“With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk, With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1988 session of General Conference.

For with God Nothing Shall Be Impossible

This talk was the perfect thing for me to study today.

I think that I’ll start with this quote, even though this came at the end of the talk:

You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that “with God nothing shall be impossible,” know that He is your Father. You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak in the sacred name of God. It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath. – Russell M. Nelson

I have an admission, I get disheartened easier than I would like. Overall, I feel like I’m a very optimistic person. This is all centered on the fact that I know that the Lord is good, I know that He Loves us, and I know that there is no limit to His love, power, knowledge or blessings. In other words, He is a god of abundance, and He wants – no he delights – in blessing us with His abundance.

I’m an optimist, but I am also striving. I’m also trying to be a better person. I don’t believe in the concept of “perfection,” but I do want to do what I can to increase my talents, to “10x” my life. Much has been given to me in my life; much is required. I have a hunger that seems to be impossible to satiate. I have this one life to live – I love it, and I want to “get after it.”

Of course, Heavenly Father wants us to dream big and to work for those dreams. It doesn’t have to be done in some “type-A” kind of way. Look at the life of the Savior. He didn’t have meetings or “SMART” goals. He didn’t come to the earth when he impact more people globally by sending out a tweet or writing a blog. He didn’t walk into Jerusalem and force everyone to be healed. He simply served one at a time. His mode of transportation was his two feet. His mode of communication was his audible voice. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a type-A kind of a dude, he “10xed” his life. He did exactly the needful thing at each moment. He made an impact on our world that is unforgettable. He fulfilled His mission.

This is how I strive to be – I’m really happy with my life, but I’m also still hungry. There is so much that is so great about this world. There is so much to see, to experience. There is so much room for my own growth. There is so much I want to learn. I also want to do everything I can to improve my relationships. I am very serious about my role as a nurturer, and I want to be the kind of woman who is able to nurture others – both my children, spouse, and anyone else I come in contact with.

So – with this insight on my desires, there are specific goals I have. Those specific goals aren’t necessary to mention in this blog, but I guess it is important that I let you know I have them. I have specific goals – some that are easier to achieve than others. A few of them have required greater faith than I’m always able to muster. Thankfully the Lord is patient with me, and He helps me.

***

In the Book of Mormon, there is a story about a group of people: The Jaredites. Their story begins with a journey to the promised land. They originated in the city of Babel, and traveled for about four years before they were commanded to build barges and cross the sea. Finally, the barges were prepared, the food was prepared, God – through the faith of the brother of Jared – blessed them with a way to have light and comfort in these barges. And they began their journey to the promised land.

We learn how the barges moved forward toward the promised land:

“And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.” – Ether 6:6

So – in order to get to the promised land, a furious wind blew. They didn’t drift leisurely toward their destination. This was no pleasure cruise. We learn:

“And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.” – Ether 6:7

Notice the description of the sea: mountain waves, terrible tempests, fierce winds. All of this was done so that the Jaredites could make it to their destination.

I have embarked on my own goals and journeys that have required a lot of faith for me. And the Lord has used metaphorical mountain waves to push me along my path. Sometimes it’s scary. And sometimes, I see the mountain wave, am surrounded by the terrible tempest, and hear the fierceness of the wind. And I am tempted to become disheartened. Which is why I love that quote and this entire talk by President Nelson!!!

President Nelson states:

“And I admire those who strive to be more worthy by overcoming a personal fault or who work to achieve a difficult goal.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though the Lord may use “mountain waves” to push us toward overcoming personal faults or achieving a difficult goal, we shouldn’t be afraid. We should remember that “With God nothing shall be impossible.”

We have evidence of this! Heavenly Father blessed Gideon and his troops against the Midianites. The Lord decreased his troops from twenty-two thousand to ten thousand. Still, that was too many. Gideon, following the instruction from the Lord, whittled his troops down to only 300. And only then did the Lord deliver them, impossible though it seemed.

The Lord enabled Sarah to have a baby in her old age and Mary to bear a child though she was a virgin.

The Lord directed the children of Israel to the Red Sea, where they miraculously crossed it on dry ground.

The Lord brought Nephi and the Jaredites to the promised land.

The Lord brought forth His gospel – in its fullness – in the latter days starting with only a few uneducated farmers and people from rural New York. And now, it has grown and continues to grow and do good throughout the world.

Really, when think about it, nothing is impossible. This is true. It’s not just some statement meant to make you feel better as you keep trudging along in life. It is true. It is meant to be a beacon of hope and the knowledge that we need in order to embark on our own life’s missions – though they may require a ton of faith and strength that we feel we don’t have.

We can learn to achieve the impossible as we come to the Lord. President Nelson teaches how to achieve by highlighting three spiritual themes.

Faith

If we don’t have faith, if we don’t have vision, then we are doomed before we even begin. I feel like I could write an entire book about faith and why it is absolutely critical if we want to “10x” our lives, if we want to make any progress, if we want to feel any joy. It all hinges on faith.

And faith is more than just trusting in God. It’s more than believing that He can do something. Faith also means that we trust that He can empower us to do what we must. I have trouble with this, but the Lord is gently teaching me.

So we need faith. President Nelson teaches:

“Faith is nurtured through knowledge of God. It comes from prayer and feasting upon the words of Christ through diligent study of the scriptures.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes! I love this! Nephi teaches us that His brothers murmured (which came as a result of a lack of faith) because they “knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (See 1 Nephi 2:12)

When we come to know the Lord through prayer and scripture study, then increased faith comes as a result. We learn that He is trustworthy, and that we can rely on Him. We learn that with Him nothing is impossible because He will empower us. Often, the way I think about it is: Well, if God thinks that I can do this, then I guess I can do it. I shouldn’t second-guess the Lord. Even though it seems like second guessing ourselves is a sign of humility, it isn’t. Second guessing our capability to do what the Lord thinks we can do is not only a lack of faith, it is pride, and a lack of understanding that God is omniscient and omnipotent. We should believe Him when He believes in us.

Focus

Oh! I love this point, too. As I’ve been climbing the path of my own goals, I have been reminded time and time again about my focus, about my vision, and how that would be a huge determining factor on my success.

I think about Peter, who walked on the water. When he began to focus on the stormy water, he lost focus on His Savior. He faltered in his faith – that the Savior would empower Him to walk on the water. Peter focused on failure, and failure followed.

This is a long quote, but I really love how President Nelson teaches us about focus:

“Imagine, if you will, a pair of powerful binoculars. Two separate optical systems are joined together with a gear to focus two independent images into one three-dimensional view. To apply this analogy, let the scene on the left side of your binoculars represent your perception of your task. Let the picture on the right side represent the Lord’s perspective of your task—the portion of His plan He has entrusted to you. Now, connect your system to His. By mental adjustment, fuse your focus. Something wonderful happens. Your vision and His are now the same. You have developed an “eye single to the glory of God.” With that perspective, look upward—above and beyond mundane things about you. The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought.” That special vision will also help clarify your wishes when they may be a bit fuzzy and out of focus with God’s hopes for your divine destiny. Indeed, the precise challenge you regard now as “impossible” may be the very refinement you need, in His eye.

As we develop an “eye of faith,” we will be able to focus. I know that this doesn’t just happen. We have to choose to align our focus with God’s. And when you do develop focus, don’t take it for granted. Little things can blur your focus. There is an active adversarial force working against us (hint: SATAN!). Not only do we need to align our vision with God’s to give us focus, we need to keep calibrating our vision – so that it remains united with His.

Strength and Courage

I think that strength and courage come as we cultivate faith and focus. It comes when we keep our covenants – especially the covenant to always remember Him.

In and of myself, I’m not strong. I’m not courageous.

Here’s another example. In and of himself, Nephi wasn’t strong. He wasn’t courageous. He didn’t rely on his own wits. Instead, he knew the way to find strength and courage:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Nephi knew that he didn’t need to be strong and courageous. He needed to be open and meek. He needed to be close to the Spirit. That this meekness and openness would help him to see the opportunities that the Lord would put in his place in order for Nephi to do as the Lord commanded.

So Nephi did that. Nephi’s trust in the Lord WAS his strength and courage. That is when the Lord makes even more out of Nephi, so much so, that I feel like I’m speaking the truth when I say that “Nephi was courageous.”

I love the hymn quoted by President Nelson –

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—
All is well! All is well!
Come, Come Ye Saints

And another hymn:

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness.
We’ve proved him in days that are past.
We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

And another hymn:

In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, 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, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
How Firm a Foundation

I know that I’m not special. I know that if you are reading this, you have gone through your own trials of faith. You have had times when you wondered how to endure the impossible. I know that I’m not the only one on this earth who has had goals, ambitions, trials, and more.

Though I’m not the only one, the only testimony I can give is my own. I know that God loves us. I know that His work and His GLORY is us! It is our eternal success. I know that He delights in blessing us with his best blessings. I know that He wants us to dream big, and that really – we can’t even dream as big as He does. I know that our Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy, and that joy is related to us fulfilling the measures of our creation.

I know that if we choose to embark on the path that will bring us joy – if we will embark on the path that will help us to do what we were sent here to do, then we are not on an easy path. I know that refinement and improvement is sometimes tiring and painful. You can’t get to the top of the mountain without climbing a mountain.

But, we can do it. God thinks we can! So we can!

I love the final verse of How Firm a Foundation. It is how I feel with my whole entire heart:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
How Firm a Foundation

I will remain with Jesus. He is the source of any power and light in my life. He is the reason I’ve been able to do anything good in my life. He is my Savior and Redeemer. His Atonement has blessed me – It has healed me from heartache and pain. It has forgiven me of my sins. It has brought me comfort in times of physical illness and distress. And it has empowered me as I have sought the abundant life He offers. The Savior has enabled me to do things that I never could have imagined doing. Through Him, I have received personal commandments, and though they seem impossible, I can echo what Nephi said. I KNOW that the Lord will not give us a commandment without a way for us to keep it.

Our Heavenly Father is not Lucy. He doesn’t set up the football with the intention of taking it away as we fall flat on our backs. He doesn’t set us up for failure. Though we don’t always see solutions to our problems, though there are times when we keep falling and failing, if we trust in God, He will guide us to the solution. We will make it to the top of the mountain.

empire pass

Long Post. (I feel like I say this every time)

***

I’m so grateful to know that we are guided by a prophet today who is confident in the Lord. I’m grateful to know that Russell M. Nelson is so confident in the Lord’s power, that he believes the Lord can make us powerful! I am grateful to know that President Nelson believes that nothing is impossible for the Lord – and that this statement is not just to puff up and flatter some jealous god, but that this statement is made for us to realize that the Lord is powerful enough to work miracles in us and through us! That His power is powerful enough to give us power!

I’m grateful that President Nelson knows this and has taught us this. I respect him, and I’m so grateful to be guided by a living prophet who has trusted God enough to truly know that with God nothing shall be impossible.

 

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Life After Life – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Life After Life, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1987 General Conference.

***

I’m not sure if you know this, but I homeschool my children. This year, my first grader has been studying ancient history, and we’ve been reading literature that were written during this time or are set in that time.

Much of the literature from ancient times has to do with belief systems. So, we have studied the mythology of the Greeks and Romans. We have read stories told by the people of ancient Mesopotamia (Gilgamesh). We have read a bit on Egyptian goddesses. We have read the Old Testament of the Bible. We have read books on the mythology and beliefs of other cultures as well – African cultures and Viking cultures.

As we have studied this literature, I’ve noticed themes of mortality and immortality that come up in all of them. For example, after Gilgamesh’s friend, Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh goes on a quest for immortality.

Many of these myths also explain what happens to mortals when they die. For example, the Greeks explained that the dead crosses the River Styx into the underworld and Hades’ kingdom.

There are many more examples of these ancient beliefs, but that isn’t the point of this blog post. I just wanted to mention that this question about life after death is an ancient concern and curiosity. For the most part, we love to be alive. But this isn’t something we can do forever. Each day we deteriorate. Each day, we get closer to death until the inevitable happens.

Then what? How can we escape the seemingly inescapable?

President Nelson proclaimed:

“Gratefully and positively, I affirm that there is life after life, first in the spirit world and then in the Resurrection, for each and every one of us.” – Russell M. Nelson

After our lives on this earth, we will continue to live. Our spirits will live on in the Spirit world until the time of the Resurrection. Then, when we are resurrected, we will live forever in immortal, incorruptible bodies.

President Nelson taught:

“At the time of our resurrection, we shall take up our immortal tabernacles. Bodies that now age, deteriorate, and decay will no longer be subject to processes of degeneration: ‘This mortal must put on immortality'” – Russell M. Nelson

We have reason to rejoice. We will not remain as we are right now. Think about that! We can look forward to a tim when we will not age, deteriorate, or decay. Right now, as I type this, my hands are riddled with eczema. Not the biggest deal in the world, but as I imagine a time in the future, when my hands don’t itch, crack and bleed, I’m filled with gratitude and hope. The hope of immortality and joy is available to us all.

And this is because of our Savior Jesus Christ.

President Nelson stated:

“I thank God for his Son, Jesus Christ, for his mission in mortality, and for his ministry as the resurrected Lord. He brought about his own resurrection. Testimonies of thousands, from ancient and modern times, attest to the truth that the resurrected Jesus is the Savior of mankind. He brought about a universal resurrection: ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive'”

His sacrifice and his glory assure that ‘the spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time'” – Russell M. Nelson

The scriptures often describe Jesus Christ as a “Savior.” This is because He saves us from death – spiritual and physical

There are so many witnesses of His life after life. President Nelson recounts several instances shared in the gospel where the resurrected Lord appeared:

To the people of the Holy Land:

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The Resurrected Christ Appeared to Mary Magdalene
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The Resurrected Savior appeared to Cleopas and presumably Luke and Dined with them in Emmaus.
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The Resurrected Savior Appeared to the Apostles in the Upper Room and Showed them His Hands and Feet
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The Resurrected Savior Appeared to more than 500 people on a Mount near Galilee’s Shore

 

 

To the People of the Americas:

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The Resurrected Savior Appeared to the People who Lived on the American Continent. In attendance were at least 2,500 souls.

 

To the People of the Latter Days:

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The Resurrected Savior and Heavenly Father Appeared to Joseph Smith

 

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The Resurrected Savior Appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery  in the Kirtland temple. 

 

There are more examples of visitations of our resurrected Lord shared by President Nelson in his talk that you can read here.

President Nelson bears record:

“I know that God lives and that Jesus the Christ is his Son. He is ‘the resurrection, and the life’. He lives. He is my Master. I am his servant. With all my heart, I love him, and I testify of him, in his holy name—the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though I haven’t had a physical, face-to-face witness of our Savior, I have experienced His power and love in my life. I know that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us and is in the details of our lives. I know that He has a Son, Jesus Christ, who was sent to this earth to do the work of His Father – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

I know that I have been blessed beyond measure because of Christ’s life and work. He is our Creator. He is our Savior. Because of Him I have hope and joy.

***

I’m so grateful to know that we are guided by a prophet who has had his own divine experiences with the Savior. I’m grateful for the witnesses that have been provided to us. We aren’t asked to simply believe in Christ. There are people who have witnessed of Him and who have shared their witness. These witnesses tell of his life and his life after life. And I know that because Christ lived again, we, too, can live again.

“Joy Cometh in the Morning” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk, “Joy Cometh in the Morning,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1986 General Conference

Joy in the Morning
Sunrise on Oahu

Well, I’ll start this blog by saying that I truly love what President Nelson has taught over the years. I was 8 years old at the time this talk was given. I don’t have many memories of this time in my life, but I do remember feeling joy! I felt “joy in the morning” both proverbially and literally. I was happy the morning I was baptized. And as I think back on my experiences as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was filled with joy during the “morning” of my journey as a member of this church.

President Nelson stated:

“The gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope…It declares joy to be part of our divine destiny. And to experience joy in the morning becomes our special challenge. The true test…is to be able to look in the mirror, first thing in the morning, and feel real joy.” – Russell M. Nelson

There are three basic factors needed in order for us to experience joy in the morning.

Factor One: Courtesy to Companions

Courtesy to companions is not relegated only to spouses or significant others. Put another way, courtesy to companions means that we love others and show them courtesy. We can think of the relationships in our lives – joy comes when we nurture these relationships appropriately.

Of course, for many “courtesy to companions” does include their spouse. President Nelson shared a quote from President David O. McKay:

“During courtship we should keep our eyes wide open, but after marriage keep them half-shut.” – David O. McKay, as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

Funny little quote, but true! I was recently in a situation with another couple, and we were having a fun conversation – asking each other all sorts of hypotheticals (if you could pick any car for your spouse, what would it be? and the like). The cars mentioned were sporty-cars like Corvettes and Audis. No one suggested cars like rusted out jalopies. We each chose to see the best in one another.

As the conversation continued one idea that was mentioned was to say the trait that we liked least in our partner, but quickly we balked at this idea. We all laughed off the idea in good fun, but I’ve thought about it a bit since then – I really couldn’t think of a bad trait of Homey’s. Is this because Homey is perfect? Nope! It’s because I will not sit and dwell on his possible bad traits.

Because I have chosen to focus on his positive traits, I’ve been blessed with so much joy in my marriage.

Now – as I write this, I will say that I’ve also experienced another type of marriage (and if you have read the Homey and Me Love Story), you know that I was married before. There is a difference between discerning the truth – especially if you are in an abusive relationship. Keeping your eyes open to true abuse from a spouse will come as a spiritual gift and should not be ignored! I really think that President McKay’s advice assumes that you are not in such a relationship. And I know that if you are living close to the Spirit, then the time will come that you will see things clearly and be given a course of action to take if you are suffering in an abusive relationship. It’s incredibly difficult to feel “joy in the morning” in such scenarios.

***

Having loving concern for others can bring us joy as we serve. President Nelson taught:

“One of life’s sweetest returns is the privilege of rendering significant service of worth to others. To be able to do for fellow human beings something they could not do for themselves brings matchless satisfaction. Years of preparation are worth it.” – Russell M. Nelson

I find the last sentence especially compelling. Often, I think of service as something that kind of happens spontaneously. Someone needs a babysitter, meal, or encouragement. Yet, there is service that we will render in the future, and if we are not prepared, then we will not be able to render said service.

This reminds me of an experience I had many years ago – at the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple. This temple dedication was broadcast by satellite to the entire church. I lived in Utah at the time.

I went to the temple dedication with one of my dear friends, and she mentioned that the new temple president and matron were one of her friends’ grandparents. She added the commentary, “They are loaded.”

It was a very good and important thing for her to mention to me. I had the immediate spiritual impression spiritual preparation is crucial for future service, AND so is financial preparation. I knew that if I wanted to one day serve a mission with my spouse, then I would need to start preparing as a young mother – both spiritually and financially – so that I would have the freedom to serve.

I know that I have been given much. Above all, I think that I’ve been given opportunities. I know that I need to take these opportunities now so that I can continue to give as the Lord would have me give in the future. “Years of preparation are worth it.”

Factor Two: Self-Esteem, Well Deserved

President Nelson teaches:

“The next prerequisite to joy is to feel good about yourself. The second of our Lord’s two great commandments carries a double charge: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:39). Therefore, love of companion is governed, in part, by esteem of self, and so is joy in the morning.” – Russell M. Nelson

This is a hard one to do. In this day and age, it seems especially hard. Depression seems to be on the rise, and isn’t this one of the roots of depression – not feeling good about yourself?

A few years ago, I was praying in my closet. I was overwhelmed by everything I wasn’t. And my prayer was one of apologies and frustration. After uttering the prayer, I felt worse than before.

WORSE?! How is that possible? Isn’t prayer supposed to “change the night to day?”

I was even more depressed after that prayer, but I needed to walk the dog, so I went outside and started my walk. As I walked, I pondered why my prayers seemed to be so draining? Should I just stop praying if I’m going to feel worse afterward?

Thankfully, the Lord is patient with me. I realized that it wasn’t because prayer is draining. I had a spiritual impression – The Lord wouldn’t let me feel better after that prayer because it was a lie! I didn’t need to apologize for my weaknesses. I didn’t need to batter myself. And the Lord would not sanction such self-loathing and self-abuse.

If I would have felt comfort after such a “prayer,” then the Lord would have been sanctioning such destructive thought.

Yes, the Lord wants us to improve, but His correction always comes with love and comfort, never with depression or self-loathing. I’m reminded of a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“We can make quiet by more honest inventories of our strengths. Most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming ‘outside auditors.’ He who in the first estate was thrust down delights in having us put ourselves down. Self contempt is of Satan; there is none of it heaven.” – Neal A. Maxwell, as quoted by Wendy Ulrich, emphasis added.

Instead of keeping an accounting of our faults, weaknesses, and problems, we should do as President Nelson instructed:

“Spiritual self-esteem begins with the realization that each new morning is a gift from God.

Physical self-esteem also requires nurturing. Our bodies deserve thoughtful care.”- Russell M. Nelson

We need to nurture both our bodies and our spirits. I’m SO GLAD that President Nelson brought up the need to nurture ourselves physically, as I’ve learned that this has a huge impact on our spirits.

President Nelson taught:

“Physical conditioning from regular exercise is important. And we can do so much more to keep our bodies strong.” – Russell M. Nelson

In the example I gave above – It wasn’t until I went outside and was walking that I received the spiritual impression I needed from the Lord. I don’t think that I would have felt better if I left my closet after my prayer and then just sat around the house. Moving our bodies nourishes our brains and our spirits. We need to prioritize it as much as prioritize our Spiritual health.

Factor Three: Love of God

If you notice, these three factors can be easily restated as the two great commandments: Love God and Love thy neighbor as thyself. When we have the Love of God and others in our hearts, we have joy!

President Nelson stated:

“The crowning attribute that leads to joy is love of God. Even that first look in the mirror can be more enjoyable knowing we are created in his image.” – Russell M. Nelson

Do we remember that we are children of God. Years ago, I was serving as the primary Chorister in my ward. The Primary Presidency had decorated the bulletin board reflecting the year’s theme: I am a Child of God. They hung a mirror with that theme written on the mirror.

If you were sitting in the right spot, you could see yourself in that mirror as you sang. One of the teachers mentioned this in primary with the plea: Do you know that this is true?! It’s true, you are a child of God. Even as I type this, I’m filled with the consuming love that comes from this knowledge: I am a child of God. You are a child of God. What joy it is to know that we have a loving Father in Heaven.

A Joyful Future Morning

One thing that stood out to me the most while reading this was knowing that “Joy Cometh in the Morning.” Currently, I’m living in a lot of faith. In fact, I don’t think that my life has ever required more faith. I don’t know what step I’ll take next! Every resource has been exhausted. I feel comforted – I know that the Lord will bless me for my faith, but I still must walk in “darkness” as I wait for the Lord to light my path.

When I went to sleep last night, I prayed, for comfort and strength. I confided that this is the most faith that I’ve ever had to exercise in my life. It isn’t a complaint. It is a simple fact, and it was a plea that Heavenly Father would be patient with me as I tried to proceed in faith.

This morning, I woke up and read the title “joy cometh in the morning.” I know that the “dawn” will soon break for me and my family. That the faith we have exercised for so long will come to fruition. I know that the Lord’s promises are sure.

I also know that these experiences we have in life – where our faith is tried and then proven – are symbolic of the ultimate “morning” we will one day experience.

President Nelson shared:

“These experiences, glorious as they are, become but prelude to that great day ahead, when the faithful will stand at the latter day upon the earth. They shall abide the Second Coming of the Lord and shall stand with him when he appears. On that joyous morning, the mirror will reflect the miracle of the first resurrection. The faithful shall be crowned with glory, immortality, and eternal life.” – Russell M. Nelson

We can have joy in our future morning – as we cultivate the three factors needed for such joy, or, in other words, as we keep the two great commandments.

***
I’m so grateful for President Nelson’s teachings. I am so grateful to know that the man who is serving as the President of the Lord’s Church is a man who embraces joy in his life and knows where it is truly found.

In the Lords Own Way – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk In the Lord’s Own Wayby Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1986 General Conference.

african-woman-sierra-leone-689319-gallery
This is just a random woman – not the same woman I mention in my story below. But pictures are nice, and the woman I met was vibrantly dressed just as this woman is.

Several years ago, I accompanied the missionaries who were teaching a lesson to a young woman from Sierra Leone. I will never forget her bright smile that matched her colorful clothes.

Though her smile was bright, her story was terrible! I mean, it was heart-wrenching. She was being taught with some other members of her family. It was a little confusing at first for me – I didn’t understand who was related to whom. There were cousins, brothers, uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents, sisters. This was a family, but they all seemed to have some kind of convoluted relationship to each other.

As she told her story, I began to understand why. She was a refugee – her home country was at war. And this war was terrible. She was living in this home – with extended family – because her immediate family had been murdered. She witnessed atrocities that I couldn’t even imagine. She escaped and fled to America. She had so little. The rest of her extended family and friends there had similar stories.

I don’t remember much about what the Missionaries taught. I just remember that my heart ached for these people. It made no sense to me.

“Although reasons vary according to time and place, the poor and the needy have nearly always been present. Regardless of cause, our Heavenly Father is concerned for them. They are all his children. He loves and cares for them.” – Russell M. Nelson

At the time, I was a young, single mom. By all accounts and purposes, I would fit into the “poor and needy” category. I had just gotten a job that was helping out tremendously, but I couldn’t cover all of the needs we had. Now, I didn’t feel bad about the stress I experienced during this time. And then, meeting with that young woman from Sierra Leone (whose name I cannot even remember. She ended up moving to Philadelphia where there was a large constituency of other refugees), I was overcome with a knowledge – I have abundant blessings. My life is overflowing with blessings. Compassion filled my heart as I realized a very unfair but real truth.

Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t make any sense that I grew up in the U.S. It doesn’t make any sense that I was born in a part of the world where boys and girls are educated – where children have something called a “childhood.” It doesn’t make any kind of sense that while others are suffering so deeply, I was in an environment where I was expected to go to college. In the world at large, university is relegated to the rich or exceptional. In my world it was an expectation for all. It made no sense that I could drive, have credit cards, have children, go out to eat, go for a run, and all of this with overwhelming safety.

It seems random and nearly cruel to think so many suffer while there are some who have so much. I knew that my blessings had nothing to do with me. I did nothing to deserve where, when, or to whom I was born. I have done nothing to deserve my blessings and opportunities.

As I thought about this privilege that I enjoy, I felt a whispering from the Spirit. God does love all of His children. And I need not be embarrassed by my blessings. He is not a God of scarcity, but a God of abundance. And now, it is my responsibility to show my gratitude by sharing with others. This needs to be done, as President Nelson taught, In the Lord’s Own Way.

Family

Because I have been given much, I too must give. The first way that this is accomplished is through the family.

“Women have claim on their husbands for their maintenance, … [And] All children have claim upon their parents for their maintenance until they are of age.” – Doctrine and Covenants 83:2, 4

This is such a simple and elegant way to take care of all the world. And this was done by the family I visited. They set aside their pride and extended their arms, home, and resources to their cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters. Though individually they had little, together they had so much.

In fact, on the occasions I visited this home, there were always new members moving in and out. And they always offered me food and friendship.

President Nelson taught:

“The Lord’s “own way” includes, first, reliance on self, then on the family. As parents care for their children, they, in turn, may reciprocate when parents become less able. Family pride promotes solicitude for each member, taking priority over other assistance.” – Russell M. Nelson

***

I have been a recipient of the tender care and generosity of my family. I have spent time living in my dad’s house for the last six months!!! I have lived in my mom’s house, in my in-law’s house. I have been blessed by family that without judgement extends open arms to me and my family when we have been in need.

And the result of such love – more love! It is a divine plan that God has created – we can care for one another, and as we do, we are all filled with His love that never fails.

The Church Organization

There are times when families cannot help.

Back to the example of the family that I knew from Sierra Leone. Yes, they supported and cared for one another, but there were some things that they just could not do. They received many rides to and from church for months. They relied on other ward members for these rides. Sometimes families just can’t do everything.

When families cannot support each other, then we have our larger “ward family” that can help. Our church has been organized to extend help when needed.

The “Lord’s Own Way,” has been instituted in the church at this time. President Nelson taught:

“As individual members of the Church, you and I participate in the Lord’s “own way.” At least once a month, we fast and pray and contribute generous offerings to funds that enable bishops to disperse aid. This is part of the law of the gospel. Each of us truly can help the poor and the needy, now, and wherever they are.” – Russell M. Nelson

***

Once again, I have had my own experiences with this. I have both contributed to the fast offering funds and I have been a recipient of these funds.

It was hard to ask for help. Really hard. In fact, that experience was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I’ve always wanted to be a “high-yield but low-maintenance” member of the church. Before asking for help, I had always considered myself one who pays a generous fast offering. Though I knew that there was nothing wrong with accepting help from the church, I had always pridefully thought that those funds were for other people who needed more than I did.

And it could have been argued that there were more people who had less.

But I still had a need. My family still had a need, and I felt prompted to go to the Bishop and ask for help. I knew that this was the divine system that the Lord had created for us.

We are supposed to bear one another’s burdens. I have always tried my best to apply that in my life by extending help to others. However, fully applied this means that there are also people who are helping to bear my burdens.

The experience of receiving help from the church, the experience of receiving funds from this sacred fast offering fund, has given me a deeper reverence for the organization that the Lord has made to provide for His children. My love for the others in my ward grew. I don’t know who has donated to the fund – from those who are wealthy, to the widow’s mite – I have been blessed by their offering, and this experience reinforced my commitment to make the same offering for others in need.

Spiritual Poverty

Not all poverty is that of a material nature. Some people are poor in spiritual matters. President Nelson teaches:

“As they are taught and abide doctrines of Deity, spiritual strength will come that enlightens the mind and liberates the soul from the yoke of bondage. When people of the earth accept the gospel of Christ, their attitudes change. Their understanding and capabilities increase.” – Russell M. Nelson

The Lords “own way” to help with spiritual poverty includes the missionary program and other ministering programs. I kind of hate talking about “programs.” The Lord’s own way is mentioned when we understand our baptismal covenants –

“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—” – Mosiah 18:9

We are taught to mourn with others, comfort others, and stand as witnesses of God. President and Sister Nelson were visiting a Polynesian family in their home. This family had very little, materially, but they served and sang for President and Sister Nelson. This family was filled with deep gratitude for the gospel – which brought them richness and joy in life.

President Nelson shares:

“While wiping tears from our moistened cheeks, Sister Nelson and I looked at each other, comprehending that the gospel brings spiritual wealth which may bear little relation, at first, to tangible abundance. Conversely, people with plenty can be spiritually poor. Yet the Lord is concerned for them all!” – Russell M. Nelson

No Poor Among Them

One of my favorite concepts is that of Zion – that there is no poor among them.

Our Heavenly Father is a God of abundance. There is NO END to His Glory! There is NO END to His blessings. We live in a fallen world, and it is easy to see the challenges and difficulties so many face. Additionally, when we give in to the temptations of Satan, we then give in to his modality – which is one of scarcity. With Satan, there is no rich among them. All are poor. All are oppressed. All suffer. The suffering, poverty, and scarcity result in overwhelming misery.

But that is not God! President Nelson teaches:

“In time, in the Lord’s “own way,” the poor will no longer be poor.” – Russell M. Nelson

We must understand who we are – children of God, and when we understand that our God is a Father of abundant, eternal blessings, powers, and gifts. When we understand our worth and the love of our father, we should be motivated to implement His Way into our lives.

As President Nelson said, then:

“Righteousness, independence, thrift, industry, and self-reliance become personal goals. These qualities transform lives.” – Russell M. Nelson

When we obey, we access the blessings of God that bring richness into our lives – I don’t mean material riches, but true richness. We experience gratitude, joy, safety, and peace. If we want to have this kind of richness in our lives, it begins with our own quest to serve and comfort others.

***

I love the gospel. I know that this blog post is kind of scatterbrained. Right now these blog posts aren’t the most polished posts that I’d like to write, but I’m doing my little study challenge, so sorry about that!

Anyway – I love the gospel. I love that even though there is so much that doesn’t make sense in this world – even though there are so many who suffer while others live in comfort – the Lord has designed a way for all of us to experience His charity and abundance. I know that as we take our covenants seriously and as we take the charge to care for the poor and needy – both spiritually and materially – then we will begin to erase these divisions. We can all experience the abundance that the Lord so freely offers to us.

I’m also grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who has experienced so much in this world. He is, undoubtably, materially blessed. But unlike the rich young ruler, he has put aside his own ambitions and has followed the Lord. He has used his wealth to bless others in so many ways. I know that these experiences have helped to make him  capable to lead our church in these latter-days.

Self-Mastery – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Self-Mastery , by Russell M. Nelson. This talk was given in the October 1985 General Conference.

Self Mastery…it’s a subject that has fascinated me for years. It seems like it is one of the goals of our entire religion and gospel – to put off the natural man and yield to the enticings of the holy Spirit. This requires the submission of appetite and our ability to somehow get our bodies, minds, and spirits to all work together.

President Nelson teaches:

“Before you can master yourself, my precious one, you need to know who you are. You consist of two parts—your physical body, and your spirit which lives within your body. You may have heard the expression “mind over matter.” That’s what I would like to talk about—but phrase it a little differently: “spirit over body.” That is self-mastery.” – Russell M. Nelson

We have to understand that we are made up of components: body and spirit. When we can have our individual spirits reign in our lives, then we master ourselves.

Now, I think that sometimes we tend to focus too much on one of our components or the other. There are people who claim that they aren’t spiritual that might think spiritual matters are unimportant. Of course, even though they may say, “I’m not a spiritual person,” they are mistaken. We are all made of body and spirit.

For most people reading this blog, and for myself,identifying as a “non-spiritual” person is not the issue. I know that many of you would claim, as I do, to be a very spiritual person. And there might be times when the “spiritual person” may tend to focus so much on their spirituality, they forget the interplay that must exist between the body and the Spirit.

I’m not sure if I’m making sense.

Often, in the scriptures we read that the natural man is an enemy to God, or that fallen man is carnal, sensual, and devilish. Perhaps when we read these things, we misunderstand and misapply. Maybe there are times when we think that anything physical is bad, and that the only good in our lives is our Spirit. We may take that even farther and then forget about our physical health and how much it impacts our spiritual health.

President Nelson reminds us of the great importance of both components:

“Your physical body is a magnificent creation of God. It is his temple as well as yours, and must be treated with reverence.” – Russell M. Nelson

Our physical body is the home of our Spirits. Both of these components – physical and spiritual, are eternal. We learn in the Doctrine and Covenants:

“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:15-16

I find it helpful to actually read these two verses in reverse: 1) The resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul. The Lord promises to redeem our souls, and the resurrection – being raised from mortality to immortality – is the redemption of our souls. 2) What is the soul – the spirit and the body!

We also learn in the Doctrine and Covenants about the connection between our souls (both body and spirit) and joy:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spiritand element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;

And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.

The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:33-35

Our bodies and our spirits are inseparably connected. And we can only receive a fulness of joy in this connection. If we exist spiritually, without a body, then we cannot receive a fulness of joy.

It just so happens that I really want joy! And a fulness of joy sounds pretty good to me.

So – if we want to have joy, then we need to understand who we actually are: both body and spirit! We also need to understand that the kind of body we have will affect our spirit. The converse is also true – the kind of spirit we have will impact our bodies. We cannot have a fulness of joy if we forget the connection of spirit and body; we cannot have a fulness of joy if we neglect one of these elements of our make-up.

Now, I don’t think that this means we have to “be perfect” or have the “perfect” body. “Perfection,” as we often think of it, is not possible. It is only Christ who makes us whole. We do have to keep things in perspective! The best way to keep proper perspective is to focus on our Savior and qualifying for His Spirit. Then we will be guided on how to master our natural physical appetites. Then we will be able to live in the way that God designed for us to live and be happy.

Steps toward Self-Mastery

President Nelson lists a few ways that we can progress on our quest to self-mastery.

  • Keep the Sabbath Day Holy – this makes so much sense to me. One of the benefits of keeping the Sabbath Day Holy is to remain unspotted from the world. Another benefit is that as we repeat the ordinance of Sacrament and covenant with our Savior, we take His yoke upon us, and then we are blessed with His peace and rest.
  • The Law of the Fast – recently I have started a practice called Intermittent Fasting. It is changing my life. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, I’m feeling more power and control over my physical appetites. And as I continue this practice, it gets easier and easier to fast. President Nelson teaches, “Fasting fortifies discipline over appetite and helps to protect against later uncontrolled cravings and gnawing habits.” I can testify to you that this is true.

    As I have developed a habit of fasting, I have been able to eliminiate cravings. (like oreos!) From my life. As a result, I experience more peace and joy that I thought was possible. I mean, I like Oreos. I like treats! Prior to daily Intermittent Fasting, the love of treats was an obsession. If I had a treat in my house, I was thinking about it constantly. Even if hidden, I couldn’t stop myself from fantasizing about the moment I bit into the brownie, dunked the oreo, or consumed the cupcakes. And it usually didn’t take long until I gave into that uncontrollable hunger.

    I still eat treats, but now they are treats and indulgences. I can go days with Oreos in the drawer and without more than a thought. I truly didn’t think I’d be capable of having control. In fact, I still don’t think I’m truly capable of my own will-power and control. Instead, fasting is what has given me power over cravings and appetites.

    It has been amazing. If you suffer from “uncontrolled cravings and gnawing habits,” I would suggest implementing fasting – and not only monthly. Try it more often and see how it can change your life – see how it can help you to master yourself.

  • Obedience to the Word of Wisdom – in my personal experience, I haven’t really been tempted to drink, smoke, or consume other kinds of drugs. I’m also really picky about the medicines I will consume for pain or the like. I hate the drowsy feeling I have when I use such medications. …

    But the word of wisdom isn’t only about drugs and alcohol.

    I know that the food suggestions in the Word of Wisdom are also important. And, as I’ve put Intermittent Fasting into practice in my life, I have more naturally veered to eating as proscribed in the Word of Wisdom. It makes me feel great.

  • Bridle Passions – President Nelson teaches: “Chastity is the powerful protector of virile manhood and the crown of beautiful womanhood.”
  • Keep virtue in Our Marriages – The law of chastity is not only for single people. We have to continue to keep and honor this law as we are married. President Nelson gave this talk in 1985. At that time no one knew how the world would change with the advent of the Internet. No one could really imagine the constant threat to chastity that would be available at our fingertips. Being chaste is so vitally important for our Spiritual and Physical health.
  • Exercise – President Nelson is a great example of this. He skis often. He is active. Can you believe how healthy he is at such an advanced age?!

    In his talk, President Nelson gave an example of Elder Joseph Anderson. He said, “For decades, the strength of his spirit over his body has induced him to swim regularly. But his motivation has never been to attain physical longevity. That has come only incidentally. His desire has been to serve God and His Anointed.”

    I love this. And I have a testimony of it. Our world trends toward the sedentary. As I have made movement and exercise a priority in my life, it has brought me so much joy.

    Currently, I try to practice yoga each day. The awareness of the connection between my mind and body through this practice of exercise has increased and been beneficial to me. I also love feeling in control of my body! It is a joy to be able to move swiftly and easily.

    I do want to live a long and healthy life. But this is because I truly believe that my body is a gift from God, and that I want to always be capable – physically and spiritually – to do whatever is required of me.

  • Pay Tithing – President Nelson teaches: “It defends you against dishonesty or shabby temptations. Courageous accountability for your own actions becomes a cherished prize.”
  • Watch Thoughts, Words, and Deeds – Pretty self-explanatory
  • Be Patient – As we age, we experience the deterioration of our mortal bodies – not matter how well we have treated them in the past. We must be patient during this time in our lives. It is a good time to extend love and service to others and that love and service will help us to remain patient and hopeful as we endure.
  • Emulate the Savior – He was the ultimate master over Himself.

 

I love this final reminder that President Nelson gives:

“Remember, my dear one, not an age in life passes without temptation, trial, or torment experienced through your physical body. But as you prayerfully develop self-mastery, desires of the flesh may be subdued. And when that has been achieved, you may have the strength to submit to your Heavenly Father, as did Jesus, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”” – Russell M. Nelson

Throughout our mortal lives, we will face challenges and temptations that try to put us at odds with our own souls. Self-mastery is the key to uniting our bodies and spirits in such a way that will lead us to increased joy in this life and eternal joy in the next.

 

Reverence for Life – Russell M. Nelson

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

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

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

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

I wonder if President Nelson felt similar.

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

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

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

Shaking My Head

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

After giving the staggering statistics, President Nelson states:

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

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

President Nelson continues with his proverbial head shaking:

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

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

When Life Begins

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

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

President Nelson teaches:

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

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

President Nelson continues:

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

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

Again, President Nelson continues:

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love of Life

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

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

I’m not saying this to be dramatic.

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

Catania0001
Thanks, Ma!

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

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

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

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

Hope

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

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

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

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

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

***

One final quote from President Nelson:

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

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

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

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

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

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

005 Lehi dwelt in a tent

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

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

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

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

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

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