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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...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Keepin' it Real

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your dreams, ideas before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, and is nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
 Chained by their certitudes, they are a slave: they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is truly free.

– Anonymous

This has been a favorite poem of mine since I was in high school. The part that stands out to me each time I read it is "appearing the fool." Oh, how many times in my life have I made myself look like the biggest fool! It seems to define who I am.

Last fall my friend, Heidi, told me about a Ted-Talk called, "The Power of Vulnerability."  I looked it up to listen to again today.

The concepts Dr. Brown lays out here are comforting because I have often viewed my vulnerability as something to be ashamed of...  but she says that in her studies, she has found over and over again that vulnerability is also the "birthplace of connection" of being whole-hearted and loving more fully.  She says, "In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen."

If being vulnerable is the key to human connection... then I'll take that risk - no matter how many times I might appear the fool.  I value connection so much more than I value my image.

Keep on keepin' on my friends but most importantly.... never be afraid to be real.  It's worth it.

-Alicia (Keepin' it Real)
........

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Born to Fly

I've had this old favorite Christian hymn of mine playing in my head these last several days, I'll Fly Away.  I suppose it's because I've been thinking of "A Living Prayer" by, Alison Krauss and she sings both of these.

When we are born into this world, it's expected of us to learn to walk and eventually run.  But could it be possible our earth-bound souls have been created for more than this?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin observed:
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience,"  

With this in mind and the lyrics to that old Gospel hymn, I've been thinking of what it means to fly.

"Some bright morning when this life is over
I'll fly away
To that home on Gods celestial shore
I'll fly away"

It's a description of an angel's transition from this mortal place to their heavenly home.  Many Christian religions believe angels actually have wings.

"We know through the Prophet Joseph Smith that “an angel of God never has wings” (History of the Church, 3:392), most depictions of them show them with wings, and some scriptures describe them as having wings. Why?"

I love the answer to this question.

"Wings represent 'power, to move, to act' (D&C 77:4). Prophets who described angels as having wings (see, for instance, Isaiah 6:2) may have referred to wings in order to communicate these ideas figuratively." - David A. Edwards- Dec. 2014 Ensign

When we understand that the wings are a representation of the power to move and act, the imagery of the hymn is beautiful and takes on a higher and more holy meaning.  We come to understand more the identity of the spirit that lives within us.  We were made for so much more than walking and running... we were truly "born to fly."  

In the book of Revelation it says,

" I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." - Revelation 14:6-7

Who is the angel spoken of in this verse?  It's Moroni.  
Most definitely, he exemplified a life of 'power, to move and act' in the saving doctrines of the Gospel.  He lived it with his whole soul, even when he was the last one standing.  The everlasting truths of salvation were etched in his courageous and valiant heart.  And listen to this… at the end of his life, Moroni seems to echo that old Gospel hymn, "I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air" - He knew he was born to fly. 

I love what my religion professor shared this morning about this incredible man: "Oh how I love the Angel Moroni. Once he was the loneliest of lonely and now he stands atop the Temples as a symbol of gathering." -  Jennifer Platt

This wonderful prophet of God calls for us to "awake, and arise from the dust" (Moroni 10:31).  In other words he's saying, "Jump up with both feet, brothers and sisters.  Jump off the ground and rise to what you were born to do... to move and act in power, the power of God fearlessly and full of faith.  FLY!"  His spirit lives within us. This is who we are meant to become.

-Alicia

There truly are angels among us! I don't just believe it, I know!




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Any Last Words?

If you knew you were going to die and you knew that millions of people would someday read your final words.  What would you say?
How carefully would you choose them especially if you had just witnessed the self-destruction of your entire people and you knew what could have prevented such a tragic loss?

It has been said by many in similar ways that "wise people learn from their mistakes and never repeat them but truly wise people learn from the mistakes of others and never make them."  We can learn from other's mistakes and most certainly can learn from other's successes too.

Mormon was a great prophet who kept and abridged writings of people over the span of a couple thousand years.  Through study and his own personal observation, he came to know and understand very clearly what leads man to destruction and what brings true success.  He had some final words to give.  I believe he chose them very carefully.

In essence Mormon's last breath revealed the key to success and happiness in this life and in heaven.  He said, "Lay hold upon the Gospel of Christ." (Mormon 7:8)

What is the Gospel of Christ?
He sums it up in the next two verses.  He says the Gospel is contained in the scriptures, namely the Book of Mormon and the Bible, which complement one another.
The Gospel is: Faith in Christ, Repentance, Receiving the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End. (Mormon 7:9-10)
  • First FAITH:  Mormon grew up in a time of terrible war and bloodshed.  The people weren't always in this constant contentious and hateful state.  "They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their Shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father." (Mormon 5:17) But now, they "did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them." (Mormon 5:2) They "rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive [them]." (Mormon 6:17)  What pain must have plagued his soul to see such hard-heartedness among his people?!  It makes this prophet's plea all the more poignant "Behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth... for this cause... that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ" (Mormon 3: 18-21 emphasis added).
  • Second REPENT:  Mormon cried unto his people, "Repent" for "the Lord had spared them, and granted unto them a chance for repentance" but it was all in vain for they "did harden their hearts against the Lord their God" (Mormon 3:2,3)  Indeed, they "repented not... but persisted in their wickedness continually." (Mormon 4:10)  Did they forget that repentance was a personal invitation from the Savior to be healed??! (3 Nephi 9:13) Or maybe they didn't feel like they "needed healing," because they viewed themselves as strong enough and found every occasion to boast of their own strength. (Mormon 3:9, 4:8)  How frail and weak indeed is the soul who leans on "self" for repose -that thin and hollow shell.  It is only in and through Christ that there is "victory." (Mormon 7:5)
  • Third BAPTISM: When we think of baptism, we most often think of being immersed in water and rising up again.  It's the perfect imagery! -A symbol of laying down our life, completely "losing ourselves" and turning it over in exchange for a new life, transformed and risen again, a life of covenant with Christ.  This is when one's heart, mind, and soul says, "I'm all in! I will hold nothing back.  Everything you ask of me Lord, I will give you.  I will lay it all down." We are baptized only once as an ordinance but there will be countless opportunities in our life to prove to our Father in Heaven that we are "all in" completely and totally His.  They may be some of the hardest choices we will ever make in our journey.
Nevertheless, this is what baptism means, to “Give up yourself...  you will find your real self. Lose your life... and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body and in the end submit with ever fiber of your being... and you will find eternal life.  Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead...  look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”  ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
  • Fourth RECEIVE the HOLY GHOST: The reception of the Spirit in our lives is in direct connection to baptism, this "losing ourself" it is the key that unlocks the door to heaven's gate, a pouring out of Christ's spirit into our "empty souls." (Malachi 3:10) This is the baptism "by fire" the purification, sanctification that burns away the dross and polishes us into gold.  Like the first ordinance, it too is performed only once but we are given countless opportunities to receive and re-new this great gift.  This is the "sword of truth," our defense in battle (Ephesians 6:17).  We want this "always to be with us." (Moroni 4:3, 5:2) "For the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not... it speaketh of things as they really are and of things as they really will be." (Jacob 4:13)  Oh what battles could have been won during the time of Mormon if the people could have grasped the significance of this vital piece of "armor!"
  • Fifth ENDURE to the end:  Perhaps our greatest challenge will be to persevere especially when the road gets rough and our souls are weary.  Hope is the guiding light.  We do not see the end from the beginning.  We don't know what lies ahead but we are in this committed life for the long-haul, however long and hard the road may be. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland encouraged, "I am asking you not to give up 'for ye are laying the foundation of a great work.' That 'great work' is you—your life, your future, the very fulfillment of your dreams. That “great work” is what, with effort and patience and God’s help, you can become. When days are difficult or problems seem unending, I plead with you to stay in the harness and keep pulling. You are entitled to 'eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days,' but it will require your heart and a willing mind. It will require that you stay at your post and keep trying."
 I submit that enduring, especially enduring well means being grateful in any of our circumstances.  
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:  "We can choose to be grateful, no matter what. This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer. When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace.  We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?"

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is Mormon's final message to us, his plea... to "LAY HOLD" upon it.  And he promises us that if we do, "it shall be well with [us] in the day of judgment." (Mormon 7:10)  I add my testimony to his.  This is what matters most.  This is the core of success and happiness.  I know this to be true.

-Alicia



Monday, July 27, 2015

A Greater Measure of the Spirit

I wrote this post almost a week ago but didn't publish it... It has just been sitting on the side as a draft and I almost forgot I had written it until I was reminded about these principles in my religion class today.  How desperately do we want the Spirit to guide us in our lives?  I love the intent and desire in the hearts of the disciples in 3 Nephi 19.  If you could ask God for anything, what would it be?  These men desired most of all to have the Holy Ghost.  (3 Nephi 19:9)  How is this obtained?  How can we know we are being guided by the Spirit?

When you scan through this chapter, the word "pray" is mentioned twenty-eight times.  It's found in 22 of the 36 verses and if you include the verses that are referencing prayer but don't necessarily say the word, then it is found in 26 of the 36 verses.  I love discoveries like this!

 When the resurrected Lord ministered unto the ancient inhabitants of this land, He gave the sermon on the mount, He administered the sacrament more than once, many were baptized, and He taught and exemplified a very clear pattern of prayer.

The Lord calls twelve disciples who are baptized in His name and they are blessed with the power of His Spirit (3 Ne.19:4,9-13). As they kneel to pray, the Savior's "countenance did smile upon them, and the light of His countenance did shine upon them" (3 Nephi 19:25).  Now this is so cool because something happened to the disciples as they were praying...  They began to shine! "behold, they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus."
The Savior recognized this and thanks the Father in prayer saying, "I thank thee that thou hast purified those who I have chosen, because of their faith." (19:28)  They were shining because they were purified!

Let's look at that word "purified."
Purified = free from anything that debases, pollutes, cheapens, or contaminates.
sanctified, made holy, set apart, consecrated.

This is what they desired with all of their souls.  This is what they plead and prayed for! (19:24)
Do we desire this too?  How do we obtain it?  Christ says we can.  He says that as we hearken and believe on the words of these twelve we will also be purified, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me."(19:28)

This solidifies to me the necessity to be aligned with the Bretheren! They are true messengers.

Can you imagine what that must have been like to witness, to be in the presence of, to see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears, prayers offered by the Savior Himself and His twelve disciples?!  "And the mulitude did hear and do bear record; and their hearts were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which He prayed... so great and marvelous were the words which He prayed that they cannot be written, neither can they be uttered by man." (19:33,34)

After this chapter the Savior administers the sacrament again.  Christ has declared that He is the "Bread of life" (John 6:35)  He gives this bread to the twelve and "when they had eaten He commanded them that they should break bread, and give unto the multitude." And He does the same with the wine. (3 Nephi 20:4-7)

This is significant because the sacrament has everything to do with sanctification and purification.  If we listen to the words of the prayer, we learn that this renewal of our covenants, this re-committing ourselves, opens us to refinement, that we may "always have His spirit" to be with us. (Moroni 4:3 5:2)

Prayer is a powerful, powerful tool.  It is an expression of faith!
I believe that the everyday prayers, morning and night, and the heart-felt ones in-between, all throughout our week, help to prepare us for the sacred ordinance of the the sacrament on the Sabbath.  I believe that when our desire is the the same as those twelve disciples, our hearts will be receptive.  We will hunger and thirst for His spirit to always be with us, we will be open to the words of the disciples He has chosen.  Their teachings will become our daily bread, they will become part of our very being, and we will be filled!

- Alicia


A Living Prayer


I imagine that a great deal of people have a song or two they've requested to be played when they die. My desire when I leave this world is for someone to play "I Hope You Dance" by, Lee Ann Womack"  The lyrics reflect the wish I'd have for all of my loved ones.

But what if we could choose a specific song when we entered into this world?  If I could go back to that day and request one, this would be the song I'd choose for my life.  This is my prayer.


In this world I walk alone with no place to call my home
But there's one who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands
The way is dark, the road is steep
But He's become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
The Savior lives inside me there

In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee

In these trials of life I find
Another voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives

In your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee
take my life and let me be
A living prayer my God to thee


I am richly, richly blessed.  I thank God for my life.  I am happy, truly happy with all that I have... and it's all because of Him.
- Alicia :)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Let's just call her a ghost cat.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “Over the course of my life, I have had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most competent and intelligent men and women this world has to offer. When I was younger, I was impressed by those who were educated, accomplished, successful, and applauded by the world. But over the years, I have come to the realization that I am far more impressed by those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile.”

My best friend was called to be the new Young Women's President a few months ago.  The morning she was called she was asked to speak a few words to the congregation.  As she stood, I saw a powerful woman, a spiritual giant who has been an incredible example to me. I couldn't help but cry tears of joy!  She is as President Uchtdorf describes as one of those "wonderful and blessed souls who [is] truly good and without guile."

Later that afternoon, as the young women trickled into the classroom and before the new presidency arrived, one of the girls said with sort of a sigh, "I'm not happy about this change.  I don't know her."
I imediately responded with excitement, "Oh, don't you worry, as you get to know her, you will LOVE her, absolutely love her!"  Then I asked if she had seen the recent movie with Ben Stiller, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."
"Yes."
"Well, you remember how the photographer, Sean O'connell, is at the top of a mountain trying to get a photograph of the snow leopard, or 'ghost cat.' He tells Walter that his discovery is a big deal because 'ghost cats' are extremely difficult to find, they don't show themselves to people or try to make themselves known... and then there's that awesome line...
Beautiful things don't ask for attention."
"Yeah, I remember that part of the movie," the young woman answered.
"Well that's how Sister Nimer is.  She is one of the most amazing, most thoughtful, most giving friends I have ever had and yet she would never assume that."

How beautiful is a person who is genuine, who never needs to boast who never needs to draw attention to themselves!  They are content quietly fulfilling their responsibilities.  They do so honorably often giving credit to others and are constantly grateful to God.  This rare beauty isn't found in fashion magazines, or re-pinned on pintrest.  It can't be bought or sold.  It's not paraded or pretended.  It comes from purity of heart, from real intent, and deep humility.

"In a world where praise, position, power, accolades, and authority are sought on every side, I honor those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile, those who are motivated by a love of God and their neighbors, those great women and men who are 'more anxious to serve than to have dominion.'" - Elder Michael T. Ringwood

 - Alicia

Friday, July 24, 2015

By the Side of the Road

I must admit that I was a little surprised when she responded to my text.  
“Yes, Thursday night will work just fine.”
“Great!” I texted back, “I’ll see you then.”

This was the first time she has ever let me in her home.  I knew it was a direct answer to my prayers.  I have been her visiting teacher for several months now. I have been pleading and praying for this opportunity.  I wanted to make sure that in this first visit I would be able to say something or invite the spirit in a way that sent a very clear message to this dear sister that the Lord loved her, that He knew her heart, and was aware of all of her unspoken struggles.  I said a prayer before I walked up the steps to her door.

She welcomely answered and invited me in.  I knew she just recently returned from California to visit her husband.  He lives there in a company apartment while she works here in Utah - so in order to be with each other, she flys out nearly every weekend.

"How was your trip to L.A.?"  I asked her.
"Great, I'm flying out again tomorrow and won't be back until Monday."
"Wow, well thanks for letting me come over, especially with such a crazy schedule." I said sincerely.

The feeling in the room was comfortable and we conversed easily.  I asked her about her family life growing up.  She told me she was the oldest of lots of half-siblings.  She explained that her mother had been married and divorced four different times and was currently single again but dating.  Her dad lives in Manhattan with her two half-siblings who are almost 20 years younger than her. The tone of her voice revealed sorrow for how scattered everything was.
(Her story made me think of my niece who has been drug through so many of my sister's relationships and the pain it has caused her from growing attached to new step-dads and siblings only to be ripped apart again.)

She told me about her husband's unbelieveable life of being practically homeless, growing up in Detroit with a drug-dealer for a father, and his grandfather offering him shot glasses and cigarettes at the age of five.
"My husband is a convert to the church," she said. "He loves the gospel and he knows it's true, I mean... he served a mission but he just struggles sometimes."
I nodded as if to say, "It's okay, you don't need to explain."
She continued to tell me how difficult is was for her to go to church and to try and live by the standards when she first got married.
"There was so much fighting between us.  He felt I was judging him.  I wanted desperately to keep the peace in our relationship. He has a drink here or there but you see... that's how he was raised. I don't want him to feel uncomfortable when he's with me so I've taken a shot on occasions too."  
She choked back tears.
"There's a part of me that wants to return to church, I think we both will come back someday.  I'm just so afraid because we're just starting to get along now. I don't want to fight with him anymore, it becomes painful trying to live the gospel."

As I listened to this sister's story, I felt so sorry.  I thought of my post from yesterday - how I got on my soap-box about standards and giving strict heed.  I imagined her reading that post and wondered what her reaction would be.  With everything she's been through, would my words make her feel like the way of the gospel was too strict or completely unreachable?  I'm passionate about the things I believe in and in my mind they often seem so black and white.  But then I'll have an experience like this where I see the complexity in the lives of others and I know it's just not that simple.

What do you do when you have certain convictions, when you don't agree with specific behaviors, especially when those behaviors are habits of your spouse?  What if you've tried to make a stand in the past and all that it ever results in is contention.... and so you step down in order to "keep the peace."

My younger brother is dealing with something very similar.  His wife belongs to another faith.  He has started reading the Book of Mormon and has expressed a desire to return to the LDS church but every time he mentions it, he gets push-back or it results in a fight with her.  He wants to draw closer to God but he doesn't want to create a rift with his companion in the process.  What can be done?

I don't know. I honestly don't know.

I wish things were more simple.... more black and white.  
My heart ached for this sister as she told me her story.  I encouraged her to continue to work on her marriage.  I testified of our Father-in-Heaven's unfailing love for her.  I testified that He knew her heart.  
I leaned forward, looked her in the eyes and called her by name, "Whatever you do, whether you come to church or not, please, please never feel unworthy to pray.  Always keep that communication open between you and God.  Lay on Him your fears, your concerns, your worries, tell Him what is holding you back. He'll understand and I promise that as you ask, He'll show you bit by bit what can be done."
Tears were streaming now down her face and she rose up, crossed the room, and hugged me.  "Thank you, thank you.  I needed this.  I needed this so much!  I have felt too unworthy to pray, that He didn't want to hear from me. But you shared this with me. I needed this message."
On my way out the door, she said that she might text me some time if she decided to come to church.  
Enthusiastically I replied, "I'd be delighted to have you sit with me!" I paused briefly and then said, "Let it be your choice though to come to church, it has to be what you want.  And even if you come just for the first hour, I know it will be a blessing to you."
I reassured her again of my testimony that she can always, always approach God. We hugged again.

As I walked down her steps to return to my car, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the visiting teaching program.  What a privilege to be a part of!

This dear sister has been on my mind all day today.  I keep thinking of how seemingly small efforts for some people are tremendously huge efforts for others.  We are all in such different circumstances.  Thank goodness, the Lord looks on our hearts and not on the outward performances!  I've been thinking about "The Widow's Mite" in Mark 12:41-41 and how the Lord isn't just talking about monetary poverty but circumstantial, even environments where there is great spiritual deprivation.  He sees the smallest effort in those situations and great will be the reward for it.

-Alicia

.........................

There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house
by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened
meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my
house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

- Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What is being taught?

In my religion class, we just finished studying in the Book of Mormon where the resurrected Christ visits and administers among the ancient inhabitants of America.  What must it have been like to feel the Spirit there, to sit at His feet and be taught by Him, and to partake of the sacred emblems He blessed?

In chapter 21 of 3 Nephi the Lord prophesies of the gathering of His covenant people to the truth in the last days, "that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.  For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and marvelous work among them" (3 Ne. 21:8,9)

He also prophesies that in the last days, He will purge the people of their wickedness, that He will "cut off the witchcrafts, the graven images, the groves, all lyings, deceivings, envyings, strifes, priestcrafts, and whoredoms" it will all be "done away." (3 Ne. 21: 16-19)

When I read this description of such wickedness, I couldn't help but think of the majority of media and movies and the steady diet of filth offered freely to us in our homes.  What becomes of us when we take partake of this?  After all... isn't it true that "we are what we eat?"

As we think of those who gathered to be taught around the feet of our Savior, how they ate of the bread and wine...  we would do well to ask ourselves what is being taught in our homes?  What do we gather around?  If our T.V. programs and sitcoms of today could take on a physical identity, whose feet do our children sit at and receive teaching from?  What are they being fed?  Just think about it.  If the Lord came to our home to do some purging, where would He start?  I imagine He'd start by unplugging the television!

President Hinckley spoke at an American Mothers convention in May of 1994 and said, 'I am more concerned about the moral deficit than I am about the budget deficit.  The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.’  He then decried the ‘filth, the rot, the violence and profanity’ spewing into the home via television.  ‘If we could follow a slogan that says, ‘Turn off the TV and open a good book,’ we would do something of substance in strengthening another generation,’ he insisted.  (Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, 477)

"A moral deficit?" Can we see this?  That was back in 1994 and I submit that the junk on T.V. is far worse today that it was 21 years ago...  And yet so many mothers leave movies, popular shows, and sitcoms, to 'babysit' their children every day. With a ratio of three hours of worship on Sundays to well over twenty hours of 'the world’s teachings' the rest of the week, who do we think our kids are going to imitate??  Mothers, we cannot do this!  It is irresponsible!!  We've got to turn it around!  We need to step up in being "guardians of the hearth."

The family is under attack on all fronts. In 1995, why did the First Presidency choose to announce the proclamation on the family in a general Relief Society meeting? After President Hinckley read it, he provided an answer to that question. “You are the guardians of the hearth,” he told the sisters. “You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God.”  -(Daughters of My Kingdom "Guardians of the Hearth")

"You... establish within them the habits of their lives." What habits are we establishing, mothers? Watching hours and hours of television a day?!

My children give me a hard time because I am so strict with media.  I let them have 20 min. each of screen time per day and on the weekends they get to watch a movie or two.  We don't have cable so we don't get T.V. programs but we have the internet.  And as deprived as my kids might sometimes feel, one day they'll thank me for laying down these restrictions, for trying to establish other habits, noble habits, like serving a neighbor, expanding their talents, reading the scriptures on their own, listening to conference talks in the middle of the week, being creative, and the list goes on.  I can see good fruit bearing from this already.

I believe mothers, especially Latter-Day-Saint mothers who have made sacred covenants, will see a tremendous difference for good in their families if they personally  love and apply the standards outlined in the  For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.  Do we know what is in this?  Have we studied it?   I testify and promise that when we adhere to these teachings, it will result in wonderful, specific blessings:  
  1. We will have an increased measure of the Spirit in our homes and contention will decrease. Our tone of communication and choice of words will improve.
  2. Our identity, the identity of others, and the identity of our children will be more clear and centered on truth. We will lose desire for popularity and gain a stronger inner confidence.
  3. Our children will be more receptive to the Gospel, they will be more sensitive to the things of the spirit, and they will feel closer to the Savior.
Those who wrote this pamphlet are true messengers from our Father in Heaven.  They were inspired by God in each and every one of these standards.  Are we giving strict heed??

The Lord promises the righteous gatherers in the last days that "all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." (3 Ne. 22:13)  This is more than a message to the House of Israel... It is to the mothers of Zion, the teachers of the home.  “Great shall be the peace” not only of our children but WE, will have peace as well, knowing that we didn't take the "easy road" but we took "the road less traveled."

Why wait for the second coming of the Savior when we can invite Him in our homes today?  Let His feet be the ones our children gather around.  Let His Spirit be what feeds them.

-Alicia



Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Power Within

This song came on as I was jogging this morning.  I had to play it back again.  I love the lyrics!  Do we realize that we can call on this power, invite it into our hearts, our homes,our relationships, and our lives?  This is incredible!  How could we ever fear or cower when we know that no matter what comes our way, we have THIS power to draw from, to speak with, to call down, if we only ask?! What is this power?  It's the Spirit of God.  To me, it is also the power of the priesthood for that is how He operates. And with Him there is nothing we can't do.  I don't just believe this, I know this!!!

-Alicia

I can see 
Waters raging at my feet 
I can feel 
The breath of those surrounding me 
I can hear 
The sound of nations rising up 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome 

I can walk 
Down this dark and painful road 
I can face 
Every fear of the unknown 
I can hear 
All God’s children singing out 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome

The same power that rose Jesus from the grave 
The same power that commands the dead to wake 
Lives in us, lives in us 
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks 
The same power that can calm a raging sea 
Lives in us, lives in us 
He lives in us, lives in us

We have hope 
That His promises are true 
In His strength 
There is nothing we can’t do 
Yes, we know 
There are greater things in store 
We will not be overtaken 
We will not be overcome 

Greater is He that is living in me 
He’s conquered our enemy 
No power of darkness 
No weapon prevails 
We stand here in victory


"If we are going to do our duty, we are going to need the powers of heaven. And if we are going to be given access to the powers of heaven, we are going to have to learn to wait upon the Lord....you can bring the protective powers of heaven down on you by simply deciding to go toward the Savior, to wait on him... It will be hard to see the powers of heaven magnifying us or our efforts. It may even be hard to see our work being of any value at all. And sometimes our work won’t go well... But...if you pray, and if you choose to be clean, and if you choose to follow God’s servants, you will be able to work and wait long enough to bring down the powers of heaven." 

- Henry B. Eyring (Sept. 30, 1990 BYU Devotional 'Waiting Upon the Lord')

Monday, July 20, 2015

We Are All Enlisted

Through the book of Helaman until the Savior's visitation in chapter 11 of 3rd Nephi, we see a pattern of the Lord calling His prophets to minister among the people, to give them specific instructions and train them in preparation for life's battles.  Most importantly, these prophets stand as witnesses of Christ, of His Divine mission.  They speak as He would speak, they are His mouthpiece.  With all their hearts, these prophets strive to prepare the people to be ready to greet the Lord and give an accounting to Him at the day of His coming. (1)  There are patterns of behavior in how these prophets are received that parallel our modern time.  A pattern of war is also woven consistently through these chapters, applying to our day not just because of the physical conflict among nations in our world but more importantly to the spiritual battles we face almost daily. (2)

Let us for a moment put ourselves in these prophet's shoes.  What was it like for Helaman, for his son Nephi, for Samuel the Lamanite?  What patterns of reception would we witness in the hearts of people if we were called to be the Lord's mouthpiece?

Imagine you've been drafted in the army.  Imagine the war is terribly fierce and the news of casualties from your hometown have been coming in daily, these are people you know and love very dearly.   Your heart is deeply sorrowful for these losses and you desperately yearn to have this conflict ended.  You desire to save as many lives as possible for however long the duration of the war. (3)  You understand that in order to save the lives of others you must make a very clear choice to be a "cause-ualty and not a casualty."(4)

You didn't want to go to war but the enemy has been relentless in their attacks.  A force from the depths of your soul compels you to defend and protect your freedoms, your religion, your family, and your country.  You respond to the call of duty in full faith that the Lord will give you strength beyond your own.(5)

Boot camp pushes you hard and you take your military training very seriously.  You are rigorous in learning and apply every movement, every technique with exactness and honor as it is given to you by your  Chief Captain.  You drill to the point of such precision that when there is a command, you obey it like a reflex - heart, mind, and action.  You trust your Captain! (6)

The time comes for you to rank off to your assigned company.   You are designated to be their new commanding officer.  Imagine your horror when upon arriving you discover almost the whole lot of your regiment is in complete disarray. (7)

Many are fighting among each other, they quarrel and bicker endlessly and some are even becoming blood-thirsty. (8) The ones who are not caught in the sludge of contention are bogged in the mire of contempt.  They laugh at your neatly pressed uniform and snarkilly sneer at the medals on your chest as evidence of stiff and foolish compliance. The war is a joke to them and you are the punchline.  They roll their eyes at all of your instruction and return to their pleasure-parties like dogs to their vomit. (9)

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a small handful among the troops who envy your authority.  They want to be the commanding officer. They "appear" to be faithful and obedient but their motive is not for freedom but for "followers." You can see that they indeed "have followers" in fact, nearly two-thirds of your company is filing off in their direction like mice after the Piper. They secretly spread rumors about you, and scrutinize over your flaws, all the while raising themselves up to be more competent and able to fill your position. (10)  They play the tune of flattery causing their mesmerized disciples to conceitedly puff out their chests and march to the cadence of vain words drenched in ego spewn from lying lips.  Far from unity, these groups that section off seek to pit themselves one above the other with a focus so self-centered, so myopic, you are absolutely dumbfounded by their arrogance! (11) "What good are blind soldiers?!" your spirit shouts in frustration.

There are, however, a few soldiers whose intentions and motives are pure.(12)  They are easy to recognize because when you give a command, they humbly and diligently respond.  Their behavior among the crew is evidence that they care more about the welfare of others than they do their own lives. They respect your position.  They know you have studied the enemies tactics and that you keep direct contact with the Chief Captian.   They are 100% committed to the cause.  You trust them.  "These, I can employ," you think to yourself as you call them together.  Maybe with their example, you can rally others back.(13)

Your numbers are few but like Gideon's army, God has great purpose in working with the seemingly insignificant to ensure that we recognize His hand, that the miracle is evident of a power beyond our own, and to help us refrain from boasting in our own strength.(14)  You and your faithful band fulfill your duties gratefully and honorably.  You rest in perfect confidence that the Chief Captain is leading the way to victory. (15)

This short story is to illustrate the various patterns of reception to the Lord's Servants during the time of the Book of Mormon leading up to the coming of Christ.  We can also recognize these same kind or responses to the Lord's Prophets today as we prepare for His second coming.  Where do we fit in?  Which of these groups do we most identify with?  Each day we choose what kind of soldier we will be for "we are all enlisted 'till the conflict is over." (16)


...............................

(1) Prophets Prepare us for Christ’s Coming
  • Declare the word  - Tell the people to repent - Helaman 10:11,12
  • “”if this people will repent” - Helaman 11:14
  • “blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto God” - Helaman 12:23
  • “he prophesied...whatsoever thing the Lord put into his heart” “repentance and faith” “repent and return”- Helaman 13:4-6, 11
  • “repent and prepare the way of the Lord” “believe on His name” “repent, repent”- Helaman 14:9,13, 19
  • “there began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth...preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people.. testifying of redemption which the Lord would make” - 3 Nephi 6:20
  • “there mere many ...who testified of the things pertaining to Christ who testified boldly” - 3 Nephi 6:23
  • “testified boldly repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” “minister with power and with great authority”- 3 Nephi 7:16,17

Patterns of Prophets
  • “he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God… and do that which was right in the sight of God continually” - Helaman 3:20
  • “preach the word of God all the remainder of his days” - Helaman 4:4
  • foundation built on Christ - Helaman 5:12
  • “preach with great power” “preach with great power and authority”- Helaman 5:17, 6:5
  • “nothing did he speak which was contrary to the commandments of God” - Helaman 8:3
  • “pondered upon the things the Lord had shown him” - Helaman 10:2
  • declared the word unwearyingly, seek God’s will and not their own - Helaman 10:4,5
  • “he prophesied...whatsoever thing the Lord put into his heart” “repentance and faith”- Helaman 13: 4-6
  • “had the spirit of revelation and prophecy” - 3 Nephi 3:19
  • “disciple of Jesus Christ… called of Him to declare His word” - 3 Nephi 5:12


(2) Book of Mormon Written for Our Day
  • “Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that the Book of Mormon was written for our day: “The major writers of the Book of Mormon fully understood that their writings were primarily for the people of a future generation rather than for the people of their own generation.”

(3) The Battles We Face
  • "The war goes on," President Hinckley said. "It is waged across the world over the issues of agency and compulsion. It is waged by an army of missionaries over the issues of truth and error. It is waged in our own lives, day in and day out, in our homes, in our work, in our school associations; it is waged over questions of love and respect, of loyalty and fidelity, of obedience and integrity. We are all involved in it "


(4) Causualties not Casualties
  • “ye are free, ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free” - Helaman 14:30,31
  • "The Christian life is not casual, but causual.  All nature is a standing protest against the absurdity of expecting to secure spiritual effects, or any effects, without the employment of appropriate causes.  The great teacher dealt what ought to have been the final blow to this infinite irrelevancy by a single question, "Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?"- Henry Drummond

(5) Strength Beyond Your Own
  • “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philipians 4:13

(6) Trust the Captain
  • “the Lord in His great infinite goodness doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him.” - Helaman 12:1

(7) (8) Contention
  • “because of so much contention… they had not kept sufficient guards in the land” - Helaman 1:18
  • “a little pride… was in the church, which did cause some little dissensions” “there was much contention and many dissensions” - Helaman 3:1,3
  • “murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, great contentions” - Helaman 4:12
  • “few contentions concerning points of doctrine laid down by the prophets” “much strife” - Helaman 11:22,23
  • “Satan… did go about spreading rumors and contentions”- Helaman 16:22
  • “many contentions and dissensions” - 3 Nephi 2:18
  • “disputings among the people”- 3 Nephi 6:10
  • “return railing for railing” afflict and persecute- 3 Nephi 6:13

(9) (7) Disbelieving and Contemptuous
  • “making a mock of the sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and revelation” - Helaman 4:12
  • “dwindle.. disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy… and revelation” - Helaman 4:23
  • “they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One - because of their ease and prosperity” - Helaman 12:2
  • “slow to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear to his counsels” - Helaman 12:5
  • “harden the hearts of the people against that which was good and against that which should come” - Helaman 16:22
  • “lyings sent forth among the people by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in the signs and wonders” - 3 Nephi 1:22
  • “forget the signs and wonders, less and less astonished at a sign… hard in their hearts, blind in their minds, and began to disbelieve all which they had heard and seen” - 3 Neph 1:2
  • “the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit” - 3 Nephi 7:8
  • “great doubtings and disputations” - 3 Nephi 7:4

(10) (7) Priest Crafts and Secret Combinations
  • “he did flatter them ...that if they would place him in the judgment seat he would grant unto those who belonged to his band that they should be placed in power and authority among the people” - Helaman 2:5
  • “secret combinations” - Helaman 3:23
  • “the Gadianton robbers did gain many advantages over them” - 3 Nephi 2:18
  • sought for power and authority- 3 Nephi 6:15

(11) (7) Boastful and Proud
  • “pride which began to enter… into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church” - Helaman 3:33
  • “pride of their hearts… oppression to the poor… smiting the humble” - Helaman 4:12
  • “set their hearts upon riches… seek to get gain … to be lifted up one above another” - Helaman 6:17
  • “get gain, to be praised of men… hearts upon riches and vain things.. false witness” - Helaman 7:21
  • “wax stronger and stronger in their pride” - Helaman 11:37
  • “quick to be lifted up in pride… quick to boast” - Helaman 12:5
  • “imagine up in their hearts foolish and vain things” - Helaman 16:22
  • “lifted up unto pride and boastings” “began to be distinguished by ranks” - 3 Nephi 6:10,12
  • stirred up to iniquity, puffed up with pride, seeking the vain things of this world, willfully rebel - 3 Nephi 6:15,18

(12) Patterns of Righteousness

  • “fast and pray oft… wax stronger in humility… firmer in the faith of Christ… yielding their hearts unto God”  joy and consolation in purification and sanctification of their hearts - Helaman 3:35
  • foundation built on Christ - Helaman 5:12
  • “baptized unto repentance” - Helaman 5:17
  • firm and steady in the faith - Helaman 6:1 “firm and steadfast in the faith” “fear to sin - Helaman 15:8,9
  • “fellowship, rejoice, and have great joy one with another” - Helaman 6:3
  • “lay up treasures in heaven” - Helaman 8:25
  • “believe the holy scriptures and the prophecies of the holy prophets” they are led to faith and repentance and a change of heart - Helaman 15:7
  • “watch steadfastly for the signs” - 3 Nephi 1:8
  • “did not hearken to the robbers… but cried unto the Lord for strength” - 3 Nephi 3:12
  • “fortify themselves… put up their prayers unto the Lord” - 3 Nephi 3:25
  • “reserved for themselves provisions” - 3 Nephi 3:4, 4:18
  • Praised God - 3 Nephi 4:31-33
  • “forsook all their sins...their abominations ...their whoredoms, and did serve God with all diligence day and night” - 3 Nephi 5:2
  • “humble and penitent before God” would not return the revilings, converted to the true faith, firm and steadfast, keeping the commandments with all diligence and willingness - 3 Nephi 6:13,14
  • “baptized… as a witness and a testimony before God, and unto the people, that they had repented and received a remission of their sins” - 3 Nephi 7:25


(13) (3) Save Lives
  • “striving with unwearied diligence that they may bring the remainder of their brethren to the knowledge of the truth” - Helaman 15:6
  • “unite with their brethren...to maintain their rights, and the privileges of their church and their worship and their freedom and their liberty” - 3 Nephi 2:12

(14) Lest We Boast
  • ""The people that are with thee are too many...lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me."- Judges 7:2

(15) “The Lord is at the head of this Church, and we all follow His direction. Both men and women need increased faith and testimony of the life and the Atonement of our Lord, Jesus Christ—increased knowledge of His teachings and doctrine.” - M. Russel Ballard

(16) - Hymn #250