Thursday, July 26, 2012

Malarkey Walks



About this time on Saturday, we'll be in Aurora, Colorado showing a little love for those still hospitalized after last week's shooting.  

The kids and I had a brief, but meaningful talk about what the spirit was asking us to do today.  I explained that there were people who were hurt, who might be feeling sad, worried, scared, and alone.  

I felt that there was definitely something we could do to let them know that they are not alone, that there are people who they don't even know who are feeling for them.  The children poured their little hearts into love-notes for the shooting victims, and I've been on the phone with hospitals today to figure out where these little gems might do the most good.

If you are interested in sending a little love to those who are still trying to heal, here is an address where you can mail your notes:

Children's Hospital Colorado
Volunteer Office - ATTN: B465
13123 East 16th Ave.
Aurora, CO  80045

One of the volunteer coordinators in that office will make sure your notes are distributed to the patients who are still there.  As of this writing, five of the seven victims originally admitted are still there.  Other area hospitals are treating victims as well.  

Hopefully, our small effort will bring a smile to their faces, just as the spirit brought a smile to mine today.

Well, we're off!

Have a great two weeks! We'll see ya, when we see ya!



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In the Shape of a Heart


I was thinking last night how I needed to write a post about Autumn just so I can remember how sweet it has been having her as my youngest baby these past three (nearly four) years now.  Her loving kindness has saved me many times over.  She has been a girl of few words until recently, but she communicates very effectively through physical affection.  A hug from her is never just a hug.  It is a gift of true affection.

Last night, Steve told Autumn, "You're my girl!" and Autumn responded with, "No, SHE'S my girl!" pointing to me!

Then today, as we were getting out of the car at the farmer's market, Autumn jumped from the car into my open arms and hugged me tight for a minute or so with her arms wrapped around my neck.

She then said excitedly, "It's a heart!"  (She's says heart like "howt".)

I asked, "What's a heart?"

She said, "We are!"

I turned around to see what she meant.  Our shadows together were forming a heart on the side of the car next to us.  I grabbed my phone to take a picture of our images in the shape of a heart.  Autumn starts preschool in the fall, and I want to always remember what a balm her love has been to me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Spiritual Confirmation


First of all, I just want to say:  Yesterday at church....man, it was such. a. good. day!  

That morning, I had asked the Lord to re-confirm to me the message that I had received from him on Friday, and he sure did.  

I felt the spirit so strong all day, received multiple, unrelated, but beautiful insights during the various classes, and enjoyed a great lesson taught by my friend in Young Women.  

I felt a very loving, comforting feeling particularly as we sang "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" in Sacrament meeting..."if, by a still, small voice, he calls to paths that I do not know, I'll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I'll go where you want me to go...I'll say what you want me to I say."

When I was a youth in the church, there was a period of time when we were required, as a congregation, to sing a practice hymn together after Sacrament meeting.  I guess that was technically the beginning of Sunday School opening exercises or something.  (Does anyone else remember that?)

I found it mildly annoying and sort of funny, as together, we fumbled through songs at the direction of a dear old sister in our ward, who was very adamant that we learn the correct beat...and not to mess up on the third verse where the wording is tricky!!  

I think it was a bit of a pet peeve for her.  And I noticed in church on Sunday that we did indeed botch that rhythm...even the organist, and that made me chuckle and think of my dear Primary music teacher who tried her hardest to go against the tide! 

I tend to go against the tide a lot in life.  Although, I haven't been totally willing to admit that to myself until now.  I think the Lord knows that I'll swim upstream if he asks me to, and I think that's why he shares insights with me, because he knows I'll appreciate them, I'll write them down.  He knows I'll know what to do with the information or that I'll try my best to figure it out with his help.  

It's nice to be trusted by the Lord.  And I only have to look back at all the ways that he has blessed me to know that he trusts me.  That is a humbling feeling.  I never want to let him down.

Something else happened during Sacrament meeting yesterday that made me smile.  I took the opportunity during the "rest hymn" to take a quick "rest" in the bathroom with Autumn.  On the way back to the chapel, I noticed two books sitting out on the "for free" table where the library has been dumping old materials for months now.  

Normally, there are tons of materials that nobody wants (except me!)  This time, sitting on the table was THE book that has been recommended to me many times over the last year by a few good friends...just sitting there...all mine for the taking.  A tender mercy for sure!

The book is "Raising a Family Unto the Lord" by Gene R. Cook...a classic as far as I understand.  I scooped up both books and swooped my large pregnant self back into our pew with a big old smile on my face.

I woke up feeling happy and close to the spirit this morning as well.  During scripture study, we read in third Nephi, and I took a minute to explain to the children what it means to "be the salt of the earth," and why it is so important that we not lose our savor.  Since my kids like putting salt on their food and understand that it makes food taste better...they understood what the Savior is asking when he says "Scarlett, I need you to be the salt of the earth.  I need you to be better than good.  I need you to keep my commandments.  If you don't do it, who will?"

After breakfast, everyone scattered around the living room, and I took a few minutes to practice the piano.  I started playing "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus," and I was really surprised when Scarlett started singing along.  I was not aware that she knew that song.

But what a beautiful song it is.  It touched my heart.

"Oh, let me hear how the children stood round his knee.  I shall imagine his blessings resting on me; Words full of kindness, deeds full of grace. All in the love-light of Jesus' face."

I want to see that face some day. I want to imagine his blessings resting on me and my children listening to his words full of kindness, witnessing his deeds full of grace...

That is what we are working toward, but we must walk the treacherous path of mortality first.  

I look forward to that day with so much of my being, and I have a personal testimony that the Savior does not make us walk that uncertain path alone.  

He is quite near.  He is quite aware of us and is not too busy to answer the questions of his "little child"...even if that question is, "Will you tell me...just one more time, please?  I need to know that I heard you right!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Mark of a Truly Educated Man

Fans wait outside for


I taught a class on "Avoiding Degrading Media Influences" in Young Women on Sunday.  It's lesson #33 in YW Manual 1.

Now that I am about six years removed from my days of working in the TV industry, I can clearly see how those experiences have endowed me with wisdom as I make choices about what types of media I include in my life, in my home, and how I educate my children about the media that they are being bombarded with on a daily basis.

Of course, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we can also be endowed with wisdom on these matters by listening to the counsel of our prophets--men who have been called of God to receive revelation, to advise, and warn us about the pitfalls of our day.

The lesson that I had the privilege of teaching on Sunday was full of such priceless wisdom.

This quote from President Ezra Taft Benson stood out to me...Here he speaks of books, but his standards can be applied to ALL forms of media and entertainment today.  He says:

“Today, with the abundance of books available, it is the mark of a truly educated man to know what not to read. … As John Wesley’s mother counseled him: ‘Avoid [1] whatever weakens your reason, [2] impairs the tenderness of your conscience, [3] obscures your sense of God, [4] takes off your relish for spiritual things, … [5] increases the authority of the body over the mind.’
“The fact that a book is old does not necessarily make it of value. The fact that an author wrote one good work does not necessarily mean that all his books are worthy of your time. Do not make your mind a dumping ground for other people’s garbage. It is harder to purge the mind of rotten reading than to purge the body of rotten food, and it is more damaging to the soul” (“In His Steps,” in Speeches of the Year, 1979 [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1980], p. 61).
I woke up today, turned on NPR (as I routinely do) and heard the headlines about the overnight shooting, massacre really, in Aurora, Colorado.  I was saddened by the news, but not all that phased.  Actually, I wasn't able to take in the news coverage until later this afternoon, around 4pm.

My kids were with me.  Since we will be leaving on our much-anticipated trip to Colorado (the same area of the shooting actually) very soon, I didn't want my kids to see the story for fear that it might scare them or traumatize them.  However, they wouldn't leave the room, and I decided to use the story as a case in point:  Violence begets violence.

Here we have the largest mass-shooting in our country's history, happening at the midnight viewing at the premiere of a violent movie.  (One part of a series of violent movies...)

This thought stood out as important direction for MY life:  I thought, how ironic, that as a society, we will pay good money to watch violence, but we are shocked when those same violent acts become reality.  Even a daily reality.

Yes, shootings can and do happen everywhere: in Amish schools, in churches, in shopping centers, in homes, etc, but the fact that it happened in a darkened theater, after midnight, in front of an audience that had come there eager to watch a LOT of violence that evening is not lost on me.  


The audience was lulled to the point that when the shooter stepped out from behind the screen in full battle garb, no one thought it was out of place.  No one screamed or left the theater.  They thought he was "part of the show,"--that buzz-worthy show that they had paid good money to see!  So, instead of running, they sat and watched him set off canisters of tear gas!


Only when he shot his gun into the air did people snap out of the trance they were in and head for the exits or duck under their seats.  I can only imagine the thoughts going through the shooter's head, "What's wrong with you people? I'm here to shoot you, and you aren't even reacting!?"


Violent media is spiritually numbing.  But in the case of last night's shooting it seemed to have been physically numbing as well.  One effect of watching violent media is dying a slow spiritual, almost undetectable, death.  For some, last night's screening facilitated a quick physical death as well.


I can hardly watch the coverage of this tragedy...and it is a tragedy, regardless of the circumstances.  It should not have happened.  And at least some of the victims should not have even been there.  The four-month-old who was grazed by a bullet should have been in bed.  So should his four-year-old sister.


As I type this, I want to be clear, that I am not trying to transfer blame from the shooter to the victims.  I am blogging these thoughts as a note to self...and if anyone reading this has ears to hear, then this is for you too.  


As parents--as people--we take our spiritual and physical lives (and that of our children) into our own hands when we participate in or watch depictions of violence.  When we decide to step outside of the guidelines that we've been given by prophets, we take ourselves outside of the guidance of the spirit and walk a dangerous, unprotected path.  


As the world becomes more and more evil, more and more volatile and troubled, it will become more and more vital for us to stand in holy places in order to remain safe--both spiritually and physically.


This will take vigilance.  This will require planning on our part to steer our eyes and energies toward uplifting media that will enhance our ability to feel the spirit, so that when we encounter real physical danger, we can heed the warnings of the Spirit without delay and retreat to safer ground.


From what I have gleaned from the very little coverage I have watched of this incident, the shooter was quite intelligent and very well-educated.  He was probably also mentally-disturbed, as he told police that he "is the Joker."  Let us not be prideful, but teachable.  Let us display "the mark of a truly educated man," by walking away from media that promotes violence and degrades us to the point that violence and hatred grows undetected inside of us...until it is too late.




From For the Strength of Youth:
Whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Therefore, choose only entertainment and media that uplift you. Good entertainment will help you to have good thoughts and make righteous choices. It will allow you to enjoy yourself without losing the Spirit of the Lord.

While much entertainment is good, some of it can lead you away from righteous living. Offensive material is often found in web sites, concerts, movies, music, videocassettes, DVDs, books, magazines, pictures, and other media. Satan uses such entertainment to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. It can mislead you into thinking that everyone is doing things that are wrong.

Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.

Pornography in all its forms is especially dangerous and addictive. What may begin as a curious indulgence can become a destructive habit that takes control of your life. It can lead you to sexual transgression and even criminal behavior. Pornography is a poison that weakens your self-control, changes the way you see others, causes you to lose the guidance of the Spirit, and can even affect your ability to have a normal relationship with your future spouse. If you encounter pornography, turn away from it immediately.

Depictions of violence often glamorize vicious behavior. They offend the Spirit and make you less able to respond to others in a sensitive, caring way. They contradict the Savior’s message of love for one another.

Have the courage to walk out of a movie or video party, turn off a computer or television, change a radio station, or put down a magazine if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards. Do these things even if others do not. Let your friends and family know that you are committed to keeping God’s standards. You have the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will give you strength and help you make good choices.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Battalion of Saints


Yesterday, we ventured out into the heat to maybe hit the farmer's market and instead, we stumbled upon the library's annual book sale.  After waiting in the sweltering heat for an hour for the sale to start, we walked out of there with what I'd consider a major win....a bag full of about 65 books for $20.  I think that comes to about 30 cents per book.

Guy started picking out western novels and he slipped this little darling into our bag, which I didn't notice until we returned home to examine our finds.  It's a book about the Mormon Battalion, which Steve and I both have family ties to.  Totally worth waiting in the hot sun! ;)  But seriously this will be a fun mommy/son read for my little soldier-loving Guy...that is, if he can sit through it!  He seems more interested at acting the battles out!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scripture Seek & Find FHE


FHE:  We're still having it.

Last night, we pulled out the July 2012 Friend and used the scripture "Seek and Ye Shall Find" activity as our lesson.

We were halfway through the opening song when the kids' best friend from across the street rang the doorbell.  We let the children answer the door, and I was curious about what they would say.  I listened closely as Scarlett said, "Sorry, we can't play.  We're having family home evening."  He said, "What's family home evening?"  She said, "We just teach about Sunday."  Oh. "See ya later!"

So we started FHE with Autumn offering her testimony. She stood up and said, "I believe in Jesus. Amen."

Then Scarlett wanted to give "a talk." She stood up on a chair opened her scriptures and expounded about Adam being the first prophet on earth, etc. etc. She really did a great job. Mind you, all of this was impromptu.

FINALLY, we gathered around our Friend magazine and played the seek and find game.  The clues were found in brief scripture verses which we read together. Then the kids had to search the picture for the item mentioned.  Steve rewarded the "finder" with a few M&Ms.

Not to be left out, Guy bore a testimony which sounded a lot like every one of his prayers...and then we were finished.  Gotta love the Friend...what a great/easy FHE resource!  The activity was just at our level and had us searching the scriptures together.  What more could you ask for??

That Good Part has a fun take on the 13th Article of Faith from last night...check it out here.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"A screever's an artist of 'ighest degree..."



It's been a very colorful week...starting with a trip to the crayola factory museum and ending with a night at our town's annual sidewalk chalk festival.


I love festivals that celebrate children...and this one didn't have anything to do with selling us ridiculous toys and junk food.  It was really just us (and some great friends!), chalk, and the open sidewalk.  


Some talented artists made some pretty cool pictures.  I didn't get photos of some of the very best ones, but here is our contribution (a "gumball machine").


And here is the winning entry:


Thanks to our good friends the Gees for coming out to play with us last night!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trust


There is something amazing about watching a child learn a new skill.  Teaching kids to swim is the most fun ever, in my opinion...outside of helping them learn to walk!

Recently, Autumn has been making great strides in learning to swim without her floaties.  She is fearless and can swim about 5-6 feet before she starts sinking.  I was worried that she'd pass up Scarlett before too long.

So, on Friday, I urged Scarlett to take off her floaties and try to swim without them.

I said, "Scarlett, just trust me."

She looked me right in the eyes and said, so seriously, "Ok, Mom, I TRUST you."

She took off her floaties and took off like a fish swimming all over the deep end.  Judging from her endurance level, she has been able to swim for quite some time!  Trust, indeed! 

We had a "family party" that night to celebrate her accomplishment and the fact that we are all floaty-free.  We made a yummy dessert and ate a special dinner together and gave three cheers (hip-hip-hoorays!) for our little swimmers.

It's fun to stop and celebrate the little achievements of life together and to recognize the milestones as they pass.




Thursday, July 5, 2012

Our Fourth of July Parade 2012


Here are some photos from our family & friends 4th of July parade:

A family tradition that has been happening for 35 years now!


We look forward to it every year...and the bike decorating starts early.


I love that Guy created a banner for his bike that says:
"It is the parade day today.  I will be happy."




Here are some more pictures of friends who came out to celebrate with us!














































Thanks to my friend Nathan for taking many of these photos and for the rest of our friends and neighbors who attended, but who aren't pictured here!


I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Teaching Teens to Avoid Pornography



As you know, we've been at family reunions/hosting visitors the last few weeks, but also during that time I was invited to teach a class at Girl's Camp about avoiding pornography.  

Although the outline that I am sharing here does not include all of the personal stories that I shared (I taught the class four times and it was different every time), I thought it would give you the basic idea, if you'd like to use this to help teach your youth the importance of avoiding the pornographic images, story lines, lyrics, and jokes that have crept into practically all areas of society.

When I was asked to teach this class, I immediately thought back to my own experiences at Girl's Camp, the place where I first realized that I truly do "believe in Christ."  The other experience that stood out to me was a talk given by a woman from my home ward named Debbie Ditto.  She retold a story written by Ardeth Greene Kapp called "Tragedy at Rayad." 

This little parable (included below) illustrates so well just how the adversary helps us to develop a taste for wickedness by feeding it to us in small increments.  At the time that I first heard this story pornography was not even mentioned.  Now we know that it is a major problem...and Satan's tactics, outlined in the story, can be seen as clear as day when we compare the parable to our society.

The other part of the class that I enjoyed was turning the word "virtue" into an acronym to remind the girls of how they can steer clear of pornographic influences.  I made little bead bracelets with the word "V.I.R.T.U.E." on it.  I had the girls try to guess what the letters stood for as we discussed each letter, and how each tactic would safeguard them.  

Here's what the letters stand for:

 Use V.I.R.T.U.E. to guard yourself against Porn:
a.       V – Visit places where the Holy Ghost is strong (i.e. church, temple, scriptures, YW, mutual, LDS.org, etc.) View material that invites the spirit and brings true happiness.
b.      I – Be Informed about the people you date or spend time with. (Ask the tough questions. Write in your journal now, the questions that you will ask the boy you date before you get serious.)  Be Informed about the material you read, movies you watch, music you listen to.  Read reviews from trusted online sources. (Dove.org, theliteratemother.org, kids-in-mind.com)
c.       R – Respect yourself & others.  Respect the covenants you have made and will make in the temple.  Respect your future spouse and children.  Respect other women by speaking against pornographic material in all of its forms.
d.      T – Be True to your standards of dress & modesty.  (What you wear speaks volumes about how you value your self-worth.  Do not send mixed messages.  Do not lower your standards for special occasions.  Do not evoke inappropriate thoughts in the minds of others by dressing immodestly.)  Being true means sticking by your standards always.
e.      U – Use the off button (much more often than you do!) Turn off media immediately that is questionable or makes you feel uncomfortable, but also turn off your ipods, etc in order to allow the spirit to communicate with you more easily.
f.        E – Be Modest with your Eyes and Ears.  Turn away from sexually explicit material, jokes, commercials, and TV programs that spoon-feed you small amounts of pornographic material until you gain an appetite for it.  Instead, do all that you can to “hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

Here is my outline:   Avoiding Pornography

Note: I have added three quotes from prophets that I neglected to include in my initial post, but which were shared in the class.  They are highlighted in yellow below.

1.       Read “Tragedy at Rayad” by Ardeth Kapp Perry (Ask the girls what parallels can be drawn from this parable.  What similarities do you see between the story and our society?  Who is Zynock?  And how are his tactics being used in our culture?)

2.       Define Pornography: “Any material that is designed to sexually arouse.”  (To make this definition accessible to all of the girls, we added that it is material that makes you uncomfortable (although you might not understand yet why), material that makes you blush, causes you embarrassment.

“Avoid pornography as you would the plague.” – Gordon B. Hinckley (How did the plague kill its victims?  How is pornography like a spiritual plague?  It destroys from the inside out.)

FTSOY – “Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way.

Thomas S.Monson: "Pornography is especially dangerous and addictive.  Curious exploration of pornography can become a controlling habit, leading to coarser material and to sexual transgression.  Avoid pornography at all costs.  Don't be afraid to walk out of a movie, turn off a television set, or change a radio station if what's being presented does not meet your Heavenly Father's standards.  In short, if you have any question about whether a particular movie, book, or other form of entertainment is appropriate, don't see it, don't read it, don't participate."

3.       Why is Pornography dangerous to us? 
a.        It feeds us incorrect ideas about who we are and what love is.
b.      It is addictive.
c.       It changes our chemical make-up.
d.      It destroys families.
e.      It creates low self-esteem.
f.        It creates a culture that devalues women and children.
g.       It chases away the Spirit.

“Trying to avoid porn in our culture is a little like trying to avoid salt.  It is really difficult to do.  We are so surrounded by sexually provocative images that it is almost impossible to stay away from it.” – Wendy Ulrich

Gordon B. Hinckley: "While the matter of which I speak was a problem then, it is a much more serious problem now.  It grows increasingly worse.  It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful.  I speak of pornography in all of its manifestations...The excuse is given that it is hard to avoid, that is is right at our fingertips and there is no escape.  Suppose a storm is raging and the winds howl and the snow swirls about you.  You find yourself unable to stop it.  But you can dress properly and seek shelter, and the storm will have no effect upon you.

4.       For more clues, let’s look at Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon.  Lehi’s Dream:  What did Lehi see and how can his dream help us today?

Let’s compare the mist of darkness in Lehi’s dream to today’s plight of pornography:


 1 Nephi 8:23

23 And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.

1 Nephi 12:17

17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.

1 Nephi 8:24

24 And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

a.        The “mist of darkness” in Lehi’s dream covers the path, causing those who had caught hold of the iron rod to fall into “strange paths”.
b.      It causes spiritual blindness and insensitivity  (“blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men”…leading them to seek after “broad” roads…they leave the straight and narrow.
c.       Think about mist.  Why would Lehi’s see these temptations like a mist…what qualities do pornography and mists share in common?  Because of its mist-like qualities, pornography can take on almost any form and enter almost any space on the planet. (i.e. enters our home through commercials/movies, a constant stream of internet available on buses, airplanes, in public and private 24/7, popular books, even school curriculum, lewd jokes.)

Ezra Taft Benson: "The prophet Lehi also saw our day in his great visionary dream of the tree of life.  He saw that many people would wander blindly in the mists of darkness, which symbolized the temptations of the devil. (See 1 Ne. 12:17.)  He saw some fall away "in forbidden paths," others drown in rivers of filthiness, and still others wander in "strange roads." (1 Ne. 8:28, 32.)  When we read of the spreading curse of drugs, or read of the pernicious flood of pornography and immorality, do any of us doubt that these are the forbidden paths and rivers of filthiness Lehi described?"



5.       Use V.I.R.T.U.E. to guard yourself against Porn:
a.       V – Visit places where the Holy Ghost is strong (i.e. church, temple, scriptures, YW, mutual, LDS.org, etc.) View material that invites the spirit and brings true happiness.
b.      I – Be Informed about the people you date or spend time with. (Ask the tough questions.)  Be Informed about the material you read, movies you watch, music you listen to.  Read reviews from trusted online sources.
c.       R – Respect yourself & others.  Respect the covenants you have made and will make in the temple.  Respect your future spouse and children.  Respect other women by speaking against pornographic material in all of its forms.
d.      T – Be True to your standards of dress & modesty.  (What you wear speaks volumes about how you value your self-worth.  Do not send mixed messages.  Do not lower your standards for special occasions.  Do not evoke inappropriate thoughts in the minds of others by dressing immodestly.)
e.      U – Use the off button (much more often than you do!)
f.        E – Be Modest with your Eyes and Ears.  Turn away from sexually explicit material, jokes, commercials, and TV programs that spoon-feed you small amounts of pornographic material until you gain an appetite for it.  Instead, do all that you can to “hunger and thirst after righteousness.”

6.        CLOSING:  If you HAVE engaged in viewing pornography…or if after listening to what I have said, you feel that you have room to improve, there is a way to repent and find healing through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Steps to healing/repentance:  “Get on your knees and ask Heavenly Father to forgive you.  Pray for the desire to do what is right.  Pray for the courage to talk to your parents and the bishop, if necessary.  Regardless of your fears, they will continue to love you. They know what kind of society you are growing up in.  You don’t have to do this alone.  The path of repentance, though difficult, need not be traveled alone. 

“The power and freedom of forgiveness is real.  The Savior taught, “The truth shall make you free.” Joy comes from living the way the Savior lived.  He has asked us to keep our thoughts pure. He has asked us to maintain our self-respent.  He has asked us to become a good influence on our family and our friends (to ARISE AND SHINE FORTH!)  We are to love them and to lift them toward the light.  He has said “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  He has promised He will help us live His standards.  He has said: “Take my yoke upon you…For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The world is heavy at times.  Whatever weight the world has put on you, that life and living in a wicked world has placed on you, place that weight and that burden at the feet of the Savior and begin to live again.

7.        Hand out VIRTUE bracelets. Or print off V.I.R.T.U.E. Bookmarks here.
VIRTUE Bookmarks


TRAGEDY AT RAYAD by Ardeth G. Kapp

Once upon a time there was a little kingdom called Rayad.  The tiny people who inhabited this kingdom were call Rayadites.  They lived happily, sharing and caring about each other.  Life was good to them.  There were only a few things they needed to watch out for; for instance, chocolate cake or wearing the color red.  If any Rayadite ever ate chocolate cake or wore red, his spirit would become weakened, and he would care less and less about himself and the rules of the kingdom.
 
Also living in this tiny kingdom was Zynock, an evil person who wanted to destroy the kingdom and all of the people in it.  He hated for them to be happy and loving, for that made it harder for him to influence them.  He knew what weakened their spirits and made them easier to capture.  But Zynock also knew that he could not just offer the Rayadites chocolate cake and have them devour it - they were not that foolish!  Nor could he make the most wonderful garment in bright red and expect them to wear it immediately.  The Rayadites wanted to be good and strong.  They had promised each other that they would help and strengthen each other in time of need.  So how could Zynock weaken this people?  How could he get them to succumb to him so that he could destroy them and thus the whole kingdom?
 
"Let's see," he said, "I can't get them to eat chocolate cake right off, but maybe I can get them to develop a taste for chocolate."
 
That's when chocolate chip cookies were introduced to the kingdom of Rayad.  At first the cookies were ignored and scoffed at.  Then some commercials and billboards were produced that showed handsome, wonderful-looking Rayadites eating chocolate chip cookies.  And nothing happened to them, except they became more popular and sophisticated - at least that's what the message conveyed on the screens and billboards.
 
It wasn't long before a few Rayadites could be seen eating a chocolate chip cookies every now and then, and they seemed to be doing fine.  They were still loving and caring and hadn't changed at all - so it seemed.  So more and more Rayadites began eating the cookies.  What they didn't realize was that the portion of chocolate chips in each cookie had been doubled.  They were getting a double dose of chocolate, disguised in the cookie.  You'd hear phrases like these: "That cookie is really good except for a couple of places where it tastes pretty chocolatey.  But don't miss the cookie just for those two places.  It's too good a cookie, and you can overlook the taste."  "I heard that one of our friends has eaten a chocolate chip cookie, and she says it's nothing to be afraid of.  It won't ruin your life if you eat it."
 
That was true: lives didn't seem to be ruined by chocolate chip cookies.  Things were pretty much the same as usual.  However, some of the teachers and leaders and parents in Rayad suggested avoiding the cookies because tastes for chocolate were being developed.
 
"Avoid the cookies?" came the cries of surprise.  "What for?  What's wrong with them?  They're not chocolate cake!  How stuffy can you get?"
 
Some who refused to eat the cookies were even laughed at and made fun of.  Zynock himself started chuckling.  He had no idea his plan would work so well.  And Zynock was patient.  He didn't care how long it took to destroy Rayad, just so it was destroyed.
 
Chocolate chip cookies seemed to be moving pretty well.  Zynock didn't worry about the words of caution and counsel from the leaders, because his commercials and billboards were so exciting and enticing.  He had to make them that way, or the truth of the leaders would have swayed the Rayadites away from the cookies.
 
Now it came time to introduce a new product of destruction.  No, not chocolate cake, not quite yet.  Rather, Zynock began advertising spice cake, white cake, yellow cake, carrot cake, any kind of cake but chocolate - but all with chocolate frosting, rich chocolate frosting.  More commercials, more billboards, a few songs to hum and sing all day about how wonderful chocolate cake would be, although they're not eating it - yet!  Get them thinking about it before they will actually succumb.  Then in the kingdom of Rayad, you could hear:
 
"Have you tried that yellow cake with chocolate frosting?"
 
"Well, no.  Is it good?"
 
"Oh, yes!  Granted, it is chocolatey, but it's not chocolate cake.  And it really doesn't have much more chocolate than those cookies we've been eating!"
 
"But the cake doesn't seem right.  I mean, cookies are one thing, but cake?"
 
"Ah, come on!  The important thing is the chocolate, and this is no more than you've already been eating.  Everybody's eating it.  You can't pass it up and be the only one left out."
 
In the meantime, the songs were subtly strumming away in the background, singing the praises of chocolate cake.  Right, the words were not good, but the beat and the rhythm were so cool that many Rayad's listened just for the music.  After all, what can music do?
 
Zynock began thinking again: "One thing that strengthens those Rayadites is when they are together talking to each other.  What can I do about that?"  Then he reasoned, "Well, it's all right for them to be together.  In fact, maybe there is some way I could use their gatherings and parties for my purposes.  Aha!  I've got it!"
 
So parties in Rayad began changing.  Instead of the Rayadites talking to each other and playing games so they could get to know one another and share their strengths and talents, a new trend began.  Everyone who was anyone had the new kinds of parties.
 
"Have you been to a party over at our Rayad friend's place yet?"
 
"No, I haven't."
 
"You should go.  It's really cool!"
 
"Oh?  What do you do?"
 
"Well, it isn't like any other party you've been to.  It's pretty cool.  All you do is go and sit down and watch stuff on the screen."
 
"Stuff on the screen?  Like what?"
 
"Oh, exciting, scary stuff that's pretty good.  There are a few scenes showing people eating chocolate cake, but no 'biggy.'"
 
"People eating chocolate cake?  But..."
 
"Oh, it's not bad, and besides, there's nothing anymore without a little bit of that.  It's just fun to get together with your friends."
 
So Zynock stood back and watched his plot unfold.  "Let's see now.  They're eating chocolate and they're eating cake.  They're listening to songs and watching movies about chocolate cake.  They're becoming weaker and weaker, although they're not even aware of it yet because they haven't actually eaten it - yet!  They are falling into my trap!  They think their leaders and parents are square and stuffy.  It's very helpful when their friends tell them what I want them to hear.  Friends are my greatest asset!"
 
"Hey!" says a friend Rayadite, "have you seen the latest movie?"
 
"No," comes the response.  "I thought it was C-rated, for chocolate."
 
"No, it isn't.  It's R-rated for Red.  There's no chocolate in it."
 
And so Zynock continues his plotting - this time a gorgeous garment, but not in red...yet.  It's a luscious pink color.