15 Minute FHE: Families are Part of God's Plan

Opening Song: Families Can Be Together Forever

Video: Our Heavenly Father's Plan (for young children)
or We Lived With God (for teens and adults)

Article: Second and Third paragraphs of The Family: A Proclamation to the World


Why is it important to know we lived with God before birth?
Why did we come to earth?
1) Gain a body 2) Be tested to see if we would follow Christ 3) Learn to love like Jesus Christ
How does being in a family help us achieve those goals?

Closing Song: I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus

Monday Memes: Beauty and Body Image


Stop Telling Me I'm Beautiful

"You're so beautiful!"

Every day when I walk into the office she tells me, "You're always so pretty!" or some other variation. Now, don't get me wrong, like most other humans, it feels good to have other humans appreciate my appearance. At first I didn't understand why my co-workers compliments bothered me so much. However, after a year, I'm starting to understand.

First, her compliments are not "free." I soon learned that she expects me to reciprocate, to tell her just as often that she looks beautiful. I resent being forced into a compliment that didn't come naturally. If I notice something, I'll share it. Feeling like I have to come up with something on command makes me feel insincere.

The second thing that bothers me about this situation is that she needs a generic statement of approval to feel good. I like to choose more genuine compliments. I'd rather compliment a specific trait or behavior that I appreciate and I prefer when other people do the same for me. I feel much better when people take the time to really notice who I am than when they throw out a blanket compliment.

Most importantly, though, the thing that bothers me the most is the idea that my worth is defined by my appearance. There is so much more I value about myself than just my appearance and I wish others would recognize those things as well. I'm not "gorgeous" and that should be OK. I shouldn't have to be told I'm beautiful everyday. I shouldn't have to feel beautiful everyday. I am smart, I am loyal, I am loving and tender, I believe in people and care deeply about them. I'm a good listener, a good organizer, a quick learner.    

There is an overwhelming amount of information on the web about beauty. How to be more beautiful, how to make yourself believe you are beautiful, how to not care about being beautiful. Some of these ideas are hurtful to women, some are empowering and there is everything in between. In an effort to improve the messages we send to women and help them feel good about their selves, there is a movement to expand the definition of beauty. You've seen the memes:  

"Strong is beautiful." 

"Curves are beautiful" 

"Wrinkles are beautiful."

"Confidence is beautiful."

I wish we could all stop worrying so much about expanding the definition of beauty. I wish we could take all these attributes and instead of giving them value by placing them under the umbrella of beauty we could give them their own and rightful place as being worthy in and of themselves. Laurie Penny the journalist/activist/feminist explains exactly how I feel:    

Turning thirty was a wonderful thing for me. I feel more myself than I have ever felt. My body tells the story of my life. I can look at myself in the mirror and see my gray hairs and my fine lines and be OK because they make me look more like my grandma. I can even love them. I can look down and my stretch marks and not-so-perky breasts and realize they tell the story of how my two little sons came into this world and blessed me beyond measure. I have scars from mountain biking. My hands are not soft and smooth like a commercial for dish soap. But I love them because they have served and worked and loved for thirty years and I expect them to continue on for thirty more years and beyond.

After all this, I still have to go into work everyday. But now I do it with a different attitude. I'm a grown up and I can smile back at my coworker when she says, "You're always so beautiful," and say, "Thank you, you're sweet for saying that!" I've realized I can take her compliment at face value. I can choose to not feel pressured to reciprocate if it feels inauthentic and to not be offended if her words seem shallow. I can choose to compliment her in a way that seems genuine and meaningful. Most of all, I can choose to see my value in a different light.  


15 Minute FHE: Holy Ghost

Opening Song: I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus

What is happening in this picture?
Why are there hands on her head?
When do we receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost?

Article: Sharing Time: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Video: The Gifts of the Holy Ghost 

Scripture: D&C 8:2

Closing Song: I Know My Father Lives


What God Has Not Yet Revealed

Much has been said and written recently about if, how, and why God could choose to ordain LDS women to the priesthood. If you've listened much to Kate Kelly's interviews you will know that she often quotes the ninth Article of Faith: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." This essential tenet of our faith, namely an open cannon through continuing revelation to a living prophet, leaves the door open for God to change, amend, or add to the interpretation of doctrine, teachings or policies. What these pending "great and important" things are and whether female ordination could be one of those things is the subject of much debate.

Some thoughtful minds (my husband included) additionally ask: if there is more information why doesn't God reveal it now? When Joseph Smith chose the word important he taught us that this yet to be revealed information is of great significance or value and that it is likely to have a profound effect on the success, survival or well-being of the Kingdom. If women could be ordained to the offices of the priesthood, I believe that would qualify as "important" information, not only to the potentially millions of women who would then qualify for ordination, but to the entire Kingdom of God. I also maintain that if women should not and will never be ordained then the reasons why are of equal importance.

Speaking on the subject of gender and the priesthood, Elder M. Russell Ballard, in a 2013 speech at BYU Campus Education Week, admitted, "When all is said and done, the Lord has not revealed why He has organized His Church as He has." Why is God seemingly withholding information that he has told us, through a prophet, is "important" for the Kingdom of God? This is a question I wrestle with. I seek for personal revelation to help me understand the absence of prophetic revelation on this topic. In the meantime, there are lessons I can learn from scripture about how and why God limits the information available to his children.

The principles surrounding if, how, and when revelation comes are constant. They are the same whether I am a mother praying over her wayward children or the prophet of the global church seeking to shepherd a vast and diverse flock.

You Have to Knock

The "Revelation" topic page on LDS.org lists several items of counsel to those seeking inspiration from the Holy Spirit. The first is to ask. "Pray for guidance. The Lord said, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8) In order to find and receive, we must seek and ask." (emphasis added)

The topic page also contains valuable teachings about revelatory stewardship.

"Revelation is communication from God to His children. This guidance comes through various channels according to the needs and circumstances of individuals, families, and the Church as a whole. When the Lord reveals His will to the Church, He speaks through His prophet. Prophets are the only people who can receive revelation for the Church, but they are not the only people who can receive revelation. According to our faithfulness, we can receive revelation to help us with our specific personal needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help us strengthen our testimony."

This means that I cannot receive a revelation for someone outside my stewardship. I could receive personal revelation or revelation for my family or church calling. I can only receive revelation that pertains to what I can do in my circle of influence. Neither I nor Kate Kelly can receive revelation regarding extending the priesthood to women, which is why her organization's mission statement concludes with this sentiment, "We sincerely ask our leaders to take this matter to the Lord in prayer." Only the prophet and president of the church, along with the agreement and support of his counselors and the twelve apostles, can receive revelation of this magnitude.

One possible reason we have not received a revelation, only reiterations of current doctrinal interpretation is that the question has not been asked. I pray that the brethren are aware of the "weeping of the daughters of Zion" occurring right now in the church. I pray that someone is bringing to their attention the poignant and soul stirring stories like this one, posted on Feminist Mormon Housewives today. I pray that they will find this matter important enough to seek for continuing revelation. (Of course, we do not know if they have prayed about this matter or not, only that they have not shared with us if they have.)

I Perceive That Ye Are Weak

This next possible explanation requires all of us, dear readers, to take a nice big slice of humble pie. God works in increments. He gives us what we can handle, slowly building up.

Jesus Christ has a perfect understanding of our capacity and has compassion on our weakness. When Christ appeared to the Nephites he taught them for several hours (3 Nephi 11-16). Then he "looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold my time is at hand. I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again."  (3 Nephi 17:1-3) When he then perceived that the people desired him to stay, he did, withholding the further light and knowledge he had, but providing them with his presence, his prayers and blessings. Likewise, when I have been weak but willing I have felt his presence and blessings.

I am convinced that we as the body of Christ, his church, need to do a better job of understanding, loving and using the priesthood appropriately before we can be blessed with further knowledge. In what I consider one of the great addresses on women and the priesthood, General Relief Society President, Linda Burton expressed her joy at living in an age when women are asking questions about the priesthood. Then she added, "We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood. I testify that the Lord is hastening His work, and it is imperative for us to understand how the Lord accomplishes His work so that we may receive the power that comes from being aligned with His plan and purposes."

What a call to action! What a call to study, to ponder and to ask questions. I wish her words could sound in the ears and souls of every man, woman and child in the church! "The Lord is hastening His work, and it is imperative for us to understand (the priesthood)!" While there are many unanswered questions regarding the priesthood, there is also much information. A quick search of LDS.org will yield enough talks, articles and informational pages to keep the earnest seeker of truth busy for many long hours. This kind of intense personal study coupled with prayer can provide a base for further revelation to build on.

I love this statement by Elder Joseph B. Worthlin regarding studying the doctrines of the gospel: "We are constantly reminded through the scriptures that we should give the things of God much more than usual superficial consideration. We must ponder them and reach into the very essence of what we are and what we may become."  ("Pondering Strengthens Spiritual Life" April 1982 General Conference)

Ye Are Not One
There is power in unity of purpose and unity of heart. We often talk in the church about the ideal of Zion. For most of my life I imagined this ideal as a group of people in perfect lockstep, so committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that there was no disagreement or discord of any kind. As I grow older, my vision of Zion has changed. The ideal I see now includes a diverse group of people who, while committed to the gospel, have different ideas and different ways of manifesting that commitment. Zion isn't a place where every one always agrees. Zion is a place where we love each other enough to focus on the things that really matter, where we can get along and rejoice in our differences.

Differences of background, race, heritage, political affiliation, family size, employment status, or opinions do not prevent Zion from being established. Zion is thwarted when we divide ourselves. Paul was deeply troubled when he heard of divisions among the saints in Corinth. In his epistle to them, Paul asked the members to reconsider what they were doing and remember their baptismal covenants.

"For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized int he name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:11-13)

Are we making the same mistake as the Corinthians did by dividing ourselves in to factions or calling ourselves by some other name than Christ's name?

Paul later explained to the Corinthians exactly which of their attitudes and behaviors were contrary to the spirit of Zion and tells them these attitudes were the reason they did not receive the "meat" of the gospel: "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for where as there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (1 Corinthians 3: 2-3)

How can God reveal the mysteries of the kingdom to his children if we are bickering and fighting, if we are resentful and proud?

With prophetic insight, Elder Uchtdorf echoed Paul's sentiments in his now famous April 2012 General Conference talk, "The Merciful Obtain Mercy."

"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It's that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for GOd and His children. God is our Father. WE are his children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don't know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion and persuasion to make it stick ...

We must recognize that we are all imperfect - that we are beggars before God. Haven't we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven't we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy - to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?"

God Resisteth The Proud

Pride takes many forms, but at it's root, pride is a "lack or absence of humility or teachableness. Pride sets people in opposition ... to God." A prideful person does not need or seek revelation. They cannot hear revelation if it does come because their spiritual ears are deaf.

One of the ways we manifest pride is by prizing our intellect above learning through the spirit. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:12-16) Elder Paul Johnson, Commissioner of Church Education explained, "This pattern is crucial for our students to understand if they have questions about spiritual things. We can make the mistake of trying to resolve doubts about spiritual things by leaning exclusively on intellectual answers. Answers to spiritual questions are given to individuals who don't harden their hearts; who ask in faith, believing they will receive; and who diligently keep the commandments." ("A Pattern For Learning Spiritual Things")

Other ways we show pride include loosing patience with the timing of the Lord or preferring our social or cultural views over what the Lord has already revealed. The children of Israel fell victim to both these prideful patterns when Moses left them to converse with the Lord. While Moses was having what may well be one of the most intense encounters with the divine in recorded scripture, the Israelites grew restless. They convinced Aaron, a priest and leader to conform to their flawed expectations of religion and create a golden calf to worship.

The Old Testament Student Study guide offers this succinct explanation of the account in Exodus: "At Mount Sinai Moses received laws, commandments, ordinances, and covenants from the Lord that were written on stone tablets. When Moses came down from Sinai and saw the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf, he threw the tablets on the ground and broke them. The Israelites had not proved worthy to receive all that was written on them. We may also lose great blessings ..."

When faced with the possibility of change, pride often gets in the way. Pride assumes there is no need for change. Refusing to seek the Lord's will is a sign of pride and prohibits God from giving more light and knowledge. Nephi warned of this attitude when he said, " ... many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible ... Wherefore murmur ye, because ye shall recieve more of my word?" (2 Nephi 29:3,8) The flip side of this is also a form of pride. Insisting that an individual's brand of change is the only right way places the individual in opposition of God.

There are innumerable other ways to manifest pride. It is a universal sin, but one that can be overcome. Peter taught, "... for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." (1 Peter 5:5-6) Humility opens the floodgate of revelation. It allows room for God in our lives, allows us to hear him, to worship him and to have a real relationship with him. Humility allows both leaders and followers to admit, "So, maybe I was wrong about such and such. Here's what the Lord is teaching me now." It allows us to accept others when they make mistakes and move on with the Lord's work.

Waiting On The Lord

In the end, we can do all we can to receive revelation about certain topics, but it is up to the Lord to decide when and how he reveals his will to us. This is where the humility and trust come in. When our relationship with the Lord is one of love and trust we find the patience to wait for our leaders to receive answers to hard questions. In the meantime we can receive peace and comfort. We can also receive revelation to guide us in our daily walk here on earth.


15 Minute FHE: Baptism

Opening Song: Baptism 

Story: Would Baptism Change Me?

Video: The Baptism of Jesus

Scripture: Mosiah 18:8-10

Activity: Learning About Baptism

Closing Song: When Jesus Christ Was Baptized 

Alone and Not Ashamed

There is something about returning to the places I loved as a child that brings peace to my soul. This weekend I was able to spend some time at our cabin in Idaho. I came with a heart and spirit in need of some healing. Driving down the dirt road to the cabin, windows down to let in the smell of sage and sun, I felt peace as well, like I was drinking it in with the air and it was soaking into my skin with the sun. For a moment, at least, I was safe and calm, back in a time when everything was so certain and secure.

Neylan McBaine wrote two weeks ago about how important it is to find safe spaces in the midst of tumult and confusion. I took her words to heart and retreated to the safety of my childhood hideaway. These past few weeks have been a tumble of emotion and I have ended up rather bruised. I knew returning to church on Sunday would be challenging experience and I stored in my heart the feeling of love and belonging from my family and from God. I wrapped that love around me like a blanket.

Sunday was fast and testimony meeting. As I sat pondering in my heart what my own testimony is, I listened to woman after woman stand up and tell the congregation what they knew. I listened to their conviction, to their deep assurance. I remembered feeling that way and I longed for the Eden of innocence I once lived in. I feel like my eyes have been opened to see things that others don't see and for the first time in my life I felt on the outside of my faith tradition and that is a scary feeling. Truly, it can be a lone and dreary world. 

Being different can be scary. Is there space in the church for people like me and my husband? I want to trust the words of Elder Uchtdorf, "... I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here. Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result. If you could see into our hearts, you would probably find that you fit in better than you suppose. Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church." What encouraging words! I pray that every member of the church can take these words to heart and join as Zion, united in the cause of Christ, and love their neighbors. 

According to the letter from Kate Kelly's bishop regarding her excommunication, it was not her questions or even her belief that women should be ordained that lead to their decision. In essence they said it was her tactics.My fear, though, is that the excommunication of Kate Kelly will give some members the idea that they are now justified in drawing the lines around what beliefs constitute acceptable membership. I have seen evidence of lines drawn online and in my congregation. Will all feminists, or all of those who see how things could be better in the church, be painted with the same wide brush and labeled "apostate?" Whatever message the church is trying to send, I am afraid the message received by the membership was, "Yes, you can have questions. But don't ask them out loud. Don't ask them too much or too often. And most of all, don't expect the leadership of the church to answer you." 

So, I kept my testimony silent on Sunday out of fear. Fear that the way I relate to the gospel would be seen as not mainstream, not true believing. I couldn't bear the though of others viewing my testimony as inferior or "struggling." My testimony has been forged through countless hours of prayer and study, my missionary service, hours of listening to God in the temple and my earnest desire to stand before him again as a worthy daughter. I count it as one of my priceless possessions. Ringing in my ears and in my soul, were the words of one of my favorite scriptures: 

"Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker in the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, and not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:7

My husband and I have challenged each other to ponder and pray about the testimony we could share next fast Sunday. They may be unconventional, but they are real and important. I believe that if there is to be space in this church for me, I will have to make it. I will have to put myself in uncomfortable situations. I can have the love, compassion and courage that I look for in others. I can live with integrity and be a full participator in the church and gospel I love.