Traveling on the Paths of our Lives

Last week, I blogged about distinguishing between the difficult path and the fiery darts. Today, I’m going to write more about traversing that difficult path – even with the ability to discern.

Mostly because I’m traveling that difficult path myself.

(warning: personal post ahead!)

The past few weeks have been a little bit tough for me. First of all, you have to understand that for the past four years, Homey and I have been building our own business. I’m sure that this will come up several more times on the blog, it’s a huge part of my life right now, and I’ve learned more than I could have ever imagined.

So, we have been on this “path” – that includes the business. We knew it would be hard when we started it, and we are still on it now. Starting your own business comes with all kinds of financial and general “life” challenges (working with your spouse – when prior to that he worked at an office; financial strain while you try to make your business work; plus things like kids, dinners, cleaning the house, etc). Thankfully we have navigated these fairly well.

Even if you are traveling on your own path to your own proverbial promised land full of faith, you will still face stressful situations. I think about it like climbing a mountain. Even if you have faith and joy in every step, you can’t change the fact that you are climbing a mountain. The closer you are to the top, the thinner the air gets. Despite your faith, your trust, and your gratitude, the air is still thinner! There is still a great challenge. It is not easy to take each step up.

And this is in no way a statement on your faith or willingness. It’s just a fact about that path (remember! Don’t confuse the path with the fiery darts! The path is the path).

Back to what I was saying before. Two weeks ago, I started having a twinge in my back. I thought I had tweaked it in a workout. Each day it seemed to get worse. It was waking me up at night.

On Saturday night, the pain was enough that I decided I would stay at home from church on Sunday. I got very little sleep, and my pain was acute – even with ibuprofen. Homey took the family out to church. I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to help loosen up my back.

I had been walking for about ten minutes – feeling really good, actually. And I don’t know what happened, but my ankle just gave out, rolled, and I was doing a long trip and fall (over nothing) while a car was slowly pulling up to the stop sign I was next to. Embarrassing.

Oh I have to also mention, my eczema on my hands had been flaring up. I think that I ate something I was allergic to. So I was really itchy, my back was hurting, and now I found myself on the ground with a sprained ankle.

The woman in the car didn’t laugh at me. She rolled down her window and asked if I needed I ride. I thanked her, and then said no. She went on her way. I sat on the sidewalk for a moment, trying to sum up some pride. A minute later, the same woman pulled up again. She turned around and said, “Let me help you.”

I felt the Spirit whisper Let her help you.

So, she took me home, and I checked out my ankle went to wash my knees (they were bloody from my fall). That’s when I noticed a huge, new, blistering rash on my chest – the left side only – the same side that had been hurting for the last week.

This discovery devastated me. Nothing seems to be working! For years, we have been working so hard. For years I’ve been trying to manage my stress as we have started our own business, started homeschooling the kids, we have sold our house, and nearly every belonging (home, beds, dishes, piano, sewing machine, wedding rings!) – to make this dream work. For years I have tried my best, and I feel joyful and hopeful in my heart, but my body seems to betray me!!!

My husband came home, and I was in so much pain: my back, my hands, my knee, my ankle. And now a new rash. I was telling him about my day, then worrying – what is wrong with my skin? I had no idea, and then I had a thought … it’s shingles.

I realized it had to be shingles – the pain, the blistering rash. My husband and I agreed that we would go to the doctors first thing in the morning (it was Sunday night…) and I felt 10x more defeated than I was feeling earlier in the day.

I told my husband, “I know that the Lord can help us. I know that He will deliver us. I know that He has the power to do anything at any time. But I don’t know if I have the strength to make it. Will I have any skin left? Sometimes I doubt I will be able to physically manage all of this stress. I’m a mess!

Why is it so hard to trust in God?

I received a text from an angel friend:
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I hate to admit this, but there are times when I fear – even though I know that fear is completely irrational and faithless. I lack faith – in myself. I know that the Lord can deliver me, but there are times that I doubt me.

Sometimes I think: “Can I make it? Will I fall apart? Will I self-destruct?”

Stupid!

If I let myself think these things, then we know exactly what will happen.

If God thinks I can, then I can.

And I know this because, as my friend mentioned to me – I have had so many experiences where I have weathered the storm, where God enabled me and empowered me to “make it.”

I have experienced His tremendous power time and time again. I’ve seen and experienced miracles and tender mercies. So what if my skin itches? So what if I am a little sick? So what if I have a sprained ankle?

I’ll make it – hobbling and with itchy skin then. I know I can do it because the lord thinks I can do it, and through His grace, He will enable me to do it.

Don’t Fear!!!

“Fear not! I am with thee
O be not dismayed;
For I am thy God
And will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee
And cause thee to stand.
Upheld by my righteous,
Omnipotent hand.” – How Firm a Foundation

I hope that by sharing my experiences you will also be encouraged to overcome fear. Follow the advice of my wise friend. Remember the miracles you have experienced. Keep walking, keep striving to mountain peaks where God is guiding you to. The air will be thin. You will experience exposure, high wind, and fatigue. But keep walking. The Lord believes in you. You can believe in you, too. And then we can make it to the mountain tops.

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The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Book of Mormon Tad R. Callister

This quote comes from, “The Book of Mormon – A Book from God,” by Tad R. Callister from the October 2011 General Conference.

I love this testimony and truth about the Book of Mormon. Look at the language Elder Callister uses:

  • emblazoned
  • undeniable
  • merciful
  • remedy
  • superior healing power

Truly, the Book of Mormon is powerful.

The Book of Mormon teaches us principles that will give us “book knowledge” about the gospel. But there is more. When we read the Book of Mormon every day, we are inspired to live what we have learned. It is when our reading and our daily commitment to live what we have learned combine that we gain experiential knowledge of the Savior.

We will then have a witness of Him emblazoned on our souls. And what does that mean – that we are really close to a really “neat” guy – that we are super knowledgeable about someone who was a “great rabbi”?

No!

It means that we are empowered by the Atonement. It means that we are healed from our sins. It means that we are comforted caused by the pain of others. It means that we are made whole from the infirmities we face in mortal life. It means that we are empowered to overcome our weakness.

Having Christ emblazoned on our souls means that we know of Him through study and that we know Him through intimate experience.

I know that this is true. The Book of Mormon has been a beacon in my life. It has brought me close to the Savior. It has worked with the Bible to help me understand 1) Why I need a Savior, and 2) How the Savior truly is a manifestation of God’s love.

Do you have a witness of Christ emblazoned on your soul? How has the Book of Mormon helped you to gain this witness?

Strengthening our Relationships with Christ

How to receive a manifestation of the Savior.
How to receive a manifestation of the Savior.

I came across this scripture the other day…

“And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” – 2 Nephi 26:12-13

It stood out to me because I want to know Christ.

It may seem strange because I have a testimony of the gospel and have even been blogging about it for years. I have even recorded my testimony of the Savior (note: more than once). And I will say right now, that I do have a testimony that we have a Savior. I know this because I have felt His power in my life. I have read the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and I have felt peace when studying and praying about the scriptures. I know this because I have learned about Him in Church and at the temple, and have also felt the peace and confirmation that comes from such practices. I have felt His forgiveness, and have witnessed miracles in my life. I know that my Savior lives and that He loves me.

But…

I feel like there is still so much more to know. I feel infantile in my testimony of the Savior, and not in a good-child-like-infantile way. But with a recognition that I can come to know Him more. That I can develop a better relationship with Him. That my prayers can be more heartfelt. That His presence could be felt stronger in my life. As I’ve had more witnesses of the Savior, of His love for me, of His role in my life as the Advocate and Redeemer, I’ve also seen how often I come up short. I get frustrated with myself that I give in to my weaknesses so much–instead of turning to Him for support. I feel like Nephi who said:

“O wretched [wo]man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.” – 2 Nephi 4:17-18

I can see that as my testimony in the Savior has matured, His expectations from me have also grown. As I’ve gained more knowledge, I have more power to do more good; and the Lord expects me to do it. I want to do it. And the thing is, I usually do. It’s not like I’m having struggles with the things that I’ve learned in the past.

The Lord is teaching me to be a better person – better than I was yesterday; last week; or last year. Now, I’m learning spiritual algebra, rather than spiritual arithmetic.

Sometimes, as I go through these periods of my life – where I feel distanced from the Savior, a flash of doubt runs through my mind. Do I even know Christ at all? Is this true? Am I crazy? What happened to my testimony? I think that this happens to all of us.

And, when I read the scripture in 2 Nephi: “He manifesteth Himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost;…, I realized my answer.

I do know Christ

I do know the Savior, and I don’t need to doubt my testimony – even for a second. Even if I don’t feel as close to Him as I would like, it isn’t because I don’t have a testimony. On the contrary, I realize it is because my testimony is growing, and that the Holy Ghost is helping me to see how it can continue to grow. We can’t stay in the same place. I can make improvements to my life–improvements that I wasn’t ready to make last week, a year ago, or five years ago. I can follow the same pattern that I’ve followed in the past:

  • I can believe in Christ – It is somewhat easy for me to do this now. I can base my belief on the witnesses I’ve had of him in the past. I don’t have to believe in someone completely foreign. I can keep believing in Christ: in His Atonement; in His love for me; in His desire that I come unto Him and know Him. I can keep expressing this belief in Christ through prayer, scripture study, temple attendance. I can also keep showing this belief in Christ by trusting Him when I go through times of personal refinement–that these times are to help me to get to know Him better.
  • I can seek the Holy Ghost – The manifestations of the Savior come to us through the Power of the Holy Ghost. When I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I received the gift of the Holy Ghost, which means I have access and companionship with the Holy Ghost and His power at all times (as long as I lived worthy of it). The Holy Ghost will help me to see what I need to do in order to change so I can have more of His spirit with me, which, in turn, will help me to feel closer to the Savior.

***

I kind of think that we all go through these kinds of tests in life. We receive witness of the Savior, then the Lord tests our witness. As our testimonies and faith is tested, it continues to grow. When we feel our connection to the Savior diminishing, and it isn’t because we have sinned or grown relaxed in the gospel, perhaps it might be because we are being taught new ways that we can change and grow. The Lord wants us to be even closer to Him, and this is done through “pruning” and “refinement”–both concepts that connote growth through a difficult (sometimes painful) process.

If we are going through these stages of refinement, we don’t need to doubt our past testimony. Instead, we need to be like Nephi, who was able to overcome his feeings of self-doubt by remembering his past experiences with the Savior. (See 2 Nephi 4:19-25.) We can draw strength from our past expressions of faith and testimony, and trust that as we seek the Spirit, then Christ will manifest Himself unto us.

***
Have you experienced times like these? What do you do to strengthen your relationship with the Savior? What have you done to receive a witness of Christ?

***
If you are still coming to know Christ, you can learn more about The Savior here.

Abide With Me

So, this is, hands-down, one of my favorite hymns of all time. This video is a rendition sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Several years ago, I was a member of a ward choir, and we sang a simple version of this song. I hadn’t participated in many ward choirs prior to this one, and was surprised and the spirit I felt when we practiced this song.

As I sang the line, “Oh Savior, stay this night with me, behold ’tis eventide.” I felt like I understood why those two simple disciples on the road to Emmaus would implore the Savior to stay with them. When I sang the song, I felt like begging for the same blessing. Even though I haven’t physically walked and talked with the Savior, I have felt His Spirit. I have felt His love and peace. Feeling the love of Christ, feeling His peace, is something that we can access all the time, but it seems like the strength of the feelings ebb and flow. There are times when we can feel His presence stronger than others. This may be due to our own worthiness (sin really diminishes feeling close to the Savior) or our circumstances (when I’m in spin class, even though I’m not doing anything wrong, it is a different environment, not a very spiritual one).

The ebb and flow of these feelings are okay (I think). I mean, that’s life, right? But still, I understand how it is to feel like I want the Savior to stay with me, His love is peaceful, reassuring, calming, and … well, I can’t adequately describe it.

And even though I’ve witnessed for myself that Christ loves me, even though I know that I’ve felt the Spirit in my life, there are times when I forget His love, and I feel lonely and distant from The Savior. I wonder why I can’t feel His Spirit as strongly as I would like. I even begin to doubt my testimony. I have faith that He is the Savior, but sometimes I wonder, “Do I know? Will I ever really know? These thoughts give way to frustration, and I wonder if I will ever grow spiritually, or if I will always be waffling around between knowledge and doubt.

Recently, President Eyring gave a really great talk in General Conference. In it he reminds us of Christ’s invitation:

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

This is a good reminder. If we draw near unto Christ, then He will draw near unto each of us. If we seek Him, then we will find Him. If we ask, we’ll receive. If we knock, then the door will be opened. It’s a pretty good promise.

There are so many ways that we can draw near unto the Savior. We can study the scriptures, we can pray. I like to go to the temple. But the thing is, even as I’m trying to draw nearer to the Savior, sometimes I feel like I can’t get near enough. Like there is something I need to learn. I tend to get a lot out of scripture study, but it is a cerebral understanding of the gospel–it is very intellectualized.

It is harder for me to pray because it is abstract, and sometimes I’m not the most “feely” kind of person. But I still pray, and I know that if I could do a little less analyzing and intellectualizing, and instead let myself feel, then I might be able to recognize that the Lord has drawn near unto me.

When I go to the temple or to my church services, again, I intellectually know that I’m serving the Lord. I feel the Spirit, and have a rush of enlightenment and excitement, and this is good. But I want to learn how to make the feeling last.

Above all, I want my faith in Christ to turn into sure knowledge. I want to know – not only with my head, but also with my heart. I want to know with my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and…even kidneys.

***
Back to President Eyring’s talk…

President Eyring concludes with this brilliant testimony.

Pretty Awesome, huh?!
Pretty Awesome, huh?!

I love this testimony. Every single time I hear it or read it, I feel the Spirit confirm to me that what President Eyring is saying is both true, and that his testimony is special. I realize that even though I’m kind of like a “toddler” when it comes to spirituality and testimony, there are people who are adults. There are people who know, and they can guide and comfort me with their knowledge. We are blessed with apostles and prophets who do know Christ: with their hearts and brains…AND…eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and even kidneys.

In the Mormon church, our leadership is unique in that the Prophet and Apostles aren’t a bunch of men who are simply interested in the gospel and have gone to seminaries to study the scriptures. They aren’t paid to live in Christ’s service. These are ordinary men. They have families and jobs. They grew up with testimonies of Christ and of Heavenly Father, and with a commitment to serve Him. Over time, they have grown in the gospel. Eventually, each of these apostles and prophet received a calling (from God, not as a product of their campaigning to receive such a calling) to be His special witness. They are not unlike Peter, James, or John, who were hand-selected to be “fishers of men”.

Like the ancient apostles, President Eyring and other apostles bear testimony of Christ. In this talk I feel like President Eyring is trying to convince us to believe that Christ lives–because he knows it. It isn’t his hunch or “feeling.” President Eyring knows that Christ lives as surely as did those two disciples who traveled to Emmaus knew – when their eyes were opened and they physically beheld the Savior.

When my testimony in the Savior begins to falter, and I wonder if He hears my prayers, if He loves me, if He can bless me in my times of need, I know that I can take comfort in the testimony of the Apostles and Prophet. Yes Christ does live. There are people on this earth who know this for sure, and I can trust in their witness.

My faith is strengthened by the testimony of those who are true witnesses of the living Christ.

***
Do you believe in Christ? Have you had experiences when you have felt the Savior draw near unto you? What do you do to strengthen your faith in Him? How does it make you feel to know that there are people on this earth who have had experiences with the Savior and can witness of Him, personally?

Why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Antidote to Sociopathy

Okay…I read an article in Psychiatry Today titled, Confessions of a Sociopath. It sounds pretty interesting, right?

I have to admit that I’m pretty intrigued because I feel like I have been very close to a sociopath in my life. I’ve been reading a few books lately on the subject, and I have had thoughts swirling in my mind. I wasn’t planning on blogging about it, but then I came across the following quote in the aforementioned article:

What Is Evil, Really?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a sociopath’s dream. Mormons believe that everyone has the potential to be godlike—I believe this includes me. Every being is capable of salvation; my actions are what matters, not my ruthless thoughts, not my nefarious motivations. Everyone is a sinner, and I never felt that I was outside this norm.

When I read this, I’m not sure if I was incredulous or simply entertained. I started to laugh. Really!? Does this author even go to the LDS church?! I came to realize that my I was so surprised because prior to reading this article – as I’ve been reading other literature on sociopathy and psychopathy – repeatedly I’ve had the thought, “These people need the gospel.”

I’m not going to take the time to describe sociopathy or psychopathy now. If you are unfamiliar, you can find some good, general information here. I want to make a disclaimer, that I don’t really think I personally know how to help an individual who is seeking healing from such a disability. Obviously, I don’t have the training. However, I know that the gospel can help put anyone on the right track. Above all, I know that the claim that this author made is untrue. The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints isn’t a “sociopath’s dream.” The connotation of this statement is that the LDS church breeds sociopaths. The rest of the quoted paragraph is flat-out false. The author should, perhaps, read the scriptures. Of course, the author claims to be a sociopath, so I shouldn’t find the statement to be all that surprising. 😉 Additionally, Psychology Today might do well to fact-check statements made by a self-proclaimed sociopath before publishing as if it is true.

Learn more about how to be Christ-like here...
Learn more about how to be Christ-like here…

Enough of that. Here are a few points on why the gospel is actually anti-sociopathy:

Jesus is our Exemplar

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that Jesus Christ is our Savior, Redeemer, Creator, King, Master, Messiah, and more. We believe that He is our Example to follow. We have been bidden to follow Christ-not only in where we go, but how we live. We are taught to follow His example.

We are taught by Nephi:

“And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?

And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son.

And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.” – 2 Nephi 31:10-13

We have been invited, by Christ to follow Him. In doing so, we must be repentant and be baptized. Nephi teaches us the qualifications – we must follow Christ with full purpose of heart – which means that we cannot pretend our motivations. We take on Christ’s name without hypocrisy or deception before God. We cannot follow Christ unless our intent is real. It is a matter of heart. Following Christ is not made up only of outward performances.

It is the LDS belief that we can become like God. Not only do we feel it a belief, but we feel it a commandment. Jesus Christ, himself taught:

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

“Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” – 3 Nephi 12:48

We are commanded to be perfect, or whole/complete, just as both Christ and Heavenly Father are. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that we are not capable, in and of ourselves, of keeping this commandment. Yet, we also know that the Lord gives no commandments unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing that He hath commanded them. (See 1 Nephi 3:7.) Becoming perfect, or like God, is only possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is only possible as we do what Nephi described above – when we repent, and are baptized. And these covenants only take effect in our lives when we do them with real intent, without hypocrisy, with a full heart.

In modeling our lives after the Savior, we will see that we need to be full of Charity. Honestly, as I’ve begun studying sociopathy (and I will admit that my “study” of sociopathy is rudimentary), I have seen that Charity is the sociopathy’s polar opposite.

Mormon teaches us about charity:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” – Mormon 7:45

As you can see, each trait of one who has obtained charity is completely antithetical to the traits commonly attributed to sociopaths. Charity is the pure love of Christ and can only come through His grace (See Ether 12:36). To receive the blessings of Christ’s grace, we need to follow Him, and then – (Again!) as Nephi teaches: repent, be baptized, and – well – you can read the rest of it at the beginning of this post.

If we seek to keep the command given to us to be perfect and follow Christ, then we must understand what He is teaching us. God isn’t a power-hungry God. He isn’t a psychopath. He isn’t arbitrary or unfeeling. He doesn’t destroy without care. God is a loving God. He is merciful and kind. Everything that the Savior did was for the benefit of the world (See 2 Nephi 26:24). In our pursuit to be like God, we shouldn’t be confused by a worldly idea of an arbitrarily omnipotent being. We must remember that God is motivated by His pure love. When we seek to be like Him, we will be moved by charity.

Actions Matter…So Do Thoughts and Motivations

In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin taught:

“And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” – Mosiah 4:29-30

If we aren’t watching our thoughts and words, then our deeds will often follow the darkness of sin that might lurk in our minds and hearts. Even if we try to be good on the outside, having a rotten core isn’t acceptable. We have been taught to cleanse our inner vessels. Christ doesn’t really have much patience for hypocrites.

I suppose that this idea of what we do being so important comes up because Mormons believe that we must qualify for the healing balm of Christ’s Grace through our works. (See 2 Nephi 25:23). Obviously, what we do is important. The Lord expects us to work hard and be anxiously engaged in a good cause. But the works aren’t enough. Mormon teaches:

“For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.

For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.

And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.

Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.” – Moroni 7:6-10

We can give gifts all day long. We can, like the Pharisees, cast our money into the treasury at the temple. We can broaden our phylacteries, and show off our supposed devotion to God. Yet, when these “good” deeds are done without real intent, or, in other words, with “nefarious motivations”, then it is as if the “giver” retained the gift, and he is “counted evil before God.”

Our hearts, our intents, our motivations–they matter.

***

This is long, but I have to say – sure, LDS people can become sociopaths. I have known a sociopathic Mormon. I don’t know the conditions of what causes a person to be a sociopath. Perhaps they are born with different brain patterns. Maybe they are raised in a bad environment. But I know that ultimately, we exercise our own agency. We make the choice to lie, manipulate, hurt, and even destroy. The Lord does not sanction such action no matter what religious organization we affiliate with.

We don’t need to be fooled that sociopathy-life with “power” and without conscience-is desirable. Read the scriptures. God expects us to become as He is. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t start fights or feuds. He doesn’t manipulate to get what He wants. He doesn’t arbitrarily destroy for entertainment. He loves. He blesses. He teaches. He guides. He builds us up. He weeps for us. He corrects us. He has laid down His life for us. He is full of charity.

When we truly follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we will one day become God-like: full of love, kindness, mercy, charity, and happiness. This is the antidote to sociopathy.

Come Listen to the Prophet’s Voice

I love general conference!
I love general conference!

It seems like every six months, I get to a point where I feel spiritually parched, hungry, needy. I can’t really put my finger on it. My spirit needs refreshment and renewal. I can’t seem to get it from normal church meetings, scripture study or prayer. Going to the temple helps, but it still can’t quite satisfy what I feel like I want.

I need to hear the words of the living prophets. I love their advice, love, warnings, and messages. I love to hear the tabernacle choir sing. I love to hear humble prayers uttered. I love to be able to raise my hand to the square and sustain the servants of God.

Today, as I listened to President Monson speak, I was filled with the confirming knowledge that President Monson is a living prophet. I felt love wash over me as he began to spoke—the blessing of a living prophet tells me that Heavenly Father loves me. It is truly miraculous that the Lord can bless so many millions of people with the words of a single prophet.

Listen to the word of the living prophet and apostles here.

Goals Update – Knowing God and Jesus Christ

So…as far as my goal this year (which is losing weight, as lame as that may sound), I’m not making much progress, per se. I haven’t lost weight. I am exercising more, and I’m feeling better, but I still have changes that I need make before I see any real results.

A while ago, I read a book by Robert Lustig – Fat Chance: Beating the Odds against Sugar…. I liked it because I realized that I am a sugar addict, and that there is more to health than just looking skinny (which is something I’ve always suspected). Anyways. Even though this seems lame, weight loss has been a real personal trial for me. I haven’t always been overweight. A few years ago, I ran a marathon! Only recently did I put on weight (with my last child), and I haven’t taken it off (he’s 2 now!!!) I’ve noticed that both my relationship with food and the perception I have of myself have changed. Neither of them have changed in a good way.

I’m including this stuff on this blog because I’m convinced that my struggle has a spiritual connection.

A friend of mine gave me the book Not My Will but Thine by the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell. It has been helping me as I consider my desires, goals, and the will of the Lord. I know that the Lord will answer my prayers, I just need to learn how to align my will with His.

Two things struck me when I read the first chapter:

“…God really is a loving, Father God, not a distant cosmic presence.” (Maxwell, Not My Will but Thine, p. 3)

and

“Jesus Christ has been, is, and will be our empathic Advocate with the Father. Not only is He our Advocate, but He helps us through our individual ordeals. By His own suffering, He was perfected, including in His capacity to help us with our individual suffering.” (Maxwell, Not My Will but Thine, 3-4)

Nature - one sure way to feel God's influence in our lives.
Nature – one sure way to feel God’s influence in our lives.

God is really a loving Father God

(and not a distant cosmic presence). Do you really know that? Do I really know that? Do I remember it? I have to say, yes I know it, but no I don’t always remember. I have felt close to Heavenly Father – close enough to know that He truly is a Father that loves me. Yet there are times when I feel distance. Of course, that is my fault – usually distance is a result of lazy prayers.

But, even when I’m praying well, there are some times when it is hard to feel God’s real presence in my life. Or I feel it, but I want to feel more of it.

Jesus Christ is our Advocate and Helper

I know that Jesus Christ is my advocate with Heavenly Father. I know that He helps me. I know that there is nothing (in and of myself) that I can do to receive blessings or comfort from God. Everything I have received has been because of Christ’s mercy.

I know that the key to unlocking the power of the atonement in my life is through repentance, faith, and covenant making (and keeping). I know that I depend on my Savior for everything.

But there are times when I know that I underestimate exactly how powerful He is. For example – He knows my ordeals. My ordeals are ordeals. Even if it sounds stupid, being frustrated with myself physically, is still an ordeal. My ordeal is not because I can’t see my value as a woman and daughter of God. It is because I’m not living to my potential. It is because I have some real physical weaknesses, and I need Christ’s help to overcome them. Our ordeals and trials are always based on the conditions of mortality – our weakness.

Sometimes I forget how Christ can help me with all of my trials – even ones that don’t seem as crucial or important. I forget that Christ knows what it’s like to feel depressed or down. And he knows how to uplift. I forget that he has experienced all that I have experienced. I don’t have to endure this trial alone. I can take Christ’s yoke upon me, and he will help me to overcome.

So…while I don’t want to over-think things all day long, it is good for me to recognize that when I think about my goals, I can see a clear connection between my progress (or lack of progress) and my willingness to activate the power of the atonement in my life. If I’m feeling weak (in other words, if I want cookies), then I can go to the Lord for strength. I can pray that the Lord will strengthen me as I try to employ good habits (like portion control, good eating, and exercise) in my life. I can also pray that I won’t get bogged down on day to day issues, but that I will see the big picture, and be grateful for a working body, loving husband, and good life. Remembering My relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ really can help me obtain any goal or get through any ordeal.

How do you use the atonement to overcome weakness and difficulty in your life? How have you grown closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? How do you keep your relationship with Heavenly Father real and relevant?