Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Plan of Equal Opportunity

Feminism has brought many blessings to women. However, sometimes it seems that feminist views are not about being feminine at all, but about being masculine. The glory of womanhood--motherhood--is demeaned and attacked. Being masculine is more prized. How is that "equality of the sexes" if the characteristics and purposes of only one sex are praised and encouraged and the other is still viewed as inferior?

Both the brain and the heart are vital organs. Although they have very different responsibilities, neither is better nor more important than the other, for without either one, the body cannot live. Both are necessary for a fully functioning, healthy body: the brain tells the heart to pump, and the heart pumps blood to the brain so it can work. The same principle applies to family life. In General Conference April 2011, President Packer said,
“The great plan of happiness” centers on family life. The husband is the head of the home and the wife the heart of the home. And marriage is an equal partnership. A Latter-day Saint man is a responsible family man, faithful in the gospel. He is a caring, devoted husband and father. He reveres womanhood. The wife sustains her husband. Both parents nurture the spiritual growth of their children. [emphasis mine]
Neither fatherhood nor motherhood is better or more important than the other. They are simply different. Both are necessary for a fully functioning, healthy family. Each plays a different role in family life, and together they support each other and balance the family. We should acknowledge and respect these different roles men and women play in family life, just as we do for our brains and hearts. We don't tell the heart that it is inferior to the brain or not important at all to the body, nor do we try to turn the heart into a brain. So why do we say and do these things to women?

"The Family: A Proclamation to the World" confirms these important truths:
  • Men and women are supposed to be different.
  • Men and women who choose to become parents are obeying God's first commandment and enforcing the plan of salvation.
  • Mothers and fathers have different primary roles, but both are responsible for the temporal and spiritual care of their children and for helping each other fulfill their duties.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said the plan of salvation is not one of equality but of equal opportunity (Phoenix East Stake Conference, Sunday, August 26, 2012). Satan's proposed plan was one of equality: everyone would be saved; there would be no agency. Heavenly Father's plan is one of equal opportunity: "through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel" (Articles of Faith 1:3, emphasis mine). The opportunity to be saved is available to everyone, but it is our responsibility to take it.

How does this apply to gender roles? That the plan of salvation is not one of equality does not mean that men and women are not equal or that their roles are not equally important. It simply means they are not the same. But the opportunity of salvation is equal, whether we bear the priesthood or bear children.* If we take the opportunity to fulfill the different but equally essential roles we have been given, exaltation will be ours.

Challenge: Elder Oaks advised that if you have any questions about the Church that bother you, put them on the shelf. You may not have received the answers yet because you are not ready to, and some answers won't come in this life.

*Elder Oaks used the example of D&C 38:42, which he had not thought of in the following way until that moment. Usually this verse is interpreted to mean priesthood bearers, but it also means child bearers. He said that women's ability to co-create a temple with God is "just as sacred [as holding the priesthood], perhaps even more so."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Do Your Duty

President Monson said in the August 2012 Ensign,
Are you ever guilty of murmuring when a calling comes to you? Or do you accept with thanksgiving each opportunity to serve your brothers and sisters, knowing that our Heavenly Father will bless those whom He calls?

I would hope that we would not lose the real objective of our cherished opportunities to serve. That objective, that eternal goal, is the same spoken of by the Lord and found in the Pearl of Great Price: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
May we ever remember that the mantle of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a cloak of comfort but rather a robe of responsibility. Our duty, in addition to saving ourselves, is to guide others to the celestial kingdom of God. . . .  
I pause when I think of the words of President John Taylor (1808–87): “If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty.”
President Taylor's words may also relieve any doubt you have when Church leaders call certain people to positions you may not think they can or will fill. The calling was still inspired whether or not the person fulfills the duty; he or she will be held responsible for not taking the opportunity to serve others and grow spiritually.

To those of us who have those feelings about our own callings, President Monson has said, as shared in an article about him in the same Ensign:
Whatever our calling, regardless of our fears or anxieties, let us pray and then go and do, remembering the words of the Master, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who promised, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Perhaps when we face our Maker, we will not be asked, “How many positions did you hold,” but rather, “How many people did you help?”
The latter quote was clearly illustrated in the very next Ensign article:
When I started my freshman year of college, I quickly formed friendships with two other freshmen, one a rancher and the other a farmer. We made an unlikely threesome—two down-to-earth western US country boys and one fast-talking East Coast city slicker. After graduating from college, they returned home to ranch and farm, and I entered the corporate business world.
Annual Christmas cards and occasional phone calls kept us up to date as our lives advanced. By the time I was in my mid-30s, I had served twice as Scoutmaster. Later, as I finished my second “tour” as an assistant nursery leader, my two friends were serving in bishoprics. As time progressed, I fell into the trap of comparing my callings to my friends’ callings, and I began to feel unwanted and ignored.
By the time I was in my mid-40s, leadership callings extended to others would trouble my thoughts for days. Each time someone was called to a ward or stake leadership position, Satan would whisper to me that I was unworthy or lacked the faith necessary for such callings. I could intellectually fight off such thoughts through prayer and study, but I still struggled with my self-worth. Being “just an elder” and refereeing youth basketball games at age 50 while my friends were serving in stake presidencies was not what I had envisioned I would be doing at that age.
Then came an experience that changed my understanding of the gospel. I was assisting my wife one Sunday with her Primary class full of energetic seven-year-olds. As Primary sharing time started, I noticed one of the class members huddled on her chair and obviously not feeling well. The Spirit whispered to me that she needed comfort, so I sat by her and quietly asked what was wrong. She didn’t answer but seemed to be in real distress, so I began to sing softly to her.
The Primary was learning a new song, and when we sang, “If I listen with my heart I hear the Savior’s voice,” I began to feel the most incredible light and warmth fill my soul. I felt wrapped in eternal arms of love. I understood that Heavenly Father had heard this young girl’s prayer and that I was there to provide the comfort He wanted to give her. My spiritual understanding was opened, and I received a personal testimony of our Savior’s love for her, for each of His children, and for me. I knew He trusted me to serve someone in need, and I was where He wanted me to be. I learned that we are His hands when we serve the one.
I rejoice in any opportunity to serve, and I try to remain worthy to feel the promptings of the Spirit and to be where Heavenly Father wants me to be when one of His children needs service.
Challenge: When you accept a calling to serve in the Church, do your duty, no matter how seemingly small.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Keeping Your Testimony

Receiving a testimony of the gospel and its specific principles is not a single event. It is something that happens repeatedly as our spirituality changes. We are familiar with Alma's analogy of faith, and thus a testimony, as a seed that we plant and care for as it grows. But once the seed becomes a tree do we stop nourishing it? Alma counseled:
. . . And now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect? 
Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither must ye lay aside your faith, for ye have only exercised your faith to plant the seed that ye might try the experiment to know if the seed was good. 
And behold, as the tree beginneth to grow, ye will say: Let us nourish it with great care, that it may get root, that it may grow up, and bring forth fruit unto us. And now behold, if ye nourish it with much care it will get root, and grow up, and bring forth fruit. 
But if ye neglect the tree, and take no thought for its nourishment, behold it will not get any root; and when the heat of the sun cometh and scorcheth it, because it hath no root it withers away, and ye pluck it up and cast it out. 
Now, this is not because the seed was not good, neither is it because the fruit thereof would not be desirable; but it is because your ground is barren, and ye will not nourish the tree, therefore ye cannot have the fruit thereof. 
And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life. 
But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life. 
And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst. 
Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you. (Alma 32:35-43).

Even after we gain a testimony of something, we must still work on keeping that testimony. President Eyring said, "I do not depend on what has happened in the past. To keep my living testimony of the Book of Mormon secure, I receive the promise of Moroni often. I don’t take that blessing of a testimony for granted as a perpetual entitlement."

Does that mean he doubts the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and has to ask for a confirmation of it over and over? No. It means that he gains a deeper understanding and stronger testimony of the Book of Mormon.

We also must continually nuture our testimonies so they become more rooted and strong. And we will be blessed with knowledge, peace, and, in the end, eternal life.

Challenge: Nourish your testimony every day by reading the scriptures and other gospel resources, praying, and keeping the commandments.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

"This Is My Sacred Duty"

One Sunday, my husband was teaching the young men a lesson on preparing for their missions. One young man replied, "I don't need to learn that yet. I have a few years before I go on a mission."

Too many youth have that terribly wrong perception. Preparation for a mission--most essentially, the temple--is a lifelong pursuit. It starts at childhood, not the year (or month for most women) before entering the temple.

Two Primary songs emphasize this point:

While I am in my early years,
I'll prepare most carefully,
So I can marry in God's temple for eternity.

("Families Can Be Together Forever," Children's Songbook, p. 188)

I love to see the temple.
I'm going there someday . . .
I'll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.

("I Love to See the Temple," Children's Songbook, p. 95)

"Someday" comes sooner than you think. And it's hard to break years of bad habits and repent of years of sins in just a few months.

"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God," Amulek warned us (Alma 34:32). We prepare to meet God by receiving and keeping sacred temple covenants. And we prepare for that right now. The only change we should have to make upon receiving our endowments is the underclothing we wear--not our language, not our clothes, not any Church standards we should already be keeping. The commandments apply to all members, whether or not they have gone through the temple.

If we already are endowed, we still need to prepare every time we go to the temple or renew our recommend, and we are to remember and honor our covenants every day. The temple isn't a destination we arrive at but a vital pit stop we go to continually for spiritual fuel and direction on the journey back to our Heavenly Father.

As a parent, the moment a baby is born, it is our responsibility to set that child on the right track to the temple. We should be examples to our children of attending the temple regularly, keeping our covenants, treating our garments respectfully, and having high standards as a family, especially of modesty.

President Kimball advised, “It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, 1982, 301).

Challenge: Prepare yourself and your children to make and keep sacred covenants.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Perpetual Education Fund

Do you know what the Perpetual Education Fund is?

“Ten years ago President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) outlined a problem—the inability of many returned missionaries and other worthy youth in developing areas to escape poverty—and provided a solution: the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF). A revolving fund that would be established using donations from members and friends of the Church, the PEF would supply educational loans to young people with the expectation that they would prepare for gainful employment in their communities and repay the loans so that others could have similar opportunities. . . .

“As of February 2011, nearly 90 percent of those who have sought work after completing their schooling have found employment. Some 78 percent of those now employed say that their current employment is an improvement over what they had before receiving training. The average income after schooling for PEF participants is three to four times greater than income prior to schooling, representing a vast improvement in economic status. . . .

“More than 47,000 people have participated in the PEF since fall 2001. That’s not counting the extended families that are supported and inspired by family members participating in the PEF, the wards and branches that benefit from members who have a greater capacity to serve and contribute, and the local economies that need skilled workers to grow.

“ 'Imagine the impact as you consider all who are affected,' Brother Allen [director of training and communications] said. 'This extends to those who donate to the PEF—the donors, their families, their wards and branches—all are blessed by their contributions.'

“ 'Within the grasp of almost all Latter-day Saints is the ability to give something regularly to this fund and to other worthy endeavors,' Elder Carmack [executive director] said. 'President Hinckley’s invitation helps those who contribute to the PEF as well as those who [use it to] improve themselves to draw closer to our Savior.' ”

~ “Perpetual Education Fund Fulfills Prophetic Promises, Ensign, May 2011, pp. 141–43

Challenge: Next time you pay tithing, donate to the Perpetual Education Fund.