Friday, January 31, 2014

Finding Happiness through Obedience

Many people in the world believe that the commandments are a burden and obedience to the commandments will limit personal freedom and growth. However, in the LDS church, we are taught that this is not the case. From a very young age we learn that the commandments are for our benefit. They are for our spiritual and temporal well-being and they show us how to be happy. 

“God is not a celestial politician seeking our vote. Rather, God is to be found, and God is to be obeyed.”  Then, he went on to say, "The satisfying thing is that obedience brings happiness; it brings peace; it brings growth."
It is not always easy or popular to keep the commandments, but "God is not seeking our vote". He knows what we should and should not do to be happy in this life and in the next. He loves each of us and wants to help us, so he has given us rules to guide us.
  • If we choose to keep the commandments, why do we obey?
  • Is it because we fear punishment or the negative consequences that might follow? 
  • Is it because we want the blessings and rewards for living a good life? 
  • Is it because we love God and want to serve him? 

Throughout my life my reasons for being obedient have flip-flopped between all of these. This is not to say that I don’t love God or want to serve him or make him happy, there have just been times that I knew the only way to obtain the blessings I wanted or needed would come through being more obedient. At times, even when I really didn't feel like it, I was purposely more obedient because my life was not going great and I knew that in order for my circumstances to improve, I had to keep the commandments to receive blessings. 

There are also times that I obey because I fear losing the blessings that I have come to depend on. For example, paying tithing. Sometimes I worry that if I didn't pay my tithing I would not be able to meet the rest of my financial obligations. I fear that Heavenly Father would withhold the financial blessings that I know he gives me. 

When talking about obedience to commandments, the first commandments that come to my mind are the some of the Standard Mormon Answers: Reading the scriptures, daily prayer, family prayer and family home evening and temple attendance. There are some bigger commandments out there (like the 10 commandments), but these are some of the daily basics that we are taught.

Sometimes it seems to me that these basics can be harder to obey than the bigger ones. It is fairly easy for me to not go around killing people, but taking the time everyday for scripture study and prayer can be a challenge. However, if we do make it a priority to keep these basic commandments we will be blessed greatly. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this principle when he said
"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law…" (D&C 130:20-21). 
We always hear that we will be blessed for our obedience, so what are some of the things we are promised for obedience to these Standard Mormon Answers. If you don't think these are commandments, I suggest you listen a little more closely next General Conference. :)

Daily Scripture Study
As we read the scriptures, we learn the commandments and what is expected of us in this life. We learn more about the nature of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and we learn what we need to do to become more like them. This reading gives us a better understanding and a greater knowledge of the gospel. This in turn can build our faith and increase our confidence in teaching the gospel to our children. 

But it also provides a more focused life.  As we read about the struggles of others, we realize that our lives have a divine purpose.  We are not here by chance and we are not left to wander in this existence alone. We learn through scripture stories and teachings that God is aware of us, loves us, and wants to bless us.

Daily Prayer
I once heard of a Primary teacher who asked a little boy if he said his prayers every night. “Yes,” he replied. “And do you always say them in the morning, too?” the Primary teacher asked. “No,” the boy replied. “I ain’t scared in the daytime.” 
President Faust concludes by saying: "Fear of the dark should not be our only motivation to pray—morning or night." 
I have to admit that I have been like this little boy at times, and only remembering to pray when I want or need something. It is important to remember that through prayer we are able to communicate with our literal Father in Heaven as often as we choose.  We can seek his guidance for issues and struggles that we are going through. As our Father, anything that is important to us is equally important to him.  

Through daily prayer, we are able to receive promptings and revelation to guide us in our daily lives.  This comfort, guidance and protection will surely bring us peace and happiness. 

Daily Family Prayer – 

In 3 Nephi 18:21, the Savior told us, 
“Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” 
Hopefully, as my family is obedient to this commandment I will find more peace in my life because my children will love each other more and fight less often. 

Weekly Family Home Evening –
Concerning Family Home Evening, President Faust has said
“Regular participation in family home evening will develop increased personal worth, family unity, love for our fellowmen, and trust in our Father in heaven. It is our promise that great blessings will come to all who conscientiously plan and hold weekly family home evenings.” 
Not only do we teach the gospel and other important life lessons during family home evening, we also build unity as a family.   I know that when I feel a sense of unity in my little family, I am happy.

Regular Temple Attendance – 

A few years ago, I received a magnet I keep on the side of my refrigerator. It is a quote from Vaughan J. Featherstone, and it says:
“If our people will faithfully attend the temple the Lord will bless them in the following ways, 1. Greater love and unity in the home; 2. Businesses and professions will prosper; 3. Their children will be saved; 4. Angels will protect them.” 
Finally, obedience to all of these basic commandments invites the Holy Ghost to be our companion and increases our sensitivity to his promptings and guidance. The Holy Ghost provides comfort, hope and confidence, which to me is happiness. 


"I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." 
“In obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness … He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. When the Lord commands, do it.” 

I think it is important to distinguish between the type of happiness I am talking about and fun. A lot of people want to have fun and feel that obedience to God’s commandments will limit their fun. 

“I looked them up in the dictionary to find out what each of them meant. Fun is play, pleasure, gaiety, merriment, source of enjoyment, amusement, to behave playfully, playful, often a noisy activity, and teasing. Happiness is contentedness, joy, delight, and satisfaction.
Happiness is much more than just fun. Fun is just a fleeting moment, but happiness is a lasting thing.
Many people in this world do not understand the difference between fun and happiness. Many try to find happiness having fun, but the two words have different meanings.
All who seek full happiness can find it in the gospel of Jesus Christ, taught in His Church. Through Christ’s doctrine, we are taught that we can be part of the great plan of happiness that He has prepared for all of us. As we keep His commandments, we are blessed and come to know true happiness. We learn that happiness lies in doing small things that build us up, that increase our faith and testimony. Small things we do in our everyday lives… True happiness comes from keeping the commandments of God.” 
At this point in my life, I need and want as much of the happiness Elder Costa spoke of as I can. I like to have fun just as much as the next person, but what I really desire is contentedness, joy, delight and satisfaction in my life. And as he explained, this kind of happiness comes from obeying and keeping the commandments of God. 

“Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction.” 
I know our Heavenly Father loves each of us and that more than anything he wants us to be happy. He has given us commandments to guide our lives so that through our obedience we can return to live with him.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lego Creations by Jared

Jared has been cut-off from electronics for a few weeks, so he has been keeping himself busy with his legos. Here is a sampling of what he has been up to.  Some of the pictures are a little blurry, sorry.

A time machine:

I actually made the house part of this one for my Relief Society lesson last week, but he embellished it:

A potions lab (if you look closely, you'll see a rainbow selection of vials across the back wall):

A lego iphone, complete with app picures:

A snake head:

He had about 5 more creations he wanted me to take pictures of, but I'll just leave it at this.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thoughts on Priesthood Ordinances

In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World, we read, “all human beings – male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has divine nature and destiny.”

Our divine nature and destiny is to gain eternal life and exaltation. To qualify for eternal life and exaltation, each of us needs to receive priesthood ordinances and keep their accompanying covenants. Through the saving ordinances of the priesthood, we are eligible to receive eternal life and exaltation.

But how do we start down the path to these ordinances?

We must follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ. In 2 Nephi 31, we learn that Christ’s mission was:

1. He came to do the will of the Father
2. He was obedient in keeping the commandments
3. He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness
4. He showed us the gate and strait and narrow path to eternal life
5. He set the example for us to follow

In 2 Nephi 31:21, we read:
And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ…
What must we do then?
1. Have faith – faith leads to repentance
2. Repent – faith and repentance lead to a change of heart or no more desire to do evil.
3. Be baptized – take Christ’s name upon us and promise to keep the commandments
4. Receive the Holy Ghost
5. Endure to the End

This “pattern” is mentioned over and over again in the Book of Mormon.

Sound familiar?  This truth is taught in the 4th Article of Faith.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
A few years ago, our ward held a Book of Mormon Invitation.  Each member of the ward, 12 and older, were given a copy of the Book of Mormon and were invited to read it in a certain amount of time.  We were asked to read through with someone specific in mind that we wanted to give the book to when we were done.  I accepted the challenge, but wasn't really sure who I would end up giving the book to.  As I read, I became aware of the above pattern; faith, repentance, believe in Christ and be baptized, receive a witness from the Holy Ghost, and endure.  Each time I came across this pattern, I marked it.  I called it "the path" or "the way".

As I neared the end of the book, I felt that I needed to give the book to my brother.  Several months later, when the time was right and the Spirit prompted me, I gave the book to my brother Eric.  Eric hasn't been active in the church for over 20 years.  I asked him to read the book, and he told me he didn't know if he would.  I asked him to at least read the marked passages and he agreed to do that.  It wasn't until a couple months later that I realized why I had been prompted to mark and highlight passages having to do with getting on the gospel path.  My brother Eric, one day, will have a guide to find his way back into church activity and the blessings available to him through that choice.

How can we teach or help others to get on the gospel path?

In Alma 31:5 we read:
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue (power) of the word of God.
The study of doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.  ... That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.
So what is it about these doctrines that we need to understand?
  • The Doctrine does not change; it is eternal. Christ’s doctrine is that he came into the world to do the will of the Father, to carryout the Atonement, and to set an example for us to follow.
  • Gaining a testimony of the doctrine leads men and women to the principles of the gospel. We learn in the 4th Article of Faith that these principles are faith and repentance.
  • Faith and Repentance, the principles of the gospel, lead us to receive ordinances where we make covenants with our Heavenly Father.
Through these saving ordinances of the priesthood, we are eligible to receive eternal life and exaltation.

Sister Carole M. Stephens in October 2013 Conference, spoke about these saving ordinances. She said:
We need baptism. When we are immersed in the waters of baptism, we covenant to take Christ’s name upon us, always remember Him, keep His commandments, and serve Him to the end, that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. We need the gift of the Holy Ghost. Through that ordinance, we can have access to the constant companionship of the Spirit.
We need to receive the temple endowment. Elder M. Russell Ballard said: “When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power. … The endowment is literally a gift of power.”
We need the sealing ordinance, which leads to eternal life, “the greatest of all the gifts of God.” This priesthood ordinance is received only by a man and a woman together. Elder Russell M. Nelson taught, “Priesthood authority has been restored so that families can be sealed eternally.”
We need the opportunity to renew our covenants each week as we partake of the sacrament. Latter-day prophets and apostles have taught that when we worthily partake of the sacrament, we can renew not only our baptismal covenant but “all covenants entered into with the Lord.”
These priesthood ordinances and covenants provide access to the fullness of the blessings promised to us by God, which are made possible by the Savior’s Atonement. They arm sons and daughters of God with power, God’s power, and provide us with the opportunity to receive eternal life...

Not all priesthood ordinances are essential for salvation and exaltation. But all priesthood ordinances bless our lives.

Bishop H. Burke Peterson mentioned other ways in which priesthood ordinances can bless us
If we live for it, ours can be a power given us from our Heavenly Father that will bring peace to a troubled household. Ours can be a power that will bless and comfort little children, that will bring sleep to tear-stained eyes in the wee hours of the morning. Ours can be the power that will… calm the unsettled nerves of a tired wife. Ours can be a power that will give direction to a confused… teenager. Ours, the power to bless a daughter before she goes on her first date or before her temple marriage, or to bless a son before his departure for a mission or college. …Ours can be the power to heal the sick and comfort the lonely.
I am grateful for the priesthood ordinance of blessings in my life. When I read this quote to my husband we exchanged a smirk when I read the part about calming the nerves of a tired wife.  I told him that I wasn't sure the word "tired" was the word I would use to describe myself.  Maybe "crazy" or "neurotic"!

There have been many times in my life when something is troubling me, or I just can't seem to muster the strength and courage to face all that life seems to be throwing at me. (I recently wrote about such a time.)  In these times, I personally pray and seek for guidance and strength, but when I remember to seek out a priesthood blessing, the peace and comfort is usually always immediate.

I am truly grateful for the priesthood power that my husband holds and with which he blesses me.  I am also grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who has provided a way and means for me to one day return to live with him.

For more information about Why are Ordinances Important in My Life, go here.  A couple of more quotes about priesthood ordinances that provide some food for thought:

Elder Ballard also taught:
Our Father in Heaven is generous with His power. All men and all women have access to this power for help in our own lives. All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, [and] to commune with God.

Sister Carole M Stephens:
We are beloved spirit sons and daughters of heavenly parents, with a divine nature and destiny. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, loved us enough to give His life for us. His Atonement provides the way for us to progress on the path to our heavenly home, through sacred priesthood ordinances and covenants.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson:
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is found the priesthood authority to administer the ordinances by which we can enter into binding covenants with our Heavenly Father in the name of His Holy Son. … God will keep His promises to you as you honor your covenants with Him.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Isaac's Candy Poem

sweet, yummy
licking, chomping, belly rumbling
eat more / eat less
whining, crying , wasting
discusting (sic), healthy

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Amelia is Baptized

On Saturday, January 4, 2014, Amelia was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  If you want to know more about baptism, go here.

She was so excited, super happy and full of giggles.

Here she is all ready to be baptized.

Nathan and Amelia

After her baptism, Nathan was able to give her a priesthood blessing and give her the gift of the Holy Ghost. You can read more about that here.

Afterwards we snapped some pictures for posterity's sake.

Nathan and Amelia - who is in her baptism dress

 Me, Nathan and Amelia

 Our family

Afterwards, we went to our house for a small luncheon with extended family.  Amelia received a new set of scriptures from Nathan and I and Grandma and Grandpa Carter gave her a new hot pink scripture bag.  Pa  and Nana gave her the CTR necklace she is wearing in all of the pictures.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What I Learned While Serving in the Young Women's Organization

I am scared to post this one.  It has been written and sitting as a draft on my blog for a couple of months now.  It is a part of me that I am not particularly proud of and it is still a work in progress. Please be kind and understanding even if you don't understand - after all this is my blog and I can say what I want and you don't have to like it :)

Girl's Camp 2013
Serving in they Young Women's organization has changed me.  Before I was asked to serve as the Camp Director 5 years ago, my life was filled with my work - my work outside of my home.  Yes, I had good times with my kids and my husband, but most of the fulfillment I felt in life came from my job.  

I am good at my job.  I go to work, do what needs to be done and cross responsibilities off of my "to do" list.  There is some variation in the things that need to be done, but for the most part, I know my role, I know my responsibilities, and I know how to get the job done.

Being a wife and mother is a completely different thing.  There is not a set way to do things.  Kids are not computers and don't do exactly what you tell them to do.  They do not always react the same way to situations and problems.  One day is different than the next, each with its own struggles and issues to deal with.  

I have come to realize that I am not good with change.  I like habits, patterns and known outcomes.  Habits and patterns and predictable outcomes make me happy.  Because of this, I struggle to be the mom I want to be and the mom I think I should be.  I struggle to be patient with my children.  I struggle to control my temper with them.  I struggle when I cannot control them.  I really can get down on myself for not reacting lovingly and patiently to circumstances and situations.  Because I don't feel I handle my role as mother well, I do not find a lot of fulfillment from it.

As I served with the Young Women in my ward for camp and eventually as the 1st counselor in the Young Women's presidency, I felt a pull.  I found something else that I was good at.  Instead of mostly finding my fulfillment at my job, I was now finding it in serving the Young Women.  The girls seemed to like me and I liked them.  We had fun together.  We learned new things about the gospel together.  We felt the spirit together.

As I studied and prepared lessons for the girls, I would share what I was learning for Family Home Evening or in conversations over dinner. I also started working on the Personal Progress Program so that I could set a good example for the young women and I also had a desire to better myself and, hopefully, in turn become a better mother.  Gospel learning became fun for me and I learned that I had an appetite for it that I had never before experienced.

As my knowledge increased and as I tried harder to focus my thoughts on my divine roles, I felt myself desiring to be at home with my children more.  I didn't want to be at work anymore.  Don't get me wrong,  I am very grateful for my job and the monetary blessings it brings to my family.  Also, my employer has been good to me and can be flexible with my schedule.  But, more and more I was finding myself wanting to be at the school helping with reading or waiting at home for the children when they got out of school.

I have a great deal of respect for women who can work outside the home and still be a loving devoted wife and mother, but I personally struggle to play both roles - and do them well.

For a long time I didn't catch the connection.  I just knew that I wasn't finding a great deal of fulfillment from my job anymore.  Unfortunately, it isn't possible for me to be a stay-at-home mom at this point in my life, so I have really struggled with this.  I could go on about this, but maybe that is another post for another day.

Then one day, a wise man pointed out to me that perhaps my desire to be with my children more came from an increase in knowledge about my divine role as wife and mother.  Knowledge I had gained through preparing and teaching lessons and working on Personal Progress.  Though I still struggle to be the mother I want to be and, at times, I still really struggle to see fulfillment in what can sometimes seem like a thankless calling, I am truly grateful for the shift in perspective.

I look back at my attitude towards my children and the role of motherhood 5 years ago and then compare it to where I am today and realize I still have a ways to go, but I really feel like I am on the right path now.  I am grateful that my Heavenly Father allows me to grow and change and become better day to day.  I am grateful that he loves me even when I have a really bad "mom" day and he encourages me to keep trying.  If he can "entice" me through the Holy Ghost to change this much in the past 5 years, I am excited to see where I'll be at in another 5 years.

So really, my callings in the Young Women organization were for my benefit and not for the Young Women at all!  I know that is not entirely true, but I really feel like I gained more from those callings than I was ever give back to the girls I served.

Finally, I am grateful for forgiving children and a loving and forgiving husband.  They really are my biggest fans and supporters.

**You can read my cousin's reply to this post by clicking here: Finding fulfillment in motherhood.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fixing Bike Tires

On New Year's Day Richard (my father-in-law) came over to help Amelia and Isaac change the tubes in their bikes.  Amelia got new tubes from Grandma and Grandpa Carter for her birthday and Santa dropped some off for Isaac.

I am really grateful for Rick, he is very good to my children and will help with anything at a moment's notice.  He has helped watch our children while Nathan and I work for the past 12 years.  I don't know a lot of grandpas that would be willing to do that.  Grandmas yes, but grandpas... no.

Amelia is still learning to ride her bike without training wheels, so she spent most of her time practicing.

Clara wanted a turn as well, but the poor girl couldn't quite reach the pedals all the way.  She loved sitting on the bike while I held it up and pushed her around.  She kept asking for me to go faster.  Looks like we will be buying her some sort of bike this summer.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas 2013

Pictures from our Christmas!

Later my parents came over and the kids opened their gifts from them.

And after that, we headed to Nathan's parent's house to visit with them.

Super bummed that we misplaced Isaac's temple tie tack that he got.

It was a wonderful day and we are truly blessed.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Christmas Eve Celebrations

 Nathan and I have started a few Christmas Eve Traditions of our own.  First, we go to lunch at a restaurant - this year we went to +Olive Garden.

Then we were off to see "Frozen" at the movie theater.

Later that evening, we went to Shane and Roni's house to eat food, hang out, and open pajamas.


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