Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jesus Christ FHE


Last night during FHE, we talked about the Plan of Salvation...and Jesus' Atonement and Resurrection as the central piece of that plan.

We read the scripture references found on this bookmark and made these paper plate tombs (that look a little bit different than they did when we made them two years ago!)


It's fun to see mt kids' interpretation of things.


Like Scarlett's addition of Mary crying outside of the tomb and Jesus calling out, "I'm here."


We talked about many aspects of the plan of happiness last night.  It was a good discussion.  

Earlier in the day, while we drove to an appointment, Guy spotted a bit of graffiti on the side of the road that read, "One Way - Jesus."  He asked me what that meant and why it was there.  I explained that there is only one name given whereby we can return to Heavenly Father, and that is through Jesus Christ.  The person who made the sign was playing off of a "One Way" road sign, and wanted others to know that Jesus is The Way.

During our lesson, I reminded them of the sign.  I also used another familiar device to teach them about Christ.  Guy is highly interested in passwords.  He knows that passwords are the key to unlocking our computers, to gaining access to email and games, etc.

I told Guy that because Jesus is the only name given for us to return to God...Jesus is like The Password.  We pray to God in the name of Christ.  And the Savior is the one who unlocks our passageway through death to eternal life.  His is the name that opens the way to forgiveness and repentance.  His name is a powerful password indeed.

However, unlike a password, we must do more than type in a few letters, we must also do his will.  


Guy must've really taken the lesson to heart, because before the night was over, he started posting these "rules" around the house to help us in our quest, I guess.  Rule #5 (posted above the TV) says, "Listen to Jesus."

Anyway, there was more, but I've got laundry to do, so I've got to get going.

But I had a thought, as I watched this video this morning about the events leading up to Christ's resurrection.

People often wonder why Christ had to die.  As I pondered this thought this morning, I thought of my friend Lynn, a young mother, who has faced breast and brain cancer, who will most likely be called to her heavenly home very soon.  I wonder if she is scared.  I know her husband and children must be.  I wonder how they are making it through each day.

And then I think back to the Savior.  And I realize how true to his character it is that He, our elder brother, would want to come down and lead the way for us, even in death.

I think about how scary and hard it is to walk into the unknown.  

When you are learning to swim and are afraid of water, it is terrifying to try.  How reassuring it is when an older brother or sister, who has already mastered the skill, goes into the water before you, and shows you that there is nothing to fear, that you will soon swim with great ease, and in fact, love the feel of the water around your body...and will soon be splashing around with others who have learned to swim, who are just waiting for you to join them in the deep, blue, expansive, watery world.

This is what the Savior chose to do when he chose to die for us.  It was such a loving thing.  It was so brilliant a plan.  It required faith, even on his part.  And it requires faith on ours.


I am so grateful to know that Jesus is the Christ and to learn something new about him every day.  I know that he lives, and that he is constantly calling out to us, "I am here."



As an update:  My friend Lynn passed into that next life on Easter morning.
You can read about her passing here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Windows into Heaven



Just loving every minute that I get to spend with my little ray of sunshine.


There is so much to say some days...and so much going on in the world.


I am just happy to be able to close the door to the outside world...


...and enjoy looking into these eyes, these little portals that look straight into heaven.


In these eyes, everything is new.  Everything is a surprise.  Everything is hopeful and joyful,


...and pure and good.


It is such a privilege to spend my days with these lovely children.


I am thankful that the Lord has seen fit to make me a Mother.


It's still the best job ever...


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stay in Your Zone





As I was driving to our Young Women's activity tonight, I was pondering on the events of that last week.  I had to make some important decisions about how and where to spend my time and efforts.  I had also been seeking answers to questions about how to organize my house and our routine, but I was stretched so thin, that I was having trouble finding the answers that I sought.

Recently, I was asked to help with a worthwhile effort. Initially, I felt duty-bound to support it, but when I agreed to get involved, the Spirit started doing that static thing that it does when I'm about to make a misstep.

Static.  I hate the static.  And it didn't take long for the static to serve its purpose.

As I took a time-out to renew myself (and check in with the Coach!) I received an important bit of guidance that went something like this:  "Stay in your zone."

For anyone reading this who has ever played a team sport, you know that players often have a zone in which they are required to play either by the rules of the sport or by your playbook or by your coach.  If you leave your zone to chase down a ball (or play man-to-man), you leave a big hole in your team's defense.  

As a former basketball player, the spirit was speaking my language.  

His message was, "You can't fight every battle and be on every front all of the time.  But if you know (and stay in) your zone, you can guard it fiercely and be an effective player in the overall plan."

This brought to mind a talk given by my friend Rose a few years ago during our Ward Conference visits with the stake, that had a big effect on me.  

Rose showed us how these last days are like the fourth period of a basketball game, where the score is all tied up.  What does the opposition do??  He calls for a "full-court press."

The purpose of a full-court press is to force the other team to make a mistake by pulling two or more men to guard one player.  This forces players to leave their zones in order to help bring the ball down the court.

In essence, Satan is running a full-court press on those who he sees as his biggest threats--the righteous women and mothers who are doing what they came here to do.  

Our best game plan is to identify the zones that we personally are called to cover, and guard it with all we've got...and don't, under any circumstances, be lured away from our post...even for worthwhile causes.

The YM/YW theme for the year "Stand ye in holy places and be not moved," is incredibly inspired.  

In the game of basketball, one of your last resorts to defend the goal is to set a pick.  The pick can stop someone dead in their tracks and prevent the other team from scoring...but only if you plant your feet and do not move.  How smart of our leaders, then, to advise us to "Stand in holy places and be not moved..."

Following this sound counsel could just be a game-changer.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Mormon Perspective on St. Patrick's Day


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We like St. Patrick's Day around here.  It's a fun day to eat green pancakes, to watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People, and to pinch each other if someone forgets to wear green.  

In the past, we've used the legend of the Leprechaun as an excuse to secretly serve others, but we've never really gone into the religious roots of what to us is mainly celebrated as a secular holiday.  The reason being, that Mormons only worship and pray to God the Father, in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.  We do not pray to or worship saints, so learning about saints and observing their special days generally isn't part of the curriculum (although they are generally mentioned with gratitude for their contributions to Christian history and the Restoration of the Gospel in the latter days.)

As a result, celebrating St. Patrick's Day is purely a fun, secular observance.

However, I was *lucky* enough to receive this thoughtful email from my childhood friend Karen about how she answered her daughter's questions about St. Patrick's Day.  And I'm so glad that I did.  She showed me how I can pull more than mischief and chocolate gold coins out of this special day.

Here is what my friend Karen wrote: 

Lizbeth came home from preschool a few years ago pretty confused about "Satan Patrick's Day". I hadn't really thought about how to talk to her about Saints' days turned secular holidays, but on the spur of the moment, I decided how to explain it. 


We belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Saints are good people who try to be like Jesus and who won't deny their beliefs no matter how hard it is. We can do a lot worse than following the examples of Saints who lived long ago. They didn't have the restored gospel, but they carried the light of Christ and kept it burning during the Dark Ages, so that it would be there when Joseph Smith was born and the time was right.

Saint Patrick lived in Britain during Roman times. He was Christian, having been taught by his Grandfather. One day he was kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a slave by people who didn't know about Jesus. God helped him to escape a few years later, but he never stopped thinking about those people. He wasn't angry at them, he thought it was sad that they didn't know about Jesus. He went to a special school to learn to read and write and to learn all he could about the scriptures. Then he went back to Ireland and taught the people there all about Jesus. Saint Patrick was a good missionary, who practiced forgiveness in a very courageous way. 

This year on St. Patrick's day, you can celebrate with your kids by writing to missionaries, drawing pictures, making care packages with green cookies, and by committing to forgive those who hurt you, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ by letting our light shine through the darkness around us.
###

Thank you, Karen!  I love that we can look at this story and see a great example of forgiveness and unfailing love.  May we always be capable of such love.  In the years ahead, I believe that we will really need this kind of love...charity--the pure love of Christ, more than ever.

Coincidentally, writing letters to missionaries is just what we did today in church!  Thank you, Karen!

You can read more about St. Patrick here.

And here are some more Mormon Thoughts on St. Patrick's Day:

On Green Beer

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Phone Call from Larry the Leprechaun


For years now, Larry the Leprechaun has been visiting my sister's children and leaving them special gifts to enjoy together on St. Patrick's Day.

After school yesterday, Larry the Leprechaun called US, to say that his cousin Leroy had paid us a visit while the kids were at school and had hidden a treasure somewhere in the yard for us to find.

Needless to say, a serious and at times frenzied search of our backyard ensued.







Scarlett spotted the treasure first...


...but the boys were like hunting hounds...



...and all the children enjoyed playing together with their basket full of green goodies--


...a 14 foot long green jumprope...green play dough...green word searches...


...and a toy that launches green rockets 150 feet into the air when you stomp on it.


I bet Leroy wasn't banking on our backyard being so very green, because once the green rockets are launched it takes quite the eye to hunt them down again amid all the foliage.



But then again, that's just part of the fun.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone...especially to Larry the Leprechaun and his cousin Leroy for helping to insert a little magic into our Friday night!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

In My Father's House



I just finished reading "In My Father's House" by Corrie ten Boom.  The author should sound familiar to you. She is the author of my favorite book "The Hiding Place."

Earlier this year, I read a few books by Maria von Trapp, one of my other heroes, and imagine how happy I was to find that my very favorite person Corrie ten Boom had actually written a book about raising children.  

Actually it is a story of what it was like growing up in her father's house before she and her family embarked on the trial of a lifetime, hiding Jews in German-occupied Holland during WWII, a decision that later landed her in a concentration camp at age 50.  It's basically her life story before The Hiding Place.

Since we were in the process of buying, moving to, and setting up a new house, this title especially drew me in.  What I loved about her book was that it was just plain and simply beautiful and hopeful.  Her stories of life growing up in the "Beje" spoke of all of the wonderful things that children should be given in a home:  love, attention, validation, standards, time, expectations, play, faith.  I loved the line that went something like this, "We knew in our home that no children's problem was ever too small for an adult to care about."

Other lines I loved include:

"I believe that a child should be lead, not left to wander."

"Children need the wisdom of their elders; the aging need the encouragement of a child's exuberance."

One reviewer said, "A home soaked with love and faith can produce extraordinary individuals."  I love that.  But the ten Boom home was saturated not primarily with love just for one another but love for everyone with whom they came in contact, even strangers, and people who would have been considered their political enemies.

Long before they did the will of God in those hellish concentration camps, they were serving him and his children in their daily lives.  And they were quite innovative about it, creating something akin to the Girl Scouts in Holland that went to camp and met to do activities every Wednesday night (remind you of anything?)  When the group joined up with the Girl Guides, an international organization, Corrie was told not to speak so much of God to the girls, that she should strictly teach good morals without preaching about the Savior.

For Corrie, this was an unacceptable and illogical demand, for how could one, she wondered, teach them good morals but neglect to bring the girls to the One who could safely lead them the rest of the way home?  Corrie's group disassociated themselves from the Girl Guides and continued to bring young women and men to Christ for many years.

There is more...oh so much more...like how Corrie started a bible study group for the mentally challenged, and gave of her own time to seek out and visit the disabled.

If you haven't read The Hiding Place....read it first...then read In My Father's House.

I am reading The Hiding Place again.  I am sort of asking for it by doing so.  Last time I read it, I finished it and was sure that I was a changed person.  I was so inspired.  Little did I know that the Lord would respond by letting me "try out" my new understanding of forgiveness by giving me some of the hardest trials of my life...tailored just for me!

I can only imagine what's going to happen this time around.

As Corrie says, "This is what the past is for!  Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our path is the perfect preparation for the future only He can see."

Lately, I've been speculating about just what that future that I'm being prepared for might look like...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Fantasy General Conference on Facebook!



Fantasy General Conference is baaaaaaack!!!

And now it's on Facebook!

My sister-in-law Emmalee Christensen has been creating these General Conference Brackets for a few Conferences now, and our family loves putting together our "fantasy" teams and seeing who actually gets called off the bench for the Brethren or which of us correctly predicts what hymns the choir will sing, etc.  It's just a fun little game that we play while we watch, but Steve and I do tend to get a little competitive about it!

Anyway, Emmalee has made the April 2013 Fantasy General Conference Bracket available as a free and easy download.  Click here to download it...and click here to LIKE the Fantasy General Conference Facebook page.  When you do that, you'll know when she puts out new brackets at following conference times.

Thanks, Emmalee, for sharing your talents and fun ideas with us!!  Love you!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book of Mormon Forum: General Conference Link-up



As promised, today is our Book of Mormon Forum link-up.  If you have written a post recently bearing testimony of this sacred book of scripture, please link-up your post below or feel free to read and comment on what others have shared.  

Those of us in the Forum have decided to blog about references made to The Book of Mormon in the last General Conference.

I am so hungry for General Conference.  It's been a long five months, and I am ready to be spiritually fed anew.  

The picture above shows this new study method that I'm starting this time around.  Since a group of friends and I get together every week to study the words of the prophets at General Conference Book Club, I have for a long time wanted a way to keep track of what each Prophet and Apostle speaks about over time.

I have found the perfect way!  By using these General Conference Tabs (free printable here or here), I now have a journal where I can record my favorite bits of wisdom expounded by our leaders over multiple conference sessions.  I will most likely use this journal in my personal study, instead of during my original viewing of Conference. 

Four weeks until General Conference.  I am counting down the days!

Now here's my contribution to The Book of Mormon Forum:

For some reason, the story that stood out the most to me last General Conference was in Elder Larry Echo Hawk's talk "Come Unto Me, Oh Ye House of Israel."  It doesn't go into a ton of doctrine presented in The Book of Mormon.  Instead, it bears a poignant testimony of standing by our testimonies of this great book.

Elder Hawk said: I volunteered for service in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. Soon after my arrival in Quantico, Virginia, for basic training, I found myself standing at attention in front of my barrack’s bunk along with 54 other Marine Corps recruits. I met my drill instructor, a battle-hardened veteran, when he kicked open the door to the barracks and entered while screaming words laced with profanity.
After this terrifying introduction, he started at one end of the barracks and confronted each recruit with questions. Without exception, the drill instructor methodically found something about each recruit to ridicule with loud, vulgar language. Down the row he came, with each marine shouting back his answer as commanded: “Yes” or “No, Sergeant Instructor.” I could not see exactly what he was doing, because we had been ordered to stand at attention with our eyes looking straight ahead. When it was my turn, I could tell he grabbed my duffel bag and emptied the contents onto my mattress behind me. He looked through my belongings, then walked back to face me. I braced myself for his attack. In his hand was my Book of Mormon. I expected that he would yell at me; instead, he moved close to me and whispered, “Are you a Mormon?”
As commanded, I yelled, “Yes, Sergeant Instructor.”
Again I expected the worst. Instead, he paused and raised his hand that held my Book of Mormon and in a very quiet voice said, “Do you believe in this book?”
Again I shouted, “Yes, Sergeant Instructor.”
At this point I was sure he would scream disparaging words about Mormons and the Book of Mormon, but he just stood there in silence. After a moment he walked back to my bunk and carefully laid down my Book of Mormon. He then proceeded to walk by me without stopping and went on to ridicule and disparage with profane language all remaining recruits.
I have often wondered why that tough Marine Corps sergeant spared me that day. But I am grateful I was able to say without hesitation, “Yes, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and “Yes, I know the Book of Mormon is true.” This testimony is a precious gift given to me through the Holy Ghost with the help of two missionaries and a priests quorum adviser.
I also have a testimony of this beautiful, true testament of Jesus Christ.  And I hope to stand by it as years pass, that through our faithfulness, we can help bring to pass the promised blessings contained therein.

This blends nicely with my other favorite talk from the last General Conference, by Elder Christofferson "Trial of Your Faith."  In the context of his talk, this excerpt from The Book of Mormon took on a slightly different meaning for me:

 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that afaith is things which arebhoped for and cnot seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no dwitness until after the etrial of your faith.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Modesty, Purity, and Tolerance


Last week, I brought you the story of my friend Angela who recently testified about the true nature of families in front of the New Zealand Parliament.  After reading about her experience, many of you expressed a desire to be more courageous in defending truth. 
Today, in order to nurture the desire that lies within all of us to stand for truth and righteousness, I have a sacrament talk for your reading pleasure, given by my good friend Alana Lee.  Alana and I grew up together in the Cleveland, Ohio Stake.  (She has also shared here in the past.)
The funny thing about youth from the Cleveland Stake (at least from the 1990's) is that we all know the words to the song "True to the Faith."  Why, you ask?  Because every month, at the stake youth firesides, we sang that song.  Every month.
The song asks the question:  "Shall the youth of zion falter in defending truth and right?"
"While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight?"  "NO!!!"
"True to the faith that our parents have cherished.  True to the faith for which martyrs have perished.  To God's command.  Soul, heart, and hand.  Faithful and true, we will ever stand."
Years later, it's rewarding to see my old friends, like Alana, living out their testimonies.  Those youth of yesteryear, whose faces come to mind whenever I sing that song, truly did not shrink or shun the fight.  They are right in the thick of it, defending truth and right.  God bless those youth leaders who inspired a generation of us to prove this song right!
Here's Alana: 


Modesty, Purity, and Tolerance 
(Sacrament Meeting talk, delivered March 10, 2013)
by Alana Lee

I would like to start my talk with a powerful quote from Elaine S. Dalton, YW General President, spoken during a CES fireside in 2009.
“In the premortal realm you participated in a war. You fought with your faith and testimony to accept and sustain the plan that was presented by God the Father. You knew it was right, and you knew that the Savior would do what He said He would do, because you knew Him! There were no neutral spirits in the War in Heaven, and there can be no neutral positions now where choices between right and wrong are to be made. The Lord Himself said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matthew 12:30). You stood with Him! You were eager for your assignment. You knew what was going to be required of you. You knew how difficult it would be, and yet you were confident you could not only accomplish your divine mission, but that you could make a difference. As one prophet said of you and your day:
            'For nearly six thousand years, God has held you in reserve to make your appearance in the final days before the Second Coming of the Lord. … God has saved for the final inning some of his strongest children, who will help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly. And that is where you come in, for you are the generation that must be prepared to meet your God.
'All through the ages the prophets have looked down through the corridors of time to our day. Billions of the deceased and those yet to be born have their eyes on us. Make no mistake about it—you are a marked generation.'9
Although she was addressing young adults, what she said applies to each of us. She was making an important point about our role as disciples. Discipleship is not passive. Our faith and commitment require action.
My heart and mind have been heavy this past week because of inappropriate media that my friends and I have recently seen. Check-stand magazine covers are becoming increasingly pornographic. Television commercials are doing Satan's work, spreading lies, and doing it at a time when children are watching. And I feel the weight of my burden as a mother of three girls. It is for this reason, and having obtained my errand from the Lord, that I am speaking today on modesty, sexual purity, and tolerance.
Because we can't teach purity without having taught modesty, I will start with modesty—because those two virtues are companions. One way we, as disciples, can show our faith and commitment to Christ is by dressing modestly.
The Church’s web site defines Modesty as: “an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to "glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:20).”
Sister Silvia Allred, former member in the Relief Society General Presidency, said: One of the challenges members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints face today is obeying principles of modesty in an increasingly immodest world.”[i]
From the beginning, the Lord has asked His children to cover their bodies. After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened and they became aware that they were naked. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with simple aprons made of fig leaves. But the aprons were not enough, so the Lord made them more modest coats of skins. God had a higher standard then, just as He does now. His standards are not those of the world.”
Modesty is a timeless principle of the gospel.
I grew up in a house of five girls—you can imagine that I’ve heard more than a few lectures on modesty from my father. However, my mother was more subtle. She taught by example and she placed scripture verses and quotes strategically throughout the house. She framed the virtue sermon found in Proverbs 31 and put it in a place where girls tend to spend a lot of time—the bathroom. I read those verses nearly every time I went into the bathroom.  Some of my favorites were: “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” (10, 29-30)
I found myself trying to memorize the verses, and it forged in me a desire to be virtuous and modest, like my mother.
Elder Robert D. Hales said, “Some Latter-day Saints may feel that modesty is a tradition of the Church or that it has evolved from conservative, puritanical behavior. Modesty is not just cultural. Modesty is a gospel principle that applies to people of all cultures and ages. In fact, modesty is fundamental to being worthy of the Spirit. To be modest is to be humble, and being humble invites the Spirit to be with us.”[ii]
Like charity, modesty “vaunteth not itself, … doth not behave itself unseemly.” (1 Cor. 13:4–5.) Vaunt means to boast or act boastfully. John S. Tanner explains: “Modesty does not seek undue attention, does not flaunt itself, but shows respect for the feelings of others. Though it means much more than merely good manners, modesty belongs among the social virtues because it requires sensitivity and tact.”[iii]
Sister Silvia Allred has said: “Girls might not recognize that the physical display they create when they dress immodestly affects boys more than it does them. Help children, especially daughters, understand that attracting someone of the opposite sex solely by physical means does not create a lasting relationship.”
The bottom line is this: We either follow the prophets or we don’t. There is no in-between. And the prophets have repeatedly commanded us to dress modestly.
We all need a testimony of the importance of modesty and the sacredness of our bodies.  And if we don’t have one, we should seek our Father’s help in prayer that He will plant that desire and testimony in our hearts.
Too many people mindlessly mimic the vain world around them. To a degree, some of it is unintentional. Yet some aim below their potential just to be different. Either way, they succumb to a sphere of barely-existent standards. 
Immodesty is arousing to human nature and shows a lack of respect, not only for your sacred body, but for others. Many times a person has to see something immodest before they can know not to look at it, and then the image may be emblazened in his or her mind. Immodesty is placing temptation in other's paths.
Many who dress and behave immodestly falsely believe they're not hurting anyone. What are the consequences of immodesty? Some of you might know people who think, “It’s who I am on the inside that counts.”  I am going to share with you 3 perils of immodesty: 1) Pride, 2) Permissiveness or Promiscuity, and 3) Pornography.
The first peril is Pride
People either dress and behave immodestly because of ignorance or pride.
President Ezra Taft Benson warned us in his hallmark address, “Beware of Pride.” “The Doctrine and Covenants tells us that the Book of Mormon is the “record of a fallen people.” (D&C 20:9.) Why did they fall? “Behold, the pride of this nation...hath proven their destruction.” (Moro. 8:27.)”[iv]
He continues, saying, “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.”
“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.”[v]
Dressing modestly shows humility. Whether we like it or not, how we dress also sends a message to others about our values and attitudes. And dressing immodestly attracts immodest, and often immoral, people to you. But dressing modestly attracts virtuous people and the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
The second peril is Permissiveness or Promiscuity
When we dress immodestly, our behavior soon follows. Immodest behavior paves the path to permissiveness, which runs into the road of promiscuity. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “One contributing factor to immodesty and a breakdown of moral values is the modern dress. I am sure that the immodest clothes that are worn by some of our young women, and their mothers, contribute directly and indirectly to the immorality of this age. Even fathers sometimes encourage it. I wonder if our young sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before young men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered. …  
“I am positive that the clothes we wear can be a tremendous factor in the gradual breakdown of our love of virtue, our steadfastness in chastity” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1972], 163, 168).
The third peril is Pornography
President Thomas S. Monson, has declared: “When I consider the demons who are twins—even immodesty and immorality—I should make them triplets and include pornography. They all three go together.
“A modern-day Apostle, Hugh B. Brown, has declared, 'Any immodesty inducing impure thoughts is a desecration of the body—that temple in which the Holy Spirit may dwell.' 8
President Monson continues, “I commend to you...a jewel from the Improvement Era. ... 'The current and common custom of indecency in dress, the flood of immoral fiction in printed literature, in the drama, and notably in [motion] picture[s] … , the toleration of immodesty in every-day conversation and demeanor, are doing deadly work in the fostering of soul-destroying vice.'” (“Peace, Be Still,” Ensign, Nov 2002, 53)
Today's definition of pornography is complicated and confusing. My childhood friend, who spent time as journalist for CNN, now uses the internet to help teach truth. The other day she posted on Facebook about a magazine with a pornographic cover near the checkstand at a popular store that was placed at eye-level for a child. While many shared her outrage, a few said it wasn't pornography, it was just salacious, and therefore amusing, just like dangling keys in front of a baby. Similarly, my husband knows a few men who think pornography is only pornography when in the form of a video. Let's define pornography right now, according to Gospel standards.
The Church defines pornography as “any material depicting or describing the human body or sexual conduct in a way that arouses sexual feelings. It is distributed through many media, including magazines, books, television, movies, music, and the Internet. ...It can lead to other serious sins. Members of the Church should avoid pornography in any form and should oppose its production, distribution, and use.”

Be bold in your refusal to look at pornography. Raise your banner and set your standard high when it comes to impurity and pornography: “Not even once.”

In the August 1989 Ensign, it teaches that “something is obscene if it is “offensive to chastity or to modesty....Chastity has to do with the sacredness of the power of procreation. This is an especially sacred power, to be used only within the bonds of marriage.
“The Lord has referred to the human body as a temple. (See D&C 93:35.) ...Like a temple, the body is sacred; and its most sacred power—procreation—may be likened to the celestial room in the temple. The temple walls and veil provide multiple layers of protection for this sacred place, to keep it holy. In like manner, the power of procreation should also be protected by multiple layers—layers of modesty.” (R. Gary Shapiro, “Leave the Obscene Unseen,” Ensign, Aug 1989, 27)
Immodesty contributes to the breakdown of virtue, chastity, and thus the family.  And according to Dallin H. Oaks it also contributes to the growing problem of pornography addiction. He states, "...And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you." - General Conference Report, April 2005
Pornography and immorality are poisons that we need to guard our families against. Would you intentionally feed your children a small dose of rat poison because just a little won't hurt?
Just because we dress and behave modestly, does not mean that we won't be tempted, and it doesn't mean that we still won't be bombarded with philosophies and pressures and images that are contrary to revealed truth.
What is the most effective technique that Satan uses to destroy souls? Sexual impurity. Let me first say that it is NOT a sin to be tempted. However, it is a sin to dwell on or relish the thought, or act upon temptations. Jesus “suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” (D&C 20:22.)
When a temptation sneaks in, shun it! Do NOT entertain sinful thoughts. As soon as they enter your mind, replace them with virtuous thoughts. Else 2 Nephi 26:22 comes true:  And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.
And 2 Nephi 28:21 And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; ...and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
In a CES Fireside last month, Dallin H. Oaks said: “Our young people are amazing in their faith and their devotion to what is good and right.  Measured by any righteous criteria, they are superior.  For example, a recent study showed that the percent of young Mormons who stay true to their faith and regularly attend Church services is the highest of any faith-group in America.[1]  I believe our youth and young adults are better than any earlier generation.  Yet they still need our help to reinforce them against the diversions and evils that surround them, which are intense and persuasive.     ...President Boyd K. Packer observed that “The world is spiraling downward at an ever-quickening pace.”[2]  And in rededicating the Boise Idaho Temple last November, President Thomas S. Monson declared that our young members “walk in a world saturated with the sophistries of Satan.”[3]

This quote from Elaine S. Dalton illustrates the troubling paradox of our current world:
“We live in a world that is concerned about cleanliness and purity—the cleanliness of our air and the cleanliness of our environment, our water, and even our food. In some places we legislate against pollution and even have government-funded environmental protection agencies to ensure that we are not made ill by contaminants that get into our air, our water, or our food supply. Yet society tolerates moral pollution in the form of pornography on billboards, television, and the Internet and in entertainment and other media. We tolerate filth that invades our minds through suggestive lyrics, music, and language. In some respects we are an organic generation ensuring purity and quality in our lives, and yet we are polluting our moral fiber. I believe that the lack of virtue in our society is directly responsible for many of our social, financial, and governmental ills. I believe that the disintegration of faith and families and the financial unrest are directly related to a lack of virtue in our society. And I believe that a return to virtue could save an entire nation.”
Sister Dalton continued, saying: “We call for a social reform, but what is really needed is a moral reform—a call for a return to virtue. You were leaders in the premortal world and stood for everything that is now threatened in society. You who are preparing to be influential in every sector of society, the young adults of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can and must lead this return.”
I believe what she says is true. A return to Virtue could save a nation! Our world is in need of change agents. The rapid demise of the family and the similar destruction of goodness stem from the selfish, immoral behaviors of others. The world will not become a better place until we, as individuals, foster a sense of respect for God and for self. And once we, as individuals,  have risen above the filth of gluttonous immorality, our world has changed. As Ghandi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Now I would say a few words on tolerance. We must abhor sin. But we must still love the sinner. We must be cautious not to be persuaded away from truth because we are trying to practice tolerance of other lifestyles.
Alexander Pope describes what it means to be persuaded away from truth, or as Mormon describes it, “poisoned by degrees.”
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, (mien means character)
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
How can we balance our love of truth, our love of others, and our abhorrence of sin? The best sermon that I have read on tolerance is found in last month's Ensign (Feb 2013), entitled “Balancing Truth and Tolerance” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks. He defines tolerance as: “...a friendly and fair attitude toward unfamiliar or different opinions and practices or toward the persons who hold or practice them.”
This attitude of tolerance goes both ways: toward others with different opinions, and from others towards us. Elder Oaks also states:
We live in a world where more and more persons of influence are teaching and acting out a belief that there is no absolute right and wrong....
The philosophy of moral relativism, which holds that each person is free to choose for him or herself what is right and wrong, is becoming the unofficial creed for many in the United States and other Western nations. At the extreme level, evil acts that used to be localized and covered up like a boil are now legalized and paraded like a banner. Persuaded by this philosophy, many of the rising generation are caught up in self-serving pleasures, pornography, dishonesty, foul language, revealing attire, pagan painting and piercing of body parts, and degrading sexual indulgence.
In 1976, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said this of moral relativism, using his trademark alliteration: “Relativism has sometimes been a small, satanic sea breeze, but now the winds of relativism have reached gale proportions. Over a period of several decades relativism has eroded ethics, public and personal, has worn down the will of many, has contributed to a slackening sense of duty, civic and personal. The old mountains of individual morality have been worn down. This erosion has left mankind in a sand-dune society, in a desert of disbelief where there are no landmarks, and no north, no east, no west, and no south! There is only the dust of despair!” (Some Thoughts on the Gospel and the Behavioral Sciences)
Now back to Elder Oaks Ensign article: [A]ll of us—especially the rising generation—have a duty to stand up and speak out to affirm that God exists and that there are absolute truths that His commandments establish.
Unfortunately, some who believe in moral relativism seem to have difficulty tolerating those who insist that there is a God who should be respected and that there are certain moral absolutes that should be observed.
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) expressed this idea for Latter-day Saints: “...Each of us is part of a great family, the human family, sons and daughters of God, and therefore brothers and sisters. We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse.”3
Our Savior also taught that His followers will have tribulation in the world, that their numbers and dominions will be small, and that they will be hated because they are not of the world. But that is our role. We are called to live with other children of God who do not share our faith or our values and who do not have the covenant obligations we have assumed. We are to be in the world but not of the world.
...We must seek tolerance from those who hate us for not being of the world. As part of this, we will sometimes need to challenge laws that would impair our freedom to practice our faith, doing so in reliance on our constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion.
Our tolerance and respect for others and their beliefs does not cause us to abandon our commitment to the truths we understand and the covenants we have made. We are cast as combatants in the war between truth and error. There is no middle ground. We must stand up for truth, even while we practice tolerance and respect for beliefs and ideas different from our own and for the people who hold them.
While we must practice tolerance and respect for others and their beliefs, including their right to explain and advocate their positions, we are not required to respect and tolerate wrong behavior.
Our obligation to tolerance means that ...behaviors...we consider deviations from the truth—should [n]ever cause us to react with hateful communications or unkind actions.
Finally, the spirit of our balance of truth and tolerance is applied in these words of President Hinckley: “...There may be situations where, with serious moral issues involved, we cannot bend on matters of principle. But in such instances we can politely disagree without being disagreeable. We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept.”10
Elder Oaks counsels us to use wisdom when it comes to tolerance. We don't just bend because the world asks us to bend. Rather, we remain steadfast and true to our covenants while practicing the pure love of Christ. We must be models of virtue.
Sister Dalton explains what it means to be a virtuous people “Virtuous people are committed to the sanctity of life. They respect God’s counsel on how life is to be conceived, protected, and nurtured. There is no strength that is greater than the strength of virtue, nor any confidence that is more sure than the confidence of a virtuous life.”
We all leave our marks, and what we do will affect other people, for better or for worse. The smallest actions can have very grand and profound effects. There are still millions of good, honorable around the world, but those in opposition to absolute truth are often more outspoken. The responsibility to stand up for absolute truth lies with us.
In Doctrine and Covenants 60:2, the Lord said: “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.”
I would like to end with another quote from Elaine S. Dalton's CES Fireside in 2009:
During the critical days of World War II, Winston Churchill aroused an entire nation when he said: “You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”11 ...I echo that call for the war in which we are engaged today by paraphrasing the words of Winston Churchill for you: You ask, what is our aim? I can answer with one word: virtue. Virtue at all costs, virtue in spite of all opposition, virtue, however long and hard the road to repentance may be; for without virtue, there can be no victory.
In the words of a familiar hymn, I ask: “Who's on the Lord's side? Who? Now is the time to show. We ask it fearlessly: Who's on the Lord's side? Who?” (Hymn 260)
It is my prayer that we can be examples of modesty and purity, and that we will stand as guardians of virtue within our community and within society, willing to open our mouths when the loudmouths of moral relativism seek to destroy God-given absolute truths, however subtle their tactics may be. We are on the Lord's side, and the Lord's side will rise triumphant in the end, with the help of virtuous covenant-keepers. To any who have strayed, no matter how far, there is still hope. I testify to you of the reality of the cleansing and healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I testify to you of the absolute truths I have spoken of today. Heavenly Father lives, Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, and both love us infinitely and perfectly, no matter our temptations or weaknesses.
Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.




[i]           Silvia H. Allred, “Modesty: A Timeless Principle for All,” Ensign, Jul 2009, 28–32
[ii]           Robert D. Hales, “Modesty: Reverence for the Lord,” Ensign, Aug 2008, 34–39
[iii]          John S. Tanner, “To Clothe a Temple,” Ensign, Aug 1992, 44
[iv]   Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4
[v]    Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 4