Radiate Joy!

Radiate: (1) to emit in the form of rays or waves (2) diverge or spread from or as if from a central point.

When things radiate, they’re often infectious and impossible to not have any effects because of whatever it is that’s being radiated – heat, light, chemicals, smells, etc. Whether you notice it or not, something in you is changed because of that radiation.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how other people perceive me. I don’t mean that I’m worried about what other people think of me, I just wonder if they see who I really am based on the first couple times they meet me. The reason that’s been on my mind is because I’ve been praying to know what I can do to serve others in order to develop a more charitable personality. I always love those people who sincerely take time to ask how I’m doing and see if there’s anything I need. I admire the ones who serve without really having to think about it – they just completely forget themselves and do what they can to help others find some joy in their lives. These people obviously radiate the joy and love of the Gospel and of the Lord with seemingly little or no effort. And every time, BOTH parties are changed because of the radiation, whether they realize it at that moment or not. I’ll admit I’m a bit envious of that. I wish that that sort of thing came more naturally to me, but it doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean I never will be able to do the same! Anyway, as I’ve thought about what people might think when they first meet me, I definitely realized that they don’t really get a chance to see who I truly am right off the bat. I’m not super social and I don’t often show a lot of emotion so I can see why that might be the case, but I want to change that. I want to be a source that light and joy can radiate from!

Oh the joy between siblings!

Oh the joy between siblings!

Do you remember in the scriptures, how it’s constantly saying how the Father and the Son are one and the Holy Ghost is one in them and they’re all one (see John 10:303 Nephi 11:27, and D&C 50:43)? But wait…. aren’t they three separate beings? I thought so, so why do the scriptures keep saying they’re all one? Well, for one thing, the Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Ghost) all have the same purpose. In that sense, they’re one because they are unified in what they are trying to achieve. Another reason is that because they are so unified that if you know Jesus Christ then you also will know Heavenly Father or the Holy Ghost without having met either of them before. The same for if you only know Heavenly Father or if you only know the Holy Ghost. No matter if you only know one out of the three, then you automatically know all three because they are so unified that they are essentially the same person.

And the joy between friends!

And the joy between friends!

Now, the reason I bring that up is because that’s the kind of impression I want to make on others. I want them to immediately know who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are because they know (or at least have talked or seen) me. I don’t want that effect to happen only after we become friends. I want it to happen ALWAYS! I want to be able to always have the Spirit as a constant companion so the people around me will be able to feel of God’s love and know that they can find joy and happiness wherever they remember to look for and find Him in their lives. I’ve said it before: All I want is for everyone to find a place in their Heavenly Home one day. I know that isn’t going to happen if I don’t do my part in sharing the Gospel with others and I know I won’t be able to do that if they decide (based on their first impression of me) that I’m not the kind of person they want in their lives.

Mom and I, radiating joy!

Mom and I, radiating joy!

The way I’ve chosen to work on sharing the Gospel even with people who only see me from a distance is to work on being more obviously joyful. I love my life and everyone who’s a part of it. I love the Gospel and I love the Lord. I need to show that in a way where people will never be able to mistake me for being the opposite. It will be hard for me to do this, but it’s something I want a lot more than most other things in my life. It’s important to me to develop this Christ-like attribute and because it’s important to me, I know it’s important to the Lord. And because it’s important to the Lord, I know He will help me and give me the strength I need to achieve my goal.

“God didn’t design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!” -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

In Preparation for the Future…

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that family is the most important unit in eternity. We are constantly talking about ways to strengthen family, learn about family history, prepare for future families and so on. Today I wanted to focus on preparing for future family. This is all my own personal thoughts and experiences that are guiding me to my personal future so I’m not teaching what everyone should or shouldn’t do (this is why we have personal revelation through sincere prayer and scripture study!). I’m merely sharing what I’ve come to understand that I need to do and share it with you in the hopes that perhaps you might learn something about what you need to do in your own life, or perhaps that you might learn another simple truth that you haven’t quite been able to understand just yet.

My Family, July 2010

My Family, July 2010

As many of you know, I attend Brigham Young University. It’s kind of known to be where people go to school to get married… In fact, BYU in Idaho is often called “BYU-I Do”. I didn’t come to BYU to get married, but actually to get an education. However, since returning home from my mission, I’ve known that marriage is my next “big step” in life and it’s something I’ve always wanted and want even more now that it’s a lot closer to reality than before. But the culture of BYU has made it almost painfully obvious how single I am. Everywhere I look people are dating, getting engaged, getting married, having kids, etc, etc. and I’m just not a very social person. Quite frankly it’s just annoying and occasionally can get a little discouraging. I sometimes wonder if there’s something wrong with me because being social is definitely not my thing but it seems as though everyone else I’ve ever met loves to be social. I like my quiet time to think and get things done and relax. Then I remember what’s important and that I’m actually happier than I’ve ever been before, which might seem a little backwards – isn’t marriage supposed to be the happiest time of your life? Well yeah, but I’ve never been married before and I learned a little secret, which is honestly what I deem to be the trick to having a wonderfully fabulous life: Learn to be independently happy rather than depending on others or things to have happiness. One of my roommates shared a very similar insight: “I don’t want my husband to complete me. I want to be complete before I marry him.”

And just how do we do that? We listen to the Lord and do all we can to follow His counsel – both personal and general counsel. I want to love the Lord more than I love anything or anyone else because I know that’s how I’ll be happiest and I know that’s how I’ll be guided the most in EVERY aspect of my life. I want to be independent from the world and everyone in it but dependent on my Father and my Savior to guide me and tell me and give me what I need to make it back Home to Them in the happiest state I could ever be in.

I’ve come to understand that dating and marriage won’t come unless I’m prepared for it. So I’ve been thinking a lot: How do I need to prepare myself to meet “the one”? What kind of person do I want to marry and therefore, what kind of person do I want to be? And vice versa. In the last week or so, I’ve received some answers I KNOW come from God. I wanted to share one specific answer and whether this makes sense to other people or not, this is what I know I need to do to prepare for MY future.

I need to focus on my education, not on marriage.

I know. I can just hear some of the horrified gasps coming from some of you. “Isn’t marriage more important than education? Shouldn’t you focus on getting married?” and the endless similar questions and judgments continue. But the only reason I know what those questions are is because I had a similar thought process. For those of you who may be confused as to why that might be a horrifying thought (to focus on education instead of marriage) let me share with you that as a young single adult in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the leaders of the Church are constantly telling us we need to date and get married because, as I said at the beginning, families are the most important units in eternity. And I believe that completely, whole-heartedly and with all the power of my soul. There is almost nothing more important to me than marriage and family.

But let me ask you something: how am I supposed to help strengthen others (specifically my own family, both future and present) and keep them above water when I can barely strengthen and keep myself afloat?

Gaining knowledge and wisdom has always been something I get excited about. I didn’t have to go to pre-school. I learned to read before I was even in kindergarten. I even knew how to count and add my fish crackers together before kindergarten. I’ve always found history fascinating. And I’ve enjoyed just about every class I’ve ever taken in elementary school, middle school, high school and college whether it’s been art, music, math, english, reading, history or psychology. There has been frustration and annoyance in classes I didn’t understand, but that mostly came due to my lack of preparation and studies. I’ve always had a desire to learn and study and have a college degree. Now that I’m about half-way through my college education, I can see that my secular education has taught and is teaching me diligence, obedience, selflessness, patience, fortitude, and even faith, hope and charity – the things I need to keep my head above water before I can do that for others.

I may not understand exactly why, when that’s almost the most important thing to me and I want it so badly, Heavenly Father is telling me not to focus or worry about marriage at this point in my life. I have faith and hope that it will happen, but I know it’s going to happen in His time. More importantly though, I know that my Father in Heaven knows me better than anyone, including myself. So whether it means I’ll get married within the next year or that I won’t be married for another 10 years, I know that He’s simply teaching me patience, obedience, and diligence and the other things I listed earlier. Not only that, but He’s also teaching me other things like the importance of the temple, the Sabbath day, being worthy of the Spirit’s constant companionship and other habits or characteristics that I want and need in my future family. If I don’t understand the importance of those things myself, how am I supposed to teach and establish those good habits in my own home and family? And not just understanding, but they need to be things that I already have in my life. No, I don’t have to be perfect before I get married, but I do need to be acting on my understanding and faith and hope before I’m ready to have my own family. Good desires are good. But acting on those desires is even better.

I said that there was ALMOST nothing more important to me than marriage and family. The one thing that’s more important to me is the love I have for my Father in Heaven and for my Savior Jesus Christ. I show that love through my obedience. If I can’t be obedient on my own as a single adult, how am I supposed to be obedient in a family that I’m in charge of? I may think life as a single person is hard, but I know it’s only going to get harder to juggle things once I’m married and am raising children of my own.

I’m not sure how much of that makes sense to anyone, but in a nutshell: In order to be ready and prepared for the future, I need to forget about it and live and learn today those things I’m going to need in the future to be a good wife and mother, a good leader, sister, therapist, and whatever else it is I want to be – whatever the Lord wants and needs me to be.

I know that as I act on this divine counsel, the blessings and miracles in my life are only going to pour out even more from Heaven. I know that how I choose to prepare for the future is going to determine the kind of future I have. I know it might seem kind of selfish to focus on my education rather than family, but in all honesty, this is the most selfless thing I can do because it’s not actually about me at all. Choosing to listen to the counsel of the Lord and focus on my secular and spiritual education is how I and Heavenly Father are choosing to prepare my husband and children for eternity. What I do to prepare myself for my family now determines the kind of family we will be.

All I want is to see as many of God’s Children return Home to Him. And that starts with my own family.

My Family, December 2014

My Family, December 2014

I Feel My Savior’s Love

Today I just want to keep it simple and testify of my Savior. I know that He is real and that He lives still today. I know that He loves me and knows me even better than I know myself. Whenever I receive answers to my prayers that I don’t really like or don’t understand, I still do my best to do as He asks because I know He’s asking me to do something that will make me happier than I could ever be if I were to choose to do whatever I wanted to do. I know that He died for me and that He made it possible for me to overcome more than just my sins. The Atonement of Jesus Christ doesn’t cover just sins. One of my favorite scriptures of the Atonement is Alma 7:11-14. It says:

“11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. 13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. 14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.”

Interestingly enough, Christ suffering for our sins isn’t even mentioned until verse 13. The things listed first as to what He suffered for are pains, afflictions, temptations, death, and infirmities. Our sins are only a small part of our suffering, though sometimes, that may be the only reason for our sufferings. Christ knows we’re not perfect. He knows our tendencies to give in to temptation and make mistakes and to get hurt emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. Yet despite all those tendencies, I know He will ALWAYS be there, never looking away from me and never saying I’m not good enough or that I’ve made too many mistakes and there’s no saving me after all that. Instead, I know He’ll choose to say “I know you’re not perfect but I love you anyway because I know who you can be. I’ve given a gift to take away all the pains and mistakes you’ve ever experienced and I’ll never take it away. But I’m just asking you… Please, don’t throw away My gift.”

One of my favorite talks is called “His Grace Is Sufficient” by Brad Wilcox who spoke of his understanding of the love of our Savior. When he was younger, he always imagined that if he didn’t live a righteous life and wasn’t worthy to enter into the kingdom of God, Judgment Day would be himself pleading with God to just let him into the Celestial Kingdom and forgive him of all he’d done wrong. As he’s come to understand the love of God, he’s realized that it won’t be like that at all. It will more likely be Jesus Christ pleading with each of us to take His precious gift – the Atonement – and be made clean so we can enter into His Kingdom. I know that to be true. If we choose to forsake Him and turn away from Him in this life, it will still be us doing the same in the next. He will never stop pleading for us to come to Him, no matter how much we choose to turn away.

Just above my desk in my room, I’ve hung a picture of the Savior. Next to it is a piece of paper made by my seminary class when I was  a  sophomore in high school. We were studying the New Testament, specifically Matthew 15:15 when our teacher had asked us to write words to describe who Jesus Christ is. In each of the answers from the students is a testimony and a witness of who Christ is and always will be. Here’s what 14-18 year old high school students said in reply to the question “But whom say ye that I am”:

“Jesus Christ is for me.”

“He is my Savior, my Brother, an example and the Son of God.”

“Jesus Christ is the Savior, Redeemer and He is perfect.”

“He is my Savior and Redeemer. He is my best friend and He will never hurt me. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the ultimate Hero, my Big Brother and someone who cares so much that He suffered and died for ALL mankind.”

“He is my best friend that sets the best example and who I try to follow.”

“He is the one who died for me. Who cares. Who’s there.”

“Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Great Redeemer and our Savior.”

“He is the Savior, the one who will save us from wickedness.”

“Jesus is our Savior, Brother, Friend, Creator, Teacher and Example.”

“Jesus is my Savior. He is perfect, clean and pure.”

“Jesus Christ is the Savior and a Friend. He is the Creator of the Earth, my Witness before the bar of God and my Redeemer.”

“He is the Savior and the Father’s Only Begotten Son.”

“Christ is the Son of God, my Savior and Redeemer, the King of Kings. He is my brother who dwells in heaven, and He is the person I want most to be like. He is the one I look up to. He is my brother who protects me, who loves me and cares for me.”

I don’t know which one was mine. I can’t remember what I wrote because I know that all of those descriptions are true. I love my Savior. I know how much He loves me and I can’t wait to be able to wrap my arms around Him and thank Him for all He’s done for me. Until then, though, my thanks will have to be manifest through my thoughts, words and deeds. If I can exemplify Him through all I say and do, then I know that will be thanks enough for Him.

I feel my Savior’s love
In all the world around me.
His Spirit warms my soul
Through ev’rything I see.

I feel my Savior’s love;
Its gentleness enfolds me,
And when I kneel to pray,
My heart is filled with peace.
I feel my Savior’s love
And know that he will bless me.
I offer him my heart;
My shepherd he will be.
I’ll share my Savior’s love
By serving others freely.
In serving I am blessed.
In giving I receive.
He knows I will follow him,
Give all my life to him.
I feel my Savior’s love,
The love he freely gives me.

Respecting World Religions

In case any of you are unaware, I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon). I go to BYU, a Church owned school where religion classes are required to help us develop a belief or greater understanding of our relationship with God. This semester, I have the wonderful opportunity of taking a World Religion’s class and so far (all two classes into the semester) I absolutely LOVE it! And all we’ve discussed is why we should learn about other religions apart from our own. Let me tell you though, that discussion was enlightening and inspiring for me and gave me insight to how much this class will help me in a world where religion is a part of just about everyone’s lives but most people believe a lot of different (yet also the same) things than me.

First let me ask you this: Do you have family members or friends who believe differently than you? I guarantee that all of you answered yes to that question. At some point or another in your life, you’ll encounter at least one person who does not share your beliefs. Next question: Why do you think it would be important to understand them and their beliefs? There’s no right or wrong answer to that, but I’ll share why I think it’s important.

The first thought that comes to my mind when I’m asked that question is that I need to understand other’s beliefs because it will help me to understand them. I’ll be able to relate to them better if I understand why they do things the way they do or why they say certain things. And understanding is key. Nobody likes to be misunderstood, especially when it comes to personal beliefs. I can point out so many events in history when the Lord’s people have been misunderstood so badly that it led to massacres and wars, even just in the past couple centuries.

So then the next question for me is: How do we understand? Simple – by listening. We often get so excited about sharing what we know and believe that we’re constantly thinking about the next thing we’re going to say to the person rather than actually listening to them and asking THEM questions. As you do learn to listen and ask inspired questions, I guarantee you that the Spirit will testify of truths that they share with you. But wait a second… Don’t Latter-day Saints think they’re the only ones with truth? Au contraire! We believe that Christ’s Church has the fulness of the Gospel, which means we have the essential things that are necessary for eternal salvation (specifically the true Priesthood and all saving ordinances). However, we do NOT believe that we have all of the truth and nobody else does. Honestly, I think we have a very small part of the truth. Remember how there are actually TWELVE tribes of Israel? Well, the Bible is only one tribe (Judah), the Book of Mormon is another (Ephraim, from Joseph). There are TEN other tribes who I’m sure have kept some sort of record that we don’t know about. It only makes sense because isn’t Heavenly Father a loving, just and merciful God? If so, why would He only give the truth to one group of people? That’s just it – He wouldn’t. 2 Nephi 29:12 says: “For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.” I have no doubt that there are truths in all religions, though some of them may be a lot more twisted from the original than others. I also have no doubt that there truths out there that we don’t even know about yet.

Not only is it good for us to learn and understand, it’s a commandment. Modern day revelation was given in 1832-33 that says:

“78 Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; 79 Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms— 80 That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you” (D&C 88:78-80).

As we learn more and more, not just about science and math and music and so forth but about religion and customs and beliefs as well, we will gain a greater understanding of who God is, His nature and personality, and His goals and what He has in store for us. God uses other people, NOT JUST MEMBERS OF THE LDS CHURCH, to accomplish His work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39). My professor shared a quote by Gerald E Jones that addresses members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who often judge others for believing differently. It states:

“Anyone who carefully obeys all laws outside of the LDS Church is obviously trying to do right. We should not condemn their beliefs, but rejoice in their righteous desires…”

So Jews who carefully follow the Law of Moses, Christians who are baptized and try to do good, Muslims who travel to Mecca, Buddhists, Hindus and so many others who try to follow the laws and commandments they believe in are doing what THEY KNOW TO BE RIGHT. They believe in God and they are trying to follow Him in the ways they know how.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and other religions, too, I’m sure) don’t often realize when they’re being offensive or forceful. We aren’t perfect and sometimes we forget that in all actuality, we are taught to embrace ALL truths. We only try to share what we know to be true because it makes us so happy and we want everyone to be happy! (see Elder Bednar’s talk “Come and See” from October 2014 General Conference where he addresses that exact topic) But even so, every single one of us needs to keep in mind and try to understand other people’s view points. Their lives have different trials, different experiences, different religions and different educations than us. They are different from us but that only means we should learn more about them rather than shun them and tell them they’re wrong. Because who knows…. Maybe they’re telling the truth… Maybe you’re BOTH telling the truth.

I testify that truth is truth and will never EVER change because it’s truth. I know that I don’t know everything. I know I’m not perfect and I often can come across as pushy or overwhelming or misunderstanding as I try to share what I know is true with people who don’t think the same as me. But I think as I grow in my knowledge of other religions, I’ll get better at knowing how to have spiritual discussions rather than arguments where both of us think we’re right and the other is wrong. I know I’ll improve in my understanding of truths in every part of the world and with that, I know I’ll become better every day as I learn to incorporate those foreign truths into my own daily life. I testify that God works in mysterious ways to show His love for His children. He gives each of us knowledge and understanding so that we will each personally have the opportunity to come to know His truths in ways that we can understand and do our best to follow.

We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and times. Yet we are still all Children of God who loves us enough to share with us the truths of eternity.