Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Thanksgiving Psalm


A PSALM OF THANKSGIVING

Elder B. H. Roberts was a chaplain in the United States Armed Forces during World War I. The war finally drew to a close, and the peace treaty was signed on 11 November 1918. Two weeks later, on Thanksgiving Day, the American soldiers were gathered together "in one grand Thanksgiving service."

"The large attendance included high-ranking military officers and the services were conducted by the chaplains, who were seated on the grandstand.

"Elder Roberts was relegated to one of the rear seats. He had not been asked in advance to participate on the program, therefore, it was with great surprise that he heard the chaplain in charge announce: 'Elder Roberts, the Mormon chaplain from Utah, will now step up and read the Thanksgiving Psalm.'

"Elder Roberts had never heard of the Thanksgiving Psalm but, hiding his personal embarrassment and possible impending embarrassment to the Church, he arose and walked to the podium, not knowing what he should say.

"Years later he testified that, during the long walk to the front, he distinctly heard an audible voice announce: ''The 100th Psalm.' It was as clear as though another person had spoken at his side.

"Elder Roberts faced the crowd, paused, then opened his Bible and read Psalm 100....

"After Brother Roberts had closed his Bible and was returning to his seat, he noticed that his fellow chaplains refused to look at him; their eyes were immovably fixed on the floor.

"It was then he realized that his part on the program had been a deliberate attempt to embarrass him, the Church and the priesthood. He acknowledged the help which he had received from the Lord in his moment of need and, when he returned to his tent that night, he checked the Book of Psalms, discovering that the 100th Psalm contained the most pertinent and appropriate sentiments on Thanksgiving."

("Inspiration, Key to Thanksgiving Psalm," Church News, 22 Nov. 1975, p. 12)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Conference Jeopardy - October 2012

One of our family traditions is to have Conference Jeopardy for FHE the day after general conference.  Since everyone's grown up now and on their own, we'll have to do a long-distance version.  I hope the formatting turns out okay.  And the answers will be in another post (below this one).  Have fun!

New Testament Scripture Masteries
Name the reference

100 - Elder Scott quoted: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” as he talked about the importance of baptism for ALL of God’s children. 

200 - Elder Holland quoted: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” as he talked about being lifetime disciples.

300 - Elder Andersen quoted: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” as he talked about having faith in the Savior.  

400 - Elder Bednar (and Elder Gonzalez) quoted Peter’s testimony that “Thou art the Christ” as they talked about the importance of having a strong testimony.  

500 - President Eyring (and Sister Dibb) quoted the Savior’s promise that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” as they talked about service.  

Other Scripture Masteries

100 - Elder Scott quoted from Malachi 4 and talked about the importance of this subject.  

200 - President Packer quoted from D&C 19 which is the Savior’s description of this event.  

300 - Elder Andersen and Elder Gonzalez quoted from Helaman 5:12 which is a reminder for us to remember this.  

400 - Elders Christensen, Hawk and Gonzalez quoted from Moroni’s promise in Moroni 10:4-5 which states that the Holy Ghost does this.  

500 - President Packer (and Elders Oaks and Christensen) quoted from Mosiah 3:19 reminding us of the importance of being like whom.  

Hymns

100 - Elder Hales quoted from this missionary hymn which reminds us to go, say, and be what the Savior wants us to be. 

200 - Elder Ballard ended his talk by asking the question found in this hymn on the importance of serving others daily.  

300 - “So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on,” from this hymn, was quoted by Elder Nash in his talk on the importance of having faith in the Savior and turning to him for comfort and guidance.  

400 - President Packer quoted this hymn, with words written by President Joseph Fielding Smith, on the importance of enduring to the end, and then the choir sang it.  

500 - President Packer told the story of needing lights to enter the harbor safely and quoted from this hymn which includes the chorus: “Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave, some poor fainting, struggling seaman you may rescue, you may save.” 

Questions

100 - Speaking about his experience in the Marine Corps, Elder Echo Hawk talked about first meeting his drill instructor who ridiculed each recruit, using foul language. When he came to recruit Echo Hawk's bunk, he dumped out his bag and pulled out the Book of Mormon. Leaning in close, the drill instructor whispered what?  

200 - Elder Cook quoted Alma the Younger who asked the people of his day, '... if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?'" (Alma 5:26) and then gave this suggestion for what we might do to be able to answer yes.  [See Isaiah 1:18] 

300 - Elder Holland told the story of the Savior coming to Peter after his resurrection and asking him three times this question.  When Peter replied “Yes,” the Savior commanded him to feed his sheep.  [See John 21:15-17] 

400 - Elder Ballard suggested adopting this simple, daily practice to answer the question, “How do we make this mighty change of heart (to be truly converted to the gospel)?  

500 - After telling a couple of stories – one about buying a movie ticket/candy bars and one about playing on a championship team  with Sunday events -  Elder Gay asked the question “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  What point was he trying to make?   

Words of the Prophet

100 - President Monson announced this policy change at the Saturday morning session of conference.  

200 - President Monson quoted 2 Nephi 2:25 stating that this promise is fulfilled as we recognize we can communicate with our Heavenly Father through prayer and that he answers us.  

300 - Name some of the counsel President Monson gave in his final, closing remarks.  

400 - In his talk on how to combat Satan’s tools of unbelief or doubt, fear, or sin, Elder Nash quoted the following saying (fill in the blank) from a talk President Monson gave a few years ago:  The future is as bright as your ________.” 

500 - President Monson shared several stories where he was prompted to help someone, and in turn was blessed himself.  He counseled us to do this one exercise to help us not become discouraged with the world in which we live.  

Conference Jeopardy - Answers


October 2012 Conference Jeopardy Answers  (see questions here)

New Testament Scripture Masteries

100 -  John 3:5

200 -  John 14:15

300 -   John 17:3

400 -  Matthew 16:15-19

500 -   Matthew 25:40

Other Scripture Masteries

100 -  Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers, or family history and temple work.

200 -  The Atonement, or prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane

300 -  Build our foundation on the Savior

400 -   Helps us know the truth of all things.

500 -  Little children.

Hymns

100 -   “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go” 270

200 -   “Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?” 223

300 -   “Lead, Kindly Light” 97

400 -   “Does the Journey Seem Long?” 127

500 -   “Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy” 335

Questions

100 -  “Are you a Mormon?”

200 -  Repent.

300 -  “Do you love me?” or “Lovest thou me?”

400 - "In your morning prayer each new day, ask Heavenly Father to guide you to recognize an opportunity to serve one of His precious children.“

500 -  That we need to give up all of our sins in order to receive eternal life.

Words of the Prophet

100 - Change in age for serving missions.

200 -  “Men are that they might have joy.”

300 - Read, study and ponder the conference messages.  Watch over one another.  Don’t be critical or judgmental.  Serve one another.  Be of good cheer.  Emulate the Savior’s example.  Show our gratitude to him by keeping his commandments.

400 -   Faith

500 - Take an inventory of your life and look specifically for the blessings, large and small, you have received.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Ideal Family

September is the anniversary month for The Family: A Proclamation to the World, and in honor of that fact there's a celebration going on.  Go to these following blogs to find posts filled with wonderful thoughts and activities.

Middle-aged Mormon Man

Anyway, while I've been pondering the importance of the family over the past few days, my thoughts were drawn to a talk given by Elder Richard G. Scott in the April 2011 general conference titled "First Things First."

He started by reminding us of our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness for each of us:
"One of the most exhilarating moments of your life—when you were filled with anticipation, excitement, and gratitude—you are not able to remember. That experience occurred in the premortal life when you were informed that finally your time had come to leave the spirit world to dwell on earth with a mortal body. You knew you could learn through personal experience the lessons that would bring happiness on earth, lessons that would eventually lead you to exaltation and eternal life as a glorified, celestial being in the presence of your Holy Father and His Beloved Son. You understood that there would be challenges, for you would live in an environment of both righteous and evil influences. Yet surely you resolved no matter what the cost, no matter what the effort, suffering, and testing, you would return victorious. You had been reserved to come when the fulness of the gospel is on earth. You arrived when His Church and the priesthood authority to perform the sacred temple ordinances are in place. You anticipated being born into a home where parents would be expected to love, nurture, strengthen, and teach you truths. You knew that in time you would have the opportunity to form your own eternal family as husband or wife, father or mother. Oh, how you must have rejoiced with that prospect." 

Then he outlined the definition of the ideal family:
"The pattern of families essential to Father’s plan of happiness was established, and our need to continually 'call upon God' emphasized. You are in the midst of living that plan. Through the restored gospel we learn there is an ideal family. It is a family composed of a righteous Melchizedek Priesthood bearer with a righteous wife sealed to him and children born in the covenant or sealed to them. With a mother in the home in an environment of love and service, the parents teach their children, through example and precept, the ways of the Lord and His truths. They fulfill their divinely appointed roles mentioned in the family proclamation. Their children mature by living teachings instilled from birth. They develop characteristics of obedience, integrity, love of God, and faith in His holy plan. In due course, each of those children seeks a companion with similar ideals and aspirations. They are sealed in the temple, bear children, and the eternal plan continues, with generation strengthening generation. Throughout your life on earth, seek diligently to fulfill the fundamental purposes of this life through the ideal family. While you may not have yet reached that ideal, do all you can through obedience and faith in the Lord to consistently draw as close to it as you are able. Let nothing dissuade you from that objective." 
He mentioned that some of us may not live in an ideal family now, but we shouldn't become discouraged over that fact, or use it as an excuse to prevent us from striving to reach that goal.  
And he concluded with a challenge:
"Find a retreat of peace and quiet where periodically you can ponder and let the Lord establish the direction of your life. Each of us needs to periodically check our bearings and confirm that we are on course. Sometime soon you may benefit from taking this personal inventory:
What are my highest priorities to be accomplished while on earth?
How do I use my discretionary time? Is some of it consistently applied to my highest priorities?
Is there anything I know I should not be doing? If so, I will repent and stop it now.
In a quiet moment write down your responses. Analyze them. Make any necessary adjustments.
Put first things first. Do the best you can while on earth to have an ideal family. To help you do that, ponder and apply the principles in the proclamation on the family."

I feel extremely blessed that my parents and grandparents had examples to follow, so that they wanted to create the pattern of the ideal family.  Even though it's still constant work, It makes it easier for me as I strive to follow in their footsteps.
1972 - youngest generation
2004 - middle generation
2011 - oldest generation
And I hope it makes it easier for the next generations.  However, I'm also grateful for the gospel and its teachings, and for the knowledge that if we don't have an ideal family now, we can in the future.  I'm in awe of the many friends I have who are the first generation to really know and understand these important principles and doctrines.  The family truly is ordained of God.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Gift of Peace

Galations 5:22 - "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace."
Isaiah 32:17 - "And the work of righteousness shall be peace."
John 14:27 - "My peace I give unto you."

Peace comes from living gospel principles and joy comes from serving others. It's really that simple. And it hasn't changed since I wrote about it a year ago: Peace and Joy

Henry B. Eyring - Spiritual Preparation
"The great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage."

Music with a Message - Messages of Peace

"Peace - real peace, whole-souled to the very core of your being - comes only in and through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When that precious truth is discovered and gospel principles are understood and applied, great peace can distill in the hearts and souls of our Heavenly Father's children. Said the Savior through Joseph Smith, 'He who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23)."

"The ability to have an unsettled conscience is a gift from God to help you succeed in this mortal life."

Richard G. Scott - The Path to Peace and Joy
"Peace is the precious fruit of a righteous life. It is possible because of the Atonement of the Savior. It is earned through full repentance, for that leads to refreshing forgiveness."

Thomas S. Monson - Treasured Gifts
"The passport to peace is the practice of prayer."

Basically the answer is to simplify, serve others and remember the Savior through prayer, worship and expressing gratitude.

Oxen

A couple of resources for Matthew 11:28-30 - "take my yoke upon you"

 

Team Building by Martien Eerhart

There is a story about a contest in Canada for the strongest ox. The  winning ox could pull 8,000 pounds  and the runner-up pulled just a little less than that. The owners of the oxen wanted to know how much the two oxen could pull together. Most observers placed a bet around 16,000 pounds. Some bet a little more, some a little less. When they actually put the two oxen in front of the weights, they pulled over 26,000  pounds!  That is true synergy: the sum is more than the components together. That is why team playing is so much more effective.


Equally Yoked Together by Boyd K. Packer

Several years ago . . . I went to a country fair in New Hampshire. It was a beautiful fall day and a delightful old-time country fair.The center of attraction was the oxen pulling contest. Several teams of oxen with heavy wooden yokes were lined up to compete. A wooden sledge was weighted with cement blocks: ten thousand pounds--five tons--to begin with. The object was for the oxen to move the sledge three feet.

I noticed a well-matched pair of very large, brindled, blue-gray animals. They were the big-boned, holstein, Durham-cross, familiar big blue oxen of seasons past. Because of their size, of course they were the favorites.  Each team was given three attempts to move the sledge. If they were able to do so easily, more weight was added until the teams were eliminated one by one. In turn, each team was hitched to the sledge. The teamster would position his animals carefully, pat them, chortle to them, whisper to them, and then at a goad and a loud command they would slam forward against the yoke. Either the weight would move or the oxen were jerked to a halt.

The big blue oxen didn't even place! A small, nondescript pair of animals, not very well matched for size, moved the sledge all three times.  I was amazed and fascinated and turned to an old New Englander in the crowd and asked if he could explain how that could happen. He said, "E-yeh." (That means yes in New England.) And then he explained. The big blues were larger and stronger and better matched for size than the other team. But the little oxen had better teamwork and coordination. They hit the yoke together. Both animals jerked forward at exactly the same time and the force moved the load.

One of the big blue oxen had lagged a second or pushed a second too soon--something like a football player being off side--and the force was spent in a glancing blow. The yoke then was twisted and the team jerked to one side and the sledge hardly moved. If I were to moralize, I would begin in typical Book of Mormon language, "and thus we see" that size and strength are not enough. It takes teamwork as well.

And one thought from me (and the seminary lesson manual, and Mosiah 18:8-10, and Elder McConkie):  We join our Savior in the yoke when we are baptized and covenant to take upon us his name.  As we keep the commandments, and in particular serve others, our own burdens become lighter.  What an amazing blessing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sailing the Seas

This morning I read a couple of quotes I want to remember.  Maybe they'll be helpful to someone else as well.

The first comes from a talk President Kimball gave in 1975 (found here on page 31).  He said it would be wise to remember the following quote, and to heed the admonition to take control of our lives:

To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

It struck me because I had just read President Monson's last conference address where he reminds us of the same principle.
When I reflect on the race of life, I remember another type of race, even from childhood days. My friends and I would take pocketknives in hand and, from the soft wood of a willow tree, fashion small toy boats. With a triangular-shaped cotton sail in place, each would launch his crude craft in the race down the relatively turbulent waters of Utah’s Provo River. We would run along the river’s bank and watch the tiny vessels sometimes bobbing violently in the swift current and at other times sailing serenely as the water deepened.
During a particular race we noted that one boat led all the rest toward the appointed finish line. Suddenly, the current carried it too close to a large whirlpool, and the boat heaved to its side and capsized. Around and around it was carried, unable to make its way back into the main current. At last it came to an uneasy rest amid the flotsam and jetsam that surrounded it, held fast by the tentacles of the grasping green moss.
The toy boats of childhood had no keel for stability, no rudder to provide direction, and no source of power. Inevitably, their destination was downstream—the path of least resistance.
Unlike toy boats, we have been provided divine attributes to guide our journey. We enter mortality not to float with the moving currents of life but with the power to think, to reason, and to achieve.
Our Heavenly Father did not launch us on our eternal voyage without providing the means whereby we could receive from Him guidance to ensure our safe return. I speak of prayer. I speak too of the whisperings from that still, small voice; and I do not overlook the holy scriptures, which contain the word of the Lord and the words of the prophets—provided to us to help us successfully cross the finish line.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers




This morning I'm grateful for my father.  I'm grateful for the father of my children.  And I'm grateful for the wonderful fathers that those children are turning out to be.  Because of my dad's example, I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves and cares about me.  I hope my grandchildren will enjoy the blessing of that testimony as well.  So, I looked up some talks that I'm sure my dad read and followed, so that these wonderful young men who are just beginning to negotiate parenthood can do the same.  I hope you all have a Happy Father's Day!
"Father, Consider Your Ways" by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
"Being a Righteous Husband and Father" by President Howard W. Hunter
"The Hands of the Fathers" by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
LDS quotes on Fatherhood
even more resources and talks
 "To the Fathers in Israel" by President Ezra Taft Benson  (This particular talk had a great impact on your own father, and I thought it would be a good idea to save you the time of clicking on a link for at least part of it.  I'm so glad that my dad and your dad followed these ten suggestions, and I would encourage you to do the same!)

"With love in my heart for the fathers in Israel, may I suggest ten specific ways that fathers can give spiritual leadership to their children:

1. Give father’s blessings to your children. Baptize and confirm your children. Ordain your sons to the priesthood. These will become spiritual highlights in the lives of your children.
2. Personally direct family prayers, daily scripture reading, and weekly family home evenings. Your personal involvement will show your children how important these activities really are.

3. Whenever possible, attend Church meetings together as a family. Family worship under your leadership is vital to your children’s spiritual welfare.
4. Go on daddy-daughter dates and father-and-sons’ outings with your children. As a family, go on campouts and picnics, to ball games and recitals, to school programs, and so forth. Having Dad there makes all the difference.
5. Build traditions of family vacations and trips and outings. These memories will never be forgotten by your children.
6. Have regular one-on-one visits with your children. Let them talk about what they would like to. Teach them gospel principles. Teach them true values. Tell them you love them. Personal time with your children tells them where Dad puts his priorities.
7. Teach your children to work, and show them the value of working toward a worthy goal. Establishing mission funds and education funds for your children shows them what Dad considers to be important.
8. Encourage good music and art and literature in your homes. Homes that have a spirit of refinement and beauty will bless the lives of your children forever.
9. As distances allow, regularly attend the temple with your wife. Your children will then better understand the importance of temple marriage and temple vows and the eternal family unit.
10. Have your children see your joy and satisfaction in service to the Church. This can become contagious to them, so they, too, will want to serve in the Church and will love the kingdom."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Trying to Find an Object Lesson

I'm not doing a post for each talk this time around, but I am still participating in the General Conference Book Club.  This week's talk is the one by Elder Holland, "The Laborers in the Vineyard."  I love the way he explains parables in a manner that makes you look at them differently.  And I love his humor and choice of words.  For example,

Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him “all that he hath,” as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.

Several years ago I remember reading an object lesson suggestion for teaching the concept found in Romans 8 that we can all become "joint-heirs with Christ" and "receive all that the Father hath." (D&C 84:38).  I've spent a couple of hours this morning trying to find the actual source with no luck, so I'm just going to record here what I remember.  Basically, the teacher gives a student a bag of candy (fun-size Halloween type packaging) as his inheritance.  He then asks if he would be willing to share the candy with the rest of the class members, if they meet the requirements to become heirs as well.  The assumption is that the answer will be yes.  Then you have the class do something so that they can all "inherit" the prize.  However, instead of dividing the original bag of candy, you produce an identical bag of candy to give to each student.  This isn't an exactly accurate portrayal of the concept (see below), and I'm not very good at explaining things, so I'm not sure this makes sense, but it really helped me understand the idea better and think of it in a new way.

In my search this morning I found a talk, Households of Faith, by Elder McConkie that also sheds light on this concept.


[Jesus Christ] is the natural Son of God. But there is a system ordained whereby the rest of us can become sons of God. Christ is the prototype of salvation. If we walk in his path and follow him, then we do what he did and eventually become like him. This is the reward for all those who are adopted into the family of God the Father and become his sons. Paul says that Christ is the Son and the Heir, and that we are joint-heirs with him. (See Rom. 8:17.) That is, if we are faithful, we are able to receive, possess, and inherit jointly with him.


This is a very expressive term. It is chosen for particular reasons, to convey the exact and precise thought that is involved. I, for instance, with my wife, own a home, and the deed to that home says that the property was conveyed to Bruce R. McConkie and Amelia S. McConkie, his wife, as joint tenants and not as tenants in common. This is legal language that is chosen in order to convey the concept that each one of us inherits and possesses and owns and has the totality of all the property, that all of it is vested in both of us. If one or the other of us passes away, the other automatically owns the entire property. It is not divisable. We are joint tenants. That is what a joint-heir is; he inherits everything that the other heirs inherit. There is not a division so that one gets this and someone else gets another thing. All of them get the totality of the whole.


We have an order of celestial marriage that opens the door to exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. (See D&C 131:1–4.) Those who enter this order of matrimony and are faithful and true come up and inherit all things. (See D&C 76:50–70.) The terms and conditions of the oath and covenant of the priesthood say that those who magnify their callings receive all that our Father has. (See D&C 84:33–42.) They are joint-heirs; they are possessors of the whole. They have inherited as their prototype before inherited. They have the fullness of glory and honor and dignity and dominion. So the members of the Church, who are the children of Christ, who progress and advance and keep the commandments and are faithful and true, have the power to become his brothers and his sisters, to be joint-heirs with him, to receive, possess, and inherit the fullness of all good things; and that is what the plan of salvation is all about. That is the plan that God, our Heavenly Father, ordained for us.


This is definitely a "meat and not milk" concept, but I am thankful for the plan of salvation and a loving Heavenly Father who wants me to return to him and be with him forever.  What a blessing!  And what a challenge!


And I love Elder Holland's conclusion as well: To those of you who have been blessed by the gospel for many years because you were fortunate enough to find it early, to those of you who have come to the gospel by stages and phases later, and to those of you—members and not yet members—who may still be hanging back, to each of you, one and all, I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace. His concern is for the faith at which you finally arrive, not the hour of the day in which you got there.  So if you have made covenants, keep them. If you haven’t made them, make them. If you have made them and broken them, repent and repair them. It is never too late so long as the Master of the vineyard says there is time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Friend's Conversion

I'm not sure when, where or why Sue gave me this account, but I don't want to lose it, and I'm sure others will appreciate her testimony.  Sue passed away due to poor health a few years ago, faithful to the end.  I miss her.


Suzann Pirotta’s Conversion Story


It was in the fall of 1974 when Joyce came to live with us at Illinois State University. I was pursuing a Master of Music Performance Degree on my major instrument which was bassoon. My teacher called me asking if we had room for her in our off campus apartment and said she was a bassoonist majoring in the same degree.  Now musicians are fiercely competitive in many ways. We auditioned for the same limited performance slots with the semi professional orchestra in the next town as well as other opportunities many times a year. As fate would have it we did have one more bed available in the basement of Mrs. Bright’s Home. A phone was provided for us by our landlord and we were listed as “The Bright Student House”. Before she even arrived we heard the rumors that she was a Mormon. Now the only contact I had ever had with the church was during a tour that I participated in that played a concert in Salt Lake City. They immediately corralled us to show us a movie on the Mormon faith. Another performer and I snuck out a side door to do some much needed shopping for me as my luggage had never arrived.

It was during this time that the Washington DC temple was dedicated and Joyce made plans to sing in the choir at the dedication. When Joyce returned from her trip, I felt something extremely different in her countenance as she was truly glowing from within. Every Sunday she cheerfully prepared herself for church and would always ask … “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to come with me?” Every Sunday I answered just as cheerfully … "ahh No!” She never gave up and I never gave in. The second semester 3 of the 7 girls had graduated in December and Joyce and I decided to find an apartment for 2. We had several discussions on the subject of religion and I always stated my viewpoint thusly… “I believe that man has corrupted the practice of true religion and I believe I have a personal relationship with God which I find more than adequate.” She probably noticed my frequent nature walks which were where I went to talk to God. She lived in Baltimore and I lived in Pittsburgh. Yet there we were in the middle of the Illinois cornfields having moved to an apartment complex with 8 other young adult members also attending school. Now considering the location and the concentration of young members surrounding me, 9:1, I was definitely ambushed as my Heavenly Father perceived just what it would take to convert me. During Christmas break, Joyce sensed a golden moment and decided to teach me all of the discussions in the car! We got as far as the Indianapolis Bypass when I pulled over and emphatically demanded that she either cease or get out of my car! But the seeds were more or less strewn and left alone with the inquisitiveness of my personality I began to question things.

Upon returning to school in January of 1975, I was in a positive frame of mind contemplating the testimony of my roomie! Of course I did not let her know this one bit! She was far too close to the issue with me and definitely too forceful. The idea began to take shape and I decided that if religion were going to come to the forefront at this time in my life, I definitely should examine all faiths equally. It much have driven her crazy as I invited a host of individuals into our home to discuss their belief systems, all of which did not change my opinion of a non-authority based attempt at worshiping God. Little did she know that when I decided to give her missionaries a turn, I would not even hint that it was happening. There were a couple of young men in apartment 12 upstairs and on the opposite end from us and I chose them mostly for the location. The day of the first missionary discussion quickly approached. They gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon which I gladly accepted and promised to read. They had no idea I had already read most of Joyce’s book! So during the week, I sought out the young married couple in apartment 10. They had a whole wall of shelves filled with church books and they gave me a key. The first week I read the assignment for the missionaries and President Kimball’s book the Miracle of Forgiveness. Yes the entire book! I wanted to hear what the man called a modern prophet was saying to the world. I discovered their stash of Ensigns and browsed through a few of his talks there too. I had yet to pray about it though. In the subsequent weeks I read more than a few other books. The feelings were genuine and warm but I had a major obstacle in my life approach called my graduate recital which was worth 6 Master Degree credits. Without passing the faculty audition and then successfully performing the difficult music that was required I would not be awarded my degree. I told the missionaries and talked with God about a temporary hold on my investigation and promised that after Feb 19, the date of that recital, I would return to my lessons. I had 4 other people going to make sure that would happen. The day came and went. The recital was passed and my degree would be shortly awarded. As promised I returned to meet with the missionaries. Returning to our apartment with the bright blue Book of Mormon in my right hand, I discovered I had locked myself out. To add to my dilemma I looked up to see Joyce sprinting across the large empty field that separated our home from the college campus. I was delighted for a moment realizing I would soon gain entry to our abode and then I remembered that I was holding my copy of the Book of Mormon. Thinking quickly I went down to our mailbox and shoved it in. She saw me and as she unlocked the door she asked, “What was in the mail?” I stammered a bit not knowing for I had not even thought to look.

I prayed that week sincerely desiring to know if this were the truth and if the authority of God was truly resting with this Church. The witness was undeniable as my entire soul was filled with light and an overwhelming sense of peace. The very next lesson the missionaries challenged me to accept baptism and I said “Yes!” A few days later I met with the bishop and we discussed when I wanted to be baptized. I told him that Saturday was my birthday and I thought that would be a most excellent time for me. I was to be baptized on March 29, 1975. I returned home to Joyce cooking and singing in our kitchen. I rather casually asked her what she had planned for Saturday and asked her if she would like to attend my baptismal service.  We hugged for a very long time and of course she cleared her schedule. Then we two music majors sat on the floor of our living room singing the hymns of the restored gospel and choosing just the right ones for my baptismal service.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Story

It's Easter!  What a glorious day!  I was given the assignment to put together a music-based program for sacrament meeting today.  It was more difficult than I expected, which always makes for a great learning experience, but it turned out nicely.  I'm sure my boys would love to know what they missed, so here you go. (Michelle's solo of "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" was beautiful.)  If you click on the titles of the songs, you'll be sent to websites where you can read the words and/or listen to the music.  These may be the words of the prophets, but it's my testimony too.  Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ lives.
“It is because of Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son that all men—past, present, and future—can return to live with Him who is the Father of our spirits. But to insure that that can happen, it was first necessary for Jesus to come to earth in the flesh to teach men by His example the correct way to live and then to willingly give up His life and, in some miraculous way, accept the burden for the sins of mankind.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Friend, December 1982)

“Without Christ, there would be no Easter.  Without Christ there can be no fullness of joy.  In our premortal state, we shouted for joy as the plan of salvation was unfolded to our view.  It was there our elder brother Jesus, the firstborn in the spirit of our Father’s children, volunteered to redeem us from our sins.  He became our foreordained savior, the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Moses 7:47)  Thanks be to God the Son for the offering of Himself.  And thanks be to God the Father that He sent Him.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.) (Ezra Taft Benson, “Joy in Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, 3)


“As a result of the many miracles in our lives, we should be more humble and more grateful, more kind and more believing. When we are personal witnesses to these wonders which God performs, it should increase our respect and love for him; it should improve the way we behave. We will live better and love more if we will remember that. We are miracles in our own right, every one of us, and the resurrected Son of God is the greatest miracle of all. He is, indeed, the miracle of miracles, and every day of his life he gave evidence of it. We should try to follow after him in that example.” (Howard W. Hunter, April 1989 general conference)


During the three years of His earthly ministry, [Christ] did what none other had ever done before; He taught as none other had previously taught.  Then came His time to be offered. There was the supper in the Upper Room, His last with the Twelve in mortality. As He washed their feet, He taught a lesson in humility and service they would never forget. There followed the suffering of Gethsemane, “which suffering,” He said, “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18). (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, April 1997)


“I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.  At the last moment, He could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.  To the depths of my very soul, I am grateful to Him. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation.” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, April 2012)


“Now upon the first day of the week, early in the morning, the women came unto the sepulchre. … They found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass that as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold two men stood by them in shining garments! And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, the angel said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? Fear not ye, be not affrighted; for I know that ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay—where they laid him. “And go quickly and tell his disciples and Peter that He is risen from the dead—that He goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see Him. Remember how He spoke unto you while He was yet in Galilee saying: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and the third day rise again. Lo, I have told you.” [See Luke 24:1–7; Matthew 28:5–7; Mark 16:5–7.]  Thus do the writers of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record the greatest event in the history of the world, the literal resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. Dramatically had been demonstrated the greatest of all the divine powers of an incarnated Son of God. He had declared to the sorrowing Martha, at the time of the death of her brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25.)  (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, (2000), 216–23)

“Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place—the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.  The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth. … My beloved brothers and sisters, in our hour of deepest sorrow, we can receive profound peace from the words of the angel that first Easter morning: ‘He is not here: for he is risen.’” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, April 2012)


For all of Christendom, for all of mankind, today is observed as the anniversary of the greatest miracle in human history. It is the miracle that encompasses all who have lived upon the earth, all who now live upon the earth, and all who will yet live upon the earth. Nothing done before or since has so affected mankind as the atonement wrought by Jesus of Nazareth, who died on Calvary’s cross, was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and on the third day arose from the grave as the Living Son of the Living God—the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, April 1994 general conference)

“I declare my personal witness that death has been conquered, victory over the tomb has been won. May the words made sacred by Him who fulfilled them become actual knowledge to all. Remember them. Cherish them. Honor them. He is risen.” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, April 2012)


Monday, April 2, 2012

Preparing for Easter

I came across a real treasure while looking for something else this afternoon.  Take some time to view these video clips; during this Easter season, it would be a wonderful way to help strengthen your testimony of the Savior.  At the very least, review The Living Christ. It may have been given twelve years ago but it's filled with profound truth that will never be outdated.

The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles

Special Witnesses of Christ - transcript of video prepared for April 2000 conference

Special Witnesses of Christ - video segments from today's living apostles

Monday, March 26, 2012

GCBC - Elder Cook

General Conference Book Club
Elder Quentin L. Cook
"The Songs They Could Not Sing"

The talk is here. The online book club is here.  My favorite quote from the talk was his answer to the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"


While we do not know all the answers, we do know important principles that allow us to face tragedies with faith and confidence that there is a bright future planned for each of us. Some of the most important principles are:


First, we have a Father in Heaven, who knows and loves us personally and understands our suffering perfectly.


Second, His Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and Redeemer, whose Atonement not only provides for salvation and exaltation but also will compensate for all the unfairness of life.


Third, the Father’s plan of happiness for His children includes not only a premortal and mortal life but also an eternal life as well, including a great and glorious reunion with those we have lost. All wrongs will be righted, and we will see with perfect clarity and faultless perspective and understanding.

I was thumbing through the "thoughts" section of my planner and noticed that I have a lot of quotes relating to the topic of dealing with adversity.  I guess it's something I struggle with as well!  And these quotes provide great comfort to me.  Here are a few of them:

Carlos E. Ag├╝ero: “The price for good things is paid in advance by our patience, humility, and obedience, especially during trials. If you don’t give up during your trials or let frustration and discouragement overcome you, trials will refine you spiritually and prepare you for better things. You will see the fulfillment of beautiful miracles in your life.” (New Era January 2006)


Henry B. Eyring: “So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home.” (October 2005 general conference)

Henry B. Eyring: “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.” (April 2004 general conference)

Robert D. Hales: “Unless you are fully engaged in living the gospel—living it with all of your ‘heart, might, mind and strength’ - you cannot generate enough spiritual light to push back the darkness.” (April 2002 general conference)

Finally, one of the ways I deal with the fact that sometimes there are "songs they cannot sing" is to sing (or listen to) the ones that have been written.  Music is a great way to bring peace into our lives.  Go to my guest post here to find one of my favorite hymns for helping me cope with the trials of life.  And don't forget to listen to general conference this weekend!  We're sure to be given many more tools to help us not only cope but triumph.

Monday, March 19, 2012

GCBC - Elder Cornish

General Conference Book Club
Elder J. Devn Cornish
"The Privilege of Prayer"
Dominican Republic Santiago - November 2004
The talk is here.  Elder Cornish was our son's mission president.  For some reason having that personal connection always makes me pay better attention.  Here are some of the thoughts that stood out to me as I listened to and then re-read this talk -

  • Heavenly Father knows each of us individually and personally.  He wants to bless us, but he can't infringe upon our agency.  
  • We must ask and pray in faith.
  • We must live our prayers.
  • "Prayer is the passport to peace." (President Monson)
  • " Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work, and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings." (Bible Dictionary)

Prayer really is a privilege.  Am I taking full advantage of this precious gift?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Little Things

I've come across two thought-provoking blog posts in the last little while that I don't want to forget, so here they are:


and


which contained this "new to me" quote.
“Life, after all,” said President David O. McKay, “is made up of little things. Our life, our being, physically, is made up here of little heart beats. Let that little heart stop beating, and life in this world ceases. The great sun is a mighty force in the universe, but we receive the blessings of his rays because they come to us as little beams, which taken in the aggregate, fill the whole world with sunlight. The dark night is made pleasant by the glimmer of what seem to be little stars; and so the true Christian life is made up of little Christ-like acts performed this hour, this minute…wherever our life and acts may be cast.” 

Isn't that a beautiful quote?  (You can find it here in a chapter on developing Christlike character.) 

Enjoy a beautiful day of doing wonderful, extraordinary, simple, little things!

Monday, March 12, 2012

GCBC - Elder Yamashita

General Conference Book Club
Elder Kazuhiko Yamashita
"Missionaries are a Treasure of the Church"

The talk is here.  I liked how that over at Diapers and Divinity, a lot of the comments related these principles of missionary work to motherhood.  As I read the talk again, I was able to apply it to teaching my Primary class.  My favorite quote was this:

“Your attitudes and the love that you show toward others are very significant messages. Even though I didn’t immediately grasp all the doctrines that the missionaries taught me, I felt of their great love, and their many acts of kindness taught me important lessons. Your message is a message of love, a message of hope, and a message of faith. Your attitude and your actions invite the Spirit, and the Spirit enables us to understand the things that are important.”

I also liked his list of three things to take with you on a mission - desire to serve, testimony and love for others.  If you have those, you can do great things anywhere!

GCBC - Elder Bennett

General Conference Book Club
Elder Randall K. Bennett
"Choose Eternal Life"


A couple of weeks ago, we started going through “For the Strength of Youth” for our FHE lessons. Dad thought it would be a good idea to compare the changes that were made with the old version. We happened to do “Agency and Accountability” this week, and it was great to add this talk to our discussion. It helped show that these really are eternal principles.

I love President Monson’s quote that “decisions determine destiny,” and the reminder from Elder Bennett that it’s up to us to “choose” eternal life. And I’m also reminded of something I learned from Elder Bednar, that the purpose of agency isn’t to choose what I want, but to choose what Heavenly Father wants. He said, "The fundamental purposes for the gift of agency were to love one another and to choose God."   For the most part, we already know what we need to do and become. Agency is a wonderful gift. What good is it if we don’t exercise it righteously?



The talk is here is you want to go review it yourself.    And you can find the online book club here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

GCBC - Elder Oaks

General Conference Book Club
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
"Teachings of Jesus"

"What think I of Christ?"  And, more importantly, what am I doing because of it?  As Elder Oaks told her story, my heart ached for the woman who didn't know what Jesus had done for her.  He has done everything for us!  I appreciated the reminders found in the following scriptures:

Matthew 6:33 - Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.
Matthew 7:7 - Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
John 7:17 - If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.

I also appreciated his challenge to examine ourselves.  Are we building our house in Zion yet still trying to keep a summer cottage in Babylon?  (I made a note during conference to look up Elder Maxwell's quote.  It's found in a book, not a conference talk.  However, I did find a wonderful blog post that is definitely worth your time - "A Summer Cottage in Babylon."  Cocoa articulates things much better than I could!)  We need to remember that there is no middle ground, and that the Lord doesn't want fence-sitters.  We need to choose a side, and stay there.  I'm choosing the Lord's side.

GCBC - Elder Nelson

General Conference Book Club
Elder Russell M. Nelson
"Covenants"

This summer we're celebrating our 30th anniversary, and we were able to help our parents celebrate their 50th anniversaries not too long ago.  We're grateful for the covenants we made in the temple, for the opportunity to continue to keep them, and we're even more grateful to see the next generation do the same.

Listening to this talk reaffirmed my testimony of these three principles:

1) Patriarchal blessings give us a vision of our future.
2) Temple marriage is the covenant of exaltation, and baptism is the covenant of salvation - both are a necessary part of the celestial kingdom.
3) We keep covenants by obeying the commandments.

And I loved Elder Nelson's enthusiasm as he reminded us that we get to participate in the gathering of Israel! Sometimes I forget that having the gospel in my life, with its attendant covenants and responsibilities, is really a tremendous honor and blessing.  I don't need to complain about overwhelming tasks and duties, I need to rejoice that I have the opportunity to serve my fellowman and help them find the peace and joy that the gospel, which includes making and keeping covenants, brings into our lives.

As Mosiah 2:41 states,  "I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.  For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faith to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.  O remember, remember that these things are true."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GCBC - Brother Richardson

General Conference Book Club
Brother Matthew O. Richardson
"Teaching after the Manner of the Spirit"

This week's conference talk was on teaching.  Both Wayne and I thought Brother Richardson's talk was one of the better ones of this past conference; it was definitely the best "Sunday School presidency" talk we've ever heard.  Maybe it had something to do with the hiking story!  Teaching is important, and teaching "after the manner of the Spirit" is imperative.  It was great being reminded of that, and we also appreciated the concrete counsel and examples.

I'm glad I could review it again this week because yesterday we received an email from our son with the following question: We want to teach [our 8 month old daughter] three concepts starting now: obedience, patience, and kindness. Any tips for getting through to a young, yet very smart and perceptive little person?
As I thought about that (we decided a discussion of this topic would be a great FHE lesson), I came up with a few suggestions:

1) Teach by example.  If you want your child to be obedient, kind and patient, as parents you must be obedient, kind and patient.

2) Just love her.  At that age she just needs lots and lots of love.  The Golden Rule works.  When you feel loved, you're happy.  And when you're happy you want to choose the right.  And when you're choosing the right, your parents like you better and you get more love.  Isn't it a wonderful circle?

3) Be consistent and follow through.  If you say "come here" and she doesn't, go get her.  If you say "don't throw food on the floor" and she does, take the food away.  If you say, "it's time to stop playing at the beach and get in the car" and she screams, get in the car anyway.  This is really difficult sometimes, and causes tears and headaches for parent and child, but it's worth it in the long term.

4) Don't yell.  "A soft answer turneth away wrath."  It works.

5) Use distraction.  Toddlers have a pretty short attention span.  If you see her heading towards mischief, immediately offer another alternative.  Chances are she'll forget what she originally wanted.

Those are what I came up with, and then I turned to the internet to see what others might suggest.  I couldn't find anything specifically geared to infants and toddlers, but there's lots of advice and counsel on teaching children.  Here are some links to articles (at the bottom of the post), but they basically say the same thing - teach by example, love unconditionally, follow through with consequences, pray and let the Spirit guide you. (That would be #6.)

We reviewed these for family night, agreed that they're good suggestions, and even came up with a few more:

7) Sing songs and tell stories.  The first two songs that came to mind were "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus" and "I want to be Kind to Everyone."  When you understand doctrine and principles, or "why" you should do something, it is so much easier to actually choose the right.  Scripture stories and Primary songs are filled with gorgeous gospel truth, and they're the perfect medium for teaching that truth to young children.  (In my opinion, this is the one best way to "get through" to little kids.)

8) Create opportunities to practice, ones that are geared to her level of understanding.

9) Help her understand choices and consequences - by giving praise or expressing disapproval immediately - so she can learn to connect the two.

One of the statements that stuck out to me came from the last article on the list: "One important principle we learned with these and many other issues was to make sure we addressed them with our children before they had really become an issue or a problem in their lives."  As parents we need to be pro-active (#10) in our teaching.  Michelle wondered why you even needed to worry about teaching a baby to be kind and patient.  We tried to teach her that we were thrilled her brother was concerned about it.  It shows that he and his wife are terrific parents.  Because they're making a plan now, we're confident that their little girl will grow up to be obedient, kind, and patient.

Feel free to add to this list.  We're always open to suggestions of things that really work!