R is for Remember

When I was in Junior High School I became friends with a Mormon for the first time. As she shared with me her beliefs, I knew something was missing in my own spiritual life, as I had no such convictions concerning my religion. My friend felt unprepared to answer my many questions, so she arranged for the missionaries to teach me.

As I listened to the missionaries, the things they taught sounded so familiar to me. It was what I already believed in my heart, even if it wasn’t sustained by Catholic doctrine. My sister thought I was getting too carried away and brought me literature on Catholicism to counteract all the Mormon doctrine I was consuming. She asked that I talk to our Catholic priest before I did anything rash. I made appointments and visited with him a couple times, but was disappointed in his responses to my queries. He said these things were a mystery, which we must take on faith. I didn’t understand why I should take something on faith when the Mormons had logical answers that resonated with me. I was reading the Book of Mormon, and attending the Mormon Church, all the while praying to know whether the Book of Mormon was true and whether Joseph Smith was a prophet. After school each day I would walk up into the fields behind our house and pray for a manifestation, an answer to prayer like Joseph received. Each time I was disappointed.

But it was all so logically true! My mind had a testimony of it; I was just waiting for my heart and soul to know. It didn’t come in a flash of light or a clap of thunder, but slowly I was doubting less and less until I couldn’t explain why, but I felt it must be true. When the missionaries challenged me to be baptised I said, “yes.” I had almost finished the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith’s story had touched my heart. One last time I went to the priest to tell him of my decision to join the Mormon Church.

“You know, of course, that you are joining a pagan religion, don’t you?”

“Pagan?! That’s not true! The church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! We know that Jesus is the Son of God and we know that He is our Savior and Redeemer! There is a prophet at the head of the church who receives revelation from Jesus Christ…” A short phone call for the opinion of another priest and he was convinced that he was right. But I didn’t care what he said at that point. I had heard myself aligning with the Mormons and testifying that “We know…” I knew. When I said those words, the Spirit filled me with joy–a physical burning in the center of my being I couldn’t deny– and I knew what I had to do. I left his office with these parting words calling after me, “We will always consider you one of the lost sheep and you can return to the fold at any time,” but I was floating on a cloud of happiness. I grabbed my sister, who was waiting for me in the parking lot of the Catholic church and said, “It’s true, I know that it’s really true!”

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Catholic Church where I first received a witness that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true

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Q is for Question

This post is based on a video of Elder Larry Lawrence talking about the scripture story of the rich young man who approached Jesus and asked, “What lack I yet?” Elder Lawrence suggests that each of us can and should ask this same question and thereby receive personal revelation as to what we need to do to grow and progress and become more like our Heavenly Father–reaching our truest potential. One woman put this to the test and bravely asked the question: “What do I need to change?” and the Spirit whispered to her, “Don’t interrupt people when they are talking.” The Holy Ghost really does give customized counsel. He is a completely honest companion and will tell us things that no one else knows or has the courage to say.

A perfect time to ask, “What lack I yet?” is when we take the sacrament. The Apostle Paul taught that this is a time for each of us to examine ourselves.In this reverent atmosphere, as our thoughts are turned heavenward, the Lord can gently tell us what we need to work on next.

Elder Lawrence suggests that each of us participate in a spiritual exercise sometime soon, perhaps even tonight while saying your prayers. Humbly ask the Lord the following question: “What is keeping me from progressing?” In other words: “What lack I yet?” Then wait quietly for a response. If you are sincere, the answer will soon become clear. It will be revelation intended just for you.*

President Spencer W. Kimball said: “I have learned that where there is a prayerful heart, a hungering after righteousness, a forsaking of sins, and obedience to the commandments of God, the Lord pours out more and more light until there is finally power to pierce the heavenly veil. … A person of such righteousness has the priceless promise that one day he shall see the Lord’s face and know that he is.”

Be Bold! Ask God for help with the things you need! Be humble and seek to change, grow and improve. As we exercise faith, even if we have only a desire to believe, (Alma 32:27-43) plant that seed of faith and see where it takes you. I know that good things will happen to those who reach out their hand to the Hand of God, which is ever extended out to us.

As I shared with you some sacred and personal examples of my faith this month, you may have noticed that some were more dramatic and spectacular than others. The Spirit speaks to and enlightens us in various ways and intensity depending on the need and circumstances.

But in the words of David Bednar, a current apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and an especial witness:

As you appropriately seek for and apply unto the spirit of revelation, I promise you will “walk in the light of the Lord”  Isaiah 2:5  2 Nephi 12:5 Sometimes the spirit of revelation will operate immediately and intensely, other times subtly and gradually, and often so delicately you may not even consciously recognize it. But regardless of the pattern whereby this blessing is received, the light it provides will illuminate and enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding (see  Alma 5:7  32:28 and direct and protect you and your family. (The Spirit of Revelation, David A Bednar, Conference Talk, April 2011)

Christ and the rich young ruler by Heinrich Hofmann, 1888

Christ and the rich young ruler by Heinrich Hofmann, 1888

[*The first time I did this, I got the message to stop finishing people’s sentences for them…]

 

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P is for Purple Shirts

The following is taken from an email I received from one of my former seminary students who recently returned from her mission to Canada. It is not only an example of how God hears and answers our prayers, but that he also has a great sense of humor!

“Some of the missionaries in our District were discouraged at not finding anyone to teach, and in their companion study and prayer, resolved to ask for help and guidance. One of the elders prayed, “Help us to place a Book of Mormon today, and…just so we can recognize that person who is prepared to receive the gospel, please have him wear a purple shirt!”

They then went out tracting, and the first person to answer the door was in a purple shirt! But…he was not interested. They continued knocking on doors down the street and every single person was in a purple shirt. After about eight unfruitful houses they knocked on a door and the purple shirt-clad person invited them in and listened to their message.  Heavenly Father must have a really good sense of humor, but a more important lesson is that He will always answer our prayers for help in sharing His gospel message. The question is, do we have the faith to keep seeking for our prepared “purple shirt” when our first attempts disappoint?

In the Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 we read of the Lord’s promise to those who serve Him:

For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up.

I have felt His Spirit in my heart, and I know His angels are round about me, bearing me up and helping me to accomplish His purposes.”

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O is for “O, My Father”

Music can inspire and uplift us. Works such as The Messiah, by Handel, are a testament to the power of inspirational music. Sometimes, music can teach us…In this hymn written by early Mormon pioneer and Church leader, Eliza R. Snow, is found the doctrine of Heavenly Parents–that we are literally the spirit children of a Father and a Mother in Heaven.

As I read/sing this hymn, I feel that this message is truth. It reminds me of when I first heard the doctrines of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ taught to me by missionaries [stay tuned…coming up in my R post]–it is what I believed in my heart and soul outside of that taught by any organized religion I had known up to that time.

O My Father Lyrics

Text: Eliza R. Snow, 1804–1887
Music: James McGranahan, 1840–1907
  1.  O my Father, thou that dwellest
    In the high and glorious place,
    When shall I regain thy presence
    And again behold thy face?
    In thy holy habitation,
    Did my spirit once reside?
    In my first primeval childhood
    Was I nurtured near thy side?
  2.  For a wise and glorious purpose
    Thou hast placed me here on earth
    And withheld the recollection
    Of my former friends and birth;
    Yet ofttimes a secret something
    Whispered, “You’re a stranger here,”
    And I felt that I had wandered
    From a more exalted sphere.
  3. I had learned to call thee Father,
    Thru thy Spirit from on high,
    But, until the key of knowledge
    Was restored, I knew not why.
    In the heav’ns are parents single?
    No, the thought makes reason stare!
    Truth is reason; truth eternal
    Tells me I’ve a mother there.
  4. When I leave this frail existence,
    When I lay this mortal by,
    Father, Mother, may I meet you
    In your royal courts on high?
    Then, at length, when I’ve completed
    All you sent me forth to do,
    With your mutual approbation
    Let me come and dwell with you.
    Screen Shot 2018-03-11 at 10.13.19 PM

 

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N is for Neon

This is an experience my mother had, early on in our journey in the LDS Church. She had taken my sister out to Utah to attend BYU and then went on to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to look up some genealogy information for me.  She had been looking unsuccessfully for quite a while, getting motion sickness from the microfilm readers (a family curse!) She said a prayer for help and immediately she saw as if in neon lettering, the words: VERMONT! VERMONT! VERMONT! flashing in her mind. She had been looking in Massachusetts and now realized that these people had originated in Vermont. She went to the Vermont stacks where she found all the people she had been looking for.

AlexHaley

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M is for Master’s Degree

In 2002 I began a Masters in Library Science program. Contrary to what one might think, this did not just entail reading a bunch of books and memorizing the Dewey Decimal System!  I felt very inadequate at times as I went through the classes. Especially difficult for me was one particular technology class. We had an assignment that I could barely comprehend the question let alone write up a cogent paper on it. I prayed frequently over it and as I moved forward trying to do the work, I found I was actually writing something down…The suggested length was two pages, but after one page I couldn’t think of anything more to say and turned it in. It was graded 10/10 with glowing comments of “Excellent! Very concise wording!” The Holy Ghost not only enlightened my mind, but virtually wrote the paper for me. When I re-read what I had written, I barely understood what it said myself!

Not long after the above experience, my son called me, very stressed out about his classes at school. He wasn’t understanding the assignment. I testified to him of my similar experiences with my Masters program and not understanding the assignment, but after doing all I could do and then praying for help, I was able to finish the assignments and actually get good grades. I talked to him a few days later and he said he was working on it and did understand things better now after seeking the Lord’s help.

I learned several things from this–one, sometimes we have to go through things that seem difficult at the time, and we don’t understand why we have to endure them, but these things give us experience, and puts us in a position to be able to help others who are experiencing similar trials.

I also see this now as an example of OYM. In the mission field, the missionaries would go out on the street looking for someone, anyone, who might be interested in their message. It is a scary and difficult thing to approach strangers and ask if they might be interested in your message of salvation, but if you just open your mouth, the Lord promises to fill it. The missionaries would say, “We were out OYMing and found this wonderful lady who invited us in to teach her!” Doing my paper was like that. All I had to do was try–open my pen, so to speak, and the Lord did the rest.

syracuse university

Syracuse University, my Alma Mater

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L is for Lost

Today’s post is a guest blogger, my daughter. I’ve asked her to tell her story in her own words. This is a testimony not only to the power of prayer, but of having a real, personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. 

 

It’s Tuesday, and I realize my wallet has been missing for a week. I’ve spent the day searching every nook and cranny, including dismantling the bed, mattress, and box spring, looking in the refrigerator and freezer (after tearing the car, van, couches, and rest of the house apart.) It is nowhere in the house or garage or car. I had retraced my steps, viewed all my transactions to see if any were fraudulent in the past week, and to try and figure out where it could be. I call all the 5 stores I had shopped at the Wednesday before to prepare for our trip. No one had it.

Wednesday, depressingly, yet also emotionlessly I go through the motions as I spend the day deep cleaning my house to see if it could be hidden under the pile of crumbs on the floor, because I can’t look for it any more. There was nowhere else to look. I had to stop thinking about it or I would go mad. I decided I wouldn’t replace all of it. I had just done that when it had been stolen at Christmas, and it was a nightmare. I decided I would just not ever go to the temple, get pulled over, go to the doctor, or buy anything ever again. I would live simply. Minimalistically. I didn’t need a wallet or the billion things it contained. My husband had put a lock on all the cards so they couldn’t be used, not wanting to cancel them in case it showed up.

This had happened in college years before. I had lost my wallet 5 times in less than a week. I had prayed about it at varying points of searching and found it each time after praying. The last time, I didn’t have time to mess around. I had already determined that Heavenly Father was messing with me, hiding it and seeing how long each time it would take me to ask for it back. I had a test in the testing center that would close shortly and I needed my Student ID card to take it. I knelt down immediately and said a somewhat sacrilegious prayer, “I know you know where it is. Can I have it back now please.” I opened my eyes and at eye level it was there, stuck between the mattress and box spring, which was on a frame that was raised on cinder blocks. That isn’t a place it just “falls” or is left. It was put there.

Now, I wasn’t going to ask where it was any more. He had taken it to prove a point, and I was too fuming mad and stubborn to play along. I had prayed for inspiration the first day, and clearly He was wanting something more than that, because He hadn’t revealed it yet. We were at a stalemate. I was confident it wasn’t stolen, but that it was hidden, again, and would eventually be returned, but I wasn’t going to give in to negotiations quite yet, because I was not in the mood.

That was last night.

This morning I didn’t look for the wallet. I didn’t pray about it. I did, however spend the morning trying to figure out in my own mind what it was that I was supposed to be learning or gaining from this withholding. Clearly He wanted me to stop doing something or start doing something that I hadn’t been doing, step it up, and be better. I wasn’t ready to start making promises or negotiations, quite yet, but I was going through the list in my mind. Should I tell Him I will start praying or reading scriptures more? Should I give up that one vice that still has a nagging hold on me? What was it that He wanted for this particular test? Should I do them one at a time, as kind of a trial and error elimination exercise? Or all at once and hedge my bets?

I realize it is getting late in the day and I need to put the garbage cans out, or they will be missed when the trucks come to pick them up.

After returning to the garage, I walk past the recycle container. I have a random urge to quickly and sneakily pull down the side of the Bosch Tool Bag on the workbench, the way Maria, from “The Sound of Music” pulled the sheet off of a bed quickly to see if there were any spiders in her bed, finding nothing there, sighs with relief. Though it all happens in an instant, I have a split-second thought of what if it is in there, but part of me knows that would be absurd and I will just be disappointed. In one quick motion my hand is on the bag, pulling it open.

There it is. Inside the tool bag is the shining silver wallet, containing no less than 40 cards that I no longer have to debate whether or not I will replace. I come inside and kneel on the floor by the couch and bow my head, and say a prayer of gratitude…not only for its return, and the stress and hassle it will eliminate, but for having confidence in me to not wait until I had signed a contractual agreement written in blood that I would do what He wanted me to do before relieving my suffering. I had heard Him, and He knew it. And like I always try to explain to my daughter, any parent that punishes a child, doesn’t do it of malice or to be mean. It is to try and change behavior, to get that child to wake up, pay attention, and not be satisfied with lukewarm, when the bar has been set so much higher, and they know what you are capable. It is to get that child to do better. Be better. To rise to their true potential. Here is to self improvement.

And as I stated in my Theme Reveal, this is how faith is transmitted from generation to generation. This same daughter shares an experience with her daughter…

13_Carousel Porter Park Park - Rexburg Idaho

My daughter, age 4, misplaced her pink purse containing her ticket to the carrousel for the past few days. This would not have been so sad, seeing we only go once a week anyway, but this was the last week to ride the carrousel for the summer before they closed it down for the year. She had two rides left on her ticket that we had already paid for, that would have gone unused if we didn’t find it in time. Having searched everywhere as a family for two days (we were also looking for “The Hiding Place” because that too was misplaced only pages before being done reading it) we turned up empty handed. Exhausted of possibilities, she and I prayed to find it. Later in the afternoon I had the feeling to crawl around on the floor in her room. Looking under the bed, the changing table/dresser, and crib I didn’t see it. Then glancing across the room into the open closet, I saw it just laying on the floor by the basket of swimming things. I called her in to tell her the good news, Heavenly Father had shown me where her purse was. She was so excited.

“Why Heavenly Father help you find my purse? Cause Him kind?”

“And he loves us and wants to help us.”

“Him good at finding things.”

“Yep He knows where everything is and we just need to ask for his help to see it.”

“Him help me find it I can’t see it! HIM KIND!”

Kneeling down to say a prayer of thanks, we told our Heavenly Father how grateful we are for his loving kindness and asked Him to help us find my book, too. I was grateful for this opportunity to bear my testimony of prayer and Heavenly Father’s love and watchful eye over us. He has helped me countless times to find things in answer to prayer.

Finding it with only an hour before the last carrousel ride started (they only go every 15 minutes) we hurriedly got ready to go. I asked Renee to find her shoes and put them on. Sitting in the entryway by the pile of shoes, she said she wanted Heavenly Father to help her find them. I told her they were right behind her on the floor and she got very upset at my usurping His power, yelling at me not to help her, that she wanted to say a prayer. I explained that it is after all that we can do that we ask for His help. We can’t be lazy and just expect Him to hand us everything, we have to try first. I am not quite sure she got that concept, but we put on her shoes together and hopped on the bike to ride for our very last special ride together.

 

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K is for kids

Nothing is more precious to us than our children. There are so many dangers and evils in the world to worry about, it is a huge job keeping our kids safe. Guess what? We can’t do it alone. No one can. We can’t be with our children 24/7, so it is imperative that we seek the help of our children’s Heavenly Father to watch over them as well. After all, they were his spirit children before they were ours…

We had recently moved to a new area, which was a short distance from a State Penitentiary. We endured a fearful few weeks when we learned that a prisoner from said penitentiary had escaped.  I was filled with dread for the safety of my children. I couldn’t have them out of my sight for an instant. We had a fenced-in backyard, but that was only high enough to keep the kids in, not a bad guy out. I had to walk the kids back and forth to school.  I was living in fear and anxiety constantly. After a few days of this, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I knelt down by my bed and pleaded, “God, take this burden of fear away. Let me know that YOU are watching over my children when I can not. Keep them safe and help me to feel Thy peace.” Immediately I felt warm from my head to my feet. I was calm and filled with peace. I knew God heard my heartfelt prayer and had answered, that yes, He would be there to watch over and protect my children always.

The prisoner was captured after a couple weeks, but I know there will always be dangers out there–threats to our safety. I have faith in Heavenly Father’s assurances. All things are in His hands.

92Christmas&Palmyra

 

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J is for Joseph Smith

Randy Hayes, a professor of Religion at Brigham Young University-Idaho, was studying Jewish history and learned of a Jewish prophetic tradition recounting one Joseph ben Joseph (Joseph, son of Joseph) who would come and prepare the way for the Messiah. In the 15th century, a man named Shabbetai Zevi claimed to be the Messiah and had quite a following. One rabbi, Nehemiah Hacohen, didn’t accept this claim and confronted him, saying, “You cannot be the Messiah, for we know that Joseph ben Joseph must come first before the Messiah comes; and he must be killed and then the Messiah will come.”

Soon after learning of this traditional story, Randy was on a flight from Jerusalem with 15 of his BYU Study Abroad students. His seatmate was a rabbi. Randy asked him about the story of Joseph ben Joseph and the rabbi was astonished that Randy, a Mormon, would know about that (they had, of course, been talking religion.) Randy hesitated a moment and then it was like a light going on for the rabbi, “Wait a minute! You think that Joseph Smith is Joseph ben Joseph…!”

I know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and the Church he established is truly the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, with all the ordinances, covenants doctrines and teachings that will help us to know and understand the true nature of God and be able to return to Him after this life.  In restoring Christ’s Church in the latter-days, Joseph Smith (son of Joseph Smith, Sr.) fulfills this rabbinic prophecy of preparing the way for the Messiah’s (Second) Coming. 


What do you know about Joseph Smith?

The Prophet Joseph Smith, by Alvin Gittins

The Prophet Joseph Smith, by Alvin Gittins

For further reading:

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/3?lang=eng [prophecy of Joseph, son of Joseph in the Book of Mormon]

[Randy Hayes webcast]

More about Randy Hayes http://byuiscroll.org/professor-called-mission-president/

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I is for Inspiration

Here are a few random experiences of receiving inspiration from the Spirit:

  1. I had lost a library book that I wanted to read to my younger daughter. I looked everywhere then I prayed about it and felt impressed to ask my oldest daughter. She knew exactly where it was–under a pile of papers in her sister’s top right dresser drawer. 
  2. I’ve been watching the neighbor’s pets while they are out of town. I was heading over about 9 at night when I couldn’t find their house key. I thought I’d left it on the hall tree but have had nightmares of locking it inside their house accidently and figured that’s what I had done. I was debating whether to call a locksmith or call the neighbors in Arkansas to see if they’d given anyone a spare key or could mail me one overnight express…Then my daughter asked me if I’d prayed about it…I did, but didn’t feel any impressions. Evidently, my daughter then prayed also. She asked me to ask her sister–she felt she would know. Just then said sister walked in from being out with friends. She had the key! She’d taken it thinking it was one of our house keys.
  3. Today we had an extraordinary answer to prayer. We were on our way out the door to go to the base for me to do Story Time and my companion couldn’t find his ID card. 15-20 minutes of looking and still no card. Now we were going to be late even if we found it immediately, so I called and said I may not make it. Then my companion put his hands in his trouser pocket and there it was. He had looked in that pocket at least twice (it’s not a big pocket. Nothing else was in there. It definitely was not in the pocket earlier). After the initial 5 minutes of looking he had offered a quick prayer. After 20 minutes of looking, and fearing it had fallen out of his pocket at the store last night, he offered up a more fervent, pleading prayer. That’s when the thought came, “look in your pocket again.” And there it was. We jumped in the car and were only 3 minutes late–story time was awesome with 25 people attending this time!
  4. This one is from my mom’s experience: she and her brother had gone to Florida to bring their sister, Dolores back, who was having another mental health set-back. No one would or could take responsibility for her and left the decision up to my mom. She prayed about putting her in a hospital in Boston and received the definite “burning in her bosom.” [see D&C 9:7-9 for more on this method of receiving the Spirit.] Suspecting heartburn, she prayed two more times and each time felt the burning. She went ahead with the decision which proved to be best for her sister, as she was diagnosed properly and put on a more effective medication as a result.
Version 2

A favorite picture of Mom with me and my firstborn–her first grandchild

 

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