Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Transforming Power of God's Love

"We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and women for the eternities.
The means of this refinement is our Christlike love. There is no pain it cannot soften, no bitterness it cannot remove, no hatred it cannot alter. The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”15
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Great Commandment," October 2007

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rewards: What is it That I Really Want?

Harvest Time in France, James T. Harwood

When I was doing my student teaching in a 7th grade classroom at a local junior high school, I decided that when I had my own classroom one day, one of the first things I wanted to do was write the word "earn" on the board and discuss what that word means.

When you look up the word these days through a simple google search, the first definition is "obtain money" either through labor or even as a prize or an event that requires no work.

That isn't the definition I want to talk about. The definition I am interested in is the one that is tied to the Old English word esne, which means "laborer." Connected to that root word is this definition for earn: gain or incur deservedly for one's behavior or achievements.

I would change the word "achievements" to "work."

In a classroom setting, I believe this concept is important because I think grades should be earned. Not necessarily by how many answers you get right on a piece of paper--but by the work and time you are willing to give to understanding something or someone, by participating in class and discussions, and by steady improvement throughout the year. Basically, to earn in the classroom and in life is to sincerely try. That's what I think, anyway. Hard to measure on paper? Yes.

I like this illustration from the life of Neal A. Maxwell:

"Elder Neal A. Maxwell received a very low grade on a high school English essay he wrote. He went to Miss Mason and said, “This is not fair. This is good work. I deserve a higher grade.”
She said, “Sorry, but I grade students by potential. You are capable of much better work.”
Elder Maxwell has often stated, “She made the difference in my life.” Why? Because he wanted to meet her expectations. He wanted to be the best he could, and because of that he has continued to be one of the most verbal and clear-thinking people in the Church." Hugh Pinnock
So in life, what is it we are trying to earn? What are the rewards? Prestige? Money? Friends? Praise? Power?

Those always sound good.

That's why it is so hard to train myself to remember the things that I really should be trying to earn and which should be taking the most of my time and effort: Family. Trust. The Spirit of God . Peace of mind and conscience. [I hesitate to put love and forgiveness on this list--because I feel like those are gifts...not something we necessarily we "earn."]

I believe that these things are earned by following the pattern that God set through prophets of old (as recorded in the Old Testament and Book of Mormon), that Jesus Christ said and set during his life on earth (as recorded in the New Testament). And that He continues to teach us the same principles through His prophets and through the Spirit today. Just like earning prestige and money and friends and praise requires work and effort, these things require energy and purposeful planning and striving. And the benefits of family, trust, the Spirit, and peace of mind are far more lasting and permanent and joy-giving than the benefits of any of those other things.

"The battle between good and evil is not new. But today a much higher percentage of people mistakenly concludes that there is not a moral, righteous standard to which all people should adhere."

"Lucifer has created a counterfeit or illusion of happiness that is inconsistent with righteousness and will mislead us if we are not vigilant. Many of our problems today occur because the secular world has been pursuing an incorrect definition of happiness."

"The Lord God is indeed a sun and shield and will give grace and glory. No good thing will be withheld from them that walk uprightly (see Psalm 84:11). My prayer is that you may reap the rewards of righteousness as you faithfully follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Quentin L. Cook, Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness


Who gets tired of trying/working at least 10 times a day....maybe more. baby steps.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ironing Clothes and Cleaning up Messes

For the longest time, I had this aversion to ironing. I avoided ironing anything at all costs. By the time I got the ironing board and iron out and ironed the shirt or skirt or whatever wrinkled piece of clothing I wanted to wear, I was usually so frustrated that I would just throw the piece of clothing back in the laundry and vow to get it out of the dryer as soon as the cycle was done next time, to avoid it wrinkling. I tend to be really slow at doing things like ironing and chopping vegetables. So it took a lot of time. And I always ended up making more wrinkles with the iron than I eliminated. Is it just me or do other people have this problem? So my go-to method throughout high school, college, and the first few years of married life was to spray the wrinkled piece of clothing with a spray bottle and shake it out and let it hang dry. Or put the piece of clothing in the bathroom while I took a really warm shower and let the steam work its magic.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because about a month ago, I started ironing my husband's work clothes and anything else that was wrinkled. I realized awhile back, that I wanted to go out of my way a little bit more to make life better for my family. (I am a little lazy and am trying to improve in little ways.) And for my husband, the thought that came to mind was to iron his work clothes. What does this do for him? Really not a whole lot from a temporal point of view. I hope it makes him look and feel a little sharper and smarter and happier as he goes to work each day-- but it probably doesn't do that to a huge degree. (I mean, let's be honest, the most frustrating thing about ironing is that you know as soon as you put the clothes on and sit down, everything is going to get all creased and wrinkled again.) So, what's the point, eh?

The point is not that the clothes are wrinkled again by the end of the day. The point is that he starts his day as his biggest, brightest self. And I got to contribute to that in some small way. He knows it. I know it. And that feels rather fine.

It is kind of how I feel at the end of the day when I am doing the dishes and tidying the kitchen and living room for the umpteemth time, full well-knowing that in 12 hours the dishes will be dirty again and toys will once again reign triumphant all over the floor. The point isn't that it will all get dirty again. The reason I clean up at the end of the day is so that I can start fresh the next day. I can wake up to order. Order is so beautiful. So, so beautiful. Things flourish in order. And I feel like I am giving all of us our best chance for sanity and joy if we start the day with things clean and in their proper place. (Granted, sometimes cleaning at the end of the day just means putting things in piles out of the way so I don't have to see them when I get up in the morning.)

I think that is how life is, how we are. It doesn't do much for ourselves if we stop trying or stop admitting mistakes or bad habits just because we are going to mess up again at some point anyway. Or it is just too hard or too annoying to have to start over again and again and again. There came a point in my life, where I realized that I had to start owning who I was--the person I was becoming. And that meant I had to take a good long look at myself and start trying to iron out the "wrinkles" and clean out the "garbage" in me. The hateful thoughts and actions, the idle time, the selfishness. Every night. And isn't it glorious that when we do this we can wake up in the morning our best and brightest selves? When it happens, it feels really great. All this because the Savior set a perfect example; and He not only laid it out in perfect words, He lived what He taught perfectly. And I know that because of Him, little by little, the wrinkles and garbage can be removed from me permanently and that gives me hope and makes me feel very, very loved. It is why I try.

"The Lord will always keep His promise: “I will lead you along.”6 The only question is, will we let ourselves be led? Will we hear His voice and the voice of His servants?
I testify that if you are there for the Lord, He will be there for you.7 If you love Him and keep His commandments, you will have His Spirit to be with you and guide you. “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good. … By this shall you know, all things … pertaining unto things of righteousness.”8  Elder Robert D. Hales, "Meeting the Challenges of  Today's World "
I am going to be honest: I want to listen to Christmas music right now. I know, it isn't even Halloween yet...

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Gospel of Christ, Full and Complete

I love that phrase: The Gospel of Christ, Full and Complete.

That is what we claim to offer as a Church, because we believe this is Christ's living church on the earth. That He continues to guide and direct the people of this world through a prophet today--just as He guided and directed them through prophets in ancient times. Just as He guided and directed the people of His day as He walked and taught and served and healed.

Yesterday and today, I listened to the prophet, President Monson and each of the Twelve Apostles as well as the leaders of the women and children's and other organizations of our Church teach about what they have learned through their own experiences, the experiences of others, through the Holy Ghost, and through their study and application of scripture (which are words Jesus Christ speaking through past prophets). Their stories and messages are simple but powerful. I felt the truth of what they said. And the music--Oh the music. Take a moment and watch or listen to one or two or all of the 6 sessions of the conference here. At the very least, you can take a look or listen to what President Thomas S. Monson, the prophet today said to the church and to all the world. Simple truths--but I think they make all the difference in who we are and what we can be as individuals and as society as a whole. These are the truths that would lift us as human beings and make the world a better place if we lived them more fully. If I lived them more fully.

And if you like short and to the point, here is a really nice 60-second video explanation of the what and why of prophets.

I took a walk with my family today and it was glorious to be outside in such beautiful moderate temperatures. Autumn=bliss

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Girl Power! Literally

If you have a moment to spare tonight, please check out the women's conference starting in just a few minutes. These women always have some wonderful things to say about life, friendship, family, and what it means to be daughters of a Heavenly Father.

If you can't watch it tonight, it is available to watch online after this evening as well.

Here is one of my favorite parts from the last conference:


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Listening to Lindsey Stirling

I wanted to post this video I watched today because this is my mom's favorite hymn: "I Know That My Redeemer Lives"- and because Lindsey Stirling is playing the violin part. I actually lived almost next door to Lindsey for a couple years when we were both going to BYU and she played the violin and danced at a talent show we had while we there. I think she plugged her violin into an amp, and then played that violin like I had never heard it played before while she danced around. It was crazy amazing and she, by far, stole the show.

And I love that despite the fame and attention she has earned, she is willing to be here, in places like these, playing songs like this. I am glad I knew her then and I am glad I get to continue to be blessed by who she is and what she believes through her music.

You can watch the whole interview with Lindsey here.

who is more than a little jealous that Lindsey got to meet Josh Groban....

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How To Save Your Life

My sister-in-law shared this video recently and it gnawed at my insides. Do you know what I mean? When you see or read or hear something that in your gut you know was meant for you--because you recognize something in yourself that shouldn't be there--something that needs to change. But it will require  work. And doing things that make you uncomfortable. And giving up your time, as busy as you already are.

Well, that was me while I watched this video. And I've noticed that when God is trying to send me a message, it is usually one that begins to reoccur often. I don't know if He has been sending those messages my way repeatedly for the past 30 years and I am just now seeing them, or if He is watching me and says to Himself "You're ready for this now Elin. Here it is."

So first it was this video. Then it was a conversation with a friend. Then a couple of opportunities to serve presented themselves--opportunities that were difficult and inconvenient. Then I got to know a woman who gives all of her time and life and self to take care of her handicapped daughter.

Then my mom shared this article with me.

It wasn't a wake-up call. It was an avalanche. But the message for me is crystal clear: Try to take every opportunity  to help and serve that is placed in your path. Stop rationalizing. Stop making excuses. Opportunities to serve are opportunities to grow and be lifted above and beyond your own capacities. God doesn't need us to serve each other. He is perfectly capable of taking care of every one of us. He is the one who knows of every sparrow that falls and "clothes the lilies of the field." He allows us to serve each other because of what it does for us. Letting us take care of each other is, I suppose, often how He takes care of us.

 "24 aThen said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him bdeny himself, and take up hisccross, and dfollow eme.
 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will alose his life for my sake shall bfind it." Matthew 16:24-25

I want to be like these people who so selflessly and wondrously give of themselves--and seem so much fuller and more whole because of it. Jesus Christ exemplified this perfectly. So I'm working on letting go of the things that don't really matter and trusting that His way is the only one that really does matter.

Who is feeling the Autumn in the air! And who has 2 more lengthy article for you to read on the above topic if you aren't all tuckered out yet: this and this

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Character and the Things We Do

"Indeed, the power of mere activity is often overrated. It is not what the best men do, but what they are, that constitutes the truest benefaction to their fellowmen. The thing that men do get their chief value, after all, from the way in which they are able to show the existence of character which can comfort and help mankind. Among the people whom we know, it is not necessarily those who, meteor-like, are ever on the rush after some visible charge and work to whom we owe the most. It is often the lives, like the stars, which simply pour down on us the calm light of their bright and faithful being, up to which we look and out of which we gather the deepest calm and courage. It is good to know that even when we can no longer do something for our fellowmen, we can still be something for them; to know, and this surely, that no man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle, and good without the world's being better for that goodness." Phillips Brooks, Sermons: The Purpose and Use of Comfort, pg. 105

Does anyone else out there ever have a difficult time responding to the question, "So what did you do this week?" For some reason, whenever someone asks me that, my mind goes blank and I can't remember a single thing of note that I did in the past few days. I remember being busy, but I have no idea what I was doing. A little bit unsettling, to tell you the truth. Could be because I'm still not getting enough sleep.

But I do think part of the problem is that I want to be able to say something fantastic like, "I ran a marathon and then spent the rest of the afternoon writing my next best-seller." Because I care too much about what other people think and for some reason, I think I need to list a bunch of "interesting" things that I do to show that my life and myself are full of amazing things.

That's why I like the quote above. My little sister just sent it to me and it really grounded me. Who we are isn't a list of things we do that look good on paper or sounds good out loud to the rest of the world. We are the things we do and say that most people will never know about or maybe even care about. It is the choices we make when we are alone or with our family and friends or the door we hold open for someone or when we encourage someone as they try and try again to do something hard. It is not doing something because it looks good. It is doing something because it feels right and good. I wish I could say I lived this way more completely. (And I'm not saying that marathons are bad things or flashy. I would love to be able to accomplish something like that.)

I think the Savior was especially good at this. He sought no one's approval but His Father's--and who He was truly made the world and everyone who would ever live on it, better.

Greatest in the Kingdom by J. Kirk Richards


I immediately think of the apostle Paul and of the prophet Joseph Smith when I think of people who stopped caring about what other people thought of them. I admire them for living what they knew to be true.

"Joseph Smith describes Paul’s character: “He saw a light, and heard a voice; … some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad. … But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise.” Then Joseph adds his testimony regarding his own vision, revealing his own strength of character; “I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it.” (JS—H 1:24–25.) Joseph Smith was a man of great, noble character that the Lord knew he could trust, no matter what the sacrifice.
President David O. McKay said: “Man’s chief concern in life should not be the acquiring of gold, or of fame, or of material possessions. It should not be the development of physical prowess, nor of intellectual strength, but his aim, the highest in life, should be the development of a Christlike character.” (McKay, True to the Faith, p. 32.)"  Robert E. Wells, "The Cs of Spirituality"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Mormon Church in a Glance

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) in a glance. It is a work of family. It is a work of love. It is the work of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

For me, it is a keep on trying work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

A Prophet Today

"If we listen to the prophets of this day, poverty would be replaced with loving care for the poor and needy. Many serious and deadly health problems would be avoided through compliance with the Word of Wisdom and the laws of sexual purity. Payment of tithing would bless us, and we would have sufficient for our needs. If we follow the counsel given by the prophets, we can have a life in mortality where we do not bring upon ourselves unnecessary pain and self-destruction. This does not mean we will not have challenges. We will. This does not mean we will not be tested. We will, for this is part of our purpose on earth. But if we will listen to the counsel of our prophet, we will become stronger and be able to withstand the tests of mortality. We will have hope and joy. All the words of counsel from the prophets of all generations have been given so that we may be strengthened and then be able to lift and strengthen others.

The desire of the prophets is to assist our Father in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ in bringing about the great objectives of the plan of salvation, or, as one ancient prophet called it, “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8).
We declare with soberness, and yet with the authority of God in us vested, we have a prophet today."
Elder Robert D. Hales, "Hear the Prophet's Voice and Obey"

I grew up in a home with parents who believed that Jesus Christ's church was on the earth today and that He continued to guide His Church through the scriptures and through His current prophet on the earth. So I can't really tell you how I would feel if I grew up in a different household with a different faith or without faith at all--I can't really tell you how I would feel if someone declared to me that God still speaks to us today. That we are His children. That He has called a man to preside over the church and that you can know for yourself that all of this is right and true (see the promise in Moroni 10:3-5). I might be cynical and skeptical. I might think it made sense. I might not care.

What I will say is that I find the doctrine of continuing revelation--of God continuing to care and converse with His children very comforting. But I don't believe in prophets because it is comforting and nice to think about. I believe in prophets because when I read their words or listen to the current prophet speak, it feels very, very different than reading and listening to anything else. And when I have lived what they teach, it has made all the difference in my life. What they say has been absolutely true for me.

Who really likes what this prophet has to say.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Put On Your Sunday Clothes

I grew up watching musicals and I always enjoyed Hello. Dolly. It was fun watching Barbara Streisand strutting around in fantastic clothes belting out "Before the Parade Passes By". It was even funner (I know that's not a real word) watching Walter Matthau "singing" and looking grumpy (I love that man). And I think my favorite part was watching the "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" scene at the beginning (and this was way before Wall-e was even dreamed of). So when I decided to write a few of my thoughts about Sunday, I immediately thought of that scene and that is what I titled this post.

Recently, I have been trying to fill my mind with positive, inspiring quotes and ideas. To fill my mind with them, I have endeavored to memorize bits and pieces from books and songs and scripture. It is slow-going, because I have never had a very strong mind for memorization. But I now have a few scriptures, a Dickinson poem, and a Dostoevsky quote under my belt. Hanging on one of my walls is another scripture that I am trying to memorize (and it has been on the wall for months--that is how slow I am):

 13 ¶If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
Isaiah 58:13-14

As a result, the Sabbath day, or Sunday, is something that I have had on my mind a lot. These days, many people grow up not seeing how or why Sunday is or should be different than any other day of the week--apart from the fact that it is part of the weekend and so many people don't have to work or go to school on Sunday.

For me, Sunday is a reminder that a loving Heavenly Father and his son, Jesus Christ, "rested" from their physical labors after creating this beautiful earth for us. It is a day set apart from the rest of the week, made for us, so that we can try to separate ourselves as much as we can from the daily toil of the week and focus on the things and people that matter most--focus on the Lord's work and His glory which is His children and their development and progression towards Him, the source of all true happiness and peace (Moses 1:39).

All my life I have put on Sunday clothes and attended 3 hours of church on Sunday. Only recently am I truly recognizing what a "delight" that Sunday can be. When I go to church, I am aware that the people giving the talks and reading and discussing the lessons are imperfect people, just as I am. I am aware that in proclaiming that there are eternal truths that do not change and that there are rules or commandments that we must follow if we want to experience true, lasting joy, I set myself up for looking like a hypocrite when I do not live up to those standards completely--but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't continue to strive and work towards those standards. And my own deficiencies and the deficiencies of those around me do not change the fact that I feel the truth of what is being said and shared as we meet together on Sundays and read the scriptures and the words of the prophet today.

I have come to love Sundays and delight in them because they help me see myself as I really am. They help me focus on my family and on the life and mission and love of Jesus Christ, who helps us do the hard things in this life, do everything in this life-- and helps us better appreciate and love the times when life is not as difficult. Sunday reminds me that I am a child of God and so is the person standing next to me in the elevator--and I should treat them as such. Sunday reminds me that my life and my personality & talents and my happiness are important to God--and if I give them to Him, He can do some pretty marvelous things through me.

I haven't got it all figured out yet. I probably won't for a long time. But I have felt these things and they are changing me into someone that I like a little bit better than before.

"Put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out. Strut down the street and have your picture took. Dressed like a dream your spirit seems to turn about...."

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Remembering Who We Are

We, as human beings, have this innate tendency to search for ourselves in our interaction with the world around us. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. But we do not really "find" ourselves in the sense that we find something that wasn't there or that was missing. It is a matter of becoming and nourishing who we already are: children of a loving Heavenly Father who knows us and loves us and can help us experience lasting happiness.

Who we are is ever-present- the seeds of what we can become remain inside our minds and hearts whether we acknowledge them or not. Our choices unlock or stifle our growth and potential--so yes our choices and interaction with the world around us do matter and help us reach our biggest brightest selves. But it is always frustrating to me when movies or books depict a character's triumphant self-discovery as something like breaking rules or breaking social norms. Not that all rules or social norms are healthy and should be followed. But I also don't believe that someone has truly liberated themselves or "found" their true selves simply because they jump into a swimming pool without clothes on...or something like that.

I guess, what I'm trying to say, is that the journey to self isn't so much about finding which rules should be broken or what it feels kind of nice and fun to do in the moment--it seems to be more about discovering what behaviors and rules and creative experiences bring true and lasting growth and freedom and happiness...which behaviors, rules, and creative experiences bring you closer to understanding your Creator and thus closer to understanding yourself. Because whether we like to admit it sometimes or not, He who made us, understands us in a way no one else can.

I know that there are some who don't believe we were intentionally created at all...but I still would think that for them, the same principles for self-discovery hold true: that you try to look for and find the behaviors and rules and creative experiences that bring true and lasting growth, freedom and happiness.

But I will quit jabbering. Here is someone who explains my sentiments far better than I can:

"This last thought reminds me of a very beautiful song that is found in the Church’s French hymnbook—one that doesn’t exist in the hymnals of any other country. It is titled “Souviens-toi,” which means “Remember,” and is set to music from the New World Symphony by Antonín Dvořák. It is the song of a parent addressing a newborn child.
Allow me to read the third verse to you:
Remember, my child: At the dawn of time,
We were friends playing in the wind.
Then one day, in joy, we chose
To accept the great plan of life from the Lord.
That evening, my child, we promised,
Through love, through faith, to be reunited.6
“Remember, my child.” One of the great adventures of life is that of finding out who we really are, where we came from, and then living consistently in harmony with our identity and the purpose of our existence.
Brigham Young said: “The greatest lesson you can learn is to know yourselves. … You have to come here to learn this. … No being can thoroughly know himself, without understanding more or less of the things of God; neither can any being learn and understand the things of God without knowing himself: he must know himself, or he never can know God.”7
Recently, my daughters pointed out to me that an excellent allegory of this principle is found in the filmThe Lion King. Your generation grew up to the sounds and images of this movie. You probably remember the scene where Simba receives a visit from his father, Mufasa, the deceased king. After his father died, Simba fled far from the kingdom because he felt guilty about his father’s death. He wanted to escape his responsibility as heir to the throne.
His father appears to him and warns him: “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the circle of life.” Then this invitation is repeated several times: “Remember who you are. … Remember who you are.”
Simba, completely shaken by this experience, decides to accept his destiny. He confides in his friend, the shaman monkey, that it “looks like the winds are changing.”
The monkey replies, “Change is good.”
And Simba says: “But it’s not easy. I know what I have to do. But going back means I’ll have to face my past. I’ve been running from it for so long.”
“Where are you going?” the monkey asks him.
“I’m going back!” cries Simba.8
We can all take—or take back—our place in the circle of life. Become who you really are. Your happiness and ability to find balance in your life will occur as you find, recognize, and accept your true identity as a child of our Heavenly Father and then live in accordance with this knowledge."
Gérald J. Caussé
, We Are the Architects of Our Own Happiness

Who thinks Dvorak's music is just wonderful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What is a good education?

What is a good education?

I have a degree in education so I should be able to answer that question easily. But I can't. The word encompasses so much--I can't quite put a definition in words yet. Still working on my own definition for it.

I remember calling my dad after I graduated for college, preening a bit because I knew he must be so proud of me for getting my degree-- ready for him to celebrate with me. And he was excited for me. But what he said, I will never forget. He said something like, "And now your real education begins."

And boy was he right. No four-year instruction at a University could prepare me for the 6 years that came after my "formal education" was complete. A lot of learning has happened since I graduated from college.

As I was reading Elder L. Tom Perry's biography, I came across this experience that his wife shared--and it has been on my mind ever since:

"Several years ago when we were living in the state of New York, I remember attending a Relief Society Conference. President Belle S. Spafford was there. Also President Harold B. Lee--he was then Elder Lee.

Sister Spafford asked for a definition of education from the audience. Several were given. I recalled a definition give by Plato. Many centuries ago, someone asked him: 'What is a good education?' And he replied: 'A good education is that which gives to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable.'

I was rather pleased with myself because I was able to remember the quotation, but my elation was short-lived because when President Lee arose and addressed the group, eh said; "Well, so much for Plato.'

Then President Lee said he had his own definition of education, and he liked it better. He said: 'The best education is that which gives to the individual the strength and ability to adjust.' I remembered his words and during the ensuing years I have had many occasions to ponder his words and recognize the great wisdom they contain.

Life is filled with adjustments--joys and sorrows, trials and temptations. That's what life is all about--this is the time of our schooling. We are gaining an education from the time we enter this mortal existence until we leave it. There are always adjustments to be made, and how we make them is all important. Our actions and reactions here will determine in a large measure how we spend the rest of eternity. . . .

President Lee has also said: 'The all-important thing in life isn't what happens to you. The important thing is how you take it.'

As we consider the adjustments necessary in life, it may be well to remember the biblical story of Joseph who was betrayed by his brothers and sold into Egypt. . . .Always, Joseph stayed close to God and kept his values in proper perspective. He had the strength and courage to do right. He was able to make the best out of whatever happened to him. . . .

May we prepare ourselves so that we, like Joseph of old, will be armed with an inner strength--even the power and inspiration of God--so that no matter what happens to us in this life during our mortal school, we will cling to the iron rod of the gospel and stand firm in our testimony of truth and right."

Virginia Lee Perry as quoted in L. Tom Perry: An Uncommon Life, pages 299-300

I really liked this account, because I, like Virginia Perry, love Plato's definition of education-- and I was a bit taken aback by President Lee's response to it. And I still think Plato's definition is correct in one sense of the word "education." A loving Heavenly Father wants us to become our biggest, brightest selves. He asks us to seek perfection and even provide the perfect example for us in His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we would know what perfection spoke and acted like. (Matthew 5:48) And filling our lives with knowledge and art and experiences that enrich and beautify our lives and the lives around us is all part of that. The scriptures provide many other insights into what learning and true wisdom are (Wisdom- Guide to the Scriptures).

If wisdom and learning and seeking perfection are the end goals, then we can define education as what gets us to wisdom, learning, and eventual perfection. And in that sense, though Plato's definition is lovely, I have to say, that President Lee's definition is certainly more appropriate and applicable. Learning to adjust well to life's circumstances and not become impaired or destroyed by them, is what allows us to move forward and continue learning and growing and flourishing. The times in my life where I became hurt and angry about things that were happening to me, were the times in my life when I learned and understood the least.  Once I learned to adjust and react in positive healthy ways, learning and understanding began again.

Life is the school. Learning to adjust is education. And it has been my experience that the way to adjust and learn and beautify best is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Who is learning that educating an almost 3-year old about using the potty is more difficult than teaching 6 periods of 7th-grade English.

"Brigham Young has said, “The person who enjoys the experience of the knowledge of the Kingdom of God on the earth, and at the same time has the love of God within him, is the happiest of any individuals on the earth. …“Where is happiness, real happiness? Nowhere but in God. By possessing the spirit of our holy religion, we are happy in the morning, we are happy at noon, we are happy in the evening; for the spirit of love and union is with us, and we rejoice in the spirit because it is of God, and we rejoice in God, for he is the giver of every good thing. ... He may be in pain, in error, in poverty, or in prison, if necessity demands, still, he is joyful. ...“Truly happy is that man or woman, or that people, who enjoys the privileges of the Gospel of the Son of God, and who know how to appreciate his blessings.” As quoted by Elder L. Tom Perry here

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

See & Know For Yourself

"Wherefore, we again say, search the revelations of God: study the prophecies, and rejoice that God grants unto us seers and prophets. They are they who saw the mysteries of godliness [. . .]

And, fellow sojourners upon earth, it is your privilege to purify yourselves and come up to the same glory, and see for yourselves and know for yourselves. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 12-13

L. Tom Perry, one of the twelve apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died a few weeks ago. He was 92 years old. And he spent a large part of those years testifying that Jesus is the Christ and that His gospel is the way to peace and happiness.

I have grown up listening to Elder Perry speak at our Church's biannual conference and I have always loved him. He somehow combined big and booming with quiet and unassuming. I'm not quite sure how he did it. But he just seemed very, very real to me. And there always seemed to be a twinkle in his eye. He reminded me of my paternal grandpa.

So here is a little tribute to him-- a man that I sincerely believe was an apostle of Jesus Christ:

Elder L. Tom Perry, Deseret News

"The scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He lives and is our Redeemer and Savior. We should follow Him and show our love for Him by remembering Him and humbly keeping His commandments.
Through His Atonement we are able to repent and be cleansed. [. . .]
Personal, sincere involvement in the scriptures produces faith, hope, and solutions to our daily challenges." L. Tom Perry, The Tradition of a Balanced, Righteous Life

“… The world is crying out for something, it scarce knows what. Wealth has come, … [and] the world is filled with … inventions of human skill and genius, but … we are [still] restless, unsatisfied, [and] bewildered. … [If we open] the New Testament [we are greeted by these words], ‘Come unto me and I will give you rest, I am the bread of life, I am the Light of the world, If any man thirst let him come unto me and drink, My peace I give unto you, You shall receive power, You shall rejoice’” (Charles Edward Jefferson, The Character of Jesus [1908], 7, 11, 15–16). Quoted by Elder Perry in his October 2014 Conference Address.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

To Understand - How Rare It Is

To love is easy and therefore common - but to understand - how rare it is!” ― L.M. Montgomery

I could easily spend the rest of this post refuting the statement "To love is easy and therefore common"--but I'm not going to. For my purposes, I like this quote because there is an aspect or definition of love that is easy and common. For instance, I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. I love curling up on a couch and reading a good book. I love going on walks with my little girl (except when this angry, white duck attacks me...which is a whole other story). I love hiking up to a waterfall and feeling the spray from it on my face. I fell "in love" with several boys when I was between the ages of 8 and 22. I also love listening to certain people sing varying from Barry Manilow to Martina McBride to Pavarotti. So there. Most of us, in that sense, probably find that love is easy and common. 

I am not quite sure exactly when it was that I first realized how good it felt to be understood--but one time that stands out in my mind was in college. My sister and I were supposed to go to a church activity--but on a whim, we decided instead to go to the University's production of Hamlet. And it was amazingly good. Probably the best acting we felt like we had seen while we had been at school. After the play, we got some ice cream at a local store and walked to a nearby park where we sat in the sunshine and talked about Hamlet and us and life in general. And it just felt so good--being with someone who really knew me and really knowing somebody else. My sister and I have some very big differences in personality--but we have known each other our entire lives and few people understand me like she does. 

That is a blissful example. There are also examples that hurt. A lot. And in those times, I felt like nobody could understand. And then I met people who had been through similar "hells" and as wrong as it felt to be glad that somebody understood (because it meant that they hurt a lot too), it still was nice to have someone understand.

And I believe that we have a Heavenly Father and a Redeemer, who truly do understand us. Every part of us. One of them understands because He is omniscient and because we are His children. A literal part of Him. The other one understands because He felt every bit of pain and struggle and weakness and temptation that we have ever felt or will feel. I don't believe this because it makes me feel better to believe in something bigger that understands me. As I've mentioned before, I have found that there are many people here already who have had similar experiences and who can understand, to a degree, who I am and what I have experienced. 

I believe in Them because everything that I have read, thought, doubted, believed, experienced has filled me with a certainty that God is our Father and Christ is His Son. "I think, therefore, I am."  Yes, but also: "I am, therefore, They are." 

(Exodus 33:17, Jeremiah 1:5, Alma 30:44, Job 19:25)

Greatest in the Kingdom, J. Kirk Richards
"There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, “No one knows what it is like. No one understands.” But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power." 
Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease, David A. Bednar


Who knows she doesn't understand a whole lot of things...but is still working to understand the things that seem to matter most...

Monday, May 18, 2015

Wipe Away All Tears

I read this verse today and it made my heart feel light:

"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

Revelation 21:4

Can you imagine a state of being without death, sorrow, and pain? For some reason, I can. Maybe because there are places I have been and moments in my life where I have been relatively free from these things. So in times where I am feeling the death, sorrow, crying, and pain, it is helpful for me to know that if I can do everything I can to live the way our Father has asked us to live, it will be Him and His Son who will now or one day wipe away the tears from my eyes.

Whose 3-year old just swallowed a dime. True story.