Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Them That Honour Me Will I Honour"

 



 Remember that little pity party I threw myself here? Well, note to self: never murmur, and rejoice in all things....(grateful for another opportunity to learn)

 

“Them That Honour Me Will I Honour”
Stake Conference Jan. 2016


Recently I read the book Man's Search For Meaning, in it Dr. Viktor Frankl points out that life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, nor is it a quest for power, it is a quest for meaning. Having chosen to make his life's work in the field of psychology, Dr. Frankl was able to look deeper at his own experiences as a concentration camp prisoner and at prison life as a whole. Analyzing man and their responses to such terrible suffering, he questioned, under such excruciating circumstances not why so many died, but why anyone survived at all. In the end, he concluded that the survivors all had one common thread in their understanding: they had a tenacious belief that their suffering had meaning.

When I think of the word tenacious, a sense of holding fast to something comes to mind, even when obstacles arise. Further, it is defined as being persistent; having an obstinate determination to accomplish some work or task that has been undertaken. Tenacity would seem then, is a quality worth developing, especially in our youth and young adults. Those without tenacity may strive halfheartedly against an obstacle, only to give up and quit when it becomes too difficult; others may quit before they have even begun because their task seems insurmountable.

Looking at the life of Joseph Smith, we find another example of this tenacious mindset. On one occasion, after multiple trials already endured, the prophet Joseph said to his cousin, George A. Smith: "Never be discouraged. If I were sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia, with the Rocky Mountains piled on me, I would hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I would come out on top.” (John Henry Evans, Joseph Smith, an American Prophet, New York: MacMillan Co., 1946, p. 9.) From where we sit today, knowing the end from the beginning, one might question how is dying as a martyr coming "out on top"? The Prophet Joseph Smith understood that his suffering in life had meaning and therefore he courageously and tenaciously went forward, despite many difficulties and despair.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Family is the most important social unit in time and eternity. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life. (Family Guidebook; Organization and Purpose of the Family) With this truth in mind, we might wonder then why much of our own personal suffering, heartaches, and sorrows come from living in a Family. This is not new to our day and time, countless examples have come before us. The scriptures are full of familiar family sufferings. Sibling rivalry, wayward children, complaining spouses, husbands that work long hours, parents that exercise unrighteous dominion. Even our first parents, Adam and Eve, had a moment of disagreement when that great serpent was allowed into the Garden of Eden. These family experiences have been recorded so that we may learn from them; each, in turn, teaching a principle or truth that we can apply in our day now. One such scriptural experience is that of the family of Lehi. With our Sunday School classes teaching the Book of Mormon this year, this account should be fresh on our minds.

Having left the comforts of their home, Lehi's family undertakes a new journey, and as is common amongst traveling families, the parents are forced to endure fighting children right from the get go. Nevertheless, they press forward facing the uncertainty of the road ahead and the ending to which they will travel. As a father, what a difficult and heavy burden Lehi had to carry. I'm sure concern and anxiety for the welfare of his family weighed heavily upon his shoulders. Always merciful and tender in His teaching, the Lord gives Lehi a vision to strengthen him and give direction. I am speaking of the vision of the tree of life.

We learn through Lehi, and his son Nephi that the iron rod in this dream is a representation of the word of God. For our purposes today, we are going to think of the iron rod in terms of the truth and doctrine of the establishment of the family. The account tells of a narrow path surrounded by dangerous obstacles. Those who hold on tightly to the doctrine of the family are mocked and persecuted. Many fall away and are lost to the wide uncertain path, the filthy river, and the great and spacious building. Others grab hold of the truth and press forward. For all of the different travelers, an already difficult journey gets even more difficult when a mist of darkness obscures their vision.
Lehi says, “And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost”. (1 Nephi 8:23)

It is important to note that the "mists of darkness" descended upon all of the travelers, from the disciplined and faithful, to the ungrounded and questioning soul. These mists have the potential power to "blind the eyes, and harden the hearts of the children of men". (1 Nephi 12:17)

Trials and tribulations, or in other words "exceedingly great mists" within the family come in many forms: death, disability, a marriage that is different than expected, no marriage, mental illnesses of many forms, loss of job, loneliness, physical illness, a wayward son or daughter, parents who make mistakes, divorce. The list is endless. Even in the supposed ideal family there are challenges to be faced. No marriage is free of disagreement; no relationship is free from travail of some sort.

Where are we to find light and hope when such obscuring mists of darkness surround our families and us personally?

Nephi says “...[there] were multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to [that] rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree,” meaning, the tree of life which he learned is a representation of the love of God. (1 Nephi 8:30; 1 Nephi 11:22)

Viewing this manifestation of God’s love, Nephi goes on to say:
“I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, … [who] went forth ministering unto the people…
“… And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted… and they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God...” (1Nephi 11:28-31)
"...And [whoso] would hold fast unto [the word of God], they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction." (1 Nephi 15:24)

If we hold fast to the doctrine of the family and all other truths we have been given, it will lead us to the tree of life, or the love of God, which is given in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. All truth points to Jesus Christ. He is our safe harbor.

As much as we would like each of our family members to take hold of the word of God, and the doctrine of the family with both hands, we are powerless to make them. We can only take hold ourselves. With that choice we demonstrate our level of trust in God the Father and our trust in the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. The mists of darkness will always work to obscure our vision, and we might suffer deep loss in many forms along the way, but just prior to learning of the tree of life, Nephi teaches us another lesson as he follows God’s commandment to make two separate records.

He says “…I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.”
“…Wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.”
“Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.”
“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words…” (1 Nephi 9:3-6)

We know from latter day experience that the hand of God was already at work to compensate for the manuscript lost by Martin Harris. In answer to Joseph Smith’s lamenting cries to the Lord regarding the lost pages, the Lord answers him saying “behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel…” (D&C 10:45)
Not only did God work to replace that which was lost, He provided something greater in its place. It is comforting to know that the Lord will compensate for the sorrows of our losses in life. When one door closes He will open another, if we but tenaciously hold fast to the truths we have been given, and come unto Christ trusting in his merits, mercy and grace. Through that demonstration of faith in Him, we can be enabled beyond our own capacity to walk the road we have been given, with all of its surrounding dangers and mists of darkness.

I understand that these are just words which I speak today, that the difficulty comes in the living, but I give you my testimony that so does the power. Look to Christ. Tenaciously hold onto truth. I know He will make up the difference and losses in your life as I have seen Him do in mine. Stated in Samuel the Lord makes this promise “…them that honour me will I honour.” (1Samuel 2:30) Trust in that promise.

Let me leave you with one closing thought from Elder Holland:
“Love. Healing. Help. Hope. This is the power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” That phrase—taken from Moroni’s final lines of testimony, written 1,000 years after Lehi’s vision—is a dying man’s testimony of the only true way.” (Elder Holland 2009 General Conference)

I add my testimony and witness that Jesus Christ is the only true way. God lives. Jesus came to earth to enact the great and atoning sacrifice on our behalf. The power of the atonement is real; it can mend relationships both here and now, and in the eternity. Family relationships perpetuate beyond the grave. I have come to know this in a very personal way.

Adversity, when confronted with faith, courage, and tenacity, can be overcome, for us personally and for our families. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Complaining


http://www.chocolateboxwriters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/complain.jpg 



Another 2016 New Year's Resolution for me. Not that I am generally a major complainer in life, I just feel like I have slipped into a bad habit the last year and half. Most of the complaining happens in my head, the rest is heard by my hubby and dearest non-judgmental friends. Since it's the year of the Book of Mormon in Sunday School, let's start there for examples and learning.
(I have touched a little on this subject once before here. Like many aspects of life, we always need a little tune up. The longer I have this little blog, the more I like the fact that I can go back and re-learn what  have already learned. Oh the folly of human nature, we are forgetful students.)

1 Nephi 5- Sariah complains against Lehi(oh dear)
Surprisingly this is not a marriage post, although it could easily be turned into one. This is a gratitude post because that is where my studying took me. In the first few chapters of Nephi, murmuring is clearly one of the lessons we are to learn -not- to do. Ideally we should be as Nephi and Sam, turning our hearts to the Lord and be believing, stoically going forward when the Lord gives a commandment. However, if we read this account and merely view the words as just historical facts, then we miss so much. Let's do a little visualization with Sariah in mind. 
Sariah is a wife, mother, daughter of God. Her husband has just had his life threatened by some very angry people. She wants safety for her family as much as her husband does. They leave their comfortable home, traveling around 14 days into unknown territory and make camp. She listens to her children fight and complain, she has to endure days and days of worry as she sends her children back to that life threatening city they had just left. She has to sleep, and cook, and live in a tent with all of the natural elements that come with the outdoors. If anyone has a right to complain about her current situation it is Sariah. (I must give her credit for silencing her complaints up until this point, surely my husband would have heard about it from me long before now.) She is tired, her body probably hurts in some way from all of the travel and sleeping on the ground. She thinks she has lost all of her children. She has reached the end of her limits as a mother, as a wife, as a child of God. My heart aches for her now as I visualize all that she has gone through. So she complains, poor, tired, grieving Sariah complains. 
It is here that I begin to question, what am I to learn from this? Sariah is experiencing very hard things, what am I to do then when I experience hard things?
There is a footnote on the word 'complain'. Footnote 2a tells me if I want more information to see TG(topical guide) Murmuring. Under 'Murmuring' it says "See also, Disobedience; Disputations; Ingratitude; Rebellion". The word Ingratitude stood out to me which recalled to my memory President Uchtdorf's talk Grateful in Any Circumstance. What on earth did Sariah have left to be grateful for? Her world was falling apart. President Uchtdorf kindly teaches us, when we find ourselves in such difficult situations as Sariah's:
"Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be."   
He further adds "Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done. True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will." 

Lesson learned: True gratitude is an act of faith in God and an expression of testimony. I want to be known by my Savior and God as being grateful, in any circumstance, because I love them.



Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Prospects of a New Year


 


The word 'prospects' as a noun suggests to the mind some sort of promising future outlook. It is further clarified in the dictionary as: an apparent probability of advancement, success; something in the view as a source of profit; anticipation; expectation; a looking forward.
I generally look forward to the starting of a new year and its many prospects. Although, having ended the year 2014 in grief, I don't remember being to keen on the start of 2015. (I insert this detail in case any of you readers are feeling the same thing and not really looking forward to a new year. Grief is so very heavy and I am deeply sorry for your loss. I promise, with time, healing takes place and you will once again experience the joy of new beginnings. Give it time.) Having my heart somewhat healing, and recognizing all that I am blessed with, has renewed my enthusiasm for a new year and the many possible resolutions I can make.
Several months ago I began to feel like I had reached a crossroad in life. All my children are in school all day, a life milestone that caused both mourning and joy, so my days are now freer. While being available during the day if my kids should need something, and helping in their school is very important to me, I still felt lacking. I told my hubby we needed to have more babies, when that didn't happen, I decided to take my patriarchal blessing to the temple and study out what the Lord wanted me to do. My hubby and I talked about me possibly going back to school. Over the Christmas break we looked into Pathway. An LDS Church program designed to help people obtain an education online through BYUI. It just so happened that they had a Winter start semester and I could still apply and get on the waiting list. So we went forward. I was accepted into the program and have now begun a long slow road to a bachelors degree. I am excited and overwhelmed at the same time, but I look forward to this 2016 new year's resolution and all of its many prospects!