Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Becoming A Celestial Being

going heavenward

By Annmarie Worthington

*The following is an article I jotted down tonight. I don’t’ know if it will be helpful to anyone but me, but it helped to get the thoughts down.*

I want to reach exaltation. I bet you do too. The only problem is I don’t deserve it. Heavenly Father has said very clearly that He cannot look at sin with the least degree of allowance (D & C 1:31). If there is one thing I know above all others, it is that I sin. I fail all the time. The only thing that gives me hope is the next verse, “Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”

But repentance is more than being sorry for our sins. Spencer W. Kimball put it this way:

“Very frequently people think they have repented and are worthy of forgiveness when all they have done is to express sorrow or regret at the unfortunate happening, but their repentance is barely started. Until they have begun to make changes in their lives, transformation in their habits, and to add new thoughts to their minds, to be sorry is only a bare beginning.[1]

There are days I see my failures and think there is no way the Lord can save someone like me. I sin and sorrow pierces my heart. I confess and forsake my sin, but before I know it there I am sinning again. What a wretched daughter of God I am! My poor Father must be so disappointed. Sure, I may make it into the lowest level of the celestial kingdom based on the atonement of Christ and my paltry attempts at keeping the commandments, but let’s face it, I’m not really celestial material.

However, something happened the other day that helped put it in perspective for me. My ten year old daughter came to me visibly upset. She, like her mother, was worried she did not deserve heaven. This precious daughter of God, who has more love and compassion than any child I know. This sweet girl, who even now, practices so she can be a good mother one day. The child who voluntarily goes to her room after losing her temper to read her scriptures and pray to get her heart right was worried. This child thought she might not make it either. At that moment, I saw her as I suspect Heavenly Father sees me- with complete love and compassion. I then found the words that had evaded my own conscience just moments before.

I pointed out to my dear daughter that Heavenly Father knew we could not be perfect. Yet, He loved us so much He provided a way to bring us back to Him. The atonement. No one is capable of sinning more greatly than the atonement can cover. If we believe in Christ, really believe in Him, we must also believe in His power. When God says the atonement covers all our sins, our faith must say, “even mine”. 2 Corinthians 9:15 puts it better than anything else: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

Now, if you are anything like my Rachel, you want to do more than have faith in the atonement. You want to have a Celestial spirit. So do I. While I believe it starts with having faith in his atonement and knowing our repentance brings restoration, it doesn’t stop there. Our Father is so kind. He knew we’d be grateful and want to bring Him glory. He knew we’d want to be valiant and make Him proud, so he made sure we could learn how. All throughout the Scriptures Heavenly Father gives us ways to be more like him. I wish we could sit for hours and talk about all of them, but alas, this is one article. Therefore I will to focus on just one book. After all, even a long journey begins with a single step.

Our Heavenly Riches

The book of Ephesians is filled with more depth of riches than we are capable of mining this side of eternity, but even just skimming the surface we can come away with jewels more valuable than all the riches of the universe.

There are six chapters in Ephesians and it can be split right in half. The first three chapters tell us of our marvelous position in Christ. As children of the King of Heaven we can scant imagine what is ours for the taking. But, for me, the key passage comes in the first verse of the second half of the book. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” (Ephesians 4:1)

That’s it right there. Once we understand our riches in Christ, which the first three chapters delineates so well you can see your spiritual cup filled to overflowing, he tells us simply to walk worthy. We have been given every grace imaginable. Our sinless Savior died so we could once again enjoy the riches and fellowship of a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Not only that, but He was kind enough to also impart to us His Spirit, which Ephesians calls “the earnest of our inheritance”. How can we not live worthily? Who would not say, “Lord, what would you have me do?” That is what being a Celestial spirit is. It is consistently looking for ways to honor and glorify our Father in Heaven.

A place to start

Fortunately Heavenly Father did not give abstract concepts when he had Paul pen the words to show us how. The remainder of the book is terrestrially practical. His first exhortation to us is to show forbearance to one another in love. He even told us how. “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering,…” Eph. 4:2 Don’t you kind of wish he would have given us something easier to start out on?

I think He did it on purpose. Heavenly Father knew that even if this was the only celestial concept we got down, we would be closer to being like Him than almost any other commandment. Loving others is hard, because they are as messed up as we are.

So what does this mean? Essentially it means we are to put up with each other. But, not only that, we are to do it while loving them. Maybe someone has slandered us, or maybe someone mistreats us. It is easy, in our carnal state, to think we deserve better. But why? Why do we deserve better than our Savior? If He can suffer humiliation and death on our behalf, why can we not suffer and love his children anyway.

I could list countless ways I’ve been wronged. Yet it doesn’t even begin to measure up to what the Savior suffered. So, how can we live this out? I think we start by forgiving those who wrong us, being patient and truly longsuffering with those who annoy us, and praying for those who spitefully use and mistreat us. Maybe we can find a way to bless and serve someone who hurts us this week. Or maybe we can figure out something wonderful about them. Invite them to dinner and try to find out what is special about them. There will be something special in them. Ephesians tells us we’ve all been given special gifts. Let’s find out theirs.

Unfortunately, there is not enough space in this article to go through all the wonderful ways Paul outlined for us to walk worthily, but you can study them yourself. He lists the word “walk” at least six times in those final three chapters of Ephesians, giving much practical advice on what to do. As my sweet daughter and I strive to walk worthy of the immense gift we have been given in the atonement, maybe we’ll actually become Celestial beings in a Telestial world. That is my hope and joy.

[1] Spencer W. Kimball, "What Is True Repentance?", New Era, May 1974, 4

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What Manner of Men Ought Ye to Be?

going heavenward

I have been learning so much the last few months. With strong lessons come strong emotions, so I’ve probably run the gamut. If I could sum up a thesis statement for it, it would have to be “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” 3 Nephi 27:27b

It is sometimes easy to excuse behaviors and responses by blaming others. While it is true that there is unrighteousness and even cruelty in the both the world and (sadly) the church, that should not affect our behavior. Nor should our circumstances. When we allow them to (and I have, so I know) it takes away the joy Heavenly Father intends us to have. It removes the presence of His marvelous Spirit, our most indescribable gift.

I think I’ve finally figured out what can keep me centered even if all the world around me is falling apart. Doctrine and Covenants 17 says it well. “you must rely upon My word.” Often the Spirit speaks to me, not just in whispers to my heart and mind, but through the Scriptures. 

I feel such peace when I go to the Lord in prayer and then, when I read His word, He seems to address the problem directly. There are times I know in my heart what God is calling me to. I know it will be hard, but try to remember the words of Nephi. “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

I wish I could describe some of the situations I find myself in, and what God has taught me (and is still teaching me) through it. But, I cannot do so in a public forum without damaging the reputation of others. Those scenarios are reserved for my private journal. But, I can say with unequivocal confidence that the Lord allowed these situations because He knew it would teach me to be more like Him.

I have learned that I can stand on my own and find companionship in God alone. I have learned that although people lie, manipulate, and slander, there is someone we can trust, AND we can still have relationships (although more guarded) with the offenders. I have learned that it is ok to pour yourself out for someone who will trample it under their feet, because the Savior does that for us everyday. I have learned that if the Spirit puts something on your heart, you are to follow through no matter what. I have learned countless other beautiful lessons. Though there are some things I wish I could go back and change, I’m grateful for what I am becoming as a result, through the mercy of God.

Maybe, when I finally learn to be like Him completely, then the Savior can say of me what He says a little later on in 3 Nephi 27, “And now, behold, my joy is great, even unto fulness, because of you…..and even the Father rejoiceth, and also all the holy angels, because of you…” One day I will be the manner of man I ought to be.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ending Well

king rehoboam

Today I was blessed enough to go with the missionaries on one of their appointments. They asked me to come and share my testimony of the gospel along with my conversion story. As I got to the point where I spoke of how the Spirit told me Joseph Smith was a true prophet, I felt the Spirit throughout my entire being. I felt it so strongly. I fully expected to look up and see us surrounded by angels.

Prayerfully this dear investigator will read her Book of Mormon and continue to pray about the validity of the gospel. I saw fear in her eyes and I remembered how that felt. I told her, however, that I would not trade accepting the gospel for anything.

I was thinking about her while doing laundry earlier, along with the several converts we’ve had who’ve just stopped coming, and for some reason it brought back to my mind a study I did years ago in my Old Testament.

On several sheets of paper I made charts of the kings of both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel. I listed out their lineage, dates, and several facts about their life and reign. There was a pattern I noticed about many of the righteous kings that brought fear and a warning to my heart.

Many of the godly kings would live an entire life of righteousness, but at the end of their life commit a grievous sin. I made a note in my Scriptures at that time that said, “Remember to end well”.  We cannot just rest on previous righteousness, we must keep climbing toward our Heavenly Father. Once we stop to rest, we fall. There is no spiritual inertia to keep us steady while we are no longer actively working toward the goal of righteousness.

Although it is not my intention to end in the near future, it is my prayer that I end well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010



“A friend loveth at all times”

Rachel 136

Me and Vicki at Copelands after my baptism.


I have trust issues.  I’ve known that for a while. It is hard for me to trust people. It gets harder the older I get. Part of the problem is I am a black and white personality. It takes a lot to get me to let my guard down, but when I do, I trust someone completely. Then I realize that was a mistake. However, there has been one friend who has always been there for me.  Vicki. 

I can count on Vicki no matter what. She’s there when I’m hurting, she’s there when I’m confused, she’s there when I’m lonely, she’s there when I’m happy. I keep waiting for the day that she gets tired of being there, but she never seems to. She keeps coming back.  I love that woman. She’s my one steady rock. I love a lot about her. 

She tries hard to live righteously. I love her tender conscience. She really cares for people’s spiritual well being. Everyone’s, even people she is not fond of.  She has also helped me make some pretty hard decisions, and then stood by and loved me after I made the tough choices.

Last night she did some very special things for me.

First, she drove all the way in to Little Rock to take me to dinner. I really needed a night out. She treated me to this ghastly expensive restaurant, then went Christmas shopping with me. Vicki prefers to shop online, so that was a real sacrifice.  On the drive home she gave me a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Only those who know my true chocolate addiction can know how much that bar meant to me. I haven’t had money for chocolate lately, so that was wonderful.

You would think that would be enough, but she did even more. She has spent weeks putting together a 72 hour kit for my family. She packed everything in this gigantic tote, with a list, and told me to keep it in my van. That way we’d have it no matter when the emergency occurs. I was blown away. I’ve been trying to get emergency supplies together ever since I heard the prophets speak of its importance, but when you can’t afford daily necessities, contingency items seem impossible.

When we returned, she helped make my eyebrows more shapely and then we just talked. I can talk to her for hours, because I feel I can truly trust her. I hope we’re always friends, because she knows all my embarrassing stories.

But, the thing about Vicki I treasure most is not what she does for me. It is the fact that I want to be the kind of friend she is.  I want to be there to love and support others. She is the most blessed example of charity and service I know. That is the best kind of friend to have.  The kind you want to be like.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two Important Lessons

gods love

Lesson Number One:  An argument with God

We already know how this lesson ends….I lose.  I should too.  After all, He is God. So, here’s what happened.  There is someone I used to pray for regularly, even fasting often for them, out of love and care.  Then, he did something that was extremely cruel, and continues to do so. I was hurt. I was angry. I even re-evaluated if this gospel was true. Then, I continued to pray for him, having faith that God would eventually soften his heart and he would become repentant.

Months went by and the cruelty continued. I’d had it.  Hence my argument.  It went something like this:

Me:  “Father, I don’t want to pray for______ anymore. It is too painful. It is easier to just try and put him out of my mind as much as possible.”

God:  “I thought you covenanted to bear the brethren’s burdens at your baptism?”

Me: “I did, and I have been, but let’s face it, it’s not like he’s repenting anyway.  He doesn’t care. I’m learning about agency. It’s not like the doctrine of total sovereignty. If he doesn’t want to repent You’re not going to make him. And he’s really mean. The only thing praying for him does is leave me trapped. He’s caused me endless problems.”

God:  “Aren’t you glad your Savior doesn’t feel that way about you when you are struggling? or worse…sinning?”

Me: “Oh.”

God:  “I am asking you to be his savior on Mount Zion. He needs someone who loves and prays for him sacrificially, even if he never repents.  Just as there are millions of people whom your Savior died for who treat Him just as cruelly. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it’s a sacrifice. But that is what We do for you everyday.”

Do you know how small I felt? Why could I not just love as the Savior does?  Why did I have to get anything in return for that love?

Lesson Number Two:  Cheerfully do all that you are able.

So, it is Christmas time.  I work non-stop and had $0 for Christmas presents for my four children.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit in any more working (without giving up sleep completely), but knew if my precious children were to have presents under the tree, I would have to. So, I began making calls.  I checked with as many people as I could think of for extra work, telling them I needed to earn money for Christmas presents.

Though a couple said they would have some for me, it never materialized, although I made several reminders. I was beginning to panic. I began lowering the children’s expectations.  Then they started to get worried. They didn’t say anything, but I could see it on their faces.

I wondered what kind of lesson I was teaching my children with my fear and doubt. So, I reminded myself and my children about a verse in Doctrine and Covenants.

“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.”  D&C 123:17

Now it was time to live out what I taught my children.  I continued to work as much as possible, trusting that the Lord would work out Christmas. Then, this week, the Lord revealed His arm.  A man I do not know, that isn’t even a member, sent me a letter relaying that he and his wife know of how I am raising my children as single parent and they wanted to make sure the children had a good Christmas. Enclosed was a check for $500.00. That same day I received some cash from another person that they desired to go to the children.I started crying the moment I read the letter and announced to the children that we would be having Christmas.

They have since given me some very substantial wish lists.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for all the lessons you are teaching me every day.  Prayerfully, I’ll be a better student.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Questions, Questions


Lately I’ve been trying to write in my blog once a week.  It helps me think.  The problem I have is this week has been filled more with questions than anything else.  Even my Scripture reading leads to more questions.  I used to have someone to regularly dialogue that through with, but don’t anymore. 

I wish you could see my poor Scripture journal.  It’s filled with scribbled notes and LOTS of question marks in the margin.  Those indicate things I don’t understand and need to learn more about.  Some of them are probably simple to life time members, such as is the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit the same thing?  Others are deeper. Still others are just things I wonder about myself. 

In a talk given by a dear brother in my ward last week, he made the statement “Everyone in mortality is perceptually challenged.”  I agree with that.  I also wonder how we get past that to see clearly.

There was however one neat thing I learned this week.  I read this week in Galatians 4:7 “Thou are no more a servant, but a son.” (daughter in my case). I’ve read my New Testament many, many times through.  I don’t know why this was the first time I had ever really grasped that verse.  I am more than a servant.

Previously, I had only seemed able to see myself as a servant. My job was merely to obey God and know Him.  But it is more than that.  He’s a Father to me.  Just as I’ve been learning to see Him as my companion, I can see Him as the Father I long for.  Unfortunately, I still haven’t gotten past looking to the “arm of flesh”.  There are days when I reach out for His companionship as a last resort.  One day, He’ll be who I think and desire to turn to first.  Too bad He doesn’t answer right away sometimes.

I’m glad eternity is so long, because I’m going to have a very long question list when I get there.  Hopefully I can knock a few of them off the list in the meantime.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Learning about Appreciation


Rachel 010

(A picture of me and Rachel two years ago. It was her first time to get to attend the symphony.)

This year was my first Thanksgiving holiday without my children.  I thought it wouldn’t be too hard. I’d see them the next day, and I could do much of my food prep uninterrupted. Wow! was I wrong.  That day was hard. 

Usually the Macy’s parade is on while I’m doing my cooking. The children will watch it and call me in to look at something they find really interesting.  They always call me in to see the Rockettes.  When I was a little girl, growing up on Staten Island, I wanted to be a Rockette.  It was devastating to find out they had a height requirement. (I’m very small and always have been.)  I’ve gotten over it. Besides, I’d never be able to wear those outfits with my garments.  ; )

I tried watching the parade while I cooked, but ended up turning it off.  It made me long for my children. I really missed them and it was only 10 in the morning!  So, I turned off the television and jumped right in to cooking prep.

As they day wore on, I began to feel my loneliness more intensely. My mind kept wandering to the children.  I wondered what they were doing. I hoped they were happy. I worried they’d be sick of Turkey by the time it came my turn to get to spend time with them.  As a remedy I resolved to spend my time studying.  I love learning. The children and I are learning Mandarin this year. Having the house to myself was the ideal time to practice.

I enjoyed that very much for a couple of hours, but then my eyes kept wandering back to the clock, counting down the time until I got to see them again. Finally the moment arrived! The kids were home!

After all the hugs and I miss yous, I asked the children how their meal was, hoping they wouldn’t tell me they don’t want to see anymore Turkey.  It turned out their father didn’t cook. Instead, they ate at a Chinese restaurant (apparently the only restaurant open in the city). I felt bad for the children and could sense their disappointment. They however kept good attitudes and told me that now they are looking forward to my Turkey even more.  Yay me.

On the following day, it was finally time for our Thanksgiving feast together.  We went around the table each taking a turn saying what we were most thankful for.  Rachel’s taught me a very good lesson about showing gratitude and showing love.  She said, “I am thankful for many, many things about mom.”

Aside from the immense feeling of warmth and love I felt from her comment, I was surprised by something else.  I desired to know what it was about me she was grateful for. I wanted her to tell me more. Was it the spending time talking together? Was it my trying very hard to keep homeschooling them? Was it how I try to be funny, but can’t pull it off? Was it the silly dances I do?

I wanted to know, so I could do it more often.  I love my Rachel and I wanted to make her more happy. Which things spoke to her the most?  I’ll do it as often as possible.  That taught me a couple of things about appreciation.  First, I wanted to be sure I always told my children the things I love about them.  If I spent more time telling them the things I enjoy and appreciate about their character, they’ll keep doing them. This way I get to give instruction, without dwelling on the negative areas in which I think they need to have some growth.

Secondly, I realized when I tell Heavenly Father I am grateful for Him, I need to take the time to be specific.  What is it that He does that brings me such joy?  Tell Him. Spend the extra few minutes listing out what I love and treasure. What parent doesn’t like hearing how they are appreciated? Even a Heavenly one.

Here is one thing I love about Him.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I never have to worry about Him liking me one day, and hating me the next.  His character stays the same. I know what to expect. I love His consistency of character.  How about you? What do you appreciate about our Father?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

faith, faith, faith, faith, faith, faith, faith….


going heavenward

Meridian published part one of the series on my conversion on Friday. There were many gracious comments. All of which I hope to live up to.

It seems like the word faith is always before me.  I always feel guilty when people call me a woman of great faith. They don’t see my fears and my tears. Would they still think that if they saw me crying on my bed, simply because I am exhausted and scared? Would they still think that if they saw me wither at the thought of another battle with my ex-husband?

I think about faith a lot. It seems so many blessings, for both us and those we love, are contingent on faith.  Even during the prayer circle at the temple, there was mention of our faith helping those on the prayer roll. Inwardly I pleaded with God to help me have the faith they needed.

You can’t get very far in the Scriptures without reading of its importance.  Just this morning I read in 3 Nephi, where the Savior said, “I see that your faith is sufficient that I may heal you.” I hope mine is too.


There are some needs in my and the children’s lives that require miracles.  Sometimes I think I hold them back with my fear.  Fear and faith cannot co-exist.  Other times I work really hard at faith, only to hear the words in my head, “Miracles are for important people. Those who are called to play a vital part in church history.”

But, that is not true.  The thought occurred to me this morning- What about Elisha and the widow.  Her food supply was kept up miraculously. Yes, she was helping to feed the prophet, but the Lord could have fed the prophet without providing for her and her son.  He also didn’t have to raise her son from the dead, but He did.  Those are big miracles, and he did them for a common woman-like me.

I’m looking forward to seeing our miracles. 

while I’m waiting

In the meantime. I want to keep serving, learning, and growing…even if I am exhausted.  I read a section of Doctrine and Covenants I want to memorize. Section 4 is glorious.  I love all the verses, but was thinking especially about verse two today.

“Therefore, O ye that embark to the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before god at the last day.”

I like that it starts with the heart, because that is where everything starts for us.  If we keep our hearts right, it makes the others easier. Not easy, but easier. When my heart is on what Heavenly Father wants, joy comes quicker.

Next came might. I can desire all day long, but unless I get up and do something about it, it will never happen.  Many people say they want to go to the temple, but never set an appointment.  Their heart is in the right place. Now it is time to put their might behind it for support. 

I recently had an area of obedience come up that surprised me.  I didn’t think this would be an area I would struggle with, until faced with it.  My heart is always in the right place, but in certain circumstances I would fail.  I used to feel I would only feel honorable if I could obey even in that circumstance.  I realized this week, that maybe the more honorable thing would be to never allow myself to get in the circumstance to begin with if I know it is hard for me. That is putting might behind my heart.

Mind and strength, to me, are compatible with heart and might.  So often what is in our hearts is what we allow our mind to dwell on. How we choose to think affects everything…even our faith.

Maybe you will be willing to pray with me for an increase in my faith, and for those miracles to start?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Faithful Companion


holding hands

I was privileged to witness a three-month new member baptize his daughter yesterday. It was Beautiful. The man was beaming, even as he struggled to remember the exact wording of the ordinance. I don’t really know the man. He attends a branch that is near our ward. They use our building for baptisms. But, I could tell he was a man that loved his new faith. My heart swelled with joy for him.

Probably, for those who have been members their whole lives, it could be easy to forget just how special your baptismal day is. I still remember mine in vivid detail, even though it was over a year ago now. Wow! How time flies. Because I was teaching a lesson in Relief Society today on Baptism, it has been on my mind for the last few days. We are so privileged to have the gospel.  

I am grateful to have the gospel in my life.  I love all the richness it brings. I love getting to know God in new and unexpected ways.  I love having every blessing the gospel brings. While expressing how wonderful it will be to get to spend an eternity with our God, a woman raised her hand to remind me that I will not get to the highest level of the celestial kingdom without getting married. It took a few seconds for me to know how to respond, but I was able to. Just so you know, the woman was not trying to be unkind, just informative.

  Though the following was not my response, this is something the Lord has been teaching me recently about that very topic. I have no control over when I will get to remarry.  Once you hit your forties, there are very few godly single Mormon men available (at least in this area). I’m not willing to date or marry someone just to not be alone-or to get to the highest level of the celestial kingdom, although I want that very much. They have to be a godly priesthood holder that I can love.  I need someone who loves the gospel, and I can talk to about things on a deep level.  I hate surface conversation, so I want someone intellectual also.

As a result of not having companionship,  I’ve been learning something unexpected about God lately.  I’ve always thought of Him as someone to be honored, obeyed and worshipped. It was not until recently that I’ve learned to look at Him as a companion.  I used to go out with friends a lot, but unexpected circumstances have led to that no longer being possible for me.  Recently, I decided, instead of letting the loneliness overwhelm me, I would talk to God about the things I would normally talk to my friends about.

God makes a wonderful companion. He lets me talk to Him as often as I want.  He never gets tired of my questions, and he lets me dialogue about things we’ve already talked about a thousand times. The best part is, I never have to worry about Him lying to me, using me, or abandoning me. Who could ask for a better companion? 

Of course, I do want to marry. I’m exhausted and could use a partner. It is not easy raising and providing for four children completely alone. I’m also extremely romantic and physical, and would love to have someone to hold me, and to whom I could bring joy. And, to be completely honest, I wanted more children. But, as none of these things are in my control, I think the key is to focus on the companion I do have—God. For now, I can spend my time focused on the kingdom of God. Hopefully, I will grow and become the person He wants me to be.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And the Gods Watched…..


There are things, which out of necessity and consideration of others cannot be spoken of publicly.  Those are the things that weigh on my soul.  I’m the kind of person that has to sort things out, and likes to have someone to talk to about them to help me sort. When there are private issues, that cannot be dealt with that way, I seem to cave in on myself.  I have been this way for about nine months.

Life got much harder for me back in February. Inwardly my heart has wept. At times it has railed. Often it has been confused. I have, at times, responded incorrectly. I wish I could go back, knowing what I know now, and re-live it so I could respond the best way this time.  I would do things so differently. But, life just doesn’t work that way.

Occasionally, I mistakenly feel that God has forgotten about me, or worse yet, rejected me. I know that is not true.  Every time His Spirit teaches me, or whispers to me, or comforts me, I know it is not true. But, those doubts and fears do tend to creep in.  It is hard navigating life alone. Especially a new life, where all the terminology and rules are different.  Sometimes I feel like I need a Mormonism for Dummies book.  I hear they make those, but it probably isn’t exactly what I am looking for.

Tonight, I felt comforted. There are large periods of down time when I work at the recording studio, so I get some time to read my Scriptures.  I read 1 Samuel 23, 3 Nephi 13, and Abraham 4. I love how even when I’m reading chapters from very different books God can weave them together to tell me just what helps me the most.

My secret hurt, that has been plaguing me unendingly for months, felt a little lighter tonight. I hope it stays that way.  At least two times in the Nephi passage there was the phrase, “Thy Father, who sees you in secret, shall reward  you openly.”  It’s funny, but it is not the reward concept that comforts me. It is the idea that My Father sees in secret. He knows EVERYTHING. He knows everything that has happened. He knows all my responses- good and bad. He knows what it has done to my heart. He knows what it has done to my family. He knows what it has done to my stamina. He knows.  Doesn’t that feel wonderful?

Then, directly after that, I read in Abraham 4. Verse 18 states, “And the Gods watched those things which They had ordered until it obeyed.”  It reminded me so much of those passages in the Psalms that says, “The word of God will not return void.” I love those passages. That tells me that if God says something, or promises something, not only is it actually the truth, but He will make sure it happens. What peace and comfort that brings me! I’m so grateful we are being watched.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Behold the Great Redeemer

by Annmarie Worthington

jesus carrying cross

What an incredible sacrament meeting we had this morning. I learned from everything, beginning with the hymns.  At my ward, one of my callings is the chorister. I love music, so getting to share music about my faith is wonderful. The only downside is my exposure. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, so the challenge for me is not to give away every private thought on my face while leading the music. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I do not.  I think only once have I broken down in tears during a song….at least publicly.

Today’s sacrament hymn spoke to me greatly. I intensely felt both my failures and my desire to do more, to be more like Him.  We sang #191 Behold the Great Redeemer die. Aside from meditating on His sacrifice and grieving for the pain my sin has caused, there were a few phrases that challenged me greatly. As soon as I sat down from leading the music, I began to jot my thoughts down furiously. 

The first was the statement, “No murmuring word escaped His tongue.” With everything the Savior went through, and it is more than any of us ever will, no matter what our circumstances, He never once uttered a word of complaint.  I have had my fair share of pain, but never once has Heavenly Father forsaken me. Although, I’m sure I’ve wrongly accused Him of that before. The Savior, however, did have to lose His Father. God had to forsake Him as part of the atonement.

Can you even begin to imagine the agony that brought Him? We’ve never been without either the presence of God or the redeeming influence of both the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost.  What an all-encompassing loss. And yet, He remained without sin.  When the religious leaders, along with the throngs of the populace, were abusing Him, spitting on Him, and slandering Him, He never once retaliated or complained. I Peter explains why.

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”

--I Peter 2:21-23

If I would remind myself that God is a righteous Judge, not only of His children, but their circumstances. God allows things into our lives for a reason. Committing myself to  Him means trusting Him, submitting to His desires, even if they are contrary to my own. It also means trusting Him.  Remembering He is a righteous judge. Also remembering that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.  I need to remember there are blessings ahead and not just focus on the challenges and pain of my present.

The second thing that spoke to my heart was, “Father, from Me remove this cup. Yet if Thou wilt, I’ll drink it up.” Oh! What a heart! I want to say that. I want to be like young Mary, in the book of Luke, who said, “I am the bondservant of the Lord, be it done to me according to Your word.”  Why do I find that so hard? I let my dreams get in the way. Again, I’m focused on the wrong thing. Instead of planning my dreams, I should be learning and planning His. No matter what they are.  That is hard for me.  I have things I long for, and a deep loneliness that I cannot explain to others in a way that makes sense.  I long to get to the place where I only desire whatever He wants.

Finally, the phrase, “I’ve done the work Thou gavest Me.”  How many of us can say that? Not me.  There is so much yet to do. Of course, we can’t do all of it ourselves.  I think the key is “Thou gavest Me”.  I need to be sure all I do, is what He had for Me, and not just get busy doing things.  I try to remember to everyday ask how He wants me to use my time that day, but many times I still get caught up in my own agenda.  What I want to do is make sure I’m fasting and praying and studying to know His will. That way I know I’m expending my energy on what He has called me too. And then, once I find out, make sure I “do the work”.

There may never be a Sunday…or Monday…or Tuesday…..where I don’t see how far I have to go, but it is such a joy going there.  I wish I were more like our Great Redeemer.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I Am Not Alone—An increase in Faith

by Annmarie

You know, I really shouldn’t blog when I am on pain medication. For some reason the pain medicine makes me emotional and lowers my inhibitions, making me likely to say (or write) anything. You can get all my secrets out of me when I’m on pain meds. However, when I’m emotional, what I want to do most is write….or cuddle someone. The kids are at their dad’s house this weekend, so the only outlet left is writing. Let’s just hope I don’t give up anything too personal.

I teach Relief Society tomorrow. The scheduled lesson is on faith. I’m quite excited about teaching that topic, because it is one I desire to grow in more than any other. Some time back I remember sitting in the chapel on a Sunday morning and confessing to God my lack of faith, pleading with Him to help me know how to develop more of it. Immediately the Spirit said to look up Alma 32. I did and was quite excited to see it was a manual on developing faith. I have grown to love that chapter. 

However, shortly before our recent General Conference, I was still feeling like I was failing in the area of faith. I went to God in prayer again. I told Him I must be His slow, “special” child, and I need more help. I spoke to Him about Alma’s chapter, confessing that I DID have a deep desire to believe and have complete faith, just as the chapter said to. But, I confessed that I felt that although the chapter said that seed would swell and grow, that maybe there was something else necessary that I was missing. The only thing that I felt had swelled was my desire. I still didn’t feel my faith had improved much.

This prayer went on for many, many weeks, and I was beginning to worry I would never improve my faith.  I don’t know if anyone noticed, but many of the talks during October’s conference were on faith. I took copious notes and rejoiced that my God loved me enough to give me more help. I rejoiced again as I noticed other prayers being answered through conference. One in particular really strengthened my testimony that God hears and answers MY prayers.

I was torn about a family decision. I could tell someone in priesthood leadership over me thought I should no longer homeschool my children. I have agonized over that decision often, in much prayer, and always felt like it was the only right decision for my family. My leader never said anything to me personally about his feelings, but I could sense it. I wasn’t 100% positive that was how he felt until a few days ago, when a friend, who was frustrated with me, told me that the leader had said something to their family about it.

Although frustrated with that information, by the time my friend mentioned it to me, I was already at peace about my decision, because God gave me the answer during conference.  You see, previous to conference, I was worried that maybe I wasn’t understanding the Spirit correctly because this priesthood leader felt differently than I did about it.  I’m new in the church, and learning to discern the Spirit is a LONG, often difficult, process. What if I was letting my emotions and desires confuse what the Spirit was saying? However, anytime I prayed about it, it was the only answer I got. Everything else seemed dark and wrong.

I didn’t think I could with a clear conscience do anything other than homeschool. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure it would destroy my family emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. Not to mention the academic step back, including the fact that my poor oldest child had already taken all the math and science classes (save one) the public schools had to offer, and he’d have to spend the next three years just repeating stuff he’d already learned. But, what was I to do with my leader’s opinion. Doesn’t God guide us through our priesthood leadership? So, I went to the Lord in prayer again. I told Him that I wasn’t sure what to do. I want to homeschool my children, and I felt that HE wanted me to homeschool my children, but it felt to me like my leader did not want me to homeschool. What was I to do? How can I guide my family, if the direction I feel I’m given is contrary to what my leader felt?  Was I to make every decision based on what my leadership thought was right, even if I felt very much to the contrary?

Oh how blessed I was to have one of the talks teach us how God gives revelation! He specifically said that though God gives revelation for us to our priesthood leaders, when it comes to areas of family government, He gives the revelation to the head of the family, not the priesthood leader. What peace I felt wash over me when those words came out of the apostle’s mouth. I wasn’t misunderstanding the Spirit. I just didn’t understand the chain of revelation. I did know what was right for my family. It was even more comforting to me that the apostle used the same wording I had in my prayer. I told Heavenly Father I love my children more than anything and needed a specific, clear answer, and He gave me one!

There were many other ways which my dear Father in Heaven spoke to me, answering very pressing questions during conference. It was such a balm to my soul in ways no one would be able to understand. You see, since February of this year I have secretly felt like my soul was being ripped apart. A series of unexpected events, that would periodically rear its head again, would leave me feeling trapped and abandoned. I wasn’t sure if God was hearing my pleas for help. I often worried I had slipped through the cracks, or worse, maybe I wasn’t important to Him. Or maybe He just didn’t like me.  Maybe He felt I failed Him too often and was not worth the trouble. I loved Him very much, and wanted Him to love me too, but I felt like my pleas were going unheard and I didn’t know what to do.

Having Heavenly Father answer so many of my cries and concerns during conference gave me such confidence and peace. He WAS hearing my prayers and worries. He did care enough to help me understand. He answered my prayers. That experience has helped to increase my faith, my trust in Him. I still have so very far to go. But, I’m glad to know He is with me on the journey. I am not alone.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trials That Make Life Easier

God's voice

Would you believe it? In the midst of everything that has been going on, I knocked my shoulder out of place! I've been practically on the couch for a week. The children have been helpful, (well, I have had one complaint about feeling like a servant, but they are human).  We've gotten some school done, and I've gotten some work done. But, I feel myself falling behind.

Sometimes the pain is unbearable, but to be honest, it is a lot better than the other two times this has happened to me. My dear sweet home teacher gave me a blessing and specifically said I’d be able to manage the pain. He was right. The last time this happened the pain was excruciating 24/7. Tears poured down my cheeks uncontrollably.  It wouldn’t relent. This time the hardest part is having to do everything one handed and be careful not to accidentally use my left shoulder, because that is when the pain comes back. Well, also if I try to do too much.

I’ve had other blessings as well. A chiropractor in my ward has been treating me everyday at no charge. Sometimes he works on me twice in a day. He hasn’t had much luck, and jokingly once said that I was not the most relaxed person he had ever met. I already knew that though. There have been some eternal blessings as well. One that also benefits me temporally is perspective.  Life will not feel as challenging when I get my left arm back. It takes me five times longer to do everything right now, so just think about how spry I’ll feel when healed.  Another rich blessing is the sweet conversations I have had with my Heavenly Father. I have had more time to sit quietly, especially with the children at their dad’s house this weekend.

Today, I got the wonderful opportunity to sit with one of the women I visit teach. She is a dear widow, who has been in the church her whole life. Her family is moving, so we needed to arrange details about how she’d get to church, her doctor’s office, and when would be the best time for me to take her grocery shopping every week. But the best part of our visit was when we discussed ways the Holy Spirit speaks to her.

For the most part, it is thoughts He puts in her head.  She jokingly said she is quite sure she too often takes credit for thoughts that must have been the Spirit. I love her enthusiasm and her faith. She also recounted a story about a time she heard an actual voice. I have only had that happen once, so it pricked my attention, wondering if the experience was similar. She was sitting at her computer doing genealogy for her husband’s family. She knew what state they had come from, but just couldn’t find anyone. In prayer, she asked for guidance. A moment later, while alone, a man’s voice said aloud, “Look in Kentucky.” She was startled, but obeyed. There she hit a gold mine.

My experience was similar. I may have shared the story before, but I’ll do it again here. Before my divorce hearing, I did everything humanly possible to work out personal property. My then husband wanted me to total up the value of all our belongings and pay him half. I did not have enough cash to survive, let alone donate to him. As a counter offer, I suggested he take all the furniture, except the children’s and also allow me to keep their school things. He refused and said cash was all he would accept. That was impossible for me. I was desperate to work things out, because I had heard the judge assigned to our case was jaded and lacked compassion. Everyone said he would order everything on the lawn to be sold and the proceeds divided.  That would devastate us, but leave my husband unaffected, as he was in a fully furnished, fully paid for, home that he was to inherit.

The day of the trial came and still things weren’t worked out. My attorney brought up the fact that there was still a personal property issue to work out.  The judge, annoyed, ordered everything to the lawn and sold. My heart stopped. We would never recover. As my panic increased. A voice, aloud, both firm and gentle, said, “Be at peace.” I obeyed.

Later in the trial, my attorney asked if we could re-address the issue of personal property. The judge agreed. He said, “Yes, everything will still be sold, but not until the youngest child turns 18.” That gives me 15 years to earn money to replace our personal property!

Don’t you think it is wonderful that God still speaks to us, in ALL the ways he did in the Old and New Testament?! Sometimes to guide, sometimes to comfort. He is mindful of us, even when we feel He is not. Sometimes it takes deepening trials to help us remember that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Needing Miracles-A personal essay and plea

Below is the first draft of an article scheduled for publication on  It is important enough to me to reprint here. For those of you who read both blogs, I apologize for the duplication.

We all have different reasons for homeschooling our children. I’ve known people who’ve homeschooled for religious reasons, for academic reasons, for morality reasons, for children who were special needs, for children who weren’t “special needs”, but didn’t learn quite the same as the rest of us. I’ve even known people who didn’t want to homeschool, but felt the Spirit tell them clearly that is what He wanted for their family. I probably homeschool for almost all of those reasons and more. The Lord put it into my heart to homeschool even before I was married. I don’t know why, but He did. And I didn’t waste time either. I began researching curriculum before I was even pregnant with my first child. If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right.

Schooling my children is my biggest joy. I won’t lie. Our days aren’t perfect. There are days my 10 year old throws down her math sheet in frustration and says there is nothing I can say to make her do it-and she means it. There are days my 14 year old, who is probably one of the most intellectually gifted children I’ve known, will turn in an essay that a third grader could have written. There are days we are all grumpy and tired, and I look around at a messy house, and all I want to do is crawl into bed and pretend my life is different. But, I know my children. I mean really know them. I know how they learn. I know what enthralls them. I know where they are selfish, and where they are remarkably righteous. I also get to open up the universe to them. I get to see light bulbs go on when something finally comes together in their head. I get to help them make connections and sense of all they are learning. The best part of all is we get to discuss all of that in the context of who our God is and how much He loves us. Homeschooling is like breathing to me. I couldn’t live without it.

Many of you know our lives turned upside down two years ago. For those of you who don’t know the story, it is too long to account here. You can go to my personal blog: to read it. On the top right are some links entitled How I Became Mormon.  I made a commitment to my children the night we told them about our divorce that I would always do everything in my power to continue to homeschool them.  I love my children more than my own life. At my lowest moments it is thoughts of them that keep me alive. Keep me pressing on. I don’t get much child support. As a matter of fact, I get less for four children, than every other divorced person I know gets for 1 child. At first it worked out, I found ways to generate income at home. But, little by little the Mormon thing kept getting brought up and I began losing all my sources of income. The most honest of them said it was because I was Mormon. Others, who weren’t as honest, suddenly didn’t have any new contracts for me, or decided that I needed a degree for the work I’d been doing for years and let me go.

I’m starting from scratch again, and I’m scared. We need a miracle. I’m not sitting around just waiting for one.  I’m working for a recording studio, continuing my freelance writing, tutoring in math, and teaching myself graphic and web design. The latter seems to hold the most potential for real income. But, it takes time to learn several computer languages and five software programs. I’m exhausted. Between, raising four children alone (one still in diapers), working, homeschooling, keeping up with household responsibilities, and trying to do a four year degree on my own, without an instructor, you can probably understand why I’m exhausted. I’m not giving up. There is too much at stake, but I’m at the point where I need to enlist some support.

While reading my scriptures today my heart was struck by a series of events. In 1 Samuel 7 the Israelites were being attacked…again. I know how they feel. Verse 7 of that chapter says, “When the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid…” Of course they were. Wouldn’t you be? While I was reading my heart kept saying, “so am I”. The next verse shows the Israelite’s wise response. “And the children of Israel said to Samuel, ‘Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us’…” That is what I am asking of you, my homeschooling community. Will you cease not to cry unto the Lord on our behalf? I love my children. I KNOW homeschooling is the right thing for us. I KNOW being their mother and here to raise them is what I am called to do. I just need a miracle to enable it to continue. I’m not telling you what to pray. I’ll let the Spirit lead you in that, but I am asking you to pray on our behalf. I face a lot of questions regarding my decision to continue homeschooling. I went from being in a church where almost everyone homeschooled and valued it, to being in a church where hardly anyone does, and its value is not completely understood. And I feel alone.

I do have one thing going for me. My patriarchal blessing promised that a way would open up for me to care for my children the way I wanted to. D&C promises that when we obey the Lord, He is bound by what He says. But, when we obey not, we have no promise. I am doing my absolute best to obey Him in every way possible, all while working hard. Now, I am waiting on the fulfillment of the promise.
So, what happened to the Israelites? Verse 9 says, “Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel; and the Lord heard him.” The Israelites were delivered. It is my hope that the Lord will hear us as well.

Homeschooling is that important to me. I’m ready for my miracle.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Overcoming Doubt.

by Annmarie Worthington



This morning I was reading in 3 Nephi. In the beginning of that book the prophesies concerning the birth of the Savior had not yet been fulfilled. Some people began proclaiming that the time was past for the prophesies to come to pass. It is interesting to me the words they choose to hurl at the believers, “therefore, your joy and your faith concerning this thing hath been vain.” I say it is interesting, because those are the exact words Satan has used with me lately.

I recognized him as the author even before I read this passage, and would consistently remind myself of that fact. Satan knows my weaknesses and my deepest fears and hurts. He plays on them. It is helpful that I recognize his voice does not sound like the Spirit’s, so I can tell the difference and know the source. However when I read that verse this morning I thought, “Wow. You’d think someone who’s been around as long as he has would get some variety in his playbook.” But, why should he, when the plays work?

Faith isn’t easy, and Satan knows that. Doubts creep in on the strongest of faiths. Therefore, all he has to do is find data that “fits” our doubts and feed it to us. I’ve seen a lot of unrighteousness since I joined the church. I’ve also seen great hypocrisy. Those are the data Satan uses to feed my doubts and fears. So what helps me when I’m barraged with doubt? The foremost is self knowledge. I am not perfect. I sin and make mistakes. And yet, I have a heart that yearns to be righteous. When I do make mistakes my heart and spirit weep. My desire for repentance is overwhelming.  So, when I see unrighteousness, I try to make the assumption that these people are in the same boat. Maybe they long to be righteous as well, but fail like me.

So what if you run into the unrepentant? Those who do not long to be righteous? I know some of those too. Two in particular. By the way, you can forget it….I’m not naming names. I find in those cases it is better to remember the Lord’s time on earth. Was Judas not one of the Lord’s chosen Apostle’s? Did the Savior not spend the whole night in prayer before choosing them? Yet, Judas betrayed the Savior-- to His death. Does that mean the Savior’s ministry was false? That somehow He misread the Spirit? Of course not! It means that even in the truest church, there will be wheat among tares. Heavenly Father even planned it that way. For, “there must be opposition in all things.” 2 Nephi 2:11  What is most important is not to let them choke out our wheat.

What did the Nephites do when they were assaulted with doubt? I love this verse.  “But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been vain.” 3 Nephi 1:8.  They kept their desire to believe and looked with hope for the Lord’s words to be fulfilled.

We can watch steadfastly too. We do that in prayer and Scripture study. The Scriptures bring me such peace when I read them. I love the interaction with the Spirit that comes with them. We also do it with looking for the good things about our faith. Yes, there are people that behave unrighteously, but there are also people that behave remarkably righteous, in complete unselfishness.

But what if our doubts have nothing to do with people? What if it is waiting on the words of God to be fulfilled, such as the Nephites had to deal with? Well, we do what they did. We wait and watch. There were things said in my patriarchal blessing that show no signs of being fulfilled in the near future. There are times my situation is so desperate that I cry out to God saying, “OK, now would be a good time to bring this to pass.” Then silence.  Heaven seems unaffected by my tears. But, I know that is not true.

Deep inside me is this quiet voice that is confident God will bring it to pass at the right time. I just have to hold on. You have probably heard the saying, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” That is often true. Many times we are at our most desperate before God brings the blessing. I’m not sure why. I’m pretty sure I’ll appreciate it even if it comes sooner, but maybe He knows something I don’t.

The Nephites experienced this too. Not only were the unbelievers assaulting them with doubts, but when they kept their faith they became even more hostile. Verse 9 says, “Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.” Now, not only was their faith at stake, but their very lives.

Their prophet was in great sorrow because of these events, and did what all great prophets do. He “bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people.” After much prayer God came to him and said, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given….”  I love this. God has a plan. He will fulfill it. It was even coming sooner than now expected. They just needed to hang on and watch steadfastly. The Lord gave me a real picture of this with my first born son.

Some things went wrong when my first son was born. He was unable to nurse, and I had to pump all his breast milk. I remember a particular evening when my dear sweet newborn boy was lying on my bed, his whole body red from screaming because he was hungry. I had begun preparing his bottle of breast milk even before his tears began, but it is a slow process.  All he knew was his stomach hurt, so he screamed. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to comfort him. Knowing he didn’t understand, I told him over and over, “Don’t worry, Dillon, your food is coming,” hoping somehow it would get through to him and bring him peace. It didn’t. He kept screaming, and I kept crying too. Then the thought occurred to me: How often is this similar to my interaction with the God of Heaven. Maybe I am screaming in pain, unable to hear Him, while He is saying, “Hang on, Dear child, it is on the way.”

I know my Heavenly Father loves all of us. I know He is working for our good. Let us watch steadfastly and see that our faith is not in vain.

Friday, August 27, 2010



I have always loved Alma 32. It spoke to me even when I was an investigator. It’s where I live….. “If you can no more than desire to believe…” Aren’t those words beautiful? They stir up so much feeling in me. I can also relate to that desperate man in the New Testament, “Lord, I believe. Help Thou mine unbelief.” It is not doubts about the restored gospel. I love this gospel. That resolve has been tested over and over, not by those who’ve abandoned or maligned me, but by those in the church.

It was tested when someone who taught me the gospel behaved horrendously. It is even now tested as someone I grew to trust more than I have trusted anyone in my life behaves in ways that both frighten and anger me. Through it all I knew and still know the gospel is true. My friend, Vicki, was always afraid I would encounter such things after I joined the church. I remember a phone conversation we had once right before my baptism. Her words still ring true. “Annmarie, I want you to always remember the gospel is perfect. The people are not.”

So, my faith in the Savior and His gospel are strong. It is daily faith. Where I waver is believing the words the Spirit whispers to me are true and will come to pass. I have always wondered about the story with the young stripling warriors. It said they believed the words of their mothers and did not doubt. Therefore not one of them perished. I’ve wondered, what if they had doubted? Was it their resolve and faith that brought to fruition the Lord’s protection? If they had doubted, would they have been killed?

We are told to have faith. Is it possible that it is our own human weakness and doubts that keep blessings away? And how does the agency of others factor in? I once prayed in desperation, knowing faith and trust are my weakest areas for God to please have mercy on me and teach me how to have faith. His Spirit whispered to me Alma 32. Well, if that is the main factor, then I should be heading in the right direction. I have such a great desire to believe. I need to work on keeping the fear away, knowing that fear and faith cannot co-exist.

It seems I am also entering a new arena in life as well. I’ve been asked out a lot lately. I kept saying no, but realize that at some point I have to get out there. Tonight I go on my first date. Here are my fears: 1. I hate disappointing people. Because of that I am afraid I will stay in a relationship longer than I want to out of fear of hurting either him or the person that set us up. 2. While I do want to re-marry for several reasons, I don’t want to end up in a similar relationship to the one I had in my first marriage.

I am also mindful of the words in my patriarchal blessing, that I will not share here. How can I be sure I am with that person? It seems the Spirit tells me I will know, but I sure don’t trust myself. I prayed about this a long time in the Celestial room of the temple, the last two times I’ve gotten to go. There are some things I feel the Spirit has said that seem impossible. But, He said it both times, and now it is time for me to have….yes, you guessed it…faith. I really wish I was better at that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Gift of Learning


hard at work

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God; –D & C 88:118-119

There are so many wonderful things I love about the Latter Day Saint faith. I cherish the church’s stance on learning and education. We are encouraged regularly to do everything we can to improve our knowledge, both secular and spiritual. What a blessing! What a gift!

I was once told by a pastor’s wife at my former church that I was over-educating my children. She told me they’d end up weird and on drugs. I have no idea where the drug connection was, but figured if they ended up weird it wouldn’t be from their “over” education. It would be because their mom was weird. As there is nothing I can do about that, we might as well keep learning.

There are obvious temporal benefits from continuing education, such as better employment and salary opportunities. But, there are incredible spiritual benefits as well. I always tell my children: Every time you learn something new, you’ve added another way you can love and serve your Heavenly Father.

Are you studying an instrument? You can use it to serve at church, bless people with beauty, and teach others who may want to learn. Think of the joy you can bring to elderly people at a nursing home, or who are homebound, when you visit and play a few songs for them. They are so happy for both the company and beauty.

Are you studying a new language? You have a whole new people group with whom you can share the gospel. At many of the bigger piano competitions, where my son competes, the majority of the competitors are Asian. My family is learning Mandarin together so we can better fellowship and minister with our new acquaintances. I have so enjoyed the fellowship time I’ve had with one of my new friends from China as she allows me to practice with her and ask her questions.

Are you studying math? That is one of my favorites. There are countless people who need tutoring whom you can bless with the knowledge you’ve developed. One day, when I have enough money to cover my bills, I want to tutor at risk children from disadvantaged homes free of charge. I want to develop relationships with them and love them, all while helping them get through Geometry or Algebra 2 well.

There are so many incredible things in this world our Savior formed. Daily I get to sit with joy and wonder as my children and I study science together. My oldest (14) is doing chemistry this year. My 10 year old is studying zoology, and my 6 year old is studying astronomy. Each day brings us new admiration at the glory of the universe and creatures God has made.

I long to go back to school, but have to wait until I am making enough money to cover all our expenses.   One day….. (sigh). In the meantime, I study daily at home, and take great joy in schooling my children, looking forward to the day I can go to the university myself.

I feel so blessed that I belong to a church where I don’t feel I have to avoid talking too much about what the children and I are learning. Nobody here thinks I’m nuts if I let my 10 year old learn algebra, or my 3 year old learns to read. Instead we are encouraged to learn as much as we can. It was even a visiting teaching message not too long ago.

I would love to hear some of the ways you guys are becoming houses of learning.  Oh….and if you’re ever interested in homeschooling, give me a buzz. I can talk about that for hours. You should also check out the Latter Day Homeschooling blog (and not just because I am one of the authors). There is loads of information on ways to bring learning into your home, no matter what avenue you have chosen to school your children.

Thank you so much, Heavenly Father, for the gift of learning!

By the way, next week is Education Week at BYU. You can take as many classes as you want for $50!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How I became Mormon…..part 4

One of my baptism pictures. This is a picture of me and Neil (the man I tried to convert)

When we last left off, my husband had just left, and I still was not anywhere close to sure what I believed. I still remember my first weekend without my children. I had never really been without my children for any significant period of time before. In the nineteen years of our marriage, Brent (my ex) and I had been on a total of four dates, and they were short. The longest I had been away from any of my children were the times I was in labor having another one. Try as I might, I have a hard time counting that as time away.

I spent the entire weekend crying. I did NOT want to be alone, but no longer had any friendships to call on. Neil was definitely not the comforting type, so it would be pointless to call him. Vicki had family obligations that weekend. Those were the only people I knew who were allowed to talk to me.

Coincidentally (or maybe providentially?), that was the same weekend Mormon's held General Conference. I did try to watch some of the talks on my computer, but always ended up crying so much I couldn’t see or hear anything. I remember several of the talks being about trials, but was having a hard time applying them for some reason. To be completely honest, I was still afraid I had made a wrong decision by refusing to submit. What if it turned out Mormonism was not true and I had sacrificed everything for a false religion?

Soon I started receiving letters from members of my former church, calling me to repentance. Most said I placed myself and my children on a path to hell. It was very frustrating. Not one person was willing to hear my side of the story. They felt they knew all the information they needed from my excommunication announcement at church. When I ran into church members in a public arena, I was either ignored completely, or told to repent. Even the woman who had been my best friend for quite a few years, pretended we had never even met when we unexpectedly ran into each other. It was infuriating, but I had too much on my plate to focus on their behavior.

The next emotion to hit me was panic. How was I going to provide for my family? I didn’t even have a college degree. When Brent and I first married we were both going to school. Then Brent suggested only one of us go at a time. Our agreement was that he would finish first, as he would be the primary breadwinner. When he was done, I could return. I agreed because, at the time, it seemed to make sense. The problem was he took seventeen years completing his courses, and then quit with nothing left but his master’s thesis. As a result, I never got to return.

Plus, there is NOTHING more important to me than my children. I did not want to give up raising and educating them. I needed to find a way to earn money and still be their mother.

To add fodder to my fear, all my math students were from my former church, with the exception of one family. They all dropped my classes. I remember calling one of the mother's in desperation, begging her not to drop my class. I wasn’t teaching theology, I was teaching math. She absolutely refused, citing the irresponsibility of letting her children study under me now that I was Mormon. I reminded her I wasn’t Mormon, I just felt I had the right to study it and examine my belief system. She told me I lacked character and this would be the last I heard from her. 

Her attitude was not uncommon. I heard the same thing time and time again from the parents. They didn’t feel I would be a good influence on their children. On top of that, the general manager of one of the two magazines I wrote for every month was a former member of my old church. I thought because he was a former member, there wouldn’t be any issues, but once word of my excommunication leaked to him, suddenly there were no more articles available for me to write. I called and asked if I could do advertising sales, volunteering to work on straight commission. That would not cost him anything. He refused even that.

I spent nearly every waking minute trying to find ways to earn money and still raise my children, but was not having much success. At some point a couple of things began to work out. The other magazine I wrote for was also run by a woman from my former church, but she was kind of dependent on me and decided to keep me on. That was at least some income. Then an acquaintance who owned a recording studio agreed to let me do some odd jobs for him, as they became available. With those two things, and me querying other magazines for work I should be able to squeak by. We’d survive.

I began to relax. Now I could focus on whether this church really was true, or if it I truly had reserved my spot in hell. At first it felt funny reading the Mormon scriptures in my living room. It had been forbidden for so long at that point, that part of me still felt like I was doing something naughty. Eventually I got past that, and in my spunkier moments would say aloud, “Oh look, Brent, I’m reading the Book of Mormon.” I decided it was time to take the next step. I was going to attend a Mormon church service. In order to take all precautions with my children, I waited until the next weekend they were with their father.

I was shaking like a leaf that first Sunday morning. I did not know anybody (Vicki and Neil attended a ward in a different city). It never even occurred to me to call that Bishop that had contacted Neil those many months ago. When I went into the chapel, I sat quietly by myself and looked around at the people. There was one woman in particular, Lanniece Lewis, who had the most radiant smile. Looking at her helped me relax a little. I spent the entire sacrament service praying, begging God not only to help me know what was true, but to help me know how to order my family correctly and provide for them. (Things had gotten a little out of control with the children while I was trying to drum up work). I was very concerned about order and provision.

The next significant memory of that day was relief society. My shaking was getting a little worse, and I felt very alone. One thing I remember very clearly was the practice hymn. They sang Be Still My Soul. I had never heard that hymn before, but my heart nearly leapt out of my chest when we sang the line: “Leave to thy God to order and provide”. That was exactly what I had been praying about just that morning. It made me feel like God was listening to my prayers. Maybe I would even know soon, whether or not the church was true.

The lesson ended up being on Joseph Smith and the trials and sacrifices he went through when he told people of his newfound faith. Tears began streaming down my face uncontrollably as they talked about Joseph’s struggles. There was something in his unshaken confidence I longed for. I wanted this church to be true. I thought it was beautiful, but I could not join a church on desire alone. I needed to know what God wanted me to do. I wanted Joseph Smith's confidence. My sobs grew (to my great dismay). I felt exposed, but couldn’t stop the tears. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I was so embarrassed. The sweet teacher (Emily Sigler) kept looking at me with compassion and I just didn’t know what to do. Finally, I raised my hand. I told the ladies I wanted so much to know if the church was true. Before I knew it, all the fear and agony came pouring out of my mouth. I told them everything. I told them I was scared. I wanted to know, if I was going to have to sacrifice everything, that it was for righteousness and not deception.

They were gracious. Many embraced me and told me why they knew the church to be true. Even if my testimony did not become sure as a result of their comments, it was at least comforting. I went home renewed in my efforts. I studied with renewed vigor and began meeting with the missionaries again. They came over at least once a week and would answer questions and eat dinner with us.

With my husband gone, there was no longer anyone telling me on a daily basis that Mormonism was a satanic deception. Gradually, my fear lessened, which opened up my ability to feel assurance from the Spirit. Though I knew fear and faith could not co-exist, it was so hard to get rid of my fear.

I longed to get baptized, but feared doing it without 100% assurance. One night after dinner, Elder Bird looked at me and said, “Annmarie, why haven’t you gotten baptized yet?” I replied I didn’t want to make God angry. I thought it would be hypocritical to get baptized without a 100% assurance and understanding.

He replied, “I am a representative of God, and I can completely assure you that God will not be angry with you if you get baptized.” He then told me he felt led to read a verse to me. Turning to Ether 12:6, he read, “And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” At first I cringed, “until after the trial of your faith”. Wasn’t this enough of a trial? Was there to be more before I received a further witness? Then, suddenly, it hit me. The trial for me is not having 100% knowledge. I’m the kind of person who wants ALL the information. I want to study everything out ahead of time. I would never go to a test unprepared, and what could be more important than eternity?

For me, the trial was going forward without every piece of the puzzle put together. It occurred to me, I was doing to Mormonism what I would never have done to the Bible. I did not have to work out every verse in the Bible to believe it was true. I believed the Bible was true, because something told me it was. The same could be true of the Book of Mormon. So, I took a deep breath and said, “Ok. Let’s set a date.”

The days leading up to my baptism were filled with  great excitement. I felt a huge burden had been lifted. I was excited and ready to go. The piano teacher would baptize me, and Vicki would give a talk at the baptismal service. I was thrilled. This day was going to be amazing. Anticipation welled up inside me.

But, when I woke up the morning of my baptism, I was overwhelmed with fear. What if I WAS being deceived? I panicked. In desperation, I picked up my Bible and prayed. My prayer went something like this, “God, I know this is really bad theology, but I need to be sure right now if I am doing the right thing. So, I am going to open my Bible. If I need to cancel my baptism, please show me in the Scriptures now.”

I opened up my Bible, and the first verse my eyes laid upon was, “Beware of false prophets.” My heart stopped. Then I read on. The passage continued, “You shall know them by their fruit.” It was as simple as that. Peace flooded my soul. I had studied this faith and the life and teachings of Joseph Smith for close to three years, and I knew the fruit. I went to my baptism with 100% confidence. Something I never thought I would have. Nothing felt as good as being submerged in that water. I became a Mormon on May 9, 2009, and was confirmed on Mother’s Day, May 10th.

It hasn’t been easy since then. Shortly after my baptism, the magazine I wrote for on a monthly basis fired me. She was the majority of my income. I knew her attitude toward me had changed after I got baptized, but she had always been happy with my work, so I felt safe. Apparently, she was biding her time until she found a replacement. Once she found one, she stopped assigning me articles. When I asked her about it, she said she needed someone with a college degree.

My only guess, as I had not needed a degree previously, is that the pressure, or guilt, became too much for her to handle at church, and it was easier just to let me go. So, I’m back to square one in earning money.
There are other pressures too. It is hard being a single parent. I’m tired all the time, and the loneliness can be overwhelming. But, I can say with total assurance, that I am right where God wants me to be. I have learned so much in the last year, that my heart often feels like it is already in heaven. Of course, the realities of life quickly remind me I’m still in the telestial world... but I won’t always be.

I love being Mormon.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How I became Mormon....part three and a half

I know it should be part four, but a friend pointed out I've neglected quite a bit of the story. I wanted to include some of the spiritual challenges and successes. During my years of study

I read A LOT of material. Not only did I go through the entire book of Mormon, but I read Articles of Faith, Jesus the Christ, The Inevitable Apostasy (probably the most helpful book to me), and countless talks that my friend Vicki would send me to try to help answer questions.

It was during one of these talks that I first experienced what Mormons call the "testimony of the Spirit". I would often get frustrated in my conversations with missionaries when they'd ask me questions such as, "How does that make you feel?" I kept thinking, "Who cares how I feel about it? All that matters is whether it is true. I can think something sounds wonderful, but that doesn't make it true." I was so frustrated with them. Plus, I came from a doctrinal background where feelings were taboo. Discernment was done strictly through the Scriptures. If the Bible says it, then it is true. Period. No feelings can verify anything. Having the Spirit affirm something was completely foreign to me. Gradually, the Lord helped me understand.

One of the first things that helped occurred while reading one of the talks my friend Vicki sent. I don't even remember the topic of it. All I remember is standing at my computer, reading the talk, and feeling my whole chest burning in a way I will never forget. It was a beautiful feeling, and every ounce of me felt like the Spirit was affirming the words of the talk. The topic wasn't new doctrine for me. Everything in that talk my former church would have agreed with. But, the experience was new for me, and was the beginning of me learning what it means to have the Holy Ghost commune with you. It startled me at first because it strengthened my suspicions that there was much more validity to Mormonism than I'd considered. I knew what that would mean for me and I was frightened.

The second big milestone for me occurred while reading The Inevitable Apostasy by Tad Callister. If you've never read that book, I highly recommend it. I knew there was an "elephant in the room" regarding Mormonism that I had yet to address....exaltation and godhood. I tried addressing it that first night I spoke with the piano teacher about his faith. I asked him if he believed he would be a god. He didn't answer my question (no big surprise there). Instead he asked me what would happen if he asked Dillon to play Tchaikovsky's hardest concerto. I replied it would be too discouraging for him. He said that is what would happen if I tried to understand deep doctrine, before getting the basics. To be honest, I wasn't convinced. I thought it was a cop out. But, I knew him well enough to know that if he didn't want to deal with something, he wouldn't. So, I dropped it.

Privately, however, I knew that issue would have to be addressed before I could make ANY decision regarding Mormonism. It was too foreign a doctrine and I didn't want to commit idolatry.

In the meantime, as I was praying and studying, I realized that I tended to read the Scriptures through the lens of the theological interpretations I had been taught and personally developed. We all have bents and biases that affect how we interpret things, even our Scriptures. I began making a very conscience effort to re-read my Scriptures as a blank slate. I tried to pretend I had no theological knowledge or background and was coming at the Scriptures fresh. I was amazed at the difference in understanding you can have if you just took Scriptures for what they literally said, without spinning it through your learned theology. That prepared me for what I was about to learn.

Tad Callister's book contained a chapter on deification. The very topic I NEEDED to deal with. It was amazing! He did such a great job taking you through the Scriptures and the ante-Nicene father's writings in such a clear way. It opened up that doctrine for me in a way I had never previously understood. I also learned that the doctrine is not quite the same as what we are taught in anti-Mormon literature. However, it was still in its actual form quite different from anything I had ever been taught before. As I was sitting there, I suddenly said aloud, "I believe this." And then I thought, "Oh no! I believe this." I knew there was no turning back. I had to follow through and see if it was all true.

All during this time, I felt like I was on one of the scariest roller coaster rides of my life. I would read and study the Scriptures and other books and really feel like things were true. Plus, I fell in love with the faith itself. It is so beautiful, so heavenly. So there I was riding the coaster up, feeling the tension the whole time between the two belief systems. Then, I could have a five minute conversation with my husband and come plummeting down. I was terrified that he was right and I was falling for a cleverly devised Satanic deception. I was trapped between belief and fear.

If Brent was right, and I believed Mormonism, I would be condemned to an eternity in hell. If Neil and Vicki were right, and I didn't believe Mormonism, I would not know or obey God as He intended for us to know Him. Fear drowned me from both directions. That was the state I was in when my husband moved out.

Click here for part 4.