Sunday, February 8, 2015

For our profit and learning

We have had a missionary who is struggling with some great personal tragedy in his life.  It is heart breaking to think of what he is going through and to watch what he is experiencing.  He often asks, “Why isn’t God answering my prayers?”  From the outside looking in, (the easy way to see clearly; when you’re not going through it yourself), I’m thinking, “He is answering your prayers: you’ve had some amazing spiritual dreams that have answered your prayers in dramatic ways, you’ve been brought to serve a mission here when the Lord would know you would be facing very hard things, and you are surrounded by people who love you and can care for you right now.  He feels these things at times, but just can’t hold on to them long enough to let them really comfort or strengthen him for more than a day, and then it seems he starts over again wondering why He is going through this and why isn’t God answering his prayers. 
In times of deep pain or disappointment we can all feel like the Lord is right there giving us answers, but we can’t hold on to them.  We may feel a moment of peace or comfort, but then go right back into the same feelings of pain.  Sometimes the Lord may give dramatic spiritual experiences, but most of the time the Lord gives only whisperings deep in our heart that can be so hard to hear and recognize.
This experience has caused me to reflect on two things.  The first one is spiritual experiences in my own life.  When we were new into the mission I was asked to speak on temple attendance.  I started doing the math to figure out how many times we had been to the temple since we had been married.  We figured the conservative estimate was over 800 times. I started thinking of the really huge spiritual experiences I had had in the temple: I was in a sealing session and felt a deep understanding of the divinity of women opened up to my eyes.  I understood the subtle influences of pride and how satan uses pride to keep us from God.  I felt charity; the pure love of Christ, for an amazing 20 min or so during and after a sealing session.  It was the most amazing feeling of love I have ever experienced; I couldn’t stop crying my body couldn’t even hold it.  One time while doing an initiatory I understood what something in my patriartical blessing said that I had wondered about for 25 years.  When I was really praying for God’s to strengthen my faith, but feeling what more could he possible give me, while waiting for an initiatory to start, He showed me in the most profound way what He could do instantly to show me the reality of His existence and awareness of me.  I understood how holy and sacred marriage is to the Lord once while in a sealing session.  I understood how all the ordinances fit together for the first time while doing an initiatory session recently.
These are all tags in my brain.  I wrote all of them down at once, just now for a purpose.  I just counted them up.  There are seven.  Seven experiences out of over 800 times attending the temple!  I have had a few less dramatic experiences happen where I felt amazing love, knowledge of what to do for a child, a change of heart, knowledge I didn’t have before, whisperings of understanding, etc.  Maybe 60 or 70 times of that kind of thing.  But for the other 700+ times I’ve gone I’ve just felt a good feeling, nothing amazing or abnormal, no great knowledge or awareness, just a whispering of good. 
It is such a testimony to me, that we put ourselves in holy places like prayer, scriptures, church and temple because we are waiting upon the Lord.  He will fill us as we put ourselves in a position to receive.  It won’t always be dramatic, most of the time it will be just a drop; a whisper, a good feeling, a subtle bit of knowledge.  But gradually we have a filled bucket of spiritual experiences, or a full lamp of oil.  We never know when it will come, but we put ourselves there because it increases the chances we will receive some bit of light.
The reality is the Lord wont spoon feed us with dramatic spiritual experiences every time he wants to communicate with us.  He expects us to feel, think and act with just subtle promptings from Him.  Although at times He may give us more powerful experiences, my experience is most of the time we just have to trust whisperings.  (I can hear those better when I turn my brain off and listen to my heart.)  The tragedy is when we won’t receive or listen because we want Him to speak on our terms, not His.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about as I have watched this young man’s heart break is how comforting the doctrine of opposition is.  I’ve never really thought about it in such a profound way as I have this week.  I had an experience, (another one of those, Yes we are real people experiences), last weekend that put knowledge right into my heart about opposition. I think the Lord has been trying to get it from my head into my heart for some time. 
I have mentioned before that our family has been struggling with some very difficult challenges.  It’s kind of layers of things and I have received layers of understanding as we have worked to hold on.  Don and I have not gone unaffected as we have both worked to accept.
When we learn new ways of doing things or things we need to change, Don and I have to adjust the balance of our relationship.  It rocks the boat a bit and we have to work through it.  One of these times was last Sunday morning.  We had been talking during the weekend about things we needed to do in order to help our family and Sunday morning we were doing some more exploring to help improve the situation.  (To be clear we weren’t arguing but we weren’t feeling the spirit either.)  The boat was being rocked and we were trying to adjust.  It wasn’t great timing since we had to speak in Stake Conference and I was giving a 15 min talk. (How ironic that it was on how wives can support their husbands in leading the family.  God has such a sense of humor.)  I have often heard investigators talk about feeling the spirit so strong as they enter the chapel.  I personally have never felt this feeling.  It just feels normal to me when I enter the chapel.  It feels good.  But last Sunday as I entered the chapel I felt such a powerful difference from the turmoil I had been feeling all weekend.  Peace settled on me, calm came over me, I felt the spirit in the music, spirit in every talk, sprit speaking words to my mind.  It was so different than the way I was feeling before. The feeling of opposition I felt so quickly bore powerful testimony to me of the truthfulness of how real the spirit it, how wonderful peace is, how amazing spiritual feelings are.
Later that day I was reading in 2 Nephi 2:11.  (It’s the doctrine of opposition.)…There must needs be an opposition in all things.  If not…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad….neither happiness or misery.  12.  Without opposition the earth would have been created for nothing. 
This really hit me.  We know what something feels like when we experience the opposite.  This is exactly why God created the earth.  His purpose in creating the earth and the plan of happiness was that we would experience the good and the evil, happiness and misery, holiness and wickedness.  14.  And these things would be for our profit and learning. 16.  God gave to man agency; that he should act for himself, being enticed by the one or the other.  Being free to choose.

I don’t know, maybe I’m weird but this doctrine is sooooo comforting to me.  There really is a purpose for our pain.  From the beginning of time, these hard things were meant to be…..and we wanted it.  Sometimes that is just craziness to me, when the pain gets so deep.  But when I am through the pain and regain an eternal perspective I can feel the profit and learning that comes.  And the profit and learning is so sweet and so valuable.  We just have to stay with Him and let Him get us through it; creating a place in our heart to receive and keep the light He is trying to put there.  And then it’s just so good, because we know the difference.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Women and Men unite.

I spoke in the Valley Stake Conference today.  President McCombie asked me to speak on helping children and wives support their husbands in leading the family.  I of course was reading between the lines and thought to myself, this is code for, “help these women who think quickly, efficiently, in multiples, all at once, slow down long enough to give their poor husbands a chance to form a thought and lead out.”  My other thought was to laugh at how ironic this topic is to my own personal marriage.  I am constantly having to listen to the spirit remind me I’m not in charge, and trying to hold me back from taking over, speaking out of turn, correcting Don because I thought he should have done it different, or nudging him to do or say it my way.  I am always working on not taking over and allowing my husband to lead.  To speak on it just makes me laugh inside, but here is what I feel the Lord has taught me over the years.
Trust in Heavenly Fathers plan.  His plan is that men and woman have different roles in marriage and they would learn to be one.  Men have the divine role to provide, lead and protect their family.  To me that means not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally- leading, providing and protecting their children and wives.
We as women love, help, and teach our children and create a home where that can happen. We also support, help and council with our husbands.  If we can see and meet needs it will help our family.  The health and well being of our family is very important to the Lord and provides great happiness in this life.
I also thought I should talk about children’s roles in the family.  I asked Don what he thought children’s roles were.  He said, “They are to produce the trials necessary to perfect their parents.”  I laughed because that perfectly describes the stage of life were in right now.  They he added, “in other words, they are the fuel for the refiner’s fire for parents.”  He is so funny.  But here is what the family proclamation in summary says: Children are to gain a body and earthly experiences to learn and grow towards God, to realize their divine destiny as heirs and receive eternal life.  After reading that I felt it describes what we are all doing here, not just youthful children.  We are all children of God working towards realizing who we are and what we are capable of.
I think it is important to address how the adversary fights against us fulfilling our divine role and potential.  (I’ve written a little about this in the past.)   First, the world is weakening men’s roles by portraying them as weak, stupid, incapable, followers and indecisive- or the opposite- being, violent, unfeeling, and hard.  The worlds women are tough, aggressive, dominate and smarter than men-or the opposite- just sexual objects whose value comes from being thin and beautiful. 
 I think the adversary works on weakening our confidence in ourselves and each other.  His message is always negative, critical and prideful.  As women we may think, “I can do it better, faster, more efficiently, and smarter than you.” Or, “I need to prove my worth and there is no value or meaning in being at home with my children.” Or, “I am not capable of having faith in my husband.”  As men we may think, “I am not capable or don’t have the time to fulfill my calling well, lead out in family prayer or Family Home Evening, or disciplining the kids effectively.”
We must fight against the worlds fear and pride.  We can have confidence in God and in His plan.  He gave each of us roles to fulfill.  I can trust my husband Don, has been called by God.  I can trust God will help him if I’ll stay out of the way and be a supporter and a councilor.  I know God can inspire us how to help each other to fulfill our divine role, but we have to listen to the spirit. It is so easy for us women to see with our natural man eyes and just take over because it’s the easiest way to get done what we think needs to be done.  We aren’t seeing with an eternal perspective. It’s like missionaries who go out and just work without ever asking the Lord what He wants. They just do, “stuff”, all day long.  They’re busy, but it may not be what the Lord would have them do.  They don’t really know, they never asked, they just filled their day with, busy.  It’s not divinely inspired.
As parents and spouses it the same thing.  To really achieve our divine potential and help others do the same we have to be tuned into the Lord all day long.  We have to ask what the Lord wants, then listen to our heart to know what to do.  To be honest the number one thing I hear the spirit tell me is to, “be quiet”.  I hear it all the time.  By obeying that prompting what I have found out is that my husband really is inspired.  Things turn out so good and I know if we would have done it my way, (which totally seemed to me to be the right way), it would not have been as good.  If I wouldn’t have been quiet, and gotten out of the way I would have never found that out.  Men have been called of God to do a work in our family and in the church and I can trust God will help him, if I will get out of the way.  Don’t get in the way of God’s work in your husband’s life.  God can teach your husband, touch him and affect him, if you will love and support him learning in Gods way.
Don’t get me wrong though.  I have a voice.  I give my voice often, which is probably why the spirit has to tell me to be quiet so often.  Don always tries to listen to me, thinks about it and then decides and does what he feels God is inspiring him to do in this calling as a mission president, and with our family I think he just tries to help us work together so we both feel satisfied at what is done.  It turns out great.  I see his inspiration.  If I just took over I couldn’t see that.
I learn in layers.  One thing that has been an important layer of learning for me on this subject was when Elder Anderson, the apostle, came to our mission quite a while ago.  I learned something that has changed my life.  (This is from an earlier post entitled Let’s be honest.)  Copy and paste to read the whole thing:;postID=4901206155007843052;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=12;src=postname
He said, “Isn’t it great that the Lord allows so many different kinds of people to have testimonies?  Look at Pres Palmer and Pres Mullen, they couldn’t be more different, yet they were both called of God to serve as mission presidents in the WA SPOKANE Mission and have done a great job.  We experience this as apostles too.  Pres Monsen loves to shake hands and be out among the people; Pres Packer prefers to be in the back room with the door closed studying a book.  Yet both are called of God and fulfill their assignments amazingly.  Everyone has a part to play and one person will touch and influence for good someone that another person can’t.  We don’t have to be alike.  We can be different and still be just as effective as another.”
What the spirit drove into my heart was first-God loves my husband.  I instantly felt such appreciation for Don’s great testimony and the way Don does things, because I knew God was ok with him and loves him. Isn’t that ironic?  When I knew deep in my heart how much God loved Don, I felt at peace and could just accept him and relax.  Second I had a deep understanding that every single one of us is different and there really is not a right way to do something.  I knew without a doubt that, “My way is just “A way”, someone else’s way is just “A way”.  The only, “The way”, is God’s way.   My way is not the right way.  There is not just one way to do something. 
To all of us wives, its pride to think our way is the best way.  Its pride to think I’m the only one that can do it right, get it done, or do it in a timely way.  We can really learn humility and patience as we let our husbands lead, protect and provide.  I’m learning that God has called my husband to lead, provide and protect our family.  I can trust God that He will help him and inspire him.  And as he works and practices and learns he will get better and better at it. And then I get better and better at being patient, humble, kind and loving; fulfilling my divine role.  And then we get better and better at working together in mutual respect and love. 
Living in a family is a wonderful environment to learn to live the gospel.  Things aren’t fair, perfect, or always what we want, so we have the opportunity to learn to forgive, show mercy, be kind, love,  and help, when it’s not easy.  Living in a family is the perfect place to learn to repent; many situations arise in which we need to do so.  It’s awesome.  The Lord is so smart.

I feel the Lord can use us in His way if we will let go of what we think and want and turn to Him for inspiration in dealing with one another throughout the day.  “What do you want me to say Lord?”  What do you want me to do Lord?” is the way.  Then we turn our day over to God, our lives over to God and the people in our lives over to God.  He will do an amazing work if we will allow Him to guide us in helping each other reach our divine potential.   As we reach our divine potential, we see ourselves as divine heirs; children of god, we understand who we are and what we are capable of, then we can accomplish and become all God intends for us.  Then the Lord will be able to use us in His way and we will fulfill His plan for us.