Saturday, May 28, 2011

Be Patient in Afflictions


I absolutely love how the full counsel of Scripture works together! It is always amazing to me how reading two separate passages come together to form a beautiful picture of the area in which the Lord is trying to help you grow. I had that experience today.

My habit is to read one chapter from the Bible, one from the Book of Mormon, and one from either Doctrine & Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price (depending on which one I’m in at the moment). Sometimes the chapters come together for a broad lesson.

I had started in D&C 31 today. Verse 9 says,

“Be patient in afflictions, revile not against those that revile, Govern your house in meekness, and be steadfast.”

I was thinking about this passage. There are many areas in my life that are challenging. Dealing with revilers is one of the hardest for me. I face it from many directions. I deal with lies and rumors, and even truth from my former church. Somehow people can make even good truth sound evil, as if becoming Mormon is the greatest scandal since watergate. I also face it from people trying cover their tracks.

There is nothing I can do about. It stinks. It’s disappointing and hurts, but that’s life. The key is figuring out how I am supposed to respond. I think this verse is part of the solution

Be Patient:  I think it is easy to forget that our Heavenly Father knows EVERYTHING. I recall having an extra fast not too long ago in order to pray about something that has brought me much pain. I was amazed at the verses the Lord brought to my attention. I will only share one because the other was so specific to the situation that it feels too sacred to share here.

“Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.  Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Psalm 27:11-14

We have to wait on Him. Trust Him. Be patient in our waiting. I know patience is hard when you’re in pain, but that is what He not only asks, but deserves.

Revile not against those that revile: It is hard when someone punches you, not to punch back. I think it is equally true when someone punches you emotionally. The temptation is to punch back. You think it will make you feel better, but it won’t because chances are pretty good the revilers will just continue in their behavior and you will feel the exact same way again. Instead I think the solution is what Peter taught.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:….who when he was reviled, reviled not again…..but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Peter 2:21-23

I think that last part is the key, and goes along with the Psalms passage above. We need to entrust ourselves to our Heavenly Father. He is the one who can righteously right the wrongs. Human judgment will always have failings in it.

When I was done with my D&C section I read John 13 and another piece of the puzzle fit together. In this chapter the Savior knew that Judas was about to betray him, and yet he washed his feet. I think this is where I fail. I am good at carefully avoiding someone so as not to return evil for evil. It is tempting at times to want to give a deserving person a good slap, so avoiding them seems a sensible plan. While I am sure Heavenly Father is thrilled I am not handing out whacks, I think He wants me to do more than avoid someone. Maybe I need to wash their feet. Symbolically, of course.

I was thrilled when I finished reading these passages. I’m not sure I measure up yet. I still have a few good whacks yearning to come out. But, I see some minor growth in entrusting myself.  Hopefully soon I’ll even be patient in my afflictions.  


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Article on Predestination

I’ve had several inquiries about predestination. As a result I ended up writing an article about it for Meridian Magazine.  If you’re interested in the article, you can read it here:  Helping Evangelicals: Understanding Predestination.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Was It Worth It?


Yesterday, the 24th, would have marked my 20th wedding anniversary if I had not persisted in studying Mormonism. I have to say the last few years of my life have been at a minimum stressful. The pressure has been so enormous, the events so heartbreaking to me, that at times I was sure I would not be able to survive.

The question I am often tempted to ask myself is “Was it worth it?” The answer is unequivocally yes. Do I say that because my life has been better or easier since joining the church? Actually, no. Life has been abundantly harder- and it wasn’t easy before. I say yes for other, more important reasons.

I’ve always been a little odd, never quite fitting in my surroundings. From the time I was a young child I was always trying to figure out who God was and what he wanted me to do. I was a religious child in a non-religious home. Because we were Italian, we were Catholic. It kind of goes in tandem with the nationality. But, we rarely attended mass as a family.

For some reason though, it wasn’t enough for me. As young as seven years old, I remember often walking to mass on my own. My dad would graciously give me some money for the offering and off I’d go. The mass itself always confused me and, being a little girl, I would quickly get bored and leave, using the money my dad gave me to buy a chocolate bar. (Naughty I know, but it was an opportunity to get chocolate that I couldn’t resist). I would go back often trying to figure out God, and always leave without knowing anything more.

I remember once asking my mom about religion, to which she replied, “There are two things people should never speak about, religion and politics.” I was a kid, so I didn’t understand her answer. As a result I turned to movies to learn about God. Movies and television were always in abundance in my childhood home. At the time the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar was popular. So I watched that with intense interest. My parents helping to explain what confused me in it. I saw it several times and even had the records. I remember feeling very wicked because the man who played Jesus was kind of cute and I had a crush on him. It just seemed wrong to have a crush on Jesus. For the longest time, that movie was my understanding of religion. I would walk around the house singing Mary’s solo “He’s Just a Man”.   Eventually I became old enough for confirmation classes. I was sure I would finally know who God was then, but all I really learned was how to say the rosary.

In high school I became protestant. We moved from Staten Island to the Bible belt. I now had an abundance of people willing to discuss religion. We’d been in Arkansas less than a year and I was baptized into a protestant tradition. Yet, my questions continued. I couldn’t understand why at the church we’d obey some of the Bible, but not all of it. I asked A LOT of questions, but mostly was told that if I had grown up in their church I would understand. Well, I didn’t, and I still wanted to. Eventually, I found a church that seemed to take the Bible seriously. But, I still had questions that people couldn’t answer. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my faith. I had confidence in the Bible and I worked hard to live according to my understanding.

Why am I bringing all this up? There are people who think I’ve made a horrible mistake giving up so much for “religion”. Some feel that way because they think my faith is a heresy. Others because they don’t think it is worth giving up a 19 year marriage and all my associations and financial support for. Maybe if they understood that I’ve been searching for God since I was little it might make sense to them. Even before I knew Him, I loved Him. That may sound really strange, but that was why I wanted to know Him. He was GOD. I knew that intrinsically. I just didn’t know what to do about it.

Those of you who read my blog know that I am often studying about faith. I want tremendously to improve my faith. I feel the weight of my failings. As a result of that I’ve been re-reading Lectures On Faith by the prophet Joseph Smith. There he outlines three things necessary for faith:

“First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will.For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (emphasis added)

I’ve never had a problem with the first one. It is the second idea that I have spent the majority of my life searching for, so that I could be sure of the third.   When I began looking at Mormonism, part of my fascination came in realizing some of the questions I’ve had that were left unsettled had answers. In one of my ex-husband’s more reasonable moments he said, “I get why you like Mormonism. You like knowing things. You want answers and they give them to you. Why can’t you understand that they’re just making them up?” But, they didn’t feel made up to me.

I finally feel I am on the path to accomplishing what I’ve searched for my entire life. I still have so much to learn. I’m essentially re-learning God. But, I feel peaceful about what I’m learning. It feels right. I’m still confused about many things and I have even farther to go in order to be completely worthy of Him. But, if I had to do it all over again I would still pursue my study of Mormonism because there is nothing more important than knowing and serving God. So, yes, it was worth it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Potpourri of Hope


To be honest, I don’t even know where to start. I have learned so much over the last few days that I feel like I’m trying to contain a waterfall with a child’s sand bucket. I cannot pick one theme that has stood out to me, so I hope you’ll put up with a potpourri of my thoughts.

Pre-earth existence

I’ll start with something that may seem trivial, but I love. It is always fun to me when I see something in Scripture that shows the restored doctrine has always been in the Bible if you have eyes to see it. When you’ve been blind for so long and suddenly get sight, even the most average of objects can seem spectacular. So, for those of you who’ve known these things your whole lives, please bear with my “playing catch up”.

One of the hardest doctrines to understand scripturally is our pre-earth existence. While it feels right and makes sense, the recovering Calvinist in me prefers Scripture. I was reading in John 9 the other day. In verse two, the disciples ask the Savior,

“Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Did you catch that? If he were BORN blind, how could he have possibly sinned? The only possible explanation is he existed before he was born. If that were not possible, the Savior would have pointed that out to HIs followers. Maybe He would have said something like, “How could he have sinned having not yet been born?”  Instead He answered,

“Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”

I know it is a silly thing to get excited over, but to me it showed that the disciples understood there was an existence before birth.


Skipping a few days in my Scripture journal brings us to the topic of faith. I have really been convicted about this topic for some time. Every once in a while I think I see some progress, but then the Lord allows something to creep in that shows me I have so far to go still.

I was reading in 1 Nephi 7.

“….the Lord is able to do all things according to His will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in Him………” vs. 12

Then later in verse 17 it says,

“….O Lord, according to my faith which is in Thee, wilt Thou deliver me from the hands of my brethren;….”

To be honest, every time I read my Scriptures the verses on faith just jump out at me. I know that Heaven works according to laws that are irrevocably set. Faith is one of the big ones. There is much our Father in heaven wants to do for us, but much of it depends on our faith.

This makes me nervous sometimes, because I know I fall so short of the mark. Whenever I read passages on faith I have such a deep, deep longing to do better, to be more than I am. When I read the passage in verse 17 that said “according to my faith..”  I wrote in my journal, “What if the Lord only did anything according to my faith? How much would then be accomplished for His kingdom?”

How painful that is for me to consider knowing my failings. I think about the father of Alma the Younger, whose faith brought an angel to call his son to repentance. Wow! What incredible faith. Though I rejoice in his faith, I’m saddened by my lack of it.  When will I get there?

Of course whenever I pray about my lack of faith and ask for the Lord to help me grow in and develop more faith, He reminds me of Alma 32. So, I guess that is the course He has outlined for me. Hopefully as I diligently follow it I will one day have the faith that can help others more readily find His kingdom.


This next lesson was not in Scripture, but through life and the Spirit. I’ve been struggling with the behavior of a man who has done several unrighteous deeds. It has caused me anguish, almost destroyed my testimony, and brought harm to my family.

I have spent countless hours in tears and prayer over it. I have confronted the man several times asking him to stop the behavior, only to have ridiculous excuses made. When I pressed him, he would accuse me of lacking charity for not accepting him as he is.

Every confrontation damaged both my soul and emotions further. It kind of came to a head this past Friday. I had lost all hope of trusting  him (or anyone) again, but thought it only fair to try again. That was a mistake and served in no way other than to make my day completely miserable and give me another few hours of tears and heartbreak.

The thought suddenly popped into my head, while praying, that this is exactly what Satan wants. I don’t think I could have hand picked a scenario more perfectly designed to destroy me. I had two choices. I could continue to struggle and try to make sense of his behavior, fruitlessly hoping for righteousness, or I could recognize that Satan was using this person to not only bring me harm, but stunt my growth, and not allow it any further.

It reminds me a little of the story of the tree of life (1 Nephi 8). The analogy doesn’t fit completely, but you’ll get the idea. Here are these people who’ve just had an opportunity to taste the fruit from the Tree of Life, but because scoffers came along they fell away and were lost.

I have tasted of the gospel. I have a testimony. I know what is true. Am I therefore to let go of the iron rod and give up the fruit of the gospel because of someone else’s indifference to righteousness? How stupid would I have to be?  Umm…don’t answer that.

Well, I wish I had more time. There is so much more I’ve learned, but I’ve got to exercise and get some wonderful children to bed. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for His constant patience with me. I hope one day I will be the kind of person that brings Him much glory. Maybe I’ll even develop the faith of Alma, or Enoch, or ….

Oh! to be all that God wants! What could be better?


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Two years a Mormon


Me & Vicki at my baptism

Well, tomorrow marks my two year anniversary as a member of the church. These two years have literally flown by. Maybe that’s because all I do is work? I was thinking a lot about my two years this morning. I’ve had some wonderful experiences, and some that have been less than wonderful. I’ve made friends and I’ve lost friends. I had people show me how beautiful and sacrificing people can be for one another, and others who showed me how wicked people can be.

There are people in my life who strengthen my testimony, and a couple of people who Satan uses regularly to assist in destroying it. I’m grateful for both. That may sound insane, but it is true. I think if I only experienced godliness from those around me then maybe my testimony would only be on the foundation of the character of those around me. That is a dangerous way to build a testimony. On the contrary, each time I am faced with wickedness I am forced to re-examine my testimony. That is good for me.

My first year was a glorious bliss of getting to know completely new people, a new culture, and a new faith. It was confusing and exhilarating simultaneously. I was impatient to get to the temple, and if I had to do it all over again….well, I would still be impatient to get to the temple. I asked a million questions and received about half a million answers. The other half million will just have to wait until eternity, or if I can corner one of the apostles for a few hours of answering questions.

My second year was at best difficult. The one bright spot was getting to the temple. The rest of the year I faced trials and temptations I not only never expected in a million years, but felt (and still feel) crippling to me. Some I passed and some I failed. I was confronted with wickedness from unexpected sources and lost a feeling of trust I was just beginning to develop in a real way for the first time in my lifetime. It had shattered me.

There are two paths these types of life experiences can take you. First, you can let them destroy you. For me that would mean blaming the gospel for the behavior of others. Many people have let the offenses of others keep them from the church. I didn’t want to be one of those people, although I will admit to being tempted. The second path you can take is to choose to learn and grow from it. To become stronger, or at least wiser. I don’t know if I’m either yet, but I am choosing the second path.

I am looking forward to many more years as a member. Each time I read my Scriptures I see a richness to the gospel that I had not seen before. There were a few new doctrines that I thought could only be realized by the Spirit and the Book of Mormon. Now, I’m also seeing throughout the Old and New Testament. I just had let the template of my former theology blur them. I feel like I’m on a wonderful adventure where I get to understand my Father in Heaven better than I have ever before.