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The Purest Love

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Voice of the Spirit

Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time preparing for a lesson I'm giving Sunday.  In my studies, I kept falling back on this incredibly wonderful devotional given in 1993 at a BYU Devotional by President James E. Faust. It's far too long for me to share the entire thing in class so I've cut the audio into 18 small bites and stitched them back together to give a four-and-a-half minute summary.  I highly recommend making some time to go and listen to the full speech. It's excellent! 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

"I Gotta Skate" - Throw-back Thursday

I'll never forget the look on my dad's face when he went flying into the air and landed hard on his back in our linoleum kitchen. 
He glared straight at me as he yelled, "What is all over this floor??!!"
Feeling the grease in his hands and lifting his fingers to his nose, he growled, "IS THIS BUTTER?! WHO THE HELL PUT BUTTER ALL OVER THIS FLOOR?!"
I knew the situation was bad.  
Dad always swore when he was mad. I was terribly disappointed he ruined my fun but I was way too scared to say anything.  There was no use hiding though, he knew it was me.  Timidly, I answered, "Um... well... I was making a skating rink."  
"A whaaat?!!" he looked at me with a ridiculous expression.
"A skating rink," I said a little louder. 
I thought in my mind, "And if you did it right, you wouldn't have biffed it like that." (Of course I never could have said it out loud.)
Honestly though, it was the coolest, most fun, idea my little 7yr.-old brain had ever come up with. I must have spread at least three full sticks of butter, maybe more, to get my skating rink nice and slippery.  I had a blast while it lasted.

Me, age 7.
Fast forward to when I would have children of my own.... 
I used my old childhood idea to give them something fun to do in the cold winter months.  Only with my kids, I didn't use butter.... I got smart and used soap.  We'd make the floor as slippery as we could, just thick with lather, and then drench the floor.  It was a total win/win because they had the time of their life with "indoor skating" and when they were done, I had a sparkling clean floor.  



Who says old dreams have to die?  When they're good, they find their way back around somehow. ;)
-Alicia

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Slow down!

I have an impeccably clean driving record...
Or at least I did, until today.  I mean, really... who gets pulled over twice in less than 24 hours??  Apparently, I do.

 "Ma'am, why the rush?" the officer asked, as my kids hid their faces with embarrassment. My teenage son slapped his forehead and groaned, "Nice going mom. I told you like three seconds before this happened that you were going to get a ticket."
I think seeing the disappointment in my children's faces gave the officer pity and he let me go with a warning.

The second time didn't turn out as good.  Maybe it's because my children weren't with me to "smooth" things over.  I just made it down the hill when I saw the flashing lights appear in my rear-view mirror.  I thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding."

"Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" Um, I didn't.  I had driven down that street a million times and I honestly didn't feel like I was going any faster than usual.  The chances for the second officer to let me go were slim because he could see in his reports that I had been pulled over just the day before.  I took the ticket feeling totally bummed and drove home.

"Why the rush, Alicia?"  It wasn't the first time someone had asked me that... or at least in words very similar.  The greeter/security guard at the local grocery store (who I swear looks just like Clarence, the angel, from It's a Wonderful Life) always says two things to me when I walk through the doors:  "It's so nice to see your smile again."  and "You are always in a hurry."  He notices it too.  I guess I do run in and out of there pretty fast.

Maybe my experience with being pulled over twice in a row is more than just a fluke to mess up my perfect little driving record.  Maybe it's meant to bring more clearly to my attention,"what lack I yet?"
I've pondered on this all day today and I keep having this strange mix playing in my head of President Uchtdorft's voice,"We would do well to slow down a bit" and Simon & Garfunkel,"Slow down, you're going to fast."

It really is the story of my life.  Perhaps it will be one of those things I will struggle to learn until my dying day...  Or maybe the ailments of age and tutors of experience will finally beat it into me?

Either way... I don't know.
But for now, step aside! I've got places to go, people to see, things to do, and lessons to learn! ;)

-Alicia








Monday, April 25, 2016

"He will direct thee for good" - Ponderize - Week 30

Here's the scripture we decided as a family to ponderize for the week:

"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." - Alma 37:37

Peace From Invulnerable Faith

“Two artists each painted a picture to illustrate his conception of rest. The first chose for his scene a still, lone lake among the far-off mountains. It was a serene and beautiful scene; yes, very calming, very restful to look at. But the second artist, on his canvas, wildly painted a thundering waterfall. You could almost hear the roaring of the water. But a closer look revealed a fragile birch tree bending over the mist of the roaring water. At the fork of the branch, wet with spray, there sat a robin on its nest.” -Henry Drummond

It is this second illustration that I find so intriguing and most easy to relate to:

This peace is something found in our Father in Heaven, in the sure knowledge of His power through Christ and the intimate involvement of Them in our lives manifested by the Spirit of God.  This peace grows like a seed through a myriad of our own experiences and trials of faith over a life-time.

The beauty is discovered when we realize that such peace is not the absence of struggle, tension, opposition, or pain... rather it is a perfect calm in the midst of all these things.  A perfect trust in our Father in Heaven that casts out any fear of what might or might not unfold tomorrow.  It comes from knowing one's own intentions and knowing their path is aligned with God's.  This peace is the fruit born out of those personal moments where we come to know for ourselves something of God's omnipotence, omniscience, and infinite love for us, where we come to know that He holds everything in His perfect hands.

It's strange how even in the midst of struggle or turmoil there is also a sense of joy, like a robin singing in its nest... not because everything is running smoothly or how we might expect it to, but because it is anchored in what really matters and trusts the Hand that governs such matters.

Through deep and regular prayer - day in and day out, through daily consistent and regular study of the scriptures, and through constant striving to apply God's word and seek His spirit, I have tasted of His love and awareness for me again, and again, and again.

This morning, I reviewed a few conference talks given a couple of weeks ago and feel as if this quote from Jeffery R. Holland is completely fitting for the subject of invulnerable faith:

"[God's] love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep trying to improve, keep seeking forgiveness for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor.

President George Q. Cannon once taught: “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. … He will [always] stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them.” - Jeffrey R. Holland - Tomorrow the Lord will Do Wonders

As Henry Drummond so beautifully wrote, I also testify that "Rest... is the mind at leisure from itself.  It is the perfect poise of the soul; the absolute adjustment of the inward man to the stress of all outward things; the preparedness against every emergency; the stability of assured convictions; the eternal calm of an invulnerable faith; the repose of a heart set deep in God.  It is the mood of the man who says, with Browning, 'God's in His Heaven, all's well with the world.'"

And so... "Whatever tomorrow brings, together we'll rise and sing that we won't be shaken."

-Alicia :)
He Showed Me How

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Highlights of April

Winter Semester is over and I'm happy to announce that to date I've completed a total of five classes at BYU.  I now have one A and four A-'s.  Woo hoo!!!  I've had a lot more to keep me busy besides finals though and I haven't had much time to put all my thoughts and experiences down.  I've been anxious to connect.  So, now that I have a moment, I'll record a few highlights from the month:

Kaylee-
If there is one day my children anticipate almost as much as Christmas, it's April 1st.  The night before the big "Fool's Day", Kaylee excitedly sat down next to me, cupped her hands around my ear, and began to whisper all the tricks she had planned.  (Now, I'm extremely ticklish and her breathy funneled whisper made me shudder.)  She giggled amusingly with each attempt and soon it all became a game of tickling mommy.
When that got old, she resumed telling me in a regular tone of voice about her plans.  Enthusiastically, she revealed that she wanted me to draw a scary monster and put it on the inside of the toilet seat lid so when someone had to use the bathroom, they'd get a "surprise."
I did my best to keep a straight face - her idea was just too cute. "Oh, that's a great idea honey!"
I paused and then suggested, "But, I think the monster would be better if it was one that you drew."
Thoughtfully she responded, "I guess I could draw a stick-figure monster."
"You bet! It will be awesome!"
 She walked away proudly but kept the rest of her sneaky plans to herself.  (I wish I would have taken a picture of the monster she drew.)
The next day, after Joseph went to work, she began to carry out her other "secret tricks".  She dutifully spent quite a while taping full sheets of paper in rows stretching across the hallway.  I asked her what it was and she explained, "It's a giant spider's web.  When dad gets back, he's going to walk around the corner and get stuck inside it."
"Cool!" I said.
Then she grabbed a grocery bag and stuffed it with one of our couch pillows.
"Will you help me tape this to the ceiling?"
"Sure, what is this supposed to be?"
"Oh, you'll find out."
5:00 rolled around and Joseph arrived home from work.  Kaylee took him by the hand, "Come here daddy."
Carefully she positioned him underneath the bag with the pillow. She examined the ceiling and looked back at daddy, "You need to sort-of kneel down a little bit.... yeah, right there."  Joseph played along and tried to act oblivious.
When he was right where she wanted him to be, she swung a big stick at the bag above, knocking the pillow down squarely onto his head.  He pretended to fall flat on his face and Kaylee reveled in her defeat, "Ha, ha! Fooled you!"

Micah -
Both of my sons are never eager for a haircut... That's why I was surprised when Micah came to me requesting one.  "Look mom!" He said, pointing to the images on the computer.  "I googled 'boy's hair cuts' and this is what it showed.... super short on the sides and flipped up in the front."
"Would you like me to cut your hair like that?"
"Yeah, this is called 'THE haircut' because it's what ALL the boys have."
"The haircut?" I asked.
"Yeah, 'THE haircut', that's the name of it because when I googled boy's haircuts, that's what it showed."
"Hmm, I've never heard of that before."
"Can you do it like this?"
"Sure, I'll give it a shot" I said.
I don't think I was able to make it look just like the pictures he was showing me but he didn't seem to notice.  He was thrilled!  "This is the best haircut I've ever had!"
I think my favorite part was hearing him singing in the shower as he cleaned up.

Miriam - 
We celebrated Miriam's 13th birthday this past week and she wanted to take her friends Grace and Lila kayaking at Utah Lake for her party.  It was pretty windy when we went which made it a little more adventurous with the waves.  Miriam fearlessly and speedily led us out to the middle of the lake.  By the time we made it back to the shore, we had blisters on our hands from rowing. No one seemed to mind though.  We all had a blast!!

Chandler -
We had a really great testimony meeting in church this month.  My jaw dropped when I saw Chandler get up to share.  He's gotten up when he's been assigned to but I don't recall him ever getting up to bear his testimony on his own initiative.  He spoke so maturely and encouraged everyone to follow the counsel of the prophets.  He bore testimony that President Thomas S. Monson has been called of God and that this is the true church centered on Jesus Christ.  I was so proud of him, when he was finished, I felt like jumping from my seat and shouting "AMEN!"  Of course, I reigned in my enthusiasm and just smiled about as big as a mother can smile.

Joseph-
Speaking of beautiful testimonies... my husband gave a wonderful one as well.  He spoke of redemption and hope through Christ.  I bawled the whole time he spoke because I know where he's been.  I know how dark it was for him.  It's miraculous to witness the Lord working in His life.  What a blessing!

-Alicia :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"And You Took Me In" - Ponderize - Week 29

We met with our foster care recruiter tonight.  He was so cool!! He has two biological children and has adopted 15 kids through foster care.  It was great to hear what he had to share from his own experiences. My husband and I found his stories very encouraging and inspiring.

Next month, we can start what is called a marathon training where all the classes my husband and I need to take to be licenced as a foster family will be packed into training sessions into two Fridays and two Saturdays.  We also have a large stack of papers to fill out again but many of the questions are similar to our former packet... so, a little bit of copying and pasting will make it easy.

We've had a few family counsels about this subject in the last several weeks and the kids seem to be really comfortable with the idea.  This will take some serious open and honest communication in the days and months that lie ahead.  We really don't know what all of this will bring but we feel excited for the lessons and experiences that await us.

I'm really loving this scripture right now.  It's a perfect one to ponder for the week.  :)

"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." - Matt 25:35,36

-Alicia


Saturday, April 16, 2016

To the Rescue

My husband has been sharing with me some great things about adoption.  We have shifted from expecting a new-born to possibly a teenage girl who is close to aging out of the foster system. This will mean we need to go through some more training and have a completely new home-study.  We've been making adjustments and plans in the kid's room to create more space.  It's crazy to believe we're actually doing this.

 Last week, I listened to Sister Linda K. Burton's talk from this most recent women's conference a number of times. She spoke of refugees and every time she did all I could think of were these girls I've seen recently on Wednesday's Child.

These are my husband's thoughts concerning the matter - Gosh, I love this guy!

"I listened to Mervyn B. Arnold’s talk “The the Rescue: We Can Do It” from the April 2016 G.C.  As he shared his first principle of rescuing, “We Must Not Delay Going to the Rescue”, and as he shared the story of the officials who spent too much time ‘preparing’ and waiting for the opportune moment to rescue the boats at sea, the idea of adoption came to my mind.  We have talked about getting our house ready to receive another member.  I have spent time thinking about that.  I think the thinking time is past.  We just need to get to work.  I did spend some time considering how and where we would put another person and I think some very good ideas were developed.  Alicia liked them and so I don’t think we need to delay any longer.  We can also get the adoption people over from foster care for their initial visit and get that rolling as soon as possible.  I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not we are going to adopt at this point.  It is going to be the question of who.  So, I don’t think we need to take the former question to the Lord anymore.  I think we need to get into a position where we can pray about who.  Without delay!

            And then I just read this from the Howard W. Hunter manual: “All of us must finish our “preparations unto the children of men” [D&C 19:19]. Christ’s preparations were quite different from our own, but we all have preparations to make, doors to open. To make such important preparations often will require some pain, some unexpected changes in life’s path, and some submitting, “even as a child doth submit to his father” [Mosiah 3:19]”.  We must finish our preparations to that child of men that will join our family and we must have our doors open to do so, including the doors of our hearts.  It is going to require some adjustments, perhaps even some pain, and I pray that I may be possessed of charity for perfect love casteth out all fear.  I think the point is that we need to get on the stick and get licensed."

Focusing on the Divine

"For two weeks make a special effort to strengthen your relationship with a family member by showing love through your actions. Refrain from judging, criticizing, or speaking unkindly, and watch for positive qualities in that family member. Write notes of encouragement, pray for this family member, find ways to be helpful, and verbally express your love." 

I'm working on my Personal Progress for Young Women's and I absolutely LOVE this goal!  It's fittingly under the category of Divine Nature.

The thing I really love is how the very process of seeking out and acknowledging the positive (verbally or written)  is really just a resolve to focus on the divine. I think it's the essence of soulful gratitude.  This mental and emotional shift outside ourselves, this conscious effort to encourage and build others, especially those in our own family, will help us see them with the light of truth.  And the truth will set us free!

There are so many ways we can do this...  I love to think of the possibilities. When we sincerely choose to focus on the good in others, it will not matter what the response is because it's not a boomerang initiative, giving in order to get.  It's more like a "bulls-eye" initiative with genuine straight-arrow purpose and direction to aim at the center, the very heart of each other's infinite worth, giving purely to give.

To me, this is what Christ does for all of us.  He sets the example of what it means to lift, to build, to pray for, to encourage, and focus on the divine... regardless of how deserving we are and regardless of our response.  I revere Him for that!

I'll close this post with a really cool quote from the American athlete four-time gold medalist, Jesse Owens:

“Find the good. It’s all around you. Find it, showcase it and you’ll start believing in it.”

-Alicia :)


Friday, April 15, 2016

To take the sorrow out of death...

My blog friend, Ramona, lost her husband a couple of weeks ago on March 23rd.  He was only 58.

Today, April 15th, is Ramona's birthday.  How strange it must feel to have this day of birth "to celebrate" when half of your body and soul has been torn from you.

"To everything there is a season"... and this is a season of mourning for my friend.  I pray for her. I ache for her.

I'm reminded of President Nelson's words, "Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45.)

Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life."

We live over 2,000 miles apart and I wish with all my heart I could be closer so I could serve her and help her during this tremendously lonely and mournful time.

This song is for you, Ramona.

-Alicia



Monday, April 11, 2016

"Believe in God"- Ponderize - Week 28


After connecting through blogs and Facebook for around nine years, I was finally able to meet my friend, Tony Diaz, in person!  He messaged me yesterday saying he was in Utah and wanted to know if he could come down for a visit.  We had him join our family for a lovely little dinner and FHE. During the lesson, we turned the time over to him to share his conversion story.  I never get tired of hearing it. This guy has incredible faith and courage.  It was wonderful!

We had some great discussions on how aware our Father in Heaven is of us and how anxious He is to answer our prayers.  We talked about the times in which we live and marveled at the glorious things we are witnessing in the Gospel throughout the world.  

The scripture that has been coming to my mind all day today is Mosiah 4:9.  I think it's a great one to ponder for the week.  There's a lot of things in life I simply don't understand... but I DO know with complete certainty that God is real, that He is powerful, that we can tap into His power and grace if we sincerely seek it.  I know without any doubt that He hears and answers every prayer, that He loves us deeply, and that we can't even begin to comprehend His plans for us.

"Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." - Mosiah 4:9

-Alicia :)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Timp, the Y, and the Angel Moroni

Early last September, I wrote a post about the perfect view from my apartment.  From the windows of my place, I can see three significant markers in my life all somehow tied together and playing out a story:  Mt. Timpanogos, The "Y" for BYU, and the Angel Moroni who stands atop our beautiful City Center Temple.

If you ever go to a Temple Open House, you might have the opportunity to see some gorgeous murals.  Many of our temples have them in the creation room.  Our new City Center Temple opened its doors in January of this year to give visitors a first-time view before it was dedicated in March.

I could spend all day staring at the brush strokes and color details on the walls.  What I wouldn't give to learn the technique of these master artists! It's awe-inspiring! Someday, when we own our home, I'd love to take a room and paint over every last inch of the walls and ceiling, creating my own mural.

This past week, I went to do a session at our new Temple and found myself lost in the artwork surrounding me.  Then, I noticed something I hadn't before.  (Anyone can interpret it how they want.  In fact, most people won't find any meaning in it at all... but I saw it... and for me, it was personal.)

 In the back of the creation room in this House of the Lord, crowned with the Angel Moroni, there was painted within the mural Mt. Timpanogos and a cougar (which is BYU's mascot).  I smiled when I put them together.  There they were... that lovely little trilogy pattern of significant markers in my life reoccurring all in one place: Timp, the "Y", and the Angel Moroni. Once again, from where I stood, it was the perfect view!

-Alicia







Thursday, April 7, 2016

Solid Ground

There's this new Christian song I discovered a couple of weeks ago.  Kaylee has heard me play it on a few occasions and now wants to listen to it all the time.  I don't know how much she pays attention to the lyrics but I'm sure the beat is irresistible for her.  Somehow, I hope the words to the song are making an impression too.

I just feel like she's growing up in a world that's plagued with a rampant identity crisis. We're a social media society... No need to be hired by Hollywood anymore, now we can make ourselves the center of attention with the click of a button.  (Don't get me wrong, receiving a little attention isn't bad but I think we need to strictly guard our intent behind it.)  It's so easy to get lost in the endless competition to be one step ahead of the next person, to compare and measure our worth based on the reactions or non-reaction of others.  It's so volatile!! If we aren't careful, we can quickly be sucked into an insatiable hunger for praise and popularity, a lifestyle of endless consumption... and to what end?

I'll admit that I'm not immune to it. I lose sense of my identity too. I've never understood all the hype about manicures, fashionable purses, or matching shoes.... but truth be told, my weak point is make-up.  I've become so dependent on it that I just don't feel beautiful without it.  But whose definition of beauty am I going off of?  It's certainly not God's.

 According to the world's definition, Jesus Christ was not attractive.  Isaiah 53:2 says:
"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him."

Clearly, the opinion of mainstream's societal vogue is void of authenticity.

The T.A. for my lab class shared this comic strip with us today and it kind-of fits in the context of this post. It just shows how much our identity is horribly tangled up with consumerism.


In Elder Hallstrom's talk from April's 2016's General Conference, he stresses the importance of having a solid understanding of our true identity. "It's foundational" he says... and  he asks the question for today's troubled world, "Who do we lean on for repose?" Do we lean on social acceptance, peer approval, or popular vote?  The constant shifting fads and trends have no capacity to give us a steady footing of who we really are.

When I lose focus of who I truly am and get caught up in the anxieties of modern media, when I'm  feeling discouraged for not measuring up to the latest and greatest,  I'm thankful for songs like this that play in my home.  I know I feel better for listening to these truths.  I hope my girls are listening too.

-Alicia

"Can't Be Moved"
by, Jeremy Camp

I can’t lean on the earthly things
‘Cause it’s broke and gonna fade
And I can’t stand on the dirt below
‘Cause this dust gonna blow away
You say, hey now, follow Me, gonna go to the promise land
You say, hey child, don’t forget that the Lord is coming back

When everything in this world is falling
We have a Kingdom that can’t be moved
People get ready Heaven is a calling
We have a Kingdom that can’t be, that can’t be moved

When the waters rise, don’t be surprised
When the force tries to pull you in
We’ll be found on the solid ground
Won’t be no slave to sin

You say, hey now, trumpet sound, all the saints gonna board the train
You say, hey child, don’t you fear, what’s dead’s gonna rise again

Truth be told, silver and gold ain’t where my treasure’s found
So when I die, gonna open my eyes with a different kind of crown

The War From Within

Of all the enemies the Nephites fought as they strove to protect their people and land, there is one enemy that proved to be the most tremendous threat of all.... themselves.  The greatest damage to the Nephite community was not the result of physical battles fought outside their fortresses with clashing swords.  No, it was much more internal, the problem was within their own government and in their own church.

"There began to be serious contention concerning who should have the judgment-seat... because of so much contention and so much difficulty in the government, that they had not kept sufficient guards in the land" - Helaman 1:2 & 18  

"a little pride..in the church, which did cause some little dissensions" turned into "much contention and many dissensions."  This "pride which began to enter into the church - not into the church of God, but into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God" and resulted in "persecution of their brethren". - Helaman 3:1,3,33,34

The most disheartening of the two is what happened within their own church.  Helaman 4:11 says, "This great loss of the Nephites, and the great slaughter which was among them, would not have happened had it not been for their wickedness and their abomination which was among them; yea and it was among those also who professed to belong to the church of God."  And in the next two verses, it says that because of their pride, they "withheld" giving or sharing, they made a "mock of that which was sacred, denied the spirit of prophecy and revelation," which led to all kinds of other sins.  "And because of this their great wickedness, and their boasting in their own strength, they were left in their own strength."

In my studies yesterday, I found some commentary that gave greater insight into how people within the church could fall so far.

"This attitude of the people is perhaps the most frightening aspect of this terrifying book of Helaman. We read of a people who were so caught up in the vain things of the world that they were blind and mostly unaffected by Nephi’s great call to repentance. It was not that the people did not have religion; it was that their religion was one of the facades of their respectable lifestyle. The deceit did not fool the prophets; they warned them of their ways. Nephi called down a great famine, while Samuel prophesied great signs and could not be killed. Both preached plainly with the power of God and with courage. Both were mostly rejected because the people hardened their hearts, preferring to believe instead the philosophies and excuses of men (Hel 16:15-23). The outcome of this blindness is well known to readers of the Book of Mormon. The Nephites continued in the same pattern of wickedness in spite of receiving great signs and having momentary periods of righteousness until all but the more righteous were destroyed at the Savior’s coming (3 Nephi 9:12-13)."- The Book of Mormon: Helaman Through 3 Nephi 8, According To Thy Word, ed. Monte S. Nyman & Charles D. Tate, Jr. Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1992(emphasis added)

The members of the church who rejected the prophets and refused to repent while continuing to preach from their own pulpits, basically set-up themselves in place of the "set-apart".  The word "repentance" haunted them because it flew in their face, broke the facade of their "respectable lifestyle" and revealed it for the self-centered pompish parade of vanity that it really was.

It's an interesting observation Elder W. Grant Bangerter observed, "I never found it necessary to break my standards, to remove my garments, or to apologize for being a Latter-day Saint... I can honestly say that no nonmember of the Church has ever tried to induce me to discard my standards. The only people I remember trying to coerce me to abandon my principles or who ridiculed me for my standards have been non-practicing members of the Church." - Elder W. Grant Bangerter (July 1982 - New Era)

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland asked, "When gospel principles get unpopular or unprofitable or very difficult to live, will we stand by them 'for the duration'? That is the question our experiences in Latter-day Saint life seem most determined to answer. What do we really believe, and how true to that are we really willing to live?" 

In a world like today, most likely the hardest standards of God to live by are; humility, gentleness, and meekness.  Yet, these are the qualities that are the most rewarding!

 In the scriptures, those with solid testimony did not let pride, hatred, or anger claim a stake in their hearts.  Rather, they "did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God."- Helaman 3:35

I submit that the fastest way to "yield our hearts unto God" is through immediate repentance. The moment we recognize our own fault in a situation to say, "I'm sorry", to truly own that apology and the consequence that may follow instead of endeavoring to excuse ourselves and sweep it under the rug.

We also "yield our hearts unto God" by living by His way even if it means losing face or popularity, to not be fence-sitters but rather "Choose... this day whom we will serve" -Joshua 24:15

What are some other ways I can "yield my heart unto God" in these battles "from within"?

-Alicia

Monday, April 4, 2016

To Draw Closer to God - Ponderize - Week 27

General Conference is over and we have these six months to ponder all the wonderful messages before receiving again life-sustaining words from men and women called of God.  I absolutely loved the perspective Elder Renlund gave about fairness.  These are the notes I took during his talk:

  • The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver ... the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement. 
  • When we're distanced from God, even small inequities seem large.  
  • Murmuring is the scriptural equivalent of childish whining.  Example:  Laman and Lemuel
  • The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more grateful we are for our Savior's grace.  Drawing nearer to the Savior causes us to change.  Rather than feeling entitled to His blessings and grace, we will want to do all we can to not cause Him any more grief.  
  • Feel the power of Godly love.  Recognize the Lord's hand in your life.  Draw closer to the Savior.
  • If life was fair we wouldn't be resurrected or return to our Father in Heaven.  It's not fair that Christ had to suffer for us, we don't deserve forgiveness or the resurrection.  For this I am grateful for "unfairness".  
  • How much of the day do you spend whining?

This is my take-away:
 The principle difference in the statement "It's not fair" is dependent on where our focus is.  This focus will greatly affect the closeness we feel to God.

 A self-centered focus of "it's not fair" is when we spend our time scrambling for what we "deserve" or listing all the things we don't have.  It's a temperament that's offensive to the Spirit and we distance ourselves from God and others with such an attitude.  The entitlement philosophy suffocates appreciation, respect, love, and beauty.

On the other hand, it's a humbling shift when we focus the statement of "It's not fair" toward what our Savior has done for us. It's not fair that He was crucified, that He took upon Him all our sins and sorrows.  It's not fair that He was bruised and broken on the cross, rejected and hated for us.  Did He deserve better?  Absolutely!  We are undeserving of a resurrection, of His incredible love, unfailing sacrifice, and sweet forgiveness... yet He gave it freely.  Such a focus instills deep reverence, awe, and gratitude... drawing our hearts ever closer to God.

My personal scripture study this morning reminded me of Elder Renlund's talk.  Here the people of Nephi do a wonderful job applying the principle of a Christ-Centered focus:

"They were not lifted up in the pride of their eyes; neither were they slow to remember the Lord their God; a but they did humble themselves exceedingly before Him.  Yea, they did remember how great things the Lord had done for them, that He had delivered them from death, and from bonds, and from prisons, and from all manner of afflictions, and He had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies." - Alma 62:49-50

I'm so grateful for conference and the abundant truths there are to reflect and feast on.  As I ponder this scripture for the week, I'll be trying to notice where my own focus is.

-Alicia

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Aunt Sylvia - Part 6

The following is taken from part of my Great Aunt Sylvia's book, "Victory Through Suffering."  It's her story of how she survived a Japanese Concentration Camp:

(See Previous Accounts)
Aunt Sylvia - Part 5
Aunt Sylvia - Part 4
Aunt Sylvia - Part 3
Aunt Sylvia - Part 2
Aunt Sylvia - Part 1

Walk With Me

When Saw We Thee a Stranger

Another of the Lord's blessings was that we had no light.  Since it was dark early, we retired early.  After I had Bible hour with the children, I said, "Now you tell Mother a story."
Mark said, "I can't tell you a story."
I answered, "You can't tell a story like Mother can, but you can tell it like Mark can."
Thus they learned more in telling the story than in hearing it.  By the time they were out of camp they could tell the Bible stories and their applications.  They were a help in their Sunday School class in their home church.

Continually threatened by death, made eternity real to them.  People were dying every day in camp.  I always tried to make the way of salvation very clear, letting them make their own decisions.  I never pressed for a decision or told them they were saved.  Finally, I realized they were sure of their own salvation and the importance of it.
Overhearing my conversations when I said, "the most important thing is...."
Paul often interrupted, "...to know you are saved. Then it does not matter what happens."
How true that is!  One day a lady coming back from visiting the sick asked, "What good is it to visit the sick?  They are not interested in camp conversations."
Turning to the boys, I asked them, "What would you talk to them about?"
Paul replied, "I would talk to them about Jesus.  Then if they are really saved it does not matter if they die."

Another miracle in camp was the tomato plants.  They were plants I found in a ditch while weeding the field.  They were not large, flowering plants but I trusted they would yet transplant.  I dug up the ground with a table knife.  We planted and watered with prayer.  They grew higher than my head.  We expected God to work a miracle, and He did!  The first little one we divided.  It tasted so good, as we had not eaten tomatoes for so long.

We had no medicines or hospital but only rooms set aside to keep the sick.  A dear sister in the Lord was there very ill.  She craved fruit.  About that time, we had been studying with the boys about giving to the Lord.
Mark asked, "How can we give to the Lord in this camp?"
I told him that if we gave to [others], it was as though we gave to Him,
"If ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
I asked them if they would like to give a tomato to this friend, Miss DeVries.
"Oh, yes!" they chimed joyfully.

The boys were so happy as they visited her that evening.  They carried the precious tomato (a wonderful gift in those days) and offered it with radiant faces to the suffering one with these words, "We give you this in the name of the Lord."
Thus given by His little servants and graciously accepted by Miss De Vries, It was a testimony throughout the hospital room.  She said she could hardly eat such a precious gift.

Shortly after, we were again taking a tomato to Miss DeVries and I suggested to the boys that we first visit a dear mother who was dying.  I stopped to talk with her but she was too far gone to talk of eternal things.  Then I asked her if she would like a tomato.  She did not seem to hear.  However, it must have registered in her mind, for later when she rallied a bit, she asked, "Do you have a tomato?"
I told her we had one for her.  She asked to see it.  Mark brought it in to her.  She took it gratefully.  Later, the nurse prepared it for her.  It was the last thing she ate before she died.  In such ways, we were able to help a few in their last moments of suffering.

Some would come to buy tomatoes.
We could have bought almost anything with some tomatoes in those days!
I told them, "These tomatoes are the Lord's and I cannot sell them."
The camp was so large I could not share with everyone.
I asked the Lord to lead me where it would be a testimony, especially to the household of faith.  Others who had tomatoes found they were being stolen.  Putting the responsibility on the Lord, I said, "Lord, they are Your tomatoes' for Thy glory.  If they steal, they steal from Thee."
The Lord protected them.  We never missed any of our tomatoes.  We had over 250 from these few plants and were still bearing them when we left camp.  It was such a blessing and joy to the boys to share and expect the Lord to work.  They decided to plant a little garden to be used to give the sick ones.  Each one planted, weeded and watered his own plot.  They proved the joy of sharing:  "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

-Aunt Sylvia