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"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...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Soul of Man Has Been Given Wings

When my oldest son was around one year old, I decided to read the book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. It's a short read but teaches an eternal lesson about our individual worth and the power of desire and faith.  Every time I think of the soul of man flying, I remember this book and the parable of the seagull who learned to rise above his fears, his circumstances, his limitations, his sorrow, and explore a world of new and endless possiblities.

"Don't believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you'll see the way to fly."
(Richard Bach - Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

This "way to fly" facinates me.  It is built into our spiritual DNA, it's what we're born to do.  We are not creatures of this world... We're only "strangers passing through." (1 Chronicles 29:15)  Our real home is heaven. (Hebrews 13:14)  We must lift our eyes to who we really are and who we really will be. (Jacob 4:13).

No matter how dark this world ever  becomes or the struggles we might be called to face in the future, I pray we will never lose hope.  God is aware of us, He hears our prayers and every ache we can't express.  He pours out His Grace & His words like rain in a dessert land, and will safely guide us through.  All will be well.  No matter what happens or how our lives unfold, whether it is what we expect or not, there is a bright and gloriously happy future ahead. We can trust this!

To all of those I love,

"...Can you hear me? 
Wherever you are look up... 
The clouds are lifting.  
The sun is breaking through.
We are coming out of the darkness and into the light.  
We are coming into a new world, a kindly world, 
Where men will rise above their hate, their greed, and brutality.
Look up... 
The soul of man has been given wings 
and at last he is begining to fly!  
He is flying into the rainbow, into the Light of hope, 
Into the future, the glorious future 
That belongs to you, to me, and to all of us!  
Look up... look up!"

- (Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator)

Keep your eyes open and fixed on God above, on the Light of hope. If we are constantly  striving to love as He loves, to learn of Him, to learn meekness... then our heavenly home will be as close as we believe it to be.

Always remember,
"To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived."
- (Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull)

-Alicia

Aunt Sylvia - Part 1

Last night I read from some of the pages of my great-aunt Sylvia's story.  (Sylvia is my grandmother's younger sister, born one year after her in 1909.)  She was taken captive by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII while serving as a Christian missionary with her husband and two boys in Indonesia.  She was imprisoned from 1942 until 1945.  The copy I have of her story is on thin typed paper. I'll transfer most of it here so I have a second place to keep it.

Today, I discovered a book that has several pages written about my Aunt Sylvia.  Drumbeats That Changed the World  How exciting!

Walk With Me
Faith of My Mothers

"My First Internment"
by, Sylvia Sirag

"In October 1942, the American and British women and children were taken to the Police station to be interned in camp.  The officials who came to our home that morning gave us a few minutes to put things into the suit case and snatch a few things to eat.  I put it all into a large kettle to take to the Police station.  There we sat, many women and children awaiting the Japanese officials.  After waiting till noon we hardly felt like eating the food we had snatched from the house.  Not sensing the gravity of the situation, the children were still quite happy and ate as usual.  Finally, little three-year-old Paul began to sing:  

'Cheer up, cheer up, for Jesus is on the throne,
He will supply all your need from on high,
Cheer up, Cheer up, Cheer up.'

This was the message we needed.  We often act as though He [Christ] is not on the throne.  I praise God for the children who so often have been a blessing to me, even in the midst of terrible circumstances.  We felt the Lord would some way make a way out for us,, and He did:  We were one of the two parties who were permitted to go home after the Japanese officer came.  When we arrived home, we went over to Mr. Ho and found that they had been faithfully praying and believing that we would return.  [The return only lasted a short two months] In December, we were called again to appear at the office for internment.  This time the entire white population of the allied nations was taken.  We had to report with a very limited amount of baggage.  After registration with the officials we were marched down to a large school.  Everyone was scrambling to find a place on the floor to sleep.  Hundreds of us were huddled together in one school for four days.  Then the few men among us were sent to Bogor, the men's camp. [This is when my uncle was taken from her.]  

The Japanese officials informed us that we were under the Imperial army of Japan and that any disobedience would be severely punished.  We were told we were to be sent to Bandoeng.  He did not make it clear that we must do our own cooking, house keeping, etc.  Thus we had no pots or pans.  We were allowed a few minutes to go home to get some warm blankets etc., as it is cold in Bandoeng Hill climate.  

The next day we were marched down to the depot and onto the train.  We were packed on to crowded coaches so close we could hardly move.  Thus we sat for four or five hours traveling.  From thence we were loaded in big buses or trucks and taken to "Camp Karees" in Bandoeng, where there were 8,000 women and children.  This portion of the city was walled with bamboo fence and barbed wire and was well guarded by watch towers of Japanese soldiers.

Arriving tired and hungry after a day of strained travel and waiting, we greatly appreciated food our Heavenly Father had provided through kind friends of the camp.  We had to wait standing on the street until nightfall for the appointment of our room.  Each family was given a room according to the number in the family. This usually meant five to ten families in a house built for one family.  

As no normal kitchen conveniences were available, we all had to cook outdoors on the ground with a cement or clay bucket.  This will give some conception of the difficulties experienced.  

A few months later, an additional 350 women and children were added to the camp which meant being cramped in more crowded quarters.  The Japanese officials adopted the simple plan of marking every third house, requiring it to be vacated and the occupants to find another place to live.  After this procedure had been followed and all had settled in their new quarters, I was astonished when the Japanese came and said, 'Why are you not out?'  Our house had not been marked and no indication given that we were to move but that did not avail.  We were told to be out by 1:00 p.m. or the stuff would be put in the street.  We did not even have a place to go, yet we must pack and move into the yard.  We had to do it ourselves as so many others were moving ad we could not get help.  How bravely my little boys, three and four years, did their share in carrying things to the house we had been directed to down the street.  Beds, chairs, and boxes had to be carried by mother and two tiny boys.  The room was given to accommodate six (2 families).  But there was not room for even our three beds!  Weary and sick at the impossible situation, I wondered what was to be done.  Again our Heavenly Father undertook for His overwrought servants, and before nightfall of this trying day.  accommodation was found for the other family, leaving this room for us."

-Aunt Sylvia


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Kingdom of God is in You

I LOVE a good movie score!!  I have always been enthralled with the magic of music, how it can stir our hearts, inspire our souls, enlighten our minds, increase our passions, enhance our words, and give meaning to sight through the wonder of sound.  This song called "Time" by, Hans Zimmer, was recently attached to a scene from an old black and white movie, The Great Dictator.

The Great Dictator is a 1940 film made by Charlie Chapman.  It is a story of a good man, a Jewish barber, who saves the life of a wounded pilot during World War 2.  During his rescue, this Jewish barber receives a concussion and loses his memory.  He and the pilot try to escape the Nazis and somehow are able to dress up in German uniform to help them get away unrecognized.  But the Jewish barber, who is played by Charlie Chapman, looks almost identical to Adolf Hitler.  In the mix-up, he is urged to speak to the soldiers and gives a speech completely opposite, and diametrically opposed to anything the real Hitler would have said.

The first time I saw this scene combined with the music from Hans Zimmer, I was taken back at how powerful it was. It stirred in my mind the plea and cry we hear from men and women called to speak in Christ's name today, called to cry repentance, to preach faith and devotion to God and to one another.  They plead for unity, for love, kindness, for gentleness, and at the same time stand by morals and principles, never condoning acts contrary to our Divine nature.

 I've been reading in the scriptures and pondering the constant rejection of the prophets of God.  In our family study, we are reading about Abinadi.  In my personal study, I'm reading in the end of 1 Nephi where "even the very God of Israel... men trample under their feet;... they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels."  (1 Ne. 19:7) "They turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel. And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish" (1 Ne. 19:13,14)

As we approach this weekend and have this wonderful opportunity to hear the word of God spoken by the mouths of His prophets, I pray we will not let their cries fall on deaf ears, that we will not "trample them under our feet" but that we will take them into our hearts, treasure them, live by them, and teach them.  The time we have on this earth is a gift to us.  For myself, I desire to use it better... for it will slip quickly out of my grasp. There is so much work to be done.  I pray that I will be inspired to be about the work that matters most.

-Alicia



"I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone - if possible - Jew, Gentile - black man - white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness - not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost....

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men - cries out for universal brotherhood - for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world - millions of despairing men, women, and little children - victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me, I say - do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed - the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. .....

Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes - men who despise you - enslave you - who regiment your lives - tell you what to do - what to think and what to feel! Who drill you - diet you - treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men - machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate - the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!

In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” - not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power - the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world - to do away with national barriers - to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!"

Monday, September 28, 2015

I Never Imagined!

I have three wonderful nephews serving missions right now.  My nephew, Bryson, serving in Mexico shared in his recent letter this new song from David Archuleta.  It's a song about Family History sung in Spanish.  

Now I probably only know how to say two sentences in Spanish.  I understand very, very little.  But, I recognized "que hora" "a hora" "ojos mi refelction" "estoy a que" which mean - "When?"  "Now!" "in my eyes a reflection" and "who I am."  Even though these are the only words I understood, the video helps tell the story, the sound of the music is absolutely beautiful, and the power of the message is crystal clear!    

This morning as I watched this video and read my nephew's letter, tears of gratitude streamed down my face for the Temple, for the privilage of searching out my ancestors, for learning their stories, and feeling them surround me in my life.  

In Women's Conference this last Saturday, Sister Carol McConkie quoted Mark Twain when she said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”  I believe we discover our mission, our story, much more quickly as we discover our roots.  

Nunca Pensé means in English "I never thought" or "I never imagined."  I don't believe we truly comprehend the magnificent outpouring of heaven that is waiting to be called down, just waiting to tell their stories and help us discover ours.  I have faith that there are multitudes of angels on the other side watching over us!!  As our hearts turn to them, we open the door and let them in.  There are blessings that await us beyond our wildest dreams.  Those who have gone before already LOVE us and as we genuinely love them in return, we will witness miracles in our life that we could never ever imagine!

This is what it is to call down heaven!!  
"I won't give up if you don't give up... I'm calling all angels." - Cold Play

-Alicia ;)


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Ch-ch-ch-Changes

"Turn and face the strange."

This David Bowie classic was never a favorite song of mine but somehow I always find myself singing it when life shifts in new or unknown directions .  A couple of days ago, I was discussing with my group of homeschool moms all of the things that are unraveling in the world and in the church.  We are witnessing an unprecedented gathering and unification among people of all faiths.  Scriptures are being fulfilled and the Lord is hastening His work.  It's a wonderful time to be alive!

"The changes that have occurred and are presently occurring in the Church are of epic proportions: prophecy fulfilling, mind-boggling, and—for those of us who are convinced that the Restoration is a reality—thrilling. " -  President Rex E. Lee

 Conference begins today with the General Women's Session and the other sessions in a week.  I love Christmas but sorry Andy Williams, "THIS is the MOST wonderful time of the year!!"

This conference is going to be different than others I've experienced in the past.  It hasn't been since 1906 three new apostles have been called at the same time.  And I have a feeling in the next six months, we will witness two more called in.  This is huge and I anticipate with these things there will also be a few policy or program changes.  I imagine that some of these changes may even try our faith, some members may complain about or become irritated with them.  Because this is a church led by Divine revelation, a world-wide and rapidly growing organization, adjustments to programs or policy often become necessary.

With these changes taking place...  How do we reconcile the scripture found in Mormon 9:9?  "For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?"

We understand:
"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." - D&C 1:38

Also, "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." -Articles of Faith 1:9

What François de la Rochefoucauld has said may be true. “The only thing constant in life is change.”  We can see all around us every day, on earth and in the sky above evidence of motion, conversion, transformation, and flux.  As mysterious and strange as it may seem, change is a beautiful and essential part of creation!

So how is it God doesn't change?   It is His doctrine and principles that remain absolute.  With God, there is no such thing as moral relativism.  He is a God of perfect responsibility and trust.

President Rex E. Lee said,
“I cannot think of anything more important than for each of you to build a firm, personal testimony that there are in this life some absolutes, things that never change, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. They are eternal truths, eternal principles and, as Paul tells us, they are and will be the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

This is what I know for certain will always remain standing and true forever:
  1. God lives!  We have a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers our prayers. We can commune with Him night and day.  He is deeply involved in our lives and cares about us making choices that set our souls free and help us reach our Divine potential. 
  2. Jesus Christ is our Savior, our Redeemer.  He is one with our Father and has atoned for our sins.  It is only in and through Him that we are saved.  He is the author and finisher of our faith.
  3. The Book of Mormon is true.  It is another witness of Christ and is inspired for our day. It also bears testimony of the Bible, and modern revelation.
  4. The Priesthood has been restored on the earth.  Joseph Smith was a true prophet and we have Prophets and Apostles to guide and direct us today. The words they speak are scripture.
As solid and firm as these absolutes and eternal truths are, there is still a change involved... a beautiful change within ourselves, a transformation, a conversion, a new birth, where we become who we are meant to become.  

No, God doesn't change... but He certainly changes us!!  This is the miracle of creation!!

"And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.  But behold, I will show unto you a God of miracles, even the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and it is that same God who created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are." - Mormon 9:10, 11

And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? - Alma 5:14

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.  And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God." - Ezekiel 36:26-28

If we have experienced this mighty change within us, may we always stay true!  May we remain constant and obedient, reliable and trustworthy to all that our Father in Heaven asks of us.  Obedience is the first evidence of love and the first law of heaven.  I pray our hearts will be open to the changes that are coming within the Church.  I pray we will prepare our families to always follow and give heed to the words of the living prophets.  What a wonderful and exciting time to be alive as we witness the stone cut out of the mountains without hands rolling forth!!

-Alicia

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Sunshine of Life

There are just some people you trust completely, whose hearts are pure and whose lives manifest stunning grandeur.  I'm grateful for such friends to grace my days and wish there was a way I could more adequately express how much they mean to me.  I am forever thankful for their examples of self-less service and tireless efforts to be noble in word and deed.  They inspire me to be better than I am and I value them more than gold.  What a treasure!

David O. McKay said it best,

"Among life's sweetest blessings is fellowship 
with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble.  
Next to a sense of kinship with God 
comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends. 
 Friendship is a sacred possession.  
As air, water, and sunshine is to flowers, trees, and verdure, 
so smiles, sympathy, and love of friends is to the daily life of man. 
'To live, laugh, love one's friends and be loved by them is to bask in the sunshine of life.'  
One of the principal reasons which the Lord had for establishing His Church 
is to give all persons high and low, rich and poor strong and feeble 
an opportunity to associate with their fellow men 
in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship.  
This may be found in priesthood quorums, auxiliaries, sacrament meetings.  
He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, 
to that extent starves his own soul." 

- David O. McKay, Conf. Report, April 1940 p. 116. 

Amen, President McKay!
-Alicia

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Patterns are Pointing

Just over a week ago, we had Region Conference for our church services.  Elder Dean Davies, 2nd Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, testified of patterns found within the scriptures, especially in the Book of Mormon.


In my personal studies this past week, I read about the Liahona sent from God to guide Nephi and Lehi's family to the "more fertile parts of the wilderness." I believe the patterns within the Book of Mormon are spindles on our own compass which point and lead us to "the more fertile parts" of the Gospel, patterns that enrich and deepen our understanding of what we must be aware of and be prepared for in these last days.


"And we did follow the directions of the ball, which led us in the more fertile parts of the wilderness." - 1 Nephi 16:16


"Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings and He will direct the for good." - Alma 37:37


"The [compass or Liahona] did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done." - Alma 37:40


The Liahona led Lehi's family "in the more fertile parts of the wilderness," Likewise, the Book of Mormon points us and leads us to a greater understanding of our Father's plan, to principles of greener pastures and living water.


Spindles of the Book of Mormon


  • Pointing to the Words of Isaiah
"give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy" - (2 Ne. 25:4)
" I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people" - (2 Ne. 11:2)
"my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah" - (2 Ne. 25:5)
"I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah" - (2 Ne. 15:20)
"I would speak unto you concerning things which are, and which are to come; wherefore, I will read you the words of Isaiah" - (2 Ne. 6:4)
"when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them" - (3 Ne. 20:11)
"search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah" - (3 Ne. 23:1)
"And now I write some of the words of Isaiah" - (1 Ne. 11:8)


  • Pointing to the Book of Revelations
(The Second -Half of Nephi's Vision) "The angel spake unto me, saying: Look!...Behold one of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.  Behold, he shall see and write the remainder of these things; yea, and also many things which have been" - (1 Ne. 14:18-27)
"then shall my revelations which I have caused to be written by my servant John be unfolded in the eyes of all the people. Remember, when ye see these things, ye shall know that the time is at hand that they shall be made manifest in very deed" - (Ether 4:16)


  • Pointing to the Teachings of Malachi
"And it came to pass that he [Jesus] commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi" - (3 Ne. 24:1)


  • Pointing to the Savior and His Ministry
The Book of Mormon has well over 650 references to Jesus Christ and the most important event is the Savior's visit among the ancient people after His resurrection. Verses of Matthew are referenced from several chapters with a strong emphasis on Matthew 5, 6, and 7.  There are numerous amounts of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon that testify of Christ but if I had to narrow it down to one or two, it would most likely be, 2 Nephi 31:19 &20.


  • Pointing to the Importance of Living Prophets
I did a blog post a while back on the pattern of prophets found in the Book of Mormon.  I discovered witness after witness of how God works through His servants.  I believe there has never been a time in the history of the world where true prophets, who speak the word of the Lord, have been more needed than today.  The Book of Mormon points to the truth of this Gospel, that it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and that we have living prophets today. General Conference, is just around the corner and my heart is elated to sit at the feet once again of these leaders who have been called of God.
.......


If we take a moment and study these areas where we have been directed or pointed to, what is being taught?  Why are these portions emphasized? What message do they contain?  It's been good for me to cross over and take a deeper look in these directions.  There are many patterns in the Book of Mormon to be discovered as we make a serious study of it: patterns of principle, patterns of revelation, patterns of pride, patterns of apostasy, patterns of conversion, and patterns of happiness.  


Oh how I love the Book of Mormon! Searching and studying it has literally saved me, it has been my anchor through every storm and the light of my every day.  It has shaped my testimony and continues to do so.  This is where I have discovered the abundant life!! It truly has led me to the "more fertile parts" of the Gospel.  I am so richly blessed!


"There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called 'the words of life' (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance." - Ezra Taft Benson - Oct. 1986


-Alicia

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Using Words

"Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words." 

A sister shared this quote in Sacrament Meeting today.  I've heard it many times before and It always strikes me deep.  I often worry that I'm one of those who talks too much.  I certainly feel like I have plenty of room for improvement in the "practice what I preach" arena.  Admittedly, whenever I hear this quote, I feel to step back, examine myself more fully, and think, "Man, I really need to train myself to shut my mouth."

However, I don't think this quote means that words aren't necessary.  Take a look at 2 Nephi 25:26, where the Prophet Nephi says we are to talk, rejoice, preach, prophesy, and write of Christ.  All of these connote the use of words.

Elder Holland also expounds upon the importance of words: "In his deeply moving final testimony, Nephi calls us to “follow the Son [of God], with full purpose of heart,” promising that “after ye have … received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, [ye] can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels. … And … how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.”  Indeed, Christ was and is “the Word,” according to John the Beloved,  full of grace and truth, full of mercy and compassion." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (The Tongue of Angels) (2 Nephi 31:13–14; 32:2–3

Clearly we see the necessity of words -  it is through their power that heaven and earth are bound together, through words that we commune with God, call down angels, and connect with each other.  But just as we are merely dust without our Father in Heaven, our words are also useless and hollow if our hearts are not sincere.

Paul taught, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1,2

It is only when love, pure Christ-like love, is our moving and motivating force that our words have any power.  And what is Christ-like love?  It is certainly more than lip service. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments."

"Spiritually mature obedience is 'the Savior’s obedience.' It is motivated by true love for Heavenly Father and His Son. When we willingly obey, as our Savior did, we cherish the words of our Heavenly Father." - Elder Robert D. Hales - April 2014

The Savior's obedience is motivated by true love for our Father - which ultimately means His love was displayed by sacrifice.

When we sincerely love, honor, and cherish God's word, we will feel the necessity to preach the Gospel at all times, we willingly sacrifice... and what we say will be every bit a part of what we do.

I pray that the Lord will strengthen me to be a better witness of Him.

-Alicia


If I sing but don't have love
I waste my breath with every song
I bring an empty voice, a hollow noise
If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don't have love
I leave a bitter taste with every word I say

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

If I give
To a needy soul but don't have love then who is poor?
It seems all the poverty is found in me

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
Oh, let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

When it's all said and done
When we sing our final song
Only love remains
Only love remains

Let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You're made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love

Friday, September 18, 2015

No Sweat

We all experience it: set-backs and upsets, scenarios that inconvenience, and situations that annoy.  Expecting any stage of life to be an easy ride, free from conflict or uncomfortability, sets a person up for grave disappointment. It just doesn't work that way.

In fact, Neal A. Maxwell said that "Too many of us seem to expect that life will flow ever smoothly, featuring an unbroken chain of green lights with empty parking places just in front of our destinations!"

 Speaking of destinations... Just a couple of days ago, my husband and I purchased a car for him to drive to work on bad-weather days.  We found a well kept Suzuki Forenza with brand new tires, a fine interior /exterior, and only 48,000 miles.  It drove just fine too.  The day after our purchase we took the car into a mechanic and found out from his inspection that we got sucked into buying a total lemon.  He told us when he lifted the car to get a look underneath, there it was as plain as day, the engine had a huge crack!  It was too late, we had signed the title already. We had run a CarFax report that came back clean and the ad said "excellent condition." But we were kicking ourselves for not taking it to our trusted mechanic before going through with the sale.

We spent a full day trying to converse with the sellers by phone, email, and texting. It really turned into a nightmare and by the end, our nerves were shot. We felt sucker-punched for being so foolish and it knocked us both into a slump.  In our exhaustion we stopped and just held one another, took a deep breath and held each other a little more. I looked up at my husband and said, "We'll get through this.  It's just a little hurdle, we'll get through this." It's interesting to me how certain situations can disturb our peace of mind and bind us down to needless anxiety.

On the good side, my dear sweet friend, Suzanne, left me a card on my porch with two movie tickets inside and a large package of Rolo's with a cute little pun encouraging Joseph and I to let this situation "roll" off our backs.  Her gesture didn't fix the car but it fixed my perspective.  I have so much to be grateful for, look at the awesome friends and family I have!  Who cares about the stupid car!  In a few months from now, none of this will really matter, it will all work out, we'll go on with life, and eventually forget about it.

So this was a set-back, a definite upset, yes... but the honest-to-goodness truth is that life rarely happens the way we plan.   And really, when things do go wrong, the outcome never ends up being as bad as we expect it to be.  We can always, always find plenty to be grateful for.

My friends, don't worry. be happy... it will soon pass - whatever it is. ;)

-Alicia
http://theplaceofbecoming.blogspot.com/2015/07/three-things-to-remember.html


“Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. 

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

“The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride”
(“Big Rock Candy Mountains,” Deseret News, 12 June 1973, A4).



“One of the mistakes many of us make is that we feel sorry for ourselves, or for others, thinking that life should be fair, or that someday it will be. It's not and it won't. When we make this mistake we tend to spend a lot of time wallowing and/or complaining about what's wrong with life. "It's not fair," we complain, not realizing that, perhaps, it was never intended to be.” 
(― Richard Carlson, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it's all small stuff.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm Ready Now

 I was reviewing the Priesthood Session from April's 2015 Conference this morning.  President Uchtdorf gave a great talk On Being Genuine.  This reminded me of the thoughts I have recently had about shallowness and being real.  It was fun to put those principles back to back.  But anyway, the talk that stood out to me this morning was the one by President Eyring on personal prayer.  Our Father in Heaven is truly amazing!  I rejoice with all my heart that He hears every prayer!  Knowing this fills me with a calm and a peace I can't express.

 President Eyring testifies, "With a prayer of faith, God can grant us power in the priesthood for whatever circumstance we may be in. It simply requires that we ask in humility for the Spirit to show us what God would have us say and do, do it, and continue to live worthy of that gift.

I bear you my testimony that God the Father lives, loves us, and hears our every prayer. I bear testimony that Jesus is the living Christ, whose Atonement makes it possible for us to be purified and so be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. I testify that with our faith and diligence, we can one day hear the words that will bring us joy: 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' I pray that we will receive that wonderful benediction from the Master we serve."

How thankful I am for prayer.  I add my testimony to President Eyring's.  The Savior's atonement truly does make it possible for us to be purified and worthy of the Spirit in our life.  To have His Spirit "always with us" is no small gift and I can't think of a greater companion to accompany us in our journey through this world.  

In addition to these talks, I also heard a song on the radio called, "Lord I'm Ready Now."  Just that title alone made me think of the hymn, "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go."  I said a silent prayer combining both of these titles as they penetrated deep into my heart, "Lord, I'm ready now and will go wherever you want me to go."  This readiness to go wherever the Lord sees fit is something I have prayed long and hard for.  So, to have this feeling wash over me was refreshing to my soul.  
(Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not announcing that we're moving by any stretch of the imagination, who knows - we may live here another 10 or 15 years?)  But it felt so good to be able to say, "I'm ready now."  

Last night I laid in bed with each of my children and took turns scratching their backs.  It's one of my favorite things to do with them at the end of the day.  I cannot describe the feeling of contentment I had as I lay their and visited with each one.   Afterward, I walked into the living room and knelt down next to my husband who was finishing his prayers.  "What a good man" I thought to myself as gratitude flooded my soul for his righteous and humble heart.  "What a sweet and full life I have!" 

Our Father in Heaven truly hears our every prayer, I know this! I'm ready now... I have nothing to fear.  :)

-Alicia

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

But if Not

My husband and I had a wonderful conversation yesterday about the power of faith and heartfelt prayer in our lives.  We discussed at length our admiration for the brother of Jared to have the kind of faith that "he could not be kept from within the veil."  Joseph expressed that his greatest desire is to learn to listen and act upon the Spirit without hesitation. Such responsiveness is faith! He is absolutely sincere and I dearly love him for this desire!!

 I've been pondering a lot lately and have desperately wanted to know how closely I follow the Spirit in my own life.  I strive with all my heart to be "in tune" but I'm sure there are times I am not.  When I am "out of tune" or have impressions that are not from God, I pray the Lord will please show me so that I may not become one of those very elect who are deceived.

Most of the time I feel as if my eyes are covered by a veil and I can't see where the Lord is leading me.... but I've had glimpses that have "parted that veil," glimpses that pertain to my own personal future, glimpses that I am certain are from God but I do not understand them, I can't explain them, and I cannot pretend to know their meaning.  

So, I move on into the unknown.  And even though these questions linger, I'm learning to find peace, the kind of peace that if the Lord were to command us, I'd be ready to pick up all of our belongings and carry my little family somewhere far away from this beautiful place I call home. I trust that someday, somehow I will understand the meaning of these puzzle pieces that have been placed before me.  

There are volumes of mysteries in life, plenty of things I'm ignorant to.  But I DO know that God is shaping my soul.  I have prayed that He would refine me and make weak things become strong and I have truly felt His refining and strengthening power.  I still have quite a ways to go but God is ever faithful, always fair, and wonderfully good.  There is no question in my mind of His character.  It is my character that is on trial!

I know that God is a loving Father and gives me experiences that are custom fit to shape me and deepen my trust in Him.  I thank Him for such lessons even if they are painful at times or don't make a lot of sense.

"Men accomplish marvelous things by trusting in the Lord and keeping His commandments—by exercising faith even when they don’t know how the Lord is shaping them." - Elder Dennis E. Simmons - (April 2004 - But if Not) 

I remember when I first heard this talk by, Dennis Simmons. This is a great one!!  I've returned to listen to it many times.  It truly resonates clearly within my heart.  I am so blessed to have this Gospel! https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2004/04/but-if-not?lang=eng

-Alicia

Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Citius! Altius! Fortius!"

Chills ran through me from head to toe as I listened to the three-hundred-sixty voice choir accompanied by the Utah Symphony Orchestra perform Call of the Champions - "Faster! Higher! Stronger!"  What an incredible experience it was to have the world gather in my own back yard for the Winter Olympics!  It's hard to believe that was 13-and-a-half years ago. The fanfare composed for the 2002 opening ceremony still inspires me every time I hear it.

"Faster! Higher! Stronger!" has been the official Olympic motto since 1924.  It reminds me of a motto one of my good friends, Scott Woodward, came up with when we were in college, "Up Only!"  Scott was such a great example to me of what it meant to always seek to spiritually better ourselves.  That was the direction he sought for in his life then and he continues to keep his eyes fixed heavenward today.

Many years ago, I remember someone saying, "If you reach for the stars, you may not get one but you won't get a handful of mud either."  I've never forgotten that.

This is a church with extremely high standards and some may find reason to criticise us for it.  But look at the standards one must follow to become a great athlete or even an Olympian. It is rigorous, tedious, "try and fail and try again" training!! Just because we may feel inadequate, unqualified, or that the workload exceeds our strength, doesn't mean we should throw in the towel.  Miraculous things always happen when we continue to put forth our best efforts and trust in the grace of the Lord.

Bonnie L. Oscarson, the Young Women's General President encouraged us this last General Conference when she said, "Heavenly Father has a mission and plan for each of us, but He also has His own timetable. One of the hardest challenges in this life is to have faith in the Lord’s timing. It’s a good idea to have an alternative plan in mind, which helps us to be covenant-keeping, charitable, and righteous women who build the kingdom of God no matter which way our lives go. We need to teach our daughters to aim for the ideal but plan for contingencies." 

 I love that, "Aim for the ideal but plan for contingencies." It sounds like the quote about reaching for the stars.  Spiritually, I am so far from the ideal- from being the kind of mother, wife, friend, and sister God intends me to become.  I take comfort knowing that my Father in Heaven doesn't expect me to be perfect but he does expect the "perfect effort."

"It's not about perfect.  It's about effort.  And when you implement that effort into your life... every single day, that's where transformation happens.  That's how change occurs.  Keep going.  Remember why you started." – Coach Ladouceur (De La Salle - Spartans)

Elder Richard G. Scott also gave a wonderful talk in Oct. 2003 where he said, "With all my capacity I encourage you to discover who you really are. I invite you to look beyond the daily routine of life. I urge you to discern through the Spirit your divinely given capacities. I exhort you to prayerfully make worthy choices that will lead you to realize your full potential....To share truth in difficult circumstances is to treasure it more. When you push against the boundaries of experience into the twilight of the unknown, the Lord will strengthen you. The beauty of your eternal soul will begin to unfold." 

And so...  to strive for and realize our full potential, we never settle. Just as the text of the beautiful hymn pleads, "More Holiness Give Me," we must always maintain this prayer in our hearts, a constant striving to be more than who we are right now.  This is what it means to be champions on our Savior's team.  No matter how hard things get, no matter the beatings we might take, we know how the story ends, we've read "the book," we can go forward with confidence (we may be bloodied, scarred, and bruised) but we can press forward with our heads held high because we're on the Lord's winning side.

"Never has the Church climbed higher, moved swifter, or been stronger to accomplish its mission. Now is the time for all of us to reach upward and move onward. In God’s work we too must be swifter, working with greater urgency; higher, striving for lofty spiritual goals; and stronger, relying on God’s strength. It can happen to you."- President James E. Faust - April 2002

We are destined for far greater things than we could have ever imagined when we set foot in this arena called life.  We are born to be champions!  And by the grace of our Savior and the faith to call down heaven, we can accomplish anything!

-Alicia

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Sign of Our Love & Faith

"Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God... True believers keep the Sabbath day holy." - Elder Russell M. Nelson

What a great time in the history of the world to be alive!! As members of the church, we have innumerable teaching tools at our fingertips to help increase faith in the hearts of our children and invite a greater measure of the Spirit in our homes, especially on the Sabbath Day.

In our most recent General Conference, Elder Russell M. Nelson said, "I almost wish I were a young father once again. Now parents have such wonderful resources available to help them make family time more meaningful, on the Sabbath and other days as well. They have LDS.org, Mormon.org, the Bible videos, the Mormon Channel, the Media Library, the Friend, the New Era, the Ensign, the Liahona, and more—much more. These resources are so very helpful to parents in discharging their sacred duty to teach their children. No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!"

The vocabulary I love here is, "righteous, intentional parenting."  To me this is when we as parents are very deliberate about what we teach and allow to be taught to our children, especially in our homes.  When it comes to worship, it means we choose carefully only those things on the Sabbath that will direct us to Christ, things that elevate our hearts, our minds, and our actions, to be about His work in strengthening our own faith and the faith of others.  When our children see that our intent is sincere, they can be influenced in a righteous way and the same desires will begin to work within their hearts.  We can intentionally choose to have light and truth flood our homes with all the access we have to the wonderful resources Elder Nelson listed.

My son, Chandler is a great example to me of keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  He obsesses over watching football and has always wanted to have a Superbowl party.  Well, we have a rule in our family that anything we watch, read, or listen to on the Sabbath must be something that helps us focus on Christ and His Gospel.  This was hard for him, especially when February rolled around.
When he was 11yrs old, all his friends were talking about the upcoming Superbowl and he was relentless, "Please mom and dad, please let me watch the Superbowl.  All my other friends at church do."  We told him that he would need to make the decision himself.  We said we would not watch it as a family and that we'd be happy to find a way to record it so we could have an "after bowl party" the next day.  (Of course he thought that sounded lame and we couldn't really blame him for feeling that way.)
We encouraged him to study, fast, and pray about it.
It was amazing to watch this boy the next few days as he studied from For the Strength of Youth and Preach My Gospel under the subject of the Sabbath.  He also fasted and prayed.

After primary was over one Sunday, he pulled our bishop aside and counseled with him.
"Bishop Madsen, do you think it's alright for me to watch the Superbowl on Sunday?"
"Well, Chandler that's a really tough question. Some people do and some don't.  What are your thoughts?"
He answered, "I've been praying about it.  I've also studied in For the Strength of Youth and Preach My Gospel."
 "That's great Chandler! Did you get your answer?"
"Yes," he said with the sound of disappointment in his voice. "After all that I've read, I've concluded that I'm just going to have to watch other games."
The bishop was impressed and so were we.  This was not an easy choice for Chandler to make.  But from his own study of doctrine, he came to the conclusion what he felt was right.

Chandler is 14 now and continues to help nourish a spiritual home environment on the Sabbath Day.  Most of the time he returns to our house from church before the rest of us do.  For the last year I have arrived home to the sound of General Conference playing. It has become a habit for him to play it on Sundays and it always gives me something to look forward to when I walk through the door.

Recently it's been said by prophets of God that how and when we wear the temple garment becomes an "outward expression of an inner commitment."  I believe the same test of loyalty and love for God is revealed in how we choose our time on the Sabbath Day.  In fact, Elder Nelson expressed, "I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father. With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, 'What sign do I want to give to God?' That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear."

If we live by the Spirit and sincerely desire to show our love to God, the Lord will help us recognize those things that will help us elevate and enrich our Sabbath experience.  As we act upon these promptings, we will be blessed not only with a greater measure of His love in our hearts and homes but we'll be blessed with the ability to call down heaven.  I know this!  Meaningful worship and intentionally seeking Christ is worth more than anything the world has to offer!

-Alicia

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-sabbath-is-a-delight?lang=eng

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Diving Deep

We spent most of Labor Day kayaking and paddle-boarding with my best friend and her family near the north part of Utah Lake.  We had a blast!

Now, anyone who is familiar with this lake knows exactly how shallow it is. The average depth is 9ft and doesn't exceed 14.  (This year I was told it hasn't exceeded 12ft.) From certain vantage points it looks full and beautiful but when a person enters into its waters they soon realize it doesn't take much to stir up heaps of sludgy mud.  The lack of depth also reveals its vulnerability, how close the lake is to evaporating into an empty crusty bed.  In fact, nearly half of the lake 41% dries up every year.

 Since our little one-day vacation, the word "shallow" has been on my mind.  This is the word I would choose to describe the superficial life, one that is nothing but "an act," "a show" used to hide what's really underneath. Like the lake, it's the life that has all the appearance of refreshing beauty but is really mostly mud.

It's easy to recognize this kind of facade among the Hollywood stars of today.  But I think since the invention of the Internet, YouTube, and social media, almost anyone can "make themselves a star."  And just like the actors on the silver screen,  for fear or hope of everyone watching, we all become tempted to "keep up our own appearances."  In today's world we don't need street corners to sound our trumpets...  We just need a screen with Internet access.

I think this is why I sometimes struggle to know what to write here.  Of course, I'm not saying in order for people to be real or to show depth, that they need to go onto social media and air all their dirty laundry, or show all their worst sides.  There are somethings I've shared or started to share on my blog but have then decided it's a little too personal and so I'll archive it into my off-site journal.

I guess what I'm getting at is this; I don't care the size of the audience, if there's an audience at all, it's easy to fall into a trap of "appearances" of keeping "one eye in the mirror."  - bragging or boasting, attempting to paint a self-portrait that shows me better than I really am, or understanding more about the Gospel, about motherhood, or just life in general than I really do.

Of course, the Lord doesn't want me to hide my faith under a bushel. (D&C 60:2Matt 5:15-16) He has commanded me to make this known but it must be done with the sole concern that "God is my audience."  Anything else is vanity.

Elder Robert D. Hales warned, "We make poor and irrational decisions if we are motivated by fear: fear of man, fear of not being popular, fear of failure, fear of public opinion.

As Saul said to Samuel, 'I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.' (1 Sam. 15:24)" - Robert D. Hales 1988 "Making Righteous Choices at the Crossroads of Life"  

Saul's sin was not so much in what he did but what he feared.  Keep in mind, it was the fear of other's opinions that caused people to reject the Tree of Life.  (1 Nephi 8:27, 28,  1 Nephi 11:36)  A perfect illustration of  what it looks like to sell the sacred.

So I've been praying lately that the Lord will help me understand my own heart.  I'm diving deep to really analyze my own motives.  Do I have even an ounce of "the fear of man?"  I suppose that some of the finest souls who have ever lived, at one point or another, have struggled with the "fear of man.".  Moroni, the great Book of Mormon prophet, is an example;  He worried about what people would say or think of his weakness.  The Lord's gentle rebuke to this was, "Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness" (Ether 12:26)  

"His grace is sufficient" means to me that I don't need anything else, I don't need to be accepted or understood, or "approved of" by anyone but Him.  Being Christ-Centered brings so much peace and allows living water to flow freely into my soul, to expand its depth and lose the risk of being unsustainable and shallow.  I'm so far from where I want to be but I take comfort the Lord knows my name, He knows my heart.... and that's all that really matters.

-Alicia



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Fruit of the Tree

Imagine a banquet table full of fruit with all kinds of varieties.  Most people could pick out any number of them, examine its characteristics (its color, shape, smell, taste, and feel) and be able to discern the type of tree the fruit has come from.  In fact, I bet most people could do it in the dark, blindfolded, by taste alone, because we've become so familiar.  


In the Book of Mormon, I'm currently studying one of my favorite parts, Lehi's vision of the Tree of Life. Are we familiar enough with this Tree to recognize the fruit in our lives when we see it, feel it, or taste it?  How is this fruit described so that we may discern and know, truly know?


Fruit of the Tree of Life
(The Fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23) Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance

The Savior also taught that through examining the fruit, we may recognize the kind of tree it is from.  He said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” - Matthew 7:20


Upon further study of fruit, I find it interesting the characteristic of carrying seeds is what distinguishes it from being any other other kind of food.  Now this goes for both good trees or corrupt trees… Either way, the seeds have capacity to replicate and perpetuate the tree that it came from over and over again.  There is no limit to the amount of fruit one tree can produce.

But as we ponder about the Tree of Life and the pure and precious fruit that holds these seeds, we can conclude that - Every good thing comes of Christ and there is also no limit.  When properly cared for, there’s no concern of “not enough to go around” no shortages, dividing stages, or caps placed upon it.  “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (D&C 50:24)

Some other patterns of gospel living that can also be found in growing fruit:
  • Doesn't happen over night - it takes time
  • Needs constant care, nourishing, weeding, pruning and cutting back
  • Can be preserved and stored for seasons of scarcity
  • Meant to grow in abundance, meant to be shared
  • Must have strong roots
President Harold B. Lee once said: “Beautiful, luscious fruit does not grow unless the roots of the … tree have been planted in rich, fertile soil and unless due care is given to proper pruning, cultivation, and irrigation. So likewise the luscious fruits of virtue and chastity, honesty, temperance, integrity, and fidelity are not to be found growing in that individual whose life is not founded on a firm testimony of the truths of the gospel and of the life and the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  - Stand Ye in Holy Places (1974), 218–19

I love the symbolism in trees. If we are familiar enough with the Tree of Life, we can know exactly "what fruit that is"... even in the dark.

-Alicia