Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Testify to Love!

I have often said that I learned how to love while working in orphanages in South America.  So, I thought I would explain what I mean by that.  I had always wanted to travel and serve somewhere in this way.  So, in early 2007 I finally decided to just do it!  So I found a group that I felt comfortable with and I signed up.  I was so excited to go.  I look back through my journal and find entries from that year that simply say "85 DAYS TILL I LEAVE!!!!"  I don't know that I have ever been so excited for something before.  But then, the day before I left, I realized that my goals had somehow changed over the months.  I was more excited to travel and see somewhere new than I was to serve the children.  I was really bothered by this.  Originally, my only goal had been to serve and I wanted that feeling back. 

So, I prayed. 

I prayed like I had never prayed before in my life.  I begged and pleaded for that desire back.  I wanted to want to serve.  As I prayed and talked with my parents, I felt at peace about my decision to go.  I trusted that the Lord approved of my decision and so I knew that my trip would work out for my benefit, and for the benefit of the children that I was to serve.

The next day I left for South America.  When I arrived at the city that I was to serve in I was suddenly terrified.  I couldn't believe that I actually thought I could do this.  I couldn't speak a word of Spanish beyond "hola," how was I possibly supposed to help these children when I couldn't even speak to them?  I remember riding in the bus to the first orphanage and hoping that we would get in a car accident so that I wouldn't have to face my failure.

Obviously we did not crash and I arrived at the orphanage safe and sound.  I walked into the cafeteria and this little girl, around five years old, ran up to me, gave me a hug, and said "you're my friend" and that was it!  I was hooked.  I was suddenly filled with the most powerful feeling I have ever experienced.  I loved that little girl so much!  And even more amazing, I loved all the children in that orphanage and the children at all the other orphanages I was going to serve at.  I loved them more than I ever remember loving someone. 

The love that I felt for those children didn't come from me.  I didn't even know them; I didn't even know their names.  Yet somehow, I loved them.  I was filled with God's love for them.  I suddenly understood this scripture found in The Book of Mormon:

"But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love."
   -Moroni 7:47-48

Charity is Christ's love.  It is how He and Heavenly Father feel about each of us.  And I can tell you it's a powerful feeling.  God loves those children, He loves you, and He loves me!  There was one point while I was in South America when I allowed my anger at the situation my kids were in to overpower that great feeling of love.  For a whole day I lost that feeling.  It was the worst day of the 2 months that I was there.  I couldn't work; I couldn't help them that day.  Everything that I had done a million times before was suddenly beyond me.  And I understood this scripture:

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all."
   -Moroni 7:46

Charity gave me power to help those children and without it, I was nothing.  Ever since that experience I always want to testify of charity.  I understand it now.  It's made me who I am and it's given me power.  That feeling is one of the greatest blessings that I have ever received from the Lord.  And "for as long as I shall live, I will testify of love!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Be of Good Cheer

One of my favorite promises in the Bible is in John 16:33 “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."  I love this promise, because life is crazy!  And it seems like it only gets crazier!  But, regardless of what happens in our lives, we can be of good cheer! 
A few weeks ago I was visiting our mission president’s home and saw this sign above his entry way door.

As I looked at this sign I began to ponder on this great message that Christ taught.  I love that we have the power to choose to "be of good cheer."  Some days I fall into the grumbling and complaining trap and I feel like I can't get out, but as I remember the Savior, I recognize that I have the power to get out.

I've even found that I often receive my greatest joy and am able to "be a good cheer" as a result of the trials that I go through.  Let me share a story that demonstrates this principle.  It's from a man that participated in the Martin Handcart Company.  A pioneer handcart company that experienced terrible things.

“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened (as a Sunday school class criticized the Martin Handcart Company) as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.

“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.

“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’” (The Refiner's Fire)

While I have never been through anything as difficult as traveling in a handcart company, I have seen the Lord change who I am through my trials and I am so grateful that He feels I'm worth that effort.  God sees me for the person I can become, and He provides me with the way to become that person.  When I am in the midst of a trial, I can "be of good cheer" and overcome the grumbling trap as I recognize why God gives me trials.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


So, I just had my twenty fifth birthday.  I am now a quarter of a century.  When I was in college I took a class on adolescent development and I remember learning that your brain doesn't completely mature until around age 25.  So hurray!  I guess that means I'm finally an adult!

For my birthday my older sister sent me a princess crown and a castle (also known as the Logan, Utah temple) with a copy of this talk from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.   Of course, the first thing I did was take princess pictures! (I may be an adult, but I still love to play dress up!)

It was the perfect gift for me!  I absolutely consider myself a princess.  I act a little bit like Giselle from Enchanted. I firmly believe that anything can and should be sung.  I love the talk she sent me because I loved that an apostle of the Lord told me that I am a princess, and I should expect a happily-ever-after!

In my life I have discovered that there is a great power in understanding who I am.  Knowing that I am a daughter of God, and therefore quite literally a princess, helps me to know that I am someone special, that I have great worth.  Throughout my mission I have spent a lot of time wondering who I am. I want to understand what my potential is.  Who can I become?  No matter how many times I've thought about this I always come back to the simple fact that I am a child of God.    There is nothing that defines me more than that knowledge.  God is my Father.  I'm a princess!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Finding Joy!

So, I love the TV show LOST.  I mean, I really love LOST.   I love LOST to the point that I, along with my brother and sister-in-law, would often dress up to watch each new episode of LOST.  In fact, there is a good possibility that we would turn the basement into a giant airplane using cardboard boxes to watch LOST in. (It only happened once, and it made for one very memorable day!)

There are a lot of things that I love about LOST.  I love all the questions, and coming up with different theories, I love that if you miss even one episode you have absolutely no clue what is going on, because the plot is so crazy.  But mostly, I love the characters.  One of my favorite characters, and probably a favorite of most LOST fans, is Hurley.  You just can't help but love Hurley! So, what is it about Hurley that makes us all love him?  I can't really answer that for you, but, I love him because he is always happy.  He's just a happy, easy-going guy.   I love it! 
In the Book of Mormon a prophet named Lehi taught his son that "men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25).  Part of our purpose in this life is to find joy.  I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  I often feel like I look for joy in the future.  "I'll be happy when..."  I often think the next step in life is what I need to find the joy I desire.  However, when I catch myself thinking this way I try to always remind myself that this isn't true; this isn't God's plan for His children.  He has provided the way for us to find true joy even in the most difficult times.  David O McKay, who was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1951-1970, taught:

"(The principal reason the Church was organized is) to make life sweet today, to give contentment to the heart today, to bring salvation today... Some of us look forward to a time in the future - salvation and exaltation in the world to come-but today is part of eternity".

I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the surest way to finding true and lasting happiness.   Life as a missionary isn't always easy.  In fact it is often very difficult.  Serving a mission is possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done, but it is also the way that I have found the most happiness.  I can't describe the joy that I feel when I see Christ's gospel change someone's life.  Or the joy I feel when I see it change my life.  The prophet Joseph Smith said: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God."  I know this is true.  I've seen it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Is Anyone There?

Throughout my life it has often been difficult for me to understand how God speaks to me.  I know that God answers prayers, but how? 

This past Sunday one of my new friends came to church.  It was her second time at church.  She told us that the previous week at church she had felt something new, something she had never felt before.  At first the feeling frightened her, but then she realized everything just felt right.  As I think about my life and the different answers to prayers I have received I realize that this simple feeling of "rightness" is how my answers usually come.

Deciding to serve a mission was a bit of a process for me.  To be honest, it's not something I ever wanted to do.  It was never in my plans.  Then, about three years ago, I had the smallest thought. "Maybe, just maybe, I should go on a mission."  That thought didn't leave me for an entire week.  I believed that God was telling me to serve a mission.  So, even though I didn't really want to, I began the process of coming on a mission.   I finished all the doctor appointments and paper work.  But it never felt right.  I felt like I was forcing it.  I ended up putting it on hold, on the back burner.  I finished earning my degree and had all sorts of plans for what was next, plans that didn't include a mission.  Then I had the smallest thought; "maybe I should go on a mission now."  Again, this thought stayed with me for about a week.  This time, I was scared.  I had already been through the process of trying to come on a mission, and it didn't work.  What if that happened again?  I wasn't really certain what to do, but I decided to try one more time.  This time it was different.  I didn't feel like I was pushing it as much as I had the first time, but I still wasn't completely sure if this was truly what God wanted me to do.

I didn't really know until my first day as a missionary.  The first day as a missionary is a little bit hectic.  I had suddenly entered this whole new world.  A world I didn't really know how to navigate.  But instead of confusion and fear I simply felt at peace.  Somehow I just knew that I was where I was supposed to be.  That I was doing what Heavenly Father wanted me to do.  I just knew.

One of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon is from a prophet named Nephi.  He says: "the Lord God...speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding" (2 Nephi 31:3). I love that God doesn't want us to be confused.  He speaks to us in a way that we will understand.  He knows me so well, that He knew just how to tell me that I was in the right spot.  And He knows you too.

I don't know why I had to struggle for so long not knowing.  Maybe God wanted me to act on my faith without absolutely knowing.  But I do know that God answered my prayer.  I know that He has always answered my prayers, and I know that He always will. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Last week was my niece's 5th birthday.  She's the all-girl type. She loves Disney Princesses and loves to dress up like them even more.  When she comes to visit at Nana and Grumpa's house the whole place lights up; she brings with her the innocence and simple joy of childhood, and she helps the rest of us to find joy in simple things once again.  Although I wasn't able to be with her on her birthday, I found myself thinking of her often and silently wishing her a “happy birthday.”
As I reflected on her and her special day, my reflections turned to the Bible, when Jesus taught: “Except ye…become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).  I spent some time pondering what Christ meant when He instructed us to “become as little children.”  I don’t believe He meant that we need to love Disney Princesses and playing dress-up (although to be honest, I really do love both of those things); I believe Christ meant something much deeper.  I believe that my 5 year old niece can teach me things that I need to know in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
So, what can a 5 year old teach me?  What about how to love.  My niece is always ready and eager to love anyone and everyone.  When she sees me, all she wants to do is play with me.  To her, I am the most important person in the world; I’m even cooler than Snow White! We are taught in the Book of Mormon that “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth” (Moroni 7:46).  And what is charity?  It’s love; the most pure form of love that exists.  Might my niece teach me how to love, how to have true charity for others?
Perhaps my niece could teach me to use the talents God has given me.  I am far away from home and my niece wants me to know just how much she loves me, so she uses the talents that she has to show me her love. She delights in sending me pictures that she colored just for me.   Writing letters is difficult for her, but she is great at coloring pictures.  Those pictures of princesses and fairies are things I will treasure throughout my life.
My niece finds so much joy in life. The smallest things bring her great happiness.  Last year I took her on a hike.  I gave her a magnify glass and a camara.  We looked for little treasures.  She was so excited with each new treasure she found, you might have thought she struck gold!  This life is to be enjoyed!  The Book of Mormon prophet, Lehi, taught: "Men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). Possibly my niece could teach me to find joy!
Think of the children you know in your life.  Perhaps you are a parent, maybe you teach school, or maybe the only children you know are the neighbors across the street.  Each child you know is a precious gift from God to teach us important lessons.  Think of them and learn from them.   You might just be surprised at how much a 5 year old could teach you.