Sunday, May 1, 2016

YW Lesson in review: What has Jesus Christ done for me?

YW Lesson in review: What has Jesus Christ done for me?

I was preparing this lesson for my 12-13 year old Young Women’s class. I thought it was a great idea to have the girls explore how Jesus Christ can help them in their lives now. I had some "Ah-ha!" moments I wanted to share about this particular lesson. I'll start with an activity that we did in class, and then share some insights I had when reflecting on what we discussed during the lesson.


What are some hard things you or a friend have gone through or are currently going through? Here’s a list of some things I thought of (feel free to think of your own and apply them here).

Losing a loved one
Putting up with a bully at school
Feeling lonely
Getting mad at annoying siblings
Being betrayed by a friend
Having someone yell at you
Letting someone down
Breaking a bone
Falling behind in school work
Feeling overwhelmed
Making a hard decision
Being around people that drag you down

Let’s go through a few of these and see how the Savior has prepared a way for us to get help with them.

Being around people that drag you down

Now, this isn’t something that is your fault, at least not directly. If there is something you can do to improve your situation, such as choose new friends or speak up to tell people to cut it out, if you pray and ask Him for help, He will help you have the courage to stand up to people or find a new friend group. In the case that you can’t do anything about it—like if the people are your family members—He can help you feel peace and resist becoming like them.

Getting mad at annoying siblings

This is a hard one! Especially if you have several siblings and they get on your nerves a lot. Chances are you have gotten mad at them and lashed out, only to regret it later. How can Jesus Christ help you with this one? He can soften your heart, give you a little extra patience, and help you love your siblings even more. He can help you make amends for the mean things you’ve done to them and get rid of the guilt you feel. You’ll still have to work hard to break old habits, but He can and will help you if you ask Him sincerely and often for help.

I think you get the picture. We went through a few of the points in the list we made and pointed out what the problem was, and how what the Savior has done could help them individually through it. We learned a lot about the different aspects of the Atonement, and how it applies to more than just forgiveness of sins.

Pulling out the Meaning

After our activity, these are a few specific things I could list out for what the Savior has done for us and what that means about His power to help us. 

What the Savior has done for us

He died for us so we can live again—and our loved ones will live again
He went through mortality so He could know how to succor us
He suffered for all of our sins so we can lay them on Him—and be forgiven
He was tempted with the temptations we face—and conquered them. He can teach us to do the same. (VT lesson for Feb)

That means that...

When we’re feeling alone, He can be there with us
When we need strength, He can strengthen us
When we are afraid and restless, He can bring us peace and calm
When we are confused, He can grant us clarity
When we have sinned, He can forgive us and teach us how to avoid future sin
When we die, through His power we will be resurrected.
When we seek truth, He can lead us there

All we need to do is seek His help by praying and really wanting Him to hear, and intending to do what He instructs us to do. There are many more items that could go on either list. What has the Savior done for you?

Isn’t it amazing all that He can do if we let Him? I have thought of the Savior too much like someone who was here in the past, but everything He did in the past was so He could help each of us in our present circumstances. He reaches out to us still. Wouldn’t it be foolish to turn down His help?

Additional Resources on this subject

Enabling power of the Atonement - "In the Strength of the Lord" by Elder David A. Bednar
VT message for March 2015 - He is long-suffering and patient
Come Follow Me lesson outline

Sunday, April 24, 2016


I wrote this a few weeks ago and wanted to write more and have more links before I published it. It's still not perfect, but that's kind of the point of this blog, right? To publish stuff even when it's not perfect. Ok, here we go.

I am so glad that I have the chance to do better, to change and put stupid things I've done behind me.  I believe in redemption and the ability to turn things around and start fresh. That power to change, to be redeemed, is available because Jesus Christ performed the atonement and paid the price for so many things (our sins, weaknesses, the injustices inherent in a fallen world), basically so that we could have the opportunity to become like Him and have everything He has—most notably, joy. But until recently I was unwittingly putting redemption in a box. I didn't recognize that redemption—the offer of our Savior to redeem me—applied to pretty much any aspect of my life that I cared to ask Him for help with. Indeed, I will need His help in every aspect of my life if I intend to pursue this course of exaltation with Him.
PC: weinstock on Pixabay

He can help me when I feel afraid.
He can help me when I feel too tired, but still have more to do before I can go to bed.
He can help me to stop beating myself up.
He can help me see what I need, not necessarily what I want really bad.
He can help me love when I feel like turning my back.
He can help me forgive. This one is crucial. Especially with forgiving yourself.
He can help me understand who I am.
He can help me realize I'm not the only person that has ever had a hard time.
He can help me be ok with just getting through a day.
He can help me see the good in things.
He can help me realize how far I have come when I feel like I am not getting anywhere.
He can help me realize I need help.
He can help me let go of my pride so I can reach out and ask for help...or forgiveness.

He will give me hope
He will give me peace
He will give me more than I could ever get for myself

Today the April 2016 LDS general conference adjourned. I wasn't able to listen that closely to all the messages because of the circumstances at my house, but I am looking forward to reading the talks when the transcripts are out. And I am grateful for the reminder that I can be redeemed in every aspect of my life.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Little gem

While reading over some notes in my scripture journal a little while ago, I came across this gem.

I was writing about how I often feel down on myself and get caught feeling like there's no way that I will be able to do all the things necessary to qualify for all the blessings promised to those who keep His law. I often feel this way about life in general, like there's no way I can possibly keep the house clean, or be the mom I want to be so I should just give up now. There are several things wrong with this thinking, but I want to illuminate one of them. One is the lie that the Savior doesn't want to save me because I've let Him down so many times already. 

In my journal entry I wrote this, "the fact that He is offering them [the blessings] to us, who He knows can be unfaithful and inconstant and will need to use repentance, means that He knows I'll mess up, and He has provided a way for me to still obtain those blessings. Otherwise all of those promises would be a lie. And even though I doubt myself, I do not doubt God and His ability to redeem us." 

Christ Walking on the Water, by Robert T. Barrett
Christ invited Peter to walk on the water.
Christ Walking on the Water, by Robert T. Barrett, from media library

He will help because He has promised to. No matter how much I doubt my lovability, I trust His word. We cannot be perfect without Him. I'm glad He loves us so He will help us climb out of the pits we find ourselves in . . . over and over and over again. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Definite ?

I wrote the following after realizing that I haven't posted here for a while because I haven't felt like I have a lot of definite things to say. Then I wondered if writing about all the things I wonder about, and even the unclosed wonder I feel when I am in nature, had merit too, even if it didn't have a definitive "point." In this piece I explore this idea. 

What if the journey was the point?
(photo by RhinoMind, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Declaration   ? 

When I sit down to write, I seek to write a declaration.  
But what if all I have are questions, wondering, a quest?  

I don't often have things to say that end in a satisfying period.  
More often they end in a ?  

What if, by writing, I sought to understand, rather than be understood?  
What if I looked for questions and intriguing riddles, unconcerned for a moment about the answers? 
What if I rejoiced in wonder? In raindrops and who cares why? 
What if I allow myself to sit in mystery and revel in the unknown, to note areas with shades darkness, and be unflapped about not knowing all of it? 
What if I threw up my arms in the air and cried, joyfully, "I have no idea!"? 
What if I sought to open all the books I could, and thus open my mind, rather than seeking to close it (I get it now, and that is that)? 
What if my quest didn't end at the end of a page, but rather launched from it? 
What if I was less consumed by the destination, and danced more as I traveled? What if enjoying the journey is the point, anyway?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Yes, I'd like help down from this tree"

I'm posting today to just share an intriguing thought.

How we respond to the trials in our lives says a lot about us. I think that's a true statement. We have all met someone who could tell you all the hard times they've had, and are still having, and how awful and stupid their life is, and how they wish they had all your luck... It's almost comical (if it weren't so irking) to see how they twist the events to show how they're the victim. I have tried hard to avoid being that person in conversations. Maybe that's why I've come to think (consciously or not) that recognizing that I'm having a hard time or talking about how hard things have been constituted as wallowing and complaining.

This mentality manifests itself in my life in many ways, but I want to talk about one of them today. One particularly damaging part of this mentality (of avoiding talking about the negative) is that it distances you from people who could help you. It's hard to ask for help if you won't even acknowledge that you need it.

I was talking with a family member after having my baby about how things had been going that first week home when it occured to me that I was tottering between two states while I talked with her—wanting to show that I was grateful for all the things that were going well and not being "complainy," and wanting to share how truly worn out I was and how I was struggling emotionally. I was trying to do both at once, and that was making it hard to share my whole experience with her.

Then it struck me that if I would acknowledge the more "dark" side of how I felt, she might be able to help me feel better. And I wanted to feel better.

If I freely shared with her the true depth of sadness and pain I was experiencing, then I could allow her to help me in a very real way, either by listening and validating what I was saying or continuing to give support as I eased into my new role. And later on we could both say that she had served me. If I didn't recognize and share how bad I really was feeling, I would be refusing to let her help me to the extent that I really needed. If she did help and later on I refused to see how low I had gone, I would also be blind to how much she had lifted me. I wouldn't be able to obscure the darker elements of how I felt without diminishing the great service she rendered me.

I think this especially applies in our relationship with the Savior. It can be tempting to ignore the harshness and dire consequences for those who sin after the Fall (i.e., all of us), because eternal damnation doesn't sit well with most people. But if we ignore how lost and fallen we are, we are refusing to allow Him to help us because we are refusing to acknowledge that that help is needed, let alone to ask Him for it.

Credit: ballswinger on Pixabay
Also, if I refuse to accept that I'm struggling, or that my struggle is, yes, really hard for me, then I'm robbing the Savior of the glory I could give Him for saving me. It's like the difference between the acclaim deserved by someone who single-handedly rescued a room full of children from the murderous intentions of rouge militants and the light kudos deserved by someone who saved the house cat from the tree it climbed and was too scared to alight from. Maybe by refusing to say I'm having a really, REALLY hard time, I'm refusing to say that the Savior can help and heal us through really, REALLY hard things—because He is THAT powerful.

And I don't want to deny the power of Christ, or to withhold the praise He deserves. So I am trying to be more honest about how I'm actually doing when those close to me ask—in the positive aspects of my life as well as the negative ones.

(I should add that I'm doing fine—my experience having a baby was wonderful and hard at the same time. Those closest to me have and are helping me with the adjustments, including the emotional rollercoaster that hormones facilitate.)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Becoming Born of Christ

As I was preparing for a lesson to teach my YW class, I came across a verse in Mosiah that made me say "hmm." It is during the speech that King Benjamin gives to his people before he dies. He had taught them about the gospel of Jesus Christ, and throughout invited them to become better and take responsibility for their own actions. This is the verse:
"And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters." (Mosiah 5:7)
 It came after this verse, of the people explaining the covenant they desired to make:
"And we are willing to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment, as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God." (Mosiah 5:5)
The phrase that stuck out to me was "ye are born of him [Christ]"—and the phrase "he [Christ] hath spiritually begotten you." This probably stuck out to me because I have been interested in pregnancy and birth lately. Let's see what we may be able to learn by delving into this metaphor. How does Christ spiritually beget us? How does this process come about? How can we help it? What does that mean about our relationship to Him?

King Benjamin tells us how he knows that the people were born of Christ. He says "for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him." So the evidence of being born of Christ is having our hearts changed through faith on His name. 

How does this change come about? The people's change in their hearts began when they listened to the prophet's voice, believed his words, and then received a more sure testimony that what he taught was true (Mosiah 5:2,4).  
Mosiah 5:4
"And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy."
That sounds really cool! How can I exercise faith in the words of prophets, so I can come to a great knowledge, cease to desire to do evil, and then be able to rejoice with great joy?

A look at King Benjamin's people's progression to this point uncovers that they had a very active role in becoming born of Christ.
  1. First, they listened to the words of their prophet.
  2. Then the fear of the Lord came upon them. (Mosiah 4:1)
  3. They "viewed themselves in their own carnal state" and called with one voice (suggesting unity with each other?) to the Lord for mercy and to apply the atoning blood of Christ so they could receive forgiveness of their sins, and so their hearts would be purified. (Mosiah 4:2)
  4. They express belief—faith—in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. (Mosiah 4:2)
And as a result of those sincere desires, faith, and action, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, bringing them 1) joy, 2) a knowledge of a remission of their sins, and 3) peace of conscience. (Mosiah 4:3)

Basically they repented of their sins, received a witness of the Spirit, and (from earlier in the post) had their very hearts and desires change for the better. And then they desired to covenant with the Lord, and became born of Christ.

I think it's cool how clear these steps are, for how amazing the consequences are. Who doesn't want joy, to know they've been forgiven of their sins, and peace in their hearts?

Looking at these chapters has made me want to learn more about being born of Christ. How else is repenting and making covenants like being born? How else does it affect us? How is it related to the ordinance of baptism? What does it mean for our relationship with Christ and the Father? How does the progression go from there—are there more parallels with a new and developing baby? I have a feeling all of the answers will be simple ones I already know about the gospel, but looking at things I already know from a new perspective can be pretty cool, so I'm going to try it!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Marriage and Family and Truth

I felt a profound sadness when I heard about the US Supreme Court decision on June 26. Initially I felt disinclined to share my thoughts about it, until I realized that if I don't share them, then people will never know what I think. So I'll share a few things that have come to mind.

I believe in the marriage of a man and a woman because that is what is necessary for God's plan of happiness to work. God ordained this specific union to be the way for His children to achieve certain blessings only available to families, and families connected through generations. The way that God provided for that to happen was for a man and a woman to be married, unite emotionally, spiritually, and physically, to create a family unit, starting with just the two of them. This family unit would have the gifts and contributions of both of the sexes, and would offer them unique opportunities to learn and grow by working together toward creating a unit that would last through time and eternity.

In order for us to learn and grow, we needed to obtain physical bodies to house our spiritual bodies. Through their physical union, both the husband and wife contribute to the beginning of a new body forming. Then the woman's body nurtures it and helps it grow, and the baby (body and spirit) is born to the couple. It is their responsibility to see that the baby is fed, clothed, taught, and otherwise taken care of. They naturally love the child, and have a natural incentive to care for it—in a sense, it is theirs.

Creating bodies for (inviting to come to earth) and raising children is not the only purpose of marriage. Couples married in God's way are sealed for eternity, and they are promised blessings that depend on them staying a couple, together forever. The blessings they receive are for both of them, obtained only together. I believe that marriage is meant to last forever, and that God has additional purposes for it beyond the grave, some that we cannot even fathom.

Our wedding rings
 Photo by Jessica Kiel
But why does this matter in a discussion about a law that will only be here on earth, in one nation on earth?

Truth affects all of us, no matter how aware we are of it. Fighting against the truth or acting contrary to what it teaches us does not bring progression. When we deny a power like God, or moral law, we choose to act contrary to truth, and lay ourselves bare to the inevitable negative consequences, just as we receive positive consequences for choosing to act according to the truth (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21). For example, lying to a friend to cover up something you did will make you feel bad inside, and will damage your relationship with your friend. Pretending that lying is good does not change the consequence for doing it.

I want to live in a nation that recognizes truth and acts accordingly. Or at least doesn't act completely contrary to truth for the sake of popularity or political correctness or whatever.

When "marriage equality" is treated as a civil right, it threatens my ability to act on the truth that I know without persecution. And that is bad, especially when the very things I see as wrong, and the actions and lifestyles I want to teach my children to avoid, are not only ratified by, but also promoted by, the country I live in. It  also threatens to make it not only acceptable but the reigning policy to persecute me and treat me like a bigot for not recognizing what the state now defines as a civil right. All because I believe an eternal law that contradicts what is now national law.

Condoning a relationship that inevitably leads to serious sin is not tasteful to me. But not because I hate people who choose to live a gay lifestyle—it's because I hate to see what they're doing to themselves. Acting on homosexual feelings is sin. Sin separates us from God. I don't want to encourage, or participate in celebrating, behavior that separates anyone from God.

I hope we can learn to learn and act according to truth, loving individuals and being tolerant of others' beliefs in the process.

Additional places to learn about the importance of family in God's plan:
The Proclamation to the World: The Family
"Why Marriage, Why Family" by D. Todd Christofferson
"'Guardians of the Hearth': Establishing, Nurturing, and Defending the Family" from Daughters in my Kingdom
Letter responding to the Supreme Court ruling