Monday, September 29, 2014

"Women of Righteousness"

This talk from Elder Ballard is amazing, and amazingly timely, given in 2002. Satan is surely working on undermining the divine role of women in these latter days. It was hard to pick a favorite quote (seriously; read the whole thing!), but here is one:

Every sister in this Church who has made covenants with the Lord has a divine mandate to help save souls, to lead the women of the world, to strengthen the homes of Zion, and to build the kingdom of God. Sister Eliza R. Snow (1804–87), the second general president of the Relief Society, said that “every sister in this church should be a preacher of righteousness … because we have greater and higher privileges than any other females upon the face of the earth” (“Great Indignation Meeting,” Deseret Evening News, 15 Jan. 1870, 2).

Every sister who stands for truth and righteousness diminishes the influence of evil. Every sister who strengthens and protects her family is doing the work of God. Every sister who lives as a woman of God becomes a beacon for others to follow and plants seeds of righteous influence that will be harvested for decades to come. Every sister who makes and keeps sacred covenants becomes an instrument in the hands of God.

We just found out that our fourth baby will be another boy, and I hope that I can exemplify righteous womanhood to my sons and teach them to love, honor, respect, protect, care for, and follow the examples of the women around them.

Covenants: Things that Bear Repeating

Sister Burton shared this in the April Women's Meeting, and it was repeated again Saturday night. It surely bears remembering.

The best way to strengthen a home, current or future, is to keep covenants, promises we’ve made to each other and to God.

That’s what disciples do!

We tend so often to look to Pinterest boards and elaborate ideas to help our families along, but those things don't do much unless we are focused on the basics, on making and keeping sacred covenants with God, and applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives and families.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Meandering Thoughts on Being A Support

Sometimes I just have to write to sort things out in my brain, so if you bother to read this, you have been forewarned that this is more of me working out some thoughts than a cohesive statement about anything. Also, there in no huge crisis going on in my life, just things that have reminded me that I need to scale back and work on being a foundation for my family.

The word support has been on my mind a lot lately, as there always seems to be a stream of stressful things coming up in life. Sometimes when John is stressed out I have a hard time knowing how to help him, and I also tend to feel guilty for not keeping our home clean and lovely and the children under control all the time. I am no natural-born homemaker to be sure! As I think about my role as a wife, that word support keeps coming back to me. A few perspectives on what it means to support my spouse:

  1. The support system in a building, vehicle, or really anything, holds everything up. It gives stability and balance, and allows that thing to carry out its purpose. It is usually hidden, and no one really notices it unless something goes wrong.
  2. Support staff in a school or hospital take care of all of the background tasks that facilitate the care and teaching of others. They organize and maintain. They prevent many messes and clean up many more. Again, their jobs go unnoticed by all who don't personally interact with them unless something goes wrong (at which point they get handed a lot of blame).
  3. Support can also connote enduring, uplifting, sustaining under trial, supplying necessities of life, upholding, or advocating.
  4. Both husbands and wives are counseled in the scriptures and by modern prophets to support one another. We are specifically told that women have claim on their husbands for their support both temporally (D&C 83:2) and in the church (D&C 25:9). And I think that women naturally tend to take on a support role in the home to complement the husband's injunction to provide temporally for the family, but don't always give ourselves credit for our own role and influence and the ways our husbands support us, leading to a martyr complex among many and the modern view that women shouldn't be "just housewives."
For us, part of becoming one as husband and wife has been learning to support one another in our various roles. It requires us to help each other by expressing our desires and needs in loving and timely ways so that we can understand and meet each other's expectations. It requires us to recognize and thank each other for the contributions we each make.  It requires a great deal of give and take when one or the other of us may be struggling, and it requires us to learn to scale back our expectations when we are both struggling.

Like the support structure in a building or the support staff in a school, we tend to overlook the importance of that supporting role until some crisis comes about, and then suddenly we see all the holes in the foundation of our habits. In times of stress it is suddenly clear how unwisely I've used my time, or how I've failed to express frequent love and gratitude, or how letting little things go over time has lead to a lot of extra work and trouble. I think that is why our Church leaders constantly counsel us to pay attention to the basics that comprise the support structure in our lives and families--to evaluate our choices and relationships, and to cultivate love and understanding through regular, planned togetherness where communication can take place under the influence of the Spirit. 

And frankly, being a support for a spouse and family is a whole lot of work, requires a lot of diligence, and can seem thankless at times. I just have to let go of less important things and work, work, work away at the important ones, because in the end that is what upholds us when the trials come along.

The Typical Relief Society Sister: Who You Really Are

I love Sister Elaine Jack's perspective on comparisons and talents. So glad I came across this talk!

No greater heroine lives in today’s world than the woman who is quietly doing her part. Generally unsung, you live everywhere . . . You show your love for the Lord daily as you support husbands, nurture children, care for parents, benefit neighbors, serve in your schools, sit on community councils, and do much of the work of this world in and out of the home. No one is more impressive than you.

I promised to introduce you to the typical Relief Society sister.

The good news is that she actually does exist.

The better news is that she is wonderful.

The best news is that she’s you! And this is who you really are!

On the flip side, comparison can also lead us to be judgmental to others, not just to ourselves. Another more recent quote:

The adversary would have us be critical or judgmental of one another. He wants us to concentrate on our differences and compare ourselves to one another. . . .

[T]here is nothing that is worth us losing our compassion and sisterhood over. We just need to relax and rejoice in our divine differences. We need to realize that we all desire to serve in the kingdom, using our unique talents and gifts in our own ways. Then we can enjoy our sisterhood and our associations and begin to serve. . . .

If there are barriers, it is because we ourselves have created them. We must stop concentrating on our differences and look for what we have in common; then we can begin to realize our greatest potential and achieve the greatest good in this world.

-Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, April 2014

As we stop comparing not only will we see who we really are, we will also who our sisters really are, and will be filled with charity--the watchword of our organization--in a greater measure.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Desires and Treasures

From Elder Teh of the Seventy:

I bear testimony that our priorities, tendencies, inclinations, desires, appetites, and passions will have a direct bearing on our next estate. Let us always remember the words of the Savior: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

When I think of the Lord's statement that I will be judged on my desires, I often tend to link that with my desires for what I hope to someday be, or what deep down I know is best. But I don't always think of my everyday desires and tendencies--all those times I pay attention to lesser things or desire to do easy things instead of hard ones. Those are counted too, and are just as much a part of me as the former desires. Clearly I need to work harder to make my daily choices such that the gap between the two dwindles.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Obedience, Body and Spirit

An interesting quote from Elder Perry, after he compared a bit in a horse's mouth to the Holy Ghost guiding us:

We must be sensitive to our spiritual bits. Even with the slightest tug from the Master, we must be willing to completely alter our course. To succeed in life, we must teach our spirit and body to work together in obedience to God’s commandments. If we heed the gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost, it can unite our spirits and bodies in a purpose that will guide us back to our eternal home to live with our eternal Father in Heaven.

My first thought: that is a powerful little sentence tucked in the middle! Am I paying enough attention to recognize the slight tugs that that may lead me to a complete course correction? I certainly hope so.

Second: That is interesting counsel about uniting our spirits and bodies. Our culture increasingly tells us that our bodily urges are irresistible, or that it is too much to demand of people to expect them to resist them. But if we train ourselves to follow the "slightest tug from the Master," we will have the discipline to unite our body with our spirits, training them in righteousness, so that together they can fulfill the purposes of our creation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Educating Our Desires

Last month our bishop sent out an email inviting the ward members to study one of the talks from April General Conference each day until the October sessions began, as we had as many days left as talks at that point. I took up the challenge, but find as I go I am getting ahead, because once I actually sit down and read or listen, I just want to soak up more! I can see how I am being prepared to receive more in the coming weeks, and I am thankful for that inspired counsel. Today I studied President Ridd's talk entitled, "The Choice Generation," and I loved this quote from Elder Maxwell that he shared:

What we insistently desire, over time, is eventually what we will become and what we will receive in eternity...

Only by educating and training our desires can they become allies instead of our enemies!

-Neal A. Maxwell, "According to the Desire of [Our] Hearts," October 1996 General Conference.

I then had to read that Maxwell talk because he is my favorite (well, I don't really have favorites I suppose, but I love him!), and it is one for the books.

I love the idea of educating our desires. I feel like I have worked on doing this with my choices in food and how my tastes have changed. A comment from Reed Nibley that I heard during a documentary on his life and career always sticks with me--that when he found he couldn't continue living on the kind of diet he had been accustomed to, he had to "refine his tastes" in order to enjoy healthy foods.

Looking back at my young adult life (now officially over according to the Church Handbook, since I am 31), I can see how experiences, changes, and acts of repentance have educated and refined my desires so that I am not as drawn to the damaging substances or empty calories of life. I more naturally crave and desire the deep and fulfilling spiritual nourishment that comes from study, communion, and obedience. And yet still I know that my desires need yet to be educated and refined, and so many things in my daily diet of choices could be done away with in favor of more healthy options. I hope that being more conscious about that process will enable me to more effectively move forward, to feel comfortable that the desires of my heart are in tune with the desires of my Father for me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Soft Answer

I love this quote from Elder Zwick:

The writer of Proverbs counsels, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). A “soft answer” consists of a reasoned response—disciplined words from a humble heart. It does not mean we never speak directly or that we compromise doctrinal truth. Words that may be firm in information can be soft in spirit.

I have a hard enough time doing this now when my kids are little; I need a lot of practice in composure and self-control before they become teenagers!

This also reminds me of the word "meek" and how my understanding of it has been affected by the misguided worldly perception that it is synonymous with "weak." Meekness is a vital spiritual strength and attribute of Christ.

Meekness, however, is more than self-restraint; it is the presentation of self in a posture of kindness and gentleness, reflecting certitude, strength, serenity, and a healthy self-esteem and self-control.

-Neal A. Maxwell

Those are things I could certainly use more of on a daily basis.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Elder Scott on Keeping Sight of God's Objectives

I need to remember this all the time!

God’s purpose is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” That is fundamental to all we do. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in things that we find fascinating or become so consumed by mundane responsibilities that we lose sight of God’s objectives. As you consistently focus your life on the most basic principles, you will gain an understanding of what you are to do, and you will produce more fruit for the Lord and more happiness for yourself.

-Elder Richard G. Scott, "I Have Given You an Example," April 2014 General Conference