26 February 2012

Not after the manner of men

One day my daughter said something to me that most teens say to their parents. "You're old and don't understand what it's like to be a teen." I hauled out my journal and read a few lines to her, then said "Believe me, I was a teen and I remember well all those teenage emotions and hormones and physical changes."

Human emotion has never changed. Since Adam and Eve had teenagers, human emotions have not changed. Technology changes, and maybe some other things, such as foods and fashions, change, but feelings human beings have don't change.

I was talking to a neighbor seated next to me at a Veteran's Day program at our high school. He made a disparaging comment about teens as we watched them mill about and take their seats waiting for the program to begin. I responded that I love teens! They have vigor and enthusiasm and high hopes and dreams. I said that if we could just channel their energy and enthusiasm into the right things we could change the world.

Heavenly Father loves teens too. He has used them through out history to change the world. Joseph, Samuel, David, and Daniel for just a few that come to mind from the Old Testament. Mary was probably a teen when she gave birth to the Savior of the World. Joseph Smith was certainly a teen when he was blessed with a vision that forever changed the world. One of my favorites, though, is Nephi.

At the beginning of their adventure leaving Jerusalem, he describes himself as "being exceedingly young".  After about eight years they are at the seashore and he has married, had children and just completed the ship in which they will cross the waters to their promised land.

He says, "Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men." (1 Nephi 18:2)

That is one of my favorite scriptures! Let me share why. When we began homeschooling our oldest child, Noble, in 1994, my parents were not very supportive. They criticized us and worried about our children and all that they would lack being deprived of the public school experience. Fortunately for us we lived across the country from them and we didn't have to deal with any interference, just the fears and criticisms in letters and phone calls.

One day, after a few years had passed, as I was studying the Book of Mormon I read that particular verse in First Nephi and it was one of those Joseph Smith moments. You know, where he says, "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart." (JSH 1:12) That's how I felt!

I realized that we were building an education for our children "not after the manner of men," but after the manner to which we had been led by the Lord. And just as he blessed Nephi with instructions "from time to time" (1 Nephi 18:1) we were shown and led to the resources we needed to accomplish our task.

You should hear my parents praise our efforts and our children now! They are so proud of the way we have raised them, taught them and the way our adult children have turned out. But I don't think it is so much because of me. I just followed the instructions from the Lord, and He had sent me some pretty good spirits. I give all the credit to Him. He knew what our children would need, and He provided the way for them to get it.

I've often thought about how many other things we are building in this life that are not after the manner of men. Here is my list:
1. Healthy bodies - we believe in the Word of Wisdom
2. Wardrobe - we believe in modesty and setting our own style
3. Finances - we pay tithes and offerings first, and live on what's left, saving for a rainy day and preparing for future needs.
4. Missionary Service - Thousands of our young men (and some young women) and hundreds of senior couples interrupt their live and pay their own way to give unselfish service building the kingdom.
5. Education - The Glory of God is Intelligence; and as it says on the sign at BYU: Enter to learn, Go forth to serve.
6. Taking care of the poor - See Provident Living
7. Entertainment and Recreation - "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report of praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
8. Dating - We follow the counsel given in For the Strength of Youth
9. Marriage - We still believe in it! See The Family: A Proclamation to the World
10. Family - We believe in having children, and lots of them! We believe that families can be together forever. We believe that our family on earth is preparation for life in the Celestial Kingdom.

I'm sure there are more ways we are building something not after the manner of men, but after the manner which the Lord has shown us. In just another month we'll gather to hear the living prophets and apostles give us counsel, instruction and encouragement at General Conference. This will be the "from time to time" instructions from the Lord. I'm looking forward to hearing it.

23 February 2012

We Thank Thee O God, For A Prophet

Thirty-three years ago, I entered the MTC and began formal preparation for my missionary service. Five weeks later I flew to Tallahassee, Florida and was greeted by President LeGrand R. Curtis and his two assistants. My first area was Atlantic Beach, Florida, where I had to adjust to watching the sun RISE out of the ocean after twenty-one years of watching it SET into the ocean off the coast of San Diego, California. But that is beside the point.

President Curtis taught us, among many other things, that the Prophet and Apostles rarely use the phrase "Thus saith the Lord" in General Conference to command us to do things or refrain from things. Rather, he taught, they use words like we suggest, we encourage, it would be wise to, etc. President Curtis would explain that those who have ears to hear would hear and obey, those who were spiritually immature wouldn't.

The March 2012 Ensign arrived yesterday in the mailbox and I was astonished, and excited, to read an article titled "Follow the Prophet" by Elder Randall K. Bennett, of the Seventy. He tells the story of his engagement and the ring, which he and his fiance sold back so they could be obedient to the prophet about getting started with food storage. It's a great story, but what impressed me the most was this paragraph:

"We also learned that living prophets typically invite us to do things; they don't often use words like command or exhort. Their way is kind and gentle, but that doesn't give us an excuse not to follow. When Shelley [his wife] and I have taken invitations as commandments, we have always been blessed.

"We have also learned to discern their direction by listening for such phrases as "I've been pondering . . ." or "Something that has been on my mind is . . ." or "I feel to tell you . . ." or "Let me offer some counsel about . . ." or "It would be my hope that . . ." These and similar phrases are clues to help us know what is on the minds and in the hearts of the Lord's anointed servants."
(Ensign, March 2012, page 21)

I feel joy and satisfaction when something I have known, believed and followed is taught again in a very public place. It is confirmation that I am on the right track.

As we prepare for General Conference in about six weeks, we can prepare our heart and minds to listen, accept and then act upon the gentle invitations of the Brethren.

16 February 2012

I Believe in Miracles

This is what Valentine's Day looked like for my husband and I.

TopDad woke up with minor chest pains and recognized them as similar to those he'd experienced five years ago when he had his first heart attack. He showered and got dressed, ate breakfast and we read scriptures. The pains did not subside and seemed to get worse. He asked me to say the family prayer after scripture reading. My prayer included language like this "Father, there is no way we can get someone here to give TopDad a blessing, so I'm asking for a miracle and a blessing through the power of the priesthood which he holds and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that he will be healed."

TopDad decided to go to the hospital so I called the principal at school to let him know, then we loaded up and I drove, first dropping Dr. Hair off at school, (Dandylion stayed home with a stomach virus), then on to the hospital in town. There they did several tests, blood work and x-rays, but couldn't determine exactly what was happening. Dad was still in pain and not even the Nitroglycerine and Morphine got rid of it. After talking to a Cardiologist in Des Moines, the attending ER physician made arrangements to transport TopDad to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. I returned home to pack a lunch, a book and some knitting, check on Dandylion and fill a water bottle. I gassed up the car and drove ninety miles to Des Moines. I found TopDad in the ER being prepped to go to the Catheterization Lab for an angiogram. After the procedure the doctor brought me a "picture" of TopDad's heart and said that there was nothing wrong with it, in fact, he couldn't find any evidence of the other heart attack.

Wednesday morning the cardiologist asked if TopDad had been shoveling snow on Monday; he had been pushing and flipping snow from the sidewalks with the boys, but nothing strenuous. The doctor believed he had strained his chest muscles and that was causing the pain (which didn't go away until about 9:00 PM Tuesday). He was released with a slight change in medicine and instructions to follow up with the family doctor.

On the drive home I said, "Well, we can look at this in two ways, either my prayer for a miracle was answered, or the doctor was right and it was just a strained muscle." TopDad replied, "I'll go with the miracle."

I have no doubt that the God who created our hearts can heal one and leave no trace.

08 February 2012

With Real Intent

Today's Seminary lesson included a discussion about the doings of the Prophet Ezra. At this time the Israelites were returning to Jerusalem after many years in bondage. Chapter 7 verse 10 describes what Ezra did to be ready to fulfill his mission.

"For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments."

We talked about what it meant to prepare his heart. I had the students turn to Moroni 10:4;

"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."

What does it mean to have "real intent"? It seems to me to mean that I intend to act upon what is revealed to me. Jesus taught that in order to know if the doctrine he taught was true we had to do it; in other words, keep the commandments, do what we're asked to do, only then will we know, probably through the blessings that follow obedience, that the command is truly God's will.

Ezra had prepared his heart, he had real intent; he sought to know the law, he lived it and then taught it to the people. This is the pattern of the new Duty to God program for Aaronic Priesthood holders. It's an inspired pattern.

As I was teaching this a question came into my mind. "Why are so many Saints addicted to caffeinated drinks?" I read a blog yesterday telling about the mother (writer) instructing her child to add a diet Dr. Pepper to a portrait he had drawn of her, laughingly saying that then the picture would be accurate. That really bothered me. I felt sorry for both the mother and the child.

In the past year I was in the hospital emergency room with my husband in the wee hours of the morning. While he went to get some tests done one of the staff asked me if I'd like a cup of coffee. I said, "No, I don't drink anything with caffeine in it." The person was astonished and asked, "How can you live without caffeine to get going?" I answered, "Very well, thank you."

Life with its frenetic pace is tiring; mothering, whatever the age of the children, is tiring. But I believe the promise of the Word of Wisdom:

"And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, and the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen." (Doctrine and Covenants 89:18-21 emphasis mine)

Many justify themselves with the argument that caffeine isn't mentioned in the Word of Wisdom. To that I refer to Doctrine and Covenants 58:26

"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward."

President Heber J. Grant, prophet from November 1918 to May 1945, taught in General Conference, "The Lord does not want you to use any drug that creates an appetite for itself." (April 1922) I think that covers caffeinated sodas.

The commandments are both a protection and a blessing to us. We are protected from the bondage of addiction and disease; we are blessed with health, strength, wisdom and knowledge, even life itself as the destroying angel passes us by. I can't think of better blessings than those.

A bishop once told me that if caffeinated sodas were included in the temple recommend interview, half the congregation, including his wife, wouldn't be worthy of a recommend. I thought that was a sad commentary on how far we let ourselves get from the letter and spirit of the law of health known as the Word of Wisdom.

I think this example taken from the manual "Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant" is great.

Some members of the Church in President Grant's day complained about the numerous sermons they heard on the Word of Wisdom. President Grant commented: "There is seldom a conference when someone does not take it upon himself to tell us: 'Please do not speak on the Word of Wisdom. We hear it so much, we are sick and tired of it.'" President Grant responded to such complaints by saying: "No mortal man who is a Latter-day Saint and is keeping the Word of Wisdom is ever sick and tired of hearing it. When a man leaves a meeting and says . . . 'Can't they find something else to talk about besides the Word of Wisdom; I am sick and tired of it'--of course he is, because he is full of stuff that the Word of Wisdom tells him to leave alone." (p.190)

From the April 2008 New Era:

Is there anything wrong with drinking sodas with caffeine in them? Is caffeine bad? The Word of Wisdom doesn’t mention it.

Doctrine and Covenants 89:9 says we shouldn’t drink “hot drinks.” The only official interpretation of this term is the statement made by early Church leaders that it means tea and coffee. Caffeine is not specifically mentioned as the reason not to drink these drinks.
Boyd K. Packer: “The Word of Wisdom was ‘given for a principle with promise’ (D&C 89:3). … A principle is an enduring truth, a law, a rule you can adopt to guide you in making decisions. Generally principles are not spelled out in detail. Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom. … We teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation. … Obedience to counsel will keep you on the safe side of life” (“The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and the Promises,” Ensign, May 1996, 17–18).
With real intent - to act upon knowledge gained through study and revelation.