Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Final Inning: Preparing for Christ's Second Coming


My Dad used to joke whenever we read about the creation of the world in Genesis. Instead of "In the beginning," he'd say, "In the BIG Inning..." We believe that we are now in the "Final Inning" of the world-the last days-and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are looking toward and preparing for the great day when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth.

We believe that God has reserved his most righteous and talented spirit children to come down at this time to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ and to build his kingdom here on earth. These "choice spirits" can be found both in and outside of the church. As I look around at the incredible pace at which the human race is advancing in every field, I realize that this is true.

We believe that at the same time that the Lord is gathering his most righteous, Satan is working over-time to stall that great work, to deceive the brightest of God's children, to cause darkness and confusion all over the world. Regardless of this fact, we are taught to rejoice and find joy in these days. (You might enjoy this talk on the subject called "These Are Your Days". It's one of my favorite.)

We are taught in scripture that not even the angels know the exact hour when Christ will come again, but here in mortality, we are hoping that regardless of the year, day, or hour, we will be prepared to see Him again.

Of that great event it is written that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ. The brief video below is a compilation of quotes from our prophets and leaders with reminders of how we need to prepare and live during these latter days:

Preparing for Christ's Second Coming



Sunday, August 24, 2008

God's Glorious Sabbath


"Saturday is a special day.
It's the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won't have to work until Monday."

This song sung by the children of our church is not only clever, but catchy. It teaches us ways to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."

This commandment, to keep the sabbath day holy, is the fourth of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by the Lord as recorded in the Old Testament. Although it is a well-known commandment across denominations, not everyone agrees on exactly how to keep it.

One challenge to keeping the Sabbath day holy is that, in contrast to the days when God's people lived the Law of Moses, today there are few hard and fast rules to be found about what constitutes good sabbath day activities. Sunday is a day dedicated to spiritual things, and I generally judge my activities based on whether it will detract from or add to the spirit and sacredness of the Lord's day.

Recently, my family has had to turn down invitations to birthday parties and a neighborhood picnic held on Sunday. The decision to miss our community picnic was difficult, because we enjoy socializing with neighbors and view this yearly event as a positive one. So, we decided to clarify for ourselves the meaning of keeping the sabbath holy and to come up with more specific guidelines to help us as we strive to honor the sabbath day.

Here is a list that I compiled, based on the words of church leaders...along with some great quotes and links that explain how Mormons understand and observe the sabbath day:

Good Sunday Activities: worship, take sacrament, go to church, fast/pray, serve God and man, repent, pay tithes, sacrifice our pursuits of the pleasures of the world, have a cheerful heart, study the gospel, visit the sick, sleep/rest, read wholesome materials, prepare on Saturday for Sunday, dress in a way that retains the spirit and sets you apart from a workday, listen to uplifting music, ponder spiritual things, visit quietly with family, do family history, write in a journal, build husband-wife relationships, read with a child, sing hymns, fellowship with neighbors, develop appreciation for cultural arts, give blessings, prepare meals simply, and strengthen family relationships

Activities to Avoid on Sunday: loafing, recreation, working unnecessarily, indulging in carnal appetites, doing nothing, playing vigorously or partaking of commercial entertainment, shopping, wasting time, playing sports, joy riding, studying schoolwork, visiting friends socially, reading material (or watching programming) that is not uplifting, doing odd jobs around house

Here are some great links to help you learn more about the origin, significance, and importance of observing the sabbath day:

Basics: The Sabbath Day

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

The Power of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

The Blessing of Keeping the Sabbath Day

Teaching Children to Keep the Sabbath Day Holy

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Respect For All People Everywhere

In the April 2008 General Conference, our new prophet Thomas S. Monson urged members of the church to "show kindness and respect for all people everywhere."

He said, "The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours."

I completely agree with this statement. Having never lived in a place with a large population of Latter-day Saints, most of my friends have not been church members. I am very comfortable with this, and I enjoy being around people whose opinions are different from mine.

Over the years, my friends and I have discussed many topics. In my experience there has never been a topic more controversial and divisive than gay marriage. If you have chosen a side of the argument you probably feel very strongly about it, which makes having a sensible, respectful discussion about gay marriage very difficult.

But that is just what some of my church friends have been doing (over email) recently. Some say they would vote to support the legalization of gay marriage, and some would not. The issue of how to vote on gay marriage is one that my immediate family members do not even agree on!

As part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God...so why the disagreement over how to vote on gay marriage? Well, another major basic tenant of our religion is called Agency: the right of each person to make choices for themselves. We believe that every person fought for that right of "free agency" before this life. I have found that many people are torn by these two seemingly competing concepts. Should my vote represent my convictions about marriage? Or should my vote be used to "protect the agency of others?"

As someone who has had many friends over the years who live a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual lifestyle (even some who have had children in such unions), I have taken a long hard look at my own position on this topic. I have even changed my mind a few times as I have taken various factors into consideration.

"With respect for all people everywhere" who might understandably disagree with my views, here is a brief explanation of just a few of my reasons for not supporting any act to expand the definition of marriage as anything but between a man and a woman:

1. My Vote Is My Vote...Your Vote Is Yours: In my opinion, my vote represents MY personal choice...not the choices, lifestyles, or desires of anyone else. And I choose to support marriage as I believe God intended it to be. If anyone else wants marriage to be between anything but a man and a woman, then they are free to vote that way. That's the great thing about Democracy. Most importantly, though, I see my vote as my personal way of showing the Lord where I stand on the issue.

2. Children Have "Rights" Too!: I often hear that not allowing gay marriage is trampling on the rights of those who choose to live this lifestyle. If I were basing my vote on civil rights alone, then I would have to agree. But my views are based instead upon spiritual laws, which take into consideration not only the rights of those already in mortality, but the rights of people waiting for their turn to come to earth.

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (which we view as revelation) the Lord indicates that, "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

According to this statement, the Lord considers birth to this type of family situation a basic "right" of all people. This is not to say that a family made up of two moms or two dads wouldn't be loving or kind or teach children good things. It just isn't the way that the Lord intends for his children to come into and be raised in the world. So, my vote also represents support for the "rights" of these children to come to families the way that God intended.

3. Agency is a gift from God, not one granted or taken away by government.: Because I believe that agency, the right to choose, is a God-given gift that is bigger than any one issue, situation, or legal act, I do not believe that not allowing gay marriage could ever destroy true agency. In every situation throughout history, people have been able to choose their actions, independent of the limitations of this mortal life--and there are always limitations. So, I do not believe that I am taking away anyone's agency by not supporting gay marriage.

As I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely sensitive issue. The reasons stated above are just a few of the personal reasons upon which I have based my decision.

As a general policy, the church does not tell members how to vote. Instead in a statement released this month church leadership has said, "As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility," and that protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not release us from our Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

I always hope to show kindness and respect for people who see the world differently than I do, and I hope that I have done so here, especially for the sake of my friends whom I love and respect dearly! If you have questions about anything that I mentioned here, please let me know!

###

For a further explanation of the church's stand on marriage I strongly encourage you to read "The Divine Institution of Marriage" which the church released just this month.

Below I have posted the introduction to this document:

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility.

Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

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Other links that I have found:

The Family by Henry B. Eyring

Strengthening the Family: What is a Family by Gordon B. Hinckley


Search the Prophets by Aldin Porter

The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood by Elder Ballard

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Doing My Dream Job

Women in our church are given many opportunities to serve and lead. We are encouraged to get an education and to follow our dreams. As I have pursued my goals in life, I have benefited from the wisdom of inspired church leaders. I felt particularly empowered by an address delivered last fall to the women of the church, called Mothers Who Know. In the talk, Julie B. Beck, the president of our women's organization offered many pearls of wisdom. Her main message was that there is "eternal influence and power in motherhood."

I agree with her statement about Mothers. The role that parents play has much more importance than any other job we can do in this life. When we were ready to jump into parenthood, my husband and I chose to do everything we could to make sure that I could stay home with our babies. I often say that being a stay-at-home Mom is the most challenging job that I have ever had...but it's worth it, and I have grown as a person because of it.

In 2007, I was asked to write an article for a local magazine about my experience leaving a career in television to become a stay-home mother. You can read the article below. (Note: If you click on the image of my article it will take you to the original posting. Click on that second image and it should be magnified and easier to read!)



Friday, August 1, 2008

Desperately Seeking...Family


Genealogy has become a very popular hobby for many people in recent years. In much the same way that many of us wonder about where we came from in a spiritual sense...we also have an underlying need to know Who we come from with regard to our earthly family. This need for a family bond was illustrated in a recent study of foster children who were allowed to build a relationship with their rehabilitated parents. The result in a majority of cases was that the children blossomed as a result of having contact with blood relatives and that their behavioral problems diminished or completely disappeared. The affect of feeling connected to a family of your own cannot be denied--even less than perfect families!

If you dig around in family history, you will most likely find that most families are far from perfect. In my family history, there has been divorce, abuse, children who have died...but there has also been wonderful inspirational stories that make me proud to be a part of my family. There is the story of my GGGG-grandfather whose brother saved his life. My GGGG-GF fell ill while on a military march. Every evening his brother marched the full distance back to pick up him up and carry him back to camp. What brotherly love! What a Christ-like act. Later in life, this same brother who saved his life shot my GGGG-grandfather's eye out (accidentally) while they were trying to exterminate a skunk. Oh, you silly brothers...

I began my own journey into family history by asking my family to tell me stories (which my parents were quite good about doing!) about relatives I never knew. I have also done some searching of my own, including looking up the name of my Mother's family in the phone book and knocking on doors and saying to perfect strangers, "Hi, I'm Jocelyn...and I think that we are related." This has lead to many interesting stories and new relationships.

Part of the search for my Czekala family has lead me to Poland. I am happy to say that a good friend who I used to work with at CNN is going to Poland on a work assignment tomorrow. He has agreed to do some searching for my great-great grandmother Julianne Mamaj/Mamajek. I have been so curious about her, but haven't been able to get anywhere in my search for her for a long time now. I am praying that my friend David will have some luck during his trip...Divine intervention will be necessary, I'm sure, especially since David does not speak Polish! I don't know what I hope to know about her, but I just feel a need to know her...to feel more connected to who she was and what her life was like. In part, this yearning to know my ancestors is surely what is meant by the scripture in Malachi that says, "he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..."

If you are interested in starting to search for your ancestors, here are some good research tools to help you get started:

Family Search

Your Family History: Getting Started

The Phenomenon That Is You


Database Hit 150 Million Names