30 September 2010

The Book of Mormon: A Book with a Promise

Are Mormons Christians?

The Mark of a True Man: Love and Sacrifice

Unanswered Yet?

One of my favorite hymns is not found in the latest edition of the LDS hymnal, although it was published in the 1950 edition of the hymnal. I first heard the song when I was performing in the Spire Music choir under the direction of Rob Gardner, and I have been in love with the song ever since.

Unanswered yet? The prayer your lips have pleaded
In agony of heart these many years?
Does faith begin to fail, is hope departing,
And think you all in vain those falling tears?
Say not the Father hath not heard your prayer;
You shall have your desire, sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Though when you first presented
This one petition at the Father’s throne,
It seemed you could not wait the time of asking,
So urgent was your heart to make it known.
Though years have passed since then, do not despair;
The Lord will answer you, sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? But you are not unheeded;
The promises of God forever stand;
To Him our days and years alike are equal;
“Have faith in God”; it is your Lord’s command.
Hold on to Jacob’s angel and your prayer
Shall bring a blessing down sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Nay, do not say ungranted;
Perhaps your part is not yet wholly done;
The work began when first your prayer was uttered,
And God will finish what He has begun.
If you will keep the incense burning there,
His glory you shall see, sometime, somewhere.

Unanswered yet? Faith cannot be unanswered;
Her feet were firmly planted on the Rock;
Amid the wildest storm prayer stands undaunted,
Nor quails before the loudest thunder shock.
She knows Omnipotence has heard her prayer,
And cries, “It shall be done,” sometime, somewhere.

-- "Unanswered yet? a prayer", words and lyrics by Charles D. Tillman, 1894; published in Hymns: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [1950], hymn no. 286.


As always, an inspiring message from an Apostle: Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

Here's a salute to all of the mothers out there! Thank you for what you do. You truly are doing God's work. And you are amazing.

29 September 2010

When the Answer Doesn't Seem to Come...

If I ask him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes.

--President Brigham Young, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 46.

Blessings of Family History and Temple Work

"While temple and family history work has the power to bless those beyond the veil, it has an equal power to bless the living."

-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Russell M. Nelson, "Generations Linked in Love", Ensign, May 2010, 91–94

How has participating in temple and/or family history work blessed your life?

Surrendering Our Way to Power

How can we reconcile mandated submission with God’s instruction to be anxiously engaged? I think the answer is simple. As we submit our minds, hearts, and wills to God, He lends us more and more of His power. By surrendering our power, we gain His. Submission opens the door to heavenly power.

-- Wallace Goddard, Meridian Magazine - Surrendering Our Way to Power (emphasis added).

Ode to a Honeycrisp Apple

The sound of fall
Not falling leaves or trick-or-treaters
But a bite of you, dear apple,
Your could not be sweeter.

All year I pine
And wait anxiously for your arrival
Tolerating other tastes
Biding my time; it is pure survival.

Then the signs appear--
Oh what joy and rapture are mine--
To see you in the market
Bringing arm-fulls of you to my home to dine.

There Are Many Ways to Give

Thinking about giving? LDS Philanthropies has a page that enumerates various ways to donate time, resources, and money. There Are Many Ways to Give

Listening to the Spirit

A wonderful reminder from President James E. Faust about how to tune ourselves to the Spirit. Very moving.

Did Anyone Get the Message?

For the last few days, I've had the lyrics to a Jason Mraz song stuck in my head. And not the whole song even, just a few stanzas that keep repeating over...and over...and over again. It's getting annoying.

This morning when that song popped into my head yet again and I was trying to figure out why these words won't leave my head, I decided to write out the lyrics and see what was so catchy about them that my brain wouldn't let go.

Did you get my message, the one I left
While I was trying to condense everything
That I meant in a minute or less when I called to confess
And make all of my stresses go bye-bye

Did you get my message, you did not guess
'cuz if you did you would have called me with your sweet intent
And we could give it a rest
'stead of beating my breast
Making all of the pressure go sky-high

Do you ever wonder what happens to the words that we send
Do they bend, do they break from the flight that they take
And come back together again with a whole new meaning
In a brand new sense, completely unrelated to the one I sent

--Jason Mraz, "Did You Get My Message?", Mr. A-Z.
Interesting words. "Did you get my message?" That's something I have been wondering lately about Heavenly Father and about others. I speak, I write, I pray, I communicate in whatever way I can. But does anyone hear? Is my message--what I'm meaning to say, not just the words that are used--reaching the intended audience?

Or are the words--and my fears--morphing what I'm trying to say? Are they, as Jason Mraz suggests, "break[ing] from the flight that they take and com[ing] back together with a whole new meaning in a brand new sense, completely unrelated to the one I sent"?

When this occurs, it leaves me with a prevailing sense of communication impotency: does anyone, anywhere understand what I'm trying to say? Are my words getting "lost in translation"? Is there anyone fluent enough to translate for me?

In our day of instant communication, it can be troubling to send repeated messages and not receive an answer. I need to remember that Heavenly Father isn't on Facebook, instant messenger, email, mobile device, or anything like that. So, I can't always expect Him to respond immediately. What I need to remember, though, is that He will respond...in His own time and in His own way. I need to trust that He has received my message and that He will respond. Remembering this is especially difficult, though, when there seems to be silence coming from the only Being who can help in my current situation.

28 September 2010

Music and Prayer

I wonder sometimes if we realize the importance of music. I wonder if we know that the Lord Himself is concerned about it. He has given us the information that the song of praise is a prayer unto Him. In our day He has given revelation about music. He gave instruction that Emma Smith was to gather the hymns that were to be sung in the Church.

-- President George Albert Smith, “Pres. Smith's Leadership Address,” Church News, Feb. 16, 1946, 8.

Finding Sanctuary in Faith

I suppose we are known for many things, including some valuable social behaviors, but let us be clear about our faith. As inspired as these teachings are, we are not the church of the people who don’t date until they’re 16 or the church of the people who don’t drink coffee. Others may want to circumscribe our religion, to make it small and tidy. But we must not let ourselves shrink our religion or let our own thinking be made small. We are the Church of Jesus Christ, and we seek to follow Him and put His teachings into practice in our own lives. In so doing we find sanctuary in our faith.

But what about those times when our faith is weak or wavers? Then we must act as if. In the words of William Sloan Coffin, the longtime chaplain of Yale University:
It is terribly important to realize that the leap of faith is not so much a leap of thought as of action. For while in many matters it is first we must see, then we will act; in matters of faith it is first we must do then we will know, first we will be and then we will see. One must, in short, dare to act wholeheartedly without absolute certainty.
Or, as he said more succinctly:
I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings. [William Sloan Coffin, Credo (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 7]
-- Jeffrey F. Ringer, "Finding Sanctuary," Brigham Young University devotional, 25 May 2010, emphasis added.

What Happiness Looks Like

Inspiring words about what happiness looks like.

When Christ gave the Sermon on the Mount with its series of “Blessed are the meek,” Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the pure in heart,” “Blessed are the peacemakers”, there is an idea tucked in here that we sometimes miss. Another translation of “blessed are” is “oh the happiness of.” What the Lord is giving here is not a series of commandments, so much as a description of what the joyful life looks like. This is what happy people do. This is a description of what happy people are.

What we call commandments are loving letters from the Lord telling us how our souls can live in joy by living in harmony with the laws that really are. This is how God lives, and he is the happiest of us all. According to one writer, “He is in the business of happifying his children.”

Heber C. Kimball said it this way, “I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, good-natured Being. Why? Because I am cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured when I have His Spirit.”

-- Maurine Proctor, "I'm Just Not Myself Today," Meridian Magazine, posted online Tuesday, 28 September 2010 (emphasis added).

24 September 2010

We Must Inquire for Ourselves

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.

-- President Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 135.

23 September 2010

Become More Holy

I believe that if we are really going to do what we came here to do, and that the Lord is counting on us to do, that we need to seek in every way we can to be more holy, to invite more holiness into our lives so that we really can, as the forces around us are increasing in intensity, have an equal and opposite reaction to those forces....

-- Sister Wendy Watson Nelson, Brigham Young University-Idaho women's meeting, 26 January 2010.

What We Can Become

Your personal possibilities, not for status and position but for service to God and mankind, are immense, if you will but trust the Lord to lead you from what you are to what you have the power to become....

Trust yourselves to the Lord who sees the end from the beginning—and all that is in between! He sees you as you are but also what you may become! Meanwhile, do not let your present feelings of inadequacy keep you from growing or responding to your challenges. Do not let the pressures of time cause you to make choices that will damage your eternity.

-- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "I Am But a Lad," New Era, Feb 2002, 4, emphasis added.

22 September 2010

Like a Blank Sheet of Paper...

All I have to do is keep my spirit, feelings and conscience like a sheet of blank paper, and let the Spirit and power of God write upon it what He pleases. When He writes, I will read; but if I read before He writes, I am very likely to be wrong.

-- President Brigham Young, Deseret News, Apr. 19, 1871, 125.

Thoughts on Home

It is in the home that we form our attitudes, our deeply held beliefs. It is in the home that hope is fostered or destroyed. Our homes are to be more than sanctuaries; they should also be places where God’s Spirit can dwell, where the storm stops at the door, where love reigns and peace dwells.

-- President Thomas S. Monson, “Becoming Our Best Selves,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 19.)

Thought about Faith

This is my prayer for all of us—'Lord, increase our faith.' Increase our faith to bridge the chasms of uncertainty and doubt. . . . Grant us faith to look beyond the problems of the moment to the miracles of the future. . . . Give us faith to do what is right and let the consequence follow.

-- President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Lord, Increase Our Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 52–53.

Latter-day Prophets and Apostles

I'm excited for General Conference! I know that it is still a week and a half away, but I've already started counting down the days. General Conference is for me like Christmas is to children: I can barely sleep the night before because I'm too excited to think about the wonderful gifts of revelation that President Monson, the First Presidency, the Twelve Apostles, and the other auxiliarly leaders are going to give me.

(Trish, I guess this tops the charts on the Nerd-o-meter, huh?)

But serioiusly, I can't wait!

President Thomas S. Monson

Why is General Conference so thrilling for me? Because we have living prophets and apostles who are directed by the Lord and the Holy Spirit to provide direction for and counsel to us. The counsel given is for everyone, yet only a small percentage of people actually know that such revelation exists--that God still speaks to His children through prophets and apostles.

I know that Heavenly Father restored the fullness of His gospel, including the organization of the church with prophets and apostles to lead us through the priesthood. I know Joseph Smith was the instrument through which God restored the Church, the priesthood, the Book of Mormon, and other important gospel ordinances. I know that President Thomas S. Monson is God's chosen prophet here on the earth at this time. I revere President Monson; I am excited to hear what he and the other apostles have to say. And I'm grateful to know that when I obey their counsel, I am happier, feel more peace in my life, and feel the Lord's love for me more abundantly.

I found this wonderful summary about apostles and prophets on lds.org:

The Lord reveals His word to the world through holy prophets (see Amos 3:7). This has been God’s pattern since the world began: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth” (Articles of Faith 1:6). It is as true today as it was in the times of Adam, Noah, Moses, and Abraham; no one else has the authority to receive commandments and revelations for the Church (see D&C 43:2–3). Through direct revelation to His holy prophet, the Lord teaches us what we need to know.

In ancient times Joseph of Egypt testified that a prophet “great like unto Moses” would be raised up in the last days to restore the Lord’s Church and the teachings of His gospel (see 2 Nephi 3:6–9). Joseph Smith was this man, “a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of [the] Lord Jesus Christ” (D&C 21:1).

With the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, because he was the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, became the leader of the Church. Then on 27 December 1847 he was sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator and President of the Church. Each succeeding President of the Church, chosen “through the will of God the Father, and the grace of [the] Lord Jesus Christ,” has been called as the Lord’s prophet to reveal the word and will of the Lord to the people of the earth. The President of the Church today is a true prophet, seer, and revelator and acts with the authority of God. When we listen to the voice of the prophet, we hear the word of God.

Since the time of Adam, the Lord has given instructions and teachings to the people on earth through His chosen prophets. Joseph Smith, the first prophet in the latter days, restored the Church of Jesus Christ and received hundreds of revelations from the Lord. Many men have succeeded Joseph Smith as prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and each one has received direct revelation from the Lord to teach us what we need to know.

The Role of an Apostle

I love the way Elder David A. Bednar describes what an apostle is.

You can read more about this on lds.org here.

Counsel from Elder Maxwell

I have found, too, that it is better to trust and sometimes be disappointed than to be forever mistrusting and be right occasionally.

-- Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Insights from My Life," Brigham Young University devotional, 26 October 1976

Charity: Expect the Best

Emily shared this quote with me. It's something I need to remember--and I think it's something that applies not only to our relationships with others, but also to our relationship with ourselves: Charity is expecting the best in us!

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.

-- Elder Marvin J. Ashton, “The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword,” Ensign, May 1992, 18, emphasis added.

What Is the Good Part for Me?

My life is harried and hectic. Admittedly, I am a workaholic who is probably (take out the "probably"...) addicted to chaos and stress.

And I am burnt out and exhausted, with "miles to go before I sleep" and another business trip only 2 days away.

On Monday when I was visiting with my doctor, I asked what her recommendation was for the stomach pains that brought me in to see her. Her prescription: "You need to slow down and get a new job. If you continue the way you are, you will kill yourself."

Not exactly what I was expecting to hear!

Yet, she was exactly right.

The problem is that I don't know how to save myself from this harried life I live. I work so much because I depend on myself to take care of my needs. I don't have a husband or anyone else to help me pay the bills, clean the house, do the laundry, run errands for me, or any of that. And although there are friends who would be willing to help, it rarely occurs to me to ask for help; the thought honestly doesn't even cross my mind. When I do feel inspired to ask for help, it actually causes me additional stress because I worry how my request will be received (am I imposing too much on someone else?). Further, one of the (many) reasons I avoid relationships that might lead to marriage is because I fear giving up my stressful life--one that I adequately navigate on my own--to trust someone else to take care of me.

I have plenty of excuses for why I remain where I am. And I understand, more than I want to right now, how Martha felt that night when Jesus visited and she was "cumbered about much serving."

Sister Bonnie D. Parkin related the story this way:

On one occasion Martha was making dinner and, as the scripture says, "was cumbered about much serving." In other words, she was stressed out!

Mary, on the other hand, "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word," while Martha became increasingly upset that no one was helping her. Does that sound familiar? Do you think she was thinking, "Why is Mary sitting there while I'm sweating over this stove?" So Martha turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me."

The Lord's gentle invitation to Martha may have surprised her. "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

The Savior's response strikingly clarified what mattered most. On that evening in Martha's home, the good part was not in the kitchen; it was at the Lord's feet. Dinner could wait.

Like Mary, I hunger to feast at the Savior's feet, while, like Martha, I need to somehow find the laundry room floor, empty my in-box, and serve my husband something other than cold pizza. I have 15 grandchildren whose tender little spirits and daily challenges I want to better understand, yet I also have a slightly demanding Church calling! I don't have lots of time. Like all of you, I have to choose. We all are trying to choose the good part which cannot be taken from us, to balance the spiritual and the temporal in our lives. Wouldn't it be easy if we were choosing between visiting teaching or robbing a bank? Instead, our choices are often more subtle. We must choose between many worthy options.

Mary and Martha are you and me; they are every sister in Relief Society. These two loved the Lord and wanted to show that love. On this occasion, it seems to me that Mary expressed her love by hearing His word, while Martha expressed hers by serving Him.

Martha thought she was doing right and that her sister should be helping her.

I don't believe the Lord was saying there are Marthas and there are Marys. Jesus did not dismiss Martha's concern, but instead redirected her focus by saying choose "that good part." And what is that? The prophet Lehi taught that we "should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit."

The one thing that is needful is to choose eternal life. We choose daily. As we seek, listen, and follow the Lord, we are encircled in the arms of His love—a love that is pure.

-- Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, "Choosing Charity: That Good Part," General Relief Society Meeting, September 2003, emphasis added.
What is the "good part" for me to choose? How can I more regularly choose the Lord instead of choosing busy-ness and my workaholic tendencies?

I don't even know what the "good part" would look like for me. How do I balance the "good part" with what is "necessary" (i.e., full-time employment for me right now, responsibilities, etc). The type of employment I have enables me to daily be in the Lord's service, to directly affect one of the three-fold mission of the Church. I am grateful for that. But I've wondered if work is all I am good for. Is it ever okay for me to just rest? Would it be okay for Martha-like me, to step out of the kitchen and sit at the Lord's feet and listen, even just for a few moments? I haven't ever felt "permission" to do this--to do anything besides work--so I figuratively stay in the kitchen and keep working, feeling resentful that the work to do is never-ending.

Choosing the good part doesn't necessarily mean being unemployed (that would stress me out even more, especially now that I have a mortgage!). I think that choosing the good part involves allowing ourselves to follow the inclinations of our hearts, to serve others freely, and minister to those around us--putting people and relationships above deadlines and "to do" lists.

Easier said than done, especially for me.

Yet, I know it is true. I know that I need to choose the better part--to choose relationships over raises and people over "productivity." The question is, how can I do this?

21 September 2010

Creating a Legacy

On my first day of college, my creative writing professor asked us to write our obituary. I was confused at the seemingly morbid assignment. I'd just started college, I had my whole life before me...and she wanted me to write my obituary? What a strange request!

Yet, that seemingly insignificant exercise set the tone for my college career and for my life: at 18 years old, I was forced to identify the legacy I wanted to leave...and then to live towards those ideals.

Mortality is not usually a subject I think on very much; I usually take for granted that I wake up every morning, that when I take a breath, my lungs expand correctly and process the oxygen properly. I don't occupy my thoughts too much with how my thoughts, words, and actions today are directly influencing the legacy I will leave. "Legacy" sounds far off and untouchable.

But every once in a while when I delve into serious introspection, I wonder. I wonder about how my actions, thoughts, decisions, and words are affecting others, for good and for bad. I wonder about who I am becoming (am I progressing at all towards becoming the woman of Christ I want to be?). I wonder what others say of me now--Am I helping or hurting the ones I love? Is my testimony evident in the way I live--or do others wonder how I feel about them and about Heavenly Father?

I wish there was a way in our society to regularly solicit feedback from others about how we are doing, to evaluate how we are doing on the road back to Heavenly Father. Wouldn't it be nice if people eulogized us on a regular basis--maybe not to the extent that we do at a funeral, but just enough to let us know that we are doing some good in the world, making some progress. Certainly, it would be nice to know now, while I still have time to change, if there are things I do that hurt people; I would definitely want to know those things as well so I could repent.

However, I think it might even be more important that we let each other know the good that we do. I know it would help me; I would be the first to enumerate my weaknesses and failings but the last to recognize the good I've done for someone else. When someone tells me that I've said or done something that helped, I feel the Lord's love for that person and for me; I feel valued by the Lord when I see that He used imperfect me to help another of His children.

I wish there was some way that I could more easily share with others what they mean to me, how they change me, how they inspire me, how their love invigorates me and heals my heart, how their small acts bring me closer to Christ and closer to the woman I want to become. For someone with the gift of words, I am usually at a loss of words when it comes to sharing my feelings with someone face-to-face. I am afraid of how these words will be received. I fear rejection. I fear that what I say isn't important; I fear that my feelings don't matter, even if they are feelings of gratitude.

Elder Maxwell's grave stone reads "True Disciple of Christ."
For example, Elder Neal A. Maxwell's words were (and continue to be as I study them again and again) life-changing. They always resonated with me and encouraged me to pursue true discipleship regardless of the cost and the sacrifice. But I felt silly for even thinking about sending a "thank you" note to an apostle. Surely he would think my timid attempt at gratitude to be inconsequential; he spoke with the apostolic mantle and spoke the words inspired by the Holy Spirit, not for praise or adulation. Yet...would my feeble words have enabled him, even an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, another opportunity to feel the Lord's love? I guess I'll never know.

Aligning Our Faith to Act: Determining the Unknown Variables

Faith, despite all of the time I've devoted to learning about it, is still quite a mystery to me, like mathematics is. There are numerous nuances to this "simple" principle of the Gospel--and therefore, there is MUCH for me to still learn about faith and how to apply it in my life. Often I know that faith is the "right answer"...but I can't figure out how to get there or why it is the answer.

Take the current perplexing situation in my life, for example. Faith is the answer...but I'm not certain how to "show my work" like I did in my algebra class. What equations and algorithims get me to where faith aligns with God's will and equals power to act (Faith + God = Action)?

My first step to figuring out the unknown variables is to review the principles of faith. First, words from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin provide great insight into faith leading to action.

"The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:7), we are told in holy writ. I ask again, What is faith?

Faith exists when absolute confidence in that which we cannot see combines with action that is in absolute conformity to the will of our Heavenly Father. Without all three--first, absolute confidence; second, action; and third, absolute conformity--without these three all we have is a counterfeit, a weak and watered-down faith. Let me discuss each of these three imperatives of faith.

First, we must have confidence in that which we cannot see....

Second, for our faith to make a difference, we must act. We must do all that is in our power to change passive belief into active faith, for truly, "faith, if it hath not works, is dead" (James 2:17)....

Third, one's faith should be consistent with the will of our Heavenly Father, including His laws of nature. The sparrow flying into a hurricane may believe that he can successfully navigate the storm, but the unforgiving natural law will convince him otherwise in the end.

Are we wiser than the sparrow? Often what passes for faith in this world is little more than gullibility. It is distressing to see how eager some people are to embrace fads and theories while rejecting or giving less credence and attention to the everlasting principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is distressing how eagerly some rush into foolish or unethical behavior, believing that God will somehow deliver them from the inevitable tragic consequences of their actions. They even go so far as to ask for the blessings of heaven, knowing in their hearts that what they do is contrary to the will of our Father in Heaven.

How do we know when our faith conforms to the will of our Heavenly Father and He approves of that which we seek? We must know the word of God. One of the reasons we immerse ourselves in the scriptures is to know of Heavenly Father's dealings with man from the beginning. If the desires of our heart are contrary to scripture, then we should not pursue them further.

Next, we must heed the counsel of latter-day prophets as they give inspired instruction.

Additionally, we must ponder and pray and seek the guidance of the Spirit. If we do so, the Lord has promised, "I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart" (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2).

Only when our faith is aligned with the will of our Heavenly Father will we be empowered to receive the blessings we seek.

--Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Shall He Find Faith On the Earth," Ensign, Nov. 2002, pp. 82-84, emphasis added.
So, my equation must have the elements of absolute confidence (in what I cannot see), a willingness to act upon what I do not see, and absolute conformity to the will of God--as well as an assumption that I know what God's will is for me. That would change the equation to this:

Faith + God = Action
|Confidence in God| + Willingness to Act + |Conformity to God's Will| = Faith

And we can expand the equation to include data from Elder David A. Bednar about tender mercies, a very important but misunderstood component of the faith equation.
My mind was drawn immediately to Nephi's phrase "the tender mercies of the Lord," and I knew in that very moment I was experiencing just such a tender mercy. A loving Savior was sending me a most personal and timely message of comfort and reassurance through a hymn selected weeks previously. Some may count this experience as simply a nice coincidence, but I testify that the tender mercies of the Lord are real and that they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Often, the Lord's timing of His tender mercies helps us to both discern and acknowledge them.

-- Elder David A. Bednar, "The Tender Mercies of the Lord," General Conference, April 2005, emphasis added.

With this added understanding from Elder Bednar, we can extend our understanding of faith to include tender mercies of the Lord, especially His timing of executing the miracles in our lives.
|Confidence in God| + Willingness to Act + |Conformity to God's Will| = Faith

Faith x The Lord's Timing = Tender Mercies

Heavenly Help and Family Ties, Part 2

A few more quotes on this subject of heavenly help and family ties; these quotes are from President Ezra Taft Benson.

I am sure many of you know that the veil can be very thin–that there are people over there who are pulling for us–people who have faith in us and who have great hopes for us, who are hoping and praying that we will measure up–our loved ones (parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends) who have passed on.
-- Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.31
I often wonder just how much my life is influenced by my family members, particularly by my Aunt and my Uncle Jack and by those other ancestors for whom I have done temple work. How involved are they in my life here on this side of the veil--particularly, how many of the small and simple blessings I enjoy are directly related to work they have done on my behalf? I don't know the answer, and I probably don't need to know. But to me it would make sense that if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and His course is one eternal round, that both sides of the veil (those of us in mortality and those in the spirit world) bless each other: the work I do here blesses them (especially by remembering them and providing temple ordinances for them, a work they cannot do as disembodied spirits) and the work they do blesses us on earth (miracles, divine intervention, and work we cannot do for ourselves). Just a thought....
Visitors, seen and unseen, from the world beyond, are often close to us. This is part of eternity which we are living today–part of God’s plan. There is no veil to the Lord.
-- Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.35
I love the idea that eternity is not something that starts sometime in the future but that it is here and now--that we enjoy the blessings of eternity already, especially the blessings of an eternal family. It makes so much sense to me that God would do it this way. Why wait when we can enjoy eternity now (albeit a lesser form of eternity)?

Heavenly Help and Family Ties

I was named after my grandmother's aunt, a good Christian woman of German descent who raised my grandmother and, later after my grandmother divorced my grandfather, raised my mother and her siblings while my grandmother worked multiple jobs to support her little family.

As her namesake, I have wondered what my Aunt thought of me and what I have done with her name. What does she think of me? Have I lived up to her expectations? I never had a chance to know her in this life (she was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and entered a nursing home a few years after I was born and then died when I was 10), but I wish I had the chance to talk to her now, across the veil. What does she see from where she is? How does she feel about me? Is she happy? Is Uncle Jack, her beloved in this life, right there with her as I imagine him to be?

Me and my Aunt at my 1st birthday
My Aunt was not perfect, and since I did not personally experience her imperfections in this life, it is easier for me to romanticize what she is like now without the constraints of mortality, when she is able to be who she truly is without opposition. I like to think of her being her best self and working arduously on the other side of the veil, keeping our family together (a work she started on earth) and gathering the lost ones. I can imagine her reaching out to her younger sister, my great grandma, Bertie, and loving Bertie back into the family--something no one was able to do here on earth. If anyone can bring Bertie back, I think it would be my Aunt.

It's difficult to explain with words the connection I feel to my Aunt. Our names are the same and our dispositions are similar (I think my need for control is definitely genetic); I even think that part of me is looking for my own "Uncle Jack," some jovial, loving, Swedish soul who would complement me and balance my A-type personality with his playfulness as Uncle Jack did for my Aunt.

Whilst thinking about my Aunt, a quote by President Joseph F. Smith came to mind about how close we are to our ancestors (heavenly messengers and heavenly beings) even in our day-to-day life here on earth. I was happy to find the full text of the quote online (oh, how I love the Internet!). And once again, I remembered the cherished moments when I felt the veil was swept away and I could feel love for and from my ancestors, especially for and from my Aunt.

I believe we move and have our being in the presence of heavenly messengers and of heavenly beings. We are not separate from them. We begin to realize more and more fully, as we become acquainted with the principles of the Gospel, as they have been revealed anew in this dispensation, that we are closely related to our kindred, to our ancestors, to our friends and associates and co-laborers who have preceded us into the spirit world. We cannot forget them; we do not cease to love them; we always hold them in our hearts, in memory, and thus we are associated and united to them by ties that we can not break, that we can not dissolve or free ourselves from. If this is the case with us in our finite condition, surrounded by our mortal weaknesses, shortsightedness, lack of inspiration and wisdom from time to time, how much more certain it is and reasonable and consistent to believe that those who have been faithful, who have gone beyond and are still engaged in the work for the salvation of the souls of men, the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound and proclaiming liberty to the captives who can see us better than we can see them; that they know us better than we know them. They have advanced; we are advancing; we are growing as they have grown; we are reaching the goal that they have attained unto; and therefore, I claim that we live in their presence, they see us, they are solicitous for our welfare, they love us now more than ever. For now they see the dangers that beset us; they can comprehend better than ever before, the weaknesses that are liable to mislead us into dark and forbidden paths. They see the temptations and the evils that beset us in life and the proneness of mortal beings to yield to temptation and to wrong doing; hence their solicitude for us and their love for us and their desire for our well being must be greater than that which we feel for ourselves. I thank God for the feeling that I possess and enjoy and for the realization that I have, that I stand, not only in the presence of Almighty God, my Maker and Father, but in the presence of His Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Savior of the world; and I stand in the presence of Peter and James, (and perhaps the eyes of John are also upon us and we know it not); and that I stand also in the presence of Joseph and Hyrum and Brigham and John, and those who have been valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ and faithful to their mission in the world, who have gone before. When I go I want to have the privilege of meeting them with the consciousness that I have followed their example, that I have carried out the mission in which they were engaged as they would have it carried out; that I have been as faithful in the discharge of duty committed to me and required at my hand as they were faithful in their time, and that when I meet them I shall meet them as I met them here, in love, in harmony, in unison and in perfect confidence that I have done my duty as they have done theirs.

-- Conference Report, April 1916, p.3, emphasis added.

12 September 2010

Lugano, Switzerland -- 7, Team Trish&Maddy -- 0

Point 1 for Switzerland: No stamp in our passports. The border control guys just waved us through in a secret, "don't tell the boss but you can just go on in" kind of way. Sheesh.

Point 2: Switzerland, which I thought was part of the European Union and accepted Euros as its only currency, has in addition to the Euro, its own special currency: the Swiss Frank. Which wouldn't have been a problem except all of the parking spots we saw had meters that only accepted the Swiss Frank ($2 coin) and I didn't have any of those. And this led eventually to...

Point 3: Trish and I were so frustrated by this time that we pulled into the first non "Privato" Autosilo we saw. That happened to be, we later realized (see point 4) was for a grocery store.

Point 4: After an expensive meal (do you know what the exchange rate is for Swiss Franks? NOT GOOD!) with a cranky waitress who took 30 minutes to bring us our check, we walked back to the Autosilo where we'd parked...and to our utter HORROR, discovered that it was closed--as in "no entry, no other way in, must wait until this place opens again to get your car" CLOSED. We'd missed it by 15 minutes!

Point 5: And then, to make matters even worse, we figured out that the grocery store (and thus by extension the parking garage) would not reopen until MONDAY morning. Yes, folks, that's right: we had to wait about 36 hours until we could get the car again...that's if it hadn't been towed already....

Point 6: There wasn't a phone number anywhere to be found on or near the garage or the store front--but it wouldn't have mattered anyway because my new fancy global BlackBerry unit didn't have service, despite its fanciness. And the battery died because it takes a lot of power for the fancy phone to sit in my purse and tell time. And because my fancy phone was dead, we couldn't call our Field Relations Manager, Walter, who lives close to Milan to help us out. We were completely on our own. (Did I mention that by this time, it was 10:45pm...and we were in another country...alone...?)

Point 7--Winning Point: This point was an 'assist' by a series of unfortunate events that occurred in Milan. I will not bore you with the details of the long ordeal right now; let's just say that it took us 3 1/2 hours to get from the central train station in Milan to our hotel--a journey that by taxi took 5 minutes. This "detour" involved an eccentric old Italian man who didn't understand English, getting a personalized night tour of Milanese historic locations, "sans gluten free" bread sticks that tasted like burnt toast and rosemary, and an Obama-loving, chain-smoking teenager who ended up being a knight in a shining hoody.

Game Summary: Though Lugano was beautiful (and if you take the train tour, you'll find out from the 'Ukranian' driver that it even has its own swimming pool...), I don't think I'll be visiting there again....well, except for tomorrow morning when we go to pick up our rental car.

Good job, thank you very much, amen.

10 September 2010

Ciao, Italia!

So, I'm here. In Italy. And I love it!

Tomorrow morning (it's 11:30pm here in Milan) I'll write a longer post with pictures and a verbose, "bowl-minded" narrative about what I've experienced. For now, here are the stats:

  • Amount of time that my new global BlackBerry device has worked since we left the United States: 0 hours and 0 minutes 
  • Number of connections to fly to Milan: 3 (SLC to Minneapolis...to Amsterdam...to Milan)
  • Hours it took to travel from SLC to Milan: 17.5
  • Number of wrong turns we took while trying to drive to the hotel in our little Fiat: 3 7,000 (which is code for too many to count)
  • Number of hours in Italy (thus far): 13
  • Total count of Gelaterias visited in the last 10 hours: 2
  • Gelato flavors sampled: 5
    • Fragola [FRAH-go-la] (strawberry)
    • Pistacchio [pee-STAHK-yoh] (pistachio) -- 2 times
    • Mango (mango)
    • Stracciatella [strah-cha-TEL-lah] (like a chocolate chip ice cream) -- 2 times
    • Limone [Lee-MON-ay] (lemon)

07 September 2010

Updated: Italy Trip

Updates in red.

Thursday9-SepSalt Lake City to Milano
Friday 10-SepArrive in Milano, 9:40am
Saturday11-SepLugano, Switzerland
Sunday12-SepChurch - Torino?
Monday13-SepAM -- Stato di Archivo Milano. Drive to Tuscany.
Tuesday14-SepTuscany-- Province of Massa-Carrara, parish: Licciana Nardi.
Thursday16-SepSicilia: Palermo
Friday17-SepSicilia: Catania, Siracusa, Messina
Saturday18-SepSicilia: Catania
Sunday19-SepFly from Catania to Salt Lake City (arrive 9pm)

02 September 2010

Thoughts on the Gift of Discernment, Part 3

From Sister Elaine L. Jack, former General Relief Society President:

Spiritual gifts are powerful priesthood blessings. They increase our capacity as we develop them by drawing on the storehouse in heaven. One gift I value is discernment. When the Lord spoke to the woman at the well, He offered her living “water springing up into everlasting life.” He discerned her needs. His words startled her: “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” She answered, “I have no husband,” and Jesus said, “Thou hast well said.” And “the woman saith unto him, … I perceive that thou art a prophet.” (See John 4:14–19.)

Many women have the gift of discernment. Often blessed with the power to know and understand beyond their experience, women draw on this strength as they visit monthly to teach in the homes or to assess needs as directed by the bishop. We use it as we nurture our children and teach them the gospel. We discern, by the power of God given to us through His Spirit that “one thing is needful” (Luke 10:42). Nothing we do is more important than the work of righteousness in our homes.

Discernment is critical for our times. President Boyd K. Packer has said, “We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow” (Ensign, Nov. 1978, 8). That is exactly what we need.

-- Sister Elaine L. Jack, “‘Partakers of the Glories’,” Ensign, Nov 1996, 76, emphasis added.

Thoughts on the Gift of Discernment, Part 2

And a (rather lengthy quote) from Elder David A. Bednar:
Let me now address the question of why the spiritual gift of being quick to observe is so vital for us in the world in which we do now and will yet live. Simply stated, being quick to observe is an antecedent to and is linked with the spiritual gift of discernment. And for you and for me, discernment is a light of protection and direction in a world that grows increasingly dark.

Much like faith precedes the miracle, much like baptism by water comes before the baptism by fire, much like gospel milk should be digested before gospel meat, much like clean hands can lead to a pure heart, and much like the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood are necessary before a person can receive the higher ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, so being quick to observe is a prerequisite to and a preparation for the gift of discernment. We can hope to obtain that supernal gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction only if we are quick to observe—if we both look and obey.

President George Q. Cannon (1827–1901), who served as a counselor to four Presidents of the Church, taught powerfully about the gift of discernment:

“One of the gifts of the Gospel which the Lord has promised to those who enter into covenant with Him is the gift of discerning of spirits—a gift which is not much thought of by many and probably seldom prayed for; yet it is a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint.…

“Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it.”

Can we recognize how crucial this spiritual gift is in our lives today and how being quick to observe is a powerful invitation for the blessings of discernment? ...

As we integrate the teachings of Presidents Cannon and Richards, we learn that the gift of discernment operates basically in four major ways.

First, as we “read under the surface,” discernment helps us detect hidden error and evil in others.

Second, and more important, it helps us detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves. Thus the spiritual gift of discernment is not exclusively about discerning other people and situations, but, as President Cannon taught, it is also about discerning things as they really are within us.

Third, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others.

And fourth, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us. Oh, what a blessing and a source of protection and direction is the spiritual gift of discernment! ....

The gift of discernment opens to us vistas that stretch far beyond what can be seen with natural eyes or heard with natural ears. Discerning is seeing with spiritual eyes and feeling with the heart—seeing and feeling the falsehood of an idea or the goodness in another person. Discerning is hearing with spiritual ears and feeling with the heart—hearing and feeling the unspoken concern in a statement or the truthfulness of a testimony or doctrine.

I frequently have heard President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, counsel members and priesthood leaders, “If all you know is what you see with your natural eyes and hear with your natural ears, then you will not know very much.” His observation should help all of us to appropriately desire and seek these spiritual gifts.

Observing and discerning also enable us to assist others who are seeking to obtain the path and who desire to press forward with steadfastness in Christ. Blessed with these spiritual gifts, we will not lose our way; we will not wander off; we will not be lost. And we can hope to obtain the supernal gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction only if we are quick to observe....

-- Elder (then President) David A. Bednar, "Quick to Observe," Brigham Young University-Idaho commencement speech, 20 August 2004, emphasis added. Reprinted in the Ensign, December 2006, pages 30-36.

Thoughts on the Gift of Discernment, Part 1

This topic (the gift of discernment) has been in my thoughts lately. Wanted to share some quotes I found about this subject.

From Elder Stephen L. Richards:
First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate, which has been spoken of in our hearing before particularly as between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions -- spiritual impressions, if you will -- to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them. It's the gift every missionary needs when he takes the gospel to the people of the world. He must make an appraisal of every personality whom he meets. He must be able to discern the hidden spark that may be lighted for truth. The gift of discernment will save him from mistakes and embarrassment, and it will never fail to inspire confidence in the one who is rightly appraised.

The gift of discernment is essential to the leadership of the Church. I never ordain a bishop or set apart a president of a stake without invoking upon him this divine blessing, that he may read the lives and hearts of his people and call forth the best within them. The gift and power of discernment in this world of contention between the forces of good and the power of evil is essential equipment for every son and daughter of God. There could be no such mass dissensions as endanger the security of the world, if its populations possessed this great gift in larger degree. People are generally so gullible one is sometimes led to wonder whether the great Lincoln was right, after all, in the conclusion of his memorable statement, "You can't fool all the people all the time." One does feel at times, however, a sense of pity and sympathy for some of the peoples of the world whose education, information, and exposure to higher ideals and exalted concepts have been so arbitrarily and ruthlessly restricted.

There is a class of people now grown sizable in the world who should possess this great gift in large degree. They know how the gift is attained. They have been educated in its spiritual foundations. They have been blessed with the counsels which foster it. They know how to order their lives to procure it. You know who they are, my brethren and sisters. Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. With this gift they would be able to detect something of the disloyal, rebellious, and sinister influences which not infrequently prompt those who seemingly take pride in the destruction of youthful faith and loyalties. Discerning parents will do well to guard their children against such influences and such personalities and teachings before irreparable damage is done. The true gift of discernment is often premonitory. A sense of danger should be heeded to be of value. We give thanks for a set of providential circumstances which avert an accident. We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin.

-- Elder Stephen L. Richards, Conference Report, April 1950, pp. 162-163, emphasis added.

King of Anything

This song reminds me of someone I work with. I sing it to myself after I interact with this person to calm myself down. Maybe I should just sing it directly to the person...?

Going Home to See the Bubblers...

...on September 24!

"It-ly? My wife's in It-ly?!"

Love that quote from Only You. :-)

I'm going to It-ly next Thursday (crazy, huh?!) and I'll be gone for about 10 days. Here's my itinerary so ya'll can keep track of me if you want to.

Also, if there is anything you want from It-ly, let me know and I'll try to accomodate your requests. (Sorry, I don't think I can fit any attractive Italian men in my suitcases. Just letting you know that up-front.)

Thursday 9-Sep Salt Lake City to Milano
Friday 10-Sep Arrive in Milano, 9:40am
Saturday 11-Sep Lugano, Switzerland
Sunday 12-Sep Church - Torino?
Monday 13-Sep AM -- Stato di Archivo Milano. PM --Vincensa Diocese.
Tuesday 14-Sep Tuscany-- Province of Massa-Carrara, parish: Licciana Nardi.
Wednesday 15-Sep Roma
Thursday 16-Sep Sicilia: Catania, Siracusa.
Friday 17-Sep Sicilia: Palermo
Saturday 18-Sep Sicilia: Palermo, Catania
Sunday 19-Sep Fly from Catania to Salt Lake City (arrive 8pm)