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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...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Taking Notes

What a fantastic week of education this has been for me!  There is so much to learn.  I had the opportunity of attending World Congress of Families IX in Salt Lake City.  The Sutherland Institute invited our group Big Ocean to participate.  They sponsored five or six of us to stay at the Grand America Hotel with our families.  Last time I traveled with Big Ocean I was away from home for several days and I felt a little out of place being unable to touch and see my family each day.  So this was super nice to bring them along with me, to run up between meetings and leave them with little notes, treats, and hugs.

Speaking of notes... I tried to take some from all the different presenters, eager to jot their words down with pen and paper in hand.  The women from our group on either side of me sat ready to record as well.  Their pens were smoking and they wrote much quicker than I did. Because I'm so slow, I admit I had to copy from their papers most of the time.  So many wise and profound words!  I loved hearing the diverse Christian groups all stand for the same principles.

The bad news is, I lost my notebook. It wasn't fantastic, didn't have much order, and was probably only legible to me.  (Not many people can decode my scribbles.)  Nevertheless, I'm sad that I misplaced it.  I'm certain it has since been tossed in the garbage from housekeeping by now.

The good news is, the women who I went with took notes and they've captured much more than I could.  I'm grateful I at least have these to remember:
I've asked myself and I've asked God to help me know what steps I need to take so that I might improve and be more prepared to protect the freedoms we have long enjoyed.  These are the answers that have come to me:
  1. Schedule time to educate myself... yes I said "schedule." As completely unstructured as I am, I know I need to be a little more disciplined and block in a certain amount of time to read the material people like Family Watch International are putting out. Even if it is for just 20 min. per week.  I don't want to go into bondage because I have no knowledge as it says in Isaiah 5:13
  2.  Read to my children more. Schedule in a regular time to do this. Don't underestimate the power of story telling.  Read to my kids and tell them of the victorious heroes from world and American history and from my own family history.  I need to make this a bigger more central part of my homeschooling.
  3. Speak out - Be bold and brave but not overbearing. Share with others my testimony and convictions no matter their response, no matter if it's rejected or unpopular, or if I'm mocked for what I stand for.   “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. Be Optimistic.  Keep my head held high and my eyes heavenward.  Discovering the plan that Satan has is dark, ugly, and monstrous to put it mildly.  It is enough to easily bring one down to despair and horrible fear. But faith always dispels fear.  We know Who wins the battle.  We know which side wins.  God is able to do His work.  "They that be with us are more than they that be with them."  No matter what happens in my life, no matter the persecution or trial.  I know I have the power to call down heaven, to lift the veil and be surrounded by angels of God on every side.
-Alicia

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Way to Fly

I love this scripture, this is where we find the wings to fly.  This is what it means to be "lifted up."

  "Cry unto God for all thy support: yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.  Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be LIFTED UP at the last day." - Alma 37:36

-Alicia
by, Meredith Andrews

Here I remind myself
What you said over me
Here I remind my soul
Who you are
You said you won't relent
Won't let go, won't forget
Every promise you have whispered to my heart

As I wait, as I wait on You

I'm gonna run and not grow weary
I'm gonna walk and not grow faint
Rise up on wings like eagles to soar
I know in everything You're with me
I know You're working as I wait
Lift me up on wings like eagles to soar

This desert holds a song I will sing on and on
You're a river when the ground I walk is dry

You will set the crooked straight
Clear my path, make a way
You will lead me from the valley to the heights

As I wait, as I wait on You

Creator, keeper, life breather
Your name is greater than anything I face
Sustainer, savior, stronghold breaker
Your name is greater than anything I face

As I wait, as I wait on You
I will wait, I will wait on You

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"Small and Simple" - Ponderize - Week 4

I have the privilage of attending World Congress of Families IX in Salt Lake City.  I'm surrounded by giants! They are all so inspiring and amazing.  It's completely humbling to say the least. I really don't know what I'm doing and I still wonder how I got mixed up with such a fine group of women. So often I think "what on earth do I even have to offer that they couldn't easily find anywhere else?"  I feel like a very tiny drop in a huge vast ocean.

Susan Roylance, who is a hero to this country (and to the world actually) spoke privately to our group this morning and said that she started out not knowing anything either (which I'm sure was far more knowledgable than I am now.) She said there were many times she felt completely alone and overwhelmed but promised that this was the work of God and encouraged us to trust in Him.

There is so much to be done in this battle to save the family, to help the world see the great need for virtue and fidelity, to protect and promote the sanctity of life and awaken children to their true idenity.  I appreciated the words Susan shared with us today.  She quoted briefly from the scriptures, about great things being accomplished by the small and simple.  With all of the insecurities and inadequacies that haunt me, I certainly feel small and about as plain and simple as it gets. I truly needed that reminder.  So needless to say, this will be the verse I ponder on for week four.

"By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." - Alma 37:6

-Alicia

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Choosing Gratitude

I've been thinking a lot about the beautiful and freeing principle of gratitude. In D&C 59:7 it says, " Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things."  And  D&C 98:1 we are counseled, "Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks."

What does it look like to give thanks in everything and how do we find this perspective during those moments in life that are unpleasant, inconvenient, ugly, or painful?

I believe it is a principle of agency.  We choose to see the good to focus on the blessings.  I love the example of Job in the Old testament. I don't know of any person in the scriptures besides Jesus Christ who was given more hardships than Job was.  Even with all the trials Joseph Smith went through, the Lord said to him "Thou art not yet as Job."

Job's perspective was this: "Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." - Job 1:21

Basically, Job's view on his life was that all of it was a gift from God, every last bit of it "the good, the bad, the ugly."  He understood that he was born into the world completely empty-handed and that anything tangibly given unto him would eventually be taken away through the portal of death.  "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly."- Job 1:22

In our family scripture study we just read about the people of Alma who lived for a time under the persecution of Amulon and the Lamanites.  They were chastened.  Their patience and faith was tried. ( Mosiah 23:21) But they trusted in God and continued to cry out to him in prayer, which practice deepened their faith even more. (Mosiah 23:22&23, 27&28)

What I find interesting is that their burdens were not removed for quite some time but that they were only "eased."  Even though the struggle and weight of trial remained, the Lord strengthened their ability to carry it all.  And they did so "cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." - Mosiah 24: 13-15  Eventually they escaped their enemies and looking back they acknowledged the hand of God with the heartfelt praise, just as Job did.

"They poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.
 And they gave thanks to God, yea, all their men and all their women and all their children that could speak lifted their voices in the praises of their God."

This is faith:  Knowing that even in the moment where we can't see the end from the beginning, where we can't see the reason for certain trials, it won't really matter when we leave this life.  What will matter is "Did we trust God?" Did we trust that no matter what our struggles were we continued to do good and choose gratitude.   The Good Shepherd KNOWS us!

We continue on this journey with peace and hope in our hearts, "fearing not to do good... for whatsoever [we] sow, that shall [we] also reap; therefore, if [we] sow good ye shall also reap good for [our] reward.

The Savior calls,  "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail."   - D&C 6:33-34

- Alicia :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trying to be Good

Micah made a journal cover out of painted cardboard and has begun going through my quote books copying down ones he likes.  His favorite book to copy from is my "Quotable Lewis."  I had to take a couple of pictures of this because trying to describe how incredibly adorable this is in words alone doesn't work.  I love how he uses his little foot to hold open the book.  He says he wants to make a habit of writing down favorite quotes.  When he first showed me his journal cover and the new practice he had begun, I couldn't stop smiling.  This kind of thing makes me so proud!  I immediately thought of the verse in 3 John 1:4

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."

One quote that Micah excitedly showed me a few nights ago was this; “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good." - C.S. Lewis  This quote has been repeating over in my mind for the past couple of days.  Boy, do I feel it in my own life!  It's humbling because I am trying so very hard to be good and the more I try the more I see another area that needs changing or improvement.  It's like the completely remodeled house C.S. Lewis talks about:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: 
But He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
- C.S. Lewis

Sometimes trying to turn my whole entire heart over to the Lord is painful and I can testify that there are times it really "hurts abominably" but I know that "He is building quite a different house" from the one I ever imagined.  I'm not discouraged because of the change within me that must occur because I know it's for my good and I can feel the patient love of my Savior through the Atonement.  It's a beautiful thing!

-Alicia




Friday, October 23, 2015

The Two Most Powerful Words

If we are not hearing these two words combined in our homes very often, there is a strong possibility that relationships there are struggling.  What two words am I'm talking about?  I had fun quizzing my husband this morning:


Me: Okay, I've got a question.  Which two words do you think studies have shown to be the most common among the longest lasting relationships?

Husband: "You're right."

Me: Ha ha. Nope, try again.

Husband: "I'm sorry."

Me: Good one but that's not it either.

Husband: Hmm...  I don't know.

Me: That's three words. ;)

Husband: Tell me, what is it?

Me: It's "Thank you."  Studies have shown that in homes where gratitude is habitually and openly expressed, the relationships are more lasting and much stronger.

Husband:  I can see that.  It makes sense.  That causes me to think of the talk, "Grateful in Any Circumstances" by, Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

Me: Totally!  And the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants - "in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things"

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

I know in my own life and from personal experience, the sweetest moments that lift my soul and give me motivation to keep trying are sincere words of gratitude, both when I hear them from others and when I am the one expressing them.  This sweet feeling of hope and happiness comes most abundantly when I'm filled with gratitude for God and I see "His hand in all things."  When this is my focus I begin to see the wonderful things that are being done by everyone else too.

There's a quote I used to have on my wall back in high school that hung next to a big bright sun I had cut out of yellow banner paper that read:

"Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows." 
- Helen Keller

To me this is the essence of what it feels like to have a soul full of gratitude.  The dreary and dark clouds quickly fade to warm rays of joy, laughter, happiness, and peace when we sincerely and openly acknowledge the goodness of God and the goodness in others "in ANY circumstance."

One of the lines in our family mission statement says, "We recognize and cherish the tender mercies of the Lord through daily expressions of gratitude."  We want this to be a habit in our children's lives.  I hope they learn to always be thankful to be quick to show appreciation.  The best way for them to learn is for me to be more openly grateful for the littlest things they do.  There really is so much power in those two simple words, "Thank you!"

-Alicia
Champion Each Other

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Accessible and Approachable God

In Matthew 11:28 Christ invites us to come unto Him.

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
This rest is the Grace of God.  The definition of "rest" is what grace feels like.

This morning in my studies I read these words, 

"Come, my brethren [and sisters, come Alicia], every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters... Come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not... 
Remember the words of your God; Pray unto Him continually by day, and give thanks unto His holy name by night.  Let your hearts rejoice." - 2 Nephi 9:50-52

To come to God means to approach Him, to access Him through the avenue of expression, through the opening and pouring out to Him our heart, mind, and spirit.

In Hebrews 4:12-16 the Apostle Paul teaches that God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts even before we approach Him and that our Savior has felt every weakness, pain, heartache, or sorrow that we have ever felt.  

There is no emotion or thought that is hidden from Him.  He sees within us even what we cannot discern.  In verse 13 Paul says "all things are naked and open unto His eyes."  A couple of modern versions of this verse describe it this way: "everything is uncovered and laid bare" and "all things are open and exposed" 

This raw and vulnerable painful place of weakness is our Gethsemane, and in verse 15 Paul testifies that Christ reaches us there.  Because of His Gethsemane, the God of all creation is perfectly approachable in our nakedness.  

I know from personal experience that the throne of God is the most safe place to be our true selves to hold nothing back. Why? Because He knows. He has experienced everything, every temptation, every emotion, every heartache, and every sorrow that we have felt.  He who was horribly abused and crucified, He who hung naked on a cross, He is the one who clothes me.

"He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, 
He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness."- Isaiah 61:10

I rejoice in knowing there is One who will always know me, One who is always accessible, that I can speak to Him, approach Him, any time, anywhere, any place, whether my heart is weak or strong.  He knows!

"Let us therefore come boldly [with full confidence] unto the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."- Hebrews 4:16

-Alicia

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Faith Atrophy

This last General Conference, I noticed a word you don't hear spoken in such meetings very often.  At least I don't remember hearing it in conference before.  But this time it was mentioned more than once, by more than one speaker so that's why it stood out to me.  The word was "atrophy" not just any kind of atrophy but "faith atrophy."
  • Faith [fāTH] - To hope for things which are not seen, but which are true.  Must be centered in Jesus Christ.  To have confidence in God and His word.
  • Atrophy [a-truh-fee] - A wasting away, degeneration, decline, or decrease, as from defective nutrition or disuse.
Just as our physical bodies need to excersise regularly in order to avoid atrophy in our joints and muscles, so our spirit needs regular excersise.

Weights and opposing forces are benificial in pysical excerscise.  It's easy to see this!  We seek out bigger and harder weights to increase our muscle.  But I imagine we often lose this vision with spiritual excercise.  Those forces that oppose us or weigh us down spiritually can be overwhelming and certainly unwelcoming. But in order for faith to grow, it needs to have something to pull through or push up against.

Understanding the need for struggle, for trials, and the unpleasantries of life, Lehi teaches his son, Jacob:
  • "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility." - 2 Nephi 2:11
The opposition we face is really opportunity.  It is a chance to excercise our faith, to become unshaken in our testimony.

The quickest way to lose faith is to do nothing.  Sometimes the strongest force fighting against faith is our very own unwillingness to move, to open the scriptures and not just read but to actually study them, to take real time pondering and praying.  And then when we receive certain guidance or direction we act and go forward, even if the Spirit has directed us to move in a way that is painful or uncomfortable.  We will do it more willingly when we have eyes to see beyond this life, when we understand that acting upon doctrine and the whisperings of the Spirit builds an eternal treasure.

"So exercise your faith every day, and you will 'wax stronger and stronger … and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ.'"- Robert D. Hales

In the Bible Dictionary under Faith, it reads:
  • All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results. Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action; it carries an assurance of the fulfillment of the things hoped for. A lack of faith leads one to despair, which comes because of iniquity.
  • Although faith is a gift, it must be cultured and sought after until it grows from a tiny seed to a great tree. The effects of true faith in Jesus Christ include (1) an actual knowledge that the course of life one is pursuing is acceptable to the Lord (see Heb. 11:4); (2) a reception of the blessings of the Lord that are available to man in this life; and (3) an assurance of personal salvation in the world to come. These things involve individual and personal testimony, guidance, revelation, and spiritual knowledge. Where there is true faith there are miracles, visions, dreams, healings, and all the gifts of God that He gives to His saints. Jesus pointed out some obstacles to faith in John 5:44 and 12:39–42 (see also James 1:6–8).
This is amazing!! Faith is the gateway to "miracles, visions, dreams, healings, and all the gifts of God."  Who wouldn't want these things??  So we pray with all our hearts, "give me faith" and we understand fully, accepting with gratitude for God the "weight" that comes with it and walk on with real and not pretended confidence.

-Alicia

Make the Exercise of Faith Your First Priority - Richard G. Scott



Monday, October 19, 2015

Reap What You Sow - Ponderize - Week 3

Ever get a sense of the grandeur of God, a sense that fills you with absolute wonder and awe for His majesty, power, and infinite mercy?  I think with my recent visit to some beautiful national and state parks, my heart feels full and overflowing for all of creation.   I marvel that someone as insignificant as I has the incredible privilege of communing through prayer with one as glorious as Our Father in Heaven.  What an honor it is that He calls and trusts us to labor in His holy work!

Speaking of communicating with God....
For this week's scripture, I've had my thoughts reflect on the 6th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.  If I could chose all the verses of the entire section to ponder on, I would. The reason is because it speaks so personally to me. The first part of June of this year, I had been fasting and praying deeply about something weighing heavy on my heart.  One afternoon, when I had finished my prayers on this subject, an impression came to me, "Read D&C 6."  I'm not a scripture scholar and admit that I couldn't have told anyone off the top of my head what was in that section.  This made it all the more significant to me when I opened the pages to it and began to read. Every verse seemed to speak to my situation so perfectly. I love this section now so this is the one I'm sharing!  But just so there isn't an entire page to "ponderize" I'll narrow things down to verses 33 and 34:

"Fear not to do good, [Alicia], for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.  Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail." - D&C 6:33-34

-Alicia

Healing Hearts That are Failing

In the Doctrine and Covenants 45 & 88 it says in the last days "the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them."

Commotion, unrest, fear, turmoil.... How many hearts will fail during the days we live in???  When I read scriptures like this, I desire to encourage, to help heal the failing hearts of those around me.  A couple of weeks ago I was fasting for a family who lives next to me.  They are an unmarried blended family. Living in the "tight quarters" that we do, it's hard to avoid hearing the constant turmoil in their home.  None of them are active in the church.  The daughter of the mother used to come but has since given up as well.

About a week and a half ago I sat on the steps of our porch and visited with the mother of the family.  I listened to her tell me about the stresses and difficulties she faced on a day-to-day basis.  The entire time she was telling me about the "commotion" in her life I wanted so badly to somehow take the experiences I have had with prayer, with the scriptures, with the words of the living prophets, and infuse them into her so she could instinctively know where to find peace and rest from such needless pain.
She said, to me, "Alicia I can't come to church because I'm living in sin."
I immediately responded, "Aren't we all? If we waited to go only when we were completely free from making any mistakes or having any sin in our hearts then no one would be able to go."
I had a small window of opportunity to bear testimony to her of our Father in Heaven's infinite love and I told her of President Uchdorft's talk from this last conference to just "start where you are."

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak in church very briefly about the hymn, "Where Can I Turn for Peace" I had invited my neighbor friend to come and hear my testimony and I was hopeful that she would because the night before she confirmed a couple of times.  When I stood, I looked for her in the congregation but I didn't see her.  I was disappointed.  I wanted to direct my words to her. If only she would turn.  I was grateful for the number of people who had come to church that day.

I had been thinking of a favorite hymn of mine as a child, "Did You Think to Pray?" and for a brief moment I imagined myself again as a little girl sitting in church with a family who went every Sunday.  No one knew of the turmoil and pain that went on under our roof, (maybe our bishop but no body else.)  I thought, "If there are families like the one from my childhood sitting in this congregation right now then there is certainly a great number of people who are suffering needlessly in the church as well."  I remember a former bishop of ours used to call the constant visits in his office, "The Parade of Pain."

The hearts of men and women need not fail if they would only turn.  In the Book of Numbers, chapter 21, the children of Israel were bitten by serpents. Many of the people were dying but God provided an escape from the pain, suffering, and death.  He commanded Moses to raise a serpent on his staff and tell the people if they would just look at the raised serpent, they would be healed.  How can we look? How do we turn?  I believe it is through the simple process of faith and repentance, sincere prayer, daily seeking God's word (modern and ancient), and weekly partaking of Christ's sacrament.  It's the primary answer, just as simple as "look."

The children of Israel were healed by looking to Christ, they defeated the Amorites and the people of Bashan who fought against them. I testify that as we turn and look to Christ as the children of Israel did, our hearts will not fail us in these last days, even though the whole world will be in commotion.

Where can we turn for peace?  Nowhere else but to God, to our Father in Heaven and His son, Jesus Christ - "He only ONE."

-Alicia

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dispelling Darkness

It was a rough Sunday afternoon for me one week ago.  Seemingly out of nowhere, I had been seized with a midst of darkness that choked me with feelings of deep despair.  No matter how I viewed myself all I could see were flaws, weaknesses, and every possible area that I was lacking as a mother, a wife, a daughter... you name it.

The very next morning I received a letter from my dear nephew, Dane. He described much of what weighed on my heart the day before.  How timely his letter was! I related to almost every word.  I was grateful for his willingness to be so real and express honestly what we often guard so closely.  We both had experienced a shroud of darkness and we both experieced peace restored through the grace of our Savior.   I love Dane's writings, how he poetically articulates expressions of his heart.  I've included part of his letter at the end of this post.

This evening, our Home Teachers shared the First Presidency Message with our family.  I especially appreciated what President Uchtdorf said about keeping our torches lit.  It reminded me of the promise I had received years ago in my patriarchal blessing, "Never any day will you need to walk in darkness but will have the light of truth in your life."  I believe this blessing is available to all of us!

"Sometimes after stumbling, failing, or even giving up, we get discouraged and believe our light has gone out and our race is lost. But I testify that the Light of Christ cannot be extinguished. It shines in the darkest night and will relight our hearts if only we incline our hearts to Him (see 1 Kings 8:58).

As long as we continue to rise up and move toward our Savior, we win the race with our torches burning brightly.

For the torch is not about us or about what we do.

It is about the Savior of the world.

And that is a Light that can never be dimmed. It is a Light that swallows the darkness, heals our wounds, and blazes even in the midst of the deepest sorrow and unfathomable darkness.

It is a Light that surpasses understanding." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I love the access we have to our Father in Heaven.  I love that He is approachable, that the darkness of despair in our lives can be dispelled whenever we turn to Him and we can again raise our torches high.  It's all because of the One who knows us and Who gives us strength when we are weak and hope when we are hurting. Through the grace of Christ we can be renewed and do all things that are required of us.

-Alicia


Beautiful testimony from my nephew, Dane (Elder Whitaker):

Last week I suffered a lot of needless pain. Every turn seemed like a wrong choice and every thought a grapple within myself for control. I couldn't say why--we had a bad week, I guess, but I think I rocked the boat a lot more than necessary. With the end approaching, weaknesses and faults weighing on me, the aching miles looming behind, and the million rejections and lost appointments whirling around me like harpies, I allowed myself to slide into a self-destructive cycle. I think I've probed more deeply within myself during these 20 months than at any other point in my life. I've discovered depths of darkness and glorious rays of sunshine I never knew before.

So yesterday I was reading in Helaman 5 and the relevance of the Lamanites' conversion in the prison struck me more clearly than before. They saw Nephi and Lehi wreathed in harmless fire, and later, conversing with angels. Yet terror and darkness immobilized them and distanced them from a glorious happening. Others were having highly spiritual experiences and they were firmly wrapped in confusion and despair, so thick they hadn't even the power to escape one step. I know that feeling. A voice came to them declaring repentance, in fact that message came four times--count it--and they didn't grasp the meaning until the fourth time, when Aminadab repeated it to them.

Seek no more to destroy my servants, was His invitation. I realized that seeking to destroy oneself in the service of God is just as wrong as seeking the downfall of His ministers. Even if I wasn't deliberately seeking my destruction, I was letting dark thoughts cloud my judgement. And that will only lead to unhealed spiritual wounds. The message to repent didn't glare at or criticize me, it just invited softly. So what's the solution; how is the overpowering cloud dispersed? By repenting, by crying unto God until I have faith in Christ. If my faith is faltering, then I can at least rely on the desire to believe, the hope that draws light in and dispels the shadows. After crying for a time, the Lamanites also received the Spirit, joy, peace, and I, too, can. I prayed then with new hope, asking for faith. I felt peace and faith restored to me.

-Dane

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm Still A Dreamer!

Just listening to this song today and the only word I can say is AMEN!  "This is how my weary heart stays alive."  No matter what comes my way or whatever the future holds... I can say with full confidence, "I'm still a dreamer, a believer!"
-Alicia


"The Redeemer"
by, Sanctus Real

Sometimes I just want to start over, 'cause everything looks like a wreck
And I need the courage to carry on, 'cause I can't see what's ahead
And there are places I've wished I could be, battles I've wanted to win
Dreams that have slipped through my hands
I may never get back again

But I'm still a dreamer, a believer
Oh, I've lost my faith in so many things, but I still believe in You
'Cause You can make anything new

Sometimes I just wish we could say all the things that are easy to hear
Ignore the injustice we see and explain every unanswered prayer
But I'd rather speak honestly and wear a tattered heart on my sleeve
'Cause in the middle of my broken dreams, redemption is here

And I'm still a dreamer, a believer
Oh, I've lost my faith in so many things, but I still believe in You
'Cause You are the answer, the redeemer
Oh, I've given up on too many things, but I'm not giving up on You
'Cause You can make anything new

I don't have every answer in life
But I'm trusting You one day at a time
'Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive forever
this is where Heaven and Earth collide
I lift my hands and give my life
This is how my weary heart stays alive

Oh, I'm still a dreamer (This is where heaven and earth collide)
(I lift my hands and give my life)
Still a believer (This is how my weary heart stays alive)
Oh, You are the answer (Oh, this is where Heaven and Earth collide)
(I lift my voice and give my life)
The redeemer (This is how my weary heart stays alive, oh)

'Cause You can make anything new
Yeah, You can make anything new

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Two Sticks - Now One

I'm 153 pages away from reading the entire Old Testament.  This is not really that great of a feat since I've never done it before.  I've read the New Testament a couple of times but I've never been able to say that about the Old.  If another Christian from a different faith were to ask me if I've ever read the Bible all the way through, I'd be embarrased if I couldn't say that I have.  How would I reconcile with them our 8th article of faith.  I want to be able to honestly answer,"Yes, I've read the Bible - all of it, every last bit."  I started my goal to read the Old Testament all the way through probably around six years ago.  So it's taken some time.  I haven't been extremely dilligent but I've slowly pressed through.

Now I must admit that the King James Version isn't exactly a "page turner" the way the language is written can be a little hard to understand and can take some serious "chewing before swallowing."  But I have a little secret that has helped me through my study called biblegateway.com  There, I like to use the New International Version.  I match it up with my KJV, my footnotes, and the JST (Joseph Smith Translation) when needed.  It really makes the chapters much more clear and a ton easier to read.  Some of the versions on Bible Gateway can be pretty funny like the really modern language translation called "The Message."  As fun as that is, you won't find "Da Hawaiin Pidgin Bible" there... that's another website. ;)

I've read the Book of Mormon more than 20 times.  (What's interesting is how my testimony of the Bible has been strengthened through reading it.)  The Book of Mormon is just as it says on the cover, "Another Testament of Jesus Christ."  It is also a witness of the Bible.

Currently, I'm in the begining of Ezekiel.  Some of the most well-known verses are found in the center of chapter 36 where the Lord speaks of giving us a new heart and a new Spirit.  And then in chapter 37, where the word of the Lord comes to the prophet and commands him to "take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.  And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?  Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.  And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes."  Ezekiel 37:16-20

Under "Book of Mormon" on the "Gospel Topic Guide" it states:
The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ and confirms the truths found in the Holy Bible. Far from undermining the Bible, the Book of Mormon supports its testimony of Jesus Christ. One passage says that the Book of Mormon “shall establish the truth” of the Bible “and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40).

I have witnessed this for myself.  The Book of Mormon makes the perfect mission companion to the Bible.  It doesn't undermine it in any way rather it supports and upholds it!!  Because of the miracles that have come into my life from daily personal scripture study, I can truly say that I don't just believe God speaks to prophets both ancient and modern, I can say I KNOW He does!  I know that Jesus is the Christ, my Redeemer and Savior.  I know He lives and I cannot deny it.  What a wonderful and glorious Gospel this is!

-Alicia

Monday, October 12, 2015

My Thirsty Soul - Ponderize - Week 2

As I searched through my scriptures yesterday, trying to decide which one to "ponderize" for this week, my attention gravitated to Psalms.  So many of the songs David wrote were simply prayers put to music.  Maybe that's why I love Psalms so much?  After all, God considers the song of the righteous heart to be a prayer unto Him.  (see D&C 25:12)

After church yesterday, I thirsted for a quiet moment to have some deep meaningful prayer.
 My heart felt heavy.  I couldn't quite pin-point the specific reason why... I just knew that it ached.  It really bothered me to feel weighed down like that because I know I have SO much to rejoice in. I felt like Nephi when he cried out, "O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow." - 2 Nephi 4:26 

It wasn't long before my sweet husband returned from his after-church meetings and offered to help with whatever he could.  I felt bad that the offer wasn't the other way around because I knew he was weary.  Thoughtfully, he still insisted on giving me space to be alone and to pray.  I hugged him and thanked him for his kind understanding.  In the solitude of my bedroom, I knelt down and attempted to pour out my soul to God but I couldn't find any words... only heartache... "This is lame!" I thought to myself, "This is so lame... What is wrong with me and why do I feel like this?" As I struggled for the right words to articulate what pained my heart, part of the verse from last week began to play over in my mind, "For we know not what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit itself maketh intercesion for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."  I felt very grateful for this truth because in that moment, even I couldn't interpret my own "groanings."

It brought me comfort to know that even though I couldn't find the words to describe my anguish, the Spirit made that connection to heaven for me.  My mind continued to drift as I sought for utterance.  I thought about Elder Oaks talk from this last conference, "We see that because of His Atonement, the Savior has the power to succor [run to] —to help—every mortal pain and affliction. Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities." 

Later that evening after the kids had gone to bed, I opened my scriptures with the principle of prayer impressed deeply on my mind.  This must be why I gravitated to Psalms.   Choosing the verse for this week was a toss-up between Psalms 61:1-4 and this next part but I decided to go with the second because it has a little more of a hopeful tone:

"O God thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see Thy power and Thy glory so as I have seen Thee in the sancturary.  Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.  Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name:  My soul shall be satisfied... and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips... Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.  My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me." - Psalms 63:1 -5, 7,8

This morning I had to drop my van off at the mechanic's shop.  On my walk over to pick it up this afternoon, I plugged my headphones into my Spotify Klove Playlist.  I hit the shuffle button and "My Everything" by, Owl City began.  As I listened to the words I thought of how perfectly this song fit with the one in Psalms I had chosen for this week's verse.  I felt a spring in my step and my heart sang along.

I know I'm  never alone because I always have my Everything!  God is good.  Hallelujah!
-Alicia


by, Owl City

When my hope is lost
And my strength is gone
I run to You and You alone
When I can't get up and I can't go on
I run to You and You alone

'Cause you're my Light in the dark
And I sing with all of my heart

Hallelujah
My almighty God divine
Hallelujah
I am yours and You are mine
This is all I know how to say
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You're my Everything

When I'm plagued with pain
And filled with fear
I run to You and You alone
When my days are few
And death is near
I run to You and You alone

'Cause you're my Light in the dark
And I sing with all of my heart

Hallelujah
My Almighty God divine
Hallelujah
I am yours and You are mine
This is all I know how to say
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You're my Everything

When trouble comes and goes
And when the cold wind blows
I lift my hands up, I lift my hands up
When sorrow knocks me down
And You pick me off the ground
I lift my hands up, I lift my hands up
And I sing

Hallelujah
By the grace of God above
Hallelujah
I'll shine a light 'cause I am loved
This is all I know I will say
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
This is all I know how to say
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
You're my Everything

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Out of My League

Just with my verse I've been thinking of this week and in light of all I don't feel strong in.  This is my song for today. 
-Alicia

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." - Philippians 4:13


by, TobyMac

Call it a reason to retreat
I got some dreams that are bigger than me
I might be outmatched, outsized, the underdog in the fight of my life
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
Yeah, it's out of my league
It's way beyond me

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin' on You
I'm leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin' it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It's way beyond me
Yeah, it's out of my league
It's way beyond me

You take me to the place where I know I need You
Straight to the depths that I can't handle on my own
And Lord I know, I know I need You
So take me to Your great
Take me to Your great unknown

It's way beyond me, 

Friday, October 9, 2015

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 women for the eternities." - Joseph B. Wirthlin


I loved President Monson's opening message in this recent General Conference of how we "Let our light shine." It broke my heart to see him so physically weak, laboring in breath, and barely able to stand near the end of his testimony. But he was determined to deliver the sermon the Lord had inspired him to share - This made it even more powerful to me! I wanted to jump through the screen, quickly run to his side and hold him up. Oh how I love our dear prophet! And what a more perfect benadictary talk than that given by Elder Bednar as he testified of the wisdom and clarity that rests upon the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Tears of deep gratitude streamed down my face as Elder Bednar highlighted teachings from these wonderful men I love!!! The Church is true, we are led by Apostles and Prophets who have been called of God by priesthood authority. I know this! What a blessing it has been to me throughout my life!

Many of my friends mentioned having the same feelings I did as the Prophet spoke, the feeling of wanting to run to President Monson and help hold him up.  This sheds greater light on what it means to sustain those who lead and direct this Church.

I also enjoyed what Elder Holland said about "bearing one another's burdens" and how both he and Elder Renlund tied the pure love of Christ and the love of a mother so intimately .  It seems so obvious but I had never put the two together.  It makes sense.  

"Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

"In the Church, to effectively serve others we must see them through a parent’s eyes, through Heavenly Father’s eyes. Only then can we begin to comprehend the true worth of a soul. Only then can we sense the love that Heavenly Father has for all of His children. Only then can we sense the Savior’s caring concern for them. We cannot completely fulfill our covenant obligation to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort unless we see them through God’s eyes."- Elder Dale G. Renlund

"Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. ...
...As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, “Behold thy mother!”- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

I remember when Elder Wirthlin was trembling and weak. President Russell M. Nelson stood behind him to steady him. This touched my heart so deeply. This is what the Gospel is truly about, the purest love that deepens our desire to help carry and sustain our brother or sister.


He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother

"True love lasts forever. It is eternally patient and forgiving. It believes, hopes, and endures all things. That is the love our Heavenly Father bears for us...

... His love is such that even should we give up on ourselves, He never will.

We see ourselves in terms of yesterday and today. Our Heavenly Father sees us in terms of forever. Although we might settle for less, Heavenly Father won’t, for He sees us as the glorious beings we are capable of becoming.


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 women for the eternities.


The means of this refinement is our Christlike love. There is no pain it cannot soften, no bitterness it cannot remove, no hatred it cannot alter. The Greek playwright Sophocles wrote: 'One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.'" - Joseph B. Wirthlin


- Alicia

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Standing By My Man!

"Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man."

This song by Tammy Wynette was one I listened to quite often during the short period my husband and I dated.  Back in the day, it was among my movie soundtrack collection.  It fits perfectly for this date since today we celebrate our Sweet 16th Wedding Anniversary!

I was 21 and we married on Joseph's 24th birthday.  
So...  Happy 40th to my lovey too!

Pioneer Day @ Theater in the Pines (Just 5 wks since our first date - blind date)
This is when we first decided we wanted to "seal the deal."

(Last Year - Sundance, Provo Canyon -Celebrating our 15th- My favorite anniversary tradition.)
1999 -Honeymoon in Love, Virginia- (Yes, it's a real place.)
Horseback riding - our anniversary tradition.


Not quite "American Gothic" but close... very close.

Oct. 1999
Naturally for our first Halloween I thought it was appropriate
to have Joseph dress up as a honey bee and I his sweet, sweet nectar.  ;)

Our first St. Patrick's Day
Made these artsy-fartsy banners for my hubby.
July 2000 - My first time at Freedom Festival and every year since.
Who knew the heart of Provo would eventually become home?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Weak of the Earth

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Dallin H. Oaks, Gary E. Stevenson, and Koichi Aoyagi in this past General Conference spoke of how the Lord uses the weak of the earth to accomplish His purposes.  My nephew, Dane, wrote home from his mission about this principle from Conference as well:

 "One truth that struck me particularly this time was how weak and human these servants are, subject to the same disappointments and difficulties as all of us. Many of the personal stories they shared were familiar moments from my own life. President Nelson's failed operations and resignation allowed me to see him differently... The three newly called apostles shared feelings of profound inadequacy that I know extremely well--too well. I understand Elder Renlund's emotional distantness. You all know I do. And one of the most powerful moments was seeing President Monson, voice and strength rapidly waning, clinging toward the last words of his talk. Seeing the frailty in them all and how they are sustained fortifies my testimony of their divine calling and righteousness." - Dane Whitaker

It can be terribly painful and overwhelming to see the areas in our lives where we are weak.  And though the things I've been called to do are nowhere even close to approaching the magnitude and responsibility of apostleship, I still struggle with many feelings of inadequacy.

Almost exactly one year ago, I applied to go to the school of my dreams and received notice that my application was rejected.  Feelings of not being good enough, of inferiority, and doubting my ability to receive personal revelation pressed on my soul with a strangling force.  The very next morning, I attended a local institute class my friend, Jennifer Platt, was teaching.  She began the class by saying, she had felt impressed to take the lesson a different direction from our regular "Daughter's in My Kingdom" study.  Without her knowing what weighed on my heart, she proceeded to give the very same lesson on patriarchal blessings and discovering our life's mission that she gave at a seminar in March of 2013. (the one that first awakened me to know without a doubt I needed to pursue BYU.  It's funny because that same month in 2013 I met with a counselor in my Bishopric to get an ecclesiastical endorsement - but I didn't know what I was doing then and I didn't end up fully applying until over a year later.)

Not only was Jennifer's lesson miraculously timely on that day.  That same morning, I also happened to sit down right beside a woman who had never attended Jennifer's class before and never attended it after.  She introduced herself as Carol, she was extremely compassionate towards me noticing the obvious emotion I had been unable to contain during Jennifer's lesson.  Meeting Carol swept me into a current of friends I never imagined associating with, women who are extremely well organized, well dressed, highly educated, beautifully articulate, incredibly intelligent, and solid in their faith.  Two of the women own and edit their own magazine, two are former General Young Women's board members, one is married to a Dr. and makes yearly trips with him to do volunteer work in Africa, and most of the women have Master's degrees and experience in public speaking.  I had the opportunity of spending a week with these fine ladies defending the family at the United Nations earlier this year.  The last week of this month, I will have the opportunity of attending the World Congress of Families with them.  This is the first year World Congress has ever held their meetings in the United States and it's here in Salt Lake City!!

This is just one group I'm associated with through Carol.  The other group is my homeschool friends.  These mom's are of the very same caliber as Carol's political organization.  Every week I'm with them, I wonder how on earth I got to where I am.  What do I even have to offer these ladies?!  I feel as if my contribution is so terribly minimal.  How grateful I am for their friendship in spite of all I lack. They are all so dear to me.

This morning for my personal study I memorized my weekly scripture for "Ponderizing."  I also read 2 Nephi 2:6-7, which led me to D&C 97:8

"Verily I say unto you, all among them who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me." - D&C 97:8

This scripture brings me an immense amount of comfort.  I don't have much to give.  I am weak and void of skills in so many areas... but I do have a heart that is broken and a spirit that is willing to sacrifice whatever the Lord asks of me.  I find hope knowing that this is accepted of Him.  As long as Christ is my center, I know that "all things will work together for good."

-Alicia

Monday, October 5, 2015

Women Who Are Organized

President Russell M. Nelson gave a beautiful talk about women in this last General Conference.  I was jotting down notes like crazy.  He quoted the following from President Boyd K. Packer:

"We need women who will applaud decency and quality in everything from the fashion of clothing to crucial social issues.
We need women who are organized and women who can organize. We need women with executive ability who can plan and direct and administer; women who can teach, women who can speak out.
There is a great need for women who can receive inspiration to guide them personally in their teaching and in their leadership responsibilities.
We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.
We need women who can discern those positions that may not be popular at all, but are right."
 - Boyd K. Packer

As I copied this wonderful quote into my journal, I admit there was one tiny part that was a little hard to swallow. "We need women who are organized and women who can organize." I choked on it as I laughed unapprovingly at myself, "Oh man, I am seriously lacking in that department."  It seems whenever or wherever I read that word "order" it stings me.  I know it's not my strong point.  When I think of order I think of filing cabinets, spreadsheets, ironed sheets, alphabetical everything, color coordinated closets, a perfectly spotless house, blocked-out days, and  boxed-in rigidity.  I don't know where I acquired this view of order? Maybe it's because growing up my dad seemed to be a little obsessive about it, to the point that it hurt relationships and it involved physical or verbal abuse. I think people can go too far with any principle. On one occasion, I heard some women talking about going on a family vacation.  One of them spoke to the other about her packing preparations, about masking taping a grid on her floor for each day of the week, color coordinating each of her children's outfits into their own labeled Ziploc bags, and laying them upon the grid.  The other woman responded with glee, "That sounds absolutely fantastic!"  Under my breath I whispered to myself, "That sounds like hell."

I know that "order" and OCD aren't the same thing.  I've got to find a way to untie them in my mind.  I know that President Packer wasn't saying the Church needs women who are military pressed accomplishing each day with white-gloved precision.  There is beautiful order in the way the church is run.   It takes a certain amount of order to put together reports or plan meaningful lessons. Order is needed for proper records and constructive meetings. In my family,  I appreciate the order it takes to prepare a meal but I've never been one who plans them weeks in advance. (Well, I tried it once but it didn't last long.) I like room to be able to change my mind, to simplify or fit in what's practical at the moment. I like to prepare things according to the flow of the day. Granted, this means I make more trips to the grocery store than needed which is probably not very efficient.  I guess I'm just different that way... I actually find great peace in having the freedom to be spontaneous.  

Several years ago, my husband and I took Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  My husband learned that he was the "nerd" and I was the "free-spirit" (I actually see myself as a free-spirited nerd.)  Anyway, the thought of sitting down regularly each month to go over his spread-sheets and budget was not very thrilling to me and I admit I resisted at first.  But the natural way my husband structures and orders things was very beneficial for us and I found that it wasn't so bad.  I discovered I still have freedom within these bounds and probably more than I did before we had a budget.  

I guess it's good that we all have different strengths and that maybe this call President Packer made to women is meant to be a collaborative effort, that it's understood some of us will be weaker in certain areas than others. But as we combine our individual talents and abilities we are able to cover the whole playing field.  

Still, with all the flying I do by the seat of my pants, I'm sure I make some people dizzy.  My husband is 180 degrees opposite, he thrives on having things predictable, no wrenches thrown in, just smooth clock-working machinery. He's very good at order and I've learned to appreciate the anchor it has been to me.  With a little more order in my life I might just complete one or two of the hundreds of tasks I've begun.  I'm sure I wouldn't lose my keys, or my purse, or my train of thought so often and I know I'd be more effective with my time.  

-Alicia
(flibbertigibbet)

He Intercedes - Ponderize - Week 1

From this most recent General Conference, Elder Devin G. Durrant challenged us to ponder and memorize (ponderize) a scripture once a week.  I've searched through several trying to decide on the one I want to etch in my heart first.  This is the one that truly spoke to me:

"The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought:  but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.... And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:26 & 28

-Alicia

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Would I Stand?

In the news we've recently heard about the shooter in Oregon who specifically targeted Christians.  An article from CNN reports the following:

"Stacy Boylan, the father of Anastasia Boylan, who was wounded, said she told him the gunman singled out Christians.

She said the gunman entered her classroom firing, told the professor teaching the class, "I've been waiting to do this for years," and shot him point blank, Stacy Boylan said.

While reloading his handgun, the man ordered the students to stand up and asked whether they were Christians, Boylan told her family.

"And they would stand up, and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second,' " Stacy Boylan told CNN, relaying his daughter's account. "And then he shot and killed them."

These students were martyrs!
This has me thinking deeply about what I would do in this situation.  How strong are my convictions?  Would I have the faith to stand at gunpoint and profess my beliefs if it meant losing my life?

Even Peter, who was a devoted disciple of Christ, insisted that he would die before ever denying his beloved Lord and Savior. (Matt 26:35) Then when the time came, when Peter had the opportunity to stand for his convictions, three times he caved, he gave way to fear, and buckled under the pressure.

"Was Peter a weak man? No; but he was not without the infirmities of human nature, and when the trial came he faltered a little. After all I do not think the mistake so grievous, all the circumstances considered, for he was surrounded by, and speaking to, a riotous, corrupt and bloodthirsty people, only he had said he would not do it, but he did it, that's all." - John Taylor

When Peter realized what he had done, he repented and wept bitterly.(Matt 26:75)  Seeing his weakness now, he was able to be made strong and he never did again deny Christ but went to his grave as a martyr.

"Was Peter valiant for the truth? He was. Was he imprisoned for the truth? (Acts 5:18 Acts 12:3-5) Yes. Did he proclaim against vice and advocate virtue? He did. And did he go forth and feed the lambs and flock of God? Yes; and he acted every way becoming to a man of God, and finally suffered a martyr's death. Shall we find fault with either of these men? No, we love them for their good deeds, and for their fidelity and integrity, and the great work which they accomplished in their day, in bringing forth the truths of the everlasting Gospel." - John Taylor

Reading these quotes from John Taylor causes me to reflect on the life of Joseph Smith.  In summer of 2012 I had the opportunity to visit Carthage Jail.  My fingers traced the bullet hole in the door of the upper room.  I imagined in my mind the horrific events that happened there. I looked out the glass pane Joseph jumped through to the ground below. The Sister missionary pointed to the well outside and said after Joseph was shot, the mob took his dead body, propped it up against that well, and proceeded to continue shooting him.  They also took the ends of their rifles and beat his face and body. My heart broke as I pondered these things.

Standing by that well was such sacred ground, my heart was overwhelmed with love and gratitude for my dear brother Joseph.  Oh, how I love him!  He gave his beautiful life as a testimony, a witness of his faith, his love for Christ, and his conviction of the restored Gospel.

Now if a gunman were to threaten me, to ask me to stand if I were a Christian?
Would I stand?
What if the threat went even further?
What if the gunman were to ask all those to stand who believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God?

Would I stand?
I'd like to say I would.  I pray I would.
I hope I would have that kind of courage.
I know with all of my heart that this gospel is true and that Joseph was called of God.  The Book of Mormon is true, the teachings within it have led me to Living Water, to Christ and His love.  I pray for the kind of faithful heart that would willingly lay my life down for what I believe.  And for as long as I'm called to live, I desire to stand as a witness of these things "at all times, in all things, and in all places!" (Mosiah 18:9)

-Alicia