Suzanne, another Modesto 1st YSA member, and I made this poster together for Institute. We hope this will help spread the word to new graduates joining us this summer!
Last night was the first of three statewide instituted California YSA temple nights. There are many sacred occurrences too precious to share in such an open forum, but I do want to testify of the blessings, both spiritual and temporal, temple attendance brings. When my Branch President renewed my temple recommend, he congratulated me. I might have chuckled through my smile, but he’s on to something. It’s an honor and profound love we are given - it’s a gift. I see charity and service abundantly shared in the temple and yet, I only get to render service at the font. I had a deep feeling, moment of personal revelation, of the expansive intelligence I will one day receive throughout other parts of the temple. I highly anticipate that forthcoming day and was so fortunate to experience the emanating power from the faithful YSA who participated last night!
I wanted to take a few moments and share a really personal story because it testifies of the power of prayer and the divinity of families.
This last week has thrown me one test of patience after the next and I’ve felt like my soul has been drowning in waves of anxiety and stress. Through it all I’ve tried to remain collected and in a state of reflection.
With more time than usual allotted to think today, I tied myself into knots over variables out of my control. After getting ready for bed, I felt prompted to pray before reading my scriptures, when routinely I always pray last. I gave a mighty prayer with a broken heart, sincerely looking for comfort - pleading for help, for a little miracle. As I closed my prayer, I opened the Book of Mormon at the marker and began to read. Finishing the chapter from the night before, I decided to continue and extended my personal study with all disregard to time. A couple verses into the following chapter I felt peace enter my heart and observed a moment of harmony. Seconds later my phone buzzed. I was totally surprised to see a text from my mom at 2:27 a.m. - right when she should be in a dead sleep. She asked, “Hey is everything okay”. I began crying, thanking the Lord for answering my prayers and sending the beautiful angel my mom is, to lighten my burdens.
(Picture of a young Jesus Christ praying in the arms of his Mother, Mary.)
What a tender mercy from the Lord. Nothing can remedy a troubled heart than a faithful mother. I questioned why she felt the need to text me and she replied, “Just want to make sure my baby girl is alright. Woke up thinking about you and wanted to make sure nothing is wrong and you’re as happy as an Oyster…They make beautiful pearls like you…I love my pearl”
It may not have been the answer I expected, but it was the answer I needed. Elder Richard G. Scott, said in his April 2007 General Conference address, Using The Supernal Gift of Prayer:
He will always hear your prayers and will invariably answer them. However, His answers will seldom come while you are on your knees praying, even when you may plead for an immediate response. Rather, He will prompt you in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind and heart. Hence, you should find periods of quiet time to recognize when you are being instructed and strengthened. His pattern causes you to grow.
While I often ponder after I pray before turning my head to sleep, I don’t usually receive such an instant confirmation. I firmly believe reading the scriptures is key to opening the gates of Heaven, which I believe is the power that softened my heart to receive this blessing. How great is this Gospel, by which all conditional promises are fulfilled by our observance of keeping the commandments and turning to Him. I am so thankful for a mother, who has since I can remember, acted on those small promptings and been such example of how to listen and engage the Holy Ghost.
Tonight I know my Heavenly Father loves me and heard my prayers. With this knowledge, I can testify I am a daughter of God and have confidence to move forward in renewed faith.
Some of these thoughts are both far past due and completely scatter-brained. Since the ballet company let out for summer, I have been in this funk. Normally I would be unwinding from dance and pondering how I approached the day, in addition to ways I could improve tomorrow. Lately my free time has been monopolized by the internet, making me feel totally lame and idol. Well tonight the house was still and I could hear myself think clearly. My thoughts turned to a page of notes stashed in my personal journal, wedged between my patriarchal blessing and old limited use recommends. On a wide-ruled sheet of notebook paper, I recorded the revelatory process. At the time, I was attending summer term at BYU, enrolled in Rel 234: Marriage Prep.
July 23, 2009
- Study it out and make a decision
- Ask in prayer for confirmation about the decision
- Accept Lord’s will
- Act in faith, tests will likely come
*Don’t become preoccupied with the decision - BAD
*Process = confirmation, not an event
- If the decision is confirmed, you will feel comfort and peace and know it is right
- If the decision is wrong, confusion and anxiety will exist; stupor of though
- If the mind and heart don’t align, always follow your heart
I tend to forget that becoming preoccupied with any one thing is counter productive to our spiritual growth. And since the first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem, I can again move forward with a new perspective. As these thoughts rolled on, I was reminded of a talk President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave at October’s General Conference in 2010, addressed, Of Things That Matter Most. He said,
The search for the best things inevitably leads to the foundational principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the simple and beautiful truths revealed to us by a caring, eternal, and all-knowing Father in Heaven. These core doctrines and principles, though simple enough for a child to understand, provide the answers to the most complex questions of life…There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions…Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.
Since I enjoy ironing out logistics and doing my research ahead of time, it’s easy to get lost in the midst of the crowding tabs of my web browser(s). Even now for instance, I have 10 pages open, including: Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Gmail, Blog, LDS (x3) and Google. It’s not difficult to see how this would detour me from simplicity. Some might even say I’m participating in good media, but still, too much of a good thing can display negative effects. The resolution is stepping away for a few days to regain focus.
I simply wanted to share practical advice given at a Fireside for parents, by President Ezra Taft Benson, on Feb. 22, 1987 - To The Mothers In Zion. I don’t really have anything to add to his comments because his words are true and pure. He said,
Come home, wives, to your husbands. Make home a heaven for them. Come home, wives, to your children, born and unborn. Wrap the motherly cloak about you and, unembarrassed, help in a major role to create the bodies for the immortal souls who anxiously await…Mothers, this kind of heavenly, motherly teaching takes time—lots of time. It cannot be done effectively part-time. It must be done all the time in order to save and exalt your children. This is your divine calling.
Addressing ways to spend time with your children, he listed:
Scripture thought: 2 Nephi 26: 11-13
(Tuesday, May 1st, 2012) Today I went to lunch with an old friend who once judged me unkindly. Her false gossip and cruel actions were the cause of pain and anxiety in my life for a bit of time. Before now, her attemped appologies lacked sincerity and held no weight. I quickly accepted nonetheless and let it fade into history three times over. While it hurt to think about, it was never my place to hold it against her, figuring I always healed well enough.
It wasn’t too long ago she found herself walking a mile in my shoes. She was likewise being misjudged and finally understood her hypocrisy. After a couple of weeks of miscommunication, we finally made time to get together for lunch. As she rescinded her statements and offered her regrets, I started to cry. She couldn’t help but think my tears were for the loss of a recent relationship in the midst of her current engagement. On the contrary - I was simply overwhelmed by the fountain of living water springing up in my soul, testifying of the Master’s redeeming atonement (D&C 63:23).
See Moroni 7: 41-48. These scriptures are the best way I can even begin to describe the stirrings in my heart. The pure love of christ was intensified and this process of purification made me whole. I was aw-struck by the power of a true apology and the atonement’s vast healing capacity. I was even a little confused by the words I was speaking in that moment. As soon as I opened my mouth, I began to fuel my own testimony. I wanted her to experience the expansive love pulsing through my heart, but the spirit didn’t impress on her in the same way it hit me like a ton of bricks. I did my best to get across the message recieved in my heart, but she just starred at me, head cocked to one side, and caught bewildered by my emotion.
On one hand I was overjoyed by charity and forgivness, but on the other hand, saddened for her. I thought, “If only she really knew of the love offered through the atonement instead feeling labored by guilt. She knows she’s supposed to forgive, but does she feel the fulness of grace it supplicates? I dare say, no.” Fortunately, knowledge given line upon line allows us to move forward in life without feeling empty or lonely. So after pondering for a good while, I came to the conclusion that the atonement filled her cup sufficiently, as it did mine - so there is no need to worry or feel sad. She may have only seen part of what I saw in that unique moment, but that doesn’t mean Christ didn’t infinately bless her as well. Christ’s love is perfect and he knows how to succor us indivdually. This is the comfort the gospel brings to the children of Zion bearing His name (D&C 62: 1-3).
I have a lot to say so don’t hold your breath lol. I know some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, “when does she not haha?”, but hang in there - you’ll make it out alive!
As each year passes, my opinions become more grounded in the Lord and I see the greater picture. As mortals, our vision is narrow, but can grow as our minds are enlightened through the power of faith. On Sunday, we had a combined RS/EQ meeting. The lesson was given by one of the counselors of our Branch Presidency about how faith and hope are like a bike. As you exercise the pedal of hope, you simultaneously exercise the pedal of faith, propelling you down the path. There are three levels within this metaphor to consider. While level one is fundamental to hearing the truth and receiving a confirmation, the second is a Principle of Action and obedience. The third principle, however, is a Principle of Power, stemming from living a consecrated life and enduring to the end. As shown, obedience precedes blessings and living a consecrated life precedes miracles.
While pondering what it means to live a consecrated life, my thoughts turned to a lesson I gave in RS a few weeks back. I want to mimic the teachings of President George Albert Smith, from Chapter 7 of the manual,
“we are living eternal lives” — that eternity doesn’t begin after this life but that mortality is a crucial part of eternity. “I sometimes have said to my friends when they seemed to be at the crossroads, uncertain as to which way they wanted to go, ‘Today is the beginning of eternal happiness or eternal disappointment for you.’ “ (pg. 67)
This puts life in an eternal perspective and gives me strength to choose the right. By pursuing the goal to return to live in Heavenly Father’s kingdom, I can use the gift of agency to live as though I were already living in His presence. One covenant I look forward to making with magnified hope and faith, is being sealed in God’s holy temple to a worthy husband and father.
Since living in Modesto, under the direction of Branch President Russ Newman, many puzzle pieces have been locked in place to create a beautiful image of Christ’s redeeming love. On a weekly basis, he is building a strong foundation of Christ within the branch YSA’s. This is the fire that ignites conversion and provides companionship of the Spirit. I am fortunate to receive personal inspiration for understanding the greater scope of the Plan of Happiness. This helps me find deeper meaning in living the commandments and am sensitive to making poor choices. While I have many more lessons to learn, I feel gratitude for understanding the Gospel more fully than before.
With all that said, I’m ready to share a little bit about my personal journey and DATING. Few of you already know, but I’ve applied for a date with the Mormon Bachelor, Kent Tuttle. He seems like a total spiritual giant with good looks to boot. Throughout this process, I will be stacked against the other applicants to fight the odds. Fate, as it were, is being gently handled by the staff of the show. Since they’ve started to post a bachelorette a day, girls wake up each morning with the hope they’ve been added to the list of potential date-ees. I know it sounds dramatic, but that’s just the nature of the beast. I mean, what’s a reality show without a little drama lol?
One piece of advice I am consistently given by my parents and others who I confide in, is to be true to myself. It appears many of these girls feel the need to prove themselves. It’s understandable since weíre all vying for a date, but do I really think Kent and I can find love based on vague common interests we share? In my naive state of thinking I might convince myself of such niceties, but that’s not how relationships form - especially not ones meant to last through the eternities. Those common interests are fun and provide initial ice-breaking conversation, but don’t indicate potential for a good spouse and parent. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fairytale fancies we put ourselves in and develop premature feelings based on idyllic situations. The sad reality is, there is no insurance.
Side note: Some might assume only one type of girl is apt to apply, again because of the nature of the show, but I doubt that is even remotely true. In general, I think we’re seeing a new breed of girls. I recently read an article talking about the war on boys. It proceeds to investigate the negative environmental and social effects media is waging on their development. Likewise, technology and media is accelerating change in a women’s world too.
Through many personal experiences, and thoughtful prayer and study, the blessing of love comes through patience and preparation. I highly recommend reading an article by Jonn D. Claybaugh, titled “Dating: A Time to Become Best Friends”. There are many precious truths embedded in his words. Here is a bullet list of my favorite instruction given:
I especially loved when he quoted writings from President Spencer W. Kimball, “The successful marriage depends in large measure upon the preparation made in approaching it…One cannot pick the ripe, rich, luscious fruit from a tree that was never planted, nurtured, nor pruned” (The Miracle of Forgiveness).
True compatibility is founded on the spirit we’re engaged in while seeking an eternal mate. Sure, the San Diego Temple is majestic, but doesn’t the real beauty happen within its walls? It’s typical “mormon culture” to have a favorite temple, we all do. In fact, my list consists of four, each holding a special place in my heart. Whenever I’m asked what temple I see myself married in, I always answer: “It depends on the circumstance and who I marry. The sealing ceremony is what’s most important. The location is negotiable”. I have a feeling I’ll be so love-struck, nothing else will matter except the people in that sacred room, helping us along this mortal journey to return home hand-in-hand.
At the end of the day, I’ve learned living an eternal life through faith blesses us to receive inspiration for seeking a marriage-bound relationship. It’s never too soon to prepare for the blessings of the temple and draw close unto Him. The time is now!
As a child in Primary, I remember being asked what my favorite song was so it could be sung to me on my birthday. To this day, it’s I Love to See the Temple. I will admit, it’s not the only hymn that lights my fire, but it’s definitely at the top of my “Sunday” playlist (which ironically, is played nearly everyday).
In my reading of 2 Nephi 12, Isaiah prophesies of a temple in the latter-days. He’s quoted saying, “And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Welcome, you’ve arrived at the latter-days. There are currently 136 working temples!
I have always had such tender feelings about the temple. For the last four years I have been wearing a CTR ring that is a constant reminder of who I am - a daughter of God. Not only do I strive to make sacred covenants within the walls of a holy temple, but my temporal body is a place for the spirit to dwell if I live worthily. This knowledge is the driving motivation for a temple marriage. As I face the future with hope, let me quote President Hugh B. Browns, from The Latter-day Saint Concept of Marriage:
The Latter-day Saints believe that in order to attain the best in life and the greatest happiness in this world and for the next, men and women must be married in the temple for time and eternity. Without the sealing ordinances of temple marriage, man cannot achieve a godlike stature or receive a fulness of joy. … Such marriage is essentially an act of faith, solemnized in the presence of a divine partner. There must be faith and courage to see it through, to endure to the end, despite the difficulties, trials, disappointments, and occasional bereavements which may be encountered.
I knew a man who believed in God alone. He even once considered himself a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but has since questioned the existence of our Redeemer. He knew all the Book of Mormon stories, but must have forgotten the fundamental principle Christ created the Earth. How can one deny Christ with this knowledge?
The evidence is in the scent of sweet summer air, the taste of freshly picked fruit, the touch of a newborn kitten (meet Romercutio), the sight of an enduring marriage, and the sound of children splashing in the pool. I have been fortunate to count these blessings this last week. I only wish people wandering lost in the midst of darkness would take care to recognize all of God’s creations. In this, there is no question that Christ lives - this is the proof.
The language in the last five verses of this chapter instill hope and feelings of gladness. It teaches us the importance of repentance and grace, while shedding light on eternal life and the Plan of Happiness. This is the message all should receive, “…lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off.” By this we know we are not lost, nor will we ever be if we reconcile ourselves to the will of God (2 Nephi 10:24).
I had the pleasure of leading the music today in church and loved the spirit felt during hymn 220 - Lord I Would Follow Thee. The feeling of communing with the Lord through song is the same love emanating from these verses. As long as we commit ourselves to our covenants, He will always fulfill his promises (2 Nephi 10:17).
Moms are the best and let me tell you why.
Easter morning was the first Sunday I was invited to attend the branch counsel. Of the 14 individuals present, I was accounted for as half of the females seated among a sea of suits and ties in the President’s office. To usher in the Spirit, he invited us to share memories of Easter. With no right or wrong answer, the room grew silent. I inevitably raised my hand and offered a story of a six-year-old girl, and a two-year-old little boy.
I continued, “My brother and I were seated in front of the camcorder with our Easter baskets plopped on our laps. In the mix of the excitement and goodies, my brother individually unwrapped his candies and passed me the empty wrappers. I proceeded to get up, leaving the view of the camera, to throw his garbage away one wrapper at time. At that age, I didn’t know I was doing his dirty work, merely remembering the smile he gleamed between his chubby cheeked dimples.”
My Branch President smiled back at me and asked, “How do you think your parents felt?” I had never thought about that before. I replied, “I can only imagine how they felt. I can see my mom and dad laughing and smiling. At least I know they do now just thinking about that memory.” He then asked, “Don’t you think they felt love?” Again, I never saw it from that point of view, but that’s exactly the feelings that were exchanged. It seemed so obvious. President took the next 30-minutes to talk about the blessings of parenthood, with a great emphasis on motherhood.
In order to be a mother, one must be completely selfless. While not everyone is wholly selfless, to become a mother changes a woman, and so lucky are the men who get to marry a mother. Being ‘in love’ is overrated, but ‘love’ is understated. Marriage and family is love. Sure we desire success, but no other commandment is so important as bearing and rearing children. ~ Branch President Russ Newman
As the Spirit guided him to teach us this valuable lesson, the message entered my heart and filled it full of desire and happiness. The Spirit bore witness of the goodness of my mother and the divine nature of that calling. She is the very definition of selfless and I aspire to just like her, despite the petty things people pick on her for. No one believed in me like she did, insomuch she made great and personal sacrifices to give me the best future possible. I have always desired to be a young mother and have a relationship with my future children, as my mom gave my brother and I. I live each day to prepare myself to have children and pray to land in the right place, at the right time to meet my future spouse.
I love my mom unconditionally and she is my best friend - hands down. I thank the Lord everyday for sending me to a family so loving as mine.
Each morning during breakfast I scan my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter for updates of the days’ current bulletin. While most of my daily news comes in 140 characters or less, I occasionally take the time to read a story in its entirety. Today I ventured to read a blog post about Faith. The further I read, the more I felt the need to piggyback his thoughts with a few I was having of my own.
Once class ended on Monday, I waited my turn to talk to the Ballet Mistress one-on-one, asking for ways to personally improve my technique. “I feel weak during adagio in center,” I said. “I always have and probably always will, it’s frustrating - it’s just not my forte. Are there supplementary exercises or things I can do to strengthen it?” After furrowing her brow and thinking a moment, she said, “Test yourself at barre. Do as many of the combinations without using the barre, even during the most simple ones. I don’t believe in center barre, but if you can train yourself this way, you’ll be dancing on one leg the whole time with no problem,” she stated with a smile, swinging one leg freely from the other. Her hand gestures made it seem easy and free from labor.
Ballet has never come “easy” to me, ever. But I guess like any other learning experience, the ability to overcome difficulties is a building process of layering the lessons learned. For many years, I was repeatedly told I would never dance professionally because of aesthetic barriers I will never measure up to. My mom, being my greatest advocate, always highlighted my potential and believed in me. I had complete faith in my mom’s word and knew I could overcome any trial standing in my way, paired with the adequate work.
(Below is a video from when I was 16.)
If you can’t already see how dance is a symbol of faith in my life, let me explain. It has been a vessel to teach me the truth of many principles of the world and of matter eternal. The barre is like training wheels. It helps us establish a good understanding of where we are and where we need to reallocate our weight, and in the most literal sense, allows us to rely on it when we can’t find our balance. In many ways, I liken it unto the Iron Rod and the word of God; however, this time I’ll liken it unto a crutch.
The day after I spoke with my Ballet Mistress, I stood at barre without clinging to it. I discovered how difficult it was to focus on the many technical aspects present, while sustaining control over my center. This didn’t come as a surprise to me, but it revealed how faith is like the process of questioning for help, implementing the answer, and enduring to the end. Even though I was exhausted before transitioning to center work, I also felt the rewarding confirmation of trusting the let go, exercising faith with the companionship of prayer.
Faith came into their hearts to accept that which they had been taught. It was a miracle. It was a gift from God. They could not believe it, and yet they did. ~ President Gordon B. Hinckley, The Miracle of Faith
While this isn’t a landmark of an experience, the Spirit taught me I am strong enough to let go of the barre. I have been living Gospel principles and my testimony will sustain me through any outcome (D&C 27:17). Dancing ballet since I was three parallels my journey to gaining eternal knowledge. Every week when I attend my church meetings, fulfill my callings, read my scriptures and pray daily, I am enrolled in the ballet class of life - preparing me to take a grand leap of faith.
Faith has been a constant theme in my life for the past two months. The more faith I exercise, the greater my capacity grows to believe all things are part of a plan Heavenly Father is unveiling for me. Which in turn, gives me the power to count my blessings morning and night, and keep a remembrance of Him in my heart. This continual conversion will allow blessings from Heaven to pour upon my soul. This vulnerability and sensitivity to promptings is the first blessing to open the door of many to come. It’s my desire I walk uprightly through the door of life’s dance studio, standing independent of the barre and leaping my way through life.