Monday, August 31, 2015

Some videos to help us get excited about the Old Testament in seminary!

The purpose of this post is a holding place for Old Testament videos I may use in seminary this year. Feel free to use them with your family, especially any youth in seminary to get them excited too! 

A Brief Review of the Old Testament 

Elder Oaks welcomes seminary students in studying the Old Testament this year

The Story of the Bible in 8 minutes

Seminary Scripture Mastery Rap 

Books of the Old Testament 

Memorize the books of the Old Testament

Old Testament Magic Squares - a way to memorize keywords and references for scripture mastery passages 

Looking for Christ in the Old Testament 

Excitement about the Old Testament for Seminary

LDS Scripture Rock  ( 

The importance of the Old Testament in the LDS Church

Old Testament Scripture Mastery 

Old Testament Overview by BYU Dept of Ancient Scripture

The Miracle of the Holy Bible, General Conference talk by Elder M. Russell Ballard, April 2007.

Memorize books of the Bible - kids' song

Friday, August 28, 2015

Did you know the 2013 edition of LDS scriptures has hundreds of updates?

Did you know that the 2013 edition of the LDS scriptures have hundreds of updates? 
Virtually all are in the study aids, like footnotes, Topical Guide, and Bible Dictionary. The Church has added new historical findings from the Joseph Smith Papers too. Exciting! 
Learning about this at BYU Education Week last week was the last straw to help with my agonizing decision to get new scriptures after 16 years of beloved layered markings in my old ones. I got the larger size and I'm loving them!

Click here to see a document that summarizes the updates.

Even though I'm grieving my old, beloved set of scriptures with 16 years of layered markings, I am falling in love with my new 2013 large set of scriptures. I mean, just look at these large margins. I even have room to write a sentence at the end of some verses or a phrase between lines.
Here's my plan. As I study for each of my seminary lessons, I will use my new, unmarked copy first to see the stories with fresh eyes, reading it with my favorite commentary Old Testament Made Easier by David Ridges, and then I'll check my former scriptures to see if there are other markings I want to move over. Have I ever mentioned how much I love, love, love these precious books??

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Scripture Feasting Tool #16 - Inserts

If you are a quote collector like me, you can glue some of your favorite quotes right in your scriptures with a thin stripe of stick glue. Here are a few that are in my scriptures. 

1. My favorite Atonement quotes. 

I glued this into Matthew 26. I had a spiritual experience compiling these quotes for my institute students several years ago. My husband was a new bishop at the time and he decided to give a copy of these quotes to each family as a gift at tithing settlement. If you need help focusing on the Savior's Atonement during the sacrament these quotes help. 

2. A chart of interpretations of Lehi and Nephi's Visions. 

3. Quotes about the importance of missionary work.  

4. Fifty-five Blessings of Service. 

I glued this in by "service" in the topical guide. This General Conference talk by Elder Carlos Amado included such a thorough list of blessings that I wanted to hang onto it. I added the numbers myself.

4. Faces of pride from President Benson's classic talk. 

My Preparedness Handout I Shared at a Recent Presentation

Click here for the five-page handout. 

Recently I gave a preparedness presentation in my sister's ward. Here is the handout. 

1. Preparedness checklist. 

This list is based on President Monson's quote "Every family ... have a supply of food, clothing, and, where possible, other necessities of life" (“Are We Prepared?” Ensign, September 2014).  What would those necessities include? I included an affordable place to start for each area, as well as ideas for what to do next after getting started. 

2. A simple inventory chart.  

Based on the Church's "All is Safely Gathered In" pamphlet. This is an easy place to mark what foods you already have and what to buy next. 

3. Preparedness quotes from LDS Church leaders. 

These quotes remind us that God is in charge, He knows what tribulations are coming, and He is telling us the best ways to prepare. 

4. Tips to find more money, tips to organize, and tips to find more space for food storage. 

This helps those who feel they can't get prepared because of lack of money, space, or organizing ideas. 

5. 72-hour emergency kit checklist.

Click here for the five-page handout above.

Click here for Becky's sacrament meeting talk about preparedness. 

Click here for other preparedness ideas. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Life lessons from a 22-mile bike ride with our Scout sons

Here's what I wrote about our experience with our missionary son. 

I want to tell you about a cool experience we had. Dad, the (13-year-old) twins and I did a 22-mile bike ride in the mountains!  It took all day from 9-3:30. There were tears from three of us, and not Dad. Mostly from one of the boys. I had tears three different times while praying on the trail. The first time was on a relatively easy place on the trail and I said a prayer in my mind, asking "What would Thou have me learn from this experience today?"  The answer came back, "That you can do this." Those were the words, but I knew the meaning was more like, "You can do hard things with my help." 

Once we were at a point where most of us were out of water and it was super hot and sweaty and the terrain was so hard all we could do was walk our bikes through the really rocky, steep terrain, both of the boys broke down in tears. We crouched next to a large rock to get a bit of the only shade available on that scorching mountain side, and I offered an aloud prayer. I thanked the Lord for bringing us this far safely and giving us the strength to do hard things. I asked for continued strength and protection, and asked that this experience would build our faith. When we finally biked all the way back to the van we still had several miles to go, but we took a nice break to eat our sack lunch, get ice water from the cooler (the best!), and rest in the shade before going back and forth to finish our last several miles. It was such a triumphant moment when we finally finished the 22 miles! We were tired, sweaty, dirty, and thrilled we had finished it. 

We actually took a lot of short breaks through the day. Each time I was amazed at how battery-recharging it was to drink water and rest in the shade for a while. It made such a big difference each time. Taking a rest in the sun with no water didn't really feel rejuvenating. 

It reminded me of the many small and simple ways we rejuvenate our spirits along our path of life, and how much we NEED those spiritual recharging times, like prayers, scriptures, journaling, church, temple, conference talks, discussions with spiritually-minded family and friends, and yummy family time. 

Those are the wonderful, refreshing, battery-charging rest stations along our trail that give us the living water we need and the respite for a while to rebuild our strength to get back out on the trail. Without those breaks, both on the bike trail and on the trail of life everyday, we would be too exhausted, spent, and discouraged to keep moving on. We need those drinks of living water and respites that come from small and simple holy habits. 


Our "before" picture. We're all clean and ready to go. We meant to get on the trail a couple hours earlier than we did, but no sense in pouting, let's just get going!  A great life lesson. Life rarely goes exactly as planned. Rather than pouting, move forward and make the best of it. 

Stop and smell the roses. I mean, stop and feed greens to the llamas. Life lesson: We need to do that in life, don't we? 

It looked like we would need to turn around on the trail, but our son found a biker's way to get through. Life lesson: Don't give up just because a solution isn't obvious. Keep looking, asking, praying, and working to find a solution. 

This blew me away. I grew up in Plain City and rode a school bus all the way to Weber High School on the mountain in Pleasant View, Utah. When I realized we had biked all the way from above Mike's high school - Ben Lomond in Ogden, to my Weber High, I couldn't believe it. What a feeling of accomplishment!  It was a thrill to look across the mountain and realize how far we had come. Life lesson: When you dig in and do what you're supposed to do, sometimes you're amazed at your progress, growth, and learning that has happened in the process. 

Stickers and burrs are part of the journey in the mountains. Take the time to stop and pull them off, or stop and empty the little rocks from your shoes.  Life lesson: This reminds me of repentance and forgiveness. Both are best done immediately when you notice there is a need for either one. If you wait it just causes more pain and discomfort. Get it over with and you'll be so glad you did. 

Part of the dirt and rock trail turned into a paved trail, sometimes with shade. That felt amazing after the bumpy ride we'd been experiencing. Life lesson: When the journey changes to something nicer, do a "whoopee!" and enjoy riding faster and easier for awhile. When the journey changes to something more challenging, don't stop biking. Buckle down and keep peddling. 

The hardest, slowest part of the trail was when it was very rocky and steep. We ended up pushing our bikes rather than riding them. A mile of this took about 75 frustrating minutes. Then we were able to resume our rocky dirt road and it felt like a breeze to bike again compared with walking the bikes. Life lesson: When the trail gets really challenging, that's the time for more prayers, more breaks with water and shade, more support for each other, and more toughness. I think experiences like these are really valuable. They build resilience and toughness, qualities our pioneer ancestors had naturally because of their rugged farming lifestyles. In our easy, convenient world today, sometimes we need to create experiences that build toughness because we'll need it in the days between now and the Savior's Second Coming.  

One of our sons saw this field and told us his dream was to own a large piece of land like that and farm it, along with beehives and lots of animals.  Life lesson: Along your trail of life, let your mind soar and dream big. 

We could have climbed the boulders and tried to maneuver our bikes on the right side, but instead my husband offered to lift them over the gate for us while we easily just walked over the boulders. Life lesson: Christ's Atonement and grace are there for us, to lift our load, carry our burden, and strengthen us. Let us use it. 

Those rests in the shade with water were so rejuvenating and restful. Life lesson: take time every day, multiple times a day to pause the hustle bustle of life and do things to drink Christ's living water, like power praying, scripture feasting, being present with a family member, and so on.  Even if the shade or time to drink living water is hard to find, work at it and ask for God's help to find it. It's worth every effort to keep filling your spirit with living water. 

Take time to wipe the sweat out of your eyes so it won't burn any more. Life lesson: same as the stickers and burrs. If you have any repenting or forgiving to do, even for something very small, do it now so the burn can stop and you can feel relief.  

The hills were my favorite parts of the trail! Going up, up, up was so worth it when you get to scream and shout on the way down. Life lesson: That's how life is, isn't it? We look back at the biggest times of growth and blessings, and they often involved riding life uphill.

Be prepared by bringing along food, water, and good tools. And know how to use them. Mike purchased a mini tire pump, and what a blessing he was well prepared. Life lesson: We know that half of the ten virgins were prepared and half were not. All of them represent members of the Church when the Savior comes back. Let's prepare temporally and spiritually, and in toughness, for the challenging times ahead. One of the most important tools for preparedness in the last days is knowing how to receive personal revelation. It's worth learning how to use, because we will all need it. 

Aaaahhhh, back at the van for ice cold water and a delicious lunch. Even though we weren't quite done, the break was very refreshing. 

We were so hot on a July day that the cool water of this canal tempted me to jump in to cool off. My husband warned me that people have died that way, having been pulled into the fast current. Never mind then... Life lesson: It's so handy to have wiser, more experienced people around when you're tempted to do something dangerous. That's the beauty of listening to prophets, scriptures, personal revelation, and wise advice of parents or others. It reminds me when the Ammonites or Anti-Nephi-Lehis tempted to break a solemn covenant with God not to fight any more because they felt guilty that others were dying while fighting. Ammon was an inspired, wise leader and friend who reminded them of the importance of keeping their covenant with God and they ended up raising one of the most righteous generations of sons who became Helaman's stripling warriors. Keep your covenants, and seek wise counsel to help you overcome temptations. 

Sometimes you gotta turn around and go the other way. Life lesson: Rather than beat yourself up that you need to change paths, just move forward with faith. 

Woo hoo!! We did it! What an incredible feeling of accomplishment! Life lesson: We all know that when you do something hard with God's help, especially if it's so hard that you didn't think you could do it, the feeling of triumph when you do succeed is DELICIOUS. And you remember that feeling the next time you need to do something hard, knowing that if God helped you do hard things then, He will help you do hard things now. 

A beautiful site. Let's go home. Aaahhhh....

Scripture Feasting Tool #15 - Prayer

Prayer brings scripture study to life because it invites in the Spirit to teach, testify, and change your heart. You can pray before, during, and after scripture study. 

  • Pray that the Spirit will help you understand, apply, and know that what you're reading read is true. 
  • It's great when you bring a question to your scripture study. You may want to write your question at the top of a journal page, and then pray to ask that your question will be answered in your scripture study that day or sometime soon. 
    • It can be a gospel topic question that you want to understand better.
    • A personal or family challenge you need answers for.
    • A decision you need to make and need guidance on the best route to take. 
  • Pray to remember what you learn, to open hidden treasures of knowledge, to find answers, and to thank Him. 
  • Ponder – Let the Spirit teach you.
  • Ask questions as you study – Take Wendy Watson Nelson's 30-day challenge of bringing a question to the Lord and then reading the scriptures looking for the answer. 
  • Other good questions are "Why would God inspire Mormon or Alma or Paul to include this?  How can this apply to my life? What should I do or feel?" 
  • Experiment upon the word – Gain your own testimony by using the Book of Mormon promise regularly (see Moroni 10:3-5).
Here's what President Eyring said about receiving over and over a witness of the Spirit that the Book of Mormon is true. We can ask also for the same witness of other scriptures or words of Church leaders. 

"I hope that you all have proved that [Moroni's Book of Mormon] promise for yourself or that you will do it soon. The answer may not come in a single and powerful spiritual experience. For me it came quietly at first. But it comes ever more forcefully each time I have read and prayed over the Book of Mormon. I do not depend on what has happened in the past. To keep my living testimony of the Book of Mormon secure, I receive the promise of Moroni often. I don’t take that blessing of a testimony for granted as a perpetual entitlement. Testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth we have received. There is danger in neglecting prayer. There is danger to our testimony in only casual study and reading of the scriptures" (Esign, May 2011, emphasis added).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Life Lessons From My Raspberry Bush: Kneel Down and Look Up

Once upon a time I went outside to pick a bowl of raspberries. 

The raspberry bush looked quite bare. Then the thought came to me to kneel down and look up.  

Look what I saw! 

What a great life lesson. 

Our mortal, veiled view is so limited. 

But when we get on our knees and look up to God, we can see more. More blessings to be grateful for. More solutions to our problems. More answers to our questions. More ideas. More perspective. More peace. More raspberries. More yum. 

My Favorite Things about the Moms' Retreat!

I love the deep awe I felt at each woman in our cabin from our get-to-know-you activity. 

Connecting with this year's theme, we had our moms write down several things that might appear "small and simple" but have brought great things to pass in their lives. These could be books, events, habits, people, commitments, etc. Once the activity was done I just wanted to sit still and bask in the Spirit these amazing women brought with them. 

I loved the opportunity to teach a class on how feasting on God's word plugs us into Him, which changes everything.

I love the love and nurturing every woman receives at Moms' Retreat, including an individual welcome hug from our beloved founding director, Melanie Ballard.

I love the beautiful lodge at Heber Valley Girls' Camp. I love the singing Aspen trees outside the open lodge windows. 

I love how the Moms' Retreat board decks out the lodge in beauty.

I love the wonderful speakers and musicians that come to inspire us. Did you know that the purpose of the Moms' Retreat is to create an environment where mothers can receive inspiration for their God-given missions? Isn't that beautiful? 

This year the evening speaker was potter and author Ben Behunin.

I love the cheesy goodnight skit we perform as a board to remind everyone that it's time to leave the lodge for the night. Of course there is still the star gazing activity and time to visit in the cabins. 

I love the sunrise hike. Aaaahhhhh...

This was my view from my rock on the mountain where we had quiet time at the top to ponder, pray, and write.

I wanted to take a picture of my rock to remember the special Spirit I felt there.

I love the food. I mean Moms' Retreat does food BEAUTIFULLY. 

This is my fourth year, but the first couple years that I came I felt immensely nurtured and grateful that the board put so much effort into accommodating the food sensitivities I had. For years it had been hard to watch everyone else eat delicious food and not be able to eat with them, even sometimes painful enough to miss an event. This event made me feel extraordinarily nurtured and cared for in this way. I think I even cried. Even though I can eat normal foods now, I still feel nurtured by the beauty, quality, deliciousness, and variety of the wonderful food. 

These two pictures show our beautiful breakfast spread. Is that gorgeous or what? The other meals and even bedtime snack spread were just as amazing. 

I love our Moms' Retreat directors. 

This is Tammi Michalis on the left, who is a dear friend and one of the most quality women I have ever known. I had to snap this precious picture of her husband and daughter helping in her last minute preparations before Tammi spoke to us.

Here are the other two directors, Kelli Poll on the left and Melanie Ballard on the right. 

I love the special discussion we have as a cabin group about this year's theme and the ten weeks of writings we did ahead to prepare ourselves to receive inspiration.

I love this year's theme, which was "By small and simple things are great things brought to pass" (Alma 37:6). 

It's so true. You cannot improve your life in any way -- fitness, nutrition, spirituality, education, parenting, finances, marriage, homemaking, any way -- without the small and simple things. It's God's plan. Small and simple holy habits are so powerful because those plug us into God's power. 

I love, love, love how inspiring the whole weekend is, and how the writing time after our discussion is when lots of little "packets of light" as Elder Scott calls them, come together and God's personalized take-home message for me unfolds. 

I love this picture because it captures a reverent, holy moment when God speaks to you and you capture His message in writing. Yum. 

I love the attention to detail, and the effort to place beautiful, inspiring quote memes on the trails and on the bathroom doors and stalls. 

This made my heart happy when I saw these quotes inside our bathroom because my stewardship on the board has been to find or create quote memes that go along with this year's theme and create questions to invite inspiration for several months before the writing exercises start. That way the Moms' Retreat and the current theme can bless us for more time during the year. It's wonderful to discover that your efforts helped another person. 
As President Monson has said, “The sweetest experience I know in life is to feel a prompting and act upon it and later find out that it was the fulfillment of someone’s prayer or someone’s need. And I always want the Lord to know that if He needs an errand run, Tom Monson will run that errand for Him” (On the Lord’s Errand DVD, 2008, Quoted by William R. Walker, BYU-I Devotional, May 5, 2013). 

I love being next to a person who has never been to Moms' Retreat before and hearing their amazement at all the things that are amazing about the retreat. They are awed by the amazing women, the Spirit, the presentations and music, the food, the little gift to take home, the quotes in the bathrooms and on the trails, and the little baskets of feminine products in the bathrooms along with a cute poem, and more. It's fun to hear, "Wow, this is amazing. They think of everything!" 

I love the men at Moms' Retreat. They are AWESOME. 

They work hard setting up, cleaning up, cooking, doing dishes, driving, and anything else that needs to be done for mothers to have an inspiring, nurturing experience.

I love that Moms' Retreat has been around for ten years now! Look at that adorable birthday cupcake. 

I love the beautiful gift that was created for Melanie to celebrate the tenth anniversary. A scrapbook of notes from attendees from any of the past ten years expressing what Moms' Retreat means to them. 

Here are the moms offering a standing ovation of gratitude for Melanie and the inspiring retreat. 

I love the music of Moms' Retreat. 

This is Corine on the right, the board member in charge of music. She is bursting with all kinds of musical talent, and so is her twelve year old daughter. I found out they will both be playing for President Monson's birthday concert this week! 

I love the closing musician. 

This year it was Jenny Phillips, a very talented singer, song writer, author, homeschool mom, and now curriculum writer. Her message about prioritizing our divine role as mothers above all the other work we will do really rang true. 

I love that this year I received two big blessings. 

First, being on the board and mingling with the quality women there, and second, being a cabin mother who gets to nurture and be nurtured by sisterhood, bonding, and inspiration as we discuss, share, learn, chat, hike, walk and eat together. 

I love the sisterhood and friendships we make at Moms' Retreat. I loved knowing that each of our cabin mates who were new to the retreat left with new friends.

I love seeing old, beloved friends and making new ones. 

I love the far-reaching impact of Moms' Retreat. In this picture Kelli, Kim and I had just heard a powerful story of transformation of which the Moms' Retreat was a key part. 

I love that once the retreat is over and cleaning is done, the leftover food is brought outside and board members get to take some home. This was a blessing to our family. 

I love these two beautiful women who worked so hard to make the food so amazing, Jenny and Tammi. 

I loved that the board and cabin mothers came early for a ropes course and had a wonderful debrief discussion afterward led by Jodi Palmer.

Debriefs are powerful. Until we took the time to ponder, analyze, and discuss our experience on the ropes course I didn't realize there was a powerful life lesson for me about asking, listening, and discerning voices whenever I need help. This is one of the reasons I love to blog, to journal, to discuss and teach someone else something I have learned from an experience, a class, or a book. It is like a debrief. If I just move onto the next thing, I can easily miss the pivotal lessons those things were meant to teach me. This is why my family gets so much more from scripture study when each read our handful of verses, and then take the time to summarize what we read and find a principle we can use. Debriefing in whatever way that happens is worth investing some time to experience and clarify the principles you learned. 
As Elder Scott said, "As you seek spiritual knowledge, search for principles. Carefully separate them from the detail used to explain them. Principles are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and compelling circumstances. It is worth great effort to organize the truth we gather to simple statements of principle" ("Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge," Ensign, Nov. 1993).

I love how Moms' Retreat is so unique. 

One first-time retreat mom seemed amazed that her simple collage get-to-know-you activity turned into something that evoked emotion, epiphanies, bonding, and meaning. I told her that in my opinion, you could do any activity at the Moms' Retreat and you would receive inspiration, revelation, answers to your prayers, epiphanies, and bonding moments. Because it's not the activity that matters. It's the environment of inspiration created by beauty, nurturing, sisterhood, safety, bonding, countless prayers from the board, countless prayers from the cabin mothers for their own cabin mates by name, investing in praying and pondering and writing for weeks in advance so inspiration has already been flowing and hearts and minds are already open. You could use Legos, Lincoln Logs, leaves, sticks, crepe paper, anything, and I believe it would have still created similar results, because the environment of inspiration is so rich and unique at the Moms' Retreat. Each year I come home feeling spiritually nourished, filled, recharged, and happy. Ready to dig in and become better in my God-given roles and missions. 

I want to offer a little analogy. This year the Moms' Retreat reminded me of the plan of salvation. 

  • We all leave home or pre-earth life to come to a different, more rugged place to learn and grow so we can go back home better people. We all left our homes to come to a camp ground, although a beautiful one, to learn and grow so we can go back home better mothers, wives, and disciples of Christ. 
  • We prepare ahead for our experience on earth by learning and growing in the pre-earth life. For Moms' Retreat we prepared ahead by reading four months of the weekly "sharing goodness" quotes and questions, and then by doing the ten weekly writing exercises, coupled with prayer and inspiration. That made us more prepared to make the most of our time at the retreat. 
  • Usually the more we put in, the more we will get out of our earthly experiences (see 2 Corinthians 9:6). Likewise, the more effort we put in before, during, and after the retreat, the more we will get out of it. But if life is full to the brim with family and righteous duties, even if you just read and pondered the questions on the drive up, that's better than nothing and you will still be blessed for showing up. 
  • When we come to earth, it can be hard, sometimes so hard it takes your breath away, but it's worth the experience and we keep going forward. Walking up to our cabin number nine, the furthest cabin up the hill, can make you breath hard, make you hot and sweaty, or even make your body hurt, but it's so worth the beauty of the singing aspen trees, the clean air, beautiful skies, and the spiritual nourishment you're about to get at the next activity. Don't give up. Keep moving forward with faith even through the challenging times. 
  • When we take the time to utilize the small and simple things the Lord has given us like prayer, scripture study, temple, and FHE, we become rejuvenated, recharged, nourished, and plugged into God's power.  When we come to Moms' Retreat and utilize each aspect and activity offered -- the presenters and musicians, the beautiful food and nourishing conversations, the star gazing and sunrise hike, and so on, every time you get uplifted, charged, and nourished spiritually. It seems to be a cumulative effect that keeps building throughout the retreat. 
  • One of the most important things we can do while we're on earth is to find quiet time, ponder and ask God for His direction, and then write down His answers. This is why the journaling time after the cabin group discussion is so special, as well as the sunrise hike with time to journal at the top. Both give a perfect opportunity of quiet stillness to petition the Lord for revelation. 
  • The support of sisterhood and friendship supplies joy, support, and encouragement along our journey of life. So it is with the Moms' Retreat.
  • We are blessed by listening to the direction of inspired leaders who get their inspiration from God. Melanie received inspiration from God to make this retreat for us, and all of us are blessed when we listen to her direction so we can attend and make the most of all that Moms' Retreat offers before, during, and after the retreat. Likewise, following the direction of inspired leaders like prophets and apostles is a key principle that works in the pre-earth life, earth life, and post-earth life. Being good at following the inspiration of inspired leaders and our own inspiration are keys to making the most of our time at the retreat, and our time on earth. 
  • God's work and glory is to help us become like Him and return to Him. Melanie and others dedicate much of their work and energy to helping mothers progress, become more like God, and be able to return to Him having succeeded in their God-given missions, being able to hear "Well done, Thou good and faithful servant."  

If you attended Moms' Retreat, feel free to leave a comment with what you loved!