And Great Shall Be the Peace of Your Children

And Great Shall Be the Peace of Your Children

In the fall, I gave a talk in Stake Conference on teaching children, (especially young children) how to study the scriptures. 

 

Rose Park North Stake Conference, October 17, 2015

Laryssa Waldron

Good morning brothers and sisters. What a sacred privilege and honor it is for me to be with you for a few minutes today.

At the end of the Book of Mormon, father and son, Mormon and Moroni witness the decline and almost entire annihilation of their race. There are some gruesome scenes of terror, violence, and man’s inhumanity to man that they face and yet the two of them stay firm in the faith of Jesus Christ. Moroni tells us that “their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.” And then he boldly states, “And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ” (Moroni 1: 2-3).

How were they able to stay faithful at the worst of times? How did they stay true to their testimonies, even when their own lives were at stake?

May I submit that it was, at least in large measure, due to their callings as witnesses and historians. They spent many hours daily in the revelations of God – abridging, recording, and translating them, hoping that someday their records would benefit total strangers and even the posterity of those that were trying to take their lives. Every day, the word of God must have fortified their souls, even when the ferocity of brutal carnage was, as Mormon puts it, “a continual scene of wickedness and abominations [that had] been before [his] eyes ever since [he was old enough to understand] the ways of man” (Mormon 2:18).

This state of wickedness, unfortunately is not unusual to that time. Throughout the history of mankind there have been multiple periods when mankind has rejected and turned away from God.  Then God would set up a new dispensation in which a prophet would be called who had the holy priesthood, keys, and a divine commission to dispense the gospel to the inhabitants of the earth. Through all of these times, the prophets looked forward to two events – 1) the birth, atonement, death and resurrection of the Savior Jesus Christ, and 2) the dispensation of the fullness of times – the last restoration of priesthood, authority, keys, and missionary work. A time when the gospel would not be taken from the earth again and the people would prepare the earth and also be prepared to welcome the Savior to His millennial reign.  Which is a joyful thought, but it also comes at a very wicked time, a time called in scripture “the latter days” … our day.

Listen to these words that confirm this truth from President Russell M. Nelson from conference just two weeks ago  –

“Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women [and men] who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. President Russel M. Nelson, A Plea to My Sisters, General Conference, October 2015.

Like Mormon and Moroni, we need to have a group of people who remain strong in their testimonies, however this time instead of physical battles; it is during some of the worst spiritual battles the earth has ever known.  When many (even some of our own) will “call evil good, and good evil;” and will “put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).  How will our children know truth in the midst of such confusion? It is our sacred duty as parents, grandparents, and teachers to teach our children not only to LOVE the scriptures (as many of them do) but to understand and live them so that Satan will not have power over their hearts as is prophesied in 1 Nephi 22:15.

Our children cannot know right and wrong without us teaching them. They cannot know who the Savior is simply by our hoping that “somehow they’ll figure it all out.” They will not have spiritual experiences unless we teach them who they are, who God is, and how to approach Him and ask for those sacred blessings (Doc. & Cov. 93:19).

In Doctrine and Covenants section 93, the Lord chastises Joseph Smith, Jr., Frederick G. Williams, and Sidney Rigdon, (the first presidency at the time) because they had not been teaching their children “light and truth.” “Light and truth” they are told “forsake that evil one” and “that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience … and because of the tradition of their fathers.”

How will our children to have enough light and truth so that they will forsake the evil one? We teach them.

In the topical guide, there are 31 scriptures listed under “Children, responsibilities toward” and the vast majority urges parents to teach children the word of God through the scriptures. May I share three ideas that will help in our quest to teach the gospel using the scriptures?

  1. Teach the doctrine simply and plainly whenever you can –

When children are taught gospel doctrines simply and plainly, they will change. Let me share  a story that illustrates this. A few years ago, I went to pick up my daughter from her second grade class. As I walked up to the door, I saw a little boy hit my daughter’s friend in the face. No teacher was there to help, and after making sure that the girl was okay, I sat the boy down and taught him a doctrine from the Proclamation to the World on the Family. I told him that his job as a man was to protect girls and women, that he was never to hit one again, and that if he took on his role to protect them that they would always love and respect him. After that moment, every time I saw him that year, he would run up to me and say, “I’m doing what you told me to, I’m protecting women” and then he would go on to tell me about a time when he stopped his friends from chasing the girls or something similar.

Now, I didn’t know all of the background of this little boy, but I did know something about who he is, he is a spirit son of Heavenly Father and he chose to follow the Savior in the pre-earth life. True doctrine, taught in love, by the Holy Ghost has the power to change lives. Hopefully (now four years later) that little boy has not had that piece of “light and truth” taken out of his heart by disobedience, or worse for children, by the traditions and examples of his fathers (meaning the male figures in his life).

  1. Teach the scriptures consistently in daily devotionals and with questions and discussions, not just reading –

Teaching children to read out of the scriptures can be a monumental task. It is easy to find excuses and reasons not to, but like everything worthwhile in life, consistency and training will pay great rewards. Please note that I give the following simply as ideas to help the Holy Ghost springboard personalized revelation of how you can implement scripture study into your own family and circumstances.

When my children were very young (before they could read) I read the scriptures to them

183040_NT_Stories_Beg_Reader

Scripture Stories for Children can be read online or purchased at low costs.

out of the scripture stories for children. These can be found online at lds.org or purchased at the distribution center in many languages for under $10 each. We read out of them every night beginning with the Old Testament, New Testament, then the Book of Mormon and finished with the Doctrine in Covenants. This did two things, it taught an overview of the scriptures and it gave a consistency to our scripture reading (they knew that every night before bed, we would read and pray).

As we got to the final scripture story book, I found that asking questions was essential in making sure that they understood what they were learning. For example, in teaching about the first vision I could ask questions like, “What did Joseph Smith go into the grove to do?” That would help me learn whether or not they understood the story line. At some point, they would discuss the fact that Joseph went to seek an answer to prayer (if not, I could point that out to them). Fact finding questions can be very helpful and necessary questions, but it’s even more important to connect scripture with their experience.

Asking connecting questions like, “Have you ever had a time that you wanted the Lord to answer a question for you? Tell me about it?” will give them these connecting opportunities and allow for beautiful moments of testimony.

Finally, to help them apply the teaching into their lives, I could ask something like, “Will you think of a question that you would like the Lord to answer?” and then testify that if they will search out the answer from Him, that they will find it. With experience and follow through at our daily devotionals, I can gauge how my children (or grandchildren, or students, as the case may be) are internalizing gospel truths. It adds to deeper learning and shared family experiences.

After we finished all of the scripture stories, (again, before my children had learned to read) I read the scriptures to them and they would repeat the words and phrases. That continued the consistency of daily study, but also introduced them to the beautiful (and challenging) language of the scriptures. As the children got older we begin reading together as a family, but always, we continue to discuss what we are reading and how it applies to our lives.

Even the very young children can relate their few precious life experiences to the gospel. Last week, in Primary we talked about times when they had scary experiences and needed to talk to Heavenly Father in prayer to help change the thoughts in their heads. After thinking about it for a while (and long after the conversation was over), a sunbeam [aged 3-4] wanted to share her experiences of being scared in the night. Sharing time was due to end and so I asked her to wait until after the closing song and prayer. Then she told me about waking from a scary dream and we discussed that the next time it happened she could pray and ask Heavenly Father to give her peace and comfort.

It is so important to have frequent conversations with your children about the gospel. Listen to the command of the Lord –

Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul … And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

“And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20, 22).

And then the scriptures go on to promise that if we teach and speak with our children about the gospel that we will have many mighty blessings, some of which are that we will not be deceived by falsehoods [teachings, people, ways, patterns of living], and that our days and the days of our children will be multiplied in the land.

President Benson (13th President of the Church) said that youth who participate in daily family devotionals [prayer and scripture study] will have hearts that are freed from evil intentions and will be the restraining influence in a group when temptations arise (President Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 2: Pray Always, (2014), 46–57).

Now, I know some of you may be saying, “It’s too late, my family is already grown.” But take the advice of Elder Foster from last conference who taught, “It’s never too early and it’s never too late” (Elder Bradly D. Foster, General Conference, October 2015). Text, Facebook message, or call your children and grandchildren. Share a scripture that you have been studying and your testimony, do it often. Teach, testify, and talk with them.

Some of you may be saying, “It’s hopeless, I don’t know, can’t learn, and don’t understand the scriptures. My kids will just have to learn it at Church or at Seminary.” To you, my dear brother or sister, may I testify that you know enough to start (see Elder Neil L. Anderson, You Know Enough, General Conference, October 2008).   You are here, aren’t you? You chose to follow the Savior before you came to earth, and you are a covenant child of God. You have access to the Holy Ghost who can “teach you all things” and “bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26). Have faith in the Lord’s faith in you. You are part of the chosen generation, just as the youth are. At this age and stage, your responsibilities are different than they were when you were a youth, but you are still chosen. You will learn, you are able to do it, you have been chosen, it is prophesied that you will do it, and you must do it! Who better to prepare your children for their future gospel responsibilities and experiences than you? Your children are counting on you. The Lord is counting on you and He will not fail to help you.

Go to lds.org. Read the seminary and institute teacher manuals ahead of when you are going to share them with your family, even if you are a chapter ahead of them. Find out what the scriptures mean! Petition the Lord for help in this, your greatest calling, being a mother or father.

  1. Don’t just preach! We must allow our children to have their own experiences with the Holy Ghost who will lead them to the Savior.

A few months ago, my seven-year-old daughter was preparing a talk for primary and I decided to try some of the gospel teaching techniques that I had been learning with her. Her talk was on the Holy Ghost and so I sat her down at the kitchen table, we prayed, and then I asked her to read three verses about the Holy Ghost and write down what she thought they meant. Then, I asked her to write about how she could put those teachings into her life. When she excitedly called me back to her she started to tell me what she had learned. I went to stop her because clearly she hadn’t understood the main point of the verses – that the Holy Ghost would speak in her mind and heart – but I felt the Spirit hold me back. She’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn more about those verses, Laryssa, listen to what I taught her, was the impression that I got. She told me that from the verses she learned that even though she was only seven; she could have the Holy Ghost in her life, giving her promptings and encouragement. Yes! That was much more important than what I was going to teach her at that moment.

I know that teaching children, even young children the gospel out of the scriptures will work. I’ve been teaching the scriptures with your teenagers in Seminary and I’ve been teaching your children out of the scriptures in Primary. We are all capable of understanding and doing much, much more with the gospel. Let us have faith in our children, faith in ourselves, and faith in the Lord who was the one that gave the commandment to teach our children the gospel through daily scripture study. Let us, even in times of peril like Mormon and Moroni  raise a “sin-free generation”, “a peculiar treasure … a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5) that will be ready to greet the Savior at His second coming which, given the state of the world, looks to be closer every day.  May we capture the promise of the Lord given through Isaiah, “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (Isaiah 54:13). This is my prayer. My testimony is that the gospel is true and that the Savior lives and loves us. I close in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 


 

Notes: *Photo 1: courtesy of LDS.org, Congo Priesthood Father; *Photo 2: picture of Children Scripture Stories, the author of this article does not receive any monetary remuneration for this, it is simply presented as an option.

 

 

Advertisements

Thou Shalt … Judge?

Judgement

The other day, my daughter came to me and told me about a YouTube video that she was shown at school.  She didn’t know what to think about it, whether it was a good video or a bad video. Whether to like it because everyone else seemed to, or to shun it.  We watched it together and immediately I made up my mind about it, but I wanted to have a teaching moment about the importance of judgement.

As an aside, society seems to know one phrase only from the bible, and that is, “don’t judge” (though they don’t seem to know any of the myriad of other verses about judgment from the scriptures).   It seems to be the way to crush a conversation, or walk defiantly away from guilt with a quick “don’t you judge me”. It’s what the critical social police throw at you when you comment on strange behaviors and consequences of those actions, though their criticism for judging you is never thought about as they walk off feeling the moral victor. (I’m sure I sound petty right now, and I freely admit that it is a pet peeve of mine).

Yet in all of our conversations about not judging (which, despite all of our lofty “judge not” talk, we do all the time) there should be conversations about how to judge and what to judge  – because we are supposed to judge, but we are to judge righteous judgement (John 7:24).  How do we do that in a society which calls evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)?  Let’s look into that.

Let’s begin by getting back to my daughter.  We watched the video together and then I shared these scriptures with her (Moroni 7: 15-17 emphasis added) –

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.

Good – For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.

Bad – But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.

So we took the video and discussed it.

Was there a good message? (Yes, it was trying to get the kids to be safe). 

Was the information leading up to the message good? (No, it was creepy, about a bunch of ways to die).

How did it make you feel? (Scared, disgusted, creeped out, felt strange inside).

How did the song make you feel? (The same as above). 

So, we have one “good” and a bunch of “bads”.  Should we judge the video to be good for kids or bad for kids? (Bad).

Even though the message was a good one? (Yes, because there was too much bad to get through to get to the main message). 

Now she knows perfectly that she doesn’t need to pretend to like it just because everyone else did.  It took away her peace and made her feel creeped out inside.  Then we talked about strategies of what to do if it were ever shown again (which thankfully, it wasn’t).

Notice that we didn’t judge whether the people were going to heaven or hell.  We judged situations, the media, and consequences.  People make mistakes and people can have bad judgement.  I can allow her teachers and friends to have an “off” moment. We made decisions about how this child could effectively judge and use her agency to decide what to listen to and what to watch in the future so that she could continue to have peace in her heart (Jeremiah 6:16).

Now are there times when I can judge a person’s actions? Yes.  Should those actions have a detrimental effect on me or my loved ones, I can again determine whether I want to be around that behavior (as can my children). Do I forgive, do I hope that they will be better, do I show forth love? Yes. But the scriptures are full of examples in which the good moral people left bad circumstances (Joseph fleeing from Potiphar’s wife [Genesis 39:9-12] for example).

Am I allowed to talk about the consequences of actions?  Is that judging?  In Joshua 8:33, the prophet was told to separate the people into two groups, one standing on Mount Gerizim and the other group on Mount Ebal.  There they read to the people the blessings and cursings that come from the obedience or disobedience of following the law (see Deuteronomy 28).  The scriptures are FULL of laws and their fixed blessings and cursings.  Which is why it is important to study them, because if we want to be possessors of righteous judgement, we need to understand what the Lord deems as righteous and what He deems as wicked.

We do our children a disservice when we cut off communication and shroud the discussion of consequences with the pacifying doctrine of “don’t judge”, or worse, the insidious teaching of “that will never happen”.  If the costs of actions are not discoursed, our children will be spiritually crippled by the heavy burdens brought on by uneducated desires and uniformed choices.

Yes, we do and must judge – actions, circumstances, media, choices.  We must teach our children to value actions which lead to blessings and be wary of actions which lead to consequences that would be detrimental to their futures. Even if that means, at times, that we may preach doctrine that is full of “hard things, more than [some] are able to bear” (1 Nephi 16:1-2).

 

For further study, see this amazing talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell – Lessons from Laman and Lemuel. (Laman and Lemuel became rebels instead of leaders, resentful instead of righteous—all because of their failure to understand either the character or the purposes of God.)

Oh Utah! Such a Bitter Battle …

Mom and babyTwenty years ago, I was at BYU as a freshman.  I was on the threshold of adulthood, fresh and barely tested in life’s most difficult trials, and I sat down with a dear friend (we’ll call her ‘friend A’) to discuss polygamy (please don’t shut down – this is not the topic of this discussion). 😉 Anyone who knows the history of the LDS Church comes across this topic at some point and at some level or another, and needs to deal with it.   This friend had no problem with it, which was shocking to me!  So, I began to study the topic and mentally and spiritually ‘deal’ with it.  As with everything, I went to the scriptures and prayer first and was taught by the Spirit and lead to sources that helped to shape my own opinions and ideas.  Excitedly, I ran to share everything that I knew with another dear friend (we’ll call her ‘friend B’).   I had no idea that this issue was, for her, a Doctrinal “Abrahamic Trial” (See Doc. & Cov 101:3-5). 

The more I shared with B, the more she “shut down”.  I finally got to the point, where I had to stop talking about the issue with her because it caused so much anguish.

Let me try to put this idea into a parable (certainly not a perfect one). Have you ever tried to comfort a crying and screaming baby? Sometimes, you just can’t do it and you have to turn the baby over to the Mom (or the Primary Comfort Giver, as the case may be). Have you ever been the mom and watched as someone tried to comfort your baby? You smile and watch, knowing that when they get tired of trying, they’ll give you the child.

I’ve watched B over the years on her path. She chose to go to the Primary Comfort Giver, who constantly says, ‘Come unto me and I will heal you’ (see 3 Nephi 17:7).  She had to get her witness after ‘the trial of her faith’ (see Ether 12:6), and she continues to work with the Great Physician.

With some situations, the only thing that you can do is give the baby back to the mom.

That is not to say that we should not have doctrinal conversations in the fear that we are going to open wounds.  Friend A engaged in a conversation with me that opened up the discussion and put me on a path of spiritual knowledge and understanding that has been a blessing.

Utah, is REELING right now, because of the recent events dealing with SSM and the rule of law (please don’t shut down! 😉 ) – those from this great state open their Facebook accounts or turn on the news and are bombarded with ideas and opinions.  These conversations need to happen.  Yes, we need to discuss with civility on all sides, (which can be difficult with an issue so charged, so personal and so painful) but these discussions need to happen!  And, as we get better and better at communicating and listening, both with the public and, most importantly, with the Father, those conversations will change lives and hearts.  (We will learn, like a grandparent can, how to comfort a baby that is not necessarily our own).

All over this state (and in other areas) people are having opportunities to speak. To bear testimony. To share their ideas and experiences.  They are able to talk about their spiritual journeys.  They are talking about the journeys of their friends and loved ones. Some are experiencing their own Abrahamic trials, and some are excited because they have been taught by the Spirit (which AMAZING and miraculous and they need to be strengthened and share their testimony of it!)  Don’t shut them down by constantly saying  –  “Jesus said love everyone” or “don’t judge” every time a difficult doctrine comes up.  We NEED to talk about the doctrine. We know that some will have hurt feelings (no matter how we phrase things) because it is their Spiritual Abrahamic journey.  We need to hand them over to the Savior.  He will know what to do.  He will know how to “feel after them“. Just as I know how to hold my child exactly right.

Father in Heaven wants us to talk.  He wants us to discuss.  To share our logic. To share our feelings. To share our joy and our pain.

When my children have an experience (going to the dentist, falling off the bicycle, learning to jump off the couch) they want to share it.  I want them to share it, too.  I want them to learn how to express their ideas. When Daddy comes home I say, “Child A, go tell Daddy about your bug bite!” This allows them the ability to think through and process the experience.

We are Spirit Children; we need to talk about our moments in life, the happy, the sad, the nightmares, the triumphs, and the joys.

My children fight, they hurt each other, and they cause pain to each other.  We talk it through together.  My children also love each other, and play together, and need each other, and are learning to be loyal to each other.

In all of the human drama, it is VITAL to talk about eternal families – but it is just as VITAL to talk about THE Eternal Family, because, just as my daughters are learning to hold their newborn sister, we can help Him do His great work.  If He could, if it were possible, if we would let Him, the Savior would bring all of us back to the Father (see John 17).

Earthly Fathers, Heavenly Fathers, and Dad’s Funeral

A good father is a thing to appreciate. A righteous father is a thing to celebrate. Many men are good, and some are both good and righteous. I was blessed to have a Dad that was both. He passed away just after Thanksgiving 2012 (hence my absence from writing as of late). It absolutely sucks to lose a parent. I completely believe in the Plan of Salvation and know that I’ll see him again, however, I was unprepared for the feeling of separation and loss that comes with the death of a loved one. I suppose that’s what the scripture means when it states that “the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ”.

HLW Graveside

Leaving the subject of death here for another discussion, I want to take a few moments in this post, to talk about good and righteous men and to share the talk that I gave at my Dad’s funeral.

A good and righteous man is courageous. He puts God first. When he stumbles and makes a mistake he says sorry and works to make things better, he’s only human after all. He is his wife’s companion, friend, and support. He is his children’s protector, provider, priesthood holder, and jungle gym. He always shows up (answering any time the “bat signal” goes up) with help, strength, encouragement, and a listening ear. In short, he is invested in his family and their physical and spiritual welfare.

I’ve been trying to teach my daughters that they need to listen and follow the directions and rules that we give them, because we are good parents. Our rules are for their benefit, welfare and well-being. The problem with Satan was not just that he rebelled (sometimes rebellion is necessary) but that he rebelled against a good and just and righteous Being. If my father, or husband, or Church leader is a friend of God, striving to follow Him and walk in His way (repenting and trying again when he falls) then I have no problem listening to the counsel of such a person. My dad was that kind of a person, and though at times we clashed, and I didn’t understand why he asked me to do certain things, it was a joy to have a father-daughter relationship with him because he always showered me with love and care and concern and help.

As I’ve been thinking about fathers and this post, an absolutely fantastic video was posted in Mormon Messages which corresponds exactly with what I’ve been talking about.

Finally, I want to talk a little about his funeral. My Mom asked each of the kids (four of us) to speak. I include my talk, though I have edited it in part from the actual talk because speaking and the written word are different mediums and there are some nuances (facial gestures and vocal tones) that need larger strokes when written out, as well as ideas that need more explanation.

I am happy to be with you.  I am so touched that so many of you came.  I am so touched that many of you came from far away.  I am overjoyed to be Harv Wilhelm’s daughter and I am overjoyed that you would be here as our friends and our loved ones.

Of all of the children in the family, I am the most like my Dad.  That similarity led to a lot of clashes, (and not a few arguments) because we were so similar.  However, I knew that my Dad loved me, and despite the fighting, I was a daddy’s girl.  

The greatest thing that Dad taught me was how to have a relationship with a loving Being.  My father taught me who Heavenly Father was.  I knew who Father was because of my dad – because my Dad loved me, because he always let me come back when we argued, because he always forgave me, because we always started over – I knew that Father in Heaven was the same way.  I knew it.  I knew that I could go to my Father in Heaven the same way that I could go to my father.  We would sit and talk, we would be together.  I knew the Savior was like that, too. 

My father was love.  My father would drop anything, to be with us.  My father would listen, he would counsel, he would guide. When we had a family meeting after he died, we sat together and I said, “I don’t know where to go now that Wikiharvia is gone.”  But, then I realized, of course, that I would go to my Father in Heaven, (to whom my dad always pointed me).  He would always be there for talks and for love and for comfort and for guidance.  

I want you to know how much our Father in Heaven treasures each of you.  You see, my dad taught me that we lived with Father in Heaven before we came to earth.  I knew that truth.  I knew it because my dad told me.  I knew it because he talked about it all the time.  I knew it because I found it in the scriptures.  The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before you were born, before I formed thee in the belly.  I knew thee and I gave you your mission.  I told you what I needed you to do.”  Dad would tell me that.  “Laryssa, Father has a plan for you.”  So, I constantly went to Father and said, “Okay, we did that.  What is next?”   I got taken to strange places, the same way my dad had been taken.  Very strange places!

One of those places was the Army, like my dad.  I know it is strange that a girl, his daughter, went into the Army.  I told you I was the most like him.  My dad called me up one day and he said,

“Hey, Laryssa, how would you like to join the Army?”

“Um…no.”

But the problem was, my dad had taught me how to follow the Holy Ghost, so when the Holy Ghost said,

“Ya, I want you to go into the military,”

I knew that I had promised Heavenly Father that I would go to the military and I thought,

“Darn it!”

When the Holy Ghost told me I needed to go on a mission, I knew I had promised Heavenly Father that I would go on a mission and I said,

“Darn it, Laryssa! Why? Why did you do that?”

One of the most amazing things about our Father in Heaven is that He has things for us to do.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  My dad always talked about seeing beyond the veil, seeing who people were inside.  Dad looked at people for who they were on the inside (even total strangers and acquaintances) and treated them with care and concern.  Father in Heaven knows you and He loves you, just as my dad did, and He wants you to be in His life.  He will give you assignments and, if you take them on, you will become the transcendent being that He knows is inside of you.

When the Savior died on the cross, the veil of the temple split open.  The veil had never been broken open before, no one could even be in the Holy of Holies, no one could be where Heavenly Father was, because this veil kept them from Father, both physically and spiritually.  When the Savior died, He broke that veil open so that you and I could be with our Heavenly Father in spirit on earth, here, now.

He wants a relationship with you.  He wants you to pray to Him, He wants you to be with Him.  

I hate that my dad is gone, but in the hospital when I knew it was the end, I put my arms around my dad and said, “Dad, I will be okay. But, promise you will come visit me.”  I know he will.  I know he will because I know that the gospel is true and I know that dad is in the Spirit World.  I know that his spirit still exists, I know he has work to do, I know that he will be in your lives just as he is in mine.  I know that.

So, I talked to you about the veil of the temple and that the Savior opened it up so that we, through the Savior, could be with our Heavenly Father – so that we could walk through and be with Father in Heaven again.  Now, let me tell you something about the veil.  The veil is as thin or as thick as you choose it to be.  You are in control of whether or not you feel God’s presence.  You determine whether or not you feel Heavenly Father with you.  

Isn’t that incredible? It is like an onion, you just keep peeling the layers. How do you get close to your Father in Heaven? Well, sometimes something inside just says,

“Why don’t you open that scripture.”

You’re like, “Uh, it is just the scriptures.”

But, I promise that if you open it up, you will feel something and another layer of that onion will be peeled away. I use that onion just as a little metaphor because the closer and closer you get to God, the more you will know that He exists, the more you will feel the spirits around you and the more He will show you what work He has for you on this earth.

I have a final story to tell and hopefully I can make it through.  The very last week that I was on my mission in Bulgaria, my mom knew that I wouldn’t get her weekly letter.  Since I had been in my last apartment for ten months, she had the phone number, so she gave me a little phone call in place of the letter and she said, “Oh, Laryssa, we are so excited. We will see you in three days, but, Dad is out of town and he is not going to be able to fly in until Saturday.”  I said, “Okay” with a lump in my throat.

Eighteen months without your daddy, it is kind of hard. (It is going to be a lot harder now, I know that.) But at that time, eighteen months without my dad was kind of hard and I just thought, “I will be okay, it’s only going to be two more days.  After all this time, what’s two more days?”  

All missions are different, but my mission was particularly strenuous.  It was just a very, very difficult time to be in Bulgaria.  The people there did not like our church, we were abused and we were mocked and we were not allowed to wear our name tags and I feared for my life often.  It was very challenging to be there and as I came home I was exhausted – mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  At one point I was particularly low.  My companion had a different plane to catch and I would be alone on the final flight from New York to Salt Lake.  I  just needed the strength to get on that last plane, but I wanted to collapse.  I just looked at myself in the restroom mirror and I said, “Okay, I can do this.  I can do one more plane and then I can be with my family.  I am almost there.”  

I walked out of the restroom, squared my shoulders, and walked to the gate when I heard, “Hello, Ryss.”

I stopped.

“Wait a second, I am that name!”

I hadn’t been called my nickname, my childhood  family nickname for so long, and I wondered who could be calling me by that name.

As I turned, I saw my dad standing there in the New York airport.

I said, “Daddy! What are you doing here?”

He said, “Laryssa, they let me off early and I am on this flight, in fact, I worked it out so that we get to sit together on the way home.”

I said, “Oh, Daddy!  Take me home please.  I am so tired.  Please help me get home.”  And I threw my arms around him. He put his strong arms around me and I was just so happy to be with him.

Years later, as I was telling a seminary class that story,  I suddenly realized that it is a metaphor for being with Heavenly Father. One day He will come up to us and He will call us by our spirit name, a name that is more home and more familiar to us than anything we have ever known in this life. We will look at Him and, according to President Ezra Taft Benson, we will be shocked at how familiar His face is to us.  Can you imagine that?  Your Father in Heaven loves you.  Your Father in Heaven will carry you through this life, if you allow Him to.  Though I grieve that my dad will not be with me anymore, I love that he has taught me who Jesus Christ is.  I love that he has taught me who Heavenly Father is and that I, as well as every single one of you, have access and opportunity to be in Father in Heaven’s presence any time that we desire through our beautiful Savior, who made it possible. I bear testimony of His life. I bear testimony of His love and His desire to help you with your lives to finish your mission, like my dear father, and to move on to your next one.

I bear that testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tithing, Hard Work, and An American Girl Doll

20121026-135752.jpg

My daughter (age 7) has been begging me for an American Girl Doll for the last two years. The dolls, though beautifully made, are quite expensive. We tried buying the knockoff doll, but her hair got really messed up. So my daughter has been insisting on the American Girl Doll with great forcefulness (you know how girls can put on the pressure!)

About one month ago, we had another “discussion” about the doll and I put my foot down and explained again that we couldn’t afford it. She said, “well then, I’ll buy it myself!”

I told her that if she wanted to do that, then I would help her. We made a deal that if she got $100 and paid her tithing on the total that I would pay the taxes and shipping and handling.

Then I told some friends on Facebook and family members about her goal and she offered her services to them. For the last month she has done the following:
•pulled weeds
•cleaned and organized toy rooms
•entertained children so that moms could get a task done
•yard work
•housework
•taking in mail and putting out trash
•you name it, even memorizing the articles of faith (a very kind friend paid her a dollar per article.)

She thought she’d earn $100 in a day, I thought she might make it for Christmas. We were both wrong.

It took about a month and many wonderful and kind friends and family members hired her to do these odd jobs. It’s been amazing to see her learn about money and saving.

The miracle comes in the fact that my husband is out of work. I was worried about how to even pay for the shipping and handling. Then my bro-in-law called with a free shipping code. We were so blessed and ended up paying only about $10 for her doll.

Another sweet miracle was the day that it came in the mail. She had prayed in school that it would come that day. 🙂 It’s wonderful that the Lord cares about the little things as well as the big.

At one point, J. offered her money for us to use. I asked her how she would get her doll if she gave us the money and she said with a shrug that she’d earn more. I love that girl!

20121030-145612.jpg

Anger – What do you do with it?

Photo courtesy of MS Word Images

Last Monday night (for Family Home Evening) we had a lesson on anger.  We started by talking about emotions, what they are, and why we have them, and the fact that we need to learn to control all of them.  We focused in on anger and this scripture:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another (3 Nephi 11: 29).

He stirreth up the hearts to contend with anger.  WOW! We used the analogy of mixing up kool-aid to explain this concept.  If we were to put a package of purple drink mix with sugar over it and then cover that with water and let it sit, it probably wouldn’t turn the water very purple.  However, if we mix, mix, mix, purple will get all through the water.  If your feelings of anger are the purple mix, then Satan wants you always to be consumed with purple anger and so, he will mix, and stir, and get you and others really riled up so that all we do is fight!

Then we used the Mr. Roger’s Song, What do You do with the Mad that You Feel to discuss that we need to turn our anger into something constructive.  This is how we learn maturity.  We have control, that is what it means to be a woman or man.  Here is the Sheet Music, and you can see the video of him singing by following this link and clicking on videos, then songs.

Then we talked about the examples of the Savior on the Cross, Father, forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34), and the Prophet Joseph Smith who was taken out of his home in the middle of the night and tarred and feathered.  That night, he crawled home and they worked to clean him up by tearing the tar off of his skin.  The next morning, he preached a sermon on love and forgiveness to some of the same people who had mobbed him the night before.  Six were converted and baptized as a result of his ability to forgive.

Finally, we made goals for the week of what we would do to control our anger:

  • Go on a Run
  • Count to ten
  • Talk it through
  • Do art work
  • Spend some time away from each other
  • Put the toy (or other item that they are fighting over) in “time-out”

As a follow-up, when the girls have gotten mad this week, I just sing the Mister Rogers song, and then we’ve talked through the situation, rather than yelled and screamed.  It’s been a very effective lesson.  They’re not all effective of course, but this one seemed to be valuable so far. 🙂

What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel

 

What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?

What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?

It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:

I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.

What Do You Do with the Mad that You Feel?
By Fred M. Rogers
© 1968

A Young Man Prepared

 

One Sunday I had the privilege of sitting by my nephew in Sacrament meeting.  I told him that he would soon be passing the sacrament and he got really excited.  I don’t know if he had realized it before, but for the rest of the Sacrament portion of the meeting, he sat alert and reverent.  When the bread and water came, he practiced getting ready by carefully passing the sacrament to everybody on our bench.  His face magnified the responsibility that he would one day hold.

I told my cousin about the experience and she told me that she had taught her son the words today primary song,  A Young Man Prepared (see this link ).  She and her son had printed it out and drawn simple pictures over the paper that would help him remember the words.  It was so sweet to see this little guy singing that beautiful song.

There is a line that I absolutely love – If I prepare and live clean, in every thought, word, and deed, I will be worthy to hold the sacred Priesthood of God (A Young Man Prepared, Music and Lyrics by Daniel Lyman Carter).

I think often about the scripture in Isaiah –  Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord (Isaiah 52:11, see also Doc.& Cov.133:5).

Can we get our little young boys ready and prepared to hold and exercise the power of the priesthood?  Can we teach them at a young age of the importance of working on being virtuous?

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever (Doc. & Cov.121:45-46).

Can we teach our girls that will be the future friends and girlfriends of these sweet boys that they need to help the young men be strong?  There is a quote that I always think about when I try to teach my girls about dressing appropriately – And young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you  (Dallin H. Oaks, “Pornography,” Ensign, May 2005, 87. See the full talk here).

These are very hard concepts to teach when we are mocked for living them.  But Father in Heaven didn’t send us here to fail.  The Priesthood of God has been restored.

The same authority that [Joseph Smith] had has been conferred upon your sons, and they will be required by our Father in heaven to minister in the ordinances of the Gospel. The responsibility that came to Joseph Smith has not been lost by his departure, it has fallen upon other shoulders. Our Father in heaven has raised up from time to time those who have had the authority to speak in His name, to administer in the ordinances of the Gospel, and to bless the children of men. They have shared that honor with you and with your children (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2010, see link for full chapter).