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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jesus Christ, the son of God, our Savior and Brother

Last month I taught a lesson about agency and the Plan of Salvation, the very reason we exist upon this earth right now, and central to that plan is a Savior. We did not explore in great depth the reason humanity needs a Savior but on the heels of that lesson we’re going to do so now.
As we discussed, part of the Plan of Salvation is knowing the law and the consequences for both breaking and following the law. I’d like someone to read the quote I used last month for talking about the Savior’s role in the plan and then we’ll expound on it.Quote 1: Each law has consequences, opposite and equal. Whenever a law is kept or obeyed, the consequence is a blessing which results in happiness. Whenever a law is broken or disobeyed, the consequence is a punishment, which results in misery or unhappiness...the law of justice then always requires a payment. But another law also operates in the moral realm - the law of mercy, which in no way robs or violates the law of justice but which makes possible the vicarious payment of broken law. For example, the law of mercy permits the disobedience of a person to be atoned for or paid for by the obedience of the Savior, providing that the person who disobeyed the law will repent.”
To make vicarious payment for broken law, certain characteristics must be present in the one willing to pay.
  • Payment must be voluntary
  • The one paying must be divine
  • The one paying must have mortal attributes
  • The one paying must be free from sin
Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, “We have one man out of all eternity—one man among the infinite hosts of the spirit children of God our Father—who is born into the world, inheriting from an immortal exalted Father the power of immortality and inheriting, on the other hand, from a mortal woman—the power of mortality. Now the power of immortality is the power to live. It is the power to elect to continue to live. The power of mortality is the power to die. And so here is one being who had a dual nature, who could elect to live or elect to die; and having made the election in accordance with the plan of the Father, having elected to separate body and spirit, then by the power of the Father, which is the power of immortality, he could elect to live again.”

QUOTE 2: “Jesus Christ...came to this earth at a fore-appointed time through a royal birthright that preserved His godhood. Combined in His nature were the human attributes of His mortal mother and the divine attributes and powers of His Eternal Father. His unique heredity made Him heir to the honored title - The Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. As the Son of God, He inherited powers and intelligence which no human ever had before or since. He was literally Immanuel, which means “God with us.”

Because he chose to die for us and rise again, all mankind will also be resurrected. But the atonement blesses us with more than that.

Elder David A. Bednar has taught: “It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us—that is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us.”

Elder Holland said, “Following the Last Supper, Jesus left Peter, James, and John to wait while He ventured into the Garden of Gethsemane alone. Falling on His face in prayer, “sorrowful … unto death,” the record says, His sweat came as great drops of blood as He pled with the Father to let this crushing, brutal cup pass from Him. But, of course, it could not pass.”

At this point in the lesson we watched part of a talk given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. I started the video at 9 minutes in and we watched until 15:48. The words of the clip are as follows:
"Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually - that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 

The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.”  Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”

A few days before the lesson I asked 6 sisters to share with us how Christ’s atonement had affected their lives. Each sister read the question I had given her to ponder and then shared their experience with that question. As each sister shared her story I put a new letter/word combination on the board.
Credit for the acronym and questions goes to Anthony Sweat and The Red Headed Hostess
I just decided to design my own version for each word to display on the board. They are pictured below along with each question which you yourself may want to ponder. 

What has been your experience with being cleansed from sin by Christ?

When and how have you felt the Atonement of Christ heal you, physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually?

How has your belief in the concept of divine restoration (where God will correct the wrongs of mortality) influenced your everyday actions or influenced your faith in Christ?

When and how have you been blessed by Jesus’ ability to empathize with you and understand what you are going through?

When have you been strengthened by Christ to do good works, or to overcome temptation, or any other thing that you otherwise would not have been able to perform without his help?

In what ways and how has the Atonement of Jesus Christ changed your attitude, desires, disposition, or character—literally transformed you or aspects of your life?

When we were done we saw that the beginning letters of each word obviously spelled Christ and each had on it a blessing that Christ, through his atonement, through his perfect understanding of and love for us, desires to give us. Blessings that each of the sisters bore testimony of. 
But even with the recollection of certain graces we have been given in our lives we may still struggle to feel truly worthy of exaltation.
In the book Believing Christ, by Stephen E. Robinson, he says, “ Unfortunately...many members of the Church...though they claim to have testimonies of Christ and of his gospel, ...reject the witness of the scriptures and of the prophets about the good news of Christ’s atonement..My favorite example of this kind of thinking was a man who once said to me, “Look, bishop, I’m just not celestial material.” I guess I finally lost my patience and responded by saying, “So what’s your point? Of course you’re not celestial material. Neither am I. Neither is any of us. That’s why we need the atonement of Christ, which can make us celestial….You believe in Christ, you just don’t believe Christ. He says he can make you celestial material, and you have the audacity to sit there and say, “No, he can’t”...If we believe only in Christ without believing Christ then we are like people sitting in cold, dark houses surrounded by unused lamps and heaters, people who believe in electricity but who never throw the switch to turn on the power….This is why genuine faith in Christ - active acceptance of his power and not just passive belief in his identity - is and must be the very first principle of the gospel.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Agency - The Plan of Salvation and the peace it can bring us during troubled times

I've been given the opportunity to teach the women of my church lessons on lds doctrine once each month. This does not mean I am an expert on lds doctrine. It means that I learn and add to my knowledge each time I prepare a lesson and that is the biggest reason I love this calling to serve!
This past Sunday I taught the sisters about The Plan of Salvation. The Plan of Salvation is often referred to as The Plan of Happiness and in short, is a way that God has enabled us to one day become like Him. I will include the basic layout of my lesson along with visual aids that I prepared. These aids are free for personal use.
I began by having various women read quotes I handed out and then we identified an eternal truth represented by those quotes.

#1 The prophet Joseph Smith taught: “The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end...There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [that is co-eternal] with our Father in Heaven.
#2 D&C 93:29: Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
Eternal Truth 1- We have always existed

#3 In the process of time each of our intelligences was clothed with a spiritual body by Heavenly parents, and we became personages of spirit with bodies of eyes and ears and hands and feet.”
#4 President Benson said: “I testify that we are the spirit offspring of a loving God, our Heavenly Father.”
Eternal Truth 2 - We are children of God.

#5 President Benson said: [The Lord] has a great plan of salvation whereby His children might be perfected as He is and might have a fulness of joy as He enjoys.”
#6 “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” - Lorenzo Snow
Eternal Truth 3 - We can become like God

The way we can become like God is through the Plan of Salvation

#7 “Our spirit bodies were capable of tremendous accomplishments, but they also had some serious limitations. There were some laws that they could not obey, and therefore there were some blessings not available to them. Thus our Heavenly Father called us into a grand council in heaven where he proposed a plan that would give us further opportunities of growth and development by giving us further opportunities of choice”
There are several components to this plan, seven of which we'll discuss today. For a full explanation of all aspects of the Plan of Salvation please see the suggestions for further study at the bottom of this post.
First we needed a physical body.

Doctrine & Covenants 88:15 - "For the spirit and the body are the soul of man."
Second we needed an Earth
Abraham 3:24 & 25 - "And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [the children of God] may dwell; and we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.
Third we had to forget our pre-mortal life.

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life’s star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting.
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.”
—William Wordsworth

We'll discuss in more detail the purpose of the veil in a moment.
Fourth, the earth we were put on needed to have the existence of opposites

#8 “That the Lord is displeased with wickedness is true. That He desires that it not occur is also true. That He will help those who oppose it is true, but that he allows wickedness to occur at all through his children here in mortality is proof of His having given them their freedom to choose, while reserving for Him a basis for their final judgment...There are boundaries beyond which Satan cannot go. But within those bounds, he is presently being permitted to offer an unrighteous alternative to God’s righteous principles, thus allowing men to choose between good and evil and thereby determine the station they shall occupy in the next life.” - Ezra Taft Benson
Fifth, we needed to be free to make our own choices, and this is also where having a veil of forgetfulness placed over our minds is important.

#9 “When we lived with our Father in heaven we did not need to exercise faith...We knew he existed and were convinced of his existence, but we were not necessarily converted to him and his great principles because our knowledge of him had come from external sources without virtually any effort on our part. So that we would come to a knowledge of him in and of ourselves, our Heavenly Father proposed that when we came into this earth life a veil of forgetfulness would be placed over our minds so that we would not remember our pre-earthly existence with him. Only then could the choices that we made here upon this earth truly come from within us. -Daniel H. Ludlow
Sixth, in order to make informed choices we needed to have a knowledge of the law and the consequences for obeying or disobeying it.

#10 “Our Father in Heaven promised us that while we were here on the earth he would give us law and would...send angels and prophets to teach us and give us scriptures so we could learn the laws and why we should keep them. President Benson has taught us that, “We are free to choose, but we are not free to alter the consequences of those choices.”
“Abraham was shown the spirit children of our Heavenly Father before they came to earth. He, too, was shown the creation of the earth, and the Lord said to him: “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” Life is a testing time in man’s eternal existence, during which he is given...the right to choose between right and wrong...On these choices hang great consequences, not only in this life, but, even more important, in the life to come. -Ezra Taft Benson
Seventh, we would need a Savior.

#11  “Each law has consequences, opposite and equal. Whenever a law is kept or obeyed, the consequence is a blessing which results in happiness. Whenever a law is broken or disobeyed, the consequence is a punishment, which results in misery or unhappiness...the law of justice then always requires a payment. But another law also operates in the moral realm - the law of mercy, which in no way robs or violates the law of justice but which makes possible the vicarious payment of broken law. For example, the law of mercy permits the disobedience of a person to be atoned for or paid for by the obedience of the Savior, providing that the person who disobeyed the law will repent.
President Benson has said, “I testify that in our premortal state our Elder Brother in the spirit, even Jesus Christ, became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation.

This plan is everything! This is why we are here. To prove not just to God, but to ourselves what kind of person we can become. Sometimes we call mortality a test and that can make it feel like we’re here to pass or fail, but it’s so much more than that. Do we really want to be like God or are we willing to settle for less? We have to decide what we want and then act each day to achieve it and the gift of agency makes this both possible and at times difficult.  
Because of agency all of us have been and will continually be affected by our own choices and the choices of others. And because of agency we can choose to respond to the things that happen here in mortality in a way that will help us grow or in a way that will stunt our growth.

Each of these roses was once a seed. A seed is a plant in a state of arrested development, supplied with food materials and protected by a seed coat. It is able to remain alive, although dormant, until suitable conditions cause it to grow.
Seeds tend to remain dormant as long as they are dry. Introduce water to them and the water will penetrate the seed coat, the seed will begin to swell and the seed coat will rupture, allowing the seed to sprout. As the emerging seedling begins to grow, its dependence on stored food diminishes and the transition to its own food production begins. However some seeds require specialized pre-conditioning before water can penetrate their outer coat. For example, alternate freezing and thawing may be required to break down and crack hard seeded shells. Some seeds must be singed by the heat of forest fires before they are able to germinate. Calvaria tree seeds must be ground around  in the gizzard of a turkey , enough to weaken  the shell but not damage the seed, and then passed through the intestinal tract of the turkey before they are able to germinate.
We’re a lot like seeds. We start out under the protection of the law of the age of accountability and our gospel knowledge or food stores, come from our parents or others. Eventually, to move onto our next stage of growth we need the water of baptism and we have to start making our own food so to speak, gaining our own testimony.  Sometimes our testimony of Christ and the plan of salvation can come only through being singed by fire, or being nearly ground to bits in affliction. It seems an odd thing, but because I’ve experienced my faith and other good qualities grow through the most harrowing times in my life, I know it’s true.
#12 “It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him... As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment.” - Ezra Taft Benson
The title of the fourth lesson that I’m also covering today is, Living Joyfully in Troubled Times. I’m pretty sure there hasn’t been a time since the fall that wasn’t a troubled time though we do know that in the last days things are worse than they ever have been before. I want you to just think for a moment about how knowing the plan of salvation helps you find peace.
I know when I first started to really grasp all of the elements of the plan, some of which we’re not covering today, I started wondering how well I really knew the laws of God. This instilled  a desire within me to make sure I knew exactly what he expected of me and I started studying the scriptures with real intent and learning things I hadn’t been open to before. Knowing exactly what God expects of me and of the gift of the Savior has brought me great peace and helps me strive to choose the best things in my own life, I’m not perfect but I’m more aware now than I was before of whether something is right or wrong or is worth my time and energy in the long run.
Cheiko Okazaki once said, “Only you know your circumstances, your energy level, the needs of your children, and the emotional demands of your other obligations. Be wise during intensive seasons of your life. Cherish your agency, and don’t give it away casually. Don’t compare yourself to others - nearly always this will make you despondent. Don’t accept somebody else’s interpretation of how you should be spending your time. Make the best decision you can and then evaluate it to see how it works.”
At this point I opened up the meeting for discussion. Different sisters talked about how knowing the plan of salvation brings them joy or inspires them to choose wisely. I reminded everyone that we are capable of greater things than we know and that we are the ones who impose our own limits in life. I closed with a poem I've loved since I was a youth and that encourages me to keep trying.   
Can’t is the worst word that’s written or spoken;
Doing more harm here than slander and lies;
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning
And robs us of courage we need through the day;
It rings in our ears like a timely sent warning
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.
Can’t is the father of feeble endeavor,
The parent of terror and halfhearted work;
It weakens the efforts of artisans clever,
And makes of the toiler an indolent shirk.
It poisons the soul of the man with a vision,
It stifles in infancy many a plan;
It greets honest toiling with open derision
And mocks at the hopes and the dreams of a man.
Can’t is a word none should speak without blushing;
To utter it should be a symbol of shame;
Ambition and courage it daily is crushing;
It blights a man’s purpose and shortens his aim.
Despise it with all of your hatred of error;
Refuse it the lodgement it seeks in your brain;
Arm against it as a creature of terror,
And all that you dream of you someday shall gain.
Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed ’twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying                                                                                 

And answer this demon by saying: “I can.” 
-Edgar Guest              


Our Eternal Life (Short Video)

Our Eternal Life (Article with links)

Moral Free Agency by Daniel H. Ludlow

Moral Discipline by D. Todd Christofferson        

What does it mean that Eve was beguiled?

The LDS doctrine of Kingdoms of Glory                                                                                                                 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Their eyes received sight, and they followed him

While studying the scriptures this evening two important things stood out to me. The following scriptures are in reference to two blind men who were sitting by the way when Jesus passed by as he was leaving Jericho.

Matthew Chapter 20:29-34

29: And as they departed from Jericho, a great multitude followed him.

30: And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

31: And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David.

32: And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?

33: They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened.

34: So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.

The Bible Dictionary states that: "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others, blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them."

...blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.

In most, if not all instances of healing in the New Testament, Jesus is approached and asked by individuals for healing, either for themselves or others. This may not mean that he never healed anyone of his own accord but the accounts we have show that every time Jesus healed someone, he was asked to do so. Sometimes, he was asked more than once, as was the case with the blind men.

Just like those blind men, sometimes we need to ask more than once. Not because our Father in Heaven doesn't hear us the first time, but because we need to show our faith through continual prayer. Other times we may be asking for something that God isn't willing to grant or at least not at that particular time. But it's okay to keep asking. We need to remember that no concern or fear or joy is too trivial to express to our Heavenly Father in prayer. Yes, He may know of things we need before we ask, but if we never ask we may be missing out on blessings He is perfectly willing to bestow and will not give us otherwise.

The second thing that struck me particularly was verse 34. In the last sentence of verse 34 it reads:
 "...and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."

The Lord healed them of their blindness and they followed him

I know there have been times in my life that I have asked that my eyes may be opened spiritually, to new knowledge, to spiritual growth or to the needs of others but that I haven't always followed the promptings that I have then been given. It is very significant to me that those blind men received sight, AND they followed him.

God giveth to Him that asketh but if we continue to prove unreliable in using the gifts we ask for, he will bestow them on others who will use them better.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Homemade Peppermint (or regular Mint) Ice Cream

I am VERY picky when it comes to peppermint ice cream. It's a seasonal indulgence that I love, but only if it's just right. They say you eat with your eyes and when it comes to peppermint ice cream, I know whether or not I'll enjoy a certain brand simply by the way it looks.

Are there actual peppermint pieces in the ice cream? If not, there's no way I'll touch it. I have to have little peppermint crunchies with every bite.

Does it have a more spearmint flavor than peppermint flavor? I adore the sweeter spearmint flavor!

Is the color of the ice cream only pink with red peppermint pieces? I might eat it but it's nowhere near as tasty as a white ice cream with red AND green peppermint pieces mixed in.

I know. It's all in my head but thus it is.

So  being that I'm in the mood for peppermint ice cream and finding not one brand that fit my idea of perfection, I set about to make my own. After perusing pinterest I settled on this recipe, with one change: I substituted two teaspoons of vanilla extra for the peppermint extract and added 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract. Below is the basic custard mixture ready for the ice cream machine.

To prevent my crushed candy cane pieces from completely dissolving in the ice cream I waited until the last possible moment of churning to add them to the mix. Then immediately placed into the freezer to become more solid. After crushing the pieces I put them in a collander to sift out the tiniest flakes which might dissolve anyway and totally discolor the ice cream. I don't mind red and green swirls. I just don't want them mixing so much I get brown ice cream.

And here is the finished product, sprinkled with a few reserved candy cane flakes. I highly recommend this recipe. I will use it as a base for other flavors from here on out.This ice cream is so creamy; no ice crystals at all. Crunchy peppermint pieces and smooth ice cream. Yum!!

  • Peppermint Ice Cream - from

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies
Set a large glass bowl above a pot of simmering water, not letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water line. Add the egg yolks and sugar into the bowl and stir occasionally until the sugar has mostly dissolved the the yellow has paled in color. About 5 minutes. Set the bowl aside.
Mix 1/4 cup of the milk with the cornstarch and set aside to dissolve. Empty the water from the pot, put the remaining milk and cream in the pot over medium heat and warm until bubbles form on the outer edges. Slowly add the warm cream to the yolks, stirring as you add to temper. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and the peppermint extract.
Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour. 
Put the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn according to instructions. In the last minute, add the peppermint candies. Take a bite, if its not quite minty enough for you, add another splash of extract. Transfer the mixture to a container for the freezer, and freeze for at least a few hours to firm up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Bread of Life

"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread..." Genesis 3:19

This sentence took on new meaning for me this past Sunday. The teacher of our class was speaking about personal responsibility for our own salvation and suddenly as I looked at that scripture written on the board I realized it had a double meaning. 

I had always interpreted it literally; in order to survive in mortality we must work to stay alive. In Adam's case, hunting for his own food. In the case of many of us nowadays, working to earn money to purchase our own food. 

Temporal survival takes work of all kinds. But so does spiritual survival. I looked at that verse and for the first time, thought about the bread of life, Jesus Christ.

"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." - John 6:35

Coming to him requires much more than desire, though that is a great place to start. It requires more than just asking in prayer, though that is also important. It requires work. It requires active study and reflection on the scriptures and other teachings that have been given to us. This active ongoing study, combined with prayer will bring us toward him, the bread of life. 

Only as we work to understand, can we come to know truth. 

Through regular study of scripture I have felt peace and clarity increase in my understanding of the turbulent world surrounding me and the purpose of my mortal existence. I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his son. I know that Jesus Christ suffered for all mankind. I cannot comprehend how he knows what each of us suffer, but I know that somehow he knows. I know that he loves us and that if we will accept that love, it can motivate and help us reach a potential we may never have known existed within ourselves. I do not know the meaning of everything that happens in life, but because I believe in my Savior I am willing to live by faith, waiting with patience until the day that all things will be opened to my understanding.  I look forward anxiously to Christ's second coming with great joy and hope that it cannot now be long. Whether I am here on earth or in Heaven it will be a day of great gladness. I am so thankful for every day I am allowed to remain in mortality and all that it has taught me and will continue to teach me. I am so thankful for all the beauties God has put on earth that bring a smile to my face every single day; for the animals, flowers, sunlight, storms and family and friends that surround me. It is a beautiful world and a beautiful time to be alive, with so much to add to our enrichment and learning and light. I know that we are loved, far beyond our ability to understand and I am thankful for the times in my life when I have felt that love tangibly from beyond, assisting me through dark times. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Meet Sokka, our Salt and Pepper Standard Schnauzer

I took this picture two days ago. I could feel two eyes burning holes into my hand as I put each toasted round topped with gouda and genoa salami up to my mouth. I had to capture the cuteness of my goofy meat loving Sokka. (points if you know exactly what I'm referencing)

By the way, did I mention we got a dog?

It's been a few months now. After researching the pros and cons of many different breeds we decided on a schnauzer, and let me tell you schnauzer's are great. We were going to get one from a breeder, but the more I thought about starting with an 8 week old puppy and all of the work that entailed, the more I became convinced I wanted a rescue dog.

Above is a picture of our boy when we first got him, just under a year old and lacking any of the carefree and playful nature of a pup. This picture does not adequately convey the poor state he was in. He had over 35 ticks attached to his body. His fur was matted and covered with burrs. He was friendly but quiet and subdued, as if he were resigned to being neglected.

All of that began to change though. It started with a bath and a shave. Then vaccines, and flea and tick medication, daily walks, good dog food, clicker training and lots of love and attention. Pretty soon our boy started to become more vocal. He would give a soft but excited howl when he saw his leash pulled out, he began to bark and run to the door to greet my husband when he came home. He learned how to sit and touch and lay down and over time, how to play. He had no idea what to do with dog toys so first I taught him how to touch an item with his nose, then with his teeth, then to pick it up, then to hold it for longer periods of time. The dog that didn't even think to pick anything up with his teeth (other than food) now retrieves the frisby in the backyard. He has even developed a habit of picking up shoes and taking them to random places in the house. Luckily he doesn't chew on them. I think he's just trying to tell us he wants a walk. Here he is after first being cleaned up, a day or two after the previous picture:

Now I'm not saying he's perfect. In fact he chewed on a door frame about 3 weeks after we had gotten him. I had left him in his room before when I was running errands and he had never seemed to care. So when I came home and heard anxious little yips and then opened the door to discover the frame had been chewed on I was of course a little annoyed. But suddenly I realized that though we had already adopted him, his anxiety over our leaving seemed to mean that he had finally adopted us! Luckily with even more love and training, no more door frames have been marred.

And the best part about him aside from his kisses, his wet nose, his quick learning skills and his enthusiastic greetings? I've not swept up a single dog hair. ;)