Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Trust of Prayer

prayer

A young Amy Carmichael, who grew up to be a missionary in India, learned about prayer from her parents.  She learned that Heavenly Father heard her prayers. She learned He could do anything. And she believed.  That night, at bedtime, she went to her knees and asked Heavenly Father to turn her eyes blue.  She went to bed with the excitement and faith only a child can muster.  In the morning, she ran to the mirror gleeful to look at her brand new, blue eyes. Her heart broke when her own brown eyes were staring back at her.

Does that mean that her prayer was not answered? Did Heavenly Father break His word? She certainly had the faith that was required. Amy learned something. She learned that “No” is an answer too.

When we pray for something, we need to do it in faith. But, we also need to do it in submission, trusting that our Heavenly Father knows best for us. 

I remember a time, shortly after my conversion, there was something I prayed for desperately. I couldn’t imagine how I would survive Heavenly Father saying “No” to this prayer.  I would weep during the prayer. Each time, though, Heavenly Father said, “There are things you don’t know.  Trust me.  I have something so much better for you.” 

Now, I can look back and see His wisdom.  At the time, it felt like I was being asked to endure too much. I recently found out just how much my God had protected me.  He knew things about the situation I didn’t. I have more gratitude for that “No” than I do for almost every “Yes” I have ever received.   

So, if you’ve been pouring out your heart in prayer and feel ignored, this is the time to wait and trust.  We often don’t have the whole picture.  I promise you, that He hears you.  And sometimes, a no is a much better answer than you’d think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Sweet Memory of Past Sin

sacrifice

That title probably sounds weird…even wrong.  No memory of sin should be sweet.  Of course not, but bear with me.  Many of you know I am a homeschool mom.  My oldest daughter will be reading St. Augustine’s Confessions this fall.  I’ve been re-reading it in order to write a discussion guide for us to use.  I came across this passage:

“I must now carry my thoughts back to the abominable things I did in those days….the memory is bitter, but it will help me to savour your sweetness, the sweetness that does not deceive but brings real joy and never fails.”  ~ st. augustine

That completely changed my view of the past.  While before it brought me low and I used it as a warning never to allow myself to be deceived again. It’s different now. Sweeter.  It’s still a good reminder to beware, but now it also draws me into praise. 

My Savior gave himself as a sacrifice, so that I could be at peace before my God.  Now, instead of being weighed down with guilt, I smell the sweet aroma of the sacrificial atonement.  No wonder the Old Testament sacrifices were such a pleasing aroma to God.  They brought to His mind the willing love and sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

Now, if something reminds me of the past, I think of the Savior’s gift and look toward the future, where I will dwell with my God. When I do that, my heart swells with love and praise for him.  That is definitely sweet.

 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

When You Disagree with Leadership

 

nephi

From the time Mormons are knee-high to a priesthood holder, they are taught the stories about Nephi and his brothers.  Nephi honored both God and his father. His brothers, Laman and Lemuel, complained and rebelled.  Yet, despite the fact that we’ve been taught these stories over and over again, somehow we seem to be missing the point-- How they got that way.

I hear grumblings in the church a lot lately.  I hear them in the ward. I hear them on Facebook. There are grumblings about women and the priesthood.** There are grumblings about gay marriage.  Sometimes the grumblings are about petty issues.  They usually start with the phrase, “If I were in charge…”

With all due respect, and as someone who would sometimes do things differently herself, we are not in charge.  Our job is to decide if we can sustain our leadership. If so, then get in the trenches and lift them up.  Make their burden lighter. Magnify our callings.  So, how do you decide if you can sustain your leadership on issues you feel differently?  Do what Nephi did. 

Nephi didn’t just say, “He’s our father and we’ll do what he says.” Nor will you have to say “The leadership says this so…”

Look at this verse that explains Nephi’s reaction when he was perplexed.

“Wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” 1 Nephi 2:16b

Therein lies the difference.  Nephi sought out what the Lord wanted him to do.  He didn’t go into it with his mind made up. He sincerely wanted to know the truth and was willing to honor whatever that was.  I love that about Nephi.

Nephi then went to his brothers and explained to them the things the Spirit had made known to him.  Sam believed. Laman and Lemuel still refused. Why were their hearts so blind to the truth?  I have a couple of ideas.

1. It’s possible they refused to even seek the Lord.  Maybe they didn’t want to know that what their father was saying was correct.  They had in mind the world they wanted to live in and their father’s visions weren’t in line with that.

2. They looked “beyond the mark”. Jacob 4:14 talks about this.

“…they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall…”

One of the words we translate as sin in the New Testament, literally means “to miss the mark”.  That is very interesting to me in light of the warning in Jacob 4:14.  When we insist on looking beyond the mark, the standards that God has set, we’re not just missing the mark, we’re putting ourselves at risk of spiritual blindness.

If you’re someone who is struggling with leadership, may I suggest spending some sincere time in prayer asking Heavenly Father to help you see what is right and what is wrong.  Do it with an open mind.  I promise, if you do, you will find a peace like you have never experienced before. The peace that Nephi experienced when the Spirit enlarged his mind to understand.

**To my non-Mormon readers, I wanted to make a small note about women and the priesthood.  What is not commonly known is that we don’t have a priesthood vocation.  You don’t become a Mormon priest as a career. Even our bishops, who lead the local congregations, are unpaid and generally only serve for 5 years in addition to their normal vocation that they continue to work in order to support their families.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Problem with the Conference Dissenters

 

sustain

Even if you didn’t watch General Conference this past weekend, you’ve probably seen the articles about the dissenters. Essentially, they feel like there isn’t enough communication between the Prophet along with other General Authorities and the laity.  They want an open forum to address their doctrinal concerns.  I see a major problem with that.  It’s not what they’re called to do.  A prophet’s job is not to listen to us. His job is to listen to what the Lord says.  Would you really want a prophet who led by the majority opinion of the people? I certainly wouldn’t.

Imagine this scenario toward the end of the 7th century BC….

People: Jeremiah, we need to talk to you.  We’re not happy with some of the things you’re saying.  WE’RE God’s people, the Babylonians should not come to rule over us.

Jeremiah: Well, you know, God’s doing that because you are His people. You refuse to listen, so He’s got to get your attention.

People: About that….We think some of these rules are unnecessary.  Here are some things we think merit further discussion:

  1. The Seventh Year Sabbath:  We’d be much more financially and agriculturally productive if we weren’t required to rest the land every seven years.   In fact, that’s why we’ve been ignoring the command.  All the farmers have discussed it and feel we should decide how to run our farms.
  2. The Levites: Why should just the Levites get the priesthood? I mean there are plenty of people in the tribe of Naphtali that feel like that’s how they’d like to spend their lives.  Does God love the Levites more? Are you saying other tribes are worth less?
  3. Levitical food restrictions: We really feel like we should eat whatever we want.  The other day, some guy from the outlying regions brought bacon.  It was GOOD.  We don’t see the wisdom in restraining from certain foods and feel bacon should be a part of our diet.

Jeremiah:  Hmmm….well if you put it that way.  I’m sure God won’t mind if we change a few things.  After all, a lot of things have changed since Moses was around.

Though the above scenario is ridiculous, that is essentially what the dissenters are wanting. They want a say in doctrine.  But, let’s be honest, any leader who does that will end up leading the church astray.  We shouldn’t desire our leaders to establish doctrine by vote. 

By the way, there was a time that happened. You may remember it. It’s called the apostasy.

I am grateful, for a prophet and apostles who look vertically for guidance, instead of horizontally.

**Side note** There were dissenters in the time of the Old Testament prophets as well. Though, instead of not sustaining, they would imprison or murder them.  Jeremiah went through quite a lot, but was steadfast regardless of what the people did to him or how much his heart was broken by the destruction of Jerusalem.  Let’s pray for our leadership, that they will remain strong and courageous as well.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why I Don’t Date Outside the Church

bountiful-temple2

I have great friends. Several of them are intensely interested in my dating life. They’re occasionally giving me a gentle nudge.  OK, some are outright shoving.  I know they’re doing it out of love and concern, and for that I love them deeply.  The two biggest criticisms I get are 1. I don’t put myself out there and 2. My standards are too high. While I realize I am under no obligation to justify my behavior, I wondered if there were other singles going through the same thing. Here are my reasons.

As my beautiful friend Emily once told me, “You’re not going to find someone hiding under a rock.” First of all, I’d never go under a rock.  There are worms there.  I understand her point though. While that is true it is easier to meet someone if you do things like go out in public, I’m just  not in a position to yet. During the day, I homeschool my children. In the evening, I work…yep, from home.  My computer screen and I are tight.  Yes, I realize the church has singles conferences everywhere (except here apparently), but there are reasons why I’m not dashing off to them.

I spent nineteen years serving my (ex) husband and children instead of building up my marketability and resume. I don’t regret that at all, however the end result is I’ve had to  start from scratch earning a living. That takes a lot of time. I’m in survival mode. Singles conferences are expensive and time consuming. I have children to care for and that leaves me little time for traveling.  If I did earn enough to travel, I’d take my lovely children on one of those things called family vacations.  I hear they’re awesome.

Let’s face it, even if I did go, I know me enough to know I wouldn’t get the full value. I’d spend my time terrified, wishing I had my books with me. I won’t flirt. My adorable friend Jen tried to get me to flirt with my nuclear medicine doc because he liked talking to me about what books I was reading. I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how.  While she gave some hilarious suggestions, one including a glow stick under my shirt during scans, it just isn’t me. I think she’s still mad at me for not trying.

The biggest criticism I get, however, is my standards.  A few of my friends are worried that I have impossible standards to meet. One is concerned I’ll never find someone  intelligent enough to make me happy. Several think, because there aren’t many single LDS men my age in this area, who are also righteous, I should look outside the church and convert them.

I don’t think that is wise. Here’s why. First let me say, if you are dating someone outside the church, I am not judging you. This is my personal standard.

The purpose of dating isn’t just to have fun.  I have lots of guy friends, that I don’t consider relationship eligible, that I have fun with all the time. We talk, we do silly things, we watch movies.  See…fun (within my limited time availability). Dating is different. The ultimate purpose of dating is to find an eternal partner. I would never marry someone who is not a member, so why date them? Would you really want to spend your life with someone who doesn’t love the Savior and the gospel as much as you do?

I had a lovely friend suggest I join Mensa and start conversing with some guys with similar interests as me. I was really tempted.  I crave thoughtful conversation. I might even meet someone much smarter and could challenge myself to even things up a bit. I wouldn’t mind that at all.  I’d gone as far as to look up joining on their website, but changed my mind.  Why?  What if I fell in love? I’ll say it again, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with someone who doesn’t love the Savior and the gospel as much as I do.

I can hear the naysayers now…. “But, you could convert them.”

Possibly, but what if I can’t? Then I’m left with two devastating choices. Break my own heart by ending the relationship or break my own heart by violating my standards and conscience. Not to mention the horrible example such a compromise would be to my children. 

I’d also be afraid that someone would appear to convert just to retain the relationship, but not have a real testimony.  How long do you think he’d be able to hold out faking it once the honeymoon was over and real life set in?

No thank you.

I’m perfectly happy to be friends with non-member men. I always talk about the gospel anyway. If  they convert and I’m interested, fine. If not, we’re best just as friends.

Honestly, I don’t mind waiting.  You don’t have to worry about me pining away at home wishing I had someone.  I promise. The occasional exception being after watching a Jane Austen movie.

In reality, I’m more tired than lonely. I’d rather wait until the Lord sends someone I can respect and trust to lead our home in righteousness than compromise for the temporary pleasures the world has to offer.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Continuing in Christ

path

You’ve been baptized. You made a commitment to die to yourself and live for Christ. It is an exciting time. Recent conversations with inactive members have convinced me of one thing. A commitment to Christ will not survive if it is only made at baptism. It is easy to be strong in the newness of the gospel. You’re excited. You see all the possibilities of a new life before you. But that light will fade if you don’t cling to it.

Your life in Christ will last only if you make a commitment to die to yourself a thousand times every day. You must continually make that commitment to Christ over and over.

Sometimes it is with big decisions. You must give up an addictive habit or learn to live within the bounds of moral purity. Those are important. But, to be frank, most of the decisions we make that lead to a righteous life are in the little decisions. Being diligent with our time. Spending time in prayer and scripture. Putting others before ourselves, without acting like a martyr for doing so.  These myriad of mini commitments we make are what keep us in the atonement of Christ.

Sometimes it is in making a commitment to just hang on in suffering. When your pain is beyond the aid of words or music, to cling to Christ. To say “I believe You. I will not forsake you, though I feel forsaken.”

Those decisions will change your life. Those will help you to grow to be more like the Savior. These will keep you on the path to salvation.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Church Cannot Raise Your Children

mom-reads

It doesn’t matter whether you’re protestant, catholic, or LDS. It is up to you to raise and instruct your children. Yes, the church is fantastic and has lots of opportunities for learning the gospel.  In the LDS church we have primary, Sunday School, the Young Men and Young Women programs, and high school seminary. They are all good things. It’s important your child goes, but at best they are basic. Even the seminary program, which I highly recommend, is just four years of survey courses. Our children need more.

The general authorities (leadership in the LDS church) know this too. They’ve counseled parents on multiple occasions to have daily scripture study, prayer, and fun time together as important aspects of child rearing.

If you’ve ever taught primary you know the lessons can be….um…repetitive. I believe I taught a lesson on “Choose the Right” more times than I can count. That repetition is good and there probably isn’t an LDS child around that couldn’t tell you how important it is to make right choices. However, our children need doctrine too. They need to go through the Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price (Whew! We have a lot of Scriptures) thoroughly before they leave your home.

Why?

I think the answer to that is twofold. 

1. That our children may know who god is and what he expects of them

The Book of Mormon puts it this way: 

And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” 2 Nephi 25:26

2. that they may grow in godliness

I love this passage in the New Testament:

“And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:2

So where do you start?

First, in your everyday life.

You must live the gospel yourself. You must also talk about it.  Listen to what Moses taught the Israelites as they were about to enter the promised land.

“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Duet. 6: 6.

It should just be a natural part of living- a regular and comfortable part of your daily conversations. Our children need us to engage with them about real life and how it fits in with the gospel.  Discuss current events with your children. Discuss politics. Help them learn to think for themselves and not just accept what the talking heads on television are telling them. Challenge them to look at the world in light of what we know about God’s instructions to us.

Make sure they understand that everyone is biased—yes even your favorite news anchor.  I’ve got news for you, you’re biased as well. When you can face that, it will help you be more honest with your children about exploring world views. Help them to take what they’re hearing and compare it with the word of God. Teach them to pray and ask the Spirit what is true and what they should do about it.

Second, in formal instruction.

This is where daily scripture study comes in.

For young children, teach them the stories of the Scriptures. They should know about Abraham, Moses, Christ, Paul’s life and Martyrdom, Nephi, King Benjamin, etc…

LDS parents need to be careful not to just focus on the Book of Mormon. Your future missionary is a lot less effective in ministering to protestants when they have a remedial understanding of the Old and New Testament. Believe me, as a former protestant who was an investigator for three years, I was often appalled at the lack of knowledge some missionaries had. It made me less likely to take them seriously.  Plus, they are missing out on a large portion of God’s instruction to us.

For older children, take the time to do an additional more in depth study. Our classes at church do not (to my complete exasperation at times). Do a weekly study with them on a book of scripture. Give them assignments that teach them how to study the words of God for themselves.

I know you’re probably thinking when you’re going to find the time to fit all this in. Believe me, if I can do it ANYONE can.

Most parents love their children. Most want to do what is the best for their children. Just don’t be tempted to think just sending them to church is enough. It’s good, but it’s not enough.