Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Best Internet Filter Software Review, and two free tips to avoid seeing yucky stuff online

Tomorrow I'm speaking at BYU Women's Conference about using social media for good, and avoiding the dangerous pitfalls of media. I've been studying my heart out about media for months (actually this has been a pet topic of mine for many years) but I'm not an expert about internet filters, so I'm posting this review from someone who is an expert.

Click here for the full article. 

Here are two of our family's favorite free tips to avoid seeing yucky stuff online. 

  • AdBlock Plus. This removes ads from sites like Facebook or Youtube. 
  • Safer searching by using the space bar in the URL.  For example, " [space bar] Camelbak water bottle." 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Parents: Watch this before giving a child or teen a smart phone (or now if they already own one)

Dear Parent, 

If your child or teen has any internet device, please watch the video below to protect your child! 



Officer Gomez Internet Safety Class  

Wow. I have been studying the effects of media for years, and I learned things from Officer Gomez that I never knew before. 

Note: I would recommend watching this with your spouse, but not with your kids. It's information I'm glad I learned as a parent, but I don't want my kids exposed to the information through a video. As parents we will teach our children these protections in our own words and when they're ready for them.  

Click here for Generation Smartphone: A Guide for Parents of Tweens & Teens

This helpful article includes:
  • 4 Questions to Ask Yourself To Determine If Your Child Is Ready for a Mobile Phone7
  • Things to Do When You Get Your Tween or Teen a Mobile Device
  • The Smartphone Family Meeting & What to Discuss
  • How to Spot and Handle Bad Phone Behavior
  • 4 Ways to Build Responsibility & Your Relationship With Mobile Phones

Click here for a list of Kids' Rules for Online Safety. 

Online Video Games: Top 10 Tips to Keep Kids Safe

If your kids play games online, PLEASE read this! And please share it to help others too. 

I knew that violent video games can be a gateway to pornography addiction, but until I read this article and watched the video in it, I had no idea just how bad these games can be, including: 

  • Pop ups of pornography right in the games 
  • Giving points for having virtual sex, encouraging group sex and bestiality
  • Mixing violence with pornography
  • It's super easy for predators to groom and target young people through these games. 
This is scary stuff. The article gives parents a heads up of what to look for, as well as how to help protect children from these dangers. 

Click here for the article. 

Here is a video from the article that is worth watching. 

Click here for a world-renowned expert on the effects of violent video games. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Contrast LDS Beliefs about God with the Nicene Creed Beliefs about God.

Here are some statements of LDS beliefs about God. 

God the Father by Cima da Conegliano, c. 1515. I love this loving rendition of Heavenly Father! 

Heavenly Father is a separate being from Jesus and the Holy Ghost 

“We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign Nov. 2007, 41).

Heavenly Father is an Exalted Man

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder Heavens!  If you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form – like yourselves in all the person, image and very form as a man.”  (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:305)

How Familiar Heavenly Father is to us

“If we could see our Father who dwells in the Heavens, we would learn that we are as well acquainted with him as we are with our earthly father...We would be ready to embrace him and fall upon his neck and kiss him, if we had the privilege.”  (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 8:30)

You will be sorry you didn’t try harder

“When you find out who you are, you will be sorry you didn’t try harder."  (President Eyring, as quoted on March 21, 2006 BYU Devotional, “Understand Who You Are”, Elder Robert C. Oaks)

Nothing is going to startle us more

“Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us.”  (President Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Dec 1988, p.6)

We are his child all of the time

“You are His child all the time, not just when you are good, you are his child when you are bad.  You have within you a portion of Divinity that is real and tremendous and marvelous and wonderful.”  (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, April 27, 1996)

God is cheerful

“I am perfectly satisfied that my Father and my God is a cheerful, pleasant, lively, and good-natured being…He is a jovial, lively person, and a beautiful man.”  (Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Volume 4:222)

Explanation of each member of the Godhead from D&C and Church History Seminary Teacher Manual, page 466-467)  

“God the Father: It is generally the Father, or Elohim, who is referred to by the title God. He is called the Father because He is the father of our spirits. … God the Father is the supreme ruler of the universe. He is all powerful … , all knowing … , and everywhere present through his Spirit. … Mankind has a special relationship to God that sets man apart from all other created things: men and women are God’s spirit children. …

“God the Son: The God known as Jehovah is the Son, Jesus Christ. … Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are His brothers and sisters, for He is the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim. [He is the Redeemer who suffered the sins and pains of all mankind and overcame physical death for all.] …

“God the Holy Ghost: The Holy Ghost is also a God and is called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, and the Spirit of God, among other similar names and titles [such as the Comforter]. With the aid of the Holy Ghost, man can know the will of God the Father and know that Jesus is the Christ” (Guide to the Scriptures, “God, Godhead,” The primary role of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of God the Father and Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost teaches and confirms truth.

Icon depicting the Emperor Constantineand the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325) holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381. From Wikipedia

Now contrast the above descriptions of the Godhead with the Nicene Creed description of the Godhead.

President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“For centuries men gathered and argued concerning the nature of Deity. Constantine assembled scholars of various factions at Nicaea in the year 325. After two months of bitter debate, they compromised on a definition which for generations has been the doctrinal statement among Christians concerning the Godhead.  I invite you to read that definition…

“Compare [The Nicene Creed] with the statement of the boy Joseph. He simply says that God stood before him and spoke to him. Joseph could see Him and could hear Him. He was in form like a man, a being of substance. Beside Him was the resurrected Lord, a separate being, whom He introduced as His Beloved Son and with whom Joseph also spoke. “I submit that in the short time of that remarkable vision Joseph learned more concerning Deity than all of the scholars and clerics of the past.” (“The Great Things Which God Has Revealed,” Liahona, May 2005.) 

Here is the Nicene Crede for you to read. (There are varying versions.)

“We believe in one God the Father All-sovereign, maker of all things. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, only-begotten, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made, things in heaven and things on the earth; who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made flesh, and became man, suffered, and rose on the third day, ascended into the heavens, and is coming to judge living and dead. And in the Holy Spirit.”

Here is what Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said about our belief compared with the Nicene Creed. 

“Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost’ [Articles of Faith 1:1]. We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.

“Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that ‘the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament]’ [Paul F. Achtemeier, ed. (1985), 1099; emphasis added].

“So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. …

“We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings” (“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign, Nov. 2007, 40, 41).

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who is the captain of your soul - you or Christ? Orson Whitney's response to Invictus

Who is your master? 

Here is the last verse of William Ernest Henley's famous poem “Invictus,” 

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.

And then a half-century later, Elder Orson F. Whitney replied with this: 

Art thou in truth? Then what of him
Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?
Who bore for all our fallen race
What none but him could bear.—
The God who died that man might live,
And endless glory share?
Of what avail thy vaunted strength,
Apart from his vast might?
Pray that his Light may pierce the gloom,
That thou mayest see aright.
Men are as bubbles on the wave,
As leaves upon the tree.
Thou, captain of thy soul, forsooth!
Who gave that place to thee?
Free will is thine—free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of Life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.

See Dallin H. Oaks, “What Think Ye of Christ?” Ensign, November 1988.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Things I Learned at an Anti-Pornography Conference

Note: I found this unfinished post from a year ago. I decided to publish it now since this Saturday, April 18, 2015 the next UCAP conference in SLC. My friend Vauna Davis is the director. My friend and author, Kristen Jenson, will be one of the speakers this year. They even have classes in Spanish and some geared for young adults. I highly recommend attending it! I'm attending too. I have a feeling I'll glean helpful things to share in my presentation about social media and internet safety at BYU Women's Conference

The LDS Church asked people in my area to send someone from each bishopric to attend a Utah Coalition Against Pornography  (UCAP) conference. So my husband and I attended together. Here are some things I learned. 

I learned that there are many wonderful people and organizations working hard to protect families and children from pornography. Very heart warming. There are also many who are offering programs to help those who have become addicted. 

I had no idea how bad pornography really is, both the amount and the awfulness of it. 
  • 1 in 5 searches on Google’s mobile search are for pornography. (Source
  • Together, porn sites get 450 million unique visitors per month – more than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. (Source)
  • The largest porn site on the web gets 4.4 billion page views per month, which is three times the number for CNN or ESPN. (Source)
  • Eleven is the average age of exposure.  
  • 70% of men 18-34 admitted to viewing porn monthly. 

Pornography is a real addiction, and it reshapes the brain - shrinking and atrophying it. We learned this from a brain doctor, Dr. Donald Hilton, who also works as an LDS service missionary with pornography addiction programs. He was the keynote speaker. 

Kids spend seven hours a day connected to a digital device. 

We are beyond prevention and avoidance as our only defense. When is the best time to start talking with your kids about pornography?  The answer is "Sooner than you think." Not nearly enough parents are having open, ongoing dialogue with their children about the dangers of pornography and giving them an action plan if they see a bad picture. Here is a great children's book that makes it easy to open up the conversation with kids. 

For teaching kids about pornography, here is the ultimate goal: When children see sexual media, they will think and act: “This is pornography and it can hurt me. I am going to get away immediately and tell my parent.” 

The steps to help families accomplish this goal: 

  1. I will teach my children what pornography is in age-appropriate ways.
  2. I will help my kids understand what the harmful effects of pornography are.
  3. I will practice with my family what to do if they see pornography.
  4. I will set parental controls on every device and conduct a yearly media audit and upgrade.
  5. I will follow up:
• Check in regularly. Have you seen pornography since the last time we talked?
• Take opportunities to praise kids for good decisions.
• Commit to helping them get back on track when they have seen it.  

Teach your family to evaluate media (movies, music, ads, etc) by asking these three questions: 
  1. How does this present bodies? 
  2. How does this present relationships?
  3. How does this present sexuality? 

Fight the New Drug is an organization that has presented assemblies at almost 200 schools nation wide. 

They are teaching the facts about pornography addiction and get young people excited to say, "I'm a fighter!" High school kids entered the assembly expecting not to be impressed and that they would just hear, "Don't do porn. It's bad."  But the teens left feeling very convinced that porn is harmful, addictive, and ruins relationships and lives. They left wanting to be a fighter, and signing a huge "fighter pledge" banner. 

From all the feedback this organization gets from teens across the country, they've found a big knowledge gap between parents and teens. 

Here are three things teens wish their parents knew about pornography: 

1) Teens wish parents understood the harms of pornography. They want the cold, hard facts. Many teens aren't sure if they agree with their parents' value system yet, so just saying it's wrong or immoral isn't enough for them. What convinces these teens is to understand the why and the consequences: 
  • Porn is addictive. It's like a drug. Over time an addict gets less and less pleasure from the things he used to enjoy, like eating, sports, friends, family, doing well in school. Addictions actually put little "corks" in the places where the pleasure chemicals are supposed to be received in the brain, so the person gets less and less pleasure from things he used to. This also means the person has to use more porn, and more severe porn, in order to get the same thrill he used to get. 
  • Porn kills love. It ruins relationships. It makes the addict see others as objects instead of human beings. A scientist created some cardboard female butterflies, using the same wing patterns as real butterflies, but making the colors more intense. Guess what?  The male butterflies went right to the cardboard fakes and completely ignored the real female butterflies!  This is the same thing with people. When they're addicted to porn, they prefer fantasy to reality.  
  • Porn harms society. Note: Sorry I didn't finish typing my notes here. But you can get the whole talk by Fight the New Drug here.

There are good filters on the market. This awesome talk about filters is here. 

They need to be installed on every device. There are also filters that work on your home wi-fi system. These will only protect your family if they're using their devices on your wi-fi. No filter is 100% perfect. The best ones are content filters, which block certain categories of sites.

Note: Linda Reeves, who attended this conference, gave a powerful General Conference talk saying that the best protection from pornography is a Christ-centered home. Filters and rules are important, but the armor of the Holy Spirit is vital. 

Years ago an anti-pornography expert said to give a child internet in their bedroom was asking for the child to become a porn addict. Now parents are giving them even more privacy and availability with internet hand-held devices. These must be given filters and limits. It's easier to set limits and start checking history of devices when young people first get a device, but it's better to start older than never. 

Here is a great source for keeping up to date on the tech side of things with filters and blocks and such. The director of UCAP said this is the best site she has found about internet safety. 

Here are a few specific ways to use filters. 

For Android phones, Net Nanny installs a safe browser, locks out other browsers, blocks access to settings other than the parent (with a password the parent sets), and gives parental control of apps. 

For computers, turn on Google Safe Search in search engines. Here's how you do it. Go to Google, then preferences, then enable safe search. This is very effective for blocking inappropriate image searches. This must be done on each computer. 

You can turn on Youtube safety mode on every Android phone and every browser on each computer. It's not available on apps. Go to Youtube, then settings, then safety mode. You create a password and then lock it so your kids can't turn off the safety mode. Of course, write down your password!  Some people just block Youtube altogether to avoid the danger. 

Keep in mind, filters and blocks are not 100% reliable, and if someone is addicted they can find a way around them, and to cover the history of websites and apps used. Again, as Linda Reeves said, the best filter is a Christ-centered home with open conversation and the Holy Spirit. 

Go here to see how an LDS Bishop and lawyer answers the question, "How can parents protect their children from pornography?" 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Own Mini Liberty Jail Experience This Morning at Seminary

Wow. This morning was the most profound seminary lesson of the year for me. We had a silent walk to Liberty Jail. 

The whole day was silent, up until the testimony meeting at the end. Instructions were given by silent slides on the screen. Even devotional was silent. We listened to How Firm a Foundation  and marked on our handout what phrases were important to us. Even prayer was silent. Each person said his or her own, asking to feel and be taught by the Spirit today. 

Then we silently divided into four group activities that rotated about every 12 minutes. (Our class meets every other day for 90 minutes.) 

Today we started a new tradition of each student writing down something that stuck with them today, and added it to a poster as they left class.  That's what the sticky note messages are throughout this post. 

Group one started in the hallway. 

The teens spread out down the hall and read from eight different stories, quotes, or scriptures about events like Liberty Jail, Haun's Mill, the Extermination Order, or Missouri Saints being kicked out of their homes in the cold winter. Each writing had a picture with it, and a question to write about in each person's journal. The feeling in the hall was sacred.


Group two started in our make-shift Liberty Jail. 

It was a small classroom made even smaller by a row of chairs and a crepe paper lower ceiling to help us feel the claustrophobia that Joseph, Hyrum, and the others must have felt. We opened the window to the cold air and left the lights off.There were six, sometimes seven, men living in a room that was 14x14 feet, and just over 6 feet high. Their only bed was some dirty straw on a hard, cold floor. Sometimes Joseph didn't even have a blanket during that freezing winter. Their only bathroom was a bucket. Their food was nasty and sometimes poisonous.  

In our little Liberty Jail we played a video of Elder Holland telling about Liberty Jail while the students sat on the floor, feeling a tiny taste of what Joseph and the others felt. Here you can read Elder Holland's whole BYU devotional or a summarized version of "Lessons from Liberty Jail."   

Here is the video we played, called "Trials: Look to the Light" by Elder Holland. Click it to play. 

Group three recorded Joseph's own testimony. 

The youth took turns recording a couple paragraphs at a time of Joseph Smith's own testimony as Elder Anderson recently counseled. My husband used his phone recorder app as the youth read aloud the The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith pamphlet. They read from the middle of the first page through page four.

 Mike wrote a list of students in each group so I can email them the right recording with their own voice reading Joseph's testimony aloud. I hope they will take the opportunity to record the whole pamphlet aloud and listen to it over and over, as Elder Anderson counseled. 

If I were to do this activity again, I would get each person their own pamphlet from the LDS Distribution Center and invite them to take it home to record the whole thing, and mark it up. I just brought a handful of printed copies that they left in the room for the next group, but it worked.

Group four enjoyed chapel introspection. 

Each student picked up a handout from the back of the chapel and found a place to sit. I played some sacred music in the background. The handout gave them several choices: 

  1. Read D&C 121-123
  2. Look up scriptures and write answers to questions on the handout
  3. Just quietly pray and ponder about what they had learned today. 

With only about six or seven in a group, they could spread out and have their own space to feel the Spirit. 

Then we all met back in the seminary room for a reverent 20 minute testimony meeting. 

With tears in my eyes, I shared that I had experienced my own mini Liberty Jail experience that morning, which was quite profound for me. 

That morning I had arrived later than I wanted to, knowing I had more set up that ever before. My husband, Mike, always sets up with me and stays through devotional. But for some reason he wasn't ready when I left. I kept thinking he'll show up any minute and help me. I literally ran here and there across the church getting various rooms ready. Where was Mike when I needed his help? (I don't believe in running in the church as it is a sacred place but I felt an exception was in order as I was racing the clock before my students arrived.)  My daughter and a couple students were helping do some, for which I was very grateful, but I still had so much to do. 

Where was he? 

Where was Mike? He is always my biggest earthly supporter. Where was he? Didn't he know I needed him a lot? Right now? Didn't he know the students needed him too? We were waiting in silence (thank goodness at least my phone was playing reverent music) because I had forgotten my laptop at home and Mike hadn't brought it yet to give the silent instruction slides to get class started. I felt a bit panicked. I checked outside several times hoping to see him heading our way across the parking lot (we just live around the corner). Still no Mike. I felt kind of abandoned. I felt alone. Where was my help when I needed help? 

When the students had all arrived, still no Mike. My students always enjoy visiting with each other, but the silence seemed awkward because there was no visiting and nothing to do yet. We couldn't start class until Mike came with the laptop. Suddenly a thought came to me. This was part of our mini experience today the Lord wanted us to have. I had been praying that every single person would have a spiritual experience today, and it was starting in an unexpected way. 

The idea came to write on the board, "How does it feel to wait and not to know how long you'll have to wait?"  

Waiting ten minutes for class to start is nothing compared to four months in Liberty Jail through a bitterly cold winter. 

Another idea came to me. This was MY small experience the Lord had for me today. 

I realized all the feelings of abandonment, impatience, and wondering why my supporter wasn't coming to my aid, were the very things Joseph Smith had been feeling in Liberty Jail.

Joseph's biggest supporter was the Savior Jesus Christ. Jeseph may have been thinking the same kind of thoughts I was. "Where are you? Are you hearing me?  I need you right now. My people need you right now. Don't you care that my wife and children are being driven from their home along with other Saints, that Saints have been brutally murdered in Haun's Mill, and that we need your help?  I feel abandoned. I feel alone. Please come help us!" 

This epiphany melted my heart. I started crying. I felt changed inside. I realized God was teaching me the same thing Joseph learned. That we are NEVER ALONE. Even when we feel that we are, we are not. The Lord is always there. There is purpose in our struggles, even when there is a long space between our pleadings and His answering or His rescuing. There is divine watching over, divine nurturing, and diving loving, even when we don't receive our answer yet, our rescue yet.  

I begged my students to remember Joseph when they have their own Liberty Jail experiences, because we all will, big or small, at some point. It's part of the plan. 

I begged them never to give up, never to give in, and even when they are tempted to feel abandoned, alone, or hopeless, to remember that God really is there, even if they can't hear him for a time. Keep pleading. Keep asking. Keep reaching up and moving forward the best you can. And remember that in the eternal scheme of things, our trials can be but a speed bump on the road that we look back on years later and think, "I'm glad that's done, but I lived through it."  

If trials serve God's purposes of deeply won lessons and heart changes and soul searchings and bringing us closer to Christ than ever before through our heartfelt pleading and studying, are they not worth it?  Of course they can be excruciating in the moment. But as Alma said, as deep was his pain, as deep was his joy (See Alma 36:20). 

Here is what one student, Dillon, emailed me after class: 

Sister Edwards, I had this insight that I tought I should share with you.
I was singing How Firm a Foundation (no one was home, haha) and I was thinking about the words and what I learned in Seminary today. I love verse 3 of this song. But I realize that I have always understood it from a very small perspective.  Thinking of this verse with an eternal perspective changes a lot.
Think of or read the 3 verse. Each of these, goes along with it's respective line: Line 1 & 2: We need not fear because the Lord is always with us. Not just now but always.  We don't need to feel crestfallen because of our trials because he knows who he wants us to become, and who we will need to be in the last days.  He has always been their helping us, and that truth isn't going to change.
Line 3: The Lord will help you through your trials yes, but he sees the big picture.  Maybe your trials are the way that he strengthens you for the future, helps you in the future, and causes you to stand in future—because your trial made you strong enough to stand.
Line 4 & 5: And we must remember and see His hand in all things.

Yes Dillon, eternal perspective makes a big difference, doesn't it?  

Elder Holland said,
"You can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in any situation you are in. Indeed, you can have sacred, revelatory, profoundly instructive experiences with the Lord in the most miserable experiences of your life—in the worst settings, while enduring the most painful injustices, when facing the most insurmountable odds and opposition you have ever faced.
"In one way or another, great or small, dramatic or incidental, every one of us is going to spend a little time in Liberty Jail—spiritually speaking. We will face things we do not want to face for reasons that may not be our fault. Indeed, we may face difficult circumstances for reasons that were absolutely right and proper, reasons that came because we were trying to keep the commandments of the Lord. We may face persecution, we may endure heartache and separation from loved ones, we may be hungry and cold and forlorn. Yes, before our lives are over we may all be given a little taste of what the prophets faced often in their lives." (Lessons from Liberty Jail, BYU Devotional, Sept. 7, 2008). 

Elder Scott said, 
"The Lord puts challenges in your path to mold your character. For your own personal growth He will often let you struggle with a matter for a while, even when you are pleading for help. But as you follow true principles, He will finally see you through. He intends that when you have reached your extremity, you will turn to Him for comfort, peace, and assistance. He will send it through the quiet prompting of the Spirit. He will give reassurance and guidance that are essential in correcting decisions in your life" (Making the Right Choices, BYU Devotional, Jan. 13, 2002). 

And Orson F. Whitney said,

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (cited in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 98).

I love being a seminary teacher. 

I love each of my students. Every. Single. One. They are precious to me. And I know they are precious to God. 

And I love the principles I learn and experience as I prepare, teach, learn from my students, and have tastes of what God is trying to teach me along the way. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Liberation from Laundry...check out this organized laundry system!

My friend Tara Kinser used my "liberation from laundry" system to give her laundry room a makeover. 

This is Tara's made-over laundry room. Looks great, doesn't it? 

You don't need a large laundry room to create a streamlined, organized laundry system. 

Here is my laundry closet that is only as wide as my washer and dryer.  If I can do it, you can too! 

Go here to see my "liberation from laundry" system. 

And check out videos of two more laundry systems. Both of these moms use many of the same components of my system. Great minds think alike, right? ;)  

This resourceful mom used many of the components of our system!  And added a few more cool ideas, like pull-out drying racks with a timer fan inside!  

Here is my friend AnnMarie Norton's dream laundry room. She's got lotsa space, and she uses it well. See the post about it here. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Four Ideas to Get More from General Conference Afterward

Listening to conference is good. Feeling the Spirit bear witness that what you learned is true is even better. And then doing something to act on what you learned is best.

Elder Hales said: "The greatest blessings of general conference come to us after the conference is over. Remember the pattern recorded frequently in scripture: we gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them" ("General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony," Ensign, Nov. 2013). 

President Monson said, 
"The aim is to inspire the individual to THINK about, FEEL about, and then DO something about living gospel principles" ("Thou Art a Teacher Come From God," Conference Report, Oct. 1970).

Here are four ideas that can help you with the DO part after General Conference. 

1. Set simple goals as a family of what you'll DO from what you learned. 

We like to have a follow-up family discussion after conference where we brainstorm what each person's take-aways were, and what they feel the Lord wants them to DO from what they learned. We did this Sunday night at the dinner table. You could also do it during family home evening. 

You can also use this printable summary of each talk to jog everyone's memory. You can also share conference notes that you or family members wrote some of the speakers and topics, and some of your own take-aways and goals. When my husband and I start this way, it jogs our kids' memories and helps them start saying things they liked about certain talks. 

As people throw out ideas of what they may want to DO from what they learned, I write this brainstorm list on my journal, along with an initial next to each idea to note who said what. A dry erase board would be a great tool for this too. I add my own ideas from my summary chart that I want to act on soon. Then I read the list aloud, seeing if anyone wants to add more ideas, and invite each person to choose one or two goals they feel to work on the most. I highlight those. (It would be good to make some kind of reminder for each person's bedroom...we'll work on that.)  

This simple tool helps us follow up with the "do" part by reviewing, setting goals, and having each person choose one or two main things to focus on. I never can stick to only one or two. Maybe I would keep my goals better each time if I did! 

2. Make a commitment to study the talks for the next six months.

There is power and protection in studying words of the living prophets and apostles, especially the most current words. My friend's motto is "A Conference talk a day!" It's easier than EVER to make General Conference part of our daily lives! Conference was only yesterday and they are already online to watch, listen, print, or download!  

We can listen while driving, exercising, cooking, cleaning, getting ready in the morning, or read online or on various phone apps. We can even read the actual paper Ensign when it comes in the mail, or purchase one from Deseret Book. This printable summary of each talk would make a great checklist to mark each talk after you study it. Also, feel free to use this printable notes chart to help you gather your thoughts and favorite parts of each talk as you study them over the next six months. 

 Click here for this printable summary of each talk.

3. Have family home evening lessons from General Conference talks for the next six months. 

We don't use these every week, just some weeks. We like to buy a conference Ensign for each family member so we can use them during FHE lessons about conference talks, encouraging people to read and mark up their own copies. The printable summary above would be a great way to help family members choose which talk they want to study and teach when it's their turn to teach. 

If your kids are older (maybe ten and older) here is an easy way to teach FHE from a conference talk. 

  1. Have everyone bring their copy of the conference Ensign and a highlighter, or their mobile device. Encourage everyone to mark what stands out to them. 
  2. Have family members take turns reading several paragraphs at a time. After each person's turn, have them give a summary of what they read (makes them THINK about), and if they can, find a principle (truth)  we can use in life. 
  3. Once the whole talk is read, ask people to share their take-aways. What stood out? What do they think God wants them to DO with what they learned?  Invite the family to set a goal for that week/month, or individuals to set their own goals. Write them down on something to post where people can see it. 
  4. A great way to end each lesson is to encourage family members to bear their testimony of what they know about the topic. Bearing testimony invites the Spirit to testify to everyone that what they said is true. That's the FEEL part of President Monson's counsel above. 

4. Each family member to choose favorite quote memes from conference. 

These memes will be all over social media for the next while. You can already find some here and here and here. Let each family member choose one or more of their favorite quotes, and print them to place them wherever people choose in the home. Dollar store frames are great for this. This makes a great visiting teaching gift each month, using a dollar store frame where the pictures are easily removed and replaced each month. 

What works for you to follow up and act on what you learned at General Conference?