Monday, April 12, 2021

Jen Seminary Sharing

 When I was in high school, I made a good friend whose name was also Jennifer.  She went by Jen and I went by Jenny.  Jen had a bit of a rough family life.  She spent a fair amount of time at my house and became interested in the church.  She ended up attending early morning seminary and would go to church and activities with me.  She took the missionary lessons at my house and she got baptized.  She was really happy and I believe she really did come to have a testimony.  But then her family moved to Las Vegas.  I tried to keep in touch with her...but this was before cell phones or social media.  Most people didn't have email.  So that basically meant that for high school/college age kids, you wrote letters.  And we were busy.  So we did write, but not often.  Her family had no interest in the church and so it was hard to get to church living in Vegas.  And then she met a guy and started dating.  She married right out of high school, and years later I would learn that he was abusive to her.  We are friends on Facebook now and it is clear that she is not religious at all.  (I wish this story had a happier ending!)

Jen has had a hard life.  She is divorced.  She has health problems.  She has experienced a lot of really difficult circumstances.  I don't have all the answers, but as I have thought and wondered about whether sharing the gospel was the right thing and why did I feel like  I should share with her if it wasn't going to be a permanent change or if it wouldn't help prevent some of the hard things she has are the things I feel like I have learned.

Lessons Learned:

1.  We are successful in our missionary efforts when we open our mouths and share our beliefs, regardless of whether the person chooses to accept the gospel or not, regardless of whether they make a permanent change or not.

2.  Jen has told me (over social media) that I was a positive influence and a bright spot in her life in high school.  I helped make high school a positive place and a happy time in her life.  That alone is enough to make it worth it.  She said she always felt welcome and included in our home.

3.  Who knows?  Maybe that planted seeds that will grow sometime in the future...maybe not even in this life.  

4.  If nothing else, I loved her and genuine love matters.  

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Family Members' deaths

 Question 6:  Have any of your family members died? If so, what did they die from? What do you remember of their death, and what were the circumstances of their death?

As a child, I loved visiting my great grandma Della Hatton Young Erickson.  She was such an elegant, classy lady.  Her house was beautiful and spotless.  Her yard was perfectly manicured and was so lovely.  She has these ballerina figurines displayed that I absolutely loved.  I remember that we would play in her backyard and she would often offer us ice cream.  She bought ice cream in the rectangular cartons and when she served ice cream, rather than using a scoop, she would take a knife and cut a thin rectangle of ice cream--it seemed so unusual and also such a large amount of ice cream!  She died in 1992, when I was a sophomore in high school.  She was 87, and while I am not certain of the exact cause of death, she had lived a long full life.  

My grandma Faye Morris Neff passed away in 2010.  I was married with children.  My children don't really remember her--Michelle was 7 when she died and Gabby was only 2.  She was in a car accident which caused her to lose her eye and broke bones and bruised her badly.  She survived and after time in the hospital and in rehab, she came back home.  Then she had a fall and broke her hip (I believe) and she didn't recover.  She was nearly 86.

My grandpa Reed Gordon Bills had diabetes for years.  He also had a bad knee; he had been injured while fighting in WWII.  When he was in his early 80's, he had knee surgery and he struggled to recover.  He was put into an assisted living facility with my grandma and we thought he didn't have long to live.  However, the assisted living facility managed his diabetes and his health improved significantly.  He'd received a blessing that he would live to age 90 and he did.  He lived about a month after he turned 90.  I went to visit him (by that point he was in a nursing home in Provo) and he was frail and didn't wake while I was there.  He passed away while I was driving home.  He had dementia along with diabetes.  

My grandma Marjorie Young Bills lived to be 87.  She also suffered from dementia.  One of the last times I visited her, she thought my children were my cousins and that the nurse was her son. She was trapped back in times past, thinking her children were young adults with young children.  

My grandpa Franklin Floyd Neff passed away a year and a half ago.  He was nearly 96.  My grandpa was a very quiet and gentle man, a man of few words.  I know that over the last couple of years of his life, his health was deteriorating.  He had always been thin and he grew even thinner.  He developed allergies to several foods and he didn't have many teeth so eating became difficult.  I think it was probably a relief for him to pass and be reunited with my grandma and with his parents and many of his siblings and so many others he had known.  

I have been immeasurably blessed by each of these grandparents and their influences in my life.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Stuck New York

 Ella and I went to upstate New York for her 12th birthday trip.  We used buddy passes to fly there.  After our trip, we flew from Buffalo, New York to Boston.  And then we got stuck.   We sat in the airport all day because there was a chance we would make it on a later flight.  It wasn't fun.  Ultimately, we got stuck there until the next day at 7 PM so we got a hotel and got to see a bit of Boston the next day (that was a bright spot for me though Ella just wanted to get home!)  

Today in Young Women's we read 2 Nephi 9:6-16 and as we read in verse 6 and 9 about being cut off  or shut out from the presence of our God, I was reminded of that experience.  We were tired and weary and wanted to go home. But even more so, we were away from our loved ones.  We wanted to be reunited with them.  We were so eager and grateful to return to them.   A veil has been drawn over our memories, but I am certain that if we could remember how sweet our relationship was with our Savior and our Heavenly Parents, we would be even more eager to return to be with them.  I can think of nothing more awful than being shut out from the presence of God eternally and to be eternally separated from all those we hold dear.  I'm so grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ that allows me to repent and that overcomes both death and hell so that I can be joyfully reunited with my Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother and Savior as well as all those on Earth that I have loved and lost for awhile.  

One of my favorite quotes is this quote from President Benson:  Nothing will surprise us more than when we get to heaven and see the Father and realize how well we know Him and how familiar His face is to us.”

How grateful I am for a plan that allows us to be reunited with Him!!


We don't have to be "cut off" forever from the presence of God.

Death doesn't have to be the end.

We want to be reunited with those we love.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Armor loins chastity

 This past week we read D&C 27 and 28.  Section 27 contains verses describing the armor of God.  I love these verses, and I loved pondering their meaning and discussing them this week.  But this verse 16 really struck me.

"Having your loins girt about with truth"...I have seen several social media posts lately--by active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-- that have made comments about how virtue is uncomfortable to discuss and too often associated only with chastity.  And while I absolutely agree that there is more to modesty than just wearing appropriate clothing and there is more to virtue than just being chaste, both of these concepts are important and they are both doctrinal and they NEED to be taught.  I don't fully understand why we want to avoid teaching this law.  I'm sure my thoughts are jumbled a bit, but here's what I'm thinking.

*First, this is an important law.  It's a temple recommend question and a covenant we promise to obey.  I remember when one of my girls went for their very first temple recommend interview, they came out after and were a bit upset with me.  They were asked if they obeyed the law of chastity and they didn't know what that meant.  Now to be fair--we had had discussions about intimacy--I just hadn't used that label.  But I had not fully prepared my child for that interview and she was embarrassed that she didn't know what that meant.

*Some will say that this law should be taught in our homes.  And I agree.  It should be taught in our homes first and foremost.  But I assert that this is not enough. First, there are families that don't discuss it.  Or discuss it very little.  And that's a problem.  But also--especially as they become teens--our children need to hear church doctrine taught and testified to by multiple people.  They need to hear from people that this law has value and will bless their lives and they need to hear it from more than just their parents.

*SOOO many of the world's problems would be solved if we ALL lived the law of chastity.  Many divorces would be avoided.  Most abortions would no longer take place.  Teenage pregnancy and pregnancy out of wedlock wouldn't occur.  Many family's financial situations would be better.  Rape, sexual assault, sex trafficking would not exist.  Now I'm not naive and I know that we aren't going to inhabit a world where these things don't exist until after the Savior comes...but this should be the type of world that members of the church want..and it is only possible if we are teaching and living the law of chastity.

*I suspect that people don't want to discuss it because it is uncomfortable, it's an unpopular belief and many have been harmed by others' sexual sins or feel guilt or shame about their own sexual sins. It is not an easy topic to discuss and it has sometimes been taught poorly.  I know that poor teaching has led some to feel that they can never be forgiven or that they no longer have worth.  I know that the world thinks it is a crazy idea to live the law of chastity and that intimacy is normal and natural and we should indulge in our carnal desires.  I know that far too many people have been hurt or experienced devastating sorrow through other people's choices.  This breaks my heart.  But it also makes me feel that it is ABSOLUTELY critical that we teach chastity.  

*President Packer said, “ “We need women with the gift of discernment who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous.”
 President Nelson said:  “ Today, let me add that we need women who know how to make important things happen by their faith and who are courageous defenders of morality and families in a sin-sick world. We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly.”

President Nelson also said, “ Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.” (see A Plea to My Sisters”, October 2015).  These quotes make me certain that I have a role to play in teaching truth and defending morality and chastity and the sanctity of marriage and family!  I am determined to do my part.

*As members of the Church, we should be willing to speak up and speak out in defense of truth!  We should be the examples for the rest of the world.

*I am not an expert on teaching intimacy but here are a few things I do know:

--In D&C 27:16 it says having your loins girt about with truth.  We read:  "“The Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls” (Jacob 4:13)  So truth is things as they really are and really will be.  So if we want to protect our loins (our chastity), then we need to teach and understand truth.  It's the only way to protect ourselves or to protect our children.  (Our children/posterity could also be another way to think of our loins.)  

--I think any discussion of intimacy and chastity needs to include discussion of the Atonement and repentance.  We need to be clear that repentance is always possible and that healing can come if we rely on the Savior and use the gift of His atonement.  We need to help our youth and children understand that repentance is a precious gift!!

--We need to place intimacy in the proper frame.  Intimacy is beautiful and it is proper and even sanctioned/commanded by God within the bounds of marriage.  Intimacy allows a husband and wife to become one in a very real way.  We need to be careful that our teaching of the law of chastity does not make youth think that it is dirty or evil or disgusting.

--That being said, we need to help them understand why intimacy should be reserved for marriage.  I think there are a multitude of reasons for this command.  I'm sure I am not addressing all of them and I absolutely think EVERYONE should read Elder Holland's BYU address Of Souls, Symbols and Sacraments because he addresses some of these ideas so much better than I can.  But here are a few reasons that I think intimacy is reserved for marriage:

1.  It provides a level of physical and emotional safety.  Because of the very nature of intimacy, participating in it outside of a committed, loving relationship can lead to emotional and physical danger.  You are almost certain to have your heart broken if you participate in intimacy outside of marriage.  You are in physical danger (disease, pregnancy, etc.)    I recognize that you can still have your heart broken or experience disease or other issues even if you live the law of chastity, but it does provide much protection.

2.  It can strengthen and  add beauty and a level of closeness to a marriage.  It's meant to unite and increase the feelings of love and trust and partnership in a marriage.  When you participate in intimacy, as Elder Holland explains, you are interacting with a person's soul.  That's serious and sacred.

3.  Of all His titles, God asks us to call Him Father.  His most precious role is as our dad.  His most precious ability is to procreate.  I think that should give us an idea of how important procreation is.  If God feels that giving life is THAT important then we should recognize that it is pretty important.  God is literally sharing a portion of His power with us.  We should recognize the sacredness of what we are doing and treat it as such.

4.  The adversary doesn't have a body.  He will never have a body.  And so he often tries to attack us through our body.  He tries to get us to misuse and abuse our body.  It's his greatest trick.

5.  God has promised that we can live eternally as families.  As husband and wife.  That exaltation is centered on families.  And He has stated that every one of His spirit children deserves the right to be born into a family with a loving mother and father.  I know that's not a popular stance these days, but it is what gives a child the best chance for success.  I don't pretend to understand all of the Celestial laws, but in my limited understanding I recognize there is more to the sealing power than we fully recognize and that we should take it a bit more seriously than we do.  There's much I don't understand about this mortal life and the experiences that many have and so I know that this last part is complicated and hard for so many. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Claire Women Scriptures

 I visited my friend Julie today.  It was her birthday on Tuesday, so I stopped by to drop off a gift and ended up having a really nice visit with her.  We talked about school and our families and the pandemic and life.  At one point she was telling me that her daughter Claire is in a hard class this year and that she is so looking forward to Claire going to junior high and meeting new people.  She said there's a group of boys that are always telling the girls that they are worthless and that Claire had been beginning to internalize their words.  And that Claire was just struggling a little bit.  And she then told me that the "women in the scriptures week" that we did back in January was just exactly what Claire needed.  That each day Claire would read about these women and ask Julie if she knew about the great things these women did and that it really gave her a needed boost.  She also said that being called to serve as class president was also such a blessing for Claire.  

This made my heart so happy.  Back in November, the idea to do women in the scriptures week came and I knew immediately that it wasn't my idea.  That it was the Spirit and it was something we needed to do.  And I loved it.  And I could tell that at least a couple of the girls did.  But I also think that several of the young women probably didn't even look at it.  And sometimes in the past year I have felt discouraged by how little participation we have and by how it feels like we have lost some of our precious young women.  I keep reaching out...over and over...but some of them rarely respond.  And I will keep reaching out because I love them and the spirit keeps telling me to just make sure they know that they are loved and that that love is not dependent on ANYTHING they do.  So I will.  So I felt so happy to know that it made a difference for Claire.  I felt so happy to be reassured that it really had come from the spirit and that it really had been a blessing in at least one young woman's life.  And if it made a difference for one, then it was worth doing.  I'm glad Julie shared that.  And I'm so grateful for the Spirit.  And I'm grateful for valiant women, past and present!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Mike Alfredo Amazon

 My mom, Mike, and Suzy came for dinner two weeks ago.  Alfredo had cut himself just before they arrived and couldn't find a normal bandaid so he'd used a large bandage (he didn't ask me...when I realized I grabbed him a bandaid.)  A few days later, Mike told me there was a gag gift arriving from Amazon for Alfredo.  It arrived and inside was...a box of bandaids and a styptic pencil to stop bleeding.  We all laughed as it was pretty funny.  But I also found myself thinking about this.  I know it was meant as a joke but I also feel like it is so indicative of my parents' character that they would see a need and try to fulfill that need.  That is just the type of people that they are.  I'm so grateful and want to be more like them.

See a need, fill a need.

Have a sense of humor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Confirmation Rude Correction

 Alfredo recently reminded me of an experience we had while we were in the singles ward.  A young man named Immanuel took the missionary discussions and attended the singles ward.  He decided to be baptized.  As it was a convert baptism, he was baptized on Saturday and then confirmed during sacrament meeting on Sunday.   Immanuel's native language was Spanish and he'd been taught by the missionaries in Spanish.  So when they confirmed him, the confirmation was in Spanish.  When the confirmation was completed, a member of the stake high council assigned to our ward stood up and said that as those presiding couldn't understand the confirmation it would need to be performed again in English...he said something along the lines of  "for all I know you just sent this young man to hell" so do it over so we know it was done properly.  It was such a shocking and sad thing...what should have been such a beautiful experience was tainted a bit by the way it was handled.  The missionaries repeated the confirmation and it didn't seem to shake Immanuel's testimony, thankfully.

Here's what I learned from that experience:

1.  In the words of Elder Holland:  "Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all.10 Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving."

2.  Our words matter.  This leader could have calmly and lovingly explained that the ordinance needed to be performed in English so that they could be certain it was performed correctly and then gently asked them to repeat it.  He could have complimented the beauty of the language and how happy we were to have Immanuel join the church and then explained the need to repeat the ordinance.  It wasn't the need for repetition that was shocking or hurtful but the anger that seemed to come through the words.  

3.  I guess this goes back to number one somewhat, but it's important to forgive.  It is very likely that this leader remembers that day with sorrow.  There's a good chance that he recognized his mistake and wishes with all his heart he could do it over.  It's possible that he had something going on in his life that we knew nothing about that led to the way he handled this situation.  It's really unfortunate that the situation was handled so poorly, but it was one decision/one moment out of millions in that man's life.  And I saw him love and serve diligently for the three years I was in that ward, so I don't think that was typical of him.  While I haven't forgotten the experience, and I still consider it an unfortunate one, I hold no ill will toward this kind man who made a mistake.