It was a Tuesday morning in January 2005 and although we had experienced rain for a few days. It wasn’t coming down hard enough to cause too much concern. The rivers were rising, and my husband, along with other men in our ward, were busy placing sandbags around the homes closest to the rivers. We were taking precautions, not getting too overly anxious over a little rain… UNTIL….. I received a call from my husband; “Creekside #58 is going into the river, get men down here NOW!” Immediately, I ran down the street to give this news to the bishop in our ward. He was with other members of the priesthood, sandbagging by the river. Within seconds, these men were piled in trucks, heading for the neighborhood down the street.
#58 fell into the river, followed by houses on either side. The stream that we graciously call the Santa Clara “River” now resembled the roaring Colorado. It commenced in taking chunks of land out from under the homes as it cut a new path, far from it’s original course. Other neighborhoods were now being evacuated as more homes were being undercut by the torrential flood of water and debris. The Stake President was alerted to what was happening and soon, men from all over the valley were arriving to help.
Work continued after the sun went down. With the power out, car lights were focused on each house as workers made their way through darkened homes in order to save family pictures, grandma’s china and other precious odds and ends. Shortly after the fire department deemed the house unstable and the workers evacuated, a loud crack would echo through the air and the house would completely disappear into the dark mouth of the mighty Santa Clara. No one could believe their eyes. So much loss in so little time just didn’t make sense.
I recently attended a religion and faith conference at Harvard Divinity School, where I heard Dr. Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich define frontiers as a place where two cultures merge and create tension. Pioneers, she said, are the people who forge a new path out of this cultural blending.
Over the last four years, I have felt like one of the pioneers described by Dr. Ulrich. In 2013, I packed up my stuff and moved from Salt Lake City, UT, to Washington, D.C., to begin a JD/MBA program at Georgetown University. Every single day since that move I have stood on my own personal frontier as my religious and cultural heritage began to merge with my academic training, often creating conflict as the leanings of my professors and classmates clashed with prophetic guidance from Church leaders. Through this merging and clashing process, I have had to forge my own pioneer path by deciding how to combine my faith and trust in the Prophet with the academic and social expansion of my worldview. This is not an easy task. Looking back over my time at Georgetown, I have often reflected on what it means to be a pioneer both socially and in the classroom. Continue reading →
“Stop talking! Just be quiet for a minute!” I yelled from the front seat of the car. “The next one to talk gets to walk the rest of the way.” This empty threat came from pure desperation. I just couldn’t handle another moment of bickering, whining and fault-finding from my children. Our family trip was suppose to bring us together, not tear us apart. Yet there we were, living in our own version of self-induced torture because my children couldn’t stop arguing!
Weeks before, as our family prepared for our trip, my husband and I painted our children a picture of all the wonderful things they would see, learn and experience. We took special care to pack treats, games, books and movies to keep them entertained and peaceful while traveling. We wanted them to have a unique experience that bonded our family and created treasured memories for the years ahead. But in spite of the many plans and preparations, we found ourselves battling over issues such as… “Her knees keep touching mine!” “She won’t stop humming.” And… my favorite… “I can’t stand listening to her breathe.” They had obviously forgotten the bigger picture.
Why do my kids do this? Why are they so quick to find fault with each other at one moment and then be best friends at another? Why can’t they perceive the bigger picture that I can see? Why is it so hard to use their family journey to strengthen and serve each other?
Will they ever grow out of it?
The answer is, yes! They will grow out of it as they mature enough to put those little things like knees touching, humming and breathing in perspective.
Perspective. Isn’t that what love and understanding are all about? When we see our world as our Savior sees it, we can take hold of a deeper truth that allows us to better assess, or judge what we are experiencing in ourselves and others. The old idiom, “the devil is in the details” is quite true. When we focus on the small details instead of perceiving the big picture, we become like siblings on a road trip… finding faults and taking offense… just for the fun of it.
“Remember the Lord’s promise: “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” I love that assurance. Joy that fills our souls brings with it an eternal perspective in contrast to day-to-day living. That joy comes as peace amidst hardship or heartache. It provides comfort and courage, unfolds the truths of the gospel, and expands our love for the Lord and all God’s children. Although the need for such blessings is so great, in many ways the world has forgotten and forsaken them.“
This week we celebrate Independence Day. It’s known for BBQs and fireworks but is really so much more. The Declaration of Independence – the signing of which we celebrate on this holiday – was divinely inspired! The men who wrote and signed it were honorable men chosen by God. The events leading up to it were prophesied of in the Book of Mormon, and latter-day prophets have affirmed these truths.
In the April 1898 General Conference, President Wilford Woodruff said, “Those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits, not wicked men.” In this same address he went on to describe how the signers of the Declaration, along with George Washington and others, appeared to him and insisted that their temple ordinances be completed, which they immediately were. President Woodruff stated, “Would those spirits have called upon me, as an Elder in Israel, to perform that work if they had not been noble spirits before God? They would not.”
This is simply marvelous to me. We are living in a country whose founding documents were inspired by our Father in Heaven. The Founders were such noble spirits that they were allowed to appear to a prophet of God and personally request their temple ordinances be done. This can only mean that there is a divine purpose for the United States of America, and we, as citizens, play an important role. It is our responsibility to preserve the freedom Heavenly Father established here, just as it is our responsibility to help spread the gospel that He restored here.
At a recent family party, I was thoroughly entertained by 2 year old, Joey*. Joey is always thinking, and his little legs work even faster than his imagination. With a pool, trampoline, and several cousins around, there was lots for little Joey to do…. luckily, Joey’s dad, Brian*, was always there…. watching, protecting and teaching his darling little boy.
You see, Brian was quite a bit like Joey when he was young. Always thinking, always moving. He knows what is in his little son’s mind because he used to think the exact, same, imaginative things! So, when Joey starts heading for the deep end of the pool with a rock in his right hand and a towel in the other, Brian easily foresees a scene where the rock gets thrown, the towel gets wet, and Joey ends up with a scar across his forehead….. luckily, Brian can still move faster than his son and another crisis is successfully avoided.
The only real crisis occurred at the end of the day when Joey was determined to head to the pool instead of the car. In full meltdown mode, Joey asserted that he wanted to stay and he made a mad dash to the pool. Brian’s strong arms quickly scooped Joey up and carried him to the mini-van where the little boy soon fell asleep.
Joey’s antics were entertaining to say the least. I left the party with a great respect for Brian and his endless dedication to teach and protect his little boy.
Oftentimes, children don’t want the help of their fathers. They want to adventure off on their own and experience life on their own terms. They have little understanding of the natural consequences that follow certain actions and they interpret dad’s laws as “unfair” or “mean”.
Just as there are natural consequences to Joey’s rock hitting a swimmer’s head, there are natural consequences…. good and bad…. to all that we do.
The laws and commandments that our Heavenly Father provides will lead His children to good consequences while helping us avoid the bad. Just as Brian can’t change the law of gravity in order to avoid injury from Joey’s rock, Heavenly Father is bound to obey the same natural laws that He teaches us to obey.
“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” [D&C 130:20–21]
I am sure that there are some who imagine that we have a vengeful Heavenly Father who writes laws for the sole purpose of stumping our ability to receive a perfect score on this test of life. Sometimes it’s hard to take our little corner of understanding and get a clear picture of what our Father in Heaven has in store for us. We tend to be like Joey and lash out against a father who wants to protect us from the natural consequences that come from falling into the deep end of the pool.
Why do we not trust our Heavenly Father and follow all of His laws with exactness? Surely the laws that He shares with us will bring good consequences and result in joy. Why do we think that freedom comes by running away from our Father?
President Gordon B. Hinkley taught, “True freedom lies in obedience to the counsels of God. It was said of old that “the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light.” (Prov. 6:23.) The gospel is not a philosophy of repression, as so many regard it. It is a plan of freedom that gives discipline to appetite and direction to behavior. Its fruits are sweet and its rewards are liberal.…”
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. 5:1.)
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Cor. 3:17.)
One of the greatest blessings that the Lord has given His sons to help them understand the love and wisdom of our Father in Heaven, is the opportunity to be an earthly father. There is no other way to learn the depths of love, sorrow, joy, and concern than becoming a parent. From the moment your child is born, you feel an instant love and connection that binds you forever. Watching your child struggle with an illness will bring you greater worry, concern and humility that you have ever experienced before becoming a parent. Likewise, in watching your child overcome adversity, you will experience joy and gratitude that is far greater than anything the world can offer. These are the gifts that come from fatherhood.
As fathers experience life through their child’s eyes, they can get a better sense of how our Father in Heaven sees His children. They better understand His love and His desire to see us obtain all that He has. This is why fathers work so hard to provide and protect their children. This is why they take their job of presiding very seriously. Fathers know what is at stake if they fail to teach their children of the natural consequences that follow every action.
So, here’s to Brian, and other fathers around the world. May they find the strength to keep saving their children from the deep end of the pool and falling rocks. May they continue teaching right from wrong. And warn against things like excessive debt, poor eating habits, improper dating, laziness, too much screen time, etc., etc., etc.,…. not because they want to be mean, but because they have the perspective to see the natural consequences that follow each action. We thank you!
Raising a Sin-Resistant Generation in our era is not easy. So much of what is logical and true has been corrupted. Our children are left to sift through half-truths and confusing lines of reasoning to find their way in this world.
Covenant keeping mothers would love to remove all corruption from the path our children have to take, but we realize that we cannot do it alone. Gratefully, there have been three, recent General Conference talks from President Russell M. Nelson, Sister Bonnie Oscarson, and Sister Joy D. Jones that each lay out inspired directions that will help mothers raise their children as a Sin-Resistant Generation.
From President Nelson’s talk, we find this list (bullet points added):
1- “We need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and
2- Who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world.
3- We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation;
4- Women who know how to receive personal revelation,
5- Who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment;
6- Women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families;
7- Women who teach fearlessly.”
8- “We need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and
9- Who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation.
10- We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms.
11- We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity.
12- We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.”
Consider the story of the rich young man, as found in the Book of Mark:
“17 ¶ And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10:17-22)
Sometimes I wonder, “Am I even as good as the rich young man?” I am neither rich, nor young, nor a man. I do not have wealthy possessions and I do not live in the time of the Savior. Yet I don’t think I have spent enough time in my life asking if I am keeping all the commandments and what more do I need to do. And if I asked would I do as bidden or go away sorrowing?
Repeatedly in our current culture, I hear the phrase, “You are enough.” The scriptures say things more like:
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)
“O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” (Mormon 9:27)
“12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;” (Philippians 2:12-15)
There is work that I still need to do before I am enough. My salvation has not yet been worked out. I need to obey more. I need to repent more. I need to perfectly keep all my covenants. I need to gain knowledge. I need to despise not, doubt not, and hearken more. I need to live so as to always have the Holy Ghost with me as promised in the Sacrament prayer. I need to continually ask the question of the rich young man: “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” And then, unlike the rich young man, I must do as commanded.
If I want to receive eternal life, I cannot afford to waste away my days believing I am enough or that I have done enough. I must choose not to be satisfied with where I am today. To be satisfied is to stop progressing.
In my head, I often compare the phrase, “You are enough” to the hymn More Holiness Give Me. This is my desire.
More holiness give me,
More strivings within,
More patience in suff’ring,
More sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior,
More sense of his care,
More joy in his service,
More purpose in prayer.
More gratitude give me,
More trust in the Lord,
More pride in his glory,
More hope in his word,
More tears for his sorrows,
More pain at his grief,
More meekness in trial,
More praise for relief.
More purity give me,
More strength to o’ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains,
More longing for home.
More fit for the kingdom,
More used would I be,
More blessed and holy–
More, Savior, like thee.
This is a General Conference Odyssey post for the Priesthood session of April 1976.
I take the title of this post, “We Need Heroes Close By,” from President Spencer W. Kimball’s talk, entitled, “Boys Need Heroes Close By.” The truth is that both boys and girls need to have heroes they can depend on for righteous, kind, and beneficial guidance. The world has none to offer.
What I find interesting in President Kimball’s talk is his bold assertion that boys need to see their fathers treat women with respect. Likewise, girls need to see their fathers treat women with respect. In fact, mothers need to be seen treating men with respect as well. This whole world lacks in respect for the divine role of husband, wife, father, and mother. Unfortunately, our society has become almost abhorrent to this idea of family love, honor, and respect. Speaking as a prophet, he said,
In his April 2017 General Conference talk, titled, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives, President Nelson teaches that if we want to know how to be healed and receive salvation we must learn about Jesus Christ and how to be like Him. To receive those promises, there are things we must do. In Doctrine and Covenants section 88, Christ counsels, “draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63)
I love the word “diligently” in this scripture. Diligently means action marked by persevering, painstaking effort.
President Nelson is earnestly trying to lead us to Christ. He gave counsel in what we can do to seek Christ diligently.
Earlier in the year, President Nelson invited the young adults of the Church to diligently search the standard works for all of the words and works of Christ. He continued that theme during General Conference:
“Today I would like to speak about how we can draw into our lives the power of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
We begin by learning about Him. ‘It is impossible for [us] to be saved in ignorance. ’The more we know about the Savior’s ministry and mission—the more we understand His doctrine and what He did for us—the more we know that He can provide the power that we need for our lives.”
Elder Nelson points members of the Church to the scriptures. He said that he spent time reading the references about Jesus Christ from all of the subsections of the Topical Guide. He counsels us to do the same as well as to read the Living Christ.
Pointing us to the man, Jesus, President Nelson corrected word usage that has become common in the Church.
“It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases,” he said, “such as ‘the Atonement’ or ‘the enabling power of the Atonement’ or ‘applying the Atonement’ or ‘being strengthened by the Atonement.’”
He continued by explain the problem with shortcut phrases, “These expressions,” he declared, “present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
Where do we go to receive a remission of sin? We go to the Savior, Himself. Christ declared:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
As a second witness to those words, President Nelson declared, “The Savior’s atoning sacrifice—the central act of all human history—is best understood and appreciated when we expressly and clearly connect it to Him.”
Seeking out all of the scriptures about the Savior is seeking diligently to know the Savior.
In addition to searching through the words and works of Christ in the scriptures, President Nelson continued his counsel us on how to diligently seek the Savior. He asked us to, “stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world”, “make sacred covenants and keep those covenants with precision”, “seek for ways to keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world so there will be nothing blocking [our] access to the Savior’s power,” and to reach up to the Savior in faith.
Diligently doing these things, Elder Nelson declares, will allow “His [Jesus Christ’s] power will flow into you.”
“And then,” he says, “you will understand the deep meaning of words we sing in the hymn ‘The Spirit of God’:
The Lord is extending the Saints’ understanding. …
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o’er the earth is beginning to burst.”
President Nelson concluded that, “the gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with His power, which is available to every earnestly seeking daughter or son of God. It is my testimony that when we draw His power into our lives, both He and we will rejoice.”
I had an opportunity to visit with Kate Holbrook and Jenny Reeder, the two editors of At the Pulpit. It was also my privilege to attend a formal reception in the Relief Society building where Virginia Pearce, Gladys Sitati, Elaine Jack, and Jutta Busche (whose talks are included in the book) spoke to us. There are 54 faithful voices in this new publication.
After reading the talks from this book, and listening to these women, a thought came to me that feels true:
Every one of us struggles with pain, disappointment, and suffering. But the purpose of life is how we get through it all. When we read how others succeeded–WITH THEIR TESTIMONIES INTACT–we march on, yearning to celebrate with them at the end of the path. Who knows that there isn’t a band of women beyond the veil offering help from heaven, inspiring these historians to find their stories, and offering us the strength they gained so that we too can be strengthened?
One of the questions I asked Jenny Reeder was what are some of the overall important messages of the book. She suggests four:Continue reading →