Tag Archives: Blessings

Teaching Our Children to Love God

By Guest Blogger Angee Duvall

Thanx for having me today! (Yes, I spell thanks with an “x.”) I’m so excited to be here today sharing some thoughts dear to my heart! Let me take a moment to introduce myself.

Hi! I’m Angee. I’m a former elementary/preschool teacher turned stay-at-home mom. I’ve been married for eleven years to a pretty incredible man. We have three adorable children, ages eight and under, who keep us busy and happy. In my “spare” time I blog about activity ideas to do with children. And yes, I’m Mormon.

Since teaching and motherhood are so deeply a part of my life, I get asked a lot, “What is the most important thing you can teach children?” This is something I’ve thought about a lot, and every time, my answer comes down to one basic truth:

LOVE GOD

If I can teach my children to love God, then all other lessons should fall into place. They would naturally be compassionate towards others. They would naturally see their own worth. They would naturally find joy in life. They would naturally serve. They would naturally find a purpose in living.

Sometimes I get asked what top three things that I teach my children. If I could break that general concept down into a more specific list, these are the top three things I’m striving to teach my children (in no particular order):

1. Serve others. I want my children to find the joy that comes from service. My husband and I try to involve our children in all aspects of our own service. We involve them in making and delivering a meal for a family who just had a baby. We involve them in shoveling snow from our homebound neighbor’s driveway. We also try to teach them that service doesn’t have to be big. It can be as simple as playing with another kid on the playground who has no one to play with, or smiling at someone who is sad. And we are always sure to point out how the other people looked when we served them and how we feel in our own hearts. Just last week, as we pulled into Walmart on a snowy evening, my five-year-old daughter said, “Mom, do you remember last year when we brought hot chocolate to the [Salvation Army] bell ringers? Yeah. That made me happy.” Warm my heart. That’s what it’s all about!

2. Work hard. I want my children to learn the value of hard work; that work is a part of life. There is deep satisfaction in working. I want them to always do their very best and put their heart and soul into everything they do. I want them to know their work is needed in our home now (that we won’t have dishes to eat dinner on without their help) and in society in the future.

3. Be happy. Most importantly, I want my children to learn to be happy. I want them to smile and laugh and find the good in their lives. Each person in our family keeps a gratitude journal that we write in daily. By focusing on the things that made us happy each day, we have found a deep level of peace. We love to make memories as a family, and you’ll find our home full of laughter.

Now you tell me: What is the most important thing you can teach your children?

We Are Children of God

By Guest Blogger Chelsea Slade

In the course of my training as a medical student, I have seen many difficult situations. I have seen a sixteen-year-old girl die of tuberculosis; I have heard the mourning wails of a wife when her husband’s heart monitor went flat and his last breath was drawn; I have held a premature baby no larger than a frog shortly after he died, and felt the warmth gently pass from his tiny body. I have taken families to see their loved one in the hospital morgue. I have been the one to say, “You have cancer,” and the one to say, “Your cancer has returned, and there is very little we can do.” I have seen families pulled apart by their son and brother’s fits of psychosis and aggression. I have seen a man so tormented by his belief that he was the Anti-Christ that it drove him to try to end his own life. I have tried to comfort a woman so plagued by the memory of the abortion her mother forced her to have at age seventeen that she throws herself into a wall until she loses consciousness. I have seen children who spend their entire preschool and elementary years fed through a tube through their belly wall directly into their stomach, never knowing what it is to taste ice cream or cold lemonade on a hot summer day. I have seen a seven-year-old boy’s body wither away, ravaged by the ravenous cancer in his kidney. I have shared with an expectant mother the realization that the mass on her prenatal ultrasound is a terrible cancer that will likely take her baby’s life soon after she is born.

Perhaps the most difficult encounters I have faced—the ones that wrench my heart into a tangled mess and leave me in tears—were the several women I met while working in a psychiatric hospital, who believed beyond any convincing that they were worthless. These were beautiful women, most of them mothers, who could not, even with long hours of coaching, name anything they truly liked about themselves. They saw themselves as fat, ignorant, stupid, deserving to die, worthless, and disgusting. Many of them had toxic family members who reinforced those beliefs, or heard voices telling them these things over and over, every day of their lives. Suicide seemed the only way to escape the harsh judgments that surrounded them. They had all tried several times.

When I found myself in conversation with these women, I wanted to gather them up in a huge hug and say, “But you are a daughter of God. You are a holy, beloved child of our Heavenly Father, and that makes you beautiful and valuable—no matter what the voices or your family can say.” I knew, from my faith in what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had taught me, that each of these women was a precious spiritual being with intrinsic worth and beauty. If only I could have shown them!

But the medical profession is strict. An outside observer to that conversation would see a student doctor, in a position of authority, proselytizing and preaching to a vulnerable and victimized psychiatric patient. So I had to check myself and limit the profession of my beliefs and my pain for these beautiful women, to saying, “I don’t believe you’re worthless. I could name a hundred wonderful things about you.” I worked so hard to help each daughter of God come to her own realization that she did have value and that life was worth living, while keeping explicit religious doctrine out of the conversation.

When I left that hospital, there had been only one suicide attempt among these women for a month. I don’t know that my words and love had any lasting effect on how these daughters of God will view themselves. But I came out with further solidification of my knowledge that our Heavenly Father does love us each as his children. I hope I will be able to subtly but powerfully bring that message to all the hopeless that I will touch as a doctor.

My Testimony

By Guest Blogger Laura Pitt

Most of my life, I didn’t think I needed a God. I was agnostic, at best. When I started college in Seattle in 2009, I was in a relationship with a very manipulative and hurtful person. I turned into a very sad and dependent young woman; as long as I was with this man, I believed I did not need to be accountable to anyone except him. This relationship, and other personal events, led to what I call my “rock bottom” in the winter of 2010. I felt so alone and so forgotten that I didn’t think I should be in this world anymore. These thoughts scared me, and a little feeling, a little voice said, “Just wait, and if you still feel this way tomorrow, get help.” I moved home, sought proper treatment, and went to a local community college in the meantime. (And the guy? He’s out of my life forever!) I learned immediately from my rock bottom that I cannot isolate myself, that my friends and family are here for me and want me to be happy.

After a year of working hard at community college, it was time to return to my university.  When I moved back to Seattle this fall, I quickly became overwhelmed with fear. I kept hearing, What if I’m not good enough?

I remember the day so clearly. I was going to officially declare my major. When the adviser explained opportunities within the major, I broke down crying. I told her that I was upset about my bike (which I discovered that morning had been stolen), but I knew it was just the last straw. I felt alone and forgotten again, and I knew I wasn’t going to get through school (and life, for that matter) if I kept living with these feelings.  They paralyzed me, and I just knew there had to be a way to get past them.

I left the meeting completely embarrassed. I walked back home through campus and saw some LDS missionaries. They’d been on campus a million times before, and I had ignored them a million times before. But that day, a little voice said to me, “Go talk to them. They’ll listen.” When the elder asked to pray with me, he asked afterwards how I felt. I was crying (happy tears, this time!) and said that it was comforting and really nice to have someone pray for me. To which he responded, “What you’re feeling is the Holy Ghost.”

In that ten minute conversation, the elder had demystified so much to me about the Godhead (I had heard of but never understood the concept of the Holy Ghost before). There had to be something to this church, I quickly realized.  The elders gave me a Book of Mormon and made an appointment with me the next day to see their church and to have a lesson.

I tried to bail out of that meeting. I called and listed almost every stereotype about the LDS Church as my reasons for not going, and the elder stayed on the phone with me for twenty minutes explaining why each stereotype was inaccurate. I caved, “Alright, I’ll still meet you guys today.”

And I’m so grateful I did. Each lesson was more and more eye-opening. I did have questions, but there were always answers. Every doctrine and every commandment comes with so many blessings (I can write about this, but it’d take a whole other article!). The elders always asked me to pray, read the Book of Mormon, and to go to church.

I had attended numerous Protestant services in my past, but was never compelled to return. However, I loved every moment on Sunday at church for LDS, and I know now that I love it so because it is the true and restored church of Jesus Christ.  I always felt I had to settle when going to other church services, but this was perfect.

I was baptized and confirmed three weeks and two days after my first meeting with the elders. The adversary used my past against me, telling me I was not worthy and deserving of happiness—there was no point in me trying to be a good person anymore because of mistakes in my past. Through my baptism, I was finally released from the grasp of my past. I promised to God that I will try every moment to be the best person I can be, and that I will not turn away from his love ever again. The gift of the Holy Spirit was the “thing” that was always missing for me. Yes, I had already learned that my friends and family loved me and were there for me, but sometimes they couldn’t understand my feelings and my thoughts. I joined so many different clubs and organizations trying to seek that comfort. The Holy Ghost is God’s blessing to me after I chose to be baptized. My Heavenly Father has always been there for me. He did get through to me in my darkest, most humble moments, through the Holy Spirit, but now I have it with me always.

I testify that Heavenly Father never gives up on you. He will be there for you during your highest highs and your lowest lows. He feels everything you feel, and he knows you better than anyone (even you, sometimes). I know that Heavenly Father knew exactly what I needed to go through so that I could come Home. He knew it would take twenty-one years of investigating before my heart would be humbled and soft enough to finally receive these revelations. I am not alone, I am not forgotten, and I am loved perfectly by my Heavenly Father. The trials I’ve faced here have built my testimony, and I now have no doubt in the truth of the gospel. My life itself hasn’t really changed, but I face each day now with a peaceful and joyful anticipation instead of dread and fear, and that’s the greatest comfort Heavenly Father can give me.

Understanding the Atonement

By Guest Blogger Matt Blakely

“Now the Atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord in his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah, we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived. May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.” (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane)

As I have grown and matured, I have realized how true this statement is. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we define the Atonement as Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, his suffering and death on the cross, and his glorious resurrection on the third day. Jesus Christ’s atonement redeems all mankind from physical death. Every one of the billions of people who have lived on the earth will receive the gift of being resurrected and living for eternity, regardless of how well or poorly they have lived their lives. The Atonement also makes it possible for every member of the human family to be cleansed of our sins as we come unto him and repent. These are truly incredible blessings, and I am eternally grateful to the Lord for making them available to me and to all mankind.

However, I think that most of us, including those of us who have been Christian our entire lives, have still only scratched the surface on understanding how truly remarkable the Atonement is. I know that the words I share here will certainly be inadequate to fully describe it, but I will try to help us catch a glimpse of it anyway.

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7:11–13)

Christ didn’t suffer for only our sins, though it seems harsh to use the word “only” when we realize how big that burden is on its own. He suffered for every pain, every sorrow, every weakness, every sickness, every infirmity that each of us will encounter individually. Why would he do that? “That he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people” (Alma 7:12). Succor means to run to the aid of. Christ is always there willing and wanting to run to our aid if we choose to turn our lives toward him. He wants to transform us into beings like him, and he has the power to do it if we choose to follow him.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to become like them so that we can return to live with them and with our families throughout eternity. This is made possible through the Atonement, which can transform who we are into who we truly yearn to become. Just like every person who reads this, I have had sins that I’ve struggled to overcome for long periods of time. Through these struggles and my efforts to turn to Christ, I have seen how his love has changed me. I recently wrote this in a journal entry: “I have come to realize that being a righteous disciple of the Savior is not dependent upon whether I have sinned or what sins I have committed. Being a man of God depends on doing what is truly hard—knowing yourself well enough to realize what your weaknesses are, recognizing the sins that you commit, and then following God’s plan regarding how to apply the Atonement to be cleansed of those sins.”

The Atonement is meant to change us. It can be hard to make the decision to change. I testify that going through that process of change brings joy that is exquisite. When you feel that the Savior has transformed you and you don’t have any desire to commit a sin that you used to commit, you realize that the process of repentance is completely worth all of the devoted effort you put into it. I know that Jesus Christ knows and loves you more deeply than you currently comprehend. The worth of every soul is great in the sight of God. The Touch of the Master’s Hand, one of my favorite poems, illustrates this beautifully. May each of us turn to the Savior and understand his atonement more fully as we feel his love transform us.

Why I’m Mormon

By Guest Blogger Denia-Marie Ollerton

I grew up in a religious LDS household. My parents were and are hardworking, God-fearing, sacrificing people. But it wasn’t easy. We had our difficulties and challenges, and at the time I felt we had more problems than my seemingly-perfect Mormon neighbors.

Church was just a thing we did every week. My friends were there, but I didn’t feel much else pulling me besides them. I remember thinking that religion as taught in my church was for perfect people only. They’d talk about the virtues of being good, and of happy families. I didn’t feel that fit my experience. I thought that God was cold, mean, and punitive.

In my teens, I got into some trouble with school, friends, and had some close calls with the law. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying desperately hard to become so. I still felt that religion was too strict and family relationships too sterile. Around eighteen years old my parents loosened their grip, and I began to experience the reality of being all on my own. I had long since lost any close friends I had in high school. My interactions with my family were minimal, and my life consisted mostly of going to school, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, and going home to sit in my room. Yes, it was very lonely. I knew that the life I had lived and the choices I had made up to that point were not making me happy.

I noticed my siblings were good enough people, and they seemed happy. They were active churchgoers, and always talked about how great the church was. I decided that I’d try religion one time, and one time only. If it was true, if it did work to live by certain rules, then great. If not, I’d know and I could move on with life. At this time, a lot of teachings from my childhood started to come into mind. One principle that came to mind was repentance. Repentance as I understood it was supposed to be this thing where you told God (or your bishop) about all the bad things you’d done, and somehow that was supposed to make you feel better. Oh yeah, and you weren’t supposed to do it again.

I also remembered the teachings about Jesus. I didn’t have much of an opinion on him. I had heard about the crucifixion and the atonement, but those were just words to me. And yet, he did seem like the only forgiving person in the entire story of religion. I remember thinking, “Alright, if he really is merciful and kind, I’ll test it out. I’ll see if he can handle me and all I’ve done.”

I went to my bishop after thinking this over for some time. I expected some harsh words and punishment, but I was willing to go through the process to get to the other side whatever that was. I went in and just let everything out to him. I was surprised but grateful at how calmly and kindly he handled the situation. He just listened for a while, and then asked if we could meet again after church. I agreed. I went to sacrament meeting, and the speakers all spoke about repentance and the atonement. I cried. I felt like a spotlight had been shone on me, and God was finally noticing me. I went back and talked more with my bishop. All of his words were encouraging, hopeful, and healing.

I walked home that day and went to ponder all that had gone on. It was as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulders, and I didn’t even know I was carrying it until it was gone. I felt incredibly happy. I think it was joy. I can honestly say I hadn’t felt joyful or happy up until that point in my life. I had seen people cry “tears of joy” before, but I didn’t want to cry, I just wanted to smile. I went through the rest of that week with a huge grin on my face. I knew then that God lived, and that there was so much more to life than I had known. Who knew that because Jesus Christ died thousands of years ago, and went through the atonement, that I could find healing and happiness in life? I didn’t before, but I knew it then. And there was no way I was going back to the life I had lived before.

I became fascinated with religion. I realized that I had been surrounded all along by a wonderful road map to a successful and happy life! I felt that I was doing years of make up work, but also felt that I was given an increased ability to soak it all in. Everything was positive that I found out. My previous notion of a punitive God was erased in large, sweeping motions. I found out he really did care about me. He did answer my prayers, he listened to me, he talked to me, and he helped me connect with others in ways I never knew were possible.

By relying on the teachings of the gospel, I’ve overcome fear, judgment (mostly of myself), and discouragement and have instead found opportunity, growth, excitement, and love. I thought my past would weigh me down, but it has buoyed me up. It has taught me that if God can right the wrong in life, he can make the good even better. I can come to the Lord, imperfect and all, and ask him to change me. And he does!

I love living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because it’s what I’m used to, or what I’ve known all my life, but because it makes me truly happy. And although I haven’t had a perfect life, I don’t hold myself to that perfect standard anymore, and I know God doesn’t either. He and I both know that I am powerful, and I have so much potential. And I’ll continue to draw on that potential, with his support, for the rest of my life.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy…or How We Actually Accomplish More by Taking a Day Off

By Guest Blogger Jenn Felkner

After creating the world, God himself took a day off to rest, then sanctified that day, or made it holy (Genesis 2:2–3). He later commanded us that we should do the same thing (Exodus 20: 8–11). As Latter-day Saints, we generally don’t work, play sports, go to movies, shop, or go out to eat on Sunday, and this often begs the question, “So what do you do on Sundays?” Every member chooses the way that they honor the Sabbath, but here are three things that I do on Sundays that help me be more productive throughout the rest of the week.

1. Rest
Because Sundays are dedicated to God and family, Latter-day Saints generally avoid working on Sundays if possible (although we understand the necessity of doctors, police, firemen, etc working on Sundays). We also try to avoid activities that would require someone else to work on Sunday. If I go shopping on Sundays, it means the store employees don’t have the opportunity to take a day of rest.

During the past year, I was in an intensive graduate program that required many study hours. I decided early in the year to avoid studying on Sundays as much as possible. I realized that when I didn’t study on Sunday, I felt more refreshed on Monday morning and was much more productive that week. I also find it helpful to take some time on Sunday to look at what I have planned for the week to come, set goals for the week, and schedule in everything I need to do.

2. Go to church
Going to church every week allows me to recharge myself spiritually. It helps me get above my day-to-day stresses and refocus on the big picture, which is trying to be more like Christ so that I can follow the plan God has for me. Understanding that plan helps me to deal with daily choices and problems.

3. Spend time with friends and family
Sundays are perfect for spending time with friends and family. Although I don’t have any family nearby, I usually chat on the phone with my grandma, or Skype with my parents and siblings in Texas. Sunday dinner was always a big deal at our house growing up, a tradition that I often carry on with friends or roommates. In my hectic life, it’s nice to have quality time to build relationships with those I care about.

Christ taught, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). Observing the Sabbath is not a list of restrictions, but rather a blessing, as it gives me an opportunity to rest, increase my spirituality, and build relationships.

My First Fast

By Guest Blogger Marc Jorgensen

For me, understanding my relationship between myself and God has not always come easily. Coming to know that God truly exists has been the most critical component of my membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Knowing that God knows and understands me helps me to trust him.

The first time I seriously fasted was a pivotal point in my life. It allowed me to feel much closer to God, and gave me a real knowledge that he actually listens and responds to our sincere prayers. Fasting involves going without food and water for a twenty-four hour period; when we fast we are encouraged to have a specific need or blessing that we ask from God, which, if it is appropriate and we are worthy, we will receive. I learned about this process repeatedly since I was a kid, and had made attempts at fasting growing up, none of which had a lasting impact.

But something was different when I was seventeen years old. My mind was more mature, and I felt I had arrived at a point where I should actually sacrifice something and have a sincere fast if I expected actual answers to prayers from God. I cannot recall what I specifically prayed for, but I do remember the strong desire I felt to supplicate God to help me complete the fast.

I was over six feet tall and used to a high daily food intake. So, almost immediately after beginning my fast (with a prayer) my mind and body were constantly pulling at me to eat or drink. It was very difficult, and more than a few times I found myself praying to overcome my appetite.

This experience was entirely different than any other attempt I had made. My prayers became more focused, and I felt my faith in the reality of God growing tremendously with each passing hour. When I read the Bible or the Book of Mormon that day, my perception to details and insights into passages increased. With this new understanding, the scriptures became less a story and more a reality to me. Essentially, as I focused less on my physical needs, my spiritual sensitivity became more refined and I became aware of things I never noticed before.

This was an eye-opening experience. I did learn to be in better control of my body, but more importantly it established a firm belief that God really exists, and that has stayed with me. This knowledge continues to positively influence my thoughts and actions to this day.

Tithing

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are invited to pay tithing.  We pay 10% from any source of income.  For me, this has always meant a monetary donation.  Many people who are not members of the Church comment about the fact that 10% seems like quite a sacrifice.

I am a student. I live in the Boston area where housing is expensive.  And, I have three children! My wife and I have to be very careful about our finances. We budget our money cautiously and track every penny.  When we sat down and planned the financing of my education, we calculated how long our savings would last and at what point we would have to go into debt.  By our calculations, our savings weren’t going to last very long.  However, one factor we failed to consider was the extent to which the Lord would bless us for paying tithing. The Bible (Malachi 3:8-10) says, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings…Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse…and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

I have a testimony of the law of tithing because I’ve seen the blessings that come as a result of paying tithing.  Our savings have lasted far longer than we expected. We still live on a small budget, but we have everything we need. I know that our Heavenly Father has helped us do far more with 90% of our income than my wife and I ever could have done with 100%.  What’s more, the blessings of tithing are not limited to financial blessings.  For one thing, our faith in Heavenly Father and His promises has greatly increased.

Is paying tithing a sacrifice?  A wise man once told me that a true sacrifice means giving up something good for something better. By this definition, tithing is absolutely a sacrifice!  I am grateful for the blessings that have come into my life, and the lives of my wife and children, as a result of paying tithing.

Why follow your Church’s Teachings?

A common and powerful question towards members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is why we follow, attend or affiliate with the church. Its not intended to be offensive, just an honest question: Why? From this blunt question I have developed some answers. I keep my church’s standards because it will literally help my well-being, and because I know it’s true.

First, my answer for why I choose the church is because its commandments and standards literally help me now, and (I hope) in the future. One of the standards of the Church is not smoking or drinking. Many of my friends have been seduced, or have been talked into smoking Pot, and drinking. These kids have this look that makes them seem 10 years older. Many of them could run like the wind, but now they are winded when running any significant distance. Many have been caught by the police and parents drinking, and have had large consequences. That’s a bummer for them, not for me. A second example is the commandment not to lie. Of course nobody is perfect, but we try our best as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be honest. Some of my friends have cheated on exams and have been caught and punished for it. Even though it would be great to earn that extra two percent, I don’t want to face those consequences. I have been benefited by the good standards of my church, and hope to keep living them in return for blessings.

I second reason I affiliate with, attend and follow the church is because I simply know it’s true. In the Book of Mormon (another testament of Jesus Christ) a verse of scripture reads, “And when ye shall [experience] these things, I would exhort you that ye should ask God…if [the church is] not true…”. I took this challenge about my church and this holy book. I literally prayed to God asking will real intent, having faith if my church was true. I received an answer that filled me up head to toe. At that point, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that the church was true and SO worth it. I don’t need to ask anyone else; just myself. I often receive these sensational feelings as a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel as well. Because I know its true I do all I can to defend, stand for and be a good example of this church.

Because of the blessings I’ve received from following my Church’s standards, my life has changed for the better. I’ve also received a testimony of the truthfulness of the church. I couldn’t ever leave this organization because of the love I have felt being a part of it.  I affiliate myself with it because I’m proud to be a member. I follow it because it helps me, and I attend because my testimony and love for the church grows every week. I promise that anyone can obtain these feelings for the church, and I urge you to as well. Don’t be living under you great potential for happiness. Ask; God will answer your prayers.