Saturday, April 11, 2015

You are Special

I am beginning to think that the Lord "blesses" me with sickness so that I will be still enough to listen to the lesson He has prepared for me. I have been feeling very ill for a couple weeks. I have fought with this illness for years and I recently had been led to someone who helped ease the discomfort and offered wise counsel on how to prevent flare ups. Well of course me being me because I was feeling so much better started to cheat here and there and I'm now paying the price. But this fault of my own set back has given me reason to deeply search my soul and as President Monson counseled at the end of Priesthood session to "Analyze yourself with the Spirit..."

First thing I was reminded was that "yes, I am still a bullheaded child who thinks I know best."  I will be so grateful when I finally learn that "no, I do not always know better than Heavenly Father and quit thinking I do."

The second thought came this morning.  

When I was a little girl I had a beloved cat named Feather.  Oh how I loved her she was such a special kittie.  I believe her time with us was during my primary years.  
My young heart had no doubt that "Nothing was impossible with God," and "if I had the faith of a mustard seed I could remove a mountain, and "Heavenly Father always answered His child's prayer because of His great love for them."

A cruel neighbor poisoned my beloved Feather.  I sat with her day after day reading her scriptures and reassuring her Heavenly Father would heal her.  Daily I prayed the day that He would heal her because I knew He could.  
I was devastated the morning my parents told me that she had died.  
My broken little heart cried out "Why?"  
All I remember for an answer was peace and love filling my heart but the heavens remained silent.

I attended one year of seminary and during that year I personally learned how much my Heavenly Father loved me and that He knew my name.  It was a very sacred and private lesson that burrowed so deeply into my soul that it carried me though my dark days of inactivity.  
I shared that lesson with my future husband who told me that one day he hoped to meet that girl and her very best friend.

In 97 I re-round that relationship with my Father in Heaven and my husband has lived with that girl for 18 years and he is still a bit overwhelmed.  But he has stayed by my side.

In 98 I began a miraculous journey with my poppers. 
A beloved mentor and I started re-teaching my poppers about the gospel to help prepare him and my mother for a future temple trip where we were to be sealed as a family.  

At a recent interview I was asked, "what to date has been your greatest accomplishment..."  My poppers immediately jumped into my mind.  
Just as I was going to open my mouth she continued, "in nursing?"  
I was speechless for a moment because during that time with my poppers I had no idea or clue that one day I would return to school let alone become a nurse.  
But for the record my greatest accomplishment was the year I spent teaching and taking care of my poppers!

My poppers was extremely ill and yet our doctor was stumped.  
He swore my poppers had cancer but each and every test came back inconclusive.  
He would just shake his head and mumble "I know he has cancer."

My part of teaching my family was re-introducing them to the scriptures.
I first read the Book of Mormon and then we studied the teachings of David O McKay.
Oh how I loved that prophet.  
Then my poppers and I started reading Doctrine and Covenants.  

I knew my poppers was very ill and I knew that the Lord had made a promise to him but I was unsure what was going to happen after our temple day.  

I spent many a night pleading with the Lord to heal my poppers at the temple so that I could have him for many years to come. 

Then one night as I was reading ahead in Doctrine and Covenants I came across this passage in section 42:

"44 And the elders of the church, two or more, shall be called, and shall pray for and lay their hands upon them in my name; and if they die they shall die unto me, and if they live they shall live unto me.




45 Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.
46 And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them;

47 And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.
48 And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed."

Tears flowed from my eyes as verse 48 repeatedly jumped out at me.                                           It was at that moment I knew my poppers was not going to healed in the way I wanted
but he was going to be healed by being called home.

Two months after we returned home my was poppers was called home and his "Death was sweet unto him."  A few weeks upon us returning home our doctor had another test run and this one came back conclusive my poppers body was full of cancer.

I finally learned my answer for that question I had asked as a little girl. 
Ultimately it is in the Lord's hands and it had nothing to do with my lack of or sufficient faith.

Through the course of my life I have faced many crippling challenges (to me) and I have been blessed with inspired teachers who have taught me to trust in the Lord's timing and know that all questions will be answered in His way and on His time table and to file them away until the day comes when I am ready and He is ready to answer and teach me; but until that day I needed to continue to press forward trusting in Him and "line upon line and precept upon precept."                                                                                                                               

I have seen the truthfulness of those inspired teachings as I continue to learn and grow line upon line and precept upon precept.

One of my greatest challenges was the inability to carry our babies.  I began to question my faith and Heavenly Father.  I also began to feel second and lower in placement in the grand scheme of things but I continued to trust in what I knew and and what I had been taught.   So I continued to press forward.

I have heard and witnessed the stories of those who face infertility and "through their faith and heart felt pleadings" have their prayers answered and they receive that miracle baby. For some reason at a certain place in my life that really bothered me and I found myself pleading with Heavenly Father, "why not me? Is not my faith and pleadings sufficient?"  Again silence.  
Being the prideful child I am I responded, "FINE! Don't answer!" and proceeded to crawl into bed.  

Then the Spirit came and taught me such a powerful lesson that I shan't forget because in the middle of that lesson I found myself crawling out of bed and again hitting my knees and my tears and pleading were for forgiveness. 

Weeks later at 3:00 am the Spirit whispered that there was a Devotional on Byu that I needed to hear.  I recently had a Branch sister share with me that when the her the Spirit wakes her at 3:00 am she is told to go back to sleep "because we are not finished."  I told her my buddy needed to take lessons from hers:)

I stumbled out of bed and found the channel.  Sister Beck then Relief Society General President was speaking.  As she was finishing her comments she spoke about a friend of hers who was on her death bed and how Sister Beck was relating to her friend what a blessed life she must have have had.  Sister Beck then started getting emotional and then related her friend response, "I have had blessed life all but for the 14 dark years I was childless."       Tears were streaming down my face as I realized  that for the first time here was a woman who truly understood my pain.  I sat there with tears pouring down my face for I'm not sure how long and I knew that I was okay and it was okay for me to have my yearly meltdowns and then a healing started taking place.

I dropped Sister Beck a thank you note letting her now what had transpired for me during her talk.  I was shocked that a few days later I received a hand written note from her.             Tears again flowed as I read her kind words and then a compliment that she had given me.  My first thought was, "no way could that compliment refer to me."                                       Then the Spirit started showing me all the second witnesses in my life that confirmed that her compliment was for me and was true.                                                                                     

Even now I think, "There is no way that is me."

After that great teaching moment I came to realize that the challenges I continue to face have nothing to do with my lack of or sufficient faith.  I am following the course that my Heavenly Father has charted for me and I am trusting in His plan for me.                             Just because my prayers are not answered in the way I feel is best does not make me a second or third rate citizen in the Lord's kingdom.  Heavenly Father has His reasons for my "unanswered prayers." and when He is ready He will let me know.  
For now He continues to fill my soul with peace and love

He has an individualized plan for each and everyone of His children custom made for them.  Another profound lesson I learned when my mother at the age of 90 or 91 received her patriarchal blessing.  WOW!!  The great counsel became very real for me and gave me a whole new insight.  Double WOW!!!

I am so grateful for the line upon line and precept upon precept teaching moments that continue to give me the faith to keep pressing forward and trusting in The Lord.

I have friends who have wrapped their arms around me and say, "I feel so sorry for you." Puzzled I ask them why and they reply, "Because you will never know the joy that comes with motherhood in this life."  
I just smile and them wrap my arm around them and reply, "Well I feel sorry for you."  
Then they give me the puzzled look and I continue, because your are right 
I will never understand the joy of traditional motherhood but you will never understand
the joy that comes with un-traditional motherhood but can't we still be friends?"  

I am so grateful for the blessings that I have received from "The Joy of Being Untraditional!"

My poppers always told me I was "special" my husband is always telling me, "yea, your special...in a mental sort of way:)" wink wink and my Heavenly Father ever since I can remember has made me feel so loved and special.  He is truly my best friend.

I know each of us face struggles and we each handle them differently but the one thing I hope that we all feel and know is that We are Divine Daughters Of God and 

HE LOVES YOU!!  

His love for each of us is so individualized. He truly knows our names and He knows better than anyone our heartaches and how to comfort and heal our wounded hearts.

In closing I would like to share a tidbit I learned from this session of General Conference, "No we can't do it alone but with the Lord's help we can because this is His great work."

How blessed we are to be a instrument in His great work.  

We all have something extraordinary to bring to His great table
because we are all so very Special:)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"The Faith to Reap"

I listened to his devotional this morning and boy did it speak to me as the speaker addressed the
differences between the "Faith to try and the Faith to reap."
His words really caused me a moment to reflect on my Faith and inspired me
to develop the "Faith to Reap."
Because his words were so profound I am just going to let the reader read and see how his words speak to each of you.  It is my hope that his words will speak to many others than just me.

Enjoy





Wilford Andersen
Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

March 17, 2015

The Faith to Reap

Elder WIlford W. Andersen

Second Quorum of the Seventy


 




Brothers and Sisters, I am especially pleased to address such a great student body and faculty, and your distinguished President this morning.  I have prayed that what I share with you will be a blessing and support for you as you face the challenges and opportunities that are yours here at Brigham Young University-Idaho.  I have entitled my talk “The Faith to Reap”.

Lehi and his family had been in the wilderness for only a matter of days when the Lord told him to send his sons back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from King Laban. I know we don't often compliment Lehi's two rebellious sons, Laman and Lemuel, but I want to recognize that they were actually willing to go. They had enough faith to give it a try.  First Laman then Lemuel asked King Laban to hand over the plates.  But Laban was not at all impressed and they lost their family fortune and almost lost their lives in the attempt. At this point their faith failed them and they were ready to quit.

Nephi, on the other hand, rose above the danger and the discouragement.  He would never quit.  "As the Lord liveth" he stated, "and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.  Wherefore, let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord." (1 Nephi 3: 15–16.) Nephi then exercised his great faith, was able to obtain the plates of Laban, and returned to his father in the wilderness.

I have noticed in my life, Brothers and Sisters, that there seems to be two distinct levels of faith.  The first level is the faith to try, the faith to enroll, the faith to thrust in our sickles.  But there is another level of faith.  It is more than the faith to try, it is the faith to do.  It is more than the faith to enroll, it is the faith to graduate.  It is more than the faith to thrust in your sickle, it is the faith to reap.

Nephi displayed a different level of faith.  While Laman and Lemuel had the faith to try (for which we commend them), Nephi had the faith to do.  While Laman and Lemuel had enough faith to thrust in their sickles, Nephi had enough faith to reap.  That subtle distinction between the faith to thrust in your sickles and the faith to reap will make all the difference in your lives.  For in order to live again with our Heavenly Father and in order to live productive and joyful lives here on earth, you and I will need to develop the faith to reap.

I’ll give you another example from 1 Nephi.  When Lehi’s sons did not return from Jerusalem as expected, Lehi’s wife Sariah began to complain.  You’re a visionary man, she told her husband.  You have brought us out here from our home in Jerusalem, my sons are dead, and we will soon perish in the wilderness.   Sariah had enough faith to follow her husband into the wilderness, but when things got really tough, she was ready to pack up and go home. 

Lehi’s remarkable response illustrates a different level of faith.  I know I am a visionary man, he said.

     But I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know
     that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again
     unto us in the wilderness. (1 Nephi 5: 5)

Note that Lehi did not say that he hoped to obtain a land of promise, or even that he expected to obtain a land of promise.  He said, I have obtained it.  It was as if he were already there.  His faith was so strong that it in effect converted a future promise into a present reality.  And so he was able to move forward and not give up. 

Brothers and Sisters, we need that kind of faith.  We, like Lehi, have received marvelous promises from the Lord – promises of happiness and joy in this life, and exaltation in the next.  But the challenges and problems of our daily lives tend to obstruct our view of the Promised Land and destroy our hope.  Our land of promise seems so far away, so improbable, that we begin to doubt.  “It isn’t possible for me to reach that goal or to receive that blessing,” we think.  “Surely the Lord was thinking about someone else when he made those promises.”  No, brothers and sisters, he was thinking of you and of me.  We only need sufficient faith to receive them - a faith so strong that it can convert our future promises into present realities.  We need the faith to reap.

So let’s talk about the faith to reap.  What exactly is it and how can we develop it in our own lives?  I want to teach you three essential principles that will help you develop the faith to reap.

First:  Unlike the faith to thrust in your sickles, the faith to reap is not faith in yourselves.  It is not the same as self-confidence or positive mental attitude. It is not even faith in your family or faith in your friends, all of which is good.  But the faith to reap is faith in Jesus Christ and in his atonement.  It is faith in his power, not yours.

I will never forget the experience I had when I was called to serve as the Stake President of the Mesa Arizona Maricopa Stake.  Elder Lawrence, the visiting Authority, invited my wife and me into the stake president’s office and extended the calling, and I dutifully accepted.  He then invited us to enter the High Council Room and to prayerfully consider people to recommend as my counselors.  As I entered the High Council Room, I looked up at the north wall and there I saw the pictures of all the stake presidents who had previously served in the Maricopa Stake since it was organized, and my heart sunk.

The first six pictures were of men I had never known.  They lived before my time.  But I knew their names.  They were great leaders both in the Church and in the community.  The next five pictures were of men that I did know – Lorenzo Wright, to whom I had delivered newspapers as a boy, his son Harold Wright who later served as a mission president and a temple president, President J. Lamar Shelley, President W. Dea Montague, and President David K. Udall – great men whom I had sustained and revered all my like.  I looked at my wife and said, “Kathleen, I don’t think I can do this.  I’m not in their league.  My picture doesn’t deserve to hang next to theirs.”  She said, “Well, don’t tell me about it.  You better talk to Elder Lawrence.” Which I did.

I rehearsed my experience to Elder Lawrence thinking that he would try to reassure me that I could do it, that I had served as a Bishop and a counselor in the Stake Presidency, that I would have the support of the stake members and that I would be a fine stake president.  But, to my surprise, when I told him that I didn’t think I could do it, he responded, “Well, I suppose you’re right.”  And I wondered who might be next on his list.  But then he said, “You can’t do it, Brother Andersen, but the Lord can.  He has the power to do His work, and if you will be worthy and work hard, He will do it.  You will see.”  And He did.

The faith to thrust in your sickle is the faith to try.  It is faith in oneself and it evaporates as soon as the going gets tough.  And then we start to doubt.  But the faith to reap is faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.  It never yields.

One additional example:      

After the Savior's crucifixion and resurrection, he appeared to the eleven apostles to give them their charge to go into all the world to preach the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  The account is found in Matthew 28:16-20.  "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted."

Brothers and Sisters, what do you think they doubted?  I don't think they doubted that Jesus was resurrected.  He was standing before them as a resurrected being.  I don't think they doubted that he was the son of God.  Peter had already declared his witness of the Savior's divinity.  What they doubted was themselves.  This was no small thing that Jesus was asking them to do.  They were not world travelers.   They weren’t politically powerful.  They weren’t scholars. And they certainly weren’t wealthy.  They lacked hope that they could do it.  Jesus' response was instructive.  "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, all power is given to me in heaven and in earth."

Note that he did not say you can do it, "you have been with me now for three years.  You are capable men and you have the power to do it".  He said, "I have the power to do it".  "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."  (Matthew 28:19-20)

I have all power, he said, and I will help you.  That is also the promise he has made to you and me.  He who has all power in heaven and on earth will be with us always.  And so our hope never fails because we have faith in him.  That is the faith to reap.

In Mormon's great sermon on faith, hope, and charity, we read the following:

"And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?" (Moroni 7: 40-41)

How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?

So based on that verse, which comes first, faith or hope?  Sounds like hope. 

"And what is it that ye shall hope for?  Behold, I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise."

Now listen to verse 42. 

"Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; (2) for without faith, there cannot be any hope." (Moroni 7:42).

For without faith, there cannot be any hope

Now which comes first?  Sounds like faith.  So which is it?  How many say that hope comes before faith?  How many say that faith comes before hope?  How many have no idea?

I have concluded that they both come together. You will never have one without the other. Hope is excitement, energy, determination, and commitment. And you will never have hope unless you have faith. So, brothers and sisters, if you ever find yourselves without enough hope to reach your dreams, don't focus on increasing your hope. Focus on increasing your faith in Christ, and hope will follow automatically.  When we are discouraged, we tend to focus on hope.  Like the high school football coach at halftime, the world would give you a pep talk.  "You can do it." we're told.  "Positive mental attitude." we're told.  "Get out there and go, go, go." But that kind of hope evaporates as soon as we meet with significant challenges.  The hope that comes from faith in Christ is different.  One who has faith in Christ recognizes that even if she or he can't do it, the Savior can.  And from this faith springs the hope that never gives up until the dream comes true.  This is the faith to reap.

Now the second principle. In order to exercise the faith to reap, we must be certain that our desires and objectives are consistent with the will of God.  We can never exercise faith to reap if God does not agree with the harvest.  To have his help, we must align our will with his.

In the 10th chapter of Helaman we read about the prophet Nephi.  Because he was a righteous and faithful man, the Lord told him,

"I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word".  That's quite a promise.  But then he adds, "for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." 

And this from Moroni 7, "And Christ hath said; If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me." (Moroni 7: 33.)  Conforming our desires to God's will is a prerequisite to the faith to reap.

When my sons were younger, they played on the Jr. High and High School basketball teams.  I don't see this anymore, but back then they used to have a team prayer prior to beginning each game.  As I watched from the stands, I used to wonder what they were praying for.  If they were praying to win the game, their prayers lacked the faith to reap.  This was clearly evidenced by the number of games they lost.  The Lord apparently did not share their desire that they necessarily win every game.

In other words, God will only help us to achieve the goals that are good for us.  That is because he loves us, and he knows better than we do what will be for our good.  And aren't we thankful for that.  Years ago, there was a popular country song entitled "Thank God for Unanswered Prayers."  We should pray each day that Heavenly Father will bless us with righteous desires to conform our will to his.  We must learn to pray as the Lord did in the Garden of Gethsemane that not ours, but his will be done.  Only then can we exercise the faith to reap.

And now we come to the third prerequisite of faith to reap.  It is one word - work.  The apostle James makes it very clear that faith without works is dead.   “Show me thy faith without thy works,” he said, “and I will show thee my faith by my works.”  The faith to thrust in our sickles requires belief, but the faith to reap requires more than belief.  Even the devils believe, writes James, and tremble.  The difference between the devils and the faith filled students at this university is not belief, but work.

Some years ago, I heard a story about a father who noticed his young daughter kneeling beside her bed praying.  He stopped to listen to her prayer and grew concerned when he heard her praying that Heavenly Father would protect the little birds from entering the bird trap that her brother had built and placed in the back yard.  Later that day the father grew very concerned that a bird might be trapped thus damaging his little daughter's faith.  He knew it was a good trap.  He had helped his son build it.  So he decided to visit with the little girl about her prayer.  "I heard you praying this morning that Heavenly Father would protect the little birds," he said.  "But sometimes sad things happen even when we pray that they won't." To which she responded, "I just know he won't catch any birds, daddy. I just know he won't."

"I admire your faith, sweetheart", the father said.  "But if he did catch some birds, I hope that wouldn't hurt your faith." "He won't, daddy," she said, "I know he won't." The father was moved.  "How can you have such great faith?" he asked.  "Because", she replied, "After I said my prayers, I went out back and kicked his bird trap all to pieces."

It is good to pray for Heavenly Father's blessings.  But after we say amen, we have to get up off our knees and go to work.  We cannot expect the Lord to guide our footsteps if we're not willing to move our feet.  And we should not ask the Lord to do for us what we can and should do for ourselves.

Years ago I attended a sacrament meeting where a young man was speaking prior to leaving on his mission.  He came to the pulpit and said, “Brothers and Sisters, I have written out a talk, but I decided to leave it at my seat so that I could speak by the promptings of the spirit.”  Then followed a long uncomfortable pause after which he looked at the congregation and said,” I think the spirit is prompting me to go back and get my talk.”

Yes, it is by grace that we are saved, but only after all we can do.  We must work at reaching our righteous goals.  As students, we must work hard in our class assignments and preparation.  As children of God, we must work hard at keeping the commandments.  Listen carefully to this.  The real power in our covenants and the real power in the faith to reap is realized not when we conclude with certainty that God keeps his promises, but when we finally conclude, with certainty, that we keep ours.  That great truth is what converts future promises into present realities.  We must work.

Don’t be too discouraged with your failures or your mistakes.  But be constant in your efforts and be determined.  The faith to reap does not require perfection, but it does require persistence.  Consider the experience of Alma the Younger.  We all know his story.  He was going about the Church with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the testimonies of the believers when the angel appeared to him and told him that if he continued doing what he was doing, he would be destroyed.  He fell unconscious and was carried to his father.  For three days he suffered the pains of a damned soul.  His suffering was so intense that he wanted to disappear and become extinct.  Then he remembered that his father had taught him about Jesus Christ who would come into the world to pay the price for our sins and to offer salvation to imperfect people like himself.  In his heart he cried out, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.” (Alma 36:18)

Then something wonderful happened.  The terrible anguish disappeared.  He was filled with indescribable joy and could no longer remember his pain.  At this moment, was Alma perfect?  No, he only turned around.  He had been looking at a terrible dark future filled with eternal suffering.  And then he turned around and for the first time saw the light of Christ.  When he saw the light, he knew that there was hope for him.

But then he had to start his journey towards the light just like the rest of us.  I’m sure he took several steps forward and perhaps a step or two backwards – five or six forwards and one backwards.  But he never again took his eyes off the light of Christ.  For the rest of his life, he persisted in his journey toward the light and it led him to his promised land.

I invite each of you, brothers and sisters, to develop the faith to reap.   Place your faith firmly in our Savior, Jesus Christ, and in his atonement.  Make sure that your desires align with and conform to his will. Then go to work with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, with unfailing determination and persistence, and I promise you that there is no challenge, no problem, no barrier that will not yield to that kind of faith and you will arrive at your promised land.  May we develop the faith to reap is my prayer.  In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.