I have playlists on my smartphone through a streaming service that I enjoy. I have playlists for exercise, driving in the car, the Sabbath Day, cleaning, and others that represent various genres such as classical, R&B, and yes, even disco (I was a young teenager in the 70s). I do have one that’s a little unusual. It’s called “Get to Heaven.” The songs there are very eclectic. It includes church hymns, classical instrumentals, some songs from Broadway scores, and even modern music. I had a seminary teacher that very nearly saved my life by teaching me to see gospel messages even in modern music. Now 34 years later, I can hear gospel messages in much of the music that is positive and clean. Sometimes it surprises my friends and family when I share these insights with them, and maybe they don’t see it the same way, but to my mind, it makes sense that the Spirit could teach me, even if the radio is on. Continue reading
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)
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
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
“May we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in word only and not in the flush of comfortable times, but in deed and in courage and in faith. May we stand by Jesus Christ at all times, and in all things, and in all places that we may be in, even until death, for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone.” —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
It’s difficult to read 3 Nephi 17 in the Book of Mormon and not weep alongside the Savior and those who experienced the sacred occasion of His appearance and ministry to the Nephites following His Resurrection. It is also difficult to imagine that anyone, after reading the account, would not also experience a deep witness of the Spirit that Jesus is the Christ and that the Book of Mormon is a true record. A record that was written for our day and preserved to come forth at this very time, when more than ever in the history of the world we need Him and His gospel. We need Him to save us and heal us from the inevitable, broken hearts of mortality!
And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
“Perfection is an eternal goal. While we cannot be perfect in mortality, striving for it is a commandment which ultimately, through the Atonement, we can keep.” President James E. Faust
Back in September I began feeling alarmed at the refugees coming out of Syria. Like many people, I felt distress over the young boy that was found washed up on the shores of Greece and the other photos of the refugees appearing on the news and on the internet. I thought about my personal difficulties and those of my family. My husband has been unemployed or underemployed for nearly three years now.
I thought about some of the difficult things. The times when my husband only ate one meal a day because we hadn’t received the promised pay from contract work. I thought about how my picky eater kids suddenly would eat whatever was put in front of them because they were very hungry. I thought about how the kids wore shoes that were too small or worn out or the wrong type. And I knew that compared to these refugees, we have not suffered at all.
I thought of some of the people who have helped us. I thought about the brand new washing machine that showed up at our door just as ours was breaking or about the Santa Claus that showed up on our doorstep on Christmas Eve after I told my little children that Santa did not come to kids whose dad does not have a job. And I knew that these refugees needed angels and they needed them now!
A few days later, I listened to some conservative news radio and heard people saying how we cannot bring the refugees here because there are terrorists trying to get into our country through the refugee program. I heard that again and again over a couple of months. And I felt confused. Shouldn’t we help the destitute no matter who they are? Continue reading
When You Think You Are Beyond the Gospel’s Light
I remember the first time I felt like I was in over my head. I had just graduated high school and the bishop of our congregation, or “ward,” had invited me in to his office during Church. As we chatted about my plans for college and other things, he asked if I would accept a “calling,” or in other words, a church assignment. I was expecting him to ask if I would be the ward chorister or something. But instead, he asked me if I would accept the assignment to be the teacher of a group of teenage girls, or “Young Women,” in our congregation.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when a girl graduates from High School or turns 18, she stops attending the teenage girls’ classes, and attends the women’s class, the “Relief Society,” in the ward. I had been really looking forward to attending the women’s classes.
Here Am I, Don’t Send Me!
I was surprised, to say the least. Though I had already graduated, I was still seventeen, which meant that there could technically be a Young Woman in the group of girls who was older than I—the teacher—was. I felt very young and unprepared. I had never taught before. And to make things potentially even more strange, because I had just left the Young Women program, that meant that I was now expected to “teach” the peers and friends I had been in the program with for years! I felt very uncomfortable giving any kind of counsel in such a formal setting to girls that I loved to chat and hang out with. Would they think I was coming off as “holier than thou?” Would it change my friendships?
Have you read “The Living Christ” lately? It is a detailed testimony of who Jesus Christ is, His mission, what He looks like, and all that He has accomplished for our benefit. This is the testimony of The First Presidency and The Quorum of The Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. As baptized and covenanted members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we may want to know, understand, and sign our own names to it. Why? Because He is our Exemplar, whom we should look to for every thought, deed, and desire. Besides that, it would be a great accomplishment and testimonial.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “We need more of the distinctive, influential voices and faith of women. We need them to learn the doctrine and to understand what we believe so that they can bear their testimonies about the truth of all things” (“Men and Women and Priesthood Power,” Ensign, Sep. 2014). For me, these words can serve as my own testimony that proclaim the doctrine and truth of Jesus Christ.
We believe in the grace of God. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in Grace just like most other Christian denominations. Yet, unlike most Christian denominations, we take this scripture found in James 2:17- 20 literally.
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
That scripture tells us that what we do, not just what we believe, has an effect on the outcome of our salvation.
Trying to Understand Grace
I have heard a couple of interpretations of this scripture commonly espoused in Church classes and among Church members. Sometimes I have been told that if I do my best, then Jesus will take care of the rest and nothing more will be required. Other times I have been told that it really does not matter how good I am or what I do, that Jesus has already paid the price. So I get baptized, attend Church, and try not to commit any major sins—beyond that I simply need to believe and not fret about my salvation. Worrying about salvation, I have been taught, is not having faith in the atonement of Christ.
These interpretations, while they seem nice and frankly easy, do not fit in with the scriptures nor with everyone’s personal experiences. Then what is the truth? Continue reading