Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Isaac, The Princess

At Carter dinner this past weekend, Isaac and some of his cousins surprised us all with a new look...

Isn't he so pretty!

 And then there was a wardrobe change....

Well, you know what they say.... "Boys will be ....girls?"

What a funny bunch of kids!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pray Always - Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson

This year in Relief Society I get to help lead discussions from Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson.  My lessons will be the even-numbered lessons, so I will start with Chapter 2: Pray Always.  
photo credit

I blogged about a few of the lessons last year, Teaching of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.  I expect that this year will be much like last year.... I won't be blogging about all of the lessons, just whatever I feel like and have time for.

So without further ado, here are my snippets from this chapter:

From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson
“All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have received,” said President Ezra Taft Benson. “It has become an integral part of me, an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis for my knowledge of things divine. 
“‘Remember that whatever you do or wherever you are, you are never alone’ was my father’s familiar counsel to me as a boy. ‘Our Heavenly Father is always near. You can reach out and receive His aid through prayer.’ I have found this counsel to be true. Thank God we can reach out and tap that unseen power, without which no man can do his best.”
President Benson points out that for him, prayer had become an integral part of himself.  Prayer became:
  1. An anchor
  2. A constant source of strength
  3. The basis for his knowledge of things divine
A familiar story is also told about how President Benson's family prayed for him while he was speaking in general conference.
A friend of the family once observed the influence of those teachings when she attended a session of general conference with the Bensons. She wrote: 
“On an April day … , I discovered one source of a General Authority’s strength. 
“I was seated with the six children of Elder Ezra Taft Benson, one of whom was my college roommate. My interest heightened when President [David O.] McKay arose and announced the next speaker. I watched respectfully as Elder Benson, whom I had not yet met, walked toward the microphone. He was a big man, well over six feet tall. He was … a man internationally known as the United States Secretary of Agriculture and a special witness of the Lord, a man who seemed serene and sure, one who had addressed audiences throughout the world. Suddenly a hand touched my arm. A little girl leaned toward me and whispered urgently, ‘Pray for Dad.’ 
“Somewhat startled, I thought, ‘This message is being passed down the row, and I am to pass it on. Shall I say, “Pray for Elder Benson”? Shall I say, “You’re supposed to say a prayer for your father”?’ Sensing the immediate need to act, I leaned over and whispered simply, ‘Pray for Dad.’ 
“I watched that whisper move along the row to where Sister Benson sat, her head already bowed. … 
“As years have passed, general conferences have come and gone, and each time President Benson has stood to speak, I have thought, ‘His children, who are scattered across the continent, are united now in prayer for their father.’”
Section 1: Jesus Christ has taught that we should pray always.

Many scriptures reference Christ instructing us how to pray and when to pray.  The ones referenced in the lesson are these:
President Benson goes on to say:
If we would advance in holiness—increase in favor with God—nothing can take the place of prayer. And so I adjure you to give prayer—daily prayer—secret prayer—a foremost place in your lives. Let no day pass without it. Communion with the Almighty has been a source of strength, inspiration, and enlightenment to men and women through the world’s history who have shaped the destinies of individuals and nations for good.
When I first read through this quote, I was a little confused as to the distinction between inspiration and enlightenment.  I guess I've always been under the assumption that they are basically the same thing.  So, of course, I looked up the definition of each word.

Inspiration = something that makes someone want to do something; a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation; the act or power of moving the intellect and emotions.

Enlightenment = the state of having knowledge or understanding; to gain spiritual insight.

So basically, inspiration leads to enlightenment.  Divine influence that leads us to an understanding or knowledge.  You really need both in order to advance in holiness, as President Benson said.  Prayer helps us to achieve both.

Section 2: Families that pray together are blessed with stronger ties of love and the peace of heaven.

I really liked this section.  There are so many blessings promised to us if we will pray together in our families.  But first, the prophet begins with a warning.
The Lord indicates that it is the responsibility of parents to teach their children to pray [see D&C 68:28]. This does not mean secret prayers only. I am sure it means to teach by example through family prayers. We need the sanctifying influence which comes from devotion in the home—prayer as a family. 
We need as families to kneel in family prayer, night and morning. Just a few words added to the blessing on the food, which is becoming the custom in some parts, is not enough. We need to get onto our knees in prayer and gratitude.
Did you catch that?  Prayers at meal time are not enough.  But, then he goes on to list some of the incredible blessings that will come to us through family prayer. (The blessing I found in the above and below quotes are in green, do you see others?)
Prayer has been and is the ever-present anchor for strength and a source of direction in our family activities. I remember kneeling at the bedside of our young children, helping them with prayers in their younger years, and later seeing the older brothers and sisters helping the younger ones. We had family prayer night and morning, with children given the opportunity to lead, and had special prayers to meet particular problems. Mention was made in family prayer, for instance, of children with [Church] assignments. … We asked for help when one of the children faced a difficult examination in high school. Special mention was made of members of the family [who were] away. … This special mention of particular concerns in our family prayers gave confidence, assurance, and strength to members of the family facing difficult problems and assignments. 
The differences and irritations of the day melt away as families approach the throne of heaven together. Unity increases. The ties of love and affection are re-enforced and the peace of heaven enters. 
In such homes secret prayers are said night and morning by members of the household. Individual and family problems are approached with confidence after invoking the favor of heaven. Young people participating in such a family devotional have hearts freed from evil intent as they leave for an evening of entertainment. These [young people] will be the restraining influence in the group when gilded temptations arise. Parents who surround their children with the refining influence of daily devotion are making their contribution to the safeguarding of the … home.
Those are some pretty great promises.  I especially appreciate that family prayer will increase our unity and re-enforce "the ties of love and affection".  And, who couldn't stand a little more of the peace of heaven in their home,  I know I could.  :)

Also, as my children are getting older and are starting to spend more time with friends, I was hopeful when I read that family and individual prayer will free our hearts of evil intent and will guide them to be the "restraining influence" in their group of friends when temptations do arise, because I know they will.

Section 3: We can improve our communication with our Heavenly Father. 

President Benson suggests five ways we can improve our communication with out Father in Heaven.
  1. Pray frequently.  He suggests at least two or three times a day.  In addition, we are told to pray always. (See 2 Ne. 32:9D&C 88:126.) This means that our hearts should be full, drawn out in prayer unto our Heavenly Father continually. 
  2. Find a place where you can pray and meditate that is free from distractions.
  3. Prepare yourself for prayer.  If we do not feel like praying, then we should pray until we do feel like praying.  President Benson also suggests that we should pray in humility and seek forgiveness and mercy.  We should also forgive others and care for the people around us.
  4. Our prayers should be meaningful and pertinent. We should avoid using the same phrases in each prayer. For what should we pray? We should pray about our work, against the power of our enemies and the devil, for our welfare and the welfare of those around us. We should counsel with the Lord regarding all our decisions and activities. (See Alma 37:36–37.) We should be grateful enough to give thanks for all we have. (See D&C 59:21.) We should confess His hand in all things. Ingratitude is one of our great sins.We should ask for what we need, taking care that we not ask for things that would be to our detriment. (See James 4:3.) We should ask for strength to overcome our problems. (See Alma 31:31–33.) We should pray for the inspiration and well-being of the President of the Church, the General Authorities, our stake president, our bishop, our quorum president, our home teachers, family members, and our civic leaders. Other suggestions could be made, but with the help of the Holy Ghost we will know about what we should pray. (See Rom. 8:26–27.)
  5. After making a request through prayer, we have a responsibility to assist in its being granted.  This reminds me of a saying I've often heard that goes: "Work like it all depends on you, pray like it all depends on the Lord."
Section 4: God is mindful of us and ready to respond to our prayers when we place our trust in Him and do that which is right.
There is power in prayer. All things are possible through prayer. It was through prayer that the heavens were opened in this dispensation... 
It is my testimony ...that God does hear and answer prayers. I have never doubted that fact. From childhood, at my mother’s knee where I first learned to pray; as a young man in my teens; as a missionary in foreign lands; as a father; as a Church leader; as a government official, I know without any question that it is possible for men and women to reach out in humility and prayer and tap that Unseen Power; to have prayers answered. Man does not stand alone, or at least, he need not stand alone. Prayer will open doors; prayer will remove barriers; prayer will ease pressures; prayer will give inner peace and comfort during times of strain and stress and difficulty. Thank God for prayer.
Even during hours of trial and anxiety, it is possible to draw close to the Lord, to feel of his influence and of his sustaining power—that one is never alone, if he will only humble himself before the Almighty. I am grateful for that testimony, for that assurance. 
It is soul-satisfying to know that God is mindful of us and ready to respond when we place our trust in Him and do that which is right. There is no place for fear among men and women who place their trust in the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though persecutions arise, though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing.

Discussion Questions:

  • Has there been a time when you received strength, inspiration and enlightenment through prayer?
  • How will you make family prayer a priority in your home?
  • Using President Benson's suggestions for improving communication with our Heavenly Father through prayer, in what areas can you improve?
  • What do you take from President Benson's testimony on prayer?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Motherhood Monday - Righteous Rearing

I haven't done a Motherhood Monday in a while, but I came across a quote this past weekend that really struck me.

Here's the quote:
"You mothers, who are especially charged with the righteous rearing of the youth of Zion, are you not putting God first when you honor your divine calling? … Our mothers put God first when they fill their highest mission within the walls of their own homes."
  • My take away from this quote: 
  • Motherhood is accomplished by honoring our divine calling to righteously rear our children. When we do this, we put the Lord first in our lives. 

  • My Thoughts:
  • First, it hit me that like any other calling or role we have, we all carry it differently.  Every "calling" in our church is left to the individual to magnify and fulfill according to their own training, ability and conscience. Motherhood is no exception.
Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone should use this as an excuse to disregard their sacred responsibilities concerning their family.  I just mean to point out that as long as we are striving to do our best to teach and nurture our children (notice I said striving here - there are always bad days/weeks), we don't need to worry about how anyone else is mothering.

Second, I like the term "righteous rearing".  Righteous rearing takes on a different form for different women. Righteousness, in some cases, is based on understanding and knowledge. Righteous rearing would indicate that we ourselves are striving to stay in tune with our Heavenly Father to receive specific guidance for ourselves, our children and our collective family.  The term righteous rearing enables individual adaptation of this divine role, instead of a one-size-fits-all Motherhood mentality.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Holidays 2014

We've started a Christmas Eve tradition in our house of going to lunch and a movie.  This year we hit Longhorn Steakhouse for lunch, followed by the movie Big Hero 6.  We enjoyed both very much.

After lunch, a movie and a quick nap, we headed over to Shane and Roni's house for food, a movie, and some visiting.  We also opened Christmas pajamas.

I did not take any pictures on Christmas day.  Seriously, I'm fired.  However, we did have a fantastic Christmas although there isn't any photographic proof of it.


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