Only the Good Die Young

You know that saying about how only the good die young? And how basically everyone at some point wonders why bad things happen to good people? What about the statement about how God MUST be punishing you because everything is going wrong in your life? Perhaps you’re familiar with the “God doesn’t care about me” explanation? Well, to me, there seems to be a kind of all encompassing answer for all of that – trials are supposed to make us better and stronger. They’re given to us to teach us something. While I’m totally not disagreeing with that answer in any way, shape or form (because, from my own experience, I know it’s absolutely 100% true), I think there’s a lot more to it than that.

First off, in order to understand the WHY of every situation, you need to know and really understand the nature of God. In a nutshell: He’s not some crazy all mighty, all powerful being who shoots lightning down at everyone who displeases Him. He doesn’t ignore those who talk to Him (or even those who don’t!). He’s not a mysterious entity floating around somewhere in the universe. Yes, He’s all mighty and all powerful, but definitely not in the frightening way that some people think when they hear those words. God is good and loving and kind and aware of each of us. There are three words often used to describe Him: Omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), Omnipresent (all present – everywhere). God has a perspective a lot broader than ours… WAY broader. It is also known as an eternal perspective. Though we can’t know all that God knows, we can look at the bigger picture. The way I see it, many times when people struggle a lot with their trials, they’re not necessarily seeing the bigger picture – AKA they don’t have an eternal perspective. They’re often thinking of themselves and how they’re missing out on a lot of things because of the trial, or “Why?!? I didn’t do anything wrong! Why me?!?!”, or they just become so sunken with grief that they don’t do anything with their lives and continue to mope around and cry all the time.

Okay. I realize that those descriptions aren’t really very positive. I don’t mean that doing these things is a sin. I just mean… Well, let me sum it up: they spend their time living in the past. I’ve got a fantastic quote from a Disney movie. Perhaps you’ve heard it. In the Lion King, the baboon Rafiki says: “The past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” In the movie, while Simba is living with Timon and Pumbaa in the jungle, he’s only running from his past. For a while, it works. Simba’s happy. He doesn’t have to think about it or worry about it. He can pretend it never happened. But then Nala comes back into the picture and he’s forced to remember it again. So he decides to confront it and learn from it instead of pushing it aside and running again. It’s the same for our lives. How many times have you tried to ignore something that you did or something that happened in the past but little reminders here and there from family, friends, media, books or other sources keep dredging it back up to the forefront of your mind again? Or do you just wallow in the memories and self-pity? Either way, it’s kind of really painful when that happens, right? But have you ever experienced the opposite, where you decided to learn from your past mistakes and/or trials and move on? What was the result? As far as Simba goes, we all know the ending – he became king of Pride Rock and peace and happiness was restored in his realm. Hmmmm. Any similarities in your situation? For me, it’s exactly the same. At least the peace and happiness being back in my life. But you know what’s really awesome? One day, it WILL be exactly the same. God is our FATHER. We have the opportunity to be like Him. Don’t people refer to Him as a King? If we’re His children, wouldn’t that mean we have the opportunity and ability to become kings and queens one day, too? I believe that to be absolutely true! One day, if I live righteously and do all I can to fulfill the promises I’ve made to Him, I will inherit all that my Father has (Romans 8:16-17). I also believe, though, that if we just run from our past and don’t learn from it, we’re not going to be able to change very much, nor will we be able to reach our full potential as Sons and Daughters of God. And THAT is what an eternal perspective is – connecting everything together to see the bigger picture, the whole story, the beginning, middle and end. THAT is why I think we have trials – because God loves us enough to give them to us or let us make our own choices that sometimes aren’t right so we can learn and someday reach our full potential.

I have a second point to make today. I went to the temple this week and saw signs letting drivers know that the highway might be backed up because of a funeral procession for a fallen Colorado State Patrol Cadet. Normally when I see signs like that, I don’t think much of it. I might spend a few extra seconds thinking of the family of the fallen soldier or serviceman, but that’s really it. This time, however, I was almost brought to tears because this one hit a little closer to home. This cadet was only 21 years old and he’s someone I went to high school with. He was a grade or two below me,and I never met him, but I’d seen him in the halls. News of his death was all over my Facebook feed last week with some of my high school friends posting memories and condolences. So when I saw that announcement on the signs over the highway, I thought of him a little more. His friends obviously cared about him and looked up to his example. In the few moments before he died, he saved the life of a man who was with him. Though I didn’t personally know him, I can see that he was and is a good man who impacted a lot of the lives around him. But then that’s when the phrase ‘only the good die young’ came into my thoughts. Naturally, I remembered my brother who passed away two years ago on June 1. I didn’t have flashbacks of fun memories or really any memories of us together. I remembered after he died. A lot of people were and are shocked and saddened when they found out he was only 22 at the time and say things like “he had his whole life ahead of him”. Well, actually, I think he’d lived his life. He was just simply done with his mission here on Earth. Comparing these two deaths made me realize something, though. Neither of them was quite yet finished with their mission here, but they don’t physically need to be here to do it.

My brother, Tyler, always would joke that only about 8 people would show up at his funeral whenever he died. He never thought he was very popular, but he knew who he was – a Son of God with a testimony of his Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of that, he was happy. He was kind. He never let anyone or anything get him down. He was one of the best examples of Jesus Christ that I have in my life, besides Christ Himself. He learned from his past experiences and chose to become better and stronger rather than letting choices and trials get the better of him. He hardly ever focused on himself. And those things are what made all the difference in the world. At the memorial service in Utah and the funeral service in Colorado, both chapels (and overflows) were completely filled to the brim with people who had, at some point or another, been touched by Tyler’s example and love. Many people shared memories with us of how Tyler had changed their lives simply by listening, by sharing his musical talent, or just by living what he knew to be true. He’s still changing people’s lives.

On Memorial Day this last week, we held an annual event called the Tyler2Miler. We just invite anyone who wanted to to come and walk or run with us around the lake in our hometown (2 miles). We accepted donations for the scholarship we established in Tyler’s name to help band students at the local high school who want to do marching band but can’t afford the fees. There’s a story I want to share that illustrates the impact good people have on others even after they’re gone. My dad shared this on the event’s page:

“Last year an older gentlemen (80’s) showed up after hearing our announcement about the scholarship fund at a HS band concert. He didn’t know who we were but just wanted to come out and participate and he shared that he too had lost a son. I had a very nice visit with him and thanked him for joining us.

This year we were gathering around getting ready to start and across the parking lot I saw this gentlemen! So I went over to say Hi, see how he was doing and thank him for once again making the walk part of his Memorial Day. It turns out he just kind of assumed we would be walking so showed up. I thought that was pretty cool. But after the walk I got “the rest of the story.” He shared with us that this winter he had a knee replacement done and this walk was his inspiration to keep up the PT in order to be ready to walk around the lake by Memorial Day. That perfectly captures the bigger picture of how we want Tyler remembered. Just like Tyler to continue to make new friends and encouraging them!”

So you see? I honestly think the reason that ‘only the good die young’ is because they’re done with their earthly mission. But because of what they did with their lives and simply because they were young, they will stay around a lot longer as memories, influencing people’s lives for years and even generations to come. They die young so their example can be remembered and reach even farther than it would have had they died old. (*Disclaimer: This does not mean there are no good old people who are never remembered!)

We will all leave our mark on the world when we go. How do you want to be remembered?

God is all knowing. He has a complete, perfect and eternal perspective on everything. He knows what’s best for us. He knows what we need. He knows how we’ll handle certain situations. And He knows our potential to change ourselves the lives of those around us. He is always there, willing to help as soon as we ask for it. He is perfect. He is wonderful. He is my loving Father, and I trust in Him completely with all that I have. Whatever happens, let it come. I will love it because I know who I can become. Whatever happens, let it come. Because I know it will change me in a way that will influence the lives of those around me when I’m gone, whether I die young or old. Whatever happens, let it come. I can handle it because I know my Savior and I know He is with me always.

Tyler and I on Temple Square, March 2013

Tyler and I on Temple Square, March 2013

Walk With Him First: Faith + Prayer + Faith

There were a lot of things taught at church today that I really enjoyed and was thankful to have heard, but the one I want to focus on today is the principle of faith coupled with the power of prayer. I know I’ve written about both of these topics fairly often, but these are two things that are extremely important to me and they’re things that I am continually learning about in my own life. At church, we go to learn the basics and the principles of things like faith and prayer. Throughout the week, it’s our job to put it to the test and find out for ourselves just how true and powerful they are. So that’s what I try to do. I’m definitely not perfect at it. In fact, there are a lot more weeks than I’d like where I go to church, learn or remember cool stuff and even write it down. But then I forget about it when I get home. However, Heavenly Father is definitely good to me and He reminds me of experiences I’ve had throughout the previous week that relate a lot more to the things I’ve learned than I realized in the moment. I do know, though, that I would get so much more out of those lessons and applying them in the week if I actively tried on a daily basis to remember those Gospel principles and do something about what I’ve learned. While I thought about that last night, I realized that I needed to make that a priority and take one thing I learned at church and turn it into my personal goal for the week to improve on that one principle. I invite each of you to do the same so you can progress and be able to look back on your week and realize how far you’ve come and how much you’ve actually learned and experienced.

Okay, sorry for the tangent. Back to today’s topic. I’ve come up with an equation that I think is important for each of us to remember when it comes to the principles and powers of faith and prayer: Faith + Prayer + Faith = More blessings than I can say. There’s a reason it’s in that order – faith + prayer + faith. First of all, let’s review what faith is. Faith is NOT to have a perfect knowledge of things (nor is it knowledge itself), but to have hope in things that are true but you can’t see. Faith is also not a testimony because a testimony is bearing witness of something as being true. No. Faith is MORE than just a simple belief that something is true, more than just bearing witness of the truth. It is a trust that something is true – a trust that is strong enough to drive you to act as if you DID have a perfect knowledge of it, to do more than simply testifying or saying you believe. In simpler terms, let’s define faith as a strong belief that drives you to action.

Here’s an example from my own life, though I’m omitting details since it’s rather personal for me. Lately, I’ve been trying to figure something out and so I’ve been saying a lot of prayers. I’m pretty sure this subject almost always comes up in my personal prayers at night. Thankfully, I know Heavenly Father loves me enough to not be annoyed by this constant flow of emotions, questions and other such information having to do with the topic. Before I ever started asking questions, I presented Heavenly Father with my thoughts about it, the situation, my feelings, and what I would like. This is where the first step of faith came in. It takes faith to ask a question you know you might not like the answer to. And it takes faith to say “not my will, but Thine be done.” I know, though, that my plan isn’t always aligned with what God has planned, but I also know that if I were to follow my own plan, I won’t be as happy, receive all the blessings Heavenly Father is just waiting to give me or I may even jeopardize my chances at living with Him again. So I prayed with that in mind. I prayed with faith that I would receive an answer – an answer that was in line with God’s will. Every prayer that concerned this topic ended with some version of “not my will, but Thine be done”. The amazing thing is that I honestly and truly want the Lord’s will to happen because I have complete trust that His plan is way better than mine could ever be on its own. I know I might be sad for a bit if my desires aren’t in line with His, but it would be just a moment and then I would move on and be happy again. Anyway, I prayed to know if there was something specific I needed to do in the coming months and perhaps even years of my life. I prayed daily about it and took the matter with me a few times when I went to the temple. Even after I’d received my answer, I was constantly on my knees about it, making sure it was truly from God, making sure it wasn’t just me wanting it so badly. There was one time I wasn’t thinking anything close to the subject during one temple session and it popped into my mind, leaving me without a doubt that it was definitely an answer from my Father in Heaven. I’ve had several occasions similar to this, and I don’t doubt I’ll continue to receive confirmations here and there until it happens. During that time where I wasn’t sure about the answer, I realized that I never really understood exactly what it meant when people said that faith is an action word. But today in church, someone worded it very clearly for me and I immediately knew that’s what I’d been missing until this experience – when you have faith, it doesn’t mean that you know 100% something is true. It means, though, that you act as if you already know it is true. So for now, until my answer becomes a perfect knowledge, I will simply act on my belief that this specific thing in my life will happen. That means I need to prepare for it, look forward to it, always have it in mind and never doubt it. There’s not much I can do about anything right now, but I still pray to know how I can prepare myself for whatever might happen in the future because it’s so important to me right now.

Can you see now what I mean by saying Faith + Prayer + Faith? Faith needs to always be present and set in our minds. We should always trust and never doubt our Heavenly Father, before and after anything ever happens. And we should take every matter to Him. Someone on my mission, I think it was my mission president said “Have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?” When we have a decision to make or something that’s on our minds, how often do we turn to family and friends to solve the problem, help us make the decision or just vent? How many of us have a trusted confidant they tell just about everything to? How often do we actually take those very same things to the Lord?

We may say we have faith in God and are willing to do all He wants us to do, but I think that until we get on our knees and pour out our hearts to Him with the intent to act on whatever His answer is, our faith isn’t complete. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ need to be our first source of peace and comfort. They need to be our most trusted confidants. So I invite each of you this week to take a look at your faith and your prayers. Where are they centered? How often do you pray about things, big or small, questions or just worries? Do you turn to Him first or do you turn immediately instead to someone else?

If you turn to the Lord first, walk with Him, talk, laugh, cry with Him, I promise you that your prayers will be answered and you will be guided in everything you do. I promise you that the Spirit will be with you more abundantly and more clearly than it is without faith and prayer. I feel I can promise these blessings because these are things I’ve experienced first hand and I know how much this knowledge and these miracles and blessings have changed who I am forever. I have more joy in every day. I see the hand of the Lord more clearly and I feel His Spirit more than ever. I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ because these are only a few the beautiful blessings that come from living it.

I love my Savior and my Father in Heaven. They have never led me to believe that I am alone, and They have never failed to answer my prayers, no matter how seemingly insignificant they might be and no matter how much I may have wanted the answer to be something different. They love me and I love Them. And my life is complete because I know Them.

Remember Him. Doubt Not. Fear Not.

While I was studying for the Young Women’s lesson this week, I had the opportunity to be reminded again of something that seems pretty difficult but is probably a lot simpler than most people might think. The topic of the lesson was “How do I receive personal revelation?” A lot of us probably think “I have no idea what the Spirit feels like. How am I supposed to know when my prayers are being answered, or if I’m being warned, or if there’s something important I have to do?” One of the more prominent questions is “How do I know if it’s the Spirit or just me thinking something?” I think these are all valid questions and ones we should all think about at some point in our lives in order to know how to recognize the how the Spirit of the Lord communicates with us specifically – it’s different for everyone. But more importantly, once we’ve learned to recognize the Spirit, we need to REMEMBER when we’ve felt it so we can recognize it when it comes again and also so that we can cast away our doubts and our burdens.

Elder Bednar has a three part video that talks about receiving revelation. In the first video called Patterns of Light: The Light of Christ, Elder Bednar discusses what light is – essentially, what is the Spirit? Why do we need it? I love that we are all born with the Light of Christ. We all have within us the ability to discern right from wrong, good from bad, light from darkness. It is given to us so that we can have some sort of direction that brings us closer and, eventually, back to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The only thing that’s keeping us from recognizing it is ourselves, when we give in to the enticings of the adversary.

The second video, Patterns of Light: Discerning Light talks about that question of knowing the difference between the Spirit and your own thoughts. He gave a simple example of how one day, we might remember our mother reminding us to say our prayers when we were children. If the Spirit can help us remember something like that, why would he send some miraculous angel or other messenger to give us that message? During a Face to Face Interview with him and his sweet wife this past week he also said something along the lines of “If it’s a good thought and leads you to do something good, why does it matter if it’s your own thought or not? If it’s good, it’s from God.” I think that says a lot. Sometimes, though it is important, we get so caught up in WHERE the message is from or HOW it gets to us that we completely forget about WHAT the message actually says! We make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

Finally, Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation discusses a few different ways that answers might come. Often, we are the ones telling God how to answer our prayers, or at least, we imagine the way our answer will come. In reality, though, we need to be open to it coming in any way the Lord might see fit because the answer will ALWAYS come, though not in the time frame or the delivery we had in mind. On occasion, our stiffneckedness and small-mindedness will compromise our faith and cause us to question whether or not God is even listening to us. We must NEVER allow that to happen because prayers ARE answered. Always. The Lord is completely aware of our needs and He knows those things that will make us happiest. So when the answers don’t come when you want them to or if it may not be the answer we hoped for, we have to trust Him and move forward with faith.

Another thing we need to remember when it comes to receiving revelation is that, as was previously mentioned, all good things come from God. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles once gave a talk called “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”. It is a fantastic talk that taught me one very simple principle. Elder Holland said: “…Opposition turns up almost any place something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage. It can occur in situations related to your family, Church callings, or career. With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.”

There is opposition in all things. If God wants something done, Satan is going to do everything he can to put a stop to it. If God wants you to be happy, Satan is going to try his hardest to make you miserable. And I’ve learned that, unfortunately, Satan is good at what he does. He knows our weaknesses and he will go to every nook and cranny he can find to bring you down to his level. He’ll disguise the truth and change just the tiniest thing about it to make it still seem like the truth, to blur the lines, when really, it’s not truth but a mockery. He’ll put doubts in your mind of answers you’ve received so you second guess yourself and end up not doing what the Lord needs you to do, or not doing what will bless you the most. You can’t let Satan have power over you – you’ve got the Lord on your side and He is a lot more powerful than the adversary. No matter how far down you think you’ve sunk, it’s never out of reach for the Savior. The key is to REMEMBER the good. Remember what it felt like when you knew you’d received an answer to a question or when a thought popped into your mind that would better your or someone else’s life. Remember that all good things come from God, and if He told you something, He’ll make a way for it to happen, so trust Him!

The reason that passage from Elder Holland really hit me this week is because I’ve been doing exactly what he counsels NOT to do – doubting an answer I’ve received, second-guessing what I’ve explained away as my own thoughts and telling myself “it’s just something I’m really hoping for”. But each time I start to think that, something (AKA the Spirit) tells me to have faith. The Spirit helps me remember again and again of how I felt when I received the answer – and I’ve received it multiple times! What I felt was peace and happiness. I know that my answer was from God – it’s definitely not a bad thought at all. I’m also reminded of another similar situation I was in where I received an answer that was completely the opposite of what I’ve gotten now. Remembering times where I’ve felt the Spirit before when I’ve received answers helps me to recognize when I’m feeling the Spirit now.

It’s sometimes easy to falter when there are so many things pointing to the reason why something shouldn’t be true and only one or two things leading you to believe it really is truth. But if you put faith and trust in your Heavenly Father, I promise you that you will know what to do. There will always be times when opposition comes, times when you start to doubt and wonder, but if you keep looking towards God and trusting in Him, He will not lead you astray.

One of my favorite scriptures is in Doctrine and Covenants 6:33-36. I love it because it’s the Savior speaking. He says: “Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward. Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”

I testify that that is completely true. If we do good and do our best to accomplish what the Lord would have us do – give what we have, no more and no less – then He will lift us up higher than we could ever go on our own. The blessings and miracles will rain down on us more than we can comprehend. I know it’s true because I’ve seen it and felt it in my own life and in the lives of others. I’m not perfect – I have my moments of doubt and fear and sin and weakness,  but because I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and in my Heavenly Father, I know that I have the strength to improve my weaknesses and the strength to cast away my sins, doubts and fears when they come and do my best to trust again in my Redeemer.

Be Not Afraid by Greg Olsen

Be Not Afraid
by Greg Olsen

Motherhood: Not Just Bearing Children

While I served my mission, I came in contact with a lot of women who were given the trial of infertility. Many of them handled it fairly well, though they definitely have their moments of wondering why this was happening to them. Some struggled a lot more than others but still didn’t give up hope of being a mother one day, whether it meant adoption or a miracle. Others struggled even more, to the point where I was completely shocked at their reaction – they resented any celebration of mothers and were very bitter towards anyone who mentioned or asked about their role as a mother. Those were the people I prayed about and for the most. I couldn’t understand why they were so bitter. Granted, I’ve never dealt with the issue of not being able to have my own children and I hope that I never have to, but what saddened me the most was that these wonderful women were so upset that they couldn’t see the fact that they were being amazing mothers to the people around them, young and old.

The experiences I had with these women made me ponder about what I would do if I am blessed with such a challenge in my own life. Yes, I said blessed in describing a trial. My life is not my own to direct. It’s all in God’s hands, so I know that trials are for me to be strengthened and to find ways to strengthen others. One persistent thought that came to mind as a solution for finding joy in such a trial as being unable to bear children is that I would love to open a children’s home, especially for older children. Even if infertility isn’t a trial I ever have I still want to do that. There are so many kids in the world who have no parents, and I can only imagine how they struggle to feel loved, wanted and important. Nobody, especially children, should ever be made to feel that way. Even if all I can do is adopt or open my home to just one foster child, then I know I’ll have made at least one child happier and feel like they have worth.

Sheri Dew is one of my favorite advocates for womanhood. In one talk she gave at the October 2001 General Conference, she said “For reasons known to the Lord, some women are required to wait to have children. This delay is not easy for any righteous woman. But the Lord’s timetable for each of us does not negate our nature. Some of us, then, must simply find other ways to mother. And all around us are those who need to be loved and led. Eve set the pattern… She set an example of womanhood for men to respect and women to follow, modeling the characteristics with which we as women have been endowed: heroic faith, a keen sensitivity to the Spirit, an abhorrence of evil, and complete selflessness.” How many of you women (and men, too!) feel like you have those characteristics? Well, you as a woman have been endowed or provided with these things! That means they are in your nature! So whether you feel like you have these characteristics or not, I tell you that you DO have them! What will you do to uncover it and bring them to the surface of who you are?

Sister Dew continues: “Like the Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” Eve, for the joy of helping initiate the human family, endured the Fall. She loved us enough to help lead us. As daughters of our Heavenly Father, and as daughters of Eve, we are all mothers and we have always been mothers. And we each have the responsibility to love and help lead the rising generation. How will our young women learn to live as women of God unless they see what women of God look like, meaning what we wear, watch, and read; how we fill our time and our minds; how we face temptation and uncertainty; where we find true joy; and why modesty and femininity are hallmarks of righteous women? How will our young men learn to value women of God if we don’t show them the virtue of our virtues?”

What makes mothers so special? In my opinion, it’s the way that they unconditionally love their children. When a woman becomes a mother, suddenly her whole world shifts and becomes all about that child or children. She sacrifices everything she has – time, sleep, talents, her own desires and sometimes goals simply so that her child can be happy and have what they need. That’s got to be a lot of love, so much that I will never understand until I have my own children. Every now and then, I get a glimpse of it while I spend almost every day as a nanny with two adorable children – a two year old and a six month old – who teach me a lot about myself but also give me confidence and a stronger testimony that being a mother is just about the greatest thing I could ever do. I may not be these two kids’ mother, especially since their own mom is very much a part of their lives, but I sure do love them immensely and I know that as I share that love with them, they, young as they are, come to love me and look up to me, too. Love, especially a mother’s love, opens up a multitude of opportunities. For one thing, it helps me to better understand the way Heavenly Father loves me. He might be disappointed in some of the choices we make, but He never stops loving us and because of that, He will always forgive us and let us try again.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave a talk in the October 2013 General Conference entitled “The Moral Force of Women“. Now this is one of my absolute favorite talks because it made me want to be better at my role as a woman. This talk helped me to remember and realize that being feminine is absolutely NOT a bad thing. It made me realize that I am most definitely NOT a feminist in the way the world is defining it these days. I believe that women are strong and can do what they put their minds to. I believe that women should be allowed to give their opinions freely both in public and in private. I believe that women should be allowed to show emotion without being accused of being “soft” or “weak”. It’s insulting to me that the world thinks that women are “the weaker sex” and is now trying everything to make women stronger than, or at least, the same as men. Women are the people who influence and inspire the rising generation the most BECAUSE they show emotion and BECAUSE they are softer and gentle. I believe that a woman’s role in the world is more important than anything else. Of this, Elder Christofferson said:

“My grandmother Adena Warnick Swenson taught me to be conscientious in priesthood service. She encouraged me to memorize the sacramental blessings on the bread and water, explaining that in this way I could express them with greater understanding and feeling. Observing how she sustained my grandfather, a stake patriarch, engendered in me a reverence for sacred things. Grandma Swenson never learned how to drive a car, but she knew how to help boys become priesthood men. A woman’s moral influence is nowhere more powerfully felt or more beneficially employed than in the home. There is no better setting for rearing the rising generation than the traditional family, where a father and a mother work in harmony to provide for, teach, and nurture their children. Where this ideal does not exist, people strive to duplicate its benefits as best they can in their particular circumstances. In all events, a mother can exert an influence unequaled by any other person in any other relationship. By the power of her example and teaching, her sons learn to respect womanhood and to incorporate discipline and high moral standards in their own lives. Her daughters learn to cultivate their own virtue and to stand up for what is right, again and again, however unpopular. A mother’s love and high expectations lead her children to act responsibly without excuses, to be serious about education and personal development, and to make ongoing contributions to the well-being of all around them. Elder Neal A. Maxwell once asked: “When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?”

Former Young Women general president Margaret D. Nadauld taught: “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.”

Proverbs 31 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It teaches about the characteristics of a virtuous woman. I often forget about it, but it’s days like today where I am reminded of the things I can do to be better, to continue preparing myself for womanhood in the future. I am a Daughter of loving Heavenly (and earthly) Parents who is trying to live up to my divine potential. I am a mother, though I don’t yet have children of my own. I have great power and influence in my home, my community and the world, and I have divine qualities instilled in me because I am a woman.

Being a woman is a great privilege and a wonderful blessing. It is something I love and am so thankful for. But more importantly, I’m thankful for two groups of people: First, I’m thankful for the women in my own life who have influenced me for good. These beautiful women have taught me what it means to love and they have showed me through their examples how to love. They have shown me what it is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and why it’s so important to have a testimony and be converted to His teachings. The second group I’m thankful for are the men who love and support the women in their lives. They respect women and protect the sacred calling we have to teach, strengthen and nourish the incoming generation. I love those men who honor and revere their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, wives, daughters and friends. These men are examples to me of how I should raise my own sons, whether I bear them myself, adopt them, or simply have them in my home for whatever reason.

To my own mother: Happy Mother’s Day! Thank you for teaching me, for helping and letting me grow. Thank you for allowing me to get hurt so I can be stronger. Thank you for your strength, but also for admitting your weaknesses. Thank you for your diligence and perseverance in those things that you want to be better at. Thank you most of all for your daily example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Mom and Me at Temple Square, April 2015

Mom and Me at Temple Square

Service: Consecrating Myself To Him

You know how you sometimes have weeks where, over and over again, you’re taught the same lesson in different ways? Well, this week’s theme was service and devoting myself to the Lord. Of course, it’s a lesson I’ve learned many times before throughout my life, but if I knew it all, I’d be perfect and there wouldn’t be any point for me to continue living on this Earth. So I am very grateful to have learned something new this time.

Over the years, I’ve heard the phrase: “Consecrate yourself to the Lord.” My response to that was “Yeah, yeah, I know I know. It means to serve the Lord.” Which is true, but that is only a pretty small part of it. In the last six months of my mission during a Zone Conference at the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial, my mission president made a quick comment that just hit me way differently than before and helped me understand what it really means to consecrate myself to the Lord. First of all, it FINALLY connected in my brain that it isn’t just a commandment, but a COVENANT, a promise that I’ve made with Heavenly Father to do. I have no idea why my covenants and that commandment were two separate things for that long, but they were. And second, whatever he said wasn’t really any different than I’d heard before, but because it connected that way, I finally understood it to mean: “Nothing you have is yours to keep. Your time, talents, gifts, experiences, testimony, stuff… ALL of it has been given to you by the Lord to bless the lives of others. You have no right to keep it for yourself, nor do you have the right to determine exactly when, where and how much of it to give.” Yes, I still have agency to choose what to do with my time, talents, gifts and whatever else I’ve got, but I know that if I listen for Heavenly Father to tell me when, where and how much to give, I will be so much more blessed than if I just did it on my own. I have two examples from my own life. One is pretty significant. The other, not so much.

Over the last year, I’ve been thinking of changing my area of study in school. At the moment, I’m a composition major, which means I write music. My goal up until I started thinking about this, was to write film scores (soundtracks for movies). Yep. That’d be pretty cool, right? Sure. But the more I served those around me, the more I felt like I could be doing something better with my musical talent, that I needed a better reason for wanting to work for Disney besides “it’d be really cool and fun”. All of a sudden, things came up, experiences happened, stories were read that gave me the idea, for the second time in my life, to be a music therapist. I’d researched it during my sophomore year in high school, but wasn’t completely serious about it for very long because it was only a few months after that that I discovered my talent of writing music. But Music Therapy. This would be a career where I could use my music to heal people physically and spiritually. It’s proven to help with autism and other mental disabilities. In my own life, it’s helped me with stress and anxiety. Music is truly a comfort and a wonderful source of peace. This would be a career that really served others and helped them become happier and healthier. The more I thought about it, prayed about it and studied it, the more I felt like that is EXACTLY what I was supposed to do with the talents I’d been given. Not only that, but it’s exactly what will bring me the most joy – serving others through music.

The second experience is more recent. This week, in fact, and only something I share because I want to point out that it doesn’t matter how small or insignificant something may be – if it’s important to you or to someone that could benefit spiritually from it, Heavenly Father will let you know. For the past few months, I’ve seriously contemplated chopping off my hair. But for selfish reasons, I wasn’t ready for it. My hair has almost always been long (when it was short, I didn’t enjoy it as much) and I always get compliments on it. I know how to style it and I’ve always loved seeing it’s length in the mirror when I braid it, or curl it, or just let it do what it wants. Oh, I love my hair! But at the beginning of this week, I had conversations with a few people that just would NOT get out of my head. And when a thought comes that strongly and won’t leave, I know it’s not me – it’s definitely the Lord. So I talked to some friends to see what they would think. Of course, their first reaction: “WHAT?! NO! Why?” But as I explained to them my reasoning, they quickly agreed and told me to go for it. So then, I called my hair dresser and, chop chop! I have short hair. Okay. So what would possess me to go from having waist-length hair to having it just barely reaching my shoulders, particularly when I’m not so fond of it? Because the Lord told me to. But why the heck would He counsel me about my hair? It seems such a silly thing. So mundane and unimportant. Well, here’s what I think: If I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ, I will do everything in my power to help lift others up, to help them feel important, loved, and beautiful. I have made a covenant to consecrate EVERYTHING I have to the Lord.  And to me, that includes my hair. Though I love my long hair, I can get along just fine without it and for me, it’ll grow back. There are some girls and women who don’t have such a blessing at the moment, for whatever reason – cancer, hair loss, other diseases. They struggle to feel beautiful and loved when they’re sick and their hair is gone. If I can change a life by simply giving my hair, then why wouldn’t I do it? Perhaps the life I was meant to change isn’t even the one who will have my hair. Perhaps it was my hairdresser who maybe needed that experience. Countless lives can be blessed by one small and simple act of service. As insignificant as it seems to you and me, it’s extremely significant to someone else.

I know that great blessings come from serving others. There are two sayings that I have. First: “If you want to change the world, you only have to change a life because then, you’ve changed their world.” And second: “My life is so much better and I am so much happier when it isn’t about me.” I stand by those quotes because they’re true and because I love my Father in Heaven. He truly has blessed me with so much and every day, I try more and more to give it back to Him by blessing the people around me, even people I’ve never met.

There are so many choices for us to make, so many things that might seem important to us, but the truth of the matter is, the Lord is asking us to give what we have. That doesn’t mean to take what you want and give what’s left over. It means to give everything you have, to give the things that are not essential to living. If someone is in need, give. If someone is struggling, give. If there is anyone around you that needs your time, your talents, your love, your testimony, or anything of yours, give. What they do with it is their choice, but it is your choice to give.

I chopped off about 13 inches!

I chopped off about 13″