Because I Have Been Given Much

As I was waking up early this morning, I was thinking about Heavenly Father's relationship with me.

I thought about the endless expanses of eternity--from the largest to the very smallest. I thought about the billions of people who currently live on this earth. I thought about the intricate identities they all possess--beyond any beauty my mind can fathom.

How remarkable is human life.

I thought of the infinite complexities which make up my own life, my identity. Stillness allowed me to see myself for who I really am, and all I could do was marvel at the amazing detail which has gone into my birth. I was born because Heavenly Father wanted me to live, and have joy. He wants to love me not only for who I am striving to become, but exactly as I am right now. 

In the privacy of the morning before sunrise, I felt the amazing assurance that my life has purpose and meaning. It has mass and takes up space. I exist because I am needed. I exist to love, and to be loved. And in those realizations, I remembered again the answer to a question I once held tightly to my chest with a kind of desperation.

Why does God love me?

To me, the answer was a mystery. Dear friends and leaders tried to help me understand: Because you are His daughter... Because you are a good person... Because you love Him... Because you are important to Him... Because He has to...

In the process of trying to find an answer I could live with and understand, I had a conversation with a friend.  He caused me to consider what kind of life I would live if I knew for certain I would never get to heaven. I thought about it for some time, then realized that I wouldn't change anything about the way I live. I would still live a life pleasing to God, and return to Him the glory and praise He is due. I would live to honor Him, even if I could not return to live in His presence. I would do my best to live joyfully and happily according to the manner of happiness because it has already brought me such great joy. A lifetime of that peace is enough of a reward for the good I would try to do in living the way God wants me to live.

I don't know why, but it was only then that I understood the answer to my own question.

To be loved by God--there is no greater gift He can give us. And that gift is one He has already given completely to all of His children. Being obedient doesn't make God love me more--no more than anyone's disobedience makes God love them less. Obedience is important because it creates peace and clarity for me from my vantage point. The commandments of God make it so I can see Him, hear Him, and understand Him. It brings me to a place internally where I can love myself for who I am, and the goodness in my own heart.

Keeping all the rules--it's not about control, and never was. It's not about showing up, performing some labor, and collecting my share of God's blessings, like a wage. I express my love for the Lord through obedience because Christ has said that's what He desires. (John 14:15)

I can give Him that gift completely independent of the prosperity or peril I experience. But if it wasn't for the commandments of God, I'd be so tangled up in my own desires, my own selfishness, my own way, I would never be able to see and understand what God sees or know what God knows.

It would remain as a mystery, an unwrapped gift, to me.

In a season that emphasizes gifts as an expression of love, may we always remember the gift we received with life itself--the love of God in its incomparable magnificence. When we ponder on the essence of life, knowing and feeling the all-encompassing blessing love is in our lives, may we never forget that "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

Merry Christmas to you and yours, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

On Peace and Pain

What happens when your happiness no longer relies on external circumstances? When no amount of personal discomfort or inconvenience can detract you from what you know you have to do? What happens when crisis and trial have gotten to the point where they seem hollow to you, and the trust that you live by is no longer a question?

I've just had the experience of being driven through a snowstorm, and finding it beautiful and peaceful. The image of red sins of scarlet being turned white like snow has never seemed more real to me as it did when visibility was nonexistent, and we were surrounded in whiteness.

I realized my life is a lot like this right now. I have a million things to do, places to go, I'm not the driver, I'm not making good time according to the timetable I'm only vaguely aware of, and yet I'm perfectly content to be at peace with everything exactly the way it is because I've realized I'm doing everything that I can to play an active role in it. I don't always have to be the driver or the leader in everything. I don't always have to have all the answers or fix every problem, or even be capable of fixing every problem I have.

Why? Because I'm not the only one working on it. I never will be. I trust it'll get worked out somehow. If there's anything I need to do, I trust myself to figure it out. If I don't figure it out, I trust God to bring me that clarity. He's done it before, and I trust Him to do it again. I've been through enough storms, decisions, turmoil, despair, and hardships of enough kinds that it just doesn't make much sense to me anymore to get worked up, frustrated, or to do anything other than to handle the situation appropriately and to live peacefully, no matter what happens.

I guess that's an involved way of saying that I'm happy despite the apparent circumstances and problems in my life. I'm content with my allotment and portion of both my blessings and trials. I'm surrounded by good and loving people, and I don't want for anything. Well, maybe my mission call. But I'm working through that steadily, and I know that no matter how long it takes me, I will eventually arrive at that destination.

Is struggle a necessary part of our earthly experience? To work through something patiently--to be content with my efforts and their results, to be content that God will be in and throughout everything I will ever face, guiding me as long as it takes. I see no reason for struggle in that. In fact, I'm coming to the theory that if I am struggling, it's probably because I'm doing something wrong. My perception is either incomplete, or I've made the wrong choice, or I'm choosing to be frustrated when it isn't necessary--but I simply don't see why peace can't exist in every circumstance there is--why the peace I feel right now should be reserved only for times of ease.

In Matthew 11, we read:

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I admit, there was a time when I didn't believe this. In the midst of trials which were not few in number, or weak in intensity, I've had occasions to wonder if difficulties would ever cease, if that promise was true for everyone except me. I've wondered, like many other Christians, what I had ever done that was so wrong that I deserved to suffer so bitterly, and whether that ease would not come simply because I didn't deserve it anymore.

But now I'm beginning to understand that my suffering is a reaction that will continue for as long as I choose it. Despair and suffering have no necessary connection to the troubles of my life--only in how I decide I will react to them. While there is a place in every life for grief, and even pain, there is also a place for the only healing that is the lasting balm for that anguish.

I think learning to be at peace despite pain and struggle is at the very heart of Christianity, and to navigate that contradiction is one of the most important things I can learn in this life. I think the ability to recognize and embrace it is an invitation to come to know the mind and heart of the Prince of Peace--for surely He was never without struggle. But I also believe that crucial to being the Only Begotten Son, He was always at peace--at peace with the Father, at peace with His plan, and at peace with His role in it.

No one who wasn't could have said, facing the infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Atonement "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." (Matthew 26: 42)

He paid a great price to know the totality of human experience--the pain and the peace of our lives. To see that the real peace of life is our confidence in God and in ourselves, instead of in bountiful circumstances requiring no effort--it's a lesson worth taking with me.

I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and of my life. I know He loves me, and in every way is mindful of what I face every day--of the choices I make and of the ways in which I'm progressing. He's a wonderful teacher and a kind friend. He has endured with me through every hardship, and it's because of Him that I am now at peace. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Grateful for Good Men

There was an older Polynesian man performing baptisms in the Provo temple this past evening. He had such a loving spirit, you could feel of the deep regard he has for every person that he meets. As he helped me into the font, I overheard him answer one of the temple workers who asked him if they could use him a little while longer, or if he had to leave.

His words were so quiet and gentle, even I could have missed them standing beside him.

"I can stay. I belong to the temple."

I pray that I will never forget those words for as long as I live.

The light was bright in his eyes as he wrapped pruned hands around my wrist, and lowered me into the water.

I look forward to the day when I can thank him for the wisdom he has shared with me.

The Gospel in My Life

Studying the scriptures through Preach My Gospel has been one of the most powerful transformations to my testimony I have ever experienced. I love Preach My Gospel, and I love the changes it has brought to me. I never realized that all the "dailies" and all the commandments we keep are functions of the gospel, and that the gospel is what brings Christ into our lives.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of salvation we, as members of the Church, are under covenant to share with the world. That message includes 5 fundamentals:
  1. Faith in Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord, the only one who has/will ever atone for all of the sins of mankind
  2. Repentance to be reconciled with Jesus Christ for all of the sins we have ever personally committed
  3. Baptism under restored priesthood authority, as existed in Christ's church anciently
  4. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, a confirming ordinance of that same authority
  5. Enduring to the End--to become continually converted to Jesus Christ by remaining true to the gospel

That's it. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those five things are the root of true conversion. And, as I recently learned, that gospel is not just a preliminary set of steps for new members to go through. Once the first four are finished, a person does not stay permanently at step five, in a vague state of generally doing what we know we should.

No, the gospel is a repeating cycle. To endure to the end means to repeat the cycle continually. The Sacrament becomes the symbolic representation of baptism and confirmation after someone has already been baptized and confirmed. The commandments we follow are then supposed to work together as functions of that gospel, to bless our lives for good and help us grow spiritually.

I attended this talk by Elder Ballard on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I came into it hoping to gain much-needed insight on time management.

Afterwards, I realized that if I would strive to make a schedule that is based on the gospel itself, I would feel the Holy Ghost's influence more abundantly in my life. So I sat down and categorized how all the things I have to do fit into the gospel itself.

For example, I was reminded that scripture study is inseparably tied to faith in Jesus Christ. It has been my experience that faith in Jesus Christ is almost impossible to maintain unless you consistently read the scriptures--especially the Book of Mormon. Personally, that's also where I chose to classify my studies and college classes because in order for them to be worth my time and money, they need to be building my faith in Jesus Christ. I've found that when I put forth the effort to find Christ in even my most secular subjects, He makes it possible for me to understand many lessons that only He can teach me.

Repentance, for me, is largely grounded in prayer. Once I understood that a crucial part of my prayers needed to be daily repentance, it became a lot easier for me to remember to pray every day, and for my prayers to be more than 30 seconds long. When prayers are a constant vehicle for repentance, they become the conversational prayers I have heard so many teachers strongly recommend, but never instruct anyone on how to begin. For someone who is trying to have more conversational prayers with the Lord, I would recommend starting with adding repentance to them each and every day.

Baptism by immersion was an interesting one. I associated that with temple worship because I'm still in the baptism-by-proxy phase of my temple experience. But this could also apply to the Sacrament, and thereby Church attendance. Because baptisms performed outside the temple are almost identical to the ones performed inside, the jump from the first to the second is not hard to make. But how often do we think of Church meetings as being a place to be immersed in the goodness of God? That's what Zion and the Church are supposed to be like--and whether they are or not depends entirely on what we personally put into them, i.e. all of ourselves. If we continually plop ourselves down in a chair and expect to be spiritually fed without putting any effort into it, we will continue to be disappointed when that feeling of immersion does not come.

The one that jumped out to me the strongest, however, was receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands. This made me think of the priesthood, and the question I had to ask myself was "How can I get the priesthood to be more of an active force in my life?" The answer that came to me immediately was the Relief Society, and thereby Visiting Teaching. (If you're curious as to how I made that jump, read this and this.) FHE also came to mind, which actually surprised me way more than Relief Society and Visiting Teaching did. I never thought of FHE as being a means of having the priesthood in my life. As I continued to ponder, I realized that service opportunities fit well under this one because the Holy Ghost inspires people to serve. The laying on of hands in itself is a giving act--one we are commanded to extend to anyone who will receive it.

I have a white board I use to do my planning and time management, and I decided to color code each of the four principles with its own color. I plan to continue doing so as I implement this plan, in order to track the gospel's presence in my life. Once I can build the habits of following through with my plans, and assessing my performance, I can more easily identify how to add things to my life when I feel I need extra help in an area. By being a careful steward over the gospel's influence in my life, I can fortify myself against temptation and the attempts of the adversary to lead me astray.

From this I have learned that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a catch-all phrase to describe every good thing. The gospel is how every good thing--every commandment, every truth, every principle--is tied to Jesus Christ. When we see those connections as they really are, and keep them unimpeded in our lives, we magnify the ability of God to bless us and endow us with great faith and power. We become more true to what we know, disciples of Jesus Christ. Our light is more able to shine because it is more easily magnified through our righteous actions, and I know that as I strive to lay that gospel foundation in my life, that gospel will lay a foundation in me for greater things to come.

I testify of this in the holy name of my Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, whose gospel this is. Even so, Amen.

Planning Ahead

A few days ago, I woke up to discover that all the leaves had fallen off of the walnut tree in our front yard. Summer is my favorite season, so seeing all the leaves on the ground is sometimes quite sad for me. It's a sign that I have a long time to wait before Summer comes again.

The leaves on this tree had turned yellow before they fell to the ground. They covered the yard in golden autumn, and they seemed to glow in contrast to the overcast sky.

It was beautiful.

Maybe it's because I'm in the desert now, but I truly appreciated how beautiful trees are for the first time in my life.

I have often thought about my children and how I would teach them about the Second Coming of Christ, how I could possibly be wise and confident enough to teach them what I know in my heart to be true.

But as I sat, staring at my yard, I realized I could already picture it.

Raking leaves into a huge pile, laughing together as we jump in them over and over again, then looking at my little ones in that day and asking them a question.

"How do you know the leaves on this tree are going to grow back?"

I'm anticipating the looks of confusion, the mom-are-you-dense? look.

"Mom, why wouldn't they? They always grow back."

"Yes, but how do you know?"

"We've seen it before."

And that's where I'd point out that we can say the same thing about Jesus Christ because of the scriptures. The Bible and the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Their combined purpose is to help us have faith that Christ will come again--evidenced by all the times He's come before.

We learn from the experiences of others in order to see His hand in our own lives. We rely on memories from our own lives when the winter sets in. We trust He will come to us again because He has come before.

I'm currently working my way through Helaman, and I always seem to feel discouraged when I get to that part of the Book of Mormon after reading about generations of war and bloodshed. Christ's entrance feels like it takes forever to happen. But He comes in the scriptures, just as He comes in real life.

And I don't find it so hard to believe that the only reason I can look out my bedroom window and see all of that--in a bunch of leaves in the middle of Provo, Utah--is because He wants me to know He cares.

I know He's real. I know He's coming back, and I plan to live on that hope for as long as it takes. No matter what I'm asked to do, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what's ahead of us as a Church, or me as a person. Even if it's trying to be patient--to wait well when time moves so painfully slow. I don't care. I'll learn to be patient, and I will wait for Him.

Why? Because He's worth waiting for.

And I say that in His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.


Going to the temple is a commandment from Christ, and has been for quite a long time. I would like to bring the prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2: 1-4 to your attention:

Current map of temples for the announced temples
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
1  Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2  That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3  Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4  Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.  [emphasis added]

Those verses tell any Christian who will read the New Testament that in the last days, the Lord will reveal Himself as God in His temple. Temples are to be a signature of the Lord's hand in the latter days--a reflection of His authority--and are precursory to the return of Jesus Christ. For Christ's people to be without temples in the latter days is impossible if one believes the teachings of the Bible to be true.

Temples are, as we say in the Church, a sign of the times. They are a sign that the latter days are upon us, and that Christ's authority has returned to the earth. That authority exists still with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christ Himself said no less to His people in 1832 when He commanded through the Prophet Joseph Smith:

"Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen." D&C 87: 8 [emphasis added]

How quickly is "quickly"? I wanted to know. And seeing as the rate at which our temples are being built is a reliable (and measurable) latter day indicator, I did what anyone would do to grasp a change over time.

I made a graph. You see here displayed the number of unique temples to date which have been dedicated in this dispensation. The data begins with the temple dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio on March 27, 1836. Also note, with the 5 temples which were just announced in General Conference, this graph is already 23 temples behind because those temples have not yet been dedicated. They have been announced, however, and the work on each of them commences according to the will and blessing of the Lord.

[Note:  The increase which happens after the Priesthood was extended to all worthy males in 1978. Also, the largest increase begins in 1999 and tapers off seven years later--a fact more evident in the data than on the graph. That 7 year burst reflects a prophecy of President Gordon B. Hinckley’s in “To The Boys and To the Men” from October 1998 General Conference in which he warned of 7 years of plenty, followed by... well, life as we now know it. (I hesitate to say 7 years of famine because President Hinckley himself hesitated to say seven years of famine.)]

Latter-day Saints have a long history of building temples. Early in our history, the command to build them divided many families and cost many lives. No impostor, no one who is unauthorized by Christ Himself, could triumph over the hell we face to build these temples all over the world. Every time we build another one, the way becomes more treacherous for Saints everywhere. The only protection against the hardship the temples bring are the temples themselves--to worship in them, to praise God for them, to perform the work that takes place within their sanctified walls, and to bring the spirit out through our personal righteousness, and share that goodness with the world.

When Saints fail in that work--when they reject the temple, or do not live up to their responsibilities and covenants related to the temple--they are not the only ones who suffer. The world and everyone in it suffers. We must remember that as we pray and strive to take the gospel into the furthest reaches of the globe. There is no turning back, and there is no calling it quits.

I know that the work of the temple unites families, because my family has been united and strengthened by the ordinances performed vicariously on their behalf in the temple. I love the temple because it blesses my life and unburdens my soul. I have come closer to Christ through the work of the temple, and I look forward to the day when all that I still long for--those choicest blessings that are inseparably tied to the temple--are finally bestowed in my own life. I endure in faith because I know they will be. I have trusted God with my happiness, and I know He will deliver me to the Promised Land. Truly that Promised Land has been restored to us once more. It exists inside every dedicated temple on the earth.

I love my Savior. I know that He lives, and that He loves us. I bear this witness in His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.


I am currently taking astronomy and chemistry, and I'm learning to love science in ways I never knew how to before. Seeing how the precise interplay between planets and forces, chemicals and light contribute to mortal life and the existence of our earth has been an inspiring experience. It's amazing to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit as He uses chemistry and astronomy to explain the Plan of Salvation to me in new ways--the design behind the science from the Master of it all.

I was preparing for an exam earlier today, and was studying the physical and chemical design of the planets in our Solar System. I learned that Earth's liquid core is what provides for magnetism, but Jupiter and Saturn have an even stronger magnetism because of their liquid metallic hydrogen. Venus and Mars have atmospheres heavily composed of carbon monoxide, while Jupiter and the other Jovian planets are mostly composed of hydrogen and helium. Earth is the only one in our Solar System whose atmosphere is made predominantly of nitrogen and oxygen. And it's because of our atmosphere's unique composition of elements that we are shielded from the harmful parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.

In other words, the only reason the Sun doesn't kill us is because our planet is different in exactly the right way to keep us alive.

My book also explores the moons of many different planets, and makes an observation that you can scour the Solar System and never find two heavenly bodies that are exactly the same. And there's really something to that when you think about it.

There is a lot of diversity in our Solar System. That's true of the planets and the stars, and the chemicals from which they're made. The ebb and flow of the universe as those chemicals interact on atomic levels--and how those interactions have huge and cosmic consequences in the lives of planets and stars--is simply breath-taking.

However, it's important to remember that diverse and life-sustaining are two very different things.

You can't change a planet without changing what it's made of temporally, no more than you can change a person without changing what he or she is made of spiritually. Changing the spiritual make-up of a person is possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but that change cannot be superficial. There is no superficiality in chemistry, as far as my 101 experience has shown me. Changes start from the inside, and work their way out.

On an atomic level, the innermost reaches of person or a planet, you either sustain life, growth, (and I would add) truth, knowledge, faith in God and testimony of his Church... or you don't. And sure, if you don't, that might make you different. But if those differences do not sustain life, they're completely useless to you at best, will destroy you if you're lucky, or will cause you to destroy others if you're unlucky.

After all, Mercury is solely unique--sort of like the Earth. It's the only planet in our current Solar System without an atmosphere. And it might have even had some "bragging rights" as being the planet closest to the Sun. But it has no protection from the most harmful electromagnetic waves of the Sun, which might for the analogy be rendered S-O-N.

And because of that, nothing grows there. And one might argue that nothing ever will.

(Gee, who does that sound like?)

But don't we kind of need Mercury to have balance, which ultimately allows for life to continue?

With the gravitational forces at play, I can believe Mercury the planet is part of how we have life right now on Earth. I have no beef with Mercury the planet.

But I'm talking about the misery and desolation that would cause someone to self-destruct--to try and steal someone else's faith. I'm talking about the kind of treachery that goes against what man, woman, and child were born to be, for no person was ever designed to be damned.

We exist to be exalted. That is God's plan of happiness, and always has been. We are divine sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents. Just as nebulae give birth to stars, so do divine Parents give birth to divine children. It's not difficult or unnatural to believe it. To believe anything else, in my mind, would be the only unnatural thing.

I rejoice to say with Job:
"The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." (Job 33: 4)
From what I've seen in my latest experiences in science, my breath of life right now is supposed to be oxygen. I don't have to fight against God to make my life interesting--because if you're going to do that, you might as well pick a fight with the air you breathe.

With the greatest happiness we could ever know being tied so completely to God's plan of salvation, choosing eternal life really can be as intuitive as breathing, if we will allow it to be so. That all of my brothers and sisters will come to know this joy is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

"Are You Going to Serve a Mission?"

Sister Kinman saw me twice before we actually spoke to each other, but I could tell she wanted to speak to me. I didn't know her, but I could feel even from her passing glance her need for... something. Something from me. Something I could say to her.

But my roommate and I had just come from the South Visitor's Center, where she had tried to page another Sister missionary--one who had served the outbound portion of her Temple Square mission in Pennsylvania where my roommate is from. We were standing outside of the Tabernacle, waiting for the Sister to finish her tour so we could say hello.

While my roommate waited for her, I was reminiscing on the conversation I'd just had with another Sister. She was from Hawaii, and I didn't know her. She asked me, seemingly from nowhere, a question that shocked me where I stood.

"Are you going to serve a mission?"

Through a smile that touched the secret of my heart, I told her, "I wanted to, and I still do. But I don't know if I will any time soon."

When she asked why I wasn't going to serve, I proceeded to tell her about the missionary I'm currently waiting for. I told her sincerely that his mission has been my priority and in many ways has been like a mission to me. She understood. She showed me the ring on her left hand, and I knew there was nothing else I needed to say. We smiled at each other knowingly, and I felt comforted once again that I had done all the Lord had asked me to do up to this point in my life. I had made sacrifices, and they had been perfectly terrible to me at the time, but had turned out wonderfully in the end.

I could wait, I told myself. So familiar. How many times had I told myself that? I would serve a mission someday, and I could wait until then.

I looked up and saw two Sisters approaching me. Sister Kinman was one of them. She smiled at me and walked up to me and started talking. She didn't mistake me for an investigator at all. Instead, she also asked me what I hadn't yet recovered from.

"Are you going to serve a mission?"

I want to, I thought to myself. I really want to. In fact, I want to do that with the same intense aching, the same desire with which I want to be sealed to my family. To say I want it doesn't quite do it justice. It's a longing I could die from if I'm not careful.

"I'd like to," I said, still smiling. And I told her my conversion story. I told her that I hadn't had any missionaries to teach me because there weren't any assigned to our part of the stake. I told her I'd been converted "by members being good people," who weren't afraid to share that goodness with strangers. I told her I had been drawn to that goodness, and through mistakes of my own I had nearly lost that light. But when I got it back, I decided I couldn't live without it and I would never let it go.

I told her, "I am a missionary, and I will always be a missionary."

She looked at me, eyes shining with light of her own, smiled and thanked me.

"I needed to hear that," she told me. I was glad to be there for her, and realized again that being a part of this--this precise art of God's serendipity--is why I want to serve a mission.

She proceeded to tell me that I could serve a mission, that all the things going on in my life shouldn't stop me if it's what I want to do. And there are no words to describe how much I wanted to believe her, and I found myself believing her against my experience and judgment.

The bitter part of me--the one who was hurt the most when God said "No"--wore a cruel smile then. You may chain me here, but you'll never be rid of me, her expression read. I jabbed her as hard as I could, and she closed her eyes again. There was a tear on her cheek. And I turned away by looking outward. I'm not cruel enough to find joy in anyone's suffering, not even my own.

Sister Kinman walked away then, and her work inside of me was finished. She may not know what she has reawakened in me, or what it means for me to be here again. How long I've waited, and how painful the weight has been. When I first saw her, I thought she needed something from me. But now I see that what she gave to me was of more worth than anything I could've said to her that day.

But it didn't end with her. Several minutes later, my roommate met up with the Sister she had been searching for. That Sister's companion began speaking to me. Her accent was thick, and her last name was impossible for me to pronounce. She was from Ukraine. And in broken English, full of the beauty of revelation, she asked me the question I now have to answer.

"Are you going to serve a mission?"

She told me how she decided to serve a mission. She encouraged me to proceed in faith, and told me about the blessings her family had received since she had begun serving. She told me about the miracles she had experienced in trying to serve those whom the Lord brings to her on Temple Square. Her eyes were bright with faith and strength.

In just a few short months, I will be old enough to serve a full-time mission. And I have never wanted anything in the same way as I have wanted to serve a full-time mission. It wasn't until I fell in love that I was even sure I wanted to get married--but even when I wasn't sure of that or anything else, I knew I wanted to serve a mission. And now I see in myself that the desire has not changed.

The question remains, despite my certainty of many things: "Are you going to serve a mission?"

Am I?

Am I going to step up and begin the process which has been so difficult for so many of the strongest people I have ever known? Am I going to make the eternal covenants of the endowment in order to become who I must be in order to be a Sister--knowing I will have to bear my portion of that weight alone? Am I going to postpone my marriage even longer in order to do this wonderful thing which has such a power for good in the lives of others? Am I strong enough, brave enough, and wise enough to finish what I've wanted so much to do? Am I willing to go wherever the Brethren assign me to go, no matter how difficult, no matter how dangerous? Am I willing to go forth, knowing that I must forgive myself, then forget myself in order to serve others with all the love and strength of my heart? Am I able to live for Christ in every moment of every day, honoring Him and cherishing Him, and filling my soul with His light?

I knew the answer to these questions long before the Sisters asked me. That's the reality of what President Julie B. Beck was talking about when she said that preparing for a mission should be "a review and not a revelation."

I don't have to wonder if I'm able. I don't have to wonder if my testimony is strong enough. I don't have to wonder if I know enough. I don't even have to wonder if I want it desperately enough yet.

All I've ever wondered is if God will let me serve Him--if, in all He asks of me and my life right now, there might be a black badge somewhere with my name on it. A genuine smile I might learn to carry with me through all things, and eyes warm with testimony strong enough to liberate people from fear. Some words I might say in a right moment to a soul in need of someone like me. A handmaid to my Lord in His loving kindness and everlasting salvation.

To walk among my Father's kingdom, healing wounded souls, declaring:
"Come, my brethren, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price."
2 Nephi 9: 50
That is still my dream.

Precisely Hatred

One of the most important lessons for a student of scripture to understand is the importance of precision in interpretation. Especially when all of your scriptures--as is the case for Latter-day Saints--are products of translation, oftentimes looking up the words in the dictionary is not enough to truly understand the meaning of what we are taught from them.

One such word, which occurs with particular frequency in the Old Testament, is "hate."

There are times in the scriptures where hatred is expressed as we understand it; a passionate loathing or despising that is nothing short of a human frailty. Many times, this is exactly what the words mean in stories such as Amnon and Tamar in 2 Samuel 13.

However, when "hate" is used to describe God's regard, or in commandments in relation to our responsibility as His Saints, only the Holy Ghost can reveal its true meaning.

God does not give Himself over to the irrational, passionate, seething hatred of men. Those are not His ways. I direct you to Leviticus 19:

17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.

We are not allowed, commanded, or encouraged by our God or our prophets to hate anyone in our hearts. To do so is a direct violation of the teachings and examples of Jesus Christ when He taught that instead of loving our neighbors and hating our enemies, He would have us:

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5: 43-45)

So what, then, is the hatred of God? I direct you back to the verses from Leviticus given above. God's hatred is a rejection, an eventual disassociation, a separation from His presence. It is an action, one that does not require a feeling of hatred--nor could God give Himself over to such a base feeling and still be God. It is NOT a total severing, for such does not take place until no more labor can be performed. For God to "hate" is purely administrative--but that is not to say that God does so without feeling. Quite to the contrary. Looking upon the record of Enoch in the the Book of Moses reveals that when God must cast off His wicked, idolatrous, disobedient children, the feeling of His heart is perfect sorrow.

At times, we may be invited through our experiences in life to share in that sorrow for those who disobey. But it is not our place to allow that feeling to be adulterated and perverted with anger and scorn--a refusal to love them. To do so is not Christian, and the Holy Ghost will not honor or abide with anyone who gives themselves to such unbecoming, unauthorized conduct.

We have to realize that when we say that Heavenly Father loves ALL of His children, that Christ's help is for everyone, it is not our place to add a self-righteous "except for this person," to the end of either of those statements. It is not our place to make allowances for ourselves to "love the sinner, but hate their sins." Many times when we say this, we condemn for sins which we do not know of with any certainty--and when we do, we sometimes use it as a license to continue in our negativity towards those "sinners" in our lives. It is never our place to punish those who have sinned with feelings of hatred or vengeance, and God rejects anyone who stands between Him and His children is such a brazen display of Satanic behavior.

We have every right to reject sin through our teachings and our testimonies, and to do so publicly--to warn our neighbors, just as we are instructed in Leviticus. But such "rebuke" needs to be solely comprised of teaching proper principle and truth with love, respect, and fondness born of trust. It needs to be given from a people who are quicker to reject their own sin and confess their own faults than to point out the faults of others. We will find that as we do this, to use harshness and anger is entirely unnecessary. That is the miracle of Christ's example. Teaching through love and respect is much more effective than to give into a spirit of meanness unbecoming of Heavenly Father's children.

Looking upon God's hatred as rejection finds consistent parallels in the temple imagery of Jude 1: 23 and Hebrews 1: 9. That imagery, also found in D&C 36: 6, teaches that those who are ordained to preach the gospel have the responsibility to say to all men:
Save yourselves from this untoward generation, and come forth out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted with the flesh.
But make no mistake: we are not being sent forth unto the world with a message to sow heated contention with those who would oppose us. Our message is one of love, from a Father who desires not only to love, but to bless all of His children. Because God cannot bless the unrighteous and still be God, our message is one of baptism, of renewal, rebirth, and resurrection. Ours is the message of Jesus Christ. That message can never be anything other than love. It may at times be sharp, or loud, or perhaps even severe. But a message of hatred from the heart is not God's message.

If our messages, public or private, written or spoken, to friend or to stranger, of the mind or of the heart, ever descend into feelings of loathing and hatred, we must understand that the best thing for us to do is to be silent. In choosing to be silent, we make the conscious decision not to give our discourse, our efforts, and ourselves over to the adversary. We must check ourselves against what God "hates"--see Proverbs 6: 16-19--and repent of all those things of which we might stand guilty. To do so is to regain the Spirit and to become wiser for the experience and to truly learn from our mistakes.

I testify that Heavenly Father is a perfect, loving God. I testify that Jesus Christ is His perfect, loving Son. I know that the Holy Ghost bears the perfect testimony, and that as we listen to Him we can learn to teach powerfully without a need for the coarse barbarism of the devil. I testify that to do so is our responsibility as Latter-day Saints. I know bearing true testimony of Jesus Christ provides security from sin which comes from actively opposing all which is evil, and that as we do so we will see the Church press forward towards both its destiny and destination. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Enduring to the End

I get a lot of people passing through here looking for stories on enduring to the end. I assume these searches are for lessons and talks. Because I aim to serve, allow me to share two of my favorite examples of this principle, and the talks associated with them.

The first example is from the life of Jesus Christ. I direct you to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's talk The Inconvenient Messiah. Elder Holland expands upon what Jesus went through when He was tempted by Satan, as recorded in Matthew 4: 1-11.

Elder Holland explains Satan's treachery in each of the temptations that he gives to Christ, and how we must be sure to avoid that same treachery in our lives. Elder Holland explains what Jesus does to overcome His encounter with Satan, and what we MUST do to follow Christ's example to overcome our showdowns with Satan throughout our lives.

"I wish to speak this morning of the demands of discipline and discipleship, of the responsibilities we have to face when we choose to follow Jesus Christ. In the Savior's life and in ours, Satan counters such discipline with temptations of an easier way, with an offer of 'convenient Christianity.' It is a temptation Jesus resisted, and so must we. Life was very inconvenient for him, and, unless I miss my guess, it will often be so for you and for me when we take upon us his name."

Enduring to the end, keeping the faith, is a part of our baptismal covenant. We give up the ability to ever stand on neutral ground regarding Christ when we are baptized. Because of this, we will be fighting and opposing Satan for the rest of our mortal lives--if not longer. Sometimes our fight will be more active and tiring than at other times, but even in times of peace we must oppose that which is evil. That is what enduring to the end means. I love this talk because it expresses that reality in no uncertain terms.

This second story comes from President Thomas S. Monson's talk Be of Good Cheer. In his talk, President Monson speaks of a woman who loses her husband in World War II. In order to evacuate to safety, this woman must then trek from East Prussia to Western Germany alone with her 4 children.

One by one, she loses each of her children to the unforgiving winter, and for the first three children she digs their graves with a spoon. She loses her baby daughter last, and digs that grave in the frozen ground with her bare hands. President Monson retells this woman's prayer and describes how it saved her life:

"'Dear Heavenly Father, I do not know how I can go on. I have nothing left—except my faith in Thee. I feel, Father, amidst the desolation of my soul, an overwhelming gratitude for the atoning sacrifice of Thy Son, Jesus Christ. I cannot express adequately my love for Him. I know that because He suffered and died, I shall live again with my family; that because He broke the chains of death, I shall see my children again and will have the joy of raising them. Though I do not at this moment wish to live, I will do so, that we may be reunited as a family and return—together—to Thee.'
When she finally reached her destination of Karlsruhe, Germany, she was emaciated. Brother Babbel said that her face was a purple-gray, her eyes red and swollen, her joints protruding. She was literally in the advanced stages of starvation. In a Church meeting shortly thereafter, she bore a glorious testimony, stating that of all the ailing people in her saddened land, she was one of the happiest because she knew that God lived, that Jesus is the Christ, and that He died and was resurrected so that we might live again. She testified that she knew if she continued faithful and true to the end, she would be reunited with those she had lost and would be saved in the celestial kingdom of God." --President Monson

This woman understood the power of her testimony of Jesus Christ and her prayers to Him, and that's how she endured to the end of her struggle. She knew that her personal suffering had no bearing on the reality of Christ's atonement and resurrection, and the truth and power of His gospel. She knew and trusted that her covenants within His gospel would save her, whether she lived or died. That is a choice lesson, which only comes personally through suffering. It cannot be given in an easier, more convenient way.

That is the testimony of my life. My life has not been the most difficult in all of human history, nor has it been the easiest. But I trust God to help me through everything that I face. I trust His gospel and His servants to help me and teach me. I trust the insight and wisdom they've gained over a lifetime of service and preparation for and from their callings. I rejoice to be able to recognize the truth in what they teach. I share their words in every way I can because I know they are true, and I've gained that witness from the Holy Ghost.

I know the Holy Ghost speaks the words of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, and that there is NO other name in heaven or on earth by which mankind can be saved from sin and death. I bear that witness joyfully in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

What CAN'T Wal Mart Sell?

--originally posted on Waters of Mormon on October 15, 2007--

Want proof that the world is worse now than it ever has been? Who would have thought that proof of our nation's apathy toward sacred covenants was only as close as the nearest Wal Mart?

For the low, low price of $19.74, you
can own your very own divorce!
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not advocate divorce. With a doctrine like eternal marriage, I don't see how they ever could; another reason on my (ever-growing) list of why I love the Church.

My parents were never married, so their separation didn't have the same process as a divorce. I've had my life severed in half before, and was told to give a half to each parent-- and then grappled with the fact that as long as they never had a whole piece, neither would I. When I was 15, I took the other half back from my father; one of the hardest, if not the hardest thing I've ever done. Only in the past year or so has my life taken on a status quo beyond the division that happened so long ago.

Statistically, my chances at a successful marriage probably aren't very good. With the divorce rate somewhere around 50% and as a child from divorce, I probably don't have a shot at a successful marriage on paper. Fortunately, I've come to the right place to do away with such a possibility. The LDS Newsroom had their own statistics in relation to divorce and temple marriage:

"According to research cited in a 2000 article in the Los Angeles Times, 'in an era of divorce, Mormon temple weddings are built to last,' with only a 6 percent divorce rate. Another study, published in 1993 in Demography Magazine, concluded that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who marry in one of the Church's temples are the least likely of all Americans to divorce." (more here)

The American Dream is alive and well in the Church. Not only is a healthy marriage, 3 and a half kids, the white picket fence and the dog fully possible, it's encouraged. I admit, part of me hesitates to trust that image as the be all and end all of happy marriages. But I can't deny that it's what I've always wanted, and that I would have no idea how to achieve such a dream if I hadn't found the Church.

--My thoughts today--

I testify that Jesus Christ gave my life back to me when He took my life's halves and made them whole again. He was the only one who was not only willing, but had the power to do so. No court can do that, no law can do that, no amount of therapy has ever done that for me. No good intentions, no positive thinking, no amount of effort from anyone else could have healed me after all that I had seen. When I found the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I found the home I had yearned for all my life. And it's not because Church has happy, loving people in it. I testify it's because this is the true Church of Jesus Christ on the earth, with His power, His authority, and His voice. We have no need to speak for Him among our people because He speaks for Himself. His Spirit dwells with us, and God attends His Spirit. And wherever God is, there is my home.

When Jesus Christ taught me that His way, His home, was not supposed to include divorce, I was not offended. I rejoiced! Why? Because when God says forever, He means it. He has a better way, and there are better days ahead than everything I've always known. And I can trust Him when He tells me that.

I've finally found a Promise I can trust.

Can I get a Witness?

This picture is worth a great deal to me--not because the quality of the picture is good, not because it was taken with the best camera, and not because it meets the standards that would make it a masterpiece in the world's eyes.

This picture is worth a lot to me because of what I was doing--the miracles that happened--the day it was taken. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I was trying to preserve a very sacred memory, and used what I had available to me at the time--which was someone else's camera phone. I took one shot to be polite, sent the picture to my own phone, and that's the only picture I have from the day my father was baptized and confirmed into the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This picture is a memory to me, a record. It's a record of the miracles that took place that day. The distortion and imperfections on this image do not affect the quality of my feelings and memories for those miracles.

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the imperfections we find in our scriptures, our histories, and even in the lives of our leadership throughout the ages--their flaws are a lot like the imperfections and distortions to this picture. Their imperfections no more change the fact that their words bear and direct the Holy Ghost than the distortions on this picture change whether it's still a picture of the temple.

In the Book of Mormon, the word imperfection occurs three times. Each verse contains insight and instruction for those who discredit the Book of Mormon because it isn't a perfect record, according to their mortal standards. The verses read as follows:

And whoso receiveth this record, and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these. Behold, I am Moroni; and were it possible, I would make all things known unto you.
Mormon 8: 12
Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.
Mormon 9: 31
And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.
Mormon 9: 33

The Book of Mormon and the prophets of God do not need to be perfect to be who they say they are. Those who mock and reject the word of God or His servants because they do not follow human standards for artistic mastery, historical validity, philosophical or political merit--or any other standard other than God's own--overestimates the value of those mortal standards. They pass a superficial, mortal judgment on something eternal and spiritually perfect. They assume themselves capable of understanding perfection well enough to pass that judgment.

This is why missionaries from the Church ask their investigators to pray to Heavenly Father to gain a witness of the Book of Mormon. God is the only one who can judge truth and perfection, and is the only one who can declare whether someone's words are true. He directs the Holy Ghost, who is the only one who can give those investigators that witness. We can choose to accept or reject that witness from God, but we cannot obtain it in any other way.

May we understand that our scriptures and the prophets who recorded them are not holy because they are perfect. They are holy because the Holy Ghost attends them. Jesus Christ is perfect, and we should never trade communing with Him personally for our own understanding. If we want to receive perfection we must receive His voice through His ordained words and His chosen servants.

I bear this in solemn witness to His name, even Jesus Christ. Amen.


Bearing testimony of our Savior is the privilege of my life and the calling of my generation. This blog would be of little or no use to anyone if it ever deviated too far from the miracles and majesty of Jesus Christ. Because of that, I want to deal directly with the topic of Christ now, and share the heart of his gospel message.

After Christ performed the powerful miracle of the Atonement and was crucified, we read in John 19: 30 that after he had finished everything he had set out to do in his mortality, "he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." Leaving this world in perfect submission, He gave his life and his power, bore the burden of our sin and mortality... surrounded by the vilest of hellions and in the face of complete and total despair, Christ performed a perfect sacrifice by offering everything He had ever earned as a payment for our salvation and exaltation.

Why? Because He loves us with a perfect love. He loves all life, and believes fundamentally and fiercely that life should continue--that our lives should continue. He believes each and every one of us have purpose, meaning, and something of infinite worth to contribute to the kingdom of God. In short, He believes in the divinity that is within all of us, and because He has seen what that divinity can become, He doesn't want us to settle for anything less than the perfect joy of our Father in Heaven.

We read in Ether 12: 7 the following:

For it was by faith that Christ showed himself unto our fathers, after he had risen from the dead; and he showed not himself unto them until after they had faith in him; wherefore, it must needs be that some had faith in him, for he showed himself not unto the world. 

Akin to that though is this portion from 2 Nephi 2: 8:

...there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

These scriptures tell us that after the Resurrection, Christ no longer had to appear to anyone who did not have faith in Him. As Zion's builders, we have to understand this crucial information to rise to our fullest potential in these latter days.

If we want to perform our latter-day mission to build Zion and have Christ return and claim her unto Himself, we must be a body of people who believes completely and lovingly in His Resurrection. In the Church, it's easy to focus so much on the Atonement that we forget that it would have been incomplete without the Resurrection. But we must grow beyond this lack of understanding.

Think about it. If Christ had offered to cleanse our lives without ever taking up His life again, we'd still be damned. Death would still hold us captive, halting the plan between birth and rebirth. Our earth could never be exalted and heaven could never come to us. The dead might be redeemed, but they'd never be resurrected. If they were never resurrected, they could never inherit the kingdom and glory of the Father, becoming heirs of salvation with Christ. Zion would never truly come forth, would never fully put on her beautiful garments of priesthood power. (D&C 113: 7-8) We as latter-day servants would not be able to finish the work we were assigned--to build Zion--if it wasn't for the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The house of Israel must be redeemed, and we will bring the gospel to them through our testimonies of Jesus Christ as His ordained servants. Our faith in His Atonement and Resurrection will make it possible for us to regain His presence. In a world that seems to believe more and more fully each day that only seeing is believing, we must remember the power of faith--for this is the only way to appreciate the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

May we more fully become valiant saints of that testimony together, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Annotating Patriarchal Blessings: Adobe Reader

In my previous post on annotation, you'll notice I said I don't annotate my blessing with Microsoft Word. Instead, I use the Comment feature in Adobe Reader. The programs are pretty similar, but I like the less crowded display of Adobe. Please also note that I'm in no way trying to sell Adobe Acrobat. Quite the opposite. I'm trying to help you get what I believe of my own accord to be a superior electronic annotating experience.

Getting Started
The first step is to get your blessing into a PDF format with comments enabled. If you've created a PDF of your blessing with any other program--whether through converting to PDF from another document type online, or converting to PDF with your scanner--you will notice that the Comments feature will not be enabled on your document. This feature can only be enabled through a version of Adobe Acrobat. How I got around that is downloading a free trial of Adobe Acrobat Pro (found here, link to the free trial in the right hand column), opening my PDF, and enabling the comments.

Once you have Adobe Acrobat, you can create a PDF of your blessing by clicking the Create button, and choosing either a File from your computer, or to create one from your Scanner.

Enable Comments
Once you have your blessing open in Adobe Acrobat, go to the Comments menu, click on Enable For Commenting In Adobe Reader, then save the document. This will ensure that your document will be enabled for comments in Adobe Reader (which is free) long after you 30 day free trial in Acrobat Pro ends.

Personally, I view this as a good time to get out of Acrobat Pro. Considering I don't plan on buying Acrobat Pro and my experience of annotating is going to be largely in Reader once the trial ends, it makes sense to me to learn how to annotate in Reader. This guide will proceed with Reader. If you want to play around with it in Acrobat Pro, you're on your own from here.

Find the PDF on your computer and open it with Adobe Reader. This may require you to right-click on the PDF and choose Open With... then click on Adobe Reader.

Create a Comment
Go to the Tools menu, click Customize Toolbars, and check the box next to Sticky Note. This puts a button on your toolbar for you to add annotations. If you don't want the toolbar button, go to the Tools menu, click Comments & Markup, and choose Sticky Note. The result will look something like this:

Because I don't have a mock blessing to show you, I'm going to proceed with a talk on Patriarchal Blessings to go over the mechanics. (As a slightly unrelated aside, the PDF archives on have comments enabled. It's a great way to find your favorite BYU devotionals and talks, and annotate them.)

Also note that the small thought bubble that appears is customizable. Right-click on it, go to Properties, and use the options in the box (shown in green above) to change its color, opacity, and shape. You can drag it to anywhere on the document. Clicking on it will bring up the larger box (the purple on the right) where you type or paste your annotations. The larger box can be resized and moved. To minimize the larger box, click the top right corner.

You can attach files as comments. You can also add a button to your toolbar for this feature, or go under the Tools menu, select Comment & Markup, then Attach a File as a Comment. I have used this feature to attach PDFs of talks on Patriarchal Blessings. Your result will look something like this:

You will have the option to choose the icon you want. You can right-click on the icon and select Properties to change its color, opacity, and shape as well.

Notice the two icons on the bottom left of the screen, the yellow bubbles and paper clips. These bring up windows that show you an index of your comments and attachments, respectively.

The interface overall is simpler, and because I have an eye for simplicity I like it better than Microsoft Word. I haven't even begun to explore everything the program can do, however, so have fun with it.

But whether you use Adobe, Microsoft Word, pen and paper, or rock and chisel, the important thing is that we actively engage with the patriarchal blessings our Heavenly Father has given to us. President Thomas S. Monson once taught:
"Your patriarchal blessing is yours and yours alone. It may be brief or lengthy, simple or profound. Length and language do not a patriarchal blessing make. It is the Spirit that conveys the true meaning."
I testify that every patriarchal blessing has that promise for those who will seek until they find. In the sacred name which seals all blessings to their recipients, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

Annotating Patriarchal Blessings: Microsoft Word 2007

Some of the most sacred experiences I've ever had have been mentioned in some detail within my patriarchal blessing. As I've studied it, I've gained crucial insight into who I was in the pre-existence, and who I am trying to become in this life. Through studying the insights of my patriarchal blessing, I am able to plan and prepare for my future.

Studying my blessing has been crucial to understanding it. I've explored how I can use a couple of common computer programs to help me do this, and my goal is to point them out in the event that they can help someone else.

I began in Microsoft Word 2007, using the Comments feature in order to record my insights. To do this, Go to the Review tab, highlight the the word you want to annotate, and click on New Comment. A bubble will appear in the right hand column. Type or paste your insights here. You can also put links in these bubbles. The result will look something like this.

I have found that by picking out important words and phrases in my blessing, and studying how the scriptures have given context to those words, I understand much better that no part of my blessing is common. Our prophets also provide great insight that, when gathered and compared with the scriptures, deepens our appreciation for even the most fundamental aspects of the gospel. These aspects like prayer and scripture study take on new life because we can join them with the vision of our patriarchal blessing, and see how they fit into the larger context of our personal lives and eternal destinies.

As we gather more information and carefully store it in our Word document, it may begin to look something like this:

Which bubble goes to which thought? It gets pretty tangled. When you click on a bubble, it will show you which highlighted phrase is associated with it, which does help. But some reformatting might make this a little easier.

It may take some time, but playing with it will help you to figure out how to set it up just the way you want it. For those of you who dislike reading from a screen, I can't say I blame you. But under this approach, it's easy enough to print what you've gathered every so often--making it simpler and more organized than handwritten annotations.

Another nifty feature which may appeal to some is using the Charts feature to show which words appear the most in your blessing. For those of us with longer blessings, this may be a little harder to figure out. I made a Wordle with mine, then found the top 10 words. Once you have your word counts for the words you want to use, go to the Insert tab and click Charts. Choose the chart you want and enter your data.

When you finish, it'll look something like the following example:

You can change the colors of your charts by double clicking on them and choosing from the options that appear in the tool bar at the top of the document window. You can also change the color of your annotation bubbles by going to the Review tab, clicking the arrow under Track Changes, then Change Tracking Options... and changing the color in the Comments drop down box. The color shown in my examples is Violet.

There are features I like about Microsoft Word, but that isn't the program I use personally. I annotate a PDF of mine in Adobe Reader. I will do a separate post on that program soon.

I know patriarchal blessings provide some of the choicest council from the Lord a person can receive in this life. I know the patriarchs are inspired of God, and I know that my patriarchal blessing is comprised of words straight from the Lord to me. My blessing is mine, it is divine, and I knew that when I received it.

Receiving and understanding our patriarchal blessings protects us from the deception of Satan, which will become a greater need in each of us as these last days bring us closer and closer to our Savior's return. In the holy name through which these blessings come, even Jesus Christ. Amen.

Of Projects & Parables: Responding to Evil

You may have heard about the young woman in Provo who was recently attacked, raped, and left for dead outside of the Branbury Apartments.

What you don't know is this young woman is in my stake.

It's no mystery to anyone familiar with Brigham Young University that entire stakes do not cover a large geographical area. Members of my ward live in the complex where the incident took place. I don't think I have to explain that I live very close to where this incident happened.

But on Sunday, our stake presented us with an opportunity to do something about what happned: a service project to clear away the trees and undergrowth separating the Provo River trail from the Branbury Apartments.

On Monday, we gathered and got to work.

As I did my part to clear trees in the heat of desert midday, I thought about the young lady whose need has inspired our actions. I thought about her loved ones, and how hard it must be for them to see her go through this. I said more than one silent prayer for them all that day, and my prayers do remain with them because they are not just nameless strangers to me. They are members of my Church family I haven't met yet, and I don't need to know their names or ever see their faces to love them like family and wish them the best.

Those feelings of love and family stayed with me as I looked around and saw my fellow volunteers. I saw the priesthood holders who would come on a day's notice and give their time and their sweat to protect the safety and virtue of others. I saw members of my Relief Society there, doing their share and pulling their weight--exerting strength according to what they could lift, and conserving their energy so they could work longer and do more. I saw a great and powerful love that day between friends and strangers alike as we do what we can to diminish Satan's influence in our community.

And the great part to me is that this project was just the beginning to a larger solution--which is so important because just changing the environment isn't going to be enough in this battle against the adversary. The Branbury is providing an ongoing self defense course, which has (unsurprisingly) received an overwhelming response from young women who want to feel safe despite what has happened to our sister.

But what I will long remember from this day was the image of the Priesthood and the Relief Society working together. If I may invoke the language and cadence of a parable, I want to picture the kingdom of heaven for a minute.

Young men and women lift burdens that look like trees and underbrush but are actually something much greater--despite the heat of the day and the weight of the load. They leave all the tired gender battles on the ground where they belong.  A log is a log, and someone has to lift it and put it in the pile over there. It's that simple. You lift what you can carry, and when you get tired you pray. Male and female, you are strengthened through Christ and you carry on.

A young man, seeing I have no gloves, gives me some to use. I use them for my task and give them back to him because I don't need them for everything. Certified workmen run the equipment, the chainsaws and the wood chipper. They oversee everyone, young and old, and clear the area when it's time to pull another tree down. They plan, make the first cut, and hand us a rope to pull the tree down.

If I have hands, I can work. The strength of my back is the strength of my back. The only reason there were only four of my church sisters there working is because only four of them showed up--not because the women weren't invited.

President Spencer W. Kimball once taught of the Relief Society, "There is a power in this organization that has not yet been fully exercised to strengthen the homes of Zion and build the Kingdom of God—nor will it until both the sisters and the priesthood catch the vision of Relief Society." (see here)

I don't know what other people see when they think about heaven, but it's important to remember that the work never stops when you want to go far. In Matthew 20, Christ teaches:
27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

In my mind, heaven wouldn't be heaven if there was no work to do. Sure, we could sit around in pretty mansions and shoot the breeze with each other for all eternity, but what would be the point? We need to remember that heaven, in all its perfection, still has a purpose: to serve God in opposing evil continually.

If the work in which we're engaged for mortality never penetrates that spiritual realm of good and evil, doesn't force us to look beyond our immediate circumstances and into that eternal future, we won't be ready for that future when it comes.

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