Faithfully Failing

Picture credit: LDS Media Library

Picture credit: LDS Media Library

I’m once again stealing my mom’s spiritulectual property (yes, I am copyrighting that phrase), but about a year ago she shared an interpretation of a scripture story that I’d never considered before.  Not because it’s a story I’d never read before, in fact it’s probably one of the most frequently read scripture stories in the church.  Let’s talk about Nephi going and getting the brass plates. (If you want to quickly review the story this is Nephi Chapters 3-5) So let’s start from the beginning.  Lehi has fled into the wilderness from the people of Jerusalem who want to kill him for prophesying uncomfortable truths.  Then when he gets there he tells his four sons – Laman, Lemuel, Sam & Nephi – that they need to go back to Jerusalem to retrieve the scriptural records of their people.  Laman and Lemuel complain about it, but Nephi shows faith and says,

I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

1 Nephi 3:7

Then the rest of the story goes that they all 4 return to Jerusalem, Laman and Lemuel are whiny faithless crybabies, and Nephi gets the brass plates that contain their records all by himself.  Right? Wrong!  I’ve read this story so many times that when I read it that’s sorta how it goes in my head.  Nephi trusts in the Lord, and succeeds because he was obedient to the Lord’s commandments.  But I sort of skip through the meat of the story.

What happens is they return to Jerusalem and attempt to get the plates – and fail.  Not just fail a little bit, but fail pretty spectacularly.  Twice.  Let’s go through that part of the story and try to forget that we already know the ending, and walk through the steps.

First they send Laman in to talk to Laban about getting the plates and he is chased away and Laban threatens his life (1 Nephi 3:11-13).  Laman tends to get a pretty bad wrap, but my guess is that he knew going into this that Laban wasn’t likely to just hand over the plates willingly.  Despite that, and even with his reluctance to go in the first place, he puts his faith in the Lord and goes anyways.  Only to be rejected and almost lose his life over the matter.  Yeah, Laman doesn’t do all the greatest things in his life, but he shows some pretty strong faith in this matter.

When he comes back, they want to give up.  Instead, Nephi comes up with this cockamamie idea that they can go back to their old home and retrieve all the riches their father had accumulated and attempt to purchase the plates, even though Laban has already promised to kill them if they come back.  Already Laman and Lemuel could easily say, “Look, we did what the Lord commanded and it didn’t work.  We clearly didn’t have His protection and help in getting the plates so maybe this wasn’t what we were supposed to be doing after all.”  Please pause and pretend for a second that you don’t know the ending to the story and try to see it from their point of view.  If someone were to tell you about a situation they were going through that was similar you would probably feel justified telling them, “Hey, you gave it your best shot and that’s good enough.”  But no, they are again faithful and go along with Nephi’s plan in spite of adversity.

So off they go back to their house and gather together all of their precious worldly possessions to trade for these scriptural records.  Think for just a second of the trial that would be all by itself.  You’ve been driven from your home and now you’re going to go back and take all the valuable things you have and trade them just for a copy of the scriptures.  Clearly even Laman and Lemuel had a vision of just how precious those records were.  They gather all these things and go back to Laban with a decent proposition – all of our riches for the plates of brass.  Laban decides he likes the idea of the riches, but not of giving up the plates, so he sends his guards to kill the brothers so that he can keep their possessions without an exchange.  The brothers have to flee the city and barely escape with their lives.

Think for a second how Laman and Lemuel must be feeling at this point.  They’ve now given up all of their precious possessions and almost been killed in the attempt to get the brass plates.  Their adrenaline must be running at a serious high from that experience.  So they get back to being alone as brothers and start taking it out on Nephi.  Of course they shouldn’t harm their brother but imagine what they must have been thinking, “We told you this was a bad idea.  You risked all of our lives and sacrificed all of our possessions – for nothing.  If we hadn’t listened to you we would have been heading back to our father safe and sound with the possibility of getting those possessions back.  Now they’re gone forever and we could be dead thanks to you.”  If my little brother had talked me and my siblings into something like that and it had failed I’d be ticked to say the least.  I’m not one for physical violence (I’m the runt of our family, that would be a poor choice of problem resolving methods for me), but I can understand at least a little why they found a stick and started walloping on their brother who had put them into such a terrible situation.

Then of course the story ends in the way we expected it to from the beginning.  An angel comes and tells off Laman and Lemuel for their lack of faith, Nephi goes back and gets the plates by miraculous means and they return to their father victorious.  But I want to pause for a second and think more about the middle of the story.  Why can’t we skip all of the lives being threatened and the loss of property and just have Nephi go in, chop of Laban’s head and walk out with the plates in the first place?  Surely the Lord could have made that work out just fine, so why go through all that rigmarole? I think this is an excellent example of what Moroni teaches us in Ether 12:6,

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

I would venture that these crazy trials didn’t come despite their faithfulness in following the commandments but almost because of their faithfulness.  They needed to know how valuable these records really were to them, and I’m sure they didn’t really realize just what they were willing to sacrifice for them until they’d actually done it.  The Lord doesn’t just provide everything for us, because by working for things we recognize the value of our blessings. It’s something I want to remember more as I face trials.  I know I’ve had times when I’ve thought, “I know what I felt like I was supposed to do, but it’s just not working out.  I’ve given it my best shot and maybe I should just give up and do something else.”  But just because something isn’t working out now, or you haven’t been miraculously been placed exactly where you thought you’d end up – that doesn’t mean things aren’t working out the way they should.  Remember what the Lord told the Prophet Joseph in Liberty Jail –

If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

Doctrine & Covenants 122:5-8 (emphasis added)

Even, and perhaps especially, when things don’t seem to be working out the way we’d expected they would when we are faithful it is not an excuse to give up.  At those points the challenge to us is to strive even harder, strech even further and wait a little longer for the hand of God to be revealed.  I’ve heard it said, “it will all be right in the end, so if it isn’t all right, then it’s not the end.”  So if you’re going through trials and feel like you’re reaching the end of your rope, take courage.  He who knows the end from the beginning is watching over you and is there to aid you and guide you.  Righteous living does not ensure an easy course, but it will get you safely to your ultimate destination.

Family Home Evening Resources


I was asked to give a presentation at a Relief Society meeting about Family Home Evening to give some tips and tricks for making it meaningful and easy with young kids.  I thought I would share with you here what I shared with the sisters in my ward in case anyone from my ward didn’t get a chance to come to our activity, or if it would be helpful for other friends.  I know that I shared the experience in the first paragraph in this post too, but it was applicable here so I hope you’ll forgive the repeat.  The rest of the content should be new 🙂

Before this most recent General Conference I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy as a mother and I wrote down a few questions that I was hoping to have answered during the conference.  This is one of the questions I wrote – “How can I best use my time with the many demands placed thereon? Freelance work, housekeeping, motherhood, callings, education, blogging, reading, socializing children etc. How can I keep from being completely overwhelmed and truly accomplish things? Or do I need to simply embrace the chaos?” In the second talk of the conference Sister Linda S. Reeves shared this experience –

Some of you have heard me tell how overwhelmed my husband, Mel, and I felt as the parents of four young children. As we faced the challenges of parenting and keeping up with the demands of life, we were desperate for help. We prayed and pleaded to know what to do. The answer that came was clear: “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”

A friend recently cautioned, “When you ask the sisters to read the scriptures and pray more, it stresses them out. They already feel like they have too much to do.”

Brothers and sisters, because I know from my own experiences, and those of my husband, I must testify of the blessings of daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening. These are the very practices that help take away stress, give direction to our lives, and add protection to our homes. Then, if pornography or other challenges do strike our families, we can petition the Lord for help and expect great guidance from the Spirit, knowing that we have done what our Father has asked us to do.

Nothing could have been more applicable to my situation than that was.  I felt so much comfort that I only needed to really worry about those three simple things in order to be doing what is most important as a mother.  Family prayer, family scripture study and family home evening.  Of course, family home evening can sometimes be a bigger struggle than it might sound so I was asked to share some resources with you on how to make it easier.  So, first of all –

K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Smarty!

Family Home Evening was not instituted to stress you out. The point is to gather your family together and spend time together learning and loving one another.  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be!  Watch a Mormon Message together on YouTube, play a game, even just sit in the same room and let your kids do homework together.  Find what works for your family!

I want to walk you through really quickly a “typical” FHE in the Hansen household –

We gather the kids together.  Pull up a hymn on and sing along with it.  Pray.  Quick lesson picked from A Year of FHE. Another song. Prayer.  Oreos.  Bedtime.

Oreos are the most important part of our family home evening, the boys don’t recognize it’s FHE without Oreos.  That’s it.  Sometimes I’ll put together my own lesson or we might do something else, but we have short attention spans.  The only part of that whole equation that requires much effort (beyond wrangling the kids of course) is picking a lesson from A Year of FHE, but then I usually just print it out and read it.

I think the most important part of doing a lesson is picking something that really applies to your family’s current situation.  If you have a child struggling with obedience or tattling or something like that, then FHE is a great time to teach those principles.  But my mom warned me, don’t always pick just the things your kids are struggling with, or else they’ll just feel picked on and not want to come.  Lessons about the season (i.e. Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day) are great, or if you can include something that goes along with the month’s theme for primary it’s a good reinforcement.

So here are some of the resources that I really like for putting together a family home evening:

Church Website – The church has put together an awesome page that has links to the gospel art book, the Family Home Evening Resource book, videos, music and teaching helps.  It’s a great place to go to get started

Mormon Messages– When you want a super easy lesson I definitely recommend just picking a Mormon Message and playing that for your kids and calling it good.  They’ll hold their attention well and have fantastic messages.  Easy, peasy. Done.

A Year of FHE – This is my *favorite* FHE resource.  This lady put together FHE lessons and posted them to her blog every week for 3 years.  They are fantastic.  She has lessons on a lot of different topics.  Most weeks I will open up her blog and then scroll through the topics on the right side of the screen, pick one, print it and teach that.  She also has hymns selected to go with her lessons as well as a scripture.  The lessons are so well written out that you can generally just read what she’s written, show some pictures (if you want) and then bear your testimony where she indicates.  I can’t say enough about how much I love her website.

Chocolate on My Cranium – If your kids really do well with visuals I highly recommend this website for her flannel board stories.  She took all of the flannel board stories from the Friend and colored them in so that you can just print them out, cut out the pieces and tell an interactive story.  If you live nearby, my sweet sister-in-law put together a binder with all of these lessons printed out and ironed all of the characters onto felt so that we had easy FHE lessons for a year.  It was one of the best Christmas presents anyone has ever given me.  We’ve gone through all of those lessons now though so if anyone would like to borrow any of the lessons feel free to come by and borrow them!

Sugardoodle – We all love Sugardoodle.  They have so many cute ideas!  They’re getting ready to re-do their website in the next month, so I don’t know if this will remain how to get to their FHE lessons, but for now if you go to their home page, click on the “Other” tab there’s an option for “Family Home Evening Index”, and there are a ton of great FHE ideas there.

My FHEs – Of course I have to throw in my shameless plug for my own website. I’ve put together a few different FHEs when I had something that I really wanted to teach my kids but couldn’t find *quite* the right lesson out on the web.  I’ve been trying to post them to my website so that other people can use them too.  I have lessons about being a missionary, a general conference preparation lesson (we do this one twice a year just before conference), saying sorry, and even an Angry Birds lesson about teaching kids how to control their emotions (that one gets requested often).  I’ve tried to follow the “A Year of FHE” format and include an opening and closing hymn that goes with the lesson, an easy to follow lesson outline and a predefined spot to bear your testimony.  There aren’t a lot of them, but I love to see people use them!

My one piece of advice if you use the lessons that people post on their blogs is to just leave them a comment to say thank you for their time.  I know, at least that the lessons I put together, it usually takes me the better part of a day to complete them and it means a lot to me when someone will comment even a simple, “great lesson, thanks!”

I promise that if you make Family Home Evening a part of your family’s weekly routine you will see the blessings in your family.  It will help draw you closer together and strengthen you and your kids against the difficult trials that might come against you.

Why I Believe: God

So I figured if I was going to do this series on what I believe, I should probably start with the very most basic of my beliefs – God exists.  Whenever I’m questioning the reasons for my beliefs, I start back at the very most basic.  If God doesn’t exist then the rest of my belief system falls apart pretty quickly, so it’s a pretty important piece of the puzzle to establish.  Strangely enough, one of the best explanations of why I believe in God comes from Trey Parker, one of the makers of South Park.  While his body of work doesn’t appeal to me, his philosophy on religion does,

Basically … out of all the ridiculous religion stories which are greatly, wonderfully ridiculous—the silliest one I’ve ever heard is, ‘Yeah … there’s this big giant universe and it’s expanding, it’s all gonna collapse on itself and we’re all just here just ’cause … just ’cause’. That, to me, is the most ridiculous explanation ever.

As dumb as that may sound, that’s a big part of my testimony.  To be honest, what would make the most sense to me is that nothing ever should have existed.  My mortal mind can’t comprehend that stuff has just always existed.  At some point there had to have been a beginning, an atom, a… something that started this whole thing.  Whenever I try to comprehend the fact that things even exist my mind starts short circuiting.  The most rational thing to me was that nothing, not even nothing, not even a vacuum to contain that nothingness, just nothing, should ever have existed in the whole history of ever.  There shouldn’t even be an ever for that nothingness to exist in.  I’ve heard once a philosophy that this whole earth, and life and stuff doesn’t exist, but it’s merely a dream of another being.  But, even in that philosophy, that other being exists.  No matter how you slice it or dice it, something somewhere exists and that whole concept to me is completely mind boggling.

So, as there is existence, some great force organized this existence and created it.  Whatever else you might want to say about that power, it is an awesome power, and I consider this organizing, creative power to be God.  I believe in the power and knowledge that comes through science, but not to the exclusion of God.  In nature we observe that most all systems lead towards entropy, but somehow despite this natural order we’re supposed to believe that without an outside organizing force things were organized?  That makes no sense to me whatsoever.  I believe in God as the great organizing force that put these things in motion and I can’t imagine that any being that put that much care into organizing and putting in motion the things that make up our world and universe doesn’t care for those that he has put there.  This to me is the essence of what God is, I believe He is a being with the power to organize and create our world, and the care for the people and creations he has put thereon.  I’ll discuss in a later post more of my specific beliefs of who God is, but I think that’s a good starting point for finding common ground.

For anyone who would like some more food for thought on the theory of evolution as taught commonly I’d recommend reading through the LDS Old Testament Student Manual Chapter 2 under Points to Ponder.  Although this is of course a theological publication it had a very interesting scientific discussion on evolution that I found quite fascinating.

The “Relief” of Relief Society

This morning I called home to chat with my mom while I worked on some cleaning.  I called her cell phone and (not atypically) she didn’t answer.  Whenever she doesn’t answer her cell phone I call the house line, since it’s not uncommon for her cell phone to be on vibrate, in the car, out of battery etc.  However, it seems like whenever I call the house she’s in the middle of doing something important and ignoring my call intentionally, but if I don’t call the other line then I’ll talk to her later and she’ll say “Oh darn!  If you had called the house I was just doing dishes and I would have loved to have talked to you then!”  I’m a big believer in Murphy’s Law, but no really, this is how it works every. single. time.  So I now joke with my mom that I call the house just so that she has important things that need to be done.

Anyways, so today I called the house line after failing to reach my mom on her cell phone and had this conversation –

Person on the other end (not my mom): Anderson residence?
Me: Oh, uhm, hi, is Kerry there?
Person on the other end: Oh hi, is this Brittny?
Me (starting to recognize the other person as a sister in my mom’s ward): Yes
Sister Hendrickson: Yeah, your mom is here but they’re having a wedding in their yard right now which is why she didn’t answer.  But I’ll let her know to call you back ok?
Me: Oh!  Uh, yeah, sure.  Thanks, bye!

Now before you go thinking that I’m a total flake for forgetting that there was a wedding at my parents’ house today… I had ZERO idea there was a wedding there today.  It was Monday morning.  My mom had been out of town all last week. She came home later Friday and spent Saturday helping out at their stake youth conference.  No one in my family had a pending engagement.  Why on earth would I have thought they’d be having a wedding at their house this morning??  Strangely though, I was only moderately surprised.  Like the amount of surprised you might be if someone were to come over and say “Hey, it’s not our friend’s birthday but I thought we’d take them over some cake today anyways.”  It was not what I’d expected, but, sure why not?  That sounded like something that might be going on at my parents’ house.

So later today I got the full story from my mom.  Apparently there is a couple who had been attending my parents’ ward on Sunday who was planning on getting married, but would have to wait for a temple sealing as the woman is getting baptized this coming Saturday.  Things had suddenly worked out this weekend that their family could all be in town and they’d decided to go to the courthouse to get married while they had that support.  When my mom heard this she leaned over to this woman and mentioned, “You know, my husband (the bishop in my parents’ ward) could marry you.”  The sister was gracious and mentioned that they had planned on having a backyard wedding but that things had fallen through.  A few minutes later my mom said, “You know, I have a backyard that you could get married in too.”  And so, it was arranged that the next morning there would be a wedding in my parents’ backyard.

What happened next was pretty cool.  That afternoon my mom sent out on her ward’s Relief Society email that they were having this little impromptu wedding ceremony at their house the next day and wondered if anyone could help make it a little bit special.  By the following morning there was a cake made, flowers arranged, seats set up, bows tied around chairs, gardening done, decorations put up, potted flowers volunteered, food for a luncheon prepared and live musicians arranged.  All to make a special day for a woman these Relief Society sisters barely even knew.

Impromptu wedding

My mom posted more pictures on her Facebook page.

As I was looking at the pictures of this event and feeling so blessed to have come from a ward that would do such a thing, I realized something.  What happened today at my parents home in California was remarkable… because it wasn’t remarkable.  Knowing my mom and the sisters in her ward, that’s pretty much what I would have expected would happen.  Not that I would expect that occasion, but given the circumstances, I was awed but not surprised at the outcome.  As I thought about it, that same thing could have happened in my ward here in Draper, Utah.  It could have happened in Eric’s home ward in Indiana.  It could have happened in my grandmother’s ward in Brisbane, Australia.  It could have happened anywhere where there were Relief Society sisters.  I saw just such service happen in my own ward a couple weeks ago as my ward sprang into action to help Kayson Shelton’s family after his passing.

Tonight as I had these events on my mind I thought I’d look at this month’s visiting teaching message.  This month’s message just happened to focus on ministering to those around us, and I read another story –

At the October 1856 general conference, President Brigham Young (1801–77) announced that handcart pioneers were still crossing the plains and that everyone was to help gather supplies for them immediately. Lucy Meserve Smith wrote that women “stripped off their petticoats [large underskirts], stockings, and every thing they could spare, right there in the Tabernacle, and piled [them] into the wagons.”

As the rescued pioneers began to arrive in Salt Lake City, Lucy wrote, “I never took more … pleasure in any labor I ever performed in my life, such a unanimity of feeling prevailed. I only had to go into a store and make my wants known; if it was cloth, it was measured off without charge.

It struck me that what was unique about what happened in my parents’ ward today, wasn’t the service given as much as the organization of the Relief Society itself.  When the Relief Society was first organized Sister Emma Smith said of it, “We are going to do something extraordinary. … We expect extraordinary occasions and pressing calls.”  What’s amazing, is that these seemingly incredible, insurmountable calls for service, are precisely what the Relief Society was created to fill – “extraordinary occasions and pressing calls”.  Sister Linda K. Burton said, “With practice, each of us can become more like the Savior as we serve God’s children.  … As we do so, we are keeping covenants, and our service, like President Monson’s, will be evidence of our discipleship.”  Sometimes I think we slight the Relief Society as just being about baking casseroles and arranging flowers.  We must remember that when we are doing those things, we are doing precisely what the Savior has asked us to do, to be”… the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children, ” as President Monson encouraged us.

Today as I reflected on some of the service given by various Relief Society sisters I felt overwhelmed with gratitude to be part of such an amazing sisterhood here on the earth.  Women have a different way of doing things than men, and I’m grateful that we have a divinely organized society that gives us the opportunity to use our unique talents to bless Heavenly Father’s children all around us.

Kayson Shelton – Doing Enough


This past Friday our family received some of the worst news we could imagine.  Our dear friends and neighbors, the Sheltons, had lost their sweet two year old son, Kayson in a tragic accident.

When you get news like that, everything stops.  To say this hit close to home would be an understatement.  The Sheltons live just a couple doors down from us, I can see their house from our front door and the windows on our upper story.  Kayson is friends with my little boy Danny as he’s only a few months younger than my son.  He’d been part of the little joy school that I’d done with some moms in my neighborhood this past year.  He was in Danny’s nursery class.  I remember him as being quiet, sweet and rambunctious.  Those terms might not seem to go together, but he was a very kind boy but with a lot of the high energy that can come with being a little boy.  His family are some of the most wonderful people on this planet.  No exaggeration.  In a recent Relief Society activity the sisters in our ward were going around and talking about various people in the ward who had given them service.  At least half of the women who shared something were talking about Kayson’s mom – Toni.  She is always serving someone else.  Taking meals, watching kids, cleaning houses, listening to friends – she has a constant awareness for the needs of those around her and is looking for ways to fill those needs.  Kayson’s dad, Scott serves with my husband Eric in our ward’s Young Men’s program and is always friendly and aware of those around him.  This past winter when my brother and dad were at my house and getting ready for different surgeries, Scott was the one who was able to come over and help give them blessings – and my mom was impressed later in the week when he stopped them in the driveway to see how both of their surgeries had gone.  These are some of the most genuinely GOOD people in this world.

As the news spread through our neighborhood our neighbors slowly all gathered to the Shelton’s driveway.  The Sheltons of course were still out of town, but the neighborhood just wanted to feel like we were there supporting them.  Quickly, the neighborhood sprang into action.  They found blue ribbon and started tying it to every post, light pole and tree in our neighborhood.  Anything that stood still for long enough got a ribbon tied to it.  A banner was placed in their driveway for neighbors to sign and share messages of love for them that would be placed on their garage door.  The men all got together and got supplies to plant flowers in their front yard, some new trees in their park strip, and finish off their side yard by removing rocks and putting down bark chips.


Their family came and started cleaning the house top to bottom.  One family in our ward volunteered an empty freezer for their use and the Relief Society sprang into action making freezer meals.  Another neighbor donated the use of their truck and trailer to transport that freezer across the neighborhood.   In one day we had so many meals made that they ran out of room in that previously empty freezer and space was volunteered in another neighbor’s freezer for more meals that would be taken at a later time.  Healthy snacks were collected for the kids at one person’s house.  Some friends gathered to make care packages for Kayson’s three siblings.  Blankets are being made and collected in Kayson’s honor to give to Project Night Night.  I put my talents to use and set up a website for memories and photos of Kayson, as well as an online fundraiser.  Someone else set up a Wells Fargo account in Kayson’s name to help offset the funeral/transportation costs.  So many posts have been made by their friends and family expressing condolences and love for them.  The Relief Society is arranging for a luncheon for the family following the funeral services.  One of their friends is selling a beautiful digital print that says “Families are Forever” and giving all the proceeds to the Sheltons.  The neighborhood found out when the Sheltons would be coming in and lined luminaries along the entire path from our neighborhood entrance to their home.  As the Sheltons drove in the neighbors lined the streets and quietly sang “Families Can Be Together Forever” and then met in their driveway for a neighborhood prayer on their behalf.

The amount of service and outpouring of love on their behalf has been staggering.  I have never seen anything like it.  And yet, even as I watch it all the only thing I can think is this:

It’s not enough.

It’s not even close to enough.

We’re not even approaching 1/1000th of a percent of a fraction of being within light years of enough.

It can never, ever, ever be enough.

Regardless of the amount of service, the amount of love, the donations, the time and the true and sincerely genuine efforts of their friends, family and community – these good people have lost their son.  They have been separated from a child who they love as dearly as they love their own lives.  Such a loss is an unspeakable sorrow and nothing we can ever do could make up for that.

I expressed this thought to my husband. He agreed and added this inspired insight – “It reminds you of how the Atonement works, doesn’t it?”  I thought about that for a moment and realized, that he was exactly right, and we discussed the many different ways in which the analogy could extend.

Of course, firstly the atonement is the only thing that will ever make the Shelton’s loss right again.  We have the knowledge that because of Christ’s sacrifice for us their family can be once again reunited.  They will still miss him dearly in the meantime, and the grief is still very real, but in the end he is not gone forever.  There is hope even in the pain of the loss.

But it’s also like the atonement in our own lives.  We’re taught, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)  In our lives we have been given commandments and we strive to serve one another and do the best we can do.  We work ourselves to the brink serving and loving.  Caring for children, working in church callings, serving in the temple, doing family history work, studying the scriptures, praying, attending church meetings, preaching the gospel, serving missions, enduring through trials, donating our time, our talents and our means to building the kingdom of God.  But yet…

It’s not enough.

It can’t be enough.  Regardless of all of our best efforts to keep the commandments and serve others – we are lost.  We have fallen from the presence of our Heavenly Father.  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23) No matter what we do, we cannot save ourselves.  We are stuck forever in a state of separation from our Eternal Parents.  It’s a horrific state to be in and we simply do not have the power to do anything about it.

But, even in this sorrowful state, there is hope.  Even though we can’t do anything about our fallen state, Christ can.  He has made his sacrifice so that we might return to live with our Eternal Parents again.  The only thing that will ever make up for our fall is His Atonement and He gives that to us freely.

Some people look and say, “well there’s nothing we can do, we’re saved completely by grace, so it doesn’t matter if we give our efforts to keep the commandments – none of that will save us so why bother?”  Why bother?  Because we don’t give our efforts to save ourselves, we give them to serve Christ, to give something, the only thing we can give, back to Him in return for what he has given us.  We wouldn’t say as a community, “well, nothing we can do will make up for the Sheltons’ loss so let’s not do anything at all.”  That would be absurd!  Of course we did what we could do for the Sheltons.  We gave our very best efforts, and did all that we can do.  We’re not doing it because we think it will fix the problem, we’re doing it because we love the Sheltons.  We don’t serve Christ because it saves us, we do it because we love him.

I think sometimes that phrase “all that we can do” is misunderstood.  Of course we didn’t do every single possible thing that we could have done for them.  We didn’t finish their basement, or donate every cent of our money, or make it so that Scott will never have to work again… but that doesn’t make it so it wasn’t our best.  I don’t think the Sheltons are going to come back to their friends and family and say, “well, but you could have done ____”, I’m sure they are seeing everyone’s efforts and are grateful for what has been done.  They know that we’ve made our best and honest effort to do what we could to alleviate their pain, as feeble as those efforts may seem.  I think Christ will look at us the same way.  Even though we cannot ever do every single thing we possibly could do, to be the very best we could possibly be, I don’t think He will fault us for that.  I think at the last day Christ will look at us and say as he did to the woman who anointed His feet, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much” (Luke 7:47).  

The Atonement is real.  It will make up for every pain, every sorrow, every sin that we face in this world.  Christ made his sacrifice so that the Sheltons can be reunited with their sweet Kayson again.  So that their family, and our family, and all families can be together forever.  Our efforts are nothing, but because of Him- 

It is enough.

For anyone who would like to do something for the Sheltons donations can be made through Wells Fargo in an account set up in Kayson’s name.  There is also an online fundraiser that you can get to here. Blankets are also being collected in our neighborhood to be displayed at the funeral, you can contact me in the comments if you want a specific drop off point.

You Can’t Do it All, So Don’t

Recently I listened to a friend tell me and a few of our other friends how she feels like she’s not doing enough.  That she sees the other moms around her doing all these great things and wonders why she can’t do everything that these women other women do.  Having watched this particular mom I can tell you for a fact – she’s one of the moms that I have looked at and thought, “Man, why can’t I do all that she does?”  Her house is always clean and well decorated, she seems to always be organizing activities with other people, she exercises, she cooks healthy meals, she dresses cute and is always smiling and reaching out to people who could use a friend.  Oh, and on top of that she has three little boys that she takes care of all day in addition to working crazy 12 hour night shifts as a nurse.  If she doesn’t count as the pulled-together mom of the year no one does.

The reality is that none of us are doing all of the things that other people think we’re doing.  We like to share the things we do well – as we should.  So people see all the things that are going great in our life and compare that part of their life to just the picture perfect things that we share with others.  But we almost never share the things we aren’t doing so well.  It’s not malicious, we want to celebrate the things that are going well and aren’t quite as keen to celebrate our perceived failures.  So, I decided I was going to get real and post what it’s really like around our house.  Generally I share the good things that are happening in my life, like my son wanting to go to church meetings or spiritual thoughts that I have when reading the scriptures or cool resources that I’ve put together.  But that’s just a tiny tiny slice of my life.  I thought I’d share some of the other side.  These are some pictures I took of our house recently-

I will admit, I’m not being as real with you as I’m claiming.  This is how things looked after a HUGE amount of cleaning.  Like 3 days worth of dedicated effort to cleaning.  It looked MUCH worse beforehand, but I didn’t think to take any pictures then.  It’s not just that I still have a shred of pride (perhaps only a shred, but it does exist!) but also I just didn’t think about it until I was this far into it and thought, “Man, if people only knew that my house was really SO messy that it’s taken me a lot of work and it STILL looks horrendous”.  Even still, there are no pictures here of how awful my kitchen looks, or a close up of my bathroom sinks, and no selfies of me with my unwashed hair.  I couldn’t bring myself to that level of reality.  I’ll admit to you they were also bad, but I couldn’t bring myself to incriminate myself with photographic evidence.  Sorry.

The truth is there are not enough hours in a day for each of us to be the Pinterest Perfect Woman.  I can also guarantee you that NONE of the women who look perfect on Pinterest really are as perfect as they look on the internet.  There are not enough hours in a day!  They’re sharing with you the things that they do well, but I promise that there are other aspects of those women that you don’t see.  You are not expected to be able to have fun activities for your kids every day AND make delicious, organic, aesthetically pleasing dinners AND have the perfect hairdos or makeup or clothing AND take perfect pictures AND have an immaculate, well-decorated house AND bring in an income from part-time/full-time/from home work AND be completely versed on current affairs AND have a perfect garden etc etc etc.  The list of possible pursuits that you may want to perfect is endless.

Growing up most of us were told that we could be ANYTHING we wanted to be.  Our potential was limitless.  I am not here to dispute that.  You really can be anything that you want to be.  But, you cannot be everything you want to be.  In college I was once told that there were three main elements to a college experience – sleep, social life and academics.  You could succeed at any two of the three in a given semester, but it was impossible to really do well at all three in one semester.  That was totally right.  You could have a social life and do well in your classes – but it would be at the expense of sleep.  Or you could do really well in your classes and get adequate sleep, but your social life would definitely suffer.  Or you could slack off and have an awesome social life and get decent rest… your parents weren’t likely to approve of the grades you brought home at the end of the term though.

It’s the same with the rest of our lives as well.  You can pick something that you want to do well, and you certainly have the potential to be exceptional in that thing.  However, you will not be able to be exceptional in everything – and that’s ok.  Unless you find a time turner and are able to get more hours in the day than the rest of us then you will never be able to master all these things at once.  So choose what is important to you and forget the rest.

Today, I’m owning up to my part.  Many days I don’t shower, my baby stays in her pajamas all day, and I let my three year old roam the neighborhood on his own.  I don’t keep a clean house, I don’t make delicious, beautiful cakes, and I don’t weed our garden sufficiently.  However, I’m still a pretty darn awesome person.  Despite the things I can’t do, there are some things that I do pretty well.  I can build websites, I cook semi-decently, and I can put together some decent science experiments for my kids.  Today despite the things I didn’t do I was able to get my desk cleaned off, reached my 10,000 step goal for the day and wrote this blog post.  That’

At the dinner table each night my husband will frequently ask me, “What did you do today?”  As a stay-at-home mom of three kids often it’s hard to find the right answer to that question.  My days always seem packed, but without a lot to show for all my work at the end of the day.  Often the answer I give him is the slightly tongue-in-cheek, “I kept all three of our kids alive – all. day.”  Luckily, I married a very smart man and he will usually respond with a sincere, “Good job!” rather than rolling his eyes.  While I’m being a little bit silly, the truth is that just that task of being a mom takes an enormous amount of time.  When you account for all the time you spend getting kids ready, preparing meals, nursing babies, changing diapers, going to/from the bus stop, finding activities for your kids, picking up toys, laundry, cleaning, meal planning, grocery shopping, dishes, stories, breaking up fights… suddenly your whole day is spent.  The hardest part is that at the end of that day, there is little to show for your efforts as nearly all those things will have to be re-done the next day.  It is the most disheartening part of motherhood.  However, those things are the most important things we could be doing.  As tedious and mundane as your efforts may seem, there is nothing that could be more important than the work of raising the next generation.

Before this most recent General Conference I was struggling with feelings of inadequacy similar to those that my friend described.  Prior to the conference I wrote down a few questions that I was hoping to have answered during the conference.  This is one of the questions I wrote – “How can I best use my time with the many demands placed thereon? Freelance work, housekeeping, motherhood, callings, education, blogging, reading, socializing children etc. How can I keep from being completely overwhelmed and truly accomplish things? Or do I need to simply embrace the chaos?”  In the second talk of the conference I got my answer.  Sister Linda S. Reeves shared her experience of feeling overwhelmed as the mother of 4 young children and turning to the Lord for guidance on how to get through those times.  The answer she received was this – “It is OK if the house is a mess and the children are still in their pajamas and some responsibilities are left undone. The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.”  I cannot adequately express how much peace that answer gave me.  While I still often feel overwhelmed with all that I’m trying to do it’s easier to step back and evaluate if we’re doing those three basic things – prayer, scripture study and family home evening.  I’m sure we’re not even doing those things as well as we could, but if we’re doing them then we’re ok.

Ladies, but especially fellow moms, please stop beating yourselves up.  You cannot do it all, so don’t expect yourself to.  Choose something that you really want to do well and work towards that *one* thing, and forgive yourself for not doing the other things.  Pick your priorities, give yourself credit for the things that you are doing and let the rest of it go.  I promise you’re doing better than you realize, and I’m sure there’s someone who’s looking at you and wondering how you do it all.

Why I Believe: An Introduction

Several months ago a friend of mine spent a few weeks posting daily on Facebook about a part of her testimony.  She called it “How I Became a Mormon”.  Although she had grown up in the church she went through and outlined her conversion process.  Whether we’re born with the gospel or find it later in life, we all have to go through a process of conversion, and I really enjoyed reading hers.  I wanted to do something similar although I felt like my posts would end up being too wordy for Facebook to be an appropriate forum (what, me?  wordy?  Who’d have thought? 🙂 )  So I decided those posts were better suited as part of my blog.  I want to explore and share some of the reasons that I am a Theist, a Christian and a Mormon and why I believe what I do.  I feel this is a way of following Peter’s admonition to –

…Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…
1 Peter 3:15

At first I had wanted to put together all of these posts at once and have them go out over the course of a few weeks.  However, I found that the pressure of writing all the posts that I wanted to in any sort of limited timeframe was way too much pressure.  So I’ve decided that these will actually be monthly posts.  I’ll schedule them to post on fast Sunday each month.  This seems appropriate since I’m not very good at actually standing up in church and bearing my testimony during our fast and testimony meetings. (Explanation for those not of my faith: on the first Sunday of each month our congregations abstain from food for 24 hours and give money to help the less fortunate.  On this Sunday in lieu of a single sermon anyone in the attendance who wants to share their testimony – or a declaration of their faith – is permitted to come up to the pulpit and speak to the whole congregation.)  I may have lots to say in my blog, but (unlike Nephi) I’m much better at writing than speaking, and whenever I share my testimony in church I always come away feeling like I shared a jumbled mess instead of what was really in my heart.  I should certainly work on that, but in the meantime I’m going to play to my strengths 🙂

I know a lot of people look at Mormons from the outside and think that we’re all brainwashed, or that we are just sheep that follow blindly whatever we’re told.  However, in my experience, nothing could be further from the truth.  We are encouraged to seek and ask and find answers for ourselves.  Following the gospel takes too much time, commitment and energy to do it blindly.  If you’re going to be a member of this church you better know pretty well that it is true, or else you’re wasting a ton of time and energy for nothing!  In fact we are taught –

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
Alma 32:27

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
– Matthew 7:16

Far from being asked to follow blindly, we’re asked to seek, experiment, ask, and observe.  It may sound strange to some people but we’re basically told to apply the scientific method to our religion (or maybe the secular world is just applying the religious method to science 😉 ).  We’re told that if we will ask in faith that we can receive answers.  If we try so much as an experiment on the gospel (i.e. try living just a portion of it) we’re promised to see results.  Then we should observe the results, are they good or evil?  If the results are good then that speaks to the truthfulness of the words.

I would like to share with you some of the results of my experiments upon the gospel.  If you’ve performed the same experiment on the word, I’d love to hear your story posted on your blog/Twitter/Facebook or whatever your medium of choice may be.  I want to come up with some good way to do a blog hop so that we can link these posts all together if anyone is interested, but I haven’t found a technology that I love for that just yet.  For now, feel free to just post links to your own posts in the comments.

If you haven’t tried an experiment on the gospel, I would invite you to read the Book of Mormon and ask God if it is true.  In the Bible we are promised –

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. – James 1:5 (emphasis added)

The Lord has promised to give us revelation so that we can know these things for ourselves.  The Book of Mormon is not a long book, or a terribly difficult read.  You can read it online, or on any mobile device, or even download it as an audiobook if you (like me) are lazy and would rather listen than read 🙂  All of these are completely free to anyone who would like to read them.  Or, if you’d like a physical copy the missionaries will gladly bring you by a free copy.  Or if you’d like a hard copy, but aren’t so sure about having the missionaries deliver it I would be more than happy to mail you one myself, no strings attached.  I can give you my personal promise that the truths and spirit and message from this book will make your life better.

I also want to be sure at the outset that I do not claim that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only source of truth in this world.  I do believe that our church leadership has direct authority from God, and contains the most complete source of truth existing on the earth today, but as our 9th article of faith states –

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
Articles of Faith 1:9 (emphasis added)

There is more truth out there in many different forms.  I think people who practice yoga have a unique grasp on mindfulness that we don’t necessarily explore as a church.  I think that Confucianists have a different and valuable perspective on family life.  I think Catholics may have a better respect for the full gravity, respect and importance of Christ’s atonement than perhaps is present in my own worship.  There are lots of valuable things that we can learn from science, history, and art that apply to our religious lives as well.  I believe that there are many belief sets that contain great truths.  I do not believe in religion to the exclusion of scientific efforts or the possibility of finding truth in other ways.   However, I do strongly believe that the doctrine taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and important.  I believe that as Joseph Smith stated –

…the Book of Mormon [and I would add by extension, the gospel associated with that book] was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book [or set of teachings].
Introduction to the Book of Mormon, Paragraph 6

I do believe that the gospel that is taught within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the most correct and complete source of truth on the earth, but I don’t think that has to detract from the truth found elsewhere.  It’s hard to accurately state just how vital and wonderful and true the gospel is without feeling like I’m slighting other people’s belief systems, but that is not my intention at all.  Living the gospel gives me so much peace and light and direction and happiness that I want to share it with everyone so they can experience the same thing, but I don’t want to take away from truth anyone else has found in other ways, I want to help add to that truth.  In our religion we are taught –

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
Doctrine & Covenants 50:24

My hope is as you read these posts that it will add to the light you’ve found in your own life and help that light grow brighter.  I hope you will join with me in this exploration of my faith.

Going to ABCs

Danny going to ABCs

Danny, all dressed up and ready to go to ABCs

This morning I was curling my hair and getting ready for church and hadn’t realized that my three year old had (as usual) escaped the house.  I went outside in my curlers and had this conversation with him on his bike –

Me: Danny, I need you to come back inside.  I didn’t know you were outside and I was worried
Danny: But I wanted to ride my bike
Me: Well, I need you to come back inside now.  Do you want to go to meetings with dad?  He’s coming back to get you and you don’t get to go unless you’ve been obedient
Danny (lights up): Yes! Yes!  I go to ABCs with dad!!

Believe it or not, this is a typical Sunday conversation with Danny.  He *loves* to go to church meetings, and luckily for him his dad is our ward’s Young Men’s President and has a plethora of meetings to attend on a Sunday morning.  As the apocryphal 14th article of faith states – “We believe in meetings, we hope for meetings, we have endured many meetings, and hope to be able to endure all meetings.  If there is any reason for a meeting, we seek after it.” (Note: for those not of our faith, this is not a real article of our faith, it’s a tongue in cheek spoof of a portion of our 13th article of faith, but for those with demanding callings it sometimes feels true)    He started calling his dad’s meetings “ABCs” which is a pretty apt way to categorize the alphabet soup that are church meetings (PEC, BYC, PPI etc).  As soon as Danny saw that I’d pulled out his suit this morning he was so excited to get all dressed up for church.   He got dressed as much on his own as he could and was so pumped to get to go.  He even sits relatively quietly through his dad’s meetings, that’s why he has his notebook in the picture above – so he can take his notes in the meeting.

Our family likes to giggle about Danny and his love of meetings, but I was thinking about it this morning and I’ve decided that I want to be more like Danny.  He acts like it is a great privilege to get to go to these meetings while most of us who are actually required to go to such meetings dread them.  But Danny is right, it is a great privilege to have a calling to serve those around us.  As King Benjamin taught

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

What greater privilege could there be than to use our humble gifts in the service of God?  We are so blessed to be in a position to serve others and to be given that responsibility is a tremendous gift.  We should rejoice to have the opportunity to share the blessings we’ve been given with our brothers and sisters in love.

I also like his attitude about his church clothes.  Most of us are loath to put on a dress or a shirt and tie to go to our church meetings.  It’s not convenient, it’s not comfortable, and most of us think “do I have to?”  I read an article earlier this week entitled, “Are Americans dressing too sloppy for Sabbath worship?” which addressed the increasingly casual attitude of Americans in their church services. I thought a lot on what I had read, and it bothered me a little bit the thought that we might judge people on how they dress for church.  I think if someone shows up to church in yoga pants and a tank top we should welcome them in and love them, just as they are.  However,  I think it is a problem that we are less willing to get ourselves dressed up for church.  There is wisdom in the idea of putting on our “Sunday best”.  I think it shows respect to our Father in Heaven and shows that we are willing to make Sunday a little different from any other day.  Even if it is acceptable to go to the office in jeans and a t-shirt that doesn’t change how we should approach our Sabbath worship.  Cleaning up and dressing up for Sunday shows that we’ve made some preparation for how we approach our Lord.  It signals that we appreciate what a privilege it is to come to church, partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants, and that we take that privilege seriously.

I guess I’m understanding a little more why our Savior taught –

Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

The Power of Our Influence

Elder Richard G. and Sister Jeanene Scott

Elder Richard G. and Sister Jeanene Scott – Image from LDS Living

After General Conference Eric casually added a calendar item on his calendar for a General Conference 40-Day Challenge.  The idea behind it is simple.  Every day for 40 days there is an assigned talk from this most recent General Conference for you to listen to/read/study as a way to keep the words of the prophets in our minds.  I liked the idea so I decided to participate as well.  It’s been really great because rather than the full deluge of spirituality that comes with the conference I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on each of the talks in turn and really focus on the things that stood out to me in each one.  As I was listening to today’s talk I remembered a  favorite moment from conference that I wanted to share.

Today’s talk was Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk entitled “I Have Given You an Example”.  This was the part that I especially liked –

[As] I was about to graduate from the university, I fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Jeanene Watkins. I thought she was beginning to have some deep feelings for me also. One night when we were talking about the future, she carefully wove into the discussion a statement that changed my life forever. She said, “When I marry, it will be to a faithful returned missionary in the temple.”

I hadn’t thought much about a mission before then. That night my motivation to consider missionary service changed dramatically. I went home, and I could think of nothing else. I was awake all night long. I was completely distracted from my studies the next day. After many prayers I made the decision to meet with my bishop and begin my missionary application.

Jeanene never asked me to serve a mission for her. She loved me enough to share her conviction and then gave me the opportunity to work out the direction of my own life.

As I heard this simple story I thought to myself, what if Sister Scott hadn’t decided to make that simple statement of convictions to Elder Scott at that pivotal time in his life?  How would the church and the world be different, not to mention Elder Scott himself?  Now, that isn’t to say that Elder Scott would have turned out to be some maniacal criminal without mission experience or anything like that.  There’s every reason to believe he could have gone on to be a faithful wonderful person and done lots of great things.  But I would wager that he would not be the man he is today, and having the influence he does worldwide without that experience.  And perhaps he would have never had it without the simple prompting from a valiant young woman.  Elder Scott’s personal sense of gentle authority has long made him one of my favorite apostles (ok ok, so they all get a turn being my favorite when they come to the pulpit, but all for very different reasons).  When he looks at you as he’s speaking you feel like he can see into the depths of you.  I’m positive even extremely good people walk away and think “I need to do better!  I can be better!”  He gives off almost the sense of…. I want to say disappointment, but it’s not that.  Just the sense that you can do more and be more than you are and you just don’t want to let him down.  The church needs an Elder Scott to fill that role.  Sure, if it wasn’t him perhaps there would be someone else who would have also done an excellent job, but I’m sure not quite in the same way and that makes me sad to think about.

As I reflected on that it made me think more fervently about the influence I have in simple moments every day as a mother, a sister, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a Cub Scout Committee chairperson, a person sitting on the bench at the park, a member of a Sunday School class, a visiting teacher, a Facebook friend etc.  Am I living my life in such a way that I might use those small teaching moments to help someone reach a higher potential than they might otherwise?  How can I do better to uplift others and point them to righteous paths?  I want to be more like Sister Scott and instead of saying, “Eh, you know what?  Richard is going to be just fine the way he is, he’s a good guy!  It doesn’t really matter if he does this one thing right now, he’ll still turn out fine.”  I want to instead say, “How can I help this person to make the very best decision to help them reach their fullest potential?  They shouldn’t settle, they can be awesome!  Let’s help make them awesome!”

Of course, that attitude should be tempered with the next part, which was that we allow people to take their life in the direction that they choose.  I’m not at all proposing making decisions for another person, or judging them for making a different decision than I would have chosen.  But if I can influence someone to do better and be more, then I want to put myself in the position to do just that.

Peaceful Agitation?

Kerry AndersonToday I’m featuring a guest post from one of the most amazing women I know – Kerry Anderson.  Kerry is a meteorologist and the mother of five children.  Oh, and the oldest of those children is me 😉  Growing up I remember being really proud of my mom as a feminist.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s in meteorology and is currently pursuing her master’s degree.  She often talked about how hard it was being the only woman in her science classes and pursuing a route that not many women took at that time.  This was certainly an inspiration to me later in life as I pursued computer programming.  I remember my mom always sticking up for women and particularly for their position within the church.  I always thought of her as being super progressive.  It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that my mom didn’t exactly fit the ultra-feminist mold.  While she worked outside the home in my younger years, she always made sure to find a schedule that would allow her to be with her children and support my dad in his church callings.  When we moved to the west coast she gave up that career and opted to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Not exactly a bra-burning feminist.  However, I still think of her as a role model of a feminist in their truest form – one who is fighting for women’s opportunities, recognition of women’s abilities to contribute and, women’s place in society, particularly in the most feminine role of all – that of a mother.  She shared this essay with me and I thought it was brilliant, so I asked for her permission to post it on my blog.  Enjoy 🙂

Peaceful agitation?

As General Conference approaches there seems to be a lot of talk about the Ordain Women Movement.  A friend told me that she has been reading blogs from other LDS women that discuss the movement and the list of privileges that they know are being withheld from LDS women.   She seemed restless and agitated and wanted my opinion on whether it was worthwhile reading them.  Many in the movement say that they are “agitating peacefully” but it has been my experience that agitating does not bring peace.

As she commented on how she felt it made me reflect on my own experience in this church as someone who has struggled with feelings that church leadership did not fully empower women.  I have attended many Young Women’s meetings where we have been told that we are daughters of a “King”.  I know that I am a daughter of a Heavenly Father but as a woman I yearn to hear that I am a daughter of a “Queen” and to have a Heavenly female role model.  In my search for greater understanding of the female role I have spent time reading papers written by others who were agitating for change.  The more I read the more certain I was that the prevailing view of the female role in the LDS church was not fully enlightened and that there were more privileges and powers available to women.  This caused me to feel agitated and frustrated with my current status.  At the same time my husband and I were increasingly called to positions of greater responsibility within the church.  I came to a point that I was so frustrated and agitated that I no longer thought that I could continue attending.

This was a very private and difficult struggle.  While going through this a family member mentioned something that made me stop and think.  They related an experience where someone else was struggling with a different doctrine and that they had been told that “Heavenly Father would never create a doctrine to make us unhappy.”  At this point in my life I felt conflicted and unhappy.  The more I read and dwelt on the supposed injustices the more unhappy I felt.  I decided to listen to this piece of advice and to act in faith and start believing that by fulfilling my role as a wife, mother and woman in this church that I could be happy.  I laid aside the literature that I was reading and got back to focusing on scripture reading and serving.

As I acted in faith and stopped agitating I have found the most profound happiness.  I have actively sought to find understanding of my role by attending the temple, praying and trusting in my Heavenly Father and my church leaders.  Instead of reading and finding faults, I recognize that our church has imperfections because the church is led and built by humans. I know I haven’t always got it right when I have been called to lead.  But with compassion and humility we can listen to one another and build together.

My husband has a poem that he learned on his mission that has made me think about how criticism of church leadership can hurt our church.

I watched them tearing a building down,
A gang of men in a busy town.
With a ho-heave-ho and lusty yell,
They swung a beam and a side wall fell.
I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
Men you’d hire if you had to build?”
He gave me a laugh and said, “No indeed!
Just common labor is all I need.
I can easily wreck in a day or two
What builders have taken years to do.”
And I thought to myself as I went my way,
Which of these roles do I try to play?
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Shaping my deeds with a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?

I am grateful for the privilege of being a part of “Building” the Kingdom of God.  I live at a time where I have access to the exalting ordinances of the Priesthood through the Temple. My ancestors did not have that privilege.  I want to spend my time building this Kingdom rather than tearing down this church.  There is so much work to do and as I work I find greater peace and joy.  Having complete faith and supporting church leadership has brought me that joy.

Do I still think and feel that there is more to be revealed about the role of women in the eternities? Absolutely.  But what I have found is that I have gained a greater understanding about those roles as I have fully participated in Temple Ordinances and as I have faith that the Lord would never create an organization that would make me unhappy. I pray for the day that we will have a greater understanding of the female role in the Eternities. What I have found though is that agitation and criticism of church leaders brings me discontent and unhappiness. Conversely I have found that prayer, focused effort on building the Kingdom of God and temple attendance have a greater ability to bring change. I want to be known as one who has spent my time and energy here on this earth building the Kingdom of God not one who did anything to tear it down.