“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.

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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.

“Thus Shall My Church Be Called” – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk “Thus Shall My Church Be Called,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1990 General Conference.

***

First of all – I’m excited – I made it to the 90s! We still have a long way to go until I’m reading President Nelson’s current talks, but getting to a new decade is still pretty exciting. At the time President Nelson gave this talk, I was 11 1/2 years old. I’m sure that I watched this when I was a kid, but I have no recollection of this talk or of any of the talks that I’ve read up to this point. I have absolutely loved reading and studying these talks now.

***

I Belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

This talk is about the name of our church. It seems like we hear these types of talks every once in a while.

I remember hearing a part of an interview of the creators of the Book of Mormon musical. They were laughing about how awkward the name of our church is, there are too many prepositional phrases in it. I hate to say it, but I kind of understood what they meant.

I lived in Texas until I was almost 15 years old. Then I moved to Pennsylvania until I went to college. Most people hadn’t heard of my church, and if they had, they always thought of us as “Mormons.” If someone asked me what church I went to, I often found myself answering, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Often, I was met with a blank stare and clarification. Then I’d say, “I’m a Mormon.”

Though I don’t say, “I go to the Mormon Church,” and I know the true name of our church, I can see why it is good for the Apostles to give talks like these from time to time. This talk is a good resource for us to share with others when they may have questions about the name of our church. It is also a good reminder to us – to remember the name of our church and what it means.

Saints

President Nelson begins by teaching us what the word “saints” actually means – as far as it is used by the Savior and in the Bible. He taught:

“Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love.”  – Russell M. Nelson

Though people commonly think of a saint as “one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent holiness,” this is not how we use the term. Instead, we use the term in a more biblical sense. In the Bible, those who were Christians were considered Saints.

A great example of this is through reading the epistles of Paul. As President Nelson noted:

“Paul addressed an epistle “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1.)

To recent converts there he said, “Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19; see also Eph. 3:17–19.)

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul used the word saint at least once in every chapter!” – Russell M. Nelson

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we consider saints to be individuals who are converted and who are striving to be the kind of people the Savior wants us to be. We are living. We are imperfect. We are faithful.

Latter-day

“Latter-day” has never really been a difficult concept for me to understand, but then again, I grew up in the church. President Nelson explained:

“The term latter-day is an expression especially difficult for translators who labor in languages in which there is not a good equivalent term. Some translations may suggest last day.

It is true that scriptures foretell the final days of the earth’s temporal existence as a telestial sphere. The earth will then be renewed and receive its paradisiacal, or terrestrial, glory. (See A of F 1:10.) Ultimately, the earth will become celestialized. (See Rev. 21:1; D&C 77:1; D&C 88:25–26.) But its last days must be preceded by its latterdays!

We live in those latter days, and they are really remarkable. The Lord’s Spirit is being poured out upon all inhabitants of the earth, precisely as the Prophet Joel foretold.” – Russell M. Nelson

So – if the “last days” are the final days of the earth’s temporal existence (hard to get my mind around – I guess that’s Armageddon), then this current time could be considered the days right before the last day. So, the latter days.

Late, but not last.

Maybe if I was thinking of this in terms of a baseball game, we are in the latter innings – post 7th inning stretch, but the game isn’t over.

The game isn’t over, but it’s wrapping up.

So – when we think of the name of the Church, the name that the Lord gave, then we understand that we are the saints of the last days – we are not the saints of the meridian of time. We are not the saints of the early days of the church. We are the saints that are “playing” during the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings.

One other point stood out to me in this talk regarding the latter days. President Nelson stated:

“Surely the hand of the Lord is apparent. He said, “I will hasten my work in its time” (D&C 88:73), and that time of hastening is now.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m currently typing my thoughts on a laptop computer. I read this talk on my iPhone – a computer that essentially fits in my pocket. I have more information accessible to me than I can process. I can do family history work, I can call and communicate with the other side of the world. I can facetime family and friends who live in other time zones.

I can drive across town, I can fly across the country. I can watch TV, movies, etc. I can wash my clothes in a machine. I wash my dishes in another machine.

I don’t butcher my food, but I go to a grocery store that sells me both local and exotic foods.

The changes in our lives and technology in these “latter-days” is astounding and quite mind-boggling. It is especially so when you compare the current rate of technology with any other period of time.

I believe that these changes are evidence that these are the “latter days” – when the Lord is hastening His work.

Jesus Christ

President Nelson explained:

“By divine directive, the title of the Church bears the sacred name of Jesus Christ, whose church this is.” – Russell M. Nelson

This Church is the Church of Jesus Christ. We worship God in Christ’s name. He is central to our faith and our salvation. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no need for any other part of our church’s name. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Book of Mormon (it is a Testament of Jesus Christ!) Without Jesus Christ, there would be no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As President Nelson shared:

“We revere the name of Jesus Christ. He is our risen Redeemer.” – Russell M. Nelson

Jesus Christ created the earth.

Jesus Christ was Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Jesus Christ came to this world to do the work and the will of His Father. He lived a perfect life, taught, served, suffered, died, and was resurrected – so that we could find hope and Salvation.

Jesus Christ lives and loves us.

Jesus Christ will one day return.

The Church

Sometimes I wonder why we need to have an organized church. There are so many people I know, love, and respect who are smart and spiritual people that don’t believe in an “organized religion.” Sometimes this idea is pretty attractive to me – to simply believe in Christ but not be a part of some kind of organization.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is very individualized. We are to counsel with God. We are to work out our salvation in fear and trembling. Yet, we are also commanded to gather together often as saints.

President Nelson taught:

“The Church is the way by which the Master accomplishes His work and bestows His glory. Its ordinances and related covenants are the crowning rewards of our membership. While many organizations can offer fellowship and fine instruction, only His church can provide baptism, confirmation, ordination, the sacrament, patriarchal blessings, and the ordinances of the temple—all bestowed by authorized priesthood power. That power is destined to bless all children of our Heavenly Father, regardless of their nationality:

“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth.” (D&C 65:2; see also Dan. 2:37–45; D&C 109:72.)” – Russell M. Nelson

Though the idea of a personal, spiritual quest with mountain top church and without social structure sounds kind of nice, it is actually not ideal. It is not what the Lord has organized for us. It doesn’t offer the ordinances and covenants that we need in order to receive salvation.

We need the Church because we need each other. We need to bear one another’s burdens. I’m uplifted when I help to lift others. And I know that I have been the recipient of love and comfort from others, too.

We need to comfort others, we need to serve others. We need the chance to bear our testimony and hear the testimonies of others. Through the organization of the Church, we are able to get these things that we need – to help with our spiritual and emotional nourishment.

Of course, we are imperfect, which sometimes means that “The Church” is imperfect. Despite this, the Savior has commanded us to be a Church – to nurture and love one another. Sometimes the “imperfect” thing is exactly what we need. We need each other – we need The Church.

***

Finally, it is crucial to remember that the name: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” is what the Lord named the church. It wasn’t a name made up by Joseph Smith. It was given to Joseph Smith by the Lord. We read:

“Thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” – Doctrine and Covenants 115:4

***

I’m so grateful to be a member of this Church. I know that it is a blessing that I’ve been given. I haven’t done anything to deserve it. I’m not more righteous or special than anyone else. Yet I have the light and truth of the gospel in my life. I’ve been able to make covenants that have blessed me and my family. I’m so grateful to be able to proclaim, “I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I’m also grateful to know that our prophet understands the name of our Church and that the name was given by the Savior. President Nelson isn’t under any kind of presumption that this is his church since he is the prophet. This is Christ’s church, and I’m so grateful to know that President Nelson understands this and what it means to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

SaveSave

Woman – Of Infinite Worth – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Woman – of Infinite Worth, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1989 General Conference.

I actually read this talk first on Mother’s Day. It was so appropriate!

Grandma and Me
Grandma and Me – My Grandma is one of the women I most admire.

I hate to admit this, but sometimes I’m a little ambivalent when I hear “women” talks. I don’t know if I can totally express what I feel. In some ways I love them. In other ways, I wonder why we need these kinds of talks. Can’t we all just be more confident in our purpose on this earth – without worrying so much about what the world around us might say? In some ways I like the recognition of my importance as a woman from a church leader. Yet, in some ways I feel like, why do they feel like they need to stroke our ego.

I guess it is important to remember that these talks are given by inspiration, and there is a lot of misunderstanding about the roles of mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, women, men. These reminders help us to focus on our purpose so that we can have joy.

So the point is – sometimes I’m ambivalent. I hope that with this knowledge, you will read the rest of what I write with an open mind. Today, I’m just going to pick out a quote and then make an observation. So – maybe not the most organized…Sorry…and Thanks!

Quote One

“At a recent news conference in an Eastern European country, I was asked about the potential for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I replied that perhaps the Church does more to enlighten understanding about and to lift the cause of women than any other institution on earth. It provides the path to her eternal destiny.” – Russell M. Nelson

Okay – so with this quote, I have ambivalence. On the one hand, in a way I kind of feel uncomfortable that a man is being asked that question, and that a man is answering it. I know that I’d feel differently if it was Sharon Eubank, or Julie B. Beck, or maybe Sheri Dew answering that question. But I can’t help the scenario someone asked a man not a woman, so I need to simply be more humble because the fact is:

I totally agree with President Nelson.

I’ll share an experience I had several years ago.

I was a single working mom, and was caught up in an annoying swirl of office politics. I was naive. This was my first “real job.” I had only been working for a few months, so I think that there were some people at my company that were trying to figure out what kind of person I was. In fact, there was a woman (not my boss, but in my department), that – I think – was ready to mentor me. (I see this looking back on it).

Anyway – the details don’t matter, but there was some confusion between my boss and this other woman with whom I had a dotted-line relationship. There was a little bit of turmoil, in fact. I, this young malleable woman, was in the cross-hairs of this little political charade, and I was naive enough to have no idea what was going on.

Ultimately, as I started to gain insight on what was happening (thanks to my patient and kind boss), I decided to stay loyal to my boss, the woman to whom I reported directly. I figured that this was just a job. I had two kids at home. I didn’t have a husband. I knew that I would need to be smart about how I behaved at work because I had no idea how long I’d need to work. This might need to be a career for me, and I wanted to build bridges rather than burn them.

I felt comforted by the Spirit as I walked away from some opportunities that my “dotted line” boss was offering me – even though these opportunities included going to France and perhaps some upward movement in my company. Instead, I resolved to simply bloom where I was planted and work hard so I could go home happy and assured that I was living in a Christ-like way.

Okay… So, here’s where it relates to the quote above.

One day, while my boss was out, the other woman in my department wanted to talk to me. I still had projects I worked with her on, so this wasn’t out of the ordinary. We talked about our project, then she kind of put the pressure on about how this whole mess – and where I stood. She was still kind of offering me a way to go under her wing – she could create a position for me because she was leaving the department to head up another department it would be a big opportunity for me.

And I told her I wasn’t sure that I was interested. The situation I was in was good for me and for my family.

And then I left her office.

About half an hour later, she stopped by my cube and said simply, “What a disappointment, Catania. I thought you had ambition.”

It was kind of a blow, but before I had the chance to really feel upset by what she said, I felt something else in my heart, I DO have ambitions, but they are eternal.

It was such a freedom for me to realize this! In fact, I’m grateful for the humiliating situation. From that point on, I never felt unsure about any decision that I have made – as long as I’ve made it with the Spirit. My ambitions are eternal, and though they may not make sense or garner much praise in this world, I don’t really care. I’m willing to pay the price now for something far greater in the future.

All of this to say, I agree with President Nelson. The gospel of Jesus Christ, within the context of His Church – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has helped me as a woman more than anything I’ve ever experienced. More than women’s studies classes. More than jobs. The gospel has provided me with an understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of. It has provided me the path to my eternal destiny.

Quote Two

“Blessings of the priesthood are shared by men and women. All may qualify for baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. All may take upon themselves the name of the Lord and partake of the sacrament. All may pray and receive answers to their prayers. Gifts of the Spirit and testimonies of the truth are bestowed regardless of gender. Men and women receive the highest ordinance in the house of the Lord together and equally, or not at all (see D&C 131:1–3).” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this quote and I believe it.

There is a lot of talk about “women and the priesthood.” There are even some people who accuse the LDS church of being sexist against women because of the priesthood. I’ve never really been able to completely understand these complaints because women are blessed by the priesthood. It is not a “boys only” club. The Priesthood is God’s power that He has decided to share with us.

And we are all blessed by it.

Quote Three

“Opportunities for development of spiritual and intellectual potential are equal. Masculinity has no monopoly on the mind, and femininity has no exclusive dominion over the heart. The highest titles of human achievement—teacher, educated professional, loyal employee, faithful friend, student of the scriptures, child of God, disciple of Christ, trusted companion, loving parent—are earned under a uniform requirement of worthiness.” – Russell M. Nelson

Sometimes it can be easy to be skeptical of anyone and everyone in a leadership position (of any kind). I think that our current society has taught us that. We are skeptical of our politicians, teachers, church leaders and more.

I’m not saying that we have to trust people willy-nilly, but I can see how some of this skepticism has extended into my life. When I read talks about women, like this one, I have more skepticism about the speaker than might be fair.

But we have to remember something. There is nothing particularly noble about being skeptical.

Now this doesn’t man that we must be gullible either.

Instead, if we live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, we can be discerning. The Holy Ghost will help us to be able to discern between truth and error. So then, we will know when to be skeptical and when to be trusting.

As I read this talk, I feel the comfort of the Holy Ghost. I feel peace in my soul, and I know that the words that President Nelson speaks are true. He isn’t giving this talk to pay some kind of lip service to women – half of the population of the church and world. I believe that he believes what he is preaching.

And what a beautiful truth.

Men don’t have more access to intelligence. Women don’t have more access to kindness. We each are required to develop the matters of the mind and of the heart, and the requirement for worthiness in developing these attributes is the same.

Quote Four

“A wise woman renews herself. In proper season, she develops her talents and continues her education. She musters the discipline to reach her goals. She dispels darkness and opens windows of truth to light her way.” – Russell M. Nelson

I will admit that I love this quote because I have a bit of confirmation bias.

I tend to consider myself a “Jack of many trades, master of none.” And I don’t really care about that. I’m not the kind of person to say, “I don’t have any talents.” (And I hate it when other people say it, too…we all have talents!) But I also know that I’m not the best at anything I do.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s just the process of developing a talent. It’s the process of learning. It’s the process of exercising discipline. We don’t have to be a master to “dispel darkness and open windows of truth.” We simply need to be hungry and to search.

I also love this quote because there are so many women who put off their own renewal and development for everyone around them. This may seem like a noble, Christlike thing to do, but we misunderstand. As the old object lesson goes – if you don’t fill your pitcher first, then you will have nothing to share with others.

I know that when I renew myself as President Nelson suggest – in proper season – then I have more to share and give to my children. My 15 year old daughter wrote me a mother’s day card. In it she said, “Thank you for teaching me everything you know.” That stood out to me, and made me feel satisfied that I have spent so much time running down rabbit holes of curiosity. I’m grateful that I have developed so many talents and interests. I’m aware of the fact that many of my “talents” are not fully developed. Some will never really “develop,” but in the chase I’ve learned more about the process of learning and I’ve come to appreciate said talents even more – because they are so hard!

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned and teach it to my children. I can’t imagine this life without curiosity, wonder, and learning. And I’m so grateful that an apostle (now prophet) has encouraged women to renew herself, develop talents, and continue her education.

Quote Five

“A righteous woman is a student of the scriptures.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love the scriptures! I love this quote!

You don’t need to be a “priesthood holder” to be a student of the scriptures. You don’t need to serve a mission to be a student of the scriptures. You don’t need study guides to be a student of the scriptures. You don’t need to go to BYU to be a student of the scriptures.

All you need are some scriptures and the Spirit of God.

I love what President Nelson follows up with “Many apply uniquely to her life.” In the transcript of this talk is a list of scriptures:  Gen. 27:46; Ps. 113:9; Prov. 31:10–31; Eph. 5:22–33; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:3–5; Jacob 3:7; Mosiah 4:14—16; D&C 25.

Now, this is when I get a little ambivalent. There are times when I truly ache for more records of women. I don’t just mean stories about women either. I mean, their words, their thoughts, their journals! How I would love to read Sariah’s story as she supported Lehi in traveling in the wilderness. She had so much faith! She didn’t have a vision to leave, she just trusted her husband!

How I wish I could read the story of Nephi’s wife (we don’t even know her name) – and how she was always saving him from his nutty brothers.

How I would love to read the words of the mothers of the stripling warriors. I know that they knew God and that they trusted Him. I know that they taught their sons. But how I would love to read about their experiences – being converted to the gospel, the change that the gospel must have made in their family life, how there were so many who became widowed (how did they deal with that?!), and how they taught their sons.

How I wish I could read the records of Mary – not only when she found out that she would bear Christ, but while she raised Him.

So – I’m ambivalent sometimes when I hear a man say that the scriptures apply uniquely to my life. How can he understand what it feels like as a woman to go to the scriptures and find the stories of man after man?

I don’t want to put words into President Nelson’s mouth, but I think that he would say, he can’t.

And even though President Nelson is a man, I would echo and confirm exactly what he said: Many apply uniquely to her life.” I have experienced this. Every time I’ve opened the scriptures, I’ve felt uplifted and edified – not only in a general sense but in a specific sense.

The scriptures aren’t about men or women. They are about disciples of Christ. The example we see from a man like Nephi – courageous, obedient, fully puts his trust in God – is an example that benefits men and women alike.

I’m not a man. I’m not a man living in the middle east 600 years before Christ. But through the scriptures – whether the scripture is the story of a man or a woman – I have understood more about my divine identity and destiny. On more than one occasion the scriptures have applied directly to my life. The scriptures have taught me the kind of person I need to be in order to have joy and fulfillment in my life.

So – even though I may want to be ambivalent when I hear a man say Many apply uniquely to her life – in the end I’m not because I unequivocally believe and agree with it.

Quote Six

“Her self-esteem cannot be based on physical features, possession or lack of a particular talent, or comparative quantities of anything. Her self-esteem is earned by individual righteousness and a close relationship with God.” – Russell M. Nelson

I think that I could write an entire blog post just on this single quote.

I’m not much of a big believer of the idea of “self-esteem.” I know that it’s something we say a lot. We talk about developing our children’s self-esteem. But the problem I have with self-esteem is that so often it is conflated with what others do and say.

Instead of using the term “self-esteem” I prefer – confidence.

Even though President Nelson uses the term “self-esteem” (It was the late 80s after all!), I actually agree with him. Instead of getting our self-esteem from the validation of others, we can get confidence from a relationship with God.

When we choose to gain confidence in ourselves through the interactions that we have with our Heavenly Father – then nothing anyone does or says to us will deflate it. I learned this in my first marriage. I had let my whole identity get wrapped up in the acceptance and validation of my first husband.

Problem: he was unfaithful! He did things to systematically destroy my confidence! Yikes!

After my divorce, I drew closer to the Lord than ever, and I had many experiences that gave me confidence – without any validation from outside sources. And I learned that if I go to God – my loving Heavenly Father – for a sense of validation, esteem, and identity – than nothing anyone else does can destroy that.

I agree wholeheartedly with what President Nelson teaches here. Though he is a man and doesn’t understand the social pressure put on women (especially physically – by men!), he speaks the truth.

Quote Seven

“The Good Shepherd said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15.) So a woman feeds her loved ones, providing succor and sustenance just as the Savior would do. Her divine gift is to nurture, to help the young, to care for the poor, to lift the brokenhearted.” – Russell M. Nelson

I suppose I could feel a bit ambivalent about this scripture. Twenty years ago, I would have, actually. Twenty years ago, I might have thought that it would be just like a man to say that a woman’s gift is to nurture.

In fact, I think that I did say something like that twenty or so years ago – thankfully I’ve been blessed with a personality that is always questioning everything – even what I think. Why is this a bad thing? Why has the idea of “nurturing” get such a bad rap in our world? Is nurturing others simply a way to keep women subservient? Or is being nurturing, perhaps, something else?

Usually, within the context of the gospel, the answer to the question why (if you keep asking it over and over and over again) will boil down to one scripture:

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

Why is it a woman’s gift to be nurturing? Well, Heavenly Father has a big, important work to do – to bring to pass OUR immortality and OUR eternal life. In order for this to happen, we have several needs – both temporal and physical. We need care both body and spirit.

Heavenly Father taught us how it would get done – he gave us families. He created men and women that could fulfill certain duties that would help to accomplish His great work.

This blog post isn’t about the nitty-gritty of those roles, but as I’ve come to understand why we women have been given a gift to nurture, I’ve become more honored to have such a gift and a role.

I’m not subservient. I’m essential.

To nurture – is to nourish. Imagine trying to raise a tender plant without nourishing it! Impossible.

President Nelson continues:

“To help another human being reach one’s celestial potential is part of the divine mission of woman. As mother, teacher, or nurturing saint, she molds living clay to the shape of her hopes. In partnership with God, her divine mission is to help spirits live and souls be lifted. This is the measure of her creation. It is ennobling, edifying, and exalting.” – Russell M. Nelson

So – now instead of ambivalence – I rejoice in statements like the one made by President Nelson! I want to nurture everyone within my reach – not only my children. I want to be the type of woman who builds up everyone around her. This is a subtle art, and I have so much to learn. But I think we all know a woman like that – who is smart, loving, kind, but quietly nurtures all who come in contact with her.

Quote Eight

“A woman’s richest rewards will come as she rises to fulfill her destiny as a devoted daughter of God. To all faithful Saints He has promised thrones, kingdoms, principalities, glory, immortality, and eternal lives. (See Rom. 2:7; D&C 75:5; D&C 128:12, 23; D&C 132:19.) That is the potential for women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is exalting, everlasting, and divine.” – Russell M. Nelson, emphasis added

I could raise my “ambivalence” concerns, but this blog post is already long. My “ambivalence” doesn’t matter because like every other concern I’ve listed, the Spirit has given way for me to feel confident and unequivocal – rather than ambivalent and skeptical.

So instead, I’ll just share my excitement for the truth that is shared here by President Nelson.

I have learned for myself that Heavenly Father dreams bigger for me than I can. I have learned that I can trust Him completely. Though my earthly life may not leave much of an impact on others – I will not be powerful or famous or whatever – this doesn’t mean that my life has been a waste! Heavenly Father’s dreams for us include “thrones, kingdoms, principalities, glory, and eternal lives.” I can’t even wrap my head around that!

But I trust Him.

So even though what I do may be small. Even though I may be a “stay at home mom” and I’ll never have an important or high paying job, even though I may not gain worldly recognition, even though I may not “accomplish much,” when I live simply and faithfully, then I will do what I was sent to this earth to do. I will feel joy. And I will qualify for all that God delights in blessing me with.

***

I’m so grateful for a Prophet who guides this church and will speak the truth even if it garners ambivalent and skeptical thoughts from others. I’m grateful that President Nelson is brave enough to speak the truth even if he may feel unqualified to do so. I’m grateful that President Nelson is worthy of the Spirit so that He can deliver a message that we need to hear. And I know, because the Spirit, that President Nelson speaks the truth.

 

The Canker of Contention – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk The Canker of Contention, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1989 General Conference.

Peaceful Place
Peace

So far, every talk of President Nelson’s that I’ve read is still appropriate now – years after the talk was given. Today’s talk is no exception.

I want to begin with a quote from the middle of the talk:

“My concern is that contention is becoming accepted as a way of life. From what we see and hear in the media, the classroom, and the workplace, all are now infected to some degree with contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson gave this talk in 1989. I was ten and a half years old. So, I think I was probably in fourth grade. I don’t really remember what the social climate was at the time – my life was mostly concerned with going to elementary school and playing outside. My parents got a divorce around this time, but I don’t really remember much about what was socially acceptable as far as courtesy or contention goes.

However, I would venture to guess that societal contention is still a concern for President Nelson. I know that it is a concern for me. 1989 – was before the 24 hour news cycles had taken hold in our lives. It was before there were trolls on the internet and cyber-bullying. I know that contention existed in 1989, but it seems like our society keeps trending toward contention and tribalism.

We have also seen how this contention spills out into the rest of our lives – the classroom and the workplace. In fact, who could have imagined how unsafe the classroom would be?! Gosh, I could go on, but that’s not the point of this talk or blog post. I think that we all know that contention is a problem. Bemoaning it doesn’t help. Instead, we can accept that we have a country rife with contention, and then we can understand why that is a problem. When we accept and understand, then we can work toward a solution.

Our Society is Rife with Contention

We can accept this. Accepting doesn’t mean condoning. It means that we recognize there is a problem.

It means that we recognize there is a problem, and that we can do something about it!

Accept it without judgement. Instead, I think we need to accept it the same way that you would if you found that you had skin cancer. One option would be to get mad at the sun. You could shake your fist at it. You could pretend that there is no problem as the cancer festers and destroys your body. Or you could accept the fact and simply say, “Well, I don’t like this, but I accept it. I have skin cancer. Now what can I do?”

So – we accept there is a problem. There are too many people bullying and being bullied. There are too many random shootings. There are too many purposeful shootings. There is too much road rage. There are too many people shouting and blaming and trolling. There is too much domestic violence. We have a societal cancer called contention. Accept it. and now, what can we do??? (No, the answer doesn’t mean point fingers at others, by the way. It’s not everyone else’s fault! What can WE do means what can WE do!)

The Problem with Contention

President Nelson declared:

“As we dread any disease that undermines the health of the body, so should we deplore contention, which is a corroding canker of the spirit.” – Russell M. Nelson

But why? Why is contention such a problem? Well, let’s consider its origin.

The Savior taught:

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” – 3 Nephi 11:29

The father of contention is the devil. He wants us to fight. He wants us to be filled with enough pride that we put down and hurt others. Though there may be momentary satisfaction in hurting another, we are left with a bad taste in our mouth. We are left with a gaping hole in our spirits when we let that spirit into our lives. Think of how Nephi felt when he was angry at his brothers:

“Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.” – 2 Nephi 4:17

The spirit of contention left Nephi feeling wretched. We quote 2 Nephi 4 as the psalm of Nephi, and we are able to witness him as he struggles with the consequence of contention and repents. We watch him strip this out of his heart. We watch him swallow his pride. He was angry at his brothers who wanted to kill him! He had done so much for them! It seems like he would have every right to be angry.

And he did have every right to be angry, I suppose. The Lord doesn’t expect us to be a doormat, but we also can’t give into the spirit of contention. So, if Nephi chooses to exercise this “right” to anger, then he also dispels the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

When Nephi felt angered and contentious, the Spirit departed, and because Nephi was so in tune with it, he felt wretched without it. He quickly corrected course because he knew that feeling wretched isn’t all that great.

But what about each of us? What do we do when we feel wretched. Do we look inward and plead with God for forgiveness? Or do we let that wretched feeling give way to more anger and more wretchedness?

***

Contention isn’t new. In fact, it existed in the pre-mortal world. Satan rebelled against Heavenly Father and started a war in heaven.

President Nelson stated:

“This war in heaven was not a war of bloodshed. It was a war of conflicting ideas—the beginning of contention.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is so fascinating to me! Even though I have been raised as a Mormon – so the whole “war in heaven” narrative has always been a part of my life – I never really internalized what that meant.

I mean, I never really compared the war in heaven with war that we see happening in this mortal world. I am so blessed. I know very little of war. I haven’t experienced it first-hand. I have lived a safe life. However, I’ve tried to educate myself, and I know that war is terrifying. It is full of death and misery. It is terrible. And this is exactly what the war in heaven was, too.

There was no bloodshed in heaven, but there were casualties.

War can be waged with only ideas, and such a war can have catastrophic results. Contention isn’t manifest for the first time with the exchange of blows. Contention begins deep in our hearts – with our thoughts, then expressed through words, and finally through actions. By the time we let it get to our actions, it truly has cankered our souls.

President Nelson also reminds us:

“Scriptures repeatedly warn that the father of contention opposes the plan of our Heavenly Father. Satan’s method relies on the infectious canker of contention. Satan’s motive: to gain personal acclaim even over God Himself.” – Russell M. Nelson

Satan’s motive is always the same. He wants our agency and God’s glory. Though he didn’t find success in the war in heaven, he still wages war now – with the same results in mind. His motive has nothing to do with us – giving into the pride of contention will not make us feel better.

I remember getting into an argument with a loved one. Both of us said things that we regret now – in fact we regretted them almost immediately. I remember that after the argument, I left and was feeling wretched. I was tempted to call a friend and then complain about this argument – furthering the spirit of contention and then also infecting another with this same spirit.

Thankfully the friend wasn’t around to talk to. So I was alone in my car.

I chose to just say a prayer that I would feel better.

The way that prayer usually seems to work (at least for me in these kinds of situations) is that Heavenly Father never usually says, “You’re right, what a jerk!…You know what you should do…” He never guides me to more contention or pain.

Now, my hurt feelings were legitimate, and Heavenly Father comforted me. But I was also impressed with a feeling, “You two are on the same team.”

And I realized that because we were on the same team, then we had to make a choice. There wouldn’t be one clear winner and one clear loser. Either we both win or we both lose. Satan tries to get us to lose sight of this. He wants us to be myopic and focus not on the big game but on the faults of our teammates. We may feel momentarily justified, but in the end we both lose.

Steps to Supplant Contention

President Nelson gives us two main steps to help us combat the canker of contention.

One – Bridle our Passions

Alma gave this advice to his son:

“Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love; see that ye refrain from idleness.” – Alma 38:12

Usually, I tend to think of “passions” as sexual in nature. But passion can be more than that. But we have to bridle our passions – of anger and frustration – so that we can be filled with love, God’s love, instead.

We are to bridle our passions. This doesn’t mean to eliminate them. This doesn’t mean that we become robotic! It means that we become the master of our passions – that we use discernment and discretion. It means that we follow the Spirit rather than our emotions.

President Nelson advised:

“To begin, show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the word processor. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” – Russell M. Nelson

Two – Love God

Really, this is the ultimate step in combatting contention and controlling our passions. President Nelson explained:

“Personal peace is reached when one, in humble submissiveness, truly loves God. Heed carefully this scripture:

“There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” (4 Ne. 1:15; see also 4 Ne. 1:2; italics added.)

Thus, love of God should be our aim. It is the first commandment—the foundation of faith. As we develop love of God and Christ, love of family and neighbor will naturally follow. Then will we eagerly emulate Jesus. He healed. He comforted. He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! I love the connection between personal peace (which comes as a result of Loving God), and peace with others.

I know that this is true, too.

I have struggled with contention in my life. It is easy and natural for me to do. However, I hate the way I feel when I let even a little bit of contention into my heart. It is terrible. It truly is wretched. This is a struggle that I have tried to ward off and am continually confronted with. It is so hard to change.

The thing with change is – it’s so hard to make a change using sheer willpower if we are moseying along in the wrong paradigm. When we change our paradigm, then our actions are so much easier to change, too.

So – even though I listed step one as “bridling our passions,” I think that really it isn’t the critical step. We should bridle our passions so that we can be filled with God’s love because God’s love is where the paradigm shift happens.

I love the scripture:

“We love him, because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

If you are trying to cultivate a love of God, then allow yourself to feel His love because He loves you.

Imagine if every person on this earth knew this simple fact: that they are children of God; that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them.

Say this out loud: I am a child of God, and He loves me.

Just saying that fills my heart with hope and joy! I can’t explain it, but anger, fear, and pride dispel when I say and accept that I am a child of God, and that He Loves me. When I accept this truth in my life, I want to feel more of His love. I want to be kinder. I want to have peace. I don’t want to fight!

When we love God, we change our paradigm. We see the world in a new way. We recognize that we truly are all brothers and sisters and that God not only loves us, but He loves them, too. When we love God, we begin to feel the love and compassion that He has for others – even if it is hard for us to do that ourselves. When we love God, we heal our soul from the canker of contention – we won’t give way to temptation. The devil will have no place in our hearts to destroy our peace and afflict our souls. When we love God, we will see contention for what it is, and then do the humbling steps to root it out of our lives.

And imagine what a world that would be!

***

I love this talk, and I feel like it is so timely. Unfortunately, the subject of “the canker of contention” may always be timely. In any case, I’m grateful for this reminder. I’m so grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the cankerous effect of contention. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson also knows how to apply gospel truths to overcome contention. I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who is a peacemaker

Addiction or Freedom – Russell M. Nelson

Today I’m studying the talk, Addiction or Freedom, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1988 General Conference.

This talk was a good reminder on the blessing of the Word of Wisdom – and how violating the Word of Wisdom will ultimately result in a loss of freedom…addiction.

Throughout the first portion of the talk, President Nelson taught about the cycle of addiction and various addictive substances. That part of the talk is very helpful, but it isn’t what I’d like to focus on today for this blog post.

After a short treatment of addictive substances, President Nelson offered a “Prescription” for overcoming addiction. This prescription is relevant to all of us – no matter the type of addition we may be suffering from.

Spiritual Prescription for Overcoming Addiction

Before I continue with the Spiritual Prescription, I want to quickly say that now, 20 years after this talk was given, we know that drugs, tobacco, and alcohol are not the only addictive substances destroying lives. We also know that there are other substances that are incredibly addictive will some ill long-term effects. I’m thinking mainly of the overconsumption of sugar and other processed foods.

I don’t advocate a complete avoidance of sugar. I think that it is okay in small doses. But many people are addicted to sugar and certain foods, and it has led them down a path of disease and obesity. I think that we can apply these same principles to any kind of physical addiction we might have.

One: Choose to Be Alive

I love this! Choose to be alive. This life is a gift. When we are in the throes of addiction, we forget this!

President Nelson stated:

“The choice for life brings an outlook of optimism. It breathes hope. It rekindles self-esteem—regarding one’s body as a timeless trust.” – Russell M. Nelson

I know that I’ve probably stated this before, but I heard Chad Lewis speak at a fireside once. He talked about his experiences in the NFL and after – including climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. He has lived an exciting and full life, and told the audience that a major inspiration for him to do so was his father. About his father, Chad Lewis said, “He loved life enough to get after it.”

I love that. It has become a kind of motto for me – love life enough to get after it. This kind of love for life will help us to weigh various choices and sacrifices.

Yes, cookies and ice cream are good, but I do not want to eat them all the time. I don’t want to sacrifice future choices because of a current appetite. Choosing to be alive is fundamental for breaking any addiction.

Two: Choose to Believe

President Nelson states:

“Choose to Believe. Believe in God. Accept yourself as His child, created in His image. He loves you and wants you to be happy.” – Russell M. Nelson

I love this! Love it so much! Believe in God! and we need to accept ourselves. This is such a fundamentally easy mistake to make – not to accept ourselves as beloved children of God.

When we accept ourselves as His children, beloved and created in His image, then something changes within us. We gain confidence. I’m not talking about self esteem. I’m talking about the real confidence that will remain a part of us no matter what others say and do to us.

Accept yourself as His child. By doing so, we will begin to trust Him and His word – including His Word of Wisdom.

Three: Choose to Change

The change is only preceded by a choice to change. How do we choose to change? Probably education. Maybe also bad experiences. Not sure I have a single answer for this. But I know that if we want to change, we have to choose to change, and we have to believe that we can actually make this choice.

I think that there are a lot of people who want to change, but don’t think that they can. Don’t worry so much if you can or not (hint: you can). Just make the decision to do it.

Put another way, I was in a conversation with someone recently, and they said, “I don’t know how to do it.”

I realized that we don’t have to know how. Instead, we should focus on why. The how is really easy to figure out later on. Instead, focus on what to change and why. When we know what we want to change and why, when we really have these answers clear in our minds, we will figure out how to do it!

Unfortunately, we often get stopped on “how.” Let’s take weight-loss, for example. We might read diet book after diet book. A lot of people who are trying to lose weight know at least a dozen different diets, but none of them ever seem to work. Then, the next diet book comes out, they read that, hoping that it will finally answer how for them.

Instead, if they focused on why they wanted to lose weight – because they wanted to live longer, because they want to see their children have grandchildren, because they want their knees to stop hurting, because they don’t want to have to give themselves insulin shots, because they want to be more attractive for their spouse…etc. – then they would have enough of an answer to find out “how” in a jiffy.

So – make a choice to change. Don’t get fixated on how to change, just make a choice to do it – while remembering that you are alive, and that you are a beloved child of God. The universe (God’s universe) will point the way on how to change if you will just make the choice to do it.

Four: Choose to Be Different

This is an interesting point that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own, but I believe that it is critical. President Nelson explained:

“Choose to Be Different. Distinguish yourself from worldly crowds. Defenders do not resemble offenders. Among them are clever merchandisers who plot to link beer with sports, tobacco with charm, and drugs with fun. Scripture warns of those who so deceive:

“Thus saith the Lord unto you: In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days, I have warned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation.” (D&C 89:4.)

His Word of Wisdom includes sound nutritional guidance and simple instructions.” – Russell M. Nelson

Choosing to keep the Word of Wisdom does make us different! I know that many Mormons all over the globe have experienced this. As I think about this, I remember how L. Tom Perry would drink milk at corporate dinners. MILK! He was different. And it is a choice that we must make – we need to be okay with being different.

It can be hard to be different. This is true.

Recently, I started Intermittent Fasting. I’m sure that I’ll share more about my experiences at a future point on the blog, but I’ll quickly say that it is one of the most positive things I’ve ever done for my body, spirit, and the health of both. Through intermittent fasting I’ve finally found a way to address and wrangle in my own problems with certain foods (sugar-y ones!). I’ve finally found a way to feel like I’m a master over my body and appetites, rather than a slave to it.

But you know what? When you choose to do intermittent fasting, you are different. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch most days. I remember thinking, why can’t I just be like everyone else? Why can’t I just eat all day long?

Intermittent fasting has been a very spiritual decision for me, and when I asked myself these questions, I felt a spiritual response: You can if you want. But remember that every choice is a sacrifice. You can sacrifice breakfast and lunch now and eat whatever you like during your eating window. Or you can eat all day long and sacrifice future health.

I know what my future holds. I can look at my parents and my grandparents and I see type two diabetes, stroke, dementia, heart disease, and obesity. I can choose to be like everyone else.

But I want to be different!

Five: Choose to Exercise

Isn’t this prescription great!

President Nelson explained:

“Exercising the body and the spirit will aid in the climb toward recovery. Appropriate physical activity helps to combat depression, which so often accompanies addiction.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel very fortunate because for some reason I really love to exercise. Though it can be hard to get up and go for a run or do a workout,  I have been able to see the way that exercise can reward our lives. It keeps my head clear. I like being able to move my body. I love feeling strong.

The same goes for my spirit. I love having knowledge, faith, and strength. These only come with spiritual exercise. When we sacrifice the time to exercise – spiritually or physically – we gain so much more than the initial sacrifice. We are blessed with peace and confidence.

These blessings reinforce the other choices – to be alive, to believe, to choose, and to be different. As we exercise – spiritually and physically – we come to know who we are – spiritually and physically. We see the blessing our bodies and spirits are. We want to take care of them.

This is such good advice!

Six: Choose to Be Free

I love this final choice so much, I don’t even know what to say about it.

One thing that strikes me as interesting is how freedom is often misinterpreted.

When I was younger, there were people who thought my religion and its Word of Wisdom sounded confining and restrictive. They confused “freedom to” and “freedom from.”

All of us are free to choose. This is the agency that God grants us and that we fought for in our premortal life. But this freedom to choose is not the same as being free.

President Nelson taught:

“Often, however, agency is misunderstood. While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices, we are tied to the consequences of those choices.” – Russell M. Nelson

We are all free to choose. However, we must understand that the consequences of our choices may result in either liberty or captivity. This is the essence of choosing to be free – we want to choose liberty. We don’t want to be held captive by the consequences of the choices that we were free to make.

Freedom to = agency. The freedom to make a choice.

Freedom from = liberty. The freedom from captivity.

When President Nelson urges us to be free – he is talking about being free from captivity. Having liberty. Choosing to keep the Word of Wisdom does ensure a measure of liberty in our lives. We will not form addictions when we keep the Word of Wisdom. We might also be kept safe from some of the other enslaving consequences and diseases that come through dietary choices.

Of course there are exceptions. I knew a man that had never smoked a day in his life. He was fit and healthy. But because of a genetic mutation that he did know he had and that he could not alter, he ended up dying from lung cancer. This was a result of immortality – not a choice he made. And though he had to suffer this adversity, he was still free.

***

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands and lives the Word of Wisdom. He has a very intimate understanding of it as a medical doctor. I’m grateful for his sound advice – that not only is helpful if we are addicted to drugs, but it is also helpful if we have more “minor” yet just as difficult addictions. I’m grateful to know that our prophet leads and guides us to have happier lives – both spiritually and physically. I’m also impressed because not only does President Nelson understand these principles, but he lives them. He’s 93! He has chosen to be alive, believe, choose, be different and be free.

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President Nelson on a Swing click for source