Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I've always been a fan of blocks.  I was an avid Lego builder in my young and carefree days.

And I liked watching Gumby.

But today I want to tell you about some wooden blocks.

I ordered special wooden blocks from Simple Block Sayings earlier in the year for our family of two.  I was waiting until we had a house to show you, but never mind about that.  Here they are!

Matthew need only remember the day and month of our wedding anniversary.  I’m making it easier for him and his memory.

I picture this to one day be near our collection of family photos and maybe even a classy family tree.

These will eventually find their way to either bedside tables (you know, in case we get lost) or positioned nicely in an ensuite bathroom with two sinks (you know, in the days when we have money).

I love them. 
I will love them more when they are out of their precious box and in a house.

thanks to the hubby for taking the photos!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 9]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

We all attend meetings and firesides to leave better than when we came.  That’s what Sheri Dew first said to us women, the last speaker for the day.

So, when I need to clear my head, think about new direction, and so forth, I should go to a conference, a fireside, or (if none) open the words of previous conferences and firesides.

Sometimes we forget that this life is but a short act, and we forget to look any further.  LeGrand Richards once declared, said Sheri: ‘I Am More Interested in the Long Hereafter Than in the Brief Present’ (the title of his 1975 BYU speech).  We can sometimes find ourselves acting as thought we are going to stay here.  But we can’t!  And we won’t.  So our choices should not reflect that perspective.

Sheri then turned our attention to the book of Revelation.  We didn’t discuss fire, brimstone, and dragons, but rather how Satan knows he hasn’t much time left.  What?  Let’s have a look at chapter 12.  “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. …for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

Let’s look at that point for a moment.  Satan knows and understands the plan of Heavenly Father.  He knows very well who we really are, what we are capable of, and that our loving Heavenly Father wants us (and is helping us) all to return to His presence.  He also knows he has a short time to do as much destruction as possible.  And considering what dispensation we are currently living in, he has had much practice.  And success.  “He knows how to go for the proverbial spiritual jugular”, said Sheri.

And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought for the man child.

Although it is generally accepted that the reference to the woman is a reference to the Church, Sheri emphasised that it could be read literally – it is hard not to.  The devil persecutes women.  And how true this is.  The woman is the centre of the home.  If he corrupts her, he corrupts the entire family.

Sheri then spent the remained of her time with us illustrating the need to develop spiritual roots.

She shared the story of her garden, having just finished planting 40-odd plants in her garden over a period of about 3 weeks.  The winter was a particularly long one, so the time to plant was short.  When she finally finished the gardening project one evening, she cleaned up and went to bed early around 9pm.  I have to admit here – how did she find the time to devote such time to gardening?  This woman, albeit single, is most definitely living a full life.  Anyway, the story continued: she awoke the next morning and opened her front door to judge the weather for the day and what to wear.  That was when she noticed dirt on her front porch.  Knowing that she had swept and clean up the night before, Sheri stepped out further to investigate.  She discovered that all her 40-odd plants were missing.  All of them.  And since they were all newly planted, they had no roots to hold them firmly in the ground.  So on the discovery of the 40-odd holes in her garden, and with a history of vandalism around her home, Sheri rang the police with the unusual tale of stolen plants.  An officer came around to help, and discovered all 40-odd plants lined up neatly in a row next door.  And so, Sheri and the police officer went next door to meet the neighbours.  Literally – they were new neighbours.  Hello!  Welcome to the neighbourhood, did you steal my plants?

It turns out that their 6 year old daughter loves flowers, and she had uprooted all 40-odd plants because she thought they looked pretty.  My first thought: what was this 6 year old doing out of bed past 9pm, and how did her parents not notice?  Negligence.

Anyway, the point was this: newly planted plants have no roots.  They would have easily slipped out of the soil with a small tug.  Our spiritual roots need to be planted deep, and then watered with living water.  So vital are these elements to our roots that we will wither and die (spiritually speaking) without them.

A long time ago, being wearied with travel, Jesus sat on a well and met a woman from Samaria.  She had come to the well to draw water for her household. Jesus, being a Jew, asked this Samarian woman for a drink.  Perhaps puzzled and curious as to why a Jew would speak to her, she asked “How is it that thou, being a Jew, asked drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”  Christ said this: “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that said to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

Whosover drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

We are all in desperate need of living water.

…more to come

Monday, August 29, 2011

Why am I Mormon?

My parents both met missionaries and joined the Church in their early adulthood.  They then met, were married in a temple for eternity, and raised us kids in the Church.   So, I have been a Mormon all my life.  I grew up knowing that I was a daughter of God, reading from the scriptures, learning about a Saviour who loves me, listening to a prophet, and going to church every Sunday – even sitting in the same pew each week.

We are, however, encouraged to know for ourselves.  I may have been born to Mormon parents, and as a child I probably did go to church because my parent’s expected it of me while living at home – yet I have come to the knowledge for myself that being a Mormon is the right thing for me.  I love the feeling of warmth, comfort, and security that I feel when I am listening to the words of the prophet.  I thoroughly enjoy reading and studying the Book of Mormon, which helps me understand the Bible and Christ’s teachings so much more.  I have prayed to know if Joseph Smith really did see God and Jesus Christ, and if he really did restore missing truths.  I have had countless moments when I feel like I understand, feel loved, or feel that what I am doing is right.  I have also seen the blessings that come from living good standards and principles – like paying tithing, as commanded, or dressing modestly, as advised.

Living good standards and following important principles can be a big commitment.   I believe ones beliefs should not be passive – our religion, set of values, or beliefs should be reflected in how we live our lives, how we speak, dress, and act, and most importantly, how we make decisions.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 8]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

...continued from review part 7

After all WE can do
Because we are reading this phrase differently now, after all we can do already has a different meaning for me.  Who is the ‘we’?  You know of the famous Footprints poem, portraying the Saviour walking besides us throughout our lives and then picking us up during our tough times.  Perhaps the Saviour has carried you through the whole journey.  Either way, it’s a ‘we’.

You know what I get from that?  Jesus Christ isn’t waiting for you to get your act together.  He’s right there already, either next to you or carrying you.  We should stop feeling inadequate and unworthy for such companionship.  We don’t need to be perfect to enter the temple, we don’t need to be perfect to have Christ carry us, and we certainly don’t need to be perfect to be given God’s grace.

So stop worrying about your faults and flaws.  Your offering may be somewhat important, but you as the offerer is way more important. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Thought for Friday.

I had something else planned for today's Thought for Friday post, but I cannot go another day without posting the song that has been in my head for the past month.

I hum it all the time.

I really really like it.

So what do you have planned for the weekend?  The oh-so-glorious weekend?

Another favourite of Mindy's that I had in my head for, oh, my entire mission.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 7]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

...continued from review part 6

After all we CAN do
Be honest now – what can we do on our own?  Moses wasn’t far off when he exclaimed in Moses 1:10I know that man is nothing”.  Our dependence upon the Saviour becomes more apparent to me as time goes on.  I know that was what Moses learnt after God withdrew His presence following their friendly chat in Moses 1.  Keep in mind, ‘nothing’ here means ‘powerless’, not ‘worthless’.  You can still do “all things through Christ which strengtheneth me”.

After all we can DO
I like doing things.  I like ticking things off a list as I do them.  Doings help us to become more like Him in heaven, and more like the kind of people who will want to stay in heaven.  The to-do list helps us – or is a means - to BE.  And really, isn’t the ‘doing’ here all about using the enabling power of grace that we have been given?

Did you know that our well-loved children’s song I Am A Child of God was originally written as “teach me all that I must know”?  I did.  I can’t remember where I picked that up, but it was at the request of President Spencer W. Kimball that the word ‘know’ was changed to ‘do’.  Knowledge is of better use to us when we act upon it. 

The miracle of the atonement is that we can be changed; and that we WANT to be changed.  And by changed, I don’t mean just cleansed, but transformed so that we want to be with Him.  Otherwise we might be begging to leave His presence.

What we should be doing is ensuring we get the best resurrected body, to be and feel comfortable in heaven. God requires faith and repentance to make us want to change.  Same with our higher standard of living.  Our covenants, paying tithing and for missions – all these things are required for our change.  That is the purpose of these things.  We are practicing for heaven.

... more to come ...   and thankyou for comments thus far!  It helps to know you are reading and thinking ...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 6]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

...continued from review part 5

After ALL we can do
‘All’ is a lot.  It is a scary word in this context - especially for those like me who like to be the compulsive overachievers.  I start to think of the ten commandments, other commandments, visiting teaching commitments, family history, attending church and meetings, and callings, and faith repentance baptism holy ghost scripture study personal prayer family prayer help me please this list may not end.  The words “just do your best” may start to feel like a discouraging challenge.  Come on woman, you’ve been told what you need to be doing; you clearly must be able to find the time.  You can do better.  Your current all isn’t enough.

But Brad said something way better: Even if your offering is not acceptable (by our definition), God accepts it.  He accepts it because God is more concerned with the offerer than the offering.  He is more pleased with the efforts we do make, no matter how faltering.  He is more interested in me offering something, anything, than what I offer and how much I offer.  Remember the parable of the widow’s mite?  In Mark chapter 12, we read that two mites was more in value that the offerings of the Pharisees, simply because it was her all. “…this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury…[she] did cast in al that she had, even all her living.”  So you know what?  Your best IS your all.

Wilcox then spoke about mediocrity.  The word ‘mediocrity’ coming from a Latin word that literally means ‘halfway up the mountain’.  Satan would have you believe that your effort is incomplete, that you are failing and can’t give it your all.  But no – instead you are halfway up the mountain, you’re getting up there, and you sure ain’t refusing to try.  So as long as mediocrity isn’t our objective, then we can recognise that it is a stage we must go through on our way up.

From now on, I’m not going to try and impress God and Christ with my sacrifices, but rather allow their sacrifices be more deeply impressed in me.

...more to come

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 5]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

How do you study the scriptures?  Not read – study.  How do you break down meaning and gain inspiration and insight?  Have you ever taken a verse or two, and analysed the words every possible way?

The next speaker at Sydney’s Time Out for Women conference was Brad Wilcox.  Funny guy.  Young guy too, for all he has done.  His entire address was pulling one particular scripture apart to successfully draw out the most meaning and application to us.

Turn to 2 Nephi 25:23, and read it with me:

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
According to Brad Wilcox, this may be the most quoted scripture in the Church and the most misunderstood.  He took us through the phrase ‘after all we can do’, looking at each word so that we may understand it more fully.  It was a good point – parts of the scriptures can sometimes be a source of discouragement if we do not understand them.  And so he took us through the phrase (above in bold), emphasising each word in turn:

AFTER all we can do
Most read the word ‘after’ to mean ‘afterward’ or ‘subsequently’ – meaning it is time related.  That is, once we ourselves have done all we can do to be saved, the Lord will step in and save us; the finishing touch to all we have accomplished.  We try our best to do everything we can, and then He will come to our rescue.  But does that sound right?  Doesn’t that imply that we and our efforts are alone until we absolutely need Him to make up the difference?  Wait a minute … neither Paul or Alma the Younger did much good to deserve their amazing turn-around experiences.  And yet they received obvious blessings.

Brad thinks the word ‘after’ means ‘regardless’, ‘in spite of’.  So the grace of God will save us in spite of what we try to do and cannot.  Maybe even regardless of all we can do.  Nephi was telling us more about the mission of the Messiah than anything, and that no matter how much we do, it simply wont be enough to guarantee our salvation without the intervention of Christ.

So, we are still saved by grace after all is said and done, but this grace is not something that suddenly switches on like an emergency generator after we have exhausted all of our efforts.  It is our constant energy source, not the last-mile booster.

Brad reminded me of this: in the sacrament prayer we hear every Sunday, we renew a promise to remember Him always.  How can we keep this promise when we try and do all that we can without Him, thinking He’ll make up the difference at the end?  The gift of the Saviour’s grace surely isn’t given to us at the end, but for and during the journey as we are trying.  Isn’t that more of a comfort?

The truth is, we probably need that grace, that extra boost and help, during our journey, not at the end.  And we need to realise that this gift is available to all as we learn, make mistakes, and try.  If perfection were the requirement, grace would be awarded to no one.

...more to come

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I am under the influence of much codine as I write this.

I'm not blogging for a few days.  I have loads of ideas and topics I want to blog about, and I am constantly jotting down quotes and thoughts as they come, when reading the Ensign or listening to devotionals for example, but now is not the time.  I have a few health issues to take care of first. 

One of the fruits of my current health is a really bad tooth infection, which has also sparked other problems.  Let's just say I empathise a little more with the Saviour and the pain He suffered.  So I have decided to re-prioritise things so I can become more nourished - both physically and spiritually.  Any suggestions on how to do that?  As I read Elder Perry's article in this month's Ensign, I realise the balancing act is still hard to do.

See you in a few days ..

Friday, August 12, 2011

Thought for Friday.

Almost the weekend, peoples.  Almost.  This weekend filled with almost NOTHING cannot come too soon for me.  I am in desperate need of drugs and sleep.  Mmm .. sleeeeep.

I want to know:  what matters most to you?

Is it your cat?  Your gym membership?  Your two year old? 
Are the things that matter most to you a priority in your schedule?

May we slow down a little, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most.

Shall we diligently do the things that matter most?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Apparently we can't send flowers.

My past life

I used to sing in the Sydney Opera House.

How glamourous does that sound?  Well, not sure if glamourous is the word, but it sure was fun!  And exhausting.  And quite tedious, at times.  I miss it.

It took me around the other side of the world - you should totally click here.

The Sydney Philharmonia Choirs - that was the choral group I was with for past five years.  And, among other things, we would accompany the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the Opera House.  No, wait. THEY accompanied US.  Yes, that's right (although at times, it was much of a muchness.  All about territory, was it?).

We were volunteers.  No pay for us.  No monetary compensation.  We rehearsed every week for 3 hours, in the dark corner of the minimal-public-transportation section of the CBD; sang copious amount of music in many many languages, not always knowing what we were singing about; and endured language coaches who couldn't understand why we couldn't understand the difference between their pronounciation and ours.

Our chorusmaster was a top guy, who knows his stuff.  Brett (aka Bretty, to some fortunate people).

Brett recently remarked about some of the difficulties for us when singing in the Opera House.  Read them:  It's true.  As a high soprano, I was always placed on the end of the row, stage left, usually in the front.  I could always hear fellow sops (key women in the organisation, of course) belting it out with me .. only to hear the male half of the choir several seconds later, delayed by the reverb.  Always delayed.  Sometimes, disappeared.

Well.  That was Sydney.  Now I reside in Adelaide.  No Opera House here.  Not much at all, really.  Definately no dark corner of the CBD for me to wander though, no aussie and irish pubs filled with tourists with a not-so-flash man singing loudly with his guitar for entertainment (thank you George Street, with all your taxis and police cars every night, your plethera of boomerang, opal, and Ken Duncan-tshirt shops), no chic apartments on the water, with that random little glass gym underneath, next to couples sitting in dim lit restarants, ordering expensive little food on massive plates. 

Instead, I auditioned and now sing with the Adelaide Philharmonia Choir.  A smaller and more relaxed choir.  We sang last weekend with the Ino Choir from Japan.  They flew all the way over for the one concert.  It was beautiful, funny, and quite teary by the end.  Occasionally we sing evensong at St Peter's Cathedral.  Hollar if you're interested in listening.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Count my faith, please.

Tonight is census night for Australia.

I received an email a few weeks back, instructing me to write “Mormon” as my religion and to pass the email on to other members.  Mormon is not the official name of the church I belong to, but rather the nickname that seems to be better known.  Although we members were asked several years back to promote the correct name of the church, we are now embracing the nickname to avoid confusion, and to ensure we are correctly counted on tonight’s census. [So remember to say ‘Mormon’ tonight!]

I came across an interesting article about the religion question in tonight’s census: Don’t tick the religion box unless you really mean it.  There is an obvious trend (and Australia is not alone, I am sure) to attend a church service on Easter Sunday and then count yourself as a church-goer.  My guess is that a fair few Catholics and Christians alike say they are religious, tick the box, but don’t attend regular services and – dare I say it – not live the principles taught.  My other guess is the other main religions (Judaism; Muslim) do not have this issue.  Is there a relationship, then, between strong religions with sufferings and torment and their survival over generations?  There must be.  On the whole, Jews and Muslims can usually found living in close proximity to each other, and definitely take their faith seriously – both in attendance, tradition, and belief.  The same applies to Mormons, I know, as we strive to live our religion every day of the week and attend all Sunday meetings.  So who is ticking the religion box without being religious?  What about the majority of mainstream Christianity – the congregations that teach such relaxed teachings that has changed over time and from parish-to-parish?  Some tick the Christian box because their parents were Christian.  Some tick the Christian box for the sake of it.  And some write ‘Jedi’ because they are silly.

What I find interesting is this: the question in the census is not framed to be terribly accurate.  In the article, a census commentator was quoted as actually saying the following: I ticked ‘catholic’ on my census form, as I was raised a

catholic by my parents, but do no[t] necessary subscribe to Catholic views, nor attend church. So, as the author writes, what is the census saying? Will a Catholic church be built where he lives if he has no intention of using it?

What is your religion?  Do you really mean it?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 4]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

Virginia Pearce spoke about the mothering influences in her life. She listed four of them, detailing who each woman was and the motherly impact they had had on her life. She spoke about having “mother moments”. When you feel fed up, frustrated, angst or whatever - stop what you are doing and quote a woman in your life. Virginia said we need time to remember and quote a mothering influence in your life. A ‘mother moment’.I’ll admit here that I couldn’t think of four. How terrible does that sound.

I can of course think of dozens of women who have been a part of my life, a great influence on me, and people I will always love, but I wanted to think of four outstanding women I would be quoting for the rest of my life, women than my children would recognise because of what I had told them.

An aside note: what an awesome thought.  Imagine being the recipient of such recognition. Someone knows who I am because they were taught of my example, and from that they could recognise me.

Of course, my mother is number one.  She has to be; not just because of her profound influence and strength in my life, but because she would fly over on her broomstick and kill me if I said otherwise (cue to laugh…you really have to know my mother).

My mum is a tough woman.  A pillar of strength.  A helpful, reasonable, and sensible woman.  Coming from a non-ideal upbringing, we were taught the importance of hard work, education, and being independent and self-reliant from an early age.  I regularly quote her and hear her voice when I speak (gosh that is always a shock - I even catch myself laughing like her.  Horror!).  Over the years, she has become such a close friend and confidant.

After Mum, I struggle to think of who else has had such a profound mothering influence on me, someone I would quote and remember forever.  Does Agatha Christie count?  No seriously, she’s been a part of my life since junior (primary) school.

My Dad is really number two on the list, and he only comes behind Mum on ‘the list of mothering influences’ because you naturally think of women first.

Dad’s from the aussie bush, from a humble loving family that worked the land.  He’s life story is so diverse; I’ve always wanted to write it up.  Attending boarding school to training as a priest in a monastery; being baptised in a river after a dance (!!) to travelling the world with business; being a continually elected councillor and mayor, and an avid family genealogist.  We have so much in common, and with our opinions and sarcasm so aligned, it’s not hard to quote my Dad.

The next few on my list would be a number of superwomen I met on my mission.  I’ll post about my mission soon, so you understand what that was and what I learnt from that.  It was more or less a period of time when I was surrounded by the best.  The cream of the crop.  And I know that I will be telling my kiddies story after story of my time spent with these superwomen in the field.

The four mothering influences in Virginia’s life were her mother, the very well-known Marjorie Pay Hinckley who is still quoted; Julie, a neighbour and friend; Eliza R. Snow, pioneer and poet; and Julie B. Beck, current leader of the women of the world.  She spoke words about each woman, the challenges in their lives and how they were pillars of strength to Virginia.

One point from that that I found curious was about Sister Beck.  Julie Beck is currently the president of the Relief Society.  I’ll post more about this organisation soon, but suffice it to say, it is the world’s largest organisation for women; and the oldest.  I have met Sister Beck on a number of occasions – she is a powerful speaker, and her messages for us women today are direct and much needed.  But I hardly think of her as a regular mum and wife.  Virginia shed some light, just a small amount, on Beck’s life, but it was enough to show us listening women that the messages we hear from Beck each year are more than heartfelt, sincere messages containing direction and hope.  They usually reflected her own on-going challenges and sorrows, particular with family and health.  I didn’t know she had had health struggles for years.  In fact, we can never really know what other people are going through.  To understand that we are all leading lives and facing challenges makes their actions and words of wisdom even more sincere and heartfelt.  Read back over some of her words; you’ll see that her messages were learnt from life experiences.

So have a ‘mother moment’.  Think of the quotable powerhouse women in your life.  Be thankful for their example to you.

And don’t forget them.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thought for Friday.

It's almost the weekend!  And it may be a weekend jammed packed with things to do, but it's a weekend nonetheless.

The following clip is a favourite of mine.  Even now, posting it for you and having watched it many times before, I am touched.  I feel so light and blessed, and I feel the power of Christlike charity.

It is a beautiful message, shared by President Gordon B. Hinckley.  Take the time, and watch.

Now, really, don't you have a good feeling?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 3]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

Hilary Weeks encouraged me to name my washing machine.

Brenda comes to mind.

I do have a washing machine, but I haven't used her yet.  It is sitting all on its lonesome in the garage while I use someone elses (also unloved unnamed).  If I name mine now, does that make her more a part of our lives?  And therefore more neglected and left out of our lives?

Poor Brenda.

Hilary had other good titbits (her exact word) of advice to share, although her primary role during the conference was to introduce the main speakers and to provide the sometimes light and sometimes meaningful music in between.

She spoke on something President Boyd K. Packer has spoken about many times:  our thoughts.  She told us about her clicker - a hand held clicker - to count every negative thought she had per day.  At first, I thought that sounded like a good and really interesting exercise.  Just how negative are we?  I'd say very, considering most women cracked up with guilt at her explanation of why you don't take the clicker to church (giggle), especially if someone brings Cheerios to church and they end up on the floor (click) and then you step on them (click click click).

The point Hilary made was counting her negative thoughts, while it sounds like it could be a good thing, ended up being a negative experience.  She felt more negative.  Alright then, how about we count our positive thoughts?  Whoa, Hilary counted heaps more of those per day (phew)!  And suddenly, you are thankful for everything, just to get those clicks up.  You are thankful for someones smile, you are happy the bus waited for you.  Now you are concentrating on the positive, looking out for the positive, and even creating reasons for the positive.

The conclusion is:  you are what you think.

As Elder Richard G. Scott said, "we become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day."

Let's look at his General Conference address entitled 'The Transforming Power of Faith and Character' more closely.  Elder Scott tells us that "[f]aith and character are intimately related."  How so?  Does my ability to believe in things not seen really have a huge impact on my character?  Absolutely.  "Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need.  Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation.  That is when it is intended to be used." [Underline added.]

A righteous character "is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind."  And you know what else?  "Neither Satan nor any other power can destroy or undermine your growing character" ...except for ourselves, through our own disobedience.

So to obtain righteous character, it really does depend on the efforts we make.  To become, we need to think about becoming.  Our thoughts will truly determine what we will be.

Hence Laurels' first action item:  to think with faith.  "When faith is properly understood and used, it has dramatically far-reaching effects."  Faith centred on the Lord Jesus Christ, that is.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Evangelicals, Mormons and the beliefs of the president.

I simply had to post this.

The following is an article, penned by Michael Otterson.  Michael is head of the Public Affairs department for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

And yes, I am a member of that church, and do support the words of Michael.

Evangelicals, Mormons and the beliefs of the president

A week or so ago I read an essay by evangelical journalist and author Warren Cole Smith, suggesting that voting for a Mormon – any Mormon – was a less than responsible thing to do. I found its logic profoundly disturbing.

Some very good conversations between evangelicals and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been going on for years. I hope there will be more, and that they’ll be instructive and mutually respectful. Conversation is the beginning of understanding. But too often we see reactions to old stereotypes, like this one. So here is my open letter to Warren Cole Smith in response to his assertions.

Dear Warren:

We’ve never met. I hope we might have a chance to do so.

I read your symposium essay and it got me thinking. I hope you won’t mind if I avoid discussing particular political candidates. My church is serious about its neutrality in party politics, and as a church spokesman I am always careful not to tip my hat in the direction of either an incumbent president or any of his opponents.
In fact, this letter is emphatically not about the candidates at all, but about how differently you and I understand what it is to be an American.

I hope I can fairly summarize the salient points of your essay. It seems to boil down to this:

1. Any Mormon, regardless of qualifications for office, is unfit to serve because his or her religion is somehow “demonstrably false.” By false, I assume you mean different from yours, or from how you define “biblical Christianity.”
2. Because Mormons believe in continuing revelation, they could “believe one thing today and another thing tomorrow.”
3. The election of a Mormon president would give the religion a boost because it would seem like an endorsement. And that would be a bad thing.

To be honest, Warren, I don’t really know how good or bad any of the likely candidates – Latter-day Saint or otherwise - might be as president of the United States. I’ll try to figure that out for myself before I enter the voting booth in 2012. But whoever might be elected, I expect the judgment that this nation and history will eventually render about him, or her, will have little to do with where they worshipped on the Sabbath. It will have much to do with their grasp of economics, of foreign policy, of education and health care, of their skills as commander in chief. It will likely reflect how they responded to crises, their core values and ability to unite and rally the American people.

I admit, I’m struggling just a tad with your logic that the very fact of being a Mormon disqualifies a person from high public office. That would be news to Senator Orrin Hatch, who has served his country and constituents for 34 years. And to Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader - one of the most powerful positions in government.

It would also be news to former Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, who as a member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet ran a department that accounts for almost a quarter of all federal outlays. Or to Larry Echo Hawk, who heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, in the present administration. And, of course, to the dozen-or-so other currently serving senators and congressmen who are also Latter-day Saints, as well as the thousands of non-Mormon voters who recognized their merits and helped elect them to office. If there is anything “demonstrable” it’s that Mormons have been serving most capably in national government for over a century.

I’m trying hard to figure out how and why belief in “continuing revelation” has or could compromise the performance of any of these legislators and public servants, since that is what your essay implies. “Continuing revelation” means two things to Mormons. First, it means we look for answers to personal prayers – a practice that you and I probably share. Second, it means church leaders receive inspiration and guidance to lead the church worldwide. It doesn’t mean, as you assert, that we “believe one thing today and another thing tomorrow.” As evidence for that, you offer a theological caricature and cite two changes in church policy, which occurred over 120 years. Something of a stretch, don’t you think?

To your third point, there’s your assertion that the election of Mormons to high office would be a tacit endorsement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This argument, while not new, is frightening in its implications. Substitute the word “Jew” for “Mormon” and see how comfortable that feels. We may reasonably hope that most people vote on the basis of policy positions and not of denomination. I never thought of the election of John Kennedy as an endorsement for Catholicism, or that Richard Nixon’s election “legitimized” Quakers (as if these groups needed legitimation). I think most Americans saw their religious affiliations as incidental to their policies and platforms.

In reality, the church that I belong to embraces a membership with views across the political spectrum, and maintains its independence and neutrality from party politics. If I know anything about my church, it’s how carefully it distances itself from the actions of party politicians and government, and respects the autonomy of any political office holder.

So let’s move beyond these questionable assertions to the premise in your post that really disturbed me, stated by you this way:
“I believe a candidate who either by intent or effect promotes a false and dangerous religion is unfit to serve.”
Who decides, Warren, that one religion is acceptable and another “false and dangerous”? Do you? Does the church that you attend? Since you aren’t calling for Mormons to be legally barred from the highest office in the land, is your idea just to effectively marginalize Mormons and make it impossible for them to run for office? Do you feel the same way about other faiths that are different from yours? Catholics, perhaps? Isn’t there something called Article VI, a constitutional provision that forbids a religious test for political office? “…No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” What does that mean – what has it ever meant – if it doesn’t apply in a case like this?
What it seems you would like me and six million other Mormons in the U.S. to do is concede a fundamental right granted to all Americans because we don’t fit within your definition of what is theologically acceptable. Fortunately, that’s not what the Constitution says, and it’s not what America teaches. I should hope that I can sit one of my grandchildren on my knee and tell them that in our religiously diverse society they are as good as anyone else, and that they will be judged by the fruits of their lives and not by discriminatory interpretations of their faith.

With the greatest respect, Warren, your position is unreasonable, un-Christian and untrue to American ideals. Neither is it typical of the Christians I know, or of those writing at your venue. Mormons across the country live side by side with evangelicals as neighbors, work associates and friends. There is much that they share. And by the way, despite my clear disagreement with some of your theology, I would have absolutely no problem voting for an evangelical who was in every way qualified to be president of the United States.

It’s time to overcome unfounded fears, to stop propounding them, and to start trying to understand each other better. If you want to talk theology, then let’s get beyond the laundry list of trivia that typically crops up in the news media, and get to the substantial issues – interpretation of the Bible, additional scripture, the purpose of life. Hopefully our next interaction can be a personal one. If you ever come to Salt Lake City, please drop in. I’d welcome a meaningful discussion.

Mike Otterson

Monday, August 1, 2011

Time Out for Women - Choose to Become [review part 2]

A recap of the messages I heard and felt.

[This is a continuation of part 1.]

Laurel Christensen went on to talk about her action plan in obtaining her goals.  Goals that would bring about good change; help her improve; become.  Lucky for me, the goals foremost in my mind are similar to Laurel’s (‘weight’, she whispers).

Action Item 1: Praying with faith

Sounds like common sense again – another ­duh moment.  But again, flesh it out.  Think about your personal prayers.  This is usually when I want to stop thinking about it too much, because I already know I need to improve with my personal prayers.  I’ll confess, I struggle with them and I am always feeling guilty about my prayers.  I didn’t always struggle with personal prayers; it’s a cycle I go through.  I have these glorious moments of enlightenment, I feel all good, in tune, and happy with myself.  And I pray.  I do the things we are told to do.  And suddenly, life becomes busier.  I take on more projects, I schedule my time away, and I simply don’t consider praying until I’m half asleep in a warm bed that I simply cannot get out of.

The funny thing is, I am always listening out for new insight and advice from church conferences and meetings, and the message that usually hits me the most is the same thing over and over.  Pray.  Gosh, that can be annoying.  Are you sure there is nothing more complicated to do, or something deeper to sink my teeth into?  Sigh.  Well, you know what?  The basics are not easy.  Clearly, or they would not be spoken about over and over.  A wise relief society teacher said something last week when I visited my old ward.  The lesson was on the recent General Conference talk given by President Dieter F. UchtdorfWaiting on the Road to Damascus, and the message was essentially about waiting for a lightning bolt or sign from the heavens, and in the meantime procrastinating our lives away.  She (the teacher) said, regarding the basics like personal prayer and daily scripture study, that the simple things we are told to do over and over are our great weapons in this day and age.  Our own personal armour of God.  Hmm, I’ve not thought of personal prayer as a weapon before.  I’m going out to war today; I’m only wearing the loin cloth, so I better arm myself with a lotta prayer.I am totally digressing here from the messages obtained from Laurel.  But whatever – this is important to me.  And quite frankly, it is important to you.  Just because I now have several alarms on my phone to ensure we pray as a family (of two!) before I leave for work in the early hours and before he leaves for work in the late hours doesn’t mean we’re good.  How well do we pray?  We’ve just reflected on the literal relationship between ourselves and our God, and on discovering that it is a parental relationship, do we converse as such?  Are you chatting to God on a regular basis all the things you would say to your earthly parents?  This means so much to me.  Because we should be pouring out all of our disappointments, our challenges, and stupid moments and crumbling times to Him – not just for help, but for support, for guidance, for a listening ear.  We should also be telling him about our happy times, our joys, what made us smile that day, how our day went.  Pretty sure He wants to know.

Returning back to Laurel, in relation to praying with faith, she told us women to remember to ASK for what we wanted in prayer.  It sounds simple, even unnecessary as God already knows what we want, but we have to do the actual asking.  At this point, you have surely thought of some areas to improve on.  How about we have an intermission then, and you go and call on your Heavenly Father, right now.  Go tell him what’s on your mind, what you are having trouble with, what you are happy about, what you have accomplished today, and hope to accomplish today.

We’ll reconvene in a moment.


The thing is, when we don’t pray with sincerity, when we don’t report our lives or our family’s lives, or ask him for what we need, we are putting restrictions on ourselves.  The changes we want to make, the progress we want to make – all of it is going to be a tough struggle without divine help.  Why would you want to make life any harder?!

She told us about her week at a health resort where she almost died on a treadmill.  On one particular day – Treading Thursday – she had to really push herself on the treadmill.  Amongst all the crying, gasping for air, and repeating “I’m gonna die!”, the trainer kept telling her “Stop standing in the way of yourself.”  So Laurel’s next question to us was: What else have you been standing in the way from?

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. (Ephesians 3:2)

Action Item 2: Thinking with faithApparently there is power in thinking with faith.  That’s what Laurel said.  And I love the example she gave from the book of Genesis.  It is a story we all know well, but I never really saw it the way she told it.  (It was definitely a lot funnier when she told it.)

Joseph, the one with the famous coat and the loving dad, had visions when he was young, visions which were pretty clear cut.  He was going to be a great man, a ruler.  If you had a similar vision, what you expect from life?  Well, let’s look at what happened in his life. In Genesis 37, his brothers threw him into a pit.  They wanted to slay him, but the pit was more convenient.  They then sold him into slavery.  Do you think he questioned his vision?  Um, I’m in a pit; I guess I read that vision wrong.  Joseph then lives as a slave, and in Genesis 39, he ends up in jail.  Good one, Potiphar’s wife.

Now some of us may say:  I’m in a pit; the Lord knows I’m in a pit; therefore He must want me in the pit.  Or: I’m a lowly slave, but the Lord knows I’m a slave; if He didn’t want me to be a slave, he’d change it. So I’ll just remain a slave. Oh look, I’m in jail, but He knows I’m in jail, so I’ll just wait here until He gets me out.

We’re talking about thinking with faith, here.  This has to mean a lot more than just thinking positive thoughts.  You can remain in a pit, in jail, or as a slave, and still be optimistic about your situation.  Thinking with faith has to be more than that.  Joseph believed in the vision he had received.  He believed it would be true.  Laurel had to change her thoughts to believe she could really achieve her goals.  Not just hope it.  We need to stop hoping that something might change, and have the faith that it will.  Now look at 39:21.  “But the Lord was with Joseph”.  That is mentioned a few times in these chapters.  Joseph wasn’t alone in his journey, and he certainly didn’t question what life dealt him.  He probably didn’t understand how those early visions were going to come to pass, but he obviously trusted in the Lord.  His faith allowed his character to be built.

And, having had that empowering vision of what he could become, he had to have known God was with him, and therefore he continually thought with faith.

Laurel then quoted Sheri Dew: Where you are today is no surprise to God.

From all this, I learn that it is more than okay to have hopes, dreams, goals, desires.  These are what we should be communicating to our Father in Heaven, and we should be having faith in that communication and our progress, not the outcome being given to us.

Action Item 3: Living with faith
After having discussed praying with faith and thinking with faith, what do you think living with faith is?  How is that a separate action item from the previous two?

Well, remember to align yourself with Heavenly Father’s will.

In a brilliant talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, we were told by an apostle of the Lord the following: 
Yes, there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been genuine illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. … Don’t give in. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. He wants everyone to be miserable like until himself. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.
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