Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

True Believers, Discipleship, and Commandments

Clearly, we cannot become true believers in Christ merely by keeping the sixth commandment--"Thou shalt not kill."

Discipleship, therefore, means being drawn by seemingly small and routine duties toward the fulfillment of the two great and most challenging commandments.

-Neal A. Maxwell, True Believers in Christ, BYU Devotional 7 October 1980.

I think I could post a new Maxwell quote that I love every single day for the rest of my life and not run out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Laban Affair

Some interesting thoughts here on Nephi's struggle with the command to kill Laban. Click on the link, and scroll down to the section entitled "The Laban Affair."

When I searched for this quote to share it, I found out that the whole book, The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, is available online! I have some reading to do...

The Book of Mormon--Keystone of our Religion

I love this talk by President Ezra Taft Benson. An oldie but a goodie. I just read it the other day and I want to read it again. It is so powerful!

Of course there is power in studying all of the scriptures, but the implications of the Book of Mormon for our day make it imperative that we not take its contents for granted; we need to know and do what is in that book!

Monday, October 21, 2013


I really liked this description of what it means to preside in this article by therapist Randy Keyes from the June 2012 Ensign:

The husband’s patriarchal duty as one who presides in the home is not to rule over others but to ensure that the marriage and the family prosper. President David O. McKay (1873–1970) explained that one day every man will have a personal priesthood interview with the Savior: “First, He will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife. Have you been actively engaged in making her happy and ensuring that her needs have been met as an individual?”

The husband is accountable for growth and happiness in his marriage, but this accountability does not give him authority over his wife. Both are in charge of the marriage. In righteous marriage councils both spouses share a set of virtues that when applied help them focus on each other.

We can study some of these virtues in Doctrine and Covenants 121:41: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”

We cannot use the priesthood to assert power and influence. Therefore, we can’t use unrighteous means to establish dominance in marriage. True power comes only when we work together in righteousness and so qualify for blessings from the Lord.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Describing Celestial Glory

A fun tidbit from the Institute Student Manual in reference to John's description of the resurrected Christ in Revelation 1:

Orson Pratt, who often heard the Prophet Joseph recount his experience in the sacred grove on that spring morning, said that the light was so brilliant that Joseph thought the leaves were going to burst in to flame when it reached the treetops. When they did not, only then did the boy prophet think that he might survive the glory that was descending upon him. (See Orson Pratt, Remarkable Visions, p.2)

The Book of Revelation

I am starting on the Book of Revelation, and going through my old institute handouts I came across this talk by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. It makes the book sound much more exciting than I have experienced it in the past!

A favorite excerpt:

In the answer to these queries we find the real genius of John’s apocalyptic writing. Gospel truths are and should be variously worded, variously described, and variously adorned with literary attraction—all to the end that they will appeal, in one form or another, to every heart that can be touched. The book of Revelation takes an approach to the plan of salvation that is found nowhere else in all of our inspired writings. The language and imagery is so chosen as to appeal to the maturing gospel scholar, to those who already love the Lord and have some knowledge of his goodness and grace.

I like that it points out that there is no scripture given that we aren't expected to study, understand, and from which we cannot profit. That is why they are given! It seems to me that the scriptures that are the most difficult for us to understand (i.e. Revelation, Isaiah) are the ones that the Lord tells us specifically to study for our day.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The miracle of stress.

I thought this clip about stress was pretty amazing, and made me wonder at what amazing creations our bodies really are. It is easy to see how our bodies respond in just the way Heavenly Father promises us they will (i.e. if we have faith, even trials will turn to our good).

Here's a little Russell M. Nelson for you to add some icing to the cake:

Monday, August 5, 2013

Line upon Line

This article was posted over at Middle-Age Mormon Man today, and I love it. It talks about how we receive revelation (usually not as one huge, overwhelming experience), and how we can grow to discern between the Spirit and our own thoughts and emotions. I need to study it again because my 4-year-old was asking me to play on the computer the whole time I was reading it!

Line upon Line, Precept upon Precept

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Put in Trust.

Today's scripture:

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."  -1 Thessalonians 2:4

At first I was mostly thinking about what a privilege it is to have the Gospel, and how I am silly about being apprehensive sharing it with others. But as I typed, I started thinking about what it means to be put in trust. In legal terms, a trust is a mechanism for controlling the distribution and transfer of property. If I were to put my house in trust, for example, I would transfer ownership to a trustee, who would have a fiduciary duty to distribute the income from the house to my designated beneficiaries. (I realize this is very simplistic; it has been five years since I took Trusts class, and I haven't looked at one since then.) The trust is governed by the rules set up at its creation.

In that sense, any and all of us who are called to the work are trustees of God's Kingdom upon the earth. We are given a stewardship, and all of the attendant knowledge, revelations, and blessings, but we also have a fiduciary duty to distribute the fruits of the Gospel to those designated by our Trustor, Jesus Christ (i.e. to all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples). And since anyone who desires to serve God is called to the work (D&C 4:3), that means every single member of the Church who desires to serve is a trustee of the Kingdom. No one is given the Gospel of Jesus Christ only for their own benefit. In fact, when we sign onto the deal, we covenant to "keep His commandments," to "bear one another's burdens," to "comfort those who stand in need of comfort," and to "stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places." (D&C 20:77, Mosiah 18:8-9) Those are the fiduciary duties we have as Trustees of His Kingdom, and more may be added upon us as we accept callings within the Priesthood and Auxiliary organizations of the Church.

So not only does God trust me with His Kingdom, he has given it to me in trust, with the solemn duty to share it with all of His children who will listen. The trial of my heart will be whether I carry out my duty or give in to the pressure to "please men" instead of God.

Monday, July 1, 2013


For me, I have found that one indicator that the Spirit is guiding me is when I am not stressed out about something that I would normally stress about.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was nearing a complete meltdown because of how far behind I was working on our house and trying to get ready to move while John was studying for boards, I found myself outside, thinking about how I hadn't felt like my prayers had been very effective lately, and how so many people doubt Heavenly Father's existence and love. And looking at everything around me, I felt a peace so strong that it was like a big, comforting hug. Everywhere I looked, I just felt like His presence was there. He created it. He knows who and how and where I am. He hears and cares and answers. His Spirit was there with me and is everywhere He is invited in.

Moments like this are why, no matter what things I may not understand or the world may misinterpret and deride, I can never deny the knowledge that God lives, and that He has a plan that is better than my own.

Friday, June 21, 2013

What it means to be born again.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:3

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stress, Speaking, and Calm.

I have been a bit uptight lately. And when I say uptight, I mean I go between wanting to scream and cry several times daily. We are getting ready to move, the house is far from being ready for our renters, I have two kiddos in the won't-listen-until-you-force-them stage, one newly potty-trained and one who is regressing (probably because I'm stressed out, making this a seriously vicious cycle), both who enjoy pushing the other's buttons. And my husband is studying twelve hours a day for an exam he will take less than 24 hours before we need to vacate our house, so I am mostly on my own with all of this. The main result seems to be that my patience is much thinner than usual (and it really isn't that good in general), and my kiddos only get attention when they demand it. Not good.

I read this blog post today and it is so true! Even though I don't like it, my attitude and my demeanor set the tone for our home. Sure, the kids may throw a tantrum even when I am being perfectly mild, but they won't snap back out of it if I melt down with them. And I have been melting down way too much lately. I needed some guidance and some buoying up for the next two weeks of craziness before *hopefully* things settle down after we move, and going back to General Conference did not disappoint in that regard (it never does!). There are some real gems that were hard truths for me right now when I've got some repenting to do:

Sister Wixom on The Words We Speak
Elder Scott, For Peace at Home

As overwhelming as life can sometimes be with three little dictators making constant demands, it is comforting to be reminded that all those little things I try to do really can add up to make a difference, and that they matter. I need to remember that, say a prayer, invite the Spirit, take a deep breath, and keep it together, because if my children can't confidently lean on me in the meantime, I can't guide them to the Rock where they need to build their foundation.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Lord's Table

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

1 Corinthians 10:21-23

This is what I try to keep as my philosophy on obedience. Just because something isn't forbidden doesn't mean it is worth having in my life; I would like to be invited to the heavenly table, so I can't take trips on over to the devil's buffet for my own entertainment, especially when there are so many edifying entrees that it would take my whole life and then some to enjoy them all.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evils, Designs, and Conspiring Men

Someone posted this article today about how even "pro-organic" entities are cutting deals to allow more genetically modified produce to spread and be marketed. Now I don't know a whole lot about this debate and how all of this works, but the politics behind it remind me that there really are "evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days," in regards to both the positive and negative admonitions in the Word of Wisdom.

This counsel, "And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man— Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving," combined with the long-standing instruction of prophets to keep a garden, is really significant and prophetic counsel for these days.

p.s. I am terrible about all of this, but working on it!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Christian Friendship

A friend shared this on Facebook today, and it has been so true of the lasting friendships in my life:

"In Friendship…we think we have chosen our peer. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances.

"A secret Master of Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,' can truly say to every group of Christian friends 'You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.' The Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of others."

--C.S. Lewis

Monday, May 13, 2013

Seeking Perfection Without Being a Perfectionist

This article in BYU Magazine was so spot on for me!  You can read it here.

Here are the first two paragraphs as a teaser:

We are all familiar with the New Testament scripture “Be ye therefore perfect” (Matt. 5:48). The pursuit of perfection is holy, and those who center their lives on this pursuit are blessed. But, as with every good and holy thing, Satan is on hand to sabotage our efforts. BYU clinical professor of counseling psychology Marleen S. Williams (BS ’87) suggests that “because becoming perfect through Christ is a powerful and important doctrine, Satan . . . comes up with a counterfeit. The counterfeit is often set up to look very much like the real thing, but it differs in important ways. . . . Perfectionism is a counterfeit of real spirituality and is easily confused.”1

Satan’s counterfeit promotes the belief that everything must be done perfectly right now. Such an expectation runs counter to the whole purpose of God’s eternal plan—which purpose is for us to gain experiences, to learn from them, and to grow. God’s counsel to the early Saints was to “continue in patience until ye are perfected” (D&C 67:13). Satan’s deceptive and cunning approach is to convince us that if we want God’s approval, we must do more than we know how or are prepared to do. That naturally sets the stage for developing feelings of being overwhelmed and discouraged—by ourselves and often by those around us. In this and other areas, Satan’s strategy does not require that we commit great sins. He just needs to keep us distracted from things of eternal consequence.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Simple Habits and Consistent Steps

Elder Scott's Conference talk coincided very neatly with my thoughts on President Packer's remarks on obedience. A few of my favorite excerpts:

"[S]imple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings."

"When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord. His power is a fundamental component to establishing a home filled with peace."

"We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all of the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time."

From Richard G. Scott, "For Peace at Home," CR April 2013.

p.s. Maybe if I viewed my daily tasks the way this guy does, then I wouldn't have such a hard time turning them into habits like I should.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Solving everyday problems through temple worship

More from Elder Widtsoe's talk on Temple Worship:

I believe that the busy person on the farm, in the shop, in the office, or in the household, who has his worries and troubles, can solve his problems better and more quickly in the house of the Lord than anywhere else. If he will … [do] the temple work for himself and for his dead, he will confer a mighty blessing upon those who have gone before, and … a blessing will come to him, for at the most unexpected moments, in or out of the temple will come to him, as a revelation, the solution of the problems that vex his life. That is the gift that comes to those who enter the temple properly.

Drawing Revelation

From Elder John A. Widtsoe's talk on “Temple Worship” given at a meeting of the Genealogical Society of Utah at the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake on October 12, 1920:

But whether in the temple or elsewhere, how do men receive revelations? How did the Prophet Joseph Smith obtain his first revelation, his first vision? He desired something. In the woods, away from human confusion, he summoned all the strength of his nature; there he fought the demon of evil, and, at length, because of the strength of his desire and the great effort that he made, the Father and the Son descended out of the heavens and spoke eternal truth to him. So revelation always comes; it is not imposed upon a person; it must be drawn to us by faith, seeking and working. 

With reference to the temple specifically, he says,

The endowment which was given by revelation can best be understood by revelation; and to those who seek most vigorously, with pure hearts, will the revelation be greatest.

I question whether I have ever had the level of desire and effort that Elder Widtsoe has described. If so, it has surely been too scarce, but I am inspired to try harder and seek more after those things that are so eternally important.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Seeing God.

From David B. Haight, October 1990, "Temples and Work Therein":

At Kirtland, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph:

“And inasmuch as my people build a house unto me in the name of the Lord, and do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, my glory shall rest upon it;

“… and my presence shall be there, for I will come into it, and all the pure in heart that shall come into it shall see God.” (D&C 97:15–16.)

It is true that some have actually seen the Savior, but when one consults the dictionary, he learns that there are many other meanings of the word see, such as coming to know Him, discerning Him, recognizing Him and His work, perceiving His importance, or coming to understand Him.

Such heavenly enlightenment and blessings are available to each of us.

Friday, May 3, 2013

In spite of earth.

In one of Elder Haight's discourses, I read this quote by Brigham Young, which he made when he dedicated the cornerstone of the Salt Lake Temple, and which has been widely quoted:

Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, . . . and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell.

I think that most of the time in which I have read or heard this quote, the last six words were omitted: in spite of earth and hell. I thought about them and why they were there.

The most direct correlation is that Earth and hell represent the two things that keep us from exaltation, save for the Atonement: mortality, or physical death, and sin, or spiritual death. So through the ordinances we make the Atonement effective in our lives, enabling us to enter into exaltation.

But I also thought of these on a practical, everyday level. What are the things that keep us from the temple, from spiritual progress, from living an exalted, celestial life? Of course there is hell--the forces and influences of Satan that surround us, tempting us to break covenants and stray from the path. That is real, and the endowment gives us real power to combat those influences.

But then there is also earth. This beautiful, messy life that brings obstacles no matter how much or little we sin. There are the weaknesses, illnesses, inabilities and disabilities of our bodies. There is the sadness and loneliness of losing others to death. There are the choices of billions of other individuals that weave a complex tapestry of circumstances, both good and bad, which become a part of our reality whether we like it or not. There are forces of nature--the earth itself--that can cause destruction and pain. But in spite of all that, the temple stands as a firm and unmoving symbol, pointing heavenward to our firm and unmoving Savior: He who has overcome the world, and whose grace is sufficient for us to do the same so that we may be exalted as He is.

Special Witnesses

I am currently reading A Light Unto the World, which is a collection of discourses of Elder David B. Haight. The very first excerpt is from his 1989 talk "The Sacrament and the Sacrifice." He shares his experience during a health crisis where he lost consciousness for several days, and, in the interim, had some very sacred experiences, including being "shown a panoramic view of [Christ's] earthly ministry." He goes on to tell details of that ministry and testify of Christ.

Of course I know that the Apostles are called as special witnesses, to be prophets, seers, and revelators, but somehow I still forget sometimes when I hear them or read their words that they really have seen and they really do know. I was reminded of President Eyring's words in this last Conference (April 2013):

I am a witness of the Resurrection of the Lord as surely as if I had been there in the evening with the two disciples in the house on Emmaus road. I know that He lives as surely as did Joseph Smith when he saw the Father and the Son in the light of a brilliant morning in a grove of trees in Palmyra.

And of President Packer:

Of all that I have read and taught and learned, the one most precious and sacred truth that I have to offer is my special witness of Jesus Christ. He lives. I know He lives. I am His witness. And of Him I can testify. He is our Savior, our Redeemer. Of this I am certain. 

And, of course, Elder Holland:

These things I declare to you with the conviction Peter called the “more sure word of prophecy.” What was once a tiny seed of belief for me has grown into the tree of life...

These are examples of what I imagine Mormon meant in Alma 4:19 when he explained why Alma left the judgment seat to testify to the people:

And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them.

These are powerful testimonies of the Savior. They pull down pride and craftiness and contention and leave the hearer with one question: They know Him--do I?

I am grateful for these special witnesses whose testimonies have had such a profound and lasting impact on my life. In this increasingly wicked world, it so clear that we need these voices of firmness, of surety, of powerful witness against evil and for good. I am grateful for that simple question that brings me back to what it is all about.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Defined by Motherhood.

As I was procrastinating my nightly chores (a bad habit, I know), I decided I would finally watch the new training on Strengthening the Family and the Church through the Priesthood. I noticed how almost all of the discussion in which the sisters were involved were centered on motherhood. I thought about how a lot of people might take offense at this, and how quick we are in general to take offense at things that conflict with our personal views instead of listening to the Spirit. I thought of how society tells women that in order to be successful, we need to define ourselves outside of motherhood and even womanhood. What a shame that we have come to the point that the title of "mother" isn't valued as an identity. I am confident that when I reach the end of my mortal life, what will define me most is what I have done with the title of Mother.

Ordinary Acts of Obedience

From President Packer's Conference talk:

Latter-day Saints recognize the transcendent importance of the family and strive to live in such a way that the adversary cannot steal into our homes. We find safety and security for ourselves and our children in honoring the covenants we have made and living up to the ordinary acts of obedience required of the followers of Christ.

Sometimes I really need these quotes that remind us of the ordinariness of most of what we do. If we expect life to be a stream of overwhelming spiritual experiences punctuated by lofty achievements, we will most likely be disappointed. Extra-ordinariness and importance are not equivalents.

When I was younger I was the type that wanted to have a hand in everything. I was in every club or activity I could manage, took every class, sought after every position. I wanted to have it all, and I thought that I was establishing the pattern for a successful life. (Little did I know, this kind of activity was only sustainable because high school really isn't as hard as real adult life.) 

Then I went to college, and got really involved in my YSA ward. Super-involved, just like I had been in high school. But when I thought about joining clubs or getting into student government, I just didn't feel the drive anymore. I had to choose, and I chose my callings, even though sometimes I worried what the effect would be on my resume.

After my mission, being focused on one single task for a year and a half, I was even less inclined to jump into everything I could. I picked one or two things that interested me in law school and joined in, but for the most part stayed aloof from the social workings of my class, and didn't even try to get on a law journal. I still worried about my resume, but by this time I was getting married and hoping to have children before long, so it just didn't seem worth it.

And now I am a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I think of getting a part-time job so I can use my degree and bring in some much-needed income (and maybe even hire someone to do the dishes for me!), but always I come back to the fact that I need to be fully present at home right now. I personally need to learn focus on obeying in the simple, mundane things: learning to keep a house of order; learning to be patient, even when the whining is becoming unbearable; learning to value my calling as a visiting teacher as much as a Relief Society President, because they are equally important and their object is the same; learning to work, even when it isn't glamorous, because it is what others need. Those are the things that will bring peace and security to my home.

A great life is the culmination of a lot of ordinary acts of obedience and faith, and when we value our obedience based on our visibility, we are remiss--"thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18)

Monday, April 22, 2013

" love him... Seek his face."

I came across this talk as I was looking for something different, but it is so beautiful that I wanted to share it. Here is the whole talk by Sister Ruth H. Funk:

I have prayed fervently to know which, of all that could be said, should be said. I have been prompted to share with you a sacred personal experience. It so graphically demonstrates the reality, the nearness, the infinite love of Jesus Christ, that several times in the past I had thought to tell of it publicly. Always I was led not to do so. This evening, the Spirit whispers yes.

May it help you to feel an expanded awareness of the Savior’s deep personal involvement in each individual life. He is real. He is near, and he loves more than we can comprehend.
Our first two children were beautiful little girls. During my third pregnancy, a critical situation developed. It was soon recognized to be life-threatening. Medical experts advised us that there were two alternatives—my probable death, or therapeutic abortion of the child growing within me. The Holy Ghost testified there was no option—I would continue to carry our unborn child. Others in similar situations may well receive a different witness from him. This was personal revelation and was accepted. Anguishing months followed, months of pleading with the Lord that those near to me would have the same conviction, months of applying the power of the priesthood through my husband’s administrations. At last a healthy child was born—our first and only son. My life was spared. This is background for the incident that I feel prompted to share with you this evening.
It occurred when this most treasured, little son was nearly three years old. One day, suddenly and without warning, he stopped breathing and fell to the floor, apparently lifeless. My husband was not home, and I called my ten-year-old daughter, Nancy, to get help as I carried him to the bedroom. As I worked to revive him, I literally, cried out unto the Lord. I begged him to spare our only son. I promised that I would dedicate myself to training him up to be an instrument in the hands of God if he would be spared. The police arrived with their emergency equipment. I continued in fervent, vocal prayer to the Lord, petitioning him to restore our little boy. The doctor arrived. Just as a stimulant was to be injected directly into his heart as a final emergency measure, he cried. My prayers had been answered, but I was to receive further testimony of this in a most unexpected way.
The next morning, our son climbed on his daddy’s knee. “I was sitting on the lap of Jesus,” he said. Then he went on, “He looked into my eyes. I was so happy. I wanted to stay there with him, but he told me I had to go back home to you.” Even now, twenty-four years later, our son remembers vividly the reciprocal love he experienced during his brief “step out of time.” He is vigorous and well, living with his lovely wife and a little son of his own as he continues to serve the Lord.
Just as this child, for that one brief moment, knew and felt the love of the Savior, may we, as women of all ages, as daughters of God, as wives, as mothers, as contributing members of society whose identities are being challenged, seek to know him well enough to love him, well enough to serve him. Seek his face. Reciprocate his love. Reflect it to others. Consider this sobering thought as expressed by C. S. Lewis: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and godesses” (The Weight of Glory, Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, pp. 14–15.)
Jesus Christ is our Savior, our brother, our friend. He is as near as we allow him to be. Our only ultimate joy and happiness is predicated upon our relationship with him. Our only peace, through disappointments, sorrow, and challenges, will come as we draw nearer unto him. With such love for our Redeemer, every difficult experience may be met with courage, acceptance, and even gratitude. His love for us is a gift beyond price. What does he ask in return? “Love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How I know the Book of Mormon is true.

I am writing a talk for a speaking assignment in Church tomorrow, and I felt like I should go back and read the last talk I gave, which was in January of last year. On this blog I have shared some thoughts and collected some interesting quotes, but haven't recorded a lot of my testimony. Perhaps that is the most valuable thing I can preserve and share.

I was asked to speak about my testimony of the Book of Mormon. It’s kind of funny; my gut feeling about this topic has always been one of inadequacy. I don’t have a impressive story about how I came to know that the Book is true. I don’t have a whole list of evidences or of striking experiences. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I got a testimony. And yet, I can say with truth that I know that the Book of Mormon is true, that it was prepared by true prophets for our day and brought forth by another true prophet by the power of God. And so it is that process of gaining a testimony that I want to talk about, because I think that it might be something that many of us share, and is also instructive in a practical way for those who have doubts and want to gain a testimony.

President Packer of the Quorum of the 12 described his experience this way, and it was very similar to my own:

"When I first read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, I read the promise that if I “would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if [the things I had read were] true; and if [I would] ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he [would] manifest the truth of it unto [me], by the power of the Holy Ghost” ( Moro. 10:4 ). I tried to follow those instructions, as I understood them.

If I expected a glorious manifestation to come at once as an overpowering experience, it did not happen. Nevertheless, it felt good, and I began to believe."

He continued,

My experience has been that a testimony does not burst upon us suddenly. Rather it grows, as Alma said, from a seed of faith. “It will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow” ( Alma 32:30 ). If you nourish it, it will grow; and if you do not nourish it, it will wither (see Alma 32:37–41 ).

Do not be disappointed if you have read and reread and yet have not received a powerful witness. You may be somewhat like the disciples spoken of in the Book of Mormon who were filled with the power of God in great glory “and they knew it not” ( 3 Ne. 9:20 ).
(Source here)

That is kind of how I felt during my mission. I hadn’t had one single powerful witness that I could relate to others, yet I found that I could testify with power and truth. My testimony hadn’t come suddenly, but it was there nonetheless.

Most of us are all too familiar with the promise made by Moroni that Elder Packer mentioned. That is the part that I always focused on growing up: if we ask sincerely, we will get a testimony. But when you look at the chapter as a whole, you see that Moroni gives a lot of other instructions that teach us how to gain a testimony.

Jumping back to verse 3:

“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, ... that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.”

What I get from that is that Moroni wants us to come to know the nature and workings of God. That isn’t a one-time exercise; it’s something we continually study and ponder. How has He shown mercy to His children in the past? How has he answered them? For Elijah, God didn’t speak in a rushing wind or an earthquake or a fire, but in a still small voice. How has He shown mercy to me in my life? When I ponder all of this, a lot of good feelings come. They aren’t strong, overpowering feelings. I feel uplifted, loved, peaceful, and grateful. That helps me to recognize the kind of feelings that Moroni wants me to look for in my answer.

It helps me to record these feelings and thoughts in my journeal when I study, so that I can heed Moroni’s counsel to remember and also show the Lord that I value what He is teaching me.

Back to Moroni: After making his famous promise, he explains more about how the power of the Holy Ghost works. In verse 6, he says “whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

In reading the Book of Mormon, I do feel like its contents are just and true. So many verses have helped me to understand Christ and His Atonement and to feel His love for me. Just a few nights ago some of the words of Abinadi taught me new things about Christ that I hadn’t really focused in on before:

He “suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people. And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be ... led, crucified, and slain...
“And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men—Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.”

When I read that, I imagined Christ having willingly done all of that for me so that he could stick up for me. He could understand me. He could represent me at the bar of God, having Atoned for my sins so that I could inherit all that He has. That is so powerful and humbling. I was brought closer to Christ through reading that in the Book of Mormon.

Going on, in verses 7 and 8, Moroni gives another criteria:
“And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever.

“And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not he gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them.”

So now I have to ask myself, have I experienced the gifts of the Spirit through the Book of Mormon? It certainly teaches about them—who exhibited greater faith than Nephi? Greater knowledge and wisdom than King Benjamin? The gift to translate and see like Mosiah? The ministering of angels like the children who were there during Christ’s visit?

Then as I read the Book of Mormon, I experience these gifts myself. I gain knowledge as I study and recognize areas in my life that I would be wise to change. My faith increases as I read about others who so boldly followed the Savior. I grow to understand things in new ways. I gain foresight into my future and where my choices will lead me. I have moments where I get lost in the stories and can almost feel what those people would have felt. And since Moroni tells me in verse 18 that “every good gift cometh of Christ,” I know that these gifts come because the Book of Mormon truly testifies of Christ.

All of these help me to recognize those simple, quiet ways that the Spirit tells me that the Book is true. They don’t all happen all at once, and sometimes I don’t even recognize them while they are happening, but I can recognize the accumulation of those things as a strong testimony of truth.

As powerful as all of those things are, I think that Moroni closes the chapter describing an even more powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon. In verses 32 and 33, the third and second-to-last verse of the whole book, he says this:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.”
These verses describe action and change, not just asking and receiving.

The strongest testimony that I have from the Book of Mormon is that it has changed my life, and continues to change my life. As I have studied in the Book of Mormon, I have learned principles. When I try them out in my life, I have gained greater peace and happiness, and seen that the results were exactly as the Book promised. It is this process that Alma talks about; he describes the Word, in this case the Book of Mormon, as a seed. He doesn’t say that we simply have to ask whether the seed is good. Rather, we have to exercise faith to plant it and nurture it and water it and feed it and really try it out—experiment upon it. Then when it grows, our faith turns to knowledge, or testimony.

In a talk to seminary teachers, Elder Eyring described the process this way:

“[The] challenge is not to prove that the Book of Mormon is true but to prove to God that they —the students—are true. When they do this, they will know the book is true. And when they prove that they will do what the book says, God will tell them more:

“And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.” ( 3 Ne. 26:9).

He went on,

“[Y]ou will realize you do not prove [the Book of Mormon] through arguments. You do not even prove it through great examples or stories. Those will help, but your students will prove the Book of Mormon by saying, “I believe it is true; I will try it.” Once they have proved themselves to God, then the proof will come to them because they will see the spiritual fruit."

"The Book of Mormon is about people proving their belief to God little by little. And then He confirms their belief and gives them more."

This, to me, is how you gain a true testimony of the Book of Mormon. No amount of grand spiritual experiences will be stronger than the evidence of our changed lives and hearts. If I had an angel come tell me it was true, you may or may not believe me when I told you. But if you can see my life, my choices, and the results of those choices, you will see clearly why I know that book is true.

Elder Eyring continues:

"“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

“And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.”

Now, that is the change. It is not to be a little better. It is not to know a little more. It is to be born again, to be changed by the power of the Atonement.

You and I know that if a person will read the Book of Mormon, it will describe that change and how to have it.”

Having experienced these kinds of changes in my own life, I have gained that witness that the Book of Mormon is true. I feel that I could say what Elder Holland said in his memorable October 2009 Conference talk:

"Now, I did not sail with the brother of Jared in crossing an ocean, settling in a new world. I did not hear King Benjamin speak his angelically delivered sermon. I did not proselyte with Alma and Amulek nor witness the fiery death of innocent believers. I was not among the Nephite crowd who touched the wounds of the resurrected Lord, nor did I weep with Mormon and Moroni over the destruction of an entire civilization. But my testimony of this record and the peace it brings to the human heart is as binding and unequivocal as was theirs. Like them, “[I] give [my name] unto the world, to witness unto the world that which [I] have seen. ” And like them, “[I] lie not, God bearing witness of it.”"  -Jeffrey R. Holland

The main message I want to convey is that for me, and I think for a lot of us, getting a testimony of the Book of Mormon isn't about pursuing one convincing experience. It is about recognizing how the book shapes our lives on a daily basis when we invite it in and try out its precepts. It is about allowing it to change your life. Then, when we see that our life is transformed, we will know without a doubt that the Book is true and that it really was divinely inspired and prepared for our day. We will know that Joseph Smith was who he said he was and did what he said he did. We will know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true and living Church upon the earth. And we will be on the path to return Home to our Father, having the image of Christ in our countenances.

I bear this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Spiritual Toddlers

I love this quote from President Uchtdorf in the Priesthood session of this last General Conference:

It can be discouraging at times to know what it means to be a son of God and yet come up short. The adversary likes to take advantage of these feelings. Satan would rather that you define yourself by your sins instead of your divine potential. Brethren, don’t listen to him.

We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise because with every small step, the child is becoming more like his parents.

Now, brethren, compared to the perfection of God, we mortals are scarcely more than awkward, faltering toddlers. But our loving Heavenly Father wants us to become more like Him, and, dear brethren, that should be our eternal goal too. God understands that we get there not in an instant but by taking one step at a time.

I do not believe in a God who would set up rules and commandments only to wait for us to fail so He could punish us. I believe in a Heavenly Father who is loving and caring and who rejoices in our every effort to stand tall and walk toward Him. Even when we stumble, He urges us not to be discouraged—never to give up or flee our allotted field of service—but to take courage, find our faith, and keep trying.

Our Father in Heaven mentors His children and often sends unseen heavenly help to those who desire to follow the Savior.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Repentance unto Life

Tonight I finished reading a Spanish play called La Barca sin Pescador by Alejandro Casona. (Spoiler alert! Don't read this if you don't want to know the entire plot, including the ending.) It is about a man, Ricardo Jordan, who makes a deal with the devil, signing a contract stating that he would kill a man without blood (the devil says he will take care of the killing part), in exchange for the devil rescuing his fortunes and bringing down his enemy. But when the deed is done Ricardo hears the voice wife of the man who was killed (even though it was in a distant location, the devil took his soul there to witness), and he is haunted by his act.

He finally travels to the town where the murder occurred and becomes acquainted with those involved, growing to love them during his two-week stay. Just as he is about to confess his guilt in the murder, he finds out that someone else actually killed the man. The devil was trying an experiment to see if he could ensnare Ricardo with his willingness to kill, even without the act. At the beginning of the conversation, things seemed hopeless; the devil says that no amount of repentance will save him--his tears and regrets don't do any good. Returning the fortunes Ricardo gained in the deal won't help either, since they became worthless to Ricardo after he realized what he had done.

In the end, Ricardo outwits the devil. He says that he contracted to kill a man, without blood, and that is what he will do: he will spend his life killing the terrible man that he used to be, so that in the end, Ricardo Jordan will have killed Ricardo Jordan himself, fulfilling the contract. The devil admits his defeat, and laments that he had originally come to try to finish taking Ricardo's soul, but in the process led Ricardo to the path of love that allowed him to get it back.

I opened up my scriptures to my current reading spot in Acts chapter 11 verse 18: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

I love how repentance is characterized as a gift from God, and not a punishment, and in light of the play I just read I got to thinking about what exactly "repentance unto life" means. It means more than tears or regret, sackcloth or ashes--in the end, it means being born into a new life, where we leave behind the person that we used to be and start anew. That is what Ricardo committed to do all the rest of his life, and that is what we commit to do through baptism, to put off the natural man and become a saint. The gift of repentance is not just the gift of being forgiven, but it is also the gift of new life where death once had claim. It is the process of resurrecting the soul that was spiritually dead.

The thought of that miracle, which can change everything and bring new life where it once seemed impossible, just fills me up with love and hope and gratitude.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

President Eyring on Education

From "Real-Life Education", CR April 2009, (emphasis added):

Our education must never stop. If it ends at the door of the classroom on graduation day, we will fail. And we will need the help of heaven to know which of the myriad things we could study we would most wisely learn. We cannot waste time entertaining ourselves when we have the chance to read or to listen to whatever will help us learn what is true and useful. Insatiable curiosity will be our hallmark.


The real life we’re preparing for is eternal life. Secular knowledge has for us eternal significance. Our conviction is that God, our Heavenly Father, wants us to live the life that He does. All we can learn that is true while we are in this life will rise with us in the Resurrection. And all that we can learn will enhance our capacity to serve. That is a destiny reserved not alone for the brilliant, those who learn the most quickly, or those who enter the most respected professions. It will be given to those who are humbly good, who love God, and who serve Him with all their capacities, however limited those capacities are—as are all our capacities, compared with the capacities of God.

Elder Oaks on Learning

A few faves from "Learning and Latter-day Saints," CR April 2009:

Our efforts to learn must be combined with personal worthiness for us to receive the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We must avoid sexual impurity, pornography, and addictions as well as negative feelings against others or ourselves. Sin drives out the Spirit of the Lord, and when that happens, the special illumination of the Spirit is gone and the lamp of learning flickers.

In modern revelation we have a promise that if our eye be single to the glory of God, which includes personal worthiness, our “whole [body] shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in [us]; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:67).


We must choose our learning with care because learning has an eternal shelf life, and whatever useful knowledge or wisdom or “principle of intelligence” we acquire in this life “will rise with us in the resurrection” (D&C 130:18).
*I love love love this one! I already have put way to many useless and unworthy things into my brain; I want to replace them with things worth taking with me!

Beyond increasing our occupational qualifications, we should desire to learn how to become more emotionally fulfilled, more skilled in our personal relationships, and better parents and citizens. There are few things more fulfilling and fun than learning something new. Great happiness, satisfaction, and financial rewards come from this. An education is not limited to formal study. Lifelong learning can increase our ability to appreciate and relish the workings and beauty of the world around us. This kind of learning goes well beyond books and a selective use of new technology, such as the Internet. It includes artistic endeavors. It also includes experiences with people and places: conversations with friends, visits to museums and concerts, and opportunities for service. We should expand ourselves and enjoy the journey.

Elder Holland on Avoiding Temptation

Whether we be single or married, young or old, let’s talk for moment about how to guard against temptation in whatever form it may present itself. We may not be able to cure all of society’s ills today, but let’s speak of what some personal actions can be.
    Above all, start by separating yourself from people, materials, and circumstances that will harm you. As those battling something like alcoholism know, the pull of proximity can be fatal. So too in moral matters. Like Joseph in the presence of Potiphar’s wife, 4 just run—run as far away as you can get from whatever or whoever it is that beguiles you. And please, when fleeing the scene of temptation, do not leave a forwarding address.
    Acknowledge that people bound by the chains of true addictions often need more help than self-help, and that may include you. Seek that help and welcome it. Talk to your bishop. Follow his counsel. Ask for a priesthood blessing. Use the Church’s Family Services offerings or seek other suitable professional help. Pray without ceasing. Ask for angels to help you.
    Along with filters on computers and a lock on affections, remember that the only real control in life is self-control. Exercise more control over even the marginal moments that confront you. If a TV show is indecent, turn it off. If a movie is crude, walk out. If an improper relationship is developing, sever it. Many of these influences, at least initially, may not technically be evil, but they can blunt our judgment, dull our spirituality, and lead to something that could be evil. An old proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, 5so watch your step.
    Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thoughts can and do seek entrance to our minds. But we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and then tell them where the silverware is kept! (You shouldn’t be serving tea anyway.) Throw the rascals out! Replace lewd thoughts with hopeful images and joyful memories; picture the faces of those who love you and would be shattered if you let them down. More than one man has been saved from sin or stupidity by remembering the face of his mother, his wife, or his child waiting somewhere for him at home. Whatever thoughts you have, make sure they are welcome in your heart by invitation only. As an ancient poet once said, let will be your reason. 6
    Cultivate and be where the Spirit of the Lord is. Make sure that includes your own home or apartment, dictating the kind of art, music, and literature you keep there. If you are endowed, go to the temple as often as your circumstances allow. Remember that the temple arms you “with [God’s] power, … [puts His] glory … round about [you], and [gives His] angels … charge over [you].” 7 And when you leave the temple, remember the symbols you take with you, never to be set aside or forgotten.

Standards and Literature

Worthy literature has been on my mind a lot lately. In trying to find something to read, I started reading a book that turned out to be less than appropriate (not the first time this has happened). Thankfully, before I got very far into the book a couple of wonderful friends tipped me off that there was some content I may want to avoid, and so I moved on to something else. In the interest of time, I am going to paste what I wrote in an email to my friend Ruth about it:

To be honest, I was having a hard time getting into the book; something about the language, though I couldn't put my finger on it. Maybe all characters just seem flat after Tolstoy's never-ending descriptions, or maybe (probably) it was just the Spirit telling me not to get too attached to the book =). I should learn my lesson; the last time I grabbed a book from Costco I thought was interesting, I ended up reading one chapter and then returning it.... why is this considered okay, even artistic? I am so wary of anything written in the last few decades because it almost seems like a rite of passage for authors to delve into sexual things, like it's more "honest" the more detail they provide. Ugh!

I remember right after high school I read Les Miserables, and though I've forgotten a lot, something that stuck with me is that when Cosette and Marius are married, he sees them off into the bridal chamber, then says that some things/places are too sacred to follow (granted, this is my paraphrase without having looked at it for over a decade). I loved that because it highlighted that, even in literature, people's intimate lives can be private not because they are secret but because they are beautiful and worth protecting. It made me a little sad to see the musical and see what they had done with the parts about prostitution (not tawdry in the book like in the play!) and at the Thernadiers' place.

I realize that my taste in literature is probably considered boring by a lot of people, but I have gotten to the point that I can't stand finishing a book without feeling like I got something out of it beyond pure entertainment. I don't need an adrenaline rush; I need to fill my brain with things I want to keep with me through all of eternity. So I am about to post lots of quotes on literature that I want to save and remember. To kick things off, here is a snippet from For the Strength of Youth:

Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God’s commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit.

p.s. I do think it is a little bit sad/funny that they don't even mention books here, but I guess that is the generation that is coming up. I guess their mobile device could include a Kindle or Nook =).