Tag Archives: scripture study

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.

What Can I Get From Scripture Study?

I sometimes find myself plodding through the scriptures, reading because I know it is good for me, but not sure I am getting much out of it on those days where I am just trying to check it off of my list. And then there are days when I really dedicate my attention- even if it’s for five minutes or one chapter- and I truly remember why I read them.

It’s amazing how applicable the content is when I read with the intent of finding something that can help me that day, no matter what is happening in my life. Though the authors of the different books of scripture lived so long ago, I find that the experiences they had and feelings they felt are not so different from my own today. I find inspiration in reading about how they were able to work through various conflicts, giving me answers about how to solve the problems in my own life. There are always lessons to be learned from the past. Just as I keep a journal today in hopes that my posterity may benefit from it, these scriptures are a journal from the past speaking and testifying to us today. Because I believe that God inspired the writings of the scriptures, I understand how the authors were able to know the struggles we would face today- globally and personally. What a great guiding force to help us in these times of need!

I will leave you with a quote from Elder Richard G. Scott, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”

You can read the talk by Elder Scott titled “The Power of Scripture” in its entirety HERE

You can also read the scriptures HERE

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.

LDS Chapels – Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA

More than two years ago I was at a church conference in Cambridge, MA one Sunday afternoon when the fire alarm went off.  I don’t think anyone really thought that this was the real deal.  But everyone exited calmly and without much incident.  It eventually involved some 5 or so firetrucks including those from neighboring towns to put the fire out.  Most of us watched in awe as the roof eventually gave way to the flames and the firefighters retreated a bit so as not to be overcome.  The water didn’t come on as quick as I thought it would, but I trusted the professionals knew what they were doing.  The picture included in my post was some time after the fire had been extinguished (at least from my vantage point) and the little cascade at the entrance continued for some time after.  I had only attended church at the building for about a year, but as expected, I felt a sense of loss.   The sense of loss would be keener if it were the chapel in Arvada, CO that I attended regularly growing up.

I have so many memories of the Arvada Stake Center as we referred to it.  Many nights playing basketball in a church league or just a regular pick-up game.  I remember a few plays that were put on in the same gymnasium that also had a stage on one side.  Mormons and non-Mormons alike that wanted to share their talents prepared for months for a production that would entertain all ages from that stage.  The grounds  was mostly parking lot, but there was grass around the entire building and a bit of a vacant lot in the back for football or soccer.  I remember several summers in warm Colorado weather with charcoal smoke in the air, hot-dog and hamburger buns on serving tables, potato chips and a couple of farm troughs full of iced sodas.  Mormons and friends gathered for a July 4th celebration or for no other reason than to come together for socializing.

I attended the chapel more frequently in high-school when I actually got up at 5 am every morning to go to scripture study class or seminary as we call it.  It was there that I was challenged to read through the old testament and new testament.  The classes were taught by members who were not especially compensated, but who nonetheless accepted an invitation to teach a bunch of sleepy teenagers.  There was one seminary teacher who went around to all the classrooms to serve chocolate pancakes with vanilla ice-cream with some frequency (one Friday a month) and he got his class to do all the cooking and serving.   Though it was tough on account of the schedule it was fun and the class motivated me to take up reading the scriptures which resulted in a significant change in my life.  I gained a greater consciousness of the impact we can have on others.  My resolve to do better in all areas of my life was strengthened.  Seminary wasn’t the only opportunity to grow and learn in not just a spiritual dimension.  There were firesides or special guest speakers who directed their talks to the youth or adults, to women or men.  These events helped me contemplate my life and our potential and capacity for good.  And of course there were Sunday services and much more.

For some who had spent a significant amount of time in Cambridge and who attended the Longfellow chapel, the initial reaction to the fire that occurred two years ago was understandably, for some, an emotional one.  Fortunately the exterior remained intact and the building has been restored to it’s former self with a few improvements.  Though completely different experiences will be had for regulars and visitors alike at the Longfellow chapel, I trust that most will have fond memories.

A Mormon in Cairo

After graduating from my MA program in London, I moved to Cairo, Egypt to improve my Egyptian Arabic. I didn’t know a soul in Cairo before I moved there, but I wasn’t scared at all. Why? Because I knew that the Arab culture is incredibly inviting and hospitable, so I knew I would make many friends instantly. Also, a further comfort is that I knew the small Mormon population would help me get settled and feel at home.

Mormons in Egypt

As of 2010, it was illegal to preach any religion that is not an official national religion, which are Islam and Coptic Christianity. So, naturally, there aren’t many Egyptian members of the Mormon church. There is a bustling small congregation (called a ‘branch’), however, full of foreign expatriates who work for charitable or government organizations.

This is one of many fun mid-week Relief Society activities that were held at the church or in sisters' homes.

Once a week, the young single adults in Cairo were invited to a member’s home to study the scriptures and get to know each other better. We did not only study the Gospel, but also share our many amazing experiences living in Egypt. And let me tell you, there were some cool stories.

The branch consists of French, Canadians, British, Americans, South Americans, Asians, Africans, Sudanese, and all kinds of other nationalities. The branch meets in a little unmarked villa whose doorman is a kind, pious Muslim who I got to know well as I often went to the church during the week to practice piano.

Egypt is full of humble and gracious people.

Friday Sabbath

The official day of the Sabbath in the West in Sunday. Because Friday is Islam’s holy day of the week, our church too met on Fridays. While sacrament meeting and relief society/priesthood were held in English, a special Arabic Sunday School was held to teach Gospel principles. We also studied the Book of Mormon, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, including Arabic.

I loved my experience in Cairo. I loved the Cairo Branch, which welcomed me with open arms. I also loved my fellow Muslim and Coptic brothers and sisters, many of whom would invite me into their homes for a delicious meal, even if they’d just met me.

My LDS friend, Jill, and her kids ride the women-only car on the train.

During my time in Cairo, it became even more clear to me that we are meant to love one another, just as Christ taught, no matter who people are or what they believe. I felt Christ’s influence through Mormons and non-Mormons alike, which, in turn, only strengthened my testimony that He is the Redeemer of the world.

A Mormon in London

I’m starting a short series of “A Mormon in..” to share with readers my experiences living around the world. And as a Mormon. Lindsey totally beat me to the punch in a previous post, but the world is large and perspectives are many! Let’s get to it.

First location: London

There's me posing in front of the Hyde Park Chapel in Central London

In some ways being a Mormon in London is like being a Mormon anywhere: changing geographical location and culture doesn’t shift my religious beliefs any more than it does change where I was born and the family I belong to. What living there did was provide me with many experiences for growth and maturity in every aspect of my life, including spiritual.

In other ways, it was different. How can I best describe what it’s like being a Mormon in London? Let’s try this simile… I really got into urban cycling in London and covered about 100 miles a week…the London I saw is much different–not better, mind you–than those who take public transportation. We are all getting around, but we see the same things from different angles.

Mormons and the UK. What a cliche, right? Many Mormons can spout out lists of ancestors who converted in Great Britain, including my great-great-grandfather‘s family. While being in the land where my ancestors walked and talked is undeniably cool for any person, that’s not why I went. (okay…one quick side story about my ancestors: While I was traveling in the Isle of Man I couldn’t find the local youth hostel. I ended up sleeping overnight in a cemetery where lots of my ancestors are buried!)

I moved to London because I have an insatiable appetite for living abroad. Not visiting abroad. Living. It’s such a good way to experience a place.

In 2009, there was this advertising campaign that covered the city. Personally, I enjoy my life and believe in God.

A few weeks later, this retort ad showed up. I enjoyed witnessing the ads, related articles and local opinions about it.

I spent 2007-2010 in London working on my Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis in Arab cinema. It’s an incredible way to view the region and its people. I speak Arabic and have studied Islam in depth. London is the best place outside of the Middle East to meet people from there. I hung out with lots of Moroccans, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, etc.

Over the three years I lived with a few incredible families (non-Mormon at that) with beautiful kids that I helped watch in exchange for cheap rent. For the last year I lived in a flat full of Mormon peeps my age–both guys and girls. It was awesome. We played video games late into the night, planted a garden, made dinner for each other, made home movies, stole each others’ food (guilty), and had barbecues on the roof overlooking London’s skyline. On Sundays, some of us would jump on our bikes and trek through Regents Park and Hyde Park to get to church while the others took the Tube.

As for weekly church, I attended a congregation for Mormon singles in London. It is the only one of its kind in Europe. It is a huge group, and no less than 30 nations were represented. There was me, the American girl who’s been a member her whole life, sitting next to George, a Bulgarian laborer who’d joined the church a few months before. There was our bishop (a ward’s main leader) who’d lived in India for years, and also a bunch of Brits who hadn’t even been across the English Channel. In many ways there was no difference between any of us. We were all there because we wanted to worship the Lord.

A bunch of us from the singles ward in London ran a half-marathon in Prague.

I thought there weren’t a lot of Mormons in west Texas, where I’m from. Think again. A drop in a bucket in Texas became a drop in a lake in London. I found that although Mormons are few in number in the UK, they are incredibly strong. Never once did–or do–the statistics deter me from my faith. The Lord created a diverse world that we can enjoy all together.

The Gospel is there for everyone, no matter where you live. Those who want it and need it will find it by praying and searching. In the meantime, I’m gonna go study my Arabic grammar book and rest my legs after cycling to and from work today.

My religious life in bullets:

Melanie 1 kicked off our blog last January with some of her “dailies.”  This week I wanted to add to her idea and give a little snapshot into what my life looks like as a Mormon…

My “dailies”:

  • Pray in the morning right when I get up
  • Study the scriptures (currently reading the Book of Mormon but some years I study the Bible, etc.)
  • Read a chapter with my husband (this year we’re reading the New Testament because that’s we’re studying in Sunday School)
  • Pray with my husband before we go to sleep

My “weeklies”:

  • Church on Sunday–3 hour block which consists of:
    • Sacrament Meeting (where we partake the Sacrament & then several members of the congregation give short talks on Christ and following Him)
    • Sunday School (the Church worldwide is on a 4-year rotation where each year we teach one of the books in our canon—The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine & Covenants) and we have class discussion on the principles taught in the lesson
    • Relief Society (the largest women’s organization in the world—at church, we have a lesson on Gospel principles and have a class discussion (this is usually my favorite part of church!)  My husband during this time is at Priesthood with the other men, the youth have a separate class, and the young children have singing time & little lessons)
  • Write one blog entry
  • Usually have some kind of responsibility I am asked to help out with for our congregation—right now it’s to prepare a little lesson for our nursery kids we teach during Sunday School

My “monthlies”:

  • Fast Sunday—the first Sunday of every month we go without food or water for at least 2 consecutive meals.  We begin and end this fast with a prayer, and usually “fast with a purpose”—pray for help or for someone else.  This day we also pay fast offerings—basic concept is that we give what money we would have spent on food that day to help the poor—but many people give generous fast offerings.  I also pay my tithing for the month on this same day–We are asked to pay 10% of our income.
  • Visit 2 women in the ward—called the Visiting Teaching program.  I am paired with another woman (my “companion”) and we are assigned to at least 2 other women to kind of watch over them and make sure they are doing okay temporally, socially, & spiritually.  We make at least one visit a month where we share a short message and chat for a bit.  We also try to make contact with them several times during the month
  • Go to the temple:  this is different from church.  Our temples are much bigger and nicer than our churches, and most are on some kind of hill—very beautiful.  My husband and I have a goal to visit once a month, and sometimes go more if we really feel like we need it.  It’s probably the most serene place I know of.  We go there to perform ordinances for our deceased ancestors and to have a more sacred, quiet, personal communion with God.  I always feel refreshed and recommitted to being just a little bit better in my life.  Just got home from going this month!

This week I wanted to give a little snapshot into what my life (and most others) looks like because I am a member of the LDS church…

My “dailies”:

  • Pray in the morning right when I get up
  • Study the scriptures (currently reading the Book of Mormon but some years I study the Bible, etc.)
  • Read a chapter with my husband (this year we’re reading the New Testament because that’s we’re studying in Sunday School)
  • Pray with my husband before we go to sleep
  • Pray by myself

My “weeklies”:

  • Church on Sunday–3 hour block which consists of:
    • Sacrament Meeting (where we partake the Sacrament & then several members of the congregation give short talks on Christ and following Him)
    • Sunday School (the Church worldwide is on a 4-year rotation where each year we teach one of the books in our canon—The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, and The Doctrine & Covenants) and we have class discussion on the principles taught in the lesson
    • Relief Society (the largest women’s organization in the world—at church, we have a lesson on Gospel principles and have a class discussion (this is usually my favorite part of church!)  My husband during this time is at Priesthood with the other men, the youth have a separate class, and the young children have singing time & little lessons)
  • Write one blog entry
  • Usually have some kind of responsibility I am asked to help out with for our congregation—right now it’s to prepare a little lesson for our nursery kids we teach during Sunday School
  • Call/Skype our families on Sun night

My “monthlies”:

  • Fast Sunday—the first Sunday of every month we go without food or water for at least 2 consecutive meals.  We begin and end this fast with a prayer, and usually “fast with a purpose”—pray for help or for someone else.  This day we also pay fast offerings—basic concept is that we give what money we would have spent on food that day to help the poor—but many people give generous fast offerings.  I also pay my tithing for the month on this same day–We are asked to pay 10% of our income.
  • Visit 2 women in the ward—called the Visiting Teaching program.  I am paired with another woman (my “companion”) and we are assigned to at least 2 other women to kind of watch over them and make sure they are doing okay temporally, socially, & spiritually.  We make at least one visit a month where we share a short message and chat for a bit.  We also try to make contact with them several times during the month
  • Go to the temple:  this is different from church.  Our temples are much bigger and nicer, and most are on some kind of hill—very beautiful.  My husband and I have a goal to visit once a month, and sometimes go more if we really feel like we need it.  It’s probably the most serene place I know of.  We go there to perform ordinances for our deceased ancestors and to have a more sacred, quiet, personal communion with God.  I always feel refreshed and recommitted to being just a little bit better in my life

Busy Schedule

Today is my brother’s birthday.  I tried to call him twice to wish him a ‘happy birthday’.  Alas, I had to leave him voicemail and later he responded with a thank you via text.   I’m thankful for the technological advances that allow us to keep in touch.  I actually felt like talking though to catch up.  With schedules and two time zones it’s sometime difficult.  In fact I just got off the phone with another friend, also two time zones away, who needed to cut the conversation short because of a schedule – he had to tag team with his wife towatch the kids while she goes to a volleyball game and they have no reception in their apartment.   With no intention of condemning these situations, they have reminded me of a recent talk given by a senior leader of our church, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, regarding the the things that matter most. Here’s a quote from his address:

Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

I feel like I do a pretty good job of leaving plenty of things undone on my to-do list.  It probably doesn’t help that my list is pretty informal.  I keep the list in my head.  There’s good and bad in that.  The one thing I’ve been craving for a while is more time to ponder.  I don’t leave a lot of time for this activity, nor the energy.  When I was in high school I had a pretty good routine going.  After school and everything else I would usually find a spot at the top of the stairs at home, right outside my bedroom door (I shared a room) and there I would read scriptures.  I also pondered and prayed.  Sometimes the sessions were brief and other times they were longer.  But I usually went to bed with a certain satisfaction obtained from stepping back to look at the bigger picture.  It really helped, so I highly recommend it to any unsuspecting reader.

Why I Believe

I was born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was taught from the Bible and Book of Mormon since I can remember. I remember being 14 years old and waiting for my big “spiritual experience” to know for myself that the gospel of Jesus Christ was true. It was at a church youth conference, that I finally realized, I did have my own testimony, although it was small and simple, it was there. I realized that the for most of us, the truth of the gospel isn’t revealed in a loud and obvious way. It comes through studying the scriptures and praying to our Father in Heaven to know of it’s truthfulness. For me, it is simply a good feeling I get when I study the words of God. It is a peaceful feeling, that no matter what happens, God is in control. Although it can be difficult to follow God’s commandments, I find that when I do, it brings more joy and happiness than anything tangible. When I put my faith in God and follow his will, I find my life to have more meaning and purpose.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that he atoned for each of our sins. He is our older brother and wants nothing more than our success in this life and the life after. I know that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father, whose love is beyond anything imaginable. He cares for us, his children, individually and knows us better than we know ourselves. I know that the Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith restored God’s church to the earth. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God and that he leads and guides God’s true church on this earth today. I know that if we submit our will to our Father in Heaven, he will lead us to have the happiest most successful life possible.
“Now, this is the truth. We humble people, we who feel ourselves sometimes so worthless, so good-for-nothing, we are not so worthless as we think. There is not one of us but what God’s love has been expended upon. There is not one of us that He has not cared for and caressed. There is not one of us that He has not desired to save and that He has not devised means to save. There is not one of us that He has not given His angels charge concerning. We may be insignificant and contemptible in our own eyes and in the eyes of others, but the truth remains that we are children of God and that He has actually given His angels … charge concerning us, and they watch over us and have us in their keeping.”–George Q. Cannon

Shout Out (to all you that still practice your religious traditions)!

Yesterday I took my brother over to see my favorite building on our campus:  The Class of 1959 Chapel.  It’s a non-denominational little modern church built kind of like a seashell with nothing but concrete walls and bamboo chairs inside, and an occasional set of prisms, if you catch it when the sun’s just right.

At the front there’s a tiny alter and after exploring I found that the front of it contains bits of pieces of several different religions:  I think there’s some sacrament trays, bells, some sort of Jewish cloth, some stuff I’m not even really sure what it’s for, and a prayer rug.

My brother started telling me about his co-worker friend who, even at work, takes time out five times a day to find a clean, quiet place to lay his prayer rug.  My brother absolutely loves to see him do this.  We started talking about how rare it is that people our age actually do their religious things on a daily or even weekly basis, and we realized that we are very few in numbers.

If you pray, are sacrificing something for Lent, study your scriptures, keep your Sabbath Day holy, plan to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, practice your religion’s dietary norms, meditate, or go to church meetings, we join you!  And we think you’re really cool, too!