Never have I been so excited to attend a movie that I so desperately did not want to see. That’s how I felt going into see Unplanned today. I felt that this movie was important to see, I want it to do well and I thought it should be something everyone should go see – but I knew it was not going to be a fun happy experience. In fact, when I asked my husband when he wanted to go see it with me his response was that he really didn’t want to go see it – and I couldn’t blame him. But I still felt like I needed to go see it. I already knew Abby’s story but I felt compelled to go and see it played out on the big screen for myself.
So when I got my 1yo down for his afternoon nap and realized that I could make it to the next showing – that’s what I did. I quickly packed as much chocolate into my purse as I could find (stupid trying to eat healthy meant there wasn’t as much stock as I would have liked), wore my knit shawl as a socially acceptable excuse to bring a blanket into the theater, and left my husband home with the kids. I knew if I hesitated I would talk myself out of going so I just went.
This was my first R-rated movie that I’ve ever seen unedited. While I totally believe that the MPAA only gave Unplanned an R rating in an attempt to tank it – I also think it was deserved. The movie is heavy, though not dark. As someone who does not deal well with blood – particularly medical blood – it was a really hard movie to watch, and there were definitely several times when I found myself hiding under my makeshift blanket while I ugly cried. However, nothing about the bloodiness or the subject matter was gratuitous. It was real, and it told a true story, without overdramatization. But should it be a movie that kids under 18 are seeing without at least parental knowledge? Probably not. At least, I don’t think I would want my kids seeing it without me, though I think there are many lesser rated films that I would be much more opposed to them seeing.
However, while the movie dealt with things that I wished that I didn’t have to know about – there was a great deal of hope as well. Even though I left with a headache from crying so much over much of the heartbreak and horror of the movie – I did not leave feeling sad, or helpless, or overly weighed down. Instead I honestly left feeling hopeful and inspired. Definitely still saddened, but that feeling wasn’t overwhelming because of the hope and light offered in the film.
Many times throughout my becoming more entrenched in the pro-life movement I have felt like there was no hope. Yes, abortion was a terrible evil, but what could I really do about it? It’s legal, it’s not like I could turn these people into the police. Public opinion, at least as portrayed in the media has always seemed so pro-choice. How can you protect babies whose own mothers won’t even protect them? I’m a stay at home mom with 4 kids – I don’t have a fancy law degree, I don’t have deep pockets to lobby politicians. Is there really anything I could do?
I’d heard of several organizations in my own quest to find a way to fight against abortion, and among them was 40 Days for Life. To be honest when I heard what they were about I felt like their whole mission was too hokey and not action oriented enough. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the organization – they sit outside abortion clinics and pray. Their object isn’t to engage or protest, just to pray. Praying is great and all, but if I was going to get involved I wanted to do something – I could pray from home.
In our Come Follow Me discussion last week we discussed the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. I’ll give you a recap of the events. Jesus is teaching a multitude of five thousand men (plus women and children) and decides it’s time to feed everyone. The disciples look around and say “uhm, there are 5000+ people here, there’s no way we have that kind of food.” But Christ asks that they find whatever food is there. Finally a little boy comes forward with 5 loaves of bread, and two small fish. I can only imagine how I would feel bringing that kind of offering, “Oh, hey Lord, yeah I know you said you wanted to feed 5000 people but all I have is 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish – not even enough to feed 50 people really and you have 100x that here. But sure, take what I have, I’ll probably be hungry, but go ahead and see what you can make of it.” To be honest, I think I would have felt like an idiot offering that up. It’s probably why the only person who offered up anything was a young boy – he was the only one willing to offer what he had, regardless of how small it was. Then of course the Lord takes that laughably miniscule offering and not only feeds the multitude to satiation, but comes back with 12 baskets full of fragments – not only filling the boy, and the multitude but giving the boy back more than he even started with.
SPOILERS AHEAD. CONTINUE READING AT YOUR OWN RISK. (However, I don’t think the story is a surprise to most of the people seeing the movie so you can probably keep reading. I would just feel guilty not making the disclaimer 😉 )
As I watched Unplanned I was struck with the characters of Shawn and Marilisa. I’m sure they must have felt much like that young boy – “Well, here we are, praying outside of Planned Parenthood again. We’ve been doing this for 8 years and we watch as week after week more women come in and abort their babies. It doesn’t make any difference, but it’s what we have that we can offer up so we’ll keep doing it.” I’m sure the defeat of it all was absolutely crushing, and that they felt heartbroken that they were standing by and doing what seemed like virtually nothing.
But then, after their long years of waiting. After their patience and persistence. Because they had faith, and showed kindness and “love unfeigned” towards Abby – a miracle happened. A miracle that I’m sure they never could have dreamed of. The clinic director who they had gone toe to toe with for so many years suddenly had a change of heart and not only leaves Planned Parenthood, but goes on to create an organization to help get abortion workers out of the industry. And the clinic they’ve been praying over for so many years closes for good.
I felt chastised for my faithlessness. Is not our God a God of miracles? Haven’t I seen those miracles in my own life? I was reminded of this scripture –
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
I have decided that I want to be more like the young man in the scriptures. I want to bring my 5 loaves to the Lord and see what he can make of my meager offering. Together perhaps our small offerings can bring forth something great.
If you haven’t seen Unplanned – go see it! Whether you’re ardently pro-life, more on the fence or even if you’re pro-choice – go see it. I’m not promising an enjoyable couple of hours. You will likely have your heart broken and handed back to you. But, you will leave with hope and a new perspective on the love that our God has for each of us. The story is not one of hopelessness, but of hope.
Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.
Read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018.
Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance.
Participate fully in Relief Society.
I have been working on participating in those invitations and last night I completed reading the Book of Mormon just in time to be done before the end of 2018! I felt like I ought to take some time to reflect on that experience in particular and then today President Nelson posted on Facebook and invited the sisters to leave him a comment sharing our experience with him. So I thought I might as well make it a blog post since we know that I won’t be able to keep my thoughts that short anyways, and so that I have it preserved for posterity. I’ll take each point in turn.
Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind. Anyone who knows me well will not be surprised to know that this was not the easiest challenge for me to accept. I don’t think I consume much negative media – most of the music and videos that I watch and listen to are kids YouTube videos with nursery rhymes and such to keep baby David happy. The only “negative” aspect of those videos are just that they might start to make me crazy from repetitiveness but they’re not going to inspire any sort of impure thoughts. However, I’m a huge fan of social media. I’ve moved many times during my life and I don’t live particularly close to my family. Social media gives me a great way to share life experiences with people who I love who I might not be able to see in person very frequently. I can keep up with friends who live half way around the world. I love having a place where I can document things that are happening in my life and my children’s lives in little bite sized snippets. It’s how I keep up with my local community and get ideas and support for homeschooling, cub scouts and many other things that I’m involved in. The people and groups that I follow aren’t ones that I feel have a negative influence on my life – quite the contrary. So, it would be easy for me to have said, eh, this invitation isn’t really for me.
However, I do have one problem with social media. It is definitely a place that is easy for me to get sucked into and I can easily spend countless hours scrolling through my newsfeed instead of focusing on the tasks and people immediately around me. The media itself is fine but as far as a “good, better, best” determination is concerned – it sometimes is “good” and gets in the way of my doing what is “best”. It helped me a lot when my mom pointed out to me that what President Nelson asked of us wasn’t to give up social media forever, nor did he declare that it was evil and bad and we should never use it again. Clearly that was not his intention if he is now reaching out to the sisters on that same platform to get feedback! However he asked for us to “fast” from social media. Just like we would fast from food – it doesn’t mean that food is bad, but sometimes we need to step away from it and allow other things to fill in that space.
I actually ended up taking the social media fast challenge twice – once over the summer when he gave the challenge to the youth, and again in October when he issued the challenge to the women. I decided that for me it meant deleting Facebook off of my phone as well as Pokemon Go for the 10 days requested. I set some specific guidelines for myself I was allowed to look at my Facebook memories, or post to Facebook if there was something memorable that my kids did or an insight I had. Those particular functions of social media have sort of taken the place of keeping a journal for me and I don’t think the intention was for me to stop journaling. But I didn’t allow myself to check through my notifications, scroll through my newsfeed, or participate in any of the groups that I normally participate in.
The first time I took the challenge I sort of cheated and selected a week when our family was out of town and happened to be where there was poor internet anyways. There was plenty going on to keep me distracted from needing or desiring social media so it was pretty easy and I can’t say I missed it much. However, in October I took the challenge again and it was during just a normal week in my life. I was surprised to realize how many times in a day I would pick up my phone for no apparent reason. I realized that those were all times that I would normally fill in the gaps with Facebook, even if I didn’t have any particular reason to be on Facebook at that time. I always feel like I am so busy and can’t get everything done that I would like to in a day, but somehow I had all of this time where I was just biding my time on Facebook. To be fair, a lot of that time is while I’m sitting around nursing a baby, or motivating kids to clean their rooms, or waiting in preschool pick up lines – but it was still a lot of time.
I tried to channel some of that time into opening up my scriptures app instead, although I found that frequently I was still doing something that required too much of my attention for scripture study. I did find that I could use that time to message people individually that I might not have reached out to otherwise, or complete other tasks that could be accomplished with my phone. I heard some people say that they spent a lot less money while on their social media fast because they didn’t see advertisements for things that they wanted but didn’t need… I had the opposite experience. While I was sitting there I would think of the Sunday shoes that I needed to order for Danny or some blankets that I wanted for our newly completed basement… Amazon greatly benefitted from my ability to focus on the tasks I had at hand 😛 That might seem like a negative thing, but it actually really was a blessing because I got those things done during time that was otherwise wasted and was able to make better use of my other time.
From this experience I was able to go in and adjust what groups I follow and actually unfollowed some groups that – while very positive – were taking up too much of my time. I’ve also been more aware of how frequently I pick up my phone just to kill time. I’m thinking I will make social media fasts a regular part of things I do – just to take a few days or a week off every so often to clear my mind a bit and allow other things to fill in some of that space. Just to help me keep it as a more balanced part of my life rather than allowing it to take over.
Read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018. As I mentioned earlier in my post, I finished the Book of Mormon last night. One of the things that stuck out to me with President Nelson’s challenge was his invitation to “mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior.” I have been a member of the church for my entire life. I cannot even tell you how many dozens of times I have read the Book of Mormon, studied it in church/seminary/institute, watched the Hill Cumorah pageant, watched the Living Scriptures videos, read the simplified versions, taken BYU courses on it… this wasn’t my first exposure to the Book of Mormon by any means. But I started reading with that challenge in mind and marked any verse that referred to the Savior. I made it about 3 chapters. It was seriously just about every. single. verse.
Friends, I knew that the Book of Mormon was another testament of Jesus Christ. I’ve seen the cover, it says it right there. I know that the climax of the book is when He appears to the Nephites in 3 Nephi and there’s a lot of talk about missionary work and visions and stuff. But did you know that the WHOLE book is ALL about Jesus Christ? Yes, even those chapters in Alma where it seems like all they talk about is war strategies. The WHOLE book. I kind of knew that, but reading through the book and looking for all the mentions of Christ it blew me away that He truly is the center of all of it. The book isn’t about slaying Laban, or building a boat, or burning prophets, or cutting off arms, or stripling warriors, or wars upon wars upon wars. It is about Christ. It is about how He talks to and leads His people. It’s about the love that He has for them. It’s about the changes that people can make when they turn their lives over to Him. I don’t know how I had never seen it that clearly before, I think I’m so familiar with the book that it’s a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. If you haven’t had a chance to read the Book of Mormon, or if you have read it and think it’s a story about the Nephites and the Lamanites, I urge you to take President Nelson’s challenge. Read the book. Look for Christ. He is everywhere in it.
I know this post is already too long, but I wanted to share some of the other more tangential thoughts that I had in some of the stories of the Book of Mormon. Feel free to skip the next little bit if you only want to read about the challenge itself (I’ve bolded the next part of the challenge so you can skim to there or click here), I just wanted to record these other thoughts while I was thinking of them.
One thing that struck me as I was reading in Helaman about the Nephites that were awaiting the sign of Christ’s birth was just the timing of everything. If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon here’s a quick recap – a prophet comes and tells the people that in 5 years there will be a sign of a day, a night and a day where the sun will not go down which will indicate that Christ was born in Jerusalem. The time goes by and when about 5 years is up some of the people still believe and are waiting for that sign but the people in power have decided the time is up and that they’re going to kill all of the believers the next day unless the sign appears. The leader of the believers prays and is told that the sign will come the next day and that Christ will be born – and so it happens. This got me thinking about what was happening at the same time in Jerusalem – Joseph is taking his wife Mary to Bethlehem even though she is great with child and they don’t have a place to stay. This is 100% speculation, but I thought – what if it really wasn’t time for Mary to be having the baby yet? Would Joseph have really taken her on a long journey if he thought she was likely to have the baby during that time or would she have more likely been left at home in the care of her mother or whoever else? Perhaps Mary was only 36 weeks along in her pregnancy and they thought they still had time. What if the whole reason we have the nativity story we have – with a baby in a manger, no room in the inn, and Mary laboring on the back of a donkey while travelling long miles – is because Jesus knew that he needed to make an early entrance into the world to save those who believed in Him, even though they were a world away from where He would be born. Perhaps not only was his death an act of salvation, but the very event of his birth was timed just so to save the lives of those who believed? Again, I really don’t know if that was the case or not, but knowing the mercies of God and how he cares for his people, I could believe that it might be.
I also thought a lot this time through about Mormon abridging these records after everything that he had seen with the Nephites right down to their destruction. When I was reading Helaman 2:13-14 I thought about how Mormon must have felt writing about the Gadianton robbers who would prove to be the overthrow of the whole Nephite civilization. The very destruction of the Nephites that he was witnessing he attributed to the secret combinations and evil doings of these Gadianton robbers. I could just imagine him abridging these records and wanting to reach back through time and wring Gadianton’s stupid neck. To know that the actions of someone who had lived nearly 400 years earlier was the cause of so much wickedness and suffering among your own people must have been just maddening.
I thought of it again as I read through Moroni’s abridgment of the records of Ether and how secret combinations had overthrown that civilization. One of the things that stuck out to me was that the book covers a time span of around 2000 years but only takes up about 30 pages of the book – as opposed to the rest of the Book of Mormon which spans about half that time and takes nearly 500 pages. I know Moroni says he didn’t have ore, but as I read it this was sort of what I imagined him thinking, “This guy takes power, these guys were ok, these guys were pretty good… and then they sucked again, and then got a little better, and then worse. Then we killed all the people and everyone was in prison, and then we broke out, then back in prison… bad guys, good guys… yaknow what, I just don’t care anymore! People just don’t seem to learn. The more things change the more they just stay the same. AAAAHHHRGGGGHHHH!!! We just did that whole stupid game over again! My people are idiots! We even had their history and we could see it didn’t turn out well, but did we change things? Noooooo, we just did the whole stupid play over again!” I can only imagine his sheer frustration that all of the good things that his people had done and all the miracles, had once again come to naught because the people refused to learn from history. They say those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. It struck me that this is a very important part of why we study the scriptures – so we can see the same patterns setting up in our own societies and try to stop it. It has made me more conscientious of seeing similar patterns in our own governments and societies. Are we propping up Gadianton’s robbers or are we rooting them out? Are we seeking out leaders who have the Spirit of the Lord to guide them? Do we value our liberty and peace above all else, to the point where we are willing to fight for it?
One last thing that I read that I’d never noticed before was in Ether 4:5-6 it says that the records of the Jaredites will not come forth in the latter days until the Gentiles (us) become clean before the Lord. I always knew those records existed and were sealed. I don’t know how I’d missed before that we will get those records but that we haven’t yet proved ourselves worthy of them. I’m not sure exactly what we need to be doing to prove ourselves ready for those records, but I think it’s a goal that we should probably be putting some effort towards figuring out how we do that. I wonder if we have gotten too complacent as a people and we are as guilty as those who ignore the Book of Mormon because they say “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” The Lord has been pretty clear with us that there are records of his people from all around the world. Shouldn’t we be doing more to seek out those records that they might become one in our hands? I love the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price – but wouldn’t it be great if we were able to have the perspective of even more societies and their dealings with God throughout time?
Alright, enough tangents… let’s get back to the invitations from President Nelson –
Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance. I will admit that I have not yet done as well with this as I would like. I have made it to the temple twice since this challenge was made with the help of my mom (thanks Mom! You’re the best!), which is more than I had been making it. But those were both more of one off attendances rather than a “pattern”. I know that what I need to do is set a recurring temple date and stick to it. I’ve been meaning to ask my in-laws if there might be a particular day/time that would work for them to watch our kiddos so that we can have it set on our calendar as a preset time that we go. I know once something is on the calendar it’s harder to take it off than it is to shoehorn something in during the month when things already feel so busy. I love going to the temple. I’m always touched by the love that our Savior has for us and the feeling of connectedness to all the people who have come before me and put me exactly where I am today. I want to do more to pay back all of their sacrifices. I just need to get out of my own way and do it.
Participate fully in Relief Society. President Nelson gave us two specific tasks for this invitation, to read the current Relief Society purpose statement as well as the Relief Society declaration. I will admit that before President Nelson’s talk I didn’t really know that those two things existed, let alone had read them before. Also, I’ve been caught up in the other tasks that we were given and hadn’t taken the time to read these two documents before now. So I did so this afternoon (no time like the present, right?).
I can’t say that I learned anything new as I read through those two documents, however I was given a very strong confirmation of the things I already knew about Relief Society. I am so proud to be part of such an amazing organization. I think that too often we have dismissed the work of Relief Society as being “just making casseroles and centerpieces”. If that’s what Relief Society is then we are shortchanging ourselves! We as women have a vital role within the church and not only is there a place for women in the church but the church cannot be whole without us!
I think too often we look to the priesthood as being the power of the Lord on the earth. However, it’s really only half of the way the power of the Lord is manifest on the earth. Our unique womanhood is not only the power to create and care for babies – that is an important but very small part of what we do as women. We must not let anyone make the work of women seem small because it is not. We have been called to become learned in the scriptures, and have a personal relationship with the Spirit. We build homes and are to celebrate the unique joys of womanhood – not just motherhood, but those things that make us different than men. We are different from men and it is that difference that makes us so crucial to this work. It’s not that one is better than the other but the very play between our differences allows both of us to see things through varied lenses and offer altered perspectives. We sustain the priesthood – but they also sustain us. We need BOTH men and women in this church! We are called to do good works and love life & learning. We are critical in standing for truth and righteousness. Women build communities that are strong and it is our duty to build those communities on righteous principles to lift where we stand. Everything we do as women is to strive for exaltation – not only for ourselves but for those around us. How blessed I am to be a part of Relief Society.
Unsurprisingly, my thoughts on President Nelson’s challenge are long. I just want to say how grateful I am for the invitation to raise myself to a higher standard and put myself out as a part of the Lord’s army. I embrace the opportunity to volunteer myself as one who is willing to be a part of His great work. I want to share my testimony that I know that President Nelson is a true prophet of the Lord. It is clear that it is a calling that he has given himself to fully and I am so grateful for his willingness to guide us in our day and listen to the Spirit and challenge us to be better. I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that He loves each of us beyond measure. If you haven’t felt of that love or know this for yourself, I would invite you to “come and see”. His promises are there for you every bit as much as they are there for me. He loves you and wants for you to come closer to Him. Thank you President Nelson for inviting us to be a part of this work.
UPDATE 7/30/2020: After seeing a few requests for features I decided to rebuild this tracker almost completely so that it will support multiple students on the same workbook as well as making it a lot prettier to work with. It was a HUGE project but I’m pleased to announce that the result is live! I will continue to maintain this older version and it will still work but if you would like to see the new and improved version click here – My Tech High Reimbursement Tracker 2.0 .
UPDATE 07/22/2020: This post is a couple years old but I have been maintaining the spreadsheet still. I made a couple of updates to reflect the changes in reimbursements, as well as making it so that you can associate expenses with subjects instead of reimbursement buckets! The post below has been changed to reflect these updates 🙂
For the past 3 years I’ve been homeschooling my kids. One of these days I’m going to blog the what, why and how of our homeschooling, but today I just want to share a resource that I put together to help other homeschoolers who use the same charter we do – MyTechHigh. MyTechHigh has been the most amazing resource for our family. They function as a provider through a charter school that helps facilitate home education. The best part is they are very hands off – I’m required to provide course descriptions for my sons’ academic curriculum for the year, turn in weekly learning logs (2 sentences per subject of what they did that week), and either have my boys take the state tests or opt them out. In exchange I can be reimbursed for their educational materials and classes between $600-1900 each year so long as I get my expenses approved and turn in my receipts on schedule. What a deal! They also provide additional academic resources, meet ups, events and field trips that we can take advantage of during the year. It has been an amazing resource for our family. If you would like a really great run down for how it works you should check out ToriAnn Perkey’s webinar – it is hands down the best use of your time if you’re considering the program. She is like a MyTechHigh super ninja 😉
The trickiest part in all of this is managing the receipts for reimbursement for my kids’ classes. I’m given a certain budget for each class based on meeting certain criteria – $225 for custom built classes, $300 for 3rd party classes, math/english/science can be combined if they’re all custom built, but other expenses have to stay in their category, some expenses can only be reimbursed through the tech allowance, certain classes take money away from the allowance etc. It gets to be kind of confusing to keep track of how much I’ve spent on each kid and each class. So I came up with a Google Spreadsheet solution that makes the whole process nice and neat that I wanted to share with my fellow MyTechHigh parents in hopes that it will help make other people’s lives easier too 🙂
Alright, so let’s get to the good stuff, how do we use this spreadsheet. The first thing you need to do is make a COPY of my spreadsheet. I frequently get edit requests for the master spreadsheet from people who miss that step, and then you have to wait until I see the email and respond to it… and I will tell you to make a copy 😛 So save yourself some time and don’t skip that step! Ok, here’s the link to the Google Sheet- MTH Reimbursement Tracker. If you’re going to head off on your own, thanks for joining us and best of luck! For everyone else, you can stick with me and I’ll give you a step by step of how to use it 🙂 Let’s start with how to make your own copy. To do this you go to File->Make a copy…
After you do that a box will pop up asking for a name for this document. At first I was going to try to make this easy to use the same spreadsheet for multiple children, but it was complicated enough as it was. You will need to make a separate copy for each MyTechHigh student you want to use this for – so name your spreadsheet accordingly! I also recommend adding the school year so that you don’t get them mixed up in future years.
Once you click OK your copy will pop up and you’re ready to begin filling it out. I’ve tried to lock as many of the ranges that you shouldn’t be changing as possible so you don’t accidentally mess up something that you won’t be able to fix. You will want to start by filling out the current school year, the student’s name, their current grade, and checking whether they are a returning student. Don’t worry about the Reimbursement Sheet inputs for now, we’ll talk about those later.
You’ll notice as you enter in the fields that the numbers at the bottom will start to populate with your technology allowance. This will also help generate some of the fields that will make sure you choose the right course types. You’re now ready to start filling in your schedule. For each period select which type of course your student has (Custom, 3rd Party, MTH Direct, Kindergarten or None) and you can enter in your course description. To the right of the course description I have a character counter too, just to help you when you’re writing your descriptions to make sure they’re the right length. The course description isn’t necessary, but I like having it there so that as I’m looking at my expenses I can remember what I have in my course description to make sure that I’m submitting things that are going to fit within those parameters. You can also just put vague notes as far as your curriculum there for your own reference. It’s completely up to you, you can even leave it blank, it has just helped me in the past to remember what I’m actually planning to do.
When you select the course type you’ll notice that more numbers start to appear. In the column labeled “MTH Funds” you will see your maximum allowance for that period based on the course type you selected. The total tells you the maximum allowance based on the courses you have. Make sure you select whether you’re doing Science or History so that the information gets filled in properly as well. Here’s what my son’s would look like with his schedule for this year –
The next part is the spending totals. You don’t need to worry about changing anything here. This section will update as you enter in your expenses and will tell you how much you have left to spend in each category. The next section is where you will enter your actual expenses. As you purchase items during the year enter a description of the item or items on your receipt, the total and then select the period description. Don’t put an X mark next to the items until after you’ve submitted the receipt to MyTechHigh for reimbursement, you’ll see why in a minute. Here’s what my son’s looked like for this year when I put in all of his expenses –
You might have noticed that even though I was over for his custom core and tech the total at the bottom of spending total is 0 – that’s because if you submit for too much they will only reimburse you for what you have allowance for. Also, if you were over in some categories but had extra in others it would only calculate the extra in the others since you can’t borrow from different periods to make up for deficits in others. You’ll also notice that I split his Thanksgiving Point membership into two line items so that I could be reimbursed for $180 as his custom built science and $100 from his technology allowance. I would recommend as you input expenses on these sheets that you take pictures or save copies of your receipts in a single folder on your computer, phone or Google Drive so that you can easily find them when you’re ready to submit.
In and of itself I feel like this is a super handy way to keep track of what you’ve spent for each period and know what you have left to spend, but I decided to take it a step further. This spreadsheet will also generate for you a cover sheet for submitting your expenses. This makes it really easy for the folks at MyTechHigh to quickly review and approve your submission, as well as making it easy for you to know that you have all of the right receipts to submit! If you go back to the top of the page and click on the box next to “Reimbursement Sheet to Generate” you’ll be given a dropdown box of all of the submission categories that you have. Pick whichever one you would like to create a cover sheet for. You can then enter any special notes that you might have about this period that they will need to know at MyTechHigh – however usually I don’t put any additional notes. Then you will want to open up the sheet called “Reimbursement Cover Sheet” by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.
This will open a completed reimbursement cover sheet for you which will include the student’s name, which course the submission is for, a list of all of the items and their costs, and the total amount you are requesting to be reimbursed. You don’t need to do anything with this sheet except save it as a PDF, or copy the data into Word – whatever you want to do in order to submit it. If you make multiple submissions you can have items previously submitted removed by placing an “x” next to the items that have been reimbursed on the expenses list on the first sheet. When I go to submit I will save my cover sheet as a PDF and then use Adobe Acrobat Pro to combine that cover sheet with the uploaded receipts that match it so that I have a single pdf file to submit for each period. You can do essentially the same thing by selecting all the text in the cover sheet spreadsheet and copying it into a Word document (or Google Docs or whatever your word processing software of choice is) and inputting your receipts on subsequent pages before saving as a PDF. Here’s a sample of what that cover sheet would look like –
And that’s it! Hopefully this helps you to better keep track of your MyTechHigh expenses and budget in the coming years! If you notice anything that I’ve missed please comment below so that I can get it fixed! If this is useful to you consider making a donation to my site, or making a purchase through one of my affiliate links to help me keep this site going. Happy Homeschooling 🙂
Side note: Everything above shows actual items I’ve been reimbursed for and course descriptions I’ve had approved. Feel free to use the descriptions and purchase list for inspiration for your own child’s schedule. I’m planning on posting reviews of some of the things that we’ve loved in the future but I’ll put in a plug for the one thing that we’ve REALLY loved this year which is our Kiwi Crate – it’s been SO much fun for all of my kids and they’ve learned a ton from them. I thought I was going to like the Kiwi Crate but it’s been so much better than I’d expected. If you use my referral link you get $10 off of your subscription 🙂
Recently I’ve seen lots of friends requesting favorite Instant Pot recipes. I’m going to guess that many of my friends (like me) got an Instant Pot for Christmas and are still learning how to use it. I always want to respond to my friends but my response (surprise, surprise) is longer than I really want to type out in a Facebook comment. So tonight when I pulled out my Instant Pot to make my favorite chicken tortilla soup I decided that I would share that recipe (because it’s yummy) as well as some of my other adventures in Instant Pot-ing in hopes that it might help someone else find good uses for theirs! (skip to the bottom if you just want the chicken tortilla soup recipe)
So I sorta knew that I was getting an Instant Pot for Christmas because… it was the only thing I asked Eric for, and I even sent him an Amazon link to it when it was on sale. It wasn’t a demand… but I hadn’t given him a lot of other ideas so it seemed like a likely guess 😉 I have a hard time coming up with things to give Eric for Christmas though because most of the things he wants are technology – and he knows what he wants better than I do. So I make him put together an Amazon wish list, but since I don’t work outside the home it feels a little arbitrary to buy (or not buy) things from his list, with money he earned. Just my own weird hang up. Anyways, because of that I try to find things that I can give him for Christmas that really are more from me – gifts of the heart if you will. This year I decided that something I could do for Eric that he couldn’t do for himself was find a recipe for his favorite soup that he would eat all the time on his mission in Taiwan, and the ingredients for it… that could be made in the Instant Pot 😉 So, here’s the recipe I came up with – https://www.tablefortwoblog.com/instant-pot-taiwanese-beef-noodle-soup/ . It’s kinda like pho … But yummier I was really glad that I came up with this as a Christmas present for Eric because it forced me to pull out the Instant Pot immediately and not let it languish in its box until I got the nerve up to pull it out 😉
Eric also got me this cookbook as a supplement to go with my Instant Pot! So far I’ve made the chili and cornbread. The chili was really good – and done super fast which was amazing. The cornbread was fine, but nothing to rave about, and it was tricky finding a pan that fit inside the instant pot to make it in. I’d probably skip using the Instant Pot for that. I’d recommend the book, but I won’t share those recipes here since that’s someone else’s copyright.
I also used it to make tri-tip, and the kids have requested it frequently since (I mean, it’s tri tip, who can blame them). I just put the frozen tri tip in with salt and pepper and ran the meat cycle twice and served with bbq sauce – SO good! I made fajitas once using this recipe – it was easy and yummy but there was a LOT more liquid than I expected that I didn’t want to drain because it had all the flavor. I’ll probably try it again but try draining the tomatoes first or something to see if I can get up to pressure without so much liquid. Finally I used my Instant Pot to make pulled BBQ chicken vaguely following these instructions – although really I just put as much chicken as I could reasonably fit in the instant pot with a bottle of BBQ sauce and used their cooking times, but it worked out great.
As far as basic things, I’ve used my instant pot to make rice and felt like it wasn’t any faster than my rice cooker, and the rice didn’t turn out as good (but I was cooking more rice than I probably should have been). I think if I was cooking brown rice it might have been faster, but for regular white rice, I’ll stick to my rice cooker. However I’ve used it to make hard boiled eggs and it was AWESOME! I used these instructions and it was super easy and fast, and most importantly the eggs peeled SO cleanly and easily. I’m a fan for sure.
So, there’s my full report so far of things I’ve made in my Instant Pot! I’m sure there are many fun adventures ahead. The thing I’ve found I like the Instant Pot for most is making slow cooker meals at the end of the day. I’m really good at planning slow cooker meals, but I’m not always as good at actually putting everything in the crock pot at the beginning of the day… and when I realize at 2pm that I meant to do that in the morning… it’s a little late. I like having the option to resurrect my plans just before dinner time 😉
That’s basically how this chicken tortilla soup recipe came to be. This is my favorite crock pot soup, but with the times adjusted for an Instant Pot. I love this recipe because not only is it so yummy but the prep is really simple – dump several ingredients into the pot and let it go. The only real “prep” is chopping up an onion and rinsing the black beans.
Pretend there’s a can of enchilada sauce in there too… I forgot about it until after the picture was taken and didn’t have an extra can just for the picture, hopefully you have a good imagination 😉
I was going to post that my kids really like it too, but let’s face it, it’s not pizza so it’s not their favorite 😛 But they will generally eat it and enjoy it – especially if they can eat the tortilla chips. Sam though was disappointed last night that it wasn’t fajitas and told me, “well it’s not my favorite, so you can’t expect me to eat it un-pickily”. Danny was not excited about the soup either until he started to actually eat it, then he said, “Oh! This isn’t that spicy soup (chili)? I like this soup!” They all ate a decent amount of soup and were pretty happy with it. I asked the kids to pretend that they liked the soup and smile for me to take a picture… this was as close as we got in a few attempts 😛
Regardless of my kids’ reactions, I really like this soup and I’ve served it several times to other people with positive reviews. If you’re looking for a good excuse to bust your Instant Pot out of its box give this a try!
Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Recipe Type: Instant Pot
Serves: 8 servings
1-3 frozen chicken breasts
1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce (red or green, both are yummy 🙂 )
It’s Christmas time! My 3 year old has been trying to convince me every morning that *today* is in fact Christmas and she should be able to open her presents now but so far I’ve been able to hold her at bay (I’m not sure if that will be true once the snow actually comes). However, I really want my kids to get into the meaning of this time of year and to focus more on giving than getting. We decided that we wanted to do the challenge that our church had set out to #LightTheWorld. They have 25 ways for 25 days to celebrate Christ’s life and follow his example.
I decided that I really needed a good way to organize what it was we wanted to do. I knew that some of these challenges would take a little bit of planning to work them into our schedule or to come up with what I wanted to do. So I went through the website and compiled each of the days challenges, with their ideas for possible into an Excel spreadsheet. Now I can easily go through and pick what we want to do for each day and make sure that we have it scheduled in so it’s not too overwhelming. I’m also thinking that I might move around some of the days in ways that will better fit my schedule. Additionally, knowing that I live in Utah where lots of other people are going to be doing this challenge I want to put some of the challenges to work on different days than other people will be. I don’t want to be showing up to the blood bank on the same day as everyone else (although, to be fair, since I’m nursing and have a terrific phobia of needles I wasn’t going to the blood bank personally anyways… but you get the idea).
Ok friends I’ve been seeing these going around on Facebook recently and felt like it needed to be addressed. Let’s start by explaining what this is – a friend posts that they’re looking for people to participate in a gift exchange. The idea is that you just buy 1 gift (in this case valued at $10+) and send it to a particular person, get 6 friends to participate and in return you’ll get 36 gifts from other people! Totally reminiscent of those postcard chain letters that we’d do back in the 80’s & 90’s, and it sounds harmless and fun right?
It sounds great, but let’s think about how this works. You send your gift to your friend’s friend (whoever included them in the gift exchange) and you’re now out the $10 for the gift. You now have to find 6 friends who want to send a gift to your friend, and they’ll find 6 people to send a gift to you. Easy peasy.
So, I did some maths (ok, so Microsoft Excel did some maths… I just entered in a formula) – for the first person there obviously just needs to be 1 person to decide to start the chain. For the second level there are that person’s 6 friends. They need to come up with 36 people. Those 36 people then come up with 216 people, and so on and so forth. I put this in a visual format. We’re going to pretend that you did not initiate this “gift exchange” and that you aren’t friends with the kind of person who would initiate this – remember: the first person didn’t give *anyone* a gift… they’ve just decided that they ought to receive a gift from 36 of their friends friends just for sheer awesomeness. So I’ve put hypothetical “you” at the second tier. I’m not sure whether that makes you really lucky to be so high up in the pyramid (and more likely to have a non-exhausted list of people who would participate, or really unlucky to be so closely connected to the kind of person who thinks scamming their friends for their gain is fun. You can decide. I put in the number of people who would have to be participating at each level to sustain the exchange, and some interesting comparisons for what that number of people means to the right.
Sorry, I’m no graphic designer, but the numbers are staggering. For there to still be 36 participants at the level that would send gifts to you there would have to be more people participating than were killed in the sinking of the Titanic. For those people to receive the promised gifts would take more participants than would fill Yankee Stadium. It only takes 11 tiers to exhaust the total US Facebook user population, and another couple tiers beyond that and it would take more than double the world’s population to fulfill the promises of 36 gifts being sent – and neither of those lower two tiers would receive any gifts.
The entire success of this “exchange” is built on the fact that the majority of people who participate will get nothing. There’s no way for you to get 36 gifts for just sending 1 gift without 35 people sending gifts and not getting any gifts. Hopefully that helps you understand why these are a bad idea. Beyond which, they’re actually illegal. So please friends, just say NO! to these gift exchanges! If you want to get into the holiday spirit how about spending that $10 on buying supplies for refugees, or if you really want to send someone a gift you can always check my Amazon wish list 😉
On Facebook I frequently see people looking for book recommendations. My response is always – well what do you like to read? My personal reading range is all over the map, so I need something to zone in on before making recommendations – or else my Facebook comments become crazy long. However, most of the time people say “oh I like reading whatever”… which doesn’t help. Finally, someone was looking for Audible book suggestions in a homeschoolers group that I’m a part of. For whatever reason that time I spent spent a lot longer than I should have putting together this (non-exhaustive) list of some of the books that I’ve really enjoyed listening to on Audible in every genre. We’ve had an Audible membership for about 7 years now and we have around 400 books in our library. I went through and picked out some of the ones I’ve really enjoyed to compile this list – there are more but here are the ones that stuck out to me for recommending. After posting that as a crazy long comment I copied it and reposted it to my own Facebook page as a status message. I found that I was going back to find that status super frequently still so I finally decided to put it together as a blog post so that I didn’t have to copy and paste it anymore 😉 I’ll probably update this from time to time or post additions as new posts, but this is a good start! But here are my recommendations for books to read, based on my Audible library – I tried to group them vaguely by category, but it’s not the most organized.
Disclaimer: The links in this post are affiliate links. This means that I get a very small commission if you purchase anything from those links. It doesn’t cost you anything but it does help me cover the costs to maintain this site and give me some motivation to continue to post content (beyond just that I enjoy writing it 😉 )
I’ll start with the obvious – Harry Potter. SO worth an Audible credit, the narration is amazing, the books are awesome – I don’t think I need to explain why these should be in everyone’s Audible library 🙂 Jim Dale is the most incredible narrator I’ve heard, I’ve always loved the Harry Potter books, but he brought them to life in a whole new way again. I can’t recommend it enough!
My most recent favorite has been the Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson. They were totally off the wall and SO much fun! My 8 year old has read through them on his Kindle and enjoyed them a lot. My 6 year old has just discovered them and has been listening to them as he goes to bed at night and thinks they’re amazing – which is really saying something as he’s not much of a reader. They were definitely a series that I was sad to get to the end of!
I used to read a lot of historical fiction but for some reason I haven’t really read a lot in the last several years until my friend and I started a book club in our neighborhood this year. We read These is My Words – which was totally different from what I was expecting for some reason, but awesome. It made me feel ALL the feels and it was a great glimpse into a different time period. A lot of people don’t know that it’s actually the first book in a series, but there are two more books – Sarah’s Quilt and The Star Garden both of which I highly recommend. We also read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which had been on my “To Read” list for a LONG time but I’d never gotten around to it. It takes a little bit to get past the letters back and forth format, but a few chapters in you get into the rhythm of it and it’s AMAZING. I can’t believe it took me that long to get to reading it.
Another book club pick that I really enjoyed was The Orphan Keeper. It’s an incredible story and based on real events. I was a little annoyed afterwards to find out how much they had changed the story to fit a nice narrative arc when the true story is already pretty incredible. But it was still a great read and I would highly recommend it.
For younger kids in the learning to read process I would recommend getting kindle books with whisper sync and let them listen and read along on a kindle. Most of these books though are cheaper if you buy the kindle version first and then add on narration – and cheaper to buy both than just the audible book, so definitely check those out. Recommendations for those – Stuart Little, Winnie the Pooh, Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know, Just So Stories… there are lots of good ones out there, but I’ve mostly been limiting myself to the ones I could get for free with Prime shipping credits 😉
I’ve listened to Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz with my kids and they enjoyed them. Peter Pan was a little more intense than I was expecting though, and The Wizard of Oz was good, but I felt like Ann Hathaway’s voices were a touch overdone and little distracting – but it did make it easy to tell characters apart so there’s definitely give and take there.
For some good humorous books I highly recommend Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story – both had me laughing so hard I cried. They’re especially great for long road trips if you need to stay awake 😉 Also if you like Garrison Keillor his books are awesome, especially because he narrates them!
Last year I read A Series of Unfortunate Events and it was fantastic! It might be a little dark for younger kids, and I don’t know that they would enjoy all of the dry irony of many of the situations, but I absolutely loved them.
Anne of Green Gables is awesome as well, but know that you’re going to have a couple holes if you purchase them through Audible (maybe it was just one) as there are some of the books that aren’t in public domain yet. I ended up just purchasing that book and reading it on a kindle but I’m sad to not have the whole set in the same format. But be picky on the narrators! I returned a couple that were VERY poorly narrated.
We’re huge Orson Scott Card fans in our household so a lot of our books are done by him. Anything narrated by Stephan Rudnicki is amazing – seriously you can listen to his voice all day long and be very content 🙂 But if you’re looking for Fantasy I’d recommend Enchantment for sure (but not for the kids). And all of his other books are great too – I won’t bore you with a play-by-play but he writes some great things, you should check them out.
If you like YA literature I’d highly recommend The Selection series, also the Matched series by Ally Condie. Oh! And the Defy series by Sara B. Larson. Obviously The Hunger Games if you haven’t read those yet are also fantastic.
Somewhere between those two categories – popular psychology? – is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and also The Color Code. Both of those I feel like have helped me so much with my relationships with different people – particularly my husband and kids!
I have more classics than this in my library, but the two I’ve made it through recently were Jane Eyre & Great Expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.
If you want something a little bit light and fun in a British humor sort of way I’d recommend Good Omens or Stardust (the movie version of Stardust is also fantastic – but doesn’t follow the book exactly for better or worse). Good Omens is perhaps a bit irreverent – I think to appreciate it you need to have liked both C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a random conglomeration to be sure but if you liked both of those I think you’d enjoy Good Omens. (Oh and I’d recommend Screwtape Letters & Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy too 😉 )
These other books don’t really fit into any other category, but these were some other books that I enjoyed. Honolulu by Alan Brennert was fantastic, and his book Moloka’i is supposed to be even better. I listened to that one on our trip to Hawaii earlier this year and it really made the trip so much more fun because I felt like I better understood the history and tensions of the area. I also really enjoyed I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 – as a tech nerd/enterprenuer. Another cool one was The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg – it was interesting to see another side of WWII even from a fictional (though based on some real events) perspective. Finally, if you like science fiction you should definitely listen to Redshirts by John Scalzi – it was a really fun, not too serious view on the genre.
If you stuck with me for all of that kudos to you! Hopefully you find something you like in all of that!
I’ve been asked several times how our family sets up tech in our van when we’re on long trips. We’ve come up with a pretty awesome solution that keeps the kids very happy for the long trips, without fighting, and without spending a fortune.
So what we’ve done is purchased Kindle Fire Tablets (http://amzn.to/2taMVqj) for each of our kids. The Kindle Fires are relatively inexpensive (around $50 a piece) particularly when compared with say Apple iPads ($250 – on the low end). It’s SO nice because each child has their own device and doesn’t have to cooperate with anyone else or watch what anyone else is watching. Oh, and did I mention that the device they have is not *my* device, so I can still navigate/listen to my book/play Pokemon Go? Everyone wins 🙂 We really like the kids cases that have the handles – they’re cheaper than the ones that Amazon manufactures, they’re more functional, and I think they protect the kindles better. We haven’t had any problems with damage to our kindles inside these cases – except when our kids have poured sticky things in the ports (you can only do so much right?). Here’s a link to one of the cases we’ve liked, but there are similar ones available through a lot of different sellers – http://amzn.to/2v9Ugrm
The Fire tablets don’t hold a ton of media on them (although you can upgrade with micro SD cards very easily), but what we’ve done is purchase a portable hard drive that also acts as a wi-fi hotspot within the car – like this one by Seagate Media that will hold up to 2 Terabytes of movies – http://amzn.to/2taIOdQ! We’ve put all of our movies on there and all the kids can access whatever movies/TV shows they want – and we don’t have to worry about whether they have *the* show they want already on their device. It is also great if the boys want to play Minecraft together – they can use the wi-fi to play local games together (they don’t have internet access obviously, but we don’t let them play online anyways).
We’ve also gotten these headphones for our kids and been happy with them – http://amzn.to/2t0YgxH . They’re comfortable and don’t have pieces on them that are easy to break. Plus the kids look super adorable with animal headbands 😉 I’m not convinced that the volume goes up as high as they really need to overpower the road noises, but my younger two haven’t complained yet so for now we’ll keep doing what we’re doing 😉
So, that’s how we keep our kids occupied on long car rides. We’ve set the rule in our household that the kids don’t get electronics for car rides that are under 30 minutes (you’d be surprised at just how many 29 minute car rides we’ve gone on 😉 ) and this whole set up was MUCH cheaper than installing a DVD player in our car – and we get a lot of use out of everything outside the car too! I hope someone finds this useful!
One of my parents’ engagement pictures in 1982. If they’d known then what the future had in store for them…
I know on Mother’s Day we’re supposed to really focus on just our mothers, however today I want to pay a quick tribute to both my mom AND dad. In addition to today being Mother’s Day, today my dad was released as the bishop of my family’s home ward. He has served in that calling for 6.5 years. Before that he was in the Stake Presidency, following the shortest stint as the bishop (only 9 months) of the same ward, and prior to that he was in the bishopric of our stake’s single’s ward. My dad has been in consecutive leadership callings in our stake for longer than my youngest brother (who turns 19 in August) has been alive. Before that my dad served in the bishopric in our ward in New York and other callings.
My mom has had many callings of her own – YW presidency, Primary presidency, Sunday school teacher, Early Morning Seminary Teacher to name a few – but through all of those callings she has also been supporting my dad in his. Many nights of not knowing if/when my dad would be home for dinner, helping those in the ward who were secretly struggling, getting 5 kids ready for church more or less on time on her own each week (a feat that I’m sure was infinitely easier once her oldest child left the house 😉 ), allowing other families’ needs to intrude on our own family time, and countless other small but significant sacrifices through the years. I know there have been times when the load seemed heavy and probably even too much to bear, but through it all both of my parents have been cheerfully – and sometimes tearfully – willing to sacrifice and serve.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with our faith, these callings represent many hours every week – including most of the day on Sunday – with absolutely zero pay, it is done on a completely volunteer basis. Although volunteer suggests that my dad would have gone to someone and requested these assignments – the opposite is true. For each of these callings someone else in our church leadership would have called my dad in to a meeting and asked him if he would be willing to do this regardless of what other plans my dad might have had at the time. He has continued to hold a full time job to support our family while giving up his nights, weekends and vacation time to serve those in their area willingly.
My mom has told me that the very best thing she could have done was to make that sacrifice to allow my dad to serve in these callings. She has told me that by supporting my dad in these callings she has in turn received a husband who is more compassionate, closer to the spirit and more fulfilled than had she selfishly kept him at home to help her with dressing kids for church and the other things that I know she would have appreciated his help with. She’s told me how she’s heard other women tell their husbands that they couldn’t accept these callings that require so much time and effort because they needed the help at home. She doesn’t belittle these concerns – she knows firsthand how legitimate they are – the sacrifices are indeed significant. But she’s testified to me that while it’s been hard – she has gotten more in return for her sacrifice than she would have received any other way.
So, today I want to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to BOTH of my parents. Thank you for teaching me the value of service and sacrifice. Thank you for teaching me that there is no better way that I can bless the lives of my family than by serving the Lord. I know that their service will not end here – soon enough they’ll find somewhere else to be made useful in serving and loving those around them. They won’t be happy sitting still for long. They know all too well that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God,” and I know they won’t be satisfied not having a way to use their time and talents to serve God. That’s the best example I could have asked for, and I hope that I follow that example in my own live. I love you Mom & Dad!
I know, I’ve fallen way off the boat with my “Why I Believe” posts, I’ll fill in more someday. I was asked to speak in church on Sunday about the Book of Mormon. At first I thought I’d end up just reading what I wrote in this blog post… but as I wrote my talk this came out instead. It turned out to be part of the series that I hadn’t gotten to writing yet. I guess sometimes I just need a little encouragement – thanks Bishop!
Our bishop gave us Elder Holland’s talk “Safety for the Soul” for a topic. I sort of feel like being given a talk from Elder Holland to speak on is like throwing down a gauntlet – here take this amazing talk and find something you can add to it, I dare you. Seriously, Elder Holland’s talk is amazing and I would definitely invite you to stop reading my post and re-listen to his talk So a little known fact about me – although my career has been in computers I actually majored in Linguistics in college. If you’re not familiar with what linguistics is – basically it’s the study of language – not any particular language but the study of the mechanics, building blocks, and psychology of language. So when I heard aboutthis linguistic study that was done on the Book of Mormon I thought was intriguing.
So linguists have found that every person has a unique “wordprint” – basically a fingerprint of their particular writing style. Every person has subconscious patterns of usage for non-contextual words – words like that and, the and, and and, to – they’re words that we use without really thinking and it’s nearly impossible to break those habits. They’ve found that even people who are very conscientious about trying to imitate another person’s style still actually maintain their own wordprint.
The Book of Mormon presents an interesting case because it’s a book that has 100 individual speakers if it was translated and should therefore have 100 different wordprints. So they took a sampling of texts from 24 Book of Mormon speakers and 9 texts from other speakers, including people like Joseph Smith who would be supposed alternate authors for the Book of Mormon. Sure enough, they found unique wordprints for each of these different authors. This is fascinating as it would be nearly impossible for a single person to really write in that many voices without their own wordprint bleeding through.
(Sidenote: there were some other fascinating discoveries in that study so if you have some time I’d highly recommend reading it)
After reading about this study I have been more attentive to seeing these stylistic differences between authors and it is interesting to me to see that each speaker in the Book of Mormon truly has their own unique style and personality similar to the modern Apostles in their conference talks. You start to get a feel for each of the individual Book of Mormon prophets as you separate out their writings and it’s fascinating to me to get to know them in this way.
I think this is such a blessing, even if you might not connect with what Nephi has to say, you might find that you really love the words of Alma or maybe King Benjamin. I was thinking recently in a sacrament meeting what a blessing it is that we have a church where we get to hear different people speak each week and get a different perspective on the gospel rather than having a single pastor. While I’m sure Bishop Peters could give us an excellent sermon every week I love that every person here has their own experiences with the gospel and different things that stick out to them and that we get to hear those perspectives. I think this helps the gospel to be richer for all of us as we gain different insights through the eyes of different members of the ward each week. It’s awesome that the Book of Mormon has this same plethora of perspectives to share with us rather than just one person’s interpretation of the gospel.
Every person you meet will have a different take on the gospel. One of my best friends in college once put together a notebook for me that she filled with some of her very favorite quotes. It was one of the sweetest gifts that someone has given me. But when I got it I noticed something interesting – the quotes that spoke to her didn’t speak to me in the same way. She had selected a lot of quotes that were lovely – they talked about things like you’re loved and beautiful and special – which is great. However the quotes that I tend to take note of are really bold quotes – “the standard of truth has been erected, no unhallowed hand shall stop the work” type quotes. Even though this was one of my very best friends the things that spoke to her and the things that spoke to me were very different. When you read through the Book of Mormon you find so many different styles and messages. Just like it would be hard for Elder Holland to write an Elder Scott talk, I have a hard time believing that one person was able to come up with so many different spins on the gospel and craft such a detailed work.
Another interesting note is the geography of the Book of Mormon. A few years back my mom read a book called Mormon’s Map which focused entirely on the geographical clues of the Book of Mormon. As you read the Book of Mormon there are lots of references to different places and how people travelled between the places etc. In making up a story it’s difficult to keep all the different places in the same places on a map consistently – honestly I’m very directionally challenged and I have a hard time keeping straight where real places are, let alone fictitious places. My parents joked when I started driving that they couldn’t send me to drive up to BYU on my own because they’d get a call from me saying, “Mom, why are all these people speaking French? I don’t remember having to cross the border to Canada to get to Utah?” They were only halfway joking, I’m really that bad with directions.
Anyways, if you read the Book of Mormon and find all of the contextual clues for distances and locations you can actually plot out all of the locations on a map with some accuracy and it stays consistent. So if from Zarahemla to Bountiful is a day’s journey for a Nephite, it stays that distance through other comparisons. If Sidon is east of Zarahemla it stays east throughout the entire book. When they use the terms up and down to refer to elevation then the one city stays up and the other city stays down.
This sort of consistency would be nearly impossible to do consistently unless the places actually exist and in writing you don’t have to remember an invention but you’re just referencing where things are. It’s natural to say something like “I went down to Provo” or “up to Salt Lake” because we know where those places are. But if you were working off of places that you weren’t familiar with or were invented you would probably be less inclined to use those sorts of terms and would instead say something more like “I went to Bora Bora” which would still sound natural but you wouldn’t have to think through the details.
My mom decided after reading this book to try doing the study for herself – she found that there were SO many geographical tidbits woven into the story that she tried to keep up with them in a Google Document but found she couldn’t keep up through the whole book. To have that many little details AND keep them consistent is pretty remarkable.
Elder Bednar shared an experience in a religion symposium at BYU Idaho. He told about how as part of his work as a business professor he wrote books. One particular book that he wrote was written with the help of a colleague. He and his colleague were both highly educated and put tons of research into the book. It was 650 pages long and between the two of them took 2 years to write. He said this about that experience –
“With eight years of university training, with two years of very dedicated work, with an editorial staff, with personal computers, with spell checkers and thesauruses on-line, with the Internet and the other resources that are so readily available, when I picked up the book that I had written and opened it up, I still found mistakes….
Brothers and sisters, you could take a team of the brightest people on the earth, as large a team as you might want, with all of the support staff, all of the computer technology, and all of the assistance that you can imagine, and such a team could not produce one page of a Book of Mormon.”
I haven’t done any writing in my time that could anywhere near rival writing a book, however I love writing in my blog. I know that for every post that I write I write it, and then I go through and I rewrite it a dozen times before I’m happy enough with it to publish it. I consider my personal experience with writing to be just a glimpse of what it would take to write a book like the Book of Mormon. Then consider Emma Smith’s personal testimony of the Book of Mormon –
“I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”
To keep all the details of a book as complex as the Book of Mormon straight in your head, as well as to be able to remember exactly where you left off in telling it aloud would be impossible. To do all that without having to go back and revise things is a pretty strong testimony of the veracity of the Book of Mormon. As you read the Book of Mormon and notice all of the intricacies of the text and consider the ways it fits in with the Bible and other styles and histories – it’s pretty remarkable. In April conference of 1996 Elder Dallin H. Oaks said –
“Overarching the Prophet Joseph’s entire ministry were his comparative youth, his superficial formal education, and his incredibly rapid acquisition of knowledge and maturity. He was 14 at the First Vision and 17 at the first visit from the angel Moroni. He was 21 when he received the golden plates and just 23 when he finished translating the Book of Mormon (in less than 60 working days).”
I’ve tried at times to really reason through the Book of Mormon and see if I can come up with any theory that adequately explains it – and even with vast conspiracies or anything else I’ve come up with – the only answer that makes sense is that Joseph Smith received the book in the manner he says he did. As Joseph himself said of the book, it is the keystone of our religion. If The Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and every other aspect of the gospel falls into line as being true. If it’s not true, then nothing else in the gospel holds up and the entire work crumbles.
Elder George Q. Cannon said of the Book of Mormon, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” I love this quote because it accurately describes how I feel about the Book of Mormon too. I don’t know how to explain a book that claims to be of divine origin, a book that contains so much truth and changes lives for the better – without it actually being of that divine origin.
It’s similar to how I feel about those who say Jesus was just a good wise man, but not the Son of God. You cannot accept Christ’s ministry without accepting his divinity. If He was not indeed the very Son of God, then he was a deranged and very confused man for saying so and neither good nor wise, but evil for trying to deceive people. If the Book of Mormon is a good book then it has to be of good origins.
As Christ himself said both to the Israelites and the Nephites, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth for evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-18)
What fruits has living by the Book of Mormon brought forth in your life? Have you tried the experiment on the word? Have you tried Alma’s challenge of “mourning with those that mourn” and “comforting those who stand in need of comfort”? Have you stood up in seemingly impossible situations like the Sons of Helaman and found yourself protected? Have you prayed to the Lord for direction in your life like the Brother of Jared and received an answer? What results have you seen from living by the teachings in the Book of Mormon? The wisdom of the Book of Mormon is not simply philosophies of men wrapped up in stories and fables. The Book of Mormon is true, and it came forth the way Joseph claimed. The result of living by its teachings is peace, direction and light, and results like that can only come from truth.
I want to share this excerpt from Elder Holland’s talk. He shared the scripture that Hyrum Smith marked from the Book of Mormon as the last thing he read to his brother Joseph before their martyrdom. Then followed up with this declaration –
“As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.”
Seriously, passages like that are why we love Elder Holland. 🙂 I like Elder Holland’s note that this is “one of a thousand elements of [his] own testimony.” The research and studies and reasonings that I’ve shared with you are not my testimony of the Book of Mormon, they are simply small facets of my testimony. In order to have a testimony you can’t stake your whole belief on one small aspect of the gospel, you have to dive in so that you have a thousand different pieces that make your faith immovable.
I went to high school in Southern California, where obviously Latter-day Saints are not the majority. One day I was talking to one of my friends about some aspect of the gospel (I couldn’t even tell you what it was now) and afterwards I was thinking about what I’d just told her and I thought, “are you telling her things that are really true, or are you just mindlessly repeating things that other people have told you are true?” The thought gave me serious pause. I take my integrity very seriously – I didn’t want to be spouting off things that I didn’t know were true. Almost immediately I realized – of course it is true. I’d read the Book of Mormon, gone to church, studied the gospel and tried to live it – I could see how much happiness, peace, direction, and joy the gospel gave me and those who lived it, and how much of the opposite came from not living it. I had tried the ‘experiment upon the word’ and I could see that it brings forth good fruit.
Like Elder Holland these are some of the thousand elements of my testimony – I know that the Book of Mormon is true. Beyond academic analysis I know the Book is true because I’ve read it, I’ve tried to live it. I’ve asked, as it says at the end of the book, if the words were true, and I have felt that witness for myself. I know that as Joseph Smith said we “can get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book.” As I live the things I’ve learned in the Book of Mormon my life is enriched and I’m better for it. The blessings of the gospel are not coincidental. If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon and taken Mormon’s challenge yet – then do it. Start today and get through the book. The testimony and strength that you will gain from it will be priceless to you.
If you’re struggling with your testimony I would encourage you to go back to the Book of Mormon – re-read it. Pick one thing that you want to add as a part of your testimony and study that. As your testimony of the Book of Mormon is strengthened your testimony of other parts of the gospel will be strengthened. Even if you don’t get the answers to the questions that you might be directly seeking, as you understand the gospel better as a whole you can let your worries wait until you’re able to get the answers you’re looking for. for. When I’ve had questions I’ve stopped and taken a step back and looked at the big picture of the gospel rather than focusing on whatever thing might be troubling me. As I’ve started from an overall position that our Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to be happy, and re-examine the plan of salvation and work my way down to the problem I generally find that things fall into place. And if they don’t, I at least feel like I’m starting on solid ground and I can be patient and wait for those things to fall in place.
I bear testimony that Joseph Smith is a true prophet that the Lord sent to open this last dispensation and that through him the Book of Mormon has been delivered to us. I know the Book of Mormon is true. Take the challenge today, read the book and let it bless your life.