Sunday, April 24, 2011

Taking Care of Souls-The mission of Motherhood


By Annmarie Worthington


Some of my precious souls having fun.

When a bishop in the novel Les Miserables was warned that by traveling to visit an isolated part of his flock he would be taking his life in his hands, he had the most delightful response. “I’m not in this world to take care of my life. I’m here to take care of souls.” I think this should be the battle call of every mother. We have been given a beautiful responsibility and privilege that goes far beyond anything the world calls important. If we could but catch a small glimpse of the vast importance of our job as mothers I really believe it would change the way we go about our lives.

Think about Heavenly Father taking one of His precious spirit children. He’s about to send them away into a world where they will forget most of what they knew in their pre-mortal existence. A world fraught with danger and temptation. A world where Lucifer, who hates both Him and His children, will try to destroy them and keep them from returning home. He has to place them in the care of someone. He chose you.

What an awesome responsibility! Many of you will remember the immense love that welled up inside you at the first glimpse of your child. You would take on the world for that precious child. Unfortunately, there are occasions in the midst of our everyday existence we forget what our role is. We get frustrated when they don’t care about our guidance and instruction. We get hurt when they ignore us, or argue. We get tired with our daily, monotonous responsibilities. Sometimes, we just get distracted. Something else catches our attention and tries to draw our heart away. Maybe it is the prestige of a promising, respected career. Maybe it is the thought of a beautifully decorated home. Or maybe we’re just exhausted from our many responsibilities. Whatever it is, and it is different for all of us, I really believe the thoughts and distractions are cunningly placed there by the enemy of our souls.

There is much expected of mothers, even without the burden of our Heavenly responsibility. We are expected to know how to nurse a wound and comfort a child simultaneously. We need to brush up on our fractions and algebra to help with math assignments, and know how to sew a costume for a play or recital. We have to be a negotiator between warring children, and a psychologist for our children in need of counsel. We need to help with music practice, teach them to ride bicycles, and decide with wisdom which of the four million extra-curricular activities available to them fits their needs and gifting. We’re to do all that while cheerfully keeping up with laundry, meals, housekeeping, and loving our spouses, if we are fortunate enough to have one. I haven’t even gotten to the spiritual responsibilities.

No wonder it is easy to get distracted. We don’t even have to be doing anything wrong to be led away from our real mission. It is hard remembering we are here to do more than raise productive citizens. We are here to take care of souls. Our children, like us, are eternal beings. If valiant, they will one day rule worlds of their own. Let’s do more than care about if they get a 4.0 grade point average, or a 30 on the ACT. Let’s train them to be valiant in their testimony of Christ. Let’s raise them to care about eternal matters.

Some ways to nurture souls

What a daunting task! How do we go about it? Well, I am navigating these responsibilities just like the rest of you, but some thoughts keep coming to my mind regarding the topic. First, we have to strive to be valiant ourselves. It will be much easier for our children to desire righteousness if they see it in us. Do they see us read our scriptures? Do they see us in personal prayer? Do they hear us talk about the commandments and how we are striving to fulfill them? It is impossible for us to be perfect, and believe me my children know I am not. But, when we do sin, we can be honest about it and show them what real repentance looks like.

When you are striving to be valiant, conversation about their lives and the gospel will be natural. It will just be who you are. They’ll expect that to be what comes out of your mouth. Deuteronomy teaches this. “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deut. 6:7

I do know that when you have a passel of both children and responsibilities to deal with that just to carve out time to read your scriptures takes real commitment. And we’ll never be valiant without a commitment to reading our Scriptures. I’m right there with you in that struggle. I used to think it was a choice between my children seeing me read my Scriptures and really getting to read them without interruption, so I could have a complete thought. I came up with a solution that works for my life. The Spirit will tell you what will work for you.

I always keep a Scripture journal. In it I write down the chapters I read that day and any thoughts I had about my reading. I have some days I read while the children are awake and they see me reading and writing in my journal. Other days I’ve reserved for private reading that I am free to do before they are awake. But on those days, I will talk to my children throughout the day about what I’ve read and written in my journal. This way they know it is important enough for me to do it every day.

Secondly, we need to really know our children. What are the special gifts Heavenly Father has endowed unto them? How does He want them to use them? What are their personalities? Are they fearful and reserved, or bold and head-strong? Each spirit is different and learns differently. Each child has their own goals, dreams, and fears. Each of them has a task they were sent here to do. Our job is to help them both realize what that is and help them qualify. There is no short cut to such a proposition. What it takes the most of is time. Time spent talking to them, and especially listening to them.

They need to know we value their thoughts. When my oldest was young, he was completely into Bionicles. He would spend hours talking about them, what their powers were, what battles he set up in his room. He’d even quiz me on their powers. It didn’t bother him that I’d fail the quiz. He was just happy I would take it. If we don’t listen to them when they’re young and willing, they’ll quickly learn to not talk to us. When they know you’re truly interested, they’ll keep talking, even in their teen years.

Our time should also be spent researching their strengths and gifts. Time invested in helping them develop their talents. We have no idea what callings Heavenly Father has in mind for them. But, we can get glimpses of their path with the talents He’s given to them. The more they learn and develop their gifts, the more useful they can be to His kingdom.

Thirdly, we need to diligently seek to fulfill the brethren’s guidance for families. That means family prayer, daily Scripture study, family home evenings, parent-child interviews… everything the apostles have reiterated for us over and over in their conference talks. I’m not saying it is easy. These things won’t always be fulfilled in an ideal setting. I’m a single mom. I work four part time jobs and homeschool my children. Time is a precious commodity at our house. I don’t always get the freedom to determine how much time I have. I do, however, have the freedom to decide how to use the time that is allotted to me.

Family Home Evenings are hard for me. To set aside that much time on Monday evenings in a lesson and fun activity means staying up much later that night working one of my jobs. It means I will not get much sleep. But, I get do get to nurture souls. How lucky is that? Isn’t that worth a few hours less sleep? I think the key to that is the thought the bishop of Les Miserables had. Let us not be selfish with our time, our life, and desires. Let’s try to remember that we are not just here for ourselves, but to take care of souls. How great is the worth of a soul in the eyes of God.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dual Post: True Love and A Look at Sin


At my daughter’s violin teacher’s home there is a portrait of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the crucifixion. You don’t see the crosses, only the pained face of His mother, watching her son being tortured. Looking into her eyes you see the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy that a sword will pierce her very soul. I’ve often wished to obtain a copy of that picture as a reminder to me of the Sacrifice given on my behalf.

No matter what kind of life you lead. If you are single, married and unloved, or even have never been loved by even your parents, you can know that there is one person that when He says He loves you, He means it. Think about all He sacrificed, willingly on our behalf. Picture his great drops of blood when he took on Himself our sin and infirmities.

Even today, when we continue to sin, he pleads on our behalf. I love this passage in Doctrine & Covenants:

“Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before Him----

Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of Him who did no sin, in whom Thou wast well pleased:  behold the blood of Thy Son which was shed, the blood of Him whom Thou gavest that Thyself might be glorified;

Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on My name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”

That is true love. Love which willingly gives His all. Such love deserves true devotion in return. Such love has the right to ask us to do anything, no matter how difficult. There are times when I am frustrated with life and I have to remind myself of the Savior’s love and remember that He isn’t asking me to do anything that doesn’t pain Himself equally.

I had told a friend from church in frustration the other day, “You know, my life wasn’t easy before I joined the church, but it has been much harder since.” I don’t blame the church of course. I knew the life I was signing up for when I made my decision. It doesn’t however make it any easier.

Therefore, when I am struggling or having a wretched, exhausting day, I remind myself of my beautiful Savior. He’s not asking me to do anything needlessly. He loves me. I love Him too, therefore I should willingly, even gratefully do whatever He requires.

I said this was a dual post because I’ve been having two disparate thoughts this week and I couldn’t think of a good segue…so I’m cheating.

I’m re-reading one of my favorite novels Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. My son’s about to read it for school, so I needed to do a touch up on it. There is a passage in the beginning that is describing a godly bishop. It says,

“He was never quick to condemn and he always took into account the surrounding circumstances. He would say, ‘Let’s see how this sin came to pass.’”

I think there are two applications to  this. The first is the one intended. Few people wake up and go, “I think I shall sin today.” There are generally circumstances that creep in and gradually, sometimes before they know it, they are sinning. Sometimes emotions and history factor into the situation. The point is, we can’t really know what someone is going through, or what led them into the sin they’re committing. Because of that, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Let’s try to understand and love the person. Then we can help them with their sin.

There is a second application to this as well. A personal one. When we sin, we need to say to ourselves, “Let’s see how this sin came about”. Sin is inevitable. We are fallen people. If you’re like me, you want desperately not to, but know you will fail. I fail all the time. My heart breaks when I do. Sometimes though, I can learn from my failures. I can say to myself, “How did this come about?” Maybe I can see a pattern that I can avoid. A way to keep myself from falling into the same trap. It is a good habit to get into.

Hopefully in the future I can give myself more wisely to the one who truly loves me.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

They Knew Not……. God

going heavenward

If you’re at all like me, and let me pause here and say “I’m sorry” if you are, then you have sometimes wondered what Heavenly Father was up to. Maybe you have petty moments when you’re feeling sorry for yourself, or maybe you have genuine pain that won’t go away no matter what you do, no matter how righteously you try to live. I find myself there sometimes. While I may not murmur aloud, there are occasional murmurs in my heart that shouldn’t be there. This weekend was one of those times.

Faced with the consequences of someone’s unrighteousness, coupled with an impossible schedule and some health issues, and I found myself falling into a mild form of depression. My heart was murmuring. I turned to prayer and the Scriptures to try and terminate any further unrighteous thinking. I went back over my lesson for Relief Society which was on charity. I prayed, and I prayed. Though I learned a lot, it seemed like there was no relief.

Then I received a phone call from a dear, dear sister who had to give me some bad news. It was like the tiny push that sent me over the edge. Instantly I dissolved into tears. Then I got silent trying to regain my composure. After all, it wasn’t this sister’s fault. She made a comment that puzzled me. She said, “Heavenly Father must have a lot of confidence in you.” I wondered at that statement.

Does confidence always have to mean difficulty? Does growth always have to come from adversity? Am I incapable of growing during times of rest? I sure need some rest. Again, my heart was murmuring.

Then this morning, while reading in the chapel, I came across this phrase:

And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.

Such conviction filled my heart. That was me. I didn’t want it to be, but there it was in black and white. The reason I am murmuring is because I am not trusting in my Father. My Father who created me. My Father who sacrificed everything for me, even His firstborn Son. My Father who patiently deals with my selfishness every day.

There is a phrase in I Peter that talks about the Savior, when facing great injustice and unrighteousness, “entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” He did that because He KNEW His Father. He trusted Him. It was time for me to trust Him too and stop murmuring. If I’m having trouble doing that, it means that I need to get to know Him even more. I never want it said of me that I knew not my God.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Helping Evangelicals with Continuing Revelation


*In beginning work on a manuscript I thought it best to jot down my ideas here and we could flesh them out together. I’m especially interested in interactions you’ve had with protestants in discussing continuing revelation. What questions have you found hard to answer? Here are my thoughts…..

If you’ve ever tried to share the gospel with a conservative evangelical, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “There is no new revelation.” or something similar. While it may be hard for Latter-Day Saints to grasp at times, the Bible being the sole and final authority lies deep in the heart of many sincere Christians who love their God and serve His Son diligently. I was one of them, so I know. Sola Scriptura was one of the cornerstones of our faith beginning with the protestant reformation.

When I first began looking into Mormonism in order to “save a friend from hell” I thought it would be simple to show him the error of his ways. All I had to do was prove in Scripture the canon was closed and that would settle it. If the canon had already closed, there is no way the Book of Mormon could be true. He would see that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. That would be the first step toward redemption.

I started by looking for the passage that taught the canon was closed. I couldn’t find it anywhere. My next idea came in the form of calling one of my pastors and explaining my dilemma. I asked him to help me understand why we believe the canon is closed, so I could rescue my friend. First, he warned me to be careful because my friend was probably having a similar conversation about converting me with the leadership of his church. I told him I’d be offended if he weren’t. He continued by telling me that there was not anything in Scripture that definitively showed the canon was closed. I found that surprising. Why then is it preached so decisively from the pulpit? The answer he gave me was church tradition.

Personally, as a conservative evangelical myself, I didn’t find that answer convincing. The whole protestant reformation fought against church tradition as an authority. That was not what I was trained to put my faith in. I had always been taught to consider the Scriptures as the final authority. Finding his answer unsatisfying I decided to turn again to the Scriptures for my answers. In reality, that is how you will best help evangelicals to understand our faith as well. Scriptures alone will not convince them. That takes the Spirit. But in their mind, they’ll need the Scriptures. They’ll be more likely to hear the Spirit where there is no fear. They have no fear of the Bible.

An oft quoted passage in evangelical circles is found in Revelation that warns not to add or take away from this book. Many unpleasant experiences are promised to the offender. That passage never bothered me. Though many Christians take the phrase “this book” to mean the Bible, I realized that passage is only referring to the book of Revelation itself. To help someone else understand that, you could point out that Deuteronomy 4:2 has a similar injunction, but the church did not stop the canon after the Pentateuch. Neither did the Savior because he quoted from several post Pentateuch passages as authoritative.

Another item to point out in the same arena is that Revelation was NOT the last book of the Bible to be penned. Several were written after Revelation including James, Jude, and 2 Peter. But, that is not the only reason to believe in continuing revelation. There is a Scripture chain you can give them to read, ponder, and pray about. First Hebrews 13:8 tells us that “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” If that is so, He is willing to work with His children consistently.

The second link of the chain can be found in Amos 3:7 “Surely the Lord God doeth nothing until He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets.” There are some people who will say that this particular verse was in the Old Covenant and that we are living in the New Covenant, therefore it is invalid. It is true that we are under a new covenant, but it is the same God. They may counter that God is the same, but His methods are not. In that case you could give them 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things: hold fast that which is good." This is a New Covenant passage. Without further scripture to negate it, it still stands. This command also helped alleviate some of the guilt I felt in examining other beliefs to begin with. I could do it, because the Lord said I could.

In combination, these verses pricked my heart. They helped me realize there was at least the possibility of new revelation. Whether that came in the form of Mormonism or not, well…let’s just say the jury was still out on that one. Prayerfully, as you testify of the gospel with your protestant friends their hearts will be pricked as well. I know I’m grateful to learn all that is available to me through the restoration.