Tag Archives: faith

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?

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.

Faith

Faith Isn’t Always the Clearest Road

In our religion we use the term faith a lot, but why?  Faith, as defined in the scriptures as the “hope for things which are not seen, which are true”.  But what does that really mean?  The way I define it is believing in something that isn’t necessarily proven by factual evidence but can be explained through one’s strong belief.  As humans, its hard to believe anything without either the majority of the world accepting it or it already being proven by a famous scientist.  That’s why it is hard for some to believe, or have faith in, a God, prayer, prophets and more.  But I know that with a humble and willing heart we can all develop a faith and belief in all kinds of truth that isn’t right in front of us to see.

Why is it so important to have faith in the first place? Without showing faith, or a desire to know, we will never uncover anything that could potentially be true.  For example, Peter was asked by Jesus to experiment walking on water as he was doing currently.  He never new it was possible before he was actually able to do it. Because he exercised a particle of faith he was able to uncover an amazing truth: with power of God and faith he held, he could do the unimaginable.  Now, for us it may not be that extreme, but if we show faith just like Peter and ask god, believing that we will receive an answer we can uncover truth as well.  Because, why would God deprive his children from earnestly seeking truth? He wouldn’t.

When I was younger I really didn’t’ know if it was a good idea believing in my church.  I didn’t know if it was true.  I showed faith by going out of my way to ask God in prayer.  During my prayer I really believed that God could help me know if what I was doing was right, even though I didn’t’ know for a fact that he could.  God answered my prayer and I felt the spirit testify to me that I wasn’t wasting my time developing faith and belief in God every Sunday.

I know God will help us if we show him even a particle of faith in our lives.  Clayton Christensen, a world famous speaker, and a member of our church said, “God is ready to help us of we simply ask questions”.  God is there.  Take the chance and ask.  He cares about us, and will testify truth unto us if we first show faith, and act on it.  That is not only a promise, but a guarantee.

 

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.

AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE DURING MY DAY-TO-DAY ROUTINE

By Guest Blogger Carolyn

As a stay-at-home mother of three young children, I am given countless opportunities to help other people.  My daughters are quite dependent and they need my help all day long. Sometimes it is very tiring, and it’s hard to keep an eternal perspective when I am stuck in a routine of changing diapers and cleaning up messes.

I recently read John chapter 21 from the Bible. Jesus Christ asks Simon Peter, “Lovest thou me?” and Simon Peter answers, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Christ then says unto him, “Feed my sheep.” Christ asks him the same question again, and again Simon answers the same way. When Christ asks Simon Peter a third time, it is recorded that “Peter was grieved because [Christ] said unto him the third time, ‘Lovest thou me?’” And Simon Peter answers, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” And Christ again commands him to feed His sheep.

I thought of this in relation to my work as a mother. There were two lessons I felt I learned from these verses.  First, sometimes I become “grieved” at my many chances to show Christ that I love Him. I get tired and when someone needs my help, I think to myself, “Again?” But right now, the most important way I can show God that I love Him is by serving others.  And that includes my children.  I remind myself of the scripture Galatians 6:9: “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” In this life we will be given infinite opportunities to show the Lord that we love Him.  It is important to not become weary in well doing. We need not be grieved at the fact that we are given second chances, again and again.

Secondly, I learned that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know all things, as Peter pointed out. I believe that they do not give me numerous chances to show them that I love them because they are unsure of where my heart lies.  Perhaps they do it so that I can be reminded of my testimony and the reason I serve others.  I do it because I love the Lord.  And He has asked me to feed His sheep.  And it has the potential to change from day to day, depending on what I choose.  I need my answer to be the same every time I am given the chance to serve others: “Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee.”

 

Guest Blogger Annie: Receiving Answers through the Holy Ghost

The evidence of God’s love for his children is abundant. As a loving father, one thing that is very important to him is communicating with his children, which he does by means of the Holy Ghost. After an individual is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This means that, as we keep ourselves worthy, we can enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Even those who have not been baptized can feel the influence of this Spirit. This is especially important if you are learning about the gospel, because it means you can ask God questions and he is able to literally answer you. God and Jesus Christ both have physical bodies, just like us. Since the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, has no physical body, he is able to speak to us through thoughts, feelings, and promptings. Getting in touch with the Holy Ghost is a delicate process. In order to create a relationship with the Holy Ghost, you must behave in a way that invites his presence. God gave us many commandments to help us to do this. Abstaining from alcohol and drugs keeps our minds clear, sharp, and more able to receive communication. Watching movies that do not contain violence, distasteful language, etc. keeps our thoughts in a good place. Following commandments not only keeps us out of situations that are uninviting to the Spirit, but also our obedience shows Heavenly Father that we are responsible and ready to be instructed.

This all must seem a bit hard to swallow—that God can speak to people, and that he can even speak to you. It is a beautiful truth, and fortunately, one that can be easily tested. Once you learn how to access the power of the Holy Ghost, your many questions and doubts about gospel principles, church standards, and our beliefs will begin to come to light. The Holy Ghost will be one of your most important tools in the learning process. So whatare some ways to find out whether the Holy Ghost actually works? Let’s run an experiment.

First, following the commandments is a good place to start. Try to reduce negative influences in your life in order to create a spiritually conducive environment in your heart. Next, start praying to God; have sincere conversations with him in which you tell him your thoughts about the gospel, ask for help to understand the concepts that confuse you, and ask him questions about the concepts you don’t believe. Specifically ask him for help to feel the Spirit. Ask him to help you understand the language of the Spirit, to teach you what the Spirit feels like.

Moroni was a prophet and the final record-keeper of the Book of Mormon, about six hundred years ago. In his conclusion of the record, he gives this invitation and promise: if you read, ponder, and then “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith… [God] will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).

If you do not immediately feel that your questions have been answered, don’t worry. Heavenly Father teaches us patience by working on his own timetable. Additionally, the Spirit often speaks to us through the words of prophets—both modern day prophets and those from the scriptures. If you diligently keep listening, reading, studying, and pondering, you will receive an answer, just like Moroni promised.

I know that the Holy Ghost is a real being, and that he has the power to communicate to us the truths of God.  I have learned this for myself through hard work and patience. Though my connection with the Holy Ghost is not perfect, it is one of my favorite relationships. He has the ability to comfort me in times of pain. He helps me learn, both spiritually and academically, beyond my natural abilities. He guides me as I prayerfully make decisions. His influence makes me a better person, more loving, more understanding, and more willing to serve others. He is a dear friend, and I encourage you to prayerfully invite him into your life.

Easter’s Celebration

Easter is around the corner and my wife and I discussed what traditions we might start as a new family.  As a kid we decorated Easter eggs and hunted for candy baskets.  My mother also prepared a special dinner.  We regularly attended church on Sundays and Easter meetings, though not much different from other Sunday services, often focused on the Resurrection of the Savior, a doctrine that Mormons affirm to be of prime importance.  This Easter the Church leadership has commissioned a special Easter video focusing on the death and resurrection of the Savior.  The video is well done and depicts events as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.  Easter is a great reminder of the reason of the hope that is in us.

My wife and I will probably still do Easter baskets this year because we like chocolate, but the real celebration will be the quiet reflection on the gift of God, even his son Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the knowledge of God’s eternal plan for the world because it provides an anchor for me and gives me courage and hope that impacts my life in so many ways.

A Partner With God

I am now counting down the weeks before our little girl is born. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be best prepared both practically speaking and emotionally. I have been working hard to make sure we have everything ready: meals in the freezer, diapers and clothes ready, babysitters for my son arranged, etc. There is a lot to do to get ready for a baby but what I learned from my son is that the most important preparation is emotional and spiritual.

I am a bit of a control freak. I really hate giving up control, especially if it’s because I feel like I can’t do it all on my own. Giving up control to benefit someone else is not too hard for me but being forced to give up control is extremely hard for me. I am a really independent person and I feel that I have no business getting myself into things that I can’t do on my own. I’ve always known this about myself and it’s never really been much of a problem. It’s caused a few stressed out days/weeks but nothing too much beyond that. And then came motherhood.

After I had my son I literally did not sleep for 72 hours. I was so overwhelmed with not only the responsibility of motherhood but the responsibility of having a newborn. If you’ve experienced what it is like to be a first time parent you know that newborns are so fragile, anything could go wrong. And, as a control freak I had to be the one to make sure nothing happened, it was all on me. With each passing day of no the sleep the crazier I got. It literally became too much for me. I couldn’t do it on my own. I couldn’t watch him constantly. This was very hard for me to accept and I didn’t know what to do. My husband gave me a priesthood blessing to help calm my mind and spirit. In the blessing I was reminded that motherhood is not meant to be a solo job. It’s not even meant to be only a partnership between mother and father. Parenthood is meant to be a partnership with God.

After I really internalized that God was in charge and in control I was finally able to sleep and relax. I have to try my best to do my best but more importantly I have to have faith that God will give me strength and that he has a plan for my family. Without God I can’t do it and it is supposed to be that way. Just like my newborn is dependent on me, I am dependant on my Father in Heaven. And just like I love my children with all my heart and will always do what I can to help them, my Father in Heaven loves me and will always help me.

This time around I can feel myself getting nervous about having to give up so much control again but I know I can do it and I know that God will be there for me. I know that He loves me. These are the ways I am trying to prepare for the arrival of our little girl. This is the most important preparation I can do, to prepare to be a partner with God.

My Journey through Bereavement

Mackinac Island, MI 1984

In December 2010, I lost my 28 year-old brother to a very aggressive cancer which took his energy, health, and ultimately his life in roughly six weeks – from the time he was diagnosed to the day he passed away.  My immediate response was pretty typical – I went into survival mode taking of care of everyone but myself.  In fact, when I got the first bereavement letter from hospice six month after my brother’s death, I thought, “thanks, but I’m already passed this point.” Only recently have I realized how long the process of bereavement really is, the extent to which this loss impacts my life, and just how much I did need all the support that was given.

There are five stages of grief that most experts appear to agree on – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can experience them in any order and sometimes go back and forth between stages, culminating into something that feels very much like a roller coaster.

A few weeks ago I decided to finally track my progression through the bereavement process to better understand where I am and the decisions I’m making. I actually have a very real fear of choices being based solely on emotional motivations and needed to ensure there was some logic behind my past 10 months of decision making.

So where’s the Mormon tie-in? Bargaining.

I’ve been in this stage since day one and while I may have briefly ventured into other stages, I feel I have yet to move out of bargaining due to my faith in principles such as eternal families and temple ordinances. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. I choose for faith to be a real and significant influence in my life and in this case, it’s helped me cope with a terrible loss and the moving on process.

But at some point, I will have to accept that being an eternal family will not enable me to grow up with my brother here on earth and participate in the important chapters of each others’ lives. Temple ordinances open the door for different, not identical, opportunities. The entire experience has forced me to rethink where I stand on certain issues – and to be comfortable knowing that future experiences may change how I feel about it all over again.

Have you ever experienced something that made you hold on tighter or clarify what you really believe?

Mormon Missionaries

On Sunday we had the full-time missionaries over.  When we asked them how things were going they really brightened up and told us about a family they just started teaching. They said in their first lesson with this family they talked about prayer because no one in the family had ever prayed before. They shared with us what a powerful experience it was for them to watch this family pray for the first time and how happy it made them that the family had a good experience praying together.

I think often people are kind of scared of the full-time missionaries or think of them as aggressive preachers.  I wanted to share this moment we had with the missionaries to just display the attitude of most of the full time missionaries. Most of them just want to help people be happy. They get excited when they see people coming closer to God because they know it will help them find happiness. Missionaries go around teaching the gospel as a way of helping people.

Not everyone is going to be interested in what the missionaries have to say and trust me, they know that, but they try to reach and talk to as many people as possible so that hopefully they can find the people that are interested or who are looking for more out of life. I very much respect and admire the full time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Generally, missionaries are 19-23 years old. They leave home for two years and work every day from 6:30am-10:30pm. They often have to learn a new language or be immersed in a new culture with very little training. They face rejection daily and quite frankly serving a full-time LDS mission is just plain hard. But, the vast majority will tell you that it is worth it because they were able to help bring even just a few people closer to Christ. That takes guts, courage and strength. I’m really glad to be a part of church that cares so much about those searching for more truth.