Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mosiah 5

1 And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had thus spoken to his people, he sent among them, desiring to know of his people if they believed the words which he had spoken unto them. 
2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. 
I love this. Not only do they believe king Benjamin's words, they believe ALL of them. Not only do they just believe his words, they know with surety that they are true. This complete shift, from the king wondering if they would believe at all, to their complete confidence came because of the Spirit. This is important because I think we too often operate on the idea that if we could study and understand enough we'd be more confident and secure in our conversion to Christ. Of course study is a part of the process -- but that's not how the actual "mighty change" operates. It's not that we change, it's that our hearts are changed. It is our changed heart that changes us because it changes our "disposition" i.e. "the predominant or prevailing tendency of one's spirits; natural mental and emotional outlook or mood" For example, in the next verse:

3 And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
4 And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.

Through the spirit our views of the future change -- we become more optimistic and have a positive outlook on things. We see good in people and things and when bad happens, we can see the bigger picture in the context of our faith and trust in the Lord's purpose. Trust in the gospel plan changes our hearts and allows us to know that we have great reason in this life, no matter what, to be joyful. This blessed understanding is what ultimately puts us in a position to choose to covenant with God. Just like king Benjamin's people:

5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God. 

6 And now, these are the words which king Benjamin desired of them; and therefore he said unto them: Ye have spoken the words that I desired; and the covenant which ye have made is a righteous covenant. 7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons
and his daughters

This is how we become Christians and this is how we are made free:

8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. 

9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. 
What does it mean to be called by the name of Christ and made free? Well in one way, I think it means that we are free from our crummy dispositions. We're all fallen, and therefor our natural-man inclinations are often towards the base and negative. Humanity hasn't changed it's ways in thousands of years and anyone who has tried to change something about themselves will report that it isn't easy (broken new year's resolutions anyone?) True change of ourselves is difficult without a change of our nature -- and that change is impossible without Christ. It is the Spirit which will make "a mighty change in us, or in our hearts" and the Spirit comes when we show God that we are generally interested in trying to find the truth because He has promised that will respond ("And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" Luke 11:9). When we learn and live the gospel, the divinity of it is manifest in our lives through the Spirit and we are changed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

family connections

I have been thinking about my own inborn yearnings

We desire for so much in this life -- and so much joy and satisfaction can come through our efforts to meet and fulfill these longings. But there are definitely some yearnings that are more important than others.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton has said: "When we have a yearning and don’t know what it is for, perhaps it’s our soul longing for its heartland, longing to be no longer alienated from the Lord and the pursuit of something much higher, better, and more fulfilling than anything this earth has to offer." Elder Ashton went on to say that "Perhaps as much as anything in this day and age of mass media, instantaneous worldwide communications, and modern conveniences that seem to help us pack more into each day than would have been considered possible just a few decades ago, we need to focus and direct our attention to the things that really matter. And simply, what really matters is a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, an understanding of who we are and what we’re doing here, and an absolute determination to return home."

We yearn to return to our heavenly home, in the same way we often yearn for our earthly homes. Elder Ashton explained that: "It’s normal to long to be where you feel secure, where those you love have your best interests at heart. It’s understandable to want to return to the place where you learned how to walk and talk, where you felt loved even when friends turned away, and where you were accepted, regardless of the situation. There’s no place on earth that can take the place of a home where love has been given and received." That feeling of HOME is improved and perfected in our families until it's utmost perfection in the Lord. I think our yearning to return to the Lord, to our true home, is a big part of what drives our yearning for companionship, in marriage and family.

We yearn for family connections -- and we are influenced by the stories, testimonies, and strength of those who came before us (and we can do the same for those who will come after us). Family connections can become legacies of faith and love. They can fill, in part, the longing we have for an unbroken connection with God and the home we have in Him.

Elder Russell M. Nelson has stated that: "The noblest yearning of the human heart is for a marriage that can endure beyond death." Why? Because that is the starting point for the work of an eternal family. Relationships that necessitate sincere and sustained upkeep -- connections that are more than just experiences in mortality -- all a foundation for eternity.

Elder Nelson also explained that marriage is not just a union between husband and wife, but that it also "embraces a partnership with God" and that "children born of that marital union are 'an heritage of the Lord.' Marriage is but the beginning bud of family life; parenthood is its flower. And that bouquet becomes even more beautiful when graced with grandchildren. Families may become as eternal as the kingdom of God itself."

That is why carefully choosing a spouse is so important. That is why having children is so important. That is why the time we spend with our families, and the legacies we pass on to our children, are at the core of the plan of salvation. We yearn to "go home" and to have our own home -- and they are intertwined and sustain by efforts in each.

Exaltation is family, home, and God. That's why I am trying to learn to accept my own yearnings as positive desires and not be burdened by them. They are to help bring me home.

I want to end with some words from A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean. My Dad quoted them to us this morning from memory and while I'm not going to talk ABOUT them, they helped shape a lot of my thoughts today.

 Now nearly all those I loved and did not understand when I was young are dead, but I still reach out to them.
Of course, now I am too old to be much of a fisherman, and now of course I usually fish the big waters alone, although some friends think I shouldn't. Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise.
Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. 
I am haunted by waters.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


individuality |ˌindəˌvijəˈwalitē|nounthe quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind.

I believe in individuality. I believe we all have different qualities that give variety and purpose to our lives and to the church and should not separate us from each other.

I think that in the church there is a tendency towards sameness. Somehow, because we hold to a high moral standard, with the same high goals and desire for perfection, we start to think we must all live the same way to get there; that to be Zion, to be "of one heart and one mind" (Moses 7:18), we must be a completely homogenous people.

President James E. Faust said: "All are equal before the Lord. Yet within our spiritual unity there is wide room for everyone’s individuality and expression. In that setting, all are heirs to the kingdom of God. President Hunter said it well, 'The key to a unified church is a unified soul, one that is at peace with itself and not given to inner conflicts and tensions.'"

It is individuality that unifies us.

Our individuality, the qualities of our soul, our character which we must so carefully cultivate and develop, it is all a precious gift from God -- And Elder Neal A Maxwell quoted President Brigham Young as having declared that "the preservation of human intelligence and individuality through the Atonement and resurrection 'is the greatest gift that ever was bestowed on mankind.'”

It is this great blessing of the little "I am" at my soul's center that is the strengths I have to hone and bless others with, the weaknesses to humble me and tie me to Christ, and the glorious opportunity to develop as a child of God -- "the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (D&C 38:1) .

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rilla of Ingleside

Walter had come home for a week's leave before going overseas. Rilla had lived through the days of his absence on the hope of that week, and now that it had come she drank every minute of it thirstily, hating even the hours she had to spend in sleep, they seemed such a waste of precious moments. In spite of its sadness, it was a beautiful week, full of poignant, unforgettable hours, when she and Walter had long walks and talks and silences together. He was all her own and she knew that he found strength and comfort it her sympathy and understanding. It was very wonderful to know she meant so much to him -- the knowledge helped her though moments that would otherwise have been unendurable, and gave her power to smile -- and even to laugh a little. When Walter had gone she might indulge in the comfort of tears, but not while he was here.

It's a beautifully written little paragraph right? Well guess what? It's not what you might have initially thought it was. This isn't describing the sweet relationship of lovers -- but of a brother and sister. Which I think is even more beautiful.

thoughts on aeroplanes

Matt 6:20 - "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..."

      The aeroplane soared and dipped and circled, and soared again, until it became a mere speck far over the sunset hills.
     "I wonder," said Miss Oliver, "if humanity will be any happier because of aeroplanse. It seems to me that the sum of human happiness remains much the same from age to age, no matter how it may vary in distribution, and that all the 'many inventions' neither lessen nor increase it."
      "After all, the 'kingdom of heaven is within you,'" said Mr. Meredith. "It does not depend on material achievements and triumphs." (R. of I.)

The advancements of technology have made for the comforts of modern society that we all "need" now to be "happy." We've become such consumers. Excuse the reference, but we ARE living in a material world and I DO wonder if I've become too much of a material girl. Basing too much of my life around the pleasure of things. There's just SO MUCH available now; the newest cellphone that really won't make me any happier and all the things I waste time/money shopping for. It's a hard balance to find -- between being "neat and comely" and overindulging in the expensive and unnecessary (Alma 1:27)

Monday, July 12, 2010


I've heard it said that the great world wars of the last century were part of the price humanity paid for the rapid advancements that came along as well. While I'm not sure about of that kind of universal "trade-off," I do believe that the sense of duty and responsibility that propelled many people who lived in those times earned them something that many of us now have lost.  

It was a kind of dependable human steadiness. A true strength of will.

The Zeller brothers. My father remembers them from his youth in Montana. Bud and Dean Zeller, who for all the years of their lives -- 365 days a year -- got up and milked the cows in their dairy. What does it mean to have that kind of constant in your life? Come what may in life and the world, that one duty is always there, waiting; every morning to wake up, pull on your clothes, and plod out in the darkness to the barn. (My father I?)

They milked cows and raised hay and stayed old bachelors, living together with their sister Kathryn, growing old and white-haired. Then one day, Bud up and married Thelma Braden, the post office lady, who had cared for her invalid mother well into "old-maidenhood." They married well past the age of having children for reasons beyond youth's fancies and dreams. What does it mean to live simply and patiently? Finding contentment in the "as they are" rather than the "if only they had been." (My grandpa I?)

What does it mean to grow hay and then see, in one  hailstorm -- in five minutes, a whole year's work gone. And then go into town the next day to borrow money from the bank to start over. To try again. There must be a kind of happiness won through steadiness -- through doing what "must be done." (My great-grandfather knows I?)

I've read that happiness can be a gift from life and love -- it can just come into our lives. But that kind of happiness isn't really ours…life can take it back at any time. The kind that we earn, it's a different and better kind of happiness. It can never be taken away, no matter what comes along. 

I wonder at the strength of character of all those who came before... 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

my dad is a good son

I hope that when I am a little white-haired granny I have a son who visits me every week and brings me beets, tomatoes, and onions from his garden.

Oh, but can I do more than wish for it?

the priesthood

I was asked to teach a lesson on the priesthood for relief society...a bit of a daunting task.

I read through the manual, started skimming through "Women and the Priesthood," and mulled over how I was going to approach this topic. I wanted to do it justice. After spending some time talking with my dad, he has to give the same lesson to the High Priests (a very scriptural deep-doctrine style lesson), I found that our conversation was able to put me on the right path --  to spend more time in the scriptures.

What is the Priesthood?

  1. Well, to understand that we have to start with He to whom the priesthood belong. In D&C 88:12-13 we learn that from God "proceedeth forth" His power, all law, and live-giving light. This eternal being, because of who He is, has a power (which we find out in D&C 29:36 is His honor [there's a lot there eh?] and that Heb. 5:4 no one can take this honor on himself unless called) and it is the power of heaven. This power is "inseparably connected" with the "rights of the priesthood" (D&C 121-36) which rights have the responsibility "in administering spiritual things" (D&C 107:10). These are the ordinances of the Gospel.
  2. In these "ordinances of heaven" (Job 38:33) where the power of God is administered, we also find "the power of Godliness manifest" (D&C 84:20). The power of Godliness -- meaning the power to do something Godly and the power to become Godly. The first in the simple fact that by performing the sacred ordinances of the gospel, priesthood holders are exercising a Godly power. They wield the power of the Lord of all Creation. For that reason they MUST be pure and worthy and they WILL be cleansed and perfected. The second, that through these ordinances Godliness becomes ours, demonstrates again more clearly that the purpose of the priesthood is to redeem, sanctify, and reclaim us. It is the power of salvation -- what will make us like unto our Father.
  3. Which is, of course, His ultimate goal. As Moses 1:39 teaches, the Lord's work and glory is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." This is done through His power. Through the priesthood. Through the manifestation of the power of Godliness.

And THAT is why I wanted to do this lesson justice. I hope that I did. The priesthood is an AMAZING thing and I am so grateful to live in a time when it is on the earth in it's fullness.

(Since it was a Relief Society lesson, I also spent time discussing how the priesthood power of Godliness is, in it's fullness, a combined effort. It's power is held by men, yet available to women, and fully manifest in the sealing of the two -- and that, combined with the Godly power of creation (only made available to man through women) it is together that men and women become Godly.)

Friday, July 9, 2010


Let me introduce this quote by saying I totally disagree:

The economist Andrew Oswald, who's compared tens of thousands of Britons with children to those without, is at least inclined to view his data in a more positive light: "The broad message is not that children make you less happy; it's just that children don't make you more happy." That is, he tells me, unless you have more than one. "Then the studies show a more negative impact." As a rule, most studies show that mothers are less happy than fathers, that single parents are less happy still, that babies and toddlers are the hardest, and that each successive child produces diminishing returns. But some of the studies are grimmer than others. Robin Simon, a sociologist at Wake Forest University, says parents are more depressed than nonparents no matter what their circumstances--whether they're single or married, whether they have one child or four.

I mean, you have to think about the scale they are using here. How can you gauge happiness anyways? Isn't that pretty subjective? What does this researcher mean by "happy" in this study? Is that in reference to having pleasure or to having a more lasting joy and contentment? Does it mean you value you life? Does being "happy" mean you are just generally cheerful from day to day or that your life is "hassle-free"? Is that what brings happiness? Just a lack of distress? 

I guarantee the life of a parent is FULL of distress -- but it's distress FOR A PURPOSE and that kind of distress is different. Plus I think most parents would agree that the joys of motherhood/fatherhood outweigh the trials. Good parents would anyways. That's another consideration -- how many of these parents are actually GOOD parents? How many of these families are GOOD families? And how many of these parents are selfish? How many of these families are broken? How many simple "stumbled" into parenthood? This "data" is TOTALLY subjective. (Just like most data.)

Family units as they are MEANT to be and parents as the SHOULD be were designed to bring us the greatest challenge and the greatest joy of mortality (read the Proclamation to the World on family).

What matters most is what last the longest. Nothing on this earth can last longer than the bonds of family. Plus the work of parenthood is a Godly work -- the Lord's "work and glory" is after all us, His family.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

real love

I've been thinking about love lately. It seems one of the main reasons people are not happy (beyond not keeping the commandments) is because they do not TRULY love -- either because they don't know how or because they simply choose to remain selfish.

For that reason I have been looking for good definitions of love -- and what a person who loves actually DOES (because love is, of course, not just an emotion -- it is a principle of ACTION). Clark Swain (a professor of marriage and family life) backs me up on this one: "Real love is basically the same in all human relationships, whether between a grandfather and a grandmother, a newly married couple, or a mother and her child. It involves caring, respecting, responding, empathizing, having concern, giving, receiving, sharing, forgiving. Notice that these words we are using are verbs, and verbs denote action. Loving requires action." (Swain) This is a GREAT article. I want to spend some time with some of Swain's verbs...

Dr. Erich Frohm, in his book "The Art of Loving" defines and explains what a loving person does. A loving person cares about the loved one. Parents who really love their children take good care of them. A person who says, “I love flowers,” but who doesn’t water and cultivate his flowers, really is not loving his own flowers. A person who says, “I love dogs,” but who doesn’t feed his own dog, is not giving love to that dog. Loving is caring. 

I think this is a good one when it comes to personal introspection. I think it's too easy to say "I love this or that" and "I love you" and think that you mean it. I mean, c'mon -- you SAID it. But it's all about what you do from that point. It's simple to figure out what you love... just look for what you care for the most... Who or what do you spend the most time with? Where are your priorities? Are they in earthly things? Careers, school, hobbies, etc? Elder Russell M. Nelson has said: "I doubt that the Lord cares much which honorable vocation you pursue. But He does care if you love one another and serve one another (see Mosiah 4:15)." Nothing should take a higher priority to who you love. 
ALSO - There is a scripture that teaches how to be filled with love: Alma 38:12 "...see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love..." In reference to romantic love, I think this is clear. (If you love someone you will respect him/her and if your love is returned he/she will respect you.) However, I think it fits into all kinds of love as well. Again, if your priorities are out of order then your "passions" will fill your life and take up all of your time and energy...there will be nothing left for those you love.

A loving person responds to others. Loving is empathizing, trying to understand how the other person feels and letting him know that we understand.

This goes along with caring -- because it takes time and effort to empathize. It's not an easy thing for most people to understand how another human being feels; we're often too absorbed in our own feelings to even be aware of others. Living so that you can sense the emotions of others and respond to them in a loving empathetic way has to be practiced and refined. (I think it is one of the most rewarding aspects of love that you can work on in yourself -- it feels wonderful to know that you are trusted and that others can come to you.)

A loving person has concern for the welfare, progress, and happiness of the loved one. He not only has concern; he does something about it by making his resources available to the loved one. Loving is giving. A true gift of love is one that is given with no strings attached; it is given with no concern about what will be received in return.

Along with empathizing we have to also give. It's hard sometimes when you don't even receive appreciation in return. even worse when the other person doesn't even acknowledge what you've done... but to be true lovers we have to learn to give without worry or care beyond the act itself.

Loving is sharing. Have you ever seen a rainbow or a beautiful sunset when you were alone and thought, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to share this with someone?” Or have you ever been alone during a time of illness or trouble and thought, “Wouldn’t it be consoling to have someone here to share this experience”?

This is the easiest one. It's so immediately rewarding. Sharing something wonderful and beautiful makes it so much MORE wonderful and beautiful. Sharing pain and sorrow makes it much more bearable. What a glorious thing it is to love someone you can share with; ideas, hopes, goals, insights, values, experiences, memories....

BUT, what about being IN LOVE? It includes ALL of this with a very important difference:

It is possible that a couple may have great capacity to give love as individuals, but they are not in love. Perhaps they have different backgrounds and interests. He’s from the country and she’s from the city; he’s interested in ranching and the out-of-doors and she’s interested in travel and music. He is Catholic and she is Protestant. He desires to have children and she is not interested in having a family. Thus, even though each may have great ability to give love, it would not be wise for them to marry.

Maybe you are wondering if you are really in love with your partner, if the two of you have a genuine love that will stand the test of time. If there is admiration between you, if you agree on most things, if you cooperate instead of compete, you are probably in love. If you feel comfortable together and can relax and be natural, you are probably in love.

If you feel proud to be seen together in public, if you have similar interests,
(and may I add values!) and if you really trust each other’s loyalty, you are probably in love. If you enjoy one another’s company so much that when you are apart you have a longing to be together, and if you have feelings of deep affection for each other, you are probably in love.

The more of these dimensions that exist in your relationship, the more resilient and lasting your love is likely to be.

Love does not consist of gazing into one another’s eyes, but of looking outward in the same direction. When a man and a woman have learned to do this, though they are two separate persons, a state of inter-person fusion exists between them so that in a real sense they have become one. Each feels toward the other, “I am all for you and you are all for me.” Thus, love is truly “a many-splendored thing.”