faith, hope, humility, courage, and love

One of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon is about a missionary named Ammon. It has been a favorite for a long time, dating back to the illustrated Book of Mormon days (a simplified kids' version with pictures). My reason for liking the story has changed over time, though. Here is a brief summary of Ammon's story, beginning with his choice to be a missionary (Alma 17-20, 26-27).

Ammon, three of his brothers, and some others decide to go preach the gospel to the Lamanites, who are not only uninterested in the message, but generally are enemies to Ammon's people, the Nephites. The missionaries feel like it is their duty to try and teach the Lamanites, no matter what. Ammon finds himself in a sub-kingdom and meets the king, who asks him what he wants. He tells him he would like to be the king's servant. His first task is to care for the king's sheep, along with some other servants. While watering the flock, a group of men drive the sheep away, hoping to claim some for themselves. Ammon leads the other servants in gathering the sheep and taking them back to the water. The men attempt to drive away the sheep again, but Ammon starts to fight them, by himself. He takes out six with a sling before the group rushes him with clubs. He then proceeds to cut their arms off with his sword, and kill their leader. The rest flee. (You can see why a young boy would like this story, right?) Ammon's fellow servants then gather the detached arms to show the king, because they're super impressed. The king ends up being super impressed, too, and is sure Ammon is more than a man. Ammon then gets the opportunity to explain to King Lamoni that the power he used to defeat the aggressors came from God, which then allows him to teach Lamoni all about God and His Son, Jesus Christ. The king is converted, along with his household and many in his sub-kingdom.

A short time later, Ammon is accompanying King Lamoni to see Lamoni's father, who is king over all the Lamanites. They meet the king on the way, and the king is not happy to find his son, Lamoni, with a Nephite, their sworn enemies. Lamoni tries to explain what happened, which makes his dad angry. His dad then threatens him before Ammon intercedes. His dad then tries to fight Ammon, and Ammon injures him to the point he can't defend himself. The king then tells Ammon he'll give him anything he wants, if Ammon will spare his life. Ammon says he'll only spare his life if he agrees to let Lamoni continue on his chosen path and free Ammon's brothers, to which the king agrees. A few chapters later the story is told of the king's own conversion through one of Ammon's brothers, and the king specifically mentions being very impressed by the obvious love that Ammon had for his son, Lamoni, to the point that he was willing to hear what the missionaries had to say.

I like this story because I see in it everything I would like to be. I would like to have the faith to appoach any enemy because I believed it is God's will; I would like to have the hope that no righteous effort is wasted; I would like to have the humility to serve in the lowliest position; I would like to have the courage to stand against attackers, by myself, if necessary; I would like to have so much love for those around me that others would be moved toward God by it; and I would like to be able to do all this without one thought for personal gain or glory, but for my love for God.

Who is developing sweet sling skills.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Book of Mormon

Years ago, as I walked to our community swimming pool, a boy who lived down the block started walking with me and struck up a conversation. I had never really talked to him before because he was a couple years older than me--but he seemed really nice and I just felt flattered that an older guy thought it worth his time to walk and talk with me. Somehow, in this 5-minute walk to the pool, religion came up and he found out I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or a Mormon. Then he started asking me questions about the Book of Mormon. Up to that point, in my 15 or 16-year old experience, people who knew or found out I was Mormon didn't really know much about my church--and they knew even less about the Book of Mormon. This boy, however, asked very interesting, relevant questions. The one I remember off the top of my head is: "Does the Book of Mormon have several chapters of Isaiah in it?" I was surprised and kind of excited that he knew that about the Book of Mormon and I asked him if he had read any of it. He hadn't; but he told me his dad was a preacher at a local church and had studied religion and theology and apparently Mormonism.

So I answered his question and told him that yes, the Book of Mormon did contain several chapters of Isaiah. The Book of Mormon, itself, is the historical and spiritual record of two groups of people. One of these groups was led out of Jerusalem around 600 B.C., the same time the prophet Jeremiah of the Old Testament was prophesying of the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem. A man named Lehi was warned by the Lord that Jerusalem would be destroyed--so he prophesied, as Jeremiah did, and encouraged the people to repent and turn their hearts to God--and then was instructed by the Lord to take his family into the wilderness, away from Jerusalem to a place that God had prepared for them. Lehi obeyed and his wife and sons and daughters and a few others who went with them were spared. Eventually, their journey took them to the Americas which the Lord covenanted would be a land of promise for them if they continued to turn their hearts to God and strove to obey and live by God's word and commandments and love.

Lehi's fourth son, Nephi, wanted to know about all of this prophesying that his father was doing. And so he turned to the source; he prayed to God and asked Him if the words of his father were true. He received confirmation from God and continued to listen and live according to the counsel of his father, a prophet, and he continued to pray earnestly to God for help and truth and strength. Even through the difficult parts of his life, he sees the Lord's hand in it and is given strength to overcome and to move forward. Two of Nephi's older brothers, Laman and Lemuel, were unhappy with the move from Jerusalem and never quite reconciled themselves to the idea of their father as a prophet or to a God that would take them away from their comfortable home and lead them on a journey rife with uncertainties and danger. Eventually, Lehi's family and posterity were so much in discord that they broke apart from each other and became two separate peoples: the Nephites and the Lamanites.

The first part of the Book of Mormon is Nephi's account of these experiences. Nephi is commanded by the Lord to keep a journal or a record of his people (1 Nephi 9:3) and he does this faithfully. The Lord instructs and enables him to obtain metal plates that are inscribed with a large part of the Old Testament: the books of Moses and words of other prophets. Because of this, Lehi and his family are blessed to have Old Testament scriptures with them, the word of God to past prophets, as they travel in the wilderness towards this unknown land of promise. At one point, Nephi writes of an important prophesy that his father, Lehi relates. Nephi says:

"Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews—even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world.
 And [Lehi] also spake concerning the prophets, how great a number had testified of these things, concerning this Messiah, of whom he had spoken, or this Redeemer of the world." 
This testimony of a Savior, of Jesus Christ, becomes the focus of Nephi's record (and those who continue the record after Nephi's death). Nephi includes several chapters from the book of Isaiah and explains his reasons for doing so (2 Nephi 25). He then says:

"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." (2 Nephi 25:26

To me, that scripture is the Book of Mormon. It is a book that testifies of Christ, just as the Old Testament and New Testament do. And in the accounts of these people, you see the hand of God and the saving and healing and helping power of His Son, Jesus Christ, working in the lives of very real, imperfect individuals.

Did I really go into all of this detail just to answer the young man's question about words of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. Pretty much, yes. I am not very good at giving simple, concise book summaries--you can ask my sister. She knew the entire plot summaries, character descriptions, and significant details of most books that I read while we were growing up without ever having to read them. (I remember getting emotional when I described the end of Where the Red Fern Grows to her. I still cry thinking about that book...) I just don't want to leave anything out that I think is interesting or important....and that means my sister could basically talk about books she never read as if she had read them.

I have read a lot of books in my lifetime. And I read my favorite books over and over and over again (Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, are two favorites). There is no doubt that we bring our own experiences and background and beliefs into a text when we read it and that influences the way we read it and what we get out of it. However, I also believe that there is inherent, unchanging, universal truth in life and reflected in the writings and words of many individuals. I feel that truth every time I read the Book of Mormon. I truly believe that the words in the Book of Mormon our God's words to us, given through imperfect men that He called to be prophets. I truly believe that God speaks to us as individuals too. And I know, as well as anyone, that to really know something for ourselves, we have to go straight to the source. In this case, that means to know the Book of Mormon is true, you have to read it and talk to Heavenly Father about it, since God is the author of scripture.

Heavenly Father is real and He loves His children. We are His children. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He lived a perfect life--but understands perfectly what we suffer and feel because He was subjected to all of the temptations, trouble, and pain that we are subjected to. He did not sin, but He took on Himself the punishment for our sins so that if we do our part, if we turn to Him and try to live as He taught us to live (lives full of love and dedicated service), we can be clean and whole again--our debt to justice being paid by the Redeemer. (Alma 7:10-12)

Who is a big fan of mini KitKats at this moment.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kickoff to Book of Mormon Week

Next week we are going to focus on our favorite stories from the Book of Mormon, so for the next three days our posts will be kind of laying the foundation for how the Book of Mormon came to be. It's kind of a tricky thing to do, because the foundation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is essentially the story of God's interactions with man since Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. I won't be starting that far back, though. I'll begin with Joseph Smith. (Although you can click here for a summary of that foundation.)

(Note: you can skip to the video at the end for a more succinct explanation than I can give.) As a 14-year old boy, Joseph Smith had questions regarding which religion to affiliate himself with. After reading James 1:5-6, he determined that he would pray directly to God to see what path to take. That prayer led to a visit from God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints generally refer to this as the First Vision, because it was what started the ball rolling toward the restoration of Christ's Church. (For Joseph's account of this, click here). After having his question answered (and receiving much, much more information than he ever anticipated, I'm sure), things were quiet for awhile. Three years later Joseph was once again reading in the Bible when he received another heavenly messenger, an angel named Moroni. Here is what Joseph said regarding this visit (and here):

“On the evening of the … twenty-first of September [1823] … I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God. …
 “While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor...
 “Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me.
 “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.
 “He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;
 “Again, he told me, that when I got those plates of which he had spoken—for the time that they should be obtained was not yet fulfilled—I should not show them to any person ... only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it. 
 I ... went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there...
 “At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates ... On the twenty-second day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected."
Is this a fantastic story? Yes, it is, but I would use the word miraculous. Is this type of experience common? Of course not, otherwise it wouldn't be considered fantastic or miraculous. This type of experience is not unheard of, though. The scriptures, both Bible and Book of Mormon, are testimonies to the fact that God commonly works in this manner when He calls people to serve Him. I know through the testifying of the Holy Spirit that Joseph Smith's account of the Book of Mormon is true.
-- Who likes kickoffs of all kinds

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What my Family is to me...

My mom and sisters and me
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

I've never been quite sure what Tolstoy meant by saying this...because happy families are not all alike. But maybe he just means they are all generally happy when they are together and in that way they are alike. Or maybe he means that to be happy in family life, there are a few things that are essential: things like trust, working together towards some common purposes, and loving and supporting each other. So happy families are all alike in that they are doing the things that allow them to be happy together. But doesn't that mean that unhappy families are all alike in the fact that they are not doing those essential things? I think I must be missing something. Or maybe something got lost in translation from the Russian to English. 

At any rate, I am part of a happy family and think I must be one of the luckiest human beings alive. I never doubted my parents loved me and would help me through anything. And my siblings are still my best friends. Growing up in a family like that gave me confidence in myself and in God and showed me, in a real way, that every person can make a positive difference in the world. 

Now I am married and we have our own little family. My parents made it look so easy, and I realize now, that it is not easy...I'm sure it wasn't for them and it isn't easy for us either. There is so much that gets in the way of family happiness: selfishness, pride, packed schedules, stress, finances, mistakes, outside pressures, not getting enough sleep, health problems ... I could go on forever. 

However, I believe in the principles taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the family and I want to live them, in a large part because my parents lived these principles (and living these principles takes work!) and it made our home and my life happy. 

"HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation."
Whose brain feels fried from staring at a computer screen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Individual Worth = Service

Living in today’s world of technology and social media can be a very difficult thing. I am not sure if others feel this way but I can start feeling pretty down on myself comparing and seeing all the things I am ‘not’. I struggle to feel my own individual worth. How am I special child of God.... if everyone is a special child of God. How am I am am I of great worth to Heavenly Father?

I have questioned this for some time now and now as I am looking back I can see the Lord answering and teaching me line upon line through small experiences in my life.

After a bit of pondering I figured two scriptures that answer this question for me.

1. John 13:34 (I found this in the Individual Worth section for the Personal Progress Program)

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

I think one key is to serve and love others. As I try to honestly and wholeheartedly serve and love those in need, my love grows for them and I feel the Lord blesses me with a tiny glimpse of how He feels for them and it is amazing! And I feel His love and gratitude for me that I was fulfilling my own individual role the Lord has sent me here to do. It usually is always some thing so simple and in the worlds opinion of not of great worth but in the Lord’s view worth more than anything to help others
come unto Him.

2. The parable of the Talents Matthew 25:15-46; Matthew 25:15:

"And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey."

In the parable, the servant who had 5 talents did not receive any more glory than the servant who had 2 talents. They both worked to their own abilities and did all that they could! They both entered into the joy of their Lord.

I LOVE this scripture! We are all blessed with different talents and different
amounts of talents and abilities! I don’t have a fashion talent or a talent in memorizing scriptures and that’s ok! I have my own unique talents--few, I may feel--but it's important I try to share them in a Christ-like manner. As I have observed others around me I noticed that people are given certain talents and abilities/personalities that enable them to love and serve others in a better way than I
could do. At first I would feel bummed that the other person was more thoughtful or ‘better’ than me; but I realized I have certain people that I love and serve in ways no one else can.

Then one day it dawned on me... EVERY SINGLE PERSON IS ESSENTIAL to the Lord's work and plan. We all are special and IRREPLACEABLE! How amazing is that?! We all have roles, in the eyes of man some seem big and some seem small, but all are equally imperative and needed in the Lord's eyes. My contribution of talents may be small but it is indispensable to the Lord.

Now I try to view social media or people ‘who can do everything’ as people trying to enrich and serve others; I feel less jealous and down on myself and more grateful for those who have served me and others, that I could not serve myself. I realized they might be answering my prayers and the prayers of others.

Yes, I have found gratitude for those pintrest people who have the cutest party
decorations ideas, etc.... I am grateful I don’t have to spend days and days of overexerting my brain trying to think of them. I can take 2 minutes and download a format and be done. Thank you people for serving me and making my life easier!

The more I love and serve others and the more I let others serve me, the more I can feel the Savior's love and my own individual worth to Him! We all have more individual worth to the Lord than we can begin to comprehend.

Who forgot to add a fact about herself so Ryanne will do it...

-Ash Diggity Dog
Who has 3 adorable sons

Monday, October 20, 2014

Difficult Companions and Gifts From God

When serving as a missionary for the LDS Church you are assigned a companion to work with. Your companion is with you at all times, closer than a spouse or child. Almost the only separation comes when one of you needs to use the restroom. Usually the companionship works well, but sometimes it doesn't. And as I mentioned, you don't choose your companion.

I had several companions over the course of my two-year mission, and I learned something from all of them. And I liked almost all of them. I had one that really rubbed me the wrong way, though. And because I was doing my best to serve faithfully, I felt like the issues I had with my companion needed to be resolved. I did everything I knew how to do to develop charity (the pure love of Christ, as explained by an earlier post) so that I could love my companion. I prayed for him, and for us, and for charity; I fasted for him, and for us, and for charity; I served him in small ways that I thought would help me develop charity, like polishing his shoes or waking up early to make a good breakfast. After making these efforts I would almost immediately relapse into unkind feelings toward my companion once we had to interact. It was really discouraging. Then one day while studying charity in the scriptures I came across this verse in the Book of Mormon:

Moroni 7:48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love [charity], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. 

What struck me as I read this verse is that charity is bestowed by God, which means to me that it is given how He sees fit. I had made a major mistake in trying to develop charity: I had assumed that by going through a list of good or recommended practices I would just end up having charity, like it was inevitable. Essentially I believed I would be blessed for being good. Now, I believe God does bless all His children for being good, but it happens the way He thinks is best, which may not correspond to what they think is best. I know God was teaching me a valuable lesson, which is that He blesses me because He is good, not because I am good; and my dependence on Him for everything is absolute.

--Who always has a hard time with these one-line things

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Falling off chairs...What are rules for anyway?

Having a child has taught me more about myself and my relationship with God than anything I have previously experienced in my life.

For instance, my little girl, Evie, has a stuffed turtle with a shell that projects the stars and moon on her ceiling. Last night, she was holding it in her hands and she started looking through the little star shaped holes directly at the light bulb in the shell.  As soon as I told her not to do it, she of course tightened her hold on the turtle and stared more fiercely into the light. I explained to her that staring directly at light bulbs hurts your eyes. Did that stop her from wanting to do it? No. Same thing with walking in the street. I explain to her that it is dangerous to walk out into the street because cars drive on the road and they don't always see people walking. Basically, getting hit by a car would hurt really bad. "Big Bonk" in 2-year old language. Does she still try to spend a lot of time playing in the street. Yes.

So while the whole turtle light bulb situation was happening, I was thinking to myself, "She is so stubborn! Why would she consistently choose to do something that I tell her is not good for her eyes. That can hurt her. And then why, when she does get hurt in these situations (like when I tell her not to stand in her booster seat at the kitchen table because she could fall and hit her head....and then she falls and hits her head), why does she look at me with tears running down her cheeks as if I was the reason she fell?" Those are the thoughts running through my mind.

And then suddenly, I see myself in her. I do the same thing, all the time. Like parking in a place I shouldn't park because it's convenient--thinking this time I won't get a ticket even though I've been ticketed every other time I've parked here. And then when I get the ticket, I curse the guy who gave me the ticket. The same thing is true for me with spiritual principles--with commandments that come from Heavenly Father. And suddenly my relationship and interactions with Evie are juxtaposed with my relationship and interactions with God...except this time I am still the child. And He is telling me things He has always said--things like, "Keep the Sabbath day holy. Make it a day for spiritual things and for serving and helping others (because when you do that, you are serving and helping Me). And on this one day of the week, when you can, refrain from the normal weekday work that you do and the normal weekday recreation. And if you do this, you will be better and brighter and happier." (see Isaiah 58:13-14) And I look down and find myself wanting to tighten my grip on the silly fluff of a book that I am currently reading or wanting to sleep all day rather then put down the book or get out of bed to go do something for someone else or even just to spend quality time with my family. Things like that.

I love this quote from a talk given in a recent church conference:

"God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become. Truly He loves us, and because He loves us, He neither compels nor abandons us. Rather He helps and guides us. Indeed, the real manifestation of God's love is His commandments."

"Free Forever, to Act for Themselves" 
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I am finding this to be more and more true in my life. That God's love is manifest in the commandments He gives and in always giving us the choice to obey them or to not obey them. And then He further manifests His love in giving us someone, a Savior, who understands us perfectly and can help us up and heal us when we fall out of the chair that we deliberately climbed despite the countless warnings about the damage it would do. I am trying to love and trust my Heavenly Father the way I hope my daughter can love and trust me.

And here's a video I really like:

Who wishes she could become an official namer of streets. How does "turn right on Whistling Wood" and "make a left on Rhododendron Way" sound? I think I have a real aptitude for that kind of work.

Another thought-provoking quote if you are still even reading this....

"To those who believe anything or everything could be true, the declaration of objective, fixed, and universal truth feels like coercion--"I shouldn't be forced to believe something is true that I don't like." But that does not change reality. Resenting the law of gravity won't keep a person from falling if he steps off a cliff. The same is true for eternal law and justice. Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it. That is fundamental to God's own power. If it were not for the reality of fixed and immutable truths, the gift of agency would be meaningless since we would never be able to foresee and intend the consequences of our actions. As Lehi [a prophet in the Book of Mormon] expressed it: 'If ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act or to be acted upon..(2 Nephi 2:13).'"
"Free Forever, to Act for Themselves" 
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Friday, October 17, 2014

We CAN find happiness

I watched this video the other day, a particularly trying day, and it help put things in perspective for me. We were not put on this earth to fail miserably; our Father in Heaven wants us to succeed and to be happy.

Elder Scott pointed out that we live in a majestic world. After watching this video I reflected on that. I thought of all the places we have lived and visited and remembered the breathtaking views we have seen; from a fiery sunset on a beach, to 200 year old oak trees lining a walkway, to being surrounded by colorful fallen leaves. There is beauty all around us. I am grateful that God has given us such an awe-inspiring world to live in. It brightens my darkest days to think about these things. It is a manifestation of God's love for us.

Elder Scott also reads D&C 24:8, which says,
Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.
I'm sure if you asked any of my friends or family to list words that describe me, patience would not be on that list. I love the scripture above, even though it tells me to be patient, because it reminds me that I am going to experience many difficult times. That may sound depressing but it shouldn't because then the verse says that the Lord will be with me always and he can give me the strength to endure them.

I just wrote about two very different points of the video and now I will put them together. I know I will experience many afflictions in my life. If I am grumpy and impatient, will it make the trials go away?

NO WAY! It will only make life more difficult.

How can I endure trials with patience? By finding joy amidst the trial.

Reflecting on the love God has for me always puts things in perspective. An easy way to see that love is to find beauty around me; sunsets, sunrises, flowers, mountains, trees, rivers, animals, etc.

I know this post has been a bit rambly bambly... yes I made that up. I needed to write this today because it helped remind me that we are meant to be happy and to have joy. It is up to me to be happy. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

An Offender for a Word

Last night Elin and I read these verses in Isaiah 29: 20-21, which reminded me of similar thoughts from the Book of Mormon:

20 For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:

 21 That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.


8 And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

I think the idea of making a man an offender for a word is worth posting about, because every day I seem to see articles from news outlets dealing with this subject, whether sports, politics, or any other subject. In the hypersensitive world we live in, any opinion given, at all, at any time, can be (and usually is) turned into a slight or insult against some person or group of people. There are probably several reasons for this. In my opinion the media simply does it for headlines (which I won't get into); however, I think I am guilty of it for a different reason. I think I do it because I've tricked myself into believing that if other people are doing things wrong, then I am justified in it myself; that I am not so bad, given what others are saying or doing. Thus, the more people I can make offenders for a word, the more I can soothe my conscience.

The Lord, of course, preaches and practices a different way to respond to people who offend, either intentionally or unintentionally (Matthew 5:)

43 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

--Who needs to learn to worry about his own problems