I rarely do anything by halves and once every year or so I seem to get really really sick in a way that forces my zoom through life to a painful crawl. Two years ago it was 6 weeks of bronchitis. Last year it was the worst case of strep I've ever had. This time it was diverticulitis. I started feeling (for lack of a more ladylike word) gassy on Thursday. As in I really thought I needed to get rid of some but couldn't and it was incredibly painful. That feeling of bloat and stomach distension just kept getting worse until on Sunday, bent over with each painful step I took as I cradled my stomach, I decided maybe it was something worse. I went to Urgent Care first and since no one was in the lobby the doctor was behind the desk when I came in. He did me the kindness of asking me right there without checking me in what was wrong. Then he told me he didn't have the equipment to help me and that I needed to go to the ER. So when my family came home from church my husband took me down.

The only time I've ever been in the hospital is to give birth. I've never had a surgery and all sorts of frightening reasons for my pain were swimming through my brain. Add to that a past medicine interaction and general distrust of doctors and all was doom, gloom, and fear. Thankfully the staff on hand was incredibly sweet with me and explained every tiny thing they were doing. I first had to have some blood taken, then be given fluids to hydrate me which made me shiver half to death, and then I had a CAT scan done. I wasn't there above a few hours and the diagnosis was thankfully an uncomplicated case of diverticulitis. With a strong antibiotic and a liquid diet I should heal quickly.
 I have been doing so. What I didn't expect was the emotional difficulty. On this sudden liquid diet I was never sated and the usual unfortunate side effect of antibiotics meant that I was struggling to stay hydrated or to even sleep for very long periods between using the bathroom.

It was the end of day 2 of this liquid diet that my husband came home to a very hangry, very emotionally compromised wife. I told him I wanted to vent and that before I started in I already knew that others had it worse and I was petty and pathetic but I just needed to cry about my current pain and woes. I told him about how hungry and miserable I was but about how afraid I was to go off a liquid diet too soon and bring back so much pain if I didn't heal. There was much more said besides but suffice it to say, he listened to it all. Then he told me he thought it would be just fine to start on some soft foods. Then he asked me if he could mash me a potato and make some pudding from scratch since we had no mix. It was 9 at night and he'd just gotten home from work. So I cried some more because that sweet offering made me feel so loved right when I was feeling so very unloveable.

He's a good man. I know not everyone has such love and kindness in a spouse. I hope I can always remember to be the kind word or deed that someone might need.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Ian McLaren

President Russell M. Nelson challenged women belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. I started last week and created this printable to keep me on track. Feel free to download for personal use.

On a warm August evening in Bakersfield California in 1972 a mother took her four children for a walk. As they walked, a driver impaired by alcohol and angry at someone else decided to take his anger out on the innocent family. Everyone was able to jump out of the way in time except 2 year old Jerry, who was knocked out of his big sisters hand as she tried to pull him to safety. The youngest child and only boy, Jerry had been longed prayed for and treasured by his parents and sisters. Three hours after the hit and run, Jerry passed into eternity.

 His mother Dian later recalled: “During the year after Jerry left us, it was naturally a very trying time for all of us, and it was a most difficult adjustment to make. It was very lonely without him, at times almost overpowering, as if life just could not go on without his sunshiney face wherever we went. Jerry was a very different child. On the night he was born...I was so thankful at last for a precious son, and I spent the night in thanksgiving to my Heavenly Father. However, during this night a voice kept coming to me over and over again telling me I would not have this son very long. There was no vision, just the voice...in the next two and a half years it was to repeat itself many times...and at the very moment of the accident the same voice I had heard the night he was born, said to me “You knew you wouldn’t have him long.” I know that Jerry was supposed to be born at the time he was...he had a very special mission upon this earth. That mission was to unite our family.”

 Dian was my grandmother, Jerry was my uncle, and the 3 daughters who survived the incident were my mother and aunts. Only a few months after Jerry died, my great grandfather, Heber Danner, who had been deeply affected by his grandsons death, began studying the gospel, something that no latter-day saint associate in his 71 years on earth had convinced him to do. Almost two years to the day that Jerry died, Heber Danner was baptized into the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

 Having been born into and raised in this, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, baptism and other ordinances are something I’ve long been familiar with. But being familiar with a concept doesn’t always imply understanding of a concept. While I certainly felt happy on my baptism day as a young 8 year old, my understanding of baptism and why it is necessary to salvation came later. There were times during my adolescence that I wondered, shouldn’t it be enough for God that I am a spiritual person trying to live a good life? Why would ordinances be necessary for eternal life? As I learned more about Jesus Christ and gained a testimony of his divinity, I knew from his own example in the book of Matthew that baptism by immersion was necessary. And more importantly, baptism by immersion by one sanctioned by God to do so. The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that "all the ordinances, systems, and administrations on the earth are of no use to the children of men, unless they are ordained and authorized of God;” Though I had already been baptized, as I studied the Book of Mormon and the Bible, I gained a testimony that the priesthood of God which authorizes mankind to act in His name is found on the earth today, within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and that baptism into this church is the first step toward a Christlike life and eternal life hereafter.

Elder David A. Bednar has taught: “The baptismal covenant includes three fundamental commitments: (1) to be willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, (2) to always remember Him, and (3) to keep His commandments. The promised blessing for honoring this covenant is “that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us].”

 After baptism partaking of the sacrament gains new meaning. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “This (meaning the baptismal covenant) is the identical covenant made in the sacramental ordinance. That is to say, it becomes our privilege every time we partake of the sacrament to receive anew the promises and blessings first offered to us in baptism.”

 The ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, however wonderful and sacred they are, are only the first steps in leading us toward eternal life, not the final goal.

 Elder David A. Bednar taught: “...Scriptures help us understand that the process of taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ that is commenced in the waters of baptism is continued and enlarged in the house of the Lord. As we stand in the waters of baptism, we look to the temple. As we partake of the sacrament, we look to the temple. We pledge to always remember the Savior and to keep His commandments as preparation to participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple.”

 Three years after Jerry’s death and one year after Heber Danner was baptized, my grandmother Dian recalled: “In August of 1975 we headed to Idaho...[Heber and his wife Ellen] were going to be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary by going to the Idaho Falls Temple to be sealed for time and all eternity...It was a glorious day for all of us.”

 As Heber was baptized he looked to the temple and the promise that he could be sealed to his wife, and then they together could be sealed to their son, who in turn had been sealed to his wife and children, which included Jerry.

 Baptism opens the door but it does not carry us across the threshold to eternal life. The most important part of baptism, the one that helps prepare us for and propel us toward temple ordinances, becoming like Christ, and receiving eternal life is the gift of the Holy Ghost. In John chapter 3 verse 5, Jesus taught: “...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

 After baptism and upon renewing our covenant through the sacrament each week we are promised that we MAY always have His spirit to be with us. But we must do our part. Being born of the spirit is not a one and done event. It is a lifelong effort and failure is part of the plan. Why else would be given the sacrament continually if it was not expected that we would need frequent cleansing from sin? Mother Theresa once wisely said, “Saints are only sinners who keep trying.” As long as we keep trying and repenting as needed with real intent we will be blessed with the Holy Spirit in our lives and that spirit is necessary in our journey toward eternal life. The Lords prophet on earth today, Russell M. Nelson has made it clear: “If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation...In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost...the heavens are open and...God speaks to his children!”

 But the prophet did not simply give us this admonition with no guidance on how to achieve it. He has urged us: “Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.”

 There is of course, one thing more that we must have in order to gain eternal life and that is the grace of Jesus Christ. The late Modern American philosopher Dallas Willard was once asked if he believed in total depravity. “I believe in sufficient depravity,” he responded. When asked what he meant he expounded, “I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to heaven, not one will be able to say, ‘I merited this.”

 We emulate the Savior not because we believe we can earn his grace but because we are truly converted to and love him.

 In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: …”if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him...Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”



From the time I was 8 years old I knew something was not quite right in my mind. Horrible thoughts would plague me constantly and I became obsessive in trying to counteract them mentally. I had no idea that I was struggling with Primarily Obsessional OCD. All I knew was that the thoughts were frightening and bad, and if I was having bad thoughts then I must be bad, therefore I needed to do everything possible to be a better person so I could get rid of them. Certainly this idea that if I was more righteous I could be healed of whatever darkness was in me stemmed from my religious beliefs, after all I had grown up hearing stories of righteousness and faith that resulted in miracles. So at the young age of 12 I decided to become the most righteous person I could be. I studied the scriptures constantly and took notes, I pleaded morning and night with my Heavenly Father and offered up silent prayers throughout every day.  I kept every commandment, and did acts of service for others. My parents will testify to you that I was a very easy teenager to raise. Yet over the years I continued to struggle with intrusive thoughts and the agony and despair that came with them.  How I loathed myself. I cannot convey the depth of my self hatred and how often I thought that death must be better than living with my tortured mind. What more could I do? Surely I had shown faith, so there must be something I was missing! After all, scripture told me that ..."despair cometh because of iniquity" (Mor. 10:22)  right?

Then in 2005, after 12 years of constant devotion to God in pursuit of peace something did happen. I've gone into some detail in previous posts on this blog but to summarize, a medication interaction gave me instant panic disorder. It took months to stabilize my body and mind so I could function normally again. During that time my two young children and I were flown to Utah so my mother could take care of us while my husband continued the demands of grad student life. My feelings at the time can be well conveyed by echoing the Savior's words, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46)

Until that time I did not believe things could feel any darker. Everything I had learned to associate with feeling the Holy Spirit was lost to me. There was little but terror and its effect on my body was profound. I lost 15 pounds in a few short days because of the adrenaline surging constantly through me. Sleep, which had always been a refuge from my unnamed affliction, eluded me. I felt utterly abandoned by God and no longer sure that He even existed. How could he let such a thing happen to me if He were there? I began seeing a therapist but was still too afraid of what could happen to me if I explained everything. Would they commit me? Would they take away my kids?

However, something changed after being in a near constant state of terror for weeks. The terror gave way to anger. I was so angry that I was being controlled by the whims of a body that panicked without reason. At that point I hadn't driven a car for a month because it induced panic attacks. So I decided it was time to take a drive. My goal was simple; make it around the block without stopping until I was back in the driveway. Before I even got in the car I could feel my body reacting. As I backed out of the driveway my legs were shaking badly and hot flashes shot from my head down through my arms. But I started that slow crawl around the block and every time the panic inside yelled at me to pull over I yelled back, No! Pulling back into that driveway without having stopped once is still one of the most victorious moments of my life. I hadn't stopped until I'd decided too. My own body had been fighting against me but my will had kept me going. And while I realized that my will alone might never change those feelings of darkness and fear, it could help me function in spite of them. The anger gave way to resolve. I could, I would fight! Though my body still panicked I knew it would pass. Though bad thoughts still plagued me, I could live with them. And shortly many of the inhibitions I'd had for so many years about appearing strong and sane melted away. This allowed me to be honest with the therapist and what relief I felt when I was told that there was a name for what I had described and that others dealt with it too! I can't begin to describe how my burden was made lighter just by knowing I wasn't alone.

It's been 13 years since that time and I still battle the demons of anxiety, depression and OCD. I've accepted that I always will. God hasn't removed this thorn in my side but I know now that it wasn't necessarily because I lacked faith, though I didn't fully understand what having faith meant at the time. I know now that the object of faith is not to change the will of God but is "...accepting His will and timing in our lives - even if the outcome is not what we hoped for or wanted."

He has not removed mental illness from me. He did not reward my faith in the one way I most desperately wanted, and yet I can say that I have been healed. After 12 long years of prayer I got an answer to what was happening in my head. I learned through a very unique experience to recognize the Spirit in a way wholly detached from the warm, peaceful feelings I had always associated it with.  I realized that while despair can come from sin it can also come from mental illness in perfectly good people. I realized that the most righteous man on earth was not exempt from horrible pain and suffering and that living a righteous life does not result in freedom from trials but increased capacity to weather and grow from trials. I let go of any facade of having it "all together" and learned to talk openly about struggling which has in turn helped others who struggle.

Some would say that this event in my life happened for a reason. I don't personally believe that God picks specific trials to inflict upon his children. But I do believe that we can choose whether the trials that happen in our lives will be purposeful. Will they increase in us gratitude, wisdom and compassion or will we stunt ourselves with self-pity and bitterness?

From a Relief Society lesson I taught May 27, 2018

Pertaining to the new Ministering program, everyone will still have a partner and a few sisters to
minister to. Some of your partnerships may remain the same, others will change since young
women will be added to the mix. Each ministering sister will have a brief interview with a member of the Relief Society presidency once a quarter but your Relief Society president would like to be able to ask any one of you at any time, “How your sisters are doing?” and be confident that you, as a friend to those sisters, will know. When I asked my Relief Society president if there was anything in particular that she would like me to address concerning ministering in our ward she said the following:  “The biggest thing about the new ministering program in the church, in my opinion, comes down to serving our sisters with Christlike love. If we truly do that, everything else will fall into place.” So today I’d like our discussion to be centered around what Christlike love is.

I want you to ask yourself. Is there a difference between love and Christlike love? If so what is the

I feel that a big difference between love and Christlike love is that Christlike love will always help in bettering both the giver and the receiver, while our own love though genuinely felt and earnestly given, may at times be misdirected. How often have people done things motivated by love that end up being detrimental to the receiver or fall short of what is really needed? I came across a thought provoking talk in the December 1982 Ensign by Mormon and clinical psychologist Allen E. Bergin:

“Recently, while searching the scriptures for thoughts on how to improve and heal human relationships, I became fascinated by the book of John in the New Testament. According to John’s testimony, Jesus Christ taught that his capacity to love and to redeem the human race depended first on a harmonious relationship with his Father. It was as though this relationship was essential for gaining the capacity to redeem and bless the rest of humanity. The Lord revealed that his perfected relationship with the Father consisted of two ingredients: love and obedience. When combined and harmonized, these appeared to produce an alloy stronger than either ingredient alone…Do we likewise gain the capacity to love and participate in the redemptive process as we voluntarily and lovingly submit ourselves to the will of the Savior and our Father? ...Our unity with them is a result of obedience and love; and this oneness with a higher power in turn enables us to love more effectively and become one with each other.”

Love + Obedience to God’s Will = Christlike Love

For this equation to work we have to know what God’s will is. Not just pertaining to revealed
commandments and scriptural admonition. To truly be able to show Christlike love for those we’ve
been asked to serve, we must understand how Christ would love them. It was no coincidence that
President Nelson spoke so emphatically about developing the gift of personal revelation in the same
conference that these changes were made. The prophet described ministering as serving one
another in a “new and holier way” precisely because there is no longer a set formula. This new
approach gives us far more freedom and therefore far more personal responsibility. It also
emphasizes that a visit is not the end goal but a stepping stone. The end goal being to bring people
closer to Christ. The success of spreading Christ’s love depends on your good relationship with
God and recognizing His inspiration concerning when and how to help those for whom we’ve been given stewardship. This doesn’t mean that we need to pray about and seek for approval for every idea we have to serve and minister. Doing kind things will always be acceptable before God and we are commanded to do much good of our own free will. It just means being worthy and able to recognize revelation if God knows there is something more or something different that is needed at a particular time in a sisters life.

I want you think back on an act of kindness that helped you feel God's love for you. Think about ways you’ve been ministered to in your life. People have no doubt done things for you that have helped you feel their love, but the goal of ministering is to convey not only your love, but Christ’s love. Perhaps thinking about kindnesses that have helped you feel loved by God will give you ideas on how to minister to others. It can be hard to become a part of someone's life when you don't understand them or when they seem to shut you out. I'm grateful for many people who were never deterred by my anger and abrasiveness as a deeply depressed teenager. Never discount the power of sincere, kind words. I am here today because of them!

Please remember that though we as members of the church have the special privilege to minister
to specific individuals, we must not restrict ourselves to ministering solely to them. Having Christlike love means being willing to fulfill any needs we see for anyone we come into contact with. Christ certainly had things to accomplish each day that he lived, just like we all do.  But no goal or objective was more important than someone who needed his help.

Resources for additional study: