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Love Thyself

The second great commandment is to "love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:39). Countless lessons and talks have focused on the first part of the commandment, loving others, so we often ignore the second part. But love for others stems from love for self. It may not seem true: there are many people who are compassionate and kind who have self-love issues. However, I believe that their capacity to love others would increase dramatically if they learned to love themselves. When someone is filled with self-hatred and other negative emotions, there is little room for positive emotions, even for others. In fact, self-hatred is selfish (note self is in both words); it's focusing solely on ourselves. On the other hand, when we are filled with self-love, we are happier, more optimistic people with greater capacity to see the needs of others and fill them.
I remember first learning this lesson from watching The Buttercream Gang. A former member of the gang goes on a rampage in…

Time

Time is a mind-boggling concept. The scriptures reveal that our time and God's time are greatly different. We obsess over it, because we know that our earthly time is a gift. Most of us are appreciative of this gift, understanding that each day on earth is precious and can be taken away at any moment. However, with so many distractions and things to do, we usually do not use our time wisely.
The Lord advised us, "Let every man be diligent in all things. And the idler shall not have place in the church, except he repent and mend his ways" (D&C 75:29). We can be more diligent by being better organized, not being lazy, and quitting our addictions to less important things. I believe that last one is vital. Most of us do not struggle with excessive laziness--we are very busy and deserve the few breaks we get. I think the biggest problem we must overcome is dedicating our time to things that don't deserve it.
In Conference of October 1979, before Facebook and YouTube an…

CHRISTmas

Chilly weather. Snow. Winter clothes. Cookies. Candy canes. Gingerbread houses. Hot chocolate. Fireplaces. Lights. Wreaths. Trees. Holly. Mistletoe. Green. Red. Gifts. Shopping. Parties. Decorations. Bells. Sleigh rides. Sledding. Snowmen. Carols. Music. Concerts. Santa. Reindeer. Elves. Penguins. Smiles. Laughter.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Christmas is coming! It is no coincidence that so much beauty and happiness surround the holiday celebrating Christ's birth. (And the holiday celebrating His death and resurrection, for that matter, but that's a different post.) Whether people like it or not, there is no escaping the symbolism and spirit of Christmas. Yet people forget the source of it all.
Angels. Choirs. Stars. Wise men. Shepherds. Baby. Pageants. Hymns. Praise. Family. Church. Prophets. Prophecies. Scriptures. Parables. Charity. Service. Love. Joy. Peace. Humility. Hearts. Blessings. Birth. Death. Resurrection. Light. Life. King. Son. Heaven. Earth. Eternity.
N…

The First Presidency Christmas Devotional

Yesterday evening I watched the Christmas Devotional at our stake center. It was absolutely beautiful! It opened with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and congregation singing "The First Noel" and then after the prayer the Choir singing "For unto Us a Child Is Born" from Handel's Messiah. They sang with such contagious joyfulness.

President Uchtdorf spoke first about seeing Christ with the heart. He quoted from The Little Prince, "Anything essential is invisible to the eye." Although many saw Christ with their eyes, they did not see Him with their hearts and accept Him as their Savior and Redeemer. President Uchtdorf exhorted us to unclutter our lives and let it be the season of seeking the Savior with our hearts.
The Choir then sang "O Holy Night," my favorite Christmas hymn. I love when the Choir sings! President Eyring followed reminding us that the story of Christmas is a story of love. He advised us to create a small part of the Christmas stor…

Warm Fuzzies

One of the most memorable talks from this past General Conference was President Monson's on service, entitled "What Have I Done for Someone Today?" He shared how Saints all over the world answered his birthday wish for us to serve others, including one Primary who filled a jar with warm fuzzies for every act of service they did.

Service is an enormous part of being a Saint. At baptism we covenant to "bear one another's burdens, that they may be light" (Mosiah 18:8). In the temple we covenant to give all our time, talents, and blessings in building up the kingdom of God, whether that be through Church callings, missionary work, humanitarian aid, or random acts of kindness. Throughout the scriptures we are counseled to bless others in whatever way we can. President Monson bluntly said in regard to this commandment, "I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives."
However…

Lemonade

Thursday night I went to a Relief Society activity with a Chicken Soup for the Soul theme. After a talk on gratitude and a tasty chicken soup dinner, a sister spoke about trials she has had throughout life, such as infertility, divorce, a brain tumor, and a child with Down Syndrome. She titled her talk "My Life with a Lemon Tree and a Bowl of Sugar."

Although I have heard "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade" all my life and usually dismiss it, this sister made me see the metaphor in a new light. She talked about the tree of life from Lehi's dream, which represents the plan of salvation, and how it is the source of sugar. When we use the plan of salvation (sugar) to get through our trials (the lemons), we have lemonade. She closed with, "After a while I stopped labeling things lemons and sugar, because things I thought were lemons ended up being sugar, and things I thought were sugar were also tart. I learned to put the lemons and sugar together and s…

"Light" Reading

I love to read, so often when I am bored or have time on my hands, I pick up a book for some light reading. If it's a good book, I get hooked and make time to read. I usually end up reading for a few hours.

This is how we should read the scriptures. We should feel like picking up the scriptures for some reading when we are bored or have time. We should make time to read the scriptures like we do a bestseller because we are hooked. We should read for longer periods of time instead of the typical few minutes a day.

In the scriptures you will find all that makes a good book: heroism, war, love, growth and change, sorrow, happiness, good and evil, inspiration, warmth, drama, suspense, and mystery--and most important, the gospel. The scriptures truly are light reading: they hold light and truth; they light the way back to Heavenly Father; they fill us with light and happiness. They have been preserved for our benefit, so let's read them!

Challenge: Next time you feel like reading a bo…

He's Our Bishop

Busy as a man can be,
He's our bishop. He finds time to talk to me; He's our bishop. Always kindly words he'll say To the children every day. Let us help him every way; He's our bishop.
Cheerful as he serves the Lord, He's our bishop. He's the father of our ward; He's our bishop. He helps us to do the right In our Heavenly Father's sight. We love him with all our might; He's our bishop.
("He's Our Bishop," Children's Songbook, p. 135)
I love my bishop. I can think of only a couple bishops I did not like, and that's because I didn't understand the true nature of bishops at the time, and so I feared them. When I was about 17, I learned to appreciate them. Bishops are not principals or policemen (though maybe some are by profession). Bishops are Christ-like and fatherly: they love us unconditionally and want us to be happy; they are sweet and understanding. Bishops help us to repent, grow in the gospel, be spiritually strong, and find comfort …

Music and Heaven

The Sunbeam lesson I taught today was "Music Makes Me Happy." Whether it be instrumental or voice, music can calm fear, brighten sorrow, and dispel anger, and it serves as a way to praise and pray to Heavenly Father.

"There is no music in hell," said Brigham Young, "for all good music belongs to heaven." He also said, "If we could hear the music there is in heaven, it would overwhelm us mortals." We may not yet be able to hear heaven's music, but "never, indeed, do we feel so near heaven as when listening to the performance of some grand anthem, in which the angels themselves might fitly take their parts" (John Taylor).

Good music and grand anthems take form in Church-related and classical music. "If you do not have a taste for it [classical music], listen to it thoughtfully," counseled President Hinckley. "If you do not like it the first time, listen to it again and keep listening. It will be something like going to t…

The Temple Garment

In General Conference 1997, Elder Carlos E. Asay shared the following story: “A few years ago, in a seminar for new temple presidents and matrons, Elder James E. Faust, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told about his being called to serve as a General Authority. He was asked only one question by President Harold B. Lee: ‘Do you wear the garments properly?’ to which he answered in the affirmative. He then asked if President Lee wasn’t going to ask him about his worthiness. President Lee replied that he didn’t need to, for he had learned from experience that how one wears the garment is the expression of how the individual feels about the Church and everything that relates to it. It is a measure of one’s worthiness and devotion to the gospel.”
Can you imagine a temple recommend interview based on that one question? I can, for the proper wearing of garments shows modesty, obedience, and respect for, understanding of, and dedication to temple covenants. In short, “‘How it is worn…

My Heavenly Father Loves Me

With the seasons changing, I am reminded of all the creations Jesus made. Although all are different, each is beautiful in its own way: from the starry heavens to the deep oceans, the lush forests to the barren deserts, the majestic mountains to the tiny flowers, the galloping horse to the waddling penguin, the flying birds to the swimming fish. They all testify of His existence, power, artistry, and love, as written in my favorite Primary song:

Whenever I hear the song of a bird
Or look at the blue, blue sky,
Whenever I feel the rain on my face
Or the wind as it rushes by,
Whenever I touch a velvet rose
Or walk by a lilac tree,
I'm glad that I live in this beautiful world
Heavenly Father created for me.

He gave me my eyes that I might see
The color of butterfly wings.
He gave me my ears that I might hear
The magical sound of things.
He gave me my life, my mind, my heart:
I thank him reverently
For all his creations, of which I'm a part.
Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me.

("My Heavenly…

179th Semiannual General Conference

It never ceases to amaze me how each Conference seems even better than the last. This one was no exception. We heard powerful talks, sweet testimonies, inspiring stories, and beautiful music.

The theme for this General Conference was love for God and for others. Although not all talks specifically brought up this subject, they all stemmed from it: personal revelation helps us to the keep commandments, which shows God we love Him; we do missionary work because we love God's children and want them to be happy; we become more like Christ when we love God and others; and so on.
I have so many favorite talks and quotes, but my absolute favorite was President Uchtdorf's talk about love. His message was very clear, informative, encouraging, and interesting. President Uchtdorf is a talented speaker. I can feel his love and testimony when he speaks.
There is much I learned and need to work on. I can't wait for the November Ensign!
Sharing Time: What was your favorite talk? Photo from ld…

Ten Ways to Prepare for General Conference

This weekend is the 179th Semiannual General Conference of the Church. Saints all over the world will hear the words of the prophet and apostles. It will be a weekend filled with enlightenment, peace, encouragement, inspiration, growth, love, and joy. What a wonderful event to look forward to! We cannot afford to miss it, so we must prepare.
Find out what time it will be aired in your area (check at lds.org). Decide where you will watch or listen to it: at home, at a friend’s home, at the stake center, on the computer, on the radio.
Try to get off work or schedule work earlier or later so that you can watch both sessions (or at least one session) of General Conference.
If you must travel, coordinate all rides and times and make sure your car has gas. If you will watch General Conference live, make sure you have tickets and leave early enough to park and be seated on time.
Finish all housework and homework before the weekend to avoid other obligations that may distract you from listening…

See No Evil

I love watching movies! At home on the couch, at the theater, with friends, with family, in sickness or in health--it's all fun! But risky as well. Risky, that is, to my spirituality if I am not careful with what I choose to view. During high school, I used my best friend and a newspaper column as movie screeners. Then a former seminary teacher introduced me to a great Web site and a friend showed me another one. Both are free with a list of movies from about 15 years ago to current releases. [Click on the name for the link to the site.]

Screenit: This Web site gives a short and full summary of the movie plot and the content, divided into categories. I like this site because it is very explicit: I know what language is in the movie and how many times it occurs. Note: In order to review movies before the release date, you must become a member.
Kids in Mind: This site is similar to screenit, but somewhat less extensive (especially in the movie summary and language department).
Don&#…

The Best Books

In Doctrine and Covenants 88: 118, the Lord advises us to “seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom.” Besides the scriptures and doctrinal Church books, there are so many good books out there to enjoy. But finding them can be difficult. Often the bestsellers are overflowing with profanity and promiscuity. And other books are unheard of and hidden on library shelves. I wish there were edited books or a website that screens books like movies (if you are aware of one, let me know!). The best I can do for now is to recommend some very uplifting books and inspirational authors.

Richard Paul Evans—Most famous for his book The Christmas Box, Evans writes inspiring stories about change and growth. His characters are realistic and relatable. Although his books are not written for only an LDS audience, you can sense the influence of the gospel in his writing.
Josi S. Kilpack—Her books focus on serious trials LDS families experience, such as infidelity, the pressure of perfection, and abuse.…

Death

Friday morning I was informed of the death of a friend as a result of a car accident. He left behind a wife of one year and a three-month-old baby girl. Once the shock wore off, the tears came—tears for the husband who left this earth so early in life, tears for the wife without her love beside her, tears for the baby who will never know her father.

But I also had tears for me because of this wake-up call. How would I react if Justin were to die today? Would I be prepared if I were to die today? In all honesty, I fear death, and for the obvious reason: I am not spiritually prepared. Why have I procrastinated so much for so long? (I admit, I am also terrified of the means by which I will die—I fear agony and pain!)

Death as a whole affects me as well. I am very sensitive to the news whether or not I know the person or people involved. I cry over the circumstances of their death, such as age and cause. I cry over their grieving family and friends. I cry over their lack of understanding th…

Pray Always

Last week I shared powerful scriptures to remember when faced with temptation. However, the devil is very powerful as well. We need a lot more tools than just a scripture to defeat him. The most powerful tool available to us is prayer. Brigham Young said, “Prayer keeps a man from sin. Sin keeps a man from prayer.”

Prayer keeps a man from sin The Lord admonishes throughout the scriptures to pray always to avoid sin: “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38)“Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (D&C 10:5)“Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation” (D&C 20:33)“Pray always, lest ye enter into temptation and lose your reward” (D&C 31:12)“Pray always that you enter not into temptation, that you may abide the day of his coming, whether in life or i…

"Go, and Sin No More"

There are many examples throughout the scriptures of people experiencing a change of heart and completely repenting of their sins. Others show loyalty to God in the face of evil. The most amazing thing about these people is their attitude toward sin:
Joseph: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)
Christ: “He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them.” (D&C 20:22)
Nephi: “Wilt thou make me that I may shake at the appearance of sin?” (2 Nephi 4:31)
Jacob: “Behold, my soul abhorreth sin, and my heart delighteth in righteousness” (2 Nephi 9:49)
King Benjamin’s people: “the Spirit . . . has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.” (Mosiah 5:2)
High priests: “they . . . could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence” (Alma 13:12)
King Lamoni’s people: “their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil” (Alma 19:33)
King Lamoni’s father: “Yea,…

ABCs

Often when we discuss controversial topics and deep doctrine, all we reap are vastly differing opinions and interpretations, criticisms of others’ ideas, and overall confusion. Such discussions do nothing to aid our testimonies of the gospel, only bringing out doubts and questions.

I strongly believe in focusing on the basics of the gospel. Without a very firm foundation in “the first principles and ordinances of the gospel” (Article of Faith 4), we cannot have a strong testimony of higher doctrine. We must first start with the ABC blocks of the gospel and build “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30) for deeper understandings.
Just like babies, we must start with milk before we get meat (See 1 Corinthians 3:2, D&C 19:22). Timothy further clarified, “For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have th…

Small and Simple Things

The final act of becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We may constantly have the Spirit with us if we are worthy, a blessing made manifest through warnings, guidance, comfort, and peace. While we often focus on these more important blessings, we must not forget the Holy Spirit's whisperings about small things, which show that Heavenly Father cares about the little daily happenings in our lives. These whisperings are in fact tender mercies of the Lord.

They come as feelings or distinct thoughts about something we should or should not do, and we may or may not understand why. Although not following these whisperings does not result in major consequences, they often make the day go smoother and serve as reminders that Heavenly Father loves us. I have been reminded of His love a number of times:
One morning a few weeks ago, I was loading up the dishwasher for a wash cycle. As I shut the door I had the impression to…

Tender Mercies

In General Conference April 2005, Elder David A. Bednar gave a talk entitled “The Tender Mercies of the Lord.” He chose this topic because of a tender mercy he experienced the conference six months earlier in which he was newly sustained as one of the Twelve Apostles.

Elder Bednar emphasized throughout his talk that “the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness, obedience, and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord’s timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings” (100).

I can testify that this statement is true. I went to the public library recently to search for Harry Potter 3 and an Agatha Christie novel, but to no avail. I was extremely frustrated and felt like I had wasted my time. Before leaving, we went to the little used bookstore in the library. I looked through the bookcases and saw the mystery section. Lo and behold, what did I find? Two copies of And Then There Were None! I…