Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Why God Does't Over Explain - The Word of Wisdom

Today I read this article by Jane Birch, Good stuff. Originally posted on the Meridian Magazine website.
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This article is part of a series on exploring the Word of Wisdom. To view all the articles in this series, see Discovering the Word of Wisdom.

In this series on “Doctrines, Principles, and Applications,” I’ve been exploring ways that the Lord communicates the doctrines and principles of the Word of Wisdom. The Lord often uses poetic words with layered meanings to teach us, and I believe this is true of the words He uses in D&C 89, the Word of Wisdom. Last week in “Section 89 as Parable,” I suggested that it is useful to think of the Word of Wisdom as a parable in the sense that it does not convey just one surface truth that every reader is likely to agree on. I find it useful to think of Section 89 as a parable in that it leaves breathing room for various interpretations, so that we can get out of it what we need and what we are prepared to receive.

Have you ever wondered why the Lord doesn’t make His meaning more clear? Why are so many scriptures at least somewhat obscure? We all want to follow the Lord, so why doesn’t He just make them plain to our understanding? These are questions I explore in today’s article.

The Lord Sees No Reason to Over-Explain Himself 

Anyone who reads the scriptures hoping to find obvious and unambiguous answers, along with detailed, easily understood explanations, is likely to be disappointed. As much as the Lord desires that we follow His will exactly, it appears He simply does not bend over backwards to explain Himself. Why? I believe He knows He doesn’t need to. In fact, He knows it would not be better for us. He knows there is more than enough power in the few words He speaks to touch our hearts with the truths we are ready and willing to receive. For all of us, more detailed explanations than we are ready to embrace would not help us. In fact, they might condemn us. On the other hand, we are never limited by the few words the Lord speaks, no matter how obscure they may initially appear, because of the principle of continuing revelation. If we receive whatever light we comprehend, additional light and knowledge will be given us. Here is how Nephi explained this principle:

I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30) 

One example of this is found when the Lord told the Jews, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” (John 10:16). This certainly is a cryptic remark. Perhaps the Jews wondered what that parable meant and could not decipher it, but the Lord did not expound on it. Interestingly, when He later appeared to the Nephites in the Book of Mormon, He told them why He did not explain more of this saying to their brethren at Jerusalem:

And now, because of stiffneckedness and unbelief they understood not my word; therefore I was commanded to say no more of the Father concerning this thing unto them. (3 Nephi 15:18) 

Is it possible that our understanding of the gospel is sometimes stifled more by “stiffneckedness and unbelief” than by lack of explanation?

I must confess that for most of my life my understanding of the counsel in Section 89 was very much stifled by my stiffneckedness and unbelief. The fact was this: I didn’t want to change most of my unhealthy diet habits. I liked the foods I ate and did not sincerely welcome the additional light the Lord may have tried to give me. I shielded myself from that light by demanding that the Lord explain Himself more clearly to me. I told myself that if He would only tell me plainly (preferably through His prophet) what I should and should not eat, that I would certainly follow His counsel. But until He bent to my wishes, I felt I was justified in not making any major changes. My demand for clarity and unambiguity now seems to me a manifestation of my stiffneckedness and unbelief. Like Laman and Lemuel, I insisted that the Lord made “no such thing known” to me, when (like them) I had never truly “inquired of the Lord” (1 Nephi 15:8–9). Perhaps I was one of those who, as Elder Neal A. Maxwell put it, preferred ambiguity to accountability.[1]

The Lord does not bend over backwards to make us understand Him. He knows we learn line upon line, precept upon precept. He respects our agency to decide how much we are willing to receive at each step in our journey, and He is gentle with us. As Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught:

Each pronouncement in the holy scriptures . . . is so written as to reveal little or much, depending on the spiritual capacity of the student.[2]

If God over-explained His doctrine, we may be held responsible for things we are not ready to receive. There is no reason to over-explain because we will always be able to hear what we need to hear and what we are willing to hear. I appreciate that the Lord respects our agency to progress as slow as we need to, even if we sometimes cling to favored interpretations as a way of excusing ourselves. In fact, I believe even our excuses can be part of our journey back to Him. All of this can give us experience and be for our learning and growth.

Continuing Revelation as a Key 

The principle of continuing revelation helps us understand why the Lord does not need to explain the principles in the scriptures in greater detail. In a powerful explanation of the relationship between scripture reading and revelation, Elder Dallin H. Oaks explains that “the scriptures are not the ultimate source of knowledge” for Latter-days Saints. Rather, the “ultimate knowledge comes by revelation.”[3] Elder Oaks goes on to explain:

Because of our belief in continuing revelation, we Latter-day Saints maintain that the canon (the authoritative body) of scriptures is open.

By “open,” Elder Oaks is pointing to the truth that the text we find in our scriptures is not the beginning nor the end of God’s counsel to us. It is revelation, and not scripture, that is primary for Latter-day Saints.

Not only does God continue to reveal His work to us through living prophets, He continues to reveal to us new layers of meaning even in the same scripture texts we already have. This is why the 1833 revelation in Section 89 does not need to be updated for the 21st century. As Elder Oaks explains:

We believe that God will give new revelations on the meaning of scriptures previously canonized, meanings that were not evident in earlier times. 

Because it is revelation and not the actual text that is primary, we can go back to Section 89 time and time again and find new layers of meaning as we “prayerfully seek personal revelation to know their meaning.” Elder Oaks further expounds:

A scripture is not limited to what it meant when it was written but may also include what that scripture means to a reader today. Even more, scripture reading may also lead to current revelation on whatever else the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at that time. 

What an expansive view of scripture this is! But Elder Oaks also cautions:

If we harden our hearts, reject continuing revelation, and limit our learning to what we can obtain by study and reason on the precise language of the present canon of scriptures, our understanding will be limited to what Alma called “the lesser portion of the word” (Alma 12:11). If we seek and accept revelation and inspiration to enlarge our understanding of the scriptures, we will realize a fulfillment of Nephi’s inspired promise that those who diligently seek will have “the mysteries of God … unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Ne. 10:19). 

I love this promise that as we “diligently seek” to understand the Lord’s word, “the mysteries of God” will be revealed to us. Because revelation is primary and the heavens are open, there is literally no end to the light and knowledge we can receive as we diligently seek Him.

God is a Gracious Host 

Not only does the Lord patiently teach us line upon line, He cheers us on when we make any type of progress, no matter how small. He is gentle with us when we stumble or fall short. He tends to not only our needs, but also our desires, sometimes even when our desires do not completely align with His. He seems anxious to collaborate with us on the curriculum of our life’s journey as we make our way back to Him.

Certainly the principles of continuing revelation and respect for our agency apply to how we grow in our understanding of the Word of Wisdom. The following comment is insightful in this regard. Here Jan Penny is sharing her thoughts about how the Lord teaches us the Word of Wisdom:

The principle we may be missing here is that God is a gracious host. He gives people not only according to their needs, but according to their wants also. He said, “Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?” (3 Nephi 14:9). He gave the Israelites meat when they complained about manna. Clearly He would have rather they stuck with manna, but he gave them what they wanted, and it made them sick. God didn’t want the people to have a king, but gave in to their desires. He rewards us according to the desires of our hearts so we can learn for ourselves. You can see that there are many instances in the scriptures like this. He doesn’t force us. He tries to lead us and encourage us. The Word of Wisdom is a growing principle. You can obey it at many different levels.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬[4] 

I appreciate the way the Lord manifests His great respect for our agency. It makes me want to treat others in a like manner. I believe God is genuinely patient with the nature and speed of our progress and that He delights in giving us what we desire when He knows it can help us grow. No experience goes to waste. All experience is for our benefit, learning, and growth.

Although we have all read and believe in the Word of Wisdom, we read the scriptures with the lens of our prejudices, which are formed, usually without our knowing it, from the compelling messages of the world around us. This has always been the case for the Word of Wisdom. We Mormons have always interpreted it through the lens of current dietary fads and/or preliminary scientific conclusions that later turn out to be incomplete or even inaccurate. We see through a glass darkly. All this is part of the mortal journey! I am confident the Lord appreciates the challenge we face as we seek to understand His words. He is ever gentle and patient with us, and as we diligently seek Him, all that is needed will be revealed to us.

Since God is patient with us, I hope we can likewise be as patient with ourselves. Just as God does not over-explain Himself, we don’t need to over-understand Him; that is, we don’t have to expect ourselves to understand everything He says at first, second or even the hundredth reading. Because of the principle of continuing revelation, all will be revealed to us in due time. Because the Lord is a gracious host, we need have no fear that He will manipulate us or forsake us before we reach the end of our journey. We are ever safe with God as our guide.

Getting Started

One healthy way of eating that sheds useful light on the principles in the Word of Wisdom is a whole food, plant-based diet.

For more information, see: “Getting Started.”

Jane Birch is the author of Discovering the Word of Wisdom: Surprising Insights from a Whole Food, Plant-based Perspective and many articles on the Word of Wisdom.

Jane can be contacted on her website, Discovering the Word of Wisdom. Watch the video Discovering the Word of Wisdom: A Short Film.

Notes
[1] Neal A. Maxwell, Whom the Lord Loveth: The Journey of Discipleship (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book), 142.
[2] Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), p. 71.
[3] Dallin H. Oaks, “Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign (January 1995).
[4] Jan Penny, Facebook posting (2016). Used with permission.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Discipline and the Holy Ghost

I really liked this post - some thoughts shared last month by a guy named Todd. Shared exactly a month ago, actually - 12 April on the Perfect Day facebook group - I read it then and am still thinking about it, I think he's on to something that I need to learn...

Just some personal thoughts.
In another post, the question of discipline has been raised. I think this is one of the principles of the gospel that requires really careful distinctions to be made.
Self-discipline is a key component of the gospel and the spiritual life. But as with everything, self-discipline can serve the instincts of the natural man, or it can help create the spiritual man.
Not making a basic distinction between the two can lead to the mistaken notion that one can discipline their behavior to become a Christ-like person. Some will read that sentence and recoil at it. And it is because this distinction is rarely made in the church. If there is a philosophy of man mingled with scripture that is taught from the top to the bottom of our church it is this: by acts of effort and discipline of our own acts, we can become like Christlike.
Why is this a problem? What could possibly be wrong with this teaching?
Let me try to articulate the truth, and then through the comparison identify what is wrong with that teaching.
The truth is something like this: we cannot by acting righteous become righteous. Only through the transformation of the Spirit does our heart and mind change and transform our being.
The only thing that we can ever do is make it possible for the spirit to transform us. That is the work. It can be summarized in one term: repentance.
We cannot make ourselves spiritual, we can discipline ourselves to yield to the spirit so that the Holy Ghost fills us with the spirit.
We cannot create within ourselves the characteristic of humility. But we can humble ourselves before the Lord (there is a important difference) so that his spirit fills us with the disposition of humility.
We cannot by taking thought fill ourselves with love. We can yield to the spirit of truth so that the Holy Ghost fills us with love.
We cannot discipline ourselves into not desiring evil. We can yield to the spirit so that the desire for evil is removed from us.
This subtle, yet critical, distinction is paramount for spiritual growth.
As long as we believe we can make ourselves righteous by taking thought we will exert tremendous amounts of effort trying to self-perfect, with little fundamental change.
Sure, we can adopt the posture and forms of righteousness. But without the transformative power of the spirit our efforts will be fruitless - or yield a moderate amount of light.
Some argue that we give our best efforts to develop the character of Christ and then he helps us to do so. Not really. Maybe a little. What usually happens is we think we have to expend a certain effort in the form and then Christ does the work after we show our best efforts. I actually don't believe this is true.
We expend our complete and total effort in yielding our total hearts to the spirit - then do as it directs - and the result is fast and complete: we become transformed in Christ.
The role of discipline in the gospel is not to self-perfect; it is to discipline ourselves to be constantly subject to the Holy Ghost and willing to do exactly as it prompts.
Those that believe that the gospel is about self-perfection and that Christ just comes in the end and sort of makes up the gap after our best efforts of discipline are exerted are those that teach transformation takes a long, slow, imperceptible process.
The miracle of Christ that all should experience is the miracle of transformation. It is full and it is quick. It doesn't take years. It takes hours, days, maybe months. It takes as long as it takes for us to yield our total hearts to Christ.
Richard Foster describes this when he wrote:
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain...This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines - they are a way of sowing to the Spirit... By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.”
People can act meekly, but not be meek. A person can act humbly and not posses real humility. A person can act like they love, and possess no charity.
Let's stop expending so much energy counterfeiting the forms, and put all that energy into coming to Christ in a way that we can experience real and fundamental transformation through his Spirit.



Sunday, January 7, 2018

January Fast and Testimony Meeting

I loved sacrament meeting today and was spiritually nourished. Which is good, cause I was taking Owen and Daniel home for the rest of the block time. Owen has impetigo on his chin again, and it's contagious, so he shouldn't be in nursery. So I went home, but again, I was okay with that cause I'd gotten my spiritual fill during sacrament meeting (thank you to Melodie for taking Daniel out in the hall!) With President Monson's passing this week, many of our ward members shared thoughts and experiences with him, and I also had thoughts in my heart of his messages that touched me most, one of which was his talk on Gratitude which I needed when I was a murmuring mother in Costa Rica in 2010.

As for today, I was feeling weak for not being able to fast very well. I wanted to start at 4 on Saturday, because Hyrum was getting his patriarchal blessing today and I wanted to have finished a 24 hour fast when we went there, but I ate dinner even though I'd started my fast, then I ate some more, and started my fast around 9 pm, apologizing to the Lord for my inability to resist giving in to food. As we sang the sacrament hymn - As Now We Take The Sacrament, I was really asking for forgiveness and thus the lyrics of that hymn "Forgiveness is a gift from thee..." touched me. I actually felt forgiven. I don't think I really have focused on that before, but once I was relistening to a talk by President Eyring and I was thinking of how to make sacrament meeting more meaningful, so it caught my attention when he said should feel forgiveness when we take the sacrament. "Of all the blessings we can count, the greatest by far is the feeling of forgiveness that comes as we partake of the sacrament." - October 2016 General Conference Gratitude on the Sabbath Day. That stood out to me, and today was the first time I felt it and it was nice. I've focused on repenting, but don't know that I've really focused or paid attention to feeling forgiven before, except when President Eyring said we should in that talk. "Feeling" things has been on my mind for a few months. I don't just want to know God loves me, I want to feel he loves me. Anyway, so that started the meeting great, I felt close to Heavenly Father and was trying to pierce the spirit.

Brother Kevin spoke first - he joked that what he will most remember President Monson because it was under his leadership that the church clarified that drinking cola is not a violation of the word of wisdom. The only reference that I think I found on that was this from the lds newsroom - "the Church revelation spelling out health practices (Doctrine and Covenants 89) does not mention the use of caffeine. The Church’s health guidelines prohibit alcoholic drinks, smoking or chewing of tobacco, and “hot drinks” — taught by Church leaders to refer specifically to tea and coffee."

So that was funny, but then he got serious and said that President Monson was such an example of doing good. Bro. Kevin said that he has a 20/80 theory he tries to live by - he will think and work on his mistakes 20% of the time, and then 80% of the time, he just tries to be good and do good. Focus on doing good, and that will help that 20% of weaknesses be smaller.

Next was a young boy in the ward, Jonas. He gave a brief testimony saying that God answers prayers, even if sometimes it takes weeks, months, days, or centuries. Yes, sometimes it might take centuries! (I think that's for us and MovieMouth!) That made everyone smile. From the mouth of babes...

Brother Dale was next, sharing that they just finished their mission at the prison and so this is the first testimony meeting they've been to for a while. He said the good thing about leaving on a mission, is that when you leave the mission, you leave it! But they served a service mission here at home, so they are still aware of the people in need that are very close by. He said that even though it's been a mild winter, it is very cold. He was working outside yesterday and it was very cold. Many of the men, when they leave the prison, they don't have a coat, but if they don't think to ask for one before they exit the doors, they're out of luck. So people need coats, and if we have some extra, they would like them to take to those in need. He said his wife probably gets tired of it, but every night when they pray, he thanks God for a home over his head and a warm bed.

I was thinking about how I've been struggling with gratitude a bit again. I feel like especially for a month like December where we're supposed to give and think of others, I just see how much we need and had a hard time getting my head out of our own debts and problems. I feel like I'm back in Costa Rica, just murmuring and not being able to see all the blessings I have. Bro Dale's words made me want to do and be better. I do have a home and a warm soft bed. I am blessed.

Brother Ryser shared that he met President Monson several times at the hospital where he worked, when President Monson would come to visit patients. One December, after Nat King Cole and David McCullough were guest artists with the choir for their Christmas performance, President Monson at the end presented them with gifts and spoke a few words. Brother Ryser shared how impressed he was with what President Monson said, and asked him what it is like to visit with such well known celebrities and famous people. President Monson replied that when you get to see and meet these "big important" people face to face, you realize that "they are just ordinary people, like you and me." - Brother Ryser always remembered that - the prophet, saying he was ordinary, and putting himself on the same level at Brother Ryser. The prophet is just an ordinary person, like you and me.

Next Amy Reich. She had recently been sick from food poisoning/allergy. She was so sick the first night she knew she wouldn't be able to sleep. She asked for a priesthood blessing and by a miracle felt well enough that she was able to fall asleep that night. So she got better, but she was still sick. She was still sick that night and for the next few days. She wondered why God didn't heal her completely? Then she testified that he doesn't take away our trials, but supports us in our trials. If she had been healed completely, she would have gone on her merry way, not thinking of or needing God's care and help like she would if the discomfort remained. God gives us trials so that we will need Him. And yes, I was thinking of us and Movie Mouth again.

One last one - another sister who recently returned to attending our ward after doing a service mission locally. She said that once she was at the DMV when President Monson came in to renew his driver's licence. It was when he was a counselor in the first presidency, but just a few months before he was called as prophet in Feb 2008. She was funny as she told the story, telling how he sat by her, but she didn't want to be annoying and bug him, so she didn't say anything at first. Then she thought she should talk to him, this was a good blessing/opportunity for her, but she didn't just start talking to him, but tried to be casual about it by kinda bumping his leg, it was funny. Eventually they did talk and she had a good long conversation with him and she said it was so great, they talked about a lot of things! She also said it was funny when he went to get it renewed, he told them "You have to pass me on this eye exam, cause I'm going on a fishing trip in Idaho today and I'm driving!" Lol. She said that after she left, she was just on such a high and felt so happy. I was thinking that I want to serve and love others so that when they leave after talking with me, they are on a high like that. I need to be happy and let the light of Christ shine in me, like President Monson does. He's just an ordinary person, like you and me, and we can be a light to others like he has been. Ask questions, love, serve.

So, I wanted to get up and share my testimony, but the time was over and Bro Kevin got up to conclude the meeting, but what I would have said, and what I will now say here, is that I am so very grateful for President Monson's wonderful Christlike example. I want to be like him. I want to be like him. I want to be grateful, like Brother Dale said, and realize how blessed I am to just have a warm bed and home, not even getting to all the other blessings I have an abundance of! When we went to Costa Rica in 2010, I was struggling to see the blessings in my life. After a conversation where I shared with Corey all my complaints, he said it sounded to him like I just wasn't being grateful. I shook my head and disagreed, thinking that it was not just my perception, things really were pretty lousy. But then the next day, President Monson gave a talk about... Gratitude. "The Divine Gift of Gratitude" Ok ok, fine! I guess if the prophet is going to call me to repentance about it, then maybe I have been acting ungrateful. The story by Gordon Green about the Thanksgiving he remembers was most appropriate. And thus began one of my first personal quests of trying to learn to be more grateful (I still have a long way to go).

I listened to that talk again today and wow, it's just as if not more applicable to our life right now. Especially that Thanksgiving story. Remember and feel grateful
I just love how with the scriptures and conference talks, I can read them again and again at different times in my life but there is so much there, I always learn more deeply the message that was shared. I need to be grateful. That is one of my quests this year, to learn to be more grateful. A quote I wrote in my planner last week that a lady on BYUtv's Story Trek shared as her key to happiness - "The secret to having it all is believing you do!"

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Worth Fighting For

So, I think that this past week has been one of the most emotionally draining and stressful weeks of my life. It started on Monday - Corey's business came to verbal agreements for a deal with a Brazilian investor two weeks ago. They were to go get the ok from their boards and then get back to each other. Corey's CEO took care of it in 3 days. Then they didn't hear from the Brazil guy. They finally got a hold of him this past Monday - he was in Las Vegas and had left the decision to his committee. That wasn't what was supposed to happened - he said that he was the one that had the power to make the decision. It made us worried that this deal was still not going to be finalized for another week or two. On Wednesday Corey said that his employees in Brazil were worried that the deal was going to fall through, cause the "decision with my committee" comment is Brazil business talk for trying to get out of the deal. Ugh. So then it's all still up in the air on Wed - by Thursday I was in tears with worry and playing "Master the Tempest is Raging" on repeat. It was my low point, spent a lot of time in the closet crying. The deal might fall through, Corey doesn't have any consulting checks coming in, we have $13k due for the business Amex on Monday, $4k insurance premium due on Tuesday or our insurance gets cancelled. And he's already got a negative balance in the bank. He doesn't like me to talk about this stuff, but I don't put it on our family blog. But right now this feels like my Abrahamic test. my trial, this is wrenching my soul. I don't even like the gas tank to be low or my cell phone to be uncharged - So big bills like this due with no funds to cover it? That equals super high stress for me. We are figuratively stuck in our tracks at the Red Sea, nothing but dunes all around, and pharaoh coming up behind us. What are we supposed to do? I know that we shouldn't murmur, but man, this is hard! They were facing a life and death situation. Our family's situation is not that dangerous, but it is emotionally stressful - we're facing a serious threat to our family finances, we are close to losing everything he's worked on for the past 10 years. the $700K he's put into this business could be gone. This quote from Sheri Dew's book "Worth the Wrestle" provided one of several answers I received today.

  I once had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Randall Wallace at his California home. Wallace came to prominence when he received an Academy Award nomination and a Writer's Guild Award for the screenplay to Braveheart. He has also written and in some cases produced, such movies as Secretariat, Pearl Harbor, the Man int eh Iron Mask, We were Soldiers, and Heaven is for Real.
  I liked Wallace instantly. From Lizard Lick, Tennessee, his unassuming, country-boy, small-town background resonated with me. His family members were devout Baptists, and when he talked about spending twenty or thirty hours a week "going to church" (everything from the Boy Scouts to Sunday meetings), I felt as though I'd met a kindred spirit. 
  Prior to our interview, I watched the address he gave at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2011 and was struck by the sincerity of his message about the power of prayer. In our conversation, he was neither self-conscious nor self-righteous as he professed his belief in Jesus Christ and the impact the Savior had in his life. 
  His career, though celebrated now, has had its share of intense ups and downs. At one point, when he faced the possibility of losing just about everything, he said he was determined that if he went down, he would go down fighting for what he believed, "with his flag flying."
  When I asked why he had produced and written so many movies about war, his answer reinforced the rest of his story: "I don't think of them as war movies," he said. "I write love stories. I want to know what a man or woman loves enough to fight for. 

Intense ups and downs, that's an accurate description of what I'm feeling. Randall Wallace faced the possibility of losing just about everything <-- that is where we are right now. Ugh, it is not fun. But, what to we love enough to fight for. Corey's been fighting for this for years. Most of the fight is out of him though. He is weary. Did the children of Israel have to have the courage to fight? What options did they have? They are chastised in the scriptures for murmuring, though I think the murmuring is totally understandable. But when we murmur, it is against the Lord. Exodus 16:8. Topical guide topics for murmuring referenced to Disobedience, Rebellion, and Ungratitude. Satan was cast out because of rebellion. We don't want to be associated with these things. No matter the trial, we cannot murmur. We must have faith, and if we sink, we need to be like Wallace tried to be and go down with our flag flying. So that is what Corey and I will do. We'll trust that we are in good hands, loving hands (Pres. Uchtdorf "Three Sisters") but if it is God's will that our life take a different course than the one we've been working on, hoping for and praying for, then we need to face that with faith in his plan and go down with our flag flying!

Also, I taught Hyrum's Sunday School class at church today. The lesson was on asking questions. I talked about how as I've been studying scriptures this week, I've been pondering and asking "What were the Children of Israel supposed to do when they were at the Red Sea?" They were in a helpless and hopeless situation! I think it's okay to cry and worry, but we can't murmur. Yes, they were facing death. Then an answer came to my mind - when the Children of Israel were facing death, they could have said to each other like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,"the God we serve is able to serve us, but if not..." (Daniel 3). Or they could have done as the people of Ammon did - kneel and praise God their Egyptian enemies come upon them (Alma 24). If our enemies destroy us, we shall go to our God and shall be saved (Alma 24:16). Keep an eternal perspective. If we lose all our money or if the business tanks, it's no worse than what people in Puerto Rico are facing in the wakes of the hurricanes, or those suffering from the fires in California.

Another answer from my questions this week: I also led the discussion in our study group this past Wednesday, the lesson was on Genesis 37-50 and Joseph of Egypt. I loved this part of the introduction in bold below:

“The story of Joseph, the son of Jacob who was called Israel, is a vivid representation of the great truth that ‘all things work together for good to [those] who loved God.’ (See Rom. 8:28.) Joseph always seemed to do the right thing; but still, more importantly, he did it for the right reason. And how very, very significant that is! Joseph was sold by his own brothers as a slave and was purchased by Potiphar, a captain of the guard of Pharaoh. But even as an indentured servant, Joseph turned every experience and all circumstances, no matter how trying, into something good. 

“This ability to turn everything into something good appears to be a godly characteristic. Our Heavenly Father always seems able to do this. Everything, no matter how dire, becomes a victory to the Lord. Joseph, although a slave and wholly undeserving of this fate, nevertheless remained faithful to the Lord and continued to live the commandments and made something very good of his degrading circumstances. People like this cannot be defeated, because they will not give up. They have the correct, positive attitude, and Dale Carnegie’s expression seems to apply: If you feel you have a lemon, you can either complain about how sour it is, or you can make a lemonade. It is all up to you.” (Hartman Rector, Jr., “Live above the Law to Be Free,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 130.)  

It reminded me of this quote by Joseph Smith:

George A. Smith, who served as a counselor to President Brigham Young, received the following counsel from the Prophet Joseph Smith at a time of great difficulty: “He told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I was sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage and I should come out on the top of the heap at last.”

So my emotions have gone full circle. I was in deep despair last week. Today things are just as scary and uncertain, but my trust has been restored, No matter what happens, I believe and trust that it's gonna be okay! I'm going to continue to fight the doubts and worries. Even if it means 13 years unjustly imprisoned like Joseph of Egypt, I'll trust that God has a plan for us.


Doubt is a broken record that plays inside my head
I try to turn it down, but I can't quite drown it out
I'm tortured everyday, these never ending worries, pulling on my sleeves
So many times now I was supposed to tap out
All the walls would fall down around me
All anybody would tell me, is all that bad news how it's gonna fall through
But no matter what they say or what they say,
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay 
No matter what you've been through here you are
No matter if you think you're falling apart
It's gonna be, okay
And there is a battle raging in your heart but you must win
It comes for all of us, saying we are not enough
So fight for your life the worlds gonna try
To sell you some lies
So many times now I was supposed to tap out
All the walls would fall down around me
All anybody would tell me, is all that bad news how it's gonna fall through
But no matter what they say or what they say,
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
No matter what you've been through here you are
No matter if you think you're falling apart
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
It's gonna be, okay
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
No matter what you've been through here you are
No matter if you think you're falling apart
It's gonna be, gonna be, okay
It's gonna be, okay

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Acceptance

I've recently joined a little online community of mom's who are working on goals - it's called the Everyday Joi Community - I found it through Holly Rigsby who I found years ago through a exercise program she has. Anyway, on facebook I saw she was inviting people to participate in a "Courage Challenge" so I signed up. She's been teaching us about the triple A formula - AAA: being Aware of our life, Accepting our life, and then taking Action to improve our life. She said very often we hurry from aware to action and skip over acceptance. That is what I've been doing and she's been helping us make sure we don't skip acceptance. But I haven't really been able to get into my head how I'm supposed to accept. Well last night I had a breakthrough I think and I typed this up on my blog on that community, thought I'd share it here too, since it was a conference talk that helped it click in my head and I pull in a few other gospel truths too. I hope I really do get it now and that I know how to make it work in my life! Be kind to others, be kind to ourselves.
Here's my post I just finished typing and sharing:


ACCEPTANCE - Insights and Breakthrough 


So I’ve been having a hard time getting “acceptance” into my head, but I think I finally had a breakthrough last night! I’m probably going to ramble here but I’m going to try my best to get all my thoughts out before the little ones wake up from nap time.  So – as Holly said in a recent periscope that “priorities” had a negative connotation to her because people would use it negatively, as in “Well you just don’t have your priorities straight…” I think I’ve been the same with with acceptance. It had a negative connotation of “Well you just have to accept it…” giving feelings of resentment, resistance, and reluctance – ironically the exact opposite of Acceptance! So I’ve been thinking about acceptance and this is where I had a breakthrough last night – I was reading a story from one of my church’s leaders where he was a mission president and one of his young missionaries wanted to go home. The president, not really listening with ACCEPTANCE, just told him “We can fix this!” (aka jumping right to ACTION, right?) He told the missionary to forget himself and go to work focusing on others and to call him in a week. The missionary called a week later and still wanted to go home. Again the mission pres told him to work harder and call him in a week. The next week it was the same. But at that meeting, in a moment of clarity, the mission president felt he should dig deeper and he ask him “What is hard for you?” The missionary replied  “President, I can’t read….” The mission president realized the ACTION he was taking was not what was needed cause he was not truly AWARE nor had he ACKNOWLEDGED this missionaries feelings or true concerns. Quoting from the talk “The wise counsel which I thought was so important for him to hear was not at all relevant to his needs. What he needed most was for me to look beyond my hasty assessment and allow the Spirit to help me understand what was really on this elder’s mind. He needed me to see him correctly and offer a reason to hope. Instead, I acted like a giant demolition wrecking ball.”
Again this made ACCEPTANCE click for me. This mission president, thinking he was AWARE of the situation, gave him an ACTION to take that he was sure would fix it, but he wasn’t really aware nor had he accepted how this missionary was really feeling. Instead of just jumping from what we THINK we are aware of and then straight to ACTION, we’re got to ask and dig and make sure we know it and then love ourselves or others in the situation we are in. For those who know the Men are from Mars Women are from Venus books – this is exactly the thing that makes men and women collide sometimes – the Men put on their “fix it” hats and want to take action, where women mostly just need/want to be understood and accepted! So, with the help from this talk, my aha is that acceptance is NOT negative (and I don’t know that I even really realized I was thinking of it negatively) but to be truly AWARE is positive and ACCEPTANCE is positive and embracing and now I’m going to insert LOVE there with acceptance, accept with love. 
So, moving this over to my own season and focus right now – Getting my house in order. I was telling myself “Yes, I am AWARE that my home is a mess and I am not organized!” I didn’t really know how to accept that or what acceptance looked like, but I was still ready again to jump to action, and I would have had not Holly repeatedly and aboslutely forbidden it. So, I couldn’t just jump and find a set of household rules on the internet or a homemaking cleaning schedule on pintrest. I had to figure out how to accept my house. So last night I thought about this missionary story and what my real concern might be… I think instead of it just being a neutral HOUSE that I’m wrestling with, it’s more my family and really MYSELF! The No show audit helped me realize I was blaming others. I’m going to stop blaming them even when it’s just in my thoughts. I made a goal this week to keep MY room clean and MY bathroom counter clear and I’m 48 hours into it and THEY ARE BOTH STILL CLEAN! That is a small miracle ladies, WIN! And wow, already “unstuck” in one area!! Cause usually I blame others for their messy room and mine too …. “Well you kids don’t have an excuse! Of course my room is messy cause all you guys come in my room and mess it up.” But now I’m become awake and aware that I have power, I have choice, I can do what it takes to keep my area clean, and it feels good! And I’m looking around the house now and see that the kids do help quite a bit, but I was usually looking for where they didn’t help and noticing where we were all lacking. Some of the quotes shared this week have helped me, “Eat like you love yourself, Move like you love yourself, Think like you love yourself, and ACT like you LOVE YOURSELF!” See, it comes back to LOVE!! I’m going to clean like I love this home (and I do!) and like I love my family (Cause I do!!) I have noticed for a long time that I’m not as affectionate, kind, or loving as I’d hope a mother would be, probably cause I’m always telling or thinking of how busy I am and how much there is to do. No more.  I’m ready to accept and love myself and accept and love my life, and I do love it. I have just been focusing on the wrong thing and that’s kept me stuck. Like that mission president thinking the missionary just needed to work harder, but that was focusing on the wrong thing. Once they focused on the right thing, the missionary was able to take the correct steps to get help and hope and get him unstuck from his situation and hopeless frustrated attitude. He learned how to read and stayed and served the rest of his mission. This talk that helped me was one I listened to last night called “Lord Wilt Thou Cause That My Eyes May Be Opened
I also loved the quote last night shared here by I can’t remember who, but I wrote it out and it’s on our fridge by our treasure map – “Sometimes on particularly rough days, I like to remind myself that my track record for geting through hard days is 100%, and that’s really good!” That quote also helped me get acceptance into my mind – love myself, love my life, I will make it through this! I have made it through everything else so far, 100% and that is pretty good.
Two more stories – Stephanie Nielsen is a Mormon blogger who was burned in a plane crash years ago. She has a book called “Heaven is Here”. In that book she wrote about as she was waking up from her coma, she knew she had been hurt and severly burned but would not look in the mirror. She did not want to look in the mirror and did not wanting to be aware of or accept what she looked like now with her scarred face. It took her a long time to be brave enough to look in the mirror. But finally she had to accept herself and she said “This is not going away” and it was still so hard to not miss her old body and pre-plane crash face, but she took that first step and looked at her new face. She has learned to accept that this is her new life, and it is different from the life she had, but it is good, very good. Short youtube of her story here
And last one – If any of your know the Piano Guys, I’ve been listening to their song “It’s Gonna Be Okay” today, and I think that it is a perfect song to listen to when we are practicing ACCEPTANCE, especially the line: No matter what you’ve been through, HERE YOU ARE. No matter if you think you’re falling apart, it’s gonna be okay. Like Stephanie – her scars were not going away, this is where she is at, and it’s a new life and it’s a good life, It’s going to be okay. We need to accept it with love, it will be okay! Ironically, that piano guys song came out last year one month before the daughter of one of the guys in the group, Jon Shcmidt, went missing while hiking. They did eventually find and recover her body, she fell off a cliff and they found her body, but they accepted it with faith in God’s plan for them and that he was aware. I’ll just share this post from my family blog that I wrote a year ago before they found her or knew for sure what happened – I wrote it admiring their faith and that they could still say “it’s gonna be okay” now in the face of a trial like that. Acceptance can be hard but we can live, we must life and go on and life is okay and we can even still love life and find joy in it. In this life or in the next, our heart aches will heal, WE WILL SEE OUR LOVED ONES AGAIN, I know we will! All things will be made right. (Another great General Conference talk from April that helped me so much – God Shall Wipe Away All Tears)
Final note for this dumping of my thoughts… I’m grateful for a comment Holly made yesterday that it’s okay if our thoughts or posts are jumbled – the important thing is to show up and share. With that comment in my head I”m hoping to make the time to share a bit more over these next 5 weeks. And for those that read what I post, just a heads up that usually when I share there will be lots of thoughts and quotes from my faith (like there are in this post!) cause that is usually where I go first to look for answers. I especially love LDS General Conference. We have it two times a year, about 12 hours of talks given by our leaders in the spring and fall every year. I love General Conference because they give real life examples and help us see through those stories how we can apply the principles of the gospel to our lives. (This one about MIRACLES is SOOOO GOOD!) The teachings of the scriptures relate to our lives today even if they are from two thousand years or 5000 ago, they can be applied to our circumstances! So, forgive me if I insert spiritual things too much, I’ll try not to be overbearing though! But praying and reading scriptures are something I focus on daily and I have a little weekly check list where I check off my prayers and reading of scriptures, cause those things do get me in the right mindset and I also believe that God will help me find the answers I need when I ask him for help. This challenge is an answer to those prayers and I know it will help me better apply principles of the gospel that I believe in that I’ve been falling short at, like loving and accepting myself and others. For me, faith isn’t just praying and hoping, it is working. Mormons are sometimes accused that we think our works will save us, but while we do know that it is by grace that we are saved, we also know that “Faith without works is dead” – James 2:20.  Like Holly said (Tues Periscope shoulder shake I think) that we can’t just pray to lose weight, we’ve got to get up and DO SOMETHING. Our whole life is our chance to prove and DO what we say we believe in, whatever it is that’s important to us. In a scripture study group yesterday we talked about Abraham offering Isaac – God maybe knew what Abraham would do, and Abraham probably knew he would obey anything God told him to do, but still he had to PROVE it and DO it and he was ready and going to do sacrifice Isaac until an angel came and stopped him. We need to be ready to DO what God or our instincts or the universe tell us. This is the only mortal life we have! This is the time for us to live and do and prepare for what’s next! Alma 34:32. Ok! there’s my soap box, I’m really excited that I think I finally understand acceptance and now I hope I can learn to ACCEPT (a happy and good thing!) in more areas of my life and I’ll stop resisting the problems I see and I'll learn to accept them and they won’t persist or keep me stuck anymore, hooray!​



Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Fast and Testimony Meeting

As always, we had a wonderful meeting at church today and it nourished my soul. I really love to fast with the world wide church on fast Sunday and love the spirit of testimony meeting. So here are a few of the testimonies in our ward that I was able to hear (through interruptions from children!) and that touched me.

Brother Ensign has shared before that he was in a bank once when it got robbed. He was the only patron there at the time and was more concerned with his briefcase at his feet than about taking mental notes about anything the thief was doing. When the police came, they kept him for questioning and Bro Ensign wasn't very much help. After the cop was done with him, he told him "You're a bad witness!" and Bro Ensign joked that he said some not very nice things back at him. But he's thought about that accusation and wanted to get up and share his witness of Christ. He said he probably doesn't do it enough. And although he might not have been a good witness in that moment at the bank, he's determined to be a good witness in the world for Christ so that when he stands before the Savior, the Savior won't have to chastise him like the police man did.

Unlike people who feel like they don't share their testimony enough, I probably share mine too often. Corey teases me and calls me "Testimony Tiff", and says he can tell when I've got "the look" and am going to get up. It's true, I probably am too eager to get up to share the feelings in my heart. But I just love the Gospel and the things that the Lord teaches me. But it was easier for me to stay seated today because Corey shared his testimony. (Socially I'd say you usually shouldn't have two people from the same family get up, ha) So Corey started by saying that when we were in Brazil, even before the member of the bishopric was done, people were headed up and would fill the stand. You had about 1 minute to get up or you'd have to wait for next month! He mentioned how it was nice to not have that pressure and to have the spirit be able to work on you a little bit first. So, I'll try to retell it in my own words. First he mentioned how someone who is very dear and important to him is struggling with their testimony. He shared that when we struggle with questions and doubts, we might become frustrated and give up when the answers don't come quickly, easily, or without work on our part (sometimes more work than we would like! As Corey and I are feeling with his business especially this past week). Once as a family we watched the Christian movie "Facing the Giants". It's a story about a football team and coach that are down on their luck. They're loosing games, the coach is having a hard time in his marriage cause his wife can't get pregnant and he drives a lousy car. The team decides to pray for help to win and serve Christ. Then things start to happen - they start winning games, and at the end of the movie, the wife has a baby, the coach has a nice new red truck, and he's got lots of trophies in the case behind him. Sweet! That looks like it is pretty easy! From Corey's experience, though, life and the struggles it give us are more like the movie 17 Miracles. There is a lot of pain, stretching, and suffering involved. Some people turn back. Some people die on the trail. Some people make it to the valley, but they endured unimaginable hunger and cold. There were the occasional miracles though. One miracle that Corey referred to was of the apple pie. It occurred when a mother, Mary Ann Mellor, who among the current trials of the trek, had also given birth to conjoined twins before they left England and lost them. She was weak and still recovering from that. Eventually she could not carry on any more and let the party move on without her as she sad down and cried.
Her older daughters worried the wolves would come. Her 16 year old daughter, Louisa, stayed with her to help. Louisa knelt and prayed. After her prayer, she miraculously found a warm apple pie in front of her there on the trail in the middle of nowhere.
She accepted it as an answer to her prayer and took it back and gave it to her mother.
They ate it and wept and rejoiced, knowing the Lord was aware of them.
Then they stood up to carry on. At other times when that mother felt to give up and turn back, she would remember the apple pie, and it gave her strength to continue. Like that mother and many of the other pioneers and people everywhere in the world today, we will have great challenges! We are here to be tested and gain an experience to prepare us for eternity! We must not loose sight of that goal. We must remember the apple pie miracles as we face our doubts and trials. Corey ended with his testimony that he knows the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true, and that he "wants it to be true and looks for ways that it is true" - he looks for the apple pies and will focus on them instead of the struggle of the journey.

One other testimony that I took some notes on, Brother Dummer - he said he wants to be a defender of the truth in social media, he wants to be a good witness in his testimony, referring to Bro Ensigns words. He's been researching his family history and there is one great grandfather that they don't know anything about other than where he lived and that he died of heat stroke. We need to share our witness! "What will our posterity know about us? Will they know what we believe and what we stand for?"

I'm grateful for the internet and this blog and that I can share my testimony and witness with those who might come across my words. I was able to go to the temple twice this weekend when Corey was gone in California. I went on Friday night for "date night" cause the kids kick me out of the house even when Corey is out of town! I did an endowment session at the Draper temple. The endowment is presented in film format, and the church released 3 new endowment films a few years ago. My favorite one was shown on Friday night, (the one with the bald devil). I love Adam in that one. After he has left the garden, he just looks so weary. He's prayed for help and guidance, but instead of an answer from God, Satan comes and tries to influence him. So does prayer even work? Adam continues to pray and believe, even though God appears to be silent. Adam prays and waits. Sometimes we just need to keep praying and waiting. We've been doing that with Movie M0uth for over 10 years now, and who knows maybe we'll have to do it for even more years. But we will press forward with faith. A friend Michelle texted me this weekend, and shared how Elder Christofferson said "challenges are at times an indication of the Lord's trust in you." We all know the Lord is aware of the details in our lives. We, like Adam, may be weary, but remember what we know. God lives, he loves us, we are his children, and if we have eyes to see we will recognize the many miracles around us despite the challenges that we also face.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fear Not!

We turned on the television this morning as we were getting ready for church and were blessed to catch this talk that President Worthen gave last Tuesday at BYU. It was sooo good! Corey and I especially loved the story about Sister Sheri Dew and how she didn't try out for the basketball team - President Worthen's telling of this story is posted below:

A number of years ago I had an assignment on campus that involved athletics. In that role I was invited to attend a banquet for the women student athletes at which Sister Sheri L. Dew was the speaker. Any of you who have heard Sister Dew speak would understand how excited I was to be invited. She is a gifted speaker and a wonderful gospel scholar. I very much looked forward to hearing from her. Unfortunately, at the last minute a conflict arose, and, much to my disappointment, I was not able to attend. As you can imagine, then, I was especially excited when I was invited to the exact same event the next year and learned that one of the speakers was again to be Sheri Dew. This time I was able to attend. I was particularly thrilled when Sister Dew started off her remarks by saying that she was going to begin by telling the same story she had told the year before—allowing me to catch up. I was pleasantly surprised, thinking maybe she was doing this just for my sake. However, she quickly made clear that while she was going to tell the same story she had told the previous year, this year she was telling it to make an entirely different point from the one she had made the year before. Sister Dew explained that she had begun her remarks the prior year by telling the women student athletes how thrilled she was to be invited to speak because she had long wanted to be a part of BYU athletics. She said something to this effect: 

"You will remember that I told you that when I arrived at BYU, I felt like I was the most ill-prepared, socially awkward freshman who had ever set foot on this campus. I told you then that I was from a very small town in Kansas—a town much smaller than the student population of BYU—and I felt completely overwhelmed, wondering if I would ever fit in. But there was one thing I thought might provide an entry into the BYU community, and that was basketball. I had played basketball in high school in Kansas, and, quite frankly, I thought I was pretty good. So I decided I would try out for the women’s basketball team. I learned all I could about the team: who the coach was, who had left the team, who was returning, and when the tryouts were to be held." 

Sister Dew then said: "You will recall that I told you last year how I summoned up all my courage and went to the appointed gym in the Richards Building where tryouts were to be held. Wanting to make sure I maximized my chances, I had arrived early. You will also remember how I told you that I opened the door to the gym with some confidence, and then I watched the girls who were playing there. I thought to myself, 'Wow, they are really good.' You will remember how I told you that I closed the door and then spent the next three hours walking up and down the hallways of the Richards Building trying to muster up enough courage to go back for the tryouts but that I finally gave up and returned to my dorm room without making the effort to try out. I told you that story last year so that you would understand that I truly meant it when I told you that I was thrilled more than you knew that I had been asked to speak to the women student athletes at BYU and to be made an honorary member of that group. I wanted you to know that it really was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. But I am telling you this same story this year for a much different purpose because of what happened immediately after I spoke last year. After I had spoken last year, Sister Elaine Michaelis came up to me."

Now many of you here will know Sister Michaelis. She is one of the legendary figures in BYU athletics. She worked in the Athletics Department for more than forty years, serving as women’s athletics director for much of that time. She was such an impactful and ­successful ­women’s volleyball coach that the volleyball court in the Smith Fieldhouse is named for her. During her coaching career at BYU, Elaine Michaelis at one time or another coached every single women’s sport. Now, with that background, let me share what Sister Dew went on to say: 

"Sister Michaelis had spoken after me last year, and she then engaged me in a conversation while we were still on the podium. Sister Michaelis asked me, 'Sheri, is that story true?' 'Of course it’s true,' I replied. Sister Michaelis then responded, 'Do you know who the coach of the women’s basketball team was the year you were a freshman?' 'Yes, I do,' I said. 'It was you. I knew everything about the team that year.' Then Sister Michaelis said, 'I should tell you something, Sheri. In all my many years of coaching and of all the teams that I coached, there was only one year and one team that did not have a full roster. It was the women’s basketball team that year. We were one player short.' 
Elaine Michaelis coached BYU women's volleyball and basketball
Sister Dew then said, pretending to stab ­herself in the heart: It would not have hurt any more to be stabbed in the heart than to have heard those words. There was a place for me on that team. God had prepared a way for me to fit in and had given me inspiration as to what I should do, and I let my fears keep me from that blessing. 

Sister Dew’s life turned out okay—we don’t need to worry about her—and the women’s basketball team survived without her as well. But that is just evidence that God truly can make “all things [including our own mistakes] work together for [our] good” if we will love and trust Him. But He will also bless us in the interim—in the short run and in the long run—if our choices are directed by our faith in Him rather than by our fears about ourselves. Be alert to the times during which you must choose between fear and faith. Those times confront us more often than we usually recognize.

This talk was so great and reminded me that we should take courage, even when we think things don't look to be in our favor. We should listen to God's promptings and trust in Him.
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