Monday, November 17, 2014

How I Strengthened My Testimony of Joseph Smith

As a member of Christ's true church, there are so many opportunities to grow...if you will take them.

After General Conference was over in October, I started with Elder Andersen's talk about Joseph Smith for our family's General Conference Review Lessons.

I loved his challenge to read Joseph Smith's testimony, to consider recording it in your own voice and to listen to it often and share it with friends.

Have you ever sat down and thought about your testimony of Joseph Smith?  Have you ever written your testimony down?  Or written down how you feel about him?  Have you ever tried to share that testimony with a friend?

I have.

The first time I did it (that I can remember recently), it was awkward.  You know why?  Because I wasn't used to saying it.  I wasn't used to telling someone those words, "and then he knelt in a grove of trees and he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ."  Oh...and by the way, angels still appear to men on earth. (Insert eyes of friend averting, subject being quickly changed...)

I also noticed something weird about the words coming out of my mouth.  I wasn't 100 percent sure of myself and I sounded unsure of myself.  It was like my preconceived idea of how my friend was going to respond to my declaration colored the way I said words that I already knew in my head were true.  

So it was kind of a flop...except I learned from it.

I went away from that experience realizing that I needed to grow in my testimony that Joseph Smith was the righteous man God chose to restore all of these wonderful truths to the earth...truths that have changed my life completely for the better.

I spent some time reading his testimony and pondering the blessings that are mine and my family's because of the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I thought back to the time when I was serving in Young Women and we learned about Joseph Smith and memorized "Joseph Smith's First Prayer."  When we sang the words of that hymn the spirit witnessed to me that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

I thought about how early in our marriage, my husband and I memorized this part of Joseph Smith's experience, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me....When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

I thought about all of those quiet moments when I have turned to the pages of The Book of Mormon--the book that Joseph Smith translated--and how much those words have brought comfort to my soul and joy to my path and an understanding of who Christ is...and who I am.

I thought about peaceful feelings I've felt as a youth and young adult visiting the Sacred Grove (the place whereabout the First Vision may have occurred, where I sat pondering Joseph's experience,) where I prayed to know if His account of the First Vision was true, and how I felt about him at that time.

I thought about my children and how wonderful it is to know that we are a forever family.  I thought about every blessing I've received via the Priesthood ordinances that were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith...and I thanked God.

I thought on these things and treasured them in my heart, and I vowed that if the opportunity came up again, I would be ready.  I would not use an apologetic tone when speaking about the Prophet Joseph Smith, because I now knew more in my heart than before.  Because I had taken the time, I now knew what I knew.

That opportunity came a few summers ago, while I was conversing with a very sweet girl, not of our faith, but extremely faithful.  I was so impressed by her expressions of faith and a willingness to do what she felt God required of her as a woman of God, that when she asked me what makes Mormons different, I felt prompted to tell her about Joseph Smith.

This time, the words I spoke were fully mine, laden with a personal witness that the Savior Jesus Christ and God the Father did appear to a 14-year old boy in a grove of trees in New York.  That person was Joseph Smith.  He later translated the Book of Mormon, which, like the Bible, is another testament of Jesus Christ written by inhabitants of ancient america.  The existence of this book and Joseph's experience is proof that God is the God of all men, that he still speaks, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

This time, as I spoke, I felt the Spirit confirming the words that I said...both to me and to her.  I felt God's approval.  And I knew again that what I was saying was true.

This is a special witness that I have received only because I put my testimony into words and spoke them aloud to another person.

There is so much testimony-building wisdom in Elder Andersen's talk.  I know that his suggestion to record Joseph Smith's testimony in one's own voice is good and true.  These are not just his words, they are scripture, and knowing them and making them our own will help bring the witness that we seek.

I know, because I have done it.  And my children have done it.  

And I know that if you will do it, you too will be blessed, because "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)

An opportunity for great spiritual growth is before you.  Will you take it?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Joseph Smith and Polygamy

As a fairly well-educated, Mormon woman, does the fact that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy bother me?

No, not in the least.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have always known that Joseph Smith had multiple wives, as did select prophets  who were commanded to in the Old Testament.  This is a fact that is discussed in Sunday School, and I learned about it as a child from my parents.  It is not hidden.

So, when I hear rumblings online about a few articles floating around trying to portray the "shock" of active Mormon women in hearing this information as if it was a major revelation, I just roll my eyes a little and move on with my day.

Did I read said articles (or the comments that surely accompanied them)?  

Nope.  I don't need to.

You don't get "spiritual answers from God" by reading the NYTimes or (even though I used to work there) or the plethora of conversations going on on social media on any given day.  Sorry, you just don't.

If there's one thing I've learned from the life of the prophet Joseph Smith it's that if I have a question about anything, I can ask God and He will answer me personally and directly.  

So, to the honest seekers of truth, if you want to know whether Joseph Smith was commanded of God to enter into additional marriage relationships (as did prophets in Biblical times) or if you're sincerely wondering if the boy Joseph knelt in a grove of trees to pray and saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, then all you need to do is ask God.  

He will answer you.

a happy, Mormon woman, who follows Christ, believes the Bible, 
and stands by the Prophet Joseph Smith

(You can read more about this topic here.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall Family Pictures

Have you guys ever tried to take your own family photo?  It isn't easy.  But the other weekend after church, I set up my tripod and snapped a few pictures using my timer.  This one was about as good as I could get.  Scarlett isn't smiling because she's in between pulling crazy faces.  This is the only one that's halfway decent.  Do you think it'll do for a Christmas card this year???

The other ones I took that day look something like this:

...and this.

Oh, Merry Christmas.  I love my crazy kids!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy November!

We had an awesome Halloween and October full of fun and spooky activities, but now it's November, and that is quickly becoming my favorite time of year.  I've been super busy volunteering at school this year, and I'm in charge of a service project that is finally coming to fruition.  So I'm pretty excited about that.  (In fact, I need to shower and get to school real quick to help out!)

This weekend, once the tricks or treats were over, we worked together as a family to winterize our yard.  We were so proud of the kids for working together and having such good attitudes doing what we asked of them.

I snapped this picture of Steve reviewing the triumphs and lessons learned of our day working together.  It was mostly triumphs.  I love how the kids are fixed on Steve's every word as he doles out fatherly praise on them each individually.

Scarlett saved this leaf for me which she is sure was made by her personal leprechaun.  We love all types of magic fun around here!

Guy continues to be an amazing big brother and a super-duper family historian.  He participated in someone's Eagle Scout project on Saturday, taking pictures of tombstones in a local cemetery, then digitizing the information and uploading to a family history site. He was jazzed about it and bore his testimony in church that he felt the Holy Ghost very strongly during the project.

I have much to thank God for in my life, and I bet you do to.  I love a season that is all about saying thanks.  I am also grateful that my gratitude calendar (that I threw together years ago) is holding up!  Each day, we write down one thing we are grateful for on a slip of paper and place it in the pocket.  (I fill the pockets with stickers for the kids to take once they put a slip of paper in.)  After we eat Thanksgiving dinner, we open the notes and read them aloud.

Have a great Monday!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Mormon Conversion by Kathryn Landis

I'm pretty excited to share the story of how my friend Kathryn Landis came to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I met Katie through her now-husband.  She was well on her way to joining the church at this point.  She shared the following experience during Sacrament meeting last week and it really touched me.  I thought others would be inspired by her story as well!  Here's Katie:

My first contact with the church was about two years ago. Andy and I were dating, and he asked if I would be willing to join him for a meal with some missionaries from his church.

At this point, I didn't truly know anything about Mormons. I knew Andy was a Mormon, but I also knew that he rarely went to church. 

He didn't push his religion on me, but would answer any questions I had about his faith. I was happy to oblige when he asked if we could have the missionaries over, but I knew I didn't want anything to do with what they had to say. Maybe they could sense it in me, my lack of willingness, the wall I had built, because they didn't even bring up the Book of Mormon. They didn't ask me about my faith or religion. They simply asked about Andy and I, how we met, how many children I had, what I liked to do. It was a very nice meal as I recall. And then that was it. 

For another year, nothing. I attended the Presbyterian church where I was a member. I would even drop Andy off here occasionally before heading down the road to my service. 

Then, last November, almost one year ago now, I'm not even sure why, but I decided to come here with Andy. It was a fast and testimony service. I sat and listened to others testimonies, still a skeptic. I felt the Spirit and the love in everyone's words, and Heavenly Father working knots deep in the pit of my stomach...but I knew what I knew...and that was it! I left that day, convinced it was nothing. 

Not until January, when Elder Done and Elder Staple walked through our door did things start to change. They asked me how I felt about hearing the gospel. I made it perfectly clear. I would sit, I would listen, but I’m a Presbyterian. I was born and raised into a very traditional, very active Presbyterian family. I had absolutely NO intentions of changing that. Yet again, they didn't push. Just asked if I was willing to hear what they had to say. It was nice. And I always enjoyed their visits. They would tell me something I didn't know about Mormons, I would tell them something they didn't know about Presbyterians. Some things wouldn't make much sense to me, some things stuck in my mind. One thing in particular...modern-day prophets. That’s all it really took for me. The one inclining that it may all be true. 

One visit in particular made my heart soften, the wall break down. Andy was reading from 2 Nephi 32. As he began to read, the words touched his heart in a way I had never seen, and he couldn’t continue, so he asked if I would finish the scripture for him. I picked up the Book of Mormon for the first time ever and began...

          And now, behold, my beloved brethren, I suppose that ye ponder somewhat in your hearts concerning that which ye should do after which ye have entered in by the way. But, behold, why do you ponder these things in your hearts?...Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye shall do.  

As I finished reading, feeling the same spirit and love that I still do this very moment reading it again, I scrolled to the top of the chapter and read the heading which was as follows:
          Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost-Men must pray and gain knowledge for themselves from the Holy Ghost.

It was the answer that I had been looking for. I had spent my whole life as a Presbyterian because I knew no other way. Satan will use fear to keep us from knowing the truth and he had grabbed hold of every bit of fear I had. 

I was afraid especially of what my friends and more-so my family would say and think about me even looking into the Mormon faith. I had heard it before, and a few extra times since I had met Andy, about how I should watch out for “those Mormons.” 

I remember one time in particular when I was about 12 years old. I saw an advertisement on TV. It was a loving family, they were gathered together around the dinner table reading what looked like a Bible. It showed images of Christ and the Atonement and it said something along the lines of, call this number to receive this book and hear the true word. So I called. Well, bad move on my part. When the book arrived and it was the Book of Mormon, I got a lecture unlike any other. "Mormons are a cult. Mormons aren't Christians. Mormons are idolaters because they worship another man before God."

Over the years I saw movies, I read books, I saw the news, and each presented the same story: Mormons were "bad news." 

How could I have known the truth? 

I was never willing to listen. Like I said, when Satan wants to keep the world away, he does everything in his power to do so. And he had done a good job with me. But not anymore. 

Men must pray and gain knowledge for themselves from the Holy Ghost? Well then, what was I doing??? I hadn't prayed and asked God to show me the truth. 

The missionaries had asked so little of me, to read and to pray, to find for myself if the word was true, and I had been unwilling to do so. 

The next day, after Andy left for work and the kids left for school, I sat down and said a prayer and began to read. We had been coming to church, but only staying for Sacrament meeting, and so we decided, to stay for the entire service. 

I gave up coffee and the iced tea in the fridge has not been made since that time. I found that the questions I had prayed about during the week would be answered at lessons from the missionaries, gospel principals, or relief society. I found myself in awe. Everything they said, everything they had told me the first time they sat at our table, it was all true, and I could finally say it out loud. 

The peace, joy and blessings in my life became even more apparent to me, and to others, and even began to multiply as I followed Heavenly Fathers commandments. 

The day I knew I wanted to be baptized was a wonderful day. I had known for a while, but, that darn fear, it kept creeping up. Andy and I had just been married and I knew it was my time. The three people to know first were Andy, Sister Satteson, and Elder Done. They have all played huge parts in my life and I love them all dearly for that. Although I think Elder Done was probably the most excited. After all, what's better to a missionary than having someone baptized. I remember instant messaging him that I had decided to get baptized into the church which was promptly followed by a “Yeah, that's right!” and “I knew you would even before I left. I could see the change in you.”

How refreshing it felt to know that others could see a difference in me. The day of my baptism seemed to come quickly, mostly at the request of Elder West who wanted to be there before he was transferred. The peace within my soul as Elder Sparrow pulled me out of the water was undeniable. It was a feeling I had never experienced before and had spent my life searching for. D&C 18:16 reads
          And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!
Oh how true that is! I want to bear my testimony that I know that this church is true. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. And I have had nothing but amazing blessings in my life since I was baptized and received the Holy Ghost. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Feast upon the words of Christ

We're just having a little fun over here.  It was Linger Longer after church today, and Steve decided to make a Book of Mormon cake...from scratch.  He did pretty great.  But he's great at pretty much anything he tries.

"Feast upon the words of Christ" is one of the Book of Mormon verses that we memorized for our Book of Mormon ABCs, and lately, we've been hearing it quoted every time we turn around. 

Yesterday, we heard it in Meet the Mormons.  Today, it was quoted in a wonderful talk in church, and of course, Steve wrote it with icing on a plate for the kids to lick up!

Besides that yesterday was Sweetest Day (a Cleveland tradition that my family always celebrates), and last week was also my Birthday!  Yay!

I have to say that this was one of my most special birthdays to date.  Steve and the kids worked for over a week on a "secret project" in the basement...drum roll, please:

They built me my own "little free library" to put outside of our house for people to exchange books in.  We fell in love with the idea about a year or so ago when we stumbled on one of these things in our town.  Now we have our very own!  Now I can add "little librarian" to my resume, but don't worry, there won't be any shushing at MY library!

That is all...just a quick update!  Hope you are having a lovely Sabbath Day, and remembering to feast upon the words of Christ!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Columbus Day Crafts

Columbus Day 2014

Since our children get Columbus Day off of from school each year (because of teacher in-service) we get to spend the day together as a family, crafting and playing with friends.

In the past, we have built ships, painted ocean voyage scenes, baked, and made maps--always with the same set of neighbors from our old neighborhood across the street.  Every October, I also like to read this book with my children: "The Voyage of Christopher Columbus, In His Own Words."  I always like to hear things straight from the horse's (or the explorer's) mouth, and this pop-up book is really interesting for kids to discover.

For this year's craft, we made pumpkin globes, which was so much fun, albeit a little messy!  (We found this idea for pumpkin geography on the NEA website.)

We started with smallish, roundish pumpkins,

and drew outlines of the continents, as best we could, using permanent markers.

Then, we painted the oceans blue.

And after letting the oceans dry (with a little help from my new hair dryer!), we painted the continents different colors.

You can label the continents after the paint dries.  We didn't really get around to it.

It's fun to watch the kids grow through the years as I look at photos from Columbus days past.

And this was a really fun project.  Pair it with Nephi's vision of Columbus and other "gentiles" who came to this Promised land and this activity could make for a very interesting and important family home evening discussion. (You might also want to read: 1 Ne. 13:12 and the Ensign article Columbus and the Hand of God.)

When we were done, we decided to do one more monumental task...we harvested the pumpkin that we grew together this summer!  Guy did the honors!

We're so proud of our pretty pumpkin!!  Hope you have a great day!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

General Conference Teaching Ideas

Just a friendly reminder that you can find all sorts of tips for teaching General Conference to your family right here on my blog and by reading the article that I wrote recently for called "Learning from General Conference as a Family".  But now you can also find them on The Friend website where they've found a permanent home among their wonderful collection of General Conference ideas!

Check it out!  Go to General Conference Teaching Tips to read them all and find something that works for you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Why Memorize scriptures with children?

These are the days. They are good days, but they are busy days.  I'm sure I'll blink and they'll be over, which is why I am just taking it all in...and just hanging on for the ride.

It's neat, though, to see time pass, and to mark that passage of time by not only how much children have grown, but how much they are learning, and more importantly, how much their testimonies are growing.  It's becoming their own.  And that's a beautiful thing.

At the beginning of this year, we started memorizing the Book of Mormon ABCs together as a family.  We write them on a piece of paper that we can all read together (or sing together) each morning.  Steve likes to make up funny rhythms to make each verse more memorable.  Sometimes we sing them to familiar tunes.  And we've gotten surprisingly far.  From time to time, we quiz each other to see who can remember the corresponding scripture and verse for each letter.  It's kind of a fun game.

Another thing we like to do to "reward ourselves" is to listen during General Conference for any references to our memorized quotations (whether it be a scripture verse or the 13 Articles of Faith, or My Gospel Standards,  or quotes from previous General Conferences, etc.)  We keep a large sheet of paper on the wall during Conference and record any mentions of our memorized verses.  (We actually ended up with a few more before the end of the weekend.)

It is always amazing to me how many of our verses are quoted in General Conference.  It is an awesome feeling when our "enduring friends that do not weaken with the passage of time" are quoted.  After each session, we usually hand out a piece of candy for each memorized scripture that was mentioned.

Although the candy is sweet, the reward of putting the work in to make these verses our own is sweeter, and watching my children embrace these truths is priceless.

I encourage you to start memorizing scriptures with your children today.  You can follow along with our Book of Mormon ABCs, shorten them a bit, or make up a list of your own.  It will take work, but can be fun, and will be rewarding!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lest by any means...

Last week, someone told me that they'd never want to post a picture of their family watching #LDSConf, because the kids always make such a mess.  So I thought I'd ease your worries.  If you're thinking you're the only one with kids who were rowdy, messy, or loud (or crabby or whiny or fighting...) during the 8+ hours of attempted General Conference-watching this weekend, you're not.

And to prove it, here are pictures.  Even at our house where the best laid plans start out like this...

...and devolve into this.  (*Which really is NOT representative of the real mess that we made on Saturday, but cleaned up Sunday...Saturday was mayhem with play dough, toys, and papers everywhere.)

Steve is sporting a fireman's hat which is fitting, since he and I both take turns putting out fires to keep the General Conference watching as "smooth" as possible.  Volume control?  Forget about it!

But for all the shhhhh-ing (Honor learned how to put her finger to her lips and shush this weekend, and she thought it was hilarious.  In fact, she thought everything we did was hilarious!  Everything her siblings did, however, just made her scream!)

But for all the shushing and/or hushing...or other choice methods, there are moments like this:

and this...

...and this.

Oh, and this...

That make me think I can put up with the craziness all over six months.

That should be enough time to recover, don't you think?