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.