Chelsey Ortega is a wife and mother of two: a boy and a girl. She grew up in the Provo/Orem area of Utah and still lives there. In 2015 she graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in History Teaching coupled with a certification in TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages). Chelsey currently stays home with her children, and plans on finding a teaching job when she is done having kids and the youngest starts school. She loves reading, writing, dancing, and cooking; and is always looking for new books to read and new recipes to try. Chelsey writes about her family, faith, and other interests on her personal blog: mymilkchocolatefamily.blogspot.com.
Having grown up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have believed in agency my whole life. While our Heavenly Father has given us commandments to follow, He has also given us the ability to choose to follow those commandments or not. For some reason, it never occurred to me that choosing to repent has always been a part of our agency. In the October 2016 General Conference, Elder Dale G. Renlund said, “The reach of the Savior’s Atonement is infinite in breadth and depth, for you and for me. But it will never be imposed on us.” He then shared some verses from the Book of Mormon that explain how we have the ability to choose repentance.
“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.”
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” ( 2 Nephi 2:5-6, 27)
The world has been talking about love for a long time. Who do we love? How do we express love? What does love look like? What does it not look like? We have been spending so much time telling others to love as we do, that we have forgotten to love those very people we are talking to. We have been spending so much time trying to convince everyone else that our way of love is the right way, that we have forgotten to follow the true example of love: Jesus Christ. We talk about love, but do we actually love? Do we follow Jesus Christ’s example?
Loving each other is a commandment:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)
Several years ago during a visiting teaching appointment, my companion said something that really changed how I pray. She said (paraphrasing), “I was taught that when we pray, we don’t have to fill the entire prayer up with talking. We should pause in between phrases so that we can feel the Holy Ghost and be guided on what to say next. We get more out of prayer, and we truly say what we need to say.”
I felt strongly impressed to follow that advice. As I started to pray that way, I noticed my attitude about prayer changed, my relationship with Heavenly Father strengthened, and my ability to receive personal revelation increased.
I’ve always known that prayer is important, and I believe in the power of prayer, but I really struggled to make my prayers personal. Once during a youth activity, we learned different examples of people in the scriptures praying all day to Heavenly Father (see Luke 6:12, Enos 1:4, Mosiah 21:14). I remember our leader telling us that we should be able to pray like that some day. She said that our relationship with Heavenly Father and our ability to pray should get to that point. I remember thinking, “I’ll never be able to pray like that. I’m a failure at prayer.” For most of my life, I generally prayed using memorized and repeated phrases. I believed in prayer, I knew it was important, but I didn’t feel that I was “good” at praying. Continue reading →
A couple of years ago, the priesthood session of LDS general conference started being broadcast on BYUtv. Now, during each priesthood session I turn on the TV so my husband can watch it, and I get to listen as well. In order for my husband to fully pay attention, I tend to our home and kids by myself. (He hasn’t asked me to do this, I choose to because I want him to enjoy the session the way I enjoy the women’s session.) During the most recent Priesthood Session, Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave his talk, “Emissaries to the Church”. As he began talking, I immediately felt a strong impression to really listen and pay attention. Elder Holland spoke about home teaching, and much of what he said can be applied to visiting teaching as well.
Visiting teaching is a topic near and dear to my heart because I love it! I truly do. I love visiting with my sisters, I love my companion, and I love being visited by my visiting teachers. I wasn’t always that way, though. When I first turned 18, I rarely went and my companion always set up the appointments and gave the message. When I moved into a single’s ward, I never went visiting teaching. I always felt a little guilty because my home teachers came monthly without fail. When I got married and returned to a family ward setting, I tried to do better. My success, however, depended on my companions and their investment into visiting teaching.Continue reading →
Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas stories was commonly titled, “Teach the Children.” * In the story, the narrator comes across Santa Claus in their house. Santa requests that the narrator teaches their children the true meaning of Christmas. In this story Santa teaches that the popular symbols of Christmas like candy canes, Christmas trees, and stars all center around Jesus Christ, his love, and his sacrifice. I believe that these spiritual meanings for our Christmas symbols are vital for our children to know and pass along. We must teach our children about Jesus Christ and how he is not only the center of Christmas, but the center of our lives.
The Star – Stars are commonly placed on top of Christmas trees. Heavenly Father placed a bright star in the sky when Jesus was born. It was so bright that when the sun set, there was no darkness. In the New Testament (Matthew 2), the star led the wise men to Jesus; and in the Book of Mormon it was a sign to the world that Jesus Christ, our Savior, had been born (Helaman 14:1-2,5 and 3 Nephi 1:21). In the story, the star represents God’s promise being fulfilled that he would send us a Savior. We can also teach our children that because the star was recorded in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, we know that Jesus Christ truly was born. Continue reading →
Have you ever had a really important question, or struggled with some piece of information? You are having a hard time finding an answer or coming to terms with that information, and the person(s) you reach out to say something to the effect of “Just have faith?” You know that’s the right answer, and of course you want to have faith; you want that desperately! But the answers to your questions or the need to receive clarity are so important that you struggle, and having faith – as important as it is – seems so far away and so difficult. I have felt those feelings before. If you haven’t had such an experience, let me create a scenario that will hopefully help you understand.
We’ll use a universal question: Is there life after death? As Latter-day Saints we know the answer is, yes. We have mountains of evidence to that yes: the accounts in the Bible and Book of Mormon from those whom Christ visited after He was resurrected, the visions of the Spirit World and the three kingdoms that many prophets have had, and the dreams that thousands of individuals have had of their loved ones and ancestors visiting them are a few examples. But what if there appeared to be zero evidence that life after death existed? What if the only answer to that question was, “Just have faith?” Wouldn’t that be so hard to hear? That is an extremely important question. Our entire earthly lives and the decisions we make are based on the answer to that question. That’s what it feels like with other important questions when the only answer is “Just have faith.”Continue reading →
When the topics of sin, repentance, and judgment are discussed, the story of Christ’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery (see John 8:1-11) is a common example. Many times, however, this example is misused to advocate for sin. Those who preach the truth and defend Christ’s doctrine are often accused of being judgmental and are told, “Jesus said, ‘those who are without sin cast the first stone,’ and “Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery.”
While these statements are true to an extent, they have been taken out of context. When talking about casting stones, Jesus wasn’t telling people to stop preaching about sin and repentance. He was telling people to stop judging that woman. The second statement, however, has been misunderstood. Jesus did not forgive her right away because she hadn’t repented yet. Rather, He was stating that He didn’t condemn her, and He was offering her an invitation to repent. These two statements are often used to spread the message that if we want to be like Christ, we will keep our mouths shut and tell everyone they are doing good no matter what they do, but if we preach about sin and repentance we are being like the Pharisees. The story of the woman caught in adultery goes so much deeper than that. It is a beautiful story that teaches many wonderful lessons. Here are six lessons we can learn from this story:Continue reading →
In the October 2014 General Women’s session of Conference, President Uchtdorf gave a talk titled “Living the Gospel Joyful”. He gave an analogy about blessings and umbrellas that everyone fell in love with:
“…we imagine that God has all of His blessings locked up in a huge cloud up in heaven, refusing to give them to us unless we comply with some strict, paternalistic requirements He has set up. But the commandments aren’t like that at all. In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us.
“His commandments are the loving instructions and the divine help for us to close the umbrella so we can receive the shower of heavenly blessings.”
When I first heard those words I loved the message and imagery that came with that quote. At the time, however, I didn’t apply it to my life because I thought that my umbrella was already closed. I had faith in God, I followed His commandments, so of course I would notice any blessings that came my way. Almost two years after his talk, I learned that I needed to be more consistent in keeping my umbrella closed.Continue reading →
Whenever same-sex attraction and/or same-sex marriage is discussed, the focus tends to be on those who are already seeking/living in a same-gender relationship (a.k.a. gay and lesbian). But there is a forgotten group that experience homosexuality and who feel like they don’t fit into either side: that is members of the Church who experience same-sex attraction (SSA)and fight their temptations every day. They work so hard to obey their parents, church leaders, and God. They are on a roller coaster of emotions as they strive to live the commandments and discover their place in the Church and within God’s plan. Some days they are doing great; they have hit a milestone in their journey and are feeling on top of the world. Other days, they might feel low, hated, or feel like they can never improve, never be loved or accepted. And in all of those moments, we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), as children of God (literal brothers and sisters), need to offer our unconditional love, support and friendship no matter what.
I cannot speak from personal experience about what it means to have SSA as a member of the Church, but I do observe as a very close bystander. I speak from my experience watching a very dear family member come out and try to find his place both in the world and at Church. I have always loved him. I have tried so hard to perfectly understand him, at all times, but there are so many times where I feel like I have failed him miserably. He is a beautiful son of God. I know that God loves him. As I have watched and been a part of his journey, I have learned a few things: Continue reading →
Sacrifice is something we are all expected to do for Jesus Christ and His gospel. It is something that at times can be very simple, but at times can also be very hard. In my most recent study of the Book of Mormon, the story of King Lamoni’s father really stuck out to me. His willingness to sacrifice everything to know Christ is very inspirational; and in studying his story, he has become my newest Book of Mormon hero. The story of King Lamoni’s father also serves as a great contradiction to the story of the rich young man found in the New Testament. The contrast between these two stories serve as a great example of how much we should be willing to sacrifice when it comes to following Jesus Christ.
The rich young man’s story can be found in Mark 10:17-31. This man asked Jesus what he needed to do to gain eternal life. Jesus told him that he knew the commandments, then the man replied that he had observed those his whole life. Jesus’ response is the big test of faith: Continue reading →