Senior Missionaries and the Gospel – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying Senior Missionaries and the Gospel, by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the October 2004 General Conference.

Okay, so I can remember more details about the October 2004 General Conference. First of all, two apostles had died between then and the April conference – so two new apostles were sustained: Dieter F. Uchtdorf and David A. Bednar. It’s always an exciting thing when new apostles are called.

In my own personal life, I had recently moved from Utah back to PA with my (then ex-husband) and two daughters. We were living at my mom’s house while we were trying to find a place to live in PA.

Otherwise, I can’t say that I specifically remember this talk – especially given the subject matter. (I was a young mom, being a senior missionary seemed a ways off). Even now, the topic doesn’t feel totally relevant for me, but I’m still studying the message. There are good things to learn.

Missionary couple

Hasten Your Shuffle

A cute quote from President Nelson:

“I express gratitude for our senior missionaries. They are young in spirit, wise, and willing to work. They even tolerate remarks from their fun-filled children who might change President Spencer W. Kimball’s plea “Lengthen your stride” to “Hasten your shuffle.” – Russell M. Nelson

I can recall that around the time that this talk was given, there were a lot of pleas and requests from our own local authorities to have senior couples serve missions. I was in my early twenties at the time, and there wasn’t really a way that I could go and serve, but I was inspired by these requests. I remember hearing testimonies of returned senior missionaries. I didn’t serve a mission in my younger years, and I knew that I wanted to go on a mission one day.

In fact, in 2002, when the Nauvoo temple was rebuilt and dedicated, I went to the dedication broadcast with one of my good friends. She happened to know the couple who had been called to be the temple president and matron of the temple. She made a remark to me about them, and I had a very strong prompting at that moment. I needed to do what I could then (when I was only in my early 20s) to prepare spiritually, physically, and financially to be able to serve a mission in my later years.

Any time I read talks like President Nelson’s, I’m reminded of this experience, and I pray that I will be prepared – spiritually, physically, and financially so I can serve God in my later years (they are much closer now!!!)

Gratitude

During his talk, President Nelson quoted Heber J. Grant:

“At general conference in October 1925, President Heber J. Grant issued a clarion call for “men of mature years and sound judgment, who have had experience in the preaching of the gospel, … to go forth and labor in the mission field.” – Heber J. Grant as quoted by Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson continued:

“That need persists.” – Russell M. Nelson

Again, I don’t currently have the opportunity to serve a mission right now, but I feel pretty sure that the need for missionary couples will still exist when I am in a position to serve. So, I wonder, will I be ready? Even though I cannot serve now, I can express my gratitude to Heavenly Father for the gift of the gospel by doing what I need to prepare for a mission.

Preparations

Even though President Nelson didn’t directly address this in his talk, this is where I feel like my own study and application of it is taking me. So, I will study three ways to prepare for a mission.

Spiritual Preparation

This is the most obvious type of preparation that we will need to make. I suppose to really prepare spiritually for a mission, we will first need to identify what it is that we will share on a mission.

Simply put: the gospel.

President Nelson taught:

“All of us may preach the gospel by precept and example. The word gospel means “good news.” The good news is the Lord Jesus Christ and His message of salvation.” – Russell M. Nelson

We can prepare ourselves for our missions by learning and living the gospel. This is done in the obvious ways – prayer, studying the scriptures, attending church meetings. Another important thing we can do to spiritually prepare for our mission is to find and hone our talents.

My piano teacher chose to serve a mission in her later years. When she served, she was often teaching the piano to members of her wards so they could have accompaniment during sacrament and primary. Had she not spent the time to cultivate her talent, she wouldn’t have been able to serve as richly.

There are so many other examples, too. Whatever it is we are good at, I’m sure that the Lord will utilize. Gardening, cooking, art, accounting, speaking a foreign language, cleaning teeth, etc. These are all ways that we may be asked to serve in the future. Not only that, but we can also do more to study new interests and curiosities. This may also help us to serve the Lord later on.

It’s important to remember that spiritual preparation for a mission (whether your serving when you’re young or when you’re a little older) is not relegated only to scripture study/prayer/church. Yes – that kind of spiritual preparation is important. We need to have testimonies. We need to know what it’s like to grow our testimony. We need to have the ability to teach others, testify to others, to bear one another’s burdens and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. This is of critical importance.

But we shouldn’t overlook how our many other talents might be utilized by the Lord to spread the good word of His gospel.

Physical Preparation

The hard thing about serving a mission in later years is that…you’re old.

I’m currently in my 40s. I can absolutely tell that I’m not the spritely young woman I was 20 years ago. My hips crack all the time. I need more sleep. I’ve even starting spotting grey hairs! But for the most part, I have great health. My mind is sharp and active. I can walk for miles and miles. I am capable physically of doing most things that I need or want to do.

I’m at a point in my life where I am realizing that this will not always be the case! And I’ve come to a really brutal awakening recently (with a mild health scare) that if I don’t take steps now to manage my health, then I’ll have real problems as I age.

I don’t want real problems as I age.

Not only that, but as I study President Nelson’s words, I realize that if I want to prepare to serve a mission in my later years, then I need to manage myself physically so that I will be able to do so. President Nelson stated:

“As I extol the work of senior missionaries, I realize that there are many more who would like to serve but are not able to do so.” – Russell M. Nelson

It’s interesting to think about physical preparation and its effect on our ability to serve as we age – while reading a talk by President Nelson. The man is turning 95 YEARS OLD September 9th. He just doesn’t seem like a 95 year old!

Last year, President Nelson happen to come to our sacrament meeting one week during the summer. Seeing him in person, I admit – he looked old. But he moved well. His mind was so sharp. He just didn’t seem to be in his 90s.

620president-russell-m-nelson-a-renaissance-man_20
This picture is fun…and the cardigan makes me think of Mr. Rogers…
President Nelson Fishing
Gone fishing’!
President Nelson Skiing
President Nelson is in the Light Red jacket – fourth from the left. 

I’ve been trying to research more about President Nelson’s health habits. I can’t find anything about his specific choices. But, from what I can conclude – having read so many of his talks and knowing of his background in medicine – I figure, he is probably following the word of wisdom.

So much has been physically expected of President Nelson – and others who serve in the church. Even though I can’t serve now, I can prepare myself by taking good care of my body so that I will have a strong and active body that is ready to serve my God.

Financial Preparation

Though nothing is stated about financial preparation in this talk, I do feel like it is worth pondering for a moment.

First of all – President Nelson talked about “qualifications” for service:

“Many humble Latter-day Saints fear that they are not qualified for missionary labors. But to such a prospective missionary, the Lord has given this assurance: “Faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.” – Russell M. Nelson

There is no financial, physical, or spiritual “qualification” for serving God. We simply need to have a desire to serve, and faith, hope, and charity. Yes, there are logistical and even financial concerns when it comes to a mission, but we don’t have to worry about that. As President Nelson explained:

“Opportunities for senior missionaries are varied and vast. Their calls to serve are officially made after prayerful consideration has been given to their occupational background, language experience, and personal capabilities.” – Russell M. Nelson

I don’t think that we need to get all stressed out about this kind of preparation. Yet, I also feel that it is appropriate to ask – are there things that I can do now to prepare, financially, for a mission? I don’t think that there is one single answer to this question that is applicable to everyone.

In fact, I feel that this is probably a question that we should take to the Lord as individuals. And then, the Lord will direct us on what we need to do.

The answer might be something like “save some money from every paycheck.”

The answer might be “get out of debt.”

Then again, the answer might be “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?…Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take athought for the things of itself.” (See Matthew 6:31,34.)

I don’t know what the Lord will direct you to do if you feel prompted to seek his counsel in this regard. But I do know that if we go to the Lord, He will help us to understand how we ought to personally prepare for the future.

Confessional Conclusion

I’ll wrap this up right now. I’m so grateful for the words of the prophets. I have to confess: I was about to skip this talk. Based on the title, it just didn’t seem applicable to me at all. I’m at least a decade away from being in a position where I can serve a mission. I have things to worry about right now. It just didn’t seem all that applicable.

But as I studied, I realize I’m at a really important part of my life right now. I’m fully in mid-life mode. I kind of glided through my 20s. I had some real defining moments in my 30s. I’m realizing that I’m laying the ground work for my own “old age” years RIGHT NOW. The pathways in the brain are getting pretty worn in, but I can take stock and ask myself – If I continue on in these habits, where will I be in 20, 30, 40 more years???

I know that our brains are “plastic,” and that we can always change, but it sure gets a lot harder to change when we hit the same synapses over and over and over again. It will be easier for me to blaze some new trails now and get them nice and worn rather than try to fight my way through the jungle of habits and my brain in the decades to come. (Does any of this make sense?!) These choices now will impact my future – when this talk will be applicable to me!

So – what am I doing now? Spiritually? Do I bear sweet fruit? Or am I starting to become cynical, impatient, and bitter? Is there a spiritual “pathway” that I need to forge so I can better serve the Lord in the future (and just live a better life, in general!)?

What am I doing now, physically? Do I keep the Word of Wisdom? Am I treating my body like a temple by eating lots and lots of veggies, fruits and plants? Do I eat plenty of grains? Am I reserving meat for times of utter desperation and famine? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I walking and exercising? Or am I doing destructive things? These choices (dietary, etc) may not seem harmful today, but they will be compounded day by day. What will my life look like in 2 decades – will I be spry and skiing with the best of them? Or will I be suffering with a condition that was avoidable??? The time for me to make this choice is right now.

What am I doing now, financially? Am I working hard so that I can be capable of serving the Lord? Am I paying my tithing? Or have I made possessions and material items my god???

***

I’m thankful for a prophet who has been willing to serve. President Nelson was called as an apostle in 1984. He has been serving as an apostle and now prophet for 35 years. Wow. He lives what he preaches. And we have been blessed by his humble and dedicated sacrifice.

In the Lords Own Way – Russell M. Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family

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

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

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

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

President Nelson taught:

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

***

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

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

The Church Organization

There are times when families cannot help.

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Poverty

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

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

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

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

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

President Nelson shares:

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

No Poor Among Them

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

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

But that is not God! President Nelson teaches:

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

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

As President Nelson said, then:

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

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

***

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

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

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

Light the World Day Three

I know – I haven’t written for Days One or Two of Light the World…but better late than never, right?

Light the World is a fun Advent Calendar with scriptures and ideas that promote service during this time of year when we think of the Savior’s birth.

Today’s prompt:

“Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath Day,” (Matthew 12:12

God designed the Sabbath Day as a day of rest, but that doesn’t mean that we should be idle on this day. Instead, we should use our time and talents to bless others.”

***

I have been in a little bit of a rut with my scripture study for the past few weeks, so this morning I decided that it would be good for me to study the scriptures used for the #lighttheworld campaign. The scripture listed for today was only a part of the verse. The entire verse of Matthew 12:12 reads:

“How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.” – Matthew 12:12

So the context of this scripture is that the Pharisees ask the Savior if it is lawful for him to heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.

Christ isn’t intimidated by the posturing of the Pharisees. We read what the Savior said next:

“And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?

How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.

Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.” – Matthew 12:11-13

So – I often think about the gospel in terms of those who don’t have any faith – and how they might perceive what the Savior teaches. And he asks the question, How much then is a man better than a sheep?

It’s an interesting question in a way. There are some people who might not think that people are any better than sheep – other than maybe we can reason and we are intellectual. Maybe some people would be offended that the Savior would imply that humans are better than sheep.

And, if we believed only in evolution, without any creator or God, then what is the answer to this question?  If we are trying to explain what the Savior is teaching to those who don’t have faith, what is it that we say?

Well…the Savior’s question is valid when we remember the truth of the matter. We can’t look only at evolution because there is more to the creation of this world that chance and evolution. There IS a Creator! This is crucial to remember, too.

We have a Creator, and He is our Father. The Savior, Himself, assisted in this creation. We are children of God. This is why humans – men and women – are important! This is why the Savior responds with his example of saving a sheep and then compares it with serving a person.

We are children of God!

What a thing to believe and know. Do we understand what this means? I am a child of God. You are a child of God. We are all brothers and sisters of a loving God. When we remember this fact, then we are more prone to act as the Savior did – reaching out to serve those who are in need.

***

By the way – the sheep in this story is pulled out of the pit. This isn’t an “either or” situation. On Sabbath days, sheep are pulled out of pits. On Sabbath Days, people are healed. The Sabbath is a day of rest from our labors – to give us the opportunity to commune with our God through worship, connect with others in our families and community, and to give Christlike service to others.

 

The Atonement: Christ’s Advice on Giving Alms

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, and Luke. (John coming soon.)

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ – Assignment for Matthew 6

“1. In Matthew 6, Christ is still teaching the Sermon on the Mount that began in chapter 5. Specifically, He is speaking to His apostles and servants in the church. His teachings—His ministry—are a part of His primary purpose and are the set up to His eventual Atonement. See if you can find how the Savior’s teachings in this chapter fit into the work of the Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, and your life, personally.

2. In this chapter, we have examples of how not to do and how to do certain things. What are these things? What does Christ teach about them? Can you think of times when Christ models the way to do what He is teaching? How does His example help you to better understand Christ and your relationship with Him? How does understanding the way He serves, fasts, and prays help you to gain insight on the act of the Atonement?

3. Think of the last major section of this chapter (“Take no thought for your own life…” in verse 25). How did Christ exemplify this? How does the Atonement help us “not to take thought of our own lives”? Is there anything we can do to work out our salvation on our own? What do we rely on in order to receive salvation? How can you apply His example in your own life?” – New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

So – in Matthew 6, Christ continues with the Sermon on the Mount. As I studied this chapter, I found that there are six main categories of advice that He gives (both a do and a do not). He teaches us how to give alms, pray, forgive, fast, manage our finances/materialism, remain loyal to God.

This blog post will focus on giving alms.

The Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount

Doing Alms

Do

  • Do them in secret – Your left hand won’t know what your right hand does.

Don’t

  • Don’t sound a trumpet when you do them.
  • Don’t do them before men – to be seen of them.

Why?
This advice, not to do our alms to be seen of men is the first thing mentioned in this chapter. Why does it matter? Isn’t doing good doing good – even if others see?

And, even as I write this, I realize my mistake. Jesus teaches not to do alms before men to be seen of men. This explanation helps us understand what Christ means. Of course, there are times when we will do our alms, and it will be obvious – because it is the nature of that kind of service.

I think of a few years ago, when the tornado hit Joplin. Within days, members of the church were set up, cleaning and serving the people. They were wearing yellow helping hands tee-shirts. They were seen while serving.

The key question is, who is magnified. Yes, they were wearing yellow vests – but not to elevate any single person. Instead, when and if we ever do our alms before men, it isn’t to make ourselves look better – it is to magnify the Lord and build His kingdom. Our actions should be directing people to Christ, not to ourselves. We can learn more about this by studying the Savior’s example.

Doing Alms, Christ, and the Atonement
Christ’s motive for performing the Atonement wasn’t for fame, money, position, or power. It was for us. Christ performed the Atonement so we could overcome the effects of the fall and receive salvation.

In fact, had Christ been looking for the glory of men, I don’t think that He would have been crucified by the Pharisees. If He was looking for acceptance and power, He probably would have united with them.

The performance of the Atonement in the garden of Gethsemane was done completely alone. Christ suffered with only the support of an angel. He didn’t do this in front of anyone. He didn’t suffer the sins of all in the town square, with a trumpet, and demanding attention be placed on Him. Christ suffered, alone, in a garden, while his friends slept.

Though Christ gave the greatest of all alms all alone, He was rewarded openly. He was resurrected and glorified. And thanks to this selfless act, we can all be rewarded with such a reward.

***
What have you learned about giving alms? What does Christ’s example – especially when He performed the Atonement – teach you about service?

Joy Project–Week 5 of 52

Week five of the Joy Project

January 27, 2014 – Good Health

Unfortunately, it seems like it takes bad health to help us appreciate good health. I mean, I really try to appreciate my health. I eat fruits and veggies, I floss my teeth every day, I drink water, and I run. But I still get sick or injured, and when I do, I realize how wonderful good health is.

It’s even worse when our little ones get sick.

Today, T-Rex and I were doing some grocery shopping, and suddenly he started crying. Like really crying. I mean, I haven’t heard him cry this way since he was teething.

Fortunately, he is old enough to tell me what is wrong. He clutched his ear and started shouting, My ear!!! It really hurts mommy! I wanna go home. Unfortunately, for him, he’s the youngest of four, we needed groceries, and I was halfway done. I gave him a muffin to distract him for a few more minutes. When he lost patience, I went over to the medicinal section of the store, found a box of eardrops, ripped them open, dropped four drops in his ear, then, for good measure, I let him play with my phone. (This is huge. My kids don’t get to touch my phone, ever.) He seemed okay, so I finished my shopping.

By the time we were leaving, he was clutching his ear again. I felt a little horrible at this point (only because I was talking to the cashier and had to be accountable for my stalling). I explained to her that we had a doctor’s appointment that afternoon (his well check-up! Perfectly timed!), and I tried to convince her that I really do care about my children.

We got home, I gave him Acetaminophin, and let him watch a movie. He settled down, and later was proscribed an antiobiotic for an ear infection. (This is the first ever ear infection for any of our children!)

Where’s the joy in this?
Joy is good health. It is a body that functions. And joy can even be bad health because it is knowledge that we are here, on this earth, enjoying this world in any way possible. Joy is experiencing a sick day – making the nice, healthy days even more dazzling.

January 28, 2014 – An Adventure and Hope

We went on an adventure today–to the thrift shop.

I forgot to take a picture, but I’ll be better in the future, I promise!!!

In my quest to be a better, more exciting but also wiser mother, I’ve decided to kind of “package” our chores and errands a little differently. I needed to take a load of clothes and stuff to Goodwill, so I announced that this weeks’s adventure would be to the thrift shop!

Apparently, I’m better at sales than I previously imagined, as the kids were excited.

Usually, I do adventures during the school day with the younger two. My older kids are reasonably jealous, but for now, that’s just how it is going. I can’t do adventures after school, and we already have enough going on over the weekends. So, Panda was delighted to hear that this adventure would be happening while she was sick at home.

Panda, Sasquatch, the T-Rex, and I loaded up our goods, got a few dollars, and headed to the local Goodwill. I don’t think that I’ve ever taken my kids to the thrift shop. We sifted through books and trinkets. I didn’t let them look through the toys. (We probably donated half of them! Our house is overrun with toys that the kids don’t play with anymore!) We found a few treasures and took them to the register.

It was another successful adventure…for the most part. I kept feeling a mixture of sadness due to Tiger’s absence and hope. I’ve been thinking about homeschooling lately. In some ways, the idea seems insane to me. But I also have many other reasons why I’ll be doing it. As we took our little adventure to the thrift store, everything about my life felt so natural and meaningful. It was a confirmation to me that homeschooling next year is the right thing for our family.

Joy is a little adventure. It is family. Joy is receiving small, simple whisperings that you are on the right track–even though the right track can be so unconventional and crazy.

January 29, 2014 – The Perfect Morning

I've got a great life.
I’ve got a great life.

I really can’t complain. I get to study my scriptures, at my table, with this little helper every morning.

Joy is a playful puppy who will take a break to rest his shaggy little head in your lap while you read scriptures.

January 30, 2014 – An Active Three-Year Old Boy

Setting up
Setting up
The throw
The throw
strike!
strike!

These days, my house often sounds like a bowling alley. The T-Rex loves these cheap bowling pins we got from an unnamed box-store years ago. The T-Rex is picky. He must get a strike. If he doesn’t get a strike, it is likely there will be a mild melt-down. However, when he gets a strike, he jumps, he dances, he does the splits. I love his little celebrations.

Joy is having a three-year old boy in the home. Sure, life can a little wild, competitive, and emotional, but it is joyful nonetheless.

January 31, 2014 – Subbing

Wow.
Wow.

Today, I had the chance to sub for Sasquatch’s preschool. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of work. I came away with the realization that we don’t pay our teacher enough! 😉

Joy is hanging out with a bunch of eager four and five year olds. Joy is seeing them learn. Joy is reading with them and teaching them about Punxatawny Phil. Joy is also knowing that I was subbing, and that Mrs. G. will be back on Monday!

February 1, 2014 – Righteousness

wild times
wild times

Homey, his brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, and I went to the Phoenix Open. It was a lot of fun. I’ve never been to a PGA event before. I have to admit, I’m not all that into golf.

Homey, however, loves golf. You have to realize that saying Homey loves golf is the understatement of the century. I’m sure that many of you can relate.

It was fun to go to a PGA event – to see truly great golfers and to see Homey so excited.

The Phoenix Open, however, isn’t like most Golf Tournaments. It is rowdy. People drink a lot. There is a lot of swearing and girls dressed very immodestly. The tone is “party.” It isn’t too different than a football or hockey game. Actually, I think that most of the football and hockey games I’ve been to have been a little more family friendly.

Even though we had a lot of fun, there was a general sense of disappointment(?) when we left. I’m not sure if disappointment is the right word. Discomfort, for sure. My sister-in-law said, “I feel like I need to take a shower to rid me of the spiritual filth.” I understood what she meant.

While we had fun, I came home with a greater appreciation for the gospel. The gospel teaches me to love my body, my temple. The gospel teaches men to appreciate and love women–rather than objectify them. The gospel teaches us that wickedness never was happiness and why this is true.

Joy is righteous living. Joy may not seem as exciting – in a worldly perspective – but that worldly perspective is skewed and just plain wrong. Joy is control over my body and emotions. Joy is consciously experiencing the world around me. Joy is appreciating the talents of others in an uplifting way.

February 2, 2014 – Serving Others

I don’t have a picture for this, and I don’t have details, but I have my little “Joy is” statement.

Joy is serving others. Joy is praying to God that you can help someone. Joy is receiving an inspiration that you don’t even understand. Joy is following that prompting, quietly and anonymously serving someone, and then finding out later that she was in true need of the service provided. Joy is knowing that Heavenly Father is mindful of all of us, and if we let Him, we can be instruments in His hands to bring happiness and comfort to others.

***
What has brought you joy this week?

Three Steps to Accessing the Atonement (Mosiah 7:33)

Lately, I’ve been studying the Atonement more. (See here and here). The thing that is interesting to me about studying the Atonement is learning that I need to know more: that it could be a more potent source of power in my life.

This picture really has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty!!!
This picture really has nothing to do with the post, but it is pretty!!!

Now, I have felt the power of the Atonement in my life. I have felt a change in my heart several times over the years. I have been a recipient of miracles and blessings. I have a testimony in the Savior and the love that He has expressed through the Atonement.

But, I know that there is more and that I need it. Lately, I have become very aware of some of my weaknesses. I know that weakness is not sin, yet it is the same Atonement that will forgive and heal us from our sins and strengthen us in our weakness. I know that I need to learn to access the Atonement in order to become the woman I want to be.

So, I prayed about this…how do I learn to put my burden on the Lord? The Lord implores,

“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

Even though I have done this in the past, I needed to be reminded, How do I do this…how do I come unto Him so that he can make weak things strong for me?

The cool thing about sincere prayer is that it is answered.

So…today, I was reading:

“But if ye will turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage.” – Mosiah 7:33

I mean, in some ways I have already known this, but it is always great to get a reminder, and I’m comforted to know that no matter what our “problems” are, we always access the power and blessings of the Atonement in the same way.

So…here it is: the pattern to accessing the Atonement in our lives:

  1. Turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart – To me, this means prayer, scripture study. It means opening my heart to Him.
  2. Put your trust in Him – I find this interesting. I suppose this is where I really falter. We need to trust in Christ – which means even to trust in Him as we suffer. We need to trust that the difficulties we face are known unto the Lord and that they will help us as we strive to come closer to Him.

    There are times in my life that I’m tempted to counsel the Lord instead of trust Him. It is tempting to want to tell Heavenly Father what I think I need and what I think that He should do. However, according to this scripture, and in order to access the power of the Atonement that I seek, I need to trust Him and I need to realize that He understands where I am, the challenges I’m facing, and how my own weaknesses play a part in all of it. As I struggle to figure out what the Lord wants me to learn, I can trust that indeed He wants me to learn, that I’m simply being “pruned” “refined” or whatever you’d like to say. Though these things are hard, we can trust the Lord all along this process. If we put our trust in Him, and turn to Him, we will be made into better people – which is what I want, anyway…

  3. Serve Him with all diligence mind – This is where I can also take some action. There are times when I feel like I’m not doing enough, not serving enough. Yet, as I read this scripture, I realized that the work I do in my home is one of the greatest acts of service I’ll ever do, and that when I serve my children-through doing the dishes, cooking meals, teaching them, playing with them, bathing them, paying attention to them, driving them to activities, checking homework, the list goes on and on–when I serve my children, it is legitimate service, and that in serving my kids, I’m serving His children, and that this is the way I serve Him.

    I have a feeling that if I’m more mindful of how my daily service to my family is not only part of my duty, but can be consecrated in such a way that it will help me to access the power of the Atonement that I need, then I will be able to see my life change.

When we do these three things: turn to the Lord, put our trust in Him, and serve Him, then we will be delivered out of bondage. This may be physical bondage. Or, perhaps, it is the bondage of our weakness or other difficulties we face in our lives. No matter what kind of difficulty or bondage we feel trapped by, the Lord’s Atonement will help us to overcome it. We simply must access it in the proscribed method.

***
How do you find ways to turn to the Lord, put your trust in Him, and serve Him? As you have done these things, how has the power of Christ’s Atonement delivered you from the difficulties you face in your life?

Have I Done Any Good? Journaling Idea

I don’t know about you, but for me there are days when I struggle. I mean, really, I struggle.

One
I feel simultaneously over-and-under-whelmed. There is so much for me to do. I’ve got normal chores like laundry, dishes, bathrooms, tidying up the house, cleaning kids rooms, watering the plants, etc. Then there are other chores that ought to be done: organizing closets, cleaning drawers, dusting shelves and blinds, straightening up my garage. And then there are the chores that I’d really like to do: painting my house, putting some tile in the threshold between my bathroom and bedroom (right now, it is just a gap that’s about a 1’x3′ of nothing. Exposed carpet padding and floor. Really attractive), starting a garden.

So far, that’s just the chores. Then there’s exercise, prayer, scripture study, journaling, spending time with kids, making photo albums, blogging, writing, practicing the piano, getting my sunbeam lesson ready, making dinner.

Then there are these goals that I’d really like to do – paint, learn to surf, learn Italian, learn French. Write a book for my brother. Finish my New Testament Study Companions. Finish my brother’s quilt.

Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?

And then, there’s the under-whelmed feeling. I mean, I’m not a single mom anymore. I don’t have to work and support my family anymore. I have a husband who provides me with an excellent life. I have the luxury to get bored. I have the luxury to drop everything and bake cookies. I can make the choice to waste a good half hour on Pinterest without getting into much “trouble”. I don’t have to get dressed up or even shower if I don’t want to. I don’t even have to leave my house. On the other hand, I can spend the day out – doing errands, going to the gym. Whatever. I have a lot of freedom in my life. And I truly know that I’m blessed. This freedom, this lack of accountability on my duties can feel a little “under-whelming”. I mean, who cares about me and my life? I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck.

Two
Another source of “struggling” for me–as of late–has been a little bit of “loneliness.” I’ve moved a lot in the last few years. While the moves have been for the better, moving so much makes it hard to make good, close friendships. I’ve meet friendly people everywhere I’ve lived, but it’s hard when we’re moving around so often. You know how it is.

While I’m not overly extroverted, I’m also not really introverted. In the tests I take, I always find myself right in the middle. In some ways, this sounds nice. But what it means to me is that I need balance. Too much stimulation with friends and activities, and I go crazy. Not enough…and I go crazy. Sure, I have kids, but you know that it isn’t the same as adult conversation. I start to feel a little lonely, and then I’m left by myself with my thoughts, which-when I’m feeling overwhelmed/underwhelmed-aren’t really good thoughts.

Three
I have discovered that I have really negative “mental tapes.” Mental tapes are the things that we say to ourselves over and over again. Often, they are created when we are children…My mental tapes usually have to do with how I’m a failure, and, therefore, worthless. I know that this is a lie, but still seem to say them a lot.

So…when the balance in my life is just right – when I’m neither too over or underwhelmed; or when I’m stimulated but not over-stimulated, then things are great. But how often are life’s conditions “perfect”? Even when things haven’t been “perfect” in life, I’ve been able to at least keep some things in “control.” Either I’m so overwhelmed that I don’t have time to feel “underwhelmed” and bored. Or, I have friends, and then can spend more time ignoring how I’m feeling. In any case, I’m usually able to “control” my feelings by ignoring them and paying attention to some other pressing need.

Right now, because of the aforementioned conditions One and Two, I find myself exposed to these negative mental tapes that I’ve been able to control/hide for a long time. The thing is, they are getting the best of me. It might sound absurd, but it happening. In some ways, I hate myself for feeling so down in the dumps and frustrated with myself when life is so good. In other ways, I’m realizing that this “down time” in life is a good time for me to do a true reckoning of my Spirit. I’m beginning to see that I need to address the mental tapes I have and the underlying factors causing them.

***
Well, I have been praying for help, and since my mental tapes have a lot to do with failure/worthlessness, I realized that I need to do a better accounting of the good I do. But I didn’t really have my finger on what it was that I wanted to do.

A while later, I was listening to an past conference talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard – Be Anxiously Engaged and I was struck by the idea of being able to answer yes to the question: “Have I done any good in the world today?” I knew that even though I wasn’t going out and feeding thousands of hungry orphans, I was doing good every day. I had a feeling that I needed to do a better job recognizing it.

Finally, I came across the following quote on managing our “vexing feelings of inadequacy”:

“We can make quiet by more honest inventories of our strengths. Most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming ‘outside auditors.’ He who in the first estate was thrust down delights in having us put ourselves down. Self contempt is of Satan; there is none of it heaven.” – Neal A. Maxwell (quoted in Weakness is Not a Sin, by Wendy Ulrich, emphasis added.)

This was Me exactly!!! I realized, I’m not a honest bookkeeper. I let Satan influence my thoughts via deeply trenched negative mental tapes. Self contempt!? Try self-loathing! And of course it’s of Satan. When I get on the self-contempt/loathing train, I’m ineffective, sad, and moody. When it gets really bad, I’ll feel so discouraged about all of my goals/expectations that I’ll often do things that will have obvious and direct negative effects. For example, if I’m feeling really upset about my weight, I’ll start to get so down about it, I figure that the only thing left to do is eat a bunch of cake. Which, as you know, ends up making the problem worse. It’s a cycle. A pretty stupid cycle, but I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who does stuff like this.

***
So – on to the point of this whole blog post…

Have I done Any Good Journal Idea

Journaling Idea
Journaling Idea

I decided that I needed to become a better “bookkeeper.” I bought myself a cute journal, and have dedicated it to recording the good I’ve done every day. Every night, I ask myself, Have I done any good in the world today? And I mean this question in it’s simplest sense. I don’t mean to ask myself if I’ve done something that someone else would consider “service.” I mean good. Have I done any good??? And the thing is, usually the answer is yes. For most of us, usually the answer is a loud yes. Yes, I’ve done some good! Yes, you’ve done some good! But most of us don’t usually take the time to recognize the good. We don’t usually take the time to feel the happiness that comes as a bi-product of doing good. Instead, it is so easy to focus on all of the good things that “we haven’t done” yet. I might have done 1,000,000 things, but if there is something I haven’t done, I focus on that one undone thing so much that I end up convincing myself that I’m worthless because I’m not perfect. (What a lie!!!)

So…it’s time to change mental tapes. It’s time to be an honest bookkeeper. It’s time to be like the virtuous woman – who

“perceiveth that her merchandise is good:” – Proverbs 31:18

Or like the Lord who

“saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:31

As I’ve begun writing this journal each night, I’ve noticed that I’m able to take greater joy in even what seems mundane.

Have I done any good? Yes. I changed diapers. Imagine what the life of my little one would be like if I hadn’t. I’m doing something that is pretty much despicable. All because there is a little boy who needs my help. He can’t thank me. He fights me the whole time I change him. Yet faithfully, I change his diaper. It may not seem like a big deal, but this is service. I’m serving one of God’s children, and even though it isn’t glamorous in the least, I can take joy in the fact that I’ve dedicated a part of my day doing something that is literally crappy. I can take joy in the fact that Heavenly Father is pleased with my offering to Him, no matter how simple it is.

I’m noticing that when I take time to perceive that what I’m doing is good, then I’m happier. I notice that I’m not failing, but truly helping to build God’s kingdom in the way that I’m capable of doing. And that what I’m offering is good. I add value and I have value. When I take time to recognize my worth, I begin to feel it, too.

So…if you’re in a bit of a “rut”…try out the Have I Done Any Good? Journal idea. Let me know how it goes, too!