Monday, December 29, 2008

The Church is True Everywhere

Scott, Soren, and I are still visiting family in Illinois and yesterday we attended church at my in-laws ward.

It was a wonderful meeting. I was comforted to find that, even while away from my usual routine and predictable surroundings, my church meetings are pretty much the same: rejuvinating.

While some people may joke that the church is more true in Utah, that's just not the case. We really can rely on the presentation of true doctrine and exactness of sacred ordinances wherever we go.

And, while trying to figure out why this amazed me so much, I realized that it hasn't always been the case.

In the years following the death of Christ, His church was definitely more true in some places than others. Or at least, some doctrines were better preserved in some places than others. In fact, the epistles seem to suggest that nearly everywhere had major doctrinal issues. Even before world-wide apostacy, some congregations twisted the doctrine of Christ and then disceminated their warped teaches. Sometimes they went uncorrected for long stretches of time. Paul was constantly trying to correct funny ideas people had allowed to corrupt the church in their area.

In the early days of the restored church, the saints were commanded to gather in one place, which helped to keep the gospel standard. It wasn't until communication and travel improved that we were admonished to build up Zion where we were.

And now, with near-instantaneous communication and ease of world-wide travel, we can have a church of God that is consistent throughout the world. Our doctrines are no longer subject to regional boundaries and the whims of misguided Christians. The truth can be uniformly presented the entire world over and the same Spirit can touch hearts in many tongues and lands.

And I can't tell the difference between a meeting in Utah and one in Illinois. That's amazing! Surely the Lord's hand is in this work.

Monday, December 22, 2008


We're visiting Scott's family in Illinois for Christmas and it is 2 degrees Farenheit outside.

The wind is blowing furiously, as though to force that biting chill into bundled-up passersby and through tightly-sealed cracks. The snow is piling up around the doors and windows. When I stepped out for a moment, the frigid air clean took my breath away and I could have sworn that my nose hairs froze.

I'm pretty sure that it's fatally cold out there.

It makes me grateful to be safe and warm in my in-laws home. It's a marvel that I can be appreciating air about 70 degrees warmer than the natural conditions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Christmas Carol

"Why is the story A Christmas Carol so popular? Why is it ever new? I personally feel it is inspired of God. It brings out the best within human nature. It gives hope. It motivates change." - Thomas S. Monson

This Christmas, I finally read Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. It was the perfect accompaniment to the holiday season, just what I needed to stir up some Christmas cheer.

Of his purpose in writing this tale, Dickens said, "I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it." He was trying to infuse our homes with the Christmas "Ghost", or Christmas Spirit as we call it.

And he accomplished his goal marvelously. I am now haunted by a spirit of goodwill and bothered by the urgency of mortality.

I recommend this book to everyone at any time, but especially at Christmas. When you read it, you will want to shout out (as Scrooge does), "I am not the man I was before!"

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I had a thought today in church. Since I was juggling a wriggling, squawking baby who wanted nothing more than to fall to the floor and crawl through the pews at lightning speed, it's a wonder that I could think anything at all.

But I did have a thought today.

I was trying to look over my lurching child's head at the podium. There were potted poinsettias on either side of the microphone and a youth speaker, the daughter of my visiting teaching companion, was beginning her remarks. She was addressing the topic of gratitude.

"I thought gratitude was an appropriate topic, since this is the holiday season," she began. And although that was only an opening comment, it sent my brain on a tailspin that occupied it for the remainder of her talk.

I thought about why gratitude would be particularly pertinent during the holidays. And in pondering that, I thought about how people are so much more Christian at Christmas.

I thought about the spirit of giving and gratitude that infuses our nation with new life. I thought about the charities that spring up on street corners, confident that people will be willing to share more of their time and money. I thought about the families that make a special effort to go to church, or read the scriptures, or pray. I thought about our desire to beautify our surroundings at Christmas and our increased willingness to forgive.

I thought about the changes Christmas affects in me: how I want to smile and say "hello" to everyone I pass on the street, how I want to show special attention to my family and friends, how I want to share the rich things of life with strangers.

And then I thought of other times when a similar change has been wrought upon me or upon the world. I thought of how that enthusiasm for giving and that fierce faith and optimism is rarely ushered in without tragedy. Our stories of faith, hope, and charity seem to be most concentrated in one of two times: Christmas or following a large-scale disaster.

How extraordinary! It usually takes drastic measures for God to rekindle the faith of His people. But His spirit touches us even in our wealth and security at Christmas-time.

I was thinking about this while Soren was peeing in my lap. I was still marveling while I changed his diaper (and clothes) in the mother's room. There is such power in this season. For those who believe, it is the power of a love that can change the world.

Oh how grateful I am for Christmas-time! Today it seemed to me a divinely appointed season, a chance to remember the Savior as He commanded without being compelled by tragedy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The First Gift of Christmas

Today Soren and I walked Scott to the train stop a little earlier than usual. It was very very cold. Soren was wrapped snugly up in a blanket with a hand-knit hat on his head when we started the trip but, due to his irrepressible need for constant motion, he was free of both hat and blanket by the time we began the walk back. His little socks were slipping off his feet, his nose was bright red, and standing tears were nearly frozen in his eyes.

I wrapped my enormous Hufflepuff scarf around his little body for extra warmth while we waited at the last crosswalk.

When it was our turn to cross, Phyllis the crossing guard, who had been standing on the opposite street corner, pulled out her big orange sign to escort across the street. Once we were on the other side, she pulled an oversized Christmas bag out of her wire buggy.

"Someone left this here with me this morning with instructions to give it to the first mother and baby I saw," she said, passing the gift bag to me.

"Thank you," I gushed, very flustered and curious.

"Well, it's not from me," she said, smiling.

"Soren, do you want to see what you got?" I asked in an animated voice to my swaddled but still shivering son. I opened the bag and almost wanted to cry.

There was an enormous fur hat with ear flaps, two tiny pairs of mittens, warm 12-month-sized booties, and a weather protection cover for the stroller.

I had worried that it was getting too cold for Soren and I to walk with Scott in the mornings anymore. But because of the generosity of a stranger, we all went out the next day and Soren was the warmest of us all.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

In Memory of Joseph B. Wirthlin

Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

In my freshman year of college, my religion professor encouraged each of his students to find out which scriptural prophet or latter-day apostle spoke most clearly to us. Just as Nephi loved the words of Isaiah and delighted in the gospel through those teachings, my professor invited all of us to better love the words of God through one of His most personally potent mouthpieces.

I knew immediately who it was for me. Although I appreciated the writings of every ancient authority and the teachings of every modern mouthpeice, it was the words of Joseph B. Wirthlin that sunk deep into my heart and propelled me toward repentance.

I first appreciated his orderly mind. Elder Wirthlin gave step-by-step instructions for salvation, as in his general conference address, "Three Choices". He made the gospel seem manage-able and in this way was able to encourage me to be better without overwhelming me with my unending list of faults.

Although it was the structure of his teachings that first caught my attention, I was later impressed by the simplicity of Elder Wirthlin's message. In his most recent remarks ("Come What May, and Love It"), he said, "The simple secret is this: put your trust in the Lord and do your best. Then leave the rest to Him."

His unshakable testimony became a light in my life. I was particularly impressed by his October 2006 talk entitled "Sunday Will Come". It was given in the year of his wife's passing and focused on Elder Wirthlin's mighty testimony of the resurrection. As it was also given during the first few months of my marriage, that example of love and hope became the bedrock of my testimony of eternal families.

This week Elder Wirthlin died. He lived and served for 91 years. His wisdom and compassion enabled him to touch many souls. His teachings have been a tender mercy in my life.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Living Water

On Wednesday night I went to a Relief Society Enrichment activity that will probably stand forever in my mind as the most enriching Enrichment I have ever been to.

As a part of the beautiful evening, a dozen of the sisters in our ward performed the program "Women at the Well" by Kenneth Cope. It's a musical presentation that tells the stories of women who knew the Savior during His mortal ministry. What a perfect accompaniment to the Christmas season! How better to celebrate the birth of our Lord than by remembering the lives of people He touched?

I felt richly blessed listening to the singers. I was grateful for their testimonies and preparation, which were a tender mercy of the Lord in my life. They were instruments in God's hands that night. Their music was so much more than the words or the notes; the spirit and love they sang with was almost tangible. Every one of them was a ministering angel to me that night.

The message of the program was taken from Christ's words to the Samaritan woman who had come to draw water from a well were He sat resting. "Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14)

Christ is the living water. Through daily prayer and scripture study, I have caught a glimpse of the fulfillment of that promise He made to the Samaritan woman. As I learn of Him and by the power of the Holy Ghost, Christ fills my cup with His living water every day.

But while attending that activity on Wednesday night, I felt my already brimming cup become like a well springing up inside of me. I was overflowing with the love of God. The combination of music and sisterhood and spiritual affirmation was more than my little cup could hold.

What a tender mercy. What a special experience.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


I love Thanksgiving! I'm sorry I didn't get in on the online spirit of thankfulness and put up a big list but I was a little busy over the holiday. Wonderfully busy.

I did take time to be grateful. Even better, I got to hear friends and family members be grateful. We counted our blessings while we ate our pomegranate, sitting around the picked-over table and feeling satisfied. The time spent united in thankfulness was a wonderful blessing in and of itself.

Now that I'm back on the internet, making the rounds, the joy of Thanksgiving is hitting me all over again. All of your blogs are tender mercies to me today. Reading about the things you are grateful for reminds me all over again of God's love.

In church today, one of the speakers said something that encapsulates how I feel about Thanksgiving. He said, "Gratitude helps us feel the constant flow of blessings between the heavens and us." And that's so true. God loves us and He is always blessing us. But when we are grateful, we notice those blessings.

From personal experience, I know that recognizing His tender mercies makes them that much more powerful.

And at Thanksgiving, we're all doing it! We're all being grateful! We're creating our massive lists and recognizing God's hand in every aspect of our lives! No wonder the world seems a little brighter and more full of hope on Thanksgiving.

I've been thinking today about how glad I am that we kick off the holiday season with a day of gratitude. It's a day when no one receives anything but is grateful for the things they already have.

With this blog and in my daily prayers, I try to observe a spirit of gratitude every day. But oh, how I love Thanksgiving! There is power in that special day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I am so grateful for food, in all its marvelous varieties.

Last weekend, Scott and I went grocery shopping to pick up our Thanksgiving essentials. We purchased turkey and potatoes and onions and garlic (lots of garlic). We got pumpkin for a decadent pie and creamed corn for a hearty stuffing. We also picked up vanilla ice cream and assorted aromatics.

But most importantly, we got our yearly pomegranate.

A few years ago, Scott and I started our very first tradition as a fledgling family. It was Thanksgiving and pomegranates were on sale at Smith's. I'd never had one before and they looked so tasty. Scott taught me how to pick a good one: you pretty much want the heaviest one you can find--as long as it's without blemishes.

I remember how we carried our Thanksgiving purchases home that year. The bags banged against my legs as we walked across the street to our complex then carried them up the outer staircase and turned the key to our door. Our one-room studio apartment was small and frigid; it seemed completely incongruous with the rich mound of groceries we piled on the kitchen table. And the most exciting treasure in that plentiful collection was our pomegranate.

As soon as the rest of the food was put away, we broke into the exotic delicacy. As we peeled away the rind and filled a bowl with the tiny fruit-covered seeds, Scott told me about pomegranates.

The pomegranate carried great significance for the Hebrews. Firstly, it was a symbol of fertility. One fruit carries upwards of 600 seeds! The Hebrew high priest wore a robe decorated with a trim shaped like dangling pomegranates to remind the people of God's promise that Abraham's seed would number more than the stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. In the desert, the people would multiply just like the pomegranate.

In addition, the moisture-hogging plant that bore pomegranate fruits was expensive to maintain in the desert, at least in the time before Christ. In spite of their delicious and useful yield, pomegranates were very rare and consequently associated with royalty. Tradition has it that Solomon modeled his crown after the calyx on top of the fruit. From this comes the traditional spiked ring we think of as a crown today. The delicious little seeds were rarely eaten and the bright dye was jealously hoarded to make a king's purple robes.

This fruit of priests and kings, this rare delicacy of ages past, was ours to enjoy on that chilly November afternoon. Scott and I were students and newly married, living on below-poverty-level wages in the cheapest apartment we could find. But we could afford that pomegranate, a luxury anciently reserved for royalty.

That stark contrast between our bountiful lives and the meager lifestyle of our predecessors brought into sharp relief our need to be grateful. As we enjoyed the sweet fruit of the pomegranate and stained our fingers with its purple dye, we talked about God's tender mercies. Our gratitude was especially sweet that year as we considered what we had, not what we lacked.

This year, our circumstances seem opulent to me. Yet with our cupboards overflowing with bounty and our stomachs rumbling in anticipation, it is the tradition of the pomegranate that I most look forward to. The symbol of the pomegranate seems even more potent to me now. I have been granted queenly blessings for the time being and promised a divine inheritance in the life to come.

There is much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Scott often teases me about my desire for trials. Yesterday he painted a verbal picture of our family in apocalyptic times for me. He said, "I can just see us, gathered around a pitiful fire in the freezing cold. Over the coals would be hanging our dinner: a pot of water with chopped up leather shoes floating in it. And still you'd be saying, 'It's just not fair! There are people out there without even shoes to eat! We're not being tried enough!'"

His jokes sting because they're true, to a certain degree. Sometimes I really am that ungrateful.

While I have so much to be thankful for, I'm increasingly uncomfortable with my ease, happiness, and prosperity. I don't have to look far to see people who are hungry, cold, lonely, confused, or ignorant through no fault of their own. I sometimes wish I could trade places with them. Sometimes I wish I could give them my secure and comfortable life while taking on their challenging one.

It's never a good idea to wish for trials.

But I sometimes wonder: Does God think I just couldn't handle it? Then I realize it's my pride and not my compassion that has got me pining for trouble.

I told Scott yesterday, "One of these days we're going to wake up and find we've lost everything. And you won't be cursing God, you'll be cursing me. It'll be my fault for wishing some great challenge on us."

So, instead of wishing for challenges, I'm trying to understand why I've been blessed as I have. And when I'm feeling particularly brave, I'm trying to gather my resources and pit myself against my neighbors' challenges.

Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great mercy, Lord, each day I live.
I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see,
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

When I see the inequality in this world and wonder why I emerge unscathed, I learn about the efficiency of God. He allows some of us to be rich and some of us to be poor (either temporally or spiritually) so that we will rely on each other. And the long-suffering saint who gives her widow's mite is no more tried than the wealthy man who is asked to give up everything.

As one who has known little sorrow or misfortune, I am still called to give everything that I have for the building up of Zion. I must gladly receive God's blessings and then turn around and consecrate them all to His work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spiritual Fuel

In Relief Society yesterday, we talked about L. Tom Perry's most recent conference address, "Let Him Do It with Simplicity". In this talk, Elder Perry discusses the four basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, and fuel (both temporal and spiritual).

In these trying financial times, it's easy to be grateful for the necessities (and comforts) I have that money can buy. I try to acknowledge daily that it is by the grace of God that I am fed, clothed, and housed.

But sometimes I forget to thank my Heavenly Father for the bountiful spiritual fuel I receive. It is that most vital fuel that lends me energy and optimism in trying times.

And although I'm usually not as grateful when life is cushy, spiritual fuel is vital in more than just trying situations. My spirit needs constant feeding just like my body does. Christ calls himself the bread and water of life and we are counseled to feast of His words. Too often, though, I find myself starving and thirsting unnecessarily. Denying my spirit sustenance stunts my spiritual growth and leaves me weak and unprepared for challenges. On the other hand, when I spend time every day in prayer and scripture study, I enjoy the attendant blessings.

And still, just as with the temporal blessings I work to enjoy, spiritual fuel is a gift from God and always will be, no matter how hard I work to receive it. My Father has given me His Word, which alone is a tender mercy. In return, He asks that I study and obey. As I try to show Him my gratitude for the words of the prophets by reading and pondering on them, He in turn blesses me with the even greater gift of personal revelation and the accompaniment of His Spirit. Still in His debt, I try to use those gifts to better serve Him but, as I do so, He increases my faith, my hope, and my capacity to love. He makes me over in His image, which is the greatest blessing I could ask for.

These are blessings I could never earn. They are tender mercies from a loving God.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Enough Eggs

I was sitting on a stool in Alisha's kitchen, crunching graham crackers in a plastic bag to make cheesecake crust. The window behind me was open and frigid air was brushing against my back and up my skirt. The oven in front of me was preheating and even with the door closed, it's warmth spilled into the room. Between the chilly November afternoon at my back and the powerful heat of baking at my front, the room was very comfortable.

Alisha and I were baking for a bridal shower. Our sons were squawking at each other in the next room and the kitchen air was thick with devastatingly delicious smells. I couldn't think of a more pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

"You know, I have exactly the right number of eggs," Alisha commented to me, while cracking a few into her whirling blender.

I smiled and kept crunching crackers, turning them to powder between my fingers.

"I mean, exactly the right amount," she said, turning off the blender and facing me. "Enough for all my baking and then exactly enough left to make deviled eggs to fill this dish."

She wiped her hands on her apron and left the spinning blender blades to hold up a plastic serving dish. I looked up from my task and saw it was a round platter with grooves set in for about twenty eggs.

"Wow, that's cool," I said. "What a coincidence."

Alisha chided, "No, it's not a coincidence. It's because God understands." She smiled as she checked on her batter. "God loves me and He made sure I had enough eggs."


Later that evening, I was fixing dinner for my downstairs neighbors.

I would have survived without, but when I opened my egg carton and found just enough eggs for the baked macaroni and cheese I had planned, I felt God's love wash over me. Tears filled my eyes and I fell to my knees in a prayer of thanksgiving.

Such a simple thing. But God loves me and He made sure I had enough eggs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Scott's Work with Translation

After I finished my post yesterday, I continued thinking about the value of the scriptures. In particular, I was thinking about the peace I had found while reading the Doctrine and Covenants.

Then my husband came home from his business trip in California. He spent a week there, assembling and training the team who would translate the Doctrine and Covenants into Hmong. It was a long week for me and I was so glad to see him again.

But even as I embraced him, I realized how important that trip had been. I wouldn't have kept him here for anything. I am so proud of him and so grateful to be a part of the work he is doing. After enjoying that very book he was working to offer the Hmong people, I want to offer everything I have, even the precious time spent with my husband, to build up the kingdom of God.

Scott's job is a tender mercy from the Lord to us. Even when he is traveling.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There is Hope Smiling Brightly Before Us

It seems I can't turn around without reading or hearing another scary story. Financial ruin all over the world; "anthrax" at the Salt Lake and Los Angelos temples; wars in Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia, and South Osetia; devastating earthquakes and hurricanes; parents killing children; children killing parents; and people dying from hunger, disease, and cruelty all over the world.

This is a frightening world we live in.

Sometimes I wonder who's in charge here. Sometimes I want to cry out, "O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?"

God answers even those doubting cries, as he answers all my prayers. He answers them with knowledge, strength, and peace. He answers them through His holy scriptures and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The prophets have written about our day for millenia. The calamities we face daily have been prophesied and their resolution has been promised. And these prophesies, especially those found in the book of Revelation and section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants, have been a tender mercy from my Father this week. As I have read and seen our day reflected in the sometimes obscure language, I have been strengthened. My mind has been expanded to include more than our present tumultuous circumstances; it has seen through this crucible to the great day when our Lord comes again.

Because of this scriptural study and the affirming power of the Spirit, I can say this with certainty: God is real. When He set His plan in motion, He knew all of this would happen. He knew it and He still gave us our agency. He gave us the power to choose it for ourselves. Then He prepared a way to save us all, to heal our broken society, and to usher in His kingdom. That way is Christ. Christ can heal each of us individually--this very day!--if we choose to follow His plan for us. But the day will come when Christ will return to set the whole earth aright.

We cannot know the hour of His coming but we can see the signs all around us. Some of the prophesies are still unfulfilled, but I know that God cannot lie and those events will take place. Perhaps it will not happen in my lifetime, but there is hope in knowing that all the promises of God will be fulfilled.

And when the signs of His coming have all been shown, I know He will come again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Election is Over

Scott brought home a copy of a speech given by a general authority of the LDS church in 1978 for me today. It was very pertinent to the dilemma church members in California faced yesterday when voting on Proposition 8. I found it reaffirming and my first thought (after thanking God for the foresight of our leaders) was, I have to put this on my blog!

And then I remembered that the voting is over, Proposition 8 was successful, and the time for arguments is over.

I'm glad that California, Arkansas, and Florida were successful in banning gay marriage in their states. I'm disappointed that my presidential candidate of choice, Bob Barr, took 0 electoral votes (although that was to be expected). I'm glad Jim Matheson will be representing my district in the House of Representatives and wary of the pricy bonds my city will be taking out to finance zoo and aviary renovations.

However, the emotion I feel most strongly is relief. I am so glad that the time for debating is over and the time for peacemaking has come.

Which is true for every election or proposition voted on yesterday. No matter who or what won, I'm just glad that the races are over and the contention can cease. Whether or not we agree with the politicians and policies in place, it's time to band together as Americans and do the best with what we've got. It's time to pull up our bootstraps and get to work. And it's definitely time to show a little more love for those with a different worldview.

Happily, I heard a reiteration of this in Obama's acceptance speech. I'm glad he understands that, in these rough times, every hand is needed to alleviate suffering and right wrongs. I heard in his speech an admission that the government can't solve our problems, it can only lead us to solve them ourselves.

And so this is definitely not the time to throw up our hands and abandon our leaders or laws just because we didn't vote for them. Voting is not the only contribution we make to our nation. It's only the beginning. Now is the time to really get involved.

And that's the blessing of an ended election. As "exciting" as these past few months have been, the important work begins now. And a great day of unity is coming.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Vote

It was sleeting so I didn't walk to the polls. I strapped Soren into his car seat instead of his sling and we drove the half-mile to our voting location. I ran from the car into the elementary school, carrying Soren, hunched over to shield him from the freezing rain.

My neighbor, Steve, was one of the voting administrators. I showed him my ID and registration card, explaining that they'd spelled my name wrong (shocker) and would I still be able to vote? He said, "No problem" and gave me a pen to sign the list. Then he passed the voter access card across the table to me and offered a sticker to Soren.

It was still early so there weren't any lines. I balanced Soren on my hip while I touched the electronic voting machine's screen. I got a thrill when my votes were recorded and, although I knew my preferences wouldn't be upheld in every circumstance, I was proud to be a part of the decision-making process. This is my America.

I waved at Paula and Pedro, more neighbors, on my way out. Their 3-year-old daughter was dancing on the auditorium stage while her parents cast their ballots. When she saw me, she stopped and stared with solemn eyes. I hugged Soren tight to me; this is their America, too.

And since then I've been thinking about America and democracy. I've been grateful for God's hand in the forming of this nation, which makes my right to vote a gift from Him. I am grateful for God-given agency and its political counterpart: suffrage. With that right to choose comes the responsibility to choose wisely, to refrain from abusing our power and to keep the good of the whole, not just ourselves, in mind.

I know God's hand directed the founding of this nation. I pray that we will not abuse our powers of agency but will allow Him to continue to direct us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Arithmetic

A few days ago, a column in our local newspaper was offering financial advice to the worried consumer wondering where to invest his savings. The advice given by The Salt Lake Tribune was to pay off any consumer debt, which would offer a higher and surer return in the long run than any other investment. The theory is that it would be much better to pay of debts now than it would be to save money for a future in which you are paying off those same debts, only at greater cost.

This advice, and related counsel given by religious leaders, got me thinking. I called our related financial institution and got a payoff quote for the car. Then I looked up our savings account balance. The two numbers were within $50 of each other. Now that's what I call happy arithmetic.

I looked at the numbers. Scott looked at the numbers. We took the leap.

Now we are debt-free.

It's not like our debt was a huge burden or something I worried about very much. It seemed worth incurring and I was always fairly certain we would be able to make the payments. Still, I am elated to be free of it. There's not really a down-side to paying off a loan and making sound financial choices always excites me.

I am so glad we are now free from debt. However, it would be very arrogant of us to take all the credit. Things could have turned out very differently. The Lord has been good to us and we are enjoying relative prosperity. All that we have is really His, a universal fact that is particularly applicable to us since all Scott's paychecks come from God's coffers. And so it is only through His providence that we are (currently) financially secure.

I hope I would still praise and honor Him if all this were taken from me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Blogger, Perhaps a Ministering Angel

There are a few rare and glorious occasions when I stumble upon a blog whose author or purpose really speaks to me. Those are the blogs that inspire me and the people that I thank God for.

Because of Proposition 8, the pro-gay movement has been in the foreground of my thoughts this month (if you couldn't tell). And, although I don't really know very many Californians, there are people I know who are affected by this debate. I knew a lot of homosexuals in high school; some of them were close friends. And then, at BYU, I watched friends struggle with the split between their faith and their sexuality. I have thought of them often and wondered how they felt, a minority watching the rest of the nation argue over their heads about what they should or shouldn't be allowed to do. My heart has especially been grieved for those trying to reconcile an unyielding stance by their church on homosexuality with the reality of their passions.

I always stand behind the leaders of the church and, in so doing, believe I stand where God would have me be. But I mourn for those who are left bereft or confused at their place in His kingdom. I've spent a lot of time on my knees trying to understand God's plan for them.

He ultimately told me that it wasn't my place to request revelation on their behalf. I realized that what was needed on my part was trust, obedience, and compassion. (Which, coincidentally, applies to any commandment. This epiphany has strengthened me in all areas of my life.)

Having come to that conclusion, I prayed to have my faith strengthened. And He gave me an example, an extreme example that would take away my excuses and doubt. I found hope and peace (but not all the answers) at this blog.

And because I know that sometimes God's ministering angels are mortal beings like you and I (who use the internet), I feel confident saying that this blogger writes, in part, as a tender mercy from my Father to me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Living Oracles

We thank thee, oh God, for a prophet!

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hold a semi-annual general conference. At the five-session conference, leaders of the church present gospel messages and counsel pertinent to our day. After the conference, their remarks are published in The Ensign and available online at the general conference archives. The most current general conference talks are God's word to His people in these days and are comparable in value to ancient scripture.

I try to study a talk from the archives every day. Since the most recent session of conference this October, I have received counsel from those talks directly pertinent to the world's turmoils and my place in them. I have received great peace and reassurance. I have had cause again and again to praise God and thank Him for sending us living oracles.

I am sure that every message shared in that conference spoke directly to someone. However, I would like to share a few of the messages that spoke to me and that I found very pertinent to our time:
* To the family wondering how to respond to the world's financial crisis, Elder Perry recommends simplifying.
* To the people living in a climate of contention, Elder Eying calls for unity.
* To the youth encouraged to stand up for themselves and yet to be kind and tolerant, Elder Hales outlines what it means to have "Christian courage".
* To the church member dissenting to the Church's support of Proposition 8 (and perhaps those supporting it with wrongful prejudice), Elder Christofferson offers this call to Zion.
* To the doubters who struggle to reconcile a loving God with the uphill journey unfairly meted out to some of His children, Elder Corbridge reaffirms that Christ is The Way.
* To the child of God who is tried and afflicted, our compassionate and long-suffering Elder Wirthlin shares the advice of his mother: "come what may, and love it."
* To the citizen who cultivates an attitude of entitlement and is racing to acquire more and more worldy goods, our beloved prophet, President Monson, cautions us to live with gratitude.

Each of these messages was a lovingly crafted "tender mercy" of the Lord to me. Each bolstered my testimony when the winds and rains of a sometimes cruel world attempted to shake me from the Rock of my Redeemer.

I invite all of you, members of the Mormon church or not, to read these inspired messages and take heart in troubling times. Which counsel, in its timely arrival, was a tender mercy in your life?

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Last Sunday, Scott and I went to a devotional for temple workers in the Salt Lake temple assembly hall. It was a very special experience: we met in a holy place with white-clad saints to hear the prophet of God bear testimony of the living Christ. The Holy Ghost was very strong in that sacred setting. Scott turned to me and gave me a squeeze. He said, "This is my idea of heaven." Then he amended, "Except the boy's not here."

Later that evening, the three of us sat together on the couch in our living room. Scott and I were discussing the lessons that had been taught in Sunday School and Relief Society. As we quietly and simply bore testimony to each other of the beautiful gospel truths we had been reminded of that day, I felt that same spirit wash over me. In my mind, I heard again those words, This is my idea of heaven.

In thinking about that experience over the last week, I have come to realize the holiness of my home. Although it is not quite the temple, God's house on earth, it can be a place where His spirit resides permanently.

My home is a place that has been sanctified by study and prayer. It is a place of revelation. I have said more prayers here, in my home, than in any other place. I have received more answers here, both through study and through personal revelation. I have listened to uplifting music here. It is in this place that I have been converted to the Lord again and again.

My home is the starting point. It is the place in which I have been prepared to face, and even change, the world. It is the faithfulness and love that is cultivated in my home that I carry into the church, into the temple, and hopefully into the world.

I am grateful for this holy place.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welfare Square

My emotions have been very close to the surface this past week. So when I tell you I burst into tears yesterday pulling up to Deseret Industries, I hope you won't judge me.

Halloween is coming up and, as my friends know, I'm a sucker for costumes. I've been gathering all the necessary bits for our family's costumes way ahead of my usual schedule this year (aka not the night before!) but couldn't find one necessary piece. A friend told me there was a really great DI on the other side of the freeway and, with few options left, I decided to check it out.

I drove down 800 S, listening to the BBC and passing pens back to Soren, trying to keep him awake. I also looked for the big red and blue DI logo. That's why I almost missed the understated gray sign proclaiming the entrance to Welfare Square. An arrow for the Cannery, an arrow for Employment Services, an arrow for the Bishop's Storehouse, and then--ah!--this way to Deseret Industries. We took a sharp turn into the gated area.

It was the huge grain elevator that did me in. I'd never seen it before but the logo on the side was instantly recognizable as a symbol of provident living and the joy that comes as we help people help themselves. President Monson said that if we visit Welfare Sqaure, "your eyes will glow a little brighter, your heart will beat a little faster, and life itself will acquire a new depth of meaning." I felt that. It was because I caught a glimpse of the efficiency, compassion, and wisdom of God's plan for His saints. That place is a little piece of Zion.

Although we may not practice the law of consecration as the United Order did during the early years of the church, current-day members (and endowed members doubly) have made a covenant to care for the poor and the needy. The demands of this covenant are partially fulfilled when we pay tithing and fast offerings. And with those funds, through the Welfare Plan, God can ensure that the temporal needs of all His saints are met.

In working as a Relief Society president and at Step Beyond, I experienced a little bit of what the Welfare Plan is all about. To those who join with us, we as a people can offer relief from poverty. At the bishop's storehouse, we feed the hungry. At the employment center and the DI, we put people to work as well as educate them. At the cannery, we prepare for the future. With the perpetual education fund, we lift generations out of ignorance. In the bishop's office, saints receive the funds necessary to clothe and shelter their families in times of financial hardship.

I submit to you that the laws of tithing and fasting are the modern-day law of consecration--and they work! This comprehensive plan for the provident living of all church members is a tender mercy of the Lord.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Christ has opened my eyes and offered me spiritual rebirth. Now, not completely but more than ever before, I understand God's plan of happiness and the wisdom and love with which He guides His children.

And, after months of frustration, I have realized that this cannot be taught. I cannot give you the path my spirit took to arrive at a glorious truth. I can only urge you to open your heart to the Holy Ghost, "for by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things."

I know that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Creator and Savior of the world.

I know that He was the greatest teacher and exemplar there ever was. He bade us follow Him and I know that although that path may seem at times to be fraught with trials and sorrow, that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

I know that He healed the sick and raised the dead during His mortal ministry. I know that He can heal and revitalize souls sickened or deadened by sin.

I know that His sacrifice in Gethsemane and on Golgotha prepared the way for us to return in glory to our Father in Heaven. He is the only way, the only name through which we can be saved.

I know that He lives and that He loves us.

And while I struggle with temptation, with pain, and with inequality, I know that through Him I shall obtain eternal life. I know in whom I have trusted.

These things cannot be taught. But I have obtained these truths--and countless more I cannot put into words!--through the Holy Ghost. That gift is one of God's greatest gifts to me. And every experience I have that invites me to learn line upon line from this spiritual teacher is a tender mercy from my loving Father in Heaven.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yes to Proposition 8

I've been thinking a lot about the difference between opinions and truth lately.

The Bible says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9). And I, for one, am so grateful. I'm glad the God I trust is smarter than us all.

I can plan and theorize and formulate and wonder. In fact, God wants me to do that. But I must be willing to give those ideas up when God speaks to me, even if I don't understand His plan. He has all knowledge and wisdom and power. And His plan is always better.

Sometimes, God wants me to study things out in my mind and come to a conclusion through logic and reason. But more often than He speaks to my mind, He speaks to my spirit. He wants me to accept a spiritual confirmation and exercise my faith. He is asking me to offer obedience to a plan that might fly in the face of contemporary thought. And when I receive that spiritual confirmation, I can proceed with confidence, even in the face of great opposition.

Today we have a prophet who speaks for God. His name is Thomas S. Monson and through him, our all-wise and all-loving Heavenly Father disseminates essential knowledge and counsel particular to our time and circumstances. When President Monson speaks, we do not have to wonder which course of action is best. We should pray for confirmation and then accept on faith that God's plan is always better. When my Father commands, I will give up whatever half-formed notions I've constructed and obey Him. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" (1Corinthians 3:19).

And so it is because of the spiritual confirmation I have received, more than anything I've reasoned out, that I support Proposition 8.

I feel a great deal of anguish for those people who will be left with sorrow, confusion, and doubt if this amendment is passed. Still, I think it is important and will do a great deal of good. This must be what Nephi felt like, commanded to slay Laban, knowing it was the right thing to do, but struggling with the ramifications. Or perhaps what the Israelites felt like, commanded to look at the serpent of brass and live yet wondering why their prophet Moses would suggest something that was so similar to idolatry. It was right because God commanded it and sometimes that needs to be good enough.

I, along with God's prophet, urge anyone with the vote in California (and Florida and Arizona) to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. If you can't vote on this issue in your state, you can still talk to friends and family who will, donate to the initiative here, or speak up on the internet. If you are grateful to live in an age where God speaks to man again, don't disregard His counsel! It comes from someone smarter than us all.

And if you can't accept my testimony and spiritual knowledge as a sound enough support, click here for an excellent and reasonable defense of the issue.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Linguistic Anomalies

My husband is a linguist and so I knew I he would be dorky about our first child's language acquisition. I knew that when our son stopped squawking and started babbling, my husband would take a great deal more interest in him. I expected that.

So when Scott started talking about the unusual phonemes our son was acquiring, I figured it was just lingo-babble and fatherly pride. I didn't really understand what was peculiar about Soren's aggregate of sounds and so I guess I thought Scott was just exaggerating. Kind of the scholarly equivalent of me propping Soren up against a table and then snapping pictures of him "standing" at 6 or 7 months. That Soren would be standing then seemed as unlikely to me as him aquiring difficult and non-native sounds before typical baby babble. I mean, it was just a bizarre hubris to think our baby would defy the bell curve, right? And average was more than good enough for me.

Then another linguist friend came to visit our family on Sunday. She and Scott huddled together around Soren and began talking in a language of linguistic scholarship, unintelligible to me. What I gathered out of the conversation was that they were talking about Soren and that it was generally agreed that he was making some unusual sounds. Scott was beaming.

Yesterday I had a thought. I thought that maybe Soren's unusual babble was a gift from our Father, a tender mercy. It's such a small, seemingly unimportant thing. But I believe God is involved in the minutia of our lives. If there was going to be a baby like Soren (and face it, statistics do say there should be at least one), then why would he not send the little tike to a father that would thoroughly appreciate it? Yes, his phonetic inventory is going to realign to normal before he starts talking. No, it's not an earth-shaking miracle or life-altering blessing. But it's a beautiful detail that brings more joy to our home right now. And I believe it's a tender mercy from a loving and involved Father in heaven.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

First Snow

I woke up this morning and wandered, bleary-eyed, into Soren's room. The window blinds were open and morning was streaming into the nursery. Cold, white morning. I don't think there is a more magical day of the year than the first morning you wake up to snow.


Yesterday Scott and I were walking to the library when it started to rain/slush. I couldn't really suppress a little hop-skip-and-squeal; for some reason it felt marvelous to turn my face up into the falling slurry. I pulled Soren's wrap up over his head and he fell asleep while we walked, getting wetter and wetter. It was absolutely wonderful. I said to Scott, "I love weather." I loved walking, all bundled up in hand-knit items, and feeling how different it was from walking in the heat only a few months ago. The newness of it made it feel like a special gift, falling on my head straight from heaven.

Then we passed a panhandler standing head down in a wet sweatshirt, cold and with no place to go. Here I was, enjoying a jaunt out in the invigoratingly chilly air while he was enduring it, hoping it would stop. I'm sure there's a lesson in this. Compassion, empathy. I was grateful for the sudden slush shower because I had a warm apartment to go back to. Or a library to hurry on to. He didn't have either of those things; surely the cold rain was no blessing to him. Still, I'd felt the love of God in that bitter sweet condensation.

The library was full of hobos. I was glad. Perhaps it wasn't so callous of me to be grateful for the fluctuating weather. Because of the great economy of my Father, I could feel His love in chilly, melted fingerprints on my face even as they could feel His love while sinking into a warm, public armchair.

Things I was grateful for on this walk: changing weather, my comfortable apartment, a lesson in compassion, and the public library.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Help for My Sister

Calling all conscientious eaters: my 13-yr-old sister is thinking about becoming vegetarian (because of a fantasy book she read, of all things). She is looking for advice on whether or not this course of action is for her and how she should broach the subject with our mom, who makes meat and potatoes for every meal. Please follow this link to her post and offer her your opinions, advice, experiences, and recipes. Although I have given her my input, based on my knowledge of her and our family, I know that I have a lot of friends who have struggled with this issue before. Even if you are not vegetarian and have never considered becoming vegetarian, could you share with her how you balance your diet, how you interpret the counsel to "eat meat sparingly", or of a time you might have made a lifestyle change that affected those you love? It would mean a lot to me if you could lend her a hand.

Boy, I'm grateful for an internet community that can help with these kinds of things.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

50 Tender Mercies

I felt the love of the Lord today:

1. when I woke up this morning and realized that Scott, Soren, and I had all enjoyed a full, uninterrupted night of sleep.
2. when I pulled on a hand-knit sweater.
3. when we had the time and foresight to pray together before walking to the train stop.
4. when we chatted with Phyllis, the crossing guard.
5. when there were enough seats at the train stop for all of us.
6. when a woman getting off the train gave me a piece of good advice.
7. when I had a stroke of genius and ensured that Soren will never be hatless on a morning walk again.
8. when a bird's feather fell right in front of my path.
9. when Soren was happy to eat taco soup for breakfast, since we have a ton and no one else wants it.
10. when I read the paper and was grateful for our democratic government, flawed as it is.
11. when I listened to the first disk of Handel's "Messiah".
12. when I thought about the perfect government Christ will set up at his second coming, when we will be ruled by he who is called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace!
13. when Soren curled up next to me and laid his head on my chest, if only for a moment.
14. when I bit into a crisp autumn apple.
15. when I remembered other apples and harvesting the bounty of the earth from our yard at Step Beyond.
16. when I was able to get ahold of Aaron Fernuik and cancel our harp lesson to take care of my feverish son.
17. when I stopped to feel it.
18. when I spent a little bit of time cleaning, then stepped back and look at the difference I had made and thought of President Uchtdorf's talk on the divinity of creation.
19. when I explained the geometry of a soccer ball to Soren and he seemed to listen the whole time.
20. when I used the miracle that is Vick's Vapor Rub!
21. when I felt the energizing power of the Spirit, sustaining me as I was trying to sustain my baby boy.
22. when I opened the window blinds and let in the sunlight.
23. when I thought about how God wants me to nourish my body, then actually sat down and ate lunch.
24. when Alisha Stamper came to visit.
25. when Wallace Stamper smiled at me (truly a rare gift).
26. when I used the internet to read up on my extended family.
27. when Soren and I danced to "Here Come the ABCs" and he laughed (if a little wetly).
28. when Jill Fetzer called and gave me an opportunity to magnify my calling.
29. when I curled up on the couch in my comfortable apartment and read unstoppably through my chance to nap.
30. when April Clauson brought me some fresh basil and mint from her garden, as well as an example of service and friendship.
31. when Soren woke up from his afternoon nap, contently babbling.
32. when I listened to Henry B. Eyring--again.
33. when I put down my book and watched Soren play with a Baby Ruth wrapper.
34. when I saw the motto for Attachment Parenting Month, "Giving Our Children Presence".
35. when I commented on your blogs.
36. when I looked at pictures of my family.
37. when Soren looked up at me and smiled.
38. when Scott came home from work and said he'd had plenty to do and felt more like a linguist than a bureaucrat.
39. when Scott had his new work shirts and I remembered what a blessing his job is.
40. when I realized we had so much good leftovers I wouldn't have to cook!
41. when I made a very tasty pesto anyways with lots of basil and lots of flavor.
42. when all three of us sprawled out on the floor to play.
43. when it kind-of looked like Soren was combing Scott's hair.
44. when Scott and I watched Soren play in the bath tub.
45. when Soren and I went on a babywearing walk in the cool evening air.
46. when I saw Earl Gilmore at the church building and saw him smile, in spite of everything.
47. when I walked into my warm house and put on my warm robe.
48. when Soren fell asleep and peace descended on him and our home.
49. when Scott came home from a church meeting and held me close.
50. when I wrote this list.

Can I start a tag? How have you felt the love of the Lord today?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Divine Maternity

Every mom is different and so is every child. There is no one right way to parent.

I learned something very valuable in General Conference this weekend. I learned that we have more in common as mothers in Zion than we have differences. All the important things we have in common. I've been secretly bitter and antagonistic towards other moms who, in their zeal and love for their babies, left me feeling inadequate and then, as a defense mechanism, spiteful and self-righteous. But I was wrong and if I have offended you, I'm sorry.

President Eyring talked about the need for unity in the church and, although he wasn't talking about our need to come together as mothers and women, that's what I heard. That's what I needed to hear. A great day of unity is coming and I want to be a part of it. If that is to be, I knew I needed to give up my pride. Eyring said that we focus too much on our differences. We exaggerate them, trying to seperate ourselves from eachother, trying to be better than each other. He was talking about me. He admonished me, reminded me that our differences are insignificant when compared to the similar heritage we share. Those differences are shades of divinity. They are not polar opposites but slight shifts in focus.

We are all daughters of God and our divine spirits all yearn to become like our Heavenly Parents. Whenever we feel strongly about something, it is because we can sense that it is an echo of our God's love. Whenever another mother feels strongly about the way the she parents, it is because she knows something about the character of God.

And now I see the character of God in those mothers around me. They are amazing; they inspire me even when I choose to do something different. Because our differing styles are similar in love.

I chose to bear my son, Soren, in a hospital with pain medication and his birth was wondrous and absolutely perfect. So was the birth of Margaret, whose mother labored for days in her very own home and triumphed over fear and pain without the assistance of drugs or medical personel. We both experienced the spiritual and empowering gift of childbirth. But I respect so much those mothers who have to give up their plans of vaginal birth and offer the escape hatch to emerging life. Mothers who end up choosing cesarean are a great example to me of both physical and emotional sacrifice on behalf of their infant.

I chose to breastfeed Soren for the first 9 months and I cherished that physical representation of the link between us. I am amazed by this mother who, at great personal sacrifice, continues to nurse to the great benefit of her toddler. I am also amazed by this mother who, in the face of great (dare I say?) persecution, bottle-feeds her baby with love, tenderness, and humility that in no way diminishes the mother-child bond. We are all nourishing our babies with emotional and physical sustenance.

I chose a crib for my son, and his very own room. I chose early sleep training; Soren and I both needed it. But I have learned that mothering is a 24-hour job from a good friend who sleeps with her baby and feeds him several times in the night. In spite of all my nights of good sleep, sometimes she has more energy and optimism during the day than even I can muster up. We both guide our sons with love, making sure they are well rested.

I chose to implement a 1/2 hour long "room time" each day for my son when he plays alone in his room and I tidy up. But I am inspired by Paula from my ward, who carries her daughter Penelope in a sling while she does housework! I can see how happy it makes Penny to stay close to her mother and it reminds me that all children need special time with their parents.

I chose not to babyproof my house, at least not most things. I am *trying* to teach Soren self control by imposing boundaries on him and sometimes it seems like he gets it. But I love to see moms who have made their homes a safe haven for their child, a place to explore and enjoy. And I don't think these values are mutually exclusive! I am never surprised to meet children who are both creative and obedient, self-managing and confident.

I chose to feed my baby on a schedule, which (when implemented at 3 months) improved his temperament (and mine) drastically. But I understand and value the lesson of trust and tenderness given with milk by mothers who feed on demand like my favorite mom blogger. But in spite of the fact that I no longer feed for comfort, Soren has learned to trust me. He knows that I will meet his needs and show him a way to be happy and comfortable. Any mother can share that bond of trust with their child, no matter their feeding philosophy. We will all rush to their aid and respond according to the spirit when our sons and daughters call out to us.

I chose cloth diapers mostly because I am so cheap. But I don't think that what we put on our child's butt is any good indicator of our quality as a mother. I am blown away by TopHat, who is learning to identify her baby's elimination signs and teaching her 6-month-old to use a mini-potty. I am impressed by Liz, who makes her own wipes! But the contemporary mother who has most inspired me is April, who uses disposable diapers and, as a consequence, has one less worry getting in the way of having fun with Sequoia. Diapers do not make the mom.

To all mothers earnestly loving and raising a valiant generation, I honor you. Especially those of you who feel inadequate. Our children need us to be their mothers, not a philosophy and definitely not another. I know that every baby needs his or her unique mother and that each mother can have the Holy Ghost with her to give individual tailored help. And that all of us, even when we choose "opposites" can be love incarnate to our family. I grateful for this lesson and so sorry that it took me so long to get it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Lord's Organization for Women

Everyday I am reminded that life isn't fair. The world is full of injustice and suffering. There are people everywhere struggling with physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual losses. There are children growing up hungry for the love and leadership of a stable parental unit. There are teenagers struggling to find meaning and identity in all the wrong places. There are women who do not understand their infinite worth. There are men floundering without the confidence that comes from gospel truths. There are children of God who are sick, neglected, lonely, undernourished, oppressed, heartbroken, confused, and dying. In these last days before the Lord's second coming, our fallen world seems to weigh even more heavily on the weary shoulders of humanity.

It is not hard to see that this is a time that calls for courage and sacrifice. We are surrounded by extraordinary occasions and pressing calls. We should not be idle when there is so much to be done, so many wrongs to be righted. But sometimes I wonder where I can put my effort so that it will not be wasted. Which charity or group or volunteer work should I be involved in? There are so many and I cannot do them all. There are many good things to do but which is the best? And will my widow's mite of service even make a dent in the injustices of mankind? Perhaps I should just cling tight to me and my own and hope that the plagues of this era pass over our door.

In this time of suffering and climate of perceived helplessness, the Lord has organized the women of His church. He has formed the Relief Society to perform His miracles, spreading relief, knowledge, and joy as the Savior did during His early ministry. He has laid down a plan in the compassionate service, visiting teaching, education, and enrichment arms of this organization that can, if we catch hold of the vision, alleviate suffering. And He has promised us that charity never faileth.

"We need not rush about trying to find things to do or causes to take up," Barbara Thompson said in last Saturday's General Relief Society broadcast. "Remember, most often the help needed is in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities. A kind word of encouragement, a note of thanks, a phone call, a loving smile, a helpful deed, and a reminder that God loves us is often what is needed most." Those things seem like only a drop in the bucket and yet that is the Lord's plan for His children. Drop by drop we will become a cascading torrent, filling the earth with God's tender mercies.

And when I wonder if I am doing enough, when I am frustrated that I cannot fix the entire world, when I want to be do something grand and heroic, I must exercise faith in God's plan. Relief Society is His organization for the women of the world. I know it is effective and important because it is His plan. I will no longer doubt the power of Relief Society. I will no longer scorn the impact of visiting teaching. I will not deny the power of a thought-provoking lesson or activity to soften hearts and invite the Spirit. I will no longer stay my hand when I am called upon to serve in little ways. For "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Woman I Become

I believe that the people that you love most have the power to change the person that you are.

Falling in love with Scott forever changed the woman that I am. I look back with fondness on the girl I was. She is someone I was always happy to be. But I'm different now. And although as I was content before, I became even more so afterwards. I became more open and trusting. I felt more stable and peaceful. I think I gained wisdom. I don't think you can love and not be wiser.

Loving Soren has irrevocably changed me too, as I hope every child I have will. Sometimes I feel as though I have borrowed his driving need for self-discovery and his refreshing lack of inhibitions. Sometimes, when I look in his sleepy eyes, I feel as though I have regained a lost innocence. And, again, I believe I am wiser now.

This is how it happens: I'm sitting on the couch reading a book or a blog. I am encompassed by my own affairs and my own interests; I am an island and happy to stay that way. Soren is balanced by the coffee table, excited to touch and move everything. He is babbling in a way that seems absent-minded. Look up. Behold your little one. I look up from my task, from myself, and see him. He is the flesh of my flesh. He is my son. He is innocent and full of potential. And, feeling my eyes on him, he turns to smile at me. He knows so little and yet mine is the face that makes him smile. My little perfect boy, and he loves me. Elder Russel M. Ballard has said that mothers must realize that "the joy of motherhood comes in moments". Often, this is one of those moments. It is a shining yet ephemeral piece of sacred time. I look up from myself. I love him and I become a new person. A mother, the realization of my potential.

Then, suddenly, the glow has faded. But the change remains. Love has the power to change us, to make us become more like He who loves us.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An All-Encompassing Commandment

I've lately come to realize how important it is to study God's word. I have often listened in church meetings or in conferences and been discouraged by the sheer weight of God's commandments. I have thrown up my proverbial hands in despair and felt unable to make the tremendous life changes God asks.

Recently, however, I have come to understand that those changes are made in increments and that they are made naturally as we study the word of God and sincerely pray to know His will. I now know that if I read my scriptures and pray daily, every other commandment will fall naturally into place (eventually). If we can keep those lines of communication open between us and the heavens, then we will have access to God's help. We will have the Holy Ghost with us and He will tell us all things that we should do. He will change things about us that we never thought we could overcome. So much of what God wants from us is an attitude adjustment. Searching, pondering, and praying will soften our hearts and yield the necessary results.

As long as I pray sincerely and ponder God's word in the many ways it has been revealed to me, I do not have to worry about my Heavenly Father's judgment. As long as I do not willfully reject the teachings I receive, the Holy Ghost will make sure that my heart will be in the right place. I believe this is how the prophets of old could be so confident that they would meet us at the final judgment, standing on the right hand of God. It was not pride or knowledge that they had done everything right. It was a recognition of the power of the Atonement and a knowledge that they had the Holy Ghost with them, sanctifying them. They knew that their earnest desire would enable Jesus Christ, through His infinite and all-powerful Atonement, to do the rest.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I have the whole pie (and so can you!)

I was appreciating the church's new website ( this morning. I love all the videos connected to the site; I'm very much an aural learner. One of my favorite videos was about how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has all the truth, not just some of it. And those who are baptised into this church have access to all of God's greatest gifts, not just some of them. The man speaking compared truth to a pie and he said that, after hearing the missionaries, he wanted the whole pie, not just a sliver of it.

Following the deaths of Christ's apostles and due to disobedience and loss of authority, a great deal of spiritual truth was lost. The beauty and wisdom of God's plan was obscured from man and His power was no longer on the earth. Those lost truths were restored through a modern prophet, Joseph Smith, and even now the veil between heaven and earth is peirced by continuing revelation via God's chosen mouthpeice today, Thomas S. Monson. This is a most glorious time to live! Now is the time that all of God's blessings are available to all of His children, according to their agency. Now is the time that, if you choose, you can have the whole pie!

I am grateful for many these restored and reiterated truths. They bring purpose and joy to my life. What more could I ask for? Simply stated, that these same truths might be available to everyone. I want everyone to know...
... that we have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves each of His children. He is all wise and all loving; if we follow His plan, we will be lead to eternal life and everlasting joy.
... that God's Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, performed an infinite Atonement and has the power to redeem and to change us. If we desire it, He will remake us in His image. In this suffering and fallen world, it is a comfort to know that He will return and make everything right.
... that the same Jesus which was crucified for our sins, was literally resurrected and that He lives. And so shall we someday be resurrected, reunited with our bodies and with those we love.
... that families are integral to God's plan. That in order to receive our inheritance as children of God, a man and a woman must be sealed together in God's holy temple and there become an eternal unit.
... that God speaks to each of His children through two channels. We can receive personal revelation through the power of the Holy Ghost and we can receive the unalterable commands and truths of our Father's plan through His prophet and the Holy Scriptures.
... that man is that he might have joy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

An Award

Heather Farley (aka TopHat) passed along to me the "You Make My Day" award--and that made my day! It's always comforting to know that I'm not just yammering to myself here, and even better to know that someone else appreciates what I have to say!

RULES about this little award:
(1) give this to people whose blogs mean something special to you - or give it to the blogs whose persons mean something special to you
(2) leave a comment on their blog so they know they got it
(3) you get to pick the number of times you give it

I would like to pass this award on to:
* Jennie Yri, whose writing blog is my favorite and whose blog about politics routes out the cynic in me;
* Audrey Duede, my hillarious mother-in-law who writes about adventures in knitting and keeps me updated on the status of my husband's childhood pets;
* Alisha Stamper, a stay-at-home photographer who takes glorious pictures of things moms see everyday;
* and Russel Stevenson, who helps me stay abreast of issues in the news and challenges (and strengthens) the way I think about my faith.

I am grateful that I can stay in touch with my friends and family as well as be stimulated by their experiences and ideas. Reading your blogs keeps me thinking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Power of Prayer

I am grateful for the supernal gift of prayer. This blessing and commandment is truly a tender mercy of the Lord to me. Through prayer, I come to know the will of my Father in Heaven and I access the power of the Atonement to experience greater conversion.

I have recently started adding an extra prayer to my day. In the middle of the day, when Soren is sleeping and Scott is gone, I kneel down and pray in complete privacy. I am able to pray out loud and to spend time pondering without any interruptions. This has become the foundation of my day. From that prayer, I try to decide what good I will do that day. I find motivation to study the scriptures with real intent. The Spirit I feel during that special prayer is something I yearn to keep throughout the day and that influences the ways in which I act. That prayer has great power. It always invites the Holy Ghost into my home and my heart. When I strive to keep that Spirit with me, I have power to make changes in my life.

I have found nothing to be more rewarding than praying, receiving insight into what I should do, and following that counsel. When I pray, the Holy Ghost whispers God's will to me and sometimes it is something I can do right away. That action brings great joy and confidence. Prayer is what allows me to be an able instrument in hands of God.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

"An achingly beautiful story." -School Library Journal (starred review)

Four years ago I read Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux, which won the Newberry Award for the greatest contribution to children's literature in the year of 2004. It was an enchanting fable and easily became one of my all-time favorite books. I never thought DiCamillo could write a more captivating story and, as a rule, I have not enjoyed her other books very much. So when I picked up The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, I was not expecting to become so entransed. I was certainly not expecting to be inspired, to feel my heart ripped from my body in sorrow and joy. It's a book about love in all its simplicity and pain and glory. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. "Achingly beautiful" is right. That's exactly what reading it felt like; I ached with the beauty of it.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit loved and pampered by a girl named Abilene. On an ocean voyage he goes overboard and is lost. Thus begins his wandering at the hands of fate and a journey could teach him the importance of love.

It's a very simple story and a quick read. I made it through the whole book in less than an hour. And I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Come and borrow it if you like but don't keep it for long. It's one I'll want to read again and again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Aural Indulgence

I am grateful for good music (and a nice sound system). I am grateful for great composers whose music inspires me and invites the Holy Ghost into my life. These are a few of my favorite recordings, in no particular order.

1. "The Messiah" by George Frederick Handel (as recorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)
2. "Flute Concerto" by Christopher Rouse (as recorded by Carol Wincenc)
3. "Songs from the Trilogy" by Philip Glass (as recorded by the Phillip Glass Ensemble)
4. "Requiem and Magnificat" by John Rutter (as recorded by the Cambridge Singers)
5. "Kindertotenlieder" by Gustav Mahler (as recorded by Janet Baker)
6. "Crown of Ariadne" by R. Murray Schafer (as recorded by Judy Loman)
7. "Symphony No. 9 Aus Neuen Welt" by Antonin Dvorak (as recorded by the Berliner Philharmonic)
8. "Pines of Rome" by Ottorino Respighi (as recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
9. "Appalacian Spring; Rodeo; Farfare to the Common Man" by Aaron Copland (as recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra)

Feel free to add your own in the comments. I'm always looking for more good music.

Monday, September 8, 2008

In Defense of Cheerfulness

Christ commanded us to "be of good cheer". Elder Holland postulates that this may be a commandment we break more than almost any other. He offers a maxim I find to be very true for me: "No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won't make it worse."

When I first heard those words, I thought they were quaint but made no effort to analyze how they could improve my life. There are negative things to face in life and I used to think that they could be improved by commiserating about them. Whenever something unfortunate happened in my life, I would immediately start brainstorming about who I could go complain to. If I could illicit a little sympathy, maybe I would feel better about myself. And when others came to tell me of their misfortunes, I thought to make them more comfortable by unburdening my own (or sometimes exaggerating them). When I worried about it, Scott told me that complaining is an inescapable fact of female communication. For awhile, this seemed an acceptable conclusion.

But I know that Elder Holland is a special witness of Christ, an apostle of God. I know that his words in general conference, and the words of the other prophets and apostles, are among the most pertinent words to me today. I had to ask myself, do I really believe that the prophet and the apostles speak for God? If so, then that particular counsel is from God to me. If so, then it is an immutable truth that no circumstance is improved by complaining. If so, I decided I must experiment upon those words.

I have found cheerfulness to be among God's most gentle commandments. In my life, I have found that there is no misfortune so bad that being cheerful won't make it better. Of course there are unfortunate circumstances that I must discuss with others to alleviate. But I am trying to think carefully before I lay my burdens at any feet but those of the Savior. Most of the time, I find there is no need to complain and great reason to rejoice, even in misfortunes. I believe that when we replace our negative communication with gratitude we invite the Holy Ghost to be with us. And He can comfort and uplift us.

Friday, September 5, 2008

As a Man Thinketh

So I have been asked to teach Relief Society on Sunday and since it's the presidency message, they've given me free reign to talk about whatever I want to. WARNING: Anyone reading this from my ward, BEWARE! It contains spoilers!

I've decided to give my lesson on the importance of controlling our thoughts. This is a topic that gets a lot of attention in Priesthood meetings but is very rarely taught to women. I think this is because it is generally assumed that we have less problems with sexual transgressions. Be that as it may, I think that controlling our thoughts is about more than controlling physical desires. It is also about not being judgmental, maintaining a healthy optimism, and pondering spiritual things. It is about the state of our soul for "as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." I feel very strongly about this topic and I'm really excited to teach about it.

I have lots of things I want to draw from in a very short amount of time. The umph behind the message comes from Elder Packer's talk "Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts" and (my all-time favorite) Elder Holland's talk "The Tongue of Angels". I am seriously considering beginning with a clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the thoughts of the enterprise crew shape the reality around them. Does anyone think that would be blasphemous? It's very pertinent and the clip I would show is very short.

Mostly, I wanted to put up this post to see if anyone out there has ideas, stories, or pertinent talks they could share with me. Why do you think it is important to control our thoughts? And how do you accomplish it?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Temples and Covenants

On Saturday, Scott and I had the opportunity to attend a sealing of a child to her parents in the Salt Lake City temple. It was very special to see a whole family there in the temple receiving the greatest blessings promised by God.

My Aunt Karen adopted a Cambodian baby a few months ago. The story of Kalea's adoption is a very special one and I know that Heavenly Father intended her to be a part of their family just as surely as He intended Soren to be a part of ours. But because Kalea was not naturally born to Karen and Mark Roylance, she was not born into their eternal family and she did not inherit the blessings granted to a daughter of a covenant union. So on Saturday, she was sealed into their family and became a rightful heir to the blessings of a child born in the covenant. She became a part of their eternal family unit. She is now linked forever to Karen, Mark, Tiffany, Ashley, Michael, and Matthew, as well as to the family of Christ.

At the conclusion of the short and beautiful ceremony, Scott turned to me and said, "She is so lucky." He was referring to Kalea who was born into very different circumstances but was now adopted into a family who could offer her a double portion of life's greatest blessings. She will partake of a very prosperous lifestyle and grow up with all her basic needs fulfilled and many of her wants met as well. She will have a mother and father (as well as doting siblings) who love her and are devoted to her success in life. But perhaps most importantly, she will have all the blessings of Father Abraham. She is now set on the path to eternal life. She will have the knowledge of righteousness and the priesthood power in her life to cement God's promises to her. Yes, when we thought of how different things could have been for Kalea, we agreed that she was very lucky.

But we also realized how fortunate we are as well. Through no actions of our own, we also have access to all those great blessings. It is only through the grace of God that we are blessed with temporal prosperity and spiritual knowledge. Sometimes I get a little prideful and I think of all the things I possess and all the correct choices I have made as though I had made my life this way. Instead, I must thank my Father in Heaven for His many tender mercies on my behalf.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sickness and Health

This past couple of weeks I've been pretty sick. First I had a horribly painful bacterial infection and then I got a really debilitating viral infection. I'm just started to regain complete functionality. Now, granted, this was a finite and blissfully short stint of illness. Still, it has made me enthusiastically grateful for my good health! However, that's not what I wanted to write about. I am also grateful for sickness. Not just because it provides a stark contrast for the rest of my life. I am grateful for the lessons it can teach and the beautiful experiences that can flow from it.

First, there is nothing that reminds me of my own mortality more than being sick. Nothing makes me more desperate to show and receive affection and service. And nothing inspires greater introspection. These past few days of limited physical labor have been an opportunity for spiritual labor. I'm not trying to melodramatic. I knew I wasn't going to die just then. But I did know in a way I hardly ever face that someday I will die. And no one knows when that time will come. We must use every precious breath given us to prepare to meet God. For when we die, we will be possessed of the same spirit that we give ourselves to in this life.

So there's nothing like being sick to get me up off my butt and working on the things that matter most to me. Every ounce of strength that is not directed towards getting well is spent on the things that really count. Although sick, it was vitally important to me that I show love to my son and my husband. And, while that was about all that I could do, now that I am better I feel revitalized to attack the projects I procrastinated about before. I know that if they are important to the Lord, He will provide a way for me to do them. It's my responsibility to get them done while I can.

In addition, that reminder of mortality and prick of fear that comes with sickness can, if we allow it, bring us to the Savior.

I also had the opportunity to receive two blessings during this period of time. I felt such an outpouring of my Heavenly Father's spirit at those times. Although I was experiencing frightening physical pain, I was basking in the peace and joy of my Savior's love. And the blessings were a confirmation of the revelations I had received for myself during that time. The Lord spoke to me through the laying on of hands but also through personal revelation by the Holy Ghost.

Out of the crucible of illness can come the resolve, peace, and knowledge necessary to finish our mortal probation with courage and kindness. It reminds me of something I think Jennie inferred once. When we are sick, we have an opportunity to be healed. And although that healing may not manifest itself in (only) physical ways, we can still reach through the veil to grasp hold of the greatest healing available to any person.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rejected Petitions

In sacrament meeting last week, someone made a comment about how you can tell how much the Lord loves you when you look back on the prayers that he has said, very gently, "no" to. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. I've been thinking about the people in my life and the person that I am today and how grateful I am for the way the Lord has guided my life by saying "no" to things I really thought I wanted.

For example, I remember praying so long and so hard that I would get accepted at the Oberlin Conservatory so I could study harp with Yolanda Kondonassis. I knew that it would be a grueling musical education and would prepare me for almost anything I wanted to do in the competitive harp scene. I remember wanting so badly that degree. I wanted to be a fierce and independent, the paragon of dedication and technical prowess. How far that is from the life I'm living right now! And yet, how grateful I am for the change of plans!

I love being laid back about music. I love being a wife and a mother. I loved attending BYU and using my talents with the harp to help others tap into the Savior's love. Now, I love being a homemaker and sometimes music teacher. And, not to sound so corny, I love being married to Scott. I never would have found anyone remotely like him at Oberlin.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Scenic Drive

Have you ever experienced a sudden flash of awe, a burning in your heart? Almost like you were being touched by something much greater than yourself? Maybe it felt like an epiphany of the spirit? I felt that this weekend while driving up the canyon to a family reunion at Bear Lake. The mountains were solid pillars of majesty all around us and every once in a while we would catch a dazzling blue glimmer of the approaching lake. I felt a peace settle over me that I didn't even realize was missing.

Usually that is a feeling I experience when praying or when listening to edifying music. It feels like I'm being touched by the finger of God. I know that it is the Holy Ghost testifying of my Heavenly Father's love for me. I remember an old friend at Interlochen Arts Academy telling me that he knew there was a God because he could see his hand in the beauty and diversity of the natural world. Now I understand what he meant by that.

It's been a long time since I've driven out beyond the bustle and man-made aesthetic of tradition civilization. I'm grateful that I was able to go this weekend. And I'm grateful now to know that it's still out there. There's still a place I can go to where there is almost nothing interfering with the awe-inspiring simplicity of God's creation.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Memory of Jonathan Berry

Each life that touches our for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

A friend reminded me today of another friend who disappeared about three years ago and is presumed dead. And so I've been thinking all day about Jonathan Berry and the short, sweet friendship we shared. I've been thinking about how he impacted my life and how grateful I am to my God for Christ-like friends.

When I first met Jon, I was struck by his big ears, ruddy complexion, and contagiously exuberant smile. He invited us to sit with him at lunch. He was a sincere and amusing conversationalist. He said he was going to play Frisbee and invited Jennie and I to come. Is it any wonder that I knew from that moment that we would be friends? He was leaving on a mission at the end of our first college semester and so if we were going to get to know each other, it was going to have to be fast.

Jennie, Jon, Jason, and I played card games together almost every night. Jon was the life of the party. He was hillarious to watch when we played spaz and was always good-natured and energetic.

Jon played the cello and was in my music history class with me. Most mornings we would walk to class together and he would tell me about the graduate level class he was taking in modern music. He was very intelligent and enthusiastic about learning. We studied for our music history tests together and he always had a thorough and thought-provoking grasp of the material.

Jon suffered from depression and there were times when I could tell he needed someone to listen and uplift him. When given the opportunity, I always listened but I never knew what to say. Sometimes we would just pray together. Most of the time, though, he tried to keep it to himself. He thought that his depression was a burden he should carry alone.

Jon was a crazy dancer. We went to Homecoming together and he was not afraid to move! He wasn't really very graceful but his joy in movement was obvious.

When I knew him, Jon lived life to its fullest. He always wanted to extract every last ounce of experience from every occasion. He wanted to learn as much as he could. He wanted to laugh as much as he could. He wanted to move as much as he could.

When he came home early from his mission, though, he was very changed. He had lost faith in the Savior during the trials of life. But it was only the Savior that had power to heal him!

It is still the Savior who has the power to heal him. It is the Savior that will cause him to rise again. It is the Savior who can judge with perfect mercy his actions and will, in the end, be able to embrace him and comfort him in the way we never could. God is so wise and kind! I am grateful for his plan, which is a plan of happiness for all his children. He has provided a way for everyone to find peace and eternal joy, no matter what struggles they may face in this life.