Sunday, October 25, 2015

FHE idea to celebrate families in conjunction with World Congress of Families!

Here is a 
​great ​F
vening idea that helps celebrate the family in conjunction with the World Congress of Families
. I love the opportunity 
​the FHE lesson 
gives our families to light the world symbolically and physically. 

You can get a FHE lesson at

​Also, It's not too late to come to part of all of the World Congress of Families happening this week, Oct 27-30
. At first I thought the tickets were too expensive, but I saw that you can buy a one-day pass for $30, and you can buy multiple days if you want. I am attending on Wednesday. 

My friend Melanie Ballard, the director of Moms' Retreat, will be speaking Thursday afternoon from 1:45-4:00 with Shelly Locke and Betty Aukerman. They will also be showing the documentary, The Power of Mothers and will have a marvelous musical performance by Corine Hart and her family.  It will be a powerful forum! (I wish I could watch their presentation on Thursday but I'll be at a family wedding.)

Hooray for families!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What are your "mess of pottage" decisions, and when is the best time to decide them? Ahead of time.

Scroll to the end for an FHE idea.

Each of us will face "mess of pottage" decisions. 

Today our seminary lesson was about Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. Esau gave up so much -- immense riches, all the blessings of Abrahamic covenant, and later eternal marriage -- all for a bowl of lentil soup (see Genesis 25:29-34). 

Each of us will face "mess of pottage" decisions when we must choose between what we want now, instant gratification, or what we want the most, all that God has, eternal marriage and families, the Spirit with all its gifts and fruits, and living in the celestial kingdom with God in joy and peace. 

When is the best time to make those decisions? Ahead of time. 

The main thing that stood out to me in last night's Face2Face interview with the Piano Guys is the need to decide ahead what your standards will be. That way when temptation comes, the decision is already a done deal. The Piano Guys mentioned their team's strong commitment to keep the Sabbath day holy, and how it's been tempting when offered good money to perform on the Sabbath. But they didn't give up what matters most -- keeping God's commandments, strong families, and eternal life --  for a mess of pottage that doesn't last, like money and fame. 
President Kimball said, "Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; ... When I was young, I made up my mind unalterably that I would never taste tea, coffee, tobacco, or liquor. ... There were many occasions when I could have sipped or touched or sampled, but the unalterable determination firmly established gave me good reason and good strength to resist. ...You do not have to decide and redecide what you will do when you are confronted with the same temptation time and time again. You only need to decide some things once!" (Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, chapter 10, emphasis added)

I invited my seminary students to take some time to write in their journal at home what their standards are now, before temptation arises, with things like dating and chastity, music and media, honesty, Sabbath, obeying the prophet even when it's hard, and so on. 

I brought samples of our family's lentil soup called megadarra, and gave my students a small bag of lentils, challenging them to keep it in their pocket for the next four days, and each time they feel it, to think about decisions they are making. Are they pottage "now" decisions, or eternal "most" decisions? 

Lot is another scripture story that shows how huge the results can be from one seemingly small decision. 

Lot decided to live on the edge of wickedness, right on the edge of Sodom. Pretty soon he was living in Sodom, even though he wasn't participating in their sins himself. Look at all the consequences that came from one small decision to live on the edge of wickedness: 
  • Gen 13:12 – Lot lives on the edge of Sodom
  • Gen 19:1 – Moves his home into Sodom
  • Gen 19:4-10 – Sodom’s sins affect Lot's guests and potentially his daughters  
  • Gen 19:14 – Lot isn't able to influence grown children to leave Sodom, so they get killed in the fire
  • Gen 19:16 – Lot lingers – he doesn't want to flee
  • Gen 19:24 – His city and home are destroyed 
  • Gen 19:26 - Lot loses his wife as she has gotten too attached to Sodom and wants to go back (see Elder Holland, BYU Devotional, Jan 13, 2009)
  • Gen 19:33-36 – Wickedness permeates his family which was once righteous

As a bishop and attorney, my husband has seen the effects of living on the edge of wickedness even within good families like Lot's. 

Today many good people seem to think it's find to watch and virtually do things they would never do in real life, like commit adultery or kill people. But when they listen to music, watch movies, or play video games about breaking the law of chastity, violence, or killing, isn't that living on the edge of wickedness?  Jesus said, "Thou shalt not ... commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it." (D&C 59:6) What else would be like unto it if not watching other people do it or doing it virtually in a video game?  Click here for more about keeping high standards with media. 
Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “We do not go many hours in our lives without having to decide again 'which way do we face' and whether we will pitch our tents facing Sodom or the holy temple.” (October 2003 General Conference)
I brought a play tent to seminary as an object lesson for Lot's small decision with great results. By our decisions each day we choose if we face our tent toward Sodom or toward the temple. Do we choose what we want now or what we want most?  God grant us the power to choose what matters most and what is eternal. 

FHE Idea: 

  • Set up a tent in the backyard or in the house. Place a picture of the temple just outside the door to represent facing your tent toward the temple like King Benjamin's people did rather than facing Sodom like Lot did. 
  • Have the family climb inside the tent, and study or tell the story of Lot and/or Jacob and Esau. Or role play it in a skit. 
  • Brainstorm a list of "mess of pottage" decisions that young people face today, and the potential negative results that can happen from those choices. 
  • This would be a good time to pull out For the Strength of Youth to clarify what God's standards are in any given area. 
  • Then give family members some quiet time to write commitments in their journals of what standards they will keep with dating and chastity, with music and media, with honesty, the Sabbath, obeying the prophet even when it's hard, and so on. 
  • It's always good to close with your testimony. You might share that you know these standards are from God and they are given out of love and protection, because He wants us to be happy and to come back to Him. 
  • Here is a handout you can use to quiz the family on how much they know of the Jacob and Esau family, or to look up the questions together. 
  • If you want, you could prepare lentil soup ahead of time for refreshments. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FHE idea & handout of parallels of Abraham and Isaac with Christ

Today in seminary we studied Abraham and Isaac, especially their parallels with Heavenly Father and the Savior. 
Bible scholars estimate that Isaac was in his thirties during this story, which means he would have been much stronger than his father who was more than a hundred. This reinforces the concept that Isaac was a willing sacrifice, just like Jesus was. 
FHE Idea: 
  • Work in groups to fill the chart below, or just discuss the filled-in chart if you're short on time. 
  • Then watch the video.
  • Read a couple of the quotes below.  
  • And end with making your own little altars to sacrifice something personal to the Lord. 

Use this handout to fill in answers through your own study or for a family home evening lesson. 

This handout has the answers already there. It's a good size to glue into your scriptures or a study journal. 

Here is a tear-jerking 13 minute video of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac. 

After you study the parallels with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in relation to Abraham and Isaac, as you watch this video, ponder how much Heavenly Father and the Savior both love you. 

Here are a few quotes about this story and the importance of Christ's sacrifice. 

Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give,’ brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him!” (“Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 24).

Joseph Smith: “Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. … It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God” (Lectures on Faith [1985], 69).

Elder Melvin J. Ballard: “In that hour I think I can see our dear Father behind the veil looking upon these dying struggles. … His great heart almost breaking for the love that He had for His Son. Oh, in that moment when He might have saved His Son, I thank Him and praise Him that He did not fail us. … I rejoice that He did not interfere, and that His love for us made it possible for Him to endure to look upon the sufferings of His [Only Begotten] and give Him finally to us, our Saviour and our Redeemer. Without Him, without His sacrifice, … we would never have come glorified into His presence. … This is what it cost, in part, for our Father in heaven to give the gift of His Son unto men” (in Crusader for Righteousness [1966], 137).

You can make your own little altars to sacrifice something personal to the Lord. 

We used shredded wheat cereal for the rocks and pretzels for sticks. Then each person wrote something he or she is willing to sacrifice for the Lord. This student wrote "less screen time." Click here to print lambs. 
I love Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac more than ever before after deeply studying their stories. I am excited to meet them someday and say thank you for teaching me important principles like these: 

  • God always keeps His promises when we are faithful, even if it's not the way or the timing we expect. Nothing is too hard for the Lord. If he can give Sarah a baby at age 90, he has power to help with my problems too. 
  • Put God first and everything will work out in the long run. 
  • We are never alone in our trials. God is always there. 
  • Be a quick obey-er and you'll be blessed. 

Click here for more quotes about the Savior's Atonement. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What were YOU born to do? Will you be true to your forerodained mission?

This week in seminary we discussed how God gave us certain assignments before we were born. Foreordination. It's a pretty cool concept. And it applies to you and me. 

Family Home Evening Idea: Use the ten true/false statements as an FHE for older kids/adults. Have family members write their answers on a paper, and then take turns reading the quotes that explain the answers, and discussing takeaways. Another FHE could be watching the Education Week talk at the end about finding your life mission. 

Ten True/False Questions about Foreordination, or What God Put You Here to Do 

1. Our generation has been foreordained to do something special. True or false? 
Ezra Taft Benson: "For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord. Every previous gospel dispensation has drifted into apostasy, but ours will not. True, there will be some individuals who will fall away; but the kingdom of God will remain intact to welcome the return of its head—even Jesus Christ. While our generation will be comparable in wickedness to the days of Noah, when the Lord cleansed the earth by flood, there is a major difference this time. It is that God has saved for the final inning some of his strongest children, who will help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly. And that is where you come in, for you are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God.

"All through the ages the prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation. There has never been more expected of the faithful in such a short period of time as there is of us. Never before on the face of this earth have the forces of evil and the forces of good been as well organized. Now is the great day of the devil’s power. ... But now is also the great day of the Lord’s power, with the greatest number ever of priesthood holders on the earth. And the showdown is fast approaching.

"Each day the forces of evil and the forces of good pick up new recruits. Each day we personally make many decisions that show where our support will go. The final outcome is certain—the forces of righteousness will finally win. What remains to be seen is where each of us personally, now and in the future, will stand in this fight—and how tall we will stand. Will we be true to our last-days, foreordained mission?" (“In His Steps,” BYU Fireside, March 4, 1979, emphasis added)

2. If you were foreordained to do something, you WILL do it. True or false? 
President Harold B. Lee: "Do not misunderstand that such a calling and such a foreordination pre-determine what you must do. …God may have called and chosen men in the spirit world or in their first estate to do a certain work, but whether they will accept that calling here is their right and privilege."(Decisions for Successful Living, pp. 168-169, emphasis added)

3. All Melchizedek Priesthood holders were foreordained to be Melchizedek Priesthood holders. True or false? 
Joseph Smith: "Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the grand council of heaven before this world was." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365)
Alma 13:2-3: "And those priests were ordained after the order of his Son … being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God."

4. Only men are foreordained to do certain things. True or false? 
President Russell M. Nelson: "...In 1979, President Spencer W. Kimball made a profound prophecy about the impact that covenant-keeping women would have on the future of the Lord’s Church. He prophesied: “Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world … will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 222–23, emphasis added)
"My dear sisters, you who are our vital associates during this winding-up scene, the day that President Kimball foresaw is today. You are the women he foresaw! Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world, along with their families, to the Church in unprecedented numbers!" (A Plea to My ("A Plea to My Sisters," General Conference, October 2015)

5. If you don’t do what you were foreordained to do, you will be held accountable for it. True or false? 
President Spencer W. Kimball: "Before we came here, faithful women were given certain assignments. While we do not now remember the particulars, this does not alter the glorious reality of what we once agreed to. You are accountable for those things which long ago were expected of you!" (Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 102, emphasis added)

6. Everyone is foreordained to do something. True or false? 
Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "The whole house of Israel and with all the members of the Lord’s earthly church—all are participants in the blessings of foreordination." (Ensign, May 1974, p. 71, emphasis added)

7. We agreed to do the things we were foreordained to do. True or false? 
President Spencer W. Kimball: "We made vows, solemn vows, in the heavens before we came to this mortal life. …We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father that if He would send us to the earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise." (Be Ye Therefore Perfect, University of Utah Institute Devotional, Jan. 10, 1975)
Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoting Orson Hyde: "It is not impossible that we signed the articles thereof with our own hands,—which articles may be retained in the archives above, to be presented to us when we rise from the dead, and be judged out of our own mouths, according to that which is written in the books. Just because we have forgotten, our forgetfulness cannot alter the facts.” (Journal of Discourses, 7:314–15.) Hence, the degree of detail may be a more highly customized thing than many of us surmise. (Neal A. Maxwell, Brigham Young University, 10 October 1978, emphasis added)
8. Our birth time and location was based on our pre-earth life activity. True or false? 
President David O. McKay: “. . . Our place in this world would then be determined by our own advancement or condition in the pre-mortal state, just as our place in our future existence will be determined by what we do here in mortality” (Home Memories of President David O. McKay, 228–30)
"An 'election of grace' has reference being born at a time, at a place, and in circumstances where one will come in favorable contact with the gospel. This election took place in the premortal existence. Those who are faithful and diligent in the gospel in mortality receive an even more desirable election in this life and become the elect of God. (Bible Dictionary: "ELECTION")

9. We can find out what we have been foreordained to do. True or false? 

What do you think? How can we find out what assignments God has given us before we came to earth?  Of course patriarchal blessings give us clues to what God put us on earth to do. So do our passions, strengths, interests, and even our weaknesses that we must work hard to overcome. The Holy Ghost can help us do what we came here to do, so it's always a good idea to pray and get God's guidance during important decisions like where to go to college and whom to marry, because those things can have great impact on us finding the path to our life missions. So can accepting church callings. 

Honestly, I think the most important thing is simply to get on the gospel path and stay on the path, praying for guidance and following promptings even when it's scary or doesn't make sense, accepting callings, and doing your best with God's help every step of the way. That is a safe way to know God is helping you do what He put you on earth to do. 

Here is an excellent talk by Randal Wright called "You Have a Mission to Perform on Earth" at BYU Education Week. Brother Wright gives some good ideas of how you can find out what you were born to do. 

10. If we have really important assignments from God, it's fine if we neglect our family. True or false? 
David O. McKay: "...No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” (Family Home Evening Manual [1968], iii)
It can be easy to dream big and forget the deeper life mission God gave us, which is our family. If I got so distracted in my life with being a seminary teacher, blogger, and speaker that I neglected my deeper life mission of being an excellent wife, mother, and homemaker, I would have missed the mark. Remember there are times and seasons for different parts of your life mission. Even though it can be tempting to pursue more glamorous "I'm making a difference in the world" causes at the expense of nurturing family and home, resist the temptation and pray to keep your priorities in God's order. This was especially hard for me during my years "in the trenches" of young motherhood. I yearned to do something more, to feel like I was making a difference and doing something important in the world. It's hard to see that you're making a difference when your days are filled with diapers, feeding, and cleaning. But you are. It's just the law of the late harvest at work. You don't see the results for a long time.  

Remember what the Savior said about really making a difference in the world? 
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matthew 25:34-40)
Isn't that the very essence of the trenches of young motherhood? We are ALWAYS feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, helping people feel loved and welcomed, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, and nurturing those in trouble. There is hardly time to do anything else. But remember, you are building great souls, teaching them to come unto Christ, and preparing them to do what they were born to do. This is a great work! 

The intense stage of young motherhood does pass, and you miss the toddler toys and pudgy finger prints, and in another stage you have a little more time to make a difference in other ways. I am forever grateful Heavenly Father kept reminding me that during the window of time of young children in my home, that deeper mission needed to eclipse virtually all else. It's an investment that pays back forever. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Checklist of 63 qualities from President Nelson's landmark talk on women

I LOVED President Nelson's talk about the powerful influence of deeply converted, covenant women of Christ. 

I wanted to find a way to internalize this mega-inspiring message. 

So I made a list of qualities from President Nelson's talk that the Lord is inviting us to develop to be that influence for Him. Did you notice how THREE different conference speakers invited us to ask the Lord in prayer, especially during the weekly sacrament, what He wants us to improve next? (See talks by Sister Neill MarriottElder Larry Lawrence, and Elder Robert D. Hales) This list would be a great place to get ideas in that weekly quest. 

Here is an idea of how to use the list. 

My friend Aimee Benefield wrote 63 declarations or affirmations from the list below. She recommends recording them in your own voice and listening to them a couple times a day. She said adding inspiring background music can increase their positive effect. Click here for the statements Aimee made from President Nelson's list. 

We need women who are...
  1. Seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world
  2. Virtue
  3. Light 
  4. Love 
  5. Knowledge 
  6. Courage
  7. Character
  8. Faith 
  9. Righteous 
  10. Draw good women to the Church 
  11. Strength 
  12. Conversion 
  13. Conviction 
  14. Ability to lead
  15. Wisdom
  16. Your voice
  17. Women who make sacred covenants and then keep them 
  18. Speak with the power and authority of God 
  19. Organized and can organize 
  20. Executive ability who can plan and direct and administer
  21. Women who can teach 
  22. Women who can speak out 
  23. Women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous. 
  24. Know how to make important things happen by their faith 
  25. Courageous defenders of morality in a sin-sick world
  26. Courageous defenders of family in a sin-sick world
  27. Devoted to shepherding God's children along the covenant path toward exaltation 
  28. Know how to receive personal revelation 
  29. Understand the power and peace of the temple endowment 
  30. Know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families
  31. Women who teach fearlessly 
  32. Vision 
  33. Grit 
  34. Love 
  35. Inspired prodding
  36. Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind as directed by the Spirit?
  37. Whatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions
  38. We need your insights
  39. We need your inspiration
  40. We need you to speak up
  41. We need you to speak out in ward and stake councils
  42. We need each married sister to speak as a contributing and full partner as you unite with your husband in governing your family
  43. Married or single, you sisters possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God
  44. We brethren cannot duplicate your unique influence
  45. The culminating act of all creation was the creation of woman
  46. We need your strength!
  47. Because attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ
  48. And who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation
  49. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms
  50. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers 
  51. Women who express their beliefs with confidence and charity
  52. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve
  53. Nothing is more crucial to your eternal life than your own conversion
  54. It is converted, covenant-keeping women—women like my dear wife Wendy—whose righteous lives will increasingly stand out in a deteriorating world and who will thus be seen as different and distinct in the happiest of ways
  55. Today I plead with my sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to step forward!
  56. Take your rightful and needful place in your home—more than you ever have before
  57. Take your rightful and needful place in your community—more than you ever have before
  58. Take your rightful and needful place in the kingdom of God—more than you ever have before
  59. I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball’s prophecy [in the meme below] 
  60. I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way!
  61. As one of His Apostles, I thank you, my dear sisters
  62. As one of His Apostles, I bless you to rise to your full stature, to fulfill the measure of your creation, as we walk arm in arm in this sacred work
  63. Together we will help prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord

President Nelson said, "I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball's prophecy"

My takeaway summary of President Nelson's talk: 

God has a special work for you sisters to do in these last days, which starts with you building your own deep conversion and relationship with Christ. Then your happy light will shine and bring others to Christ and His gospel, especially your own family. You will be able to work miracles with your faith, discern truth from error, teach with the power and authority of God, and help build His kingdom. Working as a team with covenant-keeping men, together you will help prepare the world for the Savior's Second coming. 

Click here for quotes about God giving us special assignments in the last days. 

Click here for 20+ Amazing Things to Read about the Divine Importance of Motherhood.

Sripture Feasting Tool #17 - Music

When have you felt the power of music, for good or for bad? 

I have felt my spirit soar with joy while listening to beautiful, uplifting, wholesome music. 

I have also felt the Holy Spirit leave when I a song starts playing that includes immorality, lust, violence, or other worldliness. That is why I stopped listening to music on the radio years ago. Needless to say, we must choose our music carefully. 

Why would I bring up music in a series about scripture feasting tools?  

Because holy music, like hymns and primary songs, are filled with truth -- doctrine and principles that bring us to Christ, like the scriptures do. And we are blessed if we use holy music regularly in our daily lives. The preface to the LDS Hymn Book says, "Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns" (Hymns, x).

It's easier than ever to bring holy music into your home, your car, your workout, and your life.  Here are a few ideas: 

  • Mormon Channel (the app or website) has two free music stations:  24/7 Music and Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 
  • LDS Youth (app or website) has free music that's fun, upbeat and also wholesome for young people. I love it too! 
  • Turn on uplifting music in the car, while getting ready, while exercising, or while cooking or cleaning around the house. The holy Sabbath is a wonderful day to turn on holy music to invite the Spirit in for the day. 
  • Turn on uplifting music first thing in the morning while everyone gets ready for the day to bring in the Spirit during a time that otherwise tends to be frenetic and contentious. You can use the same tool for 10 or so minutes before calling everyone to FHE or family prayer in the evening, and see if you notice less contention and more harmony. 
  • Use music to memorize things like seminary scripture mastery verses. The Sons of Ammon have written upbeat songs to make it easy to memorize these, which they share for free! Even if you don't have seminary youth, consider memorizing scriptures anyway. Here is what Elder Scott says about memorizing. 

  • Of course singing uplifting music always lifts the soul. Consider adding singing at least one hymn or primary song as part of your daily family prayer and scripture study. This habit has blessed our family immeasurably. 
Here is what the preface to the LDS Hymn Book has to say about singing hymns: "Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones" (Hymns, x).

Here is an experience of a special way holy music has helped my life. 

A few years ago I was a new institute teacher. As I prepared my lessons I would be basking in the Spirit. I often used Google to search for certain quotes. Not knowing better yet, sometimes I would click on a link and within a few seconds I felt a dark, heavy, yucky feeling come over me. Then I realized I had clicked on an anti-Mormon site and the Spirit had left. I would hurry to click out of the site, and then turn on Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and pretty soon I felt the sweet, peaceful, joy of the Spirit come back into my soul. Over time I learned how to do more careful searches for my quotes like Googling using in the search bar, but I am grateful for the lessons those contrast experiences taught me. I gained a more careful awareness and discernment of light and darkness. And they taught me a wonderful tool to push away darkness and fill myself back up with light, the tool of holy, sacred music. 

Our family has used the same tool often if contention between siblings has made the Spirit leave. We sing several verses (one doesn't seem to be enough) until we all feel the sweet peace of the Spirit again. I also use holy instrumental music with my earbuds to block out worldly music at the gym while I study for my next seminary lesson. 

One way to bring music right into your personal or family scripture study is to having each family member choose a favorite hymn, and look up the scripture references at the end of his or her song. Then take turns sharing what you learned and how the scriptures connect with the song. This would be a great last minute FHE lesson. Or do it the other way around: look for a hymn or primary song that goes along with the topic you're studying that day and sing it. 

Holy music is a beautiful tool that is a precious gift. I am forever grateful for it, and I'm grateful to live in a time where it is available anytime, anywhere. 

Click here for 17 quotes about the power of holy music. 

Click here to see other scripture feasting tools. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

My eight take-aways from President Eyring's talk published FOUR TIMES.

"When words of a prophet seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention" (President Eyring). 

Then I think this should rivet our attention. President Eyring has published the same talk FOUR TIMES, including an adapted one in the newest Ensign. Click here for links to all four talks. I think understanding this talk is vital for spiritual survival in the last days, and quite possibly our physical survival, according to a story he repeats in all four versions. 

Here are my eight take-aways from the original talk in 1997. 

1. Jesus Christ wants to lead us to safety. 

President Eyring's talk said this 18 times in various ways -- call to safety, lead to safety, guide to safety, path to safety, go to places of safety, gather to safety. Remember, President Eyring told us that when prophetic counsel is repetitive, that should rivet our attention. I think 18 times in one talk is a deliberate theme and means we ought to pay attention.

2. God has created this awesome law of witnesses where His authorized servants give us messages to help lead us to safety. 

President Eyring said that God "calls by more than one means so that it will reach those willing to accept it. And those means always include sending the message by the mouths of His prophets... One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated," like when one prophet quotes other prophets and becomes a second and even third witness. Prophets are absolutely vital. They are included in the ways God calls people to safety. Other ways can be local priesthood leaders like the bishop in President Eyring's article, patriarchal blessings, promptings from the Spirit, and some have gifts of receiving personal revelation through dreams, visions, or near death experiences. I don't have those gifts, but I know people who do, and the scriptures verify they are part of God's plan (see D&C 46:11-26, Moroni 10:8-19, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Click here for more on gifts of the Spirit.)

3. When we listen to and obey God's prophets, we can receive protection that we wouldn't otherwise receive. 
President Eyring repeated the story of Haun's Mill in all four of his articles, which means there is an important lesson there. If Mr. Haun had delivered the prophet Joseph Smith's message to leave and come to Farr West, none of those innocent victims would have been killed. The lesson is simple and undeniable. Stick with the prophets; there is safety there. Not that people won't ever suffer or even die if it's their time to go, but that the safest place to be, especially important as signs of the last days are all around us, is to be 100% loyal to God through His prophets. This is a good lesson for our day where some believe in preparedness but seem to spend all their energy on gathering food storage and supplies, while neglecting their testimonies. Physical preparedness is great and coincides with what prophets have told us to do for decades, but being close to the Lord and having a burning testimony that God called our prophets today may be the only thing that can save you if there ever comes a time like Haun's Mill when the only thing that would have saved them was to obey the prophet. 

4. One way to self-analyze the strength of your faith is by how you respond to the counsel of prophets. 

  • For those with strong faith, obeying the prophets makes sense to them and is a top priority in their lives. 
  • For those with little faith, prophets' counsel may seem like only advice, and if it matches their own opinions they may follow it, but if it doesn't, they may find fault in the advice or justifying being an exception to the counsel. 
  • For those with no faith, prophetic counsel may be seen as selfish commands that take away others' freedom, and they may mock and openly criticize the prophets and those who follow them, like Korihor did. 

5. An interesting couple of false beliefs come to play here. 
  • When people reject God's counsel they may believe they are independent from any outside influence, but the truth is, whether we know it or not, rejecting God's protective influence means we choose the influence of the devil instead, whose motive is to make everyone miserable and take away their freedom. 
  • Another fallacy is believing that choosing whether to accept counsel from prophets or not is choosing whether to gain benefits of that choice or to stay where you are. The truth is that rejecting prophetic counsel "changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late." So each rejection of prophetic counsel weakens our power and our freedom. 
6. President Eyring gives a four step pattern to being on the path of safety. 
  • First, strengthen your own faith so you are in the group who prioritize prophetic counsel whether it makes sense or not. This is not something others can do for you. You must do it yourself, every time you kneel to pray, study your scriptures or words of modern prophets, every time you serve in the temple or fast or hold family home evening. Each time you obey God through the counsel of his ancient and modern prophets, you are adding oil to your spiritual preparedness lamp that President Kimball told us about (see Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 256).
  • Second, pay attention to what the prophets are telling us. This weekend is a perfect time to pay attention at general conference. When I was younger I would multi-task by cleaning the house, cooking, or doing other projects during conference. Not any more. Now I strive to tidy the house first and be fully present with notebook in hand, ready to write down my take-aways from every talk. I want to pay attention and not miss a thing. If someone were to ask you right now what topics the First Presidency spoke on six months ago in conference, would you remember? I'm not sure I would either, which means I need to make studying those conference talks a better priority the six months between conference, and perhaps hanging a quote meme for each of our 15 prophets, seers, and revelators in my home to remind me of each of their prophetic topics they felt called upon to guide us to safety.
  • Third, President Eyring counsels us to pray and receive our own confirmation through the Spirit that the counsel is from the Lord. He told of him doing that himself, and then added the story of Reddick Allred likely praying to receive his own confirmation that his leaders' counsel was from the Lord to stay until the stranded handcart companies were found, even when other rescuers were giving up and heading home. He also mentioned this with Lehi's family, saying that only those who "had faith and who themselves received confirming revelation saw both the danger and the way to safety." It takes that kind of KNOWING when it's your moment to stand alone, to stand true to what God has told you even when many others around you are turning their back on what prophets have said, which happened in Allred's and Lehi's story. With the sifting of wheat and tares that we're told will happen before the Savior's Second Coming, this is something we each must have the strength and courage to do - to stand on the side of the prophets, even if those in our family or ward are going the other way, like the other rescuers did in Allred's story.  I find that once I already have a burning testimony that our prophets are absolutely called of God, I don't feel a need to pray about specific counsel they give because the testimony of them being called of God waterfalls down as a testimony of the counsel they give. What a layered blessing. But if I ever need to do this for any specific counsel, I love knowing that I can and that God will give that gift to me. President Eyring said, "I promise you answers to such prayers of faith."
  • Fourth, once you have heard what the prophets have said and have your own testimony of it, DO IT. Follow the counsel with humility, accepting that God knows better than your limited, mortal understanding.

I love how President Eyring said when he has used this pattern he has moved toward safety, and found that the way had been prepared ahead for Him by a loving Heavenly Father, sometimes far in advance, like Nephi's experience of getting the brass plates when God prepared Laban who had passed out, and then guided Nephi to that very spot. Keep in mind, Nephi had prayed to receive his own confirmation that his dad was indeed telling him God's will, which gave him the righteous spiritual stubbornness not to return until he had accomplished God's will, absolutely knowing God would help him succeed (see 1 Nephi 3:7 and 2:16). 

7. When we follow the path of safety, we inspire others follow the path of safety too. 

Reddick Allred "could offer [the starving handcart pioneers] safety because he had followed counsel when it was hard to do." As a twelve-year-old girl, I was invited to a birthday party where a rated-R movie started playing. This was before the days of cell phones and I didn't know how to handle the situation. I walked upstairs to do homework at the kitchen table. Soon my friend followed me, saying she felt very uncomfortable with the movie but didn't dare leave until she saw me leave the room. When one person follows God's prophets on the path to safety, it empowers others to do the same. 

We see this all over in the scriptures. 
  • Think of how Abinadi infused spiritual courage into Alma. 
  • How Amulek was inspired by Alma. 
  • How Zeezrom was led to the path of safety by following the inspired words of Alma and Amulek. 
  • Think of Hyrum following Joseph.
  • And President Monson being tenderly led to the path of ministering to the one by his inspired mother and primary teacher.
As President Eyring said, "There are few comforts so sweet as to know that we have been an instrument in the hands of God in leading someone else to safety. That blessing generally requires the faith to follow counsel when it is hard to do." 

8. Finally, when a piece of prophetic counsel seems not to make sense or to apply to us, don't discard it but hold it close. 

Just like being given a handful of sand with the promise of gold inside, don't throw it away because you can't see gold yet. Hold it carefully, shake it gently, and you will begin to see flakes of gold appear. You will begin to see the wisdom, foresight, and safety in counsel from a loving God who can see the beginning from the end, compared with our limited tunnel vision of mortality. 

I have loved studying this talk. I love our prophets and apostles, and I am inspired by how they have consecrated their lives to God's work of calling you and me to safety.  

I miss our three apostles who recently left us for the spirit world, and I am praying hard for the three new ones soon to be announced, as I can only imagine the immense overwhelm and inadequacy such a call would bring. But just as I know God has prepared and called every one of his prophets and apostles so far, the next three will also be called of God. Even though I don't yet know who they are, I already feel the Spirit confirming to me that they are men called of God from before this world (see Abraham 3:22-23), and that heeding their prophetic words will lead me to the path of safety. 

I want to share an experience I had when President Hinckley had died and President Monson was about to be announced as our new prophet. 

I was a bit nervous that my immense love and loyalty to President Hinckley as God's mouthpiece for so many years might get in the way of feeling that same conversion and loyalty to President Monson as the Lord's mouthpiece. So I prayed fervently that when I saw President Monson on the screen as we got the chance to sustain him as the new president of the Church, that I would be given that witness from the Spirit. I am happy to say that I was indeed given that confirmation, so strongly that tears rolled down my cheeks. I have tears in my eyes as I write this, remembering that moment. So if you need your own witness of our prophet, or any other leaders whom God has called, please don't put it off a day longer. Get on your knees and plead with him for a personal witness from the Spirit that these people are indeed called of God. As President Eyring said, "I promise you answers to such prayers of faith." Then you put yourself in the path of safety as you follow their counsel, especially in the challenging days ahead. 

Click here to see the four times President Eyring published versions of this talk.