Saturday, June 2, 2012

#4 - "Converted to His Gospel through His Church" - Elder Hallstrom

This talk is titled "Converted to His Gospel through His Church" by Elder Donald L. Hallstrom and can be found here.

I really enjoyed this talk on an intellectual level. I liked the clear distinction that Elder Hallstrom made between the LDS church and the gospel of Christ. Here are the characteristics he describes of the two:

Gospel Characteristics:
  • it is "the glorious plan of God in which we, as His children, are given the opportunity to receive all that the Father has"
  • it is "eternal life"
  • it is “the greatest of all the gifts of God”

Church Characteristics:
  • it is "was established by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry"
  • it is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets”
  • "Jesus Christ was and is the head of His Church, represented on earth by prophets holding apostolic authority."

The main point that stood out to me in this talk was that activity in the church does not equal activity in the gospel. He points out that while activity in the church is greatly desirable, it is inadequate. He states that we need both the gospel and the church.

This got me thinking about the reverse - can we be active in the gospel without being active in the church? I have definitely wondered this before and went through a period of time when I believed the answer was yes. At that time in my life, I felt that going to church was more of a strain and drain on my spirit than an upliftment. I told my dad that and he said that maybe I wasn't supposed to go to church to be uplifted by others but that by going I might be able to help other people. I didn't understand that at the time, but I think I do now.

Exaltation is not a solitary experience. God intends for us to have eternal life with our families. He desires all people to be united in Christ.

Moses 7:18: "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."

That is what He desires for us. While we need to personally develop our spiritual attributes, such as faith, hope and charity, what God truly wants is for His people to be united with these same attributes. I didn't always understand that, and I know there is still more for me to understand. But I do see that God values unity among His people. Prayer and fasting in a group is often more effective than prayer and fasting alone and brings feelings of love and harmony to those who prayed and fasted together. I find spiritual guidance much quicker when I am asking how to help those around me than when I am asking for help myself. We are sealed together as families for all eternity. There is a reason for all these things: God wants us to be unified together. He wants us to be unified as a church as well.

At different times in my life, church has been different things. In my college wards, I felt that every Sunday I learned so much, felt the Spirit so much and was lifted up. This was great for me, because at the time, I really needed to build my own foundation of faith in the the church. Currently, I feel that I am lifting more than being lifted. And that is fine! That doesn't mean the church isn't true or that I should stop going because "what's in it for me?" I have a demanding calling being a teacher to 3 and 4 year olds. There are a lot of them and many of them are "difficult," even for their age group. I often come home from church utterly exhausted and without hearing the lessons from Sunday School and Relief Society that have so often buoyed me up. But, by being a good teacher to these children, I enable their parents to enjoy those lessons. And, even more important, by being a good teacher, who prays for inspiration in how to teach, I am helping build a spiritual foundation for these little ones. And I know that even if it feels that going to church is currently taking more of me than it is giving back, it isn't true. The peace I feel throughout the week when I go to church and try to do my best is more than recompense.

I relate to and understand people who feel that they don't want to go to church because they feel different or they dislike many opinions/viewpoints held by many members of the ward. I have been in meetings where things were said that have made me uncomfortable or that I didn't agree with. None of these things were church doctrine, just people's interpretation of the doctrine that I think they potentially got wrong or they misunderstood, due to immaturity or some other personal bias. No one perceives all truth perfectly, so I am sure sometimes my perception of things is wrong, too. But when I heard things said that I didn't believe, I used to think that a) meant the church wasn't true, b) that I shouldn't need to go to church, since those things weren't edifying me, c) that person was a jerk or prejudiced or crazy or something negative. Now that I've grown up a bit, I realize that the church is made of people who aren't perfect, but for the most part, everyone is trying to do their best. I have recently experienced a woman talking in church who said some strange things. Previously, I would have dismissed everything she said, but - while I did analyze everything she said with a grain of salt - I ended up sifting through the "crazy" and still being edified with many of the points she was trying to make. She is a good woman who is trying to do her best as she sees fit. Did I agree with or even believe some of the things she was saying? Not always. But I saw that many of her points were good and those were what I focused on. And one of her points even helped bring me comfort about my miscarriage. I would have missed that if I had simply dismissed her.

I also relate to people who don't want to go to church, because they are intellectual and feel like they are much smarter than the people who will be giving the talks and the lessons. I have felt this way before. But even if that was true (which I am not saying it is - I am often very prideful), that doesn't mean I can't get things out of it. How many times have we heard lessons on prayer, faith, fasting, charity, etc...? Even lessons reviewing the basic fundamentals of these basic fundamentals are always useful and applicable. As humans, we constantly need reminding. I used to get bored of the scriptures once I knew every story. Now, I realize there is so much in a single verse that I will never be fully able to understand it all. I have had lessons taught by amazing scriptorians and amazing public speakers that have been wonderful and I have gotten a lot out of them. I have also had lessons taught be people who have not known much about the subject they were teaching that I have also gotten a lot out of. Just having an hour to think and read along in the manual about a specific gospel principle is something I would not be motivated to do at home by myself. And Heavenly Father doesn't want me to do it by myself. Now, when I am being taught in a lesson, I try to follow along, look encouragingly at the teacher, pay attention and not talk to or distract others, raise my hand to read a scripture or answer a question that is asked and comment if I think of something that might add to the point the teacher is trying to make. Am I getting things out of doing this? More things that I would be if I was studying the same topics for an hour alone? Of course I am! But, hopefully, I am also helping and uplifting the teacher and those around me. That is what Heavenly Father wants from us at church. I believe that is why we are supposed to go to church (aside from taking the sacrament and renewing our covenants, which is the primary reason). I am not saying all this to say, "Wow, look at me! I'm so great - I pay attention in Sunday School!" Rather, I am trying to show what I have learned, since I have totally "been there" when it comes to not wanting to be active in the church for various reasons. These changes in perspective have been years in coming ("line upon line," you might say), and it is through the good example and love and encouragement of many good people around me (Cam and Emily, I'm looking at you - and I suppose my parents, too :D) that I was able to have them. I am very glad that even when I did not feel like being active in the church, I still came anyway.

This post ended up being much longer than I intended, but I guess I should be used to that by now. I am nothing if not verbose. I would love to hear comments on what other people think of the need to be active in the church AND active in the gospel. I think a lot of people have felt or feel the way I have felt sometime in their lives, and it is something not generally talked about too much. 

#3 - "Teaching Our Children to Understand" - Sister Esplin

The third talk was by Cheryl A. Esplin entitled, "Teaching Our Children to Understand" and can be found here:

I loved the emphasis on the need for personal revelation in teaching children to understand the Gospel. While I am not a parent yet, I have definitely recognized the need for personal revelation in fulfilling such an overwhelming responsibility. I may not be a parent but I have been parented and it was the times when my parents used the Spirit that I learned the most and that they were the most effective as parents.

Here is an excerpt from something I wrote for my dad's 50th birthday that came to my mind (forgive the writing):

"Another memory from my turbulent teenagehood.  I had gotten into a fight with my parents and just was upset at the world.  I don’t remember any of what it was about.  But I remember I was so mad, I just wanted to disappear, but I didn’t have anywhere else to go or any way to get there anyway.  I had a queen-size bed with a small metal frame that it stood on that was really close to the ground.  I lay on the ground and shoved myself under the bed - it was a tight squeeze - I had to keep my head to one side because there wasn’t room to turn it.  I laid there for awhile, thinking and also hoping that if my parents came in, they would be sure I had run away, because it truly didn’t seem possible a full grown person could fit under the bed.  My dad knocked on the door and then came in to make peace, but of course he couldn’t see me.  I heard him call for me and check the closet and anywhere I could be, but he didn’t check under the bed.  He walked out of the room and then after a few seconds, he walked back in and laid down on the floor and started talking to me, saying nice things, making peace, not caring if I answered or even ignored him.  I just laid there - mainly because I was really stuck - but also wondering, “HOW could he have found me? It’s like he KNEW I was under here the second he walked back in.”  So, I listened to him and felt my heart soften.  I eventually crawled out and I asked him how he knew where I was.  He answered simply, “I prayed.”  It was a powerful testimony to me - a father worried about his daughter and her whereabouts asks Heavenly Father where she is and immediately is told in his heart.  I know Heavenly Father guided his words to me as well.  It was such a blessing to have a dad worthy of the spirit and using it to help him navigate through my difficult teenage years."

Another memory of mine comes from my junior prom. As a teenager I had a LOT of social anxiety. I was asked to the prom and I was excited to go. The whole day I got ready and felt fine, but the second the car pulled away from my house, I started having horrible, horrible panic attacks. It literally felt like I was dying. In fact, I have heard that people often mistake panic attacks for life threatening things, like heart attacks, etc... and go to the hospital. I tried to deal with it, but it was beyond me. It was just too stressful of a social situation for me to handle by myself. A huge group of people, most of whom I didn't know, going to a restaurant I'd never been to, going to dance all night with the same boy (what would we talk about, what if I say something stupid, what if there is awkward silence, etc...), these all combined against me. I ended up borrowing a friend's cell phone and calling my mom, at a loss of what to do. My sweet parents drove to the random city we were at (where the restaurant was) and brought me an anti-anxiety pill. I had only taken them once or twice before and it hadn't worked. I sat in the car for a few minutes, took the pill and just sobbed. I felt so trapped. I couldn't just ditch out on the boy who had spent $100+ on the prom ticket alone and I didn't want him to think I was having these problems because I hated him or something. It wasn't him at all - just the social situation. But how do you explain that as an awkward, 17 year old? My mom walked me to the bathroom to clean up my face and I distinctly remember walking through that crowded restaurant (how horrible those crowds seemed!). Up to this point in my life, I had never successfully pulled through a situation that induced me into having panic attacks. I had always had to quit. So, I was sure I couldn't make it through the rest of prom after having already cried, left my prom date for about half an hour, having had my parents come to the restaurant - basically having made things way more awkward than they already were and I hadn't even been able to handle that. But as we walked through the restaurant, my mom told me, "I said a prayer to Heavenly Father and I know you can do it. I have faith that you can." At that point, I didn't really understand faith and I didn't feel that I had any of my own. But I realized that I did have faith in my mom's faith. And I thought that might be enough. So, I walked over to my prom group (who were still waiting to be seated anyway) and didn't look back. We ate dinner together, hung out at the prom and danced, and I did it. I pushed through a (for me) very stressful, anxiety inducing event. The worst had happened (in that I had tons of panic attacks), but I had pushed through. I'm sure my mom had prayed multiple times that night and if it hadn't been for her prayers, her faith and the inspiration to tell me how she had felt the Spirit in my behalf, I know I couldn't have done it. By faith in her faith, I was able to succeed and that marked a huge turning point in my social anxiety. I also attribute that night to the point when the desire to have faith was planted inside me and I wanted to develop it for myself.

Experiences like those make me very grateful for the spirituality of my parents and help me realize (and motivate me!) how important it is to cultivate spirituality in order to teach our children. Sister Esplin emphasizes the need to teach children to understand the Gospel in the context of the child's life at that particular time. Both these experiences with my parents were within the context of my life at that moment and they were both very powerful for me. I get emotional thinking about them to this day. Sister Esplin quotes President Lee and sums this principle up perfectly: "Without experiencing a gospel principle in action, it is … more difficult to believe in that principle." I had heard about prayer and faith my whole life, but those two experiences really helped me believe in those principles.

Sister Esplin also stresses the need for consistent traditions of spirituality in the home, such as "family prayer, family scripture study, family home evening, and other family activities." I feel the need to better instill these traditions into my home now, so that when we do have children, they will already be solid traditions and not something we try to instigate with the added difficulties and stress of wrangling children.

I love the story of the girl whose father sat and explained to her about what getting baptized would mean a couple months before she turned eight. I want to take the time to do that when my children are about to turn eight as well.

Quotes I loved:

"This divine privilege of raising our children is a much greater responsibility than we can do alone, without the Lord’s help. He knows exactly what our children need to know, what they need to do, and what they need to be to come back into His presence."

"Teaching for understanding takes determined and consistent effort. It requires teaching by precept and by example and especially by helping our children live what they learn."

"As our children learn to understand gospel doctrines, they become more self-reliant and more responsible. They become part of the solution to our family challenges and make a positive contribution to the environment of our home and the success of our family."

Friday, June 1, 2012

#2 - "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them" - President Packer

For this post, I will be commenting on and referencing President Packer's talk "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them," which can be found here (I really need to learn how to embed the link in the word "here"):

This talk is one of the main reasons it's been awhile between my last General Conference post and this one. I can tell it has a lot of deep doctrine in it and I know I do not understand all of it. It covers a lot of different aspects of children - perhaps that's another reason why I feel so intimidated to talk about it, as I don't have any children yet. It seems to jump around a bit, but as I read and re-read it, the theme of children/parenthood/family ties everything together. Thus, my notes on the talk will be a little jumbled, too, and I know I can't cover every thought I have had about every thing he says.

Also, a lot of the stories about suffering children make me so sad that it's hard to see past the story into the meaning behind it. For example, in the story about the hungry boy who wants to eat the sacrament bread that President Packer ends up holding him on his lap, I recognize that this story is about much more than a hungry, little boy. But I can't help agonizing and wondering whatever happened to him. It doesn't sound like he got any sort of food or clothing at the meeting as he left before it ended. President Packer tells us that this story inspired a prophesy from President Kimball: “You were holding a nation on your lap.” This statement sounds very important and inspiring but I just don't fully understand it. Apparently, neither did President Packer at the time because President Kimball said to him more than once, “That experience has far greater meaning than you have yet come to know.” My current thoughts are that physical and spiritual sustenance are both necessities for everyone and when it comes down to it, spiritual sustenance is even more important. It is hard for me to overlook the physical suffering of the little children President Packer talks about.

Possibly that is one thing President Kimball is trying to stress? The nations that President Packer was talking about had a great deal of poverty in both areas. The church provides means to help people all over the world become more educated, which means less poverty. It also provides the Gospel and the knowledge of how to get back to our Father in Heaven. I also wonder if the main point of the story is that it is symbolic of the growth of the church in that area of the world. When it was first starting, the church leadership had to be provided by people not native to the country. But as the church would grow throughout those nations, the leadership would be from the people of those nations. Which has definitely happened and is continuing to happen.

The story of the Japanese orphan with scabies and the Salt Lake City boy with no coat just make me so sad. But I try to use that sadness to motivate me to be thankful for the blessings that I have and to be generous to all around me, keeping in mind that people in need are not necessarily in third world countries.

I love the story of the Japanese girl at the close of WWII who collected leaves from a tree in a city completely turned to rubble. She seemed oblivious to the carnage around and "she had found the one beauty left in her world." I love the portrayal of a little child as the personification of hope.

I found comfort in the story about the couple unable to have children. I had a miscarriage about six months ago and have felt a lot of heartache. It has made me worry that I might be unable to have children of my own (even though I know miscarriages are fairly common). President Packer's response that the couple who could not have children were fortunate due to their righteous desires helped me to have a paradigm shift. I still get sad and worried sometimes, but I am comforted by the fact that I have righteous desires to be a mother and I know I will be at some point. On a similar note, I have felt discouraged about still struggling with feelings of grief at the miscarriage. Having never had a close person in my life go through this before I did, I hadn't realized how heartbreaking it can be. I have felt like I should be "over it" by now or something. But when President Packer told how he and his wife lost two of their little boys at birth, you could hear the sorrow in his voice and see it in his face. I am guessing that happened 50-ish years ago. It helped me realize it was okay to be sad and grieve still and that I probably would be sad about it for the rest of my life. Now, I don't mean that it's okay for me to give into despair or not be able to move on in my life. It just helped me realize this is okay for me to feel the feelings I have been feeling.

Quotes that stood out to me:

"Husbands and wives should understand that their first calling—from which they will never be released—is to one another and then to their children"

"Family time is sacred time and should be protected and respected."

"Now in the sunset of our lives, Sister Packer and I understand and witness that our families can be forever."

"Fathers and mothers, next time you cradle a newborn child in your arms, you can have an inner vision of the mysteries and purpose of life." (I hope to experience this in my life.)

"There is much to be learned from following His [Christ's] example in seeking to pray for, bless, and teach “those little ones.”

"At night, when I pull the covers over me, I offer a prayer for those who have no warm bed to go to." (I am going to try to do this, too.)

Scriptures that I loved:

“Children are an heritage of the Lord: and … happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.”

ALL of 3 Nephi 17 - so amazing - has to be in my top five favorite chapters of scripture ever

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Turning the Other Cheek - Part #2

Since last writing about turning the other cheek, I have had three experiences that taught me about it further.

The first experience involved my friends that I had referenced in my first post that had been very antagonistic to me about the Gospel. The last time we had all been together, I had sacrificed a precious day of family time on a short 3 day vacation and I had come home in tears. I felt like in our years since high school, we had grown too far apart and our friendship was over, and I made no efforts to contact them anymore, fearing to be hurt again. Also, I was unwilling to sacrifice or put time into relationships that I felt were giving me a negative net gain. Nearly a year later, one of the friends texted me asking if I had tried contacting the other friend recently. Apparently, that friend was having a very difficult time in her life and had cut off communication with everyone and was contemplating suicide. I remembered how I had thought the friendship was over and re-analyzed my feelings about it. I realized I still really cared about that friend and wanted to help her. I called her and her phone went straight to voicemail, so I left a message. I did that every day or so for a couple of weeks. One day, she answered and we talked. We talked about the last time I had visited and I admitted how much things she had said had hurt my feelings. I was assertive (for me) in that I frankly shared my feelings about the day and told things from my perspective. This is something that is very hard for me to do, but it felt so good when I did! She listened very respectfully and she apologized. She also told me things from her perspective and it helped me understand where she had been coming from as well. I apologized for pulling away rather than trying to work things out until a year later. We talked for a long, long time and it reminded me of why we were friends in the first place. I was going to be visiting California in a couple of weeks, so I asked if I could come visit her. She said she would think about it. Long story short, I was able to see both of these friends in California. I feel like we have repaired our relationship and I have happy feelings toward both of them again. Also, my one friend made really good progress with her depression. I feel like by reaching out and turning the other cheek I was able to help my friend in a way that maybe only I could. It feels wonderful!

The second experience happened a week ago. Our car got broken into. Well, it was actually unlocked. Our car doesn't have automatic locks because it is old and the switch broke. It is hard to make sure I've locked by hand every single one, because they are kind of hidden, so I just forgot this night. Someone rifled through the whole car and stole some things I really liked, most particularly: my iPod car charger that I loved because my iPod doesn't hold a charge anymore, so it enabled me to listen to my iPod in the car (through the speaker system, of course) and my amazing trench coat that I bought in London that I always felt so sophisticated wearing. It was very upsetting, and I was mad that some invaded my privacy and gone through my things and taken them. Michael was mature and helped give me some perspective by saying that people who steal out of cars are desperate people who are in circumstances that are much worse than our own. That helped a little, but I was still upset. Then I remembered Cam's comment on Turning the Other Cheek Part 1, where she references the Beatitudes. This section is 3 Nephi 12:40: "And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also." Funnily enough, I can read that as: "and if any man will take away thy coat, let him have thy iPod charger also." I don't mean to be too light, but I really feel like that is what God was telling me. I also did a thought experiment where someone in a desperate situation came up to me and asked for help and for some reason they really needed my iPod charger and trench coat. Would I not give it to them? I would. So, I decided to pretend that was what happened and gave them to the mysterious person who broke into my car. Thinking that way has helped me forgive them, although I still do miss those two things, as silly as they really are in the big picture. And it doesn't mean I'm not going to be better about locking my car doors either. I am, and I am going to make sure I don't leave anything valuable in there, either. The funny thing is, I had been pondering the interpretation of this verse since Cam had brought it up. Maybe God gave me this experience to help me understand better what Jesus meant, because I do think He meant it literally (which is what Cam ended up saying in an amended comment).

My third experience happened yesterday (it had actually just happened when I started the post, but it's taken me awhile to write, because I'm so longwinded, haha). I have a co-worker who in 2.5 years of working together has repeatedly said tactless things and we'll just say  wasn't a pleasure to work with. The most recent, upsetting experience happened about a month ago. I was just finishing up my masters and he asked me what my plans were for after graduation. I don't have anything specific lined up for multiple reasons (a. I've been burnt out and needed a break from stressful things, b. I want to have children so I don't want to commit to a crazy, intense engineering job, c. my husband has a great job in Provo, so I don't have the ability to move locations to get an ideal, flexible, engineering job doing things I love). So, I just said, "Nothing, for now." And he said to another coworker, "Wow, wouldn't that be great? I'm just sitting at home, no kids, just spending my husband's money, I don't have to do anything. That sounds great!" I found this comment extremely offensive (and maybe I shouldn't have, but I did). I would love to have the freedom to pursue an engineering career in which I could excel, but I am sacrificing that to make my husband's career our first priority and to have children. This coworker has a job lined up in San Diego (my ideal place to live!) with a company that I think would be really fun to work for that is located a block from the beach. I want to do that! Do you think I'm happy just sitting at home "spending my husband's money"? This coworker knows I am trying to have children right now. He even knows that I had a miscarriage 6 months ago! Now, I should note that I do not think this coworker is malicious and if he had known that comment made me cry when I got home, I believe he would have felt bad and apologized. I toyed with the idea of talking to him about it, but my un-confrontational nature (which I am not toting as virtuous or turning the other cheek) made me stress about it more than just letting it go. Additional background: finishing my thesis has definitely been the hardest, most frustrating experience of my life. EVERY SINGLE TIME I thought it was completely finished, I had more problems that needed fixing. It got to the ludicrous point. I even printed out my final hardback copy and saw that somehow the acknowledgements page got completely messed up, so it STILL isn't done, because I need to fix the PDF and then print out the final four copies at a professional printing place. Anyway, the coworker moved away last week to San Diego, but still has to finish his thesis submission process. I got a call from him yesterday but I was in the shower. He left a message saying something about a thesis submission disaster and that he really needed my help and could I call him back ASAP. I heard the message and internally rebelled. I did not WANT to call back, I was so frustrated with doing thesis stuff, I didn't want to do it anymore. And I remembered my first blog post about turning the other cheek. I struggled. Part of me said, "I can't even get my own life together, I can't help someone else!" The other part of me said, "You should turn the other cheek like Christ said." Then the other part said, "What would turning the other cheek in this situation be?" So I prayed. And I expected to feel a warm, fuzzy feeling that said, "you should call him back and turn the other cheek" and I would feel happy and positive that was the right thing to do. Instead, the internal war still raged but the scripture came into my head (although it seemed completely like my own thought):

"Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it."

I felt (keyword: felt - I didn't know) like this was the spirit giving a rebuttal to me trying to "save" my life by conserving all my energy for myself. And so I called him back, willing to help him where he couldn't help himself, since I was here in Utah and he was in California. He didn't answer, so I left a message. He called me back about half an hour later and said he had figured out the problem but thanks for calling him back. I was very happy! I found out from facebook later that it was his birthday that day, so I felt happy that I had been willing to help him. I would have just felt bad and guilty for not calling back, even though it turns out I wouldn't have had to do anything.

Anyway, I do not share these experiences to tote any supposed spirituality I have, but just because I feel blessed. As I have been pondering and trying to learn about a Gospel principle more fully, God really has been teaching me and I wanted to acknowledge that.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Turning the Other Cheek - Part #1

Sorry, this post is not in reference to the next General Conference talk, but I thought I would write about something I've been pondering today. What does Christ mean when He tells us to turn the other cheek? I feel like there are multiple interpretations of this commandment and I'd like to gain a better understanding of what it really means.

First of all, I do not think Christ wants us to remain in abusive relationships with anyone. Christ does not want us to be in unhealthy relationships with people who are continually hurting us. My husband believes that Christ does not want us to be around people that hurt us but that turning the other cheek simply means to forgive and not hold grudges for people who have. I've heard other people interpret turning the other cheek to mean that we should turn away from people that hurt us. However, I'm wondering if it's not that simple. For example, I have a person in my life with whom I would like to have a wonderful relationship (not romantically). I make many overtures but our relationship, while still good, is not what I consider optimal or ideal. I have been advised by another person (and felt like myself as well sometimes) to stop trying because trying hurts. It sets me up with a hope and then when I get rebuffed, I feel sad and rejected all over again. For awhile, I thought that this was sound advice and that I should strive to just not care anymore but to be ready with open arms when that particular person "wakes up" and wants to have a better relationship. For many situations, it probably is sound advice. But, as I pondered, prayed and thought about it, I realized I didn't feel good about giving up. I felt that I should continue to try in small ways to work on improving the relationship. I felt that in doing this, I would be turning the other cheek and potentially learning more about how God feels when I do not seek a relationship with Him as I should.

An example of turning the other cheek is one my husband mentioned, which occurs in Alma 44 of the Book of Mormon. The Nephites had been attacked by the Lamanites because of their religion. The Nephites were righteous and had been helped by the Lord to defeat the Lamanites in battle. Captain Moroni (leader of the Nephites) then says the following to Zerahemnah (leader of the Lamanites) - these are excerpts from verses 1, 2 and 6:

     "Behold, Zerahemnah, that we do not desire to be men of blood. Ye know that ye are in our hands, yet we do not desire to slay you. Behold, we have not come out to battle against you that we might shed your blood for power; neither do we desire to bring any one to the yoke of bondage. But this is the very cause for which ye have come against us; yea, and ye are angry with us because of our religion...I command you by all the desires which ye have for life, that ye deliver up your weapons of war unto us, and we will seek not your blood, but we will spare your lives, if ye will go your way and come not again to war against us."

(Sorry for the lame footnotes and underlining I can't seem to get rid of - I will get better at this whole blogging thing soon, hopefully).  

Basically, Captain Moroni and his people defended themselves when the Lamanites attacked them, but they did not want to murder them or take revenge for putting them through war. The Nephites were perfectly justified in defending themselves from captivity with physical violence but they only used as much violence as was necessary to defend themselves. I feel like they did the right thing and that this story contains a facet of what it is to turn the other cheek. (I also feel it justifies what I said earlier about not remaining in an abusive/hostile environment or relationship. We need to be assertive in defending ourselves from those who wish to hurt us.)

However, another example from the Book of Mormon also comes to my mind. This story involves the Anti-Nephi-Lehis. These people were previous Lamanites who had previously been evil and war-like but who had been converted. Due to their previous sins and bloodthirsty natures, they made a covenant with the Lord that they would never again shed blood and they buried all their weapons as a symbol of this covenant. The Lamanites still desired to war against the Nephites and take them into captivity if they could and they hated even more the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people for converting to the religion of the Nephites. The people knew the Lamanites were coming with the intent to destroy them but they made no preparations for war. When the Lamanites began attacking the Anti-Nephi-Lehi people, they refused to break their covenant and stood and were killed without raising a hand to defend themselves. It is widely assumed that the men stood in front of the women and children and that is why the sons of that generation were taught by their mothers. After a time (and the murder of 1005 people), the Lamanites stopped attacking. In verses 25 and 26 of Alma 24, it reads (referring to the Lamanites):

"And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren [the Anti-Nephi-Lehis], relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them. And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved."

This story is one of the most powerful in all of the scriptures for me. The people were willing to give their lives to keep the covenant promise they had made with the Lord. Their willingness to sacrifice themselves for this promise is an amazing act of faith and had an unexpected blessing: that many of bloodthirsty, attacking Lamanites actually became converted through this example of peace (I don't mean to be irreverent but I also love the out-of-the-box solution). These people must have accepted these members of the Lamanite army and forgiven them, because they were converted to their religion. Thus, the Lamanites must have been taught by those whom they had just attacked. I believe this story truly embodies turning the other cheek. 

Also, we must look to the ultimate example of turning the other cheek: Christ, who was meek in the face of betrayal, persecution, torture and death. Christ had the power to defend Himself from anything man could do, but He chose not to in order to fulfill His Father's higher purpose. There have been and will be times when followers of Christ will be persecuted for His sake and He has shown us how to behave. We must "Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." Turning the other cheek then means not only NOT seeking revenge or retaliation for wrongs done to us, but a step beyond that: to love and pray for those who we consider our enemies.

Does anyone else have additional comments or insights into the meaning behind this commandment?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

#1 - "As We Gather Once Again" - President Monson

I decided to start a new blog where I (and hopefully others, too!) can discuss and collaborate on insights and questions regarding the LDS faith as we study the scriptures, words from living prophets and church manuals. I am not writing this blog to hear myself talk or because I think I am so knowledgeable or spiritual. In fact, it's a little outside my comfort zone to publicly post my thoughts about my religion. However, I think it will be beneficial to me, so here I go. I have been reading the book "Daughters in My Kingdom" (available online at and I am LOVING it. As an LDS, female engineer with a masters degree, I am really loving how empowering this book is towards women. If someone thinks that the church represses women, I recommend reading this book. I have a lot of thoughts about it, but we also just had General Conference and I have a lot of thoughts about the talks there as well. So, I am going to start with General Conference and just try to go one talk at a time. I almost skipped President Monson's opening remarks, but I realized that I should not skip what the living prophet has said, even if his remarks were short and introductory. Also, what better way to start my General Conference blog series than with an introduction from our prophet in General Conference? "As We Gather Once Again" - President Thomas S. Monson Full text: What first pops out at me are the blessings we receive from participating in (I consider actively listening participating) General Conference. These answers might be considered "no-brainers" but it is amazing to me just how many blessings he lists. By participating in Conference, we may:
  • gain strength from one another
  • receive and extend encouragement
  • find comfort
  • build and strengthen our faith
  • learn (this one is so obvious, but so awesome)
  • find answers to questions
  • find enlightenment, upliftment (I don't think this is a word, oh well), and comfort
  • feel the Spirit of the Lord
  • find the incentive and courage to change
  • find answers to questions
  • gain help with challenges
  • have an increased resolve to live worthily
  • have an increased strength to oppose evil
Just looking at all these blessings makes me happy and motivates me to get the most out of General Conference by studying and praying about all the talks given. Like anyone, I am always in need of all of these blessings. "How blessed we are to have come to earth at such a time as this—a marvelous time in the long history of the world." I recently read a book on the history of medicine, specifically regarding sulfa drugs and antibiotics, in the 1900's. It was fascinating - I'm serious. It's called "The Demon Under the Microscope" by Thomas Hager. Anyway, this book helped me realize how blessed we are to live in a day with antibiotics. I didn't realize how recently they were discovered. My grandparents were born before they were used at all in the United States. My grandparents. That is not that long ago at all. Modern technology is pretty amazing, too. When I think that when I was born, no one had ever heard of the Internet...and I am not that old. People often talk about the isolating effect technology can have on people, but I love how President Monson focuses on its unifying effect: that people from everywhere across the world can participate as a single church, together. It really is a beautiful, amazing thing. "There is much that is difficult and challenging in the world today, my brothers and sisters, but there is also much that is good and uplifting. As we declare in our thirteenth article of faith, 'If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.' May we ever continue to do so." Once again, President Monson looks at the positive and reminds us of the 13th article of faith - which is definitely one of my favorites. The church has been attracting negative attention and I personally have experienced it as well. It can be disheartening, because I truly do not wish anyone else harm or wrong. However, I still need to seek for the good things in the world AND in other people - things virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy. The funny thing is that I love finding new wonderful and beautiful things: I love learning new things and reading new books, looking at beautiful artwork, experiencing beautiful nature, etc... It is interesting that I do not seek these things as often as I feel I should. Of course, it is easier to sit back and do nothing, but it is so much better to try and experience the wonderful things in life. I also need to do this in other people. The people who have been the harshest to me about my beliefs are actually my friends. But that does not make them bad people - they are wonderful people who do many great things and who I really care about. I need to make sure I seek out the good and appreciate the good in all people.. "Our Heavenly Father is mindful of each of us and our needs. May we be filled with His Spirit as we partake of the proceedings of this conference." I know this is true, because Heavenly Father has shown me often in my life that He is mindful of me. I was filled with His Spirit as I watched General Conference and I continue to be as I study them. I love personal revelation and that God can speak to each one of us, according to our own needs/questions/desires, through the same talks. I love that no one is assigned a specific topic and yet each so often perfectly complement one another. Often, specific themes occur that could only happen through inspiration and not the planning of man. I also love the music of General Conference and often find answers to my questions or comfort to my soul through the beautiful hymns. I wrote down a list of questions and problems that I wanted assistance with from General Conference and while some are too personal to share in this setting, I will note the answers I received as is appropriate during the talk that answered them. Teri's Take Away:
  • study and learn from the talks in order to receive the blessings listed by our living prophet
  • be ever thankful for the blessing of living in this modern time - it is exciting! (and bonus: modern medicine is a lot less painful, too!)
  • seek out the virtuous and praiseworthy things both in the world and in other people