Thursday, October 18, 2012

Autumn Pleasures

I love Autumn...

I love the colours of the leaves as they turn from green to reds and yellows and browns.

I love the fresh crisp air when I go on morning walks.

I love the smell of burning wood that comes from the chimneys of homes near me.

I love being able to wear my favourite sweaters and be perfectly warm.

I love the seasonal recipes filled with warmth and safety.

I love the sound of the wind singing at night.

I love sinking into a hot bath after a long walk.

I love raking the fallen leaves into a huge pile and falling back into it like I did as a child.

These are the simple pleasures that I enjoy every year. The things that make each Autumn precious to me. I'll admit that I tend to busy myself with the less important things and forget the more meaningful. I believe there's a cliché that states we should stop to smell the roses. Easier said than done in today's day and age. We are all so busy with our everyday lives that we forget to slow down and enjoy things, most especially the little and simplistic things.

Maybe it's time to change that. These are uncertain times for the world and we never know what lies ahead. We also never know when we will be in our final day, and I know this also sounds cliché, but we must make the most of it. Let's all slow down a bit and enjoy the simple things.

Here's a small writing titled 'Brief Pleasures' for your reading pleasures:

  • Splitting a hunk of cedar into perfect fragrant strips of kindling on a crisp autumn day and stacking it in neat piles.
  • A sudden overwhelming awareness of the goodness of another person.
  • Looking up a word in the dictionary and getting sidetracked by another word. In 1932 Webster's, in the list of New Words, one finds flivverboob: driver of a flivver.
  • The sound made by a tennis ball when it smacks the sweet spot.
  • Making a delicious and nutritious dinner that costs next to nothing.
  • A cool hand on a fevered brow.
  • The smell of wood smoke in my hair and clothes after and evening with friends around a beach fire.
  • The lightness you feel after a long, snowy winter when you get up one morning and you don't have to put on long underwear.
  • Being asked just the right question by a friend who knows what it is you really want to talk about and opens the way for you.
  • Fanning out a bridge hand, finding it full of faces and aces and smiling inside while keeping a straight face.
  • The momentary ruby flash of a hovering sunlit humming bird against green trees after a spring rain.
  • Having the whole family in one bed on a Sunday morning.
  • Climbing into cold sheets after a hot bath.
  • The smell of dusty sidewalks after a spring rain, carrying so many exciting aromas I can imagine for a moment what it must be like to have a dog's nose.
  • The first ride from the airport in a taxi in a strange city halfway around the world late in the evening.
  • Peeling the wax off a round of cheese.

~ Autumn section from Simple Pleasures: Soothing Suggestions and Small Comforts for Living Well Year Round

Here's to a happy Autumn. Have fun with family and friend. And keep the pumpkin pie coming until you can't look at it until next Autumn!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ode to Our Spiritual Seas

I'm on vacation at the coast but am unable to attend church, so I was able to enjoy the blessings of going to and watch a worship service. The speakers gave sermons on enduring to the end and using our spiritual gifts. It's wonderful to feel the spirit and worship my Creator, even when I am not in the loving arms of my ward family.

 As I listen to the talks I look out the window at the sea and I feel a sense of awe and humility. John Keats, the English poets once penned; Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired, feast them upon the wideness of the Sea!” I agree with him on this. The sea is wide and deep, just like the everlasting gospel. There are many depths that the teaching can take us, so long as we are willing to take the plunge and when we immerse ourselves, our eyes feast and the banquet is fulfilling.

I love how soothing it is to watch the waves and hear the low roar that the water utters. I like the deceiving calmness that belies what lies under the surface; the beautiful, the strange, the enticing, and the lethal.... kind of reminds you of life, doesn't it? We are naturally drawn to beauty, and repulsed by ugliness.. and Satan knows this. This is why he likes to draw us close to him and is able to do things. Eve was lured to the apple first and foremost, because it looked tantalizing and delicious, and one thing lead to another and we know what happened from there. The same things happened to Mary Magdalene and Judas and Paul.....Satan tricked them into believing the things they did were acceptable, even praiseworthy...but I think we can say “April Fools!” But it's also a sign of God's grace, because he can save us from the underlying dangers and the currents that can carry us until we are lost forever. We just have to cling onto Him and know that His forgiveness and love will be there through every storm.

Anyway those are my thoughts on the spiritual side. The sea air is refreshing and while I ponder the mysteries of the Creator and what lessons can be taught, I can enjoy the fact that I can relax and watch the shows and catch the occasional whale and boat.


While I look out on the horizon, a favourite poem plays through my mind and I'll conclude my post with it for your reading pleasure:


Surrounding the island
There's sea.
But what sea?
It's always overflowing.
Says yes,
Then no,
Then no again,
And no,
Says yes
In blue
In sea spray
Says no
And no again.
It can't be still.
It stammers
My name is sea.

It slaps the rocks
And when they aren't convinced,
Strokes them
And soaks them
And smothers them with kisses.
With seven green tongues
Of seven green dogs
Or seven green tigers
Or seven green seas,
Beating its chest,
Stammering its name,

Oh Sea,
This is your name.
Oh comrade ocean,
Don't waste time
Or water
Getting so upset
Help us instead.
We are meager fishermen,
Men from the shore
Who are hungry and cold
And you're our foe.
Don't beat so hard,
Don't shout so loud,
Open your green coffers,
Place gifts of silver in our hands.
Give us this day our daily fish.

~ Ode to the Sea


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Education Reform and a Major Digress into Politics

For today's post I'm going to swerve out of spiritual and into political for a moment. Normally I don't do this and will unlikely do so again. But, JB (see my Personal Challenge post) posted the following on his Facebook page concerning Mitt Romney's plan for Education Reform, which is near and dear to my heart as a future Oregon teacher. I wrote a response which according to is over a page long which is far too long for Facebook's limits, so I am posting it here. His dissertation is called White Paper: A Chance For Every Child . Bon Appetite!

I think it has merit. I like that he plans to give more power and recognition to the teachers, because those teachers really work their backsides off. I was getting classroom experience as part of my degree program in Secondary Ed. and I was staying in the classroom with my mentoring teacher until late at night discussing problems and solution as well as grading the work that came in, often after the due dates. Thankfully, things started improving until 80% of our students passed with a D or higher.

I also agree that funds need to go back to the classrooms. It's amazing to see the administrators turn down requests from teachers that would help all the students, especially the minority students. It was usually turned down because it's "economically prohibitive". And if that's just happening in places other than my district, it's no wonder American education is going down the pot. If the teachers are not able to reach to every student, that teacher will fail.

I had to smile at Bro. Romney's words on page 9 when he said "In defense of the failed system, unions spend hundreds of millions of dollars to curry the favor of political leaders." That sounds about right. I understand the need for unions, but they're becoming more of a hindrance than a help anymore. Maybe it's time to get rid of them, reform them...I don't know. But they're definitely more interested in the interests of the leaders of the unions and where they stand in the country than taking care of the teachers.

I especially liked his proposal of keeping every school open to cater to any student that wishes to study there, instead of trapping the students in schools that do nothing about their failures because of where they live and how many students are suppose to be in each institution. By giving the parents and child(ren) a choice and to be more proactive in their education with prepare them in the long run for college and every other factor in their lives.

And then there are colleges. Most of my classmates have taken out thousands in college loans and by graduation, they're sweating bullets because now they have to start paying the loans back...and with today's job economy, that's a problem. And tuition just gets higher and higher. If Mitt Romney is able to  to tackle this problem and make college achievable, not to mention finish able, he'll have my vote without question in the next election.

As I looked through his reform proposals, I really cannot help but be impressed with his vision. He plans to give power back to parents and their students, by keeping everyone involved, and able to make a more informed decision in order to give these students the best education that they so richly deserve. And not just the average students, but the student that have what we like to call “special needs”, they're even going to have a stake in education improvement. I applaud this part of the plan because it puts the ball in the parent's court, which is where it belongs in the first place!

The bottom line is this: less spending on the stuff that doesn't matter, keeping the parents involved, making education much more affordable, and maintaining a high standard that will reproduce success.

Because let's face it, we're a first world country, but we have a third world education. Our students are behind most European countries due to the lack of proper education and eventually it will kill our country's foundation when the younger generations don't have the tools to succeed in life.

Monday, June 11, 2012

I'm a Mormon

Most of my LDS readers know of the 'I'm A Mormon' campaign. I heard of it last summer and watched some of the videos and I found it rather touching to read and see the testimonies of fellow believers. In my YSA branch we were all encouraged to make our own Ad. Here's mine: I Am A Mormon

For my Non-LDS readers who haven't heard of this campaign, I would strongly encourage you to check these out. Even if you don't agree with our beliefs, I think you'll learn many things and feel inspired to look at your beliefs. It is an amazing opportunity to share your beliefs with others and it makes you grow as a disciple of Christ, no matter what religion you belong to. So, go ahead, give it a look. Feel free to post questions, comments and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible.

God be with you. Christ be with you.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Penny Morse July 1996- February 2012

We were very excited when Mom brought you home that September. You were a tiny white fur ball with freshly grown spots. Brother and I argued constantly over who got to hold and cuddle you. Then we debated over what we were to call you. It was decided a name from 101 Dalmatian should be chosen. Brother wanted to call you Pongo despite you being a baby girl. I wanted to call you Purdy or Lucky. Mom settled the argument by choosing Penny which she found in one of our Dalmatian colouring books. That's what we finally agreed to call you. You were officially a member of the family.


You quickly settled in our home. We would rush home after school so that we could play with you. We would hide in another room and call your name so that you would sprint to where our voices rang to jump onto our laps and lick our giggling faces. You loved running and playing in the yard. You especially loved it when we'd throw your toys for you to fetch. It was always fun watching you chew on your dad's shoes and then lay in them because you were that small and his feet were that big. I think you loved dad most of all. And then our sister came that October. I don't think you knew what to do at first with another baby in the house. But you eventually adapted.

Even as a puppy you were so spunky. You were determined to show us what a Dalmatian puppy is all about. You enjoyed going on long walks and short walks. As you grew up, it became less clear on who was was walking whom. You loved table scraps, and if you couldn't charm us into giving you tidbits, you were very clever in waiting until you could steal it. When you were hungry or wanted a snack before bed, you would flip your food dish and send it clattering across the floor.

As the years went by, you went through stages of growth. By the time you were four, you made it clear that it would be a one dog house. You never liked baths, but you loved swimming, especially if your dad threw the toy towards the ducks. You went on all of our vacations. You also seem to love kicking mom out of bed. You hated the kennel place and would freak out if we ever passed it on the road. Mom and I took pleasure out of teasing you for it. At home, you were so funny whenever you pass gas. Apparently, they were pretty bad for even you, because you'd look at the nearest person, growl at them and walk away. You would run around and play while I clean up your residue in the back yard, and would make sure to make a fresh one when I finish the rest. You loved laying on the sofa in front of the fire. And every holiday when we have a nice supper, you always eagerly awaited your plate of treats and then would sneak a few extras from a few of us at the table. You loved it when we moved out into the country. Walking through the BLM land became a routine and you enjoyed running around and chasing the critters.


  In the last couple of years, your pace has slowed down, but you've still enjoyed life. The fire never left you and you still kept the spunk and spark to the very end. Now, maybe you can go back to chasing critters and never tire, and eat meat without breaking out. We love you, baby girl and we'll miss you. Goodbye, my sister.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow......

Okay which schmuck did the snow dance? Anybody? It's time to fess up..... my dad thinks our Dachshund did it. I'm not so sure..... I sure didn't....

This is what I woke up to......

That would be six inches of snow.....
Bend's Winter Wonderland   

"Though the weather outside is frightful..."

 "Walking in a Winter Wonderland...."

I forgot zoom was on but I like the expression in my eyes that it captured

     Anyone else thinking this snow flurry is two months late?

This is your chilly photographer....

...... Signing off......

Everyone be safe and enjoy the white powdery, er, stuff. Have an awesome day!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is there a Heaven?

Is there a Heaven? That's a question I've asked myself quite a bit in my life. Sometimes life on Earth seems so dark that it's hard to believe that there is a paradise of celestial glory just beyond the veil of mortality. All my life, I've been taught that when we leave this life we either go to the following places: Heaven or Hell. That's the thing about going to various churches. You hear a lot of different of different dogmas. Mind you, growing up, the question would briefly touch my mind, only to be locked in a drawer until I think of it again.

Now that I am grown, I've pondered this question so much. I suppose it sort of helps when you end up attending funerals every year for family and friends. But I often sit there and try to imagine the deceased in a state of Glory. Especially children. I love the idea of them being cradled by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It provides me comfort. After a close friend miscarried, I asked my father while I was still sobbing why. Why were they not given a chance to live? Why were they not given a chance to experience the love of a family, to grow up and have a family of their own? My father replied that God protected them from what might have been a cruel life. That they are in Heaven. I took some comfort from it, but that question is still in my mind.

Then earlier this year, it was believed that I had cancer. And the doctor told me the serious reality of the situation if my results came back positive. I would have the 5th leading cause of death for women. Death. I always fancied myself as not being afraid of death, due to it being a step we all must take. I was wrong. The terror I felt was mind numbing and and unlike anything I ever felt. I started wondering if there really was a Heaven. What would happen to me once I cross the veil of mortality. Would it be to one of the Kingdoms as the scriptures say? Or would there be nothing but darkness. During a moment of despair, two wonderful friends of mine brought up Philippians 1:21-26 which speaks of death. They went on to say that I shouldn't fear death but make peace with it because I'd be going straight to Christ. We had discussions about Heaven and what would await us there. Mind you, these friends are of a different faith than myself. But it was still comforting and it brought back my rationality. A couple of days later, the test results came back negative. I was clean.

On February 5th, I came home to find out that a man named Josh Powell had killed his sons 7 year old Charlie and 5 year old Braden. I felt a whole variety of emotions including hope that there was a Heaven those babies were in, for they deserved Heaven. The fact that they are in Celestial Glory gives me comfort. The human heart that I have also hoped there was a Hell, and that Josh was in it. I realized that in some ways this was a wrong way to think so I repented, but I couldn't fathom his actions. I'll probably never.

The next day two of my sister's classmates died in a car accident. She came over after finding out and stayed over for a few hours while I cleaned house a bit. After she left, I found out from a friend that one of my friends from high school decided to end her life. The blow was acute. I went to a candlelight vigil and thought about these girls and wondered where they were at that precise moment. I just hope they are happy where they are.

There's a song that has brought me comfort through this. It's called "Tell Me There's A Heaven" written by Chris Rea. I really like the version sang by Michael Ball. This is a video I made.

The little girl she said to me
What are these things that I can see
Each night when I come home from school
When mama calls me in for tea
Oh every night a baby dies
And every night a mother cries
What makes those men do what they do
To make that person black and blue
Grandpa says their happy now
They sit with God in paradise
With angels' wings and still somehow
It makes me feel like ice

Tell me there's a heaven
Tell me that it's true
Tell me there's a reason
Why I'm seeing what I do
Tell me there's a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me they're all happy now
Papa tell me that it's so

So do I tell her that it's true
That there's a place for me and you
Where hungry children smile and say
We wouldn't have no other way

And I'm looking at the father and the son
And I'm looking at the mother and the daughter
And I'm watching them in tears of pain
And I'm watching them suffer
Don't tell that little girl
Tell me

Tell me there's a heaven
Tell me that it's true
Tell me there's a reason
Why I'm seeing what I do

Tell me there's a heaven
Where all those people go
Tell me they're all happy now
Father tell me that it's so

Tell me there's a heaven

Tell me

The answer to the question is: Yes. I believe in Heaven. I believe that these angels live with God and Jesus Christ. That Angels hold them. That I will hopefully one day go into one of the Kingdoms. That my family will be with me someday. I know this with my heart and soul. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Single Awareness Day/ St. Valentine's Day!

For those that have a better half- Happy St. Valentine's Day

For those that are still single- Happy Single Awareness Day

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day as we celebrate love and friendship. I myself am spending the remainder of it with an amazing person and friend. If you aren't spending it with someone, please do something for yourself and pamper as much as you please.

Myself being obsessed with music have been listening to my favourite songs that have to do with matters of the heart. It reminds me of my past relationships and the one I hope will soar. I will add the following:

Take Me as I Am- Jekyll and Hyde

In His Eyes- Jekyll and Hyde

Someone Like You- Andrea Bocelli

Love Only Knows- Josh Groban

Til I Hear You Sing- Love Never Dies

Love Never Dies- Sierra Boggess

I hope you all have a wonderful day cherishing and spending time with the choice of your hearts. And treat yourself as you should. Happy St.Valentine's Day! 


Monday, February 13, 2012

Best Movie Ever...

During afternoon tea, there's a stir in the air.
A bone-trembling chill that tells you she's there.
There are those who believe, that the the whole town is cursed.
But the house in the marsh is by far the worst.
What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back.
The spectre of darkness, the Woman in Black.

This last Friday I went to see this movie with my friends to celebrate my 23rd birthday. I had first seen the trailer back in September or October and was very excited. I love horror movies, though I've been severely disappointed over the years. Most have become too predictable, too hoaky and overall too stupid. The only movie that even came close to scaring the living daylights out of me was White Noise with Kevin Costner in it... Spoooooooooooky.... 

But when I saw the teaser trailer and it startled me, I became hopeful. I had been asked a few times what I wanted to do for my birthday which made this an easy decision. There were seven of us including my fifteen year old sister. To make things interesting I decided to go to the latest showing which was 10:20. We got there around 8 and decided to hang at Red Robin for a time. And of course some embarrassment occurred when my best friend let slip to her friend on the waitressing staff that it was my birthday so that led to me getting sung to and a free sundae... it tasted really good. I did have to refrain from committing homicide. 

Anyway, after a couple of hours we went back to the cinema and after a trip to the refreshment area, we settled in our seats above the area reserved for wheelchair occupants. I love this spot for two reasons a) the rails are great for feet rests and b) I don't have to worry about my claustrophobia. 

So, it started with a good startle and even the slower sections were interesting. It was one scary setting after another. One of my friends was freaking considerably throughout the movie and even I jumped a time or two. At one point there was one scene that caused the entire theatre to gasp and jump. One guy a few rows behind me let out a high pitch scream and then we could hear popcorn and candy just shower the floor. All of us laughed at that. It was such a perfect comic relief with impeccable timing. hahahahaha.....

But the story line was interesting, the acting superb. The best part was, I couldn't even predict what would happen next. It also kept me at the edge of my seat. The ending was shocking and even upsetting. My friends and I talked about it the entire car ride home. We also discussed the subject of Ghosts and hauntings, which I will be addressing in the next post. 

The bottom line is: If you like horror movies and haven't seen this yet, you need to grab a girlfriend/boyfriend/friend-friend and see The Woman in Black. Do not see it alone. It's that epically awesome! 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A question of my soul...

I just finished watching Emma Smith: My Story today after not seeing it in a few months. I'm kind of sad I waited so long to see it again. Because I was reminded just how much this film touches my heart.

I have to admit that in past years I was never certain how I felt about our church's Elect Lady. I admired her for her strength and for being the prophet's wife. However, I always wondered how she could not follow his successor, Brigham Young, and create a new life for herself. Did she lose faith? Was it pride that kept her there? These were questions that have crossed my mind when I think of her. I have to admit, that a part of me did feel less about her. Especially when I compared her to Mary Fielding Smith. While Mary was strong, so was Emma.

As a child her father prohibited prayer in the house so she would go to the barn and pray. Eventually her father caught her praying for him. It softened his heart and they became faithful again. I couldn't help but imagine the feeling I have whenever someone prays for me. The feeling is so tender and warming. I look up to Heaven and offer a prayer of thanks to my Father in Heaven for blessing me with the people I have in my life. For he has given me much.

Throughout the film I see time and time again Emma standing with Joseph comforting him, supporting him, laughing with him, counseling him and loving him. I could see what a rock she was in his life. She was his Northern Star which shone brightly and constant. I only hope that I may one day be that for my husband, whomever he may be. That I may be his shoulder to lean on, to be able to give him wise counsel and guide him through the storms.

At one point she in confronted by her father for believing Joseph and in the Book of Mormon. She simply said "Sometimes you know things with your heart. That you don't know with your head."  How many of us have desired a further proof that the gospel and teachings of the Church are true. I have been guilty of this a few times as I have many friends and family that do not believe in this faith. I have often thought to myself "If only I had the evidence to show them that it IS the true church, that we have the full and ever-lasting gospel with all the choice blessings that come with it." Emma was a shining example of the truthfulness of the gospel just as she was an example to our restoring prophet. 

Her trials also made her. Several miscarriages, complete estrangement from her family, constantly dealing with attacks on her and her people and eventually the lose of her Joseph. Many records say of her that she was strong and steady. I believe she never lost her faith in the gospel or Joseph. Even after the Saints followed Brigham to the west and she lived out her life in Nauvoo. When I think of her trials and how she bore them it makes me look at my own and how I handle them. I feel the desire to bear them better and to nourish and sustain my faith. After all, we "can't plant potatoes and get pumpkins." Sometimes it is so hard to remember that God does love us and desire our well being and our happiness but in order to really feel those things we have to suffer sorrow and loss. Otherwise, our blessings in life will not mean anything to us. It's the little things that makes our lives beautiful. The melody of a songbird, the warmth and brightness of the sun. A loving word and a caring touch. They don't require much but the rewards are endless.

That's one other thing I noticed about Emma. The loving service she gave to others. Upon organizing what is now called the 'Relief Society' she told them that they would do extraordinary things and that they should always be eager to do good. Once again this forced me to look at myself. I do Visiting Teaching, I cook and clean for my family, I do the occasional service project. But there's so much more I could do with my time. I plan to make good on that and serve as much and as many as I can. :)

The part of the film that made me tear up was the night before Joseph went to Carthage for what would become his Martyrdom and Emma asked Joseph for a blessing to which he suggested with tears streaming down his face that she write the blessing and he would sign it and she would get everything she desired. He spoke of how he looked forward to reading her blessing. Emma mentioned that strength isn't something you have. It is something God helps you to find. Her blessing said the following:

“First of all that I would crave as the richest of heaven’s blessings would be wisdom from my Heavenly Father bestowed daily, so that whatever I might do or say, I could not look back at the close of the day with regret, nor neglect the performance of any act that would bring a blessing. I desire the Spirit of God to know and understand myself, that I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God, when revealed through his servants without doubting. I desire a spirit of discernment, which is one of the promised blessings of the Holy Ghost.

“I particularly desire wisdom to bring up all the children that are, or may be committed to my charge, in such a manner that they will be useful ornaments in the Kingdom of God, and in a coming day arise up and call me blessed.
“I desire prudence that I may not through ambition abuse my body and cause it to become prematurely old and care-worn, but that I may wear a cheerful countenance, live to perform all the work that I covenanted to perform in the spirit-world and be a blessing to all who may in any wise need aught at my hands.

“I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband as my head, ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side, and I ask my Heavenly Father that through humility, I may be enabled to overcome that curse which was pronounced upon the daughters of Eve. I desire to see that I may rejoice with them in the blessings which God has in store for all who are willing to be obedient to his requirements. Finally, I desire that whatever may be my lot through life I may be enabled to acknowledge the hand of God in all things.”

As we know, Joseph never returned to sign it, but I cannot help but wonder if he read and signed it in Heaven. There is no doubt in my mind that the blessing was fulfilled completely. The final window of the movie mentioned that when she died her last words was "Joseph....Joseph....I'm coming.." I can only imagine what joy and peace she felt as she stepped through the veil that separates our human lives to our spirit ones. Or Joseph's pleasure and excitement as he met her there. The imagined sight brought a smile to my face.

As I watched this film and really looked at her story and I kept thinking, "I want to be like Emma." Her faith and devotion to the gospel, the church and her family just made her so wonderful in my eyes. I believe she was indeed a true elect lady of the Lord. This has given me so much desire to better myself so that I may be a better daughter of my Heavenly Father and better the lives of those around me and touch those who touch me and inspire me every day. I want to be like Emma.

I hope to eventually get this film for myself so I can watch it whenever I need insight and inspiration. For those of you that don't have it, I fully recommend this video. Especially to those whom are not a part of our faith. Emma's story is a wonderful one filled with loyalty, love and faith.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Personal Challenge List

These are the scheduled topics for the challenge. Anyone with any ideas, resources and what not please feel free to comment. Thank you very much in advance!

03 February 2012- The Priesthood
07 February 2012- The Apostasy 
14 February 2012- The Book of Mormon
18 February 2012- The Restoration 
22 February 2012- Personal Revelation 
26 February 2012- Temples
01 March 2012- The Godhead vs. Trinity
04 March 2012- The Plan of Salvation


Friday, February 3, 2012

A Personal Challenge.

I have some news that I am very excited over. One of my best friends, JB, is an Evangelical blogger (at Study and Faith), and you can read more about his story here) who's been really open and interested in learning both what we Latter-day Saints believe and why.  He's gone through the discussions, studied extensively, read the Book of Mormon, prayed for confirmation, and received a testimony that the Church isn't true after all.  But he's willing to be persuaded that maybe there's good reason to believe that the Church is true, and that's where I come in.  He's asked me to write him a paper making the case for what we Latter-day Saints believe, to try and convince him.  And I know he's really eager to hear me out and give a lot of prayerful thought to it.  This is hard work.  He's by far my hardest investigator, but it would mean the world to me if I could see him receive the fulness of the gospel.

Because there's so much to put into this, I am writing my paper in installments, and after I finish each one I plan to post it here.  Just yesterday I finished a rough draft of my first installment, which is about the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods.  After I finish the whole paper, JB is going to write me one explaining and defending his Evangelical beliefs and giving me his thoughts on my case. After all, it wouldn't be fair if I'm doing all the talking.  And then I get to try to write an answer to his paper back to him.

If any of you would pray for me, or if any of you have ideas for resources or arguments I could use, I would really appreciate that.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Are we walking the walk? Or are we only talking the talk?

Good Sabbath, everyone! I hope whatever you've been doing have been enjoyable to you and fulfills you well. My Sunday was wonderful. It was Fast and Testimony Sunday. So we sat in the chapel for Sacrament with empty stomachs and professed our faith to each other. I didn't go up to bear my testimony this month, but I'm thinking about doing it next month as February is my most important month. I'll elaborate on that next month.

In Relief Society this year we are studying the Teachings of President George Albert Smith, our 8th president of the Church. I am so glad to be getting back to the teachings of the Prophets. I had the pleasure of studying the Gospel Principles manual for the last two years. It really shaped my understanding of our fundamental doctrines. However, I have always loved learning what our previous prophets taught while they served and more importantly learning from the way they lived their lives.

Today we started studying the manual with Chapter 1 which is called 'Living What We Believe'. I think this is an important lesson for many reasons, but most of all, I think the title itself is packed with a moral that I have heard preached in many Christian churches. We all know it as "Practice What You Preach" or "Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk". I'm going to touch on this quite a bit in this post, but I hope you'll pardon my candor.

The line under the title states the following: "Our religion must find expression in our everyday lives." I've been thinking about this all day. What does this mean? Why is religion so important? Why is it something that must be present in our daily lives?

President Smith gave us some extremely wonderful points. When He was 34 years old he created a personal creed that he has lived by his entire life:

1) "I would be a friend to the friendless and find joy in ministering to the needs of the poor."

2) "I would visit the sick and afflicted and inspire in them a desire for faith to be healed."

3) "I would teach the truth to the understanding and blessing of all mankind"

4) "I would seek out the erring one and try to win him back to a righteous and happy life."

5) "I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals but rather love them into doing the thing that is right."

6) "I would live with the masses and help to solve their problems that their earth life may be happy."

7) "I would avoid the publicity of high positions and discourage the flattery of thoughtless friends."

8) "I would not knowingly wound the feelings of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend."

9) "I would overcome the tendency to selfishness and jealousy and rejoice in the successes of all the children of my Heavenly Father."

10) "I would not be an enemy to any living soul."

11) "Knowing that the Redeemer of mankind has offered to the world the only plan that will fully develop us and make us really happy here and hereafter, I feel it not only a duty but also a blessed privilege to disseminate this truth." 

That's quite a creed. I have read through these points several times and I have thought of memories of where these would be in my life.

1) "I would be a friend to the friendless and find joy in ministering to the needs of the poor." 

How many of us have ever felt lonely or friendless? I know I have. In High School I often sat by myself in the Cafeteria or in one of the corridors. Sometimes, I wanted to be alone. Other times, I just did it out of habit. It always made my day if someone said hello or even sat next to me and started a conversation. I'm very thankful for those that showed me that simple act of kindness.

What are your first thoughts when you see the word "poor"? Lack of wealth? Lack of health? Lack of.....well anything? I think there are several forms of being impoverished. Sometimes, it's on a monetary level. Sometimes, illness robs us of good health. And even on an emotional level, we can become "broke". I think we each have a duty, as Christians (and yes I am putting Latter-Day Saints in that category) to cater to those needs. It doesn't even have to be anything monumental, sometimes a shoulder or a comforting word is all it takes.

2) "I would visit the sick and afflicted and inspire in them a desire for faith to be healed."

"Faith to be healed." How many of us have ever witnessed a miracle? How many of us believe in miracles? I used to be skeptic when I was a teenager. Sure I believed the story of Jesus Christ, the creation and the things you can read in the Bible. But modern "praise Jesus" miracles? Not so much.... I think watching a few Televangelists kind of took the starch out of my belief at a young age.

But when I was 15, I knew a family whose newborn son was on life support. The doctor eventually told the parents that the life support would be shut off on a certain date, which happened to be a Sunday. I asked my parish to pray for the child. My brother and I both prayed fervently for the child to be spared. I fond out a few days later that not only was the child not only no longer on life support, but was breathing on his own, feeding on a regular basis, and would be going home in a couple of days. I've seen a few miracles since then, but never again have I doubted that miracles do exist.

I have talked to survivors of various cancers whom have told me that their survival in itself was a miracle. I once asked a Breast Cancer Survivor that's close to my family what she think attributed to her beating it, she told me that it was her faith in Jesus Christ that brought her through. I can't even begin to convey the feelings that entered my heart. All I could do was embrace her.

President Ezra Taft Benson said the following for President Smith: “I shall never cease to be grateful for the visits he made to my home while I was [away] serving as a humble missionary. … Particularly I am thankful for a visit in the still of the night when our little one lay at death’s door. Without any announcement, President Smith found time to come into that home and place his hands upon the head of that little one, held in her mother’s arms as she had been for many hours, and promise her complete recovery. This was President Smith, he always had time to help, particularly those who were sick, those who needed him most." (pg 2, pp 3)

I think we can check this part of the creed off for President Smith. 

3) "I would teach the truth to the understanding and blessing of all mankind"

I don't know about anyone else but this sounds like missionary work to me! Ever since Jesus and his 12 Apostles began proselyting to the Jews and Gentiles, we have adhered to the call in St. Matthew 24:14  which says that the Gospel will be taught to the entire world will be the witness of Christ for all the nations; we have been progressing in teaching the message of Christ. President Smith served in the Southern States Mission, Southern Utah, and eventually serving as President of the European Mission. That's a lot of missionary work.

Any readers have any favourite mission stories that they want to share?

4) "I would seek out the erring one and try to win him back to a righteous and happy life."

How many of us have seen someone we care about greatly make wrong choices? It's a really painful sight. Parents question their parenting abilities, friends question their guidance. Then comes that strong desire to get them to see the error of their ways. I've always been at a lost on the right way to go about it. But I think the next point really covers it well.

5) "I would not seek to force people to live up to my ideals but rather love them into doing the thing that is right."

I once asked my Facebook friends if there's a there was a difference between being judgmental and being steadfast in one's faith. Everyone that replied agreed that here is a difference. I think this ties well with the last point. You can't force someone to repent, but through Christ-like love and good example, you can soften their hearts and turn them to repentance.

6) "I would live with the masses and help to solve their problems that their earth life may be happy."

This one especially struck a cord with me. I'm the kind of person likes to help people with their problems. Sometimes, however, I'm so busy looking for a solution that I miss that what is really needed is a listening ear. Am I the only person with this problem? I wish I could make everyone happy, but I hope that good service will help in some measure.

7) "I would avoid the publicity of high positions and discourage the flattery of thoughtless friends."

Here's a tricky one. What is the difference between simple compliment and idle flattery? Is it an honesty issue? It would seem so to me. I once read the following in a book when I was younger: "Beware the candied tongue.....and through its sugary slime conceals the black heart." I find a lot of truth in this admonition. I've seen people use idle flattery to get something they want, I've been tempted to use it myself. But I am reminded of Daniel 11:21 which warns us against those who use flattery.

8) "I would not knowingly wound the feelings of any, not even one who may have wronged me, but would seek to do him good and make him my friend."

Aha! Here's one that I really need to work on. I found that I can forgive someone for their offenses against me....sometimes. But because of bruised pride, I have a really difficult time making friends with them. It's on my long list of things to improve before the Second Coming.......oy.....

President Smith really put his money where his mouth is with this account by President Spencer W. Kimball: “It was reported to [President Smith] that someone had stolen from his buggy the buggy robe. Instead of being angry, he responded: ‘I wish we knew who it was, so that we could give him the blanket also, for he must have been cold; and some food also, for he must have been hungry.’”

When I read this I was reminded of a story that I read, via my friend, JB's page (to whom I am much grateful for his amazing posts. It is a prime example of not only forgiveness, but of true Christian charity. It's quite similar to President Smith's action, but in a more modern and very turbulent time.

I hope that this will inspire anyone who reads this post. I think it's an action that will bring us closer to Christ.

9) "I would overcome the tendency to selfishness and jealousy and rejoice in the successes of all the children of my Heavenly Father."

How many of us have ever felt jealous of other people? I'm guilty of it. More than once. Then creeps in other emotions such as greed, hatred, bitterness..... until it bounds you. I think that's what Satan tries to use to capture us. Make us hate others for their successes, when we should be happy for them. I am thankful that this was brought to my attention. Because now I can add it to the list.

10) "I would not be an enemy to any living soul."

My first thought? Easier said than done...... How many of us have enemies? Perceived or otherwise? I know I do. Many I made, as wrong as that is. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were no enemies? I'm not suggesting a world wide hand holding, singing Kumbaya session. But if there was no wars, no hate, no fear of those different from you. That's one thing I am looking forward to in the Second Coming.

11) "Knowing that the Redeemer of mankind has offered to the world the only plan that will fully develop us and make us really happy here and hereafter, I feel it not only a duty but also a blessed privilege to disseminate this truth." 

I agree with President Smith on this point. The Plan of Salvation is the one that will make us better people, not only in the life, but the next. It's what makes life meaningful, as well as death. I also hope to spend the rest of my life teaching my fellow beings about it. There's a reason why it's also known as the Plan of Happiness. It truly makes people happy. I know it has brought such joy into my life. I know it to be true.

I have one more account of President Smith that I really was touched by: “His religion is not doctrine in cold storage. It is not theory. It means more to him than a beautiful plan to be admired. It is more than a philosophy of life. To one of his practical turn of mind, religion is the spirit in which a man lives, in which he does things, if it be only to say a kind word or give a cup of cold water. His religion must find expression in deeds. It must carry over into the details of daily life.”

 Which brings us to that over all question......what are we doing? Are we walking the walk of faith? Or are we just using words? I think that's the biggest question. I hope that I walk it more than talk it. After really looking at myself, I know I need to repent of a lot of things. I need to act on my beliefs. I need to incorporate my beliefs into my daily life so that the following could be said of me by those I leave behind: “(S)He was one of those few people of whom you can say (s)he lived as (s)he taught.”