Russell M. Nelson at Church

If you read this blog, then you know that recently I’ve been reading and then writing about the talks that President Russell M. Nelson has given since he was called as an apostle. It has been a great experience so far, and I plan to continue with this, but today I’m going to take a quick break.

Yesterday, at 12:45PM, my family and I packed up in our vehicle and headed off to church. There were dark skies, it looked like it would rain at any minute. Right now, I’m staying with my in-laws in a small valley in Utah, and I have to admit that I love when the skies are moody – with the threat of a mountain thunderstorm.

In my mind, I began to sing, “When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us, and threaten our peace to destroy…there is hope smiling brightly before us, and we know that deliverance is nigh…”

We headed off to church, and the song felt like a tender mercy. It was a reminder that even when life feels a little overwhelming, we can have hope – deliverance is nigh.

Sunday in Heber Valley

We got out of our car, walked into the chapel, and it felt so weird. It was sooo quiet and reverent. This is a big ward, and usually on Sunday, it is humming like a beehive, but everyone was seated and quiet. We were there 10 minutes early, but it felt like we were late.

I scanned the congregation, looking for my mother and father-in-law and my daughters, who had left a few minutes before Homey and I did with the younger two. I found them, headed to our seat, and was still feeling disoriented as it was so quiet and reverent.

While walking to our bench, I noticed someone seated on the stand. A couple of familiar faces.

President Nelson and his wife!

President and Sister Nelson
This isn’t a picture I took…I got found it here

President Nelson is not a member of my in-law’s ward. He is not a usual visitor. No one, to my knowledge, knows why he chose to visit our ward’s sacrament meeting this week, but he and his wife were there. The reverence made sense, and I found myself encouraging my children to be a little more reverent. I found myself sitting up straighter, singing louder, and taking the whole experience of sacrament meeting a little more seriously.

WHY??????!!!

As soon as I found myself taking everything at church a little more reverently and seriously, I was disappointed in myself. Sacrament meeting this week was no different than any other sacrament meeting. I was there to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament and fellowship with the saints. Why do I need to be reminded of its sanctity by the prophet?

Why can’t I take church more seriously, why can’t I be more reverent on my own accord?!

I committed to make my worship more meaningful.

Sacrament with the Prophet

I couldn’t help but find myself watching the prophet as the sacrament was administered. I felt like a child watching a parent – looking for cues on how to act, what to do. How does the prophet partake of the sacrament? I wanted to watch and know.

So I did. Well, kind of. I mean, I tried to be a little more subtle than a toddler. And I realized that I already know how to be reverent in sacrament. But I still found myself observing the prophet.

And he acted just as I suspected he would. He shut his eyes, he bowed his head.

As I watched him, I followed suit. I would peek up every once in a while. It almost felt voyeuristic because I could see that this was a very personal experience for him. It made me realize that my sacrament experience isn’t quite as personal for me. I take it, I’m grateful. But am I really internalizing it each week?

Watching the prophet also gave me a feeling that is very hard to express. The word/feeling that kept coming to mind is:

This is real.

Nervous Speakers

The bishop, when conducting, openly admitted that he was “a bit terrified.”

The youth speaker didn’t really mention her own nerves, but gracefully gave an amazing talk. She had no idea the prophet would be there that day. She gave a talk about having the Spirit with us always. She bore testimony. It was a sublime talk and a gentle reminder to me that I need to do more to sue for the Spirit each day.

The high councilman, who had just been called to his position was giving his first talk as a high councilman. Usually, they try to find a return missionary to travel with the high councilman as he speaks. He didn’t have another speaker, and was worried. Until he found that there indeed would be another speaker (or two!) that day. He was a bit flustered, but gave a good talk about family history work and how he has approached it.

Though the talks were good, I think my thoughts probably reflected the same thoughts everyone in the congregation had that day. I want to hear the prophet.

Imagining

You can’t help, in those quiet moments during talks, during songs, etc. You can’t help but wonder, how long is the prophet going to stay? Will he meet each of us? Will he shake our hands? Can we just stay in sacrament meeting instead of our other classes? Can we just ask him questions and hear his answers?

You can’t help but imagine more…I would love to tell him Thank you. I sustain you. I would love for him to look into my children’s eyes and smile – so they can meet a true prophet of God.

Of course, my imagining was interrupted by my rationality. He and his wife probably won’t stay. This is a huge congregation. How could he possibly shake all of our hands. You need to respect him and his wife and their time, Catania.

I realized something in that moment. The ache that I felt, to meet the prophet, to shake his hand, was representative another desire. The ache I felt to be close to the Prophet is actually the ache I feel to be close to the Savior.

jesus-with-mary-martha-39572-gallery
This is where I want to be one day.

I realized that President Nelson, he is the mouthpiece of the Lord. And he is here with us – in the flesh. And that, even though he is a mouthpiece, he isn’t actually the Savior either. I realized that my desire, to meet the prophet, is righteous but inaccurate. Really, I want to meet the Savior. I want to shake his hand. I want my children to meet Him. I want to worship Him in the flesh.

Again the thought came This is real.

I felt comforted to know that the ache I felt was really an ache for the Savior. It is a good feeling. And that although the Savior doesn’t dwell among us now, He has sent us a prophet. This is real! President Nelson really is a prophet of God. He really has had a witness, a special witness of Christ. President Nelson is a prophet, seer, revelator. No, we don’t worship him. He doesn’t want to be worshipped. But he does represent the Savior and the Savior’s power in a special way by virtue of his calling.

And because I could see President Nelson sitting there, a prophet of God, I could also rest assured that Christ is real! That at a future point, I will meet my Savior. I will worship Him in person. I will shake His hand, and I’ll probably cry instead of do anything meaningful or gracefulMy children will meet Him.

This is real.

Everything – everything that I’m doing in my life is because the gospel is real. The Savior is real.

I love learning things – principles – that help us to have better lives. And often I learn about these principles in books and on podcasts. And while they are very good things to learn, while they have made my life better, without the Savior no type of self improvement is even possible.

This is real! Over and over again, that was the feeling I had.

The Sacrament is a real ordinance.

The Prophet is a real man, called of God. He’s sitting up there. He looks older in person, but also realer.

The Savior is real. This is His restored Church. Every good thing in this world is possible because of Him.

Sister Nelson Speaks

After the High Councilor spoke, the Bishop announced that Sister Nelson would speak to us and then the Prophet would speak to us. He also asked us that, after the closing song, we would remain seated as the Prophet exited.

Sister Nelson got up to speak. She was wearing a purple jacket and a black scarf thing. She looked pretty but not high maintenance. “Neat and comely” is exactly how I would describe her.

As she walked up to the podium, I started to realize that so much of what “matters” to me is trivial. I’ll be absolutely honest with you, so please don’t judge me. I noticed that she is a woman, an older woman. She doesn’t have what one would describe as a “perfect body.” But she was radiant.

She radiated strength, knowledge, and testimony. She looked intelligent.

She began to speak, and everything she said reflected what she radiated. I don’t know much about her, but I felt an overwhelming amount of respect for her.

Here are a few points of what she said to us:

  • Family History work is important – she echoed the message we heard from our high councilman. … She had done a lot of family history work in her life. She had even gone to sites and found artifacts. She knew so much about her family. But for years she had never taken the time to research her family history and do temple work for her kindred.After hearing the talk The Joy of Redeeming the Dead by Richard G. Scott, she knew she needed to make a change. She told us how that talk resonated with her, and within a month of him addressing us, she had read the talk nearly a hundred times.

    Since 2012, she has read or listened to the talk over 250 times. I can’t say that I’ve ever read any conference talk so much!

    But even more important than reading a talk repeatedly, she was moved to action. She began to do the work for her family. She went to the temple. She had special experiences.

    She said that she was doing the work for the dead, then remarked, “And they don’t like being called ‘the dead,’ by the way!”

    I have been able to do work for my ancestors and family, and immediately I felt comforted by what she said. I have had my own experiences and I know that though our friends and family who are inhabiting the Spirit World may be “dead” physically, the end of our mortal lives is not the end. They are still alive – spiritually. They are working, learning, and waiting. I know that they are praying for us, and that the connection we have with our family doesn’t end with death. What a beautiful sentiment for her to share with us.

  • President Nelson is a prophet of God. She shared with us that she has had two very special and strong experiences that have testified to her that President Russell Marion Nelson is indeed God’s Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on the earth today.No, she didn’t share these experiences. She didn’t need to. I don’t need to know the details of her experiences. The Spirit confirmed to me that what she said was true. He is the prophet. I’ve had my own witness, and now I was listening to the witness of another.

The Prophet Speaks

It only took me 1,989 words to finally get to this point! After Sister Nelson was seated, President Nelson spoke to us. As he approached the stand, I put my son on my lap. I encouraged my children to listen to a Prophet of God. I wished that I would be able to record this experience. I prayed that the Holy Ghost would help me to remember what the Prophet said to us. I am still praying for that blessing now.

The Book of Mormon is the Word of God

The Prophet said a bunch of nice things to us and our ward – things that I’m sure 1) He says in every ward/branch/stake he visits 2) things he MEANS in every ward/branch/stake he visits.

Before I go on, I want to share an interesting thing…President Nelson is a normal old man. Really, I kept looking at him, looking for a shining light or halo. But he is a 93 year old man, and he looks like an 93 year old man. Well, maybe an 87 year old man. Not sure.  I’m reminded of the scripture in Isaiah:

“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” – Isaiah 53:2

This scripture is a description of the Savior, but it applies also to President Nelson. “There is no beauty that we should desire him.” He isn’t glittery or shiny. And with our natural eyes, he has no form or comeliness.

Yet, when I looked at the prophet, and let the Spirit in my heart, I began to see him a different way. I saw him with my spiritual eyes, and that is when I could really see the man he is. Then I could see that from his countenance emanated the love that he has for everyone – and the love that the Lord has for us all.

I guess I want to share this because if President Nelson is so special, why isn’t everyone just converted to the gospel when they meet him? It’s because we have to choose to see.

President Nelson started to tell us about an experience he recently had – meeting with some of the dignitaries of the NAACP. Before they met together, President Nelson wondered if they should present these dignitaries with a gift, and if so, what should that gift be?

It was concluded that they would give a gift. They decided to present these dignitaries with personal leather-bound Books of Mormon – with their names inscribed on the cover.

When they presented these Books of Mormon to the NAACP Representatives that met together, President Nelson explained that this was the most valuable and precious thing in his life, and the most valuable and precious gift that he could think of to give.

The Book of Mormon, he explained, is a testament of the Savior from the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.

He said, the Book of Mormon is far more valuable than money, diamonds, emeralds, rubies. Do we realize this?!

President Nelson mention that in one day, Joseph Smith was able to translate roughly 9 pages of the Book of Mormon. This was without a computer, word processor, spell check, etc. In fact, Oliver Cowdery was writing 9 pages of Book of Mormon text with a turkey feather quill and ink!!!!!!!  Can you even imagine? Then the Prophet continued, “And we feel accomplished when we can read one chapter in a day!”

I love the Book of Mormon, and I have a testimony of it, I felt inspired by the Prophet’s testimony, but I also felt a gentle rebuke. It IS worth more than diamonds, rubies, or the riches of the earth. And I have one. I have one on my phone. I have at least a dozen or so small “missionary” Books of Mormon – in boxes, in my suitcase. I have owned at least 3 sets of “nice scriptures” – the quads that contain all of the scriptures in one place. I have so much of this abundance in my life, that I kind of forget its value!

I read the Book of Mormon with my family, but my own personal study has suffered during our moves. What is the reason for that? Mostly it’s because I’m kind of spoiled. I forget. I forget that…

This is real!

It’s real! The Book of Mormon is real! It really came from Nephi and Jacob, and Alma and Mormon and Moroni by the command of God. The experiences related in its pages are real. The Savior really did visit the Americas after his resurrection. The Book of Mormon really will bring us closer to Christ than any other book.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ Love Each of Us

I wish, how I wish I could remember everything that the Prophet said verbatim. But I can’t.

After bearing testimony of the Book of Mormon, The Prophet encouraged everyone – and especially the youth – to study it, to read about the gathering of Israel. That his upcoming youth devotional will address the gathering of Israel, and that reading the Book of Mormon will help them to prepare for it.

He then expressed the Love that Heavenly Father has for us. I felt like the Prophet was looking right at me when he said, “Heavenly Father knows you and loves you, personally. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you, personally.” He knows our circumstances, He understands us.

I can’t remember the Prophet’s exact words, and maybe they aren’t as important as what I felt. I can remember what I felt. Often, when I receive a blessing from Homey, there is a mention of the Love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for me. Especially if this is a blessing of comfort when I’m sick or overwhelmed – there is a recognition of Heavenly Father’s and Jesus Christ’s perfect awareness of my situation – my trials, my worries, etc. In fact, I’ll share the verbiage of this type of blessing because I actually think it applies to us all:

 I bless you with peace. I bless you with the knowledge that your Heavenly Father and Savior are aware of your situation and the details in your life and in your challenges right now. I bless you that you will be able to feel their love for you, and a strong spiritual comfort that you have been led and guided by them…

As the Prophet spoke of the Love that our Heavenly Father and Savior have for each of us, I felt it specifically. I felt exactly as I feel when I receive a Priesthood Blessing.

On Saturday night, I didn’t get much sleep. We are in the middle of a big transition, a big move. This transition really has taken years of effort. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had with my family. I am grateful for the guidance of the Spirit. I’m grateful for the chances I’ve had to make sacrifices and choices. And when I’m wide awake, I’m really capable of maintaining faith and courage.

Then night comes. And I start to fall asleep. The voice of my subconscious seems to be louder and more persuasive than my rational or spiritual voices. Any of the challenges that I’m experiencing loom darker and heavier at night. Thankfully this doesn’t happen every night. Most nights I say my prayers, give Homey a kiss, and get some sleep.

But you know how it is. Sometimes there are those nights when your brain won’t turn off. The hours passed, and I finally decided to read conference talks – President Nelson’s talk about revelation, specifically.

I didn’t have any shattering revelations. Instead, my mind was occupied enough to finally doze into sleep.

As I went to church, I saw the dark clouds hanging over the valley. I felt assured that though I was overwhelmed with metaphorical “dark clouds” the Lord’s deliverance is nigh.

Then, when I heard the prophet speak, I felt reassured – yes, Heavenly Father is aware of every specific detail of my life. He will not forsake me or my family. He loves me and supports me. He loves and supports all of us. He allows us to experience hard things because the only way to the top of the mountain is up.

empire pass
It isn’t easy getting here. God knows that, and He wants us to climb anyway – because it is totally worth it!

The Lord lets us experience hard things because they give way to happy things. The Lord has blessed us with a Prophet. The Lord has given us the Gift of the Holy Ghost. He has given us the Priesthood. He has given us a Savior.

This is Real

We All Stand as the Prophet Leaves

 

The Prophet finished his remarks. He sat down. We sang a closing song. (Hymn 220 – Lord I would Follow Thee, a favorite!) After the closing prayer, we stood up and remained in our places.

The organist was a total champ. He played “We Thank Thee, Oh God, For a Prophet,” as the Prophet shook hands with the Bishop, the speakers, as the prophet slowly and happily walked down through the chapel and out the doors.

I wanted to sing out loud.

Tears fell down my cheeks – because I was consumed with the knowledge that the Savior and Heavenly Father love us, love me! They love us enough to bless us with a prophet. Tears fell because I realized that there are people who love the Lord enough to dedicate their entire lives to serving Him.

Tears fell down my cheeks because This is Real!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn’t just a nice way to gather with like-minded people. It isn’t simply a social organization. It isn’t a society of people dedicated to making this world better.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s church. He is real. His son is real. He created this earth. He knows each of us by name and loves each of us individually. The Savior really came in the meridian of time to atone for our sins, so that we could live in joy forever. The Savior really has revealed to His prophets – to guide us, teach us, and testify to us. The Savior is still revealing to His Prophet – to guide us in these latter days.

I’m so thankful to God for a Prophet. I will never forget the time I was able to partake of the Sacrament with Him. I will never forget what I felt – that this is Real. I hope that by sharing my experience with you, you are also strengthened in your knowledge that this is real. That God Loves you. That He has given us a Savior – Jesus Christ. And that we have a prophet who dwells among us on this earth today.

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Call to the Holy Apostleship – Russell M. Nelson

I’ve decided to participate in a challenge with one of my friends – reading all of the general conference addresses given by President Nelson since his call as an apostle.

Russell M Nelson 1984
Russell M. Nelson in 1984

 

Today, I read the first talk he gave as an apostle – in April 1984. I really loved this talk. It was like an introduction to President Nelson. (Obviously!) … In fact, I feel like I learned a few things about President Nelson just from this talk.

President Nelson Is Committed

A few months ago – when a press conference was held to announce the new First Presidency of the Church, I was very struck by something he said:

“I declare my devotion to God, our Eternal Father, and to His Son, Jesus Christ. I know Them, love Them, and pledge to serve Them – and you – with every remaining breath of my life.” – Russell M. Nelson

This was so poignant to me because I knew it wasn’t just something he was saying. It wasn’t proverbial. It wasn’t hopeful. It had gravity. I mean, the reason for the announcement is because the last prophet – President Monson – had just passed away. President Monson had served Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and us, with every remaining breath of his life!

And President Nelson that this would be his same charge.

It is actually the same for all of us – even though we don’t hold this calling to be the President of the Church – those of us who have covenanted with God in the waters of baptism do promise to serve Him. I have made more covenants in the temple, and I have made the promise to consecrate my life to Him.

President Nelson is the kind of man who takes his covenants and commitments seriously. In his first address as an apostle, he states:

“Feelings of commitment well up from the depths of my soul. … Today, I reaffirm that promise, to give all I have to the building of the kingdom of God on the earth. In accepting this call, knowing that challenges, charges, and keys will be conferred and that buffetings will likewise come, I commit my effort, my energy, and my all.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson has kept this commitment for the past 34 years, and he has committed to continue doing so. I think that back when he was first called to the apostleship, he would have said the same thing he said back in January – that he knows [Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ], he Loves them, and he pledges to serve them – and us – with every remaining breath of his life.

President Nelson is Aware

I’ve been pondering the idea of awareness lately…how I often go through this life with a kind of selfish attitude – thinking that I’m responsible for most of my good fortune, without really noticing the multitude of tender mercies that the Lord has given me – through his own divine hand or through the hands of others.

This may be the topic for another blog post, but I really think that one of the most poisonous things in a marriage is this very lack of awareness. It is easy for me, for example, to see everything I am doing and then overlook all that my husband is doing. It’s easy to want to be selfish or feel victimized, even though I am the recipient of so much love and service from my companion.

President Nelson, by the time he gave this conference talk in 1984 anyway, is not blind to his wife’s sacrifices and hard work. I don’t know much about her – other than she had 10 CHILDREN!!! And she was married to a heart surgeon. I’m going to assume that based on these two facts, she had to make many sacrifices for those all around her. I’m going to assume that she was the canoe, but she understood it and was okay with it.

Additionally, because of what President Nelson expressed in his talk, I’m going to assume that he understood the power and importance of her role in his life:

“To my dear Dantzel, I acknowledge my debt, as well as my eternal love. She is the fountain from whom flows the nourishing love in our home. Her sacrifices to bring our ten wonderful children into this world, teaching and training them, while always supporting me without a murmur through my responsibilities in the Church and in my profession, are monumental.” – Russell M. Nelson

I have to admit that I love this because I’m a wife, and I’m a wife that has taken my relationship with my husband very seriously. I love this because I know that now President Nelson’s wife, Dantzel, has passed on. I love this because I hope that this is how I will be remembered – as a fountain from whom flows the nourishing love in my home. I have made many sacrifices for my children while supporting my husband.

I don’t need public validation for any of my choices. My choices are mine, and they have brought me much joy despite their difficulty at times. I don’t know Dantzel Nelson, but I’ll assume that she didn’t seek public validation or attention for her choices. However, I would also guess that she feels a lot of joy knowing that her husband loves and appreciates her effort and sacrifices.

It is so important for husbands and wives to pay attention to each other – to their contributions, sacrifices, and efforts. It builds up our marriages – to each individual and to the marriage itself when we take the time to have appreciation and gratitude one to another.

I’m grateful to know that the man who is steering the ship of our church takes the time to notice the tender mercies and hard work, though quite possibly obscure, done by those around him. He is aware.

President Nelson Understands the Universality of God’s Laws

This is a subject that, again, I hope to address in the future on my blog – the universality of God’s laws. God’s commandments aren’t just willy-nilly rules given out by an arbitrary God who sits in a cloud and gets jealous. He is our loving Father in Heaven and a God of order, and the commandments he has given us are all based on the laws the govern all of us. These laws are the laws of the Universe.

How would we possibly describe Him as a loving Heavenly Father if he didn’t give us these commandments when He knew that there are laws that govern our universe? Would we be loving parents if we, understanding the law of gravity, let our kids play at the edge of a cliff without a warning or a “commandment”?

Because of his experiences both with medicine and the gospel, President Nelson understands the relationship between the laws of Gods of law and this natural world. He states:

“While nominally I come to you from the science of surgery and its mother of medicine, in a truer sense, I have been forged from the stern discipline of law–not the laws of men, as mastered by our brethren of the legal profession, but the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator. The surgeon soon learns the incontrovertibility of divine law. He knows that hopes and wishes are sometimes simply powerless sham.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes, the surgeon would have to understand the interplay between faith and law. The surgeon soon learns the difference between faith and wishful thinking. We have benefitted with advancements in medicine because there were men and women who had faith and vision – they believed in something that they couldn’t see but was true. They worked hard until that faith became true knowledge at some future point. This is significantly different than a surgeon who is just wishing for some outcome before putting the knife to his patient.

President Nelson continues:

“Desired blessings only come by obedience to divine law, and in no other way. My lifetime thus far has been focused on learning those laws. Only as the laws are know, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned. To this extent, there will be little difference for me in the activities of the past and those of the future. The endless laws of the Lord are the doctrines taught by His apostles.” – Russell M. Nelson

President Nelson is both wise and humble. He understands the purpose of laws and why it is critical for them to be kept. He understands that the apostles and other mouthpieces of the Lord only disseminate The Lord’s Word. Their calling doesn’t give them power. Their calling doesn’t make them able to make or change God’s laws. Like the surgeon, an apostle has to understand the incontrovertibility of divine law. An apostle must approach his calling with as much precision as a surgeon does, and President Nelson both understands and respects this fact.

President Nelson has a Testimony

Finally, from his talk in April 1984, we learn that President Nelson has a testimony of the Gospel and the divinity of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. President Nelson states:

“The testimony that I bear is but an echo of the resounding testimonies of the eighty-four who previously have received this call to the Twelve since the spring of 1820. I know that God the Father and the Son appeared to usher in this last great dispensation of eternal truth.” – Russell M. Nelson

***

President Russell M Nelson
President Russell M. Nelson, 2018

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s Church. It is not President Nelson’s church. It wasn’t President Monson’s church. The Lord has selected President Nelson to be the president of our church at this time – and I am grateful to know that he will faithfully serve, with his all, until he physically cannot serve anymore.

In President Nelson, the Lord has chosen to give His church a man that is committed to us and to the Lord; a man who is aware of the Lord’s tender mercies and service of those around him; a man who understands divine law; and a man who has a testimony.

Though I have had no personal interaction with President Nelson, I have felt the spirit confirm to me that He is a prophet of God, and that I can sustain Him as He continues to lead our church.

 

 

Plutarch and Alma

I came across this quote recently, and I couldn’t help but think of Alma…

Plutarch Knowledge Quote

Before relating this to Alma, I want to just talk about the quote. Plutarch was smart enough to “get stuff.” I mean, a lot of us are that way, right? I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read about health and fitness. I logically “get” many of the concepts I’ve read about.

Yet – even though we “get something” and may even have knowledge, without application what do we really know?

Not only was Plutarch smart enough to “get something” from the words he read, he was smart enough to realize that the words and knowledge he gained was through experiences.

As for me – even though I had read a few books on the damage and problems that sugar causes the body, I never really got it until I had experimented for myself and saw how eating a diet without much sugar affected me. I really needed this experience in order to give meaning to the concepts that I had learned.

Alma the younger understood the power of experiential knowledge. In fact, he extended an invitation to the poor Zoramites that he taught:

“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” – Alma 32:27

Alma taught the people the word of God. And he didn’t expect them to believe him just on face value – just because he said to believe. Instead, Alma asked them to experiment on his words. Alma wanted them to try it out for themselves. Alma invited them to have their own experiences so they could gain their own knowledge and faith.

It is interesting to me that we approach nearly every subject this way – except faith. Do we expect to learn a language just by reading about it? No, we go on a foreign exchange program, we take an immersion class, we go to that country, we start studying on a language learning website, we practice saying words in another language.

If we desire to learn Calculus, do we just buy a textbook and peruse it? Probably not. We go through the exercises. We get a calculator, paper, and pencil, and then try to solve the equations.

Yet, for some reason, so many people think that in order to obtain spiritual knowledge, they will sit in church one time and listen to a sermon and get it. Or maybe they think that in order to gain a testimony, they must read through the Bible once without meditating, pondering, and applying the words.

Then, because they haven’t put any thought or effort into their acquisition of spiritual knowledge, they don’t get any spiritual knowledge. Some may even proclaim faith, spirituality, or the scriptures as a fraud because of their own lack of experience.

I haven’t studied Calculus, but I’m not going to claim that Calculus is a farce.

Yes – going to church and studying the scriptures are important parts of obtaining spiritual knowledge, but the crucial key is to experiment and experience the gospel. Then those experiences will give you the knowledge of the word. They will make the scriptures and church even more meaningful.

How have you “experimented” on the word? How have your experiences helped to shape your testimony? If you haven’t experimented on the word of God, what is holding you back?

Book of Mormon for Teens – Timeline and Authors

This is the next installment of my Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for Teenagers. You can see the first one here.

Before I really get into the Book of Mormon, itself, I wanted to have a few pages showing the timelines and authors of the Book of Mormon. As I wrote in Tiger’s Book:

“Sometimes when you are reading the Book of Mormon, it can be a little confusing to keep track of what you are reading. There are accounts of things as they happen, flashbacks, and the changing of hands with the records.

Hopefully, this timeline and author chart will help you keep the events and authors of the Book of Mormon straight!”

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The timeline – there is a lot to fit onto one page!!!

Several years ago, I did my own “story of the Book of Mormon” project. (You can read about it here.) As a part of this project, I created my own Book of Mormon timeline. I highly suggest this type of project. It really helped me to understand the Book of Mormon.

In any case, here is a copy of the timeline that I created: BoM Timeline (available as a PDF Download).

I also felt like Tiger should understand the authors of the Book of Mormon and the way that the plates were handed down. I found a very handy flowchart of the Book of Mormon Authors online here.

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Authors of the Book of Mormon

These two pages are chock-full of information. I didn’t have much space to make anything “cute!” No worries, though. I really think that this information will be helpful.

Finally, I included a quote that I really love about the Book of Mormon:

“Would you like to have emblazoned on your soul an undeniable witness that the Savior descended beneath your sins and that there is no sin, no mortal plight outside the merciful reach of His Atonement – that for each of your struggles He has a remedy of superior healing power? Then read the Book of Mormon.” – Tad R. Callister (emphasis added)

Thanks for letting me share this project with you. I am so excited to actually get into the Book of Mormon now. I’m excited to be able to share my testimony with my daughter in a way that I hope she will be receptive to.  I’ll share more with you later!

Illustrated Book of Mormon Commentary for a Teenager (Part One)

When my oldest daughter turned 12, I made her a special book. (You can read about it here .) – She will be turning 16 in a little over a year, and I’ve decided to start making another book for her. This time, it will be about the Book of Mormon. (In case you’re wondering, I made a book for her when she was 14. I’ll probably post it on here soon).

The Title Page
The Title Page

So, I just started this. I’m using one of my favorite – sketchbooks (although the one I’m using is hardbound rather than wirebound).

Why am I doing this? Is it because I’m crazy? No. I’ve thought a lot about how to teach my children the gospel. I’ve thought about lecturing them – and lectures weren’t particularly helpful in my life. I mean I honestly don’t remember if my parents lectured me. I know that they said stuff to me, but I zoned out very easily as a teenager.

I don’t particularly like lecturing my teens right now, either. It feels boring and pointless. But how do we teach our kids the gospel? How do I teach them the things that I know and understand and what them to know and understand?

In this quest, I’ve been inspired by the words of Nephi:

“And we talk of Christ we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” – 2 Nephi 25:26, emphasis added.

I feel like writing what I want to teach my children is an effective way (for me) to preach to them without seeming preachy! I can write lectures, make them cute and heartfelt, and instead of zoning out – my kids will treasure these lectures. That’s the idea, anyway. It’s not sneaky. I’m just being as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove. 🙂

So – this is a Book about the Book of Mormon. I’ve divided it as follows:

  • Title Page
  • Timeline of the Book of Mormon
  • Explanation of the Small and Large Plates and their Authors
  • 1 Nephi
  • 2 Nephi
  • Jacob
  • Enos
  • Jarom
  • Omni
  • Words of Mormon
  • Mosiah
  • Alma
  • Helaman
  • 3 Nephi
  • 4 Nephi
  • Mormon
  • Ether
  • Moroni
  • So – pretty straight forward.

    Title Page

    On this page, I just wrote that the Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. I wrote my hope for her – that she will continue to read the Book of Mormon in her life. I also told her about this book that I’m making for her:

    “This book is a gift to you from me. It’s kind of a “commentary” on the Book of Mormon. I’ve been inspired by Nephi’s words, ‘And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.’ (2 Nephi 25:26).

    I want you to know – not only do I want you to know the Book of Mormon for yourself, but I also want you to know my testimony of it.

    I hope that this book will be a blessing to you now and for years to come. Love, Mom.

    ***
    So – that’s the beginning of this fun ride. I anticipate that it will take me a little over a year to finish this book. It will require a lot of work and effort, but I’m sure that it will be worth it. Maybe you have a child who could use something like this? Try writing your testimonies and lessons you have learned in the Book of Mormon. I’d love to see what you come up with if you do it, too.

Strengthening our Relationships with Christ

How to receive a manifestation of the Savior.
How to receive a manifestation of the Savior.

I came across this scripture the other day…

“And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;

And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith.” – 2 Nephi 26:12-13

It stood out to me because I want to know Christ.

It may seem strange because I have a testimony of the gospel and have even been blogging about it for years. I have even recorded my testimony of the Savior (note: more than once). And I will say right now, that I do have a testimony that we have a Savior. I know this because I have felt His power in my life. I have read the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and I have felt peace when studying and praying about the scriptures. I know this because I have learned about Him in Church and at the temple, and have also felt the peace and confirmation that comes from such practices. I have felt His forgiveness, and have witnessed miracles in my life. I know that my Savior lives and that He loves me.

But…

I feel like there is still so much more to know. I feel infantile in my testimony of the Savior, and not in a good-child-like-infantile way. But with a recognition that I can come to know Him more. That I can develop a better relationship with Him. That my prayers can be more heartfelt. That His presence could be felt stronger in my life. As I’ve had more witnesses of the Savior, of His love for me, of His role in my life as the Advocate and Redeemer, I’ve also seen how often I come up short. I get frustrated with myself that I give in to my weaknesses so much–instead of turning to Him for support. I feel like Nephi who said:

“O wretched [wo]man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.” – 2 Nephi 4:17-18

I can see that as my testimony in the Savior has matured, His expectations from me have also grown. As I’ve gained more knowledge, I have more power to do more good; and the Lord expects me to do it. I want to do it. And the thing is, I usually do. It’s not like I’m having struggles with the things that I’ve learned in the past.

The Lord is teaching me to be a better person – better than I was yesterday; last week; or last year. Now, I’m learning spiritual algebra, rather than spiritual arithmetic.

Sometimes, as I go through these periods of my life – where I feel distanced from the Savior, a flash of doubt runs through my mind. Do I even know Christ at all? Is this true? Am I crazy? What happened to my testimony? I think that this happens to all of us.

And, when I read the scripture in 2 Nephi: “He manifesteth Himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost;…, I realized my answer.

I do know Christ

I do know the Savior, and I don’t need to doubt my testimony – even for a second. Even if I don’t feel as close to Him as I would like, it isn’t because I don’t have a testimony. On the contrary, I realize it is because my testimony is growing, and that the Holy Ghost is helping me to see how it can continue to grow. We can’t stay in the same place. I can make improvements to my life–improvements that I wasn’t ready to make last week, a year ago, or five years ago. I can follow the same pattern that I’ve followed in the past:

  • I can believe in Christ – It is somewhat easy for me to do this now. I can base my belief on the witnesses I’ve had of him in the past. I don’t have to believe in someone completely foreign. I can keep believing in Christ: in His Atonement; in His love for me; in His desire that I come unto Him and know Him. I can keep expressing this belief in Christ through prayer, scripture study, temple attendance. I can also keep showing this belief in Christ by trusting Him when I go through times of personal refinement–that these times are to help me to get to know Him better.
  • I can seek the Holy Ghost – The manifestations of the Savior come to us through the Power of the Holy Ghost. When I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I received the gift of the Holy Ghost, which means I have access and companionship with the Holy Ghost and His power at all times (as long as I lived worthy of it). The Holy Ghost will help me to see what I need to do in order to change so I can have more of His spirit with me, which, in turn, will help me to feel closer to the Savior.

***

I kind of think that we all go through these kinds of tests in life. We receive witness of the Savior, then the Lord tests our witness. As our testimonies and faith is tested, it continues to grow. When we feel our connection to the Savior diminishing, and it isn’t because we have sinned or grown relaxed in the gospel, perhaps it might be because we are being taught new ways that we can change and grow. The Lord wants us to be even closer to Him, and this is done through “pruning” and “refinement”–both concepts that connote growth through a difficult (sometimes painful) process.

If we are going through these stages of refinement, we don’t need to doubt our past testimony. Instead, we need to be like Nephi, who was able to overcome his feeings of self-doubt by remembering his past experiences with the Savior. (See 2 Nephi 4:19-25.) We can draw strength from our past expressions of faith and testimony, and trust that as we seek the Spirit, then Christ will manifest Himself unto us.

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Have you experienced times like these? What do you do to strengthen your relationship with the Savior? What have you done to receive a witness of Christ?

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If you are still coming to know Christ, you can learn more about The Savior here.

Abide With Me

So, this is, hands-down, one of my favorite hymns of all time. This video is a rendition sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Several years ago, I was a member of a ward choir, and we sang a simple version of this song. I hadn’t participated in many ward choirs prior to this one, and was surprised and the spirit I felt when we practiced this song.

As I sang the line, “Oh Savior, stay this night with me, behold ’tis eventide.” I felt like I understood why those two simple disciples on the road to Emmaus would implore the Savior to stay with them. When I sang the song, I felt like begging for the same blessing. Even though I haven’t physically walked and talked with the Savior, I have felt His Spirit. I have felt His love and peace. Feeling the love of Christ, feeling His peace, is something that we can access all the time, but it seems like the strength of the feelings ebb and flow. There are times when we can feel His presence stronger than others. This may be due to our own worthiness (sin really diminishes feeling close to the Savior) or our circumstances (when I’m in spin class, even though I’m not doing anything wrong, it is a different environment, not a very spiritual one).

The ebb and flow of these feelings are okay (I think). I mean, that’s life, right? But still, I understand how it is to feel like I want the Savior to stay with me, His love is peaceful, reassuring, calming, and … well, I can’t adequately describe it.

And even though I’ve witnessed for myself that Christ loves me, even though I know that I’ve felt the Spirit in my life, there are times when I forget His love, and I feel lonely and distant from The Savior. I wonder why I can’t feel His Spirit as strongly as I would like. I even begin to doubt my testimony. I have faith that He is the Savior, but sometimes I wonder, “Do I know? Will I ever really know? These thoughts give way to frustration, and I wonder if I will ever grow spiritually, or if I will always be waffling around between knowledge and doubt.

Recently, President Eyring gave a really great talk in General Conference. In it he reminds us of Christ’s invitation:

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” – Doctrine and Covenants 88:63

This is a good reminder. If we draw near unto Christ, then He will draw near unto each of us. If we seek Him, then we will find Him. If we ask, we’ll receive. If we knock, then the door will be opened. It’s a pretty good promise.

There are so many ways that we can draw near unto the Savior. We can study the scriptures, we can pray. I like to go to the temple. But the thing is, even as I’m trying to draw nearer to the Savior, sometimes I feel like I can’t get near enough. Like there is something I need to learn. I tend to get a lot out of scripture study, but it is a cerebral understanding of the gospel–it is very intellectualized.

It is harder for me to pray because it is abstract, and sometimes I’m not the most “feely” kind of person. But I still pray, and I know that if I could do a little less analyzing and intellectualizing, and instead let myself feel, then I might be able to recognize that the Lord has drawn near unto me.

When I go to the temple or to my church services, again, I intellectually know that I’m serving the Lord. I feel the Spirit, and have a rush of enlightenment and excitement, and this is good. But I want to learn how to make the feeling last.

Above all, I want my faith in Christ to turn into sure knowledge. I want to know – not only with my head, but also with my heart. I want to know with my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and…even kidneys.

***
Back to President Eyring’s talk…

President Eyring concludes with this brilliant testimony.

Pretty Awesome, huh?!
Pretty Awesome, huh?!

I love this testimony. Every single time I hear it or read it, I feel the Spirit confirm to me that what President Eyring is saying is both true, and that his testimony is special. I realize that even though I’m kind of like a “toddler” when it comes to spirituality and testimony, there are people who are adults. There are people who know, and they can guide and comfort me with their knowledge. We are blessed with apostles and prophets who do know Christ: with their hearts and brains…AND…eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and even kidneys.

In the Mormon church, our leadership is unique in that the Prophet and Apostles aren’t a bunch of men who are simply interested in the gospel and have gone to seminaries to study the scriptures. They aren’t paid to live in Christ’s service. These are ordinary men. They have families and jobs. They grew up with testimonies of Christ and of Heavenly Father, and with a commitment to serve Him. Over time, they have grown in the gospel. Eventually, each of these apostles and prophet received a calling (from God, not as a product of their campaigning to receive such a calling) to be His special witness. They are not unlike Peter, James, or John, who were hand-selected to be “fishers of men”.

Like the ancient apostles, President Eyring and other apostles bear testimony of Christ. In this talk I feel like President Eyring is trying to convince us to believe that Christ lives–because he knows it. It isn’t his hunch or “feeling.” President Eyring knows that Christ lives as surely as did those two disciples who traveled to Emmaus knew – when their eyes were opened and they physically beheld the Savior.

When my testimony in the Savior begins to falter, and I wonder if He hears my prayers, if He loves me, if He can bless me in my times of need, I know that I can take comfort in the testimony of the Apostles and Prophet. Yes Christ does live. There are people on this earth who know this for sure, and I can trust in their witness.

My faith is strengthened by the testimony of those who are true witnesses of the living Christ.

***
Do you believe in Christ? Have you had experiences when you have felt the Savior draw near unto you? What do you do to strengthen your faith in Him? How does it make you feel to know that there are people on this earth who have had experiences with the Savior and can witness of Him, personally?