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What’s in a Name? Mormon Women Stand is now Latter-day Saint Women Stand

Latter-day Saint Women StandMormon Women Stand has chosen to change our official name to “Latter-day Saint Women Stand,” in keeping with the recommendations of President Russell M. Nelson’s August 16, 2018, Mormon Newsroom directive:

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints updated its preferred ways of being referenced in the media and other channels. This particular “Style Guide,” announcement is significant because most members of the Church will need to learn how to rephrase common nicknames we commonly use for the Church and its members. A few of the more common phrases the Church has preferred we avoid are: “the LDS Church,” the Mormon Church,” “Mormonism,” and “Mormons.” As a preferred replacement for these words, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” or “Latter-day Saints.” See the official site for more details: https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/name-of-the-church

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The Atonement and Slurpees

When I was a teenager there was a 7-Eleven convenience store seemingly on every corner. You couldn’t drive a couple of miles without passing one of their establishments beckoning you in for a Slurpee. They were everywhere. Back then I had no idea that each and every time I saw their green, orange and red sign there was a message there for me, a spiritual reminder hidden in plain sight.

 

Who Knew?!

Do you remember 7-Eleven’s slogan? If you’re my age you certainly do. It is often cited in the advertising industry as one of the most memorable slogans ever……

“Oh, Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven!”

Who knew that there in the store’s name, signage, and slogan was a message of spiritual encouragement, an invitation to remember the marvelous atonement performed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m sure the company has no idea what their advertising is helping me, and soon you, to remember.

Alma knew.

Nestled midway through the Book of Mormon, is the record of a once-rebellious young man – who after full repentance and a total conversion to the gospel of the foretold Savior of the World, Jesus Christ – was transformed into the mighty government and prophet leader Alma.

In chapter seven of Alma is recorded his teachings to the people of Gideon concerning the Saviors birth, His mission – culminating in the fulfillment of the atonement by His bearing the sins of the world and loosing the bands of death – and the promise that those who repent, are baptized, and keep the commandments of God will inherit eternal life. After his own life experience, Alma speaks with power, and I’m sure great gratitude of the miracle of the Savior’s gift of the Atonement.  Listen to his words:

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I Don’t Miss Church

Sorry. But I don’t miss church. Do you? Just chew on that for a minute before you answer.

This statement of fact is not a sign that my testimony or commitment to covenants is waning. It is not an admission that I don’t enjoy the fellowship of my ward family. Nor is it a rallying cry for a grassroots effort to try and pressure church leadership to change our traditional Sunday meeting schedule going forward.

What it is

What it is, is a realization that for me, a true social butterfly, I do not need to be with a group of people to worship, have others teach me the gospel, or give me a reason to sing the hymns of Zion or study my scriptures. I have discovered that I can fare quite well spiritually separating the two, social interaction and gospel study and worship.

Please don’t think that I don’t love shaking hands and hugging my friends at church. I do. Very much. I love listening to the comments and hearing the testimonies of others. These things strengthen my testimony. But, during this true “Home Centered, Church Supported” opportunity to worship I have found that I really am self-motivated to study and maintain, even grow, my testimony, understanding, and commitment to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. And to me, that is a positive thing to discover.

Home worship

I know that there are members of the Church from one end of the testimony spectrum to the other. Many come to church because of the interaction and relationships there. As a full-time missionary three times over, I acknowledge that there is a social conversion and strength in numbers that we all need at times provided at our Sunday meetings. Others attend out of tradition or habit, or because they have a calling or responsibility to fulfill. Whatever takes you through those double doors into the chapel is at least taking you there. I have used them all myself at one time or another. I get it.

But, for the past two months, I have been worshipping without anyone else besides my husband and the Lord knowing that I am. I am dressing in my Sunday best to partake of the symbols of the sacrament in my home because I want to show the Lord I understand the sacredness of the ordinance. I am keeping up with the ‘Come Follow Me’ curriculum because I want to learn more about the Savior and his gospel. I am taking responsibility for my worshipping and learning.

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When Suddenly Called Back Home from Our Mission in Peru

Currently, only men are allowed out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Women on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and then, only one person from a family at a time. Sunday no one is allowed outside. There is a 4:00 AM – 6:00 PM curfew.

Masks are required outside your homes. Only government registered taxis, with special yellow license plates, and city buses are permitted on the roads. No personal cars or Uber, Lyft, etc. Police and military stop every vehicle, except city buses, to ask for the required documentation to be on the roads, from the driver and their passengers are questioned. Peru is doing its best to get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope their efforts, extremely strict, will bear fruit. If not, the people of this wonderful country will suffer terribly. At 8:00 PM each night, these wonderful people step onto their balconies and patios or come to an open window and clap for a full minute to show appreciation to those first responders and caregivers, and to encourage each other to have faith and patience (a nightly ritual my husband really enjoyed participating in).

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was finally able to evacuate all missionaries countrywide, along with the US missionary couples and employees with their families serving in the South America Northwest Area Office. It was a herculean effort for both the United States government and church leaders.

Five months earlier

Elder & Sister Packard (left) with President & Sister Packard decorating Christmas cookies at Zone Conference.

November 16, 2019, my husband and I arrived in Lima, Peru to begin serving eighteen months in the Lima North Mission. The year before, when my husband’s brother and wife, President Meredith and Sister Corinne Packard, were called to preside there, they asked if we would be available to serve as a senior couple with them. We were already preparing to put our papers in so we jumped at the chance! Can you even imagine how wonderful it would be to serve a full-time mission with family members?

FYI: Mission Presidents are invited to “recruit” their own senior couples due to the drastic shortage of couples applying to serve on their own. GET OUT THERE, SENIORS! You won’t regret your decision or sacrifice. Now, back to our story…

We quickly settled into our apartment and responsibilities and loved serving the wonderful missionaries, the warm Peruvian people, and our brother and sister-in-law. The next eighteen months were going to be great!

Enter coronavirus

Sunday, March 15, Peru’s President, Martin Vizcarra, issued the initial 14-day, stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus. Though only a few cases had been identified, the government came down fast and firm. It would allow for people to leave their homes only for food, medical needs, banking, and to get gas beginning at 8:00 AM the next morning. President Packard had been making plans to have all the missionary companionships buy 14 days of emergency food later that coming week. Now, we had only Monday to get things ready. We needed miracles and miracles came.

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The Myth of “Love = Love” on BYU Campus

Love. It seems like such a simple word, and yet it is being twisted and transformed on the campus of BYU-Provo. Some people are taking the idea of loving others and equating it with advocating for sinful behavior because it allegedly makes people happy. They say that people just want to love who they want to love, and nothing should get in their way. They want others to show love for them by supporting and affirming their choices. They carry signs that say “Love = Love” and “Discipleship = Allyship.”

After watching the recent events surrounding the BYU Honor Code changes (where nothing actually changed), it has become necessary to make one point clear: All love is not created equal.

The Savior taught the true order of love during his earthly ministry. “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). And how do we show our love of God? Jesus explained that as well. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The first and second commandments were put in this order for a reason. Our Father in Heaven comes first. When we practice the second commandment, it must be aligned with the first. If we express love for our neighbor in a way that violates our commitment to love God by obeying his commandments, we are off course and need to correct.

A Divided Campus

What is the end goal of the protesting students? It seems they had a moment where they believed the school (and by extension, the Church) was now approving of students engaging in same-sex romantic behavior like holding hands, kissing, and dating. When a statement was issued clarifying that same-sex romantic behavior is not compatible with Honor Code principles, many became upset.

Protesters began gathering and demanding gay rights on the campus of BYU. They don’t want to have to hide what they believe to be their true identity and seem to think that rallies and speeches will change the laws of God. I can’t help but wonder why this issue, in particular, has sparked such an outcry. There are no rallies held to repeal the Word of Wisdom. No one is protesting the tithing percentage. We accept those things as the mind and will of God and faithfully comply. Why is marriage between a man and a woman (and the act of dating which precedes marriage) not met with the same acceptance?

The Doctrine of the Family

A policy change like the one these students are seeking would mean a complete change in the Lord’s doctrine. His purpose is to bring about the eternal life of all of God’s children. He wants us all to return to the Father’s presence in the highest degree of glory, which can only happen with a celestial marriage. President Nelson has taught that our “exaltation is a family matter.” Sister Julie Beck helped us further understand this principle:

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have a theology of the family that is based on the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement. The Creation of the earth provided a place where families could live. God created a man and a woman who were the two essential halves of a family. It was part of Heavenly Father’s plan that Adam and Eve be sealed and form an eternal family.

The Fall provided a way for the family to grow. Adam and Eve were family leaders who chose to have a mortal experience. The Fall made it possible for them to have sons and daughters.

The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. It allows for families to have eternal growth and perfection. The plan of happiness, also called the plan of salvation, was a plan created for families. The rising generation need to understand that the main pillars of our theology are centered in the family.

The family means everything in the gospel! The Lord’s definition of family is a man and a woman lawfully married as husband and wife. They then create a home where the Father’s spirit children can come and fulfill their earthly purpose. We are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, and we are promised joy in our posterity.

Wanting a relationship that cannot produce children and that cannot continue beyond this life and into eternity is to have a limited, finite view of our potential and purpose. Our Father in Heaven has an infinite and eternal view and wants so much more for us! He will not lower his standards at our request, and we should be forever grateful that He loves us enough to show us a better way. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is.”

Avoiding Contention

Some students held signs with scripture references on them, such as 4 Nephi 1:15 which reads, “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” Yes, we seek to eliminate contention and achieve a state of peace and harmony. Yes, we seek unity in the Church, but this unity must be based upon eternal truth. What good is unity if we’re unified against the Lord’s doctrine? Elder Oaks taught, “Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values.”

There will always be a line between the commandments of God and the ways of the world, and in the last days, that line is more like a deep and ever-widening ravine. The only question is on which side of the line we will stand.

Love Does Not Equal Advocacy

Much has been taught by the Brethren about how to balance truth and tolerance. It is possible to love someone and care about them and their challenges without advocating for behavior inconsistent with gospel principles. We know people experience same-sex attraction. It is part of a long list of trials that the children of God face in mortality. We don’t enable other behavior that goes against God’s commandments, and we can’t do so here simply to align with the values of society and make everyone comfortable. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

Sadly enough, my young friends, it is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds. Talk about man creating God in his own image!…

Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).

Choose to Be an Ally of Gospel Principles

A popular phrase we hear today is being an LGBT ally. Instead of being an ally for a particular group of people, should we not choose to be an ally of our Savior and all of his teachings? It is not bigotry to believe in the Lord’s doctrine of the family. We can love all people and respect their individual agency while holding firm to gospel teachings on gender, marriage, and relationships.

I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and his doctrine. I choose to be an ally for eternal principles. That is what I advocate for. I stand with President Nelson and the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every day in my profession, I see how the adversary is trying with all his might to lead the faithful away from Jesus Christ, especially the rising generation. Our only safety comes in following the Savior and his prophet.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest.” –Dallin H. Oaks

Shocking Paragraph in New General Handbook

A new handbook for leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was just released in February 2020. While there are new guidelines added, a paragraph that was transferred from the old handbook may be the most shocking and unbelievable to most members. In the church administration section, 29:1, we read: 

“Leaders should ensure that Sunday meetings are not so numerous that there is little time for parents and children to be together on that day. Where possible, leaders should avoid scheduling Sunday meetings other than those in the standard two-hour schedule, leadership meetings in the early mornings, and occasional meetings in the evenings.”

I hope you didn’t fall to the ground after reading this surprising direction; I know it’s hard to believe. How in the world can the Church function without endless Sunday meetings, right? *Sarcasm intended* But abiding by this guidance might just be the key to greater peace and power on earth today as well as in generations to come. How? Let me explain.

 

 

Chances are, you spend very little time as a family. Between work, school, after school activities, community service projects, church programs, etc., there is very little time left for a family to be together. Parents are struggling to teach and lead their own families, and the power of a family in a Christ-centered home is not being used to bless the upcoming generation.

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Finding Hidden Treasure in General Conference Talks

Unexpected Treasures

Just in case you are not aware, the best part about reading talks from General Conference is the footnotes. There are unexpected treasures to find when you click on the little, blue numbers that are scattered throughout each talk. If you don’t believe me, check out Elder Neil L. Andersen’s recent conference talk, “Fruit”, for an example.

The Tree of Life

Elder Andersen’s talk focused on the fruit of the Tree of Life. He shared these two descriptions of what the fruit symbolizes.

“This precious fruit symbolizes the wondrous blessings of the Savior’s incomparable Atonement. Not only will we live again following our mortality, but through our faith in Jesus Christ, our repentance, and our keeping the commandments, we can be forgiven of our sins and one day stand clean and pure before our Father and His Son.

“Partaking of the fruit of the tree also symbolizes that we embrace the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel—being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and entering the house of the Lord to be endowed with power from on high. Through the grace of Jesus Christ and by honoring our covenants, we receive the immeasurable promise of living with our righteous family throughout eternity.”

Elder Anderson then went on to explain how the adversary is attacking those who partake of the fruit. He also shared how repentance can bring us back to the tree. 

“I promise you that as you look to the Savior “in every thought,” the fruit of the tree will be yours once again, delicious to your taste, joyous to your soul, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.”

Finding Fruit in Footnotes

Elder Anderson’s talk gives excellent insights into the symbolism of the tree and the fruit of Lehi’s dream. But if you look at the fourth footnote, you will discover a personal learning experience that taught Elder Anderson a valuable lesson.

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Maintaining Faith as We Wander Through the Wilderness

One of the miraculous things about General Conference is how the messages prepared for a worldwide audience can feel so singular and personal. Weeks before the bi-annual event I pray for those asked to speak to feel inspired with the words the Lord wants his children to hear. However, after the messages are given and songs were sung, I feel as though each conference was meant just for me. I don’t know why it always surprises me. It happens every year. I testify that our Father in heaven is mindful of his children and speaks to us in our own unique way.

To be fully transparent, I have been struggling. My faith is being stretched and it’s uncomfortable. For the last 14 years, we have raised our family in the North Houston, Texas area. We LOVED our life there. Beautiful home, perfect location, the best friends, great wards and a strong stake. My husband loved his job. However, within the past couple of years, I have felt a stirring of unrest. A desire to slow down and simplify was growing in my heart. I can’t explain it but it began to feel urgent. I started to pray for answers and solutions without an end in sight.

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Finding Joy When Life is Really Hard

A ‘thing’ that has been on my brain over the past few years is the different ways people manage adversity. I’m talking about the serious stuff that inevitably hits most of us fortunate to be on this planet for an extended amount of time. This is mortality, after all. Things such as the loss of a loved one, facing a terminal illness, caring for a sick family member for an extended time, a devastating financial crisis, serious family relationship issues, a trial of faith, depression, etc. My point being is that for whatever reason, some of us go through what appears to be more challenging experiences here in mortality than others. What causes me to contemplate this seeming inequality is the ‘why.’ Why do similar conditions or life events cause one individual to experience it through positivity (a challenge to grow through) and another feel defeated (a victim of circumstances)? 

My observation in seeing both of these approaches to adversity is that those who exercise faith, versus doubt, in God’s plan tend to fair better – regardless of the trial. I hope that I will be among those who chose to trust Heavenly Father “come what may” whatever that might be. I want to be just like those who I witness experience great adversity in their lives but are still happy and continue to find joy! This is why many of the talks in the most recent general conference touched my heart and brought me so much hope in this specific area. I felt that joy was one of the great themes throughout the conference.  Continue reading

An Unusual Reminder of Hope.

When I was a teenager there was a 7-Eleven convenience store seemingly on every corner. You couldn’t drive a couple of miles without passing one of their establishments beckoning you in for a Slurpee. They were everywhere. Back then I had no idea that each and every time I saw their green, orange and red sign there was a message there for me, a spiritual reminder hidden in plain sight.

 

Who Knew?!

Do you remember 7-Eleven’s slogan? If you’re my age you certainly do. It is often cited in the advertising industry as one of the most memorable slogans ever……

“Oh, Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven!”

Who knew that there in the store’s name, signage, and slogan was a message of spiritual encouragement, an invitation to remember the marvelous atonement performed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m sure the company has no idea what their advertising is helping me, and soon you, to remember.

Alma knew.

Nestled midway through the Book of Mormon, is the record of a once-rebellious young man – who after full repentance and a total conversion to the gospel of the foretold Savior of the World, Jesus Christ – was transformed into the mighty government and prophet leader Alma.

In chapter seven of Alma is recorded his teachings to the people of Gideon concerning the Saviors birth, His mission – culminating in the fulfillment of the atonement by His bearing the sins of the world and loosing the bands of death – and the promise that those who repent, are baptized, and keep the commandments of God will inherit eternal life. After his own life experience, Alma speaks with power, and I’m sure great gratitude of the miracle of the Savior’s gift of the Atonement.  Listen to his words:

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The Family Proclamation Fairytale

From the very day when I sat in that historic general Relief Society meeting (broadcast) and heard President Gordon B. Hinckley present and read the inspired document, The Family: A Proclamation to the World, first to the women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these are the specific words that resonated in my heart — and continue to do so, 24 years later, e v e r y time I read it:

“The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

As a child of divorce, and now an adult, coming to understand the eternal doctrine that I had a literal birthright to have both a mother and a father in my life, was a profound confirmation of an eternal truth that gripped my soul to the very core! And not just for me, but every child, ever born on this planet is entitled to such an arrangement. Yes, I understand that for many this sounds like a fairytale, but this is exactly what Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness provides through His Son, Jesus Christ! Continue reading