Saturday, October 31, 2009

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents...

One of my favorite non-gospel books is one called Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt. It's all about an economists perspective of the world and added mathematical value to things that aren't normally viewed as quantifiable. I wouldn't recommend it if you don't have interest in random economic trivia, but there is one chapter that I wanted to share a little bit about today.

The chapter is called What Makes a Perfect Parent? It's mostly about a study that the U.S. Department of Education conducted in the late 1990's that measured academic progress of 20,000+ children K-5 from across the country. This study is referred to as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study or ECLS. They measured 16 different factors that might affect a child's ability to test well and interviewed their parents to see whet they did to affect those factors. I thought the conclusion that the author came to was extremely interesting. He states, "[B]y the time most people pick up a parenting book, it is far too late. Most of the things that matter were decided long ago--who you are, whom you married, what kind of life you lead...[I]t isn't so much a matter of what you do as a parent; it's who you are."

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is so great at making us (almost) "perfect parents" because it teaches us this concept to us from the beginning. It's never about making us act a certain way, even though many people see our church as such, but it's about making us into good people through exercising our free will righteously and helping others (especially in our families) to do so also.

"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."
-Boyd K. Packer

"The most important of the Lord's work you will ever do will be within the walls of you own homes."
-Harold B. Lee

So, there it is. It's not about fancy schools or the newest toys, the greatest factor in who your children will become is who you are. It's about being the best you and passing that "bestness" on to your children. And who would be a better example of this than our own Father in Heaven. He is constantly teaching us to be perfect like Him and His Begotten Son, and even though we are not there yet, He gets to rejoice in our little triumphs and our willingness to try.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Unselfish Service

Our moving process over the last month has been rather stressful. To top it off, each day I am becoming more and more pregnant. Every day tasks become extra difficult for me during the last month of pregnancy and the day came to clean the apartment. I really didn't know how I was going to do it: enter Relief Society.

Amazing women in my ward announced and sent two emails in the last few days reminding every sister who could to come and help clean this morning. Six sisters showed up and did not mind cleaning the residue of my family. PLUS, another sister with kids around Jared's age watched him so I wouldn't have to take him to an empty apartment full of chemicals.

With all this help, something that would have taken me all day (or more) only took an hour and a half. I am so grateful for the ward we live in and the amazing sisters within it. This experience reminded me of Elder Dallin H. Oaks talk from April 2009 conference, Unselfish Service, and I wanted to share a few quotes these sisters emulate in every way.
  • Perhaps when we [face] our Maker, we will not be asked, 'how many positions did you hold?' but rather, 'how many people did you help?'---- you can never love the Lord until you serve Him by serving His people. --quoting President Monson
  • The only ways to save our eternal life is to love one another and lose our lives in service.
  • The plan of the gospel of Jesus Christ lifts us above our selfish desires and teaches us that this life is all about what we can become.
My challenge to us all: find ways to serve! Nothing is too small to be know as service. No time is convenient to serve because we are all busy with our lives, but if we lose ourselves in service; the Lord will bless all involved!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Eight Copies: Part 2

[This is the 2nd part in an essay about the many copies of the Book of Mormon I have owned in my life.]

Each copy I have ever owned has been special to me and has influenced or mirrored my life in some way.

When I was baptized at eight years old, I was given a full set of scriptures with my name engraved on the covers. They were beautiful to me. Now, these scriptures might be described as old, worn out, and falling apart. I prefer to think of them as loved, well-used, and full of character. There are stickers on the inside cover, the pages are marked with colored pencil, red pen, yellow highlighter and varying colors of crayons with glitter. The binding is falling apart because the book is bursting with Sunday School handouts, old Sacrament Meeting programs, indecipherable notes, postcards, a For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and even some old photographs.

When I look at them, I see my life, my progression in the gospel. I went from clumsily marking my scriptures with crayons to thoughtfully underlining key phrases and jotting impressions in the margins. I grew from a child, hanging on the testimony of my parents, to an adult, with spiritual experiences and faith of her own.

In the opening pages of the Book of Mormon, we learn that the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince all people "that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” All people "must come unto him, or they cannot be saved" (1 Nephi 13:40). Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is "the keystone of our religion, and a man [will] get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

My worn-out and well-loved scriptures did all that for me—convinced me that Jesus is the Christ, bade me to come unto Him, and brought me nearer to God by abiding by its precepts.

What have your scriptures done for you lately?

To be continued...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Little Coincidences

The other day I was out shopping and knew that it was supposed to rain that day. My last stop was Costco. As I parked my car, I noticed that the storm clouds were getting darker and heavier and it was looking like the storm was about to break free. I looked to the passenger seat where my trusty umbrella was sitting.

In my heart I said, "God won't let it rain on me until after I've done my shopping and am back in my car." So I left the umbrella in my car. I shopped dutifully and returned to my car, realizing that the rainstorm had not started yet. I packed all my groceries into my car, took the cart back and got into my car, preparing to head home.

I turned on the car and realized that the rainstorm had started. It was raining cats and dogs, as in a huge downpour! I reflected on how I had said in my heart that God wouldn't let it pour on me until I was done with my errands. Wow, I must really work after all.

On the way home it was raining so hard that it was a bit of an obstruction to my vision. I had to slow my speed down so that I could see what was coming in front of me. I arrived home safely and back at my house it wasn't raining anymore. I put my things away and thought to myself, "God and his angels must be watching out for me."

I think that seeing God's hand in our lives is, a lot of times, what keeps it there. Proverbs 3:5-6 says:
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths."

I hope that I have inspired you today to think about the small things in your life where God has helped you out. I personally feel like angels are always watching over me. If not, then I think I might have had a horrific accident where I nearly died by now.

Have a great day!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Watch & Pray Always

I wanted to share something that I read during my scripture study this past week.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him." (3 Nephi 18:15)

I have been reading 3 Nephi with a manual and the commentary on this verse was excellent! It says:

"As important as prayer is, its protective and guiding influence is diminished unless it is coupled with vigilance, with 'watching.' The doctrinal meaning of the word 'watch,' in the context of praying always in order to resist temptations, implies more than observation. It means being on guard, being spiritually aware. Some erroneously believe that as long as they 'say their prayers' God will 'not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able' (1 Corinthians 10:13). Certainly this was not the intent of Paul's words. Adding the words of Alma to those of Paul helps us to better undrestand why watching must accompnay praying. 'And now, my brethren,' Alma said, 'I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance; but that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering; having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts' (Alma 13:27-29).

One cannot reasonably pray for strength to resist temptation and then carelessly and recklessly flirt with evil. Just as we are saved by the grace of God only 'after all we can do,' our faith and prayers are efficacious only after 'all we can do' in watching our thoughts, words, and deeds, lest by our own negligence we fall into transgression. If we fail to 'watch and pray continually' we can indeed 'be tempted above that which we can bear.' We must constantly be watchful as well as prayerful to ensure that our thoughts, words, and deeds stay in the 'spiritual safe zone.' Just as the Savior promised protection to the Nephites, his promise is likewise conveyed to us today through the scriptures and living prophets who testify that if we are diligently watchful and prayerful, we 'will be given the strenght to shun and temptation.'"

That really is a mouthful. And that was just the commentary on one verse! I love the manual I am using and I feel like I am understanding the scriptures better than I ever have before. If you haven't already had the opportunity of studying the scriptures with the help of a manual then I highly suggest you do so. You will certainly gain many insights into the words of the Lord.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Individual Excellence

Just a quick thought for two reasons: one, we just moved into our house and barely got internet today and two, I have a few other things to do on the computer before I go to bed which needs to be now. This is from President Gordon B. Hinckley:
You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is not need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you. Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the church.
Walk tall, dear friends, because you are unique and amazing!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Eight Copies: Part 1

[This was originally a really long essay I wrote, so I decided to break it into a series about the many copies of the Book of Mormon I have owned in my life. Today is about my very first.]

Recently, I was asked to speak in Sacrament meeting on the topic of "How the Book of Mormon has Changed My Life." While preparing, I was feeling at a loss of where to start. I have never had an exact moment of change that came from reading the Book of Mormon. I couldn’t even think of any particularly inspirational stories involving me and a Book of Mormon.

Panicked, I wondered if it even HAD changed my life at all! I mean, I know that I've read it-- enjoyed it even. Felt uplifted? Yes. Inspired? Yes. But truthfully, I've been a member my entire life... I was exposed to the Book of Mormon from day 1. How could it really change my life if I've always had it?

Finally, I decided to just open up a copy. Where better to begin than at the source? As I was looking on our bookshelf for a particular copy I had used during my study at BYU, I found another copy. And another. And another.

As it turns out, there are 12 copies of the Book of Mormon in my house. A couple of them reside on our nightstands, two more live in our scripture cases next to Bibles where they patiently wait for Sunday, the rest (eight of them) sit next to each other on our bookshelf.

I look at that bookshelf everyday, several times a day, but it never struck me until that moment that there were eight copies of the Book of Mormon sitting there. Now that I had noticed them, I looked them over and wondered how many of them were mine.

I opened the first copy and found, stamped inside: “This book belongs to Ashley.” I opened the next copy and found my name again, in my own handwriting from college! I looked through them all and discovered that 8 of the 12 copies we have in our house belonged to me at one point in my life or another.

Eight copies!

Anyone who knows me well can tell you how much I love books; they are, indeed, one of my passions. But I don’t own more than one copy of any other book. That thought struck me. If I own EIGHT copies of the Book of Mormon, surely that fact alone speaks of its importance in my life.

My first real copy of the Book of Mormon was given to me by my parents shortly after I learned to read. My name is stamped on the inside cover in neon pink ink. When my parents gave it to me, I remember feeling grown-up and important. I knew the book was something valuable by the way my parents treated it. They talked of it and read to us out of it, often. When I began reading it on my own, the language style was difficult to understand, but reading it made me happy. Looking at the pictures in the book and thinking about the stories they illustrated gave me the same feelings.

How grateful I am for parents who enabled those experiences and demonstrated a love and reverence for the word of God. Cheryl Lant, the Primary General President said,
“How blessed is the child whose parents base their lives on the teachings in the scriptures! There is absolutely nothing more important we can do for our families than to strengthen them in the scriptures.”
One of the best things we can do for our children is to teach them from the scriptures! My daughter is yet too young to understand, but we read to her out of the Book of Mormon Stories book every night. She may not understand what we're saying, but at least she's in the habit and she recognizes the cover. ;-)

To be continued...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bye primary class...sniffle, sniffle.

Yesterday was the primary program at church. Nick was sitting up on the stand for moral support, I guess. I guess they didn't want me to sit up on the stand because it might be uncomfortable, or Nick and I might be tempted to kiss or something equally horrid. So I sat by myself in the pews while the children trotted forward to say their lines.

The theme for this year has been how various aspects of the gospel can bless our families. The program was done well by the new primary presidency. We have been released, sort of, or at least notified of being released (something that hasn't been done all that much in previous wards to me). They haven't announced the release in sacrament meeting yet but decided that we needed substitutes for our class so we wouldn't have to teach it anymore.

I didn't really understand why this was necessary so soon. I mean, yeah I'm having a baby but I have a few more weeks that I can handle normal life...I think. We actually asked to keep our calling but apparently it wasn't meant to happen. It turns out that one of the substitutes that took our class yesterday is our new home teacher. I asked him how he liked teaching that class and he said it was totally different than what he would have expected.

"They just sat there and listened. And then they gave really good answers when we asked them questions. And one of the boys knew who every single prophet was and a story about his life. It was amazing!"

So now maybe you know why we didn't want to be released. I don't know if the kids knew what was going on, but when I walked past them on the way to RS I heard them say, "hey look there is Sister Swenson". Probably wondering why we weren't teaching when we weren't officially released. That's okay, I was wondering the same thing. We even lost our primary manual a couple weeks ago.

In conclusion, I'd just like to say that sometimes we get callings where we are probably meant to learn from those we serve- more than they learn from us. Since there isn't any way to really measure how much each life is affected, I just think now that any calling we get is a chance for us to teach as well as learn. Teaching this class helped me realize that it is possible to raise children in the gospel who have amazingly solid testimonies. And ones that are really gospel smart and are interested in what we teach them. I now have a goal to create these kind of children in my home.

I remember when I was young and the leaders and teachers we had at church and in seminary would always say that our generation was special, chosen, or whatever. And I always kind of doubted or just shrunk from feeling like I was any better than any other generation. But now I feel the same way about the kids I have known while teaching. I was definitely not that righteous, aware, and strong in the gospel as they are (when I was that age). I think I was generally a good person but they are all really solid kids. I loved being around them for the short time I was allowed to be there.

I think in my next calling I'm going to not take it for granted. I'm going to enjoy every minute of it. I hope my little story has inspired you all to do the best in your callings and not take them for granted. Learn everything you can and teach what you already know.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

October's Message: Go to the Temple!

I'm not sure if any of you noticed, but there are three talks in October's Ensign about going to the temple. Three talks! That seems like a lot in one issue to me. Also, the last two lessons in our Joseph Smith manual (for Relief Society and Elder's Quorum) have discussed the temple and eternal families. Apparently we need to go to the temple more often than we are.

I want to share my testimony of the importance of going to the temple. While we were in NYC we had the opportunity of going to the Manhattan Temple. I am sure you have all felt that special spirit that is associated with being inside the temple, or even just walking on the grounds of the temple. It is a special spirit that immediately calms you. It is truly a holy place. In NYC there are so many taxis and cars honking all of the time that the city is a very noisy place. As soon as we walked through the doors into the temple it was immediately silent, calm, and peaceful. It was such a drastic change that I could physically understand the phrase "being in the world, but not of the world." When we go to the temple we are supposed to leave all of our worldly cares behind us and go there to worship our Father in Heaven. I always feel different when I enter the temple, but going to the Manhattan temple was an even more profound difference.

I know that the covenants we make inside the temple are equally as important as the covenants we make at baptism. We must make those covenants with God in order to have eternal life. I encourage you all to set aside a time this month to go to the temple, to worship and serve. And when you go, leave all of the worldly cares behind. Take off your watches and forget the world outside. Truly BE THERE.

PS: Read the articles in the Ensign about the temple: They are GREAT! (Here's the link to the online October Ensign!)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

I Will Sing With the Spirit

Amy's post got me thinking about the song "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief." Everytime I get an opportunity to sing all seven verses of that song, I just cry my eyes out. It's always verse six that does me in:

My friendship's utmost zeal to try, he asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak, my blood ran chill, but my free spirit cried I will!"
I always hope that I can be that strong, determined, faithful and humble someday.
I love my moments that I have with songs that have to do with the gospel. I don't only mean hymns, either. There have been many an EFY song that has brought me to my knees in tears. I would like to share some of those moments with you and I hope that as you visit this blog during the week, you will share your hymnal moments of bliss.
When I was in the MTC, we had an amazing speaker who talked about the lineage of Joseph Smith and his amazing family. At the end of the fireside, we all stood up and sang "Praise to the Man." There has never been a more powerful testimony of the prophet that to see so many missionaries, with tears in their eyes and hope in their hearts, sing their testimonies of the great man who brought them the gospel that they had left their homes and their lives to go and share with the world.
On my mission, my trainer really loved the song, "A Little More Like Thee" by Mindy Gledhill. The chorus says:
"Have I blown all my chances to be less like the captive and more like the free?
More like the innocent child in me? Or maybe just a little more like thee?"
After I came home from my mission, I pondered these questions often. Did I take full advantage? How can I remain free from the captivity of the world? It always seems like a daunting task to become like the Savior, the perfect, loving, self-sacrificing, Son of God. But every time I become someone that resembles him just a little more, I know that I'm at least on the right track.
And finally, there is a CD that is called a Nashville Tribute to Joseph Smith, which I am sure you have all heard. The songs were inspired and made me ponder many things: the struggle of Emma Smith as she cared for others and lost her family, the loyalty of Hyrum Smith and the strength he must have been to his brother, and finally the simple beauty and the singular miraculousness of the First Vision.
Music can be a great amplifier for the Spirit. It can also be used to drown it out. When I was on a mission and I didn't have headphones in my ears all the time, I often wondered how the Spirit was able to get my attention at all with all the noise I had going on in my head. I've seen people get addicted to music, using it as a way to constantly control their mood or as an escape from problems that needed to be addressed.
My personal goal this week is to listen to more uplifting music. Life is crazy busy and I miss the quiet contemplative times with my MoTab CDs and Piano music. If your life is stressful, too, I invite you to do the same. Oh, and make sure you sing along.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What If God Was One of Us?

I was listening to music today as I was cleaning and I heard the once famous song from the 90s "One of Us" by Joan Osbourne. I admit I like the song, but I have always felt a little guilty listening to it. I almost wonder if it is sacrilegious. And then today the words just hit me in a whole different way.

What if God was one of us? Really? What if the person you ignored on the street was Him? Or the transient begging for money and you just walked on by? Of course the scripture in Matthew 25: 34-40 comes to mind:

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his aright hand, Come, ye bblessed of my Father, cinherit the dkingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an ahungred, and ye bgave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a cstranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye avisited me: I was in bprison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee asick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have adone it unto one of the bleast of these my cbrethren, ye have done it unto me.

From the discourses given by King Benjamin we learn that we are required to give of what we have, even if it is just a little.

19 For behold, are we not all abeggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a aremission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his bSpirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with cjoy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to aimpart of the substance that ye have one to another.

So often in this world it is hard to trust. When beggars are out on the street corners many people say they are out there just to get drug money or they will drink whatever we give them away, or it is all a lie, they are doing it as their job. But it doesn't matter, because what if Joan Osbourne is right? What about what King Benjamin reiterated time and time again in his address to the people? "And verily, verily I say unto you, when ye have done it unto the least of these thy brethren, ye have done it unto me." Regardless of their past, present, or future it is our responsibility to give and show love. As I think more along these lines the missionary spirit is kicking in. If we were to meet someone on the street we should recognize them for who they really are. They are children of GOD. And not just that, they are our siblings, entitled to the same blessings we can have. How can we not share with them? We have such knowledge and happiness, and how selfish will we be if we just keep it to ourselves because we are afraid to share with them? Remember, that which we do to our fellow men is the same as if we were doing it to our Lord. He loves us and wants us all to be happy, and so we have to help others to be happy.

I know I have taken this in many different directions tonight. There are so many thoughts flooding my mind right now as I ponder over that song. Missionary work, charity, loving our brother, and giving all we can to those in need. I could go on for a long time with each of these topics, but I don't think it is necessary. I would just like for each of you to think about it next time you pass a stranger. Every time you pass a stranger. What if? What would you do differently? And do it. Smile. Give the $1.50 you have in your pocket to the street beggar. And for heaven's sake, start carrying around pass along cards! I say this for myself more than any of you. It is a habit I have gotten out of and need to reinstate.

What would you do differently if He really was one of us here on this earth right now?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Power of the Priesthood

This week has been brutal at work. I don't want to go into details, but some fellow co-workers did some things which hurt/affected me deeply. I really struggled with this, and all these pregnancy hormones didn't help either! I talked and talked to my husband about it. He, knowing me so well, listened and gave me some great advice. He helped me see this situation in a different way, and see my coworkers as human, capable of making mistakes. After hours of talking and crying, I finally started to feel better enough to go to sleep.

Before we went to bed, I asked T if he would give me a priesthood blessing before I left for school the next day. The following morning, I was feeling A LOT better. So good, in fact, I almost didn't wake him up. However, I also felt like I should show the Lord my obedience, even though I felt like I didn't need it. T gave me a really beautiful blessing, and he definitely said some things I NEEDED to hear before I walked out my door that morning.

It became clear I needed that blessing on this particular day because something equally frustrating and stressful happened. I feel like if T hadn't given me that blessing, I might have a.) quit on the spot, b.)had a total meltdown, c.)made a total fool of myself or d.) all of the above. Thanks to my husband's blessing, I was able to receive the comfort I truly needed.

I'm going to conclude with some words from President James E. Faust in the October 2004 issue of the Liahona.

"A priesthood blessing is sacred. It can be a holy and inspired statement of our wants and needs. If we are in tune spiritually, we can receive a confirming witness of the truth of the promised blessings. Priesthood blessings can help us in the small and great decisions of our lives. If, through our priesthood blessings, we could perceive [see] only a small part of the person God intends us to be, we would lose our fear and never doubt again."

Yet again, my testimony has been strengthened in the power of the priesthood, and how necessary I need it in my life.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Magnify Every Calling

I know we've been talking about callings and what not lately, and that's what is on my mind right now. Mostly because I got released from my teaching calling this past Sunday. Since I had Jared, the only opportunity to teach outside my home has been through my callings. I think the Lord gave me the outlet so I would feel as though I'm teaching.

I know I teach within my home, but I never really thought of it as 'teaching' because of the time and effort I habitually put into a formal lesson. This is not the way to think and I'm a bad teacher for thinking so. When I sat and thought about what I wanted to write today, I remembered how I gave a talk in our BYU ward shortly after we were married. Luckily, I still have it on my computer, so I want to share a few thoughts I shared then, right now.

In order to understand how to do our callings properly we need to understand how to magnify. When I think of the word magnify, I think of something brought closer, or enlarged, so I am able to understand it better. The focus function on 35 mm camera allows the image through the lens to be seen more clearly than without it. Strength increases with the power of focus. When we put the right amount of focus on our lives, tasks become easier to understand and easier to accomplish. 'To magnify’ means taking any situation and doing the best you can with the resources you have. One of the resources you have within your calling is the calling itself.

In order to succeed in magnifying our callings President Eyring suggests, in the October 2004 Conference, we should know three basic principles about our calling. And I personally believe these are essential to realize now rather than later.
  1. We are Called of God: He says, “The Lord knows you. He knows whom He would have serve in every position in His Church. He chose you. The person who was inspired to recommend you for this call didn’t do it because they liked you or because they needed someone to do a particular task. They prayed and felt an answer that you were the one to be called. He prayed to know the Lord’s will for you. Every one who is called of God has the right to know that before anything else." We already know we are called of God through the Fifth Article of Faith. Since we are called of God, we are also called to represent our Savior. Think about this for a moment. Our voices, words, and actions become a representation of the Savior on the earth today. Our callings become more than just ward greeter or hymnbook coordinator; each and every calling is important in the eyes of the Lord because they aid in the building of his kingdom.
  2. Just as the Lord calls us, he will guide us through revelation. President Eyring gives a caution about the Lord’s guidance: “[it] will come only when the Lord is sure you will obey. To know His will you must be committed to do it. The words 'Thy will be done,' written in the heart, are the window to revelation. The answer comes by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit may also guide you to the scriptures for your answer. So many stories containing the doctrine and principles of the gospel in different situations will help you find the one that is right for you at that moment. And if not, searching the scriptures will help clear your thoughts to focus on the task ahead.
  3. Not only does God call and guide you; he will magnify you. There is no need to feel inadequate in your calling. We do not magnify our callings by ourselves and if we think we do, then we are inadequate. The Lord will always be there for us. We are his children; he does not leave us to survive alone. President Erying continued further by suggesting that we feel inadequacy because the Lord’s presence is so much a part of our callings that we take it for granted.
Think back to my silly camera analogy. In today’s world the 35mm camera with focus is the thing of the past, it doesn’t have the newest digital capabilities in the world of photography. But, what happens when we put the two together? It creates the best camera on the market. The Lord is the newest digital technology to our little 35mm. He guides us to what or who we need to focus on at the right time. Without Him, we do not have the proper ‘magnification’ to succeed.

President Heber J. Grant once said, “By the assistance of our Heavenly Father there is no obligation and no law in the Church that we cannot fulfill. The Lord will give us the strength and the ability to accomplish every duty and rests upon us in an acceptable manner in his sight.” Elder Eyring said on this matter: “You can have the utmost assurance that your power will be multiplied many times by the Lord. All He asks is that you give your best effort and your whole heart."

So, what are the callings we must fulfill and magnify? The Lord, through his prophets, specified two categories: callings in the Priesthood and the callings received through the power of the priesthood. Now wait a minute, doesn’t that mean all Church callings? Yes, but that's only the beginning.

The Lord created us with his powers, which includes the power of the priesthood. This means that everything we do in life, not just within the church, is a calling we must magnify. I tend to believe that the ultimate calling we have is that of a son or daughter of God striving to become a true disciple of Christ. We are given our other callings as Bishops, Visiting Teachers, Elders, Mothers, Fathers, etc. to magnify (or make better) our calling as divine beings. We give our best effort in these callings and the Lord will make up the difference.

For me, at this time in my life, it means to magnify my calling as a wife and mother in my calling. It is the first and foremost calling I have in my life and I should not be disappointed in being released.

If the Lord sees fit to give me another calling in the ward, then I will accept because He knows me and knows what I can handle. I challenge us all to never decline a calling; it's like saying you know better than the Lord. Think of the early days of the church when calls would be extended right then and there during sacrament meeting without asking the people involved; the Lord had faith that the members would except the call! Don't be afraid to accept and enjoy your callings; the Lord has faith in you--- have faith in Him.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Family Home Evening

I think that this part of the gospel is so inspired! I love having family home evening activities with Nick. It means that I get his attention and he can't go off on his own or dink around on his computer!

Just kidding, it is more than that. Since we are blessed with the ability to record TV at the moment, we decided to record all the general conference sessions. That makes the FHE lesson so easy! We just rewind to a talk and listen to it together. Then we can pause it and talk about what it means to us. Then after we have an activity and maybe some kind of treat.

Tonight we watched one of the talks from the Sunday afternoon session about missionary work while we folded our laundry and put it away. Somehow I'm always better able to pay attention to conference talks when my hands are busy. Anyway, the speaker was saying how they hoped and prayed for Russia to open up for missionary work when he was a missionary and now his son is serving a mission there!

It was quite exciting and made me wonder if my kids will ever serve missions in China. Who knows, right? It also made me reflect back on my mission. Sometimes it is a sore spot for me, there were such struggles. I wondered what I could have done differently and I why I didn't get along with most of my companions. I guess we "got along" okay enough but I wish I was able to develop relationships with them that were able to stay strong even after getting home.

Fortunately my life's mission is not over and I can still learn from my mistakes. I have learned so much more since I got married and have been able to make positive changes in my life. I think that maybe for me I can make changes easier when I'm not under a lot of pressure but I am in a happy and stable environment. That isn't to say that nothing constructive happened to me on my mission. I just feel fulfilled now and think that my life is going well.

So in conclusion, family home evening can make you really stop and think about things in your life and any changes you might want to make. It can also help you re-evaluate your past and maybe forgive yourself for what you thought were mistakes. It turns out that sometimes the mistakes we make actually help us to grow in ways that we didn't know were possible.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Book of Mormon

So I am writing this post from New York City (well actually the JFK airport). My flight is delayed, and I can't wait to get back home. We have been on vacation the past 9 days and had the opportunity of visiting the church history sites in Palmyra, New York. We were there during General Conference and we got to listen to the second session on Sunday at the Hill Cumorah visitor's center. It was incredible.

Elder Holland's talk about the Book of Mormon was so powerful. Did anyone else feel the force? I think it was especially powerful, because right before that session Josh and I went to the building where the Book of Mormon was published. I absolutely loved Elder Holland's testimony that he shared and being at the site where the plates were given to Joseph Smith really strengthened my own testimony of the truthfulness of the words in the Book of Mormon. My favorite quote was this: "No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so."

I also loved this passage:

"As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?

Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor.9 Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator."

I highly encourage you all to listen to his talk again. Don't just read it. Listen to it! I think that your testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon will be strengthened by the wonderful testimony Elder Holland shares. Have a great week!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lift Where You Stand

Last year at Priesthood Conference, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf shared the following story:

Some years ago in our meetinghouse in Darmstadt, Germany, a group of brethren was asked to move a grand piano from the chapel to the adjoining cultural hall, where it was needed for a musical event. None were professional movers, and the task of getting that gravity-friendly instrument through the chapel and into the cultural hall seemed nearly impossible. Everybody knew that this task required not only physical strength but also careful coordination. There were plenty of ideas, but not one could keep the piano balanced correctly. They repositioned the brethren by strength, height, and age over and over again—nothing worked.

As they stood around the piano, uncertain of what to do next, a good friend of mine, Brother Hanno Luschin, spoke up. He said, “Brethren, stand close together and lift where you stand.”

It seemed too simple. Nevertheless, each lifted where he stood, and the piano rose from the ground and moved into the cultural hall as if on its own power. That was the answer to the challenge. They merely needed to stand close together and lift where they stood."

I found this talk titled "Lift Where You Stand" when I was looking up the phrase "magnify your calling" and it really helped me gain some perspective. Nate and I have been in our ward for almost four months now and we haven't received callings yet. Not even to be visiting or home teachers which is really sad. We want blessings, too, right?

Well, today I attended my FIRST Super Saturday activity ever, and I painted my wooden blocks, I hot glued my star, I sprayed my sparkle spray, and it hit me. My calling right now is to be a helpful and involved member of my ward. AND I LOVE IT!! I will love it when it gets more specific, but for now, I truly get a chance to do some of that sustaining and supporting I always raise my hand for. It's so great seeing how awesome people are at their callings without worrying about my own.

So, be grateful for your opportunities to serve and the opportunities to be served within your ward. And express your gratitude to those that make your ward work for you and your family.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Re-defining Moments

I love how so many talks in Conference can be specific to our own individual needs. Every year there is a talk that was given directly to me. I know everyone says that, which shows that the Lord knows our needs and desires. With His Spirit he can touch our hearts and teach us the things we need to learn. If we have prepared ourselves and are teachable we can grow in unexpected ways.

I was going to share with you all what I had learned, but for some reason it is feeling a little too personal. I am not one to air my dirty laundry in public and sharing what the Lord taught me would be a little too personal so I am going to have to take this a different direction.

I want to talk about the importance and beautiful calling we have as mothers. There are so many women in the world who talk about motherhood as being a burden or a chain. Being a SAHM is cumbersome and keeps them from growing and progressing. Their children are loved but are also seen as a weight and a nusiance. I know that sometimes I fall into that roll a little bit. I would never trade being home with my son for anything in the world, but there are days when I only see the hard part of it. I miss adult interaction. I miss going out and dancing or reading a book or going to the mountains and just relaxing by a stream. I cannot do that now. My life is full of picture books, playing trucks on demand and coloring. I forget the beauty of having this life.

And then I got to watch Oprah (not a normal occurrence, I assure you. This was a special occasion) the other day. Stephanie and Christian Nielson were on. A woman who hated being a SAHM got to spend the day with Stephanie and her whole outlook on motherhood changed.

Following the inspiration that Stephanie inspires, I re-read this talk on her blog. It is so wonderful in helping us redefine our roles as mothers and wives. Rarely do we understand the great power and influence we have on the world.

"Mothers who know are nurturers. This is their special assignment and role under the plan of happiness. To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow. Therefore, mothers who know create a climate for spiritual and temporal growth in their homes. Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world. Working beside children in homemaking tasks creates opportunities to teach and model qualities children should emulate. Nurturing mothers are knowledgeable, but all the education women attain will avail them nothing if they do not have the skill to make a home that creates a climate for spiritual growth. Growth happens best in a “house of order,” and women should pattern their homes after the Lord’s house (see D&C 109). Nurturing requires organization, patience, love, and work. Helping growth occur through nurturing is truly a powerful and influential role bestowed on women. "

I find that as I re-read and reapply these teachings and examples I become a better mother and wife, and my home is so much happier and full of the Spirit. I encourage you all to do the same thing. Take a few moments in quiet meditation and prayer and re-define your part of the great plan our Father has for us. As you do this you will be blessed with a testimony of your divinity and your ability to do all that you promised you would do here. More than that, you will be able to find hidden talents to help you in your calling as a wife and mother.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

No Empty Chairs

I seconded Ash's feelings about not knowing where to start; it was truly a wonderful weekend. I definitely got a lot out of it and feel like I could get so much more! :)

However, if I must mention one talk, I really enjoyed President Uchtdorf and President Eyring's talk about Love. They both mentioned how love is the motivating principle for us, as natural men (and women), to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Along with this, I want to mention a couple other gems from President Eyring's talk (if you missed it, the LDS website said text will be available Thursday).
  • Love of others is at the heart of our capacity to obey Him (meaning Christ)
  • Any believing Latter-Day Saint is an optimist of the future
  • Family is the ideal setting to learn how to Love as Christ
  • No Empty Chairs: This means when we look at our family eternally, we should always remember our goal is to have no empty chairs at the celestial family table. We should use love for one another to encourage and lift each other to the goal of eternal happiness.
  • Pray for the love to allow yourself to see the good of your companion
  • Love is persistent
  • Your quality of life will improve as you honor your parents (and I would also add in-laws)
  • We can and must expect to become better as long as we live
May we be motivated to improve our capacity to Love each other, be more like Christ, and keep our chair full.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Gift of Personal Revelation

I hardly know where to start in talking about General Conference. It's like talking about a feast and trying to describe a single bite...

Let me say that I know that if you head into Conference having prayerfully asked for answers and guidance, you will receive them. Many people find these answers in talks that seem to be meant "just for them." Talks that deal specifically with what they needed to know about. This is what happens to me.

Interestingly enough, in the past two or three Conferences, the very first talk has been "just for me." Exactly what I needed to hear. I think this is funny because it says to me that Heavenly Father knows me-- He knows I pay the most attention to the first talk, that I never sleep through the first talk, and that the first talk sets the tone for my attitude towards the whole weekend.

I'm so glad He knows this about me and puts my answers up front like that. :-)

Needless to say that Elder Richard G. Scott's talk about personal inspiration particularly struck me.

He began by saying that it is good when we are compelled to seek personal inspiration rather than following the path of "respected individuals" who made similar decisions. The phrase "respected individuals" first made me think of public personas-- prominent or well-known people in our field of study or community. Now, after thinking on it, "respected individuals" could just as well mean parents, extended family members or friends. What is the right path for one person may not at all be right for another.

He said:
"Father in Heaven knew you would be required to make decisions that were beyond your own ability to decide correctly. ... He included a provision for you to receive help with such challenges and decisions during your mortal life. That assistance will come through the Holy Ghost as personal inspiration."
Personal inspiration is something I have felt a great need of lately. My husband is entering his final year of graduate school and we have been praying to find the answers to life decisions we are trying to make. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father knew that we wouldn't be able to make these decisions on our own! I feel His love when I think that He provided us with a way to get the answers we are seeking.

Elder Scott also said:
"Spirituality brings forth two fruits: 1) inspiration to know what to do, and 2) power-- the ability to do it."
I love this! Spirituality helps us to know what to do and gives us the power to go forth and do it!

Have a lovely week everyone, and may you all get the personal inspiration you are seeking.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Be a Messenger of God

Has anyone seen my ball? I seem to have dropped it.

I went to Colorado for the weekend and watched Conference with my brother and his family and I have to say that when I heard Elder Osguthorpe's talk and I punched my fist in the air and said, "YES!!" He said what I have always wanted to say if I ever had the opportunity to speak at one.

"The goal of gospel teaching is not to 'pour information' into the minds of class members...The aim is to inspire the individual to think about, feel about, and then do something about living gospel principles." --Thomas S. Monson

Elder Osguthorpe gave some great examples about studying with the manual and then teaching by the Spirit. I have been in so many lessons where there was a lot of great information WITHOUT an invitation, and the Spirit is not as strong, and the lesson is soon forgotten. However, I have also been in many great lessons where an invitation to apply the principles has led to an energy and light in the room that leaves the Spirit with the class for days and weeks afterwards.

Another important example of teaching is when Elder Osguthorpe shared his story about the Tahitian woman who helped teach him the language of the people and how it was a lesson in faith. I would also add it was a lesson in love.

"Close the manual and open their eyes, and their ears, and their hearts to the glory of God."

Conference Week!!

Wasn't General Conference amazing? If you'd like to talk about your favorite talk/thought shared during conference this week, then please do so! It is fun to see what the brethren will be prompted to talk about each session and compare it with what is going on in the world these days. It is always something refreshing, even when the subject has already been spoken on.

I'm always a fan of Elder Bednar's talks because he is always so straight forward. You never have to wonder what he means or where he stands on an issue. His talks make my heart alive with joy! I love what he said about people who use fast and testimony meeting as their one opportunity to express love to their spouse and/or children. You know what he said about these people? They are hypocrites! I love his forthrightness.

Sometimes I have to have Nick translate or explain the talks to me because they are said in a way that I don't understand. I'm so glad Nick is good at picking up on the tricky to understand language of some of the apostles.

My dad was fortunate enough to be in the choir on Saturday afternoon. They didn't do any close ups of him but I got a shot on my phone. For some reason it isn't working to upload it onto the computer. So you'll just have to trust me. What a neat experience that would be to sing in the General conference choir!

From President Monson's talk, I want to share the following question he asked us:
"What have I done for someone today?"

Make this question a daily phrase and try to find amazing ways to answer it. Isn't it funny how making someone else's day makes your own day better?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our Test in Mortality

I generally have a thought that drives me during the week. This week I was very impressed with something Elder Robert D. Hales said in regards to challanges. It is easy to forget that we are not alone, and it is even more easy to get so wrapped up in our trials we forget to look heavenward for help. I hope this helps others as much as it touched me.

“Our challenges, including those we create by our own decisions, are part of our test in mortality. Let me assure you that your situation is not beyond the reach of our Savior. Through Him, every struggle can be for our experience and our good (see D&C 122:7). Each temptation we overcome is to strengthen us, not destroy us. The Lord will never allow us to suffer beyond what we can endure (see 1 Corinthians 10:13). “We must remember that the adversary knows us extremely well. He knows where, when, and how to tempt us. If we are obedient to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can learn to recognize the adversary’s enticements. Before we yield to temptation, we must learn to say with unflinching resolve, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’ (Matthew 16:23).

Robert D. Hales, “Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually,” Ensign, May 2009, 7


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