I haven’t written in a while, I’m not going to give some kind of recap of life or excuse. Let’s just continue on… 🙂
As I sat in church today, I kept thinking about the covenant we make each week in sacrament meeting: to always remember Him.
And I wondered why, why is it so important to always Remember the Savior?
Now, this line of questioning is not out of doubt or disbelief. It is a way to seek more knowledge and understanding in my life. Why do we always remember Him?
We must always remember Christ because we have been commanded to.
I happen to believe that God is not arbitrary and that each commandment serves some kind of real function.
As I pondered this thought – remember the Savior, I realized that we are commanded to always remember Him because it is the way. It is the secret to our success.
In 2 Nephi, we learn:
“And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.” – 2 Nephi 31:20
After we first covenant with God in the waters of baptism, we aren’t done. We still have a life to live. We still must navigate the test of mortality.
Nephi tells us this. After baptism, all is not done. We must still rely on Christ’s ability to save us.
And we must do a few things: 1) Press forward with a steadfastness of Christ; 2) Have a perfect brightness of hope; 3) Have a love of God and of all men; 4) Press forward; 5) Feast on the words of Christ; 6) Endure to the end.
Then, we will have eternal life.
Now, think back on that promise made each week when partaking of the sacrament – to always remember Him.
In the covenant we make – to always remember God – we are given the help we need in order to do the 6 points needed in order to inherit life. Remembering Christ – ensures our steadfastness in Him; remembering Christ will help us to have a bright hope. Remembering Christ fills our hearts with love for Him and for others. Remembering Christ can help us to have the tenacity we need to push on and press forward in our lives. Remembering Christ will encourage us to feast on His words and stay close to Him. Remembering Christ helps us to endure to the end.
I love the elegance of God’s laws, commandments, and blessings. When we keep our covenants, we are empowered with exactly that which is needed for us to receive the gifts that God wants to give us.
It was March 17th, there was a dusting of snow still on the ground from the storm the day before, and Homey and I were at my house…shooting the breeze. Well, actually Homey was on one knee, shaking, and sweating despite the fact that it was only 65° in my house.
Homey held up an open ring box, with a diamond ring sparkling, and demanded, Marry me!
I started to say yes, but then laughed, realizing that he left me no option to say yes or no. I motioned for him to get up, started putting on the ring, or maybe I was hugging him…I don’t know. I can’t really remember the details. But I’m sure that we were kissing and that we were so mushy that you would have needed a barf bucket if you were there. It was the best.
Before Homey had come out to PA, we had given ourselves a curfew, and we were getting really close to it. So we hugged, kissed, celebrated, and then Homey left for the night.
I wanted to call him right away. Instead, I started texting him. We texted back and forth until we couldn’t stay awake anymore.
I was engaged…to be married.
I went to my bed, alone, realizing that this experience was limited. Everything in my home was different. I wouldn’t walk up my creaky stairs many more times. I wouldn’t be sleeping alone much longer. I wouldn’t be checking my phone every three seconds to see if I had a text from Homey. Soon enough, I’d be moving to Arizona, and we’d be together. In fact, we’d be together forever.
I wasn’t on cloud nine. I was on cloud nine-hundred ninety nine.
The rest of the weekend was a blur of happiness and excitement as I showed off my engagement ring and told everyone my big announcement. With every repetition of the phrase, “We’re engaged!” the fact that I was engaged felt more real.
Homey went back to AZ, and we continued to email and talk on the phone, but now our conversations were laced with real plans. It was an exciting time.
One of the first things I had to do to prepare for our wedding was talk to my bishop about canceling my temple marriage to Rusty. Here’s the thing, marriages performed in the Mormon temple are considered to be eternal. When we are married, the priest performing the wedding doesn’t say, “’til death do you part.” Instead, under proper authority, this priest is sealing a husband and wife as a married partnership together forever. This scripture explains:
“And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens;…” – Doctrine and Covenants 132:46
Marriage isn’t only a social construct. It is ordained of God. It is a covenant, the crowning covenant, that we can make during our mortal lives. Marriage is an eternal covenant made between God, husband, and wife. Getting married in the temple isn’t just a wedding. The temple marriage is a significant and sacred covenant. Divorce isn’t really meant to be an option.
Elder Oaks explained,
““Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:8–9).
The kind of marriage required for exaltation—eternal in duration and godlike in quality—does not contemplate divorce. In the temples of the Lord, couples are married for all eternity. But some marriages do not progress toward that ideal. Because “of the hardness of [our] hearts,” the Lord does not currently enforce the consequences of the celestial standard. He permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.” – Dallin H. Oaks
So, if we are living the way that we should, then we would have no need of divorce. We would not enter into a covenant that we didn’t mean to keep. If we are serious about our commitment to God, then we will be serious about our commitment to our spouses, even when it is difficult. When we truly accept the gospel and the covenant of temple marriage, we rely on the Atonement to aid in our marriages.
Even though my story is ultimately a happy one, divorce has always brought confusion and sadness in my life.
Divorce isn’t ideal, but Heavenly Father knew that people wouldn’t keep their covenants. He knew that there would be victims. He knew that there would be a need for divorce, so He allows for it under certain circumstances, but it isn’t meant to be a quick solution.
In the Mormon tradition, when a man and woman who have been married in the temple are legally divorced, the blessings and obligations of the temple covenant are not automatically revoked. Only someone with authority from God can cancel the temple marriage. As the Savior teaches,
“Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. – Matthew 19:6
Because the temple marriage isn’t instantly revoked at the time of a legal divorce, Mormons go through another process. Often, it is referred to as a “temple divorce.” However, as I began my own process, I soon learned the true name of this process: the cancellation of temple blessings. What a difference this makes. “Temple divorce”- sounds pretty cut and dry – sign a paper, and voila… However, “Cancellation of Temple Blessings” sounds more difficult. I don’t want to lose out on my blessings. I don’t want the covenants that I have made and kept to be cancelled. For this reason, most people do not receive a cancellation of temple blessings when they are divorced. Instead, they wait until they can be re-married, so as not to lose the benefit of such covenants.
I had not broken my covenant with God nor with Rusty; therefore, I still received the blessings of this covenant. These covenants are very sacred, so I can’t really spell it out to you, but I can tell you that I was protected throughout my marriage to Rusty, throughout my divorce, and throughout my life as a single woman. Someone asked me what good my temple marriage had been since my marriage had ended in divorce anyway. To this person, I proclaimed, It wasn’t the temple that failed me; it wasn’t God that failed me. It was Rusty. I have lived worthy of my covenant, and can still appeal to God for all of the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant…What good was my temple marriage? It led me to be closer to my God, the temple has infused my life with the Spirit. And the Spirit has saved me – literally and spiritually.
So, I was being blessed by this covenant, but now that Homey was in my life, I knew that I wanted to be able to make this covenant with him. In order for this to occur, I needed to see my Bishop and begin the process of a cancellation of temple blessings.
In some ways, this process was exciting. I would be getting married soon! I was moving on! My prayers were being answered. But for the next six weeks, I would feel so much stress – the stress of completing all of the components of this process, and the spiritual stress that also accompanies all big changes. It was a challenging process. There were three main ways that the cancellation process kind of scared me.
One – The Process itself
First of all, the process of a cancellation of temple blessings is exhausting. I had to meet more often with the bishop. I had to have extended worthiness interviews. Old “stuff” that I hadn’t thought of in years was brought back to light. I had to write a letter to the First Presidency. My bishop would have to get in touch with Rusty. My bishop would have to get in touch with Homey’s Bishop. After all of this, I’d then have to have an interview with the Stake President.
The Stake President and Bishop would also send letters to the First Presidency and give their thoughts.
My request, forms, and letters would all be sent on to General Authorities, and they would evaluate everything. Prayerfully, a decision would be made by the First Presidency. They’d send me back a letter, and I’d know if they had agreed to cancel the temple blessings or not. It was a long process that required a lot of work.
Homey and I prayed about it and decided to set a date for our marriage. We didn’t know if I would be granted a cancellation of temple blessings. We decided to act in faith. I had kept my covenants. I knew that God would keep His, too.
So. I met with my bishop, and I started the process. The first thing I had to do was write a letter to the prophet. If you are not Mormon, you need to understand how huge this is. Essentially, I had to write a letter to the Pope. The only one who can revoke the covenant of a temple marriage is the prophet. Yikes!
I wrote my letter to the Prophet and First Presidency of the church. You can read more about that experience here. I sent a copy of this letter to Homey. I was so happy to receive his response.
Catania, this email is gonna be brief. I just want to thank you so much for sending me a copy of your letter to the First Presidency. You are an AMAZING woman. I’m so lucky. ohmygosh I will never forget how lucky I am. I LOVE YOU more than raccoons love shiny stuff in a box.” – Homey to Catania, March 2007
Not only was it nice to hear Homey talk about how much he loved me, I’m so glad that he compared himself to a raccoon. He really was my kind of guy.
Two – An Unwanted Reminder
Even though Homey was supportive of me, and even though he knew my past, the process of a temple cancellation was a constant reminder to me and to Homey of my past.
Sometimes, I just wanted to pretend that I had never been married before. I wanted to be pure. I didn’t want a shadow to hang over my relationship with Homey. For the most part, this was possible. Rusty was such a distant memory that it never came up between Homey and me.
However, when we began the process of the temple cancellation, there was no getting around the constant reminder of my first marriage, my past life, and I kept worrying that Homey would be turned off by all of this. Homey was, after all, a bachelor who had never been married. Would all of this talk about Rusty and my first marriage make Homey realize that I was tainted meat? that I was worthless?
Just when my worrying and fear would reach a fever pitch, I’d get an email from Homey and be comforted by his words:
“I just barely fell asleep on the couch and had a dream that we were married…and we were at the golf practice facility hitting golf balls. My oldest bro was there with his kids (this will probably happen because he lives in Tucson and loves golf), and Tiger and Panda were there running around with them. This one will definitely all come true in just a few short months. Anyway…it was good because it feels so right every way I think about us together.” – Homey to Me, March 23, 2007)
Or…Just when I was sure he’d realize I was “tainted meat” and that he was “settling,” he’d say something like this:
“Why are we getting married? Pregnancy, financial security, loneliness or wanting to get out of the family home are not valid reasons for getting married.
We’re getting married because I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved and God’s plan for us is that we are married to one oanother to obtain all the eternal covenants, blessings, and ordinances that Heavnely Father has outlined for us. I want to be with you all the time. And if I HAVE to go to work, then I want to be with you the rest of the time (other than maybe a round of golf here and there… 😉 I really truly love you. you’re not pregnant, we won’t have (much) financial security, I’m not lonely, and I don’t live with my parents…so it must be love. 🙂 – Homey to Me, 29 March 2007
Even though our meeting was unconventional, it was right. Through the process of the cancellation of temple blessings, I was learning that all of the afflictions I had experienced in life were consecrated for my gain. (See 2 Nephi 2:2.) I began to learn (and frankly, I’m still learning this) that I didn’t need to fear. I could trust God, and I could trust Homey.
Three – The Usual Fear that Comes from the Adversary
Besides the constant reminder of my divorce and the process of the cancellation, I was facing a third challenge: the Adversary. This challenge proved to be the most difficult.
It seems like from the second that Homey proposed to me (well, the second he got back on the plane to AZ), I was bombarded with doubts. I have already discussed some of the doubts (about divorce, etc.) I constantly worried about my worthiness. I worried that the cancellation of temple blessings wouldn’t happen. Some of the people who should have supported me proved to be the biggest problems. I was constantly second guessing myself.
Worst of all, my cold feet returned, and with a vengeance. I began to wonder, Do I love Homey? Really? Will I really be happy with a man, or am I happier without one?
I came to the conclusion that I was in love.
Which led to another doubt, Should I really be marrying Homey, or am I blinded by Love? I have always been so blind. I’m a terrible judge. Perhaps I’m making the biggest mistake of my life.
I wanted a “big” sign that this was right. But instead I was simply feeling a quiet sense of peace. I had to remind myself of the miraculous nature of a quiet sense of peace.
One Saturday, I went to the temple. I was feeling burdened with all of the stresses coming in my life. By then, I had quit my job, and I was already living with my mom again. In some ways, major decisions had been made that I couldn’t “unmake.” I still didn’t know if our wedding would happen. I was still waiting to hear from the First Presidency on the cancellation. I was overcome by my emotions and stress.
I walked into the temple sad. Sadder than I had been in a very long time. Would I be able to feel peace without the nagging of doubts?
I attended the temple, and my heart began to settle. I was reminded that I could trust God. He is a God of Miracles. He created the Earth; surely He could perform the miracles I still needed in my life. I felt his love, and by the time I was leaving the temple, I without really knowing it, I started singing a song in my head,
“You can make the pathway bright,
Fill the soul with heaven’s light,
If there’s sunshine in your heart;
Turning darkness into day,
As the shadows fly away,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today.
f there’s sunshine in your heart,
You can send a shining ray
That will turn the night to day;
And your cares will all depart,
If there’s sunshine in your heart today. – You Can Make the Pathway Bright, Helen Silcott Dungan
I hummed the song as I walked to my car. When I got in the car, I sat down and said a silent prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for the chance to go to the temple. Suddenly, the song I was singing dawned on me. I know that the song was Heavenly Father’s way of telling me that things were okay. Instead of worrying, I could make the pathway bright by allowing God’s sunshine in my heart.
I also realized that we have agency. Even when the Lord blesses us, we have agency. We don’t have to accept the gifts that God gives us. Heavenly Father had personally answered my petitions and prayers (and Homey’s), and allowed us to meet and court one another. While this was an answer to my prayer, I didn’t have to accept the gift. I could still walk away. However, I knew that Homey was a miracle and a gift, and if I chose to walk away from this blessing, I might not receive another.
Though so much of my future would be an act of faith, I could trust in God. I could be happy. I could scatter sunshine. I knew that His hand had been in my life up to this point, and that as long as I continued to come to Him, His hand would stay in my life–guiding me, stabilizing me, reaching out to me in love.
A final excerpt from an email from Me to Homey:
“I read a quote today–from Boyd K. Packer. It included the following scripture, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear,” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). I realized that I need to take this to heart. Sometimes I get afraid, Homey. Sometimes I’m afraid that the temple cancellation won’t happen. Sometimes I’m afraid that we won’t be able to get married for a while, and that we’ll miss Cancun, and that it will be difficult. Sometimes I get afraid that moving is going to be too difficult and hard. Deep in my heart, I know that these fears are unfounded and wrong. They are, quite honestly, Satan’s stupid whisperings. He’s trying to get me down. He tries in so many ways. But today’s quote helped me to know how I can overcome my fears–BE PREPARED. I have a bit to do for preparation, and it’s a good thing that I have 53 days to do it. That’s plenty of time. And this helps me have confidence. I’m grateful for the adversities that we are facing together. It helps me to love you even more. It helps me to see that our love and marriage are wonderful things. I know Heavenly Father is happy about them. He is the one who set us up! I know that we still have more to overcome. And I know that if I continue to put my confidence in the Lord, supporting you as you also put your confidence in the Lord, then we will be able to work together. It is exciting, Homey. I’m realzing–instead of me being the only one–the only one to receive revelation, the only one to feel the Spirit–I will have you, too. I know that you can lead me, and that I can trust you. It’s exciting–we’re going to be married. We’re going to be “one flesh.” We’re going to be united. I’m really happy about that. I have a lot to learn about this. I think that I come from a deficit because I learned bad habits. This experience will help me to learn how to be a good wife, I think–and how to truly trust in both the Lord and in His Priesthood.” – Me To Homey, 27 March 2007
And this is what happened…we struggled as we waited, together, on other sides of the country, to see if we would be able to get married in the temple. Every day, I checked my mail. Every day I prayed. Every day I wondered, will we be married at the Washington, D.C. Temple in May? Will we be able to celebrate with friends and family? Will we go to Cancun? or…will we tell our friends and family to cancel their plans? Will we have to postpone the trip to Cancun?
So – I love how things work out sometimes. I’ve been working on the Book of Mormon Forum throughout the month of October. I love sharing my testimony of the Book of Mormon – as I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. It has brought me closer to Christ, and continually strengthens my faith in Him and inspires me to be a better disciple. A lot has been going on in the world around us (here in the U.S.) with the various Republican candidates for president. Mitt Romney is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so much is being said about the Mormons. One thing that is being said is that we are not Christian. I actually find this kind of hilarious.
What the Book of Mormon teaches us about discipleship – through covenant making – is what today’s post is all about.
I love this quote by Elder Anderson:
” Faith in Jesus Christ, when solidly anchored in our souls, brings true conversion, and in its wake come repentance, honest discipleship, miracles, spiritual gifts, and enduring righteousness. This is an important part of the divine mission of the Book of Mormon.” – Neil L. Anderson, member of the quorum of the twelve apostles
In parts one and two of this (Increasing Understanding of Christ through the Book of Mormon) series, we have learned about Christ – and our need to have faith in Him.
Faith is more than mere believing it is an action word. When we have faith in Christ, we are moved. As Elder Anderson teaches, next comes repentance and honest discipleship. What exactly is honest discipleship? It can be a lot of things, but one way that we become disciples of Christ is through following Him. This is the doctrine of Christ.
We learn in the New Testament that we need to come unto Christ and be baptized. Christ teaches:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” – Mark 16:16
He taught Nicodemus:
” 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5
We know that we need to be baptized. But why? Christ pleads with us:
” 28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
As much as I love the references and truths taught in the New Testament, none of them are as direct as what we learn in the Book of Mormon.
As we read in the Book of Mormon, we understand our need for a Savior. Our faith grows, and a natural result is that we desire to come unto Christ because we know that He is our salvation. We learn how through Christ, we can covenant with Heavenly Father, and overcome the plight of mortality: physical and spiritual death.
Nephi teaches the doctrine of Christ in 2 Nephi 31. I encourage you to read it yourself. But for now, here are a few highlights.
In order to fulfill all righteousness, Christ, himself was baptized. Christ was holy, yet he needed to covenant with Heavenly Father in order to fulfill all righteousness. Because Christ was holy, he was able to covenant with Heavenly Father directly – he didn’t need a mediator. Nephi also explains:
” 7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his commandments.
8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove.” – 2 Nephi 31:7-8
Christ was humble and kept every single commandment of God with exactness.
The gate into the Kingdom of God is strait and narrow. Remember strait is another word for narrow (think Bering Strait or Strait of Gibraltar). Strait not straight. Because the gate into God’s Kingdom is strait and narrow, this connotes that exactness is required. There are not many ways into God’s kingdom. There is only one way, and it is quite precise. Christ’s own baptism illustrates this precision.
Christ commanded us to follow him. – How can we possible follow Him if we refuse to follow Him into the waters of baptism? We must follow Him into the waters of Baptism. We must be willing to covenant with the father.
We are commanded to repent and be baptized – in Christ’s name. – So, it is required of us to repent and then be baptized. Interestingly enough, we must be baptized in Christ’s name. It was essential for Him to be baptized – so we can be baptized. Because we are unholy, we cannot covenant directly with Heavenly Father. We need Jesus Christ to be our Mediator. Jesus Christ saves us! Jesus Christ enables us to covenant with Heavenly Father and enter into that strait and narrow gate.
When we covenant with God, through Jesus Christ, then Heavenly Father will bless us with the Gift of the Holy Ghost. – Recall Christ’s experience – He was baptized, then the Spirit fell on Him like a dove. We can receive this blessing of the gift of the Holy Ghost as well.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost will sanctify us. – While baptism cleans us, it is the gift of the Holy Ghost that makes us pure and holy. Then, we are changed beings, and we can speak with “the tongue of angels,” (2 Nephi 31:13). Another example of this is taught to us by Isaiah.
We must endure to the end. Nephi teaches:
” 14 But, behold, my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me.
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
16 And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.” – 2 Nephi 31:14-16
Endurance is crucial in our progression. After entering into the gates of God’s Kingdom through baptism, we are not done! Instead, we need to, “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life,” (2 Nephi 31:20).
If we do all of this, then we will receive eternal life.
This is the way it is the only way – the true doctrine of Christ.
We must believe in Him and be His disciples by following Him. Christ also teaches His doctrine, personally, in the Book of Mormon.
I’m so grateful that I understand the need for my Savior. I’m grateful to have an understanding of his nature and attributes. I’m especially grateful that I have had the opportunity to covenant with Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. I know that He is my advocate with Heavenly Father. I know that He pleads my cause. This brings me so much humility and gratitude. I know that on my own, I am nothing, but because of Christ, I am made whole.
I encourage you, if you haven’t read the Book of Mormon, give it a try! Read it. You can find it online here. You can also order a free copy here. If you would like to read other testimonies of the Book of Mormon, check out the Book of Mormon Forum.
Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another.” – D&C 90:24
This is an oft-quoted scripture, but as I was reading it today, I realized something.
In the first part of the scripture, we are told to search (the scriptures/prophecies/ways of the Lord), pray, and have faith. Then, things will work for our good.
Another condition is then given – “If ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant…”.
This advice seems pretty redundant. Isn’t that basically what the Lord told us to do in the first part of the scripture?
However, I think that this last part is the important part. We need to walk uprightly. We need to remember our covenants. In fact, if we have chosen to be baptized, then we covenant to always remember Him. Remembering Christ is the heart of the matter.
And the first part of the scripture, the searching, praying, and believing: those are important. What’s cool is – these are the tools we can use in order to keep our covenants. When we search the scriptures, when we pray, and when we exercise our faith, we are remembering the Savior. It is impossible not to!
So – yeah – I like this scripture. It isn’t a trick. Heavenly Father has laid it out for us. We need to remember Him, we need to remember our covenants. And the commandments he has given us will help us to do that. Best of all, when we do remember Him, we are blessed.