The Atonement or what does it all really mean?

I had the opportunity to teach a lesson this last Sunday about the Atonement to my 12-14 year old class. We had to start out with the basics and I feel it is too good to not share some of it.

First of all, what is it?

Well, we all sin. Either we have in the past or will in the future. It is because we are not perfect and mistakes happen. We are not perfect. We are here to learn that.

We are not able to return to Heavenly Father because of those sins because he cannot be in the presence of sinners.

Therefore, we need someone to atone for our sins. To pay for them so that we can return to Heavenly Father when the time comes.

What kind of person should that be? Well, I found the best description here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/04/he-lives-all-glory-to-his-name?lang=eng

Richard D. Scott said this of Jesus Christ’s challenges:

First, an enormous sense of responsibility, for He realized that except it be done perfectly, not one of His Father’s children could return to Him. They would be forever banished from His presence since there would be no way to repent for broken laws and no unclean thing can exist in the presence of God. His Father’s plan would have failed, and each spirit child would have been under the eternal control and torment of Satan.

Second, in His absolutely pure mind and heart, He had to personally feel the consequences of all that mankind would ever encounter, even the most depraved, despicable sins.

Third, He had to endure the vicious attack of Satan’s hordes while physically and emotionally pressed to the limit. Then, for reasons we do not fully know, while at the extremity of His capacity, at the time the Savior most needed succor, His Father allowed Him to shoulder the onerous responsibility with only His own strength and capacity.

Wow! Now that we put it this way,  Jesus did do something amazing for us!

Now, can we still sin and be able to enter in the presence of Heavenly Father? No.

So what can we do and how do we learn about it?

We are to repent (see the sin within ourselves and never do it again, doing all within ourselves to repay what we did). That is simple-even the worst sins can be let go.

We learn in going to church, reading our scriptures, listening to Apostles who will teach us, and praying for understanding.

With what Jesus did for us,  is it important for us to do all we can to keep from being part of the pain that he suffered?

Look within ourselves and see what we can do to become better. In doing so, we will be greatly blessed!

Aside

I have the opportunity to grow, heal, ask questions and teach others what I have learned. Today for example, there was a talk on adversity, I taught a lesson on how to become a leader using the spirit of God and had a lesson taught to me concerning food storage and how it affects us now. My husband also had a lesson on ideas on how to improve finances in our home.

I am thankful that what we learn we can take with us home and take action on during the week.

I see myself like a pitcher. All week, it is drained a little at a time by dealing with daily “worldly things”. On Sundays, it is refilled to the top. If I am lucky, I go to the Temple during the week and give the pitcher a chance for a quick refill that can then be a blessing to others around me as well.

Church can tire me out, and I find that a nap is beneficial, but if I do not go, the pitcher is drained and I have no shield or strength to stand up to the daily things I have to deal with through the week. I am not as strong to stand up to the wickedness that is around me as I want to be. With this as my incentive, I find that there is nothing more valuable as taking time to go to church.

May you find ways to fill your pitcher and stay strong against the adversary.

I love to go to church on Sundays.

Aside

I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints. That means that I am a Mormon. I am a Mormon because I choose to be. I have been introduced to other religions, beliefs and ideas and I found that this form of teaching about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is right for me.

But what about all of the rules taught in the church? I find that the rules that are taught are to help me to learn to love myself unconditionally and to love others unconditionally as well.

I learn that there is an order to life instead of chaos.

I learn that we have the right to make good and bad decisions and we have to live with the consequences with whichever choice we make.

We are not alone in our choices. They do affect those around us. It is because of the many choices we have before us that it is a wonderful gift to have an organization that will teach us what is good and bad as well as why.

Yes, I do ask a lot of why questions. But, I find that those are answered as I am asking them.

I believe in the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I am willing to do everything I can to learn about it and to teach others what I have learned.

I have a testimony of the Gospel. I believe in it. I can have hope in my life knowing that I will be able to live after death. I know that this church and it’s organizations are right for me.  I also understand that it may not be the perfect answer for others in whom I love-both family and friends. The only thing I ask is that if you have questions, ask them. If you do not understand something, find the answer from a correct source. When you find out, take action in what is correct.

I am a Mormon because I choose to be

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.

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.

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.

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.

Am I Fasting or Starving?

Matthew 6:16-18
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy
Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Many times, I have taught the value of fasting to my children, but it seems that I had at least one that did not understand no matter how I have tried to teach him. On Fast Sunday, as soon as our meetings were finished, he gathered his brother and sister and found me and dragged us to the car so that we can drive home as quickly as we can and eat everything in sight!
What is fasting?

Well, to me, it is a time set aside to focus on the most important issue that needs to be addressed with our Heavenly Father. It is a time where all other things are set aside, including eating, so that the communication is clear. How can you focus on your closest desire and be making a sandwich? How can
you talk with Heavenly Father with a singleness of thought when you are trying to decide if you want cheese or not on that sandwich?
Is Fast Sunday a day once a month that we suffer because we miss a couple of meals? Or is it a time to reflect? A time to heal?
I had a question that I felt that I needed to have answered. I asked for my Home Teacher to come by that night for a blessing. I wanted to make sure that I was hearing what was correct and not just my imaginings. So, I decided to fast. I thought that it would be difficult. I do not normally fast other than on Fast Sundays, or for a long period of time. It was in the middle of the week, so I was able to skip breakfast, then when lunch came around, my non-member friend who always walked with me to find restaurants to eat at, wanted to go. I told her that I was not going to eat. This surprised her, but not so much as the fact that I told her that I also was not going to drink anything-including water. So, we walked together. She ordered a meal and ate it in front of me, but it did not bother me because we were talking about the value of fasting and it has opened up a lot of doors to discussions that we have had since. I was not hungry. I was still praying through the day in preparation for the blessing that I was to receive. Meanwhile, many of the answers were being answered during the day, but not the main one. I was grateful for each answer, but I was still waiting for the big question to be answered. My Home Teacher came by and brought another with him. I am not sure if they had been fasting as well, but I had found that most Priesthood holders will fast before a blessing. This helps them as well. I was given a blessing. I asked specific questions, but the answer was not specific. In being thus, it has even blessed me more than I had thought! Instead of a yes or no, it was more along the lines of being “You will receive the peace to know your answers.” For many days afterwards and even now, I am still blessed from this particular blessing. No, I never got a direct answer  for the one question to be answered, but I had let it go and began focusing on what is far more important-
Eternal Life.
That is more important. The rest will fall into place. By the way, I did not eat until the next day because I was not hungry. I really was not hungry even then, but when I did break my fast, then the body reawakened and let me know what it’s needs were.
Try this, use it with a sincere desire to understand not only the act of the fast, but to understand the blessings that come from it. I know that you will be blessed if you do these things.

Have you prayed today?

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Uttered or unexpressed,
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear,
The upward glancing of an eye
When none but God is near. …
O thou by whom we come to God,
The Life, the Truth, the Way!
The path of prayer thyself hast trod;
Lord, teach us how to pray.
(Hymns, 1985, no. 145.)
Have you ever taken the time to read the words to this song?
When I was a little girl, my parents had a book that was called: “Do your prayers bounce off the ceiling?” I felt that I had not been praying in a manner that would do more than do the bouncing. One day when I was delivering candy, pop and other items to vending machines, I decided that I wanted to try to pray for the whole time that I had been working. This would be for 6 hours! I had never prayed for longer than a couple of minutes without running out of things to say.
So I decided to try this. I began really early in the morning so that I would not encounter too many of the employees at each of the locations that I was visiting. I would have everything set up the night before so that all I needed to do was drive away. When I was in the car and before I turned the key, I began my prayer. Then I would continue praying from that point on until I returned home. It was hard at first, I was grateful for the interruptions that happened at most of my locations because then I could begin again. But after a while, I found that my prayers were becoming more of a conversation and that when I was interrupted, I would listen instead of doing all of the talking.  I found that many times, I was crying because the spirit was so strong! I found also, that each of my prayers were being answered in an immediate way. Sometimes with a sense of humor, such as if I complained about the traffic, then seconds later, the next light was green and the rest of the trip was clear. I would then acknowledge that the answer was there and that the ones answering my prayers were better on top of things than I was. I always felt that they were right next to me and that they were always smiling when I understood the message. This created a closeness that I had never felt before. I desired to keep this feeling closer to me, so I would stop the prayer at the end of the trip, but then check in throughout the day. Eventually, I found that I was praying all day long, but in a manner that those around me did not know. I had a spirit that was always there so that I could just pick up where I left off. I did not have to wait to create this feeling. I was glad for this, so much that I reveled in it!
When I did not pray, I found that I was empty, that I was alone and that it took me a long time to recreate the feeling that there was a 2-way communication with our Heavenly Father and our Savior.
Pray.

Pray always. Try this, for it is a good way. Do it a little at a time, for as we are guided in 2 Nephi 28:30, “Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” If you do this, you will be blessed considerably!