Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hope through Jesus Christ and His Atonement

I want to express my sorrow for the tragic shooting in Connecticut on Friday. I ache for that community and the many families who lost their precious little ones. I think many factors contributed to its culmination but I know of only one way to find peace in its wake: through Jesus Christ and His infinite atonement. My familiarity with the words of some of His servants helps me, though mournful, to gain needed perspective and hope. You can find comfort in these talks, too:
  • "Because I live, ye shall live also"/Shayne M. Bowen. After losing a child, he found hope through Christ.
  • Trial of your faith/Neil L. Anderson. Bad things happen to good people - it's how we respond to them that matters.
  • Protect the children/Dallin H. Oaks. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" and He loves and delights in our little ones.
  • Faith to forgive grievous harms/James R. Rasband. "The Atonement really can make us completely whole, even for those things that seem like they can’t be fixed or repaired.... Even for something as horrible as losing a child because of another’s sin, the Atonement ensures significant restitution through the Resurrection.... It is critical to understand that forgiving others is not just a practical virtue. It is a profound act of faith in the Atonement and the promise that the Savior’s sacrifice repays not just our debts to others but also the debts of others to us." 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

School Project

Before you spend your life's savings doing your Black Friday shopping, check out the project 2 classmates and I have been working on this semester:

Our class is about Family Life Education and our assigned project was to create a family life education program. Rather than creating a workshop, we built a blog.

Our blog has information about budgeting and financial planning. It is aimed at young married couples, so it also has information about communicating with a spouse about money. However, we think it is beneficial for anybody, married or not.

Part of our grade is based on having people go through our site and fill out some surveys, so if you are willing to help us out, that would be great! (You can access the first survey here; another survey will be emailed to you)

Feel free to leave comments about what you liked, things you learned, or ways you would like to see our project improved. We also welcome feedback about typos, grammar, and other topics you would like to see covered.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Music that's good for your marriage (5)

At Brigham Young University, almost every Tuesday at 11AM there is a devotional/forum for the BYU community. Devotional speakers are generally BYU faculty (and some other good ones here and here) or General Authorities (another favorite talk) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Forum speakers range from political leaders to businessmen to renowned scientists, doctors, and others. A few times throughout the year there are other presentations during this time slot.

Last Tuesday was a dance assembly -- basically an hour of performances by various BYU student dance groups. There were some great numbers, but my favorite (and I'm not alone in this) was a contemporary dance to Jason Mraz's I Won't Give Up, covered by 3 BYU students.

The routine features a man and a woman, taking on the roles (for the performance at least) of committed romantic partners -- husband and wife. In the middle of the stage is a door frame. As the performance progresses, we see the couple's relationship progressing as well. They are together, they struggle, they separate, and they end up together again. Coupled with the lyrics of the song, it is truly moving:
I won't give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I'm giving you all my love
I'm still looking up

And when you're needing your space
To do some navigating
I'll be here patiently waiting
To see what you find

'Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We've got a lot to learn
God knows we're worth it
No: I won't give up

I don't wanna be someone who walks away so easily...

Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got, we got a lot at stake...

We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I've got, and what I'm not, and who I am
Marriages are strong when couples commit to each other and to staying married. This takes sacrifice: we have to learn how to prioritize the relationship! Sometimes we have to do things we would rather not, or give up things we would like, for the benefit of our spouse and our marriage. I think this song -- and the dance I saw last week -- illustrate this very well.

How do you cleave to your spouse? You put their needs ahead of your own, and the good of the relationship ahead of your own selfish desires. You don't give up! You work to solve problems and you learn to communicate effectively, even if it is hard. [Obviously, in cases of abuse, care should be taken to ensure your own safety and the safety of any children involved. I do believe abusers can repent and change, but they need help to do so.]

A video of the dance, called Love Unbroken (Overcoming Addiction), is embedded below. Learning the title of the dance added additional meaning to the performance for me: this couple's problems are exacerbated by addiction. If you or someone you know needs help overcoming addiction or the problems it causes for families, you can find helpful information on the LDS Addiction Recovery Program website.

The take-away message? Marriage can be for eternity, but it requires effort and sacrifice on the part of husband and wife. Cleave to your spouse by putting your relationship ahead of yourself. You will grow and your relationship can become stronger and better!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Music as a teaching tool

I think good music is a great teaching tool. Beyond teaching rhythm, pitch, and other music theory topics, learning words to music is a great way to remember them. If the words convey a positive message, such as a moral lesson, the lesson itself can be planted in our minds, and the minds of our children.

I think this can be added to an already long list of why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a hymnbook, from which we sing in our church meetings, and a children's songbook, which is used in Primary. Here are other reasons, as detailed in the First Presidency preface to our hymnbook:

  • invite the Spirit of the Lord
  • create a feeling of reverence
  • unify us as members
  • provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord
  • move us to repentance and good works
  • build testimony and faith
  • comfort the weary
  • console the mourning
  • inspire us to endure to the end
  • move families toward greater spirituality and devotion to the gospel
  • greatly benefit us as individuals
  • lift our spirits
  • give us courage
  • move us to righteous action
  • fill our souls with heavenly thoughts
  • bring us a spirit of peace
  • help us withstand the temptations of the adversary
  • crowd out the evil with the good
I know personally that even a child can internalize the lessons taught through music.

I specifically remember being in elementary school - only 5 or 6 years old - and consciously thinking of the song "I'll Walk With You" from the Children's Songbook. The lesson in that song - that we should follow Christ's example and befriend those who are different - helped me decide who to choose for my friends.

Some other hymns or songs that have taught me lessons include (and note that I only linked to the videos to give an example of the audio part - the songs themselves!!):
The Church's music website has a lot of great resources, including tips on how to teach songs to children and the option to download audio files of many songs (for free). Explore how you can use music in your family as a teaching aid!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Music that's good for your marriage (4)

I really like some contemporary Christian music. I find that it promotes my family values a lot better than most popular music (imagine that...). It is so encouraging to have allies in the cause of Christ, especially ones who are willing to stand up for the family.

The song Lead Me by Sanctus Real is the story of a father seeking guidance and strength from God in order to successfully lead his family.

He imagines the inner pleas of his outwardly happy and independent wife and children:
Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone
Knowing only God can make him able to fulfill his family's needs, he closes the song with the following prayer:
So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh Father, show me the way
To lead them

Won't You lead me?

To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me 'cause I can't do this alone
This beautiful song reminds me of a talk from the Priesthood Session of the April 2012 General Conference: Families Under Covenant, by President Henry B. Eyring. In this talk, President Eyring suggests four things Priesthood fathers can do to lead their families:
First, gain and keep a sure witness that the keys of the priesthood are with us and held by the President of the Church. Pray for that every day. The answer will come with an increase in determination to lead your family, in your feelings of hope, and with greater happiness in your service. You will be more cheerful and optimistic, a great blessing for your wife and family.
The second imperative is to love your wife [or husband]. It will take faith and humility to put her interests above your own in the struggles of life. You have the responsibility to provide for and to nurture the family with her while serving others. That can at times consume all the energy and strength you have. Age and illness may increase your wife’s needs. If you choose even then to put her happiness above your own, I promise you that your love for her will increase.
Third, enlist the entire family to love each other. President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “In an eternal sense, salvation is a family affair. … Above all else, children need to know and feel they are loved, wanted, and appreciated. They need to be assured of that often. Obviously, this is a role parents should fill, and most often the mother can do it best.” But another crucial source for that feeling of being loved is love from other children in the family. Consistent care of brothers and sisters for each other will come only with persistent effort by parents and the help of God. ... One way for you to reproduce the successes of Father Lehi is by the way you lead family prayers and family time, such as family home evenings. Give children opportunities to pray, when they can pray, for each other in the circle who need blessings. Discern quickly the beginnings of discord and recognize acts of unselfish service, especially to each other. When they pray for each other and serve each other, hearts will be softened and turned to each other and to their parents.
The fourth opportunity to lead your family in the Lord’s way comes when discipline is needed. We can meet our obligation to correct in the Lord’s way and then lead our children toward eternal life. [see Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-44, 46]
Leading our families in the way God intends requires His help! Fathers (and mothers) can find success in these roles by seeking direction from the Lord.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Achieving Spousal Unity: Marriage the Lord's Way

"Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God," and I believe that He has always intended for husband and wife to be united as a couple, equally yoked in marriage.

Adam and Eve were intended to be "one flesh." To extend this ideal to all married couples, Christ taught, "...[man and wife] shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Similar language to the verses in Mark 10 (vv. 7-9) is found in Moses 3:24, about which the Pearl of Great Price Institute manual says, "The word cleave means to be closely united. Adam and Eve were commanded to be 'one flesh,' meaning to be one mentally, socially, sexually, and spiritually." I would like to expand on that idea:


Men and women are different-- but that is what God intended:
 Our Father knew exactly what He was doing when He created us. He made us enough alike to love each other, but enough different that we would need to unite our strengths and stewardships to create a whole. Neither man nor woman is perfect or complete without the other. Thus, no marriage or family, no ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths. (Sheri L. Dew)
A big part of being mentally one involves sharing and working toward common goals. Doing so requires good patterns of communication between spouses. I think the following is great advice:
Every couple, whether in the first or the twenty-first year of marriage, should discover the value of pillow-talk time at the end of the day—the perfect time to take inventory, to talk about tomorrow. And best of all, it’s a time when love and appreciation for one another can be reconfirmed. The end of another day is also the perfect setting to say, "Sweetheart, I am sorry about what happened today. Please forgive me." (Robert L. Simpson)
Naturally, mental oneness cannot be achieved where there is any form of infidelity.
Be faithful in your marriage covenants in thought, word, and deed. Pornography, flirtations, and unwholesome fantasies erode one’s character and strike at the foundation of a happy marriage. Unity and trust within a marriage are thereby destroyed. (Howard W. Hunter)

This speaks for itself:
The words none else eliminate everyone and everything. The spouse then becomes pre-eminent in the life of the husband or wife and neither social life nor occupational life nor political life nor any other interest nor person nor thing shall ever take precedence over the companion spouse (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, p. 250). (As quoted here)
Gordon B. Hinckley gave this sweet counsel to wives:
I hope that every wife will look to her husband as her dear companion, the star of her life, her supporter, her protector, her companion with whom she walks hand in hand "equally yoked."
...and this to husbands:
As a husband, he would live with respect for his wife, standing side by side with her, never belittling her nor demeaning her, but rather encouraging her in the continued development of her talents and in the church activities which are available to her. He would regard her as the greatest treasure of his life, one with whom he can share his concerns, his innermost thoughts, his ambitions and hopes. There would never be in that home any "unrighteous dominion" of husband over wife (see D&C 121:37, 39), no assertion of superiority, no assertion of authority, but rather an expression in living which says that these two are equally yoked.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said some very quotable things on sexual intimacy in marriage, such as the following:
...Human intimacy is reserved for a married couple because it is the ultimate symbol of total union, a totality and a union ordained and defined by God. From the Garden of Eden onward, marriage was intended to mean the complete merger of a man and a woman—their hearts, hopes, lives, love, family, future, everything. ... This is a union of such completeness that we use the word seal to convey its eternal promise. ... But such a total union, such an unyielding commitment between a man and a woman, can only come with the proximity and permanence afforded in a marriage covenant, with solemn promises and the pledge of all they possess—their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. (Jeffrey R. Holland)
I also appreciated these thoughts from the article linked to below:
It is ... of interest to note that the word sex or sexuality does not appear in the scriptures. Rather, it is described in holy writ with the words know or knew. This idea of “knowing” or “becoming acquainted with” connotes a deeply satisfying aspect of married love. (Brent A. Barlow)
This is from the same talk, but hits on an important key-- sexuality serves its purpose only when a couple is intimate in other facets of their marriage. Objectifying a spouse does nothing to help build the relationship:
Sometimes the image of men and women shown in the media subtly and incorrectly influences our perception of sexuality. Seldom does the media present a balanced, mature, loving marital relationship. Men are often presented as strong, dashing heroes with little commitment and only one desire—sex. Women are portrayed as hopelessly romantic, pragmatically businesslike, or silly, who in any case have one function—that of satisfying man’s one desire. Both of these narrow views deny the individuality of men and women. They ignore the fact that both are children of God, each with his or her own hopes, desires, talents, and emotions. When a husband and wife forget this truth and see the other as an object, sexuality can do little or nothing to promote intimacy. (Brent A. Barlow)

Ephesians 5 gives timeless counsel to married couples-- that wives should submit to their husbands, and that husbands should love their wives "as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." I appreciated the following commentary on those verses, found in the New Testament Sunday School manual:
Can you find in all the holy scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ ever failed his church? … Was he faithful? Was he true? Is there anything good and worthy that he did not give? Then that is what we ask—what he asks of a husband. … Can you think of how he loved the Church? Its every breath was important to him. Its every growth, its every individual, was precious to him. He gave to those people all his energy, all his power, all his interest. He gave his life—what more could one give? (Spencer W. Kimball, Men of Example [address delivered to religious educators, 12 Sept. 1975], 4–5). (As quoted here)
Couple and family prayer provide an opportunity to gain unity through submitting individual wills to God's will. Praying for each other places family and couple relationships on a holier plane, inviting God's hand-- and His Spirit-- to play a role in familial interactions.

In a home where the husband and father holds the Priesthood, family decisions should be made jointly by the husband and wife:
A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. Of necessity there must be in the Church and in the home a presiding officer (see D&C 107:21). By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priesthood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independent of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion. (Howard W. Hunter)
Marriage in temples of God, where a husband and wife can be sealed together by the proper authority for time and eternity, is the ideal for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Any couple married in the temple who are true to their covenants will grow dearer to each other, and love will find a deeper meaning on their golden wedding anniversary than on the day they were married in the house of the Lord. Don’t you mistake that. Those who go to the marriage altar with love in their hearts, we might say to them in truth, if they will be true to the covenants that they take in the temple, fifty years after their marriage they can say to each other: "We must have not known what true love was when we were married, because we think so much more of each other today!" (Harold B. Lee)
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Spousal unity takes effort to achieve, but it is well worth the sacrifice to reach the oneness God intended for our marriages. I would like to close with some comments made by Elder M. Russell Ballard in this year's April General Conference:
So what can we do to not become lost? First, may I suggest that we prioritize. Put everything you do outside the home in subjection to and in support of what happens inside your home.  ... Organize your personal lives to provide time for prayer and scriptures and family activity.

...Husbands and wives, you should be equal partners in your marriage. Read often and understand the proclamation on the family and follow it. Avoid unrighteous dominion in any form. No one owns a spouse or children; God is the Father of us all and has extended to us the privilege of our own family, which was previously only His, to help us become more like Him. As His children we should learn at home to love God and to know that we can ask Him for the help we need. Everyone, married or single, can be happy and supportive within whatever family you may have.
 Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ending Bullying

I am taking a class on socialization across childhood right now. A few weeks ago we had a series of lectures on aggression and bullying.

Bullying consists of a pattern of aggressive behavior repeated over time, and relies on an imbalance of power or strength between bully and victim. It involves unwanted, negative actions toward a victim, encompassing the spectrum of physical aggression (such as hitting, kicking, throwing spitwads, tripping, etc.) and relational aggression (such as gossiping, giving the silent treatment, excluding a playmate, sabotaging a playmate's other friendships, cyberbullying, etc.). It is all about establishing dominance within a peer group, whether among first-graders or in the workplace.

Bullying is not always easy to recognize, since it takes on so many forms. However, where bullies have success, it is because the peer group allows it. Bullying is often rewarded with increased levels of admiration or romantic interest. Victims are typically shy, passive children, or are defensive/over-reactive and therefore disliked by the peer group.

Bullying and aggression put both bullies and their victims at risk for long-term social problems. These include:
  • peer rejection
  • delinquency, criminality
  • school failure
  • adolescent pregnancy
  • loneliness
  • depression
Obviously, many of these problems affect not only an individual, but also his/her family. Additionally, they have long-reaching consequences, affecting educational, career, social, and emotional realms.

Research has introduced an interesting model for bullying that I think all parents, teachers, and other adults who interact with children and youth should become familiar with. It is called the Bullying Circle, and you can find a great PDF illustration available through BullyingPrevention.org, here.

A brief summary of the Bullying Circle idea is that there are typically few bullies and victims, but the rest of the peer group takes on roles ranging from henchmen and active supporters (who help the bully), to passive supporters, disengaged onlookers, and potential defenders (who do not actively help the bully, but also do nothing to stop the bullying), to resisters and defenders (who actively rebut the bullying and defend the victim).

Interestingly, it often only takes one peer in a "defender" role to stop or redirect a bully, but they must be a peer with some social standing (well-liked). One problem with this model is that children do not always know where to classify themselves, especially if they are the bully. Sometimes a child who is clearly the bully, from an outsider's (or peer's) perspective, considers him/herself to be a defender (!). So, unless a parent/teacher is familiar with the peer group dynamics, it may not be beneficial to rely on a child's take on the situation.

In most cases, it does not benefit a victim for a parent/teacher to attempt to directly take on the "defender" role. This frequently elicits more bullying, as the victim is seen as weak. A better approach would be to encourage children to look at social situations from others' perspectives, and thereby increase their moral reasoning and sympathy/empathy toward peers.

If your child is the victim, help them seek out friends, even if the friends are victims too. Perhaps helping them establish friendships away from the problem peer group, such as through an extracurricular class or parent-moderated play group, would give them needed confidence in social situations. Note that the parenting role should consist of monitoring, but not direct interactive intervention (except to take a child out of danger).

Another highly beneficial way to work with children, no matter their role in the peer group, is to seek to help them form a "benign attribution bias." Attribution bias refers to what you read into an ambiguous situation, where another person's action that had a negative outcome for you might have been accidental or purposeful, but you're not sure. Someone with a benign attribution bias would look for the best in the situation, assuming it was an accident (but such a person would be able to accurately label an aggressive action). Alternatively, someone with a hostile attribution bias would assume it was on purpose, and would react as such.

A benign attribution bias is highly linked to prosocial behavior (voluntary behavior intended to benefit another). Parents can help their children develop a benign attribution bias by:
  • modeling it themselves (cut back on road rage; see the good in the child's behavior, rather than assuming they are trying to be naughty)
  • working & talking with the child to help them process social information ("maybe it was an accident!")
  • encouraging the child when he/she works through social information on their own
  • encouraging/praising the child for altruistic behaviors (do not give material rewards)
Additionally, I think it is important to note that physical aggression has been linked to violent media. If your child is physically aggressive, it might help to assess and limit their media intake.

Bullying is not funny, it is not something that children will "grow out of." It has serious consequences, both for bullies and their victims, so it is essential for parents and teachers to help all members of a peer group step out of the cycle. Helping every child to have a benign attribution bias is a much better way to intervene than directly meddling in the peer group dynamics. And, of course, children look to their parents as examples, so seek to model a benign attribution bias and healthy social interaction.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What do Mormons really believe regarding Blacks and the Priesthood? Women and the Priesthood?

I was informed this morning by a classmate about a recent Washington Post article, in which a BYU Professor is quoted and paraphrased as saying some very sketchy things about Blacks and the Priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I do not have all the answers, but I agree wholeheartedly with the Church's response, found here. It states that:
...We believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form....We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.
The same sentiments are espoused in The Family: A Proclamation to the World
All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. 
The scriptures teach us that Heavenly Father invites each of His children to come to Him:
For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)
Like in Old Testament times when only the Levites could hold the Priesthood, there was a time in the Church when Black men could not hold the Priesthood. However, since June 8, 1978, this has not been the case. I am, and many others are, grateful and glad that this restriction is no longer in place.

Who has the Priesthood (or has/has not been allowed to hold it in the past) is not based on racism. It is not based on sexism. All worthy male members of the Church may hold the Priesthood.

As far as women and the Priesthood are concerned, President Gordon B. Hinckley said this:
Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world... They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world...
The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.
As a faithful, involved, married, female member of the Church, I have no issue with this topic.

This is not to say that faithful members of the Church never have doubts, or times when faith may be tested or shaken. The key here is to resolve doubt. Face it head on; study, pray, ponder, exercise faith and trust if an answer does not come readily. Do not throw away or sacrifice what you DO know because of what you DON'T! If you are struggling, do not be afraid to seek out a testimony, and keep seeking and building and growing! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not encourage "blind following."

For more information about this topic, may I suggest these links:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Teaching Reverence : words of Spencer W. Kimball

Recently I've been occasionally supplementing my scripture study with The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A. I found the following thoughts on reverence from President Spencer W. Kimball very valuable, and I didn't want to lose track of them, so I am posting them here.
As with the other principles of the gospel, reverence leads to increased joy.
We must remember that reverence is not a somber, temporary behavior that we adopt on Sunday. True reverence involves happiness, as well as love, respect, gratitude, and godly fear. It is a virtue that should be part of our way of life. In fact, Latter-day Saints should be the most reverent people in all the earth.
Where, then, does reverence begin, and how can we develop it?
The home is the key to reverence, as it is to every other godlike virtue.
Let me emphasize the importance of teaching children to pray. It is during personal and family prayers that little ones learn to bow their heads, fold their arms, and close their eyes while our Father in heaven is being addressed. Behavior learned at home determines behavior in Church meetings. A child who has learned to pray at home soon understands that he must be quiet and still during prayers in worship services...
...Of course, parents should attend Sunday meetings with their children.
The father and mother should work together to make sure that preparation for meetings is a pleasant family experience. The last minute rush to gather the children, dress, and hurry to meeting is destructive to reverence.
When families fall into this pattern they are frequently late to church, there are often cross words and hurt feelings, and the children are often upset and restless during the service.
How much more reverent is the family that prepares well ahead of time for meetings, that arrives at the chapel well before the meeting begins, and that sits together to listen to the prelude music and put worldly concerns out of their minds.
Parents with small children sometimes have a difficult time helping their youngsters appreciate meetings and keeping them from creating disturbances. Perseverance, firmness, and preparation in the home are essential ingredients for success. If they are perplexed about how to handle their children at church, young parents might seek the advice of a more experienced couple in the ward.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"[Living] after the manner of happiness"

"I have found that one of the secrets to a joyful life is to recognize that doing things the Lord’s way will make me happier than doing things my way."
- J. Devn Cornish, The Privilege of Prayer, October 2011 General Conference

"We should never forget that freedom and happiness in all aspects of life come by understanding and living in harmony with eternal gospel principles. They provide a sure foundation upon which to build a productive and happy life."
- Kenneth Johnson, Restoring Faith in the Family, April 2008 Ensign

Ingredients for happiness according to 2 Nephi 5, shared by Marlin K. Jensen, Living After the Manner of Happiness, December 2002 Ensign:
  • Family: "There is no other organization that can so completely satisfy our need for belonging and happiness like the family."
  • Keeping the commandments: "Here is a simple but powerful truth: living righteously and keeping God’s commandments make us happy."
  • Planting gardens and raising animals: "I cannot tell you logically why something as simple as planting a garden, however modest, and harvesting and enjoying the fruits of one’s labors is a source of great happiness, but I know it is." ; "Animals—be they horses, cats, dogs, hamsters, or turtles—touch us deeply and promote our emotional well-being. Given affection and care, they return affection and care generously and consistently. People whose lives include relationships with animals are usually happier. For me at least, heaven will not be heaven unless the animal kingdom is part of God’s kingdom."
  • Scriptures: "Our lives are bound to be happier when we use the scriptures to answer our very personal questions and needs. There are other uplifting influences the scriptures can have in our lives. They can cleanse us from evil thoughts and fortify our resolve to resist temptation. They can give comfort in times of need such as the death of a loved one or other personal tragedy. Reading them can put us in tune with the Spirit of the Lord so that our depression and self-doubts will flee and our 'confidence [will] wax strong in the presence of God' (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45)"
  • Preparedness: "If we are prepared we not only do not fear (Doctrine and Covenants 38:30), but we actually enjoy and derive considerable happiness from the events of our daily lives."
  • Work: "No matter what our life’s work turns out to be, I know we’ll be happier if we regularly labor with our hands. Labor can take many forms: yard work, sewing, quilting, cooking, baking, auto repair, home repair—the list is endless, and so is the happiness and sense of accomplishment such activities produce."
  • Temples: "A good test of how well we are doing in our quest to come unto Christ may be how we feel about the temple and our experiences there. Temple can be synonymous with happiness and joy. It was for Nephi and his people."
  • Church service: "Of course, true Christian service can’t be provided exclusively through institutional means. Random acts of personal service motivated by our feelings of charity are necessary for our salvation. But the organized Church as established by the Lord Jesus Christ, in which we look after and serve others and are looked after and served by others, provides a wonderful source of happiness for all of us."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Why wait? Research says you should!

This news is a little dated now (December 2010), but still important...

Chastity before marriage has been found to drastically improve relationship stability, satisfaction, sexual quality, and communication within marriage.

According to the BYU newsroom article Good Things Come to Couples Who Wait, a study done at BYU and published in the American Psychological Association’s December 2010 Journal of Family Psychology (Busby, D. M., Carroll, J. S., Willoughby, B. J. (2010). Compatibility or restraint: The effects of sexual timing on marriage relationships. Journal of Family Psychology, 24, 766-774), finds that the timing of sexual intimacy in a relationship matters in terms of its effect on stability measures.

The BYU article linked above notes:
“Most research on the topic is focused on individuals’ experiences and not the timing within a relationship,” said lead study author Dean Busby, a professor in Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life. “There’s more to a relationship than sex, but we did find that those who waited longer were happier with the sexual aspect of their relationship,” Busby added. “I think it’s because they’ve learned to talk and have the skills to work with issues that come up.”
The BYU article also states:
Sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved with this research, read the study and shared his take on the findings. “Couples who hit the honeymoon too early – that is, prioritize sex promptly at the outset of a relationship – often find their relationships underdeveloped when it comes to the qualities that make relationships stable and spouses reliable and trustworthy,” said Regnerus.
I am so grateful for inspired Church leaders who have encouraged, promoted, and exhorted the Lord's commandment to live the law of chastity; for instance, The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:
We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
 Our Creator truly knows what is best for us and how we can be happy. The surest way to experience the joy He intends for us is by obedience to His laws and commandments.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Troubling ideas about abortion

Last week, I read an article that quoted some recent statements made by President Barack Obama. This article at CNS News notes the following:
President Barack Obama says the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade is the chance to recognize the “fundamental constitutional right” to abortion and to “continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.”
I find it absolutely appalling that this government leader (among others) believes that abortion allows American women an opportunity to fulfill their dreams. This statement demonstrates a lack of esteem for motherhood, for the sanctity of life, and for the value of accountability, values that seem to me to be essential to the American culture, even espoused by the Bill of Rights ("...nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..." (which due process would be on a case-by-case basis...)).

First of all, motherhood is a dream for many women. Smart, dedicated, righteous mothers can bless and influence the lives of their children and posterity (and thereby this nation) for generations.  Motherhood is a most a meaningful contribution to our society, and I believe it is wrong to discount or dismiss or excuse it as any less worthy of a woman's time, energy, and resources than a career. Women should become educated, and may choose to devote themselves to a career, but this should not take precedence over their children if they have them.

Secondly, Mr. Obama's statement, and such a view of abortion, place the value of a woman's life far above that of an unborn child - something I believe is unfair and unethical. I echo the statement found in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, upon which this blog is based:
We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan.
Interestingly, the demand for abortions has the potential for decrease as individual accountability is lauded and embraced. In fact, the Proclamation also declares:
God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.
When individuals choose to live lives of chastity, and recognize their accountability to God, abortion is no longer "needed." Marriage supplies the economic, emotional, and social stability needed to raise a child, even if doing so is still not "easy." I appreciate this statement regarding choice in the light of abortion by Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in his article Abortion: An Assault on the Defenseless:
When the controversies about abortion are debated, “individual right of choice” is invoked as though it were the one supreme virtue. That could only be true if but one person were involved. The rights of any one individual do not allow the rights of another individual to be abused. In or out of marriage, abortion is not solely an individual matter. Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains, and hearts. A woman’s choice for her own body does not include the right to deprive her baby of life—and a lifetime of choices that her child would make. As Latter-day Saints, we should stand up for choice—the right choice—not simply for choice as a method.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World is a divinely inspired document. As such, its bold statements are declared with authority given to Priesthood leaders by God. Thus, it is prudent to give heed to the following warning found therein:
We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
For further information and insight on this topic, please refer to the following links:
And finally, a really cool video about how a human baby develops that I learned about here: