Personal Priesthood Responsibility – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Personal Priesthood Responsibility, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2003 Priesthood Session of General Conference.

***

I don’t remember this talk a single bit. I’m not a bearer of the Priesthood. Personally, I’m more than okay with that. Usually, I don’t really read much of the Priesthood talks. I kind of feel they are directed for another group. But since I’m trying to read all of these talks, I decided to include the ones addressed at Priesthood sessions.

This talk is pretty self explanatory (based on its title). It’s about the personal responsibility that priesthood bearers have. Today, I’m just going to ponder a few things from the talk. This might seem a little disjointed. I hope you don’t mind.

The Strength of our Faith

President Nelson stated:

“…[T]he strength of the faith within each of us is developed individually, not as a group.” – Russell M. Nelson

I feel like the recent changes of our church meetings reflects what President Nelson taught in this quote. We can’t rely on the church, the Relief Society, or our Priesthood quorums to give us faith. We must develop our own faith. Obviously, I do think that we can learn from others. We can be taught by others. We are blessed by the testimonies of others. But ultimately, we must do the work of increasing our own faith.

President Nelson taught:

“Only as an individual can you develop a firm faith in God and a passion for personal prayer. Only as an individual can you keep the commandments of God. Only as an individual can you repent. Only as an individual can you qualify for the ordinances of salvation and exaltation.” – Russell M. Nelson

How can we increase our own faith? Experiment on it! Try living the gospel. Pray. Keep the commandments. Repent. Search the scriptures. Read good books, magazines, blogs. Increase our knowledge and then we apply that knowledge. Listen to the little nudges of the Spirit, and then trust in God!

Our Most Important Responsibility

President Nelson stated:

“Throughout life you will have a wide variety of duties and responsibilities. Many of these are temporary and will be relinquished upon your release. (You probably won’t object to your release from a call to pull weeds at the welfare farm.) But you never will be released from responsibilities related to your personal and family development.” – Russell M. Nelson

family in sedona

I know that this quote resonates with me because it means so much to me. It is so easy to get caught up in all of our duties and responsibilities. I don’t want to suggest that many of the “other” hats we wear are not also important. But I do think that it is so easy to overlook ur most important responsibilities – our personal and family development!

I know it’s easy for me as a mother to feel guilty sometimes when I spend time working out or doing things for “me.” Yet these are vitally important not only to my own spiritual and physical health, but also to the health of my family!

It is easy to get so busy with our callings, jobs, hobbies, etc that we can overlook the simple needs of our own children and spouse.

We will never be released from these relationships. They matter more than the many other things we will do in our lives. Of course, it’s not an “either / or” kind of a thing. The Spirit can guide us to understand what the needful thing is for each of us to do. The Spirit also will help us to understand that the needful thing for us to do will change from day to day and season to season. But it is important for us to keep the perspective that we will never be “released” from the responsibilities related to personal and family development..

Living True to Personal Promptings and Commandments

President Nelson:

“We are to be true and faithful and live by every principle and doctrine that He has given to us. We cannot compromise a revelation or a commandment committed to our charge.” – Russell M. Nelson

This last part is really standing out to me today. We cannot compromise a revelation or a commandment committed to our charge. I want to think about that for a moment. How might I compromise revelations or commandments given to me???

I found a definition of the word compromise – to make a shameful or disreputable concession.

Do we ever do that? Make a shameful concession of the revelations that have been committed to our charge? And if so, why do we do that?

I’ll give you an example. Forgive me if this has already come up in other blog posts recently. It’s been on my mind a lot. In my Patriarchal Blessing, I’m warned – to keep the Word of Wisdom. Now, I don’t go out and drink alcohol. I don’t drink what we consider “hot drinks” (coffee, etc.). I don’t smoke. I don’t use illicit drugs. Whatever. I’m not special—there are a lot of people like me. I’m keeping the word of wisdom, right?

Well…maybe and maybe not.

I have to admit, even though I have studied the Word of Wisdom, I haven’t always done the best to pay attention to the majority of it!!! I have always found a way to justify eating plenty of meat daily. I have always found a way to justify not eating many fruits and veg. I have always found a way to justify treats (it’s my birthday, it’s Halloween, it’s national chocolate chip cookie day!!!)

Recently I have started counting macros. I want to lose some weight. I have followed a pretty conventional path as far as macro counting goes. I was consuming about 1 gram of protein per POUND of lean muscle mass. In other words, each day, I was supposed to be consuming 136 grams of protein.

That’s a lot of protein.

It’s really hard to consume that much protein without eating meat. So I was eating meat.

Actually, it’s hard to consume that much protein without eating a lot of meat. So I was eating a lot of meat.

I was doing this for a few months, and things were going well enough physically. But then, it started getting really hot outside, and I was starting to have issues with my heart – shortness of breath. Dizziness. Etc. It wasn’t going away, and I set up an appointment with my doctor.

In the early morning before my doctor appointment, I was even having chest pain. What do you do when it is 3 AM, and you are dizzy, short of breath, and having chest pain? Bargain with God!

I felt frustrated. What should I be doing?! Why was my heart acting up?! Should I be eating more protein? Less protein? Saturated Fat? Low Fat? Keto? Paleo? Vegan??? What was I supposed to do? There is so much conflicting advice. So many people have said so many different things. The still small voice spoke an impression to my Heart – God only said ONE thing.

I realized, I didn’t need to listen to all of these other doctors, scientists, etc. I just needed to put my trust in the commandments of God! It didn’t need to be a mystery! And I knew it. I have known the Word of Wisdom my whole life. And then, when I received my patriarchal blessing, I was given an even clearer emphasis/warning on this revelation – Always follow the Word of Wisdom!

Yet I had compromised this revelation and commandment committed to my charge. I vowed to keep the W.o.W from that point on. And I have. Oh…by the way – it only took a few days of keeping the word of wisdom: dialing down the protein, the calories, and amping up the veggies, fruits, with a backbone of grains…and guess what – no more dizziness. No more palpitations. No chest pain. And I’m losing weight really easily now. I’m at the beginning of this journey, but pretty excited to see where it is headed.

But the point is – we do this! We compromise our personal revelations and commandments. Sometimes I think that we accidentally downplay how important these things are because we usually call them: promptings or impressions. But they are personal revelations and commandments! If we don’t follow through with the promptings, impressions, personal revelations, and personal commandments we receive, then we cannot expect to be led by His Spirit in the future!

I’m grateful for this reminder. Sometimes it is scary to follow a personal prompting, revelation, commandment, or impression. Why is it scary? Well, I guess because it’s an act of faith. Was that the Spirit or was it just me? … often goes through my head. I let myself doubt my impressions, then I ignore them. Or allow myself to be distracted. And then, I miss the opportunity, the blessing, the protection, or whatever it was the the Lord was offering.

I really want to stop doing this!!!

***

Well, this is another long post, no matter how much I try to shorten them. I’m so thankful for the Prophet. Though today’s talk wasn’t really addressed to the women of the church, there were a few things that I gleaned from the talk. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson is a man who has worked hard to study and learn more about the Priesthood he holds. I’m grateful to know that he honors it and doesn’t abuse his position in the church. I’m grateful, also, to know that we have the priesthood on earth now. I have been blessed by this great power in my life.

Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the Priesthood Session of the April 1999 General Conference.

Okay…blast from the past time…😁…I don’t remember this talk – as I am a woman and do not attend Priesthood Session (which I’m okay with! I don’t particularly love meetings!) It is interesting to read this talk and then think about my life at that time. I was married at the time to a man who did not honor me or anyone else (including himself…only his appetites, which is actually too bad). And now, I’m grateful to be married to a man who does honor me, our children, his parents, himself, and God. What a difference being married to a good person can make!!!

ANYWAY.

For the most part, when I read or listen to a General Conference talk from the Priesthood Session, I don’t feel much application. Perhaps it is because these talks are directed to a different audience. So, I’ll list a few quotes that I liked from this talk. Though much of it didn’t apply to me directly, it is still a nice talk.

One

President Nelson stated:

“Hence, I warn against pornography. It is degrading of women. It is evil. It is infectious, destructive, and addictive.” – Russell M. Nelson

If you were a member of the church during the 90s, I’m sure you can remember a litany of conference talks warning of the dangers of pornography. It’s interesting – this was before the Internet really became what we know now. Pornography, of course, was available then, but these warnings were prophetic. We are beginning to see now how a culture-wide acceptance of pornography has been problematic and has contributed to other culture-wide problems.

So, I guess what I’m saying is – I like what President Nelson taught here. I know that what he is saying is true. It is destructive, infections, addictive, and degrading. In fact, I think that I’ll take it a step further. It not only degrades the women that President Nelson mentions in his quote. It also degrades those who consume it. And, because it has become so wide spread, I think it also degrades those who don’t consume it because it comes with a lot of collateral damage.

I don’t really want to get into all that detail in this post…other than to say that I found it interesting to read what President Nelson said – nearly 20 years ago. The apostles and prophets to give us warnings that are pertinent to our physical and spiritual salvation – even if we don’t completely understand them at the time.

Two

Another statement from President Nelson:

“An ideal marriage is a true partnership between two imperfect people, each striving to complement the other, to keep the commandments, and to do the will of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

I really love this.

wedding
Homey and Me

There was a time when I guess I liked hearing the Apostles and general authorities say things like women are the best…men you need to appreciate your women. At the time (years ago) I was in a bad relationship – hoping it would get better. I don’t know. I was just into hearing those kinds of “rah-rah” things – hoping that they would have a positive effect on my family at the time.

But over the years, I have wearied of these “women are the best and we need to treat them right” talks. Not that I want to be mistreated. But a few things:

One – Did they do any Good?
Did those talks actually do any good. I could argue both sides (which is usually the case). I think about it like parenting, though. It doesn’t matter if I lecture my children until I’m blue in the face. If the systems I have in place in my family don’t match what I’m saying, then the changes I desire really won’t happen. If I’m just talking, but not changing systems or culture, then it seems like I’m just talking to talk. I can pat myself on the back. And then get back to business as usual.

All of that being said, I think that the apostles meant it. As we have already seen, they are often giving talks that are prophetic in nature – which means that maybe they’re preparing us for changes in the future. Maybe the talks will plant seed that will be the catalyst for future behavioral, cultural, and systemic changes.

That’s all I’ll say about that for now.

Two – It Works both Ways
The real reason I have gotten sick of these sentiments is because I feel like it really works both ways. My favorite quote:

Be excellent to each other. – Bill and Ted.

It’s all pretty simple, really.

Back to the talk, though. I love President Nelson’s quote because it isn’t a prescriptive list of things men and/or women should do. (Yes, there is a list at other points in this talk of ideas on how some men might be able to support the women in their lives…but this quote is just pure!). Instead of this being a checklist, it is the correct and divine principle that should drive our actions as we govern ourselves.

We need to be partners with one another. We need to strive to complement one another. We need to love one another. We need to be excellent to one another. As we do so, as we strive to work together (WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM!!!) and bring joy to one another, we will succeed. And we will be happy.

Three

President Nelson taught:

“The home is the great laboratory of love. There the raw chemicals of selfishness and greed are melded in the crucible of cooperation to yield compassionate concern and love one for another.” – Russell M. Nelson

People like me like quotes like this. I love metaphors, symbols, and illustrations. I love taking an abstract concept like “home” or “love” and then relating them to something we understand – so that the abstract concept becomes tangible.

home is where the heart is

Not only that, but I love what this quote actually says. Home is the laboratory of love! Our world aches for it. All you need is love! It’s true. So then, we must ask ourselves – how do we get love? How do we create love in our hearts and lives? The Beatles didn’t answer that question for us.

But our Father in Heaven has.

We create loves in our hearts and lives by following God’s plan and commandments. As we turn to Him, we will feel His love. This love will overflow and then turn our hearts to others – His children – our brothers and sisters.

Heavenly Father has also given us an institution – the family – to help us cultivate this love that we need. It may not always be shiny and exciting. The deep love that is cultivated in a family may not be earth shattering like the attraction you feel as you are falling in love with someone new.

No – it isn’t that dramatic.

But, the love cultivated in the home is the kind of love that will make you jump in front of a bus to save that person. It is the kind of love that will change this world. It is the kind of love that gives way to safety, peace, and joy.

***
Okay. I feel like I did a lot of preaching in this blog post. I’ll probably regret it nearly instantly. I hope that you found something you liked here.

Otherwise – I want to say that I know that President Nelson is a prophet of God. Talks like this paved the way to where we are now. If those to whom he spoke (Priesthood members) heeded his words in 1999, then they were safe from some temptations and evils that would become commonplace only a few years later. I’m grateful to be led by a prophet. I know that the apostles and prophets aren’t perfect, but I also know that they are trying their best. It is good for us to pray for them – to pray that God’s message to all of us will make it to their hearts so they can lead us in righteousness.

Honoring the Priesthood – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Honoring the Priesthood, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1993 General Conference.

christ-ordaining-the-apostles-39549-gallery
For me – it is most helpful to remember whose priesthood it is.

Maybe I have more pride and “feminism” in my heart than I want to admit. Sometimes these priesthood talks make me feel a bit anxious. I haven’t read this talk before now, and I don’t remember how I felt when it was given (in 1993 – I lived in Houston still. I was 14 years old.

My relationship with the priesthood is complicated sometimes. Now don’t get me wrong. I know that it is God’s power on this earth. And I know that it is a miracle that He has bestowed it to us – even though we are imperfect people. In my life, I’ve had great priesthood leaders, okay priesthood leaders, and bad priesthood leaders.

Additionally, the climate of our culture tends to look down on things like “the priesthood” – as if it is a boy’s club and not an organization instituted by God.

With that in mind, I’m trying to be very open minded so the Spirit can teach me as I study this talk.

One – God’s Kingdom

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, is neither a democracy nor a republic. His is a kingdom—the kingdom of God on earth. His is a hierarchical church, with ultimate authority at the top. The Lord directs His anointed servants. They testify to all the world that God has again spoken. The heavens have been opened. A living linkage has been formed between heaven and earth in our day.” – Russell M. Nelson

So, first of all – it is a good reminder to me that God’s Church is not a democracy or a republic. Which means that we don’t “vote” in our leaders. We sustain them by common consent, but it isn’t a vote.

As I think about this, I realize that I’ve been raised as an American. The idea of independence, freedom, and choice is so deeply ingrained in me, I truly can’t imagine any other cultural practice. It’s hard to imagine a king or a queen or dictator. I can’t imagine not having a voice or a choice of some kind.

All of that being said, I am also somewhat disappointed with our current system of government. There is so much corruption that when we had our last presidential election, I felt so hopeless with our choices, I felt like we Americans were being asked to choose between poop and vomit. (Sorry…but it’s truly how I felt).

Despite my love for choice, I’m also an idealist. If only we could have the Savior here now! I would never trust any old person to be a ruler over me or my country. Like a good American, I don’t trust my government (they are instituted among men (and women) deriving their just power from the consent of the governed!), companies, or anything that tries to exercise power over me. I am always willing to submit to anything that is good, but I’m not trusting just because. Unless, it is Heavenly Father. I have learned that He is trustworthy. He is good. And I trust Him completely.

***Quick aside…why do I trust Him?

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

and

“Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings,…” – Doctrine and Covenants 41:1

and

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

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.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

and…

Honestly – why I trust God could be a series of blog posts, so I’ll stop with the scriptural references. I’ll say one more thing, though. I’ve experimented. I’ve put my trust in God before, and I’ve learned for myself that He is trustworthy. He is a living and loving Father in Heaven. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He is both powerful and humble. He is a perfect leader and for this reason, I rejoice at knowing that God’s kingdom is not a democracy or a republic! I rejoice at knowing that His is a kingdom.

So – on to the next point that President Nelson gives.

His kingdom is hierarchical.

I think that this is where I start to feel a bit troubled. When I think of a hierarchy, I think of a situation where people may feel like they are better than others because of their position. And we know that it is the nature of most men to do this. We are prideful little dummies sometimes.

President Nelson teaches:

“In contrast, the kingdom of God is governed by the authority of the priesthood. It is not conferred for honor, but for a ministry of service. Priesthood titles are not created by man; neither are they for adornment, nor do they express mastership. They denote appointment to service in the work of the Lord.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though there is a hierarchy in our church – it is not based on honor or supremacy. This hierarchy just tells us what jobs people have to do. The church is an organization and God is a God of order, so there are positions – and they are hierarchical.

But this doesn’t mean that the worth of souls is in any way related to the “position” one might hold.

It helps me to think of this like a team. We have a purpose. God has a purpose (Moses 1:39). We have one united work to do, but we are a bunch of different people. So, we each have our positions and we need to do it well, then we all win. If we are all fighting to be pitcher, then we would lose the game.

Two – Priesthood Leaders are Normal People

President Nelson states:

“May I offer counsel of a general nature, first with comments about General Authorities. We recognize them as instruments in the hand of the Lord, yet realize that they are ordinary human beings. They require haircuts, laundry services, and occasional reminders just like anyone else.” – Russell M. Nelson

I like this. I think we (me included) make a mistake of putting our priesthood leaders – both general and local – on a pedestal. This usually results in a few problems.

1
It’s a problem and a disservice to our priesthood leaders when we mythicize them. They are normal human beings.

When I was a kid, my dad would say this thing, “At the end of the day, their poop still stinks.” (I realize that I have mentioned doo doo twice in this blog post. Sorry.) I think that this shaped the way that I think about any of the people that we humans (primates!) worship. We are all equal. We are all both beautiful and ugly (mostly beautiful, if you ask me!). We are all human. We don’t need to worship our church leaders because at the end of the day, they are just like you and me.

Of course, President Nelson puts it a lot nicer – they need haircuts, they need to wash their clothes, they forget stuff. They are normal people!

For most of my life, the general authorities did seem mythical. They were these spiritual giants who spoke and testified of Christ at least twice a year during general conference. They need haircuts?! No way! They forget things?! Inconceivable!

Then I moved to the Heber Valley. In fact, right now I’m staying with my in-laws who live just houses down from one of the apostles. This proximity has given me new light. A few years ago, I met this apostle while shoveling snow. (You can read about the experience here.).

One thing that I didn’t share in that post I would like to share here.

It was winter when I met an apostle for the first time (obviously, we were shoveling snow). And if you read that post, I kind of felt disappointed with the meeting. There was nothing inherently special about him. He was a totally normal dude – wearing jeans, a jacket, a beanie. He looked older in real life than he does during conference.

There was nothing wrong with him either. I felt sympathy for him – he lives in a fishbowl because of his calling.

But the experience, in general, was just like any time that you have talked to any neighbor while shoveling snow. We introduced ourselves, found common ground, and had a chuckle. We talked about all the snow and all the elk that were in the neighborhood the day before. We talked about living in Arkansas (he had lived there, too). And it was just a simple and nice experience.

The heavens didn’t part. He didn’t give us some kind of apostolic blessing or witness. It was just a normal day with a normal person. Good, yes. Mythical, no.

A few days later, I was going to the library. I was about to drive into the entrance, but there was a little old woman crossing through the street to go into the library. Across the street from the library is a senior center, which is where she was coming from.

Because it had recently snowed a lot, not all of the ice and snow was cleared from the road. As I waited to turn left into the parking lot, the woman fell!

Luckily I’m in a very small town, and this road into the library is a dead-end road, so it was not busy. I turned on my hazard lights and jumped out of my car – leaving it in the middle of the road. I picked up this old woman, brushed the snow off of her, asking her if she was okay.

Then, I proceeded to walk with her into the library.

The heavens (metaphorically) did part. I felt, so intensely, the love that Heavenly Father has for his children. That his heart ached to see her experience the cruelties of life (age…and winter!). That He had let me be there at that moment so I could help her.

We got into the library. I ran out to park my car, then I found her again. When she was ready to go back to her home, I walked her back across the street, through treacherous ice and snow.

I realized that the feelings I was having were what I was expecting to feel when I saw the apostle.

Are the apostles special? Yes they are. They are sons of God. And they are just as special as a nameless old woman crossing the street.

They hold a special office and must perform a special duty, but this doesn’t mean that God loves them more. They are not more important. And their duty isn’t more important than our duties. Heavenly Father needs apostle who can travel the world and speak to people. He needs normal moms who drive to libraries that can jump out of their cars to help old women. He also needs old women who fall down so that they can teach a lesson to younger women who need humbling.

We are all part of the team. Whether we are starters, or in the bull-pen, we are all necessary. If we start fighting over position or over the ball, then we all lose.

2
Just as it is a problem when we mythicize our leaders, I think that it is also a problem if we demonize them. I actually think that this usually happens as a result of mythicizing them, then when they are normal, we are let down, then we demonize them. But enough philosophizing on how it happens.

I know that I have been guilty of being overly critical of my local leaders. I have been guilty of the same thing that the people of Nazareth were when they asked, “Is this not Joseph’s Son?” The prophet was not accepted in his own country. (See Luke 4:22, 24.)

I’ve been guilty of thinking, what kind of man can he be? Have you seen his yard? AS IF A YARD ACTUALLY MATTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have to remember – for both local and general leaders – that they are men. They are ordinary human beings. That, for the most part, they are just doing the best that they can. Many make mistakes. And sometimes their mistakes may even hurt me or my family. I can extend charity, love, kindness, and help to these people who are serving in callings that they neither sought nor did they deny.

God’s is a House of Order

I’m going to wrap this up because it is getting pretty long.

President Nelson relates:

“That order also defines bounds of revelation. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.” That same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.” – Russell M. Nelson

This quote makes me think of the metaphor that we are all on a team, and that we need to worry about our position and doing our duty – rather than trying to do the duty of another.

You know, trying to do the duty of another is a pretty prideful thing, when you think about it. Not only that, it messes everything up.

I also love the last part of this quote…that same principle precludes receiving revelation for anyone outside one’s defined circle of responsibility.

We need to make our own decisions. Our priesthood leaders often don’t have the responsibility or right to make decisions for us. Sometimes there is overreach, for sure, and I’ve experienced that. But our local priesthood leaders don’t have the position or authority to come into our homes and tell us when to give father’s blessings, what to study for family home evening, where to live. This is our responsibility.

We have direct access to Heavenly Father for revelation that pertains to our circle of responsibility. It’s so easy to want to micromanage – again – we are prideful little dum dums and we think that we might know better than someone else. But, if we will just do what we can to strip ourselves of pride, then we will learn to trust one another – that families are probably making the best choices that they can for themselves, that our leaders may have some inspiration and insight. The pride in our hearts is so destructive – both top down and bottom up.

The real way for the priesthood to work is through our choice to expel pride from our hearts and to love, trust, and support one another. Bishops and leaders should be supporting those whom they serve. Members should support their leaders. If it is working both ways it’s a beautiful thing – like watching a well-executed play in a sporting event. Elegant and effective.

There’s so much to say. I hope that what I’ve written makes sense and actually helps to inspire people to have faith rather than justify anyone for cultivating feelings of resentment towards others.

The Priesthood is here to bless all of us. As President Nelson taught:

“Remarkable! He chose to honor us with His priesthood. So we honor Him by honoring His priesthood—both its power and those who bear it. By so doing, men, women, and children throughout the world will be blessed.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m grateful to know that we are led by a prophet who understands the priesthood and honors it accordingly. I have personally witnessed Him in sacrament meeting, reverently closing his eyes during the administration of the sacrament – which sacrament was administered by young men – nearly 80 years younger than him. He reverently sat next to the Bishop – without “taking charge” of the meeting. He encouraged each of us to read the Book of Mormon. He testified of Christ. But we, members of the audience, still knew that we had our agency to see how his instruction should be applied in our lives.

I’m grateful to know that President Nelson respects the authority that he holds. He is a trustworthy servant of God. He isn’t perfect, but like nearly every else I’ve met in all of the wards I’ve lived in – he’s doing his very best. I’m grateful to know that he really personifies what so many of us are doing – joyfully striving.

Woman – Of Infinite Worth – Russell M. Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote One

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

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

I totally agree with President Nelson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then I left her office.

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

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

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

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

Quote Two

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

I love this quote and I believe it.

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

And we are all blessed by it.

Quote Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what a beautiful truth.

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

Quote Four

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

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

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

It doesn’t matter.

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

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

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

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

Quote Five

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

I love the scriptures! I love this quote!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote Seven

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not subservient. I’m essential.

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

President Nelson continues:

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

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

Quote Eight

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

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

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

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

But I trust Him.

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

***

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

 

Keys of the Priesthood – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk Keys of the Priesthood, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 1987 General Conference.

I want to begin this post by saying that I’m so grateful for both the Priesthood and those who righteously bear and it.

What is the Priesthood?

President Nelson taught:

“The potential of the priesthood is so vast that our comprehension of it is a challenge. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The Priesthood is an everlasting principle, and existed with God from eternity, and will to eternity.”

President Brigham Young added that the priesthood is “the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever.”

Priesthood is the authority of God delegated to man to minister for the salvation of men. “The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood” ” – Russell M. Nelson

The Priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man to act in all things for the salvation of man.

I know that there are many people who think that the “priesthood” is a bit sexist, but that is because they misunderstand what the priesthood is. It is not just some men’s organization.

The Priesthood is Power – God’s power – delegated to each of us.

We have to remember that God has a purpose for this world and for each of us:

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

Sometimes we forget this purpose of God’s, we get caught up with both the perceived and  also real injustices in this world. We forget that this mortal life is only a part of God’s eternal work – which is OUR eternal life and immortality. Forgetting this purpose is the root of why we misplace our trust in Him.

God knew that in order to accomplish His work, we would need His help. This help comes in many forms, but one major way is through His Priesthood. This is HIS Power! And He is letting us use it so that His purposes can be accomplished! What a blessing!

The Extend of the Priesthood

President Nelson taught:

“Jesus revealed the extent of priesthood authority. To his Apostles, the Savior said, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”” – Russell M. Nelson

The authority of this priesthood extends beyond mortality and into the eternities. I have had the great blessing of growing up in the church, so I have heard the above scripture quoted often. Usually, I applied it to temple marriage (which of course is extremely important). However, I don’t think that I’ve always been appreciative of the eternal nature of the power that God has blessed us with.

Let me explain.

For the past few years, my husband and I have been working really hard. At my suggestion, he quit his conventional, “safe,” corporate job, and started working for himself. It has been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever even contemplated – let alone done – in my life. It has also been a major test of my faith.

There are ups and downs in everyone’s life, and as a mother there are times when I see the sacrifices that have been made by my family which causes me to question the decisions I’ve made, even though I’ve made them with the comfort and assurance from God.

Last night, I decided to ask my husband for a priesthood blessing.

I was blessed to have increased faith, and I was reminded of the eternal repercussions that these choices have. And now, as I study these words by President Nelson, I’m reminded that the Lord gives us power to act, to have faith, to do what we need to do in this life so that we can have joy and exaltation in the next life. This power, His Power, is the priesthood power, and though I don’t administer it, the Priesthood power is fully accessible to me through the covenants I’ve made. It powers my life. And if I live in such a way that honors the covenants and commitments I’ve made, then there are eternal repercussions that will bless my family now and in the eternities.

Through the power of the Priesthood, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. What is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven. Through the Power of the Priesthood, I have been blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through the power of the priesthood, and this gift, I’ve made decisions like – going to college, having children, studying my scriptures, getting married – and these decisions have had eternal repercussions. These eternal repercussions are possible because the Lord has mercifully endowed us with His power.

Priesthood Limitations

Because of the eternal repercussions of our choices and God’s power, the Priesthood seems limitless. Indeed it is eternal, but there are still some limitations on its power.

President Nelson stated:

“To understand the power of the priesthood, we must know its limitations. If an automobile is used recklessly, future permission from parents is likely to be denied. So, if priesthood power be abused, ‘the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man'” – Russell M. Nelson

The Priesthood isn’t magic. It isn’t a carte blanche that will excuse every selfish whim and desire of man. It is God’s Power! We can remember that God is a god of order. He abides by the laws of the heavens. He has declared this law to us, and if we try to use His Priesthood in a way that breaks the laws that govern the priesthood, then it is nullified. We are powerless.

This has happened before. President Nelson shared:

“After Christ was crucified, and even before the early Apostles completed their labors, the Apostasy began. This occurred as prophesied when priesthood authority was abused and sacred ordinances were defiled.” – Russell M. Nelson

Because the priesthood was abused, the Lord took His priesthood away. What followed were the dark ages. If we want God’s power to power our lives, then we must live according to the laws that govern His Priesthood and His Power.

***

I’m so grateful for the power of the Priesthood. I know that it has been a major blessing in my life. I know that because of the power of the Priesthood and because of the men who were worthy and capable to bear it, I have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have received endowments from God. I have been blessed to be able make my life something better than I would have without such power and blessings.

I’m also very grateful to know that our prophet – Russell M. Nelson honors and respects the Priesthood that he bears.

He shared:

“Surely a sacred moment of my life occurred April 12, 1984, when the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles laid their hands upon my head. As had been done for others before me, all the keys of the priesthood were conferred. As it is with each member of the Quorum of the Twelve, some keys are not used until called upon by the Lord, or as directed by his senior Apostle.

I feel the weight of responsibility and the burden of timeless trust.” – Russell M. Nelson

I’m grateful to know that President Nelson feels the weight of his responsibility. I’m grateful to know that he has lived for a long time and has held various offices of the priesthood for many decades. He has learned the care must be taken in order to hold the keys that he holds. I’m grateful to know that President Nelson is both loyal to God and obedient to the commandments of God. We are so blessed to have the Priesthood blessing our lives – both on an individual basis and as a world-wide church.

What is the Relief Society?

Sorry I haven’t written on the blog for a couple of weeks. We’ve had spring break, and I’ve actually started teaching for the Pathway program, so I feel like I’m on the computer all the time. ANYWAY…

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mormon Women lately. Here is a list of reasons why:

  • The Ordain Women group has been gaining traction in the media. While I don’t agree with their movement, they have been making me think about being a woman in the LDS church including my roles, rights, and blessings.
  • In what seems to be a reaction to the Ordain Women movement, another Movement has sprung up – Mormon Women Stand
  • I often get overwhelmed by my duties and the challenges of this world. I crave a sisterhood with like-minded women who are noble, nurturing, and strong.

As these three things swirl in my brain, I find that there is one common solution to them, and that is The Relief Society.

What is the Relief Society?

First of all, it is important to understand what the Relief Society is. According to mormon.org, the Relief Society is defined as follows:

“The Relief Society is the oldest and largest women’s organization in the world. Relief Society was established in 1842 for women 18 years of age and older. Its purpose is to build faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and help those in need.”

Now – onto how the Relief Society has been able to be the solution to the mind-swirling I’ve been having lately.

The Ordain Women Movement

According to the Ordain Women Group, their purpose is:

“Ordain Women aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group we intend to put ourselves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood.”

First, and foremost, I don’t necessarily agree with the assertion made by the Ordain Women group. I don’t agree that there is an issue of gender inequality in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neither do I think that the Family Proclamation perpetuates antiquated ideas or inequality between men and women.

This being said, I don’t deny the fact that some women might feel marginalized in the Church. I understand this. I have experienced being in counsels with men who won’t listen. I don’t personally believe that if I held the Priesthood I would have been seen as any kind of authority. I just think that some dudes are like that a little chauvinistic and kind of jerky – even if they don’t mean to be.

For some reason, this kind of attitude has prevailed over the millennia. I think that men have a hard time understanding why the women think that the way they do. Straight away, I think of Peter and Mary Magdalene:

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.

11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.” – Mark 16:9-11

To be fair: these apostles didn’t believe the disciples who saw Christ on the Road to Emmaus. And Thomas didn’t believe all of the apostles that had seen the resurrected Lord.

But I’ve always found this striking: Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene. She didn’t hold any kind of Priesthood authority, but He came to her and revealed himself to her. And the apostles didn’t believe her.

Sometimes I think that all of this misunderstanding between men and women comes only because men have a hard time understanding women, and it may seem that they tend to belittle and downplay women. I hate making this blanket statement because I have met and known many open minded men. But let’s just say that I have had discussions with men about women and emotions.

Really quickly – so – some men seem to downplay women because we can be a little more emotional or intuitive. Some men seem to only be able to respond to logic and reason. I totally understand this. And I say, It is totally illogical and unreasonable to ignore our intuition, emotions, and spirits! We are people, we aren’t robots. We have emotions and unique Spirits how would it be logical to discount this side of who we are when making any kind of decision in life???

(Oh, and I have also found that men have an especially hard time with women who react emotionally. I, too, find that it is best to not react, but this isn’t because I want to deny my woman-ness. Instead, it is because I want to make a wise decision. AND BESIDES, sometimes I think that men forget that anger is an emotion, and reacting in anger is often more illogical than a woman’s weeping…Interestingly enough, in the General Relief Society Broadcasts, I have experienced listening to prophets compliment and comfort the women. My opinion – it just takes some men, even good men, about 80 years to really understand the value of a woman’s emotions, opinions, and intuitive nature).

anyway!!!

I just want to say that while I don’t necessarily agree with the Ordain Women women, I don’t doubt that they honestly feel the way that they do. Additionally, I don’t think that it is necessarily wrong to feel confused, belittled, or unequal. That happens sometimes! And sometimes that happens for a good reason.

However, there is one thing that I do disagree with – and that is the way that the Ordain Women group has gone about their purposes. I believe that the best way to take an issue up with God is by taking it up with Himand praying! I know that God answers our prayers. I know that He listens to us. I know that He will influence our prophet and apostles if it is the right thing to do/pray about.

I mean, think about it this way – when members of the church desire to have a temple built in an area we are taught to pray, we are taught to pay our tithing, we are taught to attend the temple. We are not taught to write a letter Salt Lake and petition the prophet to have a temple. He isn’t in charge of the Church, the Lord is. Priesthood or not, every woman, every man, every child has access to our Heavenly Father. We just have to get on our knees. Heck, we don’t even have to get on our knees! Just Pray!

And now – to the Relief Society, I think that the Relief Society is the answer to this problem. When we understand our role in the church and in our family, and when we understand the blessing and honor it is to be a member of the Relief Society, we will understand what we need to do in order to have our concerns addressed.

The motto of the Relief Society is charity never faileth. Can you come up with anything more inspired, more enabling, more beautiful, more Christlike? As members of the Relief Society, we will seek to understand Charity more. We will be cognizant of the fact that Charity is a lot more than quilt tying and giving service. And as members of the Relief Society that understand the meaning of charity, we will also remember that Christ’s love never fails. Mormon teaches us about Charity:

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

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” – Moroni 7:45-47

It just seems to me that if we, members of the Relief Society, understand what Charity is, then, when we have questions about the church – legitimate questions, when we have qualms, when we are wronged, when we have issues that come from our hearts, then we will address them with faith and with charity.

Relief Society can help us when we struggle.

Mormon Women Stand

I was invited to be a part of Mormon Women Stand. This is a group that seems to have sprung up in reaction to the Ordain Women movement. Here is their mission:

“Mormon Women Stand is a collaborative online effort to join like-minded female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who share a desire to make a public stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ and in support of ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’. We believe standing together will reflect the divine nature and power that LDS women are endowed with to influence others for good. We unequivocally sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—commissioned by God and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. We support how the Lord has delegated priesthood authority to organize and administer the gospel among all of His children.” – Mormon Women Stand

Like the Ordain Women movement, I believe that this group is thoughtful. They want to stand up for their beliefs at a time when they believe that their beliefs are being assailed.

Initially, I went ahead and “liked” the Facebook group. I, essentially, agree with them. I believe in standing as a witness of Jesus Christ. I have promised to do so …in all times, and in all things, and in all places [I am in] even unto death.” (See Mosiah 18:10.)

But I started to think about this group. And I wondered, Why isn’t my membership in the Relief Society and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enough. As I just mentioned, because I’ve been baptized and have covenanted with Christ, then I have already committed myself to being His witness.

Additionally, as a member of the Relief Society, I have also decided to live up to it’s motto – that Charity never faileth, which means that I wouldn’t really be provoked or threatened by other groups or adversity – whether it comes from an external or internal source.

My membership in the Church and in the Relief Society is enough, and instead of singling myself out (whether with the Ordain Women group or with Mormon Women Stand), I ought to simply seek sisterhood with all saints in the gospel. I feel like Satan is trying to destroy us by dividing us, and even if our intentions are good, if we aren’t careful, then we might stop being charitable. And if we aren’t charitable, then we will fail.

I Crave Sisterhood

This leads me to my last point, and why I love the Relief Society, and why I need the Relief Society.

Yesterday, I read an article about Peter Lanza and Sandy Hook in the New Yorker. It was sad, terrifying, horrible, depressing, you name it. I also read An article about the rising generation and problems with p*rnography. It was sad, terrifying, horrible, depressing, you name it.

Both of these articles, read within hours of one another, had me wondering, how do I do it? I have four little children. I have three beautiful girls, and one delightful son. I see the good in them, and I want that to shine throughout their lives. I want them to know the good in themselves. I want them to know God, and to know the truth.

But there are so many lies. So many difficulties. What do I do???

And, I realized, the answer is The Relief Society.

Through the Relief Society, I have been able to meet like-minded sisters who also are striving. Some of the sisters are young, married mothers; some of these sisters are women who have never married; some sisters are women in the middle of their lives like me. Some are old, some are divorced, some are tall, some are short, some are thin, some are blonde, some are white, some are black, some are from Mexico, some are from Croatia, some are just like me, some are nothing like me. but we are all sisters, and we are all striving to obtain charity – that pure love of Christ which never fails.

This Saturday evening at 6PM MDT, the General Women’s Broadcast will be aired. We will be meeting as women – as sisters – ages 8 and up – to be taught by our leaders, the apostles, and prophets. We will be able to attend this meeting, for the first time, with our mothers and young daughters. All together!!! We will be reminded of our work, we will be edified, and we will be able to leave the meeting resolved to keep striving and overcome the sad, terrifying, horrible things that the world is trying to throw at us.

***

Moi, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and the Relief Society.
Moi, Daughter, Sister, Wife, Mother, Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints and the Relief Society.

I am so grateful for my membership in the Relief Society. Ironically, the longest I’ve ever been in Relief Society was when I was a teacher for about three or four months. Otherwise, I have served with the children or youth. But this doesn’t nullify my membership in this divine group of women. I love knowing that anywhere I go, I will find women that I can call my sisters. I’m convinced that we, members of the Relief Society, can change the world – little by little. I don’t think my claim is outrageous, either. After all, the Relief Society claims that Charity never faileth, and we have the opportunity to live up to this standard.

Through my membership in the Relief Society, I have become a better woman. I have come closer to my Heavenly Father. I have been able to better understand the meaning and purpose of my life, personally. At Relief Society, I have felt camaraderie, I have laughed, I have cried, and I have been elevated.

***
Are you a member of the Relief Society? How do you feel about being a member of this sisterhood? What can you do to commit yourself to it’s motto – that Charity never faileth? What are your feelings of Relief Society and being a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

If you are not Mormon, what are the questions that you have about the Relief Society and about women in the LDS church. I am open to a kind and honest dialogue, so ask away!

Joy Project – Week 7 of 52

Time for a little catch up…

Week seven of the Joy Project

February 10, 2014 – Priesthood Blessings

Homey and Little Homey at the Gilbert Temple Open House.
Homey and Little Homey at the Gilbert Temple Open House.

This isn’t about the Gilbert Temple Open House. Instead it is about Homey. I chose this picture of the temple because it is through temple covenants and the Priesthood that Homey has become the man he is today. He takes his covenants seriously and serves our family.

Today, I went to the doctor because I’ve been having earaches. The doctor gave me advice, and I was feeling a little bit unsure. I decided to ask Homey to give me a Priesthood blessing.

One thing I’m really grateful for is the fact that any man in the church, as long as he is found worthy, can officiate in the priesthood. This service isn’t relegated only to those who go to seminaries. It is available to all men starting at the age of 12. The Priesthood teaches men to serve God and honor the commitments and covenants they have made with Him. When men magnify their priesthood, they also magnify womanhood. They show more love and compassion. They serve others. I really think that the priesthood is what makes a man. Instead of being married to some “guy” or some “boy,” Homey is a loving, strong, and capable man. This is because of the Priesthood that he bears.

I asked him for a a blessing, and I was filled with joy as I felt the words that Heavenly Father had for me.

*If you are not Mormon, but want to understand what a Priesthood blessing is, you can either email me or read more here.

As Homey began the blessing, I was verbally reminded of how much Heavenly Father loves me. As Homey uttered the words, I realized that every blessing I’ve received or witnessed has started in a similar way. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love each of us, and they want us to know this, too.

Joy is being married to a man who honorably holds the Priesthood and uses this power to serve our family. Joy is receiving a blessing and being reminded of God’s love for me, specifically. Joy is knowing that I’m on track, I can stay the course, and that I can be confident.

February 11, 2014 – Tiger

T-Rex and Tiger
T-Rex and Tiger

There are times (a lot of them) when the kids cry, tease, and are just mean to one another. I don’t really understand it. Well, I suppose I do. They are tired. They are dealing with changes in their own lives. They are human.

My oldest two (Tiger and Panda) are really good to one another, but every once in a while, they can be – well – jerks. They have their own little power-plays, and the contention drives me up the wall.

Yesterday, after an altercation, I made Tiger and Panda apologize and then take a time out in their rooms. While in their rooms, they had to write an entry in their journal – about how to be better to each other. I didn’t make them read what they wrote, I simply told them to do it.

Today, I had another experience during a quiet time of the day. It brought me a lot of joy. I was reminded of what a good girl Tiger is. She wants to do what is right. She doesn’t want to fight with her sister, but they disagree at times. Her life is changing. She is in the Young Women’s now. She is in Junior High. Her world is shifting, and sometimes that is difficult to negotiate, but she wants to choose the right. She has a testimony. And, even when I giver her punishments, she loves me.

Joy is a daughter who wants to do what is right.

February 12, 2014 – Art Closet

Today, I started on a big project.

Big Time Clean-Up Job
Big Time Clean-Up Job

I have an art closet. It is supposed to be a linen closet, but I have to admit, I’d rather stuff my linens under the sinks and above the toilets so I can have space for all of my craft supplies.

If you think this is a lot, you should know 1)This isn’t even half of the closet. 2)I have downsized from a craft room to a craft closet, and that was a big deal.

Like anything in life, you can go along, ignoring your art closet (or anything else, for that matter) until the point comes when you can’t open the door for fear of being crushed by your junk. That’s when you need to clean it out!

So I did. It took a little while, but it was fun. I was able to find some things that I had been looking for. I also found things I didn’t even know I had…like this gem:

Hahahahaaaaa!
Hahahahaaaaa!

Joy is cleaning your closets. I forget this all the time. Whenever I need to clean a closet, I put it off telling myself how much I loathe cleaning and organizing. In this procrastination, the mess usually gets so bad that it reaches a fever pitch where I finally give in and clean. And then, every time I do, I’m so happy that I did it! Joy is finding old stuff and being reminded of projects that need completing. Joy is finding an organizing book in the back of your horribly crazy craft closet.

February 13 – A Sleeping Boy

I know that a lot of these posts are about my kids. But really, nothing brings me more joy than something like this:

I don't have enough kisses for him.
I don’t have enough kisses for him.

Our little T-Rex is always full-throttle. He is “all boy.” He loves to run, jump, play, and do anything that is life-threatening.

He is happy, happy, happy, but is also a little on the aggressive side. (I don’t mean that he is mean-aggressive, I just mean that everything he done is rougher and tougher. When he plays, he is playing aggressively. When he hugs and kisses, he squeezes and slobbers. Everything is more intense with the T-Rex.

I love it.

Yet, it gets a little tiring, and I have to admit that one of my favorite things in the world is when he is peacefully sleeping after a long day of playing.

Joy is a little boy that is all boy. Joy is having a fourth kid that is still teaching you so much about everything. Joy is seeing that active little boy rest.

February 14, 2014 – Valentine’s Day

My feelings about Valentine’s Day have changed throughout the years.

Valentine's Flowers
Valentine’s Flowers

There were times when I was against it (the principle of it, of course). When I was in high school, I thought of myself as smart and not bound by convention. In fact, I loved to buck against convention. All of my friends were skateboarders and had dyed hair. (I never did that – and not because of convention – it was out of being even more unconventional. I didn’t want to follow the group of kids who were doing something just because everyone else wasn’t. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I’m sure a psychiatrist has something to say about this). Anyway – during those years, I hated the idea of Valentine’s day because it seemed so contrived and fake. We should just love one another.

When I got married (to Rusty), I was originally feeling like Valentine’s Day was a load of phooey. I would tell him that I didn’t need any jewelry or card. I didn’t want a teddy bear. Whatevs. I worked at a Hallmark store, and there was more than one man who rushed in 10 minutes before close and asked me, “Do you think that you can find me a Valentine’s card that my wife would like?” (uhhhhh)…

My feelings about Valentine’s day began to shift while I was married to Rusty, however. Our marriage was *lacking* to say the least. We rarely dated. I rarely felt like Rusty knew I existed. Valentine’s Day became a day that I felt, “Surely he’ll do something for me today. Surely he’ll care about me today. He has to.” I was originally grateful that there was a day where we were forced to remember our loved ones.

Then, Things fell apart between Rusty and I (Were they ever not?). This happened only a few days before Valentine’s Day. I spent Valentine’s Day 2005 feeling sorry for myself and every other person on the earth. (Whether or not they were in a relationship, I was sorry for them. It was a cynical time in my life).

While I was single, Valentine’s Day got a little better. One year, a man I dated got me roses and chocolate. It was cheesy and cliche. It was conventional and normal. It was everything I was against (when I was younger), but I was grateful for the attention. This man’s romanticism (and machismo, I dare say), was exactly what I needed after nearly 7 years with Rusty).

After this experience, though, I kind of went back to my original feelings about love/Valentine’s Day – cheesy and kind of stupid.

Then, I met Homey (online)… Even though we were 2,000 miles apart, I had my best Valentine’s Day ever. It was simple and honest, and that is when I started to like it.

Valentine’s Day isn’t about chocolate, jewelry, teddy bears and cards. It’s about honesty and love. Being with Homey has taught me this. Valentine’s day is a day we can celebrate our relationships. One legend tells that back in the day, Christians couldn’t get married, and St. Valentine would marry them in secret. Pretty rad. Another one says that Claudius II (I believe) felt that unmarried men made better soldiers, so marriage was outlawed in Rome. Valentine would marry these men in secret. (Also rad). I believe in marriage, and it seems like every legend of St. Valentine centers on marriage and love.

And now that I’m married to Homey, I feel love in my marriage all the time. Valentine’s Day came, and I wasn’t even looking forward to it – not because I hate it, but because it doesn’t matter that much to me anymore. I don’t need it to exist so that Homey will recognize me, pay attention to me, or express love to me. I know he loves me. Valentine’s day is a nice date night, where Homey buys me some flowers and maybe a little gift. But he really doesn’t need to because his real gift to me is his willingness to make me feel secure and loved in our marriage every single day.

I will say, though, Valentine’s day has the cutest decor. 🙂

Joy is a holiday dedicated to love and marriage. Joy is knowing that you have a spouse who cares about you, prays for you, cheers for you, listens to you. Joy is having evidence of this 365 days a year, not only when he is forced to by Hallmark.

February 15, 2014 – Gardens

We took a family adventure to the Desert Botanical Gardens. It is beautiful.

Chihuly in the Garden
Chihuly in the Garden

This Saguaro is dying, you can see its "skeleton"
This Saguaro is dying, you can see its “skeleton”
Butterly
Butterly
Deedle's Dirty Toes
Deedle’s Dirty Toes
Hummingbird in the garden
Hummingbird in the garden
More Dirty Toes.
More Dirty Toes.
Blooming Cactus
Blooming Cactus
Severed Cactus Limb...pretty
Severed Cactus Limb…pretty
Touch me
Touch me
BZZZ
BZZZ
Blooming Cactus
Blooming Cactus
:)
🙂
So much love.
So much love.

It was a nice day, the kids ran and played. T-Rex got too close to cactus and would say, “ooohhhh! Yucky Cactus!” (He has learned that cactus are painful through sad experience). I loved spending time with the family.

Joy is taking a ride to public(?) professional (?) gardens. Joy is taking time with family on a Saturday afternoon. Joy is a bunch of cute kids and dirty toes.

February 16, 2014 – Happy Birthday!

My old man is 60 years young.

Senior Portrait
Senior Portrait

I’m grateful for my dad. He adopted me when I was four, and I’ve known him since I was two. He raised me and cared for me. He taught me to read, enjoy baseball, bake cookies, and have a sense of humor about everything. I’m grateful for him, and I love him.

Joy is having family. Joy can be laced with melancholy knowing that your dad is thousands of miles away. Joy is looking forward to visiting him. Joy is having a good example of how to be a parent. Joy is having a dad – no matter how he came into that role in my life.

***
What has brought you joy this week? (Don’t worry, I’ll be updating more later today/tomorrow!)