Tag Archives: happiness

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?

Sharing My Faith: An Interview with Hunter Romano

Hunter Romano grew up in Woburn, Massachusetts. When he turned twelve and joined the deacons’ quorum he was on crutches with a broken leg that was still mending. That didn’t stop him from passing the sacrament. He and his quorum worked out a way for him to get the job done. Hunter is now a freshman at Brigham Young University.

What are some experiences you had talking with people at Woburn High about how you live and what you believe.

Once they hear I’m a Mormon, people always ask about multiple wives and polygamy. It’s the first thing to explain. Once you explain that then they ask, “What’s the deal with Mormons? What makes you a Mormon and not something else? I say we’re peculiar because of the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity, but it’s more than that. I also talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

In the first month of my freshman year of high school, my history teacher brought up Mormons in a lesson but didn’t know that I was one. He made the comment that Mormon men currently still have multiple wives. I spoke up to clarify that we do not and then was asked if I would be comfortable getting in front of the class. I was, and I talked about my faith and answered questions for the rest of the class period.

I find people aren’t interested in the things you would think. When it comes to drinking, smoking, and sex before marriage, they say, “Yeah, those are good to avoid. My religion says the same thing, but in my religion they are overlooked.” They really are more interested in Joseph Smith and the Church’s origins.

Who was your best friend in high school who was not a member of the Church?

His name was John. He played lacrosse and was really busy. Pat was also a good friend. He played on our ward basketball team and attended church because this was a requirement to play. He’d also sleep over at our house. Pat became good friends with Jared, a Mormon friend of mine, and even went to his mission farewell. He came to seminary a couple of times and learned more about the Church that way. At one point, he and I went to a party out of town. I had my “Stormin’ Mormon” sweatshirt on and someone from the other town came up and commented on multiple wives and all the things Mormons can’t do. Pat spoke up first and started answering questions. Pat is now a sophomore at UMass Amherst. I hope one day the missionaries will knock on his door. I hope he’ll read this interview when I invite him.

You’ve talked about some wonderful experiences. In your high school years, did you have some bad experiences being a Mormon?

Yes. In high school kids drink and swear and do things that are not exactly aligned with the gospel. I got comments like, “Why aren’t you drinking? That sucks.” They steered clear of me, saying, “Why talk to the sober kids?” In the girl scene, some girls said, “He’s a goody two shoes.” Sometimes I was not accepted and people steered clear of me because they felt I wasn’t like them. If they can’t respect that, it’s not worth worrying about it.

But you were class president your senior year, right?

That was huge because it put me in a lot of positions where I had to be an example. When setting up certain activities, they would ask me if I was comfortable with this or that aspect. Everyone in the whole school knew I was a Mormon, and they found out that they could learn about my faith from a source other than the Internet.

You are just starting your freshman year at Brigham Young University. Did you always know you wanted to go to BYU?

It was always high on the list because my parents went there. And it’s very affordable! I grew up watching athletics. When I did well in football, I was recruited by Williams College, Middlebury College, and other small New England schools. I prayed about it. What it came down to was to meet more members of the Church, especially girls, and be around people who would put me on the right path to my mission. Going on a mission is such a big goal for me. Being in other environments could have affected my path to a mission, and after a mission it would have been hard to get to Church and hard to meet girls.

Do you feel any concerns about being at BYU?

I’ve gone from being one of the few to one of the many and not having to be the only example. I thought this would make me feel like I could waver. But, as it turns out, people at BYU are great and they help build each other up.

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.

Three Ways To Keep Your Cool In An Existential Crisis

calm like sunlight through a window

At some point this may have happened to you. You’re in transit somewhere, maybe on a bus to work and playing Angry Birds on your smartphone, maybe driving to school and thinking about anything but class, maybe on a run with headphones in, listening to Adele. And then it hits you, mid-angry-bird-arc across the screen, mid-commute, mid-‘we-could-have-had-it-all’ at full volume: you think to yourself, “What am I doing with my life?!” This thought comes in different versions, like “what is the purpose of my life?,” “what am I going to do after I graduate?,” “I’m not in a job I love,” and “what is the meaning of life?” (although the last one is considered so cliché in American culture that we leave it as a non-vocal, internalized question).This is what I call an existential crisis. It happens to everyone, for some more often than others. To mitigate the negative effects of an existential crisis and to find the real meaning in life, I take a few actions.

 1. I realize that not knowing my full purpose or path doesn’t mean I don’t have one. God has a purpose for us that will bring us the most joy, and that purpose is to enable us to enjoy all his blessings. The scripture that goes along with this comes from a prophet named Mormon. He says, “…I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” Words of Mormon 1:7.  Whether or not you know the specifics, you have a purpose and path for your life.

 2. I talk to God about it. Prayer is a conversation with God. You’re not going to just ramble on, though, because you aren’t going to him just to chat. You’ve got a question (you know, that existential question about the meaning of your life). Talk to God and tell him your situation: you don’t know what to do next or what your real purpose is. God promises “ask and ye shall receive,” but you can’t just pray once, with the attitude “God I’m here to get what I want from you as fast as possible and then I don’t plan to talk to you again until my next existential crisis.” You have to form a good relationship. After all, God isn’t a robot. He’s our father. Believe it or not, he wants us to grow and wants to lead us to the right answer thoughtfully so we can truly incorporate it. You have to be consistent, not because you have to prove to God that you really mean it (he knows; after all, I’m pretty sure he reads minds). You are proving to yourself that you mean it. The more you work for an honest desire, the more you will value the gift. Nephi, the first prophet to speak in the Book of Mormon, says, “I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh… my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee” 2 Nephi 4:35

Action item: Talk to God right now – try it now while you’re thinking about it.

 3. I strive to be interdependent.As much as you think you can find purpose in isolation, purpose just doesn’t work that way. Somehow the magical ingredient that you need is another person or people, and it always involves making their lives better. Consider God’s purpose for a second: “His work and glory – the purpose for this magnificent universe – is to save and exalt mankind” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Matter to Him. Helping and working with others is one part of every human being’s purpose and the key to finding the specifics of your individual purpose.

Action item: Write down the name of one person you know. Next to their name write down one thing you will do to make his or her life better before you go to sleep tomorrow.

Instant Community

A few weeks ago, I was driving home from running Saturday morning errands when I started to feel some abdominal pain. Over the course of the twenty minute drive, I went from, “I’ll just go home and rest,” to, “PAIN! HURTS! SWEATING PROFUSELY! NAUSEA!”

Long story short, I drove straight to the ER, where the doctors diagnosed me with appendicitis. Arriving to the ER at 10:30 a.m., I was in surgery by 3:00 p.m. An appendectomy is not exactly what the 6th day of Christmas ordered, and I was pretty nervous and frustrated about the flights and days of work I would surely miss over the next week.

Between my arrival and the surgery, I could have been very alone and scared were it not for several church members who showed up at the hospital. Turns out, my mother in Texas had called my friend from church in Boston, who called the relief society president, who called the bishop, who called my home teachers, all of whom came to wish me well before the surgery*.

(*relief society president = leader of women in each congregation. bishop = leader of the congregation. home teachers = each person or family has two individuals assigned to check up on them and visit them at least once a month)

One purpose of the visits was to receive a priesthood blessing of comfort and health, a common practice in the Mormon church. We closed the curtain of my ER room while my bishop and home teachers laid their hands upon my head and gave me a priesthood blessing that I would be healthy, calm, and safe. There, in a dreary hospital room, these men called upon the power of God to give one of His daughters much-needed peace.

During the terrible night after the surgery, more church members showed up and kept me company as the effects of anesthesia took an uncomfortable hold. The next day, even more church members came to visit me in the hospital. I never once felt alone. Rather, I was reminded of how much church members deeply care for one another.

The nurses and doctors kept commenting on the continuous stream of visitors, saying things like, “wow, you are really popular,” and, “where are all these people coming from?” This phenomenon isn’t new to me. Growing up, my mom always visited church members in hospitals and cooked meals for families who needed support. My dad was always ready to give priesthood blessings, and many times would do so at all hours of the night.

The sense of love and community is one of the many things I treasure as a Mormon. From Cairo to London to Boston, members in my congregations cared for and supported one another with sincere Christian love. The Mormon ward (or congregation) system is truly inspired. The community is not just a social structure, but also an instant family where members strive (we’re all human after all) to selflessly serve one another.

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.