Friday, December 19, 2014

Cherished Christmas Memories

       As I reflect on the Christmas season, I can’t help but remember three very special Christmas memories that have meant so much to me and which still bring warm feelings after these many years. Two were gifts received and one was a gift given.
The first memory stems from my early teenage years. As a young pre-teen, I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. I asked my parents about the accordion, but to no avail. At age twelve, my mother tried to interest me in the organ, as she played it very well. After six months of lessons, I realized that the organ was not for me. In seventh grade, I signed up for the trumpet in junior high, but for some strange reason I was placed in the beginning orchestra class and on the violin rather than the beginning band class and the trumpet.
I tried to have myself reassigned, but was told I would have to wait a year to get into the band class. In eighth grade, I finally made it into the beginning band and was allowed to play the trumpet.
I believe that my father was very pleased, as he once played the trumpet as a young man and even played with a small band on the radio, in Philadelphia, in the thirties.
Once accepted into the band, I had to acquire a trumpet. These were lean financial times for my parents, so my father took me to a local pawnshop where I was able to get a well-used silver trumpet for $35.00. New trumpets cost about $500.00 and at that time, was well out of reach, financially, for my parents.
I began to play this old beat up trumpet and enjoyed being in the band. After a year and a half or so, Christmas was soon to come. I told my parents that I would really like to get a new trumpet, as the one I had was difficult to play well, due to the condition it was in. My brain told me that it would not be probable, but my heart was optimistic.
When Christmas morning arrived, my heart began to race, as I saw a brand new trumpet case under the tree. As I opened up the case, I found my old trumpet, a new mouthpiece, and new bottle of lubricant. I must have shown great disappointment in my face, as my dad told me that perhaps the new items would help the old trumpet play better.
        It wasn’t until later that afternoon that my father told me that they forgot to give me one of my presents and he instructed me to look under the couch. There was the brand new gold trumpet that belonged to the new case under the tree. I was ecstatic!
It wasn’t until many years later that I began to understand how much of a sacrifice that trumpet represented, considering the financial limitations my parents lived under at the time they bought the trumpet. I believe that my father had a great desire to give me the instrument, which would fulfill a boy’s dream and perhaps a father’s dream as well, because dad always regretted that he had not continued to play the trumpet.
Later, as a 16 year old, my interest in the trumpet waned considerably and my new desires rested on getting a motorcycle. Unbeknownst to my parents, I took that expensive gift and sold it to buy a used motorcycle.
         When my parents found out, I am sure they were very disappointed in me, first of all for not consulting with them and secondly because I had treated their great sacrifice so lightly.
It was the action of an unfeeling teenager, who would not fully understand the disappointment the parents felt until many years later.
The second memory also was an act of sacrifice from my father. After graduating from high school and later finishing four years in the Navy, I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My parents were not thrilled with my decision and more so when I decided to serve as a missionary for the church. I needed to come up with the money to support myself as a missionary and I knew that I could not approach my parents, as they believed it was a waste of time and money. My father believed I should start a career and begin to establish myself and that serving a mission for two years would delay that.
          When the time came for me to leave on my missionary service to Germany, I sold all of my earthly possessions. Germany was an expensive mission, so I sold my new MG sports car to an acquaintance, my personal items and my clothes. My friend Don mentioned in a talk he gave in sacrament meeting, at my farewell, that he knew I had sold everything because he said, “I bought his shirts.”
          I think this comment touched the hearts of ward members, who themselves were humble, as to the things of the earth, and the elders quorum stepped forward to assist what I was not able to raise myself. I raised a little more than half of what I would need and the elders promised that when my money had run out, they would send me monthly amounts to augment what I had raised.
Once I was in Germany, I found that the cost of living gradually rose over time and money was tight. After about a year in the mission, Christmas approached. Right before Christmas day, I received a letter in the mail from my father. Inside the envelope was just a short note, which said “Dear Ron, wish I could send more, Dad”. Inside was a $20.00 bill.
         My heart was deeply touched, because I knew that my father had fallen on lean times with a job change and though this $20.00 bill was quite a bit less than the cost of the trumpet, it represented a significant sacrifice. More than the financial sacrifice, it represented something very special to me because what my father was communicating between those short words was that he was proud of me and that he approved of what I had decided to do with two years of my life.
To this day, I remember with great fondness, that gift of acceptance and love from my father, which meant so much more than the money.
         The final memory was that of a gift given. After serving as a missionary, I attended Brigham Young University. I was basically penniless when I arrived, except for a few dollars that I was able to save from a few weeks of work after the mission.
After attending the university for a year and working a part-time job, I had been able to save enough to buy a brand new 10 speed racing bicycle for my transportation, as an automobile was beyond my ability to afford. I picked out the bike late in September and enjoyed it immensely. As Christmas approached, our student church branch decided to do a “Sub for Santa” project to assist a couple of needy families in the area.
          As the student members came around to our apartment complex, seeking donations for these families, they knocked on our apartment door. Upon entering, they gave my roommates and I a list of the members in the families we were helping, with their ages, sizes and a list of suggested gifts they were seeking to buy.
As I spoke with one of the students soliciting donations, he informed me that one family being helped, consisted of a single mother who had five children and he also mentioned that one of those children was a 16-year-old boy, who desperately wanted a bike for Christmas. Almost as an after thought he added, but that of course is beyond our ability, given the number of people we were helping.
           I suddenly felt the spirit of the Lord come over me, encouraging me to give the boy my brand new racing bike and so I gave it to the student seeking the donations.
That Christmas, I felt a warm glow much greater than the joy of owning that new bike. That Christmas, I felt the joy of sacrifice, which must have been something akin to that my parents felt, giving me the new trumpet.
           It is very easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and to sometimes lose sight of why we celebrate Christmas, but from time to time I reflect on those Christmas memories, which still fill my heart with that warm glow after so many years. The reason why these memories are so special to me is because they all represent a great sacrifice for someone else.
It is appropriate that we remember the why of Christmas. I like to simply remember that Christmas is a celebration, in which the Savior came to earth to pay a debt that he did not owe, for all of us, who had a debt that we could not pay. It is a sacrifice that is beyond my comprehension. Because I will never, in this life, begin to comprehend the gift given to all of us, I simply try to keep this remembrance in my heart during the season.

By: Ronald Forstner

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


This last two years my wife and I have share the responsibility and blessing of teaching the 10 going on 11 year olds. They are a young and energetic group to share the Gospel with.  This year the course subject has been the Old Testament where they have a change to learn about God's plan of salvation and the creation of the earth.  They are learning how to develop a testimony of the Gospel through the stories and examples of the Old Testament prophets and people.  One of the Old Testament characters that we learned about was Samson where we tried to help the children understand that the Lord blessed Samson with physical strength to accomplish his mission. When Samson kept his covenants and was strong spiritually, he was blessed with this physical strength. They learned the Samson's strength was not actually in his hair but his hair was a sign of this covenant with the Lord. To demonstrate their commitment to develop spiritual strength so that they could receive blessing from their Father in Heaven as well as an enrichment activity, they all created wigs. (Pictures attached)

As the locks of hair they had to identify and attached a covenant to their wig that they had chosen to keep.  Some of the covenant where: Daily Pray, Reading Scriptures, Sharing testimony, Helping parent, attending church, etc.  They were free to come up with some of their own.  If they never allow those locks to be cut and removed they too would be worth to receive blessing from their Heavenly Father.

We hope that they will carry this lessen along with the others that we have had throughout year with them for the reminder of their life's.  So that they can feel the love of a kind and caring Father who loves them so much that he send his Son to die for them.

By: Steven J. Stark

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lord foresaw the need to honor the sacrifice of Sister Han

Recently I traveled to Hong Kong and into China for my work.   I went there to visit a factory that is making some fancy woodwork for my construction project. We spent a day in Hong Kong and then went to the factory which is about 40 miles north into the People's republic of China.  After working there all day and spending the night at the factory, I wanted to get back to Hong Kong to attend the Temple there. It seemed a unique opportunity.

I had to insist on leaving earlier than my hosts were used to getting going in the morning. I wanted to arrive at the temple for the 9 am session.  They drove my companion to the airport and then myself to the train station. Along the way were pickups of other people and stops to get gas that seemed to last forever. I began to grow uneasy about making the session at the temple. Delays continued when I got to the train station at the border crossing. I walked across an enormous pedestrian bridge over  the river that marked the boundary between Hong Kong and the PRC. Then it was time to go through an immigration checkpoint. There were already 100 people in line and only 2 people checking passports. At that point I realized it would be impossible to make the 9am session at the temple.

I reset my objective to attend the 11 am session instead. I successfully rode the train from the border back to the Kowloon area of Hong Kong. I donned my tie on the street and walked from the train station to the temple. It was extremely hot & humid so I was looking forward to simply sitting in an air conditioned waiting room while I waited for 11 am. At this point I was quite early for that session.

As I walked into the front courtyard, I saw the white suited figures inside notice my arrival through the windows. As I passed through the doors, the temple president (Pres. Wong from Brisbane) immediately asked me: " can you help us with baptisms?"  When I said yes, it would be a great way to wait for the 11 am session, they flew into action. I had to remind them to check my recommend they were so relieved to have me help. They grabbed my luggage and threw it in a closet and hustled me down to the baptistry.

The situation they had there that morning was that a young lady named Sister Han had traveled by train from Hangzhou in China by train, which is a distance of 1400km.  She had only a limited time available to be at the temple before she had to board a train to get back home. The problem was that she showed up right as the temple workers were conducting a special session in Mongolian for a whole bustle of Mongolian saints. So they did not have enough priesthood brothers to do the session, plus baptize, record and witness. So they pressed me into service.

I did my best at pronouncing the Chinese names on the cards, which thankfully had English versions on them. After doing several baptisms, I dressed and waited a few minutes for the 11 am session to begin, sitting beside a young man from Beijing.  This experience was eye opening in that I did not realize that we have thousands of members in the PRC.


But what I took away from this experience was a witness that The Lord loves us and knows us individually.  And of His omniscience, as manifested in my arrival within literally minutes of when it would have been too late for sister Han to do baptisms. My trip had been scheduled weeks in advance and I came from the other side of the world. The Lord foresaw the need to honor the sacrifice of sister Han in going to the temple and acted by influencing someone to travel halfway around the world at exactly the right date & time to meet the need. He delayed me just enough that morning to ensure I did not go into the 9 am session and put myself out of reach. I marvel at the Lord's ability to foresee and gently influence events and people to achieve his ends. I felt blessed to see his individual concern for that sister, and blessed to have been an instrument in serving. I know our Savior knows and loves us individually.

By: Mark Robins


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Spirit and spiritual stories from two Deacons


My name is Alex Trottier

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I have had many spiritual experiences in my life. Me and my sister were adopted from Russia, and the spirit led my parents to us.  They had many obstacles in their way, but they persevered, and they were led to my sister and me. We have had very little blessings such as blessings of food, money, and air. My name is Alex Trottier I am a soccer referee, a writer (I like writing songs, and stories mostly) and I know that blessings exist as the tiniest things sometimes. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ Amen.





My name is Jonathan Evans

I'm 13 years old. I know the spirit can teach to you in many ways. One time when I was on a 20 mile hike with my scout troop in Boulder, Utah, we got kind of lost. The trail started to dissipate a few mile in and we had to try and go through thick plants. We were not prepared and we ran out of water. One of our troop members started to get bad heat exhaustion. Basically we were out in the desert with no water, no trail, but we did have a gps. We split up into a couple of different groups. One group helped the kid with heat exhaustion and my group went on ahead to try and find water to filter. We all said a prayer. I said many personal prayers throughout that day. The only water we could find was a dirty nasty puddle and we tried to filter it as best we could and we were all so grateful for that water. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me that everything was going to be okay. We started at 8am and ended the hike around midnight. During that time the Holy Ghost was testifying to us about faith.

One time on a different campout we just looked at the stars. I just got the impression that Heavenly Father is always watching over us. This was another example of the Holy Ghost teaching us but in a different way. I have a testimony that I'm a member of the true church and that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins so that we can be with Him and God again. I know that Joseph Smith restored the true church. I have prayed about it and it all just feels right to me. Thomas S. Monson is a true prophet. The Holy Ghost can teach us in different ways that God is always watching over us.







The Role of the Deacon

By: Vaughn J. FeatherStone 

Several years ago I heard a story that I shall not soon forget:

A young man, climbing in some rugged, high mountain peaks, came across an eagle’s nest. The nest contained several eggs. He took one and gently carried it back to his home. He then put it with several eggs an old hen was setting over. In due time all of the eggs were hatched, and there came forth the eaglet with the baby chicks. During the next several months the baby eagle grew along with the chicks. He scratched in the barnyard for his food like chickens do. Although he grew to full size, he still never flew. The young man watched the process with great interest. He wanted the eagle to fly. So one day he took the eagle up on top of his house and said, “Thou art an eagle, fly.” But the eagle just flew down to the barnyard and commenced scratching like the chickens. A few days later, long before sunlight, the young lad took the eagle to a lofty crag high among the mountain peaks. Then, as the first streaks of sunlight burst over the mountain range, he said, “Thou art an eagle, fly.” The eagle began to stretch its wings; its eye caught a shaft of sunlight; a sensation swept through it from wing tip to wing tip. The fresh, cool air, the smell of pine trees, and an exhilaration it had never known coursed through the great bird. Its wings spread wider; power swept through its entire frame. It began to lift off the arm of the young man. Soon it was lifting and soaring hundreds of feet above the high peaks. It lifted higher and higher and soared farther and farther into the endless sky. It saw more in an instant than its earthbound chicken companions saw in a lifetime. From that time forth the eagle was never more content to be a barnyard fowl.

Once a deacon has felt the power and exhilaration of truly magnifying his priesthood and lifting to the endless bounds of service, he too will no longer be content to be a barnyard fowl, an ordinary boy. He will want to represent God on the earth and be one of his holy and choice servants.

A deacon “is to be ordained according to the gifts and callings of God unto him; and he is to be ordained by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is in the one who ordains him.” (D&C 20:60.) “No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church.” (D&C 20:65.)

A deacon’s duties include passing the sacrament, visiting homes of members and receiving fast offerings, providing messenger service for the bishop and his counselors, and home teaching as a junior companion when there are not sufficient priests and teachers. These responsibilities are commonly known by almost every deacon.

The deacon also has other responsibilities that are a little more subtle but vitally important.

Dress Standards: Every deacon is expected to be appropriately attired as he performs his duty. When passing the sacrament he should be dressed conservatively with a dress shirt and tie. Loud or gaudy patterns of dress attract the attention of the Saints and take their minds off the sacred sacramental service. No young man would deliberately violate his priesthood ordination by causing this distraction. His hair length should be such that it does not give a feminine appearance or distract members’ concentration.

When a young man is a messenger for the bishop he should be neat and clean in appearance and be one in whom the bishop could feel justifiable pride. As the deacon visits the homes of members he should be neatly dressed to function in his priesthood assignment. In some few cases the only contact inactive members have with the Church is the monthly visit of a deacon to receive a fast offering contribution. That brief visit may have a powerful influence on our inactive members. Deacons should be neat and clean and their conduct should be dignified with warmth and friendliness. A genuine smile and firm handshake by a young deacon might well cause serious reflections by inactive members. A home teaching assignment ought to be carried out in the same dignified manner. A deacon should always be prepared to bear his testimony to a family should his senior companion invite it.

Conduct: A deacon must conduct himself properly in all things. This is, however, especially true in his conduct at the sacrament table. We have all seen immature deacons who play, make faces, laugh, push other deacons, and in general are very light-minded about this sacred ordinance. Such a young man should be taught that he is violating the sacred trust that the Lord has given him to assist in the ordinance. A deacon should conduct himself following a single standard. We do not have a double standard in the Church. A deacon should refrain from telling dirty stories, reading pornographic material, using profane language, or being abusive or rude. It takes maturity to live the standards, and those deacons who do will find success in the world and great opportunities for service in God’s kingdom.

Worthiness: All of our priesthood assignments should be determined by our worthiness. A deacon should be honest in all of his dealings. The truth must be part of his conduct and expression. Never would he violate this by lying or cheating at home, school, or a place of entertainment. A deacon must be morally clean and pure in thought. He would never violate the Word of Wisdom or be involved in drug abuse. His concern should be to prove himself worthy every day of his life. As he does, growth, development, and success will be his. One of the greatest goals we can have as individuals is to become pure in heart. As we faithfully strive to live worthily, we become pure in heart.

Service: Many years ago I attended a conference with President Marion G. Romney. During the break between sessions of conference, we went for a short walk. One of the things he said to me was, “Brother Featherstone, do you think the brethren of the priesthood will ever come to understand that they were born to serve their fellowmen?” In one sentence he gave me a concept that has been a great motivating factor in my life. I commend it to you.

I earnestly pray that every deacon will come to understand that he was born to serve his fellowmen.

Monday, October 27, 2014

God will give you more than you can handle: I guarantee it.

There’s a certain phrase I’ve come to really dislike.

All my life, I’ve heard this phrase whenever I go through a rough patch. *And by rough patch, I mean a prickly, gnarly patch that leaves me bleeding to near death*. You’re probably familiar with those kinds of “patches”.

“God will never give you more than you can handle” is the phrase I’m referring to.
more than to bear
And it’s a sweet sentiment, really. The people who say it are speaking from caring and concerned hearts.

BUT–it isn’t true.

I know that sounds harsh, but I promise I haven’t suddenly lost my mind or have become an angry-with-God bitter woman who hates the world. Actually, when I realized the simple fact that God can–and will–give us more than we can possibly bear, it got easier.

And it all started to make more sense.

I’ve often trudged through trials that overwhelm me. Ever since my childhood there have been trials that have made me “grow up” pretty fast. But granted, I know for a fact you’ve had your own fair share too, because that’s the reality of life. But this last trial is the one that shook me to my core and had me searching like a mad woman for answers as to why it was happening–and how I could possibly even survive it.

DSC_3283

I lost my Dad to cancer last month–if you’re a follower of mine, this is old news. But–it was absolutely horrific.

Every day leading up to his death was like walking through every level of hell–slowly– for lack of a better term. There’s no other way to describe it. The images…the sounds…the sleepless nights…the cries for God while we look on, helpless…the torment of rubbing morphine in his cheeks, praying it’ll absorb–but to no avail. The horrible, wrenching pain that came with lifting him up, laying him back down, lifting him up, laying him back down…because he became so restless and cried out for “home” every few minutes. And all along, in the back of my mind, I reminded myself that millions of people go through this, and have already gone through this, very thing. And it is simply unbearable. If you disagree–it’s because you haven’t been there.

SONY DSC

This trial was so consuming that I hate to even put it in the past tense–sometimes it still consumes me. Yesterday, at my Dad’s memorial service, it consumed me all over again.

I’ve suffered from nightmares where I relived the memory over and over mercilessly–I sometimes see his face on strangers that pass and worry that I’m going crazy. I cry over sad songs in the car and torture myself with stacks of pictures and yellowed photo albums. It’s beyond just missing him. And even with a firm testimony of the gospel and with peace that he is exactly where the Lord prepared him for, it is still too much for me to handle at times. It steals my breath–and it can steal my joy.

crying2

So, the other day, I turned to the scriptures. I needed help.

I wanted to know where that phrase was that people kept repeating to me in church and at work and over the phone. Why did the Lord “trust me so much”?! Why did He think I could handle these kinds of trials?

And then I realized: I couldn’t find that quote because it isn’t there.

It never mentions anywhere in the scriptures that the Lord won’t give you more than you can handle. Yes, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 it speaks of Him giving us an escape from temptations so that it’s not too much to bear. But when it comes to pain, trials, heartache, and burdens– not once does it say it won’t be more than we can bear. Instead, it beautifully says this instead:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me…for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 28-30)

carrying man

The words struck my heart, as you can imagine. Christ is speaking to those of us who are carrying burdens much too heavy for our own shoulders. And in that one verse he simply states the reason why we are given more than we can handle: It’s so we can come to him. It’s so we can trust him enough to hand over our heavy, crippling burdens and let him carry the load.

You might be heavy laden right now like I was before reading and re-reading and re-reading once again this scripture that has never stuck out to me as much as it has lately.
trsut

You might be shrunken with sadness or drowning in debt. You might be overwhelmingly angry at someone at church or aching under the pressures of raising children or maybe the inability to have them. You might be dealing with a terminal disease and you still have young children. And chances are–you might need your Redeemer to find you on the path and take up that heavy cross you’re dragging. Besides, even he tells us that he’s more equipped to carry it, so why not hand it over?

I’ve come to learn–slowly but surely–why I need Him.

I suppose it’s because of pride that I always thought I could just do things on my own. I’m strong, I’d say. I’m a tough cookie. I can help others through their tribulations while carrying mine all by myself. Well…wasn’t I wrong.

at jesus feet

I didn’t really know what needing him meant until I had no other choice. I didn’t know what it meant until I wrapped my arms around my middle so I wouldn’t fall apart–or the time I choked on tears and yelled toward Heaven. Or the times when I was utterly alone, and the silence was too much to bear. Those are the times that taught me he’s not just a want or a convenient symbol of love or a reason to do good deeds.

No, he’s the very air we breathe.

And he’s the only one who can make it bearable when life is simply anything but.

By: Kayla Lemmon

The 10th Ward Mission wants to give a special thanks to Kayla Lemmon for permission to post this blog she wrote.  Our ward mission leader thought it was a perfect post for our ward blog.  Thank you Kayla for a wonderful post!

Monday, October 13, 2014

How I can always remember Him?

As I contemplated this topic (and maybe I analyzed the sentence a little too closely) an important thought came to me: To truly keep our covenants we must remember our Savior and then by always remembering our Savior we will be more inclined and able to keep our covenants. It's a wonderful catch 22! And maybe it doesn't matter which one we do first. some of us may be more action people that are better at being really obedient and then by their obedience they are better able to always remember the Savior, and then some of us may be more inclined to be thoughtful and we may spend more time thinking of the Savior and then when we do that, it naturally helps us keep our covenants and keep the commandments. I figure if we fall under either of those categories we will end up where Heavenly Father wants us to be.

First I want to talk about our covenants, what they mean, and how we may better keep them.

In Bonnie D. Parkins talk "Celebrating Covenants" she said:
"So often we talk of making and keeping covenants, but exactly what are they? At baptism, we demonstrate that we “are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;… mourn with those that mourn;… comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and… stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:8–9)."

The members of this ward and community are people who are amazing examples who have shown their willingness to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.

As most of you know, our 15 year old son Chase was diagnosed with cancer in January. To put it mildly, the last few months have been challenging. However, sometimes it is during the most difficult times in life that we see the best in people and experience the most amazing things. From the very beginning, we had an outpouring of love from people who wanted to help, and this was a great example of covenant keeping in action. From the first day after receiving the news of Chase's diagnosis having Heidi Prosser bring us pizza for dinner, to the paper hearts covering our front door from the beehive class in Young Women's, to the countless cards and letters of encouragement, to meals being brought over, the months of receiving random treats, Tim Hanna and the young men always being supportive and caring and even setting up Skype so Chase could attend his priesthood meetings and activities and adjusting their plans for scout camp so Chase could be included, and most recently the "Race for Chase" 5k last weekend, it's been absolutely incredible to experience the service, thoughtfulness and love that has been shown to our family. In fact, after the first several weeks of Chase's treatment when things were  really at their worst for Chase, he said to me, "You know Mom, I will probably look back on this time as one of the hardest times of my life, but I will also look back as it being one of the best times because of all of the amazing love and kindness I'm receiving. I didn't realize how much people cared about me and our family."

Because of thoughtful members in our ward keeping their covenants to be like the Savior, we felt His love in a unique and beautiful way.

In the sacrament prayer we promise to take upon us the name of Christ and always remember Him and keep the commandments that he has given us, and if we do those things that we can always have his spirit with us.

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “To be baptized is to enter into a covenant [with God] … to do, not merely to refrain from doing, to work righteousness as well as to avoid evil”.

I can keep my covenants by obeying commandments like being honest and truthful, forgiving others as well as myself, not judging others, living a virtuous life, paying tithing, and keeping the Sabbath day holy just to name a few. The list goes on and on. Sometimes it can be an overwhelming thing to think about all of the things I need to be doing as well as the list of things I shouldn't be doing.

One of the most wonderful things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that he doesn't give us a long list of do's and don'ts without any help. We are given the Holy Ghost to guide us as we strive to keep the commandments.

In Moroni 10:4-5 it reads:  "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he 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."

When I think of this scripture I usually think of it referring to gaining a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, however, it applies to anything that we want to gain a testimony of.

I think it is OK to recognize that some commandments are more difficult to keep than others and all of us have our own weaknesses and challenges. I also believe that if I will go to Heavenly Father and listen to the Holy Ghost I will be given answers, whether they are answers to questions about the gospel, answers to which paths that I should take in life, or even just answers to help me gain a testimony about commandments that I’ve been given that I may not understand the reason.

In my own life I have been blessed multiple times with instructions to work and provide for my family. This was a concern for me for a long time because I felt like since we are encouraged as women to stay at home and be the nurturers in the family that these blessings I received meant I was destined to be a single mother. I look back at that logic and realize how off the mark I was. It took prayer and following the guidance of the spirit to realize that my path was supposed to be different and that even though I work and I'm not single, I am still following the path that Heavenly Father meant for me.

I truly believe that part of keeping my covenants is listening to the Holy Ghost and making sure that I am following the path that Heavenly Father intends specifically for me.

Our Heavenly Father is kind and wants to help me succeed in keeping my covenants. Just like any other loving parent, He asks me to keep commandments that will help me in my life and then is there to help me succeed. This reminds me of a situation with Stacie, my 13 year old daughter. She recently decided that she wanted to participate in a week-long a cappella vocal camp this summer. I thought that was a great idea and encouraged her to do it, but it was a very expensive camp. As a way to make sure she was committed to going and help her value her experience there, we required that she pay for half of it. Even though she was motivated to earn the necessary money, she knew it was going to be a lot of work. About a month ago she decided that a good way to earn money would be to sell cinnamon rolls to our neighbors. She found a great recipe, practiced making them, and then took photos of the rolls and posted them on facebook. The orders came in and she was really excited, but with the delivery times she promised and the volume of cinnamon rolls she needed to make, she needed my help. A lot of help. For 2 weekends I helped her bake cinnamon rolls well into the night each Friday so they would be ready first thing in the morning. Even though I was requiring something difficult from her, and it was something that she would not have been able to accomplish by herself, I was there to help her through and succeed in spite of the challenges she was facing. Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ do the exact same thing.

So even though keeping the commandments and keeping our covenants may seem impossible at times, our Heavenly Father is there to help me and when I fall short our Savior is there to make up the difference.

Referencing Bonnie D. Parkins "Celebrating Covenants" talk again, she continues to say: "Father in Heaven knows us as individuals. The covenants we make with Him are performed one on one. President Howard W. Hunter noted: “I have always been impressed that the Lord deals with us personally, individually. We do many things in groups in the Church, but the most important things are done individually. We bless babies one at a time, even if they are twins or triplets. We baptize and confirm children one at a time. We take the sacrament, are ordained to the priesthood, or move through the ordinances of the temple as individuals—as one person developing a [personal] relationship with our Father in Heaven. … Heaven’s emphasis is on each individual, on every single person” These individual commitments made directly with our Heavenly Father are things to celebrate. Do you remember what happened when Alma invited his people to make covenants? They celebrated! They “clapped their hands with joy.” I wonder why our covenants so often feel more like obligations than privileges."

It's easy to look at the commandments and even our covenants as burdens and obligations but when I have felt this way I like to remember an analogy I was told once about kites. The question was asked in this story, "what is the most important thing a kite needs to make it fly? Most people referred to the wind or the strength of the wings, but the instructor asking the question said that, while all of those are good answers, the string that holds the kite to the ground is what actually allows the kite to stay in the air. I'm sure all of us who have flown kites have experienced a kite flying high and strong, only to have the string break and have it plummet to the ground. In this analogy the string represents our covenants. This analogy helps me remember that as I keep my covenants, I will experience true happiness and peace and a further desire to be even more true to our Savior. My covenants are meant to help me reach my highest potential, not hold me back.

I think that the most important part of keeping my covenants is repentance. There is no such thing in this life as perfect obedience and even though I try to do what's right, and I try to keep the commandments, and I renew my covenants with my Heavenly Father each week, and I promise to always remember Him, I know that I will always fall short.

I love this quote from Brad Wilcox in the book Continuous Atonement when he is talking about a young man blessing the sacrament and not getting it right the first time. He said,
"Although the sacramental prayers had to be perfect, and that expectation could not be lowered, the priest was given a second chance, and a third--as many times as it took. There was no trapdoor that opened up once he had gone too far. The bishop simply nodded and the young priesthood holder started over until he finally got the prayer right. No matter how many mistakes were made and corrected along the way, the final outcome was counted as perfect and acceptable."

This is a perfect example of how the Savior views our efforts to keep our covenants. No matter how many mistakes are made and how many times we are corrected along the way, if we continue to repent and continue to make an effort to keep our covenants, the final outcome will be counted as perfect and acceptable.

President Uchtdorf said: “The heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth.”

In an effort to keep our covenants it requires constant course correction. Pres. Uchtdorf has talked many times about how during a flight a pilot must continually make corrections to make sure they stay on course. It is the same in life. I know that if I will continually check my course and make necessary corrections it will make it easier to stay true to my covenants, and make sure I don't get too far off course.

Pres. Uchtdorf relayed this tragic story:
In 1979 a large passenger jet with 257 people on board left New Zealand for a sightseeing flight to Antarctica and back. Unknown to the pilots, however, someone had modified the flight coordinates by a mere two degrees. This error placed the aircraft 28 miles (45 km) to the east of where the pilots assumed they were. As they approached Antarctica, the pilots descended to a lower altitude to give the passengers a better look at the landscape. Although both were experienced pilots, neither had made this particular flight before, and they had no way of knowing that the incorrect coordinates had placed them directly in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano that rises from the frozen landscape to a height of more than 12,000 feet (3,700 m).
As the pilots flew onward, the white of the snow and ice covering the volcano blended with the white of the clouds above, making it appear as though they were flying over flat ground. By the time the instruments sounded the warning that the ground was rising fast toward them, it was too late. The airplane crashed into the side of the volcano, killing everyone on board.
It was a terrible tragedy brought on by a minor error—a matter of only a few degrees.

This is a very sad story that illustrates how small errors can end up influencing our lives in big ways. I know that if I will continually check my course and make necessary corrections, it makes it easier to stay true to my covenants, and make sure I don't get too far off course.
In closing I want to quote Pres. James E. Faust: : "You're doing better than you think you are!"
I think we have a tendency in the church to be too hard on our selves. I think sometimes we forget that our state of imperfection is part of the plan of salvation and that we are given our imperfections so that we will turn to our Savior. I know if I continue to strive to keep my covenants, obey the commandments, and repent as I fall short, I will continue to grow close to my Savior and I know that in spite of my imperfections and mistakes, He loves me.

I want to close with another quote from Pres. Uchtdorf:

 “Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God's love encompasses us completely. ... He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken.” 

By: Angie Bynum

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Is Truth?

The Sombrero Galaxy Led to Some Sober Thoughts


I saw the above picture of the Sombrero Galaxy from Ryan Best's post on Facebook and it brought back memories.

When I was in the Navy, stationed in Guam, I used to spend endless hours gazing into the night sky, devoid of any light pollution, to see the countless stars there were to see. It was awe inspiring and led me, for the first time in my life, to begin to ponder the really big questions of life, such as "Who am I?" and "What is all of this about?" Fortunately for me, after many months of posing these and other such questions, sending them out into the void, I received some answers. I now know who I am and what all of this is about, which are some of the most important things to know in life because it gives my life direction and purpose.

It is so comforting to know where I came from, why I am here on earth in mortality, what the purpose of life is, and what happens after this life. By no means is this knowledge complete, because I wouldn't even understand the vocabulary, much like me trying to explain quantum mechanics or astro-physics to a toddler, the toddler would not even understand the vocabulary, let alone have the capacity to comprehend what there is to know.

Yet, it is enough to know that which can be known and comprehended, little by little, line upon line, as I grow and learn. I am a literal spirit child of a Heavenly Father and like any good parent, our Heavenly Father along with His Son, Jesus Christ, do all that they can do to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.

We are eternal beings having a mortal experience. Much like going away to boarding school, we were sent here to learn and to grow and to know by our own experience to discern between right and wrong, good and bad, health and sickness, light and darkness, etc. There is opposition in all things that we may exercise our agency to choose. It is a gift of God. By so doing, we demonstrate the content of our character and what kind of beings we are becoming, hence, this mortal life is a test of sorts, to see what we are made of.

Heavenly Father already knows what we are made of, so this test is to demonstrate to ourselves what we are becoming and what level of law we are willing to abide. Anyone willing to ask such questions honestly and with real intent, meaning that once enlightened, they are willing to act on the knowledge, rather than to only ask out of curiosity, will receive the answers to that which they seek.

If we are not willing to do something with the knowledge received, God will not give it to us, because we would then be accountable for it and He is too merciful to lay such a burden on us. To ask only out of curiosity with no intent to do anything with the knowledge would be fruitless, so our Heavenly Father only reveals truth to those who honestly seek it, with the intent to apply that truth, as it should be. This is accountability.

We are accountable according the truth we understand in regards to the way we live our lives. It is my personal belief that in the eternal scheme of things, we are still in the toddler stage of our eternal existence. Like children in a sandbox, we have the opportunity here on earth to learn to share, play nicely together, learn to help one another, and to develop good characteristics. In a nutshell, we have the opportunity and capacity to become more like our Heavenly Father and the Savior or we can choose to become something else, it is all up to us.

Fortunately, our Heavenly Father does not leave us without assistance. He and the Savior have given us a roadmap through the written word, the Holy Ghost, inspired prophets, and the example of the Savior to guide and direct us for good. Like everyone else in mortality, I am flawed and weak in many ways, and yet I have hope because of that which I know to be true.

The Savior has completed the atonement, which makes it possible for me to continue to grow and improve after this mortal life, as a resurrected being. I have a great deal of gratitude for my Heavenly Father and His Son, for making all of this possible and for the knowledge I have been given, as it has made all the difference in my life.

I have often contemplated where I would be and what my life would have looked like without this knowledge and it pales in comparison to that which I have been blessed with throughout my life. I have been able to see the hand of God in my life and His tender mercies toward me.

As I stated above, when I saw the picture taken by the Hubbell telescope of the Sombrero Galaxy, it brought all of this back to my mind. The universe is so vast and awe inspiring and beyond words to describe, but it was the catalyst which led me to a new and improved life.

By: Ronald Forstner 




Sunday, October 5, 2014

Jesus Christ – Our Ultimate Friend

Jesus Christ – Our Ultimate Friend


New school year 

a time for renewing acquaintances and making new friends
hopefully our friends help us be our best “self”
some use social media to help us stay in contact with our friends (this is not a talk on the appropriate use of social media)

Friend Request

Hopefully we are judicious in the friend requests we extend and those we accept
Christ has already sent us a friend request

“Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.” (3 Nephi 9:14)

As you come unto Christ you come to feel that the only way you can have the happiness you want most in this life and in the world to come is through Jesus Christ. You come to believe these words from the Book of Mormon: “Behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.”  (2 Nephi 25:20)

Follow

Social media allows us to follow our friends – what they are thinking and doing
Hopefully we will follow Christ throughout the school year
Most if not all of us have made covenants to obey and follow him
Keep commitments  - attend seminary, daily prayer,  scripture study, attend Sacrament meetings, repent as needed, seek guidance through the Holy Ghost

Like

Through social media with the click of a mouse or a touch on a screen we can “like” what our friends post – what they are saying or doing
Liking the Savior requires much more from us than simply giving him a “thumbs up”
As we follow and obey him we develop a desire to be “like” him.  We begin to try to do unto others as we know He would do


Our stake theme this year:“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32)

His letter to me—The Bible and the Book of Mormon

Rodman is an inmate in a California prison. Many members of the tenth ward may recall my earlier comments about my association with him.  Rodman asked me to publish his testimony because the tenth ward has been supportive of him and his family. Here are Rodman’s words:

“I know that Jesus is my Savior and that he restored His church and priesthood through the prophet Joseph Smith in these latter days and that He directs His church through a living prophet and apostles.  I believe that any man, woman or child can draw closer to God through prayer, scripture reading and doing good.

“My name is Rodman, and if this is your first time getting to know me, I hope you will be able to embrace me for who and what I am and the things that I stand for and the way I see my life.  I am faith-based and family-focused, but it has not always been that way.

“I’m not as interested in the past as much as I am in the future.  However, I must bring up some past.  Just over a year ago a friend sent me a Book of Mormon.  I was open minded reading it because I had heard a lot of things about the LDS and in all honesty I thought the Book of Mormon would be just another “religious” book.  I had read so many already, but at the time my friend Dave sent me the book I had no idea that what I was about to read would send incredible shock waves through my life.

“The love of God for me was revealed in His letter to me—The Bible and the Book of Mormon.  By God’s grace, I reflected on His light in the dark times I was in; reading the scriptures helped me begin the process of putting my past into the proper prospective.

“My past was so painful to revisit, I stuffed it down in my mind, trying to forget much of it.  At age 11 of my mother told me I was the product of rape, and that began a withering process in my heart, a loss of worth and vitality.  It became difficult to identify with family pride, faith in gentleness or any kind of tenderness.  So I chose to deal with it in negative ways.

“As a teen I tried everything the streets had to offer.  I found out the hard way that sin was a very slippery slope.  At age 13, I joined a Crip gang in L.A.  I was troubled and there weren't many Christians coming to the front porches to minister to kids like me and my homeboys.  We ignorantly believed Christianity in any form was based on a European god, and there was no way any of the guys I hung with would worship a racist God.

“That attitude landed me in prison where, as I mentioned, my friend Dave sent me a Book of Mormon.  He helped me overcome a few of the issues holding me back.  Encouraging me in prayer, God stilled my heart and quieted my mind.  Dave shared scriptures with me and talked to me patiently.  I learned praising God came naturally when I counted my blessings.

“I also realized that others could teach me the principles of their faith, and that each of us must come individually to a lasting and personal faith in Christ.  For faith to be real, it must become rooted and established in the faith.

“I began to really study scriptures daily and attend meetings.  I finished reading the Book of Mormon.  Then I re-read it.

“I know now that the Book of Mormon is a true book along with the Bible.  I know God’s hand is stretched out to all who seek him and that we can be cleansed from all sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, and being baptized by one having authority.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

Unwaveringly PUSHing forward,
(PUSH stands for “Pray Until Something Happens”)
Rodman

Over the past few months, Rodman has placed 12 Books of Mormon and is bringing fellow inmates to the LDS study meeting.  I'll be happy to pass on any comments you have for Rodman (dave@keepwriting.com).


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

THE BLESSINGS OF VISITING TEACHING

by Lorrie Lou Stark

I have a testimony of visiting teaching and know that it is an inspired program from the Lord.

My family’s life was blessed by Relief Society Visiting Teaching Service when I nearly died from a ruptured appendix. My husband had the help he needed with home and meals and children while he “held down the fort” until I recovered.  Throughout many “Life Events”, RS has been there for me.  I know that I am not alone, and am so grateful for the “sisterhood” of RS that helped in “bearing one another's burdens” and also sharing in the many joys of life.

My family’s lives have been improved by the homemaking skills I learned in Relief Society.

My life as a Visiting Teacher has been blessed through my prayerful preparation of the messages* and in seeking inspiration on how to serve “my sister.” I like to think of these as my “Mary” times (instead of “Martha.”)

As a “teachee” I truly appreciate the sweet spirit that my visiting teachers share. I learn a different interpretation of the message from them, thus learning much.

Especially important to me are the gifts of sharing with a visiting teaching companion. Over the years with many companions I have grown and matured spiritually and socially. I have learned proper etiquette in relationships. Having patience, love and understanding is a blessing when associating with so many personalities. Each daughter of God has her own attitudes which makes her special. Learning to respect the differences helps me to grow and mature.

Visiting teaching has truly enriched my life.






*Visiting Teaching is a part of the Relief Society organization. Each month a message is published in the LDS Church magazine, The Ensign. This message is delivered to each sister by an assigned pair of visiting teachers. 
See https://www.lds.org/callings/relief-society/visiting-teaching-messages?cid=HP14VTM&lang=eng

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mormon Sunday School

Does The Lord answer our questions?

 A while ago, I received an invitation on Facebook to attend the Mission farewell of a friend who had previously stated that he wasn't going to serve a mission. I was surprised, but I decided to attend anyway. During his talk, he revealed that he hadn't intended to serve a mission. He spoke about his experience at a summer youth program called "Especially for Youth" where they had an activity where they were to open their scriptures with a question in mind, and see if it was answered. He said that he was reluctant to do so, but eventually gave in and opened up his scriptures and began reading. He became frustrated when it seemed like he wasn't getting an answer. He continued to try to find an answer when a counselor from the program approached him and said, "I don't know why I feel the need to tell you this, but your Heavenly Father loves you." He became emotional and told the congregation that this was the answer to his question. It hadn't been answered in the way he was expecting, but it had been answered!
The Lord loves each and every one of us and knows how each of us need to be reached. Call on The Lord in faith with a question in heart, and he WILL answer you. It may not be in the way that you'd expect, it may not be when you expect it: but it will be answered. I've seen it in my own life as well as the lives of my friends.
-Tim Kay Jr.
18 years old





I have a testimony of the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

I have a testimony of the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that He is my Savior and that when I do as He asks, He blesses my life. Daily scripture study, one of His commandments, has especially affected my life on a daily basis. I notice that when I don't do the simple commandments like reading my scriptures, I don't have as good of a day. We are commanded to study the words of God daily and we are blessed when we do.
During the summer, I had the opportunity to attend a boys summer camp in Wyoming. During that camp, we all received a medallion with the scripture Ephesians 6:10-18 engraved on it. In that scripture we are challenged to put on the armor of God. Our leaders challenged us to "Armor Up," by reading our scriptures daily. I felt the Spirit so strongly when I received my medallion and I have rarely missed a day since. I love my scriptures because they help to bring the Spirit into my life.

-   Kai Johnson   -
17 years old




Joseph Smith

The man who started this church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a man who gave his life for the welfare of this church, and the good people who followed him.  A great human being who gave his life for the ability to have his church survive.  No man who did not know that God even existed would give his life to just to create a church based on false visions, though he was persecuted he persevered.  “I know what I have seen and though others do not believe and persecute me for what I say this does not change what I know I saw in the grove.”  This man, a man of God, knew and did not falter but pushed through the hatred with the love of God.
-Nick
17 years old





The Book of Mormon

I know the Book of Mormon is the true word of God, and God answers our prayers through the Book of Mormon.  If you have any doubts read your Book of Mormon, pray about it. Heavenly Father is watching over us.  He answers our prayers and while answers may not come immediately or appear to us that he agrees with us, Heavenly Father knows what is best for us.
-Mack
17 years old



Do Miracles Exist Today?

        I would answer that question with a definite "yes"!  I have been blessed in my life to be the recipient of miracles, especially in relation to my health and the desire to have children.

        When Darren and I were first married, we wanted a large family and were soon blessed with twin boys.  A couple of years later, we had a beautiful baby girl.  We were thrilled with our family and grateful to have 3 wonderful children.  A month after the birth of our daughter, I was diagnosed with cancer.  I underwent surgery and two months of radiation therapy and was able to be in remission later that year.  The doctors advised me not to have any more children, since the cancer had developed during the pregnancy of our daughter.  I was devastated, since I did not feel like our family was complete.

        My husband and I took the advice of my doctors and focused on our family and regaining my health.  After a few years, Darren and I prayed about having another child and felt it was the direction we should take, and I soon became pregnant.  During the third trimester of the pregnancy, I became very ill.  I had a fever, chills and was unable to keep anything down.  After a couple of days, I became worse and was taken to the Emergency Room.  While there, I was treated for dehydration and blood was drawn to help determine what had caused the illness.  The doctors were unable to figure out what caused the sickness, but the lab work revealed that I had a blood disease called ITP and that at that point my platelets were at extremely low. The next morning after leaving the ER, I started on an IV treatment to increase my platelet count.  A month later, I was able to give birth to a healthy baby boy.  In fact, he is currently serving a mission for our Church in Argentina.  It was a miracle that I was diagnosed at that time, because the doctor had said that if I had gone into labor, there is a chance that they would not have been able to save either myself or our baby.  I witnessed the hand of The Lord in my life that day in the ER and am so grateful for the blessings I have received.  After that we were able to add two more boys to our family and after the birth of our sixth child, I felt like our family was complete.  I have a strong testimony of miracles and I know that our Father in Heaven loves us and blesses in many ways each day.

Submitted by Diane Scruggs
Mom/Wife/Sunday School Teacher