11 December 2014

Prayers of Gratitude

Right around Thanksgiving I read a blog (sorry I don't remember where or which one) with a comment from a reader who said that his family was offering prayers of expressions of gratitude only for the week of Thanksgiving; and what a difference it made in both their prayers and their family. We have occasionally had family prayers of gratitude, where we kneel together and beginning at the oldest express gratitude for whatever we are thankful for, then the next oldest, and so on, until the youngest finishes the prayer. It does bring a special spirit into our home when we do that. But now I wanted to experiment with all my prayers consisting of only thanksgiving or gratitude.

For the past two weeks I've been doing this and can say that it has changed my prayers completely. First, I have to think harder about all that I'm grateful for; second, I have to pause to let the spirit assist me in remembering things; third, I have become more aware of how pervasive the Lord is in my life and feel His love so strongly; and fourth, I have learned to be creative about thanking Him for future blessings, sort of gratitude in advance. I have felt closer to my Heavenly Father through this experiment and want to continue. The other thing I've noticed is that I feel more able to humbly ask for something that I truly need when I know I have expressed gratitude for all that I've already been given.

My prayers are less vain repetition and more heartfelt these days. I recommend giving it a try in your life.

UPDATE: I re-found the blog on gratitude prayers and want to share it for future readers.

09 December 2014

Parental Lessons

Our son JET has begun to attend church again after several years of "vacation". I was wondering, out loud, to my husband about why this change in attitude. What actually came out of my mouth was a profound lesson to me. I said something like "I think that my showing interest in the things that are important to him, like going to the car show and getting excited about cars in general helped him know that I love him for who he is; and when he felt safe in my love he decided that he could return to church." JET has long felt that he didn't measure up to the spiritual stature of his older brother, and that I loved him less because of that. NOT TRUE! But maybe now he really does feel I love him for himself, which is totally true, and therefore he can return to church. Whatever the reason, I'm pleased, but I don't love him more, because I never loved him less.

It gives me a glimpse into the heart of Heavenly Father and the Savior.

02 December 2014

The D Word

Is anyone else tired of the use of the word "depressed" as a way to describe a mental or emotional state? I understand that some people have clinical depression and need treatment for it. But most of us could use another word to describe the way we feel. If I can get up out of bed and get myself or others to school/work and get things done during the day then it's probably safe to say that I don't have clinical depression. I'm offering a list of alternate "D" words (with a couple of others) so you can find one that expresses the specific nuanced feeling of your emotional state.

  1. anxious
  2. dark
  3. dated
  4. dazed
  5. debased
  6. debilitated
  7. deceived
  8. decimated
  9. declining
  10. decrepit
  11. defeated
  12. defective
  13. deficient
  14. dejected
  15. delicate
  16. deluded
  17. demented
  18. demoralized
  19. despairing
  20. despondent
  21. diffident
  22. diluted
  23. diminished
  24. dimwitted
  25. disappointed
  26. discontented
  27. discombobulated
  28. discomforted
  29. discomposed
  30. disconsolate
  31. discouraged
  32. disenchanted
  33. disgruntled
  34. disheartened
  35. disillusioned
  36. disjointed
  37. dismayed
  38. disoriented
  39. dispirited
  40. displeased
  41. disquieted
  42. dissatisfied
  43. distrait
  44. distraught
  45. distressed
  46. disturbed
  47. worried

Next time you're tempted to use that hackneyed term "depressed", I hope you'll stop and be more precise in your description of your mental and emotional state. And be sure to let me know if you can think of some more good "d" words.

I love this quote from Elder Boyd K. Packer:
It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal. Teach our members that if they have a good miserable day once in a while, or several in a row, to stand steady and face them. Things will straighten out. There is great purpose in our struggle in life ("That All May Be Edified" [1982], 94).

10 November 2014

Fellowshipping - A Talk

9 November 2014

This weekend Audubon High School put on a delightful production of Beauty and the Beast. Watching it brought back memories of participating in roadshows and plays when I was in high school. Members of a cast become close from spending so much time together working on an exciting project; lifelong friendships form and precious memories are made.

I’ve always liked the story of Beauty and the Beast for the way their relationship unfolds.  This is one story where it is not love at first sight. Negative first impressions are displaced as acceptance of differences and good communication grows into friendship, and then further into love as time spent together and activities shared reveal the beautiful inner person to each other. Common interests are found, new subjects explored and personal sacrifices are made for the comfort of the other.

This story is a good template for building relationships. At first glance many of us don’t seem so attractive by worldly standards, or seem just too different to want to get to know. Many of us feel shy, or are reserved in nature, not wanting to open up to others exposing our vulnerability; we may feel inferior or defective in some way. However, the gospel teaches us that we “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;” (Eph. 2:19) As members of that household of God we are brothers and sisters, spirit children of the same Heavenly parents. No one is inferior who claims the title “Child of God.” The Lord proclaimed, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10)

Maybe the first step, like Belle’s was, is to look beyond outward appearances. The Lord certainly does, as he said to the prophet Samuel, when he was looking for the next King, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; . . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth, for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

As members of the human race we certainly come in an astonishing variety of colors, shapes and sizes; but we are, underneath it all, brothers and sisters, children of an Eternal Father. We can look beneath the outward appearance and find that common thread to begin weaving a relationship. Can we swallow our shyness, our fear, our pride, and reach out to someone who may feel just as awkward as we do about getting to know someone new?

Most of us live extremely busy lives, full of work, school, children, church callings, extended family responsibilities and activities of every kind; it’s difficult to think about adding even one more thing to our schedule. Unless. Unless we make different choices; because isn’t that what life consists of? Choices in how we use our time? Alma taught his son about the purpose of our mortal life saying, “And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.” (Alma 42:4)

In both the Old World and the New, Jesus taught his followers, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” (3 Nephi 13:33) The Book of Mormon Prophet Jacob taught, “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.” (Jacob 2:18) The choices we make about how we use our time will determine the quality of our lives, especially our life after we graduate from the boarding school of mortality and return to our Heavenly Home.  The Prophet Joseph Smith was told, “And if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7)

What are these commandments? They are the rules, terms and conditions for entering into the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament alone there are over 600 commandments known as the Law of Moses. Of course, Moses didn’t make up these laws, they were named for him as the Prophet who received them from Jehovah.

During his mortal life, Jesus Christ, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, was asked which of all the commandments was the greatest. He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God will all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” For the second greatest commandment he quoted Leviticus 19:18 “. . .but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:” Then Jesus said, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 35-40) He also taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Wise and benevolent, King Benjamin taught his people, “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)

Service takes time. Mostly it is best done in person. Service takes many forms. A listening ear, an encouraging word, a task completed, a burden lifted, a joy shared.

Now that we’ve looked past appearances, and decided to spend time with someone, communication is next.

As my children tell me, I grew up in the “olden days”, in the days before computers and smart phones and social media. We communicated in three ways: in person, by telephone, or by mail, the kind delivered to a steel mailbox by a mailman in a white vehicle with official decals on it. Visiting a friend was the way to catch up on the news of their life; post cards and letters were exchanged with family and friends far away. Phone calls were made to arrange dates and activities together. It was a different world.

Do you know that one of the reasons the Amish resist new communication technologies is that it detracts from and gets in the way of personal, face to face interaction. Visiting each other in their homes, helping with work projects, hosting activities of all kinds are a vital part of their community life. They aren’t too busy “surfing the web” or viewing a virtual reality to participate in real life with real, live people. They understand that people are more important than things. I envy their resistance to technology and their persistence in putting relationships ahead of things.

To illustrate the rest of the principles, that is, finding common interests, exploring new ones and making personal sacrifices, from the story, Beauty and the Beast, may I share with you an experience from our family.

Brother Thoelke was not a member of the church when I married him. He was a good man in my eyes, handsome, employed, wanting a family, fun to be with. He had desirable qualities that set him apart from other men I knew. From the time we were married I prayed that we would live in a place where he could join the church. After a couple of years he was transferred to Washington state, where after about six months we were able to buy a home in the town of Mount Vernon. Although a small town of about 15,000, Mount Vernon had two wards. I had called ahead to ask for help unloading our moving truck and members of the Mount Vernon First ward obliged. One of the families that assisted us made a decision for which we will be eternally grateful. The Futrelle family decided to take us under their wing and welcome us into their family. At the time we had Elizabeth who was almost two, and Paul who was just six months. Brother and Sister Futrelle’s children were older, but they treated us like long lost cousins; inviting us into their home on holidays and including us in many of their family outings to the mountains and for picnics. The Elders Quorum in the Mount Vernon First Ward welcomed Steve and included him in almost everything they did. When there was a service project they called to invite Steve to work with them; when they formed a softball team to compete in a city league they called Steve to come play with them. The Bishopric came to our home to meet us and begin to get to know us. Home teachers were assigned and they came faithfully month after month, helping us with projects, playing with our children, teaching Steve principles of the gospel through their actions. An older man found out that Steve likes to golf and invited him for a round at the course. It became a fairly regular outing for them. Bro. Walker patiently answered Steve’s questions, took an interest in our children and was a beloved father figure for Steve whose own father had died more than ten years earlier.

Steve did not attend church on Sunday with me until we had our third child, Joseph, and I asked for his help because I had run out of arms to hold children with. When he came to Sacrament Meeting he was greeted by good friends. Men and women who had gotten to know and love him as their brother from time spent together in our home and theirs; at church socials and on the ball field.

When Joseph was five months old he contracted spinal meningitis. From the hospital emergency room I called Steve to ask if we could have the home teachers come and give Joe a priesthood blessing. Steve gave permission and then contacted them. From all the time we had spent together Steve knew them and trusted them. Joseph was miraculously healed and about four months later Steven was baptized.

I will always be grateful for the brothers and sisters of the Mount Vernon First Ward who twenty-three years ago looked beyond Steve’s non-member status, took time to get to know him, learned to love him and through their actions and words taught him the gospel. Twenty years ago this year was when Steve was baptized. On the day he was baptized the Futrelles told us a secret. From the day they met us until that day they had prayed as a family, every day, and in every prayer, that Steven would be baptized. They were truly “doers of the word, and not hearers only,” (James 1:22) because in addition to all of their prayers they spent time with us and served us in every way they could demonstrating that “faith without works is dead”. (see James 2:26)

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; for behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.

And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth! Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!

Behold, you have my gospel before you, and my rock, and my salvation.
                        (D&C 18:10-17)

Would you like to feel that joy? I know that it is possible. It takes faith, diligence, and patience. Success doesn’t come in a day, a month, or even a year sometimes. What it takes is a season, and only God knows how long the season is. This is what is meant by enduring to the end.

Brothers and Sisters, look around the room. Are there other brothers and sisters not here who could and should be here?

On average less than one fourth of our members are here at any Sacrament Meeting. Would we be satisfied with only one fourth of our family at a Family Reunion? Would we think that acceptable or would we work hard and smart to reach out and help family members overcome challenges to attending the reunion so we could all be together? I believe we would. Could we do the same for our branch family?

How can we reach out with the hand of fellowship and help our brothers and sisters back to the fold?

Often we are forced by assignments of visiting and home teaching to get to know someone we might not have chosen as a friend. Other times we follow the promptings of the Spirit to seek out a wandering lamb. Sometimes it is a member of our own family who needs fellowship.

I enjoy hearing about sisters in Relief Society who invite others to their home to share a meal. I’m so glad they are spending time together. Time is a precious gift which, when used wisely, gives us more. We gain more enthusiasm for life, more friends, more skill or talent, more beauty, more completed tasks, more love and joy.

Not everyone in our Branch lives near their own family; some of us live half a continent away from loved ones. A few are even farther away. Do you know how comforting it is to be invited over on a holiday? Or included in a family celebration, even if it’s not your own family? I can assure you that you feel much less of a “foreigner or stranger” when an invitation comes to spend time in someone’s home.

Not everything has to be a party, though. Offering to help with a project, large or small, is another way to spend time together. What skill do you have that you can offer to another to ease their workload? I guarantee if you’ll keep your eyes, ears and heart open you’ll find ways to serve all around you. Serving is a great way to get to know both those you work with and those you serve.

Branch activities and socials are another way to spend time together. Sunday’s are often too structured and busy to allow the kind of time and conversations necessary for getting to know someone. In a more relaxed setting of interaction we get to see a previously unknown side of our brothers and sisters. When we attend branch activities and socials our presence supports both the organizers of the activity as well as the other attendees. And their presence gives us strength and acceptance too. I encourage you to participate fully in the activities of the Branch, again, stepping out of that proverbial “comfort zone” to serve as a personal fellowshipper to someone who needs you, but doesn’t know it yet.

President Monson says, “ Fellowshipping, friendshipping, and reactivating are ongoing in the daily life of a Latter-day Saint.” (April 1997)

We keep our covenants by reaching out to others, walking the gospel path with them, encouraging them, helping them bear their burdens, rejoicing with them in their successes, and contributing to the growth of their testimonies.

None of this has to be difficult or tedious. Little by little, one choice after another we can make fellowshipping a way of life; we can live a Gospel of Jesus Christ centered life.

The time we invest, the faith we exercise, our diligence in serving and our patient persevering will bring the dividends of friendship, love and joy to our lives and the lives of those we serve.

When we are discouraged, when the adversary whispers that it’s too hard, we’re too busy, or it’s not worth it, let’s remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

I testify that Our Savior will give us the strength to accomplish His work. He wants us to succeed. He wants us to be faithful. He wants to be able to say to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” “. . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (See Matthew 25:21, 40)

I want to hear those words! Which sounds to me like an invitation to live happily ever after.

I pledge to give my best effort to this cause, and invite you do to the same.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

04 November 2014

There is only one race

The November Ensign came in the mail yesterday. It sure is impressive how fast it is produced after General Conference. Even more impressive is the photography. I love seeing my brothers and sisters from around the world. We are all so beautiful!

I do not understand why many believe that there are difference races on earth, white, black, yellow, red, brown, etc. My dictionary defines Homo sapiens as "the human race." Are we not all humans? We certainly come in an astonishing variety of colors, shapes and sizes, but we are, underneath it all, the same race, children of an Eternal Father.

16 October 2014

Something to Support and Look Forward to

Captain Moroni and the Title of Liberty is my all-time favorite Book of Mormon story. We are at a point in our nation's history that we need a Captain Moroni to step up and lead the righteous to a restoration of our lost and crumbling liberties.

Lt. Lehi shared this with me on Facebook and I got so excited! Just want to share this with those I know. Spread the word! This is a vital story for the times we live in.

07 October 2014

General Conference Thoughts

We enjoyed the sumptuous feast of General Conference this past weekend. Among the many things I love about conference are the dignity and solemnity with which the brethren conduct the meetings; there's no joking about, stumbling around or forgetting important things; the program is prepared and complete. I love the beautiful music, which always seems to fit the subjects of the talks; which means they are truly inspired in their selections. I especially enjoy that the speakers jump right into their subjects without a silly recitation of who called them to speak and how they felt and how they struggled to write their talk, and how nervous they are, and how they wished it were someone else up here, and here's an unrelated joke to show you how nervous I am; and, well, you get the picture. (It's one of my pet peeves in Sacrament Meeting speakers.) I love how the General Conference speakers take a personal experience and relate it to a gospel doctrine or principle, helping us to understand more deeply the application in our own lives.

During this conference I was thrilled to hear four of the speakers give their addresses in their native languages, Cantonese, Portuguese, and Spanish. To me this is proof of the universality of the gospel and the omniscience of God. He understands His children no matter what language we speak; and the gospel message can penetrate the hearts of all God's children on earth.

It boggles my mind to hear persons say that the General Authorities are old and out of touch with society. Listening to them it should be clear that they are more "in touch" than anyone else on earth. They are experienced, well-traveled, well-connected to the leaders of nations, churches, universities, businesses, etc., as well as well-read and knowledgeable about more subjects than I can count. They are wise and insightful on their own, but have the greater wisdom that comes directly from God to teach and lead us.

The best part of conference is that each person listening will hear and glean what is important for himself/herself (the English language is lacking in pronouns!) at the time. When my girlfriend and I compare notes I am amazed at what she heard 'cause I didn't hear those same things. What a marvel of personal revelation.

We enjoyed being together as a family, minus two (Noble and Lt. Lehi). Our tradition of gathering to hear the prophets, apostles and other general authorities and officers was upheld and continued. To me that is an important accomplishment.

I encourage you to take time to listen to the counsel given, and then as was asked in the closing prayer "Help us live what we have learned."

18 September 2014

High Council Speakers

I wish I had a much larger audience because I'd like to invite all the members who complain about high council speakers to come spend a year in our little twig branch. I live for the coming of high council speakers: they are intelligent, articulate, doctrinally sound, engaging speakers; and usually the best we have all month.

The rest of the time we mostly listen to drivel, preceded by a lengthy explanation about how somebody in the branch presidency called them and what they asked them to speak about, and how they couldn't come up with anything to say (so sit down already!), and how last night they finally got some inspiration (are you sure it was from the right source?) and then they proceed to read a few quotes from a General Conference talk, interspersed with rambling personal commentary. Many times their reading is difficult to understand because of their illiteracy. One brother prefaced his talk saying "I don't know anything about the Atonement. Now if I'd been asked to speak about NASCAR or football I could talk for two or three hours." A sister, convert of just over a year, gave a talk lifted from some protestant preacher about the infallibility of the bible. I was speechless! And the one counselor in the branch presidency didn't correct her or offer any scriptures or instructions to counter her false teachings. One sister spoke for forty minutes and said absolutely NOTHING. She rambled on about her family, her journey to this branch, her gratitude for everything under the sun, her trials, etc. But there were no gospel teachings, no doctrine from the scriptures, no lessons learned, just disjointed ramblings.

So, I LOVE high council speakers and get really tired of others making fun of them. Come spend some time in "outer darkness" and I'm sure you'll come to love them too. It's said that hunger is the best sauce--I'm spiritually hungry every week and enjoy the delicious offerings of the HC speakers.

10 September 2014

What Would Jesus Do?

25 August 2013 (from my little notebook)

I believe this is the wrong question to ask. Jesus Christ has powers and authority that I do not have. He can perceive a person's thoughts and the intents of his heart. He has power to forgive sins, heal sicknesses of all kinds, and authority to condemn the unrepentant.

On the other hand, I can't do any of those things. So I think a better question to ask myself is:

What would Jesus have me do?

What did he command His followers to do? How should I treat others? Therein lies the guide to our actions.

21 August 2014

It Takes Faith

From my notebook 4 August 2013
It takes faith, not money or time, to have children. When the Lord gives us a commandment, multiply and replenish the earth, he will provide a way for us to accomplish the command. See 1 Nephi 3:7. Often we have to exercise faith as Nephi did, "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do." (1 Nephi 4:6) Babies need love in the form of touch, words and time, rather than fancy furnishings, clothing and toys.
If I could do things over I would exercise more faith and have more children.

12 August 2014

What's Needed

1 January 2013
It's not enough to have a testimony--even Satan and his followers know Jesus Christ. We must be fully converted to and committed to obey Jesus Christ and follow him.

2 March 2013 - From a Regional Conference
Elder Craig C. Christensen said "Conversion is a lifelong process, line upon line. True conversion transforms us as we come to follow the Savior completely. We must feed the fire of testimony." He talked of how Alma 5 is a personal interview.

11 August 2014

Random Thoughts

1 July 2012 - I don't think our Heavenly Parents grieve when we depart our heavenly home to come to mortality; rather they rejoice that we are ready to progress and learn the lessons which we would not be able to learn if we had stayed at home. That is how I feel as my children reach adulthood and leave home. I rejoice that I can let go and see them progress.

From the little notebook I take to church to record thoughts and impressions as I sit through three hours of meetings.

22 April 2014

My Easter Talk

(This is the talk I gave in Sacrament Meeting on Easter Sunday. Caveat: I didn't take time to put in all the scripture references. Most of it comes from the books of Moses and Abraham, as well as the gospels in the New Testament, with a little bit of Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants thrown in too.)

Before we came to earth we lived with our Father in Heaven. We were taught and nurtured there by Heavenly parents who prepared us to come to this earth to live. Before this earth was created we met in a grand council. Heavenly Father presented his plan which involved creating an earth for us so we could be tested and prove our faithfulness to Him. He knew we would not be perfect and by sinning we would be cut off from His presence and unable to return. We would need a Savior to pay the debt of our sins so we could be clean and worthy to return to our Father. At the council He asked “Whom shall I send [to be the Savior]?” (Abraham 3:27) Lucifer spoke up “Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.” (Moses 4:1) Jesus, whom the Father calls My Beloved Son, answered “Here am I, send me Father; thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Abraham 3:27 and Moses 4:2) Heavenly Father chose His Beloved Son, Jesus, known as Christ, the Anointed One, to send to earth at the appointed time to be our Savior. Lucifer became known as Satan and was cast out of Father’s presence for rebellion.

The earth was created and Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden. They were married by God, and given commandments, first, to be fruitful and multiply, and second, to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. While in the garden they walked and talked with God, innocent as children. We do not know how long they were in this state. But we do know that they couldn’t progress any further. Satan came along with the idea that he could really mess things up. He didn’t realize that he was part of the plan. Our Father in Heaven cannot force anyone. He gives us the most precious gift of agency, the power to choose for ourselves. Heavenly Father knew we needed to come to earth and experience mortal life to be tested away from His presence. He allowed Satan to tempt our first parents, giving Adam and Eve the chance to choose for themselves whether or not they would be obedient. Eve, in a great act of courage and faith, partook of the forbidden fruit, so that Father’s plan could come to pass and we all would have the chance to be born into mortality.

Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden for transgressing the commandment and now were mortal, subject to death. Spiritual separation from God and physical death were the results of the fall.

Now, we are in a predicament from which we cannot remove ourselves. We are no longer with God in heaven, we are here on earth; subject to all sorts of horrible things like pain, hunger, disease, death, sorrow, evil, war. And what happens after death? Is that the end of our existence? If so, what is the meaning and point of all our suffering on earth? It is a bleak outlook.

After being cast out of the garden, Adam and Eve became farmers, the scriptures say “they began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat [their] bread by the sweat of [their] brow.” They began to have children, and their children grew up and paired off and began to multiply.

Adam and Eve continued faithful and prayed together, and in time heard the voice of the Lord from over by the garden, giving them commandments to worship the Lord their God, and offer the firstlings of their flocks for an offering unto the Lord. The scriptures record that Adam was obedient to the commandments of the Lord.

After some time, the scriptures say “many days”, an angel of the Lord appeared to Adam and asked “Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord?” Adam said “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” Adam obeyed the commandments without fully understanding what they meant. The angel then explained, “This thing [meaning the sacrifice of the firstling of the flock] is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the son forevermore.”
The scriptures record that “. . . in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning; henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will.”  Adam responded to this, “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.” Eve said, “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” (Moses 5:10-11)

What is this joy of our redemption? It is what the Holy Ghost witnessed to them; the knowledge of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Those two titles, Savior and Redeemer, indicate what he has done for us. He saves us from our fallen state, separated from God and subject to physical death. He redeems us by paying the price for our sins that we can be in a state worthy to return to the presence of God, Our Heavenly Father.

Born of Mary in Bethlehem, Jesus lived a sinless life. He obeyed with exactness all that the father asked of him. He marked the path and showed the way for us to follow him to return to live with our Father in Heaven.

When he taught his disciples to pray he included the phrase “Thy will be done.” In every recorded prayer he repeats that phrase. He taught “I can of mine own self do nothing . . . because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)  “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. . . . And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:38-29)  “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17)

The Lord told Moses, “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) Through Joseph Smith the Lord instructed, “This is your work, to keep my commandments, yea, with all your might, mind and strength. (D&C 11:20)

Remember the pre-mortal council? The Lord said, “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell. And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” (Abraham 3:24-25)

Unfortunately, we are not always perfectly obedient. We are mortal, sinful creatures. We know what is right, but are weak and don’t always choose to do what is right. We need to be saved. We need a Savior. And in His infinite love and mercy, God, Our Heavenly Father, provided one for us.

I do not understand exactly how it works, but I know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real and has the power to cleanse and heal and succor us. Alma taught, “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. 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.” (Alma 7:11-12)

I testify that this is real. At a time in my life when I felt betrayed and abandoned by those I loved, in pain with heartache and anger, He wrapped His arms around me and took away that anger and pain replacing it with comfort and peace. When I have felt far away from God because of sin, I have felt the cleansing power of the Atonement take away my sins and make me whole and clean.

The account in the Gospel of Luke tells of Jesus going to the Mount of Olives with his disciples. He withdrew from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me;” (I can imagine that he was nervous and afraid of what was to come), “nevertheless,” he continued, “not my will, but thine, be done.” And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44)

Always obedient, always faithful to the Father’s will, to the very end of his life. I don’t think I can be grateful enough for what he has done for me.

But it was not over yet. The cruelty had just begun. He endured arrest, an illegal trial, mocking, scourging, a grueling march to the hill called Golgotha and then the horror of crucifixtion. At the very end, just before he gave his life for us, he said “Father, it is finished, thy will is done.” (Matthew 27:50, a) He was victorious. He had done the Father’s will, completely, to the end. How grateful we should be for our Savior.

Can you imagine the sorrow of those he left behind? We know what happened, but they were still in the present and didn’t know. Jesus had tried to prepare them, teaching them, but they didn’t quite understand.

Now it is the morning of the first day of the week and the women have brought spices which they had prepared. When they reached the tomb, they found the large stone rolled away from the opening. They went in but the body of Jesus wasn’t there. There were perplexed, and as they turned around, they found two men standing there in shining garments who said “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying “The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”  The women ran back to tell the Apostles the news. Simon Peter, the chief Apostle, along with John came to see, but all they found were the burial clothes. They left to tell the others. Mary Magdalene stood outside the sepulcher weeping.  When she turned around she saw Jesus standing there but didn’t recognize him. He said “Woman, why weepest thou?” She thought he was the gardener and asked him where the body had been taken. Jesus, in what I imagine to be the tenderest of voice, called her by name, “Mary.” She recognized that tone and responded Rabboni; which is to say Master, and reached out to embrace him. But he said “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God.” Can there be any doubt of the value of women in the eyes of God? A woman was the first to see the resurrected Savior and Redeemer. She was the one to tell the apostles the good news! That HE LIVES! That death is not the end.

I add my witness that Jesus Christ lives. He is our Savior and Redeemer. He willingly lived and died for us. He makes it possible for us to return to our Father in Heaven, clean and worthy. He paid our debt so we can be free. This truly is good news! May we remember our Savior and live worthy to be called his sons and daughters.

In his sacred and holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen. 

10 April 2014

How to Study the Scriptures.


Oh, you wanted a longer answer? Okay, here are my suggestions.

Listen to them on tape or compact disc. CD’s are available from church distribution; tapes can sometimes be found at Deseret Industries or yard sales in Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. The benefit of listening is two-fold. First you hear all the words and names pronounced correctly (or at least consistently), and following along in your book while listening to the reader uses two senses and therefore is more memorable. Second, you can get through quickly enough to have a good overall sense of the story. This is particularly valuable with the Old Testament, and the Book of Mormon. The Doctrine and Covenants doesn’t follow a story line so listening isn’t quite as fun, although still valuable.

Listening is great with young children who don’t yet read, and for reinforcing the emerging abilities of beginning readers. I like the tapes better because it is easy to stop, back up and repeat. When we came across the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-baz in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 18:1), we listened to it four or five times because the children thought it was the coolest name they’d ever heard.

Study them in conjunction with the Sunday School lessons. Follow the reading assignments in the student booklet (including any chapters that are skipped, because reading more never is wasted) and come to class prepared with thoughts, impressions, questions and insights. The teacher will love you!

Study them topically. Choose a topic you want to know more about, look it up in the topical guide and read all the scriptures listed. As you read, look at what’s ahead of and after the verses so you get a sense of context and outcome. Follow the footnotes to find related verses. Write your impressions, thoughts and feelings in a notebook or journal as you gain understanding of the topic and how it fits in your life. (Maybe I should say see what changes in me are necessary to fit the scriptural standard.)

Study them for revelation. Begin at the beginning and read slowly for understanding and personal revelation to come to you. Ponder or meditate as you find something that touches your heart. Write in a journal or notebook to capture your revelation.

Study them as if on a quest. Right now I’m reading the Book of Mormon looking for examples of gratitude, thanksgiving and cheerfulness. I have an inexpensive copy and a yellow-green pencil to mark with, so as I find what I’m looking for I mark it. Without the distraction of my other markings I will be open to seeing new things within the stories and testimonies.

Study them chronologically. The Old Testament and New Testament were not put together in chronological order, rather they are ordered by type of “book”. History, law, prophecy, poetry, testimony, epistles, or whatever. Although it is a bit more work to do so, reading everything chronologically really helps understand what is happening and why things are said.  (This New Testament list shows chronology by when written rather than by when the events happened, but it's interesting nonetheless.) (Also, parts of the books of Moses and Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price are before Genesis) (Oh, one more thing, Joseph Smith said that Song of Solomon wasn't inspired scripture, so you don't have to read that.)

So, there are six ways to study the scriptures. I’m sure there are more. The important thing to remember and do is to study or read daily: Gather the manna daily; try to save it and it won’t last, it has to be gathered every day. Drink deeply of the living water and eat your fill of the bread of life daily! 

08 April 2014

My thoughts (Which I hope are in line with His Thoughts)

My husband came home from General Priesthood Meeting relaxed and in a good mood; he shared with me some of the stories and themes from the talks they'd heard. He got on the computer while I rustled up some dessert for the men (they're all taller than me so I think of them as men now!). He has the ability to stay calm when reading things that make my blood boil. He found an article about the Ordain Women protesters and told me about an interview with a sixteen year old who said she wanted to be ordained because she had skills and talents that she wanted to be useful in the church. (Or something to that effect.)

Herewith are my thoughts about ordaining women to the priesthood.

First: In all of the scriptures I have read, Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price, God is absolutely consistent in following the Great Plan of Happiness. At different times and in different places his covenant people have had more or less of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but never a different gospel. And in all of the scriptures The Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God has been given to men and men only. This is one of those instances where God our Father in Heaven could say "Because I said so," without any other explanation, like good parents can and do, and we should obey without question. At the time we are mature enough and ready we will understand the why.
(I will state right here that I have never questioned and have always "just known" that this was the correct order of things.)

Second: I doubt very much that the sixteen year old girl is currently fully using her talents and skills to build the kingdom of God. Does she hold a calling such as Laurel President? Are all of the Laurels under her stewardship active, temple worthy girls? Is she sharing the gospel with others to the point that they come to church, are taking lessons with missionaries and preparing for baptism? How many generations of family history has she completed? Is her own personal history up to date? Does she reach out to serve others without being assigned or asked? Does she have all the skills and talents she will need to raise and teach children, keep a home, and prepare children to serve missions? Are her prayers effective? She can do all of this and much more without being ordained to the priesthood. When women are perfect in their own sphere, then it might be understandable for them to look at another's sphere, but not until then.

Third: What do those women want to do? Conduct meetings? All presidencies of all the organizations and auxiliaries conduct meetings. Go Home Teaching? What's wrong with Visiting Teaching? (I once thought about having MiaMaids and Laurels serve with visiting teachers, but realized that perhaps it would be inappropriate because of confidentiality issues to have young sisters assisting.) Give blessings? My mother's prayers were heard and answered, sometimes instantly. When she prayed for something it happened. I suppose it was because of her purity, her virtue, her exceeding great faith, whatever it was, it worked! My father's priesthood blessings were no more efficacious than my mother's prayers of faith. I think what the priesthood has done for my father was give him reason to be virtuous and pure so that his blessings would be effective. Mom was that way already. Do those women want to prepare, bless and pass the Sacrament? They remind me of immature children who can't be content seeing what another has until they've taken it away, and once gotten, find it's not so fun after all. Why can't the men and boys have something that civilizes and ennobles them without some female getting in a snit because she can't have it too? Do they want to "run" things? Being a leader is not telling others what to do, believe me, I've learned the hard way. We set an example, encourage, teach and love, but cannot force or punish anyone. 

Fourth: The roles and stewardships of men and women are different yet complementary, they complete each other. One cannot be exalted without the other because it takes the two different halves to make a whole. Perhaps men would be more effective and efficient in church callings if more wives were taking responsibility for their homes and allowing their husbands time to study the gospel and leadership principles, serve in callings and spend time fulfilling their duties without having to work to support the family and then come home and be responsible for fixing dinner, doing dishes, cleaning up after the children and taking care of the children "so the wife can have a break." From personal experience of the opposite I would gladly never have a break if my husband was out doing the work of the Lord. 

Fifth: This is the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Through Joseph Smith the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored and re-established. Many radically different doctrines were revealed and put into practice. Don't you think that if women were to be ordained to the priesthood it would have been so from the beginning? That it has not must say something about the order of things as they are now. I know that this is the true church of God and His Son on the earth today. We are led by a prophet, Thomas S. Monson, with other prophets and apostles to assist him. The priesthood is God's power and authority to give to whom he chooses after the order set in heaven. One day when all is revealed we will fully understand His order and realize how truly perfect it is.

20 March 2014


I have lived and served in about a dozen different wards and branches of the church. Each has been the same in organization and doctrine, and each has been different in size, culture and personality. Looking back I think I’ve learned something valuable from each one. And I’ve been thinking about them recently and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.

The adjective awesome is thrown around a lot. It’s probably among the most overused adjectives right now. According to my dictionary awesome means “inspiring with an overwhelming sense of reverence or fear.” With that definition in mind I’d like to explore the question “What would an awesome unit (ward or branch) be like?”

A unit could be called awesome if it had 75% Sacrament meeting attendance (there’s always someone out sick, on vacation or at work), and at least 90% Home and Visiting Teaching. A unit would qualify as awesome if they had more individuals and families to teach than one set of missionaries could handle, and convert baptisms every month, with those converts staying active because of the love and nurturing they receive.  A unit could be called awesome if it also had ongoing temple preparation classes; and if all the adults who had been members longer than one year had full temple recommends and were endowed and sealed. A unit could be called awesome if there was an ongoing teacher improvement class and graduated members could teach any of the classes on the spur of the moment, and could give inspiring Sacrament meeting talks without wasting time on how they were asked to speak and how nervous they are and how they decided what to talk about, ad infinitum.  A unit could be called awesome if the majority of the members went the extra mile without having to be asked; as it is many of us have to be begged and cajoled to go even the first mile. A unit could be called awesome if it were attracting and retaining people instead of losing them to inactivity. An awesome unit would have more than one person who played the piano and organ, and more than one who could lead music, and would have a choir that practiced and performed regularly and actually sounded great. A unit would be awesome if the members didn’t get offended at every little thing and were humble and forgiving. A unit would truly be awesome if the members acted upon their testimonies and exercised faith instead of just saying the words. If it is true that “by their fruits, ye shall know them” then an awesome unit would include a culture of excellence in all they did from the bulletins to the music and speakers, to the home and visiting teaching, to the classroom lessons and discussions inspiring each other to reach higher, work harder and love more deeply.

At the other end of the scale would probably be pathetic, which is defined as “evoking pity, sorrow, or compassion; miserably inadequate”. How does a unit move up the scale? Just calling something awesome doesn’t make it so or even encourage it to be so. In addition to loving their members, leaders teaching correct principles and practices, sort of like a coach of five year old soccer players would, through demonstration and repetition, could move a unit to actions that would bear fruit worthy to be called awesome. It’s what I’m attempting to accomplish in our Relief Society. I get discouraged because it seems to be such a slow process. But when I stand before the Lord on judgment day to give an accounting I want to be able to say I did my best to both love and teach the sisters and bring them to Christ.

What do you think makes for an “awesome” ward/branch?

18 March 2014

A Parable

Brother Brown was sad; his wife had passed away several months ago and his home was in disarray. His lively, creative children were looking more unkempt as the days went by; the house just got dirtier. He did what he could in the evenings and on the weekends but things were just not as wonderful as when his wife was alive. So he looked around for another woman to help him. He found a school teacher, a delightful woman who loved children and homemaking; so he courted her and then married her.

The new Sister Brown enjoyed getting to know the children and after a little while began making chore assignments to all the children. Unfortunately nothing would get done, and the children came up with all kinds of excuses as to why the chores were not done. Sister Brown continued assigning chores and taking care of the grocery shopping and cooking. She was puzzled as to why the children wouldn't do their assigned chores so she talked to Brother Brown about it. They discussed the adjustments of having a new mother and he assured her that if she would just love the children they would eventually step up and do the chores. Sister Brown thought she had been loving, but redoubled her efforts and tried to be patient.

One day Sister Brown decided to get to the bottom of why the chores weren't getting done and she sat down with the youngest and after a pleasant conversation she broached the subject of chores. The youngster confessed that he really didn't know how to make his bed or clean his room because his real mom had always done it for him. Sister Brown made time for interviews with the rest of the children and found to her relief that the children weren't being rebellious about not doing the chores, they just didn't know how to do them and they didn't understand the benefits to the family if they did them.

Sister Brown began a training program immediately and helped each child learn the basics of bed making and clothes putting away, and then moved through all of the household chores. Once everyone knew he proper techniques and how to use the tools for each task the household began to run smoothly and feelings of love and unity increased in their home.

Many years later, when the children had homes of their own they were so grateful to their step-mother for showing her love by taking the time to teach them skills that would serve them all their lives. 

18 February 2014

I Like High Council Sunday!

I know there's a common joke that High Council speakers are boring, even referred to as Dry Council, but in our little Twig (Branch) I LOVE the High Council speakers, and yesterday's were wonderful.

We usually have only one High Councilman, who brings a companion of his choice to speak with him. Yesterday's companion was a youngish (anybody younger than me is young!) man who had served in Iraq in 2003, married with a few young children. He told his conversion story through the theme of Trust in the Lord. It was a great story! I hope he writes it down for his children. He told how the Lord had gently led him and sent people to guide him to the Church. He is excited to be able to baptize his oldest son, this spring. He also talked about the importance of sharing the gospel with those around us so they too will have the opportunity to feel the joy we feel and receive the blessings we have.

The actual High Councilman also spoke about trusting in the Lord as we go through the trials of life. His wife died about two years ago and he had to learn to trust God and grow from his trial. His testimony was poignant and sweet, much like those of the handcart pioneers. He was grateful for his adversity because he grew to know and love the Savior through it.

The Spirit was so strong in the meeting; I felt refreshed and filled. I had gone to church fasting because I felt the need of some extra help in teaching the Relief Society lesson. The talks filled my reservoir enough that I could teach with the Spirit and lead a good discussion about Strengthening our Families.

On another subject: Last night for FHE we read a couple of chapters in Genesis as we had missed family scripture reading in the morning. Joseph, who was sold into Egypt made himself known to his brothers and sent for his father; then the generations of the family are listed. We ended up laughing ourselves silly as we read all the names, wondering how they ever came up with them. Our favorites are Muppim and Huppim, sons of Benjamin. Do you think they were twins?

12 February 2014

Gratitude: A Sure Cure for the Mid-Winter Blues

I'm really struggling with the endless bitter cold here in Iowa. I'm so ready for warmer weather and green growing things. I gave myself a good shake as I got on the treadmill to get my blood moving (the only times I feel warm are when I'm in bed, in the shower, or on the treadmill) and thought of things that I'm grateful for. I have so much!

1. A husband who loves me
2. Five wonderful children
3. A warm house to live in
4. A heater that works
5. Running hot and cold water
6. Plenty of food to eat
7. Warm clothes to wear
8. Good health (generally)
9. The Gospel of Jesus Christ
10. Husband has a good job and NEVER complains about having to go to work

And a whole bunch more. After I thought about those things I felt better and could face the day.

10 February 2014

Never give up! Never surrender!

We watched a family favorite movie last night: Galaxy Quest. It's a delightful movie and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think their motto should be part of our family motto, right after "Keep the Commandments".

We are in a battle with Satan to the (spiritual) death and we can encourage each other with a rousing "Never give up! Never surrender!"

As a discouraged missionary I was amazed at how many times the phrase "endure to the end" appears in the scriptures; three in the New Testament, ten in the Book of Mormon, and five in the Doctrine and Covenants. I marked all of them for encouragement on the days I felt I just couldn't go on.

Another phrase I've marked is "be not weary in well doing", found three times in the scriptures. It helps me to know that I'm not the only one who has felt this way, that others getting bogged down too, for whatever reason, in their callings and have to be reminded to not be discouraged.

I've never been a part of an athletic team, but I can imagine how discouraging it must be to be in the last bit of the game against an opponent who appears to be set to win the game. Well, we're in the last bit of the BIG game here on earth and although it appears that the opponent is winning, we already know the outcome of this one. So keep your jerseys on and Never Give Up! Never Surrender!

05 February 2014

I'm not cheating, Really!

I'm participating in the BYU-I Pathway program, which is an amazing way for adults to begin or continue college. I won't take time to explain it all, since you can go see for yourself at the link.

I had to confess to my Book of Mormon teacher that I feel like I'm cheating because I teach Seminary (religion classes for high school age) and this year is Book of Mormon so I pretty much know what's what for each lesson. Nice easy A for me this time.

This program is amazing and I'm enjoying it; mostly, until this week. The lesson this week in Life Skills is on career planning. I got a laugh out of TopDad when I explained that we have to answer questions about our current career (if we are in one), one of which is "What would be the benefits of a career change?" and I said "I could get paid in money!"

Okay, so I was trying to be funny. The questions I actually have to answer are almost as irrelevant. I live in a town of about 2,100, the nearest large city is an hour and a half either west or east of me. There aren't "careers" here, there are jobs. Well, I guess if you were interested in banking you could start at one bank and then move to the other if the pay was better or maybe the hours or benefits. And you could work at the Subway, before moving over to the convenience store. There is a nice nursing home and a medical clinic, hey, there's even a nice hospital here. There's one dentist, two optometrists see patients one day a week here; there's a couple of law offices; and a hearing aid place, two pharmacies, and a library, as well as a post office. There are a few stores, and a couple of gas stations; a whole bunch of mechanics, a car dealership, and a couple of farm equipment dealers, as well as lots of other farm related businesses. There are two bars, three restaurants, a movie rental place, some antique shops, and Chuck's Bargain Barn.

So, the question "Are there currently positions available in your desired career within an acceptable commuting distance from your home or will you need to relocate in order to be employed in this field?" is difficult to answer. Or not. No there aren't positions available, but no I'm not going to relocate because my husband's job is here and his job is more important than any I'll get.

Can we just skip this lesson?

I'm in my desired career so I'm not going to get a job (I'd be almost retirement age before I finish school) I just want the piece of paper that says I'm educated.

17 January 2014

I'm Feeling So D . . . .

Did you finish the d word as depressed? If you did, I'm sorry, as that's the wrong word for this post. I believe that word is so overused as to be meaningless. My understanding is that persons who are truly, clinically depressed and need intervention are usually curled up in the fetal position, under the covers and simply cannot function normally. If you can get up out of bed and get yourself or others out the door for the day's activities, then you aren't depressed. BUT, you may be one of these other wonderfully descriptive "D" words (with a couple other letters thrown in). Take a look and see if you can pick out some words you can use next time you're feeling less than "Singing in the Rain" happy.

discomfitted (confused and dejected)
disconsolate (see Hymn #115)
discouraged (see Hymn #30)

Most of the time we are just down because we live in a mortal world, far from our Heavenly Home and we are buffeted by Satan and his minions to the point of, well, all of the above. 

We are taught that there will be opposition in ALL things therefore we can't expect to feel giddily happy all the time. Life is hard, life is unpredictable, life is tiring. We can't see what's around the next bend in the road. Moving forward takes faith, and perseverance in the face of all those lovely "d" words. Paul, ever the optimist because of his faith in Jesus Christ, said, "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." (2 Cor. 4:8-9)

Okay, friends, let's gird up our loins, fresh courage take, and press forward with steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, cheerfully doing all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, and know that God is in control, and patiently wait for his arm to be revealed.
(see Hymn #30, 2 Ne. 31:20, D&C 123:17, Ps. 46:10)

13 January 2014

Thought for the Day

It takes a whole lot more time and effort to raise a righteous, loving family, than it takes to build a house to put them in.

08 January 2014

Fresh Courage Take

Our oldest son is going through a time of uncertainty and transition that is causing him anguish and insomnia. He has struggled with this for a long time and thinks that he "has depression". I think he is simply discouraged by the vicissitudes of life. I get that way myself. Vicissitudes is defined as "unexpectedly changing circumstances, as of fortune." Here's a talk I wrote about making it through life.

In Our Extremities

My mother has always told me she didn’t believe in morning people and night people until she had me.  I was not a morning people!   I was the proverbial night owl.  Just before I started 9th grade my parents gave me a clock radio so I could get up on my own to attend early morning seminary at 5:55.  At that time of the morning it was dark, though, in San Diego, it was never very cold.  We often sang the hymn “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today,” (Hymn #227) hoping the cheerful music and lyrics would wake us up.  I despised that song.  Although I loved Seminary and learning of the gospel and scriptures I never became accustomed to the early hour and there was never much sunshine in my soul.
My feelings about that hymn began to change when I attended my brother’s wedding in England 30 years ago and we sang it for the opening song at the ceremony.  It was a lovely day; I was in England, and at a wedding.  What could be happier! 
Over the years I’ve learned to play it on the piano and memorized all the verses.  I really like that hymn. 
Recently I had occasion to recall it when circumstances in my life conspired to fill me with despair to the point of dark depression.  I was doing dishes in the kitchen crying.  Into my mind came this hymn and I began to sing through all the verses.  The message sunk deep into my soul and I understood once again the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  
It is through the Atonement that we can feel grace, mercy and we can be healed.  The Light of Christ lifts us from darkness.
Alma taught about the Savior:
“. . .he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; . . . and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know how to succor his people according to the infirmities.”  (Alma 7:11-12)
During Christ’s visit to the Nephites “. . . it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.  And he said unto them: Behold my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.  Have ye any that are sick among you?  Bring them hither.  Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner?  Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you, my bowels are filled with mercy. . . . And it came to pass that when he had thus spoken, all the multitude with one accord, did go forth with their sick and their afflicted, and their lame, and with their blind, and with their dumb, and with all them that were afflicted in any manner; and he did heal them every one as they were brought forth unto him.” (3 Ne. 17:5-7, 9)
No one escapes experiencing the “vicissitudes of life;” from the school child who is teased or bullied, the youth who is tempted to follow friends into sin, the young adult struggling with life’s decisions, and longing for marriage, the married couple longing for children, parents agonizing over wayward children, adults dealing with job loss, business failures, betrayal, or illness, to the silver haired senior, still spry in spirit trapped in a debilitated body.
Bad things happen to good people even as we watch good things happen in the lives of disobedient and wicked people.  Lehi taught “that there must needs be an opposition in all things.”  (2 Ne. 2:11)  Much of what we experience in this life is simply because we live in a mortal world; we get sick and feel physical pains associated with having a mortal body.  Some of what we experience is the consequence of our own choices.  The gift of agency is universal—so are the consequences.  Some of what we experience is the consequence of other’s choices over which we have no control. 
And some are simply experiences the Lord wants us to have to teach us, strengthen us and prepare us for service in his kingdom.
We must not be afraid of the trials and tribulations that are part of this mortal probation.  We are away from our heavenly home at this earthly boarding school; we take classes, learn lessons, do projects and take tests.   The Headmaster is Jesus Christ.  He will not leave us alone to blunder our way through life.  We have teachers and textbooks to help us.  And when all else fails we can appeal to the Headmaster himself, for He knows us better than anyone.
Years [after the pioneers settled in Utah], a group in Cedar City were talking about [those] who were in the ill-fated [handcart] companies. Members of the group spoke critically of the Church and its leaders because the company of converts had been permitted to start so late in the season.
“One old man in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it. Then he arose and said things that no person who heard will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“He said in substance, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. A mistake to send the handcart company out so late in the season? Yes.
But I was in that company and my wife was in it. . . . We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church because every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.’ ” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Mission of Saving,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 52)
All of us will, at one time or another, find ourselves ”in our extremities.”  The way to look is up, the person to look toward is the Savior, the name to call on is Jesus.
There are many hymns that point us to the healing mercy of Christ’s Atonement.  We sang two of them in Relief Society today.  #141 Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee; and #113 Our Savior’s Love.  Another of my favorites is not in our hymn book.  I first heard it sung on my mission in the deep South.
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he'll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.

I bear testimony that Jesus Christ lives and is our personal Savior and Redeemer.  He can heal the broken heart, lift the faltering, and strengthen the weak.  His invitation is the best we’ll ever receive.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
                                                        Matthew 11:28-30

Yesterday driving back from a doctor's appointment I was pondering my situation in our little twig, and feeling pretty discouraged. The words of another hymn came into my mind and I sang as much as I could remember (then decided I want to memorize all the verses again).

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day.
'Tis better far for us to strive Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell--All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? 'Tis not so; all is right
Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell--All is well! All is well!

We'll find the place which God for us prepared, Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid; There the Saints will be blessed.
We'll make the air with music ring, Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we'll tell--All is well! All is well!

And should we die before our journey's through, Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too; With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh how we'll make this chorus swell--All is well! All is well!

So as we press forward in this new year, we can "fresh courage take" and not give in to discouragement. Rather, let's exercise faith in our Savior, hope for better days, and show forth an increase in love to those around us through service.