Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Best Laid Plans...

OK. So Christmas plans went well. But the rest of the week was insane. All of our plans completely unraveled. We were supposed to have company, and they got sick. We had to be careful about the sick thing because we were going on vacation to be with hubby's family (and didn't want to risk getting all of them sick) -- and then that ended up not happening. At the first of the week, I was nearly pulling my hair out with frustration, like "Why are things not working?" But it didn't take long for it to became clear that, as crazy as it sounds, the Lord's hand was in the sickness and the many, many changed plans. We have witnessed tender mercies GALORE in our friends' lives (the ones who never got to stay at our house), we experienced some tender mercies of our own, and I have been taught again about trusting in the Lord.

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own
understanding. [Make plans, yes, but don't worry if things don't work the way you planned! "All things work together for good to them that love God." Romans 8:28)] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct they
paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

(P.S. There might be more to come on this amazing week!)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Power of One Dollar

This story will warm your heart. It reminds me of one of the talks given in the Priesthood session of Conference that I recently read. Elder Stanley Ellis says:

I was studying the parable of the talents. You remember the story. A man needed to go away, so he entrusted his servants with his goods. One received five talents, another two, and the last received one. Upon his return, he asked for an accounting. The servant who received five and returned ten, as well as the one who took two and returned four, were declared good and faithful servants. But what caught my attention was the servant who received one, took care of it, and returned it safely back to his lord. I was surprised by the response of the master: “Thou wicked and slothful servant, … take therefore the talent from him, … and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness”! (See Matt. 25:14–30.)
This seemed to be a harsh reaction to one who seemed to be trying to take care of what he was given. But the Spirit taught me this truth—the Lord expects a difference!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I've Been Tagged!

OK, so Naiah tagged me and now I need to share five things about me that you may not know. Since you don't know much about me, that really shouldn't be hard....

I can recite the names of all of the children in my kindergarten class. In alphabetical order. On demand (if I'm in the mood). I've performed this amazing feat for at least one ward talent show. I think it's one of the things that impressed my husband most about me....

I graduated from BYU with two degrees (over a course of six years), without finding a husband. (That was not for lack of trying, mind you!) I joke that I should have received a tuition refund....

I can touch my tongue to my nose. My youngest child is pretty proud that she also shares in this amazing talent. (Wow. Two hidden talents revealed in one post. Are you impressed?)

I served in a mission in South America in the same country where my father served, where his father served, and where my parents are now serving.

I recently discovered that the boys over at ABEV are not-too-distant cousins of mine. We have the same great-great grandparents. (If they don't want people to know that they are related to me, then pretend you don't know.) :)

I want to tag Téa, Tigersue and my pear-tickling friend, if they are up to playing. :)

Mortal Life Teaches of Christ's Life

A few years ago, I attended a BYU Religion class taught by Todd B. Parker. He gave a lesson that has always stuck with me. It was based on 2 Nephi 11:4, which teaches us that "all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him." This is something Wade touched on in a post in July (well worth the read). I wanted to expand upon Wade's post to discuss how not only elements of the gospel, scripture and so forth testify of Christ and His life and mission, but also how we can find Him in our day-to-day lives, and in the world around us. Life can teach us about His life--which encompasses not only His years in mortality, but includes His characteristics, and His eternal roles and mission.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Fire Within

I've been on a roller coaster the past while. Obviously. But I have to say that right now I feel on fire. Although physically I'm feeling half dead, spiritually I'm soaring. It's all in a quiet kind of a way. I'm not walking around with a constant burning in my bosom or anything like that. But I feel so grounded, so settled. I've always been a passionate gospel-loving, prophet-following person, but my testimony of the importance of all of this just keeps growing. There is so much safety and protection from clinging to the words of the prophets -- like I would if I were hanging over a cliff with only a thick root jetting out from the cliff's wall to hold on to. Experiences I have had, insights that have come, and the Spirit's confirming power just tighten my grip on that root, the rod, almost daily. I can't fathom life without this anchor, this compass, this Rock-solid guide in my life. My latest couple of pieces at A Prayer of Faith give a glimpe into more of my thoughts. I am reminded that the way is so easy. All we have to do is give heed to the word of God (represented by BOTH the iron rod and the Liahona -- there is no difference!) and we can be safely led to our land of promise - now and eternally.

That's all I have time for tonight, but I hope to pull together more thoughts on this soon.

I'm Not Dead Yet

I think I have figured out what was wearing me out with the whole blogging thing, and have decided I'm not going to quit here at my personal blog, although I'll probably be just as sporadic here as before. :) I just needed to stop getting involved in involved discussions that usually went nowhere and left me drained. If you still find me here and there, it's because I'm not fully gone, but just scaled back. :) To those of you who offered support along the way as I was figuring things out, I offer you my heartfelt thanks. :)

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Alas, it may be that my blogging days are coming to an end. M&M is tired. The question is, is this an early or late retirement? Hmmmmm..... For the blogging world, it's probably about right. Will it be permanent? I guess only time will tell. You can still find me on A Prayer of Faith, however, and maybe occasionally on Blogger of Jared. (Can a retired blogger contribute to a site that has that word in its name? Hee hee...ha ha.) It's been interesting, to say the least....

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Just to give you an idea of how amazing my children are....

Today I had a hard day. (It seems I have had a lot of those lately. Ugh.) Anyway, I try hard to not let the children see when that is the case, but today I just needed to curl up and have a good cry. I sneaked upstairs while they were downstairs playing ping pong with their dad and closed the door so I could have a few minutes to myself. Within minutes, though, hubby came in and they followed, and, well, I just told them I wasn't feeling good today. (It was one of my not-so-good days physically.)

They left me to stay curled up for a bit. A little while later, though, they came upstairs saying that I needed to come to their playroom. They were very anxious to show me something.

I was simply stunned (and deeply touched) by what they had been working on.

On the wall in their playroom, they had taped a sign that says, "MHF" -- which stands for "Mom's Helping Friends." They had gathered together and made a list of about eight different things they could do to help Mom, from making me cards to letting me sleep to not having contention.

It's not hard to imagine how much my heart melted. The empathy and compassion that my children have developed through this trial of mine -- er, ours -- is sometimes almost breathtaking to me. While I should be feeling guilty that they were the ones nurturing me at that moment, I don't (or I can't) because this is where I am. And this is who they are.

MHF is an exclusive club, by the way. Only children with my last name are allowed. I overheard that they will be holding weekly meetings on Saturdays....

Life may be hard for me right now, but I have three little blessings for whom I am very, very grateful.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Home Teaching Lesson, Detours Included

HT: What is going to happen in a couple of months? You are going to be baptized.
DS: Yes, in January. You can come if you want.
HT: Thank you. I will. Why are we baptized? We are baptized because Jesus showed us the way.
DD: We have a picture and a statue of Jesus right there. Did you know that my aunt painted that picture?
HT: Wow, she's a good artist. That's a great picture (said more like pitcher).
DD: It's not a pitcher. A pitcher is what you use to pour water. It's a pick-shur.
Mom: Yes, she's the one who reminds us that it's "CosTco" not "Cosco."
But let's let our home teacher finish his lesson. It's an important one for DS.
Dad: As an aside, Brother So-and-So has always been teased by his children because he says the days of the week, "Mondee, Tuesdee,...."
HT: Well, those of us who come from the southern part of the state talk different. You know why? Because the Danes settled in that area. It was called "Little Denmark."
Dad: Really? Do people still speak Danish there?
HT: No, but my dad and grandad did. They went on missions to the Norweigan countries, so they spoke the Norweigan languages.
BUT, back to the lesson on baptism....

(By now, I was laughing. DD#2 took us on another detour later on...wish I could remember it all, but it was all pretty funny. We did end up having a nice lesson, though.) :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sometimes I Still Cry
A tribute for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

She died over a year and a half ago.

Her cancer had returned. This time, it attacked not her breast but her liver and lungs. (That's never a good thing, as you well know.)

She was in my ward. I didn't know her that well, and yet I feel as though I really did. She had been our Relief Society President for only a few short months when the devastating news arrived. How could it be? No, please, no.

We had all fallen in love with her. She was unassuming, genuine, loving, faithful, approachable. She invited every sister who would come over to her house for some gathering. For the mothers of young children, it was a breakfast. She wanted to know about our lives, our thoughts, our suggestions. She even implemented one of my suggestions in a Relief Society class.

She was a mother of nine, eight of whom were living. She was an exemplary wife and mom, focusing her energies and time on building Zion within her home. (If you didn't know how humble and wonderful she was, you would be intimated by her. But you couldn't be intimidated. You just couldn't because of who she was.)

When her cancer came back, we as a ward mourned. We prayed. We fasted. We reached out in love as much as we could. Her family reached back, and shared intimate details of their struggle with us. We received regular emails updating us on their journey. They decided that they would open up their usually-private life so we could exercise our faith better, and so we could travel with them. It was one of the most unifying things I have ever experienced in a ward.

And it was one of the most tender experiences of my life. I felt a love and concern and connection with her and her family that has remained to this day, even as their life has moved on. And the experience reached a deep, deep part of my soul.

Part of the reason I connected so much is because so many of the struggles she had were struggles I was having, just in a different context, and perhaps to different degrees. I understood struggles with fear, concerns about the future and life and family and all of those things that surface when your health is in question. I was pretty sure that I didn't have cancer, but there were still so many unknowns, so many concerns that were the same. I just empathized with her--and she did with me.

I will never forget the day that I left an Enrichment class and went into one of the alcoves that leads to the stage -- to cry. I couldn't handle the normalcy with which the presenter was talking about getting up just a little bit earlier to exercise. That may sound silly, but she could never understand what a little bit more sleep could do for someone like me. She couldn't know how much I missed my normal life when I was a runner and could sacrifice sleep. She didn't know how hard it was when life just isn't normal. It was a straw for my camel that night, and I lost it. (Part of why I was so close to tears anyway was because I had had an abnormal brain MRI, and I was beyond worried.)

So who was the one who came to comfort me and to listen? You guessed it. Here she was, facing the possibility that her cancer would not go away this time around, and she was listening to me sob and vent my concerns and doubts and fears. Of course, it's because she understood. As I apologized for complaining about my life, given what her life entailed, I realized that the severity of her trials didn't change what my trials were to me. (We can't compare suffering.) She never made me feel that she "won" because her health problems were worse. She just cared.

As things continued to get worse in her life, we as a ward continued to exercise our faith together. Between pregnancy, nursing and health issues, I have only fasted once or twice in the past eight years or so, and one of those times was for her. We had very specific purposes to our fasting and prayers, and I felt strongly that we were exercising faith in a way that was pleasing to heaven. I had the sense that if she passed away, it would have to be God's will, because we were truly doing all we could do.

During this time, she would openly share her doubts and concerns and questions in Relief Society. These were the times I felt that much closer to her. I know that no one really knew what to say, but oh, how I could understand the questions she asked, because I had many of the same ones. What do you do with blessings that don't seem fulfilled? How do you exercise your faith? I think in the end she really understood the answers. Faith is not about getting what we want. It's about submitting with faith and trust to whatever God's will was. Ultimately, we have faith in Him and in nothing else.

God's will was made clear. She deteriorated rapidly in the end. She slipped peacefully into eternity on the day that I had anticipated finally going to her home to say my last and personal goodbye. (I hadn't done it sooner for fear of intruding on very necessary family time.)

She actually chose to wait a couple of hours before moving on, until her oldest daughter arrived from out of town. The family then sang a couple of hymns, then prayed, then let her go.

I have no doubt that she passed her test. And in doing so, she gave those around her more strength and desire to do the same. This journey was one filled with light, peace, understanding and hope. As she and her family shared the journey with us, they strengthened our testimonies about the truthfulness of the gospel and the plan of salvation. It all reached me so deeply that I will never be the same.

I miss her. I love her. And I will be forever grateful for the influence she had on my life.

And, so, sometimes I still cry.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Resourcefulness Rocks!

I was dead tired today. My plan was to spend most of the day on the couch. (I've had too many couch days lately. Not fun.)

I forced myself to go out and take a walk. (Gotta get exercise! Besides, sometimes it helps me get a little more energy.) As I headed off to our neighborhood track, I remembered that we had a project that HAD to be done today (the source of materials for our project will be disappearing Monday). I suggested to my husband that this could be our exercise for the afternoon. It took a few minutes to convince him that my idea wasn't completely crazy, but finally, he relented.

And so, we spent the next two and a half hours hauling rocks from the construction site next door. We are using them as decorative rocks in our what-is-usually-a-weed-bed on the side of the house. Hubby's skepticism faded quickly. He wants to put rocks in all of our sorta-flower beds (often more weedy than flowery) now! And, hey, you can't beat the price! (Although we may not be able to move tomorrow....)

Besides the rejuv that can come from working hard, getting fresh air, and focusing on a major project, what may have topped off our evening was the fact that this was a family affair. All three children pitched in, carrying rocks in their tiny plastic wheelbarrows, their shirts, and even the secret compartment on a princess big wheel. It was long after the sun had set that we finally went inside to shower, eat (late dinner, yes) and head to bed. (The children didn't want to go in. Their determination and hard work warmed my heart.)

The snapshot moment of the evening: I was pulling a heavy-laden wheelbarrow, and my children helped by pushing. I mentioned feeling like I was pulling a handcart, and my children broke into song. "Come, come ye saints, no toil nor labor fear...." Priceless.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

I'm not a superstitious person; nevertheless, I hesistated when we decided to induce on the 13th of October to get #3 here. (My body doesn't do labor well. My babies are big (two over nine pounds) and I'm not so big.) I felt horrible that every six years this precious person would have a birthday on Friday the 13th.

Well, fortunately, #3 didn't notice today. I think the birthday part of the day was a success.

However, it WAS a Friday the 13th for me. (Although, remember, I'm not superstitious.) But, what was up with today? :)

How was your Friday the 13th?

(And since I have had a bad day, please refrain from telling me I'm an awful mother for inducing or, worse, for inducing on the 13th of the month.) ;)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"The Need for Greater Kindness"

[Miracles] can happen and will happen when there is kindness, respect, and love. Why do any of us have to be so mean and unkind to others? Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity? It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” Ensign, May 2006, 58)

I have been reminded of this lately. (Isn't it sad that we must be reminded of something that is supposed to be so basic to Christian life?) Sometimes being on the receiving end of unkind actions and words can remind me of how important it is for me to be kind.

I had a hard day a couple of days ago. I suppose I was probably already on the verge of tears anyway. But a woman serving samples at Costco was unkind to me, and I spent the rest of the time in Costco with tears trickling down my cheeks. I was reminded that "in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see" (Hymns, 220).

I have had a few other experiences where a stranger has been incredibly unkind -- once in a parking lot, and once as I was crossing the street (a woman actually stuck her tongue out at me from her passing car after I had tried to signal for her to slow down while I crossed the street with my precious daughter!) I have been surprised at how those actions affected me. They hurt, even though I didn't know the people and even though I didn't have to face them again. I was reminded that even strangers deserve my kindness. Certainly they don't deserve impatience and mean words and actions.

I'm not trying to play the victim, but instead am reminding myself that even seemingly insignificant interactions plagued with mean-spiritedness can have an effect on someone. I know because of the effect these experience have had on me. I am resolving to be more kind, especially when my impulse may be to be selfish and snappy. I might just spare someone some pain that they didn't need added to their lives.

"Savior may I love my brother as I know thou lovest me."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I hate it when that happens....

Dontcha hate it when you are determined to get to bed earlier than usual and as you are heading to bed and running through your mental list one last time you realize that you forgot to do a life-sized tracing of your child on butcher paper for your child's first day of preschool (and cut it out) so Miss Teacher can decorate it with old clothes that you also forgot to find and cut just right so they can be stapled onto said life-sized tracing that you had to wake your precious child up to do?

I hate it when that happens. (Yawn.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Musings on Suffering and Submission (and Sacrifice)

With the chronic fatiguey stuff I deal with, I never know how I will feel from day to day. Yesterday was a rough day. By the end of the day I was so spent, so discouraged. I read this, and found myself on the verge of tears. (Sidenote -- that is a stunning article on sacrifice. I suggest you go read it now before even finishing here!) The irony of being a mother of young children with limited energy (and being willing but currently unable to subject my body to another being-pregnant-and-taking-care-of-an-infant experience) sometimes seems like more than I can bear. And there just seems to be no end in sight to this relentless, foggy fatigue and the pain and discomfort that often accompany it. It's. Not. Fair.

Weighed down by these thoughts, as I did dishes last night, I finally slumped over the sink and began to cry. The gift of that article, however, must have allowed an image to form in my heart and mind. In that instant, I pictured the Savior also slumped over, in Gethsemane, pressed by the "infinite and eternal" weight of the sins and afflictions heaped upon His soul.

That image enabled me to stand up a little straighter and dry my eyes. "I am trying to be like Jesus," right? Somehow, I must summon the strength to bear this trial gracefully. Even the Savior wanted His cup to pass, but, in the end, He submitted. "Thy will be done."

Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste.

Amid life’s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?...

Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count?...

In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.

For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father 'in all things from the beginning.' (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was 'no room … in the inn' (Luke 2:7) and 'no crib for his bed' (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)

At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him 'as they listed.' (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

(Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62

Though stretched by our challenges, by living righteously and enduring well we can eventually become sufficiently more like Jesus in our traits and attributes, that one day we can dwell in the Father’s presence forever and ever. By so living now, our confidence will 'wax strong in the presence of God' then (D&C 121:45). Confirmingly, the Prophet Joseph declared, 'If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 216).

Again, our experiences surely do not approach those of Jesus, yet the same principles and processes apply. His perfected attributes exemplify what can be much further developed by each of us. There is certainly no shortage of relevant clinical experiences, is there?

(Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Good news, anyone?

It's been quite a week. You know the "good news minute" in Relief Society that it seems is done quite regularly? Well, I missed it today. Literally and figuratively. I'm feeling weighed down, because:

- I found out a friend's missionary son came home six months early from his mission. Not for health reasons. (I was thrilled, however, to see the love and warmth that he found at church. We have an awesome ward.)
- We had two babies born, both who ended up in the ICU. (I think they will be fine.)
- I spent RS talking to a friend who is on the brink of leaving her husband. Hard situation on many fronts. They have two small children.
- I met yet another woman who was deserted by her husband (of 20 years) for another woman, whom he then deserted months later. I can't comprehend the pain they must have experienced.
- A friend has decided to be done with the Church. If you wonder why I worry about too much intellectualizing about stuff related to our religion in ways that calls into the question the foundations of our faith, this is one reason why. I have walked with her through part of this journey, desperately hoping that she could see the light instead of the darkness of doubt, but to no avail. Dancing with doubt is dangerous business. It's devastating to me to see someone I care about so deeply walk away from Living Water and the Bread of Life.
- Our Sunday School lesson was one of those last-days-gloom-and-doom lessons. Of course, I know all the righteous-need-not-fear answers, but still sometimes the realization of our perilous times gets to me, ya know?
- On a personal note, I had a hard time not breaking down at the hospital when we visited one of the new moms. I am feeling old and tired and still not sure if having another child will be something we get to experience. While it doesn't stop my life, the pain of that potential end is ever-present -- made more so when I see a new little life.

I'm really fine, but it has been quite a heavy day. Thank heaven for the gospel which is my anchor, reminding me that there is hope in these last days, that trials can be overcome, and that nothing can go permanently wrong if we trust in and follow the Savior.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A response about questioning leaders

In response to "Can leaders be wrong?"

Of course leaders can be wrong. They are human. But they are humans with authority. Their being wrong doesn't happen very often, and we still have a responsibility to sustain and support them, even if they goof once in a while. (Minus extreme abuse or other situations that should be reported, but that's a different issue.) I get uneasy with discussions that want to push the point of "can leaders be wrong?" What I have seen happen is that advocating "thinking" about what they say often means challenging what they say (or do) and/or morphs into criticizing them.

So, if you sense my hesitancy to focus on possibility of leaders being wrong, you are right -- in part because of the above. My own experience with the few times I have thought a leader was wrong and vocalize that sentiment is that criticism of leaders offends the Spirit. (A recent experience also revealed that I was the one wrong, not the leader. I think such is usually the case.) So, "can a leader be wrong?" Yes, but what are we to do about that when it happens? Is it our place to correct them or point out their error to them or others? IMO, no, it's not. If we ever feel we receive direction contrary to theirs, I think we should keep that to ourselves. It's our responsibility to show charity and support in spite of their weakness. My experience is that it helps me keep the Spirit. Supporting my leaders is what builds my testimony, not questioning them or what they say or do (not that I never have, but when I have and have judged my leaders in a negative way, it's basically not been something of benefit to me and my testimony, but rather a detriment. (Thinking for further understanding, however, is a different issue altogether.)

Incidentally, I have been on the receiving end of criticism (unfairly leveled, I might add) and it undermined my ability to serve in my calling, and caused other people to mistrust me until they figured out that lies were being told. It was one of the worst experiences I have ever had in the Church in part because it took so much away from what good could have been done.

I have found the following to be meaningful when I have considered the question you pose. (This is not the first time I have had this discussion. I realize others may have a different approach.)

I have given the following counsel to Church members—those who have committed themselves by upraised hands to sustain their church leaders:
"Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local.... Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As Elder George F. Richards, President of the Council of the Twelve, said in a conference address in April 1947,

“ ‘When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause.’ (In Conference Report, Apr. 1947, p. 24.)” ...

[For example, consider how it's nearly impossible to discuss Elder McConkie's point of view in the 'nacle because he has been criticized so much around here. I can't imagine the Lord is pleased about that, because Elder McConkie was His apostle, and did so much for the work.]

In our system of Church government, evil speaking and criticism of leaders by members is always negative. ...
(see D&C 121:16.)

The counsel against speaking evil of Church leaders is not so much for the benefit of the leaders as it is for the spiritual well-being of members who are prone to murmur and find fault. [Again, this has been consistent with my personal experience.]

[In addition] the Bible teaches that rejection of or murmuring against the counsel of the Lord’s servants amounts to actions against the Lord himself. How could it be otherwise? The Lord acts through his servants. That is the pattern he has established to safeguard our agency in mortality. His servants are not perfect, which is another consequence of mortality. But if we murmur against the Lord’s servants, we are working against the Lord and his cause and will soon find ourselves without the companionship of his Spirit.

(Dallin H. Oaks, “Criticism,” Ensign, Feb. 1987, 68, emphasis added)

As a side note, regarding BY's quote, I find it interesting, too, to note that BY lived in a day where he saw half the Quorum of the 12 apostatize. I wonder if that is part of the reason he said what he did. (We should also consider all the times he talked about following the prophet, too.) I don't hear any current leaders underscoring what he taught in that one quote, but rather putting much more emphasis on following our leaders in faith and trust. I tend to look for patterns in what is said, and the pattern I see is definitely on the side of following in trust.

But again, I realize other people may have a different approach. But now you can understand mine a little better. This is not just based on quotes in a vacuum. It's based on my own personal experience as well, and what I have seen in others. I don't see questioning leaders and their rightness as a prerequisite to testimony. For some, maybe that helps in the journey somehow, although I don't relate to that at all. That has simply not been the case for me.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Thoughts on Feminist Blogging from a "Non-Feminist"

Kiskilili said the following:
I would be interested, though, to hear from a non-feminist who nevertheless participates regularly on feminist blogs and feels its net effect has been damaging, in what ways, and what draws them to such discussions.

My response, too long to post at ZD, follows.

For what it is worth, I will share my point of view since I don't identify myself as a feminist (at least not in the way feminism is usually framed in the 'nacle). (I'm a little hesitant to do so...please treat my words with kindness, even if you don't agree.) This is an issue I have been thinking about for months, so forgive the length. (This is also quite stream-of-consciousness. I have a headache and just can't do much more than this it is, I have spent a lot of time trying to pull out some of what is swimming in my brain....)

During the last few months in the 'nacle, I have come to understand that for some women, finding out that they are not alone in their struggles is incredibly helpful. They are able to talk about things they don't talk about at church. I respect and appreciate that.

But I think that benefit may be limited, at least to a degree. Looking at it analytically at least, I think it doesn't take long to be able to say, "Oh, look, I'm not alone." But then what? Even getting other people's ideas seems to have a limited scope, because often the same issues are brought up over and over again.

Lynnette acknowledged that blogging can intensify feelings of anger, and I think it often does. What saddens me is that like-minded people group together, but often end up just re-hashing the same points, venting and expressing frustration about what they don't like about Church or the leaders or whatever, or how they wish the Church would be different. Often, it seems (my perception) that those expressions outweigh efforts to move forward with faith. Fixation on frustrations can often make the frustrations seem bigger and more in need of attention than perhaps they were before, which leads to more focus on frustration. It's a potentially vicious cycle. And I think it often creates a false sense of reality.

When I'm upset about something, and I give voice to frustrations for long and I feed them too much, they just gain a unrealistic life of their own. In the 'nacle, what often seems to ensue is not clear understanding but a false sense of reality based on (usually negative) perception and experience alone (a potentially dangerous sort of groupthink), especially when very few voices on "the other side" are heard or considered. Can focus on the frustrations really bring resolution and peace? I doubt it.

Following are other ways I see feminist blogging as potentially detrimental:

- There is often contempt toward mainstream Mormonism, leaders and people who even want to express their mainstreamish points of view. While criticism is directed at the Church for being closed-minded, it seems that there is little room for considering merits of the mainstream viewpoints, life, etc in discussions. If such things are not given voice, I see no chance for anything but frustration to breed frustration. Much of the "Mormon" is often stripped from these discussions, except to express anger toward what makes the Church what it is (priesthood, prophets, temple, etc.) It lacks in objectivity and seems very one-sided to me.

- I believe feminist Mormon blogging has the potential to damage those who are tender in the gospel, who might have more doubt heaped upon them before their foundation of faith can handle it. Those who blog often don't seem to think of the ramifications of feeding doubt when faith is needed, even crucial. I think we will be held accountable for the impact we have on others, even if those people are people we never meet. (See this brief article for reflections on that topic.)

- I feel that feminist blogging intensifies a rift that exists between women who struggle with the Church and women who don't. Mormon feminism seems to only care about women who share its views – not about women in the Church in a general way. Feminism is a rather exclusive club. (I know that doesn't necessarily translate to feminists only caring about feminists in "real life" but it's often the way it feels online.) On "both sides" we often become untrusting of each other and so we continue to congregate based on differences, instead of trying to find ways to come together and find similarities. Frankly, I don't want there to be an 'us' and a 'them.' Perhaps it's inevitable at this point. Yet, I still yearn for a Mormon sisterhood that we can ALL enjoy, not just if we are "feminist" or "not feminist." I personally don't believe the Savior wants us to compartmentalize ourselves into so many subgroups, and that is the kind of compartmentalizing that I think is potentially very damaging on the 'nacle. Unity is impossible in this kind of forum, for in the bloggernacle, familiarity breeds friendship, and differences often breed contempt. That doesn't do much for building bridges.

- On a personal note, there have been several occasions where, especially on feminist-themed threads, I have been personally attacked and treated unkindly. I am accused of being insensitive yet treated insensitively. I am accused of not considering other points of view when mine is treated with contempt. So, frankly, for personal reasons, I'm having a hard time feeling positive about feminist blogging. The tone and tenor of discussions often lends itself to such unkindness, particularly to those who may not share feminist concerns. (I do need to say that there are those who, even though they disagree with me, have showed patience and kindness – that in spite of my sometimes-overzealous thought-sharing, and to you, I say thank you.)

- As much as blogging feeds the fire of revolution-minded, radical feminism in the Church, then feminist blogging is not a good thing. Frankly, I don't see feminist blogging as being a vehicle for change in the Church. I am confident the Brethren are aware of the issues discussed in the 'nacle long before any critical mass on any issue can congregate toward a goal of change. If feminist blogging causes more people to want to rise up against our leaders, then it's a bad thing. Not that the Church or leaders can't handle it, but because I believe it is bad for the individuals themselves who engage in such efforts. In general, anger and criticism shut out the Spirit, and I think there is particular risk of spiritual harm when criticizing our leaders. (Elder Oaks has said as much.) (Perhaps I'm reacting more to things I have read on my own and less here online, so this may or may not be relevant to blogging in particular.)

- I feel that sometimes the feminacle becomes a place to pretend that mainstream Mormonism doesn't exist, or to mock it, or even to escape --or replace -- it -- rather than help people figure out how to really embrace it in spite of the concerns and frustrations. Again, as much as the 'nacle helps someone not feel alone so she can go back and tackle her concerns in "the real world" with faith, it can be good. I'm glad to hear women have decided to stay in the Church because they don't feel so alone, thanks to sites like FMH. But too often I feel people stop there – relishing in a community built on the foundation of frustration that leads some to compartmentalize their lives. ("My real sisters are online; I simply endure my RS sisters and others at church, or endure the church altogether."). This kind of double-life doesn't seem like a good thing. (This can also underscore that sometimes RS sisters need to do more to reach out – I realize this can cut both ways. But that really isn't possible if women turn exclusively to the bloggernacle for their community fix.)

Now, I fear I may be misread here. I don't say any of this to imply that those with concerns don't have a place in the Church. I hurt when I hear women thinking they may not belong. Don't lose hope! The Savior is there with open arms. But we have to come to Him. The 'nacle is not the way to ultimately do that. We can't fully come to Him with one foot (or more) in a pool of frustration and doubt. We have to be willing to give HIM the doubt and look for ways to build faith. Inasmuch as feminist blogging lingers on sources of doubt and frustration, I think it can easily hinder someone from completely coming to Christ and laying burdens at HIS feet (rather than at the bloggernacle's!) Come to the 'nacle to find you are not alone if need be, then go back to church and to God to find out how to overcome the frustration. Don't give the frustration primary focus. His yoke is easy; His burden is light. His gospel is one of love, acceptance, peace and joy. He doesn't want you to feel frustrated, so find ways to move past the frustration, not feed it!

This is another downside I see of Mormon feminist blogging. It seems to be designed primarily as a vehicle for venting and discussing the frustation. Where, then, do such women go to plant and feed the seed of faith? (Think Al. 32 - give place for the seed, have a desire/hope that it's good and take great care to feed that seed - not seeds of doubt ("do not cast it out by your unbelief").) I don't see a lot of that feeding the seed of faith in places where women with concerns congregate. (I realize I haven't much of a clue what goes on at the personal level - can only share perceptions of the 'nacle itself.) Controversy is what breeds conversation in the bloggernacle. And I think that is one of its most unfortunate characteristics.

I guess I've seen too many people put their frustrations at the forefront and never seem to be able to move past them - to move toward reconciliation in their hearts – a reconciliation that is not contingent on change or revolution, but sought with the help of God who is the author of peace. Feminist blogging is at best a temporary solution to a problem that demands something more. I'm NOT saying that women with serious, heartfelt doubts don't turn to God for help already. I know that many do, and exert a lot of spiritual energy in doing so. Perhaps this struggle is their cross. To them, I would say, don't give up. Keep pressing forward. Keep feeding the seed of faith. Make place in your heart for that seed. But realize that the answer will not lie in re-hashing the same ol' frustrations over and over again – not without an eye toward faith and reconciliation.

I think an example might be useful here. Consider the recent post at BCC – "Why I Stay." Such a post acknowledges that there are issues and concerns ("I'm struggling, but I'm staying. Here's why."), but instead of feeding those concerns, the post focused on and fed faith. Everyone's foundation was a little different, but it was uplifting to read what everyone wrote. It was constructive. I felt it was forward-moving, not jumping on that cyclical, cynical bandwagon of complaint. Contrast that with posts that examine and rehash points of frustration over and over again, feeding that frustration and not leaving much of a place for faith. Frankly, I think we need many more posts like "Why I Stay." (Note how that was also a safe forum for both those who doubt and those who don't. It was a bridge-building post.)

I don't see faith having a significant and consistent voice in feminist blogging. Doubt has more of the stage. I think that easily can do disservice to its participants, especially those already struggling. I worry about people on the fence finding feminist blogs and being blown to the side of doubt, where, had there been a focus on faith, there could be a different outcome. In fact, sometimes, feminist blogs just create more questions -- questions that can crowd out faith – or gives unhealthy reinforcement to frustrations that might be best left to cool for a while.

And so, I would say, give faith a voice! Again, find ways to build and express faith, even in the things that feel frustrating. If the temple causes angst because of some of its elements, find what about the temple brings peace and perspective instead! If there are prophetic teachings that tear at your heartstrings, find those that resonate with your soul and build from there! And so it can go.... I would love to see more posts like "Why I Stay" from our feminist sisters. ("Why I love the temple." "How the priesthood has blessed my life." "What I [do] love about being a woman in the Church." "What I [do] love about the Church." "Anchor moments in my life that ground me at tough times." You get the idea.)

My one experience with feeling "oppressed" by a church leader led me to his office, where, when I expressed my frustration, he kindly explained his side of things, and I realized that my frustrations were basically based on faulty assumptions and perceptions. Isn't it possible that some of the frustrations expressed in the feminacle are based on faulty assumptions as well? How often are these assumptions honestly challenged? How often is the mainstream approach given honest, open-minded consideration discussions? Again, how often is faith given a voice?

OK, one last thing. I realize not all feminist blogging is comprised of feminist Church-related discussions. Some discussions are just about interesting issues – some not even directly related to women. This is something that can be very enjoyable for a broader audience. There are many of us out here who love the connection and intellectual stimulation that the bloggernacle can offer. That is its strength, and perhaps those are the kinds of things that should be given more attention, rather than rehashing the same old things over and over again. (There are many who have spoken about this bloggernacle burnout, so I'm not the only one who feels this way.)

In answer to Kiskilili's last question, I read and participate (although lately, less frequently) in feminist blogs for a variety of reasons:
– To understand others' points of view, struggles, etc. Believe it or not, I do care about that.
– To understand what issues are tender points. I have learned about some of our history that I was not aware of before. I don't believe we need to know all of the history to have a testimony, and sometimes I think it's actually rather pointless, but nevertheless, I know some things that have helped me in conversations with friends who have come across stuff and wondered.
– To share a differing point of view (although too often I feel such a point of view is not wanted).
– To sort through my own feelings, to ponder and study, and then to articulate how the "party line" answers bring me peace. This has strengthened my testimony of the gospel, the Church, of prophetic leadership, of the Proclamation, and other elements of "Mormon" life in various ways.

I know that was long and I said, this is about as well as I can do today. Sorry it wasn't more succinct. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Islandic Introspection

It's one of those days.

I feel like a lonely little island in a big sea. I know I'm not really alone, but I'm feeling that way today. The bloggernacle can be a frustrating place.

I participate in discussions about issues (like feminism, for example) not because I struggle with them myself, but because I like to understand those who do struggle, and I like to share what it is that grounds me and brings me peace. I also like to think through and articulate my thoughts because they become more clear within my own mind and heart. I've had some wonderful 'a-ha's while pondering a post or writing a response. I treasure those moments.

I yearn for my brothers and sisters to find peace with these issues -- not only for themselves, but for all of us. Focusing on and fuming over controversial issues divides us. Zion cannot be built when we are more concerned about the issues that define Babylon. We should not be divided along lines of political leanings, or philosophical concerns, or ideologies. We should be focused on the doctrine of Christ. Of one heart. Of one mind. Of one doctrine. With no "-ites."

But controversy breeds conversation in the 'nacle. And when "orthodoxy" (yet another label I don't like to use, but will to make my point) meets controversy, it's often not a pretty sight. My personal experience (as I share my "mainstream" feelings) has been to be misunderstood, misjudged, misrepresented--and even mistreated. I'm close to giving up commenting on others' blogs altogether. Just when I think I am part of a community, the reality hits that I'm often (usually) speaking to myself. If I were to run statistics on my comments, I am confident I would find that the majority are ignored. Many of the rest are attacked. (There are those who really do open their hearts to me, and for that I am grateful.) But, most of the time, there is a feeling of "me" and "them." Lonely indeed.

What would be the difference if I stopped vacationing on those islands, anyway? If my gut is right and most of the time my thoughts and feelings are ignored or dismissed or criticized, what's the point of staying? I realize that some of the problem is that I still have to learn how best to share my thoughts without coming across too strong. I need to "seek to understand" more before jumping straight to "being understood." But do I not deserve respect and patience as well? I am still relatively new to this blogging world and all the rules of engagement.

Then again, it seems the rules of engagement are usually for one purpose: to create a "safe place" for controversy. The thing is, the unwritten way to enforce those rules is to make sure that much of the 'nacle is not a safe place for people like me. (Sadly, however, this feeling is usually perpetrated by an intolerant few; I am grateful to those who would disagree agreeably. However, it only takes a few big waves to make the island feel unsafe.)

So, perhaps it's time to retreat and regroup and refocus my energies on those few little islands where I, myself, can feel safe.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Just to report....

It is tomorrow (well, actually it's a little into the tomorrow after tomorrow, but I'm still awake so it's not tomorrow yet). AND I EXERCISED TODAY! Yeah for me! (I also had a bite of ice cream that I bought at the end of our date. Yes, we actually had a date tonight. Saw "My Fair Lady" on an outdoor stage. It was delightful.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ice cream is good for you, too, right?

Well, it's wind-down-at-night time for me yet again. The days whir's another weekend. I swear the older I get the faster time goes.

I was really going to exercise tonight, but now I'm afraid if I do I will have an even harder time than usual falling asleep. So I'm eating ice cream instead. :) (Sad to think I used to jog 4-6 miles a day, 6 days a week. And then I had children. Ah, well, they are worth it. I am determined to get back into some sort of exercise regimen however. There's always tomorrow....)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I Forgot to Remember

So, I just barely started this blog, and, all in all, I think so far it has been pretty depressing. Sorry for that. I guess that is because the last month has been a tough one in many ways. I've had some super-fun things to do, but I haven't felt good and that sometimes takes its toll on my emotional state. But today, I'm doing better. It helped to wake up on my own (yesterday, I was awakened out of a deep sleep and never recovered from that hit-by-a-truck feeling). And I had a little jolt of the Spirit last night while I was reading my scriptures (while walking on the treadmill -- are you impressed?) :)

I read through 2 Nephi 4, which has always been a favorite of mine (especially when I'm feeling down on myself and frustrated about my weaknesses, as I was yesterday). And then, "somehow," I ended up in Helaman 5. Verse 12 has been a constant favorite since I discovered that scripture in Seminary. (I even chose it as our class theme when I was Laurel president way back when, if that tells you anything.)

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

First of all, I have always been intrigued by this word "remember" -- and by how many ways the Lord tries to help us remember. Repetition is a key part of the gospel. We go to Church every week to partake of the sacrament. We discuss each of the standard works every four years in Sunday School. The temple ordinances are the same each time, and are repetitious by design. And so it goes.

But, ya know what? I've forgotten. Somehow, in the flurry of activities the past while, and in the daily slogging I've done in the face of feeling yucky, I've forgotten. I'm ashamed to say it, but I've not had myself founded on Christ. It's not that I haven't thought good gospel thoughts and done good things and tried to be good. I have. But I haven't really remembered Christ specifically, especially these past couple of weeks. I've been worried about my parenting. I've been consumed with the projects and activities I've had pressing on me. I've been doing the stuff of life. But the Savior hasn't really been on the radar screen as He needs to be.

Now, I fully admit that I'm not exactly sure what it means to build my foundation on the rock of Christ. But in the instant that I read (and then re-read) this verse, I realized that something needs to change. And I think that when it does, I will feel better. Actually, just realizing -- just remembering -- that I need to remember the Savior more brought a little light to my soul. And a surge of hope -- especially when considering the promises contained in that scripture that "when [notice he says "when" and not "if"] the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo." NO POWER. Wow. What a promise! But that's not all. We are promised that we "cannot fall" if we are built on the rock of our Savior.

How are you feeling in your life? Have there been storms and winds and lightning and despair? If so, go read Helaman 5:12. And remember.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Pain of Imperfection

One of the most difficult things for me is to be faced with a responsibility so important that someone else's life and soul are on the line, and to realize that I can't possibly fulfill my role without imperfection. I felt it as a missionary; the work was far too important for someone as flawed as I to do. And yet, there I was. Called of God, even. But nearly paralyzed by my imperfections.

Now, more than a decade later, the pain of my imperfection is sometimes nearly unbearable as I am now a parent. A parent of three of the most amazing, life- and light-filled souls you will ever meet. Why on earth would God send them to me? My heart weeps. (My eyes, too.) My soul, today, lingers in the "valley of sorrow" and my strength slackens. I have felt this before. Yes, Nephi described it well. Sometimes the pain causes my flesh to feel that it may somehow "waste away." Have I committed some terrible sin against them? No, but the sin of imperfection is enough to sometimes grind me nearly to a halt. I'm still not used to failing every day like I do as a parent.

I've never dealt well with my weaknesses. I've always been a perfectionist, and I know that's not a good thing. But oh, how I long to be perfect for the sake of my children. But it is not to be. My imperfections are part of His plan. Part of my plan. Part of their plan. In their innocence, they forgive, because they are children. Someday, as all children do, they will grow enough to know of my weaknesses. And that will be woven into the tapestry of their lives and become part of their trials. What then? I must learn to turn the pain to Christ somehow, just as they will. Only He can heal the pain that is inevitable in our families, in even the best of families. I need to trust that the Atonement can even save them from me. Save me from myself.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Running on ???

Things have been so crazy the past few weeks. And I have felt so LOUSY. I had a headache so deep and penetrating tonight that I was afraid I might pass out or have a stroke or something. But I couldn't because I had something pretty important to do -- something for which I had to be "on point." But, I can't get myself revved up for my day-to-day stuff. Adrenaline does wonders for the way I feel (as long as I can keep headaches in check). But it's hard to feel adrenaline in the day-to-day. It's hard to be mom and all of that when I feel so sloggy. And that doesn't do much for the emotional side of me, either. I think maybe I need to find some fun things to do to inject some life into my life. My poor little friends. At least they are enjoying time together, time reading, and time playing with friends. Someday I hope to pull it together enough so that we can have more regular, deliberate "time with Mom" kinds of things. They are growing up waaaaay too fast for me to go on slogging through each day. Sigh.

Something interesting, however....I realized tonight that although I am leaping from one fire to the next, I don't feel wound up. I don't feel stressed. I am exhausted (and did I mention that I feel lousy?) but I feel numbly peaceful. Not happy-peaceful. But not stressed out of my skull, which, given what has been on and is on my plate, I really should be.

I can be grateful for small things.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Finding Spiritual Rest and Healing

This is a talk I gave in my ward a few months ago. Since this talk was a gift to me, I have wanted to share it, so I thought I would put it up here, in case anyone else might benefit from what the Lord has been trying to teach me.

I truly am grateful for this opportunity....tender mercy. [Just as a post-talk commentary...I really had a hard time starting the talk, because a young woman sang a beautiful arrangement of "I Am a Child of God" which really touched me...I realized and commented on how much that song really summed up what I wanted to say. Also, it was difficult to follow a young man who plainly talked about his experiences with healing and help during and after leukemia, and a newly married man who gave a tender talk about how faith, prayer, priesthood blessings, and the love and faith of parents brought him back to the AND to top it off, after a very hard night (only three hours of sleep), my entire family was on my bed giving me encouragement and sympathy...and my son said, "Mom, I want to sing you a cheer-up song." And he sang, "I Am a Child of God" to you can imagine what that song did to me!]

I was pretty amazed when I was given my topic. The scripture assigned to me was Matt. 11:28-30:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye
shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I was also asked to look at Elder Nelson's talk on Jesus Christ as the Master Healer. Interesting... as there's nothing more that a mother of young children with insomnia and chronic health problems wants more than rest and healing!

After laboring much and struggling to feel settled with a direction for this talk, I have felt to share some personal lessons I have learned about finding rest and healing even when physical rest and healing are elusive. I hesitate to talk about my trials because I know they pale in comparison to many. Nevertheless, I know our trials are tailored to our growth, and I am learning and growing a lot from mine. I know the principles I will share are true. I hope, too, that I can more consistently apply these principles because I know my burdens are lighter when I do.

Elder Nelson says that "afflictions can come from spiritual as well as physical causes." Chronic health problems are physically taxing, to be sure, but I have also suffered from fear, frustration, and feeling spiritually alone. This trial is giving me opportunities to deepen my faith, develop my patience, turn to the Lord more in thought and in action — in short, to become more converted. Elder Nelson said, "Faith, repentance, a testimony and enduring conversion lead to the healing power of the Lord" (Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ — the Master Healer,” Ensign, Nov. 2005, 85).

This heavenly healing has begun to take place in my life. I would like to share some of the things that have opened up that healing – that divine rest.

I find rest and healing when:

I Understand and trust COMPLETELY in God's love for me.

Last summer was a dark time for me. At that time, I had the blessing of singing in a choir. I especially loved a couple of songs that we sang. Here are some of the words:

"What though my joys and comforts die, the Lord my Savior liveth. What though the darkness gather round, songs in the night He giveth. No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the Rock I'm clinging. While Christ is mine, and I am His, how can I keep from singing?" (Robert Lowry (arr. John Leavitt). "How Can I Keep From Singing?")

And, "The God of love my Shepherd is, and He that doth me feed. While He is mine and I am His, what can I want or need?" (George Herbert (arr. Roy Hopp). "The God of Love My Shepherd Is," Kingston, NY: Selah Publishing Co. (1993).

At the beginning of the summer, I sang these songs with a desire to feel the truth of the words. By the end of the summer, I was able to sing with more conviction and testimony. I wish I could explain all the things that helped me gain a testimony of God’s love; it was an amazing string of tender mercies. The Spirit helped me understand this doctrine in a significant and meaningful way. He has also helped me know of His love through many of you. (President Kimball says that the Lord does notice us, but it is usually through other people that He meets our needs.)

Trials are not evidence of God’s LACK of love. We need to trust that. He loves us perfectly, and knows what we really need, which is why sometimes we don’t get what we think we need. As President Faust said in Conference a while back, "God loves us more than He loves our happiness." When I really trust in that, my burdens are lighter, and I feel closer to Him.

The concept that God loves us more than He loves our happiness ties into my next point.

I find rest as I seek to have an eternal perspective.

My dad has often said that "to struggle is the program." Lehi taught there must be opposition in all things. Eve understood that the Fall and all its resulting pain and struggle were absolutely essential to gaining eternal joy. Our Father declared that the purpose of creating an earth was to prove us to see if we would do all He commands and expects.

Elder Scott sums it up well: ”A pebble held close to the eye appears to be a gigantic obstacle. (Like a boulder!) Cast on the ground, it is seen in perspective. Likewise, problems or trials in our lives need to be viewed in the perspective of scriptural doctrine. Otherwise they can easily overtake our vision, absorb our energy, and deprive us of the joy and beauty the Lord intends us to receive here on earth. Some people are like rocks thrown into a sea of problems. They are drowned by them. Be a cork. When submerged in a problem, fight to be free to bob up to serve again with happiness.

“You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. The tempering effect of patience is required. Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you” (Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," Ensign, May 1996, 24).

Elder Scott reminds us of the need for patience, and that some blessings we seek come beyond the veil (like a perfect body — I look forward to the resurrection!!). He then talks about our divine purpose to be tried and tested and proven, and of how much the Lord wants us to grow.

We will grow more when we willingly allow His tutoring in our lives — when we seek to understand and follow His will. Questioning His will or digging in our heels at every unpleasant challenge will make it harder for God to bless us.

I sometimes joke that I easily get my nose stuck in a tree and thus can't see the proverbial forest God wants me to see. A myopic focus on my trials instead of my eternal existence and purpose inevitably makes my burdens heavier. The Savior, whose role in the plan gives us the promise that all things will work together for our good if we are faithful, stands with open arms and yoked shoulders waiting to help me see the forest. But I have to choose to step back from the tree!

So, does the fact that I haven't been healed yet mean that priesthood blessings don't work or prayers aren't answered or that heaven doesn't care? Does it mean the Lord doesn't care about my children or my husband and how difficult this has at times been for them? NO. It just means that perhaps we have things still to learn. I testify to you that I am learning things that I don't think I would have learned had I had perfect health.

Elder Nelson said: "I recognize that, on occasion, some of our most fervent prayers [for healing] may seem to go unanswered. We wonder, 'Why?' I know that feeling! I know the fears and tears of such moments. But I also know that our prayers are never ignored. Our faith is never unappreciated. I know that an all-wise Heavenly Father’s perspective is much broader than is ours. While we know of our mortal problems and pain, He knows of our immortal progress and potential. If we pray to know His will and submit ourselves to it with patience and courage, heavenly healing can take place in His own way and time."

At some point, we are, as President Benson said, all backed against the wall of faith (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 206.)— faith in God's love; faith in God's plan, both on a grand scale and on a personal level (think of the Primary song, "I will follow God's plan for ME"); faith in His timing and His will; and faith that the Atonement of Christ truly will make all things better — either in this life or the next.

The fear and worry with which I often struggle is dissipated if not eliminated with an eternal perspective and true trust in God. I am also able to be more patient in my trials knowing that "all things work together for good to those who love God" and "all these things shall give [me] experience and shall be for [my] good." (See Doctrine and Covenants 122:4, 7 and Romans 8:28).

I hope for healing in this life. I really do. But, as Elder Wickman talked about..."But if not"...I am seeking to trust in God and keep an eternal perspective, believing there really is purpose in these difficult experiences. (Lance B. Wickman, "But If Not," Ensign,Nov. 2002, 30.)

I find rest when I feast on the words of Christ (prophets, scriptures, temple)

One of the things I've noticed the past few years is that the prophets are completely unapologetic about how hard life is, and about how trials are just simply part of the program. It's not that they are cold and uncaring about it, but they are just matter-of-fact and clear about the doctrine of our responsibilities and even opportunities in our trials.

I suppose that message has always been there, but I never really heard those messages like I have during these years of trial for me. Their words are a lifeline, helping me remember God's love and helping me keep an eternal perspective.

The scriptures and temple have also always been a source of strength for me, for they bring the Spirit — the Comforter — into my life in a powerful way, which brings me rest. And, of course, the Spirit can teach me things that help me in my difficult times.

I find rest when I have a spirit of gratitude.

This is something I am realizing I need to do more. Many of you are teaching me about this, perhaps without knowing it. For example, it has been stunning to me to listen to and associate with women in the ward who are struggling with similar health challenges. These women have extremely tender hearts and focus deliberately and humbly on being grateful A spirit of gratitude can help ease my burdens and make them lighter.

Another line from the song I sang this summer about God's love: "Surely, this sweet and wondrous love shall measure all my days. And, as it never shall remove, neither shall my praise!"

Why is it that Nephi was able to praise God, even after being bound on the ship (and nearly killed at other times) by his own flesh and blood (1 Ne. 18:15-16)? Because, unlike Laman and Lemuel, who always found reasons to murmur, he "knew... the dealings of that God who created [him]" (1 Ne. 1:12) and humbly acknowledged God's goodness, even in His trials! (Think of his psalm; his gratitude helped him refocus and refuel.)

How often I have been like Laman and Lemuel, not remembering that even the fact that the air I breathe from day to day is a gift from God, let alone the many, many rich blessings I have in my life — including the gospel, a righteous and loving husband, amazing children, a dear ward family. The list goes on and on.

With a spirit of gratitude, I am also more likely to notice the tender mercies that do come (probably more often than I realize), which reinforces my conviction that God does love me.

I find rest when I cling to my covenants — when I stay yoked with Christ.

I think sometimes people think of this yoke of Christ as being restrictive or burdensome, but the Savior tells us otherwise: "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

If we bind ourselves and stay bound to Him through commitment to our covenants, His promise is to help us. He is bound when we do what He says (Doctrine and Covenants 82:10)!

George Q. Cannon said, "When we went forth into the waters of baptism and covenanted with our Father in heaven to serve Him and keep His commandments, He bound Himself also by covenant to us that He would never desert us, never leave us to ourselves, never forget us, that in the midst of trials and hardships, when everything was arrayed against us, He would be near unto us and would sustain us. That was His covenant." (Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.170)

I have always loved Mosiah 23 and 24, talking about Alma and his people and their deliverance from bondage. I love reading in chapter 24 about how the Lord heard their prayers, even when all they could do is pray in their hearts. I am also fascinated by the Lord's response in Mosiah 24:13-14:
And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. (emphasis added)

It was the people's covenant that caused the Lord to make a covenant to help Alma and his people bear their burdens — and eventually to deliver them from bondage.

What I am realizing more and more, however, is that staying with Christ in the yoke requires serious commitment — "serious discipleship," as Elder Maxwell has said (Neal A. Maxwell, “Becoming a Disciple,” Ensign, June 1996, 12). This is not about flaky, fair-weather following. It's not about casual commitment, nor about whining all along the way that "my will be done." This is about being stalwart and true to the faith that our forebears have cherished...and is about enduring – and enduring well! (I’m still working on that one! I like what is said by Joseph Smith in the new church movie when asked what it means to "endure well." He says, "We do our best and then we go on.")

Staying in the yoke is also about being LIKE Christ — being, as he said, meek and lowly in heart, being humble, submissive, obedient, patient and trusting. I find it interesting that the two characteristics the Savior uses to describe Himself in the scripture in Matthew are "meek and lowly in heart." I think those characteristics were shown most in the times of His trials and suffering. We have the same opportunity.

Sometimes being in the yoke is about coming to understand some of what the Savior suffered. President Hunter said:

By taking the yoke of Jesus upon us and feeling what he felt ... we learn most deeply of him, and we especially learn how to be like him" (Howard W. Hunter, "Come unto Me," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 17).

It's about staying on the good ship Zion, as Elder Holland says:

When we join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we board the Good Ship Zion and sail with her wherever she goes until she comes into that millennial port. We stay in the boat, through squalls and stills, through storms and sunburn, because that is the only way to the promised land.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, "Abide in Me," Ensign, May 2004, 30, emphasis in original.)

Elder Holland also reminds us,

Christ said, 'I am the true vine, and … ye are the branches… Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me' (John 15: 1-3). "Abide in me" is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but "abide" is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish that familiar phrase is rendered "permaneced en mi." Like the English verb "abide," permanecer means "to remain, to stay," but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of "permanence." The sense of this then is "stay — but stay forever." That is the call of the gospel message... Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the generations who must follow you, and we will help each other be strong to the very end. (Ibid)

But what do we get for staying in that yoke, [for coming to remain]? We get the blessings

President Cannon talked about. We have Someone to help carry our burdens. President Hunter said:

Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter? To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing side by side with a God that will provide the support, balance, and the strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality (Howard W. Hunter, "Come unto Me," Ensign, Nov. 1990, 17).

What is most stunning about this metaphor is that the Savior is right by my side, if I will stay by Him through my faith and obedience and endurance. He is close. I picture Him ready and willing to give me helpful hints and encouragement along the way — indeed, He does do that through His Spirit (the Comforter!!) Through the Spirit and His prophets, He can help me see things more as He does. If I am yoked with Him, my movements can be more in step with His. He may help me lengthen my stride when I'm struggling. He knows that the shortest distance between two points (where I am and where I want to be) is a straight line, even the strait and narrow path. Staying yoked with Him keeps me on that path and can help me avoid needless wandering.
I picture that He's not behind me, cracking a whip, nor ahead of me, waiting for me to figure things out on my own and to catch up so I can then receive His help and love. He is by my side, helping me carry my burden. All I need to do is trust in His love and His Atonement — the reason I can have faith in Heavenly Father’s plan – and cling to truth and gratitude and covenants, and He will always be by my side!

I testify that these things are true. As I trust in God’s love, try to have an eternal perspective, feast on the words of Christ, have a spirit of gratitude, and try to be more like the Savior by clinging to my covenants, the Spirit fills my soul with peace, rest and healing.
Elder Nelson says: "When sore trials come upon us, it’s time to deepen our faith in God, to work hard, and to serve others. Then He will heal our broken hearts. He will bestow upon us personal peace and comfort. Those great gifts will not be destroyed, even by death."

Although I am still a long way from consistently implementing these truths, I am feeling the blessings in my life when I do. I know that the Savior is anxious to help us, but waits with open arms and yoked shoulders for us to come to Him, to stay next to Him — and to thus be more "at-one" with God — which at-one-ment IS the source of peace and rest.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I'm here!

I decided to go ahead and make a blog of my own, since I seem to have so much swimming in my head and need a place to dump it. :) (If you found my other one, it's because I sorta accidentally have two. But this is my real one.)

Oh, and Happy Flag Day.