Jul 31, 2014

The Gift of the Holy Ghost (FHE)

This week's Family Home Evening lesson was based on the Gospel Principles manual, Chapter 21:  The Gift of the Holy Ghost.  We were fortunate to have my brother and his girlfriend join us for FHE this week.  June loved having her Uncle Danny and Linzy participate in the lesson and activity.  And, she got so many extra cuddles.

Song: We sang "The Still Small Voice ", song #106 from the Primary Children's Songbook.  It goes as follows:
Through a still small voice, the Spirit speaks to me
To guide me, to save me from the evil I may see.

If I try to do what's right, he will lead me thru the night,

Direct me, protect me, and give my soul his light.

Listen, listen. The Holy Ghost will whisper.

Listen, listen to the still small voice.

Lesson:  The gift of the Holy Ghost is the privilege—given to people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, been baptized, and been confirmed as members of the Church—to receive continual guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost.  A person may be temporarily guided by the Holy Ghost without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (D&C 130:23). However, this guidance will not be continuous unless the person is baptized and receives the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

After people are baptized, they are confirmed members of the Church and given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. The Lord said, “Whoso having faith you shall confirm in my church, by the laying on of the hands, and I will bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost upon them” (D&C 33:15).  Each person must “receive the Holy Ghost.” This means that the Holy Ghost will come to us only when we are faithful and desire help from this heavenly messenger.  To be worthy to have the help of the Holy Ghost, we must seek earnestly to obey the commandments of God. We must keep our thoughts and actions pure.

The Holy Ghost communicates to us in many different ways.  We can experience any of these.  He can manifest as a warm feeling, a tingly feeling, a good feeling, sureness, knowledge to our minds, a still small voice, an audible voice.  We often refer to guidance from the Holy Ghost as a prompting.  For myself, I have a sure knowledge of things placed into my mind.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Through the Holy Ghost we may know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that His Church has been restored to the earth. We may have the promptings of the Holy Ghost to show us all the things we should do (2 Nephi 32:5). The Holy Ghost sanctifies us to prepare us for God’s presence. This great gift from our Heavenly Father can also bring peace to our hearts and an understanding of the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:9–12).

Activity:  I prepared 4 felt stepping stones (you can use paper, or foam, or real stones if you'd like) where I wrote "faith", "repentance", "baptism", and "Holy Ghost" on each of them.  I then made a straight felt arrow on which I wrote "endure".  Finally, I made a felt sun which had "heaven" on it.  I placed a blanket down on one end of a room and placed a sign reading "earth" on it.  Then I taped the sun onto the adjacent wall.  Underneath it, I set up pictures of family and Christ.  I made sure the heaven side of the room was well lit with the earth side being darker.

I had June, Danny, and Linzy all stand on "earth", and I asked them if they wanted to go to heaven.  They all said yes.  I told them that they were currently on earth, but they could try to jump to heaven.  However, all the carpet was hot lava and if they touched it they had to go back.  So, they all tried to jump to heaven, but of course it was too far away.

How can they make it to heaven?  They need a stepping stone.  I laid down the faith stone and told them how having faith in Jesus Christ can help them.  So they all jumped to the faith stone.  But, could they jump to heaven with just faith alone?  Nope, still too far away.  Next stone was repentance.  I explained how consistently repenting would help them get to heaven.  They all jumped to the repentance stone.  But still, they couldn't make it to heaven with faith and repentance alone.

June then shouted, "We need another stepping stone!"  So, I placed down the baptism stone.  I explained how baptism is the first saving ordinance we need to be able to enter heaven and can help us on our way to heaven.  But, were faith, repentance, and baptism enough?  Not quite.  June again excitedly shouted, "We need another stepping stone!"  I then set down the last one, the Holy Ghost stone.  I explained how receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is the second saving ordinance to help us get to heaven because He will always be our guide--if we remain worthy--to help us get there.  So they all jumped to the Holy Ghost stone.

Now, they could make it to the tile floor, but from there were three paths.  How to know which path to choose?  I placed down the endure arrow and had it point to heaven.  I told them this was the straight and narrow path that leads to heaven, and they must endure to the end in order to make it there.  Along the path I placed pictures of the temple, the scriptures, a missionary tag, a hymn book, family members, and General Conference talks.  I asked June what could help her endure to the end?  Each time I asked her, I pointed to the item in front of her and she would loudly shout the answer "Temple!"  "Scriptures!"  "Prophet!"  "Commandments!"  "Church!"  "Family!"  "Missionaries!" (or sharing our testimony). Then she made it to heaven!  June was so happy that she 'won' the game.  Even better, she said "I'm so happy I made it to heaven!  Come on Uncle Danny and my Linzy!  It's fun here!"  I couldn't have put it better myself.

This activity went over incredibly well.  June really had a blast with it; I think it's one of her most favorite FHE games.  Danny and Linzy enjoyed it too.  I actually got the idea from my brother Bobby who used this as a way to teach the missionary lesson on gospel principles and ordinances while on his mission to Ogden, Utah.  I modified it a tad and added my own flair, but what a great idea.  I'm glad I took the time to make felt props instead of just use paper since it kept people from slipping and they are more durable.  I may even do this as an outside game next time and use real stones, having them hop across the yard.  So many options.

After FHE, Danny and I decided to collaborate on our family history research into our maternal grandmother's ancestry line.  I seem to have hit a brick wall in my research and Danny had great suggestions concerning searching tactics that proved highly effective.  Turns out in Norway at the time we were looking, last names weren't passed down through the father's line.  Instead, the children would inherit their last names from their father's first name.  Specifically, I was looking for the parents of Petrine Berentson.  Her father's name was Berent (or a variation thereof).  Hence, that made her last name Berentson, which means child of Berent.  We found some names we feel strongly are the people we're looking for; we just need to find more documents confirming our promptings.  This was a great teaching opportunity for June as well, who was sitting on the bed with us and our laptops.  I told her that we need our family to get to heaven, and we can help them get to heaven too by sharing our testimony and by doing family history research and discovering those very ancestors.  I'm glad my brother came to visit, especially since I never would've thought to search in this manner.

Jul 28, 2014

Hot Blooded 10K

Another weekend another race, and this weekend's race was the Hot Blooded 10K in Amarillo. This race was based out of the running store Get Fit, which has the absolutely best running-themed decor I've seen yet.  In the dressing room was a wall hanging made entirely of running shoes in the shape of a heart.  I want to make one of these with my own retired running shoes and hang it up in my living room...or maybe my bedroom.  Either way, I will have one!

I want one in my house!

Of course, my pre-race OCD took solid hold on me, so the entire drive down to Amarillo I was mulling over how I would do my hair.  I finally settled on a more intricate-braid style with three french braids leading into one big braid down my back.  And then, I had to lay out all my running gear the night before.  I had picked out a race outfit the week prior:  purple shirt, purple-striped running skirt, purple socks, purple active headband, and running flats.  It had to be fully color-coordinated!

My friend Kathryn ran the whole thing with me and we were pushing so hard that we weren't our usual chatty selves.  The course started at Get Fit and would through the neighboring neighborhoods.  This area was populated with beautiful old homes that provided us with brilliant distraction in the moments we were becoming fatigued.  I mean they were gorgeous!  Manicured lawns, rustic decor, and intriguing architecture.  Another benefit to this race route was the good-sized tree lining the streets on both sides of the road offering us some much appreciated shade and a solid wind-break.  We could barely feel the 12 mph winds gusting and the searing 85-degree heat felt a mere 75-degrees.  We pushed our pace harder and harder with each mile until we saw the familiarity of the Get Fit shopping center.  Then we broke into a sprint which used up the last bits of our energy reserves.  We passed the finish line scoring another 10K Personal Record of 1:03:43!

This was a cause of celebration, so following the race we purchased some delicious icy beverages from Sonic.  I was thankful I parked my car so close to the entrance to the store!  We were able to open up the back and just chill there until the awards ceremony/door prize announcements began.  Of course afterwards, I fulfilled my usual post-race tradition of eating a Mexican meal by going with my family to Pepito's Restaurant.  That place was fantastic, and they even gave us free dessert!  With how tired I was feeling, I thought it would be a great idea to add a new post-race tradition of taking a nice, long nap after consuming such a delicious feast.  Another race down, and still getting faster!

Baptism (FHE)

I'm getting this Family Home Evening posted late, I know.  But, here is last week's lesson!  I based it on the Gospel Principles manual chapter 20, Baptism

Song: We sang song #103 from the primary Children's Songbook, When I am Baptized. This was my favorite song when I was in Primary.  It goes as follows:
1. I like to look for rainbows whenever there is rain
And ponder on the beauty of an earth made clean again.
2. I know when I am baptized my wrongs are washed away,
And I can be forgiven and improve myself each day.
Chorus:  I want my life to be as clean as earth right after rain.
I want to be the best I can and live with God again.

Lesson:  A gospel principle is a true belief or teaching.  An ordinance is a rite or a ceremony.  Baptism is the third principle of the gospel and the first ordinance.  We are commanded to be baptized (Matthew 28:19–20).  We must be baptized for the remission of our sins, for this is the only way to fully apply the Atonement in our lives and achieve full forgiveness (Mark 1:4).  We must be baptized to become members of Christ's Church (D&C 20:37).  We must be baptized before we can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Moses 6:52).  We must be baptized to show obedience (2 Nephi 31:12–13).  We must be baptized to enter the Celestial Kingdom (2 Nephi 31:17–18).

 There is only one correct mode of baptism.  A person having the proper priesthood has authority to baptize "shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism...then shall he immerse him or her in the water, and come forth again out of the water" (D&C 20:73–74). Immersion is necessary. The Apostle Paul taught that being immersed in water and coming out again is symbolic of death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3–5).  Baptism by immersion by a person having the proper authority is the only acceptable way of being baptized.  Baptism should occur at or after the age of accountability.  Every person who has reached 8-years of age and is accountable for their actions should be baptized (Moroni 8:9–22).

We make covenants when we are baptized.  When we are baptized, we make covenants with the Lord to:
1. Come into the fold of God (join Christ's family)
2. Bear one another's burdens (serve others)
3. Stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all places (testify of God always)
4. Serve God and keep His commandments (keep the commandments)
(Mosiah 18:8, 10)

When we are baptized and are keeeping the covenents of baptism, the Lord promises to:
1. Forgive our sins
2. Pour out His spirit more abundantly upon us (have His spirit with us)
3. Give us daily guidance and the help of the Holy Ghost (Holy Ghost will guide us)
4. Let us come forth in the First Resurrection and give us Eternal Life (live forever with God and our families)
(Acts 2:38; D&C 49:13; Mosiah 18:10; Acts 2:38; D&C 20:77; Mosiah 18:9)

Baptism gives us a new beginning.  With baptism, we begin a new way of life, and this is one of the great blessings of baptism.  We receive a new start on our way toward our eternal goal.

Activity: I got this activity from lds.org.  On small sheets of paper, I wrote the first names of our family in different colors, then taped them to a wall.  Next, on small sheets of paper, I wrote our last name many times in the same color and taped these to a wall.  I told June to go find her name on the first wall.  Since we're still working on letters, I had her look for her purple name.  Once she found it, we went to the next wall and I told her to find her last name.  I told her to look for her pink last name.  Since all of them were pink, this was easier.  I then explained that she had to search until she found the only paper with her first name, but she could take the first paper she found with her last name. Our first names belong to us individually, but our last name belongs to everyone in the family and shows we are a member of the family. Our family name is important and we should be proud of it.  We want all who know us to associate our family name with good, positive things.  Our family should stand for certain things:  we are faithful, we are honest, we try to be friendly, we help others, we are honorable, we are considerate, we are strong. What we do reflects back on our family. Each of us have the responsibility to help make our family name respected.  

I had June find our picture of Christ and explained that just as we were born into our family when we came to earth, we are born into another family when we are baptized. At baptism we become members of Jesus’ church or members of his family. We make a covenant with Heavenly Father to take upon us the name of Christ.  This gives us certain responsibilities that goes with becoming part of Christ's family, and these responsibilities are the covenants we make at baptism.  We must live as Christ did and keep the commandments, and if we fall short we must repent.  In turn, we receive the blessings of being a member of Christ's family, which are that we will achieve exhalation.

She liked this activity and wore her names on her shirt the rest of the night.  For older children, I would hide the names around the house and have them search.  Since June and I attended a couple baptisms this month, she was able to associate the lesson with her experience.

Jul 17, 2014

Repentance (FHE)

This week's Family Home Evening lesson was based on the Gospel Principles manual, Chapter 19: Repentance.

Song:  We sang song # 98 out of the Primary Children's Songbook, Repentance.  It goes as follows:
"I am sorry" is not always easy to say
When I know I've been thoughtless and done something wrong.

I'll try to repent, to do better, to pray

That Heavenly Father will help me be strong.
 Lesson:  We all need to repent!  Faith in Jesus Christ naturally leads to repentance as we strive to follow His gospel and follow His example.  Aside from Him, everyone on this earth has sinned and everyone is in need of repentance (Ecclesiastes 7:20).  We sin for any number of reasons:  ignorance, our weaknesses, or willful disobedience.  Whatever the reason, we must repent.  But, what is sin?  Sin, as described by John, is "all unrighteousness" (1 John 5:17) and "the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4).

Repentance is the way provided for us to become free from our sins and receive forgiveness for them.  Sins slow our spiritual progression and can even stop it, but repentance makes it possible for us to grow and develop spiritually again.  The privilege of repenting is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Repentance sometimes requires great courage, much strength, many tears, unceasing prayers, and untiring efforts to live the Lord's commandments.

There are 7 principles of repentance.  To truly repent, one must experience each of them.
#1.  We must recognize our sins.  We have to admit we have sinned.  If we don't realize this, then we cannot progress (Alma 42:29-30).

#2.  We must feel sorrow for our sins.  We must feel our sins are terrible to the point where we want to unload and abandon them (D&C 20:37).
#3.  We must forsake our sins.  Our sincere sorrow should lead us to strive to completely stop our sins (D&C 58:43).
#4.  We must confess our sins.  Confession relieves a heavy burden from the sinner (D&C 61:2).  We must confess all our sins to the Lord, but some serious sins (adultery, fornication, abuse, etc) should be confessed to the proper priesthood authority.  If we have sinned against another person, we should confess to that person, usually by apologizing.  Our less serious sins involve no one but ourselves and the Lord, and they can be confessed privately to the Lord.
#5.  We must make restitution.  As much as possible we must make right any wrong that we have done.  As we do so, God will not mention our sins to us when we are judged (Ezekiel 33:15-16).
#6.  We must forgive others.  Forgiving those who have sinned against us is a vital part of forgiveness.  We must cleanse our hearts of all hate, bitterness, and bad feelings against other people (3 Nephi 13:14-15).
#7.  We must keep the commandments of God.  To make our repentance complete, we must keep the commandments of the Lord (D&C 1:32).  We are not fully repentant if we are not keeping, or striving to keep, all of God's commandments.  President Kimball said, "First, one repents.  Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point.  This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness."

The prophets have declared that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32).  We should repent now, every day.  When we get up in the morning, we should examine ourselves to see whether the Spirit of God is with us.  At night, we should review our acts and words of the day and ask the Lord to help us recognize the things for which we need to repent.  By doing so, we will experience the daily process of becoming perfect.  As we repent, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes fully effective in our lives and the Lord forgives our sins.  We become free from the bondage of sin and we find true joy.

Activity: I explained to June how sins are like owies on our spirit.  I asked her what happens when we have an owie.  She responded, "You need a check-up!"  So, we got her Minnie Mouse out.  I told her that Minnie had a bad owie, but she didn't know where it was!  She just knew that she hurt bad.  So June gave her a thorough checkup using her whole doctor kit until she found that Minnie had a bad splinter in her leg.  So, June "removed" the splinter, then cleaned the wound, then gave her a shot, and finally put a band aid on it.  I asked June why Minnie needed a band aid, and she replied, "it makes Minnie feel better!"  I told her that band aids help to protect a would allowing it to heal.  Our spirit owies also need protection and time to heal.  Repenting is that spiritual band aid.  The entire repentance process is just like cleaning, caring for, protecting, and healing those spiritual wounds.

Since June loves playing doctor, she had a blast with this game.  It worked a little too well as later on in the evening, she came out of the bathroom with a couple band aids on herself.  She happily explained that she " 'pented for being mean to Mommy" and now she had a band aid on her owies.  It was too cure.

Jul 15, 2014

My new amazing system for a nice, clean house

I finally worked out a deep-cleaning system for my house that works for me!  It requires 2-3 hours of work a day and 5 days a week, but it leaves me with a super clean house and the weekend off.  Instead of trying to complete a few big tasks a day, like cleaning floors, windows, etc; I focus on a room/type of room a day.  I clean everything in that space and then I'm done.  Vacuuming isn't as daunting, dusting is more minimal, and everything is still completed by the weekend.  The first time doing this, however, will take the most effort, but sub-sequential weeks will become easier and faster as you'll have a solid base.  Depending on the size of your house, you may have to change things up to work for you.  I have a 3-bedroom, 2-bath with a living room and kitchen/dining room that are connected.  This will take effort and work, but this plan helps to divide that work over the course of a week.  The more you keep up with this system, the easier it will be to maintain.

Here is my weekly checklist for a solid, deep-cleaned home:

Make bed
Messes as needed

Monday: Bathrooms
Launder all towels/washcloths
Launder floormats
Bleach bath/shower/sinks
Wipe down bath/shower/sinks/counters
Bleach and wipe down toilet
Dust all surfaces including windows, blinds, vents, and fans
Clean mirror
Polish (or windex) faucets
Clean windows and windowsills
Organize drawers and cabinets
Wipe down drawers and cabinets
Wipe down doors/handles/light switches
Take out trash
Vacuum floors and baseboards
Wipe down baseboards
Mop floors

Tuesday: Bedrooms/Office
Launder bedding
Organize dressers
Go through clothing, toys, and other items for donations
For kids room, sort and organize toys, diaper items, etc
Go through files/desk drawers/etc
Vacuum floors and baseboards
Wipe down baseboards
Wipe down doors/handles/light switches
Dust all surfaces including windows, blinds, vents, and fans
Clean windows and windowsills

Wednesday: Kitchen/Dining Room
Bleach sink
Clean fridge and freezer: throw out old food, wipe down doors, drawers, shelves
Wipe down counter-tops, tables, chairs, and microwave
Clean oven (as needed)
Clean stove
Polish faucets
Dust all surfaces including windows, blinds, vents, and fans
Clean windows and windowsills
Organize drawers and cabinets
Wipe down drawers and cabinets
Wipe down doors/handles/light switches
Launder any towels/potholders/etc
Take out trash and wipe down trashcan
Vacuum floors and baseboards
Wipe down baseboards
Mop floors

Thursday: Living Room/Laundry Room/Halls
Dust and wipe down washer/dryer
Sort and organize laundry items (detergents/bleach/etc)
Organize drawers and cabinets
Wipe down drawers and cabinets
Vacuum floors and baseboards
Vacuum couches/chairs/furniture
Wipe down baseboards
Wipe down doors/handles/light switches
Dust all surfaces including windows, blinds, vents, and fans
Take out trash
Wipe down electronics/entertainment center/coffee table
Clean windows and windowsills

Friday: Outdoor Chores
Mow/weed-eat lawn
Spray for weeds
Any additional lawn care
Sweep/vacuum garage
Organize items in garage
Spray for bugs (if needed)
Sweep porches
Clean windows and windowsills
Wash/rinse off house

Jul 13, 2014

Faith in Jesus Christ (FHE)

For this week's Family Home Evening lesson, we studied Chapter 18 from the Gospel Principles Manual, Faith in Jesus Christ.
Song: We sang song #96, Faith, from the Primary's Children's Songbook.  The dance that goes with the first verse was from the blog a year of FHE.  June loved doing the dance as mommy sang the song.  Here is the song plus the dance:

Faith is knowing the sun will rise, (arms form a half-circle over head)
lighting each new day. (arms slowly drop to shoulder level)
Faith is knowing the Lord will hear (cup hands behind ears)
my prayers each time I pray. (hands together as in prayer)
Faith is like a little seed: (cup left hand and imitate planting a seed with right hand)
If planted, it will grow. (right hand imitates a plant growing from the cupped left hand)
Faith is a swelling within my heart. (place hands over heart)
When I do right, (point right index finger upward)
I know. (touch right index finger to head)
Faith is knowing I lived with God 
before my mortal birth.
Faith is knowing I can return
when my life ends on earth.

Faith is trust in God above; 
In Christ, who showed the way.

Faith is strengthened; I feel it grow 
Whenever I obey.

 Lesson:  What is faith?  Faith is a “hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21; Hebrews 11:1). Faith is a principle of action and power that motivates our day-to-day activities.  Each day we act upon things we hope for when we cannot see the end result. This is faith. (Hebrews 11:3.) 
Many scriptural stories tell how great things were accomplished through faith.  Noah, Moses, Elijah, and Nephi have accomplished great things through faith (Hebrews 11:7, 29; 1 Kings 18:17–40 Helaman11:3–5, 9–17). As we carefully study the scriptures, we learn that faith is a strong belief of truth within our souls that motivates us to do good. 

To have faith in Jesus Christ means to have such trust in Him that we obey whatever He commands. As we place our faith in Jesus Christ, becoming His obedient disciples, Heavenly Father will forgive our sins and prepare us to return to Him.  Through faith in the Savior and through repentance, we make His Atonement fully effective in our lives. Through faith we can also receive strength to overcome temptations (Alma 37:33).

We can increase our faith the same way we increase our skill in any area, through study and practice and work.  We can increase our faith by acting on a desire to do so.  We can also increase our faith by praying to Heavenly Father about our hopes, desires, and needs (Alma 34:17–26). But we must not suppose that all we have to do is ask. We are told in the scriptures that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17).  An important way to increase our faith is to hear and study the word of the Lord. We hear the word of the Lord at our Church meetings. We can study His word in the scriptures. “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith” (D&C 88:118).  Through the gift of faith, miracles are wrought, angels appear, other gifts of the Spirit are given, prayers are answered, and we become the children of God (Moroni 7:25–26, 36–37).

Activity: We "planted" a seed of faith that June had to take care of it so it would blossom into a faith flower.  As June planted her seed in the pot, I told her she had to constantly take care of it by giving her plant water, light, and food.  I told her if she neglected any of these things, her plant would die.  We need to continually nurture our own seed of faith if we want it to grow.  We do this by heartfelt prayer, personal scripture study, attending church, keeping the commandments, and choosing the right.  I wrote each of these items on cards and had June place them into her pot with the seed and the "soil" (I just used wash cloths).  Then, I placed her faith flower in the pot.  She loved having her purple flower there.  In fact, she still has it displayed prominently in her room.

Jul 5, 2014

The Restoration of the Gospel (FHE)

I know I'm getting this up late, but we did do Family Home Evening on Monday.  This week's lesson was based on the Gospel Principles Manual chapter 17, The Church of Jesus Christ Today.

Song: We sang song #87, the The Sacred Grove, from the Primary Children's Songbook.  It goes as follows:

The Sacred Grove was green and fresh,
The morning sun shone bright around,
As Joseph knelt in fervent prayer,
As Joseph knelt in fervent prayer
Upon that sacred ground.
The Father and the Son appeared.
They spoke to him as with one voice.
Their message answered all his fears,
Their message answered all his fears
And made his heart rejoice.

Lesson: The Church of Jesus Christ was taken from the earth.  After the Savior ascended into heaven, men changed the ordinances and doctrines that He and His Apostles established.  Because of the apostasy, there was no direct revelation from God.  Men organized different churches that claimed to be true but taught conflicting doctrines.  There was much confusion and contention over religion, and the Lord had foreseen this famine of the words of God (Amos 8:11-12).

Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove
The Lord promised to restore His true church (Isaiah 29:14).  In the spring of 1820, one of the most important events in the history of the world occurred.  As a young boy, Joseph Smith wanted to know which of all the churches was true, so he went into the woods an prayed intently.  A miraculous thing happened; Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith.  The Savior told him not to join any church because His Church was not on the earth.  This event marked the beginning of direct revelation from the heavens again as the Lord chose Joseph Smith to be His prophet.  Revelation continues to this day through His chosen prophets.  (Restoration Video)

In restoring the Gospel, God again gave the priesthood to men.  Additionally, the Savior directed the organizing of His Church on the earth, which is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (D&C 115:4).  This is the "only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased" (D&C 1:30).  The Church was organized with the same offices as were in the ancient Church, which included:  apostles, prophets, seventies, patriarchs, pastors, high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons (Articles of Faith 1:6).  These offices are in His Church today.

Important truths were restored.  The Church today teaches the same principles and performs the same ordinances as were performed in the days of Jesus.  Some of these important truths are:
1) Heavenly Father is a real being with a tangible, perfected body of flesh and bones, and so is Jesus Christ.  The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.
2) We existed in premortal life as children of God.
3) The priesthood is necessary to administer the ordinances of the gospel.
4) We will be punished for our own sins and not for Adam's transgression.
5) Children do not need to be baptized until they are accountable (8-years old).
6) There are three kingdoms of glory in the heavens and through the grace of Christ, we will be rewarded according to our actions and the desires of our hearts.
7) Family relationships can be eternal through the sealing power of the priesthood.
8) Ordinances and covenants are required for salvation and are available for both the living and the dead.

The Church will never be destroyed again.  The Church has grown rapidly in membership with members in nearly every nation.  The Church will never again be taken from the earth.  The Lord said He would "set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people...and it shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44).

Activity:  I got this awesome activity from Teaching LDS Children: I gathered ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies, as well as a few extra odd ingredients (pickles, mustard, etc.).   I showed June all the ingredients and told her that I didn't have the recipe, but  it doesn’t matter because I think I  can remember how to do it. I also told her that I wanted to make a few changes and add some things to the cake that I think will make it taste better.  I mixed the ingredients in random amounts, and added a few of the extra items.  I then asked June if she think this concoction will make a delicious chocolate cake? Why not? Without the right ingredients and recipe, the end result won’t be as hoped for.  I told June that just as the cake needed the correct ingredients, it is also necessary for a church to consist of the correct components, which includes correct doctrines and ordinances, and power and authority from God.

Jul 2, 2014

Learning from David, Saul, and Jonathan

Most of us do it.  It's fairly common actually. I've been guilty of this.  When someone we know is successful, our first knee-jerk reaction is jealousy, envy, justifying their achievements, or even putting the person down.  Luckily, this usually happens in our thoughts alone.  But, why do we do this?  Shouldn't our initial reaction, and hopefully complete reaction, be one of happiness, congratulations, love, and support--especially if they are a good friend or family member?

I was actually pondering on this exact subject when it was the topic of Sunday's Gospel Doctrine class lesson.  This year, we are studying the Old Testament and the lesson was #23: "The Lord be between thee and me forever."  This lesson encompasses 1 Samuel 18-20; 23-24.  The lesson purpose sums up my thoughts exactly, "To encourage class members to be true to their friends, as Jonathan and David were, and avoid being consumed by jealousy and hatred, as Saul was."

Background information:  Saul was the first king of the Israelites, but due to his disobedience to the Lord's commandments, Samuel the prophet anointed David to be succeeding king.  Jonathan was Saul's first-born son.  When compared side-by-side, the opposing relationships are striking!  Where Saul was envious, Jonathan was supportive.  Where Saul sought to destroy, Jonathan sought to protect.

jealousy, hatred, and unjustified persecution
David had huge success in leading troops on the battlefield.  So much so that the ballads sung at the time compared Saul as killing his thousands and David as killing his ten thousands.  Instead of being grateful for the victories David achieved in carrying out Saul's orders, Saul became dangerously jealous and sought to kill David (1 Samuel 18:8-6).  He saw a threat when there was none, as David would never lay a hand on "the Lord's anointed."  Even after Saul threatened David's life, David's family's lives, and prevented David from worshiping the Lord, David spared Saul's life.  David knew Saul was the Lord's anointed and, although he was failing miserably, the Lord would take care of things.

true friendship, unconditional love and support
Jonathan and David made a covenant of friendship right from the beginning (1 Samuel 18:1-4).  Even though it seems that Jonathan knew Samuel anointed David as the next king, when usually the first-born son was to inherit the throne, Jonathan fully supported David in whatever his soul desired (1 Samuel 20).  Jonathan's faith in the Lord became a strength and a positive influence on David.  In turn, David supported and uplifted Jonathan.

President Ezra Taft Bensen best sums up Saul's attitude and choices, “Saul became an enemy to David through pride. He was jealous because the crowds of Israelite women were singing that ‘Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’ (1 Samuel 18:7; see also 1 Samuel 18:6, 8).

“The proud stand more in fear of men’s judgment than of God’s judgment. … ‘What will men think of me?’ weighs heavier than ‘What will God think of me?’ …

“Fear of men’s judgment manifests itself in competition for men’s approval. The proud love ‘the praise of men more than the praise of God’ (John 12:42–43). Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did ‘always those things’ that pleased God (John 8:29). Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?

“Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. …

“When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod."
I need to make sure I keep those knee-jerk negative emotions and thoughts in check, hopefully to eradicate them altogether (which will take a lot of work and a lot of time), and instead work on being that true friend Jonathan was to David.  I like this self-evaluation check included in this lesson.  Regularly answering these questions will undoubtably be the reminder and teh exercise I need in order to become a better friend.
  1. What was the last kind thing you did for someone?
  2. What do you do when you hear someone saying unkind things about another person?
  3. What have you done to help your friends be better people?
The story of Jonathan and David reminds me that true friendship and love bring me closer to my friends and to God. The story of Saul reminds me that jealousy and hatred can consume me and lead me away from my friends and from God.   This story encourages me to better be true to my friends so I can say to them, “The Lord be between thee and me for ever” (1 Samuel 20:23) (Gospel Doctrine Lesson 23 conclusion).

Best friends :)
Most amazing birthday trip!  Dirty Girl Mud Run with my friends.

My wonderful friends supporting me as I go through the temple.

Jul 1, 2014

Cover Model Contest

I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support I've received in this contest from family, friends, the city of Clovis, and Texas Tech.  So many have voted for me and shared that voting information.  Clovis News Journal, Cannon Connections, and the Texas Tech Alumni Association all wrote articles about me and this contest.  Rooney and Moon at the local radio station, Mix 107.5, interviewed me to rally community support.  I feel so blessed to have this opportunity.

You have until 12pm PST to vote for me, Rachel B at Women's Running!  Vote from every device each day and tell everyone to do the same!  After you vote, give me a shout out on Twitter @RunningMormon, or on Facebook.  I hope to be sharing some very good news in the near future.

Winners of the Sierra Comment Contest

Congratulations to Erika M. and Candace S.!  They are the lucky winners of the Sierra Comment Contest!*  They will each receive a Sierra prize pack from Taylor Dean Books complete with an autographed copy of Sierra, pen, bookmark, and tote.  Thanks to all who participated in this contest, and I hope to continue reading your comments!

 Have you ever been lost in the woods?

Alyssa Fontaine’s life, loved ones—everything familiar and dear—are brutally taken from her.

Taken captive by two men, she endures a horrific nightmare. A new life is forced upon her and even a new name.

Just when it appears that no hope is in sight, she is saved by an unlikely twist of fate. Trapped in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, life will open its arms to her again and she will embrace it. She will find love such as she never knew existed.  

Sierra is a heart-wrenching story of the power of the human spirit to survive amidst impossible circumstances and severe losses. It is a story of survival . . . and hope.

* the winners were determined using the random number generator at random.org.