Titles

Filiam Dei, first and foremost.
Therein lies my purpose, my light and guidepost.
Next I am Sister, to nourish and hold.
Then Lover of Learning, for that is my gold.
Far Strider, for limitless miles I eat,
in mountains and marathons, under my feet.
INTP: Challenge is what I do.
Star Gazer, for souls must conversate too.
Squirrel Whisperer, for these are the hardest earned friends.
Venturer: Hard paths have the most striking ends.
Earth Shaper, for pigments and clay that I mold
Fire Maker, for dancing and fending off cold.
Ground Fighter, for dreams that come under my hand.
Deeply Loved, more than I understand.
Zion Seeker, with so much still to o’ercome.
Covenant Keeper, so I can become

Advertisements

The Atonement: His Perfection and Our Need

If we are to live a celestial life we must abide by celestial laws. Many of these laws are given in the Sermon on the Mount: Nephite Edition, and include loving our enemies, not being angered, not letting impure thoughts enter our hearts, and turning the other cheek. All of these point to a state of being: Being humble, being charitable, and being virtuous. As struggling mortals, we understand the concrete examples of these traits which Jesus gives more clearly that the traits themselves. For example, we use the word humble and it can mean so many different things. It can describe one isolated demonstration, a manner of dress, living circumstances, or it can express any degree of meekness or submissiveness in a person. The way that Christ uses it comes closest to this last, except that he shows us exactly what degree of humility is humble. The description is this: that if someone were to take your coat, you would give him your cloak also, that you would never call someone out as in saying “thou fool,” that if physically hit, you would take another blow before reacting in a way to offend one of God’s children. The standard is clear and can be achieved regardless of race, gender or social status, but for most of us, especially me, it is not always the go to reaction. The same can be said of charity and virtue. Are any of us perfectly charitable? I know that I am far from it. Only one is.

Christ end with the words, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Ne. 12:48)

In the words of President Holland, “I believe that Jesus did not intend His sermon on this subject to be a verbal hammer for battering us about our shortcomings. No, I believe He intended it to be a tribute to who and what God the Eternal Father is and what we can achieve with Him in eternity. In any case, I am grateful to know that in spite of my imperfections, at least God is perfect—that at least He is, for example, able to love His enemies, because too often, due to the “natural man” and woman in us, you and I are sometimes that enemy.” (General Conference Oct 2017)

We are born into this world, and we get so caught up in it. Occasionally we compromise, and sometimes we entirely forget our purpose here. How often I have put my trust in the arm of flesh and thought my friendship with the world was right and good? how often have I needed to be shouted the refrain, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4) How often did I think such a friendship was bigger than a seemingly arbitrary and insignificant commandment? How often have I realized in tears and shame how wrong I was and how lost I was and how weak I am?

…At least once.

Once we realize that path was lost, how long must it take to again find it? Will we ever find it? If you are as fortunate as I, you’ve been told exactly where to turn in a place like this. Perhaps you’ve never felt so unworthy to ask God for forgiveness. Perhaps it seems utterly ridiculous. How wondrous it is then, in the midst of that darkness we brought upon ourselves, as soon as we turn it over to him, we realize his spirit is right there beside us. We feel that worth and we feel hope. In our heart or our mind we know that somehow, impossibly, he is not only with us, but he loves us. As time stretches on, we can become closer to him than we have ever before been. We will realize that he doesn’t need our suffering–that’s why Christ died for us–all he needs is us to change. And we will find that we can. Somehow, everything is clear going in the right direction, even in the dark. Indeed, it is infinitely more clear that when you were heading the wrong direction in the light. Surrounded by light, but not seeking, you were in ignorance, and ignorance is darkness. But no darkness can remain when any person therein calls upon the name of Christ with faith unto repentance, earnestly seeking. We create our reality, only in that we choose it, and Jesus Christ creates it. It has nothing to do with our circumstances.

 

To be continued

M: A Testimony

As many of my blog posts here are, this is taken from an email I wrote as a missionary. Looking back, this is the most important to me.
13 Nov 2017 – “In recent time I have been lower than I have ever before felt in my life. I have never prayed so earnestly nor cried so many tears, but what is most important is that I have never known so strongly of the truth of this gospel than I do now. I know God has my back. I know He loves me. I know that nothing in this world could ever be more important than living by these truths; that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemed of this world; that He lives, and because He lives, there is always hope, and there is always light. I know that when you do what’s right, He is right there with you, standing beside you and with you, even, and especially, when you feel utterly alone. I know that you will never regret doing what’s right. I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s Church, and that it has been restored to the earth in these last days. I know that it is the only path to peace and salvation, and whether you stagger along that path, run like a greyhound, or crawl with bleeding fingers scraping against the dirt, you are headed the correct way. And you will make it. Because your older brother loves you enough that He paid the price for you, and He already covered that ground where we all sometimes crawl, and if we will just look up, we will see where His blood is already there, mixed in the dust with ours, showing us the way.
            I know that the companionship of the Holy Ghost is the most valuable thing we can have with with us. Always be worthy of it and He will guide you in consecrated ways and you will have peace. Faith and hope cannot coexist with fear and despair.
            This is the last email I will be writing you all as a missionary, because I am going home. These last 6 months have been the most priceless time in my life. Before this week, I never dreamed it would be over so soon. I just want you all to remember these things that I know. We have the Book of Mormon and a living Prophet today. I know they are true. The Priesthood power of God is upon the earth. Our worthiness to recieve the blessings available through this power is all that matters in this life. Nothing is worth lessening our worthiness to receive God’s blessings, and everything and anything is worth the price to come closer to Him. I love my God, and I love my Brother and my Saviour. I say these things in His name–the name of Jesus Christ–amen.”
Sister E. L. R.

M: “And the Rains Came Tumbling Down”

  As my thoughts wandered while drifting off to sleep 2 nights ago in our little apartment in Moss Bluff, I pondered the storm which raged not far from my assigned area. A few months earlier and several thousand feet higher in the mountain valley I call home, it never crossed my mind that I would find myself 10 feet above sea level, eastward of a cat 4 hurricane, contemplating the greatness of it all. The sound of thunder cascading through the heavens has grown to be one of my favorite things to hear. That was our last night listening to it from our apartment cause I don’t know how much water is in it now, but we are dry and warm in a member’s attic the next town over, and even though they’ve banned us from traveling, we will be out proselytizing on foot in the rain for the remainder of the inclement weather. Yesterday before they pulled us out, we just walked holding our shoes trekking through the puddles along the highway hitting up the potential and past investigators and less active members within a couple miles of our apartment. Between cloudbursts the cool, breezy weather is nicer than I’ve yet experienced here. It is so amazing to see the differing reactions of so many members and nonmembers to the storm. When you have hope in Jesus Christ and knowledge of God’s Plan, it doesn’t matter how much water is in your house, you still have peace and joy. For those that don’t have this understanding, such a trial just brings misery! The people are so humbled and ready to listen to the gospel when they are temporally in need. Why is it that as a race we wait until such times to humble ourselves before God? It is so much easier in the long run to just be humble always, but that’s too simple of a solution, I guess. It seems to be for me anyway. 😉 I have far to go on the path of humility, but I believe it is paved largely with gratitude. Acknowledgement of God’s hand in all things is a good place to start, and I am more and more coming upon it. If He can hold the stars in place, He can hold my life and heart as well. His plan will bring us infinitely more happiness than ours will, even when we think those plans ought to be aligned. Why doubt the wisdom of Him who knows all things when our perspective is so limited? He knows what we truly need, and it has nothing to do with temporal comfort. Our most important growth will often occur entirely outside of such a state. One day, we will realize to what end that experience served, and we will be so deeply grateful to have been allowed to pass through that time.

Sister E. L. R.

M: An Amazing Conversion

An Atakapa man got a DNA test done so he could get his kids certified through his tribe, and the test came back saying he is 73 percent Jew. He was very frustrated and is having it redone because there is no questioning his family heritage in this tribe, (his great-grandpa was the chief and his parents were both born on the rez in FL) meanwhile, he’s ranting about the result at his mechanics shop in our area when a customer, who is a member of the church, walks in, listens to his ranting, and begins to laugh. Having the Native shop owner’s attention, he begins, “well you see, there’s this book, and it’s blue…” We received and contacted the resulting referral the same day, where this guy is waiting for us at his shop. He has been actively seeking truths about God his whole life. He is heavily tattooed and each one has family or religious significance. He has seen devils and visions and has been declared dead once, besides having should have died multiple times. He has lived to serve others and teach them about God, but he knows God is keeping him around for something, and after our first meeting, he said this might be it. Late that night from his shop, he called his wife to tell her he was reading the Mormon book, and she didn’t believe him because his reading glasses were at home. But he could read it. He read all we assigned him and more, and the next morning he repeatedly would hold some other literature next to a page in the Book of Mormon and say, “look, I can’t read that, but I can read this.” Needless to say, we had another powerful lesson and put him on date for the 26th. Yesterday, he found the church in the middle of the sacrament, walked in and about ten minutes later, walked up to the stand and bore his testimony on his heritage, the Book of Mormon, his family and how excited he is to learn more. He came out of church with a ton of questions and really fascinating ideas which we’ll get to talk about tomorrow, then we have a pass-off lesson scheduled for Thursday with the elders who can figure out where/how to teach him, his wife and six daughters who live two hours away in the marsh, but I am so excited to go to his baptism. Attendance is gonna be good cause he announced the date over the pulpit during his testimony yesterday, haha. About every member in the Calcasieu Parish seems to have heard about him by now. It is just so cool to see him get started on this path. I feel so honored to have been able to witness some of these amazing miracles and to teach a very real descendant of the tribe of Israel which was broken off and planted in this, the Promised Land. I am so grateful for my mother, who imparted to me the knowledge I need to understand this amazing person and address his concerns, and better serve so many other investigators we are teaching. I wish I had more time to write, but I know ya’ll have lives anyway, so it’s all good. I’ve said it before, but there are just so many miracles… I just want to briefly quote our prophet who recently said, if you do not have testimony of the gospel… do what is necessary to obtain one. It is true. Whether you currently believe it at the moment or not does not change the fact. Before you recieve that witness, miracles mean nothing. That knowledge will change your trajectory for ever. Every tiny decision you make changes that trajectory foreverIf you know, then live every moment in a manner consistent with that knowledge. If you repeatedly contradict what you know spiritually, God will take away that spiritual knowledge so that you do not further condemn yourself, and you will not be happy. Conversely, if you desire truth and light, you will find it, and you may continue to grow in it indefinitely. It is there you will find joy. We will receive what we desire.

A couple days later…

Tuesday morning we get a call and he tells us that the night before as he was sleeping, his wife next to him told him to turn off the light… but it wasn’t on. She saw the bright light that had filled the room, but she didn’t hear the voice which spoke to him, saying, “Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God and you need to follow him.” The voice continued and gave him amazing revelation, which he was able to write down. In the revelation, the voice identified itself as the Holy Ghost. Our investigator told us he was still fasting since our lesson Saturday (disclaimer: we told him only two meals), so my Companion told him to go eat, and he said he would immediately. We’re still in Houston for a meeting, but Wednesday morning we see him and get the story in more detail, and read everything he was told and begin to explain to him all these words he’s never heard before and can’t pronounce correctly or spell, but they are spelled perfectly because as he wrote, the spirit would correct him. It directed him to pass through the kingdoms of glory, recieve the melchizedek priesthood and make covenants with God, and tells him he will be able to bring many with him. Throughout all this he hears words like temple and garment. He knows he needs to do and have these things, but has no clue what they are. He doesn’t know what a covenant is, so we gotta start small (Sis. Woodbury: “No garments aren’t like a ring…”) and clear up some interesting concepts (me:”…okay so you’ve since denounced the Masons, but you’re curious about what similarities you saw in vision? Oh, it’s tattooed on your bicep, I see. Well, one year after you’re baptized….”). Finally the elders show up half an hour late and we begin laying the foundation for him to put it all together with the Plan of Salvation. I don’t think lessons get much more amazing than that one. Here is a man who’s searched all his life for truth and is just finding out what life means. So many things from his past that troubled him we were able to put into proper place and perspective.
It is an experience God wants for all of his Children. It is amazing to see. In the following weeks this man was baptized and received the Aaronic Priesthood. He has remained a good friend of mine and is strong in the path of truth and light he’s found.

Sister E. L. R.

M: Truth is Being Spoken Here

Last week we recieved a bible referral, hunted down the address and knocked the door. A Native American lady quickly answered and, before we said a word, invited us in. She introduced herself as Abbie and expressed her desire to understand God better and her gratitude that we had come. Her testimony of the existence of God was so intrisically a part of her, she said there was never a time in her life she didn’t believe.  I know that this gift of the Spirit was purposefully given to her for strength to overcome hardship she faced from her youth in an abusive environment surrounded by drugs and addiction. The vivid satanic power she described is not commonly surpassed. Though she has escaped the worst of that life, darkness has followed her and her family. Abbie described an experience a few nights before where the voice of a devil woke her and tried to bargain with her. She refused again and again. Afterwards, she knew that something good must be about to happen else why would Satan try so desperately to bind her soul? Then we came. We told her our message was the reason why; that it would  change her life and give her the understanding she sought. As I began to teach her the restoration she stated “Truth is being spoken here.” The spirit was so strong, but Satan tightened his grip on her with a vengeance through her family and addictions. We never were able to teach her like that again. It so deeply saddens me to see person after person struggling through the mists of darkness in our fallen world. The tiniest fraction of mankind are blessed to have the understanding possible only through the restored gospel. Why am I so blessed? A line of scripture found in Mosiah 2:34 reads, “Ye are eternally indebted to your Heavenly Father, to render to Him all that you have and are.” So many with the purest desires are born into poverty, ignorance, misinformation or much worse. Investigators have asked how justice can possibly be served. How, I can only speculate, but I know that my sense of justice comes from the Father of my spirit, and that He counts every tear and knows every heart. The highest law I now understand is that vengeance is to be His. My role is to show others the path to peace. Through the lens of eternity, does any relative pain in mortality matter at all when the atonement of Christ can heal everything? The agency of man and the wisdom of God need not contradict. Still, I am left to wonder what is to become of me, who is and has always been so blessed. Every opportunity and every security has been mine. I’ve been raised in love and righteousness and taught that I can do anything. Whatever I truly desire is within my reach. How do I show my gratitude? My trespasses accrue, my will strays,  my heart is so often turned within and I take for granted all I enjoy. The one thing that settles every doubt I can possible think of is the infinite love of my God and Father, and of my Savior and Brother Jesus Christ. Love really is the answer to everything, I guess 😉

 

Sister E. L. R.

M: My Father

In tribute to Fathers Day, I want to let you all know that as a child, my dad taught me how to read, using solely the Book of Mormon as a textbook. My dad taught me to love learning. He taught me to love the scriptures and the doctrine of the gospel. I remember seeing him reading the words of inspired men all through my youth. From him I learned that God is most important. My earthly father taught me to value toughness, sacrifice and freedom. He exemplified for me what it means to consecrate. Most importantly, he loved me. His love provides the foundation upon which my understand of my Heavenly Father’s love rests. I am eternally indebted to my dad for the principles of earth, heaven, and all existence which he has exemplified for me, and which have become intrinsic parts of my soul. Thanks, Dad.

The Greatest Danger

I love good questions; both answering them, and hearing others thoughtfully try. I have often asked, “what is your greatest fear?” For the longest time, I considered mine to be letting down someone who depends on me; someone who trusts me and should trust me…  But another has pervaded my thought.

I now think what scare me most is something more subtle and much more personal. It happens inside our minds and by our own choice. Put simply, it is desensitization. Whether to sin, to the present, or any other good thing, it is what allows us to act in opposition to deeper, truer understanding. 

Desensitization is a process. Just as self-discipline is like a muscle that strengthens with consistent use, every single time we perform below what we truly desire, we lower our threshold for what we find satisfactory. Over time, what we once held in high esteem becomes negatable. Through many tiny offenses to our sense of purpose or our moral code, we become desensitized.

Desensitization is weakness. One bad choice makes it easier to follow up with more choices that you know you will regret later. The process of desensitization stands in oppositions to the process of strengthening self-will through exerting initiative, and one of these processes is always working. It sets us apart. You will find that the most intrinsically powerful people you know of are function on the high side of the spectrum. They have learned to recognize the danger in the small things where they are prone to rationalize, and they have learned to hold to a higher standard.

The idea that we can reach a pre-determined point and stay there is a myth. It’s not enough to aim for the minimum threshold with which we are comfortable because in our fallen state, we will make mistakes, and occasionally underachieve. If we are not actively trying to improve, we are falling backwards. It may be so gradual as to be practically incomprehensible, but if not caught, the tragedy can be limitless.

It is difficult to recognize where we have become latent. We teach ourselves to either heed or disregard the conscience of our subconscious over a lifetime. To ignore the slightest sensation that something is wrong, facilitates the eventual feeling that nothing is wrong, which is why it is so difficult to recognize that you began ignoring it the first place! To wake up to the error of your ways requires intense introspection, perceptivity, or a strong—often painful—stimulus.

Desensitization is the process by which we take our blessings for granted. It contributes to every rationalization or excuse we make.

I wrote this as a missionary is Lousiana shortly after hurricane Harvey devastated the area. At the time we were involved in relief efforts mucking out houses and I thought of this principle:
5 Sep. 2017 – “I have so missed hard, dirty work. Give me a claw hammer and I am the happiest person in the world. It is so fun! We go in, hug the crying homemakers, yessir the stressed homeowners, and the remaining 8 hours our attention is turned to ruined carpet, drywall, flooring, insulation, refrigerators, etc.  Pretty much we go into soaked houses and rip out everything within a foot of the water line. Simple right? Well, it would be if it was your typical sweet and toothy swamp water. Unfortunately it’s busted septic systems, and dead hogs, armadillos and pit bulls. Being the first work crews in, they say it hasn’t even started to stink. It’s all good though cause in a couple minutes you can”t smell anything. So as I sat among friends, thoroughly enjoying a brisket sandwich, I pondered this phenomenon, that when I first walked into this room, my olfactory faculties were telling me this environment was not conducive to continuing life, but now I was chilling eating lunch here. An application came to mind because for all things there is a spiritual parallell: When we begin to sin, there are red lights flashing in our minds. We may feel guilt, and our spirits cringe. When we ignore these signals, over time, they become easier and easier to disregard. Spiritual desensitization may not take minutes, like getting used to the smell of flood water, but as we continue to sin, there will come a time that we forget we ever knew that what we are doing is wrong.
     All too often we consciously consent to tolerate only a portion of that which offends our spirits. We rationalize that to a certain degree it is acceptable. We don’t acknowledge that we are killing the delicate and sensitive part of our spirit that would protect us from evil and bring us so much greater light and joy in the future. My friends, every one of us does this, and every one of us can do better. My limited perspective will counsel that some things truly are insignificant, but it is between each individual and God to determine what is or is not harmful to you and those who’s lives you influence. Prayerfully poder what changes you can make. What changes can bring you closer to our Savior and bless you and your family? What is limiting your progression? Remember the principle of desensitization.”
We will never sin without being warned by the Spirit first. Listen, I beg you. Ignoring the Spirit is responsible for the greatest heartache I have ever experienced in my life. The devil works through many ways to desensitize us and lead us with a flaxen cord down to Hell, as described in Alma 28: 21-22 (“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateththeir souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.)

To receive the blessings and happiness our Father desires to give us, we must prayerfully recognize that we need to change, and with the strength of the Lord, change. If we understand and embrace the law of sacrifice, we will be able to withstand the traps of the Devil, regardless of how weak we are, because Christ will make up the difference.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work. I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked – the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself. My will shall become your will. My heart shall become your heart.'”

Home

My mind has recently been drawn back to a time years ago as I lay in bed, preparing to sleep. I contemplated my existence on this earth, the purpose of my life, my potential as a daughter of God, and what lay ahead. I contemplated the undeterminable period of time I spent preparing to come to this earth, to be tested and tried, to experience pain and joy, to live in a state of mortality, with no recollection of my existence before birth, or surety of life after death. I was to experience all this and so much more within a mere century. Could I have imagined just a few decades would seem so long? Weeping silently and softly, I wondered how on my own attic floor mattress, I didn’t feel home. A parable unfolded in my head–based on something I’d been taught before–and it helped me understand just a little bit more.

Surely, before passing through the veil separating premortal and mortal existence, I thought of earth life as I would mortally consider the taking of a scholarly test. You walk into the testing center–which of itself is not a particularly fun place–and alongside many other test-takers, you demonstrate what you know, extrapolate your knowledge to guess what you don’t, and in a matter of minutes you walk out of the testing center back to the trees, wind and sunshine of real life. What you may have spent hours preparing for determines your performance in that comparably short test. Its end brings relief.

Imagine you are stuck in this testing center, but while inside, you have no understanding of the expanse outside this shuttered building from whence you just came. You are aware that the test is timed, but you have little surety of the precise length of time. It would be miserable. However, a lucky few have other test takers approach them and explain that this is only one testing center on a vast planet. They would point out the light, seeping weakly through the blinded windows and they would tell you of the sun which is its source, set in space infinitely larger than that contained in these walls. They would point to the test in your hand and tell you, “That test is the reason you are here. Remember your preparation and do your best, and you will come out of this center with no regrets, and again see the sun.” Even choosing to believe that there is a purpose to this test and that it will be worth every effort, the time spent in the testing center would still be tedious. We certainly could never be satisfied staying forever. But because our perspective is limited only to the time spent there, it would literally be forever. Thus we would never be satisfied.

Though the scale is many trillion times too small, this example helped me understand that earth is like a testing center. The rest of the world–its mountains and cultures, richness and diversity, sun and wind and snow–represents the realm in which we were created; the sphere in which we are meant to inhabit and thrive. It is not a realm where time exists as we know it. It is an eternal sphere, and we are eternal beings. We have been placed here for a time that is so relatively insignificant, we could never fathom just how tiny a fraction of eternity our entire mortal life will be. We were not created to exist here. This realm is not the sphere we are designed to inhabit. This is not the end to which we were made. We are children of God, and contained in us is the potential to become Gods and Goddesses just like our Heavenly Father and Mother. As they are eternal, so are we. Eternal beings are not meant to dwell in in time or even mortality. We were conceived and raised in eternity. That is our home, and it is back to that existence we will return after this brief time here. We will then be home, and mortality will seem as the blink of an eyelash. We will immediately wonder how we ever got distracted by such insignificant things that may have even seemed important to us during earth life. We will rejoice in our righteous decisions, for they will color our eternal existence, but the pains and loneliness and turmoil of that limited and fallen sphere will fall from our minds, leaving only understanding to be applied here, home, eternally.

Right now, we aren’t at that point yet, but we have such a rare and blessed opportunity to determine what that moment will be like, based on what we do now. Our time is limited, and the test is in our hand. It is a format unique to only you, but it is open book. Though others may fool around and deny the importance of those problems you diligently attempt to solve, you’ve chosen to believe that your effort will be worth it. Your eyes, your mind and your heart are fixed. You know that the Sun awaits beyond those doors, so you endure with diligence. When you finally feel its warmth and experience His light, you will have no regrets.