Tag Archives: love

The Cycle of Good

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Guest post by Eric Maughan

One of my favorite Bible verses is Acts 10:38, which says that Christ “went about doing good.” I often think of the effect his service had on the people around him, how all those acts of goodness must have influenced their behavior. It’s hard to see someone doing a good thing and not want to do something good yourself. This “cycle of good”—being helped and then helping others—is one of the great things about the world we live in.

Sometimes the cycle of good is born out of tragedy. In 2009, twenty-seven-year-old John Jones was exploring a cave in northern Utah when he got stuck upside down. After more than twenty-four hours of fighting and valiant efforts by rescuers, John passed away, leaving his pregnant widow and thirteen-month-old daughter. Amidst the tragedy, John’s brother-in-law and I saw an opportunity to help others, and we organized a cross-country bicycle ride to raise money for young widows and their children, like John’s young family. Since he had lived his life serving and helping people, we were inspired by John’s actions and wanted to help inspire others.

We set out to help and inspire others, but as we made our way across the country we were instead the recipients of countless acts of people “doing good” like Christ did. An example of this was a man named Doug, who offered to let us spend the night at his home in North Carolina. We needed to take a ferry to get there, but we missed the last ferry that would have allowed us to safely bike to Doug’s house before sunset.  We called Doug and told him we would just sleep in our tents when we got off the ferry, but he said he would be happy to come pick us up with his truck and trailer. When we thanked him profusely, he told us a story about a time when he had been the one in need of help.

Doug was taking a group of youth up a canyon when their trailer got a flat tire. Fortunately, this occurred close to a house where a man had a spare that was a perfect match. The homeowner gave Doug a hand and sent him on his way without accepting any sort of compensation. Doug said that he promised himself then to lend a hand whenever he could, which was why he came out to pick us up.

I have 4,000 miles worth of stories of the “cycle of good” in action. I noticed while we were biking that some people thought we were trying to “[go] about doing good” in our own small way, and I hope that inspired them to do good as well. I try to remember every day the people that have gone out of their way to help me, and those that still do, and I try to pass those acts of kindness on as the “cycle of good” continues.

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.

A Christ Centered Home

My family is now a family of 4. Don’t ask me how we got to this point, I have no idea. I feel like I should still be in college with my roommates eating pizza and cookie dough while watching chick flicks. But here I am, finally realizing I’m a real adult (think it took me long enough?). I’ve been reflecting on the influence I have on my family and especially my children and I’ve realized that the influence I have on them could either make or break their happiness in life. No pressure. I’ve had a few negative experiences lately (in places where I was expecting positive experiences) that have made me take a step back and recognize that really my home is the only place where I can guarantee that there will be a loving and Christ centered atmosphere. But the only way to guarantee this is if my husband and I make it that way. It’s harder than it sometimes seems. Now that life is much more hectic and jumbled with a very young baby  and a 3 year old I’m finding it’s harder and harder to stay focused on Christ and to have that loving environment.

Though my husband and I have always tried to be doing what is right we are realizing we need to be more dedicated and more diligent. The past 4 days we have made sure that we have read scriptures together as a family (usually only a few verses, we do have a 3 year old) and talked about what the scripture meant and how we can apply it to us. We have had a family prayer before my husband is out the door for work and we had a short but meaningful Family Home Evening (this one is tricky for us because my husband works late so we are going to be experimenting to find out how we can better fit it in).  I kid you not, the past 4 days have been so much better than the month before. My son has had fewer tantrums, I have been more patient, I’ve felt less scattered and all over the place. There has been a real difference in how our home feels. Though it’s hard to always fit things in with crazy schedules and crazy children I’ve learned I can’t afford not to. I owe it to my children to have Christ as the center of our home so that they can feel love here and feel safe here and know that no matter what lies outside of our front door they will always be able to feel the spirit in our home.

Hearts Knit Together

I’m totally panicked. It’s hard to get air. I’m on the passenger side of a car that’s barreling down the road to Urgent Care. I need my husband to breathe with me, “Out through your mouth. In through your nose.”

In the end, it doesn’t look too serious. Aside from one scary night, I’m doing fine. But this experience reminded me of what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Loaves of BreadAs Lindsey explained earlier, being Mormon means more than just attending church on Sunday. It’s about being part of a community. When we become a member of the church, we promise to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” We seek to have “one eye, having one faith and one baptism” and have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:8-9, 21).

During the week I saw this in action. I was given rides to where I needed to go. Somebody cleaned up our garden plot. And two women offered to bring me and my husband dinner on the same night. That made me laugh. I’m not sick, I don’t have kids, and my husband is perfectly capable of cooking dinner (and does regularly). Food is just one way Mormons show love and support. And you know, it works.

Gay & Mormon

The congregation I grew up with in Chicago.

The Modern Mormon Men (MMM) blog has become a guilty pleasure of mine over the past couple of months. I feel there’s a good balance of entertainment and insight albeit at times with a frustratingly male perspective. 🙂 What was I expecting, right?  Point is – I think the blog is great.

Yesterday, blogger Scott Heff posted an interview with Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon recently called to a church leadership position in San Francisco.  As Scott mentions, there’s been quite a bit of media attention around Mitch’s calling and understandably so given the church’s historical stance on homosexuality.

I suppose I’m a “straight ally” as Mitch calls them and I was struck by the love of his Bishop in San Francisco. Mitch says:

My Bishop’s direction is this: The doors of the church in San Francisco are open to any and all, regardless of where people are in their lives; partnered, single, monogamous, dating, celibate—there’s room for everyone in our congregation. Bishop Fletcher said the other day that he wants our biggest problem to be lack of seating in the chapel on Sunday, and a challenge in keeping people from talking to one another during Sacrament Meeting because they are so darned glad to see one another. What a great goal! How could I not want to be part of a team like that?

I agree. What a great goal!

I encourage you to read the full interview over at MMM and leave a few thoughts for discussion.

Happy Anniversary: A reflection on a year in trial

This week marks a couple of significant 1-year anniversaries for me and although June is not when I would typically conduct an annual self-assessment, it seems particularly appropriate to do so now.

In many ways, this past year has been about surviving – specifically, learning how to live as a survivor. Littered with intense personal loss and disappointments in concert with frequent professional and mental strain – the past 12 months have given me constant opportunities to reflect on a term often heard in Mormon vernacular – “enduring to the end.” In its simplest form, enduring to the end implies fierce and proactive survival, allowing life’s challenges to mold and refine us into the very best version of ourselves.

I didn’t get any of the miracles I prayed for this year. I lost everything I prayed so hard to keep. However, unexpected miracles stretched my understanding of God’s intimate knowledge of my needs and brought comfort in times of extreme sorrow. The miracles I didn’t receive, made it possible for me and those I love to experience even greater blessings we could never foresee including an increased understanding and appreciation for God’s eternal plan, strengthened family ties, and second chances.

Orson F. Whitney, a former Church leader, once said:

“No pain we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility…It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”

With this perspective, I realized the peace I felt amidst the most difficult experiences of my life was the sweetest miracle a Father could ever bestow on a grieving child. He did not grant my pleas for an easy path nor did He deny someone else their right to choose. Instead, He exposed me to deeper layers of love, tolerance and forgiveness.

During the last General Conference, Kent F. Richards, shared a personal reflection on pain, experienced one night as he lay awake in a hospital room.

“I came to understand,” he said, “that during His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes.”

I know there are still plenty of challenges ahead of me, but there’s also a lot of healing already behind me and it gives me hope that I can be a better survivor. I’m grateful to my Father in Heaven for His constant watch and unwavering support to see me through.

We’re Not So Different

I think a lot of times when we as Mormons talk about our beliefs and experiences we focus on the things that are different. It’s easy to do, sometimes I just feel so incredibility different from everyone else around me. Not this past weekend.

I attended a funeral on Saturday. I didn’t really know the family, the person that had died was a family member of one of my husband’s co-workers. The death was very tragic and untimely. To be honest I was a little nervous to attend. I don’t have much experience with funerals. The only funerals I’ve been to have been for people who it was clearly their time to go and had been suffering for a long time. It was easy to feel peace at those funerals. I wasn’t sure how this funeral would be. I felt like if I had been in this  family’s shoes I would feel incredibly bitter and want revenge. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what to say or do to show support and love because I imagined that this family would be suffering a great deal.

At the funeral I learned that the family was Christian though I’m not sure what denomination. At the funeral I also learned a lot about faith and hope. As the speakers talked they shared messages about this person’s life and carried a spirit and feeling with them that touched me so much. They did not dwell on the tragedy of the situation or the injustice that had happened to their family, they simply spoke about the wonderful life that this person had lived and the sure knowledge that they had that that person was still with them and was happy.

As members of different Christian denominations I’m sure many of our beliefs differ. But, I am also sure that we believe in the same Jesus Christ that brings peace and comfort in times of trials. I am grateful I was able to attend this funeral so that I could learn more about hope and try to live a more faith filled life.

Do Mormons know what goes on in the world?

A certain popular musical is pushing the idea that Mormons have never been outside their own front doors and have no idea what real problems face the world (or how to handle them). I think this is probably a common thought about Mormons. We’re really nice but we are so totally naive and would be shocked to find out half the things that go on in the ‘real world.’ I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself and I’m a Mormon and I know there are other Mormons who have had similar experiences so I thought I’d share some of the experiences I’ve had outside my own front door.

I grew up traveling and have always loved it. I’ve also always loved different aspects of the medical field. When I was 17 I decided to combine those two interests and I went to the Philippines with a medical group of volunteers. The group specialized in fixing cleft lip and palates and also in education for the local medical professionals. In many ways this trip was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time traveling alone, my first time being completely immersed in a culture totally different from my own, my first real experience in a medical environment, and my first time seeing real poverty and misfortune. This trip changed my life, not only how I viewed life but it changed the whole trajectory of my life. I saw true horrors; children covered in burn scars,  severely malnourished children, children and adults who had been literally shun their whole lives because of their appearance, people who could not afford food…at all.  I also saw happiness and gratitude in these same people. When I came home from that trip and stepped foot into my room I cried my eyes out, I couldn’t believe how much I had: a functional body, a home, food, family, friends…the list goes on. I decided I would become a nurse so that I could do all that I could to relieve some of the suffering that went on in the world.

It’s now almost 10 years later and I am a nurse. In college I lived in Jordan for a summer to help implement an anti-smoking campaign and educated the medical schools about the harmful effects of tobacco (the tobacco use rate there is seriously around 85%). Again, I was thrust into a culture that was so completely different. I was there during the Hezbollah bombings. Every weekend there were anti-American riots where we either had to hunker down in our lodgings or leave the capital. Again, I saw immense poverty and suffering. Many people weren’t so grateful we were there but we also made great friends, people who taught us about their culture and religion and all the wonderful things about the area.

A few years later I went to Ethiopia with a medical group. My role was largely focused on education. I educated people about STDs, AIDS, clean water, latrines, diet, and fetal-maternal health. I thought I had seen poverty before, I was wrong. The problems in Ethiopia were the most severe I’ve seen. But the people in Ethiopia were also the most kind and generous and grateful people I’ve seen.

Apart from traveling I also worked at a residential treatment center for teenage boys. The boys were there for various reasons; addiction, behavioral problems, compulsive issues, etc. Most of them struggled because of things that had happened to them like abuse or abandonment.

I volunteered at a free medical clinic for two and a half years for those below the poverty line and without health insurance. Many of the people we served were immigrants suffering from serious injuries or chronic health problems with little hope of getting help elsewhere.

While in college I did rotations for a semester at a chemical detox facility. Of all the things I’ve seen this is where people were understandably at their lowest. I was there when they opened up about how their lives had gotten to that point.

The point I am trying to make is that I am a Mormon and I have seen a lot of the horror that is in the world. It is one reason why The Gospel of Jesus Christ means so much to me. Many people don’t see how a happy-go-lucky church can exist while there are real problems in the world. But, that is why it exists. Christ said in Luke 5:31:

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

In other words, the Gospel is for those that suffer, it is for those that deal with real problems. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring happiness amidst sorrow, it can take away our pain and it can help us overcome our greatest struggles. This is not a church for perfect people that are happy all the time and have never struggled. Jesus Christ is here to help us heal and to bring us peace in a world where peace in near impossible to find. Mormons know what is out there, it just gives us reason to hold on to our faith even tighter.