What is a testimony?

My definition is that it is a true belief in an idea that should be shared to strengthen it. You can have a Testimony in anything and anyone.

But the one focus that all are concerned with is this:
Who is Heavenly Father?
Who is Jesus Christ?
Who is Joseph Smith?
Do I believe in these people and what they have done for me?
What is the Gospel?
If questioned, can I stand up for these beliefs?
Do I have experiences that will enhance these beliefs and do I have the ability to share these experiences?
When you have the ability to answer these questions to the deepest part of your soul, you have developed a Testimony. If you only have a little bit of a belief, it is still a Testimony. This is when you are to share it with others. Listen to others share their beliefs. Each person has the ability to help strengthen each other and support each other in the time that is used to grow.  If you have a testimony and do nothing with it, it will shrink and die. Treat it like a living object, for that is what a testimony is. If you share it and do everything that you can to help it grow by praying, reading scriptures, and all other experiences that you encourage to come into your life, it will grow.
It is good for a child to listen to their parent’s testimonies. It helps them to know what one is and how to nurture it.

I do remember a time when I was in Alaska and my family was the only ones in our branch. We would have a testimony meeting each first Sunday of the month and we were to share our beliefs. Because there were normally only 4 or 5 of us, we would each have the opportunity to share each time. As a teenager, there were times that I did not want to share. But the hard part was; if I was the last one to speak, all of the others would sit there and stare at me until I said something.
Now, speaking is not the only way to share your testimony. Living it is also a really good way to help it grow. During the same time that I was there in Alaska and this was my experience, I found that I had many opportunities to stray away from the church. I had the opportunities to smoke, drink, have sex, and all other temptations that were available to me at the time. Instead, with the strength of my parent’s testimonies, I found that I was happier if I stood my ground. I found that it was easier to stick to what I believed. I learned that I valued myself too high to give in to these temptations, though some of them were hard to resist because then I would fit in instead of being alone.  Throughout the years afterwards, I found that the experiences that I had up there, I carried with me through the hard-times and the better times. They taught me what I really believed.
Now, I find that many of the youth have been experiencing a small part of what I experienced at their age. This is through an experience called the “Trek”. I have sent 2 of my 3 children through this experience and have found that they found out a lot about themselves through this. For those of my readers who do not know what the “Trek” is, it is an experience that is created for a group of teenagers and leaders. They are to dress up in the pioneer clothing and push a handcart for a number of days. They are split up in families and they are given food to eat. They are not allowed anything that is more than 13 pounds each and they have a strict list of items that they are allowed to carry with them. This means no electronics! At the beginning of the experience, they have adults go through all of their items. If there are any items that are not to be taken with them for the next few days, the items are taken away. I found that there is quite a large pile of items that is left behind with each Trek. After all of the walking and the time spent together, these children have the opportunity to reflect on their lives and what they do have.
When I moved to Alaska, I was the last one packed, so I left quite a lot of my things behind and took very little with me-mostly clothing. All of my other things-things that would have been perfect for a girl, were left behind.  When all possessions are left behind, what do you have left? Your scriptures, your journal, and some clothes to keep you warm.

With this type of experience, you can either turn against the church, or support it. There is no fence-sitting. There is no complacency. You have to choose.
I am truly grateful for these experiences because I know who I am. I know what I believe and I do not waste my years trying to decide what I want to do.  I love the church. I love the gospel and what it means to me. I love Heavenly Father. I love our Savior. I am truly grateful for Joseph Smith and what he had to do to bring the gospel back for each of us.

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We all need a sense of Humor!!!!

We all need a sense of humor!!!!! We need to be able to laugh. We need to see joy around us.

President David O. McKay counseled, “It is our duty to seek to acquire the art of being cheerful. It will hold in check the demons of despair and stifle the power of discouragement and hopelessness.”

When we discuss humor, it is not the kind that puts anyone down or to hurt others.

There are many who take teasing personally and so to avoid this, just do not tease. Or, at least tease with kindness. Personally, I can take a little teasing, but if it is too much, I find that I begin to find myself hurt and the fun is gone. I have learned to say stop just before that happens.

What we really want to do is to see joy all around us. When I have a bad experience, I find that I begin to listen to bouncy, happy music.  I find that hope is the bedrock of humor. I feel safe when I have hope in my heart. I can see good things when I have it around me.

To have my granddaughter with me reminded me that I can laugh at almost anything. A tickle, the way a word is spoken, a simple gift, running up the stairs, all can be funny. I hope that each of us continue to remember how to laugh and to smile. To be able to share that feeling with those around us would be a wonderful gift!

Loyalty-what is it?

What is it? How does it affect me? Why should I think about it?

Well, loyalty is being true and faithful to a friend or family member. Therefore, if we want to have a strong relationship with our future eternal companion, we need to develop loyalty. We need to be able to stick by the ones we care about and love. If we do not develop this characteristic within ourselves, what will happen when our spouse is in trouble? Will we be there for them or will we be saying bad things and walking away? What if we are the ones in trouble? Will the person we brought into our lives support us? Be there for us? Or will they walk away from us?

This is a talent and gift that we need to develop with those around us now so that when we are in a relationship, we have the skill to be loyal.

To be able to love when loving a person is not easy. Is this not a description of unconditional love?

When a person becomes unable to be all that they used to be, such as when they become injured, this becomes a test not only for the one injured, but for the ones who are with them. There is a wonderful man whom I know. He was hurt in a motorcycle accident many years ago. He is unable to walk or do most anything physical. He was married just a couple of years ago to a wonderful lady. She is there for him not only for the good times, but for the difficult times. To me, they are a good example of loyalty. I keep them in my heart to remind me what loyalty is. May we be there for each other in difficult times as well as good.

Shall the youth of Zion faulter?

I am a mother of 3 children. I have done my best to raise them with the gospel. The results are very dramatic!
Let me explain:
I have been an at-home mother during the first part of my children’s lives. I worked at night while they were sleeping and their father was there to take care of them. I worked these jobs so that I could help buffer the family income. A number of years ago, I found that I had to work during the daytime because my children’s father decided to walk another pathway from the one that we were walking together.
The nice thing about this, was that 2 of my 3 children were able to roll with the changes. The one that suffered the most was my youngest child. I will explain later on this.
I was home for most of my first child’s needs. I was able to be with her up until a couple of years into high school. She did not resent me for going to work, but rather, supported the choice. Her heart is strong.
My second child has had it just a little harder. He had times that he had need of his mother at home, and
I was not able to be there for him. We worked through this, but he did understand that I could not be in two places at once. I look into his heart and find that I did not need to worry about him. His spirit is strong.
I held 3 jobs for quite a while and it was difficult! I would be there when they woke up, then I would get home just after they got out of school. Be with them for a few hours, then went to work again. I would come home to a dark home and I would check on my children to see if they were sleeping in their beds.
This was hardest on my youngest son. He needed his mother at home just to be there for him. I had not been able to do this. He showed signs of his need through hiding his feelings. He made friends who were not members of the church and they encouraged him to stray from the pathway. I come home to loud-angry music, him playing on the computer-games that I would never let him play if I was home to control the issue, and having him talk to me in a manner of showing no respect.
I found that I needed to make a choice and I had to give up a job due to an injury, but the benefits are that I was home again. We “Tightened our Belts” even more than we had been so that I could be home for a short time.
I was able to have face-to-face conversations with my children. I was finding that my son is changing his type of music. He was learning that I am putting good influences in his pathway that he either has to reject-which he would never do to my face, or accept what I had to give.
Can he stray? Yes! What could I do about it? I voice my concerns to my Bishop, my home teachers, his teachers, even his home teaching companion. I tried to place good men who would create great influences in his life. Did this worked? Not as well as I hoped when I started communicating my concerns. I find that if I voice my concerns a lot, someone eventually tries to do something. What can be done instead? I am still looking for the good answer, because I know that there are many who are looking for the answer to this question also. So, what can I do? Pray for my child, place good leaders in his way, and hope that he hears what I am trying to say.
President Benson states in a conference talk back in 1971:
Never has the Church had a finer group of young people. They are choice spirits—sent to earth in this most challenging and important period of the world. Charged with the great responsibility of building up the kingdom of God on earth, they have an awesome challenge. This great and momentous responsibility and challenge comes at a most difficult time. Never have the forces of evil been so insidious, widespread, and enticing. Everywhere there seems to be a cheapening, weakening, downgrading of all that is fine, good, and uplifting—all aimed at our youth while many of their parents are lulled away into a false security as they enjoy their comfortable complacency. All is not well in Zion. The inspired Book of Mormon prophets saw this day and, as watchmen on the towers,
issued grave warnings. I quote: “For behold, at that day shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good. “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. “And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance. …  “Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! “Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! “Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!” (2 Ne. 28:20-22, 24-26.)
Also, he states:
For young people to be in the world but not of the world has never been more difficult than today. But this burden must be shared by the parents.

The family home evening is an important barrier to the works of Satan.

The Mutual program must protect our youth against every evil influence and should fill a vacuum left by rejecting worldly enticements.

And, of course, a great panacea for all problems and personal doubts: prayer—private and family prayer, night and morning.
The critical and complaining adult will be less effective than the interested and understanding. And love and understanding are only effective when they are genuine. And to be genuine they must be motivated by love. We must love our young people, whether they are in righteousness or in error. In this way we can give them a chance to discern and to learn. But we must also give them a fair choice. Today many are not succeeding.    End.

Now my children are good- not perfect-young adults. They look for the good in those around them. They encourage the good and try to help those who are hurting and in pain. Because I see this, I feel that I have succeeded in being a good mom. I do not “sit on my laurels”, but continue to try to be the good mom, example and someone they can come to when they need a confidante.
My recommendation is to look around at each individual youth and see beyond the surface. See if there is a way to help that youth keep to the strength and testimony that they carry in their hearts. Be that
person that they can look up to. Help them before they are on their own and need to make those hard decisions that will affect their lives. We can do this for all youth, not just the ones in our family.

Love them.

Self Control

Self-Control. This is a big one for many including myself. I admit, sometimes I lose control when I should be using restraint (usually with books, music, movies, eating out…).

Think about this, if we use self-control, we are able to show signs of maturity which will help us in becoming a better friend or marriage partner.

I do admit that my weaknesses do not need to cost a lot-which is very true. For example, instead of going to a library for my books, I purchase them second hand. I find that through my lifetime, I have owned the equivalency of 4 libraries. When I look at what I have been collecting, I donate the books and start over. I find that it would have been wiser to keep the best books-only a few, and check out the rest with the ability to return them.

Do you have an issue like this? Is it a favorite food that is indulged in too often? Is it a reaction to how someone speaks to you? This one I personally found a way to fix through my children. I am very glad that they did this because I then learned to become a better person.

Elder Milton R. Hunter stated, “I believe the lack of self-control is one of the most common contributing factors of unhappiness and discord.”

Amen to that!

Ezra Taft Benson said, “Restraint and self-control must be ruling principles in the marriage relationship.” This gives us the opportunity to discuss differences of opinion in a calm manner instead of hurting each other. This helps to strengthen the relationship instead of tearing it apart.

So, how do we improve our self-control? We know that we need to do many things, but if we are only told to do it without the how, nothing gets done.

So, here is a way on the “How”. Fasting is a wonderful way to learn how strong our self-control is. If we are able to fast, we are able to accept patience and restraint in ourselves. We are able to wait for that piece of chocolate cake or apple pie until we are finished. We are able to stand up to the world of self-gratification.

When we see wonderful pieces of art that are very intricate, we appreciate the fact that the person who created it took a large amount of time to make it. Well, we are an intricate piece of art that Heavenly Father created, therefore, we need to take the time to appreciate what we do have and what we are. Remember to not only stop and smell the flowers, but to really look at the colors that they are and appreciate the gift that Heavenly Father has given us in his creating them in the first place. For we are a gift unto each other.

To have the self-control that we need to become more mature would enhance that gift.

Respect

Respect is a feeling of admiration, which generally has to be earned.

It also means refraining from interfering with other’s agency-we allow them to be themselves.

I remember when I was first married to my first husband, he went through my things and threw away a doll that I had cherished when I was a little girl. My mother’s visiting teacher took it when I was a little girl and made clothes for it. I had planned on cleaning it up (Ok, it’s hair was the example of a loved doll) and giving it to my daughter when she grew up enough to appreciate it. To me, he did not respect me enough to let me keep something important to me.

Respect always motivates us to want to be kind and caring toward him or her and gives us the opportunity to wish for the best in them.

The quickest way to lose respect is to do something dishonest or immoral. How can we trust someone who does something wrong that will affect us?

The best way to gain respect from our partner is to set high standards and stick to them!!!! Elder Hugh W. Pinnock has said, “Men and women who do not have a wholesome respect for regulations during the dating process will often continue to break the rules after the work ‘yes’ at the altar is spoken.”

I have worked hard to earn the trust and respect of my children. My middle child became 21 and told me that he was going to do something that was not appropriate in my eyes. He was honest with me and was open to my concerns. I gave him advice-probably not something that most LDS people would say, but I knew that he was going to do something wrong and I wanted him to know that I was still there for him because I love him, not his actions. Because of this, his evening turned out much better than I had envisioned.

To me, both he and his younger brother have promised that no matter what question I ask, they will always tell me the truth. I have learned to ask many questions and to brace myself for the answers when it is something that takes them away from the correct pathway. The part that is important is that I do not judge them, I do not punish them. I let them learn from their mistakes and I stand back because they punish themselves harsher than I ever could. In doing so, I have done my best to be a good example for them so that they know that they can come back when they open their hearts. I have hope for them because they know what I stand for and they will not do anything to jeopardize me. To me, this is the embodiment of respect-from children.

I have many friends around me and many respect me as much as I respect them. I have learned to work hard for that respect as well.

Remember, I am your friend. I have learned to be able to say that I love you for who you are.

We are not perfect, but as long as we are willing to work together, we can get there without being alone.

Moving mountains and those pesky grains of sand!

Ok, so I admit, I am much better at moving mountains in my life instead of focusing on the grains of sand! Ask me to help find a mate, background check them, introduce them, plan the wedding, move them I can do that. I have done that.

I spent a few years being a single adult representative. I had let go of looking for the quick-fix husband and instead, focused on becoming a good friend to those I associated with. I had many friends from all walks of life. I do not like games, so when I see a friend beginning to play them, I step in! I have gone to both the men and the women and told them about each other. I have had my fingers in many connections that got married. Most of them are still that way. When they announce the wedding date, I then pitch in and pull together weddings for a very low cost(remember, these are my friends and I had to consider this my hobby because I was not paid for most of them). I have even moved people in an efficient and quick manner!

I can start a business, run it and get it to run itself-without me.

But, when it comes to doing things like the dishes after every meal, or on a daily basis… maybe not going to happen.

I do my best to remember to get my visiting teaching done, but instead of actually visiting, I am emailing. Ok, so it is still a visit, but not the best! The results are great, though! My visit teachees actually do not mind because they are all so busy and are happy that I keep them up to date on activities going on and I do try to connect with them each time I see them.

My husband and I do read our scriptures daily together, but to do personal study, study for Sunday school, study for Relief Society, study for Young Women’s (I am the secretary, so it is good for me to be prepared to teach if I have to), and other studying, it may not happen…

When I really get my focus going, I can work my many jobs’ work schedules around each other nicely, but to get to the Temple on more than a monthly basis-not as easy…

So, what I see of myself is that I see the big picture of life, but sometimes my clothes may not match…

Spiritual Fire Insurance

D&C 64:23
“Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a
day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.”
I remember when I was in Seminary many years ago and this was the scripture that was called the Fire Insurance Scripture. It was always an incentive to keep my tithing paid.
I hear that there are many people in our church who do not pay their tithing. A large part of one of my congregations that I attended  had not been paying. This had been a shock to me because I always felt that this is what separated us from the other churches on a temporal level. Did you realize that we were and as far as I still know, still are the only church organization that is out of debt? Why is this? Because we pay our debts.
During the time of the early Saints, people brought their tithes to the bishop’s storehouse. This was paid normally with food or other items of value. Now days, it is simpler. We write a check then we put it in one of those many gray envelopes and hand it to a member of our bishopric.
When did the time come that we have forgotten what the blessings are that come to us if we pay our tithing? What are the blessings we receive if we do pay? We receive both Spiritual and Temporal blessings.
For example, when I left home to go to College, I carried my tithing with me in hopes that I would be able to pay in my new ward. I did not pay it. I held the money for a month. While I did this, I was looking for a job. I could not find one. I looked and looked. When the time came that I decided to pay, within the next 24 hours, I had 3 job offers! Why did I not do it sooner? Why did I “Rob God?” and why did I rob myself of these blessings? Other times, when my health needed to be strong, when I paid my tithing, I had a miraculous amount of strength. I had endurance! My family was happy, there was peace in my home. These are great blessings!
There are many talks from our Prophets and other general authorities concerning these issues.
Why are we not listening? Do we really want to be burned? Have we forgotten what happens if we do not pay?  Are we earning so much money that we do not feel we need the blessings? Are we earning too little money where the question of whether we pay the rent or our tithing becomes the issue? Have we talked with our bishop and asked him for guidance? Have we gone to our family?
Tithing has been around since the time of Adam and Eve. We are to give a percentage of all that we have to Heavenly Father because it is his anyway. I understand that we have heard this before, but have you thought what the tithing would be used for? For buildings, learning materials, for Temples…

How about the fast offerings? How are they used? These items are in the hands of our chosen leaders and they are to listen to Heavenly Father as to what they are to do with it. Normally, it is used to assist those in the ward who needs that little blessing to help them keep going.

Have you been one of those? I have. I cherish the moment that I have had to ask for help. This is because it is given. There is hope created because there will always be the blessing of plenty for those who truly need it. I may not like to go for help, but that is because I have been taught that I am the only one who will change my life. I should be able to support myself. But, there are times when this is not the best answer. If I am able to give back, I try to give what is expected in my tithing, but I try to give more in my fast offerings. If it is a matter of money, then remember, there is a promise that the Savior will give 10 times back what you have given. I have tried this and with a prayerful heart, gave all that I have and found that sometime during the next week, the amount has been multiplied at least 10 times!
Try this, what have you to lose? Give of your tithes and fast offerings first when you receive your bounty. You will not miss it if you do so.  I love this gift and I appreciate the ability to see blessings in action.

Commitment

Commitment is the word for this week.

In John 15:13, it states “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” To be able to do this, do we not need to develop a strong friendship first? Do we not need to have trust, belief in that person, faith in who they are? Should we respect and care for that person? To really think about it, is this not what I have been talking about all along?

We need to be able to develop a relationship based in honesty, common values, and ideas, respect and the big one-love. These are the building blocks that we need to have or wish to have in place before we face the challenges of marriage.

As Elder Marion D. Hanks stated,”Married people should be best friends; no relationship on earth needs friendship as much as marriage… Friendship in a marriage is so important. It blows away the chaff and takes the kernel, rejoices in the uniqueness of the other, listens patiently, gives generously, forgives freely. Friendship will motivate one to cross the room one day and say, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.’ It will not pretend perfection nor demand it. It will not insist that both respond exactly the same in every thought and feeling, but it will bring to the union honesty, integrity. There will be repentance and forgiveness in every marriage-every good marriage-and respect and trust.”

To have this kind of friendship is commitment. To stand up next to the one you care about when life gets tough, to be able to cheer them on when they are facing a challenge, this is commitment.

May we continue in our developing our friendships with each other, creating reasons to be committed to each other and finding the wishes in our hearts is my hope.

Christ-like Love

We will be focusing on Christ-like love. I remember one time that we were taught that a marriage took 3 people, you, your spouse and Heavenly Father. With this unbeatable mix, we have the ability to do much more than we would have ever been able to do with just the two of us.

What is Christ-like love? Well, please remember the saying “As I have loved you, love one another.” Think about it. What kind of love did Jesus give to those around him? It was unconditional love. It was a love where he was willing to give all that he had for his brothers and sisters. Not only then, but those who came before him and those who came after.

We are not expected to sacrifice ourselves like he did and it would not be accepted because we are not able to do so. We are not begotten of our Heavenly Father. We are not perfect. Jesus was. But, he did teach us many wonderful things and the one that we can use to change the world is to love unconditionally. We can love those who are not perfect and have difficulties in spite of those difficulties.

My family has taught me this kind of love and I am grateful to them for it. As you know, my family is quite dynamic. The ones who taught me this love were an ex-husband who taught me that I could love someone and walk away from them to protect myself and their soul, my daughter who joined the Army(which can be quite frightening to any parent), my oldest son who decided that he was gay and has been living the lifestyle, and my youngest son who gave me a very difficult time just before I encouraged him to move out on his own. I found that I have the ability to love each of these people in my life without having to love their choices.

Spencer W. Kimball said, “For many years I saw a strong man carry his tiny, emaciated, arthritic wife to meetings and wherever she could go. There could be no sexual expression. Here was a selfless indication of affection. I think that is pure love.” I was in a ward where I saw more physical and emotionally challenged people than in any other ward. One couple that I saw was the organist. She guides her husband in and gently sits him down on the front pew by her. After the sacrament was passed, she would then guide him out for a short time before she brings him back for the rest of the meeting. There is a gentleness that I see in her eyes and a trust that I see in his body. I am glad that I have the opportunity to see this in my life experiences. I have a chance to see many variations of Christ-like love on a daily basis and I am truly blessed for this.

May we all have a chance to encourage it in our hearts as well as see it in others.