Preserving the Legacy

Sacrifice. Service. Perseverance. Loyalty. Courage. Those words could easily be used to describe both our Founding Fathers and our forefathers. The month of July is always packed full of fun and festivities, but it should also be a time when we reflect on what we have because of the sacrifices of those who have gone before us. Those who founded this country have left a legacy that has shaped the world. And so did our early pioneers! For me, and perhaps for you, some of those pioneers were my family. Their legacy has had a profound impact on me. Now it is up to each of us to preserve those legacies.

D. Todd Christofferson once said, “Let us not be content with where we are, but neither let us be discouraged.”1 That seems to perfectly describe those who fought so long ago for our freedom and for our faith. The desire for a better life guided those who came before us. Their efforts and actions not only affected them but forever blessed the generations to follow. I absolutely believe they knew and understood that and that is what gave them a determined strength to keep going, especially when it was the most difficult. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifice, service, perseverance, loyalty, and courage.

Whether patriots or pioneers, they certainly wanted things to be better. And thankfully they were wise enough not to let discouragement halt their progress or their dreams. May we, like them, not be content with where we are. May we, like them, keep the faith and not get discouraged when the going gets tough. May we, like them, give our all for our freedom and our faith.

Reference:

1.  The Living Bread Which Came Down From Heaven – D. Todd Christofferson

What Kind Of Student Am I?

President Russell M. Nelson recently said, “Adversity is a great teacher.”1 I love how absolute that statement is. I think it is important to note that he didn’t say that adversity can be or might be a great teacher. So, the important question to ask myself is, “What kind of student am I?”

That turned out to be quite a soul-searching question for me. As I began to think of some of the adversities I have faced, my first thoughts were those things that rocked my world—the really big, really hard things. But then I began to think a little deeper, about times that probably shouldn’t have rocked my world but did—like the time I let something someone said offend me so much that it was hard to feel comfortable at church. That lasted longer than I care to admit! Adversity comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes even small, seemingly insignificant things can have very significant consequences when we refuse to recognize them and learn from them. For me, it seems I am a much better student when my classes are hard! During those times, there is no doubt that I need to study more and have more help from the Master Teacher!

The reality is none of us will escape adversity. It is a vital and ongoing part of our schooling here in mortality. As I have reflected on some of my greatest adversities, while I would definitely not want to repeat them, they truly have been great teachers. I have learned things I could have learned in no other way. I now see life through a completely different lens. I hope I am more compassionate, more loving, and more forgiving. I hope I am more aware of others who are experiencing heartache and sorrow. I most assuredly trust in God and in His promises! And even as I look back on my weakest adversities, I can see that they, too, have been great teachers. I can acknowledge that I am still learning and still growing and still trying. And so is everyone else!

I should probably ask myself more often what kind of student I am. And to that, I’ll add a few more questions too! “What am I learning from adversity?” “Am I trying to be a better student?” Am I relying on the Master Teacher to help me?”

Reference:

1.  What We Are Learning and Will Never Forget – Russell M. Nelson

be role models

Remember This: Kindness Begins With Me

The other day I took my almost two-year old grandson to the aquarium. Since there were hardly any people around, he happily ran from one exhibit to the next. When we got to the penguin exhibit, there was an even younger boy with his mother. Immediately, these two little boys connected. They climbed up and down the stairs together, giggling and watching each other’s every move. Although it didn’t last long, for them playing was just the natural thing to do.

Of course, their heartwarming interaction was nothing unusual. You can see the same thing happen at almost any playground. When little children see other little children, they see new friends. Is it any wonder the Savior taught, “Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”?1

Earlier this month, Gary E. Stevenson spoke to young and old alike, reminding us of “our heavenly duty”2 to be kind and loving to each other. He counseled the adults to “be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act.”2

Too often what we hear and see cannot, in any way, be considered Christlike. Sadly, there are times those words and actions are our own. While we cannot change others, we can change what we say and do, how we act and react.

I am reminded of the Primary song I sang as a girl:

I want to be kind to everyone,
For that is right, you see.
So I say to myself, “Remember this:
Kindness begins with me.”3

Such wise words! Even one Christlike action can make a difference! Think about the light a small candle gives to a dark room. In the very same way, each small act of kindness will add much-needed light to an ever-darkening world.

That day at the aquarium, the role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility were two innocent little boys. As often happens in life, I was being taught by a child.

References:

1.  Matthew 18:3

2.  Hearts Knit Together – Gary E. Stevenson

3.  Kindness Begins With Me – Children’s Songbook

Who Do You Trust?

The other day someone posed the question, “Who do you trust?” He then began to list off a few people he often trusts, sometimes simply because of their professions, without even giving it a second thought. He is absolutely right! We all do that. Every time we get in our cars, we are trusting the other people on the road with us. When we go out to eat, we trust the restaurant owner, the cook, and the waiters. When we get on an airplane, we are putting our trust in the pilot, the mechanics, the air traffic controllers. The list goes on and on. But that is not where he wanted the question to take us. His question was meant for us to think deeply about who we really trust.

Why is it that we can so quickly put our trust in people we don’t know and who don’t know us and yet often find it difficult to trust God? He is our loving Heavenly Father. He does know us! And He does love us—more than we can imagine! He will support us and sustain us if we will put our trust in Him. The scriptures are clear about that! (See Alma 36:3, Alma 38:5)

Undoubtedly, life will be challenging. And sometimes it will be downright hard! That is just a fact. When we trust God and His timing, we can find peace amidst the storms of life. I have been blessed to feel His calming hand in during some pretty fierce storms.

When one of Joseph B. Wirthlin’s daughters was going through a particularly difficult time, he gave her a small card on which he had typed these words, “The simple secret is this: put your trust in the Lord, do your best, then leave the rest to Him.”1

That is the simple secret for all of us! There are unimaginable blessings and unexplainable peace when we trust God! And I trust Him with all my heart!

Reference:

1.  Come What May, and Love It – Joseph B. Wirthlin

love life

Love Life!

Many years ago, Russell M. Nelson gave this advice, which seems especially necessary right now, “Love life! Cherish each moment as a blessing from God. Live it well—even to your loftiest potential.”1 With the craziness and chaos all around us, loving life requires us to be more thoughtful and more intentional about what we allow into our lives. It requires us to be more focused on the good and especially on God.

Can we truly love life without having peace in our life? Can we live life to our loftiest potential without striving to live peaceably? I don’t think so. Is it possible to be peaceable when contention seems to be everywhere? Yes, it is!

One of the greatest examples of this is found in the Book of Mormon. The prophet Mormon described wars and wickedness that are hard to comprehend. Yet he recognized the followers of Christ because of their “peaceable walk with the children of men.”2 Those words have always intrigued me. What exactly does a peaceable walk look like, especially in extremely challenging times? I’ve reflected on that many times but more so lately. The other day I got the best answer!

I was listening to Sheri Dew’s interview with the prophet’s wife, Wendy Nelson. One of the questions Sister Dew asked was, “President Nelson gave a talk called ‘Hear Him.’ What have you learned about hearing Him, how to hear Him, from being married to President Nelson?” This is part of Sister Nelson’s answer, “To hear Him, … we absolutely remove anything that prevents the Spirit from being in our home in full abundance. An example is zero contention. I thought that was an impossible thing. … [L]iterally, if we would be watching a movie, and there would be contention, he needed to turn it off. If there was a sporting game, but it became contentious rather than competitive, he would turn it off. So anything that offends the Spirit —contention. … Our home is designed by both of us to make sure that the Spirit can be there in full abundance so that hearing Him is always on our mind.”3

That is what walking peaceably looks like!

Begin today, as Jeffrey R. Holland challenged us, “to be peacemakers—to love peace, to seek peace, to create peace, to cherish peace.”4

As we do, we will be among those who our prophet today will recognize as followers of Christ because of our peaceable walk with each other. “Love life! Cherish each moment as a blessing from God. Live it well—even to your loftiest potential.”1

References:

1.  Doors of Death – Russell M. Nelson

2.  Moroni 7:4

3.  Wendy Nelson Interview – Church News Podcast

4.  The Ministry of Reconciliation – Jeffrey R. Holland

new normal

Do What Matters Most

As 2020 comes to an end, I think we will all shout a collective “hallelujah!” Perhaps more than any other time, we anxiously await a new year, sincerely wanting our lives to be better. While it is customary around this time of year to take an inventory of our lives, asking ourselves questions like “What have I learned? What do I want to improve? What do I want to add? What do I want to eliminate?”, our answers will probably be quite different from previous years.

Hopefully one thing 2020 has given us is a clearer perspective. I have thought often over these last several months about something David A. Bednar shared in general conference five years ago. He had gone to visit Robert D. Hales who had been seriously ill. Elder Bednar asked what lessons he had learned as he had gotten older and experienced severe health challenges. Elder Hales said, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”1 Elder Bednar went on to say, “Physical restrictions can expand vision. … Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.”1 Oh, how well that applies to this year!

A few months into the pandemic, we started hearing that life would not be returning to normal any time soon and that we needed to accept a “new normal.” I really disliked those words! I didn’t want a new normal! I wanted my life just like it was before. My heart softened to that phase when it was uttered by our dear prophet. I was given a clearer perspective. He said, “Today we often hear about ’a new normal.’ If you really want to embrace a new normal, I invite you to turn your heart, mind, and soul increasingly to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Let that be your new normal.”2

An invitation from the prophet is profoundly personal. President Nelson’s words were exactly what I needed to hear. No matter what other limitations and restrictions were placed upon me, my access to heaven was unrestricted. Whatever else is going on or not going on around me, what is going on inside of me is of most importance. The word increasingly reminds me of the constant and consistent effort that is required. I can and must be moving closer to my Heavenly Father and the Savior—every day.  A beautiful thing happens when we turn to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ—we feel more love for our family and friends and desire to serve and bless those around us.

With clearer perspective, a new year begins. Some things that once seemed so important have now found their proper place in my life. Other things have taken on added and more profound meaning. I have come to more fully appreciate Elder Bednar’s words, “Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.”1 What are the things of greatest importance in our lives? What will our focus be in 2021? What really are those things that matter most? More than once President Nelson has reminded us to keep our focus on the Savior, the most recent being just a few weeks ago when he told us, “There is nothing more important we can do … than to rivet our focus on the Savior.”3

I can’t imagine a better New Year’s resolution than that!

References:

1.  Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name – David A. Bednar

2.  A New Normal – Russell M. Nelson

3.  Divine Gifts – Russell M. Nelson

Blessed by Gratitude

What an incredible month this has been! When I decided to turn November into 30 days of gratitude, I could scarcely have imagined the sweet stirrings I would feel. And what enhanced those feelings even more was when President Russell M. Nelson invited us all to flood the earth with expressions of gratitude on our social media for 7 days. I had been posting inspiring quotes and writing in my gratitude journal every day for nearly three weeks, but this challenge from our prophet changed me and deepened my feelings of gratitude in unimaginable ways. I felt greater happiness, stronger love, and increased peace. This is not surprising though because President Nelson knew that is how we would all feel. We are always blessed when we follow the prophet!

Another prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, once said, “Walk with gratitude before Him who is the giver of life and every good gift.”1 I hope November was just the beginning for each of us and not the end. Our lives will truly be richer if every day we walk with gratitude in our hearts for a loving Heavenly Father and for every good gift He gives us.

As we now turn to the Christmas season, I hope our hearts are overflowing with gratitude for God’s greatest gift to us—the gift of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Earlier this year, Elder Dale G. Renlund taught, “Each of us has received gifts that we could not provide for ourselves, gifts from our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, including redemption through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have received life in this world; we will receive physical life in the hereafter, and eternal salvation and exaltation—if we choose it—all because of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Every time we use, benefit from, or even think of these gifts, we ought to consider the sacrifice, generosity, and compassion of the givers. Reverence for the givers does more than just make us grateful. Reflecting on Their gifts can and should transform us.”2

President Nelson’s 7-day challenge indeed was transformative. Elder Renlund also gave us an invitation, though his seems to be more of a lifelong challenge.  He said, “I invite you to remember each day the greatness of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and what They have done for you. Let your consideration of Their goodness more firmly bind your wandering heart to Them. Ponder Their compassion, and you will be blessed with added spiritual sensitivity and become more Christlike.”2

I gladly accept this challenge and hope you will too! And as we remember Their goodness and Their compassion, may we express our gratitude to Them by offering that same kind of love and compassion to others. Imagine how wonderful this Christmas season will be if we all will do that!

References:

1.  With all Thy Getting Get Understanding – Gordon B. Hinckley

2.  Consider the Goodness and Greatness of God – Dale G. Renlund

count your many blessings

Count Your Many Blessings…

When you look around, what do you see? What do you focus on? I can’t think of a time when there was a greater need to focus on our blessings than there is right now. You may recall in general conference a few weeks ago, President Russell M. Nelson warned against near-sightedness. Life is full of challenges and changes. When we focus only on hardships, it is easy to become discouraged. He reminds us that to find peace, we need to keep an eternal perspective and “let God prevail in your lives.”1 Last week Elder Dale G. Renlund cautioned that being far-sighted can be equally troublesome. While near-sightedness blurs the big picture, far-sightedness blurs “important things that are close to us.”2 If we are far-sighted, “we sometimes fail to appreciate that which is closest to us.”2

So, in this crazy year of 2020, how can we make our vision 20/20? I think we can find the answer in the hymn, “Count Your Blessings.” Think about verses 1 and 3. “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. … So amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged; God is over all. Count your many blessings; angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”3 If our near-sightedness makes us only see the tossing tempest, we may not be able to see God’s countless blessings in our lives. If we are too far-sighted, we may not see the angels, both earthly and heavenly, who are near us and help us along our journey.

We really do have so much to be grateful for! And a grateful heart and a positive attitude can certainly help us see better. As we count our many blessings, I am convinced we will see those we love and the world around us with new eyes. We will have greater courage to face our challenges today as we “look to God and live,”4 knowing there is a glorious future ahead.

I hope you will join me in making November a month of gratitude. Every day I am going to choose to see through grateful eyes. To help me do that, I am going to keep a gratitude journal. I will also be posting gratitude quotes on Instagram. Look for a new one every day of November! I truly believe that looking at life through a lens of gratitude can improve our vision, allowing us to clearly see and then count our many blessings.

Imagine if we all choose to be more grateful! And we can always be more grateful!

References:

1.  Let God Prevail – Russell M. Nelson

2.  October 25, 2020 Instagram Post – Dale G. Renlund

3.  Count Your Blessings – Hymn 241

4.  Alma 37:47

Building Patience

Rarely does life go as planned. I am not sure any of us could have anticipated just how drastically different our lives would be this year. In what seemed an instant, everything changed. How we live our everyday lives has changed. Our interactions have changed. For a while, our ability to buy many of the things we use on a regular basis even changed. Although the store shelves have now mostly been restocked, there is one thing that seems to still be in short supply—patience.

At Russell M. Nelson’s recent birthday celebration, he gave his family the following advice, “Build into your character the quality of patience.”1 That really resonated with me! During these past several months as the world has been battling COVID-19, I have found myself feeling more impatient than I care to admit. What has become very clear to me is that, like all Christlike attributes, patience is an ongoing process. It is a journey, with bumps and turns and detours. How many times have we been told to find joy in the journey? Being impatient robs us of the joy and happiness we are meant to have all along our journey. We cannot afford to wait to be happy until this crisis is over!

Quoting from a scripture in Hebrews, Neal A. Maxwell wisely reminded us that “we are to ‘run with patience the race that is set before us,’ and it is a marathon, not a dash.”2

The current race we are running quickly turned from a dash into a marathon. And when this race is over, another one will be “set before us.” I am not a runner, but it would seem to be nearly impossible to run a marathon without checkpoints and aid stations all along the way. I definitely need to be stopping at the aid station to build up my supply of patience more frequently!

As I read the Beatitudes in 3 Nephi 12 during my study this week, I thought about how patience affects our becoming what the Savior asks us to become. Being meek, merciful, pure in heart, and peacemakers will be impossible without the Christlike characteristic of patience. Gaining and retaining a testimony, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, definitely takes patience. Without patience we would not be able to endure the persecutions that we know are part of a disciple’s life. Building patience into our character allows us to trust in God and in His timing, no matter what!

I love this quote from Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Patience means accepting that which cannot be changed and facing it with courage, grace, and faith.”3  May we continually strive to build the quality patience into our character. We have been promised our lives will be more blessed as we do.

References:

1.  Church News

2.  Endure It Well – Neal A. Maxwell

3.  Continue in Patience – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Discovering Humility

It is undeniable that we are living in a very contentious time. Criticism and comparison seem to have invaded almost every aspect of life. Harsh words have become the norm. The need to be right has superseded human decency. Hatred and intolerance are destroying neighborhoods and nations. The cause of all these troubles can be summed up in one word: pride.

We have long been warned just how destructive pride can be. Sadly, we are seeing many of its devastating effects today. Gratefully we have been taught how to counteract pride. Humility is the antidote to pride. Perhaps there has never been a greater need for humility than there is right now!

Some assume humility a weakness. How wrong that assumption is! It is a needed Christlike attribute we have been encouraged to acquire.

When we are humble, we trust in God and in His timing. We look to the Savior in every thought. We turn to Them to help us through every aspect of life, especially life’s adversities. When we are humble, we feel peace, we have hope, and we exhibit charity.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, “We don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less about ourselves.”1

When we think less about ourselves, we naturally will think about others more. When we are humble, we can celebrate the successes, accomplishments, and happiness of others, even when we are experiencing temporary failures or sorrows.

Humility is submissive, meek, kind, and charitable. Pride is controlling, aggressive, combative and selfish.

When we are humble, we seek forgiveness for those things we do wrong, we forgive those who have wronged us, and we overlook the mortal imperfections in others.  When we are filled with pride, we hold grudges and point out the mistakes and weaknesses of others.

When we have humility, we are teachable. When we are full of pride, we think we know it all.

When we are humble, during the challenges and trials of life, we still recognize Heavenly Father’s goodness and the many blessings we receive from Him.

It is impossible to be grateful if we are not humble. And we can never truly be humble if we are not grateful.

In Alma 5:27 and 28, there are two powerful questions posed, ones we would be wise to ask ourselves frequently. “Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?” And, “are ye stripped of pride? I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God.”2

We cannot be sufficiently humble until we are stripped of pride. And that will not be possible without continual help from God. We truly need Him every hour of every day. As our loving Heavenly Father, He is anxious to bless us in our efforts to discover the Christlike attribute of humility.

References:

1.  Pride and the Priesthood – Dieter F. Uchtdorf

2.  Alma 5