Saturday, November 30, 2013

Of Primary Importance: I Will Go; I Will Do!

Because the LDS Church does not have paid clergy, the members are asked to serve each other. Everyone from our bishop to the nursery teachers serves voluntarily and without pay.

Although we serve voluntarily, sometimes we're asked to serve in ways we never would have dreamed of volunteering for ourselves.

About a year ago, I was happily serving as the Webelos Den Assistant for our congregation's Cub Scout pack, performing science experiments and playing marbles, all in the name of helping the boys earn activity badges. Until one day, when a leader of our congregation asked me to serve instead as the Primary chorister--the music leader for the children ages 18 months to 11 years. In a moment of panic, several memories raced through my mind:

    1. The one time in my life I almost didn't escape singing in front of other people: second grade music class when everyone had to take a turn singing a solo--even if you didn't want to. The very thought was petrifying to my 8-year-old self, and so when the teacher asked if she had missed anybody, I didn't raise my hand. Miraculously, she didn't notice that she had skipped me, and I was spared the humiliation. (I probably shouldn't even be telling this story on a Mormon blog, since honesty is one of our basic tenets, but to me it seemed a modern-day miracle.)
    1. And the only previous experience I'd had teaching children to sing, which was a first-grade holiday program. It succeeded only thanks to my fellow teachers and quite in spite of my ineptitude.

And so I asked my leader if he was sure he had the right person. You see, although I love music, I prefer to enjoy it from behind the piano or in the orchestra pit. And anyone who's heard me sing probably prefers that I enjoy it from there, too.

But the next thought that came to my mind was part of a song I had learned from my Primary music leader years ago:

I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.
(Listen to or read the full song here)

So I accepted the invitation to serve in a way that seemed totally outside the realm of my abilities. And now, one year later I know it was the right choice.

Have I miraculously become a better singer?  Ha, certainly not. The kids can attest to this fact. They still like to point out that "we can't hear you!" anytime I try to sing a line of a song by myself. Am I now comfortable singing by myself in front of others?  Well, maybe I'm not as petrified as I used to be, but only if none of my audience is more than 11 years old.

But what I have gained is an opportunity to again use the skills and creativity I learned by being an elementary school teacher. I've gained a multitude of new little friends, whom I have grown to love more and more as I've served them and as they squeal my name or wave shyly when we pass in the hallway at church.

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And perhaps, best of all, I've gained the chance to learn and relearn the beautiful songs of the Primary Children's Songbook. They teach, in the most basic terms, what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.
The songs explain our beliefs about life in heaven; about prayer, thankfulness, and reverence; about the mission of the Savior; about the principles of the gospel; about the importance of home, family, and heritage; about the beauty of nature and the seasons; and about the need for fun and activity. (from Preface to the Children's Songbook)

Want to know what the song the kids and I worked on first?  It goes like this:
I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.

For an infographic about our lay ministry, click here
Children's Songbook Cover source

Published by Shellie

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gratitude for the Gospel of Jesus Christ

I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was two months shy of my 19th birthday. I was a freshman in college at a small private university a long way from home, and to say that my family was disappointed with this decision is a grand understatement.

I learned about the LDS Church, or “the Mormons” when I was in high school. I had made friends that were Mormon, but I'd never thought twice about what that meant. They were my friends who didn't wear tank tops when it got hot outside. I thought that was weird, but didn't question it much. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that I even bothered to ask what “being Mormon” meant. I got the last seat on the bus after an away swim meet, and it was next to the quietest girl I'd ever met. I had never heard her say more than two or three words in a row, and only when spoken to. So I knew I was in for a long three-hour bus ride when I sat next to her. I could either sit in silence, staring at the seat in front of me for the next three hours, or:

“Hey, aren't you a Mormon?”
“Yes.”
“Um, sorry, what is a Mormon?”

When we got off the bus three hours later, she was still talking! Her name was Erin, and she had just told me everything she knew about being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My head was reeling from the story about a boy finding gold plates that were buried in New York and translating it into the Book of Mormon almost 200 years ago, and the stories of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Alma the Younger, and...what were those other names? She told me about prophets and apostles, General Conference, missionaries, seminary and family home evening. I was so overwhelmed. I was curious. Erin surprised me with her genuine love of “being a Mormon” which enabled her to get over her otherwise paralyzing shyness.

While there were some “defining moments” when friends actively told me what they believed and taught me the gospel, most of what I remember are not specific instances or words spoken, but the impressions that they left on me.

It was almost four years after first talking to Erin that I was finally baptized. My family was very much opposed to the idea, and had asked me not to come home. My sisters didn't speak to me for months. My formerly close relationship with my mother was so tense that we often ended phone calls in arguments. It was never an easy choice to become a Latter-day Saint, but I knew both in my heart and in my mind, just as I know now, that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. I know that there are living prophets and apostles sent to lead and guide us back to Jesus Christ. They are His special witnesses. I know that the Book of Mormon is a true and ancient record comparable to the Holy Bible. Having that sure testimony gave me courage and hope that our relationships would repair, and having the gospel in my life was worth every sacrifice. 

      I am most grateful for all of the friends that I made in Oregon that lived their lives in such a way that I would want to be like them, to be as happy and joyful as they were. There was Susan's family who were our neighbors and gave us a Book of Mormon for Christmas when my family moved to Oregon. There was Dayton, Lakin, Chanelle, Shanna, Phil...all of whom were just older than me, but examples in every way. Danielle, Erin, Tiffany, Camilla and Janet were good friends that took the time to explain things to me that I wasn't familiar with. I yearned to have family relationships like Elicia, Skyler, BriAnne, Emily, Jordan, Grant and Diane had. They actually liked spending time with their family! My friends Brian and Adam answered, or attempted to answer, every question of doctrine and every point of anti-Mormon literature I could throw at them. 


I am so grateful for these friends and many, many more who stuck with me through thick and thin, and whom I still call good friends today. I am grateful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and for the many blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I see these blessings in my life every day, just as I saw them in the lives of my friends in high school. I wanted whatever it was that made them such hopeful, happy people, and the message of the gospel is that we can all have the joy and peace and hope of Jesus Christ now. Happiness does not have to wait for heaven—it can be here and now through the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

By Guest Blogger: Brianna

Thursday, November 28, 2013

We All Need Lighthouses in Our Lives

I heard an urban legend about a naval ship receiving instructions recommending a change of direction:
Ship 1: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.
Radio Response: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.
Ship 1: This is the captain speaking, I say again, divert your course.
Radio Response: No I say again, you divert your course.
Ship 1: I am the captain of the largest battleship in the fleet, I demand you change your course 15 degrees or countermeasures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship
Radio Response: This is the lighthouse. Your call.
I believe that all truths can be circumscribed into one great whole. This is the gospel's plan of happiness. As we learn about each eternal truth and keep the commandments, we have the opportunity to become like our Heavenly Father. However, to do so often requires a change of direction in our lives. Often times we have a perspective different from Heavenly Father. Similar to the captain of the ship, we need to understand the truth about our position. In order to understand the truth about the gospel, perform eternal ordinances, and fulfill our purpose in life we need God’s Church. I am so grateful for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know by following its teachings we can each find the path of light necessary to reach the ultimate goal of obtaining eternal life. 
I have been reflecting on things in my life that don't reflect my true position. One example is technology. I started noticing how much people use technology- such as smart phones, iPads, and TV- to relax and spend time with their family. While this is one way to spend time, it isn't quality. This important lesson was taught by Church Apostle, Elder David A. Bednar, in a talk called, Things as They Really Are.

However, similar to the ship's captain, I refused to acknowledge the revelation of a modern day lighthouse. One day while decompressing after work by watching TV, I received a spiritual prompting to should turn off the TV and read children's books to my kids. Doing so has strengthened my relationship with them. As time passes by, I reflect at some of the most fond memories I have experienced. Sadly watching TV isn't one of them. What is surprising is it's the small things- that I almost avoided at the time because I wanted to relax- which later turned out to be my favorite experiences in life. 

Another example is spending time with my youngest son. After coming home from a three and a half month work trip, my family and I decided to go to a nice hotel to spend time together. At this point my son was just learning how to walk and needed a hand to hold if he wanted to get further than a few steps. Since I felt fatigued it would have been faster and easier to have just carried him. However, I decided he and I were going to walk hundreds of yards together down hallway after hallway. I was surprised to see just how much he could walk by holding my hands as well as the big smile on his face. I wish I had listened to the lighthouses in my life the first time. I promise you that this church is the only place that contains the eternal truths necessary to achieve God's Plan of Happiness. By following the modern day prophet's and apostles' teachings, I have been able to change my life based upon my true position with the Lord. I invite all to partake of this modern day lighthouse.
I'm a Mormon. Published by Guest Blogger, Ross

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gratitude for the Atonement of Jesus Christ

As I ponder in this season of Thanksgiving what I am grateful for, what comes to mind first and foremost is the grace of my Savior Jesus Christ who died so that I might live. I was recently asked, "Why did Jesus have to suffer so much for us?". After all, if God is all powerful then why can’t He just forgive our sins without the need for Jesus Christ to suffer? It’s a fair question and my first response was to explain the eternal nature of laws that even God abides by. Principally the law of justice, the Book of Mormon explains this law and Christ’s role in fulfilling it:
And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah: for He is full of grace and truth.
In essence, Christ had to die for our sins because the law of justice requires that someone suffer for them. I do not dispute this as truth, however I think there is more to it all than simply Christ dying to fulfill a law. Consider for a moment how you would feel towards someone who had saved your life. No doubt you would be grateful beyond description, it would certainly change how you view that person and may change your entire outlook on life itself. So it is with the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I believe he died for us not just because the law required that someone die for our sins, but so we can humble ourselves in realizing that we are forever indebted to him. And in so doing we become more like God, and more prepared to receive His power and glory.

Ironically it is when we recognize our weaknesses and confess them to God that we exhibit the most strength. The Lord gives us weakness that we may be humble, and if we humble ourselves before God, then will he make weak things become strong unto us (See the Book of Mormon, Ether 12:27)

Elder Richard G. Scott, Church Apostle, said of weakness, “Whereas the Lord warns the unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy.” It is through the mercy of Jesus Christ’s Atonement that we can overcome our weaknesses and make what was once weak, strong. Had it not been for the Atonement, I believe that strengthening that comes through humility would not occur when we repent.

And so it is this Thanksgiving, I give thanks not only to Jesus Christ for what He did for me, but also to God for structuring His plan in a way that could help me realize my dependency on Christ helps me come closer to Him.

Published by Brock 
1. The Book of Mormon. 2 Nephi 2:5-6.
2. Church Apostle, Richard G. Scott. Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. October 2013, General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why I'm Grateful for My Old, Faded Sofas

When you walk in my living room, you can’t help but notice my hand-me-down sofas.  I’m no interior designer, but even I can tell they’re dated.  Having once belonged to my grandma, who loved bright colors and patterns, the sofas are floral-print and now faded.  Some might even call them ugly.  But I’m grateful for them.



While my widowed grandma was dying of breast cancer almost two years ago, it occurred to me that once she was gone, so were all the stories about the familiar pieces of beautiful old furniture in her home—the home she and Grandpa had lived in for almost half a century.  So I started asking her questions:  Where did that painting come from?  Tell me about the dogwood Tiffany lamp.  Does that old firewood bucket have a story?

So Grandma told me story after story about the antiques that I had seen so often around her house but never stopped to wonder about.  She told me about the maple bedroom suite her father chose for her sixteenth birthday present, and that he had much better taste than she did—she would have picked “something faddish, like bleached walnut.”  She told me about the deacon’s bench Grandpa built, which he entered in the Farm Show and won first place.  She told me about the gorgeous lamp my great-grandfather used to study by in elementary and high school.  She told me about her father’s desk, where he sat to count nickels as his church’s treasurer.  She told me about her grandmother’s 100-year-old china, which was delivered in a huge wash basket.  She told me about the people who had owned and built and loved these things that had been passed down through generations.



As she told these stories, people I had only seen in faded photographs became real, and people I had only known in their older years became young and vibrant again.  I could feel the spirit of Elijah working in my heart:  “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers.”  (Malachi 4:6)  My love for my grandma grew in ways it never had before, and I began to feel love for people I had never even met, but who had still shaped the person I am and can become.



Grandma didn’t really have any stories to tell me about her faded old sofas; she just picked them out a decade or two ago, and they sat in her living room.  So why am I grateful for them?  I’m grateful because I have stories about them.  I remember sprawling out on the floor next to them to build wooden spool towers with Grandpa.  I remember sitting on them to open the Easter eggs we had found in her front yard, to find that they each contained a quarter—just like every year.  I remember sitting there to look through old photo albums or watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on TV.  I’m grateful for my floral-print sofas because I remember sitting there, taking notes while Grandma told me her stories.

Published by Shellie

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Ups and Downs of Parenting: How Gratitude Helps

A few weeks ago I had my third child and since then I've experienced a range of emotions.  I am grateful to have a sweet, new baby boy.  I am grateful that I could get pregnant, that my baby is healthy, that I have a supportive husband, and that I have health insurance. 


But being a parent is a mixed bag.  Sleep deprivation takes a toll.  Last weekend I felt really stressed when my two year old woke up in the middle of the night hardly able to breathe.  We took him to Urgent Care and he has croup.  I constantly worried about my newborn as I tried to figure out how to keep a coughing/feverish two year old away from the baby he adores.  It’s tough when all three kids need attention.  It’s tricky to find a balance between kids, husband, family, church, community, and household responsibilities.

I've found that gratitude serves as an antidote to my negative attitudes, and can act as a buoy in trying moments.  As I make an effort to focus on the good, my negativity and annoyances decrease. 


I am Grateful for My Children
I love my children.  It amazes me to watch them grow and learn.  I love conversing with my two year old.  I love the art my four year old creates.  I love seeing my children interact with each other.  Every morning since I've been home from the hospital the first things my big kids do is run to the baby’s crib to check on their new brother.

I am Grateful that I am a Child of God
I believe that I am a child of God.  That Heavenly Father knows and loves me.  While that idea is at times hard to fathom, it is also very comforting.  When I look at my peaceful newborn, I get a glimpse of the immense love Heavenly Father has for me.  I can’t help but be impressed by the amount of love I feel for my child.  I then magnify that love 1,000 fold and think of the love Heavenly Father must have for me and each of His children. 

I imagine Heavenly Father’s love for me is similar to the love I have for my small children, only with infinitely more wisdom and patience.  I encourage my children to learn and grow.  I help them.  I rejoice in their successes – just what our Eternal Father in Heaven does for us.  I am young in the gospel.  I make many mistakes.  As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the Church’s First Presidency, stated:

We have all seen a toddler learn to walk. He takes a small step and totters. He falls. Do we scold such an attempt? Of course not. What father would punish a toddler for stumbling? We encourage, we applaud, and we praise.

One of my favorite scriptures is 1 Nephi 11:17.  Nephi, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, sees a vision and is visited by an angel.  The angel asks if Nephi knows “the condescension of God.”  Nephi replies: “I know that [God] loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”  I am grateful that I also know that God loves his children.


As I face my own ignorance, frustrations, and mistakes, I try to remember God’s love and patience for me, His daughter.  When my children make messes, clamber for my attention, or as I sooth a fussy baby in the late night hours, I try to remember to be grateful.







Published by Cali
I'm a Mormon.
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Searching for Gratitude in Trying Times


I love this time of year. I like everything from October through January 1st. It is a time when people look inward and are more aware of their decisions, their community, and their faith. It is a time when you pass the bell ringers outside of grocery stores and don't think twice about dropping in your pocket change.  It is a time when you consider all you have been given and count yourself blessed. It is a time when you have a mindful eye for those who need help and then take action.


Here at Day by Day Mormon, we are going to jumpstart the holiday season with a series of gratitude posts. We have asked several friends to write about particular things for which they are thankful. Living in the United States, we have so much. I'm sure many of you have seen this Facebook-floating picture.

There are things we take for granted every day that many will never have. When we have so much, sometimes it is hard to recognize the source of our blessings as anything other than our own good fortune and hard work. But we believe that we have a loving Father who has chosen to give us all that we have. Not just all that we enjoy- all that we have. If we neglect to acknowledge His gifts, we will lose out on more than just faith. We will lose out on the opportunity to expand our potential.

One of the most difficult things for me to be grateful for is tribulation. How can you be happy for things that make your life miserable? Not just the tear-wrenching, life-changing moments, but also the day to day trials we all face. Like getting a flat tire when you are already late for a meeting. Or sitting in traffic with cranky children for an hour and a half because you left the museum too close to rush hour. Or being at home in an empty house, wondering if you will ever not be alone. Or learning your child has a health condition that he will have to deal with his entire life. Or receiving that stomach-dropping phone call that a loved one has just passed away (which I just did). For many of us, I fear our innate human tendency is to sweep all unpleasantries under the rug and deal with them at some indefinite future date. Sometimes that works- for a time. But almost always these types of things find their way surfacing- often at the most inopportune moment.


In the scriptures, we learn there is a better way of dealing with trials. A way to work through them and come out refined on the other side. We are taught to rejoice in our hard comings.
Wherein ye greatly rejoice... in heaviness through manifold temptations:
That the trial of your faith...might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. 1

For a long time, I suffered with how to appreciate difficulties in life. I propose three ways that can improve our gratitude for things we usually wish we could do without.

First, we can learn to cope with and understand our trials once we realize,
For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. 2

The importance of everything having its equal and opposite makes logical sense. I think that a large part of misery has to do with what we would rather our situation be instead. If we can somehow come to expect the occasional (or sometimes more often) disappointment, we can see it for what it is- a needed, fleeting moment in time, that will at some point reach an end- instead of as strictly unwanted happenstance.

Second, trials serve to prove us worthy to a loving Father in heaven. Sometimes, we are just unable to learn another way. Or perhaps, the lessons that we need the most are the ones where we have to suffer first to truly understand. C.S. Lewis said,
We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists on being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. 

I recall the story of Job, where he has lost everything. Every person, every possession, every comfort, has been stripped from him. Even in such a state, instead of being spiteful or vengeful, he states, "When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."4

In his 2008 General Conference Talk, Church Apostle Quentin L. Cook powerfully shared,
This life is not always easy, nor was it meant to be; it is a time of testing and proving... Elder Harold B. Lee taught, "Sometimes, the things that are the best for us and the things that bring eternal rewards seem at the moment to be the most bitter, and the things forbidden are ofttimes the things which seem to be the more desirable. 5

Third, my final and personal suggestion, is to see the tribulation from a future perspective. Sometimes I find it comforting just to realize that horrible feelings and experiences cannot simply last forever. Church founder and first Church President, Joseph Smith, was wrongly being incarcerated in Liberty Jail, Missouri, for months. He cried to the Lord in prayer,
O God, where art thou?
[He was answered]My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. 6

Often, I try to think of what I could be learning or developing as a result of a particular circumstance. On occasion, neither of those seems to work. I have had times where the only comfort I can gain is in thinking that the knowledge of such pain and suffering will help me empathize with someone else later in time. It is an oddly comforting thought- that through my misery, I might be better able to mourn with and comfort others. But for some reason it helps.

The obvious correlation is that there is one being who suffered all for us. Jesus Christ experienced every sorrow, every pain, every doubt, every fear. He atoned for our sins and died for us not only so that we can overcome our sin and be exalted, but also so that He can understand our suffering. He is the one person who always knows exactly what we are going through, because He deliberately opted to suffer through it Himself. I know  this to be true.

Though they are not always pleasant, I am grateful for all experiences I have been given. They have and will continue to work together to mold me into the person that I am and who I am meant to be. The more we can realize the eternal nature of our experiences, good or bad, the better able we are to align our will with God's. I hope we can all remember that long past the holiday cheer that comes through Christmas carols and turkeys and sparkling lights. It is one thing that we can do to warm our hearts the whole year through.

Published by Jen
1. 1 Peter 1:6-7
2. 2 Nephi 2:11
3. Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain. New York: Macmillan, 1944. Print.
4. Job 23:10
5. Quentin L. Cook. "Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time." October 2008 General Conference.
6. D&C 121:1, 7-8

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Mormons Choose Children


As discussed in an earlier post, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe in eternal marriage.  We also believe in eternal families. Children born into the covenant of eternal marriage (through a temple sealing) become part of an eternal family unit. We believe children can bring us joy both now and in the eternities.

I came across the cover of this Time Magazine back in August, and I found it intriguing. The cover reads The Childfree Life, when having it all means not having children,1 and shows a blissfully happy couple lying on the beach, margaritas in their future, and no cares in the world.  No children to throw sand in their hair, no worries about returning home early for naptimes, and no imminent threat of meltdown and embarrassing public tantrum.

Sounds relaxing…

The United States now has the lowest birthrate in its history.2 Couples who choose not to have children can become fully devoted to work, spouse, and their own hobbies, without the inconveniences children might bring. 3

From a religious standpoint, Church Apostle Neil L. Anderson said, “It is a crowning privilege of a husband and wife who are able to bear children to provide mortal bodies for these spirit children of God. We believe in families, and we believe in children.”4

To the contrary I sometimes hear words and phrases referring to children as inconvenient, costly, loud, and troublesome…Elder Anderson used the word “privilege.” Children are meant to be our crown jewels of joy, both in this life and in the eternities.
 
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that having children is a commandment from God.5 Church Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The power to create mortal life is the most exalted power God has given to His children. Its use was mandated by God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve.”6

So from the beginning of man, God has commanded that husband and wife have children. Though over time, political and public opinions, laws, and policies change with the evolving culture, it is interesting to note that God’s laws do not change.7

Because of this strong belief in family, it is sometimes joked that Mormons have children by the dozen, but these decisions are up to individual families.
Church Apostle Neil L. Anderson said, “When to have a child and how many children to have are private decisions to be made between a husband and wife and the Lord. These are sacred decisions—decisions that should be made with sincere prayer and acted on with great faith.”8
My husband and I have chosen the path with children.  And parenthood is hard! We don’t have kids just to see if they will get my husband’s good looks or a high IQ.  We don’t have kids solely based on how much fun they are.  Nor do we feel we have superior parenting skills to employ.  Rather, I often feel a lack thereof. It is not an easy job.  It requires long days and even nights. 
The Family: A Proclamation to the World, states “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.” 9
This goes beyond just diapering and bathing, feeding and clothing.  It involves a time investment, for which we can’t see the results now.  Together, my husband and I work together “as equal partners” in raising, loving, hoping, and praying for our children, that they will become educated, productive members of society, and follow the teachings of God.

Before my children came along, I had some worries about entering into parenthood.  I had some desires to be a working professional, recognizing that in our society there seems to be more distinguished accomplishments than having a family.  Sometimes I feel as though raising a family hits the bottom of the rung, but I know the most important work my husband and I can do is in the home.10 David O. McKay, past President of the Church said, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”11

I also had worries that having children would tie us home too much and make us boring!  But I will tell you now, that there is nothing boring about having kids!  They are full of surprises. We laugh at their funny behaviors, and cute things they do.  And we cheer for them as they hit every milestone! 

Margaritas on the beach are not part of our life right now—they would have to be virgin anyway.  My husband and I can't go out and have fun the way we did before we had kids--we have naptimes and bedtimes to be home for. We have had to sacrifice some things. But we have found parenthood is rewarding and fulfilling.

My husband and I have discovered that with our children we do have it all!  We are creating an eternal family.  Our children will be ours forever!  We are incredibly blessed, and life is good!

 “We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity,” Church Apostle Dallin H. Oaks said.12

Reference:

2. See Joyce A. Martin and others, “Births: Final Data for 2011,” National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 62, no. 1 (June 28, 2013), 4; Gloria Goodale, “Behind a Looming Baby Bust,” Christian Science Monitor Weekly, Feb. 4, 2013, 21, 23.

3. “We cannot always explain the difficulties of our mortality. Sometimes life seems very unfair—especially when our greatest desire is to do exactly what the Lord has commanded. As the Lord’s servant, I assure you that this promise is certain: “Faithful members whose circumstances do not allow them to receive the blessings of eternal marriage and parenthood in this life will receive all promised blessings in the eternities, [as] they keep the covenants they have made with God.”

4. Church Apostle Neil L. Anderson, “Children” October 2011, General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
5. “THE FIRST COMMANDMENT that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force.”  The Family: A Proclamation to the World

7. “There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations… Unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable.” Church Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “No Other Gods”, October 2013 , General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
 
8. Church Apostle Neil L. Anderson, “Children” October 2011, General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

10. Harold B. Lee, 11th President of the Church, “The most important… work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee [2000], 134)

11. David O. McKay, 9th President of the Church, (quoted from J. E. McCulloch, Home: The Savior of Civilization [1924], 42; in Conference Report, Apr. 1935, 116).


Published by: McKell

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Developing Lasting Family Relationships

By Guest Blogger: Mishay
In my personal and professional experience, I have observed that family relationships can bring about a range of emotions—from levels of absolute joy to almost unbearable heartache.  The following principles can be applied to promote healthy relationships:

The first principle is SERVICE.  I love the New Testament and learning about the countless acts of service performed by Jesus Christ.  Matthew 10:39 says, “He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”  One of my favorite family traditions was playing Secret Santa.  Every year we would buy presents for a less fortunate family and on Christmas Eve we would leave the gifts on the doorstep, knock and run away.  Through this experience and other charitable acts, my parents ingrained in us the importance of being generous.  It is a natural tendency to worry about ourselves and our circumstances; to some extent, when we take care of ourselves we are in a better position to help others.  However, it becomes problematic when we lose perspective by becoming overly focused on our own desires and neglect the needs of those around us.  It is sometimes easier to give our energy and attention to those who are not members of our family, leaving little for those at home.   David O. McKay, ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  I wholeheartedly agree with his statement and recognize that it takes a tremendous amount of selflessness to sustain healthy family relationships. Alternatively, I cannot think of any endeavor that brings more joy or fulfillment.

The second principle is SACRIFICE.  Growing up my dad would tell me, “Sacrifice is giving up something good for something better.”  He has certainly lived up to this ideal.  My dad has always been extremely busy in his career and church responsibilities.  I imagine that he and my mom had very little, if any, free time as they were raising my 4 brothers and me.  Despite their hectic schedule, my parents were at every one of my ballet recitals, piano recitals, and basketball games.  My dad even coached my basketball team for several years.  Becoming a mom has opened my eyes to my parents’ immense sacrifices.  We now live in an age of technology where we can communicate very quickly.  However, there are no shortcuts when it comes to relationships.  Relationships take work.  They require patience and compromise.   Although there may be moments of euphoria, the majority of life is spent performing mundane tasks.  I remember one Saturday when my husband and I were engaged; we spent the day cleaning each of our apartments, going grocery shopping and doing laundry.  In our almost 2 years of dating, we had many fun dates but it occurred to me that this Saturday would become the norm for married life.  Work provides stability, structure, routine and boundaries—all traits that help a family to thrive.  It is tempting to seek instant gratification but genuine relationships require time and sacrifice.

The third principle is FORGIVENESS.  Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. That involves a willingness to overlook weaknesses and mistakes.”  One of the most difficult realizations in dealing with relationships is that we are imperfect.  Whether it is an interaction with our mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, or child, we are all human and fallible.  The second commandment is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). These are not gentle suggestions. They are commandments.  One of the first places we feel love or feel that love is withheld, is at home.  Eighth grade was one of the worst years of my life.  I treated my mom terribly and said many unkind words that I sorely regret.  Despite my horrible attitude and verbal attacks, my mom continued to demonstrate love.  Even after I attempted to run away from home, she tried to salvage our relationship when she could have given up.  Loving those around us and loving ourselves can be complicated while forgiving others and forgiving ourselves is often a long and difficult process.  Whenever there is a gap between our expectations and the reality of our circumstances, we may feel disappointment, anger, depression, or heartbreak.  We might grieve for children who have special needs, loved ones who suffer from illness, an unhappy marriage or subsequent divorce, financial instability, or any other of life’s many obstacles.  I find great hope and comfort in knowing that Jesus Christ not only redeemed us from sin, he also suffered for our physical, emotional and spiritual pains.  Linda Burton, leader of the women’s organization of the LDS church said, “All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

The fourth and final principle is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.  My daughter is learning how to walk.  When she falls down I do not scold her or criticize her for making a mistake.  Instead, I encourage her to stand back up and try again.  We both clap when she takes a few steps and I tell her that I am proud of her.  I have watched my own parents rejoice when their 5 children are successful and mourn when we are troubled.  I imagine this is how God feels about us, His children.  Quite frankly, some people are easier to love than others.  It may feel natural to place conditions on our love but we must fight these inclinations if we want to build strong, trusting relationships in our families.  Rather than becoming frustrated or disappointed when others fail to meet our expectations, we can show compassion and understanding.  God loves us regardless of our character flaws or the mistakes we have made.  The current leader of the LDS church, Thomas Monson said, “God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there.”    I'm a Mormon.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Making the Case For Marriage

I used to waitress at the Cheesecake Factory. One day, a man and his father sat at one of my tables.   As I greeted them, the father asked, "Are you married?" I responded that I was; he then replied "Will you convince my son to get married?"

The son looked to be in his thirties, well-groomed, appearing to be a professional in the work force.  He lived with the mother of his two or three children, but they were not married.  I came up with something like "Marriage is great! I highly recommend it."

"Are you religious?"

-- "Yes"

"Well, that is why then."

I have thought over this conversation a great deal over the last four and a half years and have been led to ask the question…If he is a committed father, what could be the reason he chooses not to wear the ring?

Statistically, marriage doesn’t do too well; the divorce rate is over 50%.1  Maybe he doesn’t want to enter into something so breakable.

A broad-based international study of the levels of happiness before and after “major life events” found that, on average, persons are far more successful in recovering their level of happiness after the death of a spouse than after a divorce. 2

To be at risk for divorce, couples must first be married.  So maybe he wondered, why risk it?

I believe in marriage. When my husband and I married, we made a commitment to last longer than the bliss and infatuation--longer than this life even. Our commitment is for eternity.  We were married and sealed in the temple of God, and we made a covenant to God, to each other, and our future family to remain faithful to each other.

This is the kind of marriage I wish for my friends and the people I love.  A marriage where husband and wife work together toward this goal, which is to be worthy of eternal life, and an eternal union, together in God’s presence.

This is an eternal relationship, not a temporary relationship.  When our view changes in this way, we plan differently, our attitudes and actions toward family members change.
“In all of this, we should realize that a good marriage does not require a perfect man or a perfect woman. It only requires a man and a woman committed to strive together toward perfection.” 3

Living together is the common trend; “cohabitation precedes 60 percent of marriages.” 4  Many want to "try it on for size" first, by moving in together.  Sounds logical…

But statistics say otherwise.  Couples who live together before marriage are at a greater risk for divorce than non-cohabiting couples. 5
“Couples who cohabit before marriage have greater marital instability than couples who do not cohabit. Spouses who cohabited before marriage demonstrated more negative and less positive problem solving and support behaviors compared to spouses who did not cohabit.” 6

Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), I believe “God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married.”7

This is a religious reason, yes, but even a study in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology found tangible, non-religious benefits for couples who waited until marriage to start having sex.

“Regardless of religiosity, waiting helps the relationship form better communication processes, and these help improve long-term stability and relationship satisfaction,” the study’s lead author Dean Busby said.

Benefits include the following: 
-    Relationship stability was rated 22 percent higher
-    Relationship satisfaction was rated 20 percent higher
-    Sexual quality of the relationship was rated 15 percent better
-    Communication was rated 12 percent better8

In other words, sociologist Mark Regnerus said, “Couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy.”

So I waited to have sex until I was married.  I married my husband in the temple, and we were sealed--a contract that is completely unique from any other on earth, in that its terms do not end at death.  We love each other, and we are committed to each other for the long run.

Without our commitment to this eternal goal, I imagine it might be tempting to split when the hard times come.  But we have made a commitment, we are keeping it, and life is good.
“The Savior’s way of life is good. His way includes chastity before marriage and total fidelity within marriage. The Lord’s way is the only way for us to experience enduring happiness. His way brings sustained comfort to our souls and perennial peace to our homes. And best of all, His way leads us home to Him and our Heavenly Father, to eternal life and exaltation.” 9


References:
1. American Psychological Association, available at http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

2. Richard E. Lucas, “Adaptation and the Set-Point Model of Subjective Well-Being: Does Happiness Change after Major Life Events?” Current Directions in Psychological Science, Apr. 2007, available at www.psychologicalscience.org.


4. See The State of Our Unions: Marriage in America, 2012 (2012), 76.


6. Cohan, C. L. and Kleinbaum, S. (2002), Toward a Greater Understanding of the Cohabitation Effect: Premarital Cohabitation and Marital Communication. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64: 180–192. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00180.x

7. “We believe that, as an essential part of His plan of salvation, God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married.”   Church Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “No Other Gods”, October 2013, General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

8. American Psychological Association’s Journal of Family Psychology, via BYU News


Published by: McKell

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Coming to Know God Through Parenting: My Son's Prayer

Being a mother is a very humbling job.  One, because I am given the responsibility to raise God’s spirit children.  And two, because somehow parenting makes my impatience and imperfections seem so glaring.

I really believe my children were given to me so I can learn from them, and for the purpose of perfecting myself.  It sure is a good thing they come young... hopefully by the time they're grown, I will be full of the qualities I wish to have, and they will have forgotten all the mistakes I made as a young mother.

There was one day this week when everything seemed to go wrong from the very start.
    • First, I had stayed up too late the night before.  I woke up an hour earlier than my alarm was set for and though I knew I would need that sleep, I couldn't fall back into it.
    • So, trying to get a head start on my errands for the day, I tried to place an online order, but no matter how many times I pushed the “Place Order” button, or refreshed the page to try again, it wouldn't go through. 
    • After my kids climbed down the stairs, bed-headed and still in pajamas, in my distracted state, I never noticed the cereal box go missing.  Half the box ended up spilled across the living room floor.  
    • I handed them a bowl to scoop the spilled cereal into and I put the once full, now half-empty box away.  They brought the bowl filled with cereal into the kitchen, and it accidentally spilled again under the kitchen table.  
    • We were running late already.
In the car, on my way to drop B off at Joy School, I said "Sorry B...Mom hasn't been very nice today, and I'm sorry.  I'll be nicer when I pick you up."

…  "It's okay mom, I love you!"

I asked him to say a prayer for us.  He talked to Heavenly Father about the cool spider he saw that morning, and said he was sorry he took too long to find his shoes so that we were late, and he prayed his teacher wouldn't be mad...

His simple, little prayer helped change my attitude toward the day.

His prayer helped remind me of what is most important—and reminded me that more than anything I need God’s help in raising my children.  I could feel how much God loves my kids, and I was filled with his pure love for them. I realized the things I had been upset about that morning didn't even matter.

Church Apostle Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “You can’t possibly do this alone, but you do have help. The Master of Heaven and Earth is there to bless you… 

Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope.” You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging.”

I needed that prayer my three-year-old gave that day.  I still had a full day of errands ahead of me, and ‘Lil M did her best to wear me out.  I am grateful for God’s love and enabling power, especially for me as a mother.

"If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do.”


Reference:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hello! Are You In There?

"Mother, Father, are you in there?" ...

"To truly understand [the hearts of our youth], we must do more than just be in the same room... We have to pay attention to them just as we would pay attention to a trusted adult colleague or close friend. Most important is asking them questions, letting them talk, and then being willing to listen..."

"Being there means understanding the hearts of our youth and connecting with them. And connecting with them means not just conversing with them but doing things with them too."

"I ask the Lord’s blessings to be with [you] parents and with the youth... It is my prayer that we may have eternal families and be together forever in the presence of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ."

Reference:
Church Apostle, Elder Robert D. Hales, "Our Duty To God: The Mission of Parents and Leaders of the Rising Generation"

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Things That Matter Most

Too often, I will admit, I go rushing through my days, even weeks, trying to check off my never-ending to-do list.  My kids get dragged along, in and out of car seats, as I rush to the grocery store, to the post office, to drop something by a neighbor’s house, then back home again, to finish the chores and make dinner while ushering the kids out of the kitchen over and over again.  By the time night falls, I am so exhausted, my kids are restless, and I dump them on my husband, who couldn't possibly have had so much to deal with at work as I did at home with the kids.

I feel like I need to sit and take a break just thinking about it!

After doing this a while, I feel a gentle nudge on my conscience that I am missing something!  How do I so often let the busyness of life distract me from the really important things?  As I rush through the day, why do all the other things take priority, leaving my kids and husband seemingly less important?

Unfortunately, my desire to do it all, and to do everything the best I can, causes me to come up short in the most important things--namely, my family!  No matter how I put it, when I stop and think about it, I know that no e-mail, errand, or chore is more important than spending time with my kids and husband. 

When my son B yells “Mom!  Look at ME!  I am reminded that it is not enough just to be in the same room as my kids or husband, but to be in the moment together!

President Thomas S. Monson (our prophet) said, “If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.”

And so, I close the laptop, or stop whatever I was doing, and I read to my kiddos, or I play Memory with B, or we turn on the music and dance, or run around the house.  These are the moments that I love!  Laughing together!  Playing tickle fight.  Screaming and giggling as we chase each other.  Energy spent together, moments spent together, memories being made… That is what it is all about!

And, instead of dumping the kids on an already worn-out husband, sharing the responsibility of bedtime together eases the load on both of us.  Then sitting down together to rest from our tiring day, taking time to really talk (not distractedly from behind the laptop…I’m guilty, again), sharing in the moment is what makes our marriage tick!

I love this video, because it reminds me of these most important moments that I cherish. 

Published by: McKell