Monday, January 26, 2009

One Eternal Round

Currently, I'm re-reading The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. When my Mom was here a few days ago, she hit a hot booth at the Farmer's market and bought a bunch of them for me. If you have never read them, you've missed out. They are about the life of a small town Episcopal preacher, Father Tim Kavanaugh. They are an easy read, but filled with truth. I love them because they remind me of what is important.

I think I'd forgotten how much I love Father Tim and the way his mind works. He is constantly quoting either the Bible or early Christian writers. Here is a quote from the volume I was reading last week. It is a quote from St. Francis de Sales, a Catholic saint who lived from 1567 to 1622.

"Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations, and say continually; 'The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart has trusted in Him and I am helped. He is not only with me, but in me and I in Him.'"

I know it is silly of me, but I am always surprised that people 500 years ago had the same feelings about Christ that I have today. It is glorious to me when I read something written by someone so many years ago who felt the same soul-stirrings that I feel from day to day. I am reminded of Hymn #141 which was written by Bernard of Clairvaux, a French monk who lived from about 1091 to 1153 (which means that this hymn was written about 900 years ago.)

Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in the presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the mem'ry find
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of ev'ry contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

Jesus, our only joy by thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And thru eternity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mary, Martha, and Me

Kerinda taught a lesson last week about following Christ. As part of her lesson, she used excerpts from the book, "Mary, Martha, and Me" by Camille Fronk. After class, she lent me the book to read. As I read, I remembered a talk I gave a couple of years ago which incorporated a few thoughts about Mary and Martha (and me). I had to search through my old sent emails to find it as my hard drive went down right after I wrote it and I lost everything in my files. But, I remembered that I had emailed it to my folks while they were on their mission. I'm going to post it here so I can find it easily next time and a hard drive mishap will not be a problem. Here it is:

Brother Johanson assigned me to speak on a talk from April Conference by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Presidency of the Seventy. Elder Andersen spoke of returning from his mission in 1973, and being concerned about whether he could consistently make the right choices throughout the rest of his life. At the time that he was pondering this question, he heard President Hinckley (then Elder Hinckley) give a talk in April Conference. Now, as much as I hate to admit it, I also remember hearing President Hinckley give that 1973 talk. I was a 15 year old highschool sophomore. Like most 15 year olds, I was deciding who I would become, and President Hinckley’s talk had a strong impact on me, so it immediately caught my attention when I heard Elder Andersen reference the talk in his remarks during this past conference..

In President Hinckley’s talk, he spoke of meeting a young naval officer from Asia. The officer had not been a Christian, but during training in the United States, he had learned about the Church and was baptized. He was now preparing to return to his native land.President Hinckley asked the officer: “Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and more particularly, a Mormon Christian?” The officer’s face clouded and he replied, “My family will be disappointed....As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.” President Hinckley asked, “Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?” With his dark eyes moistened by tears, the officer answered with his own question, “It’s true, isn’t it?” President Hinckley replied, “Yes, it is true.” To which the officer replied, “Then what else matters?”

Elder Andersen and I have both pondered those words: “It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?” over the years. I believe that thinking about them helps me to keep a proper perspective. President Hinckley said, “When [an individual] is motivated by great and powerful convictions of truth, then he disciplines himself, not because of demands made by the Church, but because of the knowledge within his heart.” How do we become motivated by “great and powerful convictions of truth?” First, we must obtain that “conviction of truth.” We know, or we should know, that the Gospel is true. If we don’t know that yet, it’s time for us to find out.

There’s a simple process which, if followed carefully, will help us to know that the Gospel is true. The Savior said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine....” (John 7:17) “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” (John 13:17) “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)So, if we love Christ and do His will, we will be happy and we will know the truthfulness of the doctrines. Doing Christ’s will requires that we know His will. If we study the scriptures, learn to know and love Jesus Christ, and live His teachings as outlined in the scriptures, we will obtain our own, personal, “great and powerful convictions of truth.” We will be able to discipline ourselves “because of the knowledge within [our] hearts.”

Once we have a testimony of Jesus Christ and His doctrines, then, thinking about those words, “It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters?”, will help us to focus on what is most important in our lives, because for all of us, there are things that matter. We need employment and income to provide for ourselves and those who depend on us. We need to nurture and raise our children while teaching them to become happy, well-adjusted, productive members of society. We may have other family members to care for, parents or siblings. We need to complete our obligations at school or in the community. There are many, many, many things that matter in our lives.

In Elder Anderson’s talk, he asks the question, “How do we find our way through the many things that matter?” His answer is, “We simplify and purify our perspective. Then, he gives us a tool to measure those things by. He says, “Some things are evil and must be avoided. Some things are nice. Some things are important. And some things are absolutely essential.”In our lives, we must learn what is essential. We must be certain that things that are nice or important, do not interfere with things that are essential.

I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Christ had come to Bethany, to the home of his dear friends, Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Since he was an honored guest, I am sure that Mary and Martha planned a wonderful dinner. But, at some point during the preparations, Mary was drawn away from her labors by the teachings of the Master. Luke says that Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.” When Martha realized that she was the only one working and her sister was not helping, she went to Jesus and asked him to tell Mary to help her. Jesus’ loving reply was, “Martha, Martha thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Now, I have to tell you that this story has sometimes troubled me. As a mother who has fed many, many, many people many, many, many times, I know that somebody has to cook the dinner, set the table, prepare the home, and do all of the things that Martha was lovingly doing for the Savior. All of those things matter. They are important. But, Jesus knew what Martha did not. He knew that He would only be with Mary and Martha and Lazarus for a short time. He knew that it was essential that his dear friends hear His words and learn the saving doctrines He had come to teach. So, He sweetly and tenderly taught Martha what was most needful for her at that time. The temporal concerns that she had would always be with her. Jesus would not.

The next place in the scriptures that Martha is mentioned is in John, chapter 11. Lazarus has been dead for four days. Christ is finally coming, but according to Jewish tradition, He is too late to save Lazarus. Martha is the sister who runs to Christ and says to Him (even though it appears that all hope is gone), “I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee....I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come unto the world.” Martha had found the better part. Martha listened to Christ’s instructions. She learned what was essential. The only other place we meet Martha in the scriptures is in John, chapter 12. After Christ has raised Lazarus from the dead, there is another dinner. The scriptures simply say, “Martha served.” Martha was able to continue to do the things that matter, but not at the expense of the thing that was essential. This is a difficult balance to reach in our lives, but it is essential that we allow our choices to reflect our “great and powerful convictions of truth.”

In Elder Andersen’s talk, he made an interesting statement. He said, “The cause in which we are laboring is true. We respect the beliefs of our friends and neighbors. We are all sons and daughters of God. We can learn much from other men and women of faith and goodness.”This is one of the Gospel Doctrines that I love most. The 13th Article of Faith states, “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” I believe that means that we must search for truth and testimony strengthening situations wherever they are to be found.Elder James E. Faust states, “As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover.” (James E. Faust, “‘The Truth Shall Make You Free’,” Ensign, Sep 1998)

Brigham Young said: “I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. … Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1941], 135). In this manner no one need be deceived. President Faust also said, “Those who earnestly inquire, under the Spirit of God, will enjoy a companionship, not only of the Spirit, but of others who seek truth. Thomas Carlyle said, “I have always found that the honest truth of our own mind has a certain attraction for every other mind that loves truth honestly.”

A few years ago, Joe and I were asked to be the god-parents of our good friends' son who was being baptized Episcopalian. We were honored, but concerned about whether or not the Episcopalian church would consider Mormons appropriate god-parents. The Priest spoke to us before the baptism to be sure we understood the responsibilities of being a godparent. When he explained that we would have to take over the religious training of the child if anything should happen to the parents, my husband told him that we were not Episcopalian and asked if that would be a problem. The Priest asked what religion we were. When we said we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he said. "Hey! My cousin is Mormon. He's some kind of big mucky muck in the church. He was just here from Utah doing some genealogy and we all had dinner together. Maybe you know him?" Joe and I looked at each other, thinking, "How could we know every Bishop in the church." But we said, "Maybe, what's his name?" "Boyd K. Packer." We laughed out loud and told the Priest that we didn't personally know Elder Packer, but we knew of him. And he was definitely a high mucky muck. We talked together about apostles and their calling as special witnesses of Christ. The Priest approved us as godparents and when the baptism was over, he took us around the church and showed us all the beautiful Stations of the Cross throughout the church. We had a lively doctrinal discussion about Christ and the atonement. He was a very spiritual man and we enjoyed our evening with him very much. Joe and I learned spiritual truths that evening. We learned them in a Episcopalian church. Our testimonies were strengthened and we felt the Holy Ghost testify of truth. How sad it would have been for us if we had refused the opportunity to be God-parents. Or, if we had decided that there was nothing for us to learn from someone outside our own faith.

The Savior says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He continues, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6), and “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).We must constantly strengthen our “great and powerful convictions of truth” so that we are motivated by the “knowledge within our hearts.” Elder Faust says, “All who seek to rise above themselves must make a humble and honest inquiry to determine where truth lies: an inquiry in their hearts as well as in their minds and in their lives. May each of us consciously seek to know the truths of God and to courageously live those truths in love and thanksgiving.”“It’s true, isn’t it? Then what else matters.”

The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; … the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.” ( Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:540.)“Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, Brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad.” (D&C 128: 22)It is true. There are many things that matter, but one thing that is needful. May we joyfully be like Mary and Martha and choose the better part. May we happily search for truth wherever it is to be found. Then, we will have the Holy Ghost as our constant companion. We will become “high yield, low maintenance Saints” (to use the words of Elder Maxwell.) We will be instruments in the Lord’s hands to accomplish His purposes.

I bear testimony of Jesus Christ. He is our Lord and Savior. He is the author of truth. He knows our hearts. He loves us and wants us to be happy. He has given us the Gospel to allow us to become more like Him. He has given us the scriptures and modern-day revelation to assist us in our search for truth. He knows what matters most in our lives. He knows what is essential. If we will listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we will also know.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ill Temper

A Scottish theologian, Henry Drummond, once wrote,

"the peculiariaty of ill temper is that it is the vice of the virtuous. It is often the one blot on an otherwise noble character. You know men who are all but perfect, and women who would be entirely perfect, but for an easily ruffled, quick-tempered or 'touchy' disposition. This compatibility of ill temper with high moral character is one of the strangest and saddest problems of ethics....No form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to un-Christianize society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up communities; for destroying the most sacred relationships; for devastating homes; for withering up men and women; for taking the bloom of childhood; in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power, this influence stands alone....There is really no place in heaven for a disposition like this. A man with such a mood could only make Heaven miserable for all the people in it. Except, therefore, such a man be born again, he cannot, he simply cannot, enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (Greatest Thing in the World, 35,36,37)

Wow! What a quote. I've noticed myself getting more short tempered with my family lately. I am not very good at asking them to do things, so I ask (timidly) once or twice and if they don't do it, I just grumble and get cross and do it myself. I don't like myself when I am cross, and when I don't like myself I get even more hard to live with. Then, because I am cross and ornery, they get cross and ornery and no one is happy. That is no way to live.

I need to make a stronger effort to ask directly for what I want and to continue to kindly (but firmly) encourage family members to do what I ask until it is done. I need to do that without getting angry or cranky.

It's not really fair that the Mom sets the emotional tone of the home, but it is true. Dad can be cranky and tired and everyone else can still be happy around him, but when Mom gets angry and hard to deal with, the whole house gets mean.


I'm not actually certain that mullings is a word. The verb mull means "to go over extensively in the mind, ponder, to ruminate." An alternative definition of ruminate is "to chew over and over." So, I guess that is what this blog is going to be about. I'm going to blog about things that I read or hear or wonder about; things that I am pondering and chewing over in my mind. Many of these posts may not make a great amount of sense, but it helps me to internalize and understand a concept if I write about it.

I doubt that this blog will be very entertaining for anyone else, it might actually be pretty boring, but it will entertain me and I will probably find it fascinating. I mean, what is more fun than listening to yourself talk?

So, if anyone out there actually reads this, enjoy! (or not.)