Friday, June 27, 2008

Thank You, Joseph Smith

Today is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. I wanted to write a post to pay tribute to him.

It wasn't until my mission that I had a specific testimony of the prophet's divine call. That testimony was something I had desired for years. I knew he was a prophet because I knew the Book of Mormon was true. But as I taught people about the First Vision and saw the change in their countenances, and felt the Spirit as I taught, I gained my own testimony that he saw what he said he saw, and that he did indeed restore the true church of Jesus Christ to the earth.

I have since had other experiences that have strengthened that testimony. I visited the Sacred Grove where he was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. I was deeply moved when I visited Liberty Jail while living for a summer in the midwest. Later, I walked the streets of Nauvoo, reflecting on all that transpired in that great city of Joseph, the city beautiful. I saw his gravesite, his home. I attended church in the city. My spirit was sobered as I stood in the room at Carthage where the prophet and his brother were martyred. I stood in the place where the Church was organized in this dispensation.

I have also been moved by artistic expressions of faith. Music of the restoration such as Joseph Smith's First Prayer, An Angel from on High, The Morning Breaks, The Spirit of God, High on the Mountain Top, We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, and many, many others, have brought the Spirit in a powerful witness that the restoration is real! The movie that the Church has made about Joseph Smith filled me with the Spirit, and with gratitude for his devotion and sacrifice. I also came to see him more as a person as well as a prophet by watching that film. Other church films, particularly those on the Church History collection, have become favorites as I watch them over and over again with my children, and we feel together the power of the Spirit bearing witness that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet, and that this Church is true!

Recently, I attended a performance at the Salt Lake Tabernacle. called Joseph Smith, the Prophet. (If you go to and download the Move Media player, you can watch a rebroadcast of the program that I just found out was shown today at 4 p.m. MDT.) What an amazing tribute! Music has a way of stirring my soul perhaps unlike almost anything else, and this was a presentation that reinforced my conviction that Joseph was called of God.

Even my current reading of an historical novel series from the time of Church history is strengthening my testimony of the prophet.

There are frequent quiet moments of personal study when the Spirit bears witness to my soul that what Joseph restored is real. I thrive on the feelings of light and truth that come when I feast on the words of God as they come through the scriptures and through living prophets and other inspired leaders of God in general conference messages. I repeatedly marvel at the simplicity of the gospel and its ability to change lives as I read the testimonies and experiences of people in our Church magazines. (My kids know that I can't read to them from The Friend without tearing up.) This is especially refreshing in contrast to the often unnecessarily complicated conversations that occur online, or are spurred on by enemies of the Church. Reading our Church materials helps me remember how simple it all really is. The Lord has said we should have faith like a child. Even a child can feel the truthfulness of the gospel, perhaps sometimes more than adults. (We sometimes want to make things harder than they are!)

Speaking of children, mine are like spiritual sponges. I love teaching moments in Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and just in those fleeting times during the day when the Spirit nudges me to take advantage of a chance to teach and testify. Even in a brief interaction, the Spirit can confirm to me that what I believe really is true. I see the light in my children's eyes and lives, too, as they are learning -- and coming to love and recognize the light and truth in this work. It's not that they don't have questions -- they do! But they are learning that we can find answers to many questions by trusting God and His prophets -- and that when we can't, we can trust that someday we'll understand. The key right now is to be faithful to what we do know, so we can learn and receive more -- and someday be received by the Lord.

I'll never forget my son's first experience with his testimony of Joseph Smith. It was Joseph Smith's birthday, and I think we watched a church video to celebrate it. He described the way he felt as something over 6,000 blankets (I can't remember the exact number) surrounding his heart. He's now nine, but he still clearly remembers that moment two and a half years ago.

There are few things that I love to do more than study and talk about the gospel. The gospel is the most important thing in my life. It brings light, joy, peace, and understanding to my life. It brings strength and perspective to me in my roles as wife and mother. It helps me in times of trial and fear. It helps me understand who I am, why I am here on earth, and a little of what awaits in the life to come.

When I set out to write this post, I wasn't sure what I would say, but now I realize that all that I love about the gospel reinforces my testimony of Joseph Smith. I am so grateful for what he did and for who he was.

The angel Moroni [who gave Joseph the plates that would be translated to be the Book of Mormon] once said to Joseph that his "name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." I find that happens even within the Church, and surely without.

No matter. While some voices will always seek to defame him, I testify that he was and is a prophet of God. He stands at the head of this dispensation, a stewardship given him by the Lord Himself. I know that through him, the true Church of the Lord Jesus Christ was restored, with all its necessary authority, ordinances, and doctrines -- all that is necessary to bind us to Christ and make possible the eternal blessings of salvation and exaltation.

"Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3)

Dear Brother Joseph, someday I hope to be able to thank you face to face for all you did to bring forth the marvelous work and a wonder that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will be eternally grateful for your life, your faith, your courage, your integrity, and your willingness to do all that you were asked to do, even in the face of opposition and even death. I love and honor you as a blessed servant of God.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Helping Our Children Stay Pure

This article is very sobering. I believe we as parents have a huge responsibility to try to control the content that comes into our homes, and try to keep a close finger on the pulse of their activities and friends outside the home.

But in the end, as a former bishop of ours said, "We can't just put them in an armored car. We have to help them put on the armor of God."

The only way I can really think to do this, to help my children know how to protect themselves, is to teach them doctrine, clearly and constantly and consistently and completely. One of my favorite quotes is from Pres. Packer:

True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.

The doctrines surrounding chastity are essential: Our bodies are sacred. The power of procreation is sacred and wonderful, but has strict commandments surrounding its use. Sex plays a central role in the plan of God. We are being tested and bombarded on all sides with the adversary's attempts to corrupt and undermine the plan by corrupting and twisting truths about chastity and all that law is meant to protect.

Also from Pres. Packer:
The plan of happiness requires the righteous union of male and female, man and woman, husband and wife. Doctrines teach us how to respond to the compelling natural impulses which too often dominate how we behave....

The single purpose of Lucifer is to oppose the great plan of happiness, to corrupt the purest, most beautiful and appealing experiences of life: romance, love, marriage, and parenthood.

When we read this Daily Herald article, we decided to have a clear discussion with our children about these things. While they still don't fully understand the "mechanics" of sexual intimacy, (and they didn't want a discussion that was too long :) ) they are coming to understand the doctrine. They know that keeping themselves pure is about keeping the Spirit with them. We hope as we continue to teach the doctrine, and keep an open dialogue about these sensitive topics, that they will be able to put on the armor of God and have the power within to resist the temptations that will inevitably come.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Shingles! (of the non-roof type) and Thoughts on Enduring Well

Yup. That may explain why I have been feeling so yucky as of late. The rash appeared after a couple of weeks of the yuck (more than my usual yuck). This will come out sounding almost unkind, but I'm grateful that my sister-in-law had shingles a month or so ago, because I then knew that you have to get diagnosed early in order to take the antiviral drugs. (Tender mercies coming via other people's trials? Yeah, I think sometimes it works that way!) I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the residual effects will be minimal.

Thanks to all who have expressed concern and support the past while. I find that chronic illness brings with it layers of opposition; it can affect one spiritually, emotionally, mentally, socially, and, of course, physically. Adding this acute illness has on one level been a blessing (at least I could point to some reason why I was feeling worse!) but also a sort of added level of trial. It's been hard not to want to just say, "Can't I have a BREAK?" :)

But, you know, life isn't all about the stuff of life, about getting things done. It's about facing opposition with grace and faith, about enduring well. That's where I am. That's what I am working on.

I can't imagine facing the trials of life without an understanding of the plan of salvation, of the Atonement.

Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend.

Revealed truths reassure us that we are enclosed in divine empathy. As Enoch witnessed, we worship a God who wept over needless human misery and wickedness (see Moses 7:28–29, 33, 37). Jesus’ perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, griefs, and infirmities and came to know these “according to the flesh” (Alma 7:11–12)....

The Apostle Paul spoke from considerable personal experience when observing that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous” (Heb. 12:11). You and I are not expected to pretend chastening is pleasant, but we are expected to “endure it well” (D&C 121:8). Only afterward is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” enjoyed by those who “are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). But what demanding calisthenics!

Moroni said that only “after the trial of [our] faith” do we receive certain assurances and blessings (Ether 12:6). Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us really does help us learn of Him as we personally experience His special love for us (see Matt. 11:29). We also come to appreciate more His meekness and lowliness.

- Elder Neal A. Maxwell

In my recent post about "digging deep," I wrote rather vaguely, but these are the types of truths I have been mulling over. As a person who has always tended to thrive on 'getting things done,' for the past several years, I have had to learn more about 'enduring things well.' I know I'm not a special case with this exercise; I believe we all, at some point or another, will have our heart- and soul-stretching trials.

...President John Taylor said he heard the Prophet [Joseph Smith] say, "You have all kinds of trials to pass through, and it is quite as necessary for you to be tried even as Abraham, and other men of God. God will feel after you, he will take hold of you and wrench your very heartstrings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Journal of Discourses, 24:197)" (Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April 1963, p.88).
Have you felt your heartstrings pulled, stretched, even wrenched? When we feel pushed to the limit, it's an opportunity to deepen the roots of faith, to remember the eternal purposes of God, to remember that if we endure well, eternal blessings can be ours.
...[P]eace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8)
This is what I am working on -- deepening those roots, trying to endure well what for me is a difficult time.

The restored gospel not only teaches us why we must be tested, but it makes clear to us what the test is. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us an explanation. By revelation, he was able to record words spoken at the Creation of the world. They are about us, those of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father who would come into mortality. Here are the words:

"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:25).

That explanation helps us understand why we face trials in life. They give us the opportunity to prove ourselves faithful to God. So many things beat upon us in a lifetime that simply enduring may seem almost beyond us. That’s what the words in the scripture “Ye must … endure to the end" (2 Ne. 31:20) seemed to mean to me when I first read them. It sounded grim, like sitting still and holding on to the arms of the chair while someone pulled out my tooth.

(Hehe. That is such an image, and describes how I sometimes want to react to my trials. Apparently, I'm not alone.)
It can surely seem that way to a family depending on crops when there is no rain. They may wonder, “How long can we hold on?” It can seem that way to a youth faced with resisting the rising flood of filth and temptation. It can seem that way to a young man struggling to get the training he needs for a job to support a wife and family. It can seem that way to a person who can’t find a job or who has lost job after job as businesses close their doors. It can seem that way to a person faced with the erosion of health and physical strength which may come early or late in life for them or for those they love.

But the test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty. It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us. And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us. We have that clear understanding because the restored gospel makes the plan of happiness so plain.

Then-Elder Eyring reminds us in this talk that we simply can't do it alone. Trials give us the opportunity to turn to God for strength beyond our own (the talk is entitled, "In the Strength of the Lord"). Even as I type, I am reminded of the need to seek His help and strength more, to take times like this as an opportunity to deepen my faith and expand my experience with the power of the Atonement.

There. I feel better already.

If you feel like sharing, I'd be interested in hearing what scriptures, quotes, etc. help you hold on and hunker down when life gets hard and your faith is tested.

Friday, June 06, 2008

"[Radical] Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women...."

[I added the bracketed qualifier because I don't want to be misunderstood as dismissing all of feminism as a whole.]

This article is well worth a read...written by the daughter of an icon in radical feminism. I loved how she concluded the article:

Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It's helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it's caused for my contemporaries?

...I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations....

I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters - a happy family.

I appreciated how J. Max Wilson (to whom I owe the hat tip) tied the article into what Pres. Eyring's article said this month in the Ensign. I also appreciate his comments about the sacrifices of his mother. My mother made similar sacrifices, and I believe her choices will have positive influence and impact for generations to come. We are so fortunate to have the leadership of prophets who lead us in the path to eternal happiness.

I am struck by articles like this one that resonate with what the prophets teach -- that the most important things we will do in this life (and, should we add, in the next) will be related to family.