Constancy Amid Change – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Constancy Amid Change, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1993 General Conference.

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Constancy
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Change

President Nelson introduces this talk by recounting a conversation he had with two youth – “Ruth” and “John.” This stood out to me because in October of 1993, I was a youth. I don’t remember this talk much, but I’m sure that I heard it and maybe even took notes on it. I was in seminary at the time, and by then living in Pennsylvania. Maybe this talk made me perk up because he talked about his conversation with “Ruth” and “John.” Maybe I felt like “Ruth,” who lamented, “Our world is constantly changing, isn’t it?”

At this point, it no longer matters what I thought and felt then. I’m grateful to have read this talk now, though.

***

As the title and “Ruth’s” question suggests – this talk is President Nelson’s comforting words to those who are concerned about the inconsistency of our changing world.  We can find constants and truth – especially with our foundation in the gospel.

Personages

The first constants that President Nelson addresses are personages. There are a few personages who are eternal – some trustworthy, others not so much.

The Godhead

Our Godhead is made up of three personages – Heavenly Father, his son – Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

President Nelson taught:

“Our Heavenly Father has a glorified body of flesh and bone, inseparably connected with His spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

Jesus Christ also has a glorified body of flesh and bone. He is the son of God and is the author of our salvation.

Finally, the Holy Ghost is a personage – but without flesh and bone. He influences us and can be our constant companion.

These personages – united in purpose love us. President Nelson taught:

“Brothers and sisters, these Heavenly Beings love you. Their love is as constant as is the greatest love of earthly parents.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this. I know that the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost is constant. I know that it doesn’t matter what we do, how we live our lives, the mistakes we make, and the wrongs we commit – He still loves us. Nothing can stop our Father from loving us. I know this and I’ve experienced His eternal love.

It is because He loves us that He sent His Son – so that we return to live with Him again and be happy. It is because He loves us that He has granted us the Gift of the Holy Ghost – which enables us to have a constant companionship with the Godhead! It is because He loves us that He does anything – gives us commandments, prophets, the Priesthood, truth, enlightenment. Everything the Lord does is out of love. We can trust Him implicitly because He is the constant.

I mean, the talk could have ended there – with the constant of this world being Heavenly Father and His great love for us. Do we really grasp His love for us? Imagine the way that our lives might change if we allowed ourselves to both feel and believe that He Loves Us.

Though President Nelson could have ended his talk with the love and constancy of our Godhead, he didn’t.

There is another personage that is constant does not love us and we must recognize his existence. President Nelson stated:

“But there is another personage about whom you should be reminded. Satan also exists and seeks “that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (See 2 Ne. 2:27) – Russell M. Nelson

Satan is real. He wants us to be miserable. He understands the plan of salvation, the plan of happiness, and he has rejected it. He wants us to reject it, too. All I can say is, he is kind of a jerk. Sometimes, we tend to satirize his existence – characturizing him as some kind of goon from a horror movie. But the fact is, he is real. He is scarier and more dangerous than we can imagine. He is a constant in this world, just as much as our Godhead is.

I don’t think that President Nelson wanted to scare us by reminding us of this truth. I think that this is a helpful hint – to remind us that there is an active force working against us. When we take into account the existence of Satan, both recognizing his power and yet his powerlessness in comparison to God, then I think we are better able to make decisions that put us in line with our Heavenly Father and His power over the destroyer.

Plans

Next, President Nelson discusses another constant – plans.

God’s Plan

President Nelson talks about God’s plan. In the scriptures it is listed in various names – though they are synonymous:

  • the plan of happiness
  • the plan of salvation
  • the plan of redemption
  • the plan of restoration
  • the plan of mercy
  • the plan of deliverance
  • the everlasting gospel

This plan hinges on the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Think about that for a second!

  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no happiness (I think that this is the same in life – no sacrifice, no joy)
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no salvation
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no redemption
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no restoration
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no mercy
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no deliverance
  • Without Christ’s sacrifice, no gospel – or good news

I realize that I can make this list about the connection between Christ’s sacrifice and these various blessings, but that this list seems meaningless unless we realize why we need salvation, redemption, restoration, mercy, deliverance, or good news.

President Nelson stated:

“Before we can comprehend [Christ’s atoning sacrifice], though, we must understand the fall of Adam. And before we can fully appreciate the Fall, we must first comprehend the Creation. These three events—the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement—are three preeminent pillars of God’s plan, and they are doctrinally interrelated.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Creation – Paradisiacal Creation

President Nelson taught:

“The creation of the earth was a preparatory part of our Father’s plan.” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s pretty obvious. In order for the Lord’s plan to move forward, a physical realm needed to be created. I don’t think that I need to belabor the point. The creation was a must. Without a creation, there would have been no chance for Adam and Eve to “fall,” which also would have made an atonement completely unnecessary.

Of course, we can go back to the first point and remember that God loves us. The scriptures teach:

“Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.” – 1 Nephi 17:36

“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” – Isaiah 45:18

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:18

Heavenly Father loves us, so He made a plan which included the creation of the earth. The earth was created so we could dwell here and learn. This does not mean that we should destroy the earth! We should remember that it is a gift and blessing from God.

Of course, when Heavenly Father created the earth He also created our first parents – Adam and Eve. President Nelson related:

“Adam and Eve were the first people to live upon the earth. They were different from the plant and animal life that had been created previously. Adam and Eve were children of God. Their bodies of flesh and bone were made in the express image of God’s. In that state of innocence, they were not yet mortal. They could have had no children, were not subject to death, and could have lived in Eden’s garden forever. Thus, we might speak of the Creation in terms of a paradisiacal creation.” – Russell M. Nelson

Had the plan of Salvation stopped at the creation of the earth, then there would be no salvation. We would be sitting in Heaven waiting for progress and hope. There would be no need for an atonement. Thankfully, the plan didn’t stop here. It continued on with a difficult choice made by one of the strongest women to live on this earth.

The Fall – Mortal Creation

Heavenly Father, in order for His plan to continue, gave Adam and Eve a commandment: to multiply and replenish the earth. However, this would require another choice – to partake of the tree of knowledge – which would also introduce death.

President Nelson stated:

“We and all mankind are forever blessed because of Eve’s great courage and wisdom. By partaking of the fruit first, she did what needed to be done. Adam was wise enough to do likewise. Accordingly, we could speak of the fall of Adam in terms of a mortal creation, because “Adam fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25).” – Russell M. Nelson

Not only am I grateful for Eve’s choice, I’m also grateful to be in a religion that recognizes Eve’s choice as a courageous one. She made the choice that would usher in our existence. Her choice brought us agency, wisdom, and life.

Of course, this choice also brought death. But – Heavenly Father had a plan all along. He knew that we would need to go through opposition in order to gain experience and wisdom. Before He even created the world, He had a plan for our salvation – a Savior.

The Atonement – Immortal Creation

Mortal life (and then death) was not the final destination, nor was it ever meant to be. Heavenly Father loves us and He had a plan! President Nelson said:

“Given that reality, still another change was necessary. An infinite atonement was required to redeem Adam, Eve, and all of their posterity. That atonement must enable our physical bodies to be resurrected and changed to a bloodless form, no longer liable to disease, deterioration, or death.

According to eternal law, that atonement required a personal sacrifice by an immortal being not subject to death. Yet He must die and take up His own body again. The Savior was the only one who could accomplish this. From His mother He inherited power to die. From His Father He obtained power over death.” – Russell M. Nelson

All along, this was God’s intention. His work and glory is to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. He had a plan. He didn’t react. He wasn’t shocked by Eve’s choice to partake of the fruit. Her choice was the plan! Adam and Eve would need to choose to progress. Heavenly Father loves us and respects our agency. He wouldn’t have forced them to move on. They needed to make that choice.

And they did!

They made the choice to obtain knowledge and fulfill the first commandment – to multiply and replenish the earth even before they knew that a Savior would be able to help them return into the presence of their Father.

Of course, Heavenly Father had a plan! And this plan included the Savior, who overcame the negative effects of the fall while accentuating the positive ones.

Satan’s Plan

Just as God’s plan is a constant, there is another plan that we must be made aware of. We learn of Satan’s plan in the Pearl of Great Price:

And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.” – Moses 4:1-4

Satan wants to destroy our agency and take the power of God. In order to accomplish this plan, Satan tries to deceive us so that we can be led captive by Him. In order to remain liberated and happy, we need to hearken unto the voice of God.

President Nelson expands on how Satan tries to accomplish his plan of destruction:

“Before leaving our discussion of unchanging plans, however, we need to remember that the adversary sponsors a cunning plan of his own. It invariably attacks God’s first commandment for husband and wife to beget children. It tempts with tactics that include infidelity, unchastity, and other abuses of procreative power.” – Russell M. Nelson

Satan’s plan opposes God’s plan. So – maybe a helpful exercise would be rename Satan’s plan in various ways:

  • the plan of misery
  • the plan of destruction
  • the plan of abandonment
  • the plan of damnation
  • the plan of cruelty
  • the plan of captivity
  • the everlasting bad news

Yikes.

Principles

I need to wrap this up, but I wanted to quickly quote President Nelson:

“Unchanging principles are so because they come from our unchanging Heavenly Father. Try as they might, no parliament or congress could ever repeal the law of earth’s gravity or amend the Ten Commandments. Those laws are constant. All laws of nature and of God are part of the everlasting gospel. Thus, there are many unchanging principles.” – Russell M. Nelson

I really love this because I believe that like gravity, God’s laws are NON-NEGOTIABLE!

Now, we can’t confuse laws and principles. Principles are based on laws, though, and so many principles are also unchanging.

President Nelson lists several unchanging principles:

  • The Priesthood
  • Moral Law
  • Judgment
  • Divine Commandments
  • Truth
  • Family

I encourage you to read through these subjects in his talk.

***

This world is changing. It has changed so dramatically since he gave this talk! Think of life in 1993. It was different. But there are constants that we can hold on to. I’m so grateful for this knowledge and the gospel.

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Honoring the Priesthood – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Honoring the Priesthood, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1993 General Conference.

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For me – it is most helpful to remember whose priesthood it is.

Maybe I have more pride and “feminism” in my heart than I want to admit. Sometimes these priesthood talks make me feel a bit anxious. I haven’t read this talk before now, and I don’t remember how I felt when it was given (in 1993 – I lived in Houston still. I was 14 years old.

My relationship with the priesthood is complicated sometimes. Now don’t get me wrong. I know that it is God’s power on this earth. And I know that it is a miracle that He has bestowed it to us – even though we are imperfect people. In my life, I’ve had great priesthood leaders, okay priesthood leaders, and bad priesthood leaders.

Additionally, the climate of our culture tends to look down on things like “the priesthood” – as if it is a boy’s club and not an organization instituted by God.

With that in mind, I’m trying to be very open minded so the Spirit can teach me as I study this talk.

One – God’s Kingdom

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is neither a democracy nor a republic. His is a kingdom—the kingdom of God on earth. His is a hierarchical church, with ultimate authority at the top. The Lord directs His anointed servants. They testify to all the world that God has again spoken. The heavens have been opened. A living linkage has been formed between heaven and earth in our day.” – Russell M. Nelson

So, first of all – it is a good reminder to me that God’s Church is not a democracy or a republic. Which means that we don’t “vote” in our leaders. We sustain them by common consent, but it isn’t a vote.

As I think about this, I realize that I’ve been raised as an American. The idea of independence, freedom, and choice is so deeply ingrained in me, I truly can’t imagine any other cultural practice. It’s hard to imagine a king or a queen or dictator. I can’t imagine not having a voice or a choice of some kind.

All of that being said, I am also somewhat disappointed with our current system of government. There is so much corruption that when we had our last presidential election, I felt so hopeless with our choices, I felt like we Americans were being asked to choose between poop and vomit. (Sorry…but it’s truly how I felt).

Despite my love for choice, I’m also an idealist. If only we could have the Savior here now! I would never trust any old person to be a ruler over me or my country. Like a good American, I don’t trust my government (they are instituted among men (and women) deriving their just power from the consent of the governed!), companies, or anything that tries to exercise power over me. I am always willing to submit to anything that is good, but I’m not trusting just because. Unless, it is Heavenly Father. I have learned that He is trustworthy. He is good. And I trust Him completely.

***Quick aside…why do I trust Him?

“For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” – Moses 1:39

and

“Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings,…” – Doctrine and Covenants 41:1

and

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

and…

Honestly – why I trust God could be a series of blog posts, so I’ll stop with the scriptural references. I’ll say one more thing, though. I’ve experimented. I’ve put my trust in God before, and I’ve learned for myself that He is trustworthy. He is a living and loving Father in Heaven. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He is both powerful and humble. He is a perfect leader and for this reason, I rejoice at knowing that God’s kingdom is not a democracy or a republic! I rejoice at knowing that His is a kingdom.

So – on to the next point that President Nelson gives.

His kingdom is hierarchical.

I think that this is where I start to feel a bit troubled. When I think of a hierarchy, I think of a situation where people may feel like they are better than others because of their position. And we know that it is the nature of most men to do this. We are prideful little dummies sometimes.

President Nelson teaches:

“In contrast, the kingdom of God is governed by the authority of the priesthood. It is not conferred for honor, but for a ministry of service. Priesthood titles are not created by man; neither are they for adornment, nor do they express mastership. They denote appointment to service in the work of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though there is a hierarchy in our church – it is not based on honor or supremacy. This hierarchy just tells us what jobs people have to do. The church is an organization and God is a God of order, so there are positions – and they are hierarchical.

But this doesn’t mean that the worth of souls is in any way related to the “position” one might hold.

It helps me to think of this like a team. We have a purpose. God has a purpose (Moses 1:39). We have one united work to do, but we are a bunch of different people. So, we each have our positions and we need to do it well, then we all win. If we are all fighting to be pitcher, then we would lose the game.

Two – Priesthood Leaders are Normal People

President Nelson states:

“May I offer counsel of a general nature, first with comments about General Authorities. We recognize them as instruments in the hand of the Lord, yet realize that they are ordinary human beings. They require haircuts, laundry services, and occasional reminders just like anyone else.” – Russell M. Nelson

I like this. I think we (me included) make a mistake of putting our priesthood leaders – both general and local – on a pedestal. This usually results in a few problems.

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It’s a problem and a disservice to our priesthood leaders when we mythicize them. They are normal human beings.

When I was a kid, my dad would say this thing, “At the end of the day, their poop still stinks.” (I realize that I have mentioned doo doo twice in this blog post. Sorry.) I think that this shaped the way that I think about any of the people that we humans (primates!) worship. We are all equal. We are all both beautiful and ugly (mostly beautiful, if you ask me!). We are all human. We don’t need to worship our church leaders because at the end of the day, they are just like you and me.

Of course, President Nelson puts it a lot nicer – they need haircuts, they need to wash their clothes, they forget stuff. They are normal people!

For most of my life, the general authorities did seem mythical. They were these spiritual giants who spoke and testified of Christ at least twice a year during general conference. They need haircuts?! No way! They forget things?! Inconceivable!

Then I moved to the Heber Valley. In fact, right now I’m staying with my in-laws who live just houses down from one of the apostles. This proximity has given me new light. A few years ago, I met this apostle while shoveling snow. (You can read about the experience here.).

One thing that I didn’t share in that post I would like to share here.

It was winter when I met an apostle for the first time (obviously, we were shoveling snow). And if you read that post, I kind of felt disappointed with the meeting. There was nothing inherently special about him. He was a totally normal dude – wearing jeans, a jacket, a beanie. He looked older in real life than he does during conference.

There was nothing wrong with him either. I felt sympathy for him – he lives in a fishbowl because of his calling.

But the experience, in general, was just like any time that you have talked to any neighbor while shoveling snow. We introduced ourselves, found common ground, and had a chuckle. We talked about all the snow and all the elk that were in the neighborhood the day before. We talked about living in Arkansas (he had lived there, too). And it was just a simple and nice experience.

The heavens didn’t part. He didn’t give us some kind of apostolic blessing or witness. It was just a normal day with a normal person. Good, yes. Mythical, no.

A few days later, I was going to the library. I was about to drive into the entrance, but there was a little old woman crossing through the street to go into the library. Across the street from the library is a senior center, which is where she was coming from.

Because it had recently snowed a lot, not all of the ice and snow was cleared from the road. As I waited to turn left into the parking lot, the woman fell!

Luckily I’m in a very small town, and this road into the library is a dead-end road, so it was not busy. I turned on my hazard lights and jumped out of my car – leaving it in the middle of the road. I picked up this old woman, brushed the snow off of her, asking her if she was okay.

Then, I proceeded to walk with her into the library.

The heavens (metaphorically) did part. I felt, so intensely, the love that Heavenly Father has for his children. That his heart ached to see her experience the cruelties of life (age…and winter!). That He had let me be there at that moment so I could help her.

We got into the library. I ran out to park my car, then I found her again. When she was ready to go back to her home, I walked her back across the street, through treacherous ice and snow.

I realized that the feelings I was having were what I was expecting to feel when I saw the apostle.

Are the apostles special? Yes they are. They are sons of God. And they are just as special as a nameless old woman crossing the street.

They hold a special office and must perform a special duty, but this doesn’t mean that God loves them more. They are not more important. And their duty isn’t more important than our duties. Heavenly Father needs apostle who can travel the world and speak to people. He needs normal moms who drive to libraries that can jump out of their cars to help old women. He also needs old women who fall down so that they can teach a lesson to younger women who need humbling.

We are all part of the team. Whether we are starters, or in the bull-pen, we are all necessary. If we start fighting over position or over the ball, then we all lose.

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Just as it is a problem when we mythicize our leaders, I think that it is also a problem if we demonize them. I actually think that this usually happens as a result of mythicizing them, then when they are normal, we are let down, then we demonize them. But enough philosophizing on how it happens.

I know that I have been guilty of being overly critical of my local leaders. I have been guilty of the same thing that the people of Nazareth were when they asked, “Is this not Joseph’s Son?” The prophet was not accepted in his own country. (See Luke 4:22, 24.)

I’ve been guilty of thinking, what kind of man can he be? Have you seen his yard? AS IF A YARD ACTUALLY MATTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to remember – for both local and general leaders – that they are men. They are ordinary human beings. That, for the most part, they are just doing the best that they can. Many make mistakes. And sometimes their mistakes may even hurt me or my family. I can extend charity, love, kindness, and help to these people who are serving in callings that they neither sought nor did they deny.

God’s is a House of Order

I’m going to wrap this up because it is getting pretty long.

President Nelson relates:

“That order also defines bounds of revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.” That same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.” – Russell M. Nelson

This quote makes me think of the metaphor that we are all on a team, and that we need to worry about our position and doing our duty – rather than trying to do the duty of another.

You know, trying to do the duty of another is a pretty prideful thing, when you think about it. Not only that, it messes everything up.

I also love the last part of this quote…that same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.

We need to make our own decisions. Our priesthood leaders often don’t have the responsibility or right to make decisions for us. Sometimes there is overreach, for sure, and I’ve experienced that. But our local priesthood leaders don’t have the position or authority to come into our homes and tell us when to give father’s blessings, what to study for family home evening, where to live. This is our responsibility.

We have direct access to Heavenly Father for revelation that pertains to our circle of responsibility. It’s so easy to want to micromanage – again – we are prideful little dum dums and we think that we might know better than someone else. But, if we will just do what we can to strip ourselves of pride, then we will learn to trust one another – that families are probably making the best choices that they can for themselves, that our leaders may have some inspiration and insight. The pride in our hearts is so destructive – both top down and bottom up.

The real way for the priesthood to work is through our choice to expel pride from our hearts and to love, trust, and support one another. Bishops and leaders should be supporting those whom they serve. Members should support their leaders. If it is working both ways it’s a beautiful thing – like watching a well-executed play in a sporting event. Elegant and effective.

There’s so much to say. I hope that what I’ve written makes sense and actually helps to inspire people to have faith rather than justify anyone for cultivating feelings of resentment towards others.

The Priesthood is here to bless all of us. As President Nelson taught:

“Remarkable! He chose to honor us with His priesthood. So we honor Him by honoring His priesthood—both its power and those who bear it. By so doing, men, women, and children throughout the world will be blessed.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the priesthood and honors it accordingly. I have personally witnessed Him in sacrament meeting, reverently closing his eyes during the administration of the sacrament – which sacrament was administered by young men – nearly 80 years younger than him. He reverently sat next to the Bishop – without “taking charge” of the meeting. He encouraged each of us to read the Book of Mormon. He testified of Christ. But we, members of the audience, still knew that we had our agency to see how his instruction should be applied in our lives.

I’m grateful to know that President Nelson respects the authority that he holds. He is a trustworthy servant of God. He isn’t perfect, but like nearly every else I’ve met in all of the wards I’ve lived in – he’s doing his very best. I’m grateful to know that he really personifies what so many of us are doing – joyfully striving.

Where is Wisdom? – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Where is Wisdom?, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1992 General Conference.

One of my dearest friends and I have a self-help book idea titled, Duh. It will be filled with helpful entries like, “People don’t like jerks, so don’t be one. Duh.” or “When driving, watch where you are going. Duh.” Helpful stuff.

While this is a great idea for a book, it might not be all that…diplomatic.

President Nelson has a much nice way of putting it, though…Where is wisdom??? He quoted the following scripture:

“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28:12

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long tradition of emphasizing the importance of education. Since the organization of the church in the 1800s, the saints have instituted schools and universities. We believe in finding wisdom – secular and spiritual.

Seek Education

This subject means a lot to me. In my patriarchal blessing, I was instructed to seek the highest level of education that I could reach – that it would open me up for the future work I could do on this earth.

When I was in high school and college, I thought that meant going to college and graduate school until I received a PhD. Well, spoiler alert: I never went to graduate school. I earned a Bachelor’s degree, and upon my graduation from college, I was pregnant. I felt the impression to wait, so I did.

Four years after graduating college, I had another child, and I was going through a divorce. Thankfully, I had already gotten a college degree, and it helped me find a higher paying job than I would have found otherwise. I started working with a big pharmaceutical company. They had a program that would encourage its employees to gain more education. I started looking into getting an MBA from a nearby school – Villanova.

I started doing the paperwork for application, but as I really considered both the monetary cost and the time cost for an MBA AND the fact that I had two little girls who needed me, I realized that I needed to put it off until Panda was in school full time.

Well, a year before Panda would start attending school, I was married. Homey had received advanced education and was able to make an income that would allow me to stay at home with my children. Again, I knew that I needed to put off my formal education to be at home with my children. They had already gone without me around for a few years, and this time would be essential for their healing from life with a single parent. Plus, it would be good for me to be at home while Homey and I got used to family life all together.

I started to wonder when I would ever go back to school. Would I ever value education again? Thankfully, over time, Heavenly Father taught me that the pursuit of education doesn’t have to be accomplished formally, within university walls.

President Nelson stated:

“I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1992. I was in 7th grade. There was no such thing as the internet. In fact, I remember taking a computer class in 7th grade. The computers were these small boxes with black screens and either green or orange lettering.

old computer

These computers that we used in computer class back then didn’t even have Windows! (Windows did exist, but they didn’t seem to get commonplace for a few more years. Only the techiest and most advanced had windows – probably corporations or such. My school computers…no way. My home computer – I really only remember playing games on it – all pre-windows. Oh – and I’m diverting from the point. These computers didn’t even have windows – LET ALONE THE INTERNET!

I remember when I was in 10th grade or so, my dad got a new computer. We got a cd in the mail – from America Online. We followed the instructions, waited while our computer made these insane sounds, and then tada! we were online! I didn’t know what to do once I was online. At the time, the internet seemed to be chatrooms. It was not yet an information super highway.

But that would change quickly, and by the time I was in college, I was emailing, downloading mp3s from Napster, and “googling.”

Enter the information age.

I didn’t need to rely only on the library or school for education and learning, over time a new option was becoming available. The Internet was filling up with information, tools, and more that would teach me more than I could ever possibly know.

In 2007, when I was married to Homey, with two young girls at home, I wanted to go back to college one day, sure. But I knew I didn’t need to wait. I could research anything I wanted to online.

Next came youtube and instructional videos. I can learn how to install a washer and dryer, cut hair, or even code all on youtube.

And then came podcasts, blogs, websites like Kahn Academy and Masterclass, and more.

Back in 1992, only very few people could have imagined the information age. President Nelson’s words are true – individual desire is more influential than institution. If we want to learn and we have WiFi, then the world is available to us.

President Nelson counseled:

“So my counsel then—and now—is to continue your education wherever you are, whatever your interest and opportunity, however you determine you can best serve your family and society.” – Russell M. Nelson

Notice the phrase interest and opportunity, we are so blessed to live now – the opportunities are endless. We just have to determine our interest and then seek.

Beware of Unbalance

President Nelson states:

“Choose what you will learn and whose purposes you will serve. But don’t place all your intellectual eggs in one basket of secular learning.” – Russell M. Nelson

There is a danger in pursuing only secular learning and ignoring spiritual education. We need to remember that the wisdom of man is foolishness to God. (See 1 Corinthians 3:19.)

President Nelson shared the following story. It is long, but really emphasizes his point:

“In the nineteenth century, health officials and others were concerned about pollution of the air, not by visible smoggy hydrocarbons of today, but by an invisible miasma that was blamed for almost any infection. In 1867, for example, Lord Lister indicted bad air as the chief cause of infection.4 Because of that, in 1869 Simpson from Edinburgh urged that hospitals be taken down and rebuilt every few years. Such an extravagant practice was also advocated by other experts.

Even Florence Nightingale, a living legend following her heroic efforts in the Crimean War, failed to recognize the transmission of infection from one patient to another—this despite her careful notations that wound infection accounted for 40 percent of postoperative mortality.

But others missed the connection, too. For centuries, lives of innumerable mothers and children were claimed by “childbirth fever”—infections unknowingly transmitted among the innocent by unwashed hands of attendants.

It was only a short century ago that the great work of Koch, Pasteur, and others proved that infection could be caused by bacteria in contaminated body fluids—or infected issues—passed from one individual to another.

With these highlights of history in mind, may I quote the word of the Lord recorded long ago in Leviticus, chapter fifteen:

“The Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying,

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When any man hath a running issue out of his flesh, because of his issue he is unclean.

“And this shall be his uncleanness in his issue. …

“Every bed, whereon he lieth that hath the issue, is unclean: and every thing, whereon he sitteth, shall be unclean.

“And whosoever toucheth his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water. …

“And he that toucheth the flesh of him that hath the issue shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water.” (Lev. 15:1–5, 7; emphasis added.)

Several verses follow which re-emphasize and illustrate those important principles. Then we read this conclusion:

“And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall … wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean.” (Leviticus 15:13)

Thus, our loving Heavenly Father had clearly revealed principles of clean technique in the handling of infected patients more than three thousand years ago! These scriptures are in complete harmony with modern medical guidelines.9 But during those many millennia, how many mothers needlessly perished? How many children suffered because man’s quest for knowledge had failed to incorporate the word of the Lord?” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s important for us to cultivate our knowledge of both secular and spiritual things.

Contemporary Challenges

Even though I spent a lot of time just talking about the benefit of living in the information age, it also poses many challenges. We are bombarded with information – and not all of it is good.

This has been going on for ages…one example I can think of right off the bat is how “Doctors” used to say that smoking was good.

camel ad

Another more recent example:
butter

It can be so confusing! I know – for myself – I have researched and researched so much about healthy diets and exercise. I’ve gone back and forth on the pendulum. Meat is bad – it gives us cancer. We should eat plant-based. …then…Wait, grains are bad. They raise insulin. We need to eat more protein. … then … No, wait again. Too much protein results in gluconeogenesis, which will then raise insulin anyway, so we need to eat very low carb (fruit is evil!) and lots and lots of fats. Saturated fat is fine. Stay away from polunsaturated fat though. (ignore what was preached in the 90s. Saturated fat is not the enemy! Veggie oil is!!)

It can make your head spin. You might ask…Where is wisdom?

President Nelson taught:

“Wisdom is to be found in pure intelligence—in that divine light which can guide people in all countries, all climes, and all continents.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lord is the fountain of all wisdom. I’m not saying that everything that we need to learn can be learned in only the scriptures or at church. That’s not the case at all. The Lord, Himself, taught us:

“… yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:118

Wisdom and education won’t just happen to us. We need to seek. We can find truth and light everywhere – as we observe the world around us, in a yoga class, while listening to a podcast, on instagram, from a blog, when we listen to our children, etc.

And though there are complications with living in the information age, we have a benefit – the gift of the Holy Ghost can help us to discern truth from error.

I, for example, don’t have to let myself get confused by all of the dietary and nutritional information that I have learned. I have the word of wisdom. It is an excellent guide, even if it doesn’t explain things like the effects of sugar on our hormones.

The Lord is the source of all truth and will help us to see the nuggets of truth as we seek more wisdom. There are a lot of good things that I have learned about health and nutrition – that weren’t included in the Word of Wisdom, but with the Word of Wisdom as a guide, I have been able to discern what is good and what is folly.

This is a long and rambling blog post. I’m sorry. I’ll finish with one last quote.

“Where is wisdom? It pulses and surges with the Lord’s light of truth! With that light He lifts us toward eternal life, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m so grateful to be living in the information age. I have learned so much from so many people – from experts with long pedigrees of formal education down to people who have put in time, effort, and experience to learn what they know. Though I haven’t pursued a formal education, I still have made every effort to obtain the highest level of education I can reach. This pursuit will continue until I take my last breath.

I’m also grateful to know that we are guided by an intelligent prophet who loves learning and light. I’m grateful that he has not only sought formal education, but that he learns on a daily basis. I’m grateful that he preaches that we each seek wisdom, learning, and light. I know that because of President Nelson’s choice to seek wisdom, we have all been greatly blessed.

Doors of Death – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Doors of Death, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1992 General Conference.

I guess I’ll start by saying that this was a really good talk. There are a lot of things that I highlighted (which is usually the case). It’s kind of funny to say that a talk about death was good, but it’s true. There seems to be no better way to think about life than by talking about death.

Heber Valley Golden Hour
Just a nice picture for you.

President Nelson stated:

“Death separates “the spirit and the body [which] are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15.) That separation evokes pangs of sorrow and shock among those left behind. The hurt is real. Only its intensity varies.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m sure that everyone reading this post has experienced the death of a loved one. And that each person reading this post has experienced the pain of this loss in various intensities. I have not yet experienced the death of a parent or spouse, but all my grandparents have passed away. My little brother tragically died seven years ago when he was only 18. I have mourned the death of loved ones and friends.

Not only that, but I’m going to be turning 40 this year, and it seems like the older I get, the more I realize that life is fragile. When I was a teenager, I never would have said that I thought I was invincible. I knew better than that! But it seems like I only knew that logically. I never really thought about the fact that I will one day die, and I didn’t usually attach any of my actions to this fact.

I mean, I drove recklessly, I jumped off bridges, I stayed up late and ate a diet of 90% junk food! Yes, I knew that I was going to die one day, but instead of using that information to make wiser decisions, it was more or less a reason for me to push the boundaries – YOLO!

Now, as I’m getting older, I have a fully formed frontal lobe. I’m a mother. In fact, I actually think that sometimes my anxieties have the best of me. But it is for the same reason…YOLO! I love my life, and I want to really live it. For a long time, too. Which is why this statement made by President Nelson really stood out to me:

“The only length of life that seems to satisfy the longings of the human heart is life everlasting.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the only length of life that is satisfactory to me. I love life! What’s not to love? And yet, when I write this, I can’t help but think about recent events – like suicides of public figures – which are a small representation of so many more who feel so much pain that they think that death is the best option. My heart is filled with sorrow to know that there are people suffering to this degree. I can’t even imagine it.

But I do love life. Here are a few reasons why:

Sunrise at Maleakahana
Sunrise at Malaekahana
Wawa Hoagie
Wawa Hoagies – FAVE
Late Summer Sunflower
Late Summer Sunflowers in Midway
Little Bear Big Luck
Little Girl, Big Luck
Magic of Christmas
The Magic of Christmas
Superstar Medallion Quilt
Quilts!
My BFFs
My BFFs – Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Basil
Waiting for Pie
A Little Girl Waiting for More Pie
My puppy Dog
My Sad Little Puppy Dog
Rex and a Butterfly
This Boy has My Heart
Baby Deer in Snake Creek Canyon
A Baby Deer in Snake Creek Canyon
Cannoli
Cannoliiiiiiiiiiiiiii…..
Flowers on the Tops of the Mountain
Wildflowers at the Tops of the Wasatch
Halloween in Hingham
Halloween!
Chocolate Haupia Pie
Chocolate Haupia Pie
Horses in Heber
Horses in Heber
Homey and Little Homey
World Cup Haircuts
Provo City Center Temple
Provo City Center Temple
My Fave
My Total Favorite

Okay. That was more than a few. Why I love life, yet this is a talk about death… So a few thoughts from the talk.

One

“Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is such a good reminder and gives us perspective. Before we came to this earth, we existed as spiritual beings – spiritual daughters and sons of a Loving God. We had intelligence and purpose long before we took our first breath. And we will still have an existence for an eternity after we take our last mortal breath.

This life is only a portion of our eternal lives.

Sometimes I don’t really internalize that. Even though I have had the gospel my whole life and I have known the truth of our eternal natures, I can’t remember life before this life! I haven’t died yet either, so it’s easy to get consumed with this mortal life. It is easy to let this consumption beget anxiety and fear – that I’m missing out or squandering this life.

Instead, I need to keep a proper perspective on how my mortality fits into the rest of my life. The decisions we make here on earth will have some impact on our eternal futures. We must keep our eternal nature in mind as we balance zest for life with mindfulness of the real purpose that we are here – to prepare to meet God.

Two

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

“…it was appointed unto men that they must die;…” – Alma 12:27

Just as we had a life before mortality, we will have a life after mortality. Which means that we enter into mortality through birth, and that we exit from mortality through death.

We all die.

There is a purpose in the timing and seasons of our lives – and of our death.

Three

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

Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now.” – Russell M. Nelson

As I mentioned earlier, seven years ago, my little brother passed away. He was in a freak accident. It was completely unexpected and just terrible.

I was living in Arkansas at the time and my sister was living in Oklahoma. We drove together to Massachusetts to be with my family during this time. We drove as swiftly as we could, and when we arrived to Massachusetts, we went straight to the viewing.

People came to pay their condolences.

I kept hearing over and over again, “Stay strong.”
“You are so strong.”
Strong, strong, strong.

And yes, everyone was grief-stricken. We were mourning. But it seemed like we all tried to rush the time of mourning – and wear our stoicism as a badge of strength.

I was troubled by it, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I, too, was proud of my “strength.” I had eternal perspective. Why should I be sad. We were there to celebrate my brother’s life, not mourn his death. We wanted to focus on the positive. I’m an optimist, so this idea naturally appeals to me.

Strength. Perspective. Hope. Optimism. Those are good things, right?

Jesus said:

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

Blessed are they that mourn.

It seems like – for my whole life – I’ve tried to run away from mourning, as if it is a sign of weakness. Yet the Savior, in his short list of beatitudes, includes a blessing on those that mourn.

It was a few years later when I was seeing a therapist. I was feeling in a funk, and felt strongly prompted to see this particular woman. As we went through therapy she asked me: “Why do you intellectualize yourself out of your emotions?”

hmmm…Because I’m strong! Because I’m smart! I’m not emotional! Because I’m an optimist!

I didn’t understand the value of emotions. I didn’t understand that I could accept my emotions as the signals they are – that I didn’t have to be ruled by them as an “emotional person.”

She asked me about that – without giving me any insights or answers other than stating what I do. (“You were talking about something – it was really sad. I saw that you wanted to get sad. You started to feel sad. Then instead, you just explained it away. It’s okay to be sad about that! It’s a sad thing! So why do you do that?!”)

I thought about that for a while, and of course when we try to change, with our hearts, the Lord helps us with opportunities.

One day, I saw a woman in the parking lot of the fitness center I went to. She had a license plate on her car that had a “Donate Life” symbol on it – having been a recipient of organ donation. She was also wearing a similar tee-shirt. For some reason, I felt like I should say something to her.

She told me that it was her five year anniversary of life – receiving an organ that had kept her alive. I wanted to explain to her that my brother was an organ donor. I wanted to see the perspective and hope in this situation. But instead, I felt a prompting: Don’t intellectualize yourself out of this emotion. … So instead of saying something eloquent or strong, I broke down and cried, hugging her. Telling her that it was the two year anniversary of my brother’s death – and that he was an organ donor. We, two strangers, a woman I’ve never seen again, held each other and cried in the parking lot. She out of gratitude and grief. Me – finally letting myself mourn.

It was strange. I got in my car after that, a little embarrassed, and laughed to myself.

This was followed by heightened emotions for days. Finally, as things started to settle, I realized something. If I chose to bottle up my emotions, then I was bottling all of them up. I couldn’t only close myself off from grief and pain. Because peace and joy are connected to them. If I close myself off to negative emotions, I also miss out on the beautiful ones.

President Nelson taught:

“The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” – Russell M. Nelson

Mourning. Sorrow. Grief. These feelings are all okay! They don’t indicate weakness. They don’t indicate a lack of perspective or gratitude! They show that you loved! They show that life mattered!

Four

I know I just went on about mourning. And we are blessed when we mourn. But we can’t forget the rest of the beatitude: Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.

We need to also allow ourselves to be comforted. We can’t wallow in grief, refusing to be comforted. Comfort comes to those who mourn, but we still must accept the comfort, otherwise grief and sadness come at the cost of joy and peace.

How can we be comforted? We can remember that this life is a part of a bigger plan – A Plan of Happiness.

President Nelson taught:

“Our limited perspective would be enlarged if we could witness the reunion on the other side of the veil, when doors of death open to those returning home.” – Russell M. Nelson

Just as we mourn when our loved ones pass, there are people on the other side of the veil who rejoice at the reunion with their family!

Again, the experience with my brother. It was 5AM when I was notified that Sean was in the hospital – dead. That they were keeping him alive so they could harvest his organs. It was terrible, and feels terrible as I write it right now. Like a punch to the gut.

I knelt down to pray. I felt worried and sad – grief stricken…the first stages of mourning. As I prayed, the very words that the Savior promised they shall be comforted were fulfilled.

I felt a distinct impression – Sean was okay. There were loved ones there welcoming him. That there were more people praying for all of us on the other side of the veil than here on earth in mortality. That we were united in prayer – that prayer not only transcends distances but also through the veil. I knew that because of the covenants in the temple that I had made and that I had performed in proxy for my family we were united. I knew that the power of the priesthood was blessing me – as I am their posterity. I knew that the power of the priesthood was blessing Sean. I knew that really, as trite as it sounds he is okay. We would be sad for a time. It was a tragic loss. But it wasn’t an eternal loss.

He was with loved ones.

And one day we’d be with them, too.

Five

Death feels so permanent. It is hard to remember that it is only a temporary state. But we have hope – we have Good News. Christ overcame death. His victory over death is our victory over death. Just as Paul taught: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

I love the way that President Nelson put it:

“The Lord who created us in the first place surely has power to do it again. The same necessary elements now in our bodies will still be available—at His command. The same unique genetic code now embedded in each of our living cells will still be available to format new ones then. The miracle of the resurrection, wondrous as it will be, is marvelously matched by the miracle of our creation in the first place.” – Russell M. Nelson

ISN’T THAT AMAZING!!!!!???????!!!!

I’ve never thought of that before. I hadn’t put it together – that of course Christ is the Resurrection. He created us in the first place! I love President Nelson’s background – as a medical doctor. He brings insight into the plan of Salvation and these truths – such as resurrection – that make so much sense I sit and think Duh! Of course!

Of course the miracle of resurrection will be amazing. And our creation – in the first place – is a witness of the remarkable power of Creation that our Lord has.

***
With each conference talk I read, my admiration and love for our Prophet grows. I’m so grateful for a prophet who understands death. He has had to experience the grief that comes with passing. He is 93 years old! He has had to experience this more times than most of us.

Yet he also understands where to find peace and comfort. He understands the purpose of this life, and that death is just a part of the bigger whole of our eternal lives.

I’m grateful for a Prophet who not only understands this life and death, but also that the resurrection is real. I’m grateful for a prophet who has internalized the Plan of Salvation and leads us in a way that we can find happiness in this life and in the life to come.

One last thought from our dear prophet:
Love Life Quote

“These … Were Our Examples” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk “These … Were Our Examples” by Russell M. Nelson. It was given in the October 1991 session of General Conference.

At the beginning of the talk, President Nelson shared that he had toured Europe along with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It left an indelible impression on President Nelson.

About the choir he stated:

“Have you not learned that strength comes to an ordinary soul when given an extraordinary calling? The choir has! Indeed, each member seemed to be imbued with a real sense of mission, striving for those ten traits that missionaries are expected to possess and practice:

“Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.” (D&C 4:6) – Russell M. Nelson

The rest of the talk is about the attributes listed in the scripture quoted above and how the choir exemplified these attributes.

These attributes are the attributes of any disciple of Christ…not only the Mo-tab…

Therefore, I will not necessarily write about the choir in this blog post. I will only write about what I feel like writing concerning the attributes listed, but if you want to read more about what President Nelson said about the choir, then I encourage you to read the talk.

Faith

Okay, even though I just said that I wouldn’t write much about the experiences of the choir, this one is really interesting.

A few logistical things to remember:

  • The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is made up of over 300 participants. To organize a tour, you have to find venues large enough, you have to think about this large number traveling on buses. I’m going to guess that they might have had loved ones with them, too. It’s not like this was a tour of a quartet of singers. This is a big deal.
  • Because it is such a big event to coordinate, it is obvious that the planning for this happened before the event itself! As I said, obvious, but just keep that in mind.
  • The tour was in 1991. We have to remember what the world was like in the late 1980s. The Berlin Wall didn’t even come down until 1989. The Dissolution of the U.S.S.R finished up in December of 1991. (It was kind of a process).

With those points in mind, read what President Nelson shared:

“Their great faith was strengthened by the faith of our leaders. I pay tribute to the First Presidency and to leaders of the choir who had the foresight to plan as they did and when they did. How bold and inspired they were to conceive this tour many months—even years—before Europe’s unwelcoming walls began to crumble! The Brethren had the faith to believe that the choir could sing in cities such as Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Leningrad, and Moscow long before such dreams seemed plausible. Then in January 1991, hopeful plans were seriously threatened when war erupted in the Persian Gulf. Even then, our leaders decided against canceling the tour. They knew of its potential for good and had faith that countless obstacles could be overcome. Often they prayed that the choir’s tour might be successfully accomplished.

Those prayers were answered!” – Russell M. Nelson

In 1991, I was 13 years old. I have vague memories of the Berlin wall coming down a few years before. I vaguely remember my history teacher going crazy with excitement. We watched reports abut it on TV in our classroom. She kept telling us how important it was, and I believed her. I just didn’t have any context for it. I didn’t quite understand the cold war at that point – other than Russians were always bad guys in movies.

I was young.

I just wasn’t capable of understanding the miraculous nature of the history we witnessed. But it happened! And it was a miracle it was answered prayer for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to be able to sing in the various parts of Europe where they performed. The idea of singing in Moscow had been simply impossible for decades.

President Nelson continues:

“Think of the timing. In one thousand years of Russia’s existence, its first popular national election ever to be held occurred in June 1991. Six days later, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performed in Moscow! That very night, after the strains of “Come, Come, Ye Saints” had resounded from the Bolshoi Theater, the vice president of the republic announced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been granted recognition in the Republic of Russia. On the eve of a supreme crisis that was yet ahead, Russian people heard songs of faith, courage, hope, and love.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is just a cool story. It is a story of faith, and I imagine that it would have been pretty cool to be there.

Virtue

President Nelson quoted Brigham Young:

““Learn the will of God, keep His commandments and do His will, and you will be a virtuous person.” – Brigham Young, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote on virtue. Virtue can be such a hard thing to really understand. It is easy for us to simply think that virtue=purity. But that isn’t really a good understanding of what virtue is.

Virtue is power. And we are blessed with this power when we learn God’s will and then keep His commandments. We are then empowered by God – full of virtue.

Knowledge

President Nelson explains that knowledge is crucial if we want to be competent missionaries and disciples of Christ.

We need to know what we believe in. We need to know about the world around us. Especially when it comes to sharing the gospel with others, ignorance can end up hurting us.

Does this mean we need to know everything? Of course not! We will not know everything at any point in our lives.

Maybe what this means is that we need to have the wisdom to recognize that WE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. When we recognize our foolishness and ignorance, then we will seek knowledge.

And we can still share. We can share what we know. We may not know much, but there are some things we each know, and that knowledge can help others.

President Nelson stated:

“Just think of the good you can do if you accept a difficult challenge and pursue knowledge—then use it to bless others, as did the choir!” – Russell M. Nelson

Temperance

Another tricky one to really understand. Or at least potentially tricky, I guess.

President Nelson taught:

“Temperance suggests sobriety and self-restraint in action. It reminds one of covenants made.

Temperance can protect each of us from the aftermath of excess.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love these quotes! And how I need temperance in my life. I’m not living some kind of crazy, risky life. It’s just that I find that most of my personal struggles have to do with my own personal lack of discipline.

I’ll give one example. I’ve recently started Intermittent Fasting – basically on a daily basis. I still eat every day – just during a restricted time…so I’m not eating all day long.

Over time, I’ve experienced the benefit of a little bit of self-restraint. That is not my forte when it comes to food and sugar! Yet, I’ve also suffered from the aftermath of excess. Intermittent fasting has been a way to include more temperance in my life – which has helped me to feel more in control of my own hungers and less pulled by the world around me.

I can see how this would benefit any disciple of Christ. We are taught to be agents to act, not acted upon. By the way – the word is temperance NOT ABSTINENCE. By being temperate, we don’t get pulled by our appetites and hungers. Instead, we can choose when and how to implement them in our lives. So much more joy is to be had when we behave this way!

Patience

President Nelson taught that patience is a divine attribute.

Patience can be hard to cultivate, I know, but it really helps us have more happiness each day. Instead of getting frustrated with little problems in life, when we are patience, we learn to stop and smell the roses. Necessity is the mother of invention, but it is hard to be inventive if we are impatient about our necessities not being met.

So – patience. We need to breathe, smell the roses, and keep on going.

Roses

Brotherly Kindness

President Nelson stated:

“Brotherly kindness overcomes the rudeness of selfish intent. Each of us can develop brotherly kindness at home, at school, at work, or at play.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is an obvious attribute to cultivate if we want to be the kind of disciples that Christ wants us to be.

Love one another….which happens to also relate to the next attribute.

Charity

President Nelson taught:

“The Book of Mormon defines charity as the pure love of Christ.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is the love that does not fail. This is the attribute that gives meaning to every other attribute. If we show brotherly kindness, but we don’t have true charity for another, what is the point?

It’s a good one for me to to remember. I need to be kinder and more forgiving and that needs to be rooted in a true sense of love for others.

Humility

In the Book of Mormon, we read:

“They did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts.” – Helaman 3:35

Interestingly enough, when we keep the commandments, when we have discipline and work hard – we are blessed. For some reason, it seems to be that when we are blessed we tend to forget that it was the Lord who blessed us. We are recipients of His grace, and yet it can be easy to forget.

By fasting and praying and really turning to the Lord, we will continue to be humble and cultivate our faith. It’s a really interesting paradox (and this world including the gospel is full of them). When we develop our relationships with God, we are simultaneously blessed with confidence and purpose while we also need to be humble! But both ingredients are crucial.

Diligence

All of these attributes are not “one time events.” I think that they are all cultivated when we practice diligence.

Diligence is careful or persistent work or effort.

Even diligence isn’t a one time “event”. TADA! I’m diligent. On to the next thing! Nope…diligence is a daily choice. Faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, brotherly kindness, charity, humility, and diligence – are all daily choices. If we diligently choose to develop these attributes, then we cultivate the final attribute.

Godliness

I love this quote:

“Godliness is not a product of perfection; it comes of concentration and consecration.” – Russell M. Nelson

Concentration and consecration. Godliness comes when we are just doing our best, then He can work a mircale in each of us. Then, HE will perfect us – making us whole – just as He did to the woman who touched His robe:

“And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.” – Luke 8:48

***
There is so much to study and learn in this talk, but I just want to say that I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the attributes of a disciple of Christ. Not only does President Nelson understand them, but he recognizes them in others and is inspired by the examples of others. President Nelson didn’t teach these attributes like I wrote about them. He used the example of other people to demonstrate these principles. He is not prideful. He is humble and kind. I know that I can do more to find inspiration from others rather than fault. That through such examples I’ll be able to incorporate more of these qualities into my life.

Listen to Learn – by Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk Listen to Learn, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1991 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I wish I could say that I’ve always been the best listener…That I’ve been the kind of person who quietly listens to what is happening in the world around me – rather than wrapped up in my own anxieties or ideas. Or, that I’ve been the kind of person who was engaged and truly listened to what others said to me – rather than quietly waiting to say what I want to say.

Even though I know that I have a lot to learn when it comes to listening, I do value it, and I have been trying to be a good listener for years. I have also found myself, as a mother, often telling my children “You have one mouth and two ears so that you can listen twice as much as you speak.” They kind of roll their eyes, just like I did when I was younger. But it is such a wise saying.

In his talk, Russell M. Nelson quoted the proverb:

““Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise.” – Proverbs 19:20

He then explained:

“Surely wisdom will come as we listen to learn from children, parents, partners, neighbors, Church leaders, and the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m not going to go through every point that President Nelson mentions. You can read it for yourself here. I will pick a few points out and write about them.

Learn to Listen, then Listen to Learn from Children

Russell M. Nelson stated:

“A wise father once said, “I do a greater amount of good when I listen to my children than when I talk to them.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have four children – my oldest is nearly 17. My youngest is 7. Though I’m not an expert by any means, being a mom is something I’ve done longer than almost anything else now. I’ve been “in the trenches” of motherhood for 17 years now. And I think that I’m really beginning to learn the truth of the above statement. I’m a better mother when I listen.

I have noticed, when I lecture, the glazed expressions that come over my children’s faces. At first, I’m tempted to get a little frustrated. Are you even listening to me?! I have even asked.
“Yes,” was the answer – usually mumbled!

Thankfully, the gift of the Holy Ghost brings everything to our remembrance. The kids look bored out of their minds because lectures are boring, and I’ve had enough boring lectures in my life to know that.

So, I’ve been trying to listen to my children. Of course, we can do this by hearing them. Sometimes that might even require putting our phones down. (hehe). But there are other ways to listen, too. Often our children say more in their behaviors than they do in words.

Things have been a little unsettled for our family for a little while now. We are in the transition of moving, but that transition has taken months. It is not easy for anyone – even though we have been infinitely blessed along the way.

Additionally, it is June. The days are getting longer, the nights shorter. The kids tire themselves out to the bone playing each day, but don’t seem to get a whole lot of sleep.

The physical tiredness and the “up in the air” feeling of our lives sometimes results in cranky or emotional kids. It could be easy to just tell them to snap out of it. It could be easy to lecture or yell. But it would be completely ineffectual.

Instead, by listening, the Spirit has helped me to see the real reason why my kids might be cranky. The words of a small tantrum are rarely the real reason a child is throwing it. Instead, if we listen – not only to our kids words, but to their actions, their concerns, and if we listen with the Spirit, we will see the truth of what they are “saying.”

My daughter, Sasquatch, was having a particularly hard day, and I was able to recognize, She needs sleep. She needs stability. She needs love. I wasn’t able to put her to sleep at the moment (she is 9, so she didn’t need a nap. I just needed to be sure she went to bed a little earlier that night). And yes, she needs stability, but we are still in the middle of a move, so that is out of my control. What I could offer her was the stability of a mother’s love.

Instead of lecturing her, I firmly told her to take a deep breath and stop crying. (Fits are not really allowed). Then, I scooped her up in my arms, hugged, her, and said “I think that you need some time with just me.” She went with me as I did errands, and I was able to be with her and just listen to her.

Now..it can be a bit easier to listen to a cute little kid rather than a teenager sometimes. President Nelson taught:

“The time to listen is when someone needs to be heard. Children are naturally eager to share their experiences, which range from triumphs of delight to trials of distress. Are we as eager to listen? If they try to express their anguish, is it possible for us to listen openly to a shocking experience without going into a state of shock ourselves? Can we listen without interrupting and without making snap judgments that slam shut the door of dialogue?”

He continues:
“Parents with teenage youth may find that time for listening is often less convenient but more important when young people feel lonely or troubled. And when they seem to deserve favor least, they may need it most.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote.

And I admit, I have it easy. I have two teenage daughters, and they are simply amazing. Yet, being a mother is exhausting, and sometimes I’m not all that eager to listen.

When I am listening, sometimes I’m jarred by the fact that my teenagers are their own people with their own opinions. I’m startled when I realize that soon, they won’t be living with me anymore. That they don’t think I’m an expert. I still have a 7 year old son who thinks I’m the number 1 source of all knowledge and wisdom in the world! But my teenagers are keen on the fact that I don’t really know all that much.

Compound a healthy dose of skepticism with a not-quite-developed frontal lobe, and you have teenagers that sometimes say things that…drive you a little nuts.

But, if we listen, if we really listen, then we will understand. In fact, we might even learn something. I’ve learned so much from my children. They are patient, submissive, faithful. They want to do what is right. They are trying to negotiate this crazy world, and they are doing it so much better than I could have if I was a teenager right now.

When I listen to learn, then I’m actually better able to parent. Listening is really interesting. The more I listen to learn from my children, the more that they have been willing to listen to learn from me. True listening (not being a dumb doormat, but real listening) opens a door of trust.

Learn to Listen and Listen to Learn from Spouses

President Nelson stated:

“…some couples seem not to listen to one another. Taking time to talk is essential to keep lines of communication intact. If marriage is a prime relationship in life, it deserves prime time! Yet less important appointments are often given priority, leaving only leftover moments for listening to precious partners.” – Russell M. Nelson

I think that I’m a noticer. Sometimes being a noticer isn’t that good of a thing. In fact, sometimes being a noticer tempts me to be a little judgmental. But I’m a noticer still, and there are times when it is helpful. Sometimes I notice things like how men and women, husbands and wives interact with one another. There are some couples I want to emulate. Others not as much.

One couple that I really admire is my biological father and his wife.

Catania0052 - Jack and Regina Cacciato
Regina and Jack

I haven’t had as many experiences with them as I would like, but I’ve had enough to really learn from them.

Every time I’ve been in their home, there is a palpable feeling of love. Does this mean that they are all cheesy and mushy? Sometimes Yes! Other times, they gently tease one another. They have dealt with hardship and difficulty. They have also enjoyed victories and triumphs.

Their ability to listen to one another even literally saved a life. One evening, after falling asleep, Regina awoke to a strange noise. She said that Jack was doing some strange “monster” breathing. She said that sometimes he snored from time to time, and she would nudge him. He would then shift positions or whatever, and the breathing would go back to normal. But this time it was different.

I feel fairly confident that if they were not the type of couple that really listened to one another and cared for one another, then what followed would not have happened.

Jack didn’t stop his strange breathing, and he wasn’t particularly responsive to Regina. This is because, unbeknownst to her, he was having a heart attack. She didn’t just roll over, ignoring this man that slept by her side for over 30 years. It’s so easy to ignore the person closest to us. Instead she was alarmed.

She tried to get Jack’s attention, but still the strange noises. Her daughter (my sister) and husband (my brother-in-law) happened to be staying the night with Jack and Regina. And my brother-in-law happens to be doing his residency as a doctor. Matt, my brother-in-law, came to the bedroom and immediately recognized that Jack was having a heart attack.

Regina was a champ. Despite the high emotions of the situation, she listened to her children – to her son in law. He gave everyone there directions on what to do – call 911, open the door and look for the ambulence, etc. He directed Regina on how to help him move Jack off the bed, and then how to assist him with CPR. She listened. And she saved Jack’s life.

This is a fairly extreme example. And it is an obvious example on why we ought to listen.

We, in the Mormon faith, believe in eternal marriage. When we are married in the temple, the verbiage of the marriage covenant not “until death to you part.” It is an eternal covenant, an eternal marriage.

There are some people who are in insufferable marriages – for decades. And that’s not even a fraction of eternity! Gross! Terrible!

I’m a noticer. I have noticed one couple who have a low-grade fight at all times. (Yes, there are times when the fight escalates, but it is never gone completely. How incredibly exhausting.) Because of this low-grade, neverending fight, there is no room for true listening – the kind of listening that teaches and informs. Instead, “listening” is a weapon. The husband and wife of this marriage are almost like bots – listening for keywords that can help them in their fight to destroy one another. This marriage has lasted decades, and I can’t even imagine the strain.

Not only have I noticed the terrible marriage, but the effects on the individual is also unmistakeable. Because of decades of refusing to listen, love, and understand, they have become changed beings. It’s kind of like getting a sliver that then gets infected. After a certain point, the entire being is septic – not only the source point that started the infection.

It’s so depressing.

Contrast that with a couple like Jack and Regina, who may not always see eye to eye, but they have chosen to be loving and accepting to one another. They have chosen to listen to one another. They don’t make assumptions about one another. Listening is used to increase their joy in life and to build up their marriage – rather than as a tool to destroy one another.

Which situation would you want to be in for eternity?

Learn to Listen, then Listen to Learn from the Lord

Honestly, we could start and end the blog post with this. When we learn to listen to the Lord, and we listen to learn from the Lord, everything else will flow naturally.

When we learn to listen to the Spirit and actually listen to learn from it, we’ll also listen to learn from our children, parents, companions, neighbor, and church leaders.

When we learn to listen to the Spirit, we will develop discernment because listening doesn’t mean that we blindly follow everything that our children, parents, companions, neighbors, or church leaders say. Sometimes they are wrong! Sometimes they are even hurtful! We have to be wise.

The best way to be wise – learn to listen to the Spirit and listen to learn from it.

I have found that if I’m listening to the Spirit, then I can live with no regrets. Even if things don’t seem ideal, I can feel confident when I’m following the Lord in my life.

I love the following scripture:

“Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me; and ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings.” – Doctrine and Covenants 41:1

Often, I focus on the part that says whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings. It helps me to know that God loves to bless us. But this verse also tells us about our role in being blessed.

We need to hearken and hear.

President Nelson explained:

“Scriptures recorded in all dispensations teach that we show our love of God as we hearken to His commandments and obey them.14 These actions are closely connected. In fact, the Hebrew language of the Old Testament in most instances uses the same term for both hearkening (to the Lord) and obedience (to His word).” – Russell M. Nelson

Hearkening and hearing isn’t passive. When we hearken and hear, we actively obey. We repent, we change, we proceed, we strive. Hearkening and hearing means that we let His words become a part of us as we put them to the test in our lives.

Finally, President Nelson advises:

“Carefully listen to learn from the Lord through the still small voice—the Holy Spirit—which leads to truth. Listen to learn by studying scriptures that record His holy mind and will. Listen to learn in prayer, for He will answer the humble who truly seek Him.” – Russell M. Nelson

Listening to the Lord often requires us to “tune in.” We really have to turn the dial and adjust the volume if we want to hear what He has to say to us. This is done when we study the scriptures, when we pray, and when we act according to what He teaches us.

I know that this is true. There have been times when I haven’t tuned my heart or soul in to the Lord. When this is the case, I stumble along through life – surviving. But, I’ve got to admit. I’m not all that interested in merely surviving. I want to thrive, and I know that the Lord blesses in abundance. He wants us to thrive, too.

I have learned that when I prioritize my health – physical and spiritual – I’m better able to hear the gentle promptings of the Spirit. I have learned that when I then trust what the Spirit is guiding me to do, then I’m strengthened and blessed abundantly. When I learn to listen to the Spirit, I’ve come to realize that He is all around me! That everything testifies of Christ and His love for me. That He showers His tender mercies on me in my life – even if I’m not always capable of recognizing them.

Through learning to listen and listening to learn, I have come to realize that the Holy Ghost truly can be and is my constant companion. That He is always gently speaking to me – of the Love God has for me, of my value and worth.

Can you hear?

Choices – by Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk Choices, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1990 General Conference.

The inspiration of this talk was an experience that President Nelson had with an unnamed woman. As he says:

“Not long ago a beautiful young mother asked me for guidance with a very difficult decision she was facing. It pertained to an important surgical operation that was being considered. Consequences of her choice would affect her husband and her family as well. She said, “Decisions are really hard for me. I even have trouble choosing what to wear each morning.”

“You are not so different,” I replied. “Each of us must make choices. That is one of life’s great privileges.” – Russell M. Nelson

001 Deer
Sometimes the choices we need to make can have us feeling like a wide-eyed deer…

We do all have decisions to make every day. And sometimes it seems like we are inundated with so many decisions. In fact, I’ve even heard the term “decision fatigue” because we have so many choices.

For example, when I was growing up, we had like 5 television stations. Now, there are hundreds! And it is hard to make a decision on what to watch sometimes. We have so many clothes to wear, foods to eat, places to go, things to do. All of these decisions need to be made on a daily basis, and they can be tiring.

In any case, President Nelson doesn’t talk about decision fatigue. Even though the difficulty the woman was describing may be just that. President Nelson gave advice on a few questions to ask when making a decision.

He stated:

“I would suggest three questions you might ask yourself as you consider your options. Whether they are once-in-a-lifetime or routine daily decisions, serious reflection on these three questions will help clarify your thinking. You might wish to review these questions first alone and then with your husband. They are:

“Who am I?”

“Why am I here?”

“Where am I going?”

Truthful answers to these three questions will remind you of important anchors and unchanging principles.

As you consider these fundamental questions, it will become clear that decisions you first thought to be purely personal virtually always impact the lives of others. In answering these questions, then, you must be mindful of the broader circle of family and friends who will be affected by the consequences of your choice.” – Russell M. Nelson

These questions have me wondering how I make my decisions, and if I even find them difficult.

Daily decisions – I do not really find them difficult. When it comes to what to wear…I have a kind of dumb system, but it’s a system. Right now, I’m living out of a suitcase. I have stacks of clothes – shirts, pants, workout clothes. I wear whatever shirt/pants are on top. That’s it. When I wash clothes and put them away, I put them at the bottom of the pile to be sure that I’m cycling through my clothes.

I did this when I had a closet, too. For me, it honestly doesn’t matter all that much what I wear, and I love having one less little choice to make each day.

When it comes to what to eat/cook, I just plan my meals out. That’s what we eat. What fruit will I buy at the store? Whatever is on sale.

And if I have a strong craving or desire to eat or wear something – then I break from my little systems and do it. No big deal.

Big Decisions – I don’t think that I’ve really had a problem with that either. Obviously, I don’t automate big decisions. You can’t make a system like my “what to wear” system when it comes to…say…buying a house, marrying someone, choosing to have a surgery, etc.

Several years ago, I was faced with a huge decision – whether or not to get divorced. This decision would impact me and my family in obvious ways and also unknown ways. It wasn’t something I just wanted to decide as a reaction.

Remember, we are agents to act and not be acted upon.

I was counseling with my Bishop, and he told me to make my decision with my eyes wide open.

I think that President Nelson’s questions help us to do the same thing.

Who Am I?

The first question President Nelson suggested we ask ourselves is “Who Am I?” What an interesting question – especially when it involves decision making!

But I love it! I believe it is fundamental – for all decisions.

President Nelson stated:

“Remember, you are a daughter of God, just as your husband is a son of God. Our Heavenly Father loves you. He has created you to be successful and to have joy.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is such a critical thing to remember – we are children of God. If you reminded yourself of this truth while making small, daily decisions, imagine the results.

For example – when it comes to what to eat…Well, who are you? I’m a child of God. Perhaps you will choose something to eat that reflects this truth – something that will bring you health, sustenance, and joy. Maybe that might mean an apple sometimes. Maybe, other times, it might mean a piece of cake.

In any case, by remembering who you are, you will probably make a more mindful choice for even mundane questions. And we shouldn’t gloss over the importance of that – look at how many people are suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. It is a completely avoidable disease – and it is caused by little daily choices made again and again and again.

We are children of God!

***

President Nelson also suggested:

“You are one of God’s noble and great spirits, held in reserve to come to earth at this time.” – Russell M. Nelson

We learn so much from this truth. The Lord knew us before we were born. We were sent to this earth at specific times to do specific things based on our specific personalities and strengths. When we remember this, we can make better decisions.

***
I want to add a final insight to this question, even though it wasn’t posed by President Nelson. I believe answering the question “Who Am I?” when making decisions is fundamental to making the right choice!

I read this book The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin several years ago. I don’t remember much of it, but I remember that one of her rules is “Be Gretchen.”

When she was making decisions – big or small – she always reminded herself to “Be Gretchen.”

In other words – “Who am I?…Catania. Be Catania.”

This has helped me to have my eyes wide open when making decisions. When it comes to something I eat…I know that everyone loves Green Smoothies, and for a while I tried making them and liking them, but you know what…I just didn’t. (Unless I made them with so much pineapple and coconut milk that they basically became treats!) … Be Catania. Okay! Decision made. I can eat my greens in a salad – which I like. I don’t have to do something that everyone is doing when I hate it!

This is especially helpful for big decisions. Sometimes we might romanticize the results of a big decision, but are they in line with who we really are? It might seem really nice, for example to live in a cabin in the mountains at 8,000 feet far away from civilization…but if I ask myself “Who Am I?” and if I remind myself to “Be Catania,” I quickly realize that – I don’t want to have to drive 30 minutes just to get the mail and get groceries. Yes, the mountains would be fun and I could make it work, but I don’t want to be in a rural setting that can go without power for a week at a time. I don’t want winter to begin in October and end in May. I don’t want to have to park my car at a lower elevation and then ride the snowmobile between my car and my house. I don’t want to be stuck. That’s not me. And that’s okay. No big deal.

What is Catania? Taking a trip to the mountains and hiking around, not living there full time.

Asking the question “Who Am I?” will help us to make wise decisions.

Why Am I Here?

Another interesting question that may not be what we intuitively ask when making a decision but is so helpful in doing so!

We can ask this in both a micro or a macro setting. We can ask, “Why am I here?” When we are in college, or when we are at home with our newborn, or anywhere we are.

But President Nelson also suggests that we explore the greater question:

“Why are you here on planet earth?” – Russell M. Nelson

The answer to this question helps us to find our purpose. When we understand our purpose, we are better able to make decisions that will help us achieve that purpose.

The Lord will help us to understand our purpose on this earth. For myself, I feel like I’m constantly learning more about that purpose. It takes a bit of soul-searching sometimes, but it is a helpful and ultimately joyful process.

We will have joy when we fulfill the measure of our creation. The “measure of our creation” is our purpose – it is why we are here! There are so many ways to answer that question. There are generalities – we are here to gain a body, for example. But there are also specifics. And I know that the Lord reveals these specifics to us as we trust Him and obey the personal commandments and promptings He gives to us.

As President Nelson taught:

“You are free to develop and exercise faith in God and in His divine Son, faith in His word, faith in His Church, faith in His servants, and faith in His commandments…

“Cultivation of that faith will entitle you to the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who will help you make wise decisions. (See 2 Ne. 2:27–28; D&C 14:8.)” –

The Holy Ghost will help us to make wise decisions not only because He is one with God, but also because He knows us, personally, and will bring all things to our remembrance. He will help us to understand who we are and why we are here. With this knowledge, we will be able to discover good ways to make decisions in our lives.

Where Am I Going?

President Nelson stated:

“This question reminds us that eventually you (and I) are going to die, be resurrected, be judged, and be awarded a place in eternal realms. (See 1 Cor. 15:22; Alma 12:24; Alma 21:9; Hel. 14:16–17; D&C 138:19.) With each passing sunset, you are closer to that inevitable day of judgment. Then you will be asked to account for your faith, your hopes, and your works…

As all will be resurrected, your physical body will then be restored to its proper and perfect frame. (See Alma 11:43; Alma 40:23.) The day of your resurrection will be a day of judgment that will determine the kind of life you shall have hereafter.” – Russell M. Nelson

Again, another great question that will yield great results when we are trying to make decisions – great and small.

When we ask the question – “Where Am I Going?” we begin to contemplate the consequences that might befall us when we finally decide. We contemplate our futures – both the immediate and the eternal future.

***

Back to the earlier huge decision that I mentioned – to get divorced. My wise and loving Bishop counseled me to make the decision with my eyes wide open. And that’s exactly what I did.

Through the help of the Holy Ghost I contemplated who I was – a daughter of God. I knew that it wasn’t good for me to be in the marriage I was in because it was relatively abusive. No daughter of God is expected to endure abuse.

Through the help of the Holy Ghost I contemplated Why I was here? I had an immediate purpose – my children: Tiger and Panda. I needed to be their loving mom, and in the circumstances of that marriage, I was drained of all of my strengths, resources, gifts and abilities to do what I was sent to do. I remember that in my mind’s eye, I could see two oxen yoked to one another. One was in the mud. The other was struggling with all of her might to stay out of the mud, but she was still yoked to the other ox. She wasn’t there to wallow in the mud. She was there to move forward in life – to do the work she was sent to do. I knew that I needed to break from the yoke that bound me to my ex-husband if I was going to fulfill my purpose on this earth.

Through the help of the Holy Ghost, I contemplated where I was going. I remember having a very distinct impression. My eternal life, and the eternal lives of my children were at stake. I needed to free myself from that marriage if I wanted to make it out alive (spiritually).

Because I knew who I am, why I am here, and where I am going, I was able to see clearly to make a decision. I didn’t make this huge decision emotionally (even though I was very emotional about it). I didn’t make it with a romanticized idea of the consequences of my decision. I knew that there would be more trials and difficulties ahead. But I was comforted and strengthened.

I have never looked back. I have never regretted that decision. And I learned something when making that decision – if we make our decisions with the help of the Holy Ghost, then no matter how they turn out we can live with no regrets. If we trust the Lord wholly and implicitly then we can also trust the decision that He helps us to make. We never have to live with regret. Even when we struggle in the wilderness of our lives, we can know in whom we’ve trusted and we can be confident in our decisions.

***

President Nelson stated:

“As you continue to face many challenging choices in life, remember, there is great protection when you know who you are, why you are here, and where you are going. Let your unique identity shape each decision you make on the path toward your eternal destiny. Accountability for your choices now will bear on all that lies ahead.” – Russell M. Nelson

We have everything we need to make good decisions. We don’t need to let the decisions of our lives paralyze us. Not only that, but when we make good decisions – even before we see “all that lies ahead,” but when we are still in the thick of the big decision, we will be comforted and strengthened to forge ahead.

I’m so grateful, so grateful for a living prophet. I know that He is a prophet of God. I’m grateful to know that He is wise and understands how to make wise decisions. I’m grateful that because of His experiences he has been able to teach and help us in our lives. I’m grateful to know that the method of his decision making is careful and spiritual – that he doesn’t simply react. I’m grateful to know that the Prophet who guides us is one who will guide us with great care.