Faith and the “Reality Distortion Field”

Something pretty for this post...Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all. :)
Something pretty for this post…Even though it really has nothing to do with it at all.

In the most recent General Conference, President Monson stated the following:

“May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defense against the designs of the adversary – a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right. Without such faith, we go nowhere. With it, we can accomplish our goals.”

As you probably know (if you read this blog often), I could write an essay of at least 3,000 words on this subject. But I’m striving for brevity. So, here are a few thoughts on the faith we need to help inform our choices and empower us to accomplish our goals.

In our society, it may be tempting to think of faith as some kind of quaint virtue, or perhaps something even worse.

Faith is the first principle of the gospel. It is a subject we hear about time and time again.

Faith is a virtue, but it isn’t relegated to moral interests. Faith is real power. (By the way, virtue is power – not just something for boring, prudish people! You can read more about virtue here.)

Without faith that a seed will sprout, we won’t keep watering it, fertilizing it, and nourishing it. Therefore, without the vision, or faith, of what a seed will be, though that vision is so different than the seed itself, the seed will never become a plant.

Because faith is a true principle and power, we see can faith at work – not only in a religious sense, but in any case.

Let’s take Steve Jobs, for example. It was often said that he had a “reality distortion field.” The “reality distortion field” or “RDF” is described as follows:

“RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible. (Reality Distortion Field, Wikipedia)

There is plenty of criticism regarding Jobs’ “reality distortion field,” but the fact also remains: he believed a personal computer could be created. And it was created. He believed that they could figure out a way to put all of your songs in your pocket, and with the iPod, they did.

Later, now that we have been able to enjoy the success of Jobs’ ability to “distort” reality, we celebrate him as a visionary. We say this as if Jobs possessed some kind of magical ability. I don’t think that gives him enough credit. It really isn’t easy to “distort reality.”

I believe that this “reality distortion field” could be renamed to faith. Faith seems to “distort” our present knowledge and lead us to believe that with God, anything is possible.

Of course, faith is not a distortion. Alma teaches,

“And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” – Alma 32:21, emphasis added

Notice the last phrase – which are true. We learn more about truth in Doctrine and Covenants:

“And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

Though faith doesn’t often seem to coincide with our current notion of reality, faith is a belief in that which is true – past, present, or future. And the truth is, we don’t know everything right now. There is so much we can’t see, so much we can’t sense. Relying only on what we currently know and experience is an actual and incredibly detrimental distortion of reality. A distortion of true reality – past, present, or future – will result in our impotence.

So, how do we develop the faith that empowers? How do we choose to distort what we think we know now and believe in something that is yet to happen?

We can simply put our faith in God. He is our Father. He knows all. He created all. He does have all of the information. He will enable us to sense and see what we need to know in our lives – even if what He reveals to us isn’t aligned with our current sense of “reality.”

When we exercise our faith, we may be misunderstood. Some may say that our “reality” seems “distorted,” but with faith in God, reality is never distorted. God isn’t bound by time – past, present, or future. He sees and knows all now. Through the Holy Ghost, and according to His will, our Heavenly Father can impart with us the knowledge we must know in order to achieve our goals. In other words, with faith, we can also become “visionaries.”

I don’t know…when I think about faith this way, it just seems so powerful. Why wouldn’t we want to develop it?!?!

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The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Book of Mormon Tad R. Callister

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

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

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

Truly, the Book of Mormon is powerful.

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

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

No!

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

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

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

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

I’m the Canoe

canoe

I’ve been trying to figure out an analogy for a few days.

Imagine a canoe. There are people in it. One person is seated toward the front of the canoe, with a paddle. This person is strong. He/she is primarily required to paddle.

There is a person in the back of the canoe. This person is the most experienced of all in the canoe, but not necessarily the strongest, physically. This person is in charge of steering the canoe, and must be able to diplomatically lead the rest of the people in the canoe while directing their little boat.

Though not pictured, imagine that there is a person in the middle of the canoe. This person also has a paddle, but isn’t quite as strong as the person seated in the front, nor is this person as experienced as the paddler in the back of the canoe. The middle-person is learning about canoeing. As far as propelling the canoe goes, he may not be the most important canoe-er, but he is there.

I’ve been thinking about people in a canoe – in terms of family. In thinking about this, the question is, who is the paddler in the bow? In the stern? In the hull?

Well, it’s obvious to me that children are the paddlers in the hull. They are part of this team, they paddle from time to time, they help, but are not of critical importance…yet. They are training and gaining experience for when they will one day sit at the stern or the bow.

So. That leaves us with the person sitting in the front of the canoe and the person in the back. I’ve been wondering, which one am I?

There are days when I feel like I’m steering this ship. You know what I mean. I remember in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, when the mother explains to the daughter:
man is the head

Even though this is funny, and I admit that I can act somewhat “neck-like” at times (without being manipulative, of course!), I don’t know if I’m the one on the back of the canoe. We don’t always move according to my direction. Maybe I’m actually in front.

I’ll also admit that there are days, many days, when I feel like that I’m in the bow. I’m paddling, paddling, and paddling. I wake up, feed the kids, exercise, start homeschool (which is quite a list in and of itself), feed the kids lunch, keep them from fighting/destroying the house/general chaos, throw a load of laundry in, talk to my husband about the business, take the kids to the library, make dinner, … you get the idea. We all do this.

I’ll say that again. We all do this. As in, not only are mothers paddlers, but fathers are, too. I know that my husband has a billion things going on in his life: he has to paddle, paddle, paddle.

I don’t think I’m steering. I’m not sure if I’m the primary paddler either. But I know that I’m something in this little analogy that I’ve got swirling in my head.

***

Last night, I was feeling a little frustrated. It was Saturday, I had been looking forward to some time just sitting, breathing, and catching up. But, the whole day flashed before my eyes. Nothing particularly bad happened, but my expectations for the day weren’t quite met, and I needed a little encouragement. A little buoying up.

I was thinking and praying about my frustrations of the day when I realized the solution to my analogy. I’m not steering the ship, nor am I powering it forward. I’m not sitting idly in the hull. I’m not any of the oarsmen.

I’m the canoe.

I bear up my family, support them, stabilize them. My role isn’t particularly glorious, neither is it obscure. I’m simultaneously a part of the action yet partially submerged under water.

Sometimes I feel tired and “waterlogged.” And then the question comes to my mind, who ever really takes time to appreciate the boat? I might spring a leak, which causes panic and maybe even a fair amount of cursing. 😉 Despite everything else that is going right, those paddlers in the boat can only see the one small fissure. Of course, that fissure is letting in water, so I can’t blame them. I just wish they could see how often everything goes right.

This line of thinking isn’t necessarily helpful as it usually leads to further temptation – It’s a temptation for me to imagine life without them for a moment. No burden to bear. No dirty feet, no rocking back and forth. No bickering about who is paddling, about who splashed whom. I’m tempted to think of a life other than carrying my people, their needs, their worries, their weight back and forth – all done without much of a thought of that vessel that carried them.

It’s tempting to imagine life in the middle of a peaceful lake, with me just floating aimlessly.

Yet, the truth is, I am the canoe, and when you see a canoe in the middle of the lake, empty, it’s a problem. Typically, an empty canoe looks like this:

docked canoe

An empty canoe is docked. It’s going nowhere. While it’s not useless, you could say that an empty canoe doesn’t have much of a purpose. A canoe’s purpose comes into play with every person that boards it: Children, spouse, friends, siblings, students, and more. While it can be tiring to bear the weight of these people, I must admit that I’m honored. I don’t mind being partially submerged, stepped on, sat upon. I don’t mind being weighed down and directed. Without them, I’m going nowhere.

And I also know that without me, they aren’t going anywhere, either.

***
This morning, still a little down, I decided to re-read the talk, Behold Thy Mother, by Jeffery R. Holland, one of the current Twelve Apostles.

Anyone who is familiar with General Conference (A meeting for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where we hear from a living prophet and apostles) knows that there are talks for women or about women/motherhood from time to time. I have to admit that I’ve always liked these talks. They encourage me. They motivate and inspire me.

However, I will admit that I’ve had this sneaking suspicion from time to time – are these talks just “pep talks?” Are they obligatory, “keep the women happy” talks?

This morning, I re-read Elder Holland’s talk, and I was reminded, this isn’t just some pep talk to tide me over until next conference. No. These talks are messages from God. The Lord knows that I am a canoe, and He is grateful for my decision to be this kind of a woman.

Elder Holland taught:

“Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. “My Father sent me,” He said, “that I might be lifted up upon the cross; … that as I have been lifted up … even so should men be lifted up … to … me.”

But can you hear in this language another arena of human endeavor in which we use words like bear and borne, carry and lift, labor and deliver? As Jesus said to John while in the very act of Atonement, so He says to us all, ‘Behold thy mother!'” – Jeffrey R. Holland

We women are all “canoes.” I don’t mean only mothers, either. I know other women who have born others up, strengthened them, and even delivered them. I’ve had these types of women in my life. Of course my own mother, I’ve had others, too. Kerri, Stephanie, Kara, Sister Chisholm, Vanessa, Chandra, Donna, Jocelyn, Hillary, Janay, Rachelle, Krista, Niki, Celeste, and sooo many more women. They have helped to bear me up and deliver me along when I’ve needed some support. At times, I’ve been a willing paddler, while they have acted as my canoe.

Elder Holland continues:

“You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order. The weight of that realization, especially on young maternal shoulders, can be very daunting.

A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: “How is it that a human being can love a child so deeply that you willingly give up a major portion of your freedom for it? How can mortal love be so strong that you voluntarily subject yourself to responsibility, vulnerability, anxiety, and heartache and just keep coming back for more of the same? What kind of mortal love can make you feel, once you have a child, that your life is never, ever your own again? Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, ‘[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.’” – Jeffrey R. Holland

At first, last night, when I realized I was “the canoe,” I felt a quiet sadness wash over me. I thought of my roles as a woman: as someone who has given herself to her husband and children. Though I have done so willingly, last night I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering when it will be my turn to fulfill my own dreams and chart my own course. When will they support me?

Heavenly Father heard my frustrated prayer, and I was comforted in my heart, but I also felt a confirmation from the Spirit: Yes. You are a canoe. Yes, I’ve made sacrifices, and I will continue to do so. But the Lord would help me to understand more in the future.

As I said, I felt comfort wash over me, even though I was still a bit troubled at the thought of being a canoe. I decided I’d just be patient, go to sleep, and that I’d figure this out later.

***

This morning, as I read Elder Holland’s talk I felt confirmation of my thought last night. I am indeed a “canoe.” We women, who are choosing to righteously nurture those in our lives – our families, friends, and even strangers – we are canoes. It’s not particularly glamorous, but to the Lord and to the people in that boat it is valuable.

I am the canoe.

Healing Words

I love the idea of Christ as our master healer. I think that it is because I have needed it so much in my life.

I have experienced self-inflicted wounds (through sin), I’ve experienced the pain that comes from the choices of another. Additionally, I’ve experienced the pain that accompanies our mortal lives.

So – pain that comes from our own sins – while it isn’t easy to deal with, it is a bit easier to accept (at least logically). I mean, we know that we do it to ourselves. We may not like it, but a+b=c and when we are in control of the equation, we can’t very well go around blaming others. (Even though we might). What I’m trying to say is – in relationship with the Atonement – it is obvious to me that the Atonement will heal us from the sins that we have committed.

This is a very sublime blessing, too. I don’t want to downplay that!

I love this quote and reminder from President Packer:

<3 Boyd K. Packer
❤ Boyd K. Packer

What I find especially comforting about this quote, and about the Atonement, is that it will heal all who follow Him, and that it heals us from so much more than our own sin caused self-inclicted wounds.

When I was in a bad marriage, years ago, and when I found out about my ex-husband’s double life, I found myself grappling with how to heal. It was the Atonement that enabled me to pick up the pieces of a sham of a marriage, find healing, and eventually meet and marry Homey.

So – the Atonement can heal us from the sins of others. What a blessing. How many of us suffer because of the choice another person made? It isn’t fair, but the Atonement will help to make up for that unfairness.

Finally, what I really love, when I think about this quote and the Atonement – is how the Atonement can heal us when we suffer the trials of mortality. I mean the ones that aren’t directly caused by any one thing or person. These trials are real, and they are often so hard to deal with.

For example, a few years ago, my younger brother passed away. He died in a freak accident. There is no one to blame. He didn’t do something stupid. He didn’t commit a sin that would then potentially cause death. His death was not the result of another’s poor decision.

It was an accident.

It was one of those characteristic moments of mortality. (They are always so much easier to deal with and appreciate when they are someone else’s characteristic moment.)

These “moments” are experienced by all of us. Perhaps they might not be as drastic as death. But we get sick. We get hurt. We see loved ones die. And it is hard to understand why this is happening.

The Atonement may not always answer why we must go through these experiences, but it will heal us. And what else can offer that? There is potential for justice (and supposed healing) when I think of righting my own sins or when someone else sins against me. But when it is just life being life, we can’t go after anyone for justice. We can’t find healing by “righting a wrong.” There was no wrong committed to right. Healing can seem impossible.

Yet we can be healed of these difficulties and pains, and it is through the Master Healer, Jesus Christ. If we will turn to Him, then He will always heal us.

He will heal us when even when we rebel against Him and sin.

He will heal us when another person’s selfish choice hurts us.

He will heal us when there is no one but nature to blame.

Jesus pleads:

“O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” – 3 Nephi 9:13, emphasis added

I’m so grateful for the reminder that, if I will simply turn to Christ, then He will heal me. I know that He will heal you, too.

***
How have you felt the healing power of the Atonement in your life?

The Atonement: Prophets and Apostles

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, (Luke, and John coming soon).

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ–Assignment for Matthew 4

  1. What does Christ overcoming Satan while in the wilderness have to do with the Atonement?
  2. How does it make you feel to know that Christ has been tempted? How does it make you feel to know that He also overcame? How does understanding Christ’s experiences with Satan help you to know that Jesus truly can relate to you as you endure the temptations you face?
  3. When Christ begins His ministry, does He do it alone? Why did He call Peter, Andrew, James and John (and eventually others) to help Him? Though the disciples of Christ do not atone for our sins, what is their role in Christ’s Atonement? How can listening to the prophets help us to access the power of the Atonement? How can accepting callings help us to access the power of the Atonement?

There are two parts to this assignment. I will spend time only focusing on the second part of this assignment (question 3)–mainly because it’s less than a week away from my favorite Sunday (and Saturday) of the year… 🙂

***
As I’ve been studying the New Testament, I’ve been trying to apply as much as possible to the Atonement. I feel like everything in the scriptures can teach us something, and in this chapter, Christ calls Peter, James, and John. We read the account as follows:

“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.

And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.

And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.

And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” – Matthew 4:18-22

Upon reading this, I wonder why would Jesus need to call Prophets, Apostles, and other Servants in order to perform His work. I mean, think about it. Christ is all powerful. He is all knowing. Goodness knows that He doesn’t need our help. So, why, then does He call Prophets and Apostles, and how do they help Him fulfill His Mission: the Atonement?

Why Christ calls Prophets, Apostles, and Other Servants

This question is a good one to ask because it is obvious that God doesn’t need “helpers.” We learn:

From the Old Testament: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” – Genesis 18:14

From the New Testament: “And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” – Luke 18:27

From the Book of Mormon: “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.” – Mosiah 4:9

From the Doctrine and Covenants: “And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.” – Doctrine and Covenants 93:17

The Lord doesn’t need our help. Yet He calls men and women to serve in His church. Just as we know that Christ is all-powerful, we also know He is wise, and that everything He does has a wise purpose, even if we don’t always understand it. (See Isaiah 55:8-9.)

So, it is with this understanding that I still ask myself why does the Lord call apostles, prophets, and other leaders.

OneIn the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established, (Doctrine and Covenants 128:3). When it comes to the Atonement and our Savior, and knowing if He truly atoned for our Sins, we have received many witnesses. Of course, Heavenly Father has witnessed of His son–he did so when Christ was baptized, when the Lord appeared to the Nephites, and also when both the Father and Son appeared to Joseph Smith.

We have the witness of the Savior himself. The New Testament records His life. Throughout this time He did works that manifest His divinity. He also bore record of whom he was–and this was the reason He was put to death. Christ testified of Himself to his other sheep including those who lived in the Americas. Christ has also been a witness of Himself in these latter-days.

So, we have two witnesses, but I think that Heavenly Father knows what kind of people we are. We need more than that. We are skeptical and doubting. So, he has sent us prophets, apostles and other servants. They act as additional witnesses. He sends us servants that speak to us during our lifetimes, in our languages–people we can relate to. We also have the words of ancient prophets, and we can see that the message all of these prophets and apostles give are timeless: That Jesus is the Christ, that He lives, that He has atoned for our sins.

TwoAnd behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17).

This might seem strange, but follow me for a second. When we serve others, we serve God. When we serve others, not only are those whom we serve edified, but we are also blessed and strengthened in the process. Heavenly Father knows that the best way for us to gain testimonies is through obedience to the law. He knows that the best way for us to strengthen our testimonies in His Atonement and Love for us is by helping others.

Think of the young missionaries. They are only 18 and 19 years old. They have testimonies, but not necessarily a ton of experience. Yet the Lord has them doing the work of salvation. Not only do we feel the spirit strongly through such humble servants, but the missionary who serves changes through this work.

What I’m saying is: I think that a big part of callings and service is because Heavenly Father is such an efficient being. He knows that when we serve others both parties are edified both parties get stronger testimonies. Both parties are blessed.

How does the calling of the apostles relate to the Atonement?

Now, I know that none of Christ’s prophets or apostles atone for our sins. No matter how amazing the prophet or servant of God is (or was) they cannot save us. They are in the same predicament as we are: lost and fallen without Christ.

Yet, I really think that the calling of the Apostles had to do with the Atonement, and I think that it is because they help us to come unto Christ. They guide us to Him. They testify of Him. They speak in His name. Prophets are special witnesses of Christ. They have a role in Christ’s Atonement by bringing us to the Savior.

I have experienced this for myself. I’m so grateful to live in a time when we are led by living Prophets and Apostles. I have been inspired by their words. I know that they speak for the Lord. I know that the Savior is directing them, personally, and that if I listen and do what they teach, I will be able to find Christ more in my life.

Last Saturday I was able to watch the Relief Society Broadcast where we hear messages from the women who lead the Women’s Organization called the Relief Society. We were also blessed to hear from the Prophet: Thomas S. Monson.

As I sat, listening to the Prophet’s message, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of peace and love. His message was a reminder that Heavenly Father loves me. There are times when I struggle, and recently I have been going through one of those times. I have a difficulty remembering my worth. I also struggle feeling as close to the Lord as I’d like to. I often feel very lonely. I know that there are many women who go through the same kinds of trials. When I went to the Relief Society broadcast, I was looking forward to a message of hope and guidance. My prayers were answered–better than I could even expect.

Thomas S. Monson, gave a talk titled, We Never Walk Alone and during the broadcast, he stated:

“As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you.” – Thomas S. Monson

I felt overwhelmed with the Love that the Savior has for me. I felt hopeful: I know that if I want to feel more companionship with the Lord, if I want to feel a stronger sense of the Atonement and His love in my life, then I can seek Him through fervent, sincere prayer. I was reminded and felt assured that through prayer, I would find the peace that I seek. Through prayer, my trust in God will increase, and I will be able to become the woman that I desire to be. President Monson’s words and stories touched my heart in a way that I left feeling inspired and hopeful.

I especially loved what he said near the closing of His talk–that we would one day look at our difficult times and know He was always there with us. My soul was warmed, and I realized that although I don’t feel as close to the Savior as I’d like to, the Savior knows this, and He hasn’t left me alone. He is teaching me something, He is there, and He wants to help me through my difficult times.

The point of sharing this experience is not to talk about my difficult times, but to testify that our prophets and apostles are truly called of God, and that if we heed their counsel and testimonies, then we will be brought to the Savior, where we can partake of His Atonement, His happiness, His liberty, and His life–if we will.

***
What does the calling of the apostles as taught in Matthew 4 relate to the Atonement? What do you learn about the Savior through this scripture? How does this understanding help to strengthen your relationship with the Savior?

***
By the way…we live in a time when we are led by living Prophets and Apostles. Like Peter, James, and John, they have been called by the Savior to be “fishers of men.” You can hear them speak this weekend! Check it out:

Come listen to living prophets

Hope for the Victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing (and others)

Yesterday, I was on the phone with my sister when she said, “Oh my gosh. Catania. Did you hear about what happened in Boston? At the Boston Marathon?”
“No. What’s up?”
“It was bombed.”

I couldn’t believe it. I went to the computer and found a news story. Instantly, my heart ached for the people who were suffering and worrying. My dad works in Boston, and I have to admit that I was happy to remember that he was out of town. Then, I started thinking about the race. A few years ago, I ran a marathon in Baltimore, MD. I have to say, the event was amazing. There were thousands of people lined up in the streets, running…running for their health, running because they are competitive, running to honor passed friends, running to raise money for diseases. It seemed to me that every person out there was running for a good reason. Most people who run a marathon won’t come close to winning, but they’re still there–happy to run. Running a marathon is about discipline, mental toughness, physical exertion, and accomplishment. It’s really amazing.

When I thought of Boston, I thought of all the people-who in one second were reveling in the denouement of months of training. Then, the next second, they were afraid for their lives. This doesn’t make any sense to me at all.

I don’t understand terrorists. I don’t understand how people could be filled with so much hate and anger. I don’t understand the darkness of a soul that would choose to hurt so many people at random. It honestly makes no logical sense to me. Why can’t we let happy people be happy? Why is it that there are so many people who want to pull others down rather than build each other up? My mind aches when I think of those who have been hurt.

This Boston situation isn’t all, either. It seems like there is always something horrible happening. School shootings. Bombings. Drug Wars. Kidnapping. Child Abuse. I could go on, but I won’t. We already know it all.

Today, I went on a run/hike in the trails near my home. It was a gloriously beautiful morning. I had been thinking of those in Boston as I began my own ascent into the hills. It felt good to breathe hard, to feel my thighs sting, as I climbed. I prayed for a while as I ran. Then, listened to a talk by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf – The Hope of God’s Light. I felt especially touched by this quote:

“There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things.1 It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.”

I experienced a bit of an object lesson as I listened to this talk. I walked up the mountain, in the shadows. The hike caused me to breathe heavily. I was getting goosebumps as a breeze blew past me. Yet, I knew that there was light on the other side. As long as I kept walking, I’d soon catch my breath and bask in the sun.

And I did.

Step by step, I climbed the mountain, and soon saw the amazing view of the valley, including the temple in the distance.

View from the top...can you spot the temple?
View from the top…can you spot the temple?

Despite the horrible things that happen in this world – whether they are natural disasters or things that we do to one another, I was filled with warmth as I remembered that God loves us. As we seek Him and our Savior, our hearts can be filled with hope even during the darkest times. While we mourn those who are victims – in Boston and elsewhere – we can also be comforted by Christ: His light, His life, His Resurrection. He is our hope.

Listen to this talk by President Uchtdorf…it will lift your spirits.

Can You Feel So Now?

It’s my favorite time of year.

The days are getting longer.

My morning run is a lot brighter these days.
My morning run is a lot brighter these days.

There are colorful pots of joy all around my yard.

Happy!
Happy!

The citrus trees are starting to bloom.

Trust me when I say you wish you could smell this.
Trust me when I say you wish you could smell this.

Soon, we will be celebrating Easter–which is pretty much my favorite holiday (even though I love Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and I usually do a lot more to celebrate them with my kids) it is Easter that brings me hope and joy. And I love that Easter is a holiday completely centered on Christ.

Now…before I go on too much about Easter, another thing I LOVEEEE about this time of year is General Conference.

In case you are not familiar with General Conference, once every six months, we in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a meeting where we hear from the Living Prophet, 12 apostles, and other leaders of our church. For me, General Conference is always just what I need to get through the next six months.

I have a few thoughts about two talks.

In Quentin L. Cook’s talk, he asks the question posed by Alma in the Book of Mormon:

“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” – Alma 5:26

I have been thinking about this question because, to be honest, I’ve been in a little bit of a funk lately. Sometimes, when I’m having depressing thoughts, it effects me in such a way that I begin to question everything: the purpose of my life (as in where I’m headed in life), my faith, and my testimony…Obviously, this isn’t good.

here’s the thing.

I have experienced a change of heart

My change of heart didn’t happen in one amazing or startling moment. Over time, my heart has changed. It has shifted toward the Lord. I can see that I’ve grown closer to the Lord over time. I was baptized when I was eight. My testimony has grown a lot since then, but I still have the same feeling about God that I did then. I know that He loves me. I know that I matter to Him. I know that I want to please Him.

Though there are times when I give in to many of my natural desires and weakness, I know where my heart is. I want to please the Lord. I want to bring him happiness and glory through my good decisions because I have felt so much love and blessings from Him.

I have felt to sing the song of redeeming love

Yes. This joy is also something I’ve experienced.

I have felt it when I look in the eyes of my children, and I see how much the Lord has blessed me–even though I, in no way, deserve it.

I have felt to sing the song of redeeming love when I have sinned, then repented, and have been forgiven. I know what that kind of deep, abiding joy is. I know that this is a miraculous feeling.

Sometimes I feel it [that love] and sometimes I don’t…Why???

When we can’t feel to sing the song of redeeming love anymore, Elder Cook suggests the possible reasons why:

“Many who are in a spiritual drought and lack commitment have not necessarily been involved in major sins or transgressions, but they have made unwise choices. Some are casual in their observance of sacred covenants. Others spend most of their time giving first-class devotion to lesser causes. Some allow intense cultural or political views to weaken their allegiance to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.” – Quentin L. Cook

Now…as I read this, I have to amid, I don’t feel like I’m in a spiritual drought. Yet, I don’t feel as much happiness or joy as I’d like either. While Elder Cook’s advice is true and valuable, I don’t feel like actually applies to me right now. There is something else that is inhibiting my happiness, and I think that I found my answer in another conference talk given by President Uchtdorf.

One thing he said that I found especially interesting:

“So often we get caught up in the illusion that there is something just beyond our reach that would bring us happiness: a better family situation, a better financial situation, or the end of a challenging trial.

The older we get, the more we look back and realize that external circumstances don’t really matter or determine our happiness.

We do matter. We determine our happiness.

You and I are ultimately in charge of our own happiness.” – President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Here is my answer. Why do I have trouble, at times, with feeling the joy – in singing the song of redeeming love–that I have felt in the past? It is because I get caught up in an illusion.

Sometimes this illusion is caused because I suffer from physical pain and weakness (hormones, anyone), and I mistakenly forget that I can find happiness and comfort in Christ, despite my weakness.

Sometimes this illusion is caused by boredom and ingratitude. I forget the blessings in my life, and become deceived that certain circumstances would make me happier.

But we are reminded, we matter; we determine our happiness.

If I determine my happiness, then what am I doing about it?
In the same talk, we learn to resolve to:

  • spend time with people I love
  • live up to potential–to be the person God knows I can be
  • find happiness; regardless of circumstances

And the amazing thing is: when I take the time to do these three things, then I can answer the last question of Alma’s with a resounding Yes!

***
I’m so grateful for general conference. I’m grateful for the practical advice, reminders, and warnings that we receive from the Prophet and apostles. I’m grateful for their testimonies. I’m grateful for the Book of Mormon and how it has clarified so much of the Bible and doctrine of Christ. I know that this Gospel is the true and living Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that Heavenly Father loves us and wants each of us to feel the joy of forgiveness and conversion. I also know that He wants us to remember it.

How do you answer the question posed by Alma? How has General Conference and the Book of Mormon been a blessing to you?

Check out more experiences with General Conference and the Book of Mormon at Jocelyn’s blog.