24 February 2015

Getting it Right

Inspired by a post originally published on “A Prayer of Faith” 12 October 2006

Sometimes I think that the main reason why we have computers is to help us develop one of the most important virtues for a Latter-day Saint woman: patience.

Back in 2006, I got a new laptop computer to replace my old built-in-a-third-world-country-and-updated-over-the-years PC. I was able to transfer everything I wanted to keep, and all was well—except that on my new laptop, my preferred software for copying my music CDs to my hard drive now gave me an error message: I couldn’t copy and save anything in the MP3 format, because for some unknown reason there was supposedly no MP3 encoder on my computer. After following a lengthy series of links to other messages, I finally reached one that told me to contact my computer manufacturer.

Through the fascinating procedure called “remote connect,” the technician I was speaking to on the telephone was able to view what I could see on my monitor. He could then direct me verbally and by drawings that appeared on my screen, so that together we could discover why my software was not functioning properly, and exactly how to correct the problem.

After about half an hour of interaction with the technician, I was told to change just one letter in an entry in the Windows registry, and from then on the program worked perfectly. Just one wrong letter kept a program from doing what it was designed to do.

That set me thinking. How often do I fail to live up to my potential, or fail to be an effective instrument in the Lord’s hands, because I have put off repenting of just one small sin; or neglected to open my heart to the influence of the Spirit. Am I letting pride or selfishness keep me from doing what I was designed to do, or being what I was designed to be as a daughter of God?

I was very pleased to allow a qualified technician access to my computer so that he could guide me through a diagnostic procedure until I could rectify the error on my computer. Am I as willing to allow the Lord to help me discover and correct the errors in my actions, my attitudes, or my thinking? Do I take full advantage of the divine “remote connect” available to me through prayer and Scripture study?

Getting a computer problem fixed often takes considerable time and patience. Getting our spiritual glitches corrected obviously requires a lot more time and patience. I hope I can remember that more peace and joy will come into my life as I accept correction and make the changes I need to. Because of the Atonement of our Lord, eventually “getting it right” is indeed a reachable goal.

22 February 2015

Why the Prohibitions in the Word of Wisdom?

Originally published on “A Prayer of Faith” 04 November 2006

For years, many Latter-day Saints have focused heavily on scientific findings to support the Word of Wisdom prohibitions on tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs. Perhaps for many of us, the Word of Wisdom has come to represent 1) scientific truth about nutrition, and 2) obedience to a commandment of God.

Now there seem to be an increasing number of articles in the media reporting the results of health studies which can be interpreted as showing that green tea, black tea, wine, and even coffee may have significant health benefits. Marijuana has been advocated by many in the medical profession for certain kinds of pain relief. Although tobacco, the over-consumption of strong alcoholic drinks, and the use of certain drugs may always remain frowned upon by scientists, we may soon find that moderate amounts of wine, black and green tea, coffee, and even presently illegal drugs are routinely recommended by researchers and doctors to treat or prevent certain illnesses.

Is it possible we have the priorities reversed? 

Maybe caffeine is not as bad as we thought; but maybe caffeine is not the real reason the Lord told us to abstain from “hot drinks,” which were defined as coffee and tea by the prophet Joseph. Maybe the possibility of addiction is not the only reason why the Brethren have extended the scope of the Word of Wisdom to cover illegal drugs.

Has the time come for us to rely less on the precepts of men, or our personal interpretations of those precepts, and trust more in what may actually be the primary reason God gave us section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants in this, the last dispensation—to allow our obedience to set us apart from the world as the people of the Lord?

Think about it: is there a prominent culture in the world today that does not have some form of alcohol, coffee, or tea closely interwoven in its social mores? And even in this age of general enlightenment about the ill effects of tobacco and illegal drugs, there are many countries and sub-cultures that still regard smoking or chewing tobacco as a kind of status symbol (“I am rich enough to buy cigarettes!”), and drug use as a kind of badge of membership.

How many times has your abstinence from one of the prohibited substances led to a religious discussion with those around you? Could it be that our observance of that inspired counsel is a significant way for us to raise an ensign to the nations, and attract the attention of those who are seeking spiritual truth?

Perhaps the Word of Wisdom for us today is similar to what the dietary laws of Moses were to ancient Israel: useful in promoting general good health, yes, but primarily a prominent, obvious, outward sign of obedience and allegiance to the one true God of this earth.

Entering a New Stage of Life, and Returning to Blogging

October 4, 2014 marked the beginning of a new stage in my life. My beloved husband of more than 48 years passed from mortality into the Spirit World, and I passed from being a wife, to being a widow.

As I have been pondering what I would like to spend my time on, the thought of returning to blogging has come back into my mind. I originally used a pseudonym in my writing, because my husband was serving as a general authority in the LDS church when I started to blog, and I didn’t want him to suffer from any backlash that my opinions might engender. But he was released from that calling many years ago, and now that he has embarked on a mission in another realm, I am content to allow those who read my words to know my real name.

While I mull over what new subjects to write about, I have decided to publish here some of the essays that originally appeared on “A Prayer of Faith,” a group blog which has since disappeared from the Internet.

18 May 2009

Saying "Thy Will Be Done" in Advance

Almost twelve years ago, my daughter Julie became aware of how seriously Alzheimer's disease had affected her grandmother's memory and personality. She, along with several other relatives, visited her in a care center where she was recovering from a serious fall. I was living abroad at the time, on a mission with my husband, and in answer to a letter from my daughter I wrote the following:

Dear Julie,

We appreciated your information on the visit to see Grandmother in the care center on the day of the [family] reunion. I am grateful that you understand things the way you do. I feel the same way. It certainly is terribly sad to see Grandmother suffer, and to realize that she will probably soon leave this mortal existence. But she is ready to go, and she seems to be trying her best to be brave and endure whatever she needs to right now.

We talked to Uncle [D] Friday, and he said that he thought that it was an eye‑opener for most of the grandchildren to see her as she was. He mentioned that perhaps many had not realized the extent to which Grandfather stage‑managed visits when he was present to help her deal with her Alzheimer's disease. Apparently she has times when she is more lucid than others, and times when her memory is sharper than others. (Michael said that his visit with her on Tuesday went well, and that she remembered their conversation when he talked to her on Thursday). But her short term memory is definitely unreliable, and seems to be deteriorating rapidly.

Uncle [D] said that Thursday she was still very confused as to where she was and why she was there, wondering if she were lost, and needed to go home. But Friday she was much calmer, and accepted the fact that it was best for her to stay in the care center for now. Grandfather realizes that he cannot carry her around; but they are hopeful that in a week or so the therapy will enable her to walk again, so that she can go home. If it turns out that she will not be able to walk, then they will need to consider whether to adapt their condo with a stair lift, hospital bed, etc., or to move somewhere else.

Apparently when you all arrived at the care center, Grandmother said something like, "I'm old, I'm dumb, and I'm ugly." When Uncle [D] mentioned that she had said that, I cried. I thought about how difficult it must be to FEEL that way because you can't take care of yourself, and you can't think straight, make decisions, or remember things.

Her entire life has been one of cheerful, unselfish service to those around her. She always had a high energy level, and whether it was vacuuming, sewing or doing crafts, she was incredibly quick. It wasn't until she was in her fifties that I noticed that I could work comfortably at her pace!

As age and infirmity began to slow her down, she came to terms with her situation, but continued to try her best to do things for others. These last few years she even struggled with her arthritis to keep making cards and [ribbon] roses for friends and family even though it was painful and time‑consuming. She always loved to cook and bake, and she has had to turn all the meal preparation over to Grandfather. She always took pains to be well groomed for Grandfather, as well as for the world in general. Now she probably can't even put on makeup by herself. She was a marvelous teacher and administrator, both in church callings and in the community. Now she realizes that she has to ask others to decide everything for her, and help her with the most basic every day tasks. She IS incredibly brave.

In the zone conferences this month I have been talking about maintaining our enthusiasm as missionaries, and overcoming discouragement. Some of the scriptures I am using seem to me to apply to Grandmother, and I hope they will always apply to me, too:

"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." Mosiah 24:15

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17)

Grandmother has always been an example to her children, and she continues to be a light and an inspiration to all her posterity as she deals with her problems now. She is a righteous woman, and whatever she may have to suffer until Heavenly Father determines that it is time for her to leave this mortal sphere, it could be said to her as it was said to Joseph Smith:

"all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7)

"peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high" (D&C 121:7‑8).
Truly her faith in Christ and her life of good works have given her the sure hope of a glorious resurrection.

Once again she and Grandfather face the refiner's fire, and I know they will both emerge even purer and stronger. Although in the future Grandmother may lose so much control that she can no longer be as cheerful and accepting as she is now, I firmly believe that her spirit has already said, "Thy will be done."

I love her. I honor her. I pray that I may demonstrate that love and honor as I try to follow her example, even unto the end.

With all my love, Mother

Although my mother recovered physically enough to return home, she became bedridden a few months later. My father installed a hospital bed in the living room, and lovingly cared for his eternal sweetheart until she passed away at the age of 91 in August 1999.

I will turn 69 shortly. As I see the effects of aging manifest themselves, I can't help but wonder if my life will follow a path similar to that of my mother.

Will I end up with a body unable to move from a bed on its own? Will my mind cloud over and fall prey to degenerating nerve connections? Will my spirit go dormant; or will it remain totally aware of being trapped in a mortal housing that is cut off from all meaningful communication with those around me?

No matter what the coming years may bring, my trust is in the Lord. I will continue to strive to make the best of whatever circumstances I may be in, and my goal is to truly internalize the wise advice of Elder Joseph P. Wirthlin's mother, as he explained it in his General Conference talk, "Come What May, and Love It."

I want all my loved ones to know that I say now to Our Father in Heaven, while in full possession of all my faculties, and with all my heart ( just as I believe my mother did), "Thy will be done."

02 October 2008

A Worthy Challenge --Completed Early!

Blogger Mormon Soprano has invited her readers in a post yesterday to Join the Hinckley Challenge, which is to re-read the Book of Mormon in 97 days in honor of President Gordon B. Hinckley.

She also gave a link to the website The Hinckley Challenge that explains the challenge and has a useful tracker to help monitor our reading.

I followed the link, and decided to register at the site, because I think it is a great way to motivate me to participate regularly in a worthy effort.

The Book of Mormon has been one of the most powerful influences for good in my life, and I know that a complete reading of the entire book right now will bring me added inspiration and blessings, just as it did when I accepted the original challenge from President Hinckley in 2005.

27 September 2008

The Power of Example

I have a grandson who thinks he's a dog. An only child, he's almost a year old, and he has grown up in close association with a very friendly and protective family pet. Although he can walk several steps alone now, he prefers to crawl; and lately he has taken to carrying toys in his mouth as he scurries around on all fours--just like his older and bigger "brother" does.

Very soon, of course, he will realize that he is really not a dog, but a human like Mom and Dad. Once he is able to walk faster than he can crawl, he'll see that hands are better than his mouth for carrying toys. But meanwhile, he is a living example of how naturally little children learn by example.

I'm around little children a lot, and I need to remember that the things I do and say, the way I deal with everyday crises and triumphs, even the expressions on my face that show how I react to things--all these are examples that can help those little ones to grow into honest, compassionate, hard-working adults.

Just as my grandson will come to know that he is more like his earthly parents than like his dog, I pray he will come to realize he also has the divine potential to develop the attributes of his Heavenly Father.

The family dog can teach a boy a lot about having fun, loyalty, obedience, and affection. But it will be the good example of the humans around him that will truly help him see who he really is, and what he can become.

25 September 2008

Plumbing the Depths without Languishing in the Dumps

(Note: I have never suffered from clinical depression, so in this post I am referring only to my experience with emotions. I recognize that my case may not be typical.)

Mulling & Musing has written a beautiful post on motherhood at her blog, entitled Digging Deep. It set me to thinking about how and why I had grown and changed for the better over the last 41 years since we had our first child.

My memories of being a stay-at-home-mother of six were sharpened earlier this summer, when I received a packet of about 40 letters I had written over a period several years to my sister-in-law, telling of our daily life when the children were growing up. As I read about some of the incredibly demanding times in my life, I recalled how much I had to learn to rely on the Lord to bring me through the tough times.

I could also remember how much I loved being a mother of my children at their different stages of life; and how much joy came into my life--and still comes into my life--because those six amazing spirits had been lent to my husband and me by the Lord. I can't imagine any other career that would have given me the breadth and depth of intellectual, emotional and spiritual experience that I have been privileged to have as a wife and mother.

Even though as LDS mothers we are bound to have feelings of inadequacy, and there are times when we aren't sure we can stand the pressure one more minute, we can know that if we are willing to have faith and trust in the Lord, there is a sure source of divine help that will never fail. Often, for me, the answers or solutions did not come immediately. But when I was willing to let go of my anger and/or anguish, the comfort and reassurance always came. The faith and trust part usually involved plumbing the depths of patience if I wanted to avoid remaining emotionally in the dumps.

My children are all grown now, and I try to treat them as equals--not demanding too much attention, and shying away from giving unasked-for advice. But I will always be their mother; and I continue to weep for their sorrows and rejoice at their happiness and success in life. My love for them only grows stronger, and I will always, always, care about how their lives are unfolding.

In her post, M & M quoted from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Because She Is a Mother” , given in the April 1997 General Conference. This is a favorite talk of mine, also, and I read that same quote to our Marriage and Family Relations Sunday School class recently because it is a key part of the lesson on the sacred role of mother.

I guess I must have cried a million tears over the years. But I have also laughed a lot more than I have cried. Fortunately, as time goes by, I find that I forget more and more of the sad times, and remember the happy times. As I have sorrowed over my mistakes as a wife and mother, I have tried to fully repent, and then allow the miracle of the Atonement to heal my broken heart. This is still an ongoing process for me, but I can see that I have made progress.

Whenever I am tempted to sink from sadness into despair because of my failures and shortcomings as a mother, I try to remember the sentiments expressed by Elder Holland in that same talk:
Rely on Him. Rely on Him heavily. Rely on Him forever. And "press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope." You are doing God's work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even--no, especially--when your days and your nights may be the most challenging. Like the woman who anonymously, meekly, perhaps even with hesitation and some embarrassment, fought her way through the crowd just to touch the hem of the Master's garment, so Christ will say to the women who worry and wonder and sometimes weep over their responsibility as mothers, "Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole." And it will make your children whole as well.
That ultimate hope--that my children can be healed of any harm due to my thoughtless or unwise words or actions--sustains me when I wonder if I have contributed to the cause of any of their present sufferings.

Once again, M & M found the way to beautifully express the thoughts of my heart about why I have been, and still am, immensely grateful to be a mother:
. . . I am doing this motherhood thing -- giving so much of my life and self and time and energy -- not just because the children need me (which they do, imperfect as I am), but because I need them. I need to be their mom, to learn to overcome my natural self. This role is teaching me new depths of faith and love and sacrifice and endurance, and helping me feel new depths of God's love and grace and refining power.