Monday, November 24, 2008

The Christmas Sweater

I read this book yesterday & I thought it was one of the very best books I've read in a while. It is a novel written from the perspective of a 12-year old boy that pulls from Glenn Beck's personal struggle with the loss of his mother and later emotions associated with the self-destructive, hurtful, & numbing behavior that we often find comfort in (alcoholism and pushing away others in his case). It is a story about second chances, recognizing the value of relationships and family, and most importantly, it is a magical description about how the atonement of Jesus Christ can work for all of us. Glenn Beck is a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I appreciate his willingness to testify to others the beautiful reality of the atonement. I too would like to testify that the atonement has transformed my life. It has transformed me. Through the power of His love, I have come to understand what it means to feel joy and to be happy. I have become a new creature, centered as best as my imperfect self can be, around my Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. But even through my imperfections, I am able to feel free of burdens and to have faith and hope in each new day and each new opportunity. This book is a quick read and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for something to read over the holidays!

Happiness, Your Heritage

This past General Conference had many highlights for me, but I have to say my favorite talk was by President Uchtdorf, given at the General Relief Society Meeting. While he was talking specifically to the women of our church at this meeting, his comments are so poignant and applicable to all. He concluded with the message:

"I believe that as you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father - as you create beauty and as you are compassionate to others - God will encircle you in the arms of His love. Discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment. As spirit daughters (and sons) of our Heavenly Father, happiness is your heritage."

What were your favorite quotes/talks from this past Conference? Has anything been particularly meaningful or helpful to you?

For President Uchdorf's full talk, click here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Friendly Neighborhood Cemetery

Spooky. Creepy. Eerie. These are words that I used to associate with graveyards, but since we have been living at a new home my perceptions have definitely changed. We recently moved across the street from a large city cemetery. At first I couldn't understand why people would take their children on walks through the grounds, but pretty soon my own family became drawn there because of the beautiful trees, birds, and abundance of squirrels.

Now, it seems as if we go on walks through the peaceful grounds 4-5 times a week and I often find myself reading the many headstones. I think it is so beautiful that almost every marker shows the deceased relationship to another. Simple and beautiful phrases such as beloved mother or father, noble son, cherished daughter, and loved friend are often the only writing that accompanies the names and dates. During my strolls I still have not come across a stone that really talks about a person's status or accomplishments. Not surprisingly, gravestones do not usually mark where the "richest banker" or individual with the "highest university degree" lies. In the end, it all comes down to what kind of person rests beneath the stone. Who will miss that person? Was that individual truly loved by their children and spouse? Did that person honor their parents and siblings? Will that individual be missed in the community and among their friends?

These walks continue to help me reevaluate where I am on my journey back to my Father in Heaven. I hope when all is said and done I will be missed for the right reasons and not forgotten because I devoted my energy to things that fade with time. Families are forever and the simple messages in the cemetery show that this is all that really matters in the end.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our Keystone

Joseph Smith taught that, "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth" and that this book is the "keystone" of our religion. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we believe that this book is a continuation of scriptures and just as the title page states, it is truly "another testament of Jesus Christ" in addition to the Bible. The truths and teachings that can be found in this book are amazing, but it can often seem daunting to people to begin reading. The book's length and language can feel different to those experiencing scriptural reading for the first time.

In our congregation, we were recently given a short list of scriptures that are a great starting point for anyone who would like to come to a knowledge of the truthfulness of this book for themselves. By focusing on these short, key sections, the book can become much more manageable and immediately relevant. I encourage any who have questions that need to be answered, to turn to the Book of Mormon for guidance and examples that can truly change lives. I know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who prepared a way for this book to be available to us today. Please take the opportunity to explore this book and learn more of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Some suggested passages to begin study with are:
1 Nephi 11:27, 31, 33
2 Nephi 2:25
2 Nephi 9:14-15, 21-23, 28-29
2 Nephi 29:3, 8
2 Nephi 31:5, 17
2 Nephi 32:9
2 Nephi 33:10-11
Mosiah 3:5, 8, 17, 19
Mosiah 27:25-26
Alma 7:14-16
Alma 11:40-41
Alma 30:43, 44, 49, 52, 60
Alma 32:17, 18, 21, 26, 27
Almas 34:32
Alma 40:11-14
Helaman 5:9-11
Helaman 14:30-31
3 Nephi 11:8, 10, 22-26, 33-34
3 Nephi 15:21-24
3 Nephi 18:15-21
3 Nephi 27:19-22
3 Nephi 29:6-7
Mormon 9:7, 17, 19, 21
Ether 4:11-12
Moroni 6:2-3
Moroni 10:4-5
Moroni 10:32-33

If you would like a free copy of the Book of Mormon, please visit

Sunday, November 2, 2008

God Speaks to His Children

I’ve been listening to a book called Joan – The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint by Donald Spoto (about Joan of Arc). The most interesting thing to me so far is relating to her visions. Regarding what Joan said about them, I’ve noticed parallels to the visions and visitations that Joseph Smith received! After I finish this book I’m hoping to learn more about other spiritual leaders in the world and seeing how they claimed to communicate with God. God has never forgotten His people! We know He loves all his children and has special things for them to do in this life.

Sadly, however, Spoto discounts any literal visions or voices as described by Joan. He explains that she could only describe them the way she did because she did not have the language to tell what “really” happened.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we do believe that God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, literally appeared to Joseph Smith, which began the modern-day restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Additionally, Spoto goes into great lengths to explain how Joan could still be a virgin at age 19. His historical explanation is good, and should make sense to a modern reader. I was saddened, though, that this was something that had to be explained! Our society has become so promiscuous that we hardly know virtue anymore. The Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches us to live chaste lives – abstinence before marriage and complete fidelity after. It really does make life so much simpler!

I am so glad that we believe in a literal existence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and that our Father continues to speak to His children. I am also grateful for chastity and virtue and that I was taught them at a young age.

Standing For Something

I recently read the poignant book written by former president of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley. In this work that was published in 2000, he writes to all, regardless of religious affiliation, and calls upon each member of society to raise him or herself up and thereby strengthen their homes and communities. Considering the current financial crisis, war, and election, these messages seem more crucial than ever and I encourage all to read or review the messages that President Hinckley has given. In the epilogue of this book he says,
"What we desperately need today on all fronts - in our homes and communities, in schoolrooms and boardrooms, and certainly throughout society at large - are leaders, men and women who are willing to stand for something. We need people who are honest; who are willing to stand up for decency, truth, integrity, morality, and law and order; who respond to their consciences even when it is unpopular to do so - perhaps especially when it is
unpopular to do so.

None of us will become perfect in a day or a month or a year. We will not accomplish it in a lifetime, but we can begin now, starting with our more obvious weaknesses and gradually converting them to strengths as we go forward with our lives. This quest may be a long one; in fact, it will be lifelong. It may be fraught with many mistakes, with falling down and getting back up again. And it will take much effort. But we must not sell ourselves short. We must make a little extra effort. We would be wise to kneel before our God in supplication. He will help us. He will bless us. He will comfort and sustain us. He will help us to do more, and be more, than we can ever accomplish or become on our own.

No nation can rise above the strength of its homes or the virtue of its people. The time has come for good people everywhere to demonstrate that they stand for something - something that is virtuous and clean and worthwhile. To that end, may we move forward with faith in the Almighty, and with a determination to live virtuous lives and to return to our society the element of goodness on which it was founded."