Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Father Sent Me That….

I have been unable to blog for quite some time.  Life has been harried.  I’ve run from one task to another unable to find much time to rest.  On my “down time” I’ve worked on the manuscript for my novel to get it ready for an agent who was interested in seeing it. Yay!    I spent all day yesterday very sick on the couch, while a dear friend (Jennifer Schwartz)  stepped in and took care of me and my children.  I was supposed to be entertaining her, which shows what a lovely, humble woman she is to give up her pampering to serve.

I want to share something that has been on my heart.  Many of you know the trials I encountered when I decided to investigate the Mormon faith.  It caused quite a bit of hardship in my life.  What most don’t know is that much of life before that was challenging as well.  Occasionally, people will ask me questions about my life before Mormonism.

I was having a Sunday lunch with a family from church that were asking me some questions about my background.  I shared some things, but kept most to myself.  Mostly I shared the things in which I can find humor.  They replied by saying, “Your life has been so hard.”  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.  I hadn’t even told them the “bad” things. But, to be quite transparent with you during that weekend I was really struggling. 

I was so very weary. I was tired of my schedule. I was tired of the struggles. I was tired of the myriad of challenges the Lord seems to send my way. Truthfully, I was pouting a little, but I didn’t want anyone to know it because I didn’t want to chance damaging someone’s  testimony. 

I came to sacrament that morning, very nervous about a meeting that was scheduled.  It actually took every ounce of courage I had to even go that morning.  It was not a meeting I was looking forward to, but the Spirit told me it was necessary.

During Sacrament, I had asked my Heavenly Father if I could have a little bit of a break after this.  He answered in a way I didn’t expect.

One of the speakers spoke about the atonement and the blessings we, as believers, receive because of the Savior’s sacrifice.  During his talk, he read a passage that pierced my heart.

“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.  And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross…..” ~3 Nephi 27: 13-14a

I was complaining in my heart about my difficult life, feeling like maybe I was given the short end of the stick on this earthly journey. The Savior, however honored His Father’s call for Him without complaint. He gloried in the fact that He was glorifying His Father through His journey.

Look at the passage below:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, UNLESS he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” ~Mosiah 3:19, emphasis added.

So why was Christ able to serve so humbly, while my heart grumbled?  Faith. Jesus, the Son of God, knew His Father better than I did. He trusted Him more. The problem lies with me.  I need to become as a child. I need to trust Him more.  This is something I’ve been striving toward for quite some time. It may be harder for me than most because I didn’t learn trust as a child. In fact, I had the opposite experience. My parents, though they loved me in their own way, were often too high to realize the neglect, among other things, that was going on. That doesn’t excuse me. I have a responsibility to respond properly and I have the Spirit to instruct me.  The only thing holding me back is me.

We all grow weary sometimes.  We all feel shortchanged.  If the Savior could bear His journey, we can bear ours. Plus, He had the added burden of bearing all our iniquities AND infirmities.  He carried everything everything I am carrying, while simultaneously bearing the rest of the world’s as well. What an example He is! He truly knows what we are enduring and He knows how to succor those in need.

When you are discouraged, look to Him. Remind yourself that you came He to do as your Father asked. In your pre-mortal existence you agreed to this testing.  If you’re like me,  you want to ace every test.  I consider a 99% a personal failure.  (Yeah, I know. I’m weird.)

But, what if you’re like me and trust is something that is very hard for you? Well, I can tell you what I am doing. This isn’t expert advice. This is just the musings of a pilgrim learning to pioneer herself.

I am completely dependent on my scriptures.  I love them. It feeds my spirit. Set up a systematic reading of your scriptures. Study them as if your life depends on it. Then spend time praying. Let Him know your fears about trusting. Finally, listen to the Spirit. Don’t ignore your promptings.  If you’re not sure how the Spirit speaks to you, ask Him to show you. Write down everything you think He is saying to you for three months, along with your responses and the results. By the end of that time period, you should have some idea of which voice is His.

To the people from my old church

I’ve had a series of unpleasant encounters with people from my former church.  I want to invite you to start a dialogue with me.  Instead of seeing me, rolling your eyes, and turning another direction, talk to me. Instead of assuming the things that were rumored are true, ask me.  Feel free to ask me about the doctrines you have been taught are heretical.  I’m happy to discuss any of them with you.  I’m not afraid of examining my beliefs and you shouldn’t be afraid of testing yours.  In fact, Thessalonians commands you to do so.  I’ve recently heard that you’ve been warned not to discuss doctrine with me.  If that is true, then they are asking you to violate scripture. Something I know you would never want to do. You are good people, who love God. I just think you’ve been misled on some things.  I’m happy to talk about any doctrine you want. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Purpose of Freedom of Religion

I was supposed to speak in sacrament this morning. It was a topic that I cherish so I was really looking forward to it. My body didn’t agree. I kept throwing up.  I got up six different times determined to go and each time my body betrayed me.  I was quite disappointed. To ease my own disappointment I will blog my talk.  The upside is I get to be more opinionated when not standing in the pulpit, so I get to say all the things I wanted to. Some things, though true, are not best shared during sacrament. I’ll also have to pare it down to fit in this format.

There are two types of Freedom of Religion: External and Internal.

External Freedom

Whenever we hear the phrase “Freedom of Religion”, most of us think of external freedoms, such as we have in this country. It is something we should be very grateful for and I am positive we take for granted. There are citizens of other countries who would give up all their worldly possessions to have that privilege.  I think of the Romeike family from Germany who fled their country for the right to raise their children according to their faith. I think of the many members of underground churches in China. What they wouldn’t give for our rights! 

The freedom to worship according to the dictates of our conscience came at a high price. Many people gave their lives for this privilege. They gave their lives in the years following the Savior’s resurrection. On this soil, they gave their lives both during the revolutionary war and the years following the restoration of the gospel given to Joseph Smith. It is worth suffering for.

And to be quite frank, the current administration has been very strategic in their undermining that freedom. If we don’t wake up and start paying attention we may find ourselves one day wondering what happened to our freedoms. That however, is a topic for another post.

Internal Freedom

There is a second type of religious freedom, which is what I’d like to focus on: Internal freedom, also called agency.

In the book Gospel Doctrine  Joseph F. Smith says, “There are no freer people upon the face of the earth today than the Latter-day Saints.” Those who don’t know our culture and bylaws won’t understand just how true that statement is.

We are free to be good Latter-day Saints or bad ones. We’re even free to stop being Latter-day Saints altogether. If we chose we could write the bishop and ask him to remove us from the rolls of the church and he would oblige us, simple as that. There are no nasty consequences for not being a member (in the physical world). Even when someone commits a grievous sin and must be excommunicated, they are still welcome to services and homes. They are still loved and treated as a friend. And, when they are ready to return, they are welcomed back with open arms as if nothing had ever happened. The gospel calls that agency.

Those who have grown up as Latter day Saints won’t necessarily realize what a blessing that is. You may not even realize that not all churches have such a loving culture. In some faiths, the doctrine of the sovereignty of God overrules any agency of man. The cornerstone of those churches is submission. The membership is putting themselves not only under the leadership of the pastors and elders, but the rule of them as well. I belonged to such a church before I became a Latter day Saint. Early in my membership there, we had gotten a new pastor. Once his leadership started it was decided that all new members had to sign a form saying that they were submitting to the decisions of the elder board in order to complete their membership.

If a Mormon bishopric even considered producing such a form, they’d probably be released before the ink had time to dry. Coming from that type of church background, I had a little trouble adjusting to the mindset most Latter-day Saints held. Submission had been held up as the standard of righteousness for so long, that independence and agency took some time for me. Wives were to submit to husbands, children to parents, women to men, members to elders. It was a simple process of just do what you’re told.

Now, suddenly, as a Latter day Saint, I had to make all the decisions for myself and I found it challenging.  My children however, took to it like fish to water. Once they learned about agency, our whole family dynamic changed. In their young minds it meant total freedom. They no longer had to do anything. If I tried to ground them they would say, “Isn’t this taking away our agency?” They weren’t being disrespectful, they were trying to figure out what agency meant.

It took a while to get them to understand what agency really did mean. In the meantime, I had to remind them that though they had the agency to decide their actions, they would not get to choose the consequences of those actions. Should they decide, in their agency, not to do their schoolwork, I would fail them.  So, with their agency, they needed to learn wisdom in carrying  it out.

Wisdom is the key to any freedom. Like the Israelites, The Lord sets before us the freedom to choose between blessings and cursings. Take the time to read Deuteronomy 28 sometime. This is the type of choice set before us as well. 

Using Our Freedom

We have the freedom choose how to live our lives. We’ve been doubly blessed with the external freedom to make it easier to bring to pass.  Now ask yourself how do you use that freedom.

Do you invest it in things of eternal value, or do you waste in on pleasure seeking?

Do you choose to keep your covenants, or to tread them under your feet?

Do you know your hobbies or your Scriptures better?

With both freedom of religion and freedom of speech how many of your friends and neighbors have you shared the gospel with?

We can fill our lives with the blessings that come from living the gospel, or we can waste it and toss those blessings away.

What will you do with your freedom?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some Problems with Common Core:

Almost all 50 states have adopted the national Common Core standards.

I don’t have much time today, but wanted to give you two resources to watch and think about.

After watching the video below think about some of the following. Though there is nothing wrong with learning to use powerful words, these children are being taught to engage negative emotions in order to manipulate. They’re also being taught to lose empathy. For instance, in the workbook were the following questions:

My mother always_________me to clean my room.

Their choices were tells  and nags.  The only correct answer was nags.

Whenever I go to Max’s house, his little sister is very ______________.

Their choices were curious and nosey.  The only correct answer was nosey.

Now, there wasn’t a literary passage where they were drawing the information from. They were simply asked to choose the more emotional word. The point of the lesson was to teach them to cause anger by their words to promote a political change. 

First grade curriculum

Also ask yourself why teachers would EVER be asked to evaluate that a child’s behavior has changed to align itself with the common core instruction, let alone evaluate that on a yearly basis.

Next, watch the video below by a mental health therapist on the danger of implementing common core curriculum on our children.  Listen especially to the deletion of empathy in children.

OK, for some reason it will not allow me to embed this video. However the following link does work.  Mental Health Video.

I think we need to have a healthy discussion about these issues before forcing them onto our children.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Getting Your Children to Talk to You


Generally I blog about what I’ve been learning in Scripture. You may wonder if my recent lack of blogging has meant I haven’t been reading my Scriptures. The answer, thankfully, is no. The reason I haven’t been blogging is three-fold.

First, my scripture study has revolved around the inductive scripture study I’ve been writing. I have a great test group that has been going through that with me. To be fair to them, I didn’t want to post any of its contents until my test group was completed. Secondly, my time has also been taken up by completing my first novel.  Though it is completed, I’m still doing some revising and am in the process of shopping it to literary agents. Thirdly, I have been very ill.  I’m being treated for a bacterial infection in which the treatments make you even more sick.  Given the fact that I have to work full-time and I have four children to raise and homeschool, an illness makes my schedule almost unbearable.  Blogging is the first thing to go in that case.

However, I’ve been getting many emails of concern from my readers. I didn’t even know I had so many readers.  I apologize. Had I realized, I would have been more conscientious with my blog. So, I will make a commitment to make this more of a priority. Until my inductive study is ready for print I will blog about parenting and women’s issues. Some of my opinions on women’s issues may be a little controversial, but I’ll be completely honest regardless.  Today, I want to focus on developing a good relationship with your teenagers. Don’t tune out if your children are young, because it starts when they are toddlers.

We all want our children to talk to us. It becomes even more important as they grow into their teen years. We want them to share about the details of their lives. From the mundane…What kind of movies do you want to see? To the serious….What is going on in their personal relationships? Do they have anything they need someone to talk to about? How do they feel about a mission or life direction?

We all know that teenagers tend to get less communicative right at the point in their lives when they need an adult’s direction more than ever. So, how do you keep the lines of communication open? The first, and most important thing is to start the line early. Be in a habit of really talking to your children from the time they can first begin speaking.  If you want your children to share the things that are important to you, then you must show them that you care about what is important to them. That starts when they are a toddler. If you just pretend to listen to their “important” babble, they will quickly learn that what they share is not important to you.

When my oldest child was a toddler, he would spend an hour telling me about his play date with his imaginary friend. That kind of talk is important for two reasons. First, it is important to him. That alone makes it worth my time. Secondly, I learned a lot about how my delightful son thinks. I learned about the things he values. I learned what he considered good and bad. That is indispensible information.

As he got older, the things that were important to him changed. In his elementary school years, he really got into Bionicles and Lord of the Rings. I knew Lord of the Rings well, so that gave us many great conversations. My Bionicle lore was much less solid. He would instruct and quiz me on their elemental powers.  I was horrible at his quizzes, but he loved that I tried.

When he hit his teen years, our life had changed. I was now having to work full-time in addition to homeschooling them and caring for the house. It left me little time for anything purely for fun. About that time he began to get interested in a complicated card game called Magic: The Gathering.  It takes ages to play and even longer to learn.  When Dillon mentioned that he wanted me to learn the game, I was discouraged. How could I find the time? When he mentioned it a second time a few days later, I knew it was very important to him. So, I made the time to learn. We had so much fun that first game. We laughed together a lot. He told me, “I knew you’d be good at this game.”  We have a standing date to play it every Sunday, which is the only day I am not working non-stop.

Those times have made for some of our best and most open conversations. We talk about his girlfriend. We talk about his frustration with some adults in another ward that were spreading a false rumor about him. We talk about what frustrates him with his sisters. We talk about his future.  We talk about his joys. Would he have been as open if I didn’t make sacrifices to join in on what he values? I don’t know. But, if I wasn’t willing to spend time in his enjoyments, why should he open up?

There are times that teens need someone else to talk to aside from parents. It is good if we realize that and not feel threatened. I loved when Dillon wrote the young men’s president in our ward. He wrote to him about the adults that were spreading rumors about him. He asked his advice on handling it. I was grateful my son had someone to go to. I was also grateful my son told me he had written him and why.

Does my teenage boy tell me everything? I sincerely doubt it.  I’m sure there are many things he doesn’t tell me. I’d be a fool to think otherwise. All I can do is trust that my son has enough faith in me and my love for him that he will come to me about the things he thinks are really important.

I firmly believe that that trust starts when they are young and what is important to them seems childish to us. 

What do you do if you’ve not had a good relationship with your child and they are already in their teenage years? I believe God can heal any relationship. It will take work and brutal honesty.

Go to your teenager. Plan a nice meal for just the two of you. Tell them your regrets and failures. Tell them you want to start over and develop a relationship with them. Then, pray, pray, pray.  Make sure you are intentionally spending time on the things that are important to them, even if it is something you have no interest in whatsoever. Talk to them about your days also. Be vulnerable. When your children see and believe that, they will begin to talk to you as well.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Do You Know Your God?


They were the elite—the leaders. All men came to them for spiritual guidance. They were the shepherds of Israel. Yet, they crucified their Messiah.

I’ve heard the word heresy many times. You get used to hearing it when you are a Mormon who is open about your faith. The Savior heard it too. Over and over again they maligned the very One whose arrival they regularly prayed for and taught about.  How could they have been so wrong? I believe it is because they stopped listening to their scriptures. Instead they imposed their own desires into its meaning.

I remember one Sunday afternoon at a choir rehearsal in the church of my previous faith. We were singing a song about this very topic of the rejection of the Messiah. I don’t remember all the words because I got excommunicated before that season was over, but the chorus started out like this…. “Oh! What Blasphemy!”

I remember leaning over to my friend Jennifer and saying, “Sometimes I worry this is us.” For some time I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had made God into our own image instead of the other way around. I felt we weren’t in line with what was true. At the time I wasn’t convinced Latter-day Saints were either, but I didn’t feel settled.

How easy it is to assume in our arrogance that we are right. That we’ve interpreted things correctly. That is one of the many reasons I am so grateful for the indwelling presence of the Spirit. As I grow in my faith. I have learned more and more how to hear the Spirit. To know what is true and what isn’t.

But, our Father in Heaven has provided us with the perfect tool to go along with the Spirit. We can know  our God  intimately. His likes. His dislikes. His desires. His love. His wrath. All of Him. The Spirit imparts that knowledge to us, working deeply in our hearts through Scripture.

Every time you pick up your scriptures and really  study them, with a willingness to obey, you are getting to know your God. In fact, when you read it with humility and a passion to serve, the process literally changes you. I can’t explain how that works, I just know it does.

I have many passions in my life. I love mathematics and science. I love music, especially piano and violin. I love the written word. I love pretty things.  I see God in all of them. I feel his presence in quantum mechanics. I love the order I find in mathematics. I am moved by the Spirit in music. None of those passions ( some may call them obsessions) speak to me so piercingly as Scripture.

I hope as you go about your Sabbath today, you take some time to personally get to know your God. But make sure you’re listening to the scriptures and not just imposing what you want them to say into your interpretation. What’s the point in getting to know a fake God? Let’s make sure we’re acquainting ourselves with the real one.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Let Your Light Shine


In October of 1938 Germany issued an order that all Polish Jews were to be deported back to Germany within 48 hours. They were arrested, taken without being allowed any of their possessions, and shipped in trains and lorries, as well as on foot. Many elderly and infirmed did not survive the transport. The living conditions these precious people, without home or finances, endured was worse than would be afforded to animals.

Did the world respond with outrage and disgust at this? No. The apathy of the world during this horrific plight of the Jews, as well as during much of the holocaust, is something that still fills my heart with cold fear. Humans can be so inhumane.

What grabbed American headlines at this time? The panic that ensued after H.G. Wells radio broadcast of War of the Worlds.  Though Mr. Wells introduced the program as a radio dramatization of his book, most radio listeners were tuned in to a ventriloquist on NBC and had not turned on CBS until after the program was underway. Thinking the world was really under attack by Martians, panic ensued. Many jammed the highways trying to escape. People ran through the streets screaming about the end of the world. Electric companies even were reported to have cut power so the Martians couldn’t see their cities. Once Mr. Wells learned what was happening, he stopped the dramatization and reminded people that it was fiction.

Everyone was talking about the response from his radio broadcast. No one cared what was happening to tens of thousands of Jews, even after there was obvious need for humanitarian intervention. Why should we have to deal with the problems of others?

What I find interesting is that while the Americans were panicked about an imaginary attack from Martians they were completely oblivious to the real forces of darkness that were now at work around them. I’m not just talking about Nazi sympathizers either. Satan was alive and well in the 1930s (as he is today). Their world was growing darker. There were “prophets” calling out warning, such as Winston Churchill, but the British as well as the Americans were not interested in his doomsday politics.

I see the same thing today. Our headlines, as well as our citizenship, are outraged and caught up in the wrong things. We don’t see the dark veil of unrighteousness descending on our nation. We don’t pay attention to the signs that show a government ingeniously subverting and removing not only all godliness, but the rights of its citizens. We are not about to be woken from our apathy until, like the Americans in the 30s and 40s, we are personally assaulted. Why do we only care about what currently affects us?  What kind of world are we leaving for our children?

These are the thoughts that have been plaguing me. This weekend I found my first glimmer of hope. While attending a special stake conference, we were given the privilege of hearing from Elder David A. Bednar. He said we should not be frantic with worry when the world around us seems to be getting darker. That only means that our light will shine brighter.

Bear in mind, that sometimes when you shine a light in the dark people complain. They yell for you to turn it out. But, the world needs light now more than ever. What legacy do we want to leave for our children. Do we want to be known as a Neville Chamberlain who is famous for his policies of appeasement toward Hitler’s demands, or a bulldog like Winston Churchill who called for facing the giant and killing him?  Frankly, if we’d listened to Churchill in the beginning there never would have been a major Holocaust or a World War 2. If we would have stood up to Hitler the moment he broke the Treaty of Versailles, the malicious dictator would not have had a defensive leg to stand on.

It is always easier to fight an enemy before its power increases. It is imperative we let our lights shine now, while we can still hold back the growing tide of darkness. Do something to take a stand against the unrighteous and dangerous trends we are seeing swirl before our frightened eyes. It will be a whole lot easier to hold displace the dark when there are lots of lights shining.