Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Lost Shoe

I remember when I was a little girl, around 7 or 8 years old, I needed to find my shoes. I had one shoe but couldn't find the other one. I started to look but then I remembered that I should say a prayer because Heavenly Father would know where my shoe was located.  I had learned from my parents and from Primary that I could go to Heavenly Father about anything, whether big or small.  I KNEW that Heavenly Father would help me to find the missing shoe.  I said a prayer, full of faith, to receive divine help. Within minutes, I had a distinct impression to look outside in the backyard. And sure enough, I found my shoe... it was in the weeds, in case you were wondering.

The 'lost shoe' experience strengthened my testimony, and faith that I can turn to my Heavenly Father, and ask for His help and guidance. Through out my life I often reflect upon my 'lost shoe' experience to help me remember that I can turn to Heavenly Father for help with anything. I’ve applied this principle again and again in my life. I’ve also learned that if I make an effort to first search and ponder about the situation that my prayers are more sincere in truly wanting to receive answers and I’m better prepared to accept whatever answers come from my Heavenly Father.


Monday, April 20, 2015

What Does God Look Like?

I was born and raised in Southern California.  Growing up as a child my family was not associated with any church or religion.  My father, however, was raised in a religious home but did not carry on that tradition after he married my mother.  They were good and honorable people who worked hard and loved their children.  My parents were a “perfect match” for each other and enjoyed the blessings of an exceptional marriage, but practicing a particular religion was not a part of their lives. 

I, on the other hand, had friends who “went to church”, so I “heard” about God from them.  Often, as a young girl, I would lie on the green grass in our front yard looking up into the sky wondering to myself, “If I looked really hard in the sky, would I be able to see God”?  Then I would ask myself, “I wonder if His face will appear in a cloud, or will He be standing on a cloud?”  I really didn’t know what to expect, but I always thought in my mind that God would be in the image of a man.    

Over the course of my childhood, I attended a few churches of various denominations – none regularly.  Sometimes I went alone but mostly I went with girlfriends.  I don’t remember looking for any particular “doctrine”; I was simply drawn to “going to church”, and finding out what God looked like. 

Years flew by and soon I found myself graduating from high school in 1956.  I had a best friend who was a Mormon, and she was planning to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.  She and I decided that it would be fun to be roommates, so, I asked my parents if I could attend BYU with my friend.  They replied that if I could save enough money, I could go.  I worked and save all during my senior year and the summer before I was to leave.  Finally, I had saved a whopping $500.  I could go!    

It was there at Brigham Young University that the Joseph Smith story sank deep into my heart.  When I heard that Joseph Smith, at the tender age of 14, actually saw a vision of the Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ, as two separate and distinct personages in the form of a man – my youthful questions were answered!  I knew without any doubt that this was right.  There was a special feeling that came into my heart that told me that this doctrine was true.  We were created in His image, so why would He look any different – except that he is an “exalted man”, and therefore, has a “glorified” image.  It is in Joseph Smith’s testimony that I learned of our relationship to our Heavenly Father and to His Son Jesus Christ.  He is the Father of our spirits, and Jesus Christ is His perfect and only begotten Son in the flesh.  Jesus came to earth to teach us how to live, and to redeem us from our sins through his infinite Atonement.  We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters.  Though we are eons away from perfection, we can become like Him -- that is Heavenly Father’s promise to His children.  

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “Mormons”) was restored to the earth in this last dispensation of time – as prophesied by ancient prophets – through the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith.  He was visited by Heavenly beings and given keys of the Priesthood in order to establish the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful to know where I came from, why I am here on Earth, and where I am going after I die.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Youth Mini-Mission Message: I Know for Myself

I  know for myself that the Savior lives.  When I was becoming a deacon, I prayed that I would know if the Savior really lives.  I went on a week-long camp out with the scouts shortly after turning 12.  We went on a 22-mile hike and we got lost and separated.  We ran out of water and we were all very thirsty.  One of my fellow scouts even had heat stroke.  We got lost and it was getting dark.  We said a prayer and right when we said "amen", I felt a strong feeling of peace and reassurance come over me.  That is when I knew for myself that God the Father lives, as does his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Heavenly Father's "Plan" for our eternal happiness

I was so pleased to get the call from Jenny last night that you are looking for some testimony about the Atonement, and its meaning in my life.  I will never forget how honored I felt when you came to visit me at my home, after Jenny's mission was completed.  It was indeed like the Osmonds rolling up in two vans, and all these people pouring out!  That is STILL the most people I have every fit in my house at one time!  A very memorable day!

Just coincidentally (NOT!) this has now become my FAVORITE season of the year.

On 09/25/12 (my best friend Lamb Johnson's birthday), I was stricken down in the parking lot of the Giant supermarket, here in Leesburg, VA.  They picked me up and rushed me to the hospital via ambulance, where it was discovered that I had a thoracic (ascending) aortic aneurysm on  the back side of my heart, and I had COPD  (Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disorder).  In other words, my heart and my lungs were shot.  Of course, I was also up to 350 pounds, drinking every day, and smoking 3 packs of cigarettes per day.

Well, I spent some time in the hospital, then they sent me home with an oxygen compressor and 42 miles of green plastic air tubing - where I remained on oxygen 24/7 for 14 months.  During this time I also quit smoking (of COURSE!), quit drinking (not as much fun without smoking), and lost 200 pounds!

Now enter (stage left) the missionary sisters from the LDS Church!  I met Sister Raquelle Kraemer and Sister Cassidee Steadman on Sat 03/01/14 at my aforementioned friend Lambie's house.  I had been going to visit Lamb on Saturday mornings at 10:00 A.M. for years and years, ever since she became house-bound.  And then the Sisters started showing up in MY time slot.  At first, I would leave, in order to give them some privacy.  Then I started hanging around for the message they delivered.  And by Wed 03/12/14 (2 weeks later), the Sisters were coming to my house regularly every Wed at 2:00.  And then on Wed 03/26/14 (2 weeks after THAT), Sister Jenny Lee Olson (now Harmon) entered the picture - and changed my life FOREVER!  And they read me the story of Joseph Smith in the grove of trees and showed me the painting of this in the Restoration booklet - and I CRIED.  And they read me Mosiah 18, and asked me if I believed in this Restoration (which I did enthusiastically) - and I CRIED.  "What have you against being Baptized?"  "And they clapped their hands for joy, and said 'this be the desire of our hearts!"  This is my favorite scripture of all time.

Then the Cummings Family in our Leesburg Ward invited me to the annual Easter pageant at the Visitors' Center of the Washington DC Temple.  And it was a "done deal" - I wanted to be baptized.  The musical was so moving, the message of the Atonement was so powerful, and all the love in that theater was so strong that I was READY.  This was the most moving and meaningful Easter season I had had in 59 years!  On the way out, Sister Olson said to me, "Sue what day do you want to be baptized?"  And I was "waffling" due to fear of telling my father -a life-long and very active Presbyterian (in which church I grew up).  Sister Olson told me to pray to Heavenly Father about what to do.  The next morning, my Dad called ME from Florida, and I told him I wanted to be baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  My Dad's response stunned me:  He said "Oh Sue, I am so happy you have finally found your church.  I have been so worried about you.  Now you go out and be the BEST MORMON you can possibly be!"  So that's what I'm doing.  AND I HAD BEEN AFRAID TO TELL HIM.  Our Heavenly Father truly does answer prayers!!!  (FYI:  My Dad also said he "never met a Mormon he didn't like!"  Apparently he was buddies with Steven Covey at Harvard.)

And I started waking up every morning with hymns ringing in my head, such as #120 "Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Ahhhh-le-lu-yah!" I do not know how this song got in my head!  An Atonement song if there ever was one!  And I will never ever forget that the Sisters and I were singing the "Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah" in the changing room after I came out of the water at my Baptism on Sat 03/15/14.  Me and the Sisters - singing at the top of our lungs!  A day that shall go down in infamy.

Flash forward to current day, Tue 03/24/15:
I just went back Sun 03/22/15 to my second Easter Pageant with the Cummings family (I think they have 13 children - 2 in the performance. They're like the Von Trapp Family Singers from "Sound of Music").  And the Atonement message was even stronger, the second time around.  EVERYONE in the audience was crying.

I have eternal gratitude to Heavenly Father's "Plan" for our eternal happiness.  I know that he has been working on me for a long, long time.  And then all the pieces came together - the health crises, my recovery and return to healthy living as the Word of Wisdom prescribes, and meeting the Sisters at Lambie's house.  Coincidence?  I think not.

And in the past year I have gone to Youth Trek and helped cook and serve food to the kids participating, served at Bishop's Warehouse - which was ALSO a workout but very fulfilling. I have joined the church choir, I have completed my Temple Preparation classes, I have been called as a Family History Consultant, I have also been called as the Relief Society pianist, and most recently I have been called as a Sunday School Teacher for the 16-year-olds, as well.  I have become active in Relief Society service, Visiting Teaching, and Home Teaching.  And the more I do, the more I WANT to do.  This is the happiest I have ever been in my entire life - and I owe it ALL to Jesus Christ and his Atonement for all our sins.  I have finally forgiven myself for all my wrongs, and work hard every day to be a better person, and more Christ-like.

And the icing on the cake?  I have met a fine LDS man (working at "Zion's Market, no less!), and fallen in love,  This is the man I have been waiting for my entire life - for 60 years!!!  There ARE no better men than LDS men.  And as my Dad said - Mormons are the BEST people in the world.

I believe in the Book of Mormon.  I believe in the restored Gospel made possible through Joseph Smith.  I believe Jesus Christ is indeed the Son of God, and our Lord and Savior, and so grateful for the Atonement.  And I believe in His living prophets who walk the earth today.  (Which totally blew my mind when Olson first told me!)  I believe all of this with every fiber of my being.  This is the way Heavenly Father wants us to live.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Youth Mini-Mission Message: Mission Ready

My ward is doing mini-missions.  I think it's really cool that we're doing this because it's preparing me for my real mission.  Sleeping over and talking with my companion about the lesson and preparing it is just like preparing to teach non-members.  I'm really feeling the spirit throughout this mini mission.  

I'd like to bear my testimony. I know the church is true and that Joseph Smith was a real prophet who restored  the church to the earth.  I know the importance of serving a mission and that it will help other people in their lives and the lives to come in heaven.  I know that the words of God are spoken through the prophet and that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost love everyone one on earth.  I say this in the name of Jesus Christ.

C.H. 10th Ward youth member (blog post submitted by anonymous)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Heavenly Mathematics and its Effect on the Mortal Condition

In this world, too many seem to get caught up with temporal mathematics in describing and formulating how to address many of the temporal conditions we find ourselves in. In so doing, they rely on supposition and theory as to what the problem is, then go on to create mathematical or computer models to come up with viable solutions.

Too often, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, as so much of the approach to the issue is centered on different and competing objectives or desired outcomes. Some honestly seek truth and have a deep desire to improve the human condition, while others may seek to enrich themselves by riding the wave of popular consensus for their own power, popularity, and gain.

I have watched in wonder, for example, the debate on global warming, who or what is responsible and how to address it, assuming that it is a bad thing or that it bodes ill for humanity. The conflicting views are not always debated with the intent to seek truth, but to either gain some advantage or to seek to control the habits of others.

Too often, those who oppose the theory, in vogue at the time, are seen as heretics of a sort and their points of view are, therefore, dismissed out of hand, without serious consideration. Labels are thrown around such as global warming fanatics, or deniers, depending on which side of the issue one is on.

In all of this confusion and uproar, I wonder why so few have attempted to apply heavenly mathematics to address issues of concern about the mortal condition we find ourselves in?

We know that temporal mathematics, when appropriately applied, can help us to discover truth and help us arrive at solutions, which are true and accurate. Temporal mathematics, however, does have what are called unknown factors. Frequently, we label these as “X”. Some problems elude solution because we do not know enough about the unknown factors.

Here is where heavenly mathematics comes to the rescue, for this is a more exact science and it is, as Elder Maxwell states, “things as they really are.”

Take for example the issue of global climate change, considered to bode ill for humanity. The Lord has by direct revelation and commentary told us how to adjust the environment and climate for our good, thus mitigating any hazardous effects we may face.

The Lord states in Malachi 3:10-11 (and repeated in 3 Nephi 24:10-11) “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for you sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.” This sounds like a conditional blessing that will provide ample agricultural production.

In 2 Nephi 1:9 (and reiterated in Jarom, Mosiah, and Alma) the Lord states: “And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of the land…and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and shall dwell safely forever.” This sounds like a solution to terrorists and other calamities we currently face.

We have some real life examples in the scriptures of this promise, but none greater than that found in 4 Nephi 1:23 …”and that they had become exceedingly rich, because of their prosperity in Christ.”

During this approximate 200-year era in Nephite history, the people multiplied, prospered and had such abundance beyond compare, but more important is that they did “have no poor among them” and they did  “deal justly one with other” and “there could not have been a happier people upon the face of the earth”.

We are also told in the scriptures that “the whole earth groans under the weight of iniquity” and immorality of mankind. Perhaps this is a greater contributor to adverse climate conditions than we suppose. In fact, there are countless examples of how the earth and its climate are directly impacted by how we live our lives.

One could go on and on with example after example of how well heavenly mathematics solves our greatest problems, subdues the earth, tempers the climate and is made conducive to our well being and happiness, but even in heavenly mathematics there is an “unknown factor”.

The unknown factor, which is not unknown to God, for “He knows all things” but is sometimes unknown to us, is what we will choose and how we will decide to live our lives each and every day.

It is an eternal principle that when we behave, as God would have us behave and live as we have been counseled, we will be blessed. When we seek to obey some other voice, we will not do as well, will be “left to ourselves” and place ourselves at the mercy of the effects of broken eternal laws.

In both temporal and heavenly mathematics there are, however, some constants, which never vary.

The constant in heavenly mathematics is that our well being and that of those we live among, is directly proportional to our degree of obedience to heavenly laws and our righteousness.

So, what should our goal be, how can we best assist the human condition? I believe the answer lies in the account of Abraham and the Lord, debating the future of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In the Genesis account, we find Abraham asking “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” He and the Lord then go on to whittle down the number of righteous that it will take to tip the scales in favor of sparing the cities. They go from “per adventure there be 50” all the way down to 10 where the Lord states that “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.”

Like the leaven in one of the Lord’s parables, and the salt that has not lost its savor, I would submit that if we do all we can to follow the Lord, follow his example and his counsel, we would contribute to the welfare of all. In so doing, It just may be that our contribution will help to increase the number of those that  are needed to “per adventure” there be sufficient in the city, enough to spare the population from the ill effects of our environment or any other calamity.

Ron Forstner

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter: Receiving Forgiveness As We Forgive

About a week ago I had a lapse of self control and I did something irresponsible. The result was that I physically hurt a friend and let down 2 others. I was deeply disturbed by what I had done, and by how easily the frustration came that precipitated the incident. I was sad that the hobby we were engaged in seemed like it would never be enjoyable again. I felt guilt that I had ruined a trip for others.

But as my feelings subside, I start to appreciate what miracles we saw and I see now. Millimeters variance could have made the injury devastating and permanent. It does not look like it will be. We obtained specialist medical help after working hours, against all reasonable expectation. Prayer and priesthood administration even reduced the severity of the injury from the time it was sustained to when we got first treatment.

What has most pressed on my feelings is how the people involved responded. Forgiveness was extended, and brotherly concern for both the injured and myself. As we think about Easter and what Jesus Christ did for us, I invite you to think about this: His atonement is not only abundant in tender mercies, but can be expressed through people who are willing to follow a Christlike pattern.

Mark R.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My Perfect Example

I know that because He lives and is here with me, I have been able to survive and stay happy in my trial filled adult life. I love my Savior and I am so thankful for His beautiful gift of the atonement. Not only for my sins but for my hurts, my sorrows, my sicknesses, and my agonies. He is my perfect example. I'm just trying to be like Jesus. It's all good BECAUSE HE LIVES!

Melanie Clark