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.