Brightness of Hope

As part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation, each of us will experience difficult times in our lifetime.  These trials are a part of life, but with the help of the Lord we can endure all things and find peace, hope and happiness.

sarahflowersIn August of 2008, my precious niece, Sarah, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.  Sarah passed away four months later in December, just a few weeks before her third birthday.  I recall the deep sadness our family felt over the loss of sweet little Sarah.  My identical twin sister, Christine, was eight months pregnant when she was given the news that her daughter would soon die of brain cancer.  She recalled the overwhelming shock and sadness upon receiving this horrible news.  At the end of a long and difficult day of medical tests, Christine returned home from the hospital, exhausted and in need of heavenly help.  She prayed for comfort and instruction from the Holy Ghost.  A calming comfort came immediately and she was given the help and strength she needed to carry on.  The final few months of Sarah’s life were spent in their home as the family lovingly cared for Sarah and treasured the time they had with her.   The next several years were intense with grief for the family as they have tried to move forward without precious Sarah.  Amid the sorrow and pain, their hearts have been filled with peace and comfort.  They have turned to our Savior for help and have been blessed with an abundance of hope and happiness.  After all, it is because of love that such loss is felt.

After Sarah’s Passing, Christine and her family traveled to Utah for a family memorial service and to bury Sarah in the Provo cemetery.  I cannot imagine the hurt my sister felt as her beautiful child was buried.  I recall the feelings I had as I looked at my little niece one last time.  I was reminded of God’s eternal plan of happiness and that I will be able to live, play and sing with Sarah again. On our way home from the memorial service the beautiful yellow sun caught my eye from the car window.  It looked as though it had one bright ray beaming from it, nearly reaching the ground.  It was a tender mercy, a visual reminder that Sarah was now with her Creator, her Father in Heaven.

 A few years ago I asked if she could share some specific things she did to endure the many months of sadness and once again find happiness and joy in life.  As she prayed for help and direction, the answers came through the Holy Ghost.  She trusted in her Father in Heaven and acted on these promptings.

1.  Power comes from daily scripture study.  Christine found peace as she set aside time each day to read from the scriptures.  As she studied and read she was reminded of God’s love for her and his eternal plan of happiness.

2. Prayer will strengthen and sustain us.  She depended on the power of prayer to receive daily strength and comfort.
One especially difficult morning as Christine was overwhelmed with responsibilities in caring for a new baby and a very sick child.  Her husband, Brian, recognized her need for help and offered a tender prayer before leaving for work.  He prayed that ministering angels would help bring their family relief and love.  At the noon hour, she recorded in her journal all that had transpired since the family prayer.  From thoughtful phone calls, friends caring for her other children, to surprises on the doorstep and a warm family dinner brought in, she feel asleep with a heart full of thanks to a Father in Heaven who answered her prayers.

3.  We can find hope in the restored Gospel.  In the month following Sarah’s passing, Christine was filled with deep sorrow because she could no longer hold or care for Sarah.  She recognized that she had to do something to overcome despair.  The thought came to her to study the Atonement of Christ in depth.  For several days she read everything she could find concerning the Savior’s sacrifice.  As she read she recognized that the atonement of Christ had the power to mend her broken heart.   She trusted the Savior and prayed that the atonement would help take away her pain.  Everything we feel that is unfair in our life will be made right through the Atonement.  She felt His love for her and overtime the pains softened and her heart began to heal.

4.  Physical activity and proper rest help our body and spirit.  Christine found that as she took the time to rest, eat regular well-balanced meals and exercise, she felt happier.  I have found this to be true in my own life.

5.  As Latter Day Saints we believe in being hopeful. The 13th Article of Faith states: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men, indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things and hope to be able to endure all things.  If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  Each day Christine tried to make a conscience choice to be hopeful.  As members of the Church we should remain the most hopeful, positive thinking people amid adversity and trial.  What a blessing to have the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our true source of peace, helping us overcome and endure all things.  As we trust in the Lord and pray to our Father in Heaven we will be given the help we need.

What I learned from Sarah

It was December 8th, 2009.  My twin sister, Christine, like any other day, was busy taking care of Sarah’s needs.  Sarah was lying next to her newborn sister on the couch and Christine was in the kitchen baking her favorite cookies.  She gave one to Sarah with some milk.  She could hardly eat or swallow anything at this point.  Talking and even breathing at this point was a challenge – mostly speaking in a whisper, quiet and weak.  Christine was cleaning the kitchen up and from the family room she could hear Sarah singing the Primary song, “I am A Child of God.”  At not quite three years of age it was evident she knew four important things:

She knew Heavenly Father loved her.Sarah Crop

She knew she was a child of God.

She knew that He had a plan for her.

She knew that she would be returning home to Him.

We must gain a sure knowledge of the same doctrines. January 16th, 2013 would have been Sarah’s 7th Birthday.  Christine had many of Sarah’s things displayed on the table, from pictures to some of her favorite things –to help the family celebrate her life throughout the day.  At one point in the day she observed Caroline, who was a newborn when Sarah passed, looking through the items on the table and singing, “I am a Child of God.”  I have no doubt Sarah has sung this to her little sister more than just that one time laying on the couch together the day before she left her physical body and returned to her Heavenly Father.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman has said, “Death teaches that we do not experience a fullness of joy in mortality and that everlasting joy can be achieved only with the assistance of the Master.  If grieving parents and loved ones have faith in the Savior and His plan, death’s sting is softened as Jesus bears the believers’ grief and comforts them through the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, broken hearts are mended and peace replaces anxiety and sorrow (Merrill J. Bateman, Power to Heal, New Era, April 2003, 42).”  I add my testimony to his.  Because of our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness, and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fullness of joy.  Instead of looking backward with sadness, may we look forward to the future with a “brightness of hope (2 Nephi 31:20).”

A Special Witness

Come Follow Me
Young Women:  How can I find comfort when someone I care about dies? 

Aaronic Priesthood:  How can I find comfort when someone I care about dies?

Class Sharing Activity:  Ask the class members to share their questions, fears or thoughts on death.  Provide the following printed quote cards and have them search for the answers to their questions.  Allow time for sharing of feelings and appropriate personal experiences.  (Quotations taken from Elder Russell M. Nelson’s Conference Address, “Doors of Death”).

Mourning Paradise Peace Resurrection and Immortality Spiritual Death Time To Prepare At His Command Coping with Trials Eternal LifeJudgment Eternal Perspective

By Small and Simple Things

Reach HigherHAPPY NEW YEAR!

January is a great time for each of us to reflect and evaluate the past and look forward to a bright future.  As parents and gospel teachers, it is also a fitting time to encourage and help those in our care make goals for the coming year.  My husband and I have made a goal to do this the first Sunday of every month with our children, by sitting down with each of them and discussing things they would like to place special focus on throughout the month.  In Luke 2:52 we read, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”  Let’s break this scripture up into four parts (see handout below).

Wisdom = Knowledge

Stature = Physical Well-Being

Favor with God = Spiritual Strength

Favor with man = Social/Friendships

*     *     *

A few months ago I was prompted by the Holy Ghost to become physically stronger and that by doing so my mental wellbeing would also improve.  I needed something that it would help calm me each day, having (like yourself I’m sure), demands of a busy family, church and work-life.  I made a goal soon after that I would begin practicing Bikram Yoga (also known as hot yoga) in a nearby studio.  It’s been the most challenging thing physically I have ever participated in, but each time I went to class I left feeling like I had accomplished something spectacular!  Little did I know that late December I would be hit with a wave of depression like never before.  The kind of deep depression that truly hurts.  You don’t want to get out of bed.  You don’t want to talk to anyone.  Breathing was quite literally all I could do.  You may not be able to comprehend this unless you or a loved one has struggled with similar issues.  Despite sever melancholy and total lack of interest in anything, I would push myself three to four times a week, struggle out of bed, get dressed and head to yoga class.  I went from telling myself, “This 90-minute workout is going to kill me!” to “I will do my very best today knowing that each minute I spend in that 105 degree room will not KILL me; it will SAVE me.”  With the support of my family and an added measure of strength given to me by a loving Heavenly Father, I made it through this difficult time  because of one goal.  It was and still is a mighty miracle in my life.  Each of us can do hard things and come out better, stronger, and more empathetic to those who might be suffering around us.  Is this not all part of His plan; the refining process that will bring us closer to Jesus Christ, our Savior?  I believe it is with every fiber of my being.

The Savior is our ultimate example of one who set and achieved goals in the pre-mortal existence and while on earth.  Luke 4: 18 states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are a covenant keeping people.  We know that by “small and simple things great things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).  Let’s liken this scripture to goal setting.  If we make and keep short or long term goals, we are more likely to make and keep sacred and eternal covenants.  This is our greatest goal.  If we want to become the person the Lord intends us to be, we need to work hard now.  We become what we do.  The “small and simple” goals we accomplish today will become great blessings in which we will partake of tomorrow.  From developing a testimony, making and keeping baptismal covenants, to receiving sacred blessings of the temple, we must do all we can to live a life worthy to return and live with our Heavenly Father again someday.  Of these things I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Here are a some tips and wise counsel from Church leaders to help you get started:

8 TIPS ON GOAL SETTING

1.  Chose goals that are realistic, not so high that they’re impossible to attain.

2.  Set mini-goals.  The more you achieve, the better you’ll feel about yourself.

3.  Write down each of your goals and keep them in front of you on a daily basis.  Remember, a goal not written is only a wish.

4.  Set a deadline for your goal.  A finish date will help you move to action!

5.  Share your goals with a friend, and encourage that person to set some, too.  You can motivate and cheer each other on.

6.  Be committed to your goals.  Do what you have to do to achieve them, and don’t become discouraged if they’re challenging.

7.  Don’t compete with others.  Compete with yourself.  Don’t make your goals depend on another’s performance.  Decide to attain a level of personal excellence no matter what others achieve.

8.  Share your goals with Heavenly Father.  Talk to him in prayer.  Ask for help in reaching your goals or in understanding why you didn’t.  He’ll help you feel good about the positive things you achieve.

Making and achieving goals helps strengthen our self-worth.  Sister Ann M. Dibb, “The small and simple things you choose to do today will be magnified into great and glorious blessings tomorrow.  Living each day as an “example of the believers” will help you be happy and more confident.  It will strengthen your testimony, help you to keep your baptismal covenants, and prepare you to receive the blessings of the temple so that eventually you can return to your Heavenly Father.”

Elder M. Russell Ballard, “We can become the masters of our own destinies by practicing self-discipline and by setting worthy goals that will lead to higher ground so that we can become what our Heavenly Father wants us to become.  Set short-term goals that you can reach.  Set goals that are well balanced, not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. Write down your attainable goals, and work on them according to their importance.  Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “May I invite you to rise to the great potential within you.  But don’t reach beyond your capacity.  Don’t set goals beyond your capacity to achieve.  Don’t feel guilty or dwell on thoughts of failure.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Do the best you can, and the Lord will provide the rest.  Have faith and confidence in Him, and you will see miracles happen in your life and the lives of your loved ones.”

Identify Goals

The following are suggestions of worthy goals to get your mind going:

Learn what it means to seek, receive, and act on personal revelation.

Establish a habit of daily personal prayer.

Develop the habit of studying the scriptures every day.

Read the Book of Mormon.

Qualify for a temple recommend.

Attend the temple regularly.

Study the words of the prophets in Church magazines or on LDS.org.

Learn to repent daily.

Freely forgive others.

Pay an honest tithe, and attend tithing settlement.

Share your testimony more often.

Attend and participate in all Sunday meetings.

Fast with a specific purpose, and give a generous fast offering.

Receive your patriarchal blessing, and study it often.

Accept opportunities to speak or teach.

Record memorable spiritual experiences or events in a journal.

Participate in family history work.

Register and index historical records.

Pray to know what gifts the Lord has given you, and use one of those gifts to bless others.

Study the words of prophets and Church leaders about strengthening families, marriages, and homes.

Read a book that will increase your faith and strengthen you spiritually.

Learn about and develop a new skill or interest.

Improve your ability to communicate with others.

Improve skills for an occupation.

Learn another language.

Learn to budget wisely.

Develop a plan of preparedness for emergencies.

Learn a new homemaking skill.

Study Doctrine and Covenants 89 (the Word of Wisdom), and apply its principles to improve your health.

Develop healthy eating habits and patterns.

Learn to cook healthy foods.

Develop a program of regular exercise.

Improve emotional and mental health.

Improve your personal appearance or hygiene.

Create opportunities to be active with family and friends.

and the list goes on…

The Holy Ghost

Article of Faith #1It feels good to get back to blogging!  It’s been weeks due to holiday celebrating and soaking up every minute with the kids before they head back to school and the final week of the term.  I’ve been thinking a lot about which lesson I’d like to develop a little further this month.  Strong promptings from the Holy Ghost and impressions I’ve had concerning individuals in my own life ultimately helped make the decision.  I hope my thoughts help you in some small way with your lesson preparations this coming month.

I believe there is a great inner-struggle with some today in having confidence to hear and trust when he/she is receiving promptings from the Holy Ghost.  There is so much noise and distraction in the world around us.  Unlike the charming three-note ring or beeping sound when our cell phone displays text informing us a friend wants to talk, the Spirit speaks to us in a manner no one or nothing else communicates with us.  It is reverent and quiet, entering ones mind when the individual is ready to receive instruction that requires real action.  Last week I encourage the Mia Maids in my class to truly listen and act upon what they may think is a “random” thought in their day about a friend or family member.  Many times the Lord answers prayers through the willing hands of others.  Help be the answer to someone’s prayer.  Faithfully follow the prompting.  Bring happiness to the downhearted and depressed.  Protect yourself from dangers that may lie ahead by heeding to the warning.  Be a believer of what the Holy Ghost is teaching, reminding and reinforcing.

I have a testimony that as we prepare ourselves to listen and have a courage to follow we will be strengthened.  We will become more “firm in the faith” and our ability to listen and act on promptings will become greater.  We cannot and will not survive in this irreverent world without the companionship of the Holy Ghost.  The promptings we receive from this sacred companionship are but one part of this great blessing bestowed to each of us when we are confirmed members of the Church.  This month we will have the opportunity to learn many ways the Spirit can help us in our day to day lives.

“What are the roles of the Holy Ghost?”  The Holy Ghost, a member of the Godhead, bears witness of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. He is the source of personal testimony and revelation. He can guide us in our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual danger. He is known as the Comforter, and He can calm our fears and fill us with hope. Through His power, we are sanctified as we repent, receive saving ordinances, and keep our covenants. It is through the influence of the Holy Ghost that we receive knowledge of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and feel Their power, goodness, and love.

Suggested Activity:  Invite the youth to read “Roles of the Holy Ghost” in True to the Faith (page 82).  Ask each class member to select one of the Holy Ghost’s roles and look for scriptures or scriptural stories that teach about that role.  Invite them to share with each other what they find. Encourage them to share experiences in which the Holy Ghost helped them in these ways.  What are some future situations in which they will need the help of the Holy Ghost?

You might consider posting the following scriptures and specific roles on the board to help get them started, but encourage them to find more than what you have provided.  I am always amazed with their searching abilities simply using the topical guide in the scriptures, General Conference addresses or other Church publications such as True to the Faith.  In addition, this experiences helps them become more comfortable navigating the scriptures and discovering the doctrine in future searches and personal study.

John 14:26 (The Comforter can teach us and bring all things to our remembrance)

Romans 8:16 (The Spirit bears witness that we are children of God)

2 Nephi 32:5 (The Holy Ghost will show us what we should do)

Moroni 8:26 (The Holy Ghost fills us with hope and love)

Moroni 10:5 (The Holy Ghost teaches us the truth)

D&C 42:17; Moses 1:24 (The Holy Ghost bears record of the Father and the Son)

 “Holy Ghost,” True to the Faith, (2004), 81–84

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit, without a body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22). He is often referred to as the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, or the Comforter.  The Holy Ghost works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, fulfilling several roles to help you live righteously and receive the blessings of the gospel.

He “witnesses of the Father and the Son” (2 Nephi 31:18) and reveals and teaches “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). You can receive a sure testimony of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ only by the power of the Holy Ghost. His communication to your spirit carries far more certainty than any communication you can receive through your natural senses.

As you strive to stay on the path that leads to eternal life, the Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what [you] should do” (see 2 Nephi 32:1–5). He can guide you in your decisions and protect you from physical and spiritual danger.

Through Him, you can receive gifts of the Spirit for your benefit and for the benefit of those you love and serve (see D&C 46:9–11).

He is the Comforter (John 14:26). As the soothing voice of a loving parent can quiet a crying child, the whisperings of the Spirit can calm your fears, hush the nagging worries of your life, and comfort you when you grieve. The Holy Ghost can fill you “with hope and perfect love” and “teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom” (Moroni 8:26; D&C 36:2).

Through His power, you are sanctified as you repent, receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, and remain true to your covenants (see Mosiah 5:1–6; 3 Nephi 27:20; Moses 6:64–68).

He is the Holy Spirit of Promise (see Ephesians 1:13; D&C 132:7, 18–19, 26). In this capacity, He confirms that the priesthood ordinances you have received and the covenants you have made are acceptable to God. This approval depends on your continued faithfulness.

–  –  –  –

Additional Questions for Discussion

Teaching Tip:  Have the follow questions (or some like them) composed before class begins.  After someone shares a comment, instead of using the stand-by, “Thanks for sharing,” invite them to “dig a little deeper” by asking a follow-up question.  Most oftentimes the individual is more at ease because he/she has just shared feelings from the heart.  The Spirit’s presence will be felt as all listen and are edified.  This is one of my favorite moments in class as a teacher.  Train yourself to take the responses a step further.  When a remark concludes, ask “Who else feels this way?  Has anyone else had an experience like this?” The students in the room then take over and you will experience something amazing. Don’t be afraid if you can’t get to everything you had planned.  This method of asking questions and being willing to listen is the essence of teaching in the Savior’s way.

How can you tell when you are feeling the Spirit?

How can you qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost so you can have his guidance and protection each day?

What might keep you from receiving daily promptings from the Holy Ghost?

When was the last time you felt the influence of the Holy Ghost?