Silver Linings

The last five months have been interesting, to say the least. Life has changed dramatically for most people. There is so much chaos and commotion. It is difficult to watch and not be affected by it to some degree. The best word to describe how I have been feeling is gloomy. The most challenging thing for me during this pandemic has been not being able to go to the temple. No matter how overwhelming my life has gotten in the past, I could always go to the temple and find peace. Spending time in the temple grounded me, recharged my batteries, if you will, and gave me the strength to go back out and face the world.

Yesterday President Nelson put out a video where he talked about the weighty decision to close the temples. At the end, he said, “Even through clouds of sorrow, there can be silver linings found.”1 A friend asked what silver linings I have found during the temple closures. I knew immediately what the answer was.

About a month ago, I felt an overwhelming urge to research and study the histories of my ancestors. Almost immediately, I felt the cloud of gloom lifting. I felt a peace and strength very similar to what I would feel in the temple. It has been amazing! This shouldn’t have been a surprise to me. In general conference in April, President Russell M. Nelson reminded us, “Our Father knows that when we are surrounded by uncertainty and fear, what will help us the very most is to hear His Son. … As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional.”2 Where I hear the Savior the best has always been in the temple. I needed to trust Him more so that I could hear Him other places too. Oh that I had listened in April and not in June to this promise from President Nelson, “While worshipping in the temple is presently not possible, I invite you to increase your participation in family history, including family history research and indexing. I promise that as you increase your time in temple and family history work, you will increase and improve your ability to hear Him.”2

There was something else that President Nelson said in yesterday’s video that piqued my interest. “Even though temples have been closed, family history research and work has taken a huge leap forward; more names are being added.”1 Family history research has definitely taken a huge leap forward in my life. I am sad to admit that I have not been as familiar with my amazing family as I should have been. The gratitude I feel for their examples and sacrifices is overwhelming. Because of them, I have the gospel in my life. Their example of unwavering faithfulness is something I want to emulate! This has certainly been a silver lining while I am unable to go to the temple.

But President Nelson said silver linings. After watching the video, I felt compelled to look through names and ordinances I had done the month or two before the temple closed. Some of those ancestors still have ordinances that need to be done but at that time they were not able to be reserved. I decided to look for every person that didn’t have all their work done. To my delight, more had been added! I was able to reserve seventeen more ordinances for my relatives! I can hardly wait for the temples to reopen so I can do this work! What a beautiful silver lining!

We are surely living through some pretty cloudy days right now. The reality of life is that there will always be cloudy days. And there will also always be silver linings! Jeffery R. Holland said, “Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can, for He is the very source of the light you seek.”3 As we seek the light and love of our Heavenly Father and strive to hear His Son ever more intentionally, every day we can feel the peace that comes only from Him. And on our cloudy days, I hope we will remember to look for the silver linings.

References:

1.  President Nelson video on decision to close temples amid Covid-19

2.  Hear Him – Russell M. Nelson

3.  An High Priest of Good Things to Come – Jeffrey R. Holland

All is Well!

I ended my last blog with the quote, “Life is wonderful, even in the hard times, and there is happiness, joy, and peace at stops all along the way, and endless portions of them at the end of the road.”1 Oh how well this quote describes the pioneers! I am sure there were many people who sang the pioneer hymn Come, Come, Ye Saints2 today as part of their worship. We did. And as I sang, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels between the lyrics to that song and the lessons I have learned from Ann Jewell Rowley, my third great-grandmother. These are a few of the insights I have learned about her as I have been studying her remarkable life.

Gird up your loins; fresh courage take – Ann’s husband, William, died when their youngest child was just six months old. She would now raise seven children of her own under the age of 12 and some of William’s children from his first marriage. After joining the Church, she and William had talked about leaving England and joining with the Saints in the United States. Sadly, Ann Jewell would now have to face that difficult journey as a single parent. These are her courageous words, “I was very grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the comfort it gave me. I knew that our parting was only temporary and that viewed from the eternities, this was but a fleeting moment. I also knew that no matter how fleeting a moment it was, I had to make the best of it. I had a very real job to do. The children had to be fed and clothed, but the big task and the one I must accomplish, is to get us all to Zion. I must be among the people of my faith and I must get the Temple work done for us.”3

Our God will never us forsake – Whether she was crossing the ocean to join the Saints or enduring her trials and struggles crossing the plains with the Willie Handcart Company, Ann always had great faith and trust in the Lord.  This example from her autobiography gives a glimpse into her incredible faith. “I watched with alarm, my stepdaughter Eliza, grow weaker each day. She was never very strong. I had always devoted a lot of love and care to her, but she passed away one day and was buried off to the side of the trail. Her long journey was at an end, but ours had a long way yet to go. … I was grateful for my faith in God, for it was only through this faith, that I was able to carry on at all. I confess, it seemed at times, the Lord had deserted us. I watched John, so cold, drowsy and sick, want to lie down in his tracks, never to rise again. In traveling at night, in the frost of that altitude, Thomas’s right hand froze while he was pushing on the back of the cart. … He could finally go no farther and I felt my heart would break as I saw him laying beside the trail, waiting for the sick wagon. By the time he was picked up, his body was frozen in two places. That night, 12 people died and the next morning, 3 people joined them. … However, the Lord had not deserted us and I was ashamed for thinking for a moment, he had.”3

And soon we’ll have this tale to tell – While Ann Jewell had many tales to tell, something miraculous happened to her little family near the end of their journey. It is quite a tale! It, in fact, has been told in the movie 17 Miracles. This is how Ann Jewell described their miracle, “There came a time when there seemed to be no food at all. Some of the men left to hunt buffalo. Night was coming and there was no food for the evening meal. I asked God’s help as I always did. I got on my knees, remembering two hard sea biscuits that were still in my trunk. … They were not large, and were so hard they couldn’t be broken. Surely, that was not enough to feed 8 people, but 5 loaves and 2 fishes were not enough to feed 5,000 people either, but through a miracle, Jesus had done it. So, with God’s help, nothing is impossible. I found the biscuits and put them in a dutch oven and covered them with water and asked for God’s blessing, then I put the lid on the pan and set it on the coals. When I took off the lid a little later, I found the pan filled with food. I kneeled with my family and thanked God for his goodness. That night my family had sufficient food.”3

All is well! All is well! – Ann Jewell Rowley’s journal includes this tender yearning, “I shall be the happiest person, if I could reach Zion, with all my children alive.” Sadly, her stepdaughter died along the trail, but she was truly blessed to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley with all seven of her children on November 9, 1856. She had completed her big task to get them all to Zion. Happily, she was now among the people of her faith. Her last big task was to get the temple work done for her family. On October 14, 1859, Ann received her endowment and was sealed to William in the Endowment House. All is well!

Ann Jewell was an amazing example of a faithful, righteous woman of God. I am proud of the heritage she left our family. The pioneers left an unmistakable heritage for all of us who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The sacrifices they made continue to bless our lives today.

Robert D. Hales once said, “The Lord expects us to be as faithful, as devoted, as courageous as those who went before us. They were called to give their lives for the gospel. We are called to live our lives for the same purpose.”4

May we be as faithful and faith-filled as those who have gone before us. Especially this week, as we think about the pioneers, I hope we will reflect on their examples of perseverance, long-suffering, hard work, courage and unwavering commitment to God. Their incredible examples are worth emulating every day of our lives.

References:

1.  Fear Not, Little Flock – Howard W. Hunter

2.  Come, Come Ye Saints – Hymn 30

3.  Ann Jewell Rowley – Tell My Story Too

4.  Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: “My Hand Shall be Over Thee” – Robert D. Hales

Away From Danger

A few weeks ago, as I was out watering my flowers, I had something happen that has never happened before—a bird flew out of one of my hanging plants. It frightened me a bit! Then it happened again the next day, and the next. Could this bird be building a nest in my hanging plant? I asked my son take down the planter and, sure enough, there in my hanging plant is a nest with five little eggs in it. Interestingly, the nest is at the front of the planter where the direct water never hits. Since I’m so short, even on my tippy toes and with the longest attachment on the hose, I am unable to reach that spot.

This little mother bird taught me a valuable lesson. To give her children the best possibility for survival, she protected them in a most unusual way. Although there are many trees both large and small nearby, she chose to build her nest in the most obscure, protected place possible.

This reminded me of the counsel given to Emma Smith to “lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better.”1  Using this scripture, President Nelson issued the same challenge to the women of the Church last year to “put aside many things of this world.” He said, “Sometimes we speak almost casually about walking away from the world with its contention, pervasive temptations, and false philosophies. But truly doing so requires you to examine your life meticulously and regularly.”2

There is so much going on around us, so many things calling for our attention and priorities. If we aren’t careful, we can get caught up in things that will take us away from the peace we so desperately need, or possibly even from the safety of the gospel. Seemingly innocent things can take us away from the things of eternal significance without our even noticing. Likewise, seemingly small and simple gospel principles consistently lived will take us almost imperceptibly toward the things of eternal significance.

President Nelson said, “As you shift your focus away from worldly distractions, some things that seem important to you now will recede in priority. You will need to say no to some things, even though they may seem harmless. As you embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating your life to the Lord, the changes in your perspective, feelings, and spiritual strength will amaze you!”2

In the idyllic setting of my hanging plant, this mother bird has, in a way, taken herself out of the world. She is doing all in her power to protect herself and her loved ones from danger. So should we! The prophet reminds us, “We Latter-day Saints are not of the world; we are of covenant Israel. We are called to prepare a people for the Second Coming of the Lord.”2

What a great calling! I hope we can each give greater heed to our dear prophet’s challenge to put aside the things of this world and more fully consecrate our lives to the Lord.

References:

1.  Doctrine & Covenants 25:10

2.  Spiritual Treasures – Russell M. Nelson

A Father’s Example

Today as we honor our fathers, I want to pay a special tribute to three incredible men – my father, my father-in-law and my husband. D. Todd Christofferson said, “Perhaps the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father. If by his example as well as his words a father can demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living, that father will have given his children the key to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”1

I was blessed to have father who did just that! By his word and his deed, I absolutely knew my dad was a man of God. He taught me the gospel by living it. Even in his final words to the family, he was still preaching the gospel. He loved the Lord and he wanted his posterity to know that he loved the Lord. Because my earthly father was so compassionate, kind and loving, it has always been easy for me to know that I have a Heavenly Father who is full of compassion, kindness and love. I love my dad!

The same could be said about my “other” father. He, too, was a man who lived and loved the gospel. And in his final hours, he, too, proclaimed the gospel with boldness to his family. His righteous example has blessed many, especially his family, but none more profoundly than his only son. I am eternally grateful to him for that!

Heber J. Grant taught, “The best inheritance that you can leave to your sons and daughters is an investment in the kingdom of God.”2 These two incredible fathers definitely left their children the best inheritance!

Elder Christofferson also said, “Fatherhood requires sacrifice, but it is a source of incomparable satisfaction, even joy.”1 I know of no father who has sacrificed more for his children than my wonderful husband. His willingness to give of himself now includes his grandchildren as well. Without a doubt, each one has brought him incomparable joy! There has not been a time in our children’s lives when they haven’t seen their dad faithfully serving God, honoring his priesthood and cherishing his covenants. He is a marvelous example! I love him dearly!

Russell M. Nelson said, “Our faith now becomes part of our posterity’s faith later.”3 What an amazing legacy these men have left and are leaving their posterity! I am so grateful for the tremendous impact they each have had on my life and on my family’s lives. Their Christlike examples have blessed us immeasurably.

Especially today I thank a loving Heavenly Father for the wonderful men in my life, many more than just these three men! To each of you, I hope you know how much better this world is because of you! Happy Father’s Day!

References:

1.  Fathers – D. Todd Christofferson

2.  Teaching Children in the Nurture and Admonition of the Gospel – Heber J. Grant

3.  Face the Future With Faith – Russell M. Nelson

What I Have Learned From the Women in My Life

With Mother’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about the incredible women who have had a powerful impact on my life.  I love this quote from Sheri Dew.  It is so true in my life! “Few of us will reach our potential without the nurturing of both the mother who bore us and the mothers who bear with us.”1

I have been blessed with the most amazing mother, grandmothers, daughters, sisters and friends! From them I have learned the true meaning of service, unconditional love, resilience, compassion, commitment, devotion, dedication and discipleship. Gratefully my circle of sisterhood continues to grow with each passing year. Although a few are no longer here with me, their influence is still very real and I know they are not very far away at all! The influence of a righteous, faithful woman lasts through eternity.

Russell M. Nelson said, “To help another human being reach one’s celestial potential is part of the divine mission of woman. As mother, teacher, or nurturing saint, she molds living clay to the shape of her hopes. In partnership with God, her divine mission is to help spirits live and souls be lifted. This is the measure of her creation. It is ennobling, edifying, and exalting.”2 How very grateful I am for the wonderful women who have helped my spirit live and who continue to lift my soul! Thank you for bearing with me on our journey together. My life is better because of you!

References:

1.  Are We Not All Mothers? – Sheri Dew

2. Woman-Of Infinite Worth – Russell M. Nelson

What Am I Spreading?

My morning routine generally involves catching up on the news while on my treadmill.  Lately much of the news revolves around the pandemic.  A few weeks ago, during the surge of cases in New York, their governor warned about how rapidly the virus was spreading and begged people to follow the guidelines set forth by the medical experts.  Then he said something that made a deep impression on me, so much so that I quickly got off the treadmill and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.  “The life you risk may not be your own.”  I couldn’t stop thinking about this statement.  Of course he was referring to this in a physical way, but I thought about it in a spiritual way.  In the same way we can spread a deadly virus because we are asymptomatic, spiritual casualness or apathy can unknowingly affect those around us.  Let’s all ask ourselves, “What am I spreading?”

President David O. McKay once said, “There is one responsibility which no man can evade and that responsibility is personal influence.”1

Perhaps one of the most straightforward, soul-searching talks given about personal influence was given by Jeffery R. Holland entitled “A Prayer for the Children.”2 It is definitely one we should read often! In his tender but direct way he said, “I speak carefully and lovingly to any of the adults of the Church, parents or otherwise, who may be given to cynicism or skepticism, who in matters of whole-souled devotion always seem to hang back a little, who at the Church’s doctrinal campsite always like to pitch their tents out on the periphery of religious faith. To all such—whom we do love and wish were more comfortable camping nearer to us—I say, please be aware that the full price to be paid for such a stance does not always come due in your lifetime. No, sadly, some elements of this can be a kind of profligate national debt, with payments coming out of your children’s and grandchildren’s pockets in far more expensive ways than you ever intended it to be. …

“Parents simply cannot flirt with skepticism or cynicism, then be surprised when their children expand that flirtation into full-blown romance. If in matters of faith and belief children are at risk of being swept downstream by this intellectual current or that cultural rapid, we as their parents must be more certain than ever to hold to anchored, unmistakable moorings clearly recognizable to those of our own household. It won’t help anyone if we go over the edge with them, explaining through the roar of the falls all the way down that we really did know the Church was true and that the keys of the priesthood really were lodged there but we just didn’t want to stifle anyone’s freedom to think otherwise. No, we can hardly expect the children to get to shore safely if the parents don’t seem to know where to anchor their own boat.”

I am so grateful for parents who knew to securely anchor their boats in the gospel of Jesus Christ!  They were deliberate and intentional in living the gospel.  Their faithful example has made all the difference in my life.

To guard against the current deadly pandemic, we have been given a checklist of some pretty simple things that, if we will be diligent in doing daily, will help to keep us safe.  Similarly, we have been given a spiritual checklist of things that if done consistently and regularly will keep us spiritually safe.

Elder Holland reminds us, “Live the gospel as conspicuously as you can. Keep the covenants your children know you have made. Give priesthood blessings. And bear your testimony! Don’t just assume your children will somehow get the drift of your beliefs on their own.”

He then gives us the following “checklist”:

“Might we ask ourselves what our children know? From us? Personally? Do our children know that we love the scriptures? Do they see us reading them and marking them and clinging to them in daily life? Have our children ever unexpectedly opened a closed door and found us on our knees in prayer? Have they heard us not only pray with them but also pray for them out of nothing more than sheer parental love? Do our children know we believe in fasting as something more than an obligatory first-Sunday-of-the-month hardship? Do they know that we have fasted for them and for their future on days about which they knew nothing? Do they know we love being in the temple, not least because it provides a bond to them that neither death nor the legions of hell can break? Do they know we love and sustain local and general leaders, imperfect as they are, for their willingness to accept callings they did not seek in order to preserve a standard of righteousness they did not create? Do those children know that we love God with all our heart and that we long to see the face—and fall at the feet—of His Only Begotten Son?”

Although Elder Holland was speaking about parental influence, our influence spreads far beyond the walls of our own homes.  We never really know how far it travels and who we affect.  What are we spreading?  Are we putting others at risk or do we want them to catch what we have? Let’s be a little more deliberate in spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ through our words and our actions.  

References:

1.  The Mission of Brigham Young University – David O. McKay (April 27, 1948)

2.  A Prayer for the Children – Jeffrey R. Holland

The Blessings of the Holy Temple

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the temple is one of our most distinguishing features and cherished treasures. In Chapter 23, The Blessings of the Holy Temple, Gordon B. Hinckley reminds us that the temple is “is a place of light, a place of peace, a place of love where we deal with the things of eternity.” It stands as “a monument to our belief in the immortality of the human soul … and that as certain as there is life here, there will be life there.  … [T]he temple becomes … the bridge from this life to the next. The temple is concerned with things of immortality. These unique and wonderful buildings, and the ordinances administered therein, represent the ultimate in our worship. These ordinances become the most profound expressions of our theology.”


Recently David A. Bednar taught, “Temples are the most holy of all places of worship. A temple literally is the house of the Lord, a sacred space specifically set apart for worshipping God and for receiving and remembering His great and precious promises. … A principal purpose of the temple is to elevate our vision from the things of the world to the blessings of eternity.”1


Because the ordinances of temple represent the ultimate in our worship, it is easy to understand why President Hinckley had such a strong desire to “take the temples to the people instead of having the people travel great distances to get to them.” While serving as the chairman of the Temple Committee, he had the thought that the Church could build several smaller temples for the same cost as one large one. After his call to serve in the First Presidency, his travels took him far and wide. He could see firsthand the faithful Saints, some who would never have the opportunity to go to the temple and others who could not attend a temple without great personal sacrifice. In the Priesthood Session of October 1997 General Conference he said, “[T]here are many areas of the Church that are remote, where the membership is small and not likely to grow very much in the near future. Are those who live in these places to be denied forever the blessings of the temple ordinances? While visiting such an area a few months ago, we prayerfully pondered this question. The answer, we believe, came bright and clear. We will construct small temples in some of these areas, buildings with all of the facilities to administer all of the ordinances.”  


Six months later President Hinckley spoke of the many members who made “tremendous sacrifices to visit the temples” and had to “travel for days at a time in cheap buses and on old boats” and who had to “save their money and do without to make it all possible.  They need nearby temples—small, beautiful, serviceable temples.” He then made the historic announcement that construction of 30 smaller temples would begin immediately.


There are countless stories of people who have had to make these tremendous sacrifices to go to the temple. The one that touches my heart and is almost hard to imagine is the story President Monson told of Tihi and Tararaina Mou Tham and their 10 children. This is their incredible story:


“The entire family except for one daughter joined the Church in the early 1960s, when missionaries came to their island, located about 100 miles (160 km) south of Tahiti. Soon they began to desire the blessings of an eternal family sealing in the temple.


“At that time the nearest temple to the Mou Tham family was the Hamilton New Zealand Temple, more than 2,500 miles (4,000 km) to the southwest, accessible only by expensive airplane travel. The large Mou Tham family, which eked out a meager living on a small plantation, had no money for airplane fare, nor was there any opportunity for employment on their Pacific island. So Brother Mou Tham and his son Gérard made the difficult decision to travel 3,000 miles (4,800 km) to work in New Caledonia, where another son was already employed.


“The three Mou Tham men labored for four years. Brother Mou Tham alone returned home only once during that time, for the marriage of a daughter.


“After four years, Brother Mou Tham and his sons had saved enough money to take the family to the New Zealand Temple. All who were members went except for one daughter, who was expecting a baby. They were sealed for time and eternity, an indescribable and joyful experience.


“Brother Mou Tham returned from the temple directly to New Caledonia, where he worked for two more years to pay for the passage of the one daughter who had not been at the temple with them—a married daughter and her child and husband.”2


In the lesson, President Hinckley recalled hearing the testimony of a man who had sold all his worldly possessions so he could take his family to the temple which was located far from his home. He remembered the man saying, “We could not afford to come. Our worldly possessions consisted of an old car, our furniture, and our dishes. I said to my family, ‘We cannot afford to go.’ Then I looked into the faces of my beautiful wife and our beautiful children, and I said, ‘We cannot afford not to go. If the Lord will give me strength, I can work and earn enough for another car and furniture and dishes, but if I should lose these my loved ones, I would be poor indeed in both life and in eternity.’”


For those of us who are blessed to live near a temple, it is almost impossible to comprehend the great sacrifices so many have made to attend the temple. Thomas S. Monson reminds us, “Some degree of sacrifice has ever been associated with temple building and with temple attendance. Countless are those who have labored and struggled in order to obtain for themselves and for their families the blessings which are found in the temples of God. Why are so many willing to give so much in order to receive the blessings of the temple? Those who understand the eternal blessings which come from the temple know that no sacrifice is too great, no price too heavy, no struggle too difficult in order to receive those blessings. There are never too many miles to travel, too many obstacles to overcome, or too much discomfort to endure. They understand that the saving ordinances received in the temple that permit us to someday return to our Heavenly Father in an eternal family relationship and to be endowed with blessings and power from on high are worth every sacrifice and every effort.”2

 
Clearly these faithful Saints understood what the Prophet Joseph meant when he said, “We need the temple more than anything else.”3


Just as President Hinckley did not want those who lived so far from a temple to be denied the blessings of those sacred ordinances, he reminds us, “There are uncounted millions who have walked the earth and who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel. Shall they be denied such blessings as are offered in the temples of the Church? Through living proxies who stand in behalf of the dead, the same ordinances are available to those who have passed from mortality. … Most of the work done in [the temple] is performed vicariously in behalf of those who have passed beyond the veil of death. I know of no other work to compare with it. It more nearly approaches the vicarious sacrifice of the Son of God in behalf of all mankind than any other work of which I am aware. … It is a service which is of the very essence of selflessness.”


There has been a greater emphasis on doing family history work. We are encouraged to find and learn about our ancestors. Russell M. Nelson said, “Sealing ordinances are essential to exaltation. A wife needs to be sealed to her husband; children need to be sealed to their parents; and we all need to be connected with our ancestors. … It’s wonderful to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers by telling important family history stories in ways that are accessible and memorable. If we leave it at that level, however, we really haven’t done enough. As Church members, our interest in family history work has been motivated by instruction from the Lord that our ancestors cannot be made perfect without us and that we cannot be made perfect without them (see D&C 128:15). That means we are to be linked together by the sacred sealing ordinances of the temple. We are to be strong links in the chain from our ancestors to our posterity. If our collections of stories and photos should ever become an end point in themselves—if we know who our ancestors are and know marvelous things about them, but we leave them stranded on the other side without their ordinances—such diversion will not be of any help to our ancestors who remain confined in spirit prison.”4 Similarly David A. Bednar taught, “[A]s members of Christ’s restored Church, we have the covenant responsibility to search out our ancestors and provide for them the saving ordinances of the gospel. … For these reasons we do family history research, build temples, and perform vicarious ordinances. For these reasons Elijah was sent to restore the sealing authority that binds on earth and in heaven. We are the Lord’s agents in the work of salvation and exaltation that will prevent ‘the whole earth [from being] smitten with a curse’ (D&C 110:15) when He returns again. This is our duty and great blessing.”5


We are all part of God’s family. We have a great responsibility to do temple work, for our own ancestors and for others. And without family history work and indexing, there would be no temple work. Earlier this year, President Nelson reminded us, “We need to be spending more time in the temple and in doing family history research, which includes indexing.”4


President Hinckley reiterated the fact that increased temple activity and increased family history work go hand in hand. Then he taught us a marvelous truth, “The computer in its various ramifications is accelerating the work, and people are taking advantage of the new techniques being offered to them. How can one escape the conclusion that the Lord is in all of this?” Does that sound familiar? Other prophets have taught the same truth – the God would provide the means necessary to further His work! President Hinckley continues, “As computer facilities improve, the number of temples grows to accommodate the accelerated family history work.”


Think about this – in 1980, about the time personal computers were in the early stages, the Church membership was a little more than 4 ½ million with 19 operating temples.6 By the end of 2007, just weeks before President Hinckley passed away, the total membership was slightly more than 13 million members and there were 124 operating temples and personal computers had become extremely accessible.7 Today we hold in our hands devices more powerful than the personal computers just a decade ago. Church membership is now nearly 16 million and today there are 157 operating temples, with 13 under construction. There are also 12 temples announced but not yet under construction. Can you see President Hinckley’s words coming to pass?


The blessings of the temple and the blessings of family history are not only for the adult members of the Church. Any temple-worthy member can attend the temple and anyone can do family history research and indexing. There are many blessings promised for those who do.


Speaking directly to the youth of the Church, Elder Bednar said, “Many of you may think family history work is to be performed primarily by older people.  But I know of no age limit described in the scriptures or guidelines announced by Church leaders restricting this important service to mature adults. You are sons and daughters of God, children of the covenant, and builders of the kingdom. You need not wait until you reach an arbitrary age to fulfill your responsibility to assist in the work of salvation for the human family. The Lord has made available in our day remarkable resources that enable you to learn about and love this work that is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. For example, FamilySearch is a collection of records, resources, and services easily accessible with personal computers and a variety of handheld devices, designed to help people discover and document their family history. … It is no coincidence that FamilySearch and other tools have come forth at a time when young people are so familiar with a wide range of information and communication technologies. Your fingers have been trained to text and tweet to accelerate and advance the work of the Lord—not just to communicate quickly with your friends. The skills and aptitude evident among many young people today are a preparation to contribute to the work of salvation.”5


And here are the blessings he promised them for doing the work, “Your love and gratitude for your ancestors will increase. Your testimony of and conversion to the Savior will become deep and abiding. And I promise you will be protected against the intensifying influence of the adversary. As you participate in and love this holy work, you will be safeguarded in your youth and throughout your lives.”5


Of course those blessings aren’t just for the youth. Many beautiful blessings have been promised for all who go to the temple. The Doctrine and Covenants tells us of priceless blessings that are available as we do, “[T]hy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them.”8  Just think about those promises for a minute!  It helps us to understand why our leaders have such a strong desire for us to be in the temple. President Hinckley encouraged us, “Go to the house of the Lord and there … you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.” If we will “take greater advantage of this blessed privilege,” he promises that it will refine our natures and make us better people. “I know your lives are busy. I know that you have much to do. But I make you a promise that if you will go to the House of the Lord, you will be blessed; life will be better for you.”


Here are just a few more of the ways our lives can be blessed:


“As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.” – Thomas S. Monson2  


“Our temples provide a sanctuary where we may go to lay aside many of the anxieties of the world. Our temples are places of peace and tranquillity. In these hallowed sanctuaries God ‘healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’” – James E. Faust9 


“Temple blessings are most meaningful when death takes a loved one away from the family circle. To know that the pain of separation is only temporary provides peace that passes ordinary understanding. Death cannot sever families sealed in the temple. They understand death as a necessary part of God’s great plan of happiness.” – Russell M. Nelson10


“The House of the Lord is a place where we can escape from the mundane and see our lives in an eternal perspective. … Regular temple work can provide spiritual strength. It can be an anchor in daily life, a source of guidance, protection, security, peace, and revelation.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin11


The answer to President Hinckley’s prayerful desire to bring the temples to the people ushered in the beginning of unprecedented temple building.  Gratefully now 85 percent of members of the Church live within 200 miles of a temple. So for the vast majority, the tremendous sacrifices have been greatly eased. Yet, as President Monson reminded us, there will always be “some degree of sacrifice” to go to the temple.


We often sing, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.”12 Do we believe that? What sacrifices are we willing to make to bring the blessings of the temple into our own lives and the lives of our families?


For some, it is a matter of prioritizing our schedules. In a letter from the First Presidency, we were encouraged to “replace some leisure activities with temple service. … As we redouble our efforts and our faithfulness in going to the temple, the Lord will bless us.”13 Richard G. Scott suggested, “When a temple is conveniently nearby, small things may interrupt your plans to go to the temple. Set specific goals, considering your circumstances, of when you can and will participate in temple ordinances. Then do not allow anything to interfere with that plan. This pattern will guarantee that those who live in the shadow of a temple will be as blessed as are those who plan far ahead and make a long trip to the temple.”14

 
For others, it may be “bringing your life into compliance with what is required to receive a recommend, perhaps by forsaking long-held habits which disqualify you. It may be having the faith and the discipline to pay your tithing.”2 President Hinckley issued the challenge to “put [o]ur lives in order, to be worthy to go to the house of the Lord and there to partake of the blessings that are peculiarly [o]urs. … Great are the requirements, but greater still are the blessings.”


Temples are not just beautiful buildings, though they surely are. They are, as President Hinckley teaches, “an expression of the testimony of this people that God our Eternal Father lives, that He has a plan for the blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations, that His Beloved Son, Jesus the Christ, who was born in Bethlehem of Judea and crucified on the cross of Golgotha, is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, whose atoning sacrifice makes possible the fulfillment of that plan in the eternal life of each who accepts and lives the gospel.” The temple is at the heart of all we believe.


I love the temple! It is impossible to describe the peace, joy and comfort I feel there. In my times of greatest sorrow, it has been my sweetest source of comfort. In my times of greatest happiness, it is there I have tasted eternal joy. Even in this increasingly unpeaceful world, the temple is always a place where I can find peace. I know that in the temple “you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else.” May we make whatever sacrifices are necessary to more frequently be in the temple and also to always have the temple be in us.

References:

  1.  Exceeding Great and Precious Promises – David A. Bednar

  2.  The Holy Temple–A Beacon to the World – Thomas S. Monson

  3.  Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, page 416

  4.  Open the Heavens Through Temple and Family History Work – Russell M. Nelson

  5.  The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn – David A. Bednar

  6.  Statistical Report – 1980

  7.  Statistical Report – 2007

  8.  D&C 109:22

  9.  Spiritual Healing – James E. Faust

10.  Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings – Russell M. Nelson

11.  Seeking the Good – Joseph B. Wirthlin

12.  Praise to the Man – Hymn 27

13.  Letter from the First Presidency – March 2004 Ensign

14.  Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need – Richard G. Scott

Home – The Basis For a Righteous Life

Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The more surely you rear your children in the ways of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with love and high expectation, the more likely that there will be peace in their lives.” Chapter 11, Home – The Basis for a Righteous Life, is a loving reminder that teaching and rearing our children in the principles of the gospel is our God-given responsibility. As I studied this lesson, the word peace caught my attention. It truly is in teaching and living the gospel of Jesus Christ that our children will have the greatest chance of finding peace and stability in an ever-changing, commotion-filled world.  Consider these things President Hinckley taught about gospel living and peace:

  • I know of no other practice that will have so salutary an effect upon your lives as will the practice of kneeling together in prayer. … Your daily conversations with him will bring peace into your hearts and a joy into your lives that can come from no other source.
  • [The Lord] expects us to have family home evening—one night a week to gather our children together and teach them the gospel. Isaiah said, “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” That is the commandment: “All thy children shall be taught of the Lord.” And the blessing: “And great,” he said, “shall be the peace of thy children.” (Isa. 54:13)1
  • I urge our people everywhere to read the scriptures more. … May the Lord bless each of us to feast upon his holy word and to draw from it that strength, that peace, that knowledge “which passeth all understanding” (Philip. 4:7), as he has promised.2
  • So lead your sons and daughters, so guide and direct them from the time they are very small, so teach them in the ways of the Lord, that peace will be their companion throughout life.

Russell M. Nelson has said, “No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!”3 I love the clarity he gives to us that our parenting must be intentional. It takes conscious effort! If we are not careful, other things occupy our time and energy without our even being aware. We’ve been warned often about that.


“When things of the world crowd in, all too often the wrong things take highest priority. Then it is easy to forget the fundamental purpose of life. Satan has a powerful tool to use against good people. It is distraction. He would have good people fill life with ‘good things’ so there is no room for the essential ones. Have you unconsciously been caught in that trap?” Richard G. Scott4


“It is of particular importance in our day, when Satan is raging in the hearts of men in so many new and subtle ways, that our choices and decisions be made carefully, consistent with the goals and objectives by which we profess to live. We need unequivocal commitment to the commandments and strict adherence to sacred covenants. … It is heartbreaking when we profess belief in these goals yet neglect the everyday conduct required to achieve them.” Quentin L. Cook5


“Sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life. … If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf6


“Sometimes we feel that the busier we are, the more important we are—as though our busyness defines our worth. Brothers and sisters, we can spend a lifetime whirling about at a feverish pace, checking off list after list of things that in the end really don’t matter. That we do a lot may not be so important. That we focus the energy of our minds, our hearts, and our souls on those things of eternal significance—that is essential.” Joseph B. Wirthlin7


“If he could have his way, Satan … would have us become involved in a million and one things in this life—probably none of which are very important in the long run—to keep us from concentrating on the things that are really important, particularly the reality that we are God’s children. He would like us to forget about home and family values. He’d like to keep us so busy with comparatively insignificant things that we don’t have time to make the effort to understand where we came from, whose children we are, and how glorious our ultimate homecoming can be!” Marvin J. Ashton8


We must never forget that both we and our children are children of God! President Hinckley gives us some very wise counsel, “You need heaven’s help in raising heaven’s child—your child, who is also the child of his or her Heavenly Father.” Intentional parenting includes making our family a priority by inviting heaven’s help as we strive to live the gospel together.


Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, “When we kneel in family prayer, our children at our side on their knees are learning habits that will stay with them all through their lives. If we do not take time for prayers, what we are actually saying to our children is, ‘Well, it isn’t very important, anyway. We won’t worry about it. If we can do it conveniently, we will have our prayer, but if the school bell rings and the bus is coming and employment is calling—well, prayer isn’t very important and we will do it when it is convenient.’ Unless planned for, it never seems to be convenient. No mother would carelessly send her little children forth to school on a wintry morning without warm clothes to protect against the snow and rain and cold. But there are numerous fathers and mothers who send their children to school without the protective covering available to them through prayer—a protection against exposure to unknown hazards, evil people, and base temptations. In the past, having family prayer once a day may have been all right. But in the future it will not be enough if we are going to save our families.” (Italics added)9


James E. Faust quoted that last sentence in his general conference talk nearly thirty years ago and then added, “I wonder if having casual and infrequent family home evening will be enough in the future to fortify our children with sufficient moral strength. In the future, infrequent family scripture study may be inadequate to arm our children with the virtue necessary to withstand the moral decay of the environment in which they will live. Where in the world will the children learn chastity, integrity, honesty, and basic human decency if not at home?”10


Surely the “in the future” President Faust spoke of was today! Oh how I wish I could go back to when my children were young and do a better job! And I am sure I am not alone! In fact, I find great comfort in Russell M. Nelson’s words, “Years ago the First Presidency stressed the importance of quality family time. They wrote: ‘We call upon parents to devote their best efforts to the teaching and rearing of their children in gospel principles which will keep them close to the Church. The home is the basis of a righteous life, and no other instrumentality can take its place or fulfill its essential functions in carrying forward this God-given responsibility. We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely-appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform.’ When I ponder this counsel, I almost wish I were a young father once again.”3


So, we do our best and pray for heaven’s help. Still, one of the great heartaches for parents is when children, young and sometimes not so young, seem to abandon what they have been taught. President Hinckley encourages, “Once in a while, notwithstanding all the things you try to do, there is a rebellious child. But keep at it. Do not ever give up. You have never lost as long as you try. Keep at it.”


Jeffrey R. Holland, in his ever-loving, always-encouraging way, teaches, “Some children will make choices that break their parents’ hearts. Moms and dads can do everything right and yet have children who stray. Moral agency still obtains. But even in such painful hours it will be comforting for you to know that your children knew of your abiding faith in Christ, in His true Church, in the keys of the priesthood and in those who hold them. It will be comforting then for you to know that if your children choose to leave the straight and narrow way, they leave it very conscious that their parents were firmly in it. Furthermore, they will be much more likely to return to that path when they come to themselves and recall the loving example and gentle teachings you offered them there. Live the gospel as conspicuously as you can. Keep the covenants your children know you have made. Give priesthood blessings. And bear your testimony! Don’t just assume your children will somehow get the drift of your beliefs on their own. Keep loving and keep testifying. Keep praying. Those prayers will be heard and answered in the most unexpected hour. God will send aid to no one more readily than He will send it to a child—and to the parent of a child.”11


We know that Satan seeks to destroy peace—especially in the family. Prophets and apostles have warned us for many years about these attacks and how we can guard against them. In 1995, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued The Family – A Proclamation to the World. President Hinckley read that proclamation as part of his talk to the women of the Church. He said, “With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewarn. In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.” He then read the family proclamation.  He continued, “We commend to all a careful, thoughtful, and prayerful reading of this proclamation. The strength of any nation is rooted within the walls of its homes. We urge our people everywhere to strengthen their families in conformity with these time-honored values.”12


May we accept President Hinckley’s challenge to prayerfully, carefully and thoughtfully read and study the family proclamation and conform our lives to the values taught in this prophetic proclamation. As we do, we will feel heaven’s help as we are doing the heavenly work of raising God’s children.

References:

  1.  Family Home Evening – Gordon B. Hinckley

  2.  Feasting Upon The Scriptures – Gordon B. Hinckley

  3.  The Sabbath is a Delight – Russell M. Nelson

  4.  First Things First – Richard G. Scott

  5.  Choose Wisely – Quentin L. Cook

  6.  Of Regrets and Resolutions – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

  7.  Follow Me – Joseph B. Wirthlin

  8.  A Yearning For Home – Marvin J. Ashton

  9.  Prayer, The Passport to Spiritual Power – Spencer W. Kimball

10.  The Greatest Challenge in the World—Good Parenting – James E. Faust

11.  A Prayer for the Children – Jeffrey R. Holland

12.  Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World – Gordon B. Hinckley

Daughters of God

Donald L. Hallstrom recently taught, “Our most fundamental doctrine includes the knowledge that we are children of a living God.  … This doctrine is so basic, so oft stated, and so instinctively simple that it can seem to be ordinary, when in reality it is among the most extraordinary knowledge we can obtain.  …  It is essential that our preeminent identity is as a child of God.  Knowing that will allow our faith to flourish, will motivate our continual repentance, and will provide the strength to ‘be steadfast and immovable’ throughout our mortal journey.”1


Recently I had a conversation with someone about religion.  The gentleman I was talking to shared his view that, if there is a God, He is just a presence.   I took the opportunity to express my testimony that God is our Father, that He cares about us individually and that He is involved in the details of our lives. That night as I said my prayers, I was overcome with emotion as I thanked Heavenly Father for the blessing of knowing that I am His child and that He loves me.  And I prayed that the man I had spoken with earlier that day could come to know that as well.


Perhaps because of that experience, the first words in Chapter 5, Daughters of God, resonated deep in my soul.  Gordon B. Hinckley said, “Each of you is a daughter of God.  Reflect on all the wondrous meaning of that one paramount fact.”  The word reflect made a great impression on me.  Not only does it mean to realize or consider, but it also means to give back an image or to make manifest.  It is important to know that I am a child of God!  But is that knowledge reflected in the way I live?  It should be!  I like the suggestion of Rosemary M. Wixom to “take that beloved phrase ‘I am a child of God’ and add the words ‘Therefore, what?’”2

 
I am a child of God.  Therefore, I will be faithful.


In the lesson, President Hinckley urges us to be faithful “to the very best that is within us. … Be faithful to the gospel.  Be faithful to the Church.  … Be faithful to God.  … He is the one true source of your strength.”  Using the revelation given to Emma Smith as a guide for each of us, President Hinckley reminds us of some of the things our Heavenly Father expects of us.  One of those is to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.”3  Just as Emma had so many things in life to worry about and occupy her time, so do we.  But here was council to not be obsessed with those everyday things and to “get her thoughts on the higher things of life, the things of righteousness and goodness, matters of charity and love for others, the things of eternity.”  


Marvin J. Ashton said, “If he could have his way, Satan would distract us from our heritage. He would have us become involved in a million and one things in this life—probably none of which are very important in the long run—to keep us from concentrating on the things that are really important, particularly the reality that we are God’s children. He would like us to forget about home and family values. He’d like to keep us so busy with comparatively insignificant things that we don’t have time to make the effort to understand where we came from, whose children we are, and how glorious our ultimate homecoming can be!”4


Elder Hallstrom cautioned, “We live in a world that can cause us to forget who we really are.  The more distractions that surround us, the easier it is to treat casually, then ignore, and then forget our connection with God.”1 


I am a child of God.  Therefore, I will cherish motherhood.


When discussing our divine nature as women, motherhood is appropriately included.  Although it can be a tender subject when some of us are not mothers, it is our responsibility as daughters of God to cherish and value motherhood – always!  President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “The Church will always hold aloft the banner of happy family life, for we can do no other!  Family life is the best method for achieving happiness in this world, and it is a clear pattern given to us from the Lord about what is to be in the next world.  We have no choice but to continue to hold up the ideal of the Latter-day Saint family. The fact that some do not now have the privilege of living in such a family is not reason enough to stop talking about it.  We cannot set aside this standard, because so many other things depend upon it.”5


Reminding mothers of the sanctity of their calling, President Hinckley said, “No one can adequately take your place.  No responsibility is greater, no obligation more binding than that you rear in love and peace and integrity those whom you have brought into the world.  Rear your children in light and truth.  Teach them to pray.  Read to them from the scriptures.  Teach them to pay their tithes and offerings.  Teach your sons to honor womanhood.  Teach your daughters to walk in virtue.  Accept responsibility in the Church, and trust in the Lord to make you equal to any call you may receive.  Your example will set a pattern for your children.”


We have often heard the statement made by the First Presidency in 1942, “Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.”


I am a child of God.  Therefore, I will stand strong and immovable.


M. Russell Ballard taught, “Sisters, your sphere of influence is a unique sphere—one that cannot be duplicated by men.  No one can defend our Savior with any more persuasion or power than you, the daughters of God, can—you who have such inner strength and conviction. The power of a converted woman’s voice is immeasurable, and the Church needs your voices now more than ever.”6


President Hinckley stated, “It is so tremendously important that the women of the Church stand strong and immovable for that which is correct and proper under the plan of the Lord. … No one can calculate the tremendous force for good that you can become. … I charge you to stand tall and be strong in defense of those great virtues. … When you are united, your power is limitless. You can accomplish anything you wish to accomplish. And oh, how very, very great is the need for you in a world of crumbling values where the adversary seems so very much to be in control. … Marvelous is the power of women of faith.”


Julie B. Beck said, “The sisterhood of Relief Society can provide a place of safety, refuge, and protection. As our times become ever more difficult, the faithful sisters of Relief Society will unite to protect the homes of Zion from the shrill voices of the world and the predatory and provocative influence of the adversary. And through Relief Society, they will be taught and strengthened and taught and strengthened more, and the influence of righteous women can bless many more of our Father’s children.”7


As daughters of God, let us accept President Hinckley’s invitation to “rise to the great potential within you.  Do what you can do in the best way you know.  If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.”

References:

1.  I Am a Child of God – Donald L. Hallstrom

2.  Discovering the Divinity Within – Rosemary M. Wixom

3.  Doctrine & Covenants 25:10

4.  A Yearning for Home – Marvin J. Ashton

5.  Privileges and Responsibilities of Sisters – Spencer W. Kimball

6.  Let Us Think Straight – M. Russell Ballard

7.  What I Hope My Granddaughters and Grandsons Will Understand About Relief Society – Julie B. Beck

Sacrifice Brings Heaven’s Blessings

Two years ago, we had the opportunity to go to Martin’s Cove and the historical sites in Wyoming and Utah that were significant along the Mormon Pioneer Trail. It was a life changing experience for me! It was a long trip, even in an air-conditioned, comfortable car! We hiked through several of the areas, drove to others, ate at restaurants and slept in nice, comfortable hotel rooms. They were exhausting, adventure-filled days. They were also days filled with of feelings of overwhelming sacredness.  It was incredible to walk some of the places the pioneers had walked, to read their testimonies and to hear their stories, some even about my own ancestors. Without actually walking the trails and seeing the difficult conditions (and I saw it on a beautiful summer day), it is nearly impossible to even imagine what the early Mormon pioneers went through to get to the Salt Lake Valley. So even though I have gained an appreciation, it is nowhere near an understanding!  

A very sacred experience happened when we went to Church there on Sunday. My husband and son were asked to bless the sacrament. Words are inadequate to express my feelings. As I listened to the words of each prayer, tears rolled down my cheeks. I found a deeper meaning to those words as I listened to them that day and thought how the pioneers must have heard those same words on that same spot so many years ago. As we take the sacrament, we promise to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and always remember Him, and keep His commandments so that we can have His Spirit to be with us. That day I thought of all that the pioneers had endured because they had truly taken His name upon them and remembered Him and kept His commandments. And it was because they had His Spirit with them that they had been able to endure all they had been through and could continue to endure all that was still ahead. I thought of their sacrifice and their devotion. I remember wondering if the way I was living my life was evidence that I truly appreciated that sacrifice and devotion. Would they be as proud to be my relative as I was to be theirs? Am I as willing to take the Savior’s name and always remember Him and keep His commandments as they were? Do I allow His Spirit to guide me and sustain me like they did?

There are so many lessons we can learn from the pioneers! They knew sacrifice! They also knew that they would be blessed for their sacrifice. There are incredible stories that tell of the miracles. I believe that, while they too experienced heaven’s blessings, their sacrifices have brought us heaven’s blessings! I have heard stories about the pioneers all my life. However, I didn’t understand or appreciate what they went through – for us – before I went to Martin’s Cove. The things I heard, saw and felt have deepened my faith and filled my heart with gratitude for the blessings I have because of the sacrifices of others. I am so grateful for that experience. I love the story below about Francis Webster.  It had such a profound impact on me when I first heard it! And it still does. It is a sweet reminder to me that those times which are the hardest to bear are never really borne alone! If we put our trust in our Heavenly Father, those will be the refining times when we are being molded into the person He wants us to become. 

In 1856, Francis and Betsy Webster had enough money to travel to Utah in a wagon, but they donated their money to the Perpetual Emigrating Fund. Their donation allowed an additional nine individuals to travel by handcart. Brother and Sister Webster, who were expecting a baby, traveled to Salt Lake City with the Martin handcart company and suffered along with the rest of the company.

Years later, as Brother Webster sat in a Sunday School class, he listened to some Church members criticize Church leaders for the handcart tragedy. Unable to constrain himself, he arose and testified of the blessings of being in the Martin handcart company:

“I ask you to stop this criticism for you are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it. … We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation. But did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? … Everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities [extreme needs].

“I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull my load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor one moment of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart Company” (in William R. Palmer, “Pioneers of Southern Utah,” The Instructor, May 1944, 217–18).

The second quote comes from Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s First Presidency message, All is Well, in this month’s Ensign. It is a great reminder of the optimism that the pioneers exhibited. The title of President Uchtdorf’s article comes from the song “Come, Come, Ye Saints.” I love the second verse.  It says:

“Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake; And soon we’ll have this tale to tell – All is well! All is well!” I’ve always told my kids that life is hard – and it’s supposed to be! That is exactly what I read in that second verse! Don’t whine and think life is hard. It is! But it is supposed to be! We will never earn “a great reward” if we aren’t willing to work hard and fight for it. Adjust your attitude! Be strong! Know that God will never leave you alone! And no matter what, because of our Savior, “All is well!”

Instead of just being a day filled with parades, parties and fireworks, Pioneer Day is now a holy day and not just a holiday. It is a day to express how truly proud I am of my heritage and how thankful I am for ancestors who gave so much so I can have so much!