Reverence for Life – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Reverence for Life, by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the April 1985 General Conference.

This talk was about a grave and controversial subject – abortion. You know, as I think about it now, I find it pretty courageous that President Nelson would talk on this subject. He had been an apostle for only a year at this point. It takes time for the general population of the church to feel like they “know” the apostles. And he came out of the gates with a talk like this. He states early in his talk:

“I pray for the Spirit of the Lord to help me communicate his mind and will on a very vital and sensitive subject. I apologize for the use of words repugnant to me and ill-suited to this hallowed pulpit. I do so only for clarity of communication regarding reverence for human life.” – Russell M. Nelson

I wonder if he felt like Jacob – whose soul grieved to testify to the people of their sins. Instead of preaching about the pleasing word of God – that which heals the wounded soul – Jacob had to talk about the evil practices of the day that had become commonplace among his people. He had to admonish them. This would be a hard thing to do as a prophet.

I wonder if President Nelson felt similar.

Now – this isn’t to say that President Nelson was admonishing the people, in general. President Nelson taught about reverence for life, and he admonished the use of abortion as a “reason of convenience.” (By the way, at the time of this talk, only 3% of abortions were performed to save the mother’s life or because of rape/incest.)

Because of the gravity of this subject, this talk was kind of sad to read. I would imagine that it was also sad to give.

There were a few points that I found striking and would like to share on my blog.

Shaking My Head

The tone at the beginning of the talk seems to take on a “shaking my head” feel. First President Nelson gave some statistics. I will not include them here because they aren’t current, and I cannot take the time to find the current statistics.

After giving the staggering statistics, President Nelson states:

“Yet society professes reverence for human life. We weep for those who die, pray and work for those whose lives are in jeopardy. For years I have labored with other doctors here and abroad, struggling to prolong life. It is impossible to describe the grief a physician feels when the life of a patient is lost. Can anyone imagine how we feel when life is destroyed at its roots, as though it were a thing of naught?”

I haven’t ever thought of abortion from the point of view of a doctor – much less a cardiologist who routinely saves lives.

President Nelson continues with his proverbial head shaking:

“What sense of inconsistency can allow people to grieve for their dead, yet be calloused to this baleful war being waged on life at the time of its silent development? What logic would encourage efforts to preserve the life of a critically ill twelve-week-old infant, but countenance the termination of another life twelve weeks after inception? More attention is seemingly focused on the fate of a life at some penitentiary’s death row than on the millions totally deprived of life’s opportunity through such odious carnage before birth.”

Good questions. I’m shaking my head, too. It doesn’t really make any sense.

When Life Begins

It seems that some of the justification for a woman to perform an abortion is that the fetus inside of the woman isn’t it’s own individual life. The political question is “when does life begin?” I suppose that we have to try to redefine a universal, biological law about life in order to justify it.

Often, abortion is framed in the slogan of “women’s right,” so “when does life begin?” has to be redefined otherwise it would logically mean that this isn’t only a woman’s right, but also the right of another soul.

President Nelson teaches:

“The woman’s choice for her own body does not validate choice for the body of another. The expression “terminate the pregnancy” applies literally only to the woman. The consequence of terminating the fetus therein involves the body and very life of another. These two individuals have separate brains, separate hearts, and separate circulatory systems. To pretend that there is no child and no life there is to deny reality.”

Yes – this is exactly what must be done – we must “pretend” in order to defend abortion as a means of convenience. We must “deny reality.”

President Nelson continues:

It is not a question of when “meaningful life” begins or when the spirit “quickens” the body. In the biological sciences, it is known that life begins when two germ cells unite to become one cell, bringing together twenty-three chromosomes from both the father and from the mother. These chromosomes contain thousands of genes. In a marvelous process involving a combination of genetic coding by which all the basic human characteristics of the unborn person are established, a new DNA complex is formed. A continuum of growth results in a new human being. The onset of life is not a debatable issue, but a fact of science.

I found this passage really interesting, and to me it rings true – that we should define the beginning of life the way that biology defines it. Why would our politics be at odds with an undebatable truth?

Again, President Nelson continues:

Approximately twenty-two days after the two cells have united, a little heart begins to beat. At twenty-six days the circulation of blood begins.9

President Nelson is a cardiac surgeon. He is an expert on matters of the heart and circulatory system. He has had to put in the time and training to know facts like this: that a heart begins to beat within 22 days of the first uniting of cells. And that within 26 days blood circulates in this little body.

***

When I was about 17 years old, I was at a youth conference activity. We were doing service by cleaning and maintaining a place called Fort Mifflin – in the Philadelphia area. I can’t remember the details of my particular assignment. It seemed like trail maintenance. I don’t know. All I know is that there was a group of us with shovels, and we were supposed to be clearing out some of the grass and weeds and we were making some kind of trail. I can’t remember the purpose.

What I do remember is that it was hard work – digging into the ground. I had been shoveling for probably 10 or 15 minutes. I had grown accustomed to how hard the ground was. I would raise my shovel high, and pound it into the ground. Then, I would jump on the shovel with both feet to get it in the ground deep enough. It was hard work for me.

As I went along, I raised my shovel, and this time, when it struck the ground it glided easily and smoothly. That was easy! I’m getting better at this! I thought. In fact, I shouted to my friend, Spunky, “The ground is getting softer!”

For good measure, I jumped on the edges of the shovel, and then went to pry out the dirt.

The dirt came up easily. A huge chunk came from the ground – much to big for my shovel. And I could see why. As I lifted the shovel and dirt from the ground, I noticed this white stuff. I also noticed that the dirt wasn’t solid and packed. It had a goopy nature to it.

I dropped my shovel, and bent over to inspect the ground. Horrified, I screamed out, “Oh no!!!!” Spunky came over to see what was happening. And we both were surprised to see that I had dug right into a turtle’s nest.

Inadvertently, I had destroyed the eggs inside this nest. I felt sick to my stomach. I had destroyed life. All of my friends and I mourned for a moment on those poor turtle eggs. They hadn’t hatched yet, but they would have. They had potential, and in a swift stroke that potential ended before they had even emerged from the egg. What a tragedy.

I can’t help but think of this experience when I think of abortion – the decimation of the tiny egg, with a human! embryo – destroyed before it even had the chance to emerge. It’s so cold and sad, and even colder and sadder to think that it is often done intentionally.

And, like President Nelson states in his talk – the reason I was so sad about inadvertently smashing those turtle eggs – is because I knew, just like we all know, that the onset of life is not debatable. That those eggs, though seemingly inanimate, were living.

Love of Life

“Why destroy a life that could bring such joy to others?” – Russell M. Nelson

One of the reasons that this talk touches me so much is because I know that I could have been aborted.

I’m not saying this to be dramatic.

I was born in San Francisco, in the late 1970s to a single woman in her early 20s. Roe vs. Wade had made abortion legal in the US only a few years before, and being in San Francisco, my mom was living in a place that was “progressive” when it came to “women’s rights.”

Catania0001
Thanks, Ma!

Yet my mom chose to have me – in the late 70s. I have had children, I know the work and commitment involved. It isn’t easy! A little baby would absolutely cramp the lifestyle of a single, 20-something woman. But my mom didn’t think only of herself. She took responsibility for her actions, and brought me into this world.

Some would say that it isn’t fair to bring a child into the world – knowing that they don’t have some of the “resources” needed for that child. This is false generosity. Don’t tell me what I do and do not need. I want to be alive. I love life. I have fought every day to enjoy this life I have. I don’t care that my situation was not “ideal!” I don’t care that I didn’t know my biological father for more than 30 years of my life. I don’t care if my coming into this world was unconventional or even “unfair” to me. I don’t care that my mom had to work and struggle to take care of me as an infant. It’s what we do for our children. What would have been unfair is my life ending before it even had a chance to begin.

My mom’s selflessness gave me life. My mom’s selflessness gave me opportunity. My mom’s selflessness gives you this blog post today. 🙂

I, personally, have an extremely difficult time understanding how anyone that is alive and is enjoying life on this earth can be so selfish to keep that choice from another. I can’t even bring myself to say/write “women’s rights,” because as a once-unborn fetus, I ask, “What about my rights?!”

Hope

Now, before I get too angry or passionate about this, I want to include a quote that I found especially loving from our dear President Nelson:

Now, is there hope for those who have so sinned without full understanding, who now suffer heartbreak? Yes. So far as is known, the Lord does not regard this transgression as murder. And “as far as has been revealed, a person may repent and be forgiven for the sin of abortion.”13 Gratefully, we know the Lord will help all who are truly repentant.

I know that there are many people who have had an abortion. They were most likely young and desperate. They probably didn’t fully understand the ramifications of such a decision. And they don’t need to live with such guilt.

The Lord offers hope and forgiveness. When we repent, he Lord will forgive. We can’t change the decisions we have made in the past, but we can change the decisions we make in the future.

I also want to state that I understand there are times when a woman must choose an abortion because her life, and most likely the life of the unborn child, is in danger. I know someone who had to make this decision in her life. It was a terribly difficult decision that she had to make. She made it prayerfully, and I know that it was heart-wrenching for her. This decision was not about convenience, and it was not faithless. I know that sometimes life can be tricky, but I know that the Lord will comfort us – and that comfort comes only when we are living worthy of His Spirit.

***

One final quote from President Nelson:

Life comes from life. It is a gift from our Heavenly Father. It is eternal, as he is eternal. – Russell M. Nelson

I know that our Heavenly Father is our Creator. He is life. And He has given us life. I’m so grateful for this gift. Even when life is painful and hard, I would rather have that than no life at all.

Though this topic doesn’t come up much now in General Conference, I am also comforted to know that our prophet and president of the Church – Russell M. Nelson – has a reverence and love for life. He understands that the Lord offers us not only physical life, but also spiritual life. I’m comforted to know that President Nelson has not been afraid to bring life into this world through his marriage and family. And now, even though he has finished having children – his family grows through no effort of his own. He has children and grandchildren – more on the way I’m sure.

There is so much joy in life! I know this, and I know that our prophet knows it, too.

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Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Lehi’s Dream

This post is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens Project.

006 Lehi's Dream

There is sooo much to say about Lehi’s dream. I mean, I think that you could really fill an entire book treating only Lehi’s dream and its interpretation. I limited this to only 2 pages.

(oh – and Lehi’s dream really lends itself to fun illustrations!!!)

I decided to focus on the four types of people we read about in Lehi’s dream:

Group One

The first group of people commenced on the strait and narrow path. When th mists of darkness surrounded them, they lost their way. They wandered off and were lost. How did this happen? It’s because they were NOT holding fast to the rod. When they encountered a trial, they were overwhelmed and overcome by it.

Sometimes we will face situations in our lives that are difficult, dark, and full of adversity. We won’t be able to “see” far ahead of us. The thing to remember: The Lord doesn’t expect us to have a clear road. He doesn’t expect us to be able to disperse the mists of darkness. Instead, He provided us with His Word – the Iron Rod. We can have surety, security, and peace – even in mists of darkness.

Group Two

The second group DID hold on to the rod. In fact, they are described as “clinging” to it. They arrive at the tree of life (overcoming the mists of darkness), they partake, and then they look around. They hear the mockery of those in the Great and Spacious building and they are ashamed. Thy decide to leave! They leave JOY!

This group, I feel, weren’t motivated by faith. They are motivated by fear and pride. They clung to the rod – out of fear: fear of disappointing others, maybe. When they arrive, their fear then motivates them to give up the accomplishment that they made.

If we are motivated by fear – even to do good things – then we must remember that fear will not just disappear. It will haunt us. Instead, let faith motivate us, and we will have joy!

Group Three

The third group also caught hold of the iron rod. They held fast until partaking of the fruit. They were filled with JOY. They were motivated by FAITH: so they weren’t overwhelmed by the mists of darkness. Nor were they ashamed by the jeering of those in the great and spacious building.

This group knows that true joy – true contentment – comes only from the Savior. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Word, and He offers us the fruit of the tree of life.

When we partake, we can experience this kind of peace and sublime joy.

Group Four

The fourth group of people feel their way to the great and spacious building. They have NO INTEREST in the tree of life. They don’t even start on the path! To me – they are like raccoons – more obsessed with the “shiny” stuff that is easy to procure – like a piece of tin foil – rather than something of real value.

They reject what is real, life giving, and joy…then they mock others who obtain it. Why? If they are having so much fun in the great and spacious building, what does it mater to them what everyone else is doing? Why do they care – if they are so happy? They aren’t! They are empty and their actions testify of the emptiness of the pride of the world – even if it is “shiny.”

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Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Lehi Dwelt in a Tent

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teens project.

005 Lehi dwelt in a tent

As a teenager, I always loved the verse, “And my father dwelt in a tent.”

I felt like it was worth celebrating this short verse. And as I thought about it, the poignancy of this verse started to stand out.

Lehi was rich. He was educated. He lived a comfortable life in Jerusalem and then followed the Lord. He left everything behind to follow the command of the Lord. The Lord told Lehi that he would take his family to a “promised land.”

This is no promised land…not yet anyway. Lehi is living in the wilderness – the desert. I think that it would have been hard to imagine a promised land in the wilderness – especially because Lehi and his family had once lived in a nice and comfortable situation back in Jerusalem.

But Lehi trusted God. He dwelt in a tent. A simple verse, but so full of meaning. What an example of trusting in the Lord!

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Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary – for Teens – Table of Contents

If you are interested, I’ve decided to make things a little easier to navigate. Here is a list of the subjects treated in the Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary that I’m making for my 16 year old daughter.

Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Obtaining the Brass Plates

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teens project.

These pages are all about the experience of Nephi, Laman, Lemuel and Sam – obtaining the brass plates.

003 Obtaining the Brass Plates part 1

In these pages, I explained to Tiger that there were three basic attempts to obtaining the plates.

The first attempt was rather conventional and arbitrary. Laman, Lemuel, Nephi and Sam decided to go and ask Laban for the plates. The arbitrary aspect – casting lots. I explained that casting lots was a common way to make decisions in ancient times. People felt like the fate of the cast lot was the will of God.

Unfortunately, this attempt was not successful.

The second attempt – to buy the plates – was thoughtful and required a sacrifice. Nephi convinced his brothers to go back to their home, collect all of their goods and try to purchase the plates from Laban.

This was another unsuccessful attempt that also endangered the lives of the sons of Lehi.

004 Obtaining the plates part 2

The third and final attempt was spiritual. Nephi explain that he was led by the Spirit – not knowing beforehand what he would do.

There were a few things I really wanted to illustrate to Tiger:

  1. Laban vs. Nephi – Laban was rich, powerful, and armed. By all accounts, the odds were in Laban’s favor. Of course, these advantages don’t matter in comparison to Nephi’s advantage – he was on the Lord’s errand and was “armed” with the Spirit. In fact, Laban will ironically die by the very sword he probably thought would keep him safe.
  2. Nephi’s ability to make split second decisions. Often, we talk about decision making and we cite the Doctrine and Covenants – study the matter out in our hearts, pray, if we feel good, then it is good. If we feel a stupor of thought, then it is the wrong answer.

    The thing is – there are times when we don’t have the luxury of time to really “study out” our decisions. Nephi does this, and we see his thought process, but this is all happening in moments.

    The reason why Nephi was able to make these split-second decisions – and they were the right decision – is because he prepared daily to have the companionship of the Spirit.

    There are times when we don’t have much time to make an important decision. I want my teenage daughter to know that she can feel assured with her decisions – even the ones made in an instant – if she is living worth of the Holy Ghost and then following its promptings.

***

Okay – so that’s this next little installment. I’m amazed at how much I’ve been learning while making this book. Right now, my life is busy (like so many of you, I know). I don’t have much time to work on this book. So, it is what I count as my “scripture study.” I know that it is the best way to spend my time in scripture study. I learn so much, and I feel like it is a valuable way to teach my children.

If you are thinking of doing a project like this, but you feel overwhelmed by the project and lacking on time, then keep in mind a few hints to make it more manageable

  • Start early – I started these projects about 1-2 years before giving it to them. It may sound crazy, but then I can work on a little bit at a time and not feel overwhelmed with the scope of the project.
  • Consider this as your personal scripture study while you are working on it. For this project, especially, I have had to spend a lot of time reading and pondering various points in the Book of Mormon. Though this isn’t conventional “scripture study” time, I’m studying the scriptures, and I’m doing just as Nephi said: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26, emphasis added).

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Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – 1 Nephi – Laman, Lemuel, and Nephi

This is a continuation of my Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens project.

I actually titled this page “Circumstances and Choices”

002 Laman Lemuel and Nephi
Comparing and contrasting are always funs way to learn in the scriptures.

At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, we are introduced to a family … Lehi’s family. Specifically, we read about several interactions between Lehi’s eldest sons – Laman and Lemuel – and his younger son – Nephi. They shared many experiences. All of these sons:

  • are sons of Lehi, the prophet
  • are covenant members of the House of Israel
  • are fleeing Jerusalem
  • Are experiencing afflictions, trials, and blessings in the wilderness
  • are all facing many of the same challenges -like hunger, obtaining the plates, living in the desert, building a boat

So – they actually have plenty in common.

Despite these similar circumstances, Lehi’s sons make different choices resulting in vastly different outcomes.

Nephi

The choice:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.” – 1 Nephi 2:16

Nephi’s desire to know God results in:

  • A visitation from God (through His Spirit)
  • A softened heart
  • Increased faith
  • A new perspective
  • Power
  • Joy
  • The consecration of Nephi’s afflictions for His Gain

Laman and Lemuel

The choice:

“And thus Laman and Lemuel, being the eldest, did murmur against their father. And they did murmurbecause they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” – 1 Nephi 2:12

Laman’s and Lemuel’s refusal to know god results in:

  • Murmuring
  • Complaining
  • Violence against Nephi
  • Wickedness and sin
  • Becoming “past feeling”
  • Anger
  • Becoming murderers in their hearts
  • Powerless
  • Their afflictions don’t become a source of joy or growth – instead their afflictions remain hardships

***

What will YOU choose???

***

So there you have it – this is basically what I wrote in Tiger’s book – word for word. It isn’t all that personalized, but I think that it teaches a nice lesson. 🙂

And isn’t it crazy to think about – sometimes we want to blame our circumstances for the decisions we make, but Laman, Lemuel, and Nephi are proof that we can be agents to act for ourselves. They are testimonies that WE HAVE THE POWER to decide if our afflictions and difficulties amount to consecration and miracles or into hardness and misery. If we get a handle of who we are – children of a loving God, then we can get a handle on making better choices and having a better life.

 

 

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Illustrated Book of Mormon for Teens – First Nephi – Tender Mercies

I started this Book of Mormon commentary type of book for my 16 year old daughter before she was 16…with the intent of giving it to her on her 16th birthday. Sometimes life happens, and now she’ll be 17 in less than 6 months. So…I’ve got to get snapping! Better late than never, right.

One of the reasons that this book has taken me so long to get around to making is that I haven’t really known exactly how I want it all to work out.

At first, I was really interested in making a book that is almost like a commentary – explaining the Book of Mormon as much as a possibly can. You will see this in my pages that are about 1 Nephi. Since then, I have actually figured out the “vision” of this book.

Instead of making a book that is a commentary or tells all that I know about the Book of Mormon, I’m taking a few of the stories and concepts from each book and then writing what I feel inspired to write to my daughter who is in her late teens. So – it won’t be like a commentary. Instead, it will be something much better – a book of insights and advice that is really cute so it doesn’t look like insights and advice! Haha!

Here is my update on 1st Nephi.

1 Nephi Tender Mercies
1 Nephi – The Tender Mercies of the Lord

The Tender Mercies of the Lord

For a long time I have considered 1 Nephi 1:20 to be the central “thesis” of Nephi.

And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. – 1 Nephi 1:20

 

I love this scripture, and I thought that it was a very important concept for my 16 year old daughter to know and understand.

The Tender Mercies of the Lord

I think that I speak for many Mormons, when I say that Elder Bednar really reinforced the beauty of Nephi’s testimony. In fact, since Elder Bednar’s talk the term “tender mercy” has become a Momron buzzword. So, I included a few quote from Elder Bednar, too:

“The Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.” – David A. Bednar

I told Tiger that we can feel the tender mercies of our loving Heavenly Father in many ways – we have to be aware and recognize them. I then listed a few of the “tender mercies” our family had recently experienced.

Those whom He hath Chosen

In order to experience the tender mercies of the Lord, we learn in 1 Nephi that we need to be “chosen.” Elder Bednar explains what it means to be chosen of God:

God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be dded.  He does not limited ‘the chosen’ to a restricted few. Rather it is our hearts, and our aspirations, and our obedience which definitively determines whether we are called as one of God’s chosen.” – David A. Bednar, (emphasis added.)

In order to be chosen of God, we must simply choose Him. Joshua was an example of this – he and his house chose to serve the Lord. This was why Joshua was chosen of God.

***

And that’s that for this page and concept. Of course, I added some cute little decorations to the page. That’s basically the point. I wish I could say that I’m super original, but I have kind of mined my favorite pinterest and instagram boards for artistic inspiration. If I was selling this, I would stray far from that – but since I’m trying to get this book done in a hurry, and since it is a one of a kind book for my daughter’s personal use, I don’t mind using inspiration from other sources.

***

Making a book like this? Think about the tender mercies you and your family have experienced. What would resonate with a 16, 17, or 18 year old. What is your testimony of feeling the deliverance that God promises to those whom choose Him? Think about ways that we can show that we choose God – ways to which a child in her late teens may relate.