Thursday, May 28, 2015

Who wants to join me in a 90-day Book of Mormon challenge this summer?

I absolutely LOVE the Book of Mormon. I crave it. It is delicious to me. 

I have missed reading it this year, although I have absolutely loved studying the Doctrine and Covenants more in depth than ever before. Tomorrow is my last seminary lesson this year. Sniff, sniff. I considered pushing through the Old Testament as fast as I could this summer to get a good overview before teaching it next year. But I keep feeling like I should study the Book of Mormon again. (Happy dance!)

If you want to join me, from June 1 to August 30, you would need to read six pages per day to finish in 90 days. I'm going to shoot for eight pages to give myself a cushion. 

Studying and living this book is about the surest way I know of to boost your testimony and conversion and bring you closer to Christ.  

Elder Kevin W. Pearson said, "If you are struggling, confused, or spiritually lost, I urge you to do the one thing I know will get you back on track. Begin again to prayerfully study the Book of Mormon and live its teachings every day, every day, every day! I testify of the profound power in the Book of Mormon that will change your life and strengthen your resolve to follow Christ." (Ensign, May 2015)

Who's with me?? 

Click here for quotes about the power of studying the Book of Mormon. 

Click here for a bookmark to check off the chapters and days you read. 

Click here for a 90-day reading schedule from this blogger.

Click here for a super cool calculator that figures how much to read to finish any scripture book in a certain time.  

Click here if you want to gain a stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon by reading only about a dozen verses a day for 21 days. 

Click here or here to see the 30-day Book of Mormon challenge I took 1 1/2 years ago that changed me inside. 

Click here if you want to join a Facebook group I created just for anyone joining this challenge. We can share thoughts, feelings, and discussions as we study over the summer! 

The Facebook I created to discuss what we are studying, sharing ideas and support. 

Here are two of my favorite sources to make your scripture reading more of feasting. Yum...

  • "A Reservoir of Living Water" by Elder David A. Bednar teaches several great methods of feasting on the scriptures. 
  • Please Pass the Scriptures is a great book with tiny chapters of various ways to get more from your scripture study. Several years ago I used this when I taught institute.

Monday, May 25, 2015

How to deal with hard questions like why didn't all races formerly receive the priesthood?

Today our seminary lesson was about the celebrated day that all races were allowed to receive priesthood and temple blessings. And how to deal with hard questions like "Why were they denied for so long?"

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf -- count how many times he said that questions are a GOOD thing. 
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“My dear young friends, we are a question-asking people because we know that inquiry leads to truth. …Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony. Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a precursor of growth.
“God commands us to seek answers to our questions (see James 1:5–6) and asks only that we seek ‘with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ’ (Moroni 10:4). When we do so, the truth of all things can be manifested to us ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost’ (Moroni 10:5). Fear not; ask questions. Be curious, but doubt not! Always hold fast to faith and to the light you have already received” (“The Reflection in the Water” [Church Educational System devotional, Nov. 1, 2009],

Elder and Sister Bednar express how to deal with doubts or questions. 
Click here for the Bednar video. (The question is answered from 1:06:05 to 1:10:56.)

Elder Helvécio Martins shares his faith-filled story of joining the LDS Church before being able to receive priesthood and temple blessings. This story made me cry. 
“On a clear April night in 1972 … Helvécio Martins contemplated hisfamily’s search for truth. He and his wife, Rudá, had investigated many religions, but none seemed to fill their spiritual void. ‘I conversed with God that night, asking for help,’ he says” (“Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” Ensign, May 1990, 106).

A few days later missionaries came to their home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Elder Martins recalled, “The moment those two young men stepped into our apartment, all of my gloom and spiritual discomfort immediately disappeared and was replaced by a calm and serenity which I now know came from the influence of the Holy Spirit” (with Mark Grover, The Autobiography of Elder Helvécio Martins [1994], 43).
As Helvécio and Rudá, who are of African descent, conversed with the missionaries, Helvécio asked about the role of black people in the Church. The Martins learned that at that time, Church policy restricted black males of African descent from being ordained to the priesthood. This led them to ask the missionaries further questions.
The Martins family was baptized on July 2, 1972, and served faithfully in the Church. When their oldest son, Marcus, received his patriarchal blessing, it promised that he would preach the gospel. Although the priesthood restriction at that time prevented Marcus from serving a full-time mission, his parents opened a missionary savings account. In 1975 the Church announced that a temple would be built in São Paulo, Brazil. To help with the fundraising, Sister Martins sold her jewelry. Brother Martins faithfully served as a member of the publicity committee for the temple. The Martins family made these sacrifices even though they believed they would not have the opportunity to receive priesthood ordinances in the temple.
Why do you think the Martins family was willing to be baptized and serve faithfully in the Church, even though they were affected by the priesthood restriction at that time? Here is what Brother Martins said: 
“We had found the truth, and nothing would stop us from living it. … When the Spirit tells you the gospel is true, how can you deny it?” (in “Elder Helvécio Martins of the Seventy,” 106).
How can the Martins family serve as an example for you and me when we have questions? 
I think the Martins' story is a perfect example of moving forward with faith, holding onto things they did know, even though they had unanswered questions about things they didn't understand. We will all have those moments. Will we move forward with faith and hold onto things we do know, trusting that God will eventually answer all our questions, even if it's in the next life? 

Here is Brother Martins' response when he discovered that President Kimball, LDS prophet at the time, announced that people of all races and color could now receive full blessings of priesthood and temple: 

“I could not contain my emotions. Rudá and I went into our bedroom, knelt down, and prayed. We wept as we thanked our Father in Heaven for an event we had only dreamed about. The day had actually arrived, and in ourmortal lives” (Autobiography, 69–70). The Martins family was sealed in the temple. Their son Marcus was the first Church member of African descent to serve a mission after the revelation to end the priesthood restriction. Helvécio Martins became a local priesthood leader and eventually was called to serve as a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

Ahmad Corbitt explains how the LDS Church is one of the most racially unifying organizations in the history of the world.

Elder M. Russell Ballard explained that although the authority of the priesthood is conferred upon men, all of Heavenly Father’s children—male and female—can receive the blessings of the priesthood:

“In our Heavenly Father’s great priesthood-endowed plan, men have the unique responsibility to administer the priesthood, but they are not the priesthood. Men and women have different but equally valued roles. Just as a woman cannot conceive a child without a man, so a man cannot fully exercise the power of the priesthood to establish an eternal family without a woman. In other words, in the eternal perspective, both the procreative power and the priesthood power are shared by husband and wife. And as husband and wife, a man and a woman should strive to follow our Heavenly Father. The Christian virtues of love, humility, and patience should be their focus as they seek the blessings of the priesthood in their lives and for their family. It is crucial for us to understand that Heavenly Father has provided a way for all of His sons and His daughters to have access to the blessings of and be strengthened by the power of the priesthood” (“This Is My Work and Glory,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2013, 19).

In this 2013 addition to the introduction of Official Declaration 2 we learn that we don't know why certain races were restricted from the priesthood. 
“The Book of Mormon teaches that ‘all are alike unto God,’ including ‘black and white, bond and free, male and female’ (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.” (Introduction to Official Declaration 2, in the Doctrine and Covenants)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained why we should avoid attaching man-made reasons to God's revelations.  

“If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, “Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,” you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the one we’re talking about here, and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. … I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it"[“Apostles Talk about Reasons for Lifting Ban,” Daily Herald,Provo, Utah, June 5, 1988, 21 (AP)]” (Dallin H. Oaks, Life’s Lessons Learned [2011], 68–69).

Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy said that teachers should admit that we don't know all the answers. 
“It is not unhealthy for a student to see that the teacher doesn’t know the answer to everything but does know the answer to the core questions and has a strong testimony. When the angel asked Nephi if he knew the condescension of God, Nephi responded, ‘I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things’ (1 Nephi 11:17). Even if we don’t know the answer to a specific question, we can remind our students of the things we do know.

Here is a video about a man in Africa who waited and finally received the news that all races and colors could receive priesthood and temple blessings. 

Want to learn more about race and the priesthood? 

  • Click here for Ahmad Corbitt's personal essay on the LDS history site.  
  • Click here for my thoughts about women and the priesthood, and an analogy of dealing with unanswered questions like deciding how close to hold the pebble to the eye. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Outstanding talk by Wendy Watson Nelson about Covenants, Angels, Temples, Family History

"Covenant Women," Opening Address at BYU Women's Conference 2015. 

Being a speaker at this year's conference, I got to sit on the second row on the Marriott Center floor during Sister Nelson's inspired address. I can still remember the electric feeling there. I absolutely love hearing her speak!

  • You can now watch the full talk online here! 
  • Or read the full talk here!  
  • Here is a page of transcripts from past talks. 
  • Here is a summary in the Church News. Here is a summary in The Digital Universe, a BYU online newspaper. 
  • And below is a 4 minute summary video. 

Here is a four minute summary video. 

Here are my favorite highlights. These are not quotes - just from my handwritten notes. 

When the Lord knows we're serious about learning more, He will teach us more. 

When Sister Nelson heard Elder Holland say in 2010, "Ask for angels to help you," those six words changed her life and her prayers. Ask for angels to be dispatched to those you love. If you need help from heaven, then keep your covenants with more exactness, and then ask for angels to help you. 

Several things she learned since she started immersing herself in family history: 
  1. They are not dead. They are very much alive, and not all that excited about being called dead. 
  2. They are eager, actually desperate, to make covenants with God. 
  3. We are the only Church on the planet with power and authority to do this. 
  4. Family history is really fun. Brings more joy, meaning to your life. 
She invited us to repeat (in our minds, not aloud) the words of the various covenants we make. Learn and memorize them. Even during times when we can't get to the temple, the temple can go through us. 

Imagine the Savior to be the one blessing the bread and offering it, looking directly into our eyes, asking, "Are you willing?"  

She spoke of giving a group of frazzled young mothers a 21 day challenge to make a sacrifice to the Lord by increasing time in family history and temple work every day. Although it sounds counter intuitive and even cruel, it worked. These young mothers felt happier, relief, a weight taken off, decreased stress, more patience, more time for what matters most, one even stopped taking her anxiety medication. 

When covenant women keep their covenants, they have greater access to the power of God that flows into them. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cool Scripture Study Goal Calculator Figures How Many Pages a Day to Finish the Book

Click here for this nifty little tool! 

This is a cool scripture study goal calculator!  The calculator told me I would need to read about 13 pages a day to read the whole Old Testament in 90 days this summer. I'm going to share it with my seminary students and see if any of them want to read the Book of Mormon this summer. That would be 6 pages a day for 90 days for those ready to take on the challenge. I'm still wavering between reading the Old Testament this summer to prepare for next year's seminary, or the Book of Mormon, which is what my spirit is craving. I'll pray about it. 

This is just a picture, so click on the link to use the calculator. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I'll be speaking at a homeschool conference on May 29-30

The UHEA homeschool convention and curriculum fair is Fri-Sat, May 29-30 in Provo, Utah! 

Whether you homeschool, you're considering it, or want tools to help you be a better parent, you will find lots of great classes for adults and teens.

I'll be speaking on these topics: 

1)  Eight Systems for an Organized Home

Homeschool moms are busy! Do you sometimes feel buried in laundry, dishes, and clutter, finding it hard to make time for what matters most?  Creating some simple systems can help give you more time and make things run more smoothly. We'll cover setting up a system for laundry, housework and chores, meals and shopping, planning, stuff, papers, homeschool, routines and time. 

2) Helping Your Family be Media Wise 

Media is one of the devil's most powerful tools, but also one of God's. Parents, have you taught your family God's media standard? Does your family have a media plan? Do your kids know what to do if they run into "the big bad wolf" of media? Do you know what the "little bad wolves" are that easily grow into the "big bad wolf"? Here are quotes, research, and tools to help you protect your family against "little and big bad wolves" of dangerous media. And how to use media filled with light and goodness. Media is all around us and is a more powerful teacher than we may think. Home school families can have unique challenges with youth spending endless hours online for classes and homework. This class can help empower our families to make wise choices. 

Click here to register and here for a class schedule. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Powerful - Tad Callister Compares Christ's Original Church Blueprint with the LDS Church

Elder Tad Callister lays out the most powerful, logical, sensible comparison of Christ's original church and the LDS faith I have ever heard. Studying this talk has strengthened my testimony, both through clear logic of the correlations and the Spirit I feel as I read it. The talk is called:

"What Is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" (CES Devotional, January 12, 2014)

Click here to watch or read the whole talk. See below for a printable handout of his points. 

Here are my favorite take-aways.

I love this. Elder Callister gave an analogy of his house blueprint which he and his wife created that was unique to their home, complete with change orders authorized by them, the home owners. If you tried to match that blueprint to any house on the planet, you would find similarities, but only one house would match it exactly - their house. 

Likewise, Christ created a home for his children - His Church. The blueprint for Christ's Church is in the New Testament, complete with change orders of revelation authorized by God, the Church owner, like when God told Peter it was now time to preach to the Gentiles and not just the Jews. If you try to match that blueprint to any church on the planet, you would find similarities, but only one church would match it - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Elder Callister uses five "pages of blueprints" to compare Christ's original church with churches of today. 

1. Organization of Christ's Church
    • Christ's original Church was founded on apostles and prophets. (Ephesians 2:20, Acts 1:22-25, Ephesians 4:13-14)
    • The Savior chose other men called Seventy to help preach the gospel. (Luke 10)
    • There were other offices in Christ's Church like bishops (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1:7), elders (Acts 12:23, Titus 1:5), deacons (Philippians 1:1), evangelists (Ephesians 4:11) meaning patriarchs, pastors (Ephesians 4:11) meaning such men as bishops and stake presidents who preside over flocks of Christ's sheep. (See also Articles of Faith 1:6) 
    • Christ's Apostles and other officers were chosen from the rank and file - a lay ministry (fishermen, tax collectors, tent makers), not from the highest graduates of theological schools. 
    • Christ's Apostles and other officers didn't apply for church leadership - they were called by Christ. (John 15:16)
    • Christ gave these men priesthood power to act in His name and do His work. (Matt 10:1, Luke 9:1, Mark 13:34) 
    • The name of Christ's Church would logically be His name, since we pray in His name, are saved in His name, take His name upon us, and He is the chief cornerstone of the Church. Paul clarified this. (1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 3 Nephi 27:8)

2. Teachings of Christ's Church
    • Christ has a body of flesh and bones, and is not just a spirit. (Luke 24:39-43)
    • God the Father and Jesus Christ are one in purpose and will but are two separate Beings. (Luke 22:42, Mark 15:34, Acts 7:55-56) 
    • People without a fair chance to accept the gospel in this life are not damned; they get a chance to accept it in the next life. (1 Peter 4:6) 
    • There are three heavens, not just one. (1 Corinthians 15:41, 2 Corinthians 12:2)
    • God's plan is for marriage to continue for eternity, not to end at death. (Matthew 18:18, 1 Corinthians 11:11, 1 Peter 3:7) 

3. Ordinances in Christ's Church      
    • Christ blessed infants and little children, and did not baptized them. (Mark 10:16, Matthew 19:15)
    • Baptism is essential for salvation (John 3:5, Acts 2:38) 
    • Baptism was done by immersion, not sprinkling or pouring water. (Matt 3:16, John 3:23, Romans 6:3-5)    
    • Baptism for the dead was an ordinance in Christ's original Church. (1 Corinthians 15:29, Acts 10:34, 1 Timothy 2:4, John 3:5)'
    • The gift of the Holy Ghost is given after someone is baptized by laying hands on them. (Acts 8:17, Acts 19:5-6)

4. Fruits of Christ's Church  - "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20)    
    • Healthy people. Our bodies are to be treated as temples for the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19) and the early church members had certain health laws about things like drinking wine (Ephesians 5, 1 Timothy 3). Latter-day Saints are among the healthiest people on the planet.    
    • Miracles and gifts of the Spirit. (Hebrews 2:4) 
    • Angels. An angel announced Christ's birth to Mary and the shepherds; angels visited Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration; an angel freed Peter and John from prison; an angel warned Paul of a coming shipwreck; an angel visited John the Revelator. 
    • Visions. Stephen's vision of the Father and the Son, John the Revelator's vision of the last days before the Second Coming.  
    • Christ created a missionary church. The apostles were commanded to "teach to all nations." (Matthew 28:19)  Today our church has over 80,000 missionaries fulfilling this command. 
    • A moral church. Christ's early church members were told to dress modestly and keep the law of chastity. 
    • A family-centered church. (Ephesians 5:23-25, Ephesians 6:1, 1 Timothy 3:4-5)
5. Divine revelation in Christ's Church   
    • Without divine revelation, or communication from God any church is a man-driven organization governed by reason and not God's will. (Amos 3:7, 2 Corinthians 12:1, Acts 1:2)  
    • Revelation is how God makes "change orders" in His Church from time to time. Some New Testament examples of this: 
      • When God told Peter it was time to preach the gospel to the Gentiles and not just the Jews.
      • When Christ told the Jews to stop doing sacrifices by the shedding of blood.
      • When Christ changed from the law of Moses to His higher law. (See Matthew 5)

Elder Callister said, "If one were to match the blueprint of Christ's original Church against every church in the world today, he would find that point for point, organization for organization, teaching for teaching, ordinance for ordinance, fruit for fruit, and revelation for revelation, it will only match one -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."               

Four of my favorite quotes from the talk

"...Some questions are simply more important than others in discovering the truth. If you come to know that Joseph Smith restored the biblical teachings and ordinances discussed tonight, if you come to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the same fruits as Christ’s original Church, or if you come to know that the Book of Mormon is of divine origin, then you know that Joseph Smith is a prophet. And if Joseph Smith is a prophet, then this is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth. At that point, all other questions pale in comparison. It is like the Supreme Court ruling on an issue. All decisions of lower courts to the contrary become immaterial. Likewise, all questions of the critics, however probing or puzzling or entertaining they may be, become immaterial in the equation of truth. Why? Because you have already answered the key questions—the critical questions, the transcending questions—that are the foundational pillars for knowing the truth.

"Suffice it to say, I can live with some human imperfections, even among prophets of God—that is to be expected in mortal beings. I can live with some alleged scientific findings contrary to the Book of Mormon; time will correct those. And I can live with some seeming historical anomalies; they are minor in the total landscape of truth. But I cannot live without the doctrinal truths and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith, I cannot live without the priesthood of God to bless my family, and I cannot live without knowing my wife and children are sealed to me for eternity. 

"That is the choice we face—a few unanswered questions on one hand versus a host of doctrinal certainties and the power of God on the other. And for me, and I hope for you, the choice is an easy one and a rational one.

"I bear witness that [this] Church ... bears Christ’s name because it does have His approved organization, His teachings, His ordinances, His powers, His fruits, and His constant revelation, all of which are referred to in His divine blueprint. May we have the spiritual eyes to see the corollary between that blueprint and Christ’s restored Church today, for it is one of God’s compelling witnesses to us"  (Elder Tad R. Callister, "What Is the Blueprint of Christ's Church?" CES Devotional for Young Adults, January 12, 2014, emphasis added).

FHE idea for older kids or teens 

You could brainstorm a list together of similarities of Christ's original Church, and then give each family member a copy of the talk, assigning each family member a "blueprint page" or two to read. This would work individually or in pairs. Have each person look up and mark several scriptures. Then everyone share what they learned, adding more to the brainstorm list. It really builds your testimony to see how long the list of comparisons is! Update: We did this for FHE last night, but we forgot to close with our testimonies of what we just discussed. That's the most important part because the Spirit bears witness of what you learned. Learn from our mistake, and end your lesson by testifying to your family that you know is true!  

Click here for a printable summary that's the right size to glue into your scriptures, perhaps at the front of your New Testament.

Want to know more?  

  • You can buy Elder Callister's new book The Blueprint of Christ's Church. 
  • Click here or here for a true story that lays out the correlations between Christ's original Church and the LDS faith today, in an audio fireside or a novel based on the true story.  

Happy 16th Birthday to our Grace!

Happy sweet sixteenth birthday to our Grace! She is a ball of sunshine, makes us laugh, loves to sing and act and dance, and LOVES friends! We love you Grace! 

Here's our conversation about my plans for her birthday. Mom: "Grace, I have some Kohls cash and I thought we could go shopping on your birthday." Grace: "Well, I already have plans to shop with so and so, but if you want, you could come too..." By the time seminary was done on her birthday, she had four friends who wanted to do stuff with her that day.  I finally did a little shopping with her after all her friend stuff about 9 pm. Needless to say, she is a very social girl. She loves to serve, cheer, and bless people around her. 
Grace ready for her first day on the job as a part time nanny. She also had her first date today!  A big day for this barely sixteen year old! 

Grace is involved in lots of things this year!  Even though she is homeschooling, most of her school subjects involve groups.  
  • Biology 
  • World History 
  • Choir and Showcase Choir
  • Theater - she had big roles in Midsummer Night's Dream and Jane Eyre, and participated in student-lead roadshows
  • Speech and Debate 
  • Dance 
  • Tuesday Temple Trips 
  • Seminary (I'm the teacher)
  • Ethics 
  • Principles of Liberty 
  • Personal Leadership with online, live, interactive classes 
  • American Literature with online, live, interactive classes 
  • ACT prep course 
  • Drivers Ed 
  • She earned her Personal Progress medallion with our church
  • She loves volunteering for her friend Tammy's conferences and retreats
  • And her least favorite subject...math

Grace went to lunch with Rachel for her birthday.

And got her nails done with Priscilla. This is a picture from another day. 

Our seminary class sang Happy Birthday to Grace! 
On the way to perform. 

Grace LOVES to perform! She had a lead in Midsummer Night's Dream recently.

Tuesday after-seminary temple trips. 

Grace had fun helping friends ask and answer to prom. 

She loves helping our friend Tammy with big events. This was me speaking at a preparedness expo and Grace doing behind the scenes work. 

Fun friends after we watched their Shakespeare play. 

Grace played young Jane Eyre in a play that was adapted and directed by 18 year old Tova (second from the left). I think that's amazing! 

A dance recital.

Grace is an AMAZING cook. Her zuppa Toscano is dreamy. 

After a recent choir concert.

This is a Showcase choir concert where the teens got to choose their own songs, direct and practice on their own. I loved this cover of  Think of You. 
Click here to watch this song. 

Two pretty girls.

A new baby niece!