GCBC Week 26: “The Songs They Could Not Sing” by Elder Quentin L. Cook

First of all, if you didn’t see all the recent blog announcements, go check them out.

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We did it!  This is the last talk we’ll study for this round of general conference.  The conference countdown has begun.

That picture up there will make a lot more sense after you study this talk.  It’s a classic analysis of the age-old question:  why do bad things happen to good people?, and then it’s followed up with counsel of how to navigate those trials and testimony about the justice of God’s Plan.  The answers, of course, are found in the Savior.

The Songs They Could Not Sing by Elder Quentin L. Cook

” There are many kinds of challenges. Some give us necessary experiences. Adverse results in this mortal life are not evidence of lack of faith or of an imperfection in our Father in Heaven’s overall plan. The refiner’s fire is real, and qualities of character and righteousness that are forged in the furnace of affliction perfect and purify us and prepare us to meet God.”

Update:  I had forgotten that we did this talk already back in December.  I paired it up with another talk.  Sorry about that.  If this is a repeat for you, study Pres. Monson’s closing remarks from conference this week or Pres. Uchtdort’s awesome talk from the General RS meeting.

What are some of your favorite insights from this talk?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

The next round of General Conference Book Club will be hosted from a different home.  Go here to read the announcement (skip down to number 3).

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here.

That Easter Feeling

I know Easter is coming because I can feel it.  The sun begins to shine more.  The trees are trying to prove they’re still alive.  Birds reappear.  It seems like I can feel the warm breath of life itself slowly settling all around me.  It all testifies of Christ, you know.  There is no winter that cannot be overcome, and there is no night without a bright and shining morning.  No sorrow or pain can remain when the bright light of our Savior shines down upon it.  Even death itself is no match for the power of the Son of God.

I heard this song on the radio the other day (I listen to Christian radio in the car), and it just filled me to overflowing with that Easter feeling.  I’ve listened to it no less than a dozen times since, and I just need to go buy it.

The song is “Hero” by a group called “Abandon.”  Here’s an acoustic version they performed on Air1.  Listen to the words and just let it soak in.  I promise it feels like Son-shine.

I know it’s early, but Happy Easter.

Mothers: Symbols of the Savior (+CD giveaway)

What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ?

That’s the question I asked Whitney Permann of MERCY RIVER because it’s the central theme of my blog– finding the divine among the daily details of motherhood.  MERCY RIVER is a musical trio of LDS women (Brooke, Whitney, and Soni).  With thirteen kids between them, they understand how busy a mother’s life can be, and they also juggle being recording artists and inspirational speakers.  Check out this video for a peek of them rehearsing and entertaining seven kids at the same time.

Here is Whitney’s answer:

What has motherhood taught me about Jesus Christ?

Motherhood has taught me many things. I’ve learned that patterned shirts hide snot and spit up better than plain shirts. I’ve learned that cell phones don’t work correctly after they’ve been sucked on too many times. And I’ve learned that I should always check for stray pull ups before I throw a load of laundry in.

I’ve also learned about polar bear habitats, all five signs of strep throat, and the name of every member of the BYU football team.

But most importantly, motherhood has taught me a lot about Jesus Christ. As a mother, I’ve learned about justice and mercy, faith and prayer, joy and sorrow, and deep, intense love. Each of these things connects me to Him.

We are taught that as mothers, we are “partners” with Christ. We offer ourselves as vehicles through which spirits can come to earth. But perhaps we are more than just “partners” with Him.  Take a look at Moses 6:58:

“As ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit…even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten.”

Isn’t that stunning? Physical birth (from a mother) is symbolic of spiritual re-birth that will take place later in life (from Christ). So, as mothers, not only are we partners with Christ–

We are symbols of Christ.

We offer our physical bodies in pregnancy and childbirth to provide life for our children. Jesus Christ offered His physical body in death, to provide life for God’s children. And both involve water, blood, and the Spirit.

But it doesn’t stop there. A mother’s offering does not begin or end with her body. Yes, a mother offers her body through sleepless nights, weary arms, a well-worn lap, an aching back, and a listening ear. But what a mother offers most is her heart. Her entire soul. And isn’t that what Jesus Christ has offered us as well? Just as we see it symbolized in motherhood, He offers us His body, and His heart and soul.

So I ask, how does this knowledge–that we are symbols of Christ–change the way we view motherhood? Does it change the way I see myself or my children? Should it? And what is the meaning of it all? Why has He chosen to use mothers in this beautifully symbolic way?

I think it means He thinks we’re pretty special.

I think it means that mothering should be reverenced and protected.

I think it means that by daily nurturing, loving, teaching, and sacrificing for my children, not only am I coming to know more about Him, I am coming to be more like Him.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love that, Whitney, and I absolutely agree.  Perhaps no other calling on earth can give more opportunity to become like Christ than the calling of a mother.  Thank you!

MERCY RIVER has just released a new album, “Higher,” and they are offering a free copy of their CD to one lucky reader.  There are some beautiful songs on this album.  I think my favorites are two songs I was already familiar with from the Christian radio station I like to listen to:  “Blessings” and “Better than a Hallelujah.”  This is great Sunday music, but it’s also upbeat enough for any day at home or in the car.

If you want to hear a song from this album, you can go to their Facebook page here and listen to “Beautiful Life.”  You’ll also find more information about their current blog tour and any upcoming performances.

So, you wanna be a winner?  It’s simple really.  In just one or two sentences, answer the same question Whitney did:  What has motherhood taught you about Jesus Christ? (Your answer doesn’t have to be original, just true to you.  It can be longer, too, but no pressure.)  Each person who comments before midnight on Friday will be entered in a drawing to win Mercy River’s new CD.

GCBC Week 21: “Teachings of Jesus” by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

I love Jesus Christ.  What has he done for me?  Everything.  All the goodness of His life, all the pain of His sacrifice– all for me.  And you.  All of us really.  The more sorrow and suffering I see and experience in the world around me, the more I have learned how important He is to me.  I love Elder Oak’s testimony of the Savior’s invaluable roles and contributions to our happiness and salvation.

Teachings of Jesus by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

“There is no middle ground. We are followers of Jesus Christ. Our citizenship is in His Church and His gospel, and we should not use a visa to visit Babylon or act like one of its citizens. We should honor His name, keep His commandments, and ‘seek not the things of this world but seek … first to build up the kingdom of God, and to establish his righteousness.’”

What think you of Christ?  What are some of your thoughts and testimony after reading this talk?  Share your thoughts or insights in the comments below.

I saw this video message today and absolutely LOVED it.  It would be worth 3 minutes to watch this message and hear the testimonies of modern-day prophets and apostles about the divine nature of Jesus Christ and His power to heal us and lift our burdens.

 

As a side note, we only have FIVE talks left.  And then it’s General Conference AGAIN.  ALREADY.  Yay!  Thanks to all of you who have participated in GCBC, especially to those of you who have hung in there since the beginning.  I hope it has strengthened you to study these talks each week.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion here each week.

Coping and Mothering: Overcoming Discouragement

I went to lunch several months ago with some friends.  During a side conversation, one friend said to me, “That’s the worst part about growing up: learning about everyone’s problems.”  I don’t even really remember the context of our discussion, but her comment has stuck with me.  It’s so true.  As a child, we have a very limited view of the world at large, and most of my memories are happy and carefree.  As we grow older and our view of the world around us expands, we are exposed to more and more pain, suffering, and sadness– sometimes our own, but often in the lives of others too.

Over the last several weeks, Matt and I have been struggling with watching people we know and love go through some really hard things.  Not just one or two friends, but several.  There are marriage troubles, there are health issues, there are fears and anxieties.  It has made us heavy-hearted, and frankly, a little discouraged.  We want to fix things and we just can’t.  We want to help, but feel so helpless.  It kind of makes us want to hide from the whole scary world so we don’t fall into the same pits, but where and how?  We start to wonder if everyone else on the planet has some deep, dark secret pain going on, and maybe we’re the only people who have “normal” trials, like bad days at work or budget woes or struggling to keep up with the demands of busy lives.  (Does anyone else feel like that sometimes?)  It of course puts your own trials into startling perspective, but it leaves you feeling a vicarious pain for what everyone else seems to be going through.  And even though your own life is relatively “easy,” it’s not easy to watch the pain that’s happening around you.  It hurts.

I’ve noticed it’s difficult to brush those feelings aside and deal with the matters at hand, like helping children with homework or finding socks or making dinner.  They have no idea about the hard things going on in the lives of friends and family.  You certainly don’t want to make it their burden either, but it’s hard to put on a happy face and go on like nothing’s wrong.  This morning, after I got the boys off to school, I tried to get Natalie occupied with her own activities so that I could just crawl back into bed and think.  Rest.  Decompress.  She kept coming into my room every 5 minutes to ask for help with milk or TV buttons or questions.  I was losing patience quickly.  It’s really hard to heal and mother at the same time.  I wasn’t very kind.

I don’t have any real answers to this.  I’m still working through it, but I wanted to share some of the things I’ve been thinking about and learning about in the meantime.  Yesterday, I had a rare opportunity to be in the car by myself in between some carpooling drop-offs and pick-ups.  I wanted something to listen to in the car that would help me focus my thoughts, and I remembered that I had an old general conference CD set somewhere.  I scanned the bookshelf in the office, found it, and grabbed it.  I really wish I had some kind of system in my car where I could just hook up my iPod and listen to whatever I want whenever I want, but I don’t.  And it seems really dumb to invest in that kind of stereo equipment when my van is pushing 160K miles.  Anyway, I had general conference CDs from 1998, and I popped them in and listened while I drove.

This morning I had to go to the dentist, and the CD was still in when I turned on the car.  I heard the end of one talk that was nice.  They had all been nice, but nothing had jumped out at me so far.  Then I heard this talk:  “Overcoming Discouragement” by Elder Val R. Christensen.  Here are some of the things that I learned:

Many of us face significant challenges. Even the great prophet Enoch experienced sadness when he viewed the wickedness of the world: “And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look” (Moses 7:44).

There are at least three steps to take when striving to overcome discouragement:

  1. You can work on changing your attitude toward the problem. Even though you can’t change the circumstances in which you work or live, you can always change your attitude.
  2. You can receive help from those who are close to you—your family, friends, and ward members, those who love you the most.
  3. You can develop a more powerful and complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Even before he started explaining his three points, I knew that there was truth in them.  I felt the Spirit– enlightenment and hope.

By looking at a problem in a different way, it may be possible to reduce discouragement. I have been impressed with the pioneer story told about Zina Young. After experiencing the death of parents, crop failure, and sickness, she was encouraged with a spiritual experience that changed her attitude. While attempting to seek divine help, she heard her mother’s voice: “Zina, any sailor can steer on a smooth sea, when rocks appear, sail around them.” A prayer came quickly: “O Father in heaven, help me to be a good sailor, that my heart shall not break on the rocks of grief” (“Mother,” The Young Woman’s Journal, Jan. 1911, 45). It is often difficult to change circumstances, but a positive attitude can help lift discouragement.

One morning, several days ago, I got some bad news from one of my friends I’ve been worried about.  I lay in bed in the quiet early hours of the morning and my heart just hurt.  I could feel a real, tangible sadness.  While I thought about that pain, I was reminded of something I’ve taught many times before in a lesson about the Atonement.

“I believe, to use an insurance phrase, we must pay the deductible. We must experience sorrow enough, suffering enough, guilt enough so we are conscious and appreciative of the heavier burden borne by the Savior.” (Elder J. Richard Clarke, in Conference Report April 1993, 10)

In that moment, I kind of got it.  What I was feeling was just the tiniest piece of what the Savior felt when He took upon himself the pains of the world.  It was pain from sin, but also every kind of sorrow.  It is His pain.  Not mine.  Not hers.  It’s His.  He bought it with a price and I need to give it back to Him. I don’t need to keep it.  So, I determined then that all I can do is hand the burden back and then pay close attention to what He wants me to do.  He can show me how to help and how to move on.  So in the several days since, whenever I’ve felt the weight of sadness, I try to replay this same scenario in my mind and let it go.  Here’s another snippet from Elder Christensen’s talk:

I’ve talked about changing attitudes and receiving help from others. Now, let me mention the need to put more trust and faith in the Lord. I once talked to a woman who received help with her discouragement. While waiting for a temple session to begin, she picked up a Book of Mormon to read a verse. Her eyes fixed upon Alma 34:3: “And as ye have desired of my beloved brother that he should make known unto you what ye should do, because of your afflictions; and he hath spoken somewhat unto you to prepare your minds; yea, and he hath exhorted you unto faith and to patience.” The scripture in Alma was an answer to her prayer. The message was simple: the problem she faced was going to take a long time to solve. If we place a little more patience in the process and a greater amount of faith in the Lord, our challenges will find their way toward successful conclusions.

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read this: “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful” (D&C 136:29).

Some of these things will take time to work themselves out.  I have faith that some of them really will work out just fine, but it may take a while.  There may be long periods of down before the up figures itself out.  So that’s what I’m working on right now: finding joy and optimism despite sad things happening around me.  When the talk was over, I turned to Natalie in the back seat and said, “Natalie, I’m sorry I wasn’t very nice to you this morning when I was in bed.  I was frustrated because I just wanted some rest, but I still should have been kind.  I’m sorry.”  She, being the epitome of childlike forgiveness, simply smiled and asked what was for lunch.

Anyway, I’m sorry if this post doesn’t have a cute little conclusion that makes it all better. I’m still working on it, but I wanted to share what I’ve learned so far, and hopefully it can be helpful to someone who’s dealing with or feeling some of the same things.

GCBC Week 18: “The Importance of a Name” by Elder M. Russell Ballard

[Thank you to Becca for creating this image]

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about the “Mormon Moment” in the media.  It’s great when our doctrines and beliefs get more attention and become better understood.  One thing that we have a responsibility to do is to make sure that we respresent well the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and help people know what our church means.  Elder Ballard points out that the name of the church encompasses the heart of our doctrine and our identity, and he reminds us to use that name to teach people about who we are.

The Importance of a Name M. Russell Ballard

“Let us develop the habit … of making it clear that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the name by which the Lord Himself has directed that we be known.”

Share your thoughts or insights in the comments below.

To anyone who is checking out GCBC for the first time, the goal is to read one General Conference talk a week and discuss it together as an on-line “book club.” If you want to learn more, go here, and join the discussion here each week.

So I say to myself: “Remember this…”

“… Kindness begins with me.”  (Children’s Songbook, 145b)

You know, once you decide to work on a goal, stuff happens and it becomes kind of hard. Take our family goal this year:  Try to Show Kindness in All That You Do.  Well, people do dumb things.  People say dumb things.  From where I stand, sometimes it looks like people live dumb things.  And, sadly, that makes it hard to be nice.  But like the song says, “I want to be kind to everyone, for that is right, you see.”  And so it is.  It’s right.  It’s hard, but it’s right.  So even though the first week of January made this feel particularly difficult, I’m going to keep trying.

I’m thankful for the Atonement, by the way.  I’m thankful that the Savior was so kind that he was willing to offer forgiveness even to people who intentionally hurt him.  And then he still offers forgiveness to those of us who get angry when people are intentionally mean to us or toward people or things we hold dear.  It’s hard to be kind and angry at the same time.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I found out that kindness is much easier if I just give the angry back to Jesus and let him take care of it.  He always does if I let him.

 

Thanks so much to a sweet reader who stumbled upon my request for something to hang on my wall to remind me about my new goal.  In a quick whirlwind of talent and kindness, she created this printable (above) for me, and I love it.  You’re welcome to download your own copy here. Thanks, Jen!

Somewhere on Facebook, a friend also shared this video of the primary song that’s the source of the goal phrase.  It’s really quite lovely, and I felt the spirit confirming the simple, sweet message as I listened.  Hope it adds a dose of goodness to your day, too.

“At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do.  Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought.  For these are the things Jesus taught.

Have a great week, friends.