Scripture of the Month

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Princess and the Frog
My mom told me that at a Young Women's workshop a year or two ago, a leader contrasted Snow White to Tiana from The Princess and the Frog to reveal that Snow White was more in line with Church standards. As a huge fan of The Princess and the Frog, I was shocked. After reviewing the facts, the only thing Snow White has over Tiana is a more modest princess dress. Otherwise, The Princess and the Frog portrays just as many Church values, as illustrated below:

Good Work Ethic
Tiana is an honest and hard worker and she saves her money for a purpose. She is very goal driven. Although it is shown mostly through her career, it is evident throughout the whole movie as she tries to become human again. Furthermore, her dream was one shared by her father to bring people together through food, not to climb the social, corporate, or financial ladder, as is usually associated with career-minded individuals. When she does open the restaurant, she and her husband work together.

Healthy Relationship
Tiana and Prince Naveen do not fall in love with each other right away, but rather after they have gotten to know each other and have endured trials together. The two complement each other and create a balanced relationship--not all work and not all play.

The song played in the credits, "Never Knew I Needed," reveals how sometimes what we have in mind for ourselves is not what the Lord has in store. Neither Tiana nor Prince Naveen were interested in the type of person the other was, but each ended up being what the other needed. They show that a good relationship requires self-improvement, compromise, sacrifice, and consideration.

Happiness in Trials
Tiana and Prince Naveen exemplify what President Uchtdorf said in conference last weekend: to have gratitude in all circumstances. At the end, the two resign to remaining frogs forever, but are nonetheless happy because they have each other, and they move on with their new life.

President Uchtdorf said,
Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges. 
This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind. 
Being grateful in our circumstances is an act of faith in God. It requires that we trust God and hope for things we may not see but which are true. By being grateful, we follow the example of our beloved Savior, who said, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” 
True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will. 
It is because of their challenge, being stuck as frogs and journeying together through the swamp, that they learn to love each other and change into the people they need to be. Even when they don't receive the ending they want, they are grateful in their situtation and have faith in a bright future.

In her song, Mama Odie tells the characters that if they dig deep inside they will discover who they truly are and what they really need. She makes it clear that Tiana cannot be fully happy without love and family in her life. Although Tiana's dream was not a bad one, it was unbalanced.

Mama Odie reminds the prince that money will not solve his problems. She sings:
Prince Froggy is a rich little boy.
You wanna be rich again.
That ain't gonna make you happy now;
Did it make you happy then? No!
Money ain't got no soul;
Money ain't got no heart.
All you need is some self-control,
Make yourself a brand new start.

Once the two fall in love, the story doesn't end there. The two get married despite still being frogs and expecting to remain so, sacrificing their previous dreams. Because they choose love and marriage, they end up solving their frog problem, showing that when we do what is right even when we think bad circumstances will not change, we will be blessed.

Wickedness Never Was Happiness
The Shadow Man's story is a perfect example to us of what happens when we participate in evil and invite the devil into our lives, just like with Korihor: "And this we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell" (Alma 30:60).

Discussion: How else does The Princess and the Frog portray gospel principles and standards?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

How to Prepare Your Kids for General Conference
A few years ago, I wrote a post on how to prepare for general conference. Now that I have two kids, and after seeing great ideas online, I think it's time to share how to prepare your kids for general conference too!

1. Explain what general conference is.
Tell your kids the week before that instead of going to church the next Sunday, you will be staying home and watching the prophet and other church leaders speak to us about the gospel starting Saturday morning. Show them pictures of the First Presidency and other church leaders in the Friend or conference issue of the Ensign.

2. Put together activities for the kids.
Thanks to blogs and Pinterest, there is a plethora of activities for your children to do during conference, and most require little preparation. Here is a link-up to some great ideas. There are also activities on the Church website. Be sure to match the activity to your children's ages and likes and any goals you have in mind (ex: listening for certain topics, learning to recognize leaders, or simply being reverent). Get all the activities ready by Friday night so the kids have something to do as soon as conference starts.

3. Prepare the house for conference the days and nights before.
Have everyone do their chores and complete their homework. Clean up the area where you will watch conference and know when and how you will watch it. Do any food prep the night before so making breakfast and lunch is easy and doesn't cut into any conference time. Get everyone to bed early so you wake up and get ready in time for the morning sessions and no one is sleepy or grumpy. Make sure any children who still nap get rest between sessions.

4. Create a reverent environment conference morning.
Simply getting dressed in appropriate clothing and eating a good breakfast before conference starts will set a good mood for the rest of the day and help everyone be attentive and reverent. Avoid putting on the TV, a movie, or secular music. Instead, play Primary songs and other church music or watch any pre-conference programs to invite the Spirit. Continue to keep the Spirit in between and after sessions.

5. Talk about what you learned.
After conference is over discuss during dinner what you learned. Have the kids share their favorite talks, songs, or activities. Keep conference fresh in their minds the following months through the Friend and family home evening lessons.

You can find more ideas on how to prepare your kids for general conference on the Church website. Have a great general conference weekend!

Sharing Time: What do you do to prepare your kids for general conference?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Put Down the Gavel

My friend posted on her blog an article about being a single LDS woman. Both ladies made many good points I will not reiterate here. Instead, I would like to discuss the motivation behind these posts: judgment. And judgment applies to all situations, not just to being single. In fact, once one of these women gets married, the judgment won't stop. The next nosy question she will be asked is, "When are you going to have children?" Then, "When are you going to have another child?" Then either, "Why aren't you going to have more?" or "Don't you think you have enough?" Then there will be comments and questions about her parenting choices and so on.

Elder Neil L. Andersen shared this example in his October 2011 general conference talk:
President J. Scott Dorius of the Peru Lima West Mission told me their story. He said:
“Becky and I were married for 25 years without being able to have [or adopt] children. We moved several times. Introducing ourselves in each new setting was awkward and sometimes painful. Ward members wondered why we [didn’t have] children. They weren’t the only ones wondering.
“When I was called as a bishop, ward members [expressed] concern that I did not have any experience with children and teenagers. I thanked them for their sustaining vote and asked them to allow me to practice my child-raising skills on their children. They lovingly obliged.
“We waited, gained perspective, and learned patience. After 25 years of marriage, a miracle baby came into our lives. We adopted two-year-old Nicole and then newborn Nikolai. Strangers now compliment us on our beautiful grandchildren. We laugh and say, ‘They are our children. We have lived our lives backwards.’”
Brothers and sisters, we should not be judgmental with one another in this sacred and private responsibility. [emphasis mine]
Whatever happened to minding our own business? We may feel that our questions are just out of curiosity, concern, or compassion, not judgment, but the motivation doesn't matter. Unless we are family or friends who the person chooses to talk to about his or her personal life, unless we have received a distinct prompting from the Spirit to address a sensitive subject with the person, unless this person is doing something clearly harmful to him- or herself or others, then their business is not ours.

Let us first worry about our own salvation before we "help" others with theirs. Let us put down the gavel and stop doing the Savior's job. He is the Judge; we are not. He knows the full story, He sees the complete picture; we do not. The best things we can do are pray for and love the person.

Challenge: Next time a judgmental thought or comment pops into your mind, dismiss it. Remember, our divine identity supersedes all others, so let us think of and treat each other as the beloved children of God we are. Then we will be able to get to a place where we don't even have judgmental thoughts to dismiss.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The "Curse" of Eve

In a birth book I've been reading, the author mentions the belief some have in the curse of Eve; that is, experiencing pain in childbirth as punishment for eating the forbidden fruit: "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children" (Genesis 3:16, see also Moses 4:22).

While it is true we women experience pain in labor, this verse has been misinterpreted. The above belief implies that had Eve not eaten the fruit, she would have had no pain in childbirth. However, we learn from the Book of Mormon that she would have had no childbirth at all:
And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. . . .
Adam fell that men might be . . . (2 Nephi 2: 21-23, 25)
The Fall brought about the ability to "multiply and replenish the earth." It also allowed for pain and sorrow in all things. Because of the Fall, Eve could have the joy of creating a family, but she would also have the sorrow of creating a family, not only physically but also spiritually. Pain and childbirth coexist together, both consequences of the Fall, not the one cursing the other.

Other consequences included Adam having to grow his own food in a "cursed" ground, and the death of man (Genesis 3:17-19, see also Moses 4:23-25). Everything in and on the earth, including the earth itself, was affected by the Fall, not just Eve.

Furthermore, it is important to realize that pain in childbirth (and any other experience) serves a purpose. Birth is very symbolic of the Atonement, which I discussed in this previous post.

Discussion: How has understanding the Fall helped you endure pain and sorrow?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Praise God amid Suffering

I have written many articles about why we experience trials and tragedies on this earth, and still I have found yet another reason. My last post talked about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies--the Lamanites converted by the sons of Mosiah--and how they buried their weapons. The Nephite dissenters stirred up the rest of the Lamanites to fight against them, and when faced with death, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies still refused to fight and were slain.
Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword--

Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done.

And it came to pass that they threw down their weapons of war, and they would not take them again, for they were stung for the murders which they had committed; and they came down even as their brethren relying upon the mercies of those whose arms were lifted to slay them.

And it came to pass that the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain . . .

. . . there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people. (Alma 24: 23-27)
The slaughter of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies brought about the conversion of more Lamanites. Their deaths were not in vain; they provided an opportunity for the wicked to recognize and repent of their sins. The loss of their physical lives resulted in the spiritual salvation of others' lives (and the physical salvation of all the righteous people those Lamanties would have killed had they remained wicked).

While it is more common for people to turn away from God in times of suffering, we learn from this encounter that trials are opportunities to become closer to Him, both for victims and oppressors. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies were saved for keeping their covenants (Alma 24:26), and their righteous actions changed their enemies' hearts. We too should find the opportunity in our trials and tragedies to become closer to God and help others know Him, and we will be blessed for it.

Challenge: Next time you are experiencing tribulations in your life, turn to God instead of away from Him.