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The Purest Love

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and wom...

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Healing the Leper

With leprosy, bacteria attacks nerve endings and destroys the body's ability to feel. Without the sensation of feeling, people injure themselves on fire, thorns, rocks, even hot coffee cups. Injuries become infected and result in tissue loss. Fingers and toes become shortened and deformed as the cartilage is absorbed into the body. It can also result in difficulty breathing and poor vision.

When I read this definition of what leprosy is, I was surprised.  I always thought it was a skin condition not a nerve condition.  My husband even likes to joke around that he has "leprosy"when his skin is dry or peeling.   I suppose there are many people through time, even during the time of Christ, that have thought it was some sort of contagious skin condition.  But it's not, it's damage to the nerves, the ability to feel which leads to injury of the skin.  This made me think of the scripture in  1Ne. 17:45 where Nephi speaks of his brothers as being “past feeling.” Could there be an emotional and spiritual kind of leprosy?

In every account that I have read where Christ heals the leper it always says that they were "immediately" healed.
If there is an emotional equivalent to leprosy, why can't that be immediately healed???  Why does it have to take 30 to 40 years or even a life-time for some?

What kinds of things in our lives make us "past feeling?"  What numbs our ability to be conscious in our surroundings?  What corrodes our awareness of the Spirit in our lives, or dulls our sense of true identity?  I believe a big one in today's world is addiction.  Those caught in it's ugly cycle, those who have constant regular relapses or just an occasional regurgitation, it doesn't really matter; each relapse "attacks the nerves, the sensation of feeling, leaving one open for greater injury and infection."

How sad that in Christ's time, the lepers were shunned or isolated, despised and rejected.  They weren't contagious, they had self-inflicting injuries. And even though they were past feeling, I am certain they hungered all the more for closeness.

"The Little Prince" by, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry has been a favorite book of mine that I have treasured for years. There's a part in the story that illustrates the cycle of addiction perfectly.  The scene is where the innocent boy meets a drunk man (or tippler) for the first time and it "plunges the little prince into deep dejection.":

"What are you doing there?" he said to the tippler, who he found settled down in silence before a collection of empty bottles and also a collection of full bottles.
"I am drinking," replied the tippler, with a lugubrious air.
"Why are you drinking?" demanded the little prince.
"So that I may forget," replied the tippler.
"Forget what?" inquired the little prince, who already was sorry for him.
"Forget that I am ashamed," the tippler confessed, hanging his head.
"Ashamed of what?" insisted the little prince, who wanted to help him.
"Ashamed of drinking!" The tippler brought his speech to an end, and shut himself up in an impregnable silence.  And the little prince was puzzled.

As puzzling as it is.... such is the cycle of those who struggle with addiction.  The very thing that numbs them that "kills their pain" is the very source of their pain.  How do they break free of this vexatious cycle?  How do they "bury their weapons of war" deep in the ground and never pick them up again? (Alma 24: 17-18)

All things are possible through Christ, I know this!  There is a way out of the cycle.  The little prince was discouraged because there was really nothing he could do to help this man and it puzzled him each time he saw him lift the bottle again to his lips.  "Why?  Why don't you just stop?  Why do you keep returning to this?" No doubt, the man asks himself the same question all the time and even hates himself for it.

The third step in the addiction recovery program is to "Trust in God."  I believe this step is equally as vital to those who have loved ones that struggle with addiction as it is to those who are trapped in its awful vice.  We would all do well to trust God a little more to pray and seek for strength, for wisdom beyond our own.

 “God, grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” — Reinhold Niebuhr

We are all agents "free to act for ourselves."  We cannot change the actions of others or make them heal.  We can love them though, love them, forgive them, keep loving them, and most of all... trust God!  I believe He has the power to heal the leper and I know he can heal our loved ones caught in addiction, completely, wholly and forever! However long and hard that road may be to full and complete healing... There is no hunger, no heartache, no sorrow, no injury, pain, or weakness that He cannot repair or make right.  I trust this.

I trust Him.

-Alicia

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Effectual Struggle

What comes to mind when you think of the words "effectual struggle?"
Synonyms for the word "effectual" are: productive,  useful, virtuous, decisive,

The people under the reign of King Noah, in the Book of Mormon, had struggles, they had been oppressed, exploited, and persecuted.  After King Noah died, the people gained his son, Limhi, as their new ruler.  Completely unlike his father, King Limhi was a good man who loved God and cared about the people.  (No doubt, during his father's reign, he suffered all kinds of abuses too.) This wasn't a stand-alone kingdom either, it was different, like a kingdom within a kingdom.  You see, for almost three generations, the people of Limhi had been under the reign and subjugation of their enemies, the Lamanites.  For years they had been paying half of all they owned to them. (Mosiah 7:22)

There are two different kinds of struggle: the productive kind and the destructive - the struggle to be "in the world but not of the world" and the struggle to "be 'in' with the world."

Lest we sympathize too much with the people of Limhi.  It is noted that they brought a great deal of their sufferings upon themselves! Lets just say they cared more about being "In with the world."

"Many of our brethren have been slain, and their blood has been spilt in vain, and all because of iniquity.  For if this people had not fallen into transgression the Lord would not have suffered that this great evil should come upon them.  But behold, they would not hearken unto his [the prophet Abinadi's] words; but there arose contentions among them, even so much that they did shed blood among themselves.  And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea a, chosen man of God... They put him to death; and many more things did they do which brought down the wrath of God upon them.  Therefore, who wondereth that they are in bondage, and that they are smitten with sore afflictions?"
(Mosiah 7:24-26, 28)

This struggle the people had gone through was something that COULD have been avoided.  This was a struggle that they collectively brought upon themselves.

But the Lord, in His mercy, gave the people another chance:
He sent prophets and scriptures again to the people and Limhi was receptive, so receptive in fact that he rejoiced exceedingly and gave gratitude to God,
"Doubtless a great mystery is contained within these plates [these scriptures], and these interpreters were doubtless prepared for the purpose of unfolding all such mysteries to the children of men.  O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth He suffer with His people." (Mosiah 8:19,20)

King Limhi learned how the scriptures came to be, through the records and writings of prophets.  He learned of the righteous Prophet / King Benjamin and was blessed to have rehearsed to him his final words...  Those humbling and transforming words!
It changed the people, their hearts were softened, and they believed!
Limhi encouraged his people, "Lift up your heads and be comforted; for behold, the time is at hand, or is not far distant, when we shall no longer be in subjection to our enemies, notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made." (Mosiah 7:18)

With their hearts changed by the power of the word of God, the Lord helped release them from their unnecessary struggle and the bondage they brought upon themselves.

But for the truly converted, there lies another struggle yet to be had....
not a "vain"struggle but an "effectual" one, a beautiful, productive, useful, virtuous and decisive struggle!  This is the kind that transforms, refines, and purifies.  It's painful, it's difficult, but because it's for the right reasons and has a righteous aim, because it is centered on Christ "whereon if men build, they cannot fall" (Heleman 5:12.)

"Adversity can strengthen and refine us. As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people. Even when we are called to sail through troubled waters, we need to know the place of adversity in shaping our divine potential.

If only we would look beyond our present suffering and see our struggles as a temporary chrysalis. If only we would have the faith and trust in our Heavenly Father to see how, after a little season, then we can emerge from our trials more refined and glorious." - Joseph B. Wirthlin (Finding a Safe Harbor- April 2000)

I know it's true!
-Alicia

Friday, June 26, 2015

We Won't Be Shaken!

I did some weeding out of an old garden last night. I think I've got it arranged now that I may keep it just for my own memories at least.  I have a resolve to be more vigilant and careful in what I plant.  It can be humbling for me to see just how many areas of my life need improving.  We must always "watch ourselves... and perish not" (Mosiah 4:30)

 I feel strengthened when I "[call] on the name of the Lord daily, and [stand] steadfastly in the faith." (Mosiah 4:11)

I desire with all my heart to be "steadfast and immovable" to have Christ "seal [me as] His." (Mosiah 5:15) He truly is the one sure foundation.  I know He will help and strengthen me through every battle.

"And now, my sons, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."- Helaman 5:12



"We Won't Be Shaken"
by, Building 429

This world has nothing for me
This life is not my own
I know You go before me and I am not alone
This mountain rises higher
The way seems so unclear
But I know that You go with me so I will never fear
I will trust in You

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken

You know my every longing
You've heard my every prayer
You've held me in my weakness
Cause You are always there
So I'll stand in full surrender
It's Your way and not my own
My mind is set on nothing less
Than You and You alone
I will not be moved oh

Whatever will come our way
Through fire or pouring rain
We won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken
Whatever tomorrow brings
Together we'll rise and sing
That we won't be shaken
No we won't be shaken

We will trust in You
We will not be moved
We will trust in You
And we won't be shaken

No we won't be shaken


-Alicia

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Kept and Preserved"... by what?

I discovered some things in my studies this morning as I've sought to dig a little deeper into scriptural soil.  It's like I struck a vein of gold, a vein of pure and clear doctrine!  I found it in the mix of my religion class studies and our ward scripture study.  Almost two weeks ago, I shared on our ward page this comment about truth:

"This is a day of testing, of probation and we will reap what we sow (2Ne. 9:16). Where our treasure truly is, there will our heart be also (2Ne. 9:49-52). The things of this world cannot and never will satisfy the human soul, only truth can do that.... But truth must be what we treasure otherwise truth will be the very thing that slays us." 

And ever since that day, I've been thinking of the "sword of truth" that we wield in this mortal battle, that only part of defensive armor we have as stated in Ephesians 6:10-18.  I thought of Adam and Eve and their probationary time on this earth and how a “Cheribim and a flaming sword" were placed to guard the way of the tree of life - Genesis 3:24

Now, I've heard this phrase "cheribim and a flaming sword to guard the way of the tree of life" innumerable times before but it has been playing in my head almost like a broken record since I shared my "truth comment" on our ward page.  What did it mean and why a cheribim and a flaming sword to guard access to the tree of life?

It must have been the same day or the next morning that the answer to my question hit me. The Lord wanted Adam and Eve to come to the tree, He wants all of us to come to it "black, white, bond, free, male and female." After all, it's the tree of salvation, the Savior of the world.  But remember it was a probationary time for Adam and Eve (and for all of us).  We need to prove ourselves first, prove where our hearts are, prove what we truly treasure.

Yesterday in my religion class, we read the verse about the "Cheribim and a flaming sword" in Alma 42:2 and I thought to myself, "Perfect timing!  I've been constantly thinking about this 'flaming sword' for over a week!"

Now here's the good part!!

If truth is what we have treasured in this life, this time of probation, then the sword that guards the way of the Tree of Life will NOT slay us but will be given as a GIFT to us, like the coronation of royalty.  We will kneel before the "Cheribim" he'll lay the sword before us and give it to us as a symbol of trust and honor.  We will have this glorious sword in all our battles and it will not only continue to keep and preserve the tree but it will also keep and preserve US!

"Yea we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God [this sword], which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil... and land their souls,...at the right hand of God." - Helaman 3:29,30

This is where I saw the connection in our ward study for today:  The wonderful and humble King Benjamin stands before his people and admits to them that he is far from perfect, "I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power." (Mosiah 2:11)  

Now, let's stop there and talk about being "kept and preserved."
What was it that "kept and preserved" him??
Alma 42:2 says the flaming sword did "keep" the tree of life.
Now read Mosiah 2:15.
King Benjamin reveals the core of who he is, the core of why he taught and served his people, why he did what he did...  can you find it?

"My brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day." (Mosiah 2:15) and in verse 27 "I had served you, walking with a clear conscience before God."

How had King Benjamin been "kept and preserved"?
HE TREASURED TRUTH!
Truth kept and preserved him!  He was a man of complete integrity, fully and completely centered on Christ.  King Benjamin didn't care about popularity, about being a 'crowd-pleaser', about saving his image, or building his ego... he knew that all of that was nothing, that he was nothing, "less than the dust of the earth!"  He openly admitted, "I...am no better than ye yourselves are" (vs. 25, 26).

How rare it must have been and how RARE it truly is to see one in such power and authority so humble! The truth set him free: the truth of who He was in relation to his people, to God, and who God was in relation to Him, the truth of acting in honor of his stewardship and fulfilling his responsibilities for the right reasons and not for personal gain, the truth of living everything he taught in word and deed.

Perhaps no royalty before or since has ever wielded a "sword of such power" as King Benjamin!

I love the scriptures!  I love these veins of gold that are meant to be discovered but we must search for them, we must seek them diligently and whole-heartedly.  Truth must be what we hunger and thirst for... it must be what we treasure!  This will "keep and preserve" us in this mortal battle... this is our sword!

Elder Richard G. Scott has counseled, “As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle.”  (Elder Richard G. Scott; Oct 1993)

God is good, so very, very good!
- Alicia

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Inside Out

I watched the movie, "Inside Out" last night with my family.  WOW!  It was profound!  It truly made me appreciate the emotions we experience in life especially one very particular emotion.  I thought of our first mother, Eve, and her courage to take that initial step into the unknown... to make the decision to experience these feelings so that she could (and we could) know and appreciate the good.  It also helped me empathize with those who suffer with depression or apathy.

So many threads of enlightenment and understanding were beautifully woven through the fabric of this entire story!

I was glad I came prepared and brought my Kleenex because I certainly needed them. ;)
I left the theater with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for life, for family, and for everything we experience here on this earth.

We don't go to the movies often, especially not new releases because we just don't have the money.  But, this one was worth every dime!  "Two enthusiastic thumbs up!!!"

-Alicia

"Life is but a Weaving"

My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.

Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.

Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned

He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.

― Corrie ten Boom

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

From Comfort to Joy

Summer Semester began yesterday.  I'm taking two classes; one religion and one finance.

As I walked into Sister Platt's 122 Book of Mormon class yesterday morning, I instantly felt the Spirit spread salving peace through the fractured corners of my heart.  A sense of gratitude sparked within me.  I smiled proudly to myself for making the decision to register for her class.  Jennifer is a friend of mine and has played a key role in helping me discover my mission.  I needed to be there yesterday but the need reached far beyond the necessity for college credit.  The need was thirst-driven... and I knew, here, I would drink from the living waters of Truth.

Class started with a prayer and a hymn and then our discussion for the day focused on Alma 30 - 34 (the later half being some of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon.)  I admit that given this reading and writing assignment, I assumed a verse somewhere in chapters 32-34  would catch my focus the most.  (After all, they have been the ones I've favored a great deal through the years.)  Instead, I gravitated to a few verses in Alma 31.

Alma prays, "O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities.  For I am infirm... O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ" (Alma 31:30, 31.) Those five words struck me, "comfort my soul in Christ."  Alma repeats them in verse 32 as he is pleading and pouring his heart out in prayer.  I asked myself what it truly means to have one's soul comforted in Christ, especially in the midst of such sorrow.  I followed the footnote to John 16:33 where it speaks of peace that only the Lord can give.  The image of Christ calming the storm flashed in my mind.  Only a couple of people know of the tempest that has been crashing upon my soul this last week.  Self-doubt has been the main demon haunting me and causing me to question my own ability to be sensitive to revelation or to recognize the whisperings of the spirit.  Self-criticism has left me dizzy and sore, as I've allowed myself to be battered around in the whirl of its ugly cyclone.  Alma's prayer was familiar to me.  These were my words, this was my cry!

As I continued reading and relating to the emotions so beautifully illustrated in these verses, I noticed a turning point for Alma, a "shift of focus" if you will.  In verse 32 he begins to pray for his brethren, praying for their comfort, praying for them to be strengthened in the afflictions they were facing.  In verse 36, he acts on the compassion stirring within him by giving them a priesthood blessing.  After which "they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on." (vs. 37)  This was the shift: they "took no thought of themselves." And it says in verse 38, that in doing so, they not only had the desired comfort, but "were swallowed up in the joy of Christ." They had joy!

My self-doubt, my self-criticism, my sorrows have been my snare.  They have turned me inward, causing me to focus on myself, licking my wounds.  As I read, I desired to have a "shift of focus" like Alma, to "take no thought of [myself]" and not only find peace in the midst of my "storms" but to progress from comfort to joy, "being swallowed up in... Christ."  It caused me to ask, "Which of my brothers or sisters are in need of comfort?  What service can I render to break free of my selfishness?"  I so desperately want this this peace that Alma felt, and I want it turned into joy!  Alma was given this "because he prayed in faith." (vs. 38)  I know that as I sincerely turn my heart, as I pray and act to be a strength in behalf of others, to help them in their afflictions, I will follow the pattern of Christ and find this joy I seek.

It's a beautiful thing.

-Alicia

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Power of Divine Instruction

"Seek counsel" is a common theme I have noticed in my study of the Book of Mormon these past few days:

"Wo unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord!  And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us?  And they also say: Surely, your turning of these things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay.  But behold, I will show unto them saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works." (2 Ne. 27:27)

"[They] shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark." (2 Ne. 28:9)

"Blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom;  for unto him that receiveth I will give more" (2 Ne. 28:30)

"Wherefore, brethren [and sisteren], seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from His hand.  For behold ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works." (Jacob 4:10)

The Lord is wise above all else and He loves those who are teachable.  I discovered this talk Being Teachable by, Robert R. Steuer,  to go along with my studies this morning.

Brother Steuer gives three basic principles that will "ignite this power of divine instruction in our lives."

THE HOW
"First, we need to start with a willingness to be instructed. 

Second, we need to put ourselves into a proper frame of mind and heart. This comes by prayerful pondering and laboring in the Spirit.

Third, we must be obedient to the instruction we receive."

THE WHY
"Becoming teachable is a process of learning line upon line. In this process we convert thoughts and feelings into actions. But what a reward for this exercise of our faith as we open the path of communication with the Lord."

"As a result of being teachable, we gain an even greater testimony of our Heavenly Father’s care for us. We gain the security and certainty that our course in life is according to His will." 
"It is by loving these truths with all of our heart that an affinity develops between us and the Source of truth itself, “for intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; [and] virtue loveth virtue.” (D&C 88:40) Hence, we shall discover that the things we value and appreciate the most are those that we personally learned from the Lord." - Being Teachable by, Robert R. Steuer

I testify that these principles are true!
-Alicia

Friday, June 19, 2015

Obedience and Truth

2 Ne. 31 gives the example of Christ's perfect obedience to the Father as demonstrated through being baptized although He had done no sin.  Baptism is a symbol of laying down our life, cleansed by Christ, and then being raised again with a newness of spirit.  It's not easy to lay down one's life, those things that we want to desperately hang on to, but we must follow the example of the Savior and be strictly obedient and surrender all.  Repentance is an opportunity to draw closer to God. I know that as we do this we can trust in a beautiful redemption.  This is the way to purification, sanctification, and holiness.  

When we do all these things, we will be blessed to speak with the "tongue of angels" (2 Ne. 31:13) Angels speak the words of Christ so feast on His words (2 Ne. 32:3) and you will be told "all things what you should do."  Pray always and not faint!!! (2 Ne. 32:9)

The other day on our ward Facebook Scripture Study Page, I shared something like this from what I learned in 2 Ne. 9 -
"We reap what we sow.  Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also.  Nothing this world has to offer could ever satisfy us, the only thing that can do that is truth.  But truth must be what we treasure or it will be the very thing that slays us."  

I thought about these words and related them to today's reading in 2 Ne. 33:6 "I glory in plainness; I glory in truth;  I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell." I thought of how I have recently been tested in my integrity, to see if I would live according to truth and not to fear of what others think of me.  I'm grateful I chose "truth."  This is living up to my name.  Alicia means: Noble, Queenly, Truthful.  I hope to always live up to this.

I also love the way Nephi ends his writing "thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen."  - I add my own hearty AMEN to that!  Way to be, brother!

The Lord wants to make our lives BEAUTIFUL.  This is how it is meant to be and the way to do this is through having our hearts completely turned to Him, focused and centered, "willing to submit to all things the Lord seeth fit."  He will consecrate or "make holy" all our performances and all our afflictions.  I trust this!

-Alicia




Beautiful
by, Dan Bremnes


Lord, I want everything 
Everything You’ve got for me 
I won’t be satisfied 
Till I find the center of Your heart 
Lord, You know 
You opened my eyes 
You showed me things that I can’t see on my own 
You call me justified 
Free to find, everything you are 

And You changed me from what I used to be 
Opened my eyes, now I can see 
You’re makin’ this life so beautiful 
So beautiful… 

Lord, I give everything 
Everything You want from me 
Take my past and my future 
I lay it at Your feet 
Yeah, I’m after your heart 
You’ve stolen mine 
I give You my all cause you gave up Your life 
I’m not who I was simply because 
Oh, You set me free! 

Oh, You changed me from what I used to be 
Opened my eyes, now I can see 
You’re makin’ this life so beautiful So beautiful… 

Every day I rise 
I wake up to find 
You’re surrounding me 
With endless mercy 
You renew my mind 
You’re bringin’ me to life 
Oh, God Oh, You changed me from what I used to be 
Opened my eyes, now I can see 
You’re makin’ this life so beautiful 
So beautiful,so beautiful.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

For a Greater Future Good

"Priesthood blessings can help us in the small and great decisions of our lives. If, through our priesthood blessings, we could perceive only a small part of the person God intends us to be, we would lose our fear and never doubt again." - James E. Faust

"Choosing to do what the Lord has defined as right will, in the long run, always lead to the best outcomes. However, that pattern may require you to set aside something you very much desire now for a greater future good." - Richard G. Scott

"Righteous character provides the foundation of spiritual strength that enables you to make difficult, extremely important decisions correctly when they seem overpowering.

Righteous character is what you are. It is more important than what you own, what you have learned, or what you have accomplished. It allows you to be trusted. It opens the door to help from the Lord in moments of great challenge or temptation.

Be honest. Righteous character is based on integrity." - Richard G. Scott

There is so much I need to learn and some lessons are harder than others. Much harder!!

 I pray for greater capacity to do more than the hard things but the very most challenging, the most excruciatingly difficult.  God is good and will give strength to all who seek it.  I know that this is where the eternal blessings are found and it will be for a greater future good.

-Alicia

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Character of Christ

I've been assigned to write a second paper in my religion class.  With this one, we could only use scriptures from Enos to Alma 29 and tie in the two chapters we used from our last paper.  It was refreshing for me to connect them.
------------------------

In Christ, there is a place we find rest, a sweet and calm assurance that the Master of the winds and waves is at the helm of our lives (1 Ne. 20:18).  After the mighty struggle Enos had in fervent prayer, pleading and praying, emptying and pouring out his soul, he felt connected with Heaven, and Divine peace washed over Him  (Enos 1:2-4) (1:5-7, 17, 27).  This kénōsis (self-emptying)  that Enos demonstrated is one I have also experienced in my own life and it too has brought me rest.  As I have "poured out" in prayer to God, Christ has “poured out to me” with His spirit.  As I have poured out all my strength - He has given me His strength.  As I have poured out all my thoughts - He has given me His thoughts.  As I have gone to the Lord fully and completely submissive, tearing open and emptying my soul to my Father - Christ has entered into the void of my heart and filled it to overflowing and I am at peace.

The Lord, in His mercy, wants all of us to feel this peace and assurance. It is His invitation to everyone, even those who refuse to listen (1 Ne. 20:7,8).  “The Good Shepherd calls after [us]” time and time again (Alma 5:38,60).  He is incredibly patient.  His “arms of mercy are extended towards [us] and He saith: repent, and I will receive you” (Alma 5:33).  The Nephites, Enos, Alma, and all those who hearken are “strengthened by the hand of the Lord” and “He [does] hear [their] cries” (Alma 2:28).

As our hungry souls are nourished, we can know it is by the power of the Savior that we are fed because it will turn us away from ourselves and give us greater concern for our fellow man.  Enos exemplified this when he “began to feel a desire for the welfare of [his] brethren” (Enos 1:9).

While pondering upon the welfare of the others, we might remember that the Lord calls to His servants to “Go to them that sit in darkness” and He will “give for thee a light” (1 Ne. 21: 6,9).  The scriptures illustrate the Lord’s compassion for those “in the dark,” they state that He “delivered their souls from hell,” “He changed their hearts,” and “awakened them out of a deep sleep.”  “They were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated” (Alma 5:6,7).  This illumination is generated from the power of covenant,  from being connected to the True Vine through “repentance and redemption, and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 18:7).  It comes from us having a “mighty change of heart” (Alma 5:14) and sincere desire to walk as Jesus walked, to talk as Jesus talked, to love as He loved, to live as He lived, and ultimately become as He became, “meek, submissive, patient, full of love, and all longsuffering” (Alma 13:28).  He bore the burdens of others, mourned with those that mourn, gave comfort to those who stood in need of comfort every waking moment of His life, “even unto death” (Mosiah 18:8,9).

It doesn’t really matter the reason why people mourn, whether they have brought the sorrow upon themselves, if it is despair from sin, or simply heartache from circumstances or situations beyond their control.   When it comes to compassion, the Lord does not differentiate between who He extends his arm of mercy to (Alma 5:33) and He bids us to do the same.

But what about our own moments of misery?  At times like these, it is easy for us to feel totally alone and utterly helpless.  We may even begin to feel forgotten or even rejected (1 Ne. 21:14).  But just as the Lord states in 1 Ne. 21:15,16, we see that He does not forget us, because He has “engraven [us] upon the palms of [His] hands.”  His love for every individual is matchless because He has felt every pain, every sin, every temptation, every sorrow, and heartache as if they were His own (Mosiah 3:7) (Alma 7:11,12).

Reading over the Isaiah chapters quoted in 1 Nephi 20 and 21 and touching on the books of Enos, Mosiah, and Alma, we observe an overarching theme of love that describes the true character of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He longs for us to come unto Him.  We are His sheep and He is our Shepherd, He wants to feed us, to lead us to green pastures, and fill our souls with living water (Alma 5:33,38).

Perhaps we have strayed and feel that we are no longer worthy of His illuminating presence.  We may run away or even hide.  Yet in the dark of night, He continues to shine and call out servants to help find that which is lost.  With outstretched arms, we see the wounds He suffered.  We recognize them instantly, for they are our wounds (1 Ne. 21:16).  That which carved the holes in His hands and side are our heartaches, our sins, our temptations, and sufferings.  Herein we discover that we can trust Him, completely and fully because He has walked the path we have walked.  Our “hearts are changed” by this understanding and we “feel to sing the song of redeeming love” (Alma 5:26).  In Christ we witness the most truly amazing love story ever told.

-Alicia

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I remember singing this for the first time in my high school choir group.  
This hymn is my testimony!



Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Challenge to Become

Some days are harder than others... Yesterday was hard.
It will get easier with time, I'm sure.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn though.  I'm working on expressing sincere appreciation for the smallest and simplest of things and embracing the present moments.  There are blessings everywhere, far more than I deserve!  My heart is truly filled with gratitude when I reflect on all I have, here and now.  And, I can honestly say that I am grateful for every moment my heart hurts.  Through the pain, I can feel I'm being refined...  Ultimately, I know that is what I want, refinement.  I pray for Divine tutoring.

I'm so thankful for a Savior who knows me, who knows each and every one of us, because He has experienced every possible struggle as if it was His own.  Alma 7:11,12  I want to follow His example.  I pray for the Lord to open my eyes to people around me who need my help, I pray for opportunities to serve (especially in my own home).  I need opportunities to forget myself and go to work.  I know this will help me through.

"Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquility,... Father Lehi promised his son Jacob that God would 'consecrate [his] afflictions for [his] gain' (2 Ne. 2:2). The Prophet Joseph was promised that “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (D&C 121:7–8).

Most of us experience some measure of what the scriptures call 'the furnace of affliction' (Isa. 48:10; 1 Ne. 20:10). ...Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become.

We are challenged to move through a process of conversion toward that status and condition called eternal life. This is achieved not just by doing what is right, but by doing it for the right reason—for the pure love of Christ." - Elder Dallin H. Oaks The Challenge to Become- Oct. 2000 General Conference

 "Ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost." - 3 Nephi 9:20

-Alicia

Give Me Faith
by, Royal Taylor


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Converted Unto the Lord

I'm studying Alma 23 for my religion class.  I really appreciate this chapter because it speaks of true conversion, which is something I'm trying to focus more on applying from my scriptures.

Conversion is more than testimony.

Elder Bednar taught that "Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need. Some members of the Church with testimonies have wavered and fallen away. Their spiritual knowledge and commitment did not measure up to the challenges they faced."  

Compare that with conversion.
"As many... as believed in...[the prophets] preaching and were converted unto the Lord, never did fall away" - Alma 23:6

They "never did fall away."  To be truly converted unto the Lord guarantees us a spiritual safeguard.  What a significant gift!

Elder Bednar taught that,  "Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion."

This causes me to conclude that conversion is the spiritual fusion of mind, heart, and action.  It is when "what we know" in our mind becomes "what we cherish" in our heart, and what we cherish in our heart shows in the very outward expressions of "what we do."

To go into more detail about what conversion looks like, I've laid out the main points that Elder Bednar gives in his talk:

CONVERSION IS:

1.   A change in one’s beliefs, heart, and life to accept and conform to the will of God (see Acts 3:19; 3 Nephi 9:20) and includes a conscious commitment to become a disciple of Christ.

2. An enlarging, a deepening, and a broadening of the undergirding base of testimony.

3. The result of revelation from God, accompanied by individual repentance, obedience, and diligence.

4. An offering of self, of love, and of loyalty we give to God in gratitude for the gift of testimony.

5. All of our heart, all of our might, and all of our mind and strength (see D&C 4:2).

6. Experiencing a mighty change in our hearts, having a disposition to do good continually, going forward in the path of duty, walking circumspectly before God, keeping the commandments, and serving with unwearied diligence.

7. An ongoing process and not a onetime event... our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. Conversion unto the Lord requires both persistence and patience.

8. A setting aside our cherished “weapons of rebellion” such as selfishness, pride, and disobedience.

9,  Constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received—with a heart that is willing and for righteous reasons.

(Converted Unto the Lord by, David A. Bednar)

I want this safeguard in my life, this kind of protection!  I pray the Lord will help me have the kind of heart that allows these things to sink deep in my soul, that it changes my very nature.  I want to be a person of integrity where everything I say, everything I do, everything I am is out of a sincere, pure desire to show love for my Savior and to be more like Him.  I have so much to learn.  I'm grateful that the Lord is so very patient with me.

-Alicia

Monday, June 8, 2015

Long Live the Young At Heart

"You will experience greater joy in life as you eradicate adult-onset pessimism and substitute childlike optimism. Optimism is a virtue that allows us to see God’s loving hand in the details of our life. " - Anthony D. Perkins (Oct. 2006 Conference "The Great and Wonderful Love")

There's a magic to holding on to the inner child, to never losing that sense of wonder and excitement for life.  The spirit of play and optimism sets the soul free from its mortal shell in brilliant radiance.  Its illuminating fire is contagious as it ignites in the reflection of the eyes of all who capture it.

Run wild, live free, love strong!!

-Alicia


If you’re playing that drum but you got no rhythm
If you’re a little out of key but you’re always singing

If you’re so carefree but so not careless
Such a wreck, but ain't love wreck-less
If you’re listening I hope you hear this

Long live the young at heart
You know who you are
With your spirit burning
Take a risk and take a chance
Carry on
Long live the soul set free
Don't be afraid to dream
While the world’s still turning
Every moment, make it happen
With two left feet
Keep on dancing

Beat by beat
Breath by breath
Walking hand in hand
Step by step

With drop of faith and childlike wonder
You can weather the lighting, you can brave the thunder

No road map, but keep on running
No parachute, but keep on jumping
Oh, I think you might be onto something

Beat by beat
Breath by breath
Walking hand in hand
Step by step
Here and now
Day by day
Won’t let this memory slip away

Every moment, make it happen
With two left feet
Keep on dancing

Beat by beat
Breath by breath
Walking hand in hand
Step by step


Sunday, June 7, 2015

"The Things of My Soul"

Last night, I created this blog with the original intent to keep it completely private, that only I could see it.  That was my plan, anyway.

I have been fasting and praying today about some very specific things.  My husband knows all my struggles.  He knows my whole heart, I have kept nothing back.  I consider myself blessed that he has been so understanding, even willing to join me in my fast.  I greatly appreciate his support as I have tried to sort through and recognize the voice of God in my life, to know where exactly the Lord is directing me.

 I have prayed for clear guidance in my daily actions as to who I am and what the Lord would have me do.  A brother spoke in church today about the importance of recording our words and how they can be the source of strength to others.  I thought about that for quite some time.  I thought about the blog I just ended.

During Sunday school, these verses kept playing in my mind.  I looked them up and read them over several times.

"And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.... And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.  Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.  And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates." - 2 Nephi 5:29-32

"And upon these I write the things of my soul... For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.  Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard."  - 2 Nephi 4:15,16

"And he gave me... a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious...
And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ's sake, and for the sake of our people." (emphasis added) - Jacob 1:2,4

After church, I knelt by my bedside and prayed a most fervent prayer, asking for the Lord to help me know if I should continue to write publicly.  When this prayer was over, I discovered a message had just been sent to me from a young man from Massachusetts, Anthony Diaz, who I met in the fall of 2007.  Tony was a 17-yr.-old new convert to the church when he stumbled across my old blog, artofchristianity.blogspot.com.  At the time, he had been searching everywhere he could for words from other members to strengthen his new-found faith.  Tony followed my blog for just over two years until he was called to serve a mission in Ogden, UT.  I knew he was the only member of the church in his family, so I sent him a few packages and letters to help bolster him while he was out there in the field. When he returned from his mission, he looked me up and we became Facebook friends.  Anyway, this was part of the message he sent me this afternoon, right after I got off my knees from praying:

"Hey Sister Rawlins,

So you might remember that not too long ago, I was having a particularly dark day of loneliness and struggle on my mission when I came home to find a postcard...printed on it a scripture (Jacob 4:13) and the lyrics to a song by Jason Gray, “Remind Me Who I Am”. That one little postcard, such a seemingly small gesture, was enough to get me out of the funk I was in and remember what I was doing...

 ...I ran into another dark day just recently. So much so that the things that I was going through were enough to cause me to question my very purpose and existence on this earth. And then a thought came to me that morning: “You need to listen to Stronger by Mandisa, and Remind Me Who I Am.” Both of which I only knew about in the first place because of the letters I had received from you and your family while on my mission. So I listened, and as I watched the video for Jason Gray’s song, I especially noticed the labels people had put upon themselves or had gotten from the world. I saw how, at the end of that song, each and every one of those labels had changed to “Beloved.” And then the lyric came: “I’m the one you love. That will be enough.” Well, it was enough. I just knew I had to express how much your family and friendship has meant to me. Here I am, someone you haven’t even met in person before, and yet you all have given me so much love and support and expressed such thoughtfulness that I can’t even begin to describe how that makes me feel."

Tears streamed down my face as I read Tony's letter.... the timing couldn't have been more perfect, absolutely perfect.  I wrote him back and told him how his words were an answer to my prayers.  I don't think I realized how such simple words on my blog and in letters would impact him or strengthen this brother of mine.  I thought again of the scriptures I read in Sunday school.

As I continued to reflect on all of these things and pray some more in my heart, I got a message from my husband saying he needed me to swing by the clerk's office.  While there, a young women from my church peeked her head into the room and said, "I want you to know, Alicia, that your testimony today was exactly what I needed to hear."  I graciously thanked her and thought to myself "that's three, three witnesses in a row...maybe I can continue to write publicly?  Maybe, if I am very careful to share pure testimony, maybe if I am prayerful in all my words, that in "preserving this record" who knows?... It might be a means of bringing souls "to salvation" to Christ."

That is my greatest desire.  I so desperately want to be a STRENGTH to my brothers and sisters and NEVER a snare.  I hope and pray that this is what my blog will be.  I will seek the Spirit in all I write, that is my promise!

If this is my answer, then I have to ask myself why I was told to "write no more?"...

Perhaps the Lord just wanted to see where my heart truly was.  Or maybe He just wants me to be a little more careful with what I share.  Either way, it definitely made my roots dig a little deeper...and that's a good thing.

The closing hymn in sacrament meeting was inspired.  I don't know who chose it but it was perfect.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his works in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

Text: William Cowper, 1731-1800

Music: William B. Bradbury, 1816-1868

-Alicia :)