Monthly Archives: June 2014

Kate Kelly: Stand By, Not With

ConferenceIt’s been a few, raw days since we all heard the news about Kate Kelly. Since then some rather disturbing facts have come to light – things that her followers should find alarming. So here’s my question to those who are still hanging on to her cause: Will you still stand with Kate, even though she’s been excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If your answer is yes, then I beg of you to reconsider what that decision means and how it might critically affect your own personal journey of faith – if that’s important to you. Is it? I hope you know that if you were to decide to not stand with Kate it would be perfectly okay for you to stand ‘by’ her; there’s a difference.

To stand with is to agree and desire to defend a person because you believe in them and their cause. For instance, I stand with Jesus Christ; His Prophet and the Church He organized through the Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith Jr. I stand with them because I have a deep and abiding testimony that this work is true and that an inspired prophet of God leads it.

So if you’re determined to continue to stand with Kate Kelly, why? What has she done for you? And please don’t give her credit for teaching you a better understanding of the priesthood and how you fit in. What she advocates about LDS women and the priesthood is contrary to the doctrine of the Church. There is a quote from Elder Ballard that says “Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce” (M. Russell Ballard, General Conference, Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers, October 1999).

Why would you stand with someone who has lost her birthright by choosing a mess of pottage, so to speak? If you’ve been prompted to study more about priesthood power and authority, it’s because God has taken opposition to His work and used it in His favor. He’s inspired you to seek revelation, not Kate Kelly. Remember, if it comes from God it is good… you know the rest. (Moroni 7:12)

So, a little opposition to your faith has caused you to flex your spiritual muscles and you’re now better educated, and thus your testimony of the priesthood has been increased. That’s great. But again, please don’t credit the works of an apostate, other than acknowledging that perhaps this situation may be similar to the way the Lord used the Lamanites to be a scourge to the Nephites. It caused them to remember Him. Isn’t He brilliant? (2 Nephi 5: 25) General ConferenceYou just have to know and trust that no unhallowed hand can stop the work of salvation from going forward. (Joseph Smith)

Let’s make sure that no matter what, we are choosing to be on the Lord’s side and standing with Him, always. No individual has a right to divide our loyalty, which belongs only to Jesus Christ.

But again, we don’t need to abandon Kate because we’ve decided to not stand with her any longer, because we can still stand by Kate (a much better alternative). To stand by a person is to commit to not letting them walk alone and to support them through their trials. This is a great show of loyalty. Therefore, I submit that for many who share a deep compassion for Kate Kelly during these trying times, whether we agree with what she is doing, how she is doing it, what she believes, or even think her an apostate to the Church, we can choose to stand by Kate.

We can stand by Kate to support her efforts to return to Christ and reclaim her membership in the Church. We can stand by Kate and encourage her to follow the counsel of inspired leaders who deeply care about her spiritual progress. We can stand by Kate and teach her by example to trust in the Lord, that His ways are higher than her ways. We can stand by Kate until we can once again, with the blessings of the Lord, stand with Kate as one in Christ – the intended purpose of LDS Church discipline.

As the mother of five raised children and a former seminary teacher, I learned to value the principle that the best teacher is an excellent student. Kelly had garnered a position of leadership/teacher to Mormon women who at times have felt marginalized in the Church for one reason or another (and not because they necessarily desire female ordination). I know this, because many have shared these thoughts with me. Unfortunately, what many of you were led to believe was okay (to publicly advocate for or align yourselves with) have been clearly determined to be acts of apostasy. And, depending on your circumstances, if you plan on continuing, you could potentially meet the same fate as Kate.

It is no longer advisable to consider Kate a leader among women of covenant. Sadly, she’s not. She is clearly misguided in how to petition the Lord and His Prophet. Her cause was never about asking faithful questions. Please don’t be fooled. She believes she knows better than a Prophet of God and has the answer about women and priesthood. Ordain Women advocates a relentless determination to force their will on the Lord’s Prophet. These acts place her and her followers in open rebellion to the Church, its leaders and therefore God.

Kate Kelly has publicly stated that she will continue Ordain Women and has no regrets as to how she has conducted herself up to this point – even when the Church has clearly stated that her actions are divisive. In fact, her most recent counsel to Mormon feminists who share her concerns about inequality in the Church and/or a desire for female ordination is this: Stay in the Church, but raise hell. Margaret Toscano Ordain WomenI don’t know about you, but that’s not a message that is inspired of God.

It might surprise some to know that Ms. Kelly has been mentored throughout the entire journey of organizing and carrying out the work of Ordain Women by a fairly well-known woman by the name of Margaret Toscano. Toscano used to be a member of the Church until she, too, was excommunicated for advocating for female priesthood ordination. Do you see a pattern here? Follow an apostate and you will very likely end up in the same place. Is that what you want? I hope not.

For many years I thought this temple recommend question odd, not understanding it’s importance, and so I just answered “no” and moved on: Do you support, affiliate, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I now understand what this means in terms of apostates and guarding against personal apostasy. If we affiliate and sympathize with apostates or those whose beliefs are contrary to the teachings of the Church, it usually means that we won’t understand why they were excommunicated or disciplined. Rather, we would think their acts have been misjudged or misunderstood. It means we don’t “get it” and that’s a precarious place to be when it comes to being determined to keeping covenants. In the age of the Internet, with so many alternate voices even within our own Church membership, that temple question could very well become more relevant.

Do you feel Kate Kelly is misunderstood? Do you feel her priesthood leaders were wrong to excommunicate her? If you answered yes to either, or both, that’s probably a red flag and early warning sign. It should concern you that perhaps your faith in Jesus Christ is wavering and that you might be going down the same path. I don’t know. But what I do know is that if you sincerely care about making sure you keep your covenants with God, you may want to reconsider your associations with these groups and prayerfully be determined to realign your will with our Heavenly Father.

Woman in prayer If you have questions that you find difficult to ask in Church settings, then please consider taking them straight to the Lord and then heading into the scriptures. This is the approach that prophets and apostles model and counsel us to do, and it is what our Heavenly Father and the Savior want us to do. The temple is an excellent place to receive revelation. Take your questions to the temple, and accompany these questions by much prayer and fasting. The Lord will speak to you and tell you what will help you better understand. I’ve had this experience many times. He may even give you the answer you seek. At the very least, He will speak peace to your heart and give you His Grace that will enable you to bear your burdens with gladness.

We will never find the answers to our deepest questions in a blog post, on Facebook, or in an online forum—and especially not among those who hold contrary feelings toward the Church or its doctrine. So, if those are some of the places you’ve been looking for answers, or support, perhaps you might want to reconsider your strategy and turn directly to the Lord. Trust Him completely. He is your Eternal Father and cares infinitely about your well-being and eternal happiness.

Each of us can carve out a space for ourselves within our individual wards or branches. We do this by taking a humble approach and realizing that most people are in need of others to help them feel comfortable. Our divine differences can be celebrated. We don’t need to find people who think and feel exactly as we do in order to find community among our sisters in the gospel. The gospel makes us one.

If you’ve been away for a while, come back! If you’re thinking of leaving, please don’t! If you’re hurting, the Atonement can heal your heart. If you feel some cultural things in the Church could benefit from some changes, there is still a place for you. Give your fellow Church members a second chance to help you know that you are valued, loved and wanted. There is no ideal, perfect “cookie cutter” Mormon woman. The only idea that we need to desire more than anything else is to keep our covenants with God. You belong and we will stand with you. And together, we will stand for—and with—Jesus Christ.

“Let not any voices of discontent disturb you. Let not the critics worry you. As Alma declared long ago, “Trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.” “As surely as this is the work of the Lord, there will be opposition. There will be those, perhaps not a few, who with the sophistry of beguiling words and clever design will spread doubt and seek to undermine the foundation on which this cause is established. They will have their brief day in the sun. They may have for a brief season the plaudits of the doubters and the skeptics and the critics. But they will fade and be forgotten as have their kind in the past. Meanwhile, we shall go forward, regardless of their criticism, aware of but undeterred by their statements and actions. Said the Lord even before the Church was organized: ““Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”” Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, God Is at the Helm, April 1994.

Traditional Marriage Resource

family-atlanta-temple-911133-galleryWhat is marriage? Why is the government involved with marriage in the first place? What purposes does the institution serve? We believe these questions need to be answered before we can have any sort of productive conversation about public policy related to marriage. And because the conversation has moved forward without good answers to these questions, the public debate over marriage has been confusing and contentious.

The Discussing Marriage Project is a new resource that is designed to help bring clarity to the conversation, and to provide those who support traditional marriage with the resources they need to do so in a persuasive way. The team at www.discussingmarriage.org is developing a library of articles and videos that present the best articulated reasons for supporting traditional marriage as a matter of public policy. The primary purpose of the site is to demonstrate that it is possible to support traditional marriage in rational, civil, and respectful ways, and that those on both sides of the debate should be treated with dignity and respect.

A Prophetic Invitation

As Latter-day Saints, we sustain our leaders as prophets, seers, and revelators. They have a gift of discernment that allows them to “see afar off,” and to warn us beforehand of dangers we face as a Church and as a society. In 1995, well before the debate over same-sex marriage became a hot-topic issue in U.S. politics, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency released “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which taught plainly and clearly the doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and that the institution of the family is central to God’s plan for His children. They warned that “the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

They ended that prophetic proclamation with a call to action: “We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.” Since then, Latter-day Saints heeded that call, and supported efforts to define marriage as between a man and a woman in states and nations where they live.

The Challenges Ahead

family-396160-galleryIn recent years, however, we have watched with dismay as both courts of law and courts of public opinion have demeaned those efforts as motivated by bigotry or hatred. State marriage laws have been repeatedly struck down by state and federal courts, and the legitimate democratic processes by which these laws were enacted have been ignored. The prevailing sentiment in the media is that these laws are an effort to force our private religious dogma onto others using the legal system, and that there are no secular, public sphere reasons to support traditional marriage laws.

However, scholars, researchers, and thinkers across a variety of religious belief systems — and many with no religious belief system at all — have articulated strong, secular reasoning for why traditional marriage is sound public policy. However, their work is not always well known, nor is it always well-understood. We are attempting to change that. In our day and age, because religious reasons for supporting public policy have lost much of their persuasive currency, we believe that we need to practice expressing our views on public policy using the rhetoric of secular political discourse.

Presenting the Discussing Marriage Project

accra-ghana-temple-couple-lds-610093-galleryThe new site, www.discussingmarriage.org, is a work in progress. The goal is to create a definitive catalogue of the best reasons to support traditional marriage, and to summarize them in a way that’s easy to understand. Each week, the editors will be publishing new installments until the project is complete. Each installment includes a short article explaining the basics of the argument and a brief 4-5 minute YouTube video. Some installments will also include an optional longer, more detailed explanation, as well as a list of potential questions and answers that readers may have, and a list of related readings.

We hope that those who support traditional marriage will feel more comfortable voicing their opinion if they are able to article precisely why traditional marriage isn’t just good doctrine, but also good public policy. We hope that readers of the site will feel comfortable sharing the articles and videos as they are released, and by so doing saturate their social media world with rational, civil, and thought-provoking material about the subject.

What Should I Do?

  1. First, check out the site. Read an article or two. Watch some of the videos, and get a flavor of what it’s all about.
  2. Then, if you like what you see, sign up for the email newsletter, so that you can be notified when new content is published.
  3. After that, like the Facebook page! This way, you can more easily share content as it is published on your Facebook feed.
  4. Then, when you engage in conversations with your friends and family about the marriage issue, bring their attention to the project. Feel free to link to the videos or articles (in a civil way) to answer questions about your perspectives.

Where Should I Start?

Check out the article, “The Conjugal View vs. the Revisionist View of Marriage.” It summarizes the two different ways in which we often make sense of marriage today. Is marriage intrinsically connected to children? Or is marriage simply about mutual adult fulfillment? Is marriage all about romance and love, or does it also entail an expectation to procreate and undertake the duties of parenthood? Check out the video below:

A Project For Future Generations

We think that current trends in the political discourse are reversible, and that traditional marriage will regain popular support in years to come. Even if we lose upcoming court battles, and it seems like the debate is over, we may yet have important victories before us. Elder Neal A. Maxwell prophesied:

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel. There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself (Neal A. Maxwell, Meeting the Challenges of Today, BYU Devotional, Oct. 10, 1978).

Before these victories, we may have to endure times when our views are mocked by others. Elder Maxwell also said that in times to come, “Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened,” and that we will be scorned for supporting it. But we should press forward, so that our children will have no doubt as to where we stand on these issues. Let us leave a record for future generations that we stood with the prophets and apostles. Let us create mounds of evidence to convict us if we are ever charged with the crime of supporting traditional marriage.

The Discussing Marriage project was created for the next generation as much as it was for us. It is for our children, who may grow up being told that their parents were bigots and haters for supporting traditional marriage. Those voices may be successful on occasion at instilling doubt in their hearts about their own moral convictions, unless we leave a clear record why we supported these policies. This project is designed to give them resources to see the sound public policy considerations that shape our beliefs about marriage, so that they can know why we believe as we do (both doctrinally and politically).

Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

Come Listen to a Prophet's Voice--in author handwriting“Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice and hear the word of God.” How often have we heard this phrase repeated especially around General Conference time? On January 24, 1844 this now famous phrase was penned by my husband’s third great-grandfather, Joseph Stacy Murdock, in a letter written to family in New York. Joseph wanted to testify of the Prophet and the restoration of the gospel.

We are familiar with some of the words as they constitute hymn 21 in our hymnbook. What a heritage of faith to see his testimony written in his own hand! “We are familiar with some of the words as they constitute hymn 21 in our hymnbook. The last four stanzas of his poem though have rarely been read.  What a heritage of faith to see his testimony written in his own hand!” The sick on whom the oil is poured And hands in meekness lain, Are by the power of God restored Through faith in Jesus’ name. No more in slavish fear we mourn No yoke of bondage wear, No more beneath delusions groan Nor superstitions fear. Of every dispensation past Of every promise made, The first be last, the last be first The living and the dead. Saviors shall to Mount Zion come Their thousands bring to rest, Throughout the great millennium, They eternally be blessed.  

Joseph Murdock was well acquainted with the Prophet Joseph. He was ordained a member of the Seventies by Joseph Smith on March 23, 1843. He was given a patriarchal blessing that same day by Hyrum Smith. Joseph was one of the Prophet’s bodyguards and was honored to stand guard, “both day and night with my other brethren.”[1] In a letter to an uncle, Joseph Murdock testified,

As for the Prophet we have had some times with him and we find him to be a man of his word. He is very punctual in all his dealings and there is no doubt in my mind but he is a Prophet of God and as much called to guide the people in this day as Moses was in his day.”[2]

Joseph Stacy MurdockJoseph Stacy Murdock loved the Prophet. He showed that devotion not only in fulfilling his duties as a bodyguard, but also in other ways, as he tried to live faithful to his covenants. He did whatever the Prophet asked him to do. The day Joseph Smith went to Carthage Jail, Joseph Stacy Murdock begged to go with him. In his journal he records,

I went with Brother Joseph on the way to Carthage jail. I went in among the horses and held onto his trousers and begged to go with him. He told me that he thought that if I went others would want to go also. I asked him what lay ahead, and he said, ‘I don’t like the looks at all of what lies ahead, I see no light in that direction. My light is in the West.’ He then told me never to give up on the work of the Latter Day Saints, for it was true, and if they killed him, judgment would come upon this nation. He went to Carthage jail and was murdered.”[3]

Joseph Stacy Murdock did as Brother Joseph asked. He never gave up on the work of the gospel. He was witness to that miraculous scene when the mantle of Joseph Smith passed on to Brigham Young.

I seen Brigham transfigured into the image of Joseph Smith. The teeth out of his mouth, that the mob broke of Brother Joseph’s when they undertook to turn [poison] down him, was a testimony to me that the Lord had placed the rolling on of the Great Latter-day work upon Brigham Young. I heard Brother Joseph Smith call the calling of this great Latter-day work upon the Twelve Apostles with Brigham Young at the head.”[4]

Knowing that Brigham Young was now the prophet, Joseph served wherever and however he was asked even when it was heart achingly difficult. Every General Conference when I raise my hand to sustain the prophet I think of Joseph Stacy Murdock clinging to the Prophet Joseph’s trousers begging to go with him. Do I have that same conviction of heart to follow where the prophet of God leads? I can say I do. I have always been blessed for following the prophet. [1] Journal of Joseph Stacy Murdock. [2] Murdock, Joseph Stacy, “Letter from JSM to James Douglas” January 24, 1944. [3] Journal of Joseph Stacy Murdock. [4] Journal of Joseph Stacy Murdock.

Fatherhood: A Noble Calling

Daughter riding her father's shouldersAs a young child, I adored my dad! I wanted to be just like him. He liked mustard on his sandwich, so I ate mustard on my sandwich. He would come home from work tired, but always found time to wrestle and play with us. As I grew older, my dad was the one who challenged me to work a little harder, go a little further, and succeed a little more.

My dad was and is the glue that tied our family together. He is fiercely loyal to my mother. As a teenager, if I was mouthy or rude to my mother, it would not matter what my father thought. He stuck by my mother and made me respect her.

A few months ago, my dad flew 3,000 miles to hike with one of my sisters and visit my brother and me. During my father’s visit, and as a pregnant mother with 9 young children, I found myself in bed, sicker than I have ever been in my life. My dad came over, sat on the hard floor, and built puzzles with my little boys. With his aging body, he jumped and wrestled on the trampoline with about 6 of my wild kids. He was a Super-Dad and a Super-Grandpa! father holding newborn daughter

As a new father, my husband was unsure how to hold, feed, or even play with his baby daughter. The first diaper he changed is very memorable because he forgot to put a new diaper on. Although he was timid and inexperienced, it wasn’t long before I became very aware of just how much my baby daughter needed her father. I was a better mother, simply because her father was present. He helped me to be calmer, kinder, and wiser, even with just a newborn infant. I knew without a doubt that while I could be a good strong mother without my husband, having him there made my role as mother easier.

Over the years, as more and more children came into our home, I have seen my husband change from that timid new father who didn’t know how to hold a baby, to the super-hero of my children. He finds joy in holding and cuddling our babies. He builds blocks and wrestles with our toddlers. When he reads the little ones stories, he always changes the words to make them laugh. He keeps a secret stash of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream hidden in the freezer to share with the kid that has had a bad day or just needs a little more attention.

He has gained the respect of our teenage daughters by being the strict parent. He cares how they dress. When they buy new clothes, they always go to their father for approval. Sometimes they are not happy with his response, but they respect his opinion on how they dress and behave above anyone else’s. They are better because of their dad.

Children need fathers. Mothers need fathers. Society functions best, when fathers are present in the home. Just having a father present in the home, improves society. The statistics are striking.

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Health/Census).
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes (Center for Disease Control).
  • 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26).
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (National Principals Association Report).
  • 70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988).
  • 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction).
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999).

father reading with his childrenWith all of the stability and health that fathers lend to families and society, fatherhood is rarely honored. In movies and on television, fathers are always portrayed as the silly, ignorant doofus, or the angry dad on the soccer field. Rarely are they given the status as necessary and honorable. Yet fathers are noble, necessary, smart, good, and serviceable.

Fatherhood is something to be honored and celebrated! Men who chose to become fathers are choosing the noblest calling of all. Heavenly Father, the greatest father of us all, the creator of all things both in heaven and on earth, the being who is eternal, infinite, and omniscient, the one who has all glory and power, has not asked to be called, “All Powerful God” or “Creator of All Things”. He has simply asked us to call Him, “Father”. Above all of His titles, achievements, and perfections, our God holds one role above all others—Father.

Increasing Our Testimonies

The Relief Society Declaration proclaims that we are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity who increase our testimonies of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study. When the world moves so fast around me, sometimes I forget that today’s testimony isn’t enough. The world will continue to become more evil—we know that from prophecy. While my testimony today buoys me up today, will it be strong enough for tomorrow?

When I was a young mom, hammer-pull-761190-galleryI struggled with boredom. I loved being home with my children. It was a great blessing that I was able to stay home the first 17 years of my marriage. My husband is a wonderful man and a good provider. He worked two and sometimes three jobs to support us. There came a time when I needed to go back to work, but we procrastinated that day as long as we possibly could. Even though I wanted to be home and loved being with my children, there were times when I thought I would go stir crazy. I needed adult conversation (there’s only so much baby talk you can take), and something to do besides housework. I was always working on some sort of project—building shelves, painting, refurbishing old bicycles so we didn’t have to buy new ones—anything to keep me busy.scripture-study-220635-gallery

Occasionally, I had to just grab my scriptures, prop myself up on the couch, and spend a week doing nothing but reading and studying. My family was lucky if there was food on the table—and dishes? What dishes? What laundry? I’m not advocating that’s the best way to do it. It would have served me better if I had been reading and studying a little every day. At least I recognized, however, that without “filling my cup” once in a while, I was going to die of thirst.

During those times of reading, my prayers became more intense and more meaningful. Prayer has never been a problem for me. I pray constantly. A prayer is always in my heart.

Driving is a relaxing activity for me even in traffic (okay, I know I’m strange), and I frequently take wrong exits. My family knows that I am directionally challenged, but what they don’t know is that about 50 percent of the time I take a wrong exit, it is because I’m praying. I can drive and pray at the same time—I just can’t navigate and pray at the same time. Those days of “cramming” with my scriptures, however, were different for me when it came to prayer. Those were soul-searching prayers. I poured my heart out and left nothing unsaid. I kept “cramming,” pondering, and praying until I felt like I’d spent 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain. The end result was peace in my heart and a stronger testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Those of you who know my story will find this a little odd because I was not active in church doing those years. I have said this many times in many places, including in my writing. The greatest myth in the church is that if someone isn’t going to church it is because they have lost their testimony or never had one in the first place. That couldn’t be further from truth. The peace, joy, and comfort that I felt after my session on the mountain, so to speak, gave me the strength to keep going. It bolstered my testimony and made me determined to be a good mother and raise good children. I grew stronger in the knowledge of my purpose in life. I received answers as to how to deal with certain issues with my children. I became aware of the dangers ahead, and gained understanding of what I needed to learn from my past. I learned how to teach gospel doctrine to my children (even though I was not active) by reading the scriptures and continuing in earnest prayer.

I have often wondefamily-at-dinner-table-411564-galleryred how parents can raise children without prayer. It seems like an impossible task to me. As my testimony of the gospel grew, I was able to answer my children’s questions. We had many gospel-related discussions around the kitchen table.

Every woman can be a gospel doctrine instructor in her home, and every sister in the Church needs gospel knowledge as a leader and teacher. If you have not already developed the habit of daily scripture study, start now and keep studying in order to be prepared for your responsibilities in this life and in the eternities. . . . Just as eating and breathing sustain my physical body, the scriptures feed and give life to my spirit (Julie B. Beck, My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures, Apr. 2004 General Conference).

Sister Beck hit the nail on the head with that last sentence. The scriptures feed and give life to my spirit. As the voices of the world become louder, I need to give life to my spirit and my testimony in order to drown out the voices. I want to be able to hear the voices that count—those of the prophets of old, as well as modern-day prophets. I want to hold on to the word of God through scripture study and prayer, as well as studying General Conference talks. I want my testimony to increase in strength on a day-to-day basis so that it will sustain me through the rough times ahead.

Women of Faith

woman studying her scripturesThe Relief Society Declaration proclaims that we are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity.

Faith

It is not easy to describe faith to someone who does not have it. Yet, the true definition of the word is simple.

 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

[Faith is] confidence in something or someone. As most often used in the scriptures, faith is confidence and trust in Jesus Christ that lead a person to obey him. Faith must be centered in Jesus Christ in order for it to lead a person to salvation. Latter-day Saints also have faith in God the Father, the Holy Ghost, priesthood power, and other important aspects of the restored gospel (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/faith).

For me, the only way I can describe my faith is to say that it is knowledge in my heart of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some years back, I would have said “feeling” instead of “knowledge.” I’ve grown some since that time. How can you have “knowledge” in your heart? Merriam Webster’s On-line Dictionary defines knowledge as:

Information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education. Awareness of something: the state of being aware of something. (Merriam-Webster.)

I’ll be 60 years old by the end of this year. I’ve gained enough information, understanding, and awareness in life that I can now say I have “knowledge” in my heart that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true, and that modern-day prophets are here on the earth for the benefit of men and women everywhere. This is my faith. Having this faith/knowledge gives me perspective. When prophets and apostles of God speak, I listen, because I know that they speak for the Lord. It is His voice. At times I may seek confirmation from the Spirit, but (in my own personal case) those times are usually the times when my own weaknesses are screaming at me to be disobedient. In my heart, I know that what comes from the Brethren is truth. (Please don’t interpret that to mean that if someone seeks confirmation from the Spirit, that they are a disobedient person. That is just not the case. I’m speaking for me alone here.)

Virtue Virtouus woman

“Virtuous women and men possess a quiet dignity and inner strength. They are confident because they are worthy to receive and be guided by the Holy Ghost” (Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women’s General President, A Return to Virtue, Apr. 2014 General Conference). As I look around me in the world, I see anything by virtue. I’m grateful that my religion teaches the importance of virtuous men and women. I’m grateful to associate in my ward, stake, and in the temple with virtuous brothers and sisters. I’m particularly grateful for The Family: A Proclamation to the World, which teaches how to live a virtuous life.

You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow. There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so. (President Thomas S. Monson, Examples of Righteousness, Apr. 2008 General Conference.)

Are we making a “stand for right,” sisters? Are we willing to “stand alone,” if necessary for virtuous principles? It is so delightful to see the young people in this Church who know the importance of this gospel principle. They are to be highly commended for their courage to “stand” for virtue when all around them seems to be filthy.

Vision

Vision is something that is difficult in any dispensation, but I think particularly in ours. There are so many voices around us screaming that women have no worth, that we are objects instead of spirit children of God. Unfortunately, as women, we often play right into their hands. We don’t often have the vision to see ourselves as our Heavenly Father sees us.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18.) “If we are to prosper rather than perish, we must gain a vision of ourselves as the Savior sees us” (Elder O. Vincent Haleck, Of the Seventy, Having the Vision to Do, Apr. 2012 General Conference).

I see this as the biggest problem we have in the world today. We have lost sight of who we really are in the eternal scheme of things. We don’t even bother to try to live righteous lives because we are blinded by the world and can no longer see the Lord’s vision of our potential. We need to recapture the vision of our future! We need to live up to our eternal potential. We must remember covenants and keep them sacred. When we set goals for ourselves, are they righteous ones? Are they goals that involve money and/or power, or are they spiritual goals?

Charity LDS women caring for children

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him (Moroni 7:47). Just as we lack vision in the world today, we also lack charity. While I see many “charitable acts” happening around me, the “pure love of Christ” is often lacking in those charitable acts. Sometimes charitable acts are done for the pride of the world—for a pat on the back, or the approval of peers. That is not the pure love of Christ.

[C]harity is not a single act or something we give away but a state of being, a state of the heart, kind feelings that engender loving actions. (Sylvia H. Allred, First Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency, Charity Never Faileth, Oct. 2011 General Conference.)

As I deal with people on the internet, there is stark contrast in how some people communicate with others. I’ve seen people post about wonderful acts of charity they have done. The next day the same person will rant and rave at another “faceless” person on the internet with contempt in his/her heart and display such venom that it is difficult to believe it is the same person. Charity is “a state of being.” We are women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity—at least that’s what the Relief Society Declaration proclaims us to be.

I pray that we can learn to live up to this statement. In order to do that, we must truly catch the vision of ourselves as daughters of deity. We must be obedient and faithful in all things. We must have charitable hearts. We must be teachable and humble. When we raise our arm to the square in sustaining vote of our prophets, seers, and revelators, it must mean something other than exercising the muscles in our arm. We are choice daughters of Heavenly Parents. I can’t think of any time in world history when it was more important to be women of faith, virtue, vision, and charity than right now in this time and in this place. We must stand together on the Lord’s side. A line has been drawn in the sand. We are in the very last of the “last days.” I know what side of the line I want to be on when the Lord comes.

Learning to Recognize the Holy Ghost

rattlesnake rattleKnow what this is? When you hear it, you know it’s a warning to flee quickly, lest you be subjected to painful, venomous, even deadly bites. It is an audible warning of a physical danger. But what of spiritual danger? Are there warning rattles we can attune ourselves to that if heeded will protect us spiritually? Of course there are. We have the words of prophets, scriptures, and the best guide of all—the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Sister Julie B. Beck taught, “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important ability that can be acquired in this life…

“Education is wonderful, but being able to feel the Lord’s power and Spirit upon us is the highest education we can achieve. With that, we have power and influence. Without it, we will not be able to navigate in this life. The adversary will pick us off one by one, and we will be drawn off course by the many, many voices that are out there distracting us. With the Lord’s Spirit upon us, we are strong and solid and will be able to walk with Him. “

My goal as a mother is to teach my children to recognize when they are feeling the Spirit, to be immersed in it, so when they are confronted with evil they will know it immediately and flee. The first chapter of Moses illustrates this beautifully. Moses first became acquainted with God and His ways. He felt His spirit and power. When Satan came to Moses, Moses was able to discern Satan’s darkness, but only because he first felt of God’s goodness. President Boyd K. Packer taught: “Discovering how the Holy Ghost operates in your life is the quest of a lifetime.” We must constantly try hard to remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit. The following are a few suggestions that have worked for me personally and have helped me in teaching my children to recognize the Holy Ghost.

Study the scriptures with your children.

The language may be hard to understand at first, but your children will learn the beauty of it. As you read and discuss the words of the scriptures the Spirit will distill upon all, helping even the youngest of children to recognize the truth that is contained in them.

Talk about your own spiritual experiences.

Some are too sacred to share but others can be shared. Discuss with your children why you made certain decisions when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Tell them what you experienced, felt, heard so they can begin to understand the different ways the Holy Ghost communicates to us.

Create an environment and climate where the Spirit of God can dwell.

  • What pictures adorn the walls of your homes?
  • Is there a feeling of order or chaos?
  • What movies, music, magazines, books, and tv programs are you, as a parent, letting into your home? Mothers, especially, have a great influence here.

 “Women are like lionesses at the gate of the home. Whatever happens in that home and family happens because she cares about it and it matters to her. She guards that gate, and things matter to that family if they matter to her.” ~ Julie B. Beck, BYU Women’s Conference, April 29, 2010

Woman writing in journalKeep a journal of spiritual experiences or promptings you receive.

This is helpful as time goes on, because, as you look back to what has been written you begin to see a pattern of the ways the Holy Ghost communicates to you.  Writing down when we have received a prompting also shows the Lord we are listening and paying attention. Teaching your children to do the same will greatly aid them as they learn to identify when the Holy Ghost is speaking to them.

Learn to differentiate between emotions and the Spirit.

This is a little more difficult but very important. When we feel the Spirit we do feel happy, joyful but every time we feel happy and joyful we are not always feeling the Spirit. These quotes will help clarify what I am trying to say here.

“The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.” (Richard G. Scott) “Thoughts and feelings are the most common ways the Lord gives His children personal revelation. And therein lies a challenge. . .If something is counterfeit, it means it resembles the original so closely that it is difficult to distinguish which is the true and which is the false. We must ever be on guard against being deceived by our emotions or by revelation from an unworthy source.” ~Gerald N. Lund, “Is It Revelation?,” New Era, Jul 2004, 44~ “To teach by the Spirit is not just a matter of telling inspirational stories or relaying experiences that appeal to the emotions. It is much more than this. In fact, some might confuse an emotional appeal with the gentle working of the Holy Spirit, but they are not necessarily the same.” ~ Loren C. Dunn,“Teaching by the Power of the Spirit,” ~

We have tried to teach our children to just be aware of music, rhetoric, images, beats that would be used to manipulate an emotional response.

Learn to follow through.

This is perhaps one of the most difficult things for us to do. President Packer said, “You must learn to seek the power and direction that is available to you, and then follow that course no matter what.” Many times we know what we should do but fail to act because we perceive it will be hard. It’s painful to realize when you have done something wrong or allowed evil to creep into your life or even neglected to do what you know you should have been doing. Our pride is a nasty little stumbling block to following the Spirit. There have been times I haven’t wanted to pray about something because I already knew what was required of me and I didn’t want to do it. I fall into the category of “treating lightly those things [I] have received.” (D&C 84:54) Going back to my journal of spiritual experiences helps me get over myself and realize the Lord really does know what is best. My life turns out so much better when I follow through with the promptings I receive. What have you done to teach your children about the Holy Ghost? What do you find difficult about discerning the promptings of the Holy Ghost from emotions?

The Principle of Judgment

Peson pondering at sunriseWe live in a time where, as Professor Joseph Fielding McConkie  put it, “the only thing that is morally wrong is to say that something is morally wrong”. If someone dares to say something is wrong, evil, wicked, or bad, then that person is “judging”, “hateful”, and “bigoted”. This idea that the worst sin is to judge behaviors, ideas, and theories clearly goes against the counsel found in sacred scripture. From the scriptures and words of the modern day prophets, we can come to an understanding of the true doctrine of judgment. There are three important principles to judging:

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Youth of the Noble Birthright

especially-for-youth-chile-1171197-galleryDo we wonder who will carry the torch for the next generation? Our youth are being bombarded with sin, sacrilege, and slothful encouragement. But we have been told the best have been saved for last, and we are in good hands.

Did you know that a year after the Relief Society was organized, in 1843, a group of young people wanted to organize themselves to bring relief to the poor? Heber C. Kimball hosted a houseful of young men and women eager “and delighted” to receive counsel from him.  This company of youth was “lamenting the loose style of their morals—the frivolous manner in which they spent their time—and their too frequent attendance at balls, parties, etc.” Attendance at the first several meetings grew quickly. Even during a violent storm, the youth insisted on meeting together to discuss ways they could obey their parents more, study the scriptures better, and stand ready to prove and defend their religion. Elder Kimball advised them to “be faithful, be obedient, and acquit yourselves like men, and women, of God.”

Joseph Smith addressed these young folk, complementing them on their enthusiasm and goodly desires. Joseph said he had “never in his life seen such a large company of young people assembled together, pay such strict attention, listen with such profound silence, and keep such good order, as the assembly now before him.”LDS teens serving an elderly woman through yard work

The minutes of this organization state, “The young gentlemen and ladies, citizens of the city of Nauvoo, are desirous of aiding and ameliorating the condition of the poor and of carrying out the principles of charity and benevolence, as taught in the holy Scriptures, therefore, be it resolved that we form ourselves into a society to be styled the “Young Gentlemen and Ladies’ Relief Society of Nauvoo.”

This group dissolved as everyone began to set out for the West (“A Short Sketch of the Rise of the Young Gentlemen and Ladies Relief Society of Nauvoo,” Times and Seasons, April 1, 1843). The Young Women organization began as the Cooperative Retrenchment Association in November 1869. President Brigham Young organized the society in the Lion House with his daughters as charter members. The focus of this group was to grow spiritually and retrench from worldly influences. After one year, each ward in the Salt Lake Valley had its own young women’s organization. Each ward organization had a list of resolutions that they adhered to, such as: “Feeling that we have worshipped at the shrine of fashion too long [we] do solemnly pledge ourselves to retrench in our dress, and to wear only that which is becoming to women professing to be Saints.” Also, “Inasmuch as order is the first law of heaven, we will endeavor to learn the law by making ourselves acquainted with the principles of life and salvation. We will study the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and all works pertaining to our holy religion….”

The young men, not to be left behind, begged to be organized by their bishops, so they could stay spiritual enough to be equal to the young women. The youth of our day are no less strong, eager, and prepared.

Have you ever driven past a Seminary building, or watched as Church let out? Where else do you see young people carrying a heavy set of scriptures? Our youth are warriors saved for our day to do the work of salvation. They are being sent out on missions at a younger age. Some of them look like babies as their mothers weep at their leaving, but they return as soldiers in the army of the Lord.

Boyd K. Packer said, “Youth today are being raised in enemy territory with a declining standard of morality. But as a servant of the Lord, I promise that you will be protected and shielded from the attacks of the adversary if you will heed the promptings that come from the Holy Spirit.” He continued: Sometimes you might be tempted to think as I did from time to time in my youth: “The way things are going, the world’s going to be over with. The end of the world is going to come before I get to where I should be.” Not so! You can look forward to doing it right—getting married, having a family, seeing your children and grandchildren, maybe even great-grandchildren. If you will follow these principles, you will be watched over and protected and you yourself will know by the promptings of the Holy Ghost which way to go, for “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). I promise you that it will be so and invoke a blessing upon you, our precious youth (Boyd K. Packer, Counsel to Youth, Oct. 2011 General Conference). What kind of youth do you see? Or what kind of youth are you?

The Story of Ruth and A Shoe

halizah shoe illustration

Engraving for the tractate Yevamot, from a title page of the Hebrew-Latin Mishna. Illustrated by Mich. Richey, Amsterdam, 1700-04. The tractate deals with levirate marriage, and the engraving shows the widow holding the “halizah shoe” which she has removed from her brother-in-law’s foot. (Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem)

 

In the story of Ruth there is an episode where her nearest kinsman must perform the law of removing his shoe, and let Ruth free.

According to most scholars, the explanation for this Hebrew tradition has been lost; however, I found a very interesting, and satisfying explanation. When studying the bible, and especially in this story of Ruth, it is important to study the culture, the law of performances, and even to know where events are happening. All of these details bring the story to life and help us see patterns, making everlasting connections. Most importantly, it showcases the relationship of the Bride (members of the Church) and Jesus Christ.

In Deuteronomy Chapter 25:5-10, the Levirate Law is explained. It states that when a husband dies, and leaves no seed, the brother must step in his place to provide the woman with a child. The law further states that if he refuses her, she has recourse.

(v. 9)“Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house. (v.10) “And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed.”

Land was very important to the Israelites. After all, they had been without land for so many years, when they finally reached the Promised Land they were prepared to stay for good. Likewise, family was very important. If you had children, you would continue to claim the precious land. It was symbolic to take your shoe and place it on the land. It was yours; you could stand on it; it was your possession. If you handed your shoe to someone else, it symbolized you giving up the right to the land.

The land belonged to the husband, and when the husband died, the land belonged to the brother. But, according to the law, if the brother refused the widow, she had a safety net. In front of the whole town, she could demand he take off his shoe (give up the land to her), and spit upon him. Taking off the shoe is embarrassing, and spitting on him is really embarrassing.

Now, in Ruth 4:7-8, we learn that Boaz desired to marry her, but there was a nearer kinsman, who had that responsibility, according to the law. This near kinsman did not want to marry Ruth, so he removed his shoe (ownership) and released Ruth.

It may appear demeaning to read that the kinsman is allowing Boaz to buy Ruth from him (v. 8). And in verse 10, that Boaz purchased her. S. Michael Wilcox (Institute teacher and LDS author) suggests that Boaz is a type for the Savior, and Ruth represents us. Christ bought each of us and we are His.

Normally, a man would propose marriage by spreading his skirt, or robe, around his intended. In this case, Ruth asked Boaz to marry her by saying, “spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid” (Ruth 3:9). In Ezekiel 16:8, the Lord said: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine.”

Verses 9-12 continue telling us that Christ washed us clean, adorned us with fine linen and precious jewels, “and a beautiful crown upon thine head.” The true meaning of the gospel comes out in this story. Once we accept the gospel, we gain our Promised Land. It is a husband and wife, who will gain their footing in the eternities by having children in the covenant. And it is Jesus Christ who redeems us, purchases us, and offers us eternal life. Ruth-Redeemed

The scriptures are full of stories, when studied culturally, symbolically, and spiritually, which can add depth and understanding of truths that teach us of God’s love for all of us.

 

Information found:

http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/gospel-jesus-christ-old-testament/11-ruth-redemption-covenant-and-christ

http://trivialdevotion.blogspot.com/2012/02/boazs-shoe-deal.html http://rabbimichaelsamuel.com/2009/11/understanding-the-purpose-of-the-levirate-marriage-and-its-symbolism/

http://www.blainerobison.com/hebroots/levirate.htm