Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Precious Gift of Testimony – Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley – Lesson #9 – May 14th, 2017

Intro: As we begin our lesson today, I encourage you to start thinking about your testimony, and perhaps not as one big entire abstract belief, but the powerful, specific and individual testimonies you have received from certain experiences, from fasting, prayer and scripture study, adversity, and most of the experiences of mortality. Have those in mind and perhaps be ready to share them later on in this lesson.

President Hinckley begins this lesson by describing his earliest stirrings of testimony:
“The earliest instance of which I have recollection of spiritual feelings was when I was about five years of age, a very small boy. I was crying from the pain of an earache. … My mother prepared a bag of table salt and put it on the stove to warm. My father softly put his hands upon my head and gave me a blessing, rebuking the pain and the illness by authority of the holy priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ. He then took me tenderly in his arms and placed the bag of warm salt at my ear. The pain subsided and left. I fell asleep in my father’s secure embrace. As I was falling asleep, the words of his administration floated through my mind. That is the earliest remembrance I have of the exercise of the authority of the priesthood in the name of the Lord.

“Later in my youth, my brother and I slept in an unheated bedroom in the winter. … Before falling into a warm bed, we knelt to say our prayers. There were expressions of simple gratitude. … I recall jumping into my bed after I had said amen, pulling the covers up around my neck, and thinking of what I had just done in speaking to my Father in Heaven in the name of His Son. I did not have great knowledge of the gospel. But there was some kind of lingering peace and security in communing with the heavens in and through the Lord Jesus. …

“That testimony grew in my heart as a missionary when I read the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, which further bore witness of Him. That knowledge became the foundation of my life, standing on the footings of the answered prayers of my childhood. Since then my faith has grown much further. I have become His Apostle, appointed to do His will and teach His word. I have become His witness to the world.”
                                       
We have all had these experiences in our lives when we felt the love of and connection to our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ. We have prayed at our mother’s knees, repeating her words until they became our own; kneeling in family prayer; giving and hearing talks and lessons in church. We have felt those stirrings as we experience the beautiful blessings Heavenly Father has given us: the beautiful world around us, the intimate and joyous relationships we experience, and the privilege of being born at a time when the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is here upon the earth. Each experience with the Spirit prepares us for the next and the next until we gain firm and faithful testimony of these things. We read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of its truthfulness. We pay tithing and receive blessings, and our testimony of that principle grows. We pray mightily in the midst of adversity and gain a testimony of our Heavenly Fathers deep, unwavering love for us, and of the power of our humbly surrendering to His will.

1. Testimony is the great strength of the Church and the wellspring of faith and activity.
President Hinckley shares this powerful testimony:
We have become as a great family spread across this vast world. We speak different tongues. We live under a variety of circumstances. But in the heart of each of us beats a common testimony: You and I know that God lives and is at the helm of this His holy work. We know that Jesus is our Redeemer, who stands at the head of this Church which carries His name. We know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and is a prophet who stands at the head of this the dispensation of the fulness of times. We know that the priesthood was restored upon his head and that it has come down to us in this day in an unbroken line. We know that the Book of Mormon is a true testament of the reality and divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ.2

This thing which we call testimony is the great strength of the Church. It is the wellspring of faith and activity. … It is as real and powerful as any force on the earth. The Lord described it when He spoke to Nicodemus and said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). This thing which we call testimony is difficult to define, but its fruits are plainly evident. It is the Holy Spirit testifying through us.

2. Testimony is a quiet, encouraging voice that sustains us as we walk in faith and impels us to action.

President Hinckley shares that:
“Personal testimony is the factor which turns people around in their living as they come into this Church. This is the element which motivates the membership to forsake all in the service of the Lord. This is the quiet, encouraging voice which sustains without pause those who walk in faith down to the last days of their lives.
It is a mysterious and wonderful thing, a gift from God to man. It overrides wealth or poverty when one is called to serve. This testimony which is carried in the hearts of our people motivates to an impelling duty. It is found in young and old. It is found in the seminary student, in the missionary, in the bishop and the stake president, in the mission president, in the Relief Society sister, in every General Authority. It is heard from those who hold no office other than membership. It is of the very essence of this work. It is what is moving the work of the Lord forward across the world. It impels to action. It demands that we do what we are asked to do. It brings with it the assurance that life is purposeful, that some things are of far greater importance than others,  that we are on an eternal journey, that we are answerable unto God. …
It is this element, weak and somewhat feeble at first, which moves every investigator in the direction of conversion. It pushes every convert toward security in the faith. …
Wherever the Church is organized its power is felt. We stand on our feet and say that we know. … The simple fact is that we do know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that this is their cause and their kingdom. The words are simple; the expression comes from the heart. It is at work wherever the Church is organized, wherever there are missionaries teaching the gospel, wherever there are members sharing their faith.

It is something that cannot be refuted. Opponents may quote scripture and argue doctrine endlessly. They can be clever and persuasive. But when one says, “I know,” there can be no further argument. There may not be acceptance, but who can refute or deny the quiet voice of the inner soul speaking with personal conviction?

In this section of the lesson, many experiences of gaining and strengthening a testimony are shared. I’d like to make that a little more personal to us individually at this time, but encourage you to read those stories in your personal study.

I have asked Sister Denise Johnson to share a story where she gained a Testimony of something important to her:

(Denise’s testimony…)

I remember a time when I thought my testimony was firm and secure. I was 15, and very wise and well-versed in scriptures and gospel doctrine (as we all think we are at 15)…so much so that when I invited my non-member friend to meet with the missionaries, I answered a pointed question by the missionaries about my idea of what Heavenly Father was like. In all my youthful wisdom, I said: “I think He’s really….big!”

Needless to stay, my friend never joined the church. Today I feel a different testimony growing in my heart. In my middle-age wisdom, I realize that I am infant in my knowledge of testimony and faith… but I have a desire to increase it, and Heavenly Father blesses my efforts, even when they feel like baby steps.

Just after a second truly life-threatening, week-long hospital stay the end of March, that was swift on the heels of a first life-threatening hospital stay in January, I was struggling mightily. I had no energy, but felt I had to go right back to work to keep my job, and also because we can’t afford my not working. It was everything I could do (the day after I was released), to even lift my arm to curl a lock of hair. I would go to work during those early recovery days and rest on the couch for an hour here and there. Often, more rest than work. I struggled to do the things required of my high-pressure job with any kind of accuracy and enthusiasm. I felt like I didn’t know if I could continue to work. I felt like giving up. I felt terrified about the outcomes of tests requiring bloodwork, thyroid biopsy, and breast biopsy, and echocardiogram among others. And even more terrified about the things we didn’t seem to be able to resolve.

I felt overwhelmed with the things that were being demanded of me and sheer terror at my ability to fix it, to do what was required, to even care or do anything but sleep. The future felt full of a kind of limbo nightmare, and I felt defeated, done, and oh so scared.

This went on for days…let’s see…I went back to work on March 28th…and on April 5th  I was still in the depths of fear, fatigue, and despair. Normally, I am an optimist, a woman who chooses faith. In fact, my patriarchal blessing declares that I have “exceeding faith”. That day I had no idea if faith would ever return. And I was living in this toxic tar pit of some pretty scary “what ifs”? What if I couldn’t work? What if I had cancer again? What if I needed constant care? What if I had to repeat chemo? What if…? …you can imagine how many of those a woman in my position could suffocate in, fear-wise. I felt the acid tar pulling me deeper and deeper into the dark, oxygen-deprived and bottomless hell I felt would overcome me at any time. At what felt like my worst moment, a dear friend came and spoke some hard medical truths, as she does sometimes…and thank Heaven for her honesty…especially when I don’t like what I hear, but the truth needs to be heard.   I sobbed, and bared my heavy heart. I confessed wanting to give up. She hugged and comforted me, listened and validated my feelings, but we did not resolve them. I took them home, dragging them along behind my sorry self.

I went home, slept my usual 12 hours and rose for work wondering how many more days I could even make myself do this. As I sat at my desk in the first few minutes of that early morning (April 6th: very symbolically, as I look back, which is how my loving Heavenly Father always teaches me) I remembered that a member of the bishopric had visited me the week before I was hospitalized. He’d asked me to speak in church about preparing ourselves to find the answers we seek as we watch conference. I wanted to give that talk with all my heart, but had plans with family that I had already canceled in January and then fell ill.  (Ironically, I ended up unable to attend the family weekend festivities as I was in the hospital anyway.) I felt the powerful Spirit of Inspiration when he asked me. He expressed that he felt it too. I knew there was inspiration involved. And yet, an all-knowing Heavenly Father had still issued the call. Wouldn’t God have known that when he inspired this good brother to ask, that I’d be unable to speak? We both wondered why, but still I had to decline. Family trumps talking in church for me. He said he understood and later in the week we emailed about maybe the important thing was that at a time I was experiencing such a fiery trial, he/He had asked. He’d expressed faith in my faith, and my faith felt stronger. And I’d felt Heavenly Father’s love for, and confidence in, me at that meeting.

I thought about that as I sat feeling nearly lifeless at my desk. I decided I would do “the next 10 minutes”. I wouldn’t try to do the whole day or week or future “whatever”, just the next 10 minutes. And after that 10 more.

Thinking of the conversation with Brother Shipley, I decided to prepare to listen to conference with these large and heavy questions on my mind. And to have an open a heart as I could for the answers I sought. I hadn’t been able to watch them live the week prior due to illness, and felt it was a good place to start. As I prayerfully prepared, I felt my choice confirmed by the spirit.

I opened the first General Women’s Conference talk online, as it was first chronologically, and that was my plan as I prayed for direction moments prior. Not more than a few minutes into this talk, my fear profoundly, and suddenly, shifted to faith. I felt peace. I felt calm. I felt an overwhelming Spirit of Heavenly Father’s love for me, and the firm knowledge that He had a plan for me, and that even if the answers I got, medically, were hard…well, hadn’t He helped me do A LOT of hard things already? I still felt weak, and physically unwell. But I was spiritually strong again, and I knew, from past experience, that is what would get me through.

This is what I read… (and by the way, THIS was the most important reason for Bro. Shipley’s invitation to me…so that I, personally, WOULD be prepared as I watched conference to receive the answers I sought!)

Trust in the Lord and Lean Not
Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency
Play video

“In Proverbs 3:5–6, we read this counsel: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
“This scripture comes with two admonitions, a warning, and a glorious promise.
“The two admonitions: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” and “in all thy ways acknowledge him.”
“The warning: “Lean not unto thine own understanding.”
“And the glorious promise: “He shall direct thy paths.”
“Let’s first discuss the warning. The visual image gives us much to ponder. The warning comes in the words “lean not”—“lean not unto thine own understanding.” In English the word lean has a connotation of physically listing or moving to one side. When we physically lean toward one side or another, we move off center, we are out of balance, and we tip. When we spiritually lean to our own understanding, we lean away from our Savior. If we lean, we are not centered; we are not balanced; we are not focused on Christ.”
Of course, this is just an excerpt, and the rest of the talk was just as inspired, but this early part? It was exactly what I needed. It was exactly what my Heavenly Father delighted to bless me with. And He prepared it for me to receive…by Sister Cordon’s prayerful preparation and inspiration in this talk, and by her having this calling and the opportunity to speak. He prepared this gift for me by having commanded such a thing as general conference, and calling inspired leaders. He gave me not one, but two life-threatening, faith-shaking, and body-weakening, and oh-so-humbling experiences that would open my heart to hear what I needed to hear. He prepared me to be ready to receive answers by Bro. Shipley’s invitation, by my friend’s honest counsel, and by the whisperings of the Spirit that led me to this place at this moment. I have a testimony that Heavenly Father can organize the universe for each of us individually in specific, and miraculous ways. That testimony was strengthened and expanded through this experience.
As I listened that morning, I instantly shifted. Instantly. I became, again, a woman of faith. I stopped leaning away from Christ, and started leaning in with what meager resources I still had.  I gave back to Heavenly Father that which I could not, and still cannot control. And now I have focused my efforts on strengthening my faith, and my relationship with my Savior. Everything else is part of a larger plan I am not yet privy to, but because I have been through many a refiner’s fire before, I know both the brutal reality, and the beautiful blessings of being called to see how well I will seek and obey my Savior, and surrender my will to His.
Also…He helped me prepare my Relief Society lesson this morning (which is on Testimony) by giving me new, and everlasting truths of which to testify. And hopefully, if I prepared as I intended, someone will be preparing to hear what He and I have felt inspired to share today. I have a strong testimony of the Spirit that accompanies a gathering of his faithful sisters.
At this time, I would like to invite you, my sisters, to share what might be in your hearts with the invitation to think about and share your own testimonies of whatever the Spirit might have brought to your minds.
(Sisters’ testimonies…)
3. Each of us can obtain a testimony of the reality of God and His Beloved Son and the restoration of Their Work.
(A. Share my experience with Elder Russel M. Nelson’s challenge from conference to read and study the references to Jesus Christ in the topical guide. How I felt comforted, and healed, and strengthened in my faith in the priesthood blessings that promised healing and wholeness back when I was diagnosed with cancer. )
(B. Share my experience with the challenge to read the Book of Mormon in 6 months, and how I’ve been reading it like a novel, invoking the Spirit with prayer, and asking to be taught what the Spirit feels I should be learning. I finished it this past week. It was powerful and the experience blessed me with an even stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the truths it contains about the atonement of Jesus Christ. I highly recommend that style once in a while.)
 A little more than a month after that April 6th shift to faith, I feel strengthened: Physically, but also spiritually. I am grateful anew for the humbling experiences that had been gifted to me this early 2017. I went from oxygen Sats in the 40s-70s and 24/7 oxygen, back to normal in a couple of weeks. All those scary medical tests? They’ve almost all come back normal. I am facing a surgery this week that may or may not result in the findings of cancer*, but I feel at peace in my firm testimony of Heavenly Father’s plan for me, in the strength and protection found all through the Book of Mormon, and available to each of us if we seek it. I have a testimony of this, and it has strengthened my faith. I know, without doubt, that can happen for each of us.  It’s interesting to me, and a testimony of how individually AND SPECIFICALLY the Savior loves us, that two verses after the Proverbs 3:5-6 that Sister Cordon spoke about, is verse 8: “And you will find health in the navel, and marrow in the bone. That one, at that moment, was a tender mercy for me.”

Pres Hinckley: (in closing) We must live up to our testimony and share it with others.

Said Paul to Timothy: “Take heed unto thyself”—listen to this—“and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). What a wonderful direction Paul gave to young Timothy.

He went on to say this: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power—the power of the message; and of love—love for the people, love for what we have to offer; a sound mind—the simple, understandable principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 Timothy 1:8). Never, my brothers and sisters, be thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. … Here is a great charge, a mandate that is laid upon us: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.”11



This is God’s holy work. This is His Church and kingdom. The vision that occurred in the Sacred Grove was just as Joseph said it was. There is in my heart a true understanding of the importance of what happened there. The Book of Mormon is true. It testifies of the Lord Jesus Christ. His priesthood has been restored and is among us. The keys of that priesthood, which have come from heavenly beings, are exercised for our eternal blessing. Such is our testimony—yours and mine—a testimony which we must live up to and which we must share with others. I leave this testimony, my blessing, and my love with each of you and my invitation to continue to be part of this great latter-day miracle that is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The gospel is true. God lives. He loves us, and gives us what we need. He is a God of miracles, our strength, our comfort. He is power, and He is peace. Every single thing He promises, He gives us. I have been promised the miracle of being restored to wholeness, of being healthy, and being the matriarch of a large family who needs me that will live to bless them long into the future. I have been blessed, more than once, that angels on both sides of the veil are aiding in the fulfillment of those promises. I have felt them in the last week while I lay in the silence of biopsy rooms where I would, earlier, have felt full of fear and dread. Instead, I have felt the thinning of the veil in those rooms: my “in charge” maverick cowboy of a father, my loving grandma, many relatives, friends, and ancestors, and even posterity not yet mortal. I feel them here in this room in each of your smiling faces. I am loved. There is a plan for me. I know what the questions are. But I know the answers that are mine to seek, and those that are mine to give to God. You are loved. There is a plan for you. There is a way prepared for us to find blessings in the most difficult of challenges, to have our testimonies strengthened and to feel encircled about in the arms of His love.”
I have a strong and unshakable testimony that these things are available for all of us who diligently seek to know the Savior, and study His atonement for our sins, our illnesses and our suffering. Ours is to be impelled to action as we seek the blessings of faith in our lives, and then share our testimonies with others, so the Spirit can bear testimony to the hearer as well. My faith has often been strengthened by your testimonies, for which I am deeply and truly grateful. My testimony has been strengthened by being here, present, with each of you in this room today where the Holy Spirit, invited and in attendance, has touched our hearts. This is truth.
I bear testimony of these things in the name of my beloved Savior, friend and advocate, Jesus Christ!
Amen.
*They did indeed find, and remove cancer, the following week, but no further treatment is required, and I left the hospital feeling better than I had in months!




Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trust in the Lord, and Lean Not...


Just after a second truly life-threatening, week-long hospital stay, I was struggling mightily. I had no energy, but felt I had to work to keep my job and because we can’t afford my not working. It was everything I could do the day after I was released, to even lift my arm to curl a lock of hair. I would go to work during those early recovery days and rest on the couch for an hour here and there. 

I struggled to do the things required of my high-pressure job with any kind of accuracy and enthusiasm. I felt like I didn’t know if I could continue to work. I felt like giving up. I felt terrified about the outcomes of tests requiring thyroid biopsy, and breast biopsy, and echocardiogram among others. I felt overwhelmed with the things that were being demanded of me and sheer terror at my ability to fix it, to do what was required, to even care or do anything but sleep. The future felt full of a kind of limbo nightmare, and I felt defeated, done, and oh so scared.

This went on for days…let’s see…I was in the hospital from Mar 22-27, and went back to work on the 28th. On April 6th (very symbolically, as I look back, which is how my loving Heavenly Father always teaches me) I was still in the depths of fear, fatigue, and despair. Normally, I am an optimist, a woman who chooses faith. In fact, my patriarchal blessing declares that I have “exceeding faith”. That day I had no idea if faith would ever return. And I was living in the toxic tar pit of some pretty scary “what if”s? What if I couldn’t work? What if I had cancer again? What if? …you can imagine how many of those a woman in my position could suffoicate in fear-wise. I felt the acid tar pulling me deeper and deeper into the dark, oxygen-deprived and bottomless hell I felt would overcome me at any time. At my worst moment, a dear friend came and spoke some hard medical truths, as she does sometimes…and thank Heaven for her honesty…especially when I don’t like what I hear, but the truth needs to be heard.   I sobbed, and bared my heavy heart, and she hugged and comforted me, listened and validate my feelings, but did not resolve them. I took them home, dragging them along behind my sorry self.

I went home, slept my usual 12 hours and rose for work wondering how many more days I could even make myself do this. As I sat at my desk in the first few minutes of that early morning, I remembered that a member of the bishopric had visited me the week before I was hospitalized. He’d asked me to speak in church about preparing ourselves to find the answers we seek as we watch conference. I wanted to give that talk with all my heart, but had plans with family that I had already canceled in January for the life-threatening hospitalization that preceded this one ( Ironically, I ended up unable to attend the family weekend festivities as I was in the hospital anyway.) Wouldn’t God have known that when he inspired this good brother to ask, that I’d be unable to speak? I felt the powerful Spirit of Inspiration when he asked me. I knew there was inspiration involved. Wouldn’t Heavenly Father know, and support, my efforts to connect with and strengthen family bonds?

And yet, an all-knowing Heavenly Father had still issued the call. We both wondered why, but still I had to decline. Family trumps talking in church for me. He said he understood and later in the week emailed about maybe the important thing was that at a time I was experiencing such a fiery trial, he had asked. He’d expressed faith in my faith, and my faith felt stronger. And I’d felt Heavenly Father’s love for, and confidence in me at that meeting.

I thought about that as I sat feeling nearly lifeless at my desk. I decided I would do “the next 10 minutes”. I wouldn’t try to do the whole day or week or future “whatever”, just the next 10 minutes. And after that 10 more.

Thinking of the conversation I shared earlier in this blog, I decided to prepare listen to conference with these large and heavy questions on my mind. And to have an open a heart as I could for the answers I sought. I hadn’t been able to watch them live the week prior due to illness, and felt it was a good place to start. As I prayerfully prepared, I felt my choice confirmed by the spirit.

I opened the first General Women’s Conference talk online, as it was first chronologically, and that was my plan as I prayed for direction moments prior. Not more than a few minutes into this talk, my fear profoundly, and suddenly shifted to faith. I felt peace. I felt calm. I felt an overwhelming Spirit of Heavenly Father’s love for me, and the firm knowledge that He had a plan for me, and that even if the answers I got, medically, were hard…well, hadn’t He helped me do A LOT of hard things already? I still felt weak, and physically unwell. But I was spiritually strong again, and I knew from past experience that is what would get me through.

This is what I read… (and by the way, THIS was the most important reason for Bro. Shipley’s invitation to me…so that I personally WOULD be prepared as I watched conference to receive the answers I sought!)

Trust in the Lord and Lean Not
Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency
Play video

In Proverbs 3:5–6, we read this counsel: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
This scripture comes with two admonitions, a warning, and a glorious promise.
The two admonitions: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart” and “in all thy ways acknowledge him.”
The warning: “Lean not unto thine own understanding.”
And the glorious promise: “He shall direct thy paths.”
Let’s first discuss the warning. The visual image gives us much to ponder. The warning comes in the words “lean not”—“lean not unto thine own understanding.” In English the word lean has a connotation of physically listing or moving to one side. When we physically lean toward one side or another, we move off center, we are out of balance, and we tip. When we spiritually lean to our own understanding, we lean away from our Savior. If we lean, we are not centered; we are not balanced; we are not focused on Christ.
We must each ask: How do I keep centered and lean not unto my own understanding? How do I recognize and follow the Savior’s voice when the voices of the world are so compelling? How do I cultivate trust in the Savior?
(Read entire talk at www.lds.org)
Of course, this is just an excerpt, and the rest of the talk was just as inspired, but this early part? It was exactly what I needed. It was exactly what my Heavenly Father delighted to bless me with. And He prepared it for me to receive…by Sister Cordon’s prayerful preparation and inspiration in this talk, and by her having this calling and the opportunity to speak. He prepared this gift for me by having commanded such a thing as general conference, and calling inspired leaders. He gave me not one, but two life-threatening, faith-shaking, body-weakening, and oh so humbling experiences that would open my heart to hear what I needed to hear. He prepared me to be ready to receive answers by Bro. Shipley’s invitation, by my friend’s honest counsel. And by the whisperings of the Spirit that led me to this place at this moment.
I instantly shifted. Instantly. I became a woman of faith. I gave back to Heavenly Father that which I could not, and still cannot control. And now I have focused my efforts on strengthening my faith, and my relationship with my Savior. Everything else is part of a larger plan I am not yet privy to, but because I have been through many a refiner’s fire before, I know both the brutal reality, and the beautiful blessings of being called to see how well I will seek and obey my Savior.
Also…He helped me prepare my Relief Society lesson for this coming May which is on Testimony, by giving me new, and everlasting truths of which to testify. And hopefully, if I prepare as I intend, someone will be preparing to hear what I am inspired to say (including this experience) on that Sunday.
The gospel is true. God lives. He loves us, and gives us what we need. He is a God of miracles. He is our strength, our comfort. He is power, and He is peace. Every single thing He promises, He gives us. I have been promised the miracle of being restored to wholeness, of being healthy and being the matriarch of a large family who needs me that will live to bless them long into the future. I have been blessed, more than once, that angels on both sides of the veil are aiding in the fulfillment of those promises. I have felt them in the last 24 hours while I lay in the silence of biopsy rooms where I would, earlier, have felt full of fear. Instead, I have felt those room fill with angels: my “in charge” father, my loving grandma, many relatives, friends, and ancestors, and even posterity not yet mortal. I am loved. There is a plan for me. I know what the questions are. But I know the answers that are mine to seek, and those that are mine to give to God.
I bear testimony of these things in the name of my beloved Savior, friend and advocate, Jesus Christ!

Amen

A Lesson in Why I Should Never Text/Post One Thing At A Time...

Also...a sub-lesson: only say positive things on the great, wide and oh so embarassing sometimes, internet.

Yes, I posted this on the internet while texting a friend about someone I was trying to hire that wasn't showing up as promised.
Please use caution when holding a smart phone with internert access. Is there some kind of safety training I should take?

Thank you, sweet daughters, for the heads-up that allowed me to delete this...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Writing Prompt: The Word: Pattern



She nervously picks at the pilling on her polyester-blend, plaid skirt. She likes the pattern, the predictableness of it, how orderly it is, the same lines in the same colors in the same places over and over and over again…except for the pilling. She feels compelled to pluck it out. When she finishes, she runs her hand over the smoothness of the fabric and takes a deep, satisfied breath. More like a sigh, really.

That makes her pay attention to the pattern of her breathing. She likes it best when it’s even, smooth, the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. It’s one reason she resists exercise…all that huffing and puffing. It makes her feel out of control. And sweaty. She can’t have that. Nope, not that.

She’s a girl who loves order, who tickles her husband’s back, but counts the touches making sure that each run up and down his spine is even. Distracted, she starts typing words that find her ear from the TV and starts typing them with her fingers. Apprenticeship. A-P-P-R-E-N-T-I-C-E-S-H-I-P. A-P-P-R-E-N-T-I-C-E-S-H-I-P. She types faster and faster, sometimes finding a rhythm that matches a piece of music in her head. It’s like writing the perfect poem, a euphoria that lasts until her husband asks: “What are you typing on my ass?” He thinks it’s funny. She smiles, but inside she knows these patterns, these systems…they calm and define her.

She solves every Wheel of Fortune puzzle before three letters have been revealed. She can make her beautiful mind change focus, finding the certain letters in paragraphs that spell words meaningful only to her. Word Searches are too easy. Maybe she could be some kind of code breaker for the CIA…


Or maybe she’ll move through her day, making lists and checking them off; lining the shoes by the back door according to size; and repeating the same 4 lines of poetry over and over again until she feels it…the sigh. The deep, satisfying sigh that is her heroin. She can feel her fingers start to type the word: H-E-R-O-I…

Writing Prompt: The Word: Skittish


Daughter of God

RS Lesson – March 12, 2017
Gordon B. Hinckley, Lesson #5: Daughter of God
1.      Introduction of lesson:
 I’ve brought some people I love with me today. These women have things in common, as all we women do. They are all active members of the church. They all struggle with their thorns in the flesh, their flaws and weaknesses. And they all have amazing talents, testimonies, and missions in mortality. They are all related to me. (Explain what photo is what and a small detail about each one.)
My maternal grandmother was born Margaret Alice Talbot Memmott right here in Oak City. She raised a close and righteous family, and served 5 missions for the church (three with her husband, and 2 more after he died.) Given that she was gone for most of my formative years, it is miraculous to me that she has had more single influence on me than any other person on earth, except my own mother.
This is my Mother Sonja Lee Bronson Memmott, her dad was raised in Scipio. She had 9 children, lost one as an infant and had a stroke when I, her oldest, was 16 years old. Her indomitable faith and optimism are truly and inspiration to me.
This is me holding my young twin daughters.
And this mirror represents each of you, and all of our sisters, in all our daughter-of-God glory!
As I prepared this lesson, I pictured myself as a young woman, and I wondered: “If I had the chance, and knowing what I know now, what would I tell this young woman? This young woman who thought herself worthless, unattractive, talent-less, unworthy. A young woman who, while she read the scriptures, thought every harsh and critical word there was written for her, while anything comforting, or praiseworthy was written for “those other people” to whom she constantly compared herself. A woman who thought she’d never be “enough”. I’m sure my grandma, my mom and all of the rest of us have thought those same things at times.
If I could go back today, I would tell her the younger me the things a man who would one day be her prophet , President Gordon B, Hinckley said about her, and her mother, and her grandmother, and every other daughter of God ever born, including you. I would give her President Gordon B. Hinckley’s lesson #5.
This entire talk could be read aloud word for word and it would sound like a beautiful poem or a psalm. I hope you’ve read it, and will read it again. In fact, read it every time you doubt your talents, your worth, your divinity. I plan to. But reading is not the task at hand. I think we are gathered together in Spirit to create an opportunity for the Spirit to strengthen our testimonies, enlighten our minds, strengthen us, and help us serve each other. So let’s do that.
President Hinckley begins this lesson with how he felt about his mother and his wife. He loved honored and cherished them both, and felt their influence on him was powerful and profound.
President Hinckley often spoke about women’s divine nature and urged them forward to greater achievement and faith. To young women, he declared: “You are literally a daughter of the Almighty. There is no limit to your potential. If you will take control of your lives, the future is filled with opportunity and gladness. You cannot afford to waste your talents or your time. Great opportunities lie ahead of you.” Concerning adult women, he said: “The world needs the touch of women and their love, their comfort, and their strength. Our harsh environment needs their encouraging voices, the beauty that seems to fall within their natures, the spirit of charity that is their inheritance.”
At the general conference following the death of his beloved companion, Marjorie, President Hinckley concluded one of his addresses with this heartfelt expression of gratitude: “How thankful I am, how thankful we must all be, for the women in our lives. God bless them. May His great love distill upon them and crown them with luster and beauty, grace and faith. Each of you is a daughter of God. Reflect on all the wondrous meaning of that one paramount fact.”
2. The Lord’s counsel to Emma Smith applies to all.
( Share my experience after some particularly trying adversity – depression, divorce, single motherhood—when I read D&C 25, The Lord’s counsel given to us all, which he says is his voice until all of us! I read this chapter, and it burned itself into my very soul, in fact the way it says certain things about certain things, made it feel to me then, and now, like a 2nd Patriarchal Blessing to me.)
The twenty-fifth section of the Doctrine and Covenants … is a revelation given through Joseph the Prophet to his wife Emma. … Said he to Emma, and to each of us:
A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion” [D&C 25:2; see also verse 16]. …

Discussion: I wonder if you would look at your scriptures and tell me if you have any passages in the section underlined. Or if not, as you scan through it, does anything stand out to you? (Wait for response) If yes, ask sister to share that scripture and why she might have marked it. If no, see the green section…
Be faithful to him. He is the one true source of your strength. He is your Father in Heaven. He lives. He hears and answers prayers. Be faithful to God.
The Lord continued, saying to Emma, “If thou … walk in the paths of virtue.”
I think every woman … understands the meaning of that. I feel those words were given to Emma Smith, and consequently to all of us, as a condition to be observed if we are to receive an inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Emma was called “an elect lady” [D&C 25:3]. That is, to use another line of scripture, she was a “chosen vessel of the Lord.” (See Moro. 7:31.) Each of you is an elect lady. You have come out of the world as partakers of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. You have made your election, and if you are living worthy of it, the Lord will honor you in it and magnify you. …
She was to be a teacher. She was to study the gospel. She also was to study the things of the world in which she lived.
In the language of the revelation, [Emma] was to “expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit.”
What a remarkable charge to her and to all of the women of this Church. There must be learning, there must be preparation, there must be organization of thought, there must be an expounding of the scriptures, there must be an exhortation to good works as directed by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord continued, “I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” [D&C 25:10]. (Example: Sister Nuttal)
Let’s read Verse 15: “Keep my commandments continually, and a CROWN of righteousness thou shalt receive!”
And in the end of this section, Verse 16: “…this is my voice unto all.”
I challenge you to read and ponder this section as though it were written to you personally; I would challenge my younger self, as I challenge each of you, to substitute your name for Emma’s, and listen for inspiration. I know that you will be inspired and blessed by so doing.
3. Women have a high and sacred place in the eternal plan of God.
I remind you of words spoken by the Prophet Joseph to the women of the Relief Society in April of 1842. Said he: “If you live up to your privileges, the angels cannot be restrained from being your associates” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 454]. What marvelous potential lies within you.
You are very precious, each of you. … You occupy a high and sacred place in the eternal plan of God, our Father in Heaven. You are His daughters, precious to Him, loved by Him, and very important to Him. His grand design cannot succeed without you.
There has come to you as your birthright something beautiful and sacred and divine. Never forget that. Your Eternal Father is the great Master of the universe. He rules over all, but He also will listen to your prayers as His daughter and hear you as you speak with Him. He will answer your prayers. He will not leave you alone.
Each of us are future queens of heaven. We have received, and will yet receive, many great promises and blessings. We are worthy of those blessings when we are doing our best, and inviting the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to make up the difference.
4. Mothers and (mothers yet-to-be) have a sacred calling to bring up their children in faith and righteousness.
             Each of us--mothers and mothers-yet-to-be--have a sacred calling to bring up their children in righteousness and peace.
Picture your worst woman-fails as though they were small items you could hold into your two cupped hands. I know I could fill a lot larger space than that…(pause here)  I know as you participate in this exercise you start to feel sad, to feel less-than, to feel oh so hard on yourself. Now I want us to imagine that in a flash of Celestial light, Heavenly Father takes all those failings, and feelings, and leaves a glittering crown in its place. See how your heart feels immediately lighter? How tears appear at the corners of your eyes, and how your heart fills with gratitude? That is the power of the atonement, your Father in Heaven’s gift to us, as his daughters, to wipe our slates clean from present moment to present moment, and leave beauty for ashes. All the time. Every time.
 I would tell my younger self: Here’s what works for me. Every time I get an “I failed” feeling (or others of Satan’s lies) I try to consciously realize that the mistake has already been made. It’s already in the past and cannot be corrected. It is already covered by the atonement if I repent and take the next step forward in my progress. Often, at this point, I will boomerang to a “But what will happen now?” worry as though I have ruined everything, or have to fix the harm done, even when much of that is beyond my mortal control. I remind myself, that outcome is in the future, and also out of my control. Fortunately for me---for each of us, that leaves it squarely in the hands of Almighty God, our Father, who has a plan for each of us. I can have faith in that, so what is left? What can I do right now to align myself with God’s plan? To be closer to the Spirit and therefore worthy of the insight/strength/comfort/blessings I feel such desperate need for? Ask yourself, what can I do right this minute? Then, as moved upon by the Spirit, do tha.
I remind mothers everywhere of the sanctity of your calling. No other can adequately take your place. No responsibility is greater, no obligation more binding than that you rear in love and peace and integrity those whom you have brought into the world.
Rear your children in light and truth. Teach them to pray while they are young. Read to them from the scriptures even though they may not understand all that you read. Teach them to pay their tithes and offerings on the first money they ever receive. Let this practice become a habit in their lives. Teach your sons to honor womanhood. Teach your daughters to walk in virtue. Accept responsibility in the Church, and trust in the Lord to make you equal to any call you may receive. Your example will set a pattern for your children.
            God bless you, mothers! When all the victories and defeats of men’s efforts are tallied, when the dust of life’s battles begins to settle, when all for which we labor so hard in this world of conquest fades before our eyes, you will be there, you must be there, as the strength for a new generation, the ever-improving onward movement of the race. Its quality will depend on you.
4. Women have great responsibilities in the work of salvation.
            God has given the women of this church a work to do in building his kingdom. That concerns all aspects of our great triad of responsibility—which is, first, to teach the gospel to the world; second, to strengthen the faith and build the happiness of the membership of the Church; and, third, to carry forward the great work of salvation for the dead.
           

5. Relief Society is a source of immeasurable blessings.
I would plead with my younger self to open her heart to Relief Society sooner and more openly.
The women of the Relief Society are literally encircled eternally in the arms of our Lord. In my judgment, this is the greatest women’s organization in all the world. It is a God-given creation. Joseph Smith spoke and acted as a prophet when he organized the Relief Society in 1842.
            It is so tremendously important that the women of the Church stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord. I am convinced there is no other organization anywhere to match the Relief Society of this Church. … If [its members] will be united and speak with one voice, their strength will be incalculable.
            God bless the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. May the spirit of love which has motivated its members … continue to grow and be felt over the world. May their works of charity touch for good the lives of uncounted numbers wherever they find expression. And may light and understanding, learning and knowledge, and eternal truth grace the lives of generations of women yet to come, throughout the nations of the earth, because of this singular and divinely established institution.

I know that I personally have been blessed by each of you. (Single out a few…) You have taught lessons, been examples, shared your spirit and testimony and performed acts of service that have all had great influence on my life. Bless you!

6. Rise to the stature of the divinity within you.
            You are a vast concourse of women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. … No one can calculate the tremendous force for good that you can become. … I charge you to stand tall and be strong in defense of those great virtues which have been the backbone of our social progress. When you are united, your power is limitless. You can accomplish anything you wish to accomplish. And oh, how very, very great is the need for you in a world of crumbling values where the adversary seems so very much to be in control.
            I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.
            I express my gratitude to you faithful Latter-day Saint women, now numbered in the millions and found across the earth. Great is your power for good. Marvelous are your talents and devotion. Tremendous is your faith and your love for the Lord, for His work, and for His sons and daughters. Continue to live the gospel. Magnify it before all of your associates. Your good works will carry more weight than any words you might speak. Walk in virtue and truth, with faith and faithfulness. You are part of an eternal plan, a plan designed by God our Eternal Father. Each day is a part of that eternity.
I would say to my younger self: On your dark days, dust off that crown and place it right back up on that beautiful head of yours and know that you are a daughter of divinity, of royal birth, of celestial heritage. Rise to the great potential within you: as did Eve, Esther, Emma and Mary; as did Sheri Dew, and Julie B Beck and Marjorie Pay Hinckley; as did my beautiful mother, and my sweet little Oak City grandmother.
Of these things I bear If fervent witness. I know them to be true in ways more deeply personally than my younger self ever imagined.