Friday, November 7, 2008

LDS Church Responds to Same-sex Marriage Votes

Since Proposition 8 was placed on the ballot in June of this year, the citizens of California have considered the arguments for and against same-sex marriage. After extensive debate between those of different persuasions, voters have chosen to amend the California State Constitution to state that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Voters in Arizona and Florida took the same course and amended their constitutions to establish that marriage will continue to be between a man and a woman.
Such an emotionally charged issue concerning the most personal and cherished aspects of life — family, identity, intimacy and equality — stirs fervent and deep feelings.
Most likely, the election results for these constitutional amendments will not mean an end to the debate over same-sex marriage in this country.
We hope that now and in the future all parties involved in this issue will be well informed and act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different position. No one on any side of the question should be vilified, intimidated, harassed or subject to erroneous information.
It is important to understand that this issue for the Church has always been about the sacred and divine institution of marriage — a union between a man and a woman.
Allegations of bigotry or persecution made against the Church were and are simply wrong. The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility toward gays and lesbians. Even more, the Church does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches.
Some, however, have mistakenly asserted that churches should not ever be involved in politics when moral issues are involved. In fact, churches and religious organizations are well within their constitutional rights to speak out and be engaged in the many moral and ethical problems facing society. While the Church does not endorse candidates or platforms, it does reserve the right to speak out on important issues.
Before it accepted the invitation to join broad-based coalitions for the amendments, the Church knew that some of its members would choose not to support its position. Voting choices by Latter-day Saints, like all other people, are influenced by their own unique experiences and circumstances. As we move forward from the election, Church members need to be understanding and accepting of each other and work together for a better society.
Even though the democratic process can be demanding and difficult, Latter-day Saints are profoundly grateful for and respect the ideals of a true democracy.
The Church expresses deep appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the many Latter-day Saints and others who supported the coalitions in efforts regarding these amendments.
Continue reading... »

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Birth Announcement: Autumn Frost Arrives Early

Autumn Frost Arrives Early

See photos of our new baby at:


October 24, 2008

Danville, PA– Autumn Frost Christensen was born to Steve and Jocelyn Christensen on Friday, October 24, 2008 at 10:02 PM. She weighed 8 pounds 5 ounces and was 21 ½ inches long. Arriving eight days before her due date, "She is our sweet October surprise," says Jocelyn.

One thing that did not surprise Jocelyn was the news that she was in labor—she had been having contractions for a few days prior. Her midwife confirmed this at a regular appointment on Friday and sent her directly to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. After a long and exciting day of labor, Autumn found comfort in the arms of her mother.

"It's a girl!" announced Steve, confirming Guy and Jocelyn's hunch about the gender. Call it "mother/brother intuition," but this is the second time they have predicted the gender of the baby without the use of an ultrasound!

Steve and Jocelyn were overjoyed to meet their new daughter. The whole family was finally united the next day. Upon seeing baby Autumn, very attentive big sister Scarlett gleefully exclaimed, "Baby, baby!" and proceeded to tickle her toes. Meanwhile, older brother Guy was surprised by her small size, asserting, "She's so little." He also noticed Jocelyn's hospital attire and observed, "Mommy is a doctor!"

Steve and Jocelyn named the baby Autumn Frost, because of their enduring love of the names both independently and in concert, and because she was born on a beautiful fall day that began with a frost-covered morning.

The family will return to their home in Lewisburg on Monday to begin their new life together!


Continue reading... »

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Come Listen To A Prophet's Voice

Have you ever read Bible stories and wondered, "whatever happened to the Prophets of old who spoke the will of God and performed great miracles? Does God still speak to his children?" If you have, then I have good news for you! The Lord still speak to his children, and he still sends prophets to make his will known to the world. Under the direction of Jesus Christ, these prophets and apostles lead and guide the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today.

We believe in continuing revelation, that God still speaks as he did in Old Testament times. Every person has the right and power to receive individual revelation for their lives via the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet, on the other hand - the one man who is ordained to lead the church on earth - speaks the words that God would like us to hear as a church and to the world in general. We sing a hymn in our church that says "come listen to a prophet's voice...and hear the word of God."

If you are yearning to hear the word of God, please tune in this weekend (October 4-5, Noon-2pm and 4-6pm Eastern) to hear the word and will of the Lord. You can listen to or watch the semi-annual General Conference of the church online at the following link: General Conference Online Broadcast. You can also watch it on BYU-tv which is carried by most satellite providers.

One quick example of how hearing the words of a prophet in your home can strengthen your family: This week, as I was preparing lunch for my two hungry kiddies, I was listening to a talk given at the last General Conference. Suddenly, my son perked up, and enthusiastically repeated two lines he had just heard spoken in the talk. He said, "Mommy! Jesus Christ loves you. Jesus Christ knows your name." You will hear simple, joyful truths like these spoken this weekend during general conference. You can also listen to these talks again and again online and use them to help your family gain spiritual insight and strength!

Here are some more links about the revelation and the organization of the church:


Church Administration

"My words...Never Cease"

"Personal Revelation: The teachings and examples of the prophets"
Continue reading... »

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Teaching Your Little Ones

When I worked in TV news, I realized how undervalued children were in the industry. Unless these children were particularly newsworthy--think Baby Jessica or the Cuban boy who was caught in a custody battle--many news outlets passed up stories that would affect children for more glamorous/money-making stories. I always found that disappointing.

In contrast, our church puts a huge emphasis on the welfare, nurture, and education of children in all stages of life. In fact, we believe that we are all God's children and should treat each other accordingly. We also often hear that we should strive to be as little children--teachable.

There are Sunday School classes for all age-levels in our church. The children's classes are called Primary. Children who are younger than age three attend a Sunday instructional class called Nursery.

This year, the church is releasing a new Nursery manual to help instructors and parents teach their little ones about their identity as children of God among other things. The lessons include pictures and coloring pages to help young children internalize the message.

You can use this manual in your home to teach your children simple concepts such as:

I Can Pray to Heavenly Father

I Am A Child of God
I Can Be Happy
Jesus Christ Showed Us How to Love Others

You can download lessons or the whole manual (for free) online at this link: Primary Nursery Manual

I have already started using the manual with my young children at home. If you have young children, I hope you take advantage of this great opportunity to teach them these important concepts!

Another wonderful resource for children is the Friend Magazine. Check it out!
Continue reading... »

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Final Inning: Preparing for Christ's Second Coming

My Dad used to joke whenever we read about the creation of the world in Genesis. Instead of "In the beginning," he'd say, "In the BIG Inning..." We believe that we are now in the "Final Inning" of the world-the last days-and as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are looking toward and preparing for the great day when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth.

We believe that God has reserved his most righteous and talented spirit children to come down at this time to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ and to build his kingdom here on earth. These "choice spirits" can be found both in and outside of the church. As I look around at the incredible pace at which the human race is advancing in every field, I realize that this is true.

We believe that at the same time that the Lord is gathering his most righteous, Satan is working over-time to stall that great work, to deceive the brightest of God's children, to cause darkness and confusion all over the world. Regardless of this fact, we are taught to rejoice and find joy in these days. (You might enjoy this talk on the subject called "These Are Your Days". It's one of my favorite.)

We are taught in scripture that not even the angels know the exact hour when Christ will come again, but here in mortality, we are hoping that regardless of the year, day, or hour, we will be prepared to see Him again.

Of that great event it is written that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus is the Christ. The brief video below is a compilation of quotes from our prophets and leaders with reminders of how we need to prepare and live during these latter days:

Preparing for Christ's Second Coming

Continue reading... »

Sunday, August 24, 2008

God's Glorious Sabbath

"Saturday is a special day.
It's the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won't have to work until Monday."

This song sung by the children of our church is not only clever, but catchy. It teaches us ways to "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."

This commandment, to keep the sabbath day holy, is the fourth of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by the Lord as recorded in the Old Testament. Although it is a well-known commandment across denominations, not everyone agrees on exactly how to keep it.

One challenge to keeping the Sabbath day holy is that, in contrast to the days when God's people lived the Law of Moses, today there are few hard and fast rules to be found about what constitutes good sabbath day activities. Sunday is a day dedicated to spiritual things, and I generally judge my activities based on whether it will detract from or add to the spirit and sacredness of the Lord's day.

Recently, my family has had to turn down invitations to birthday parties and a neighborhood picnic held on Sunday. The decision to miss our community picnic was difficult, because we enjoy socializing with neighbors and view this yearly event as a positive one. So, we decided to clarify for ourselves the meaning of keeping the sabbath holy and to come up with more specific guidelines to help us as we strive to honor the sabbath day.

Here is a list that I compiled, based on the words of church leaders...along with some great quotes and links that explain how Mormons understand and observe the sabbath day:

Good Sunday Activities: worship, take sacrament, go to church, fast/pray, serve God and man, repent, pay tithes, sacrifice our pursuits of the pleasures of the world, have a cheerful heart, study the gospel, visit the sick, sleep/rest, read wholesome materials, prepare on Saturday for Sunday, dress in a way that retains the spirit and sets you apart from a workday, listen to uplifting music, ponder spiritual things, visit quietly with family, do family history, write in a journal, build husband-wife relationships, read with a child, sing hymns, fellowship with neighbors, develop appreciation for cultural arts, give blessings, prepare meals simply, and strengthen family relationships

Activities to Avoid on Sunday: loafing, recreation, working unnecessarily, indulging in carnal appetites, doing nothing, playing vigorously or partaking of commercial entertainment, shopping, wasting time, playing sports, joy riding, studying schoolwork, visiting friends socially, reading material (or watching programming) that is not uplifting, doing odd jobs around house

Here are some great links to help you learn more about the origin, significance, and importance of observing the sabbath day:

Basics: The Sabbath Day

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

The Power of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

The Blessing of Keeping the Sabbath Day

Teaching Children to Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
Continue reading... »

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Respect For All People Everywhere

In the April 2008 General Conference, our new prophet Thomas S. Monson urged members of the church to "show kindness and respect for all people everywhere."

He said, "The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours."

I completely agree with this statement. Having never lived in a place with a large population of Latter-day Saints, most of my friends have not been church members. I am very comfortable with this, and I enjoy being around people whose opinions are different from mine.

Over the years, my friends and I have discussed many topics. In my experience there has never been a topic more controversial and divisive than gay marriage. If you have chosen a side of the argument you probably feel very strongly about it, which makes having a sensible, respectful discussion about gay marriage very difficult.

But that is just what some of my church friends have been doing (over email) recently. Some say they would vote to support the legalization of gay marriage, and some would not. The issue of how to vote on gay marriage is one that my immediate family members do not even agree on!

As part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we believe that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of why the disagreement over how to vote on gay marriage? Well, another major basic tenant of our religion is called Agency: the right of each person to make choices for themselves. We believe that every person fought for that right of "free agency" before this life. I have found that many people are torn by these two seemingly competing concepts. Should my vote represent my convictions about marriage? Or should my vote be used to "protect the agency of others?"

As someone who has had many friends over the years who live a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual lifestyle (even some who have had children in such unions), I have taken a long hard look at my own position on this topic. I have even changed my mind a few times as I have taken various factors into consideration.

"With respect for all people everywhere" who might understandably disagree with my views, here is a brief explanation of just a few of my reasons for not supporting any act to expand the definition of marriage as anything but between a man and a woman:

1. My Vote Is My Vote...Your Vote Is Yours: In my opinion, my vote represents MY personal choice...not the choices, lifestyles, or desires of anyone else. And I choose to support marriage as I believe God intended it to be. If anyone else wants marriage to be between anything but a man and a woman, then they are free to vote that way. That's the great thing about Democracy. Most importantly, though, I see my vote as my personal way of showing the Lord where I stand on the issue.

2. Children Have "Rights" Too!: I often hear that not allowing gay marriage is trampling on the rights of those who choose to live this lifestyle. If I were basing my vote on civil rights alone, then I would have to agree. But my views are based instead upon spiritual laws, which take into consideration not only the rights of those already in mortality, but the rights of people waiting for their turn to come to earth.

In "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (which we view as revelation) the Lord indicates that, "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity."

According to this statement, the Lord considers birth to this type of family situation a basic "right" of all people. This is not to say that a family made up of two moms or two dads wouldn't be loving or kind or teach children good things. It just isn't the way that the Lord intends for his children to come into and be raised in the world. So, my vote also represents support for the "rights" of these children to come to families the way that God intended.

3. Agency is a gift from God, not one granted or taken away by government.: Because I believe that agency, the right to choose, is a God-given gift that is bigger than any one issue, situation, or legal act, I do not believe that not allowing gay marriage could ever destroy true agency. In every situation throughout history, people have been able to choose their actions, independent of the limitations of this mortal life--and there are always limitations. So, I do not believe that I am taking away anyone's agency by not supporting gay marriage.

As I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely sensitive issue. The reasons stated above are just a few of the personal reasons upon which I have based my decision.

As a general policy, the church does not tell members how to vote. Instead in a statement released this month church leadership has said, "As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility," and that protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not release us from our Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

I always hope to show kindness and respect for people who see the world differently than I do, and I hope that I have done so here, especially for the sake of my friends whom I love and respect dearly! If you have questions about anything that I mentioned here, please let me know!


For a further explanation of the church's stand on marriage I strongly encourage you to read "The Divine Institution of Marriage" which the church released just this month.

Below I have posted the introduction to this document:

The focus of the Church’s involvement is specifically same-sex marriage and its consequences. The Church does not object to rights (already established in California) regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the family or the constitutional rights of churches and their adherents to administer and practice their religion free from government interference.

The Church has a single, undeviating standard of sexual morality: intimate relations are proper only between a husband and a wife united in the bonds of matrimony.

The Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage neither constitutes nor condones any kind of hostility towards homosexual men and women. Protecting marriage between a man and a woman does not affect Church members’ Christian obligations of love, kindness and humanity toward all people.

As Church members decide their own appropriate level of involvement in protecting marriage between a man and a woman, they should approach this issue with respect for others, understanding, honesty, and civility.

Intending to reduce misunderstanding and ill will, the Church has produced the following document, “The Divine Institution of Marriage,” and provided the accompanying links to other materials, to explain its reasons for defending marriage between a man and a woman as an issue of moral imperative.

Other links that I have found:

The Family by Henry B. Eyring

Strengthening the Family: What is a Family by Gordon B. Hinckley

Search the Prophets by Aldin Porter

The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood by Elder Ballard
Continue reading... »

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Doing My Dream Job

Women in our church are given many opportunities to serve and lead. We are encouraged to get an education and to follow our dreams. As I have pursued my goals in life, I have benefited from the wisdom of inspired church leaders. I felt particularly empowered by an address delivered last fall to the women of the church, called Mothers Who Know. In the talk, Julie B. Beck, the president of our women's organization offered many pearls of wisdom. Her main message was that there is "eternal influence and power in motherhood."

I agree with her statement about Mothers. The role that parents play has much more importance than any other job we can do in this life. When we were ready to jump into parenthood, my husband and I chose to do everything we could to make sure that I could stay home with our babies. I often say that being a stay-at-home Mom is the most challenging job that I have ever had...but it's worth it, and I have grown as a person because of it.

In 2007, I was asked to write an article for a local magazine about my experience leaving a career in television to become a stay-home mother. You can read the article below. (Note: If you click on the image of my article it will take you to the original posting. Click on that second image and it should be magnified and easier to read!)

Continue reading... »

Friday, August 1, 2008

Desperately Seeking...Family

Genealogy has become a very popular hobby for many people in recent years. In much the same way that many of us wonder about where we came from in a spiritual sense...we also have an underlying need to know Who we come from with regard to our earthly family. This need for a family bond was illustrated in a recent study of foster children who were allowed to build a relationship with their rehabilitated parents. The result in a majority of cases was that the children blossomed as a result of having contact with blood relatives and that their behavioral problems diminished or completely disappeared. The affect of feeling connected to a family of your own cannot be denied--even less than perfect families!

If you dig around in family history, you will most likely find that most families are far from perfect. In my family history, there has been divorce, abuse, children who have died...but there has also been wonderful inspirational stories that make me proud to be a part of my family. There is the story of my GGGG-grandfather whose brother saved his life. My GGGG-GF fell ill while on a military march. Every evening his brother marched the full distance back to pick up him up and carry him back to camp. What brotherly love! What a Christ-like act. Later in life, this same brother who saved his life shot my GGGG-grandfather's eye out (accidentally) while they were trying to exterminate a skunk. Oh, you silly brothers...

I began my own journey into family history by asking my family to tell me stories (which my parents were quite good about doing!) about relatives I never knew. I have also done some searching of my own, including looking up the name of my Mother's family in the phone book and knocking on doors and saying to perfect strangers, "Hi, I'm Jocelyn...and I think that we are related." This has lead to many interesting stories and new relationships.

Part of the search for my Czekala family has lead me to Poland. I am happy to say that a good friend who I used to work with at CNN is going to Poland on a work assignment tomorrow. He has agreed to do some searching for my great-great grandmother Julianne Mamaj/Mamajek. I have been so curious about her, but haven't been able to get anywhere in my search for her for a long time now. I am praying that my friend David will have some luck during his trip...Divine intervention will be necessary, I'm sure, especially since David does not speak Polish! I don't know what I hope to know about her, but I just feel a need to know feel more connected to who she was and what her life was like. In part, this yearning to know my ancestors is surely what is meant by the scripture in Malachi that says, "he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..."

If you are interested in starting to search for your ancestors, here are some good research tools to help you get started:

Family Search

Your Family History: Getting Started

The Phenomenon That Is You

Database Hit 150 Million Names

Continue reading... »

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Where DO Babies Come From?

We are in the process of bringing our third child into the world (as you can see from this ultrasound photo taken today), and it's safe to say that we have a pretty good answer to the question "Where do babies come from?"

But thanks to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have an even more in-depth answer to that question as well.

We believe that we were all created spiritually by God the Father long before we were conceived physically by our parents here on earth.

We believe that we lived with and learned from heavenly parents before coming to earth. One of our main purposes for entering this mortal existence was to gain a body, which helps us to experience and learn things that we simply could not understand without one--things like pain, hunger, fatigue, exhilaration, and empathy for others who experience these same feelings.

Although, we do not remember our pre-earth existence, we still carry with us characteristics that we developed in those early days of being. Just look at the picture above: mouth open, tongue out, and the look of a laugh on this baby's face illustrates well the concept that we come to earth with our own personality traits and dispositions. Clearly, this baby has a cheery one!

We also believe that gender is part of each person's eternal identity, not something that just happens at conception. But as with the last two babies, we chose not to find out the baby's gender during the ultrasound. You'll have to wait, along with us, until November to find out if we will be welcoming another boy or another girl into our family!

A Guide to the Ultrasound Picture (above) -- If you can't tell, the baby's right arm is covering his/her right eye (left side of photo). The nose is in the middle of the photo and the mouth--slightly open with tongue showing--is in the lower left section of the pic above.

Ultrasound Picture (below) -- This is a profile shot. Baby's head is on the right side of the picture. The baby is facing the top of the photo, so you should be able to make out the nose, mouth, and chin.

Here are some links regarding what I mentioned above:

Our Heavenly Family (Source: Gospel Principles Manual)

"Before your life on Earth..."

The Family Proclamation

Click here to take our "New Baby Quiz" and return to our Family Website.
Continue reading... »

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Bit About Temples

If you have traveled around the Beltway in Washington, DC, you have most likely seen the LDS Temple. Seeing the temple appear suddenly on this stretch of highway is breath-taking.

When I was growing up near Cleveland, Ohio, the DC temple was the only temple located in the eastern US, but today there are over 126 temples around the world.

Many people wonder what temples are all about. Understandably so! I recall having a great desire to enter the temple from an early age. In college, my curiosity about temples grew, and I began reading as much as I could about them. I also continued to live my life in such a way that I would be worthy to worship in the temple when the time was right for me.

As I have attended, worshiped, and made covenants inside of these holy temples over the last eight years, I have found answers to many basic questions, such as, "Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is my relationship to my Maker?" I have learned about Christ's divine role in the grand scheme of life. I have received valuable personal revelation and direction about my life. I have received comfort, reassurance, and spiritual strength as I have continued to live by the standards required to enter these temples.

Living by these standards (honesty, moral cleanliness, sexual purity, etc.) has increased my spiritual sensitivity and ability to understand the will of God. It has also brought me much happiness and freedom.

Amazingly, the blessings of the temple are available to all who desire them, but these blessings require preparation, even for someone like me, who was born into the church. I have included a few links below to help you learn more about the purpose and holiness of temples and I will blog about temples again in the future...

"Why These Temples" by Gordon B. Hinckley

Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings by Russell M. Nelson

Temple Website
Continue reading... »

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Who ARE you???

When I was in high school "Who ARE you?" and "No, SERIOUSLY...who are you??" were phrases used by a group of guys as a "hilarious" put-down! Generally, a few "Freak Show!! Freak Show!!"s were oh, so generously sprinkled in there as well.

As we have grown up, I am finding that many of us end up asking ourselves that very question, "Who am I?" Sometimes this is a superficial inquiry. Who am I--in regards to my career, to my friends, to my choice in clothing--can change from day to day and season to season.

But WHO we are in an Eternal sense will never really change. We are sons and daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, who has sent us to earth to learn, grown, and to become more like Him. Even when a person does wrong or even denies His existence, this does not change the fact that we are His children and He loves us. The scriptures are full of examples of God's dealings with Man. But we do not have to rely alone on the words of others.

We can have our own experiences with God through personal prayer. I know no other system of receiving information that is so perfect, so direct, so personal, so instantaneous, and yet leaves such a lasting impression as simply getting down on your knees and asking God to let you know that He is there...and to tell you, in no uncertain terms, Who you are!

I have done this myself. And through sincere prayer, I have felt a feeling, more tangible than anything I have ever known, that God exists, that I am his child, that He cares about my life.

Here are some more links about prayer to help you get the conversation started:

Pray Always - There are some good tips on the basics of How to Pray in this one...

The Lifeline of Prayer by James E. Faust

Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer by Richard G. Scott
Continue reading... »

Monday, July 14, 2008

Using Our God-Given Talents

The Lord entrusts all of His servants...with spiritual talents. The Lord, who endows us with these talents, tells us: “I believe you can. I believe you can.” While we are not all equal in experience, aptitude, and strength, we have different opportunities to employ these spiritual gifts, and we will all be accountable for the use of the gifts and opportunities given to us."

This quote was taken from a talk given by James E. Faust called "I Believe I Can, I Knew I Could."
In the talk, he tells us that just like the 'Little Engine That Could', we need to:
1. Be on the right track
2. Develop our talents

These are two guiding principles that have brought me many blessings and happiness in my life. Having a sense that I am living my life in a way that pleases God gives me confidence and peace. Being on the "right track" saves me from unnecessary detours and heartache. I am then free to explore and develop my God-given talents and to use them to do God's will, serve my friends and neighbors, bless my family, and to just enjoy them for my own sense of self-worth.

When discussing Christ's Parable of the Talents, Elder Ronald A. Rasband gives three suggestions with regard to our talents:

1. Seek earnestly to discover the talents the Lord has given you
2. Use your talents to build up the kingdom of God
3. Acknowledge God's hand in your success

One talent that I really enjoy is writing! I enjoy creative writing, but I especially love interviewing people and sharing their stories with others. In the last few years, I have written some articles for a few magazines on a freelance basis. Here is a link to the article I have in Ohio Magazine this month called "Banding Together"
This story is about members of a high school marching band who display two key talents: discipline and integrity.

Someday I hope to possess these talents that I see as others' true strengths: Generosity (Mable Z.), Being a Peacemaker (my sister Cara), Being a good listener (my friend Emily F.)

Lastly, here are two quotes that I especially like from leaders of the church:

"We may look on our daily work merely as chores. However, when we perform these tasks in a spirit of loving service to husband, children, family, and friends, we bring joy to ourselves and others. To cook a tasteful meal, study for a class, cultivate a garden, write a letter, kindly encourage a friend or family member—all these efforts are improving talents.

God then grants an increase by blessing us with new talents. Often these are qualities of character. We learn to understand the needs of those we serve and to show patience, affection, tolerance, and generosity." - VT message Oct 1993

As in Christ’s parable, when we cultivate the first talents God gives us, he is ready to reveal more. (See Matt. 25:15–21.)

Continue reading... »

Friday, July 11, 2008

Where Does All My Money Go?

If you are like many people, you might find yourself asking this question, "Where does all of my money go each month??" Well, I can at least account for where 10% of our money goes, because we use it to pay tithing, which the church then uses to pay for charitable needs at home and to help people devastated by natural disasters around the world. It also pays for church buildings and temples and for the support of leaders whose church callings require them to work and travel full-time for the church. I feel confident that no one is getting rich off of the tithing program--but we all benefit from it, the church and the world as a whole.

Ten percent of your income (before taxes) might seem like a lot, I guess, but I have always felt good about paying tithing. In all honesty, I have always thought that it was much easier to pay tithing when I wasn't making much money at all...It was easier to let it go then, and I guess I felt that I really desperately needed all of the blessings associated with paying tithing!

In these economically difficult times, we have been admonished to continue paying tithing. In 1936, at the height of the Great Depression in the United States, when people were struggling to make ends meet, Elder John A. Widtsoe admonished the Saints to pay their tithing because of the spiritual blessings they would receive. He said: “Obedience to the law of tithing … brings a deep, inward joy … that can be won in no other way. … The principles of truth become clearer. … Prayer becomes easier. … The spiritual sense is sharpened [and] … man becomes more like his Father in Heaven.

In Malachi, we read that when we faithfully pay our tithes the Lord will "open the windows of heaven" and pour out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it. I have found from my own experience that this is true. Paying tithing gives me the rare opportunity to let go of the world and of possessions that are not necessary for my true happiness. I get to show my love for the Lord and for my brothers and sisters as I sacrifice my wants for the needs of others.

Because of the willingness of members of the church to pay a full tithe, the Church is able to do a great work around the world. They are most often the first to send food, first aid, and medical supplies into areas devastated by natural disasters, because of funds available through tithing and the Bishop's Storehouse which stock supplies for such events. Just recently, the church sent medical supplies to help victims of the cyclone in Myanmar. The church teamed up with CARE International and UPS to get the supplies into the country...a feat that was only possible because of CARE's long-term work in the area. Myanmar hasn't been letting others send aid in as you might know.

I believe in paying a full tithe, so I will keep on doing it, even if I have just 10 cents to my name! President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “While tithing is paid with money, more importantly it is paid with faith." Given that every good thing that I have has come from the Lord, I'm ok with giving a little bit back! On Monday, during our Family Night, we taught our young children about paying tithing. (See the picture above.) G and S enjoyed putting pennies into each jar! I guess you've gotta start somewhere!

Here is some more information about Tithing, how it works and where the money goes:

Tithing: A Commandment Even For the Destitute by Lynn G. Robbins

Will A Man Rob God? by Elder Kikuchi

Church Welfare, Humanitarian Programs Draw Attention
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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

His Name On Our Hearts, His Image In Our Countenance

When we are baptized, we agree to "bear one another's burdens". The church helps us to fulfill this duty through Visiting Teaching and the Relief Society. As a visiting teacher, I visit a few other women of the church in their homes along with my "visiting teaching companion", on a monthly basis. We share a spiritual message and look for ways to take care of any needs that our sisters might have. In the picture to the right, my companion Tara and I are visiting Bryanna, a young woman who has just graduated from high school and is preparing to attend college in the fall. Her needs and interests would naturally be much different from the concerns of an older woman or someone who has young children, so it's fun to share our different perspectives and gain insight and support from each other.

Our message for this month is called "All Human Beings Are Created In the Image of God". First of all, how do we know this?...and what are the implications of such an idea? We know that God has a body and that we were created in His image, because the scriptures tell us so. We also have the witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith who saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ "standing above" him. For some people, God is an intangible being who is everywhere all at once and yet, unknowable, without passions, etc. But we believe that God has a tangible body similar to ours and that we came to earth to experience life in a mortal body and to use that body for good and godly purposes.

It is very comforting to me personally to think about God as having a tangible (although perfect and immortal) body. Our current prophet and president of the church Thomas S. Monson has said, "God our Father has ears with which to hear our prayers. He has eyes with which to see our actions. He has a mouth with which to speak to us. He has a heart with which to feel compassion and love. He is real. He is living. We are his children made in his image. We look like him and he looks like us."

In the church, we most commonly refer to God as our Heavenly Father. I think that puts our relationship to God in the proper light, and I hope that when I see him again, He will give me a great big hug...just like the loving Father that I know Him to be!

Here are a few links to more information about Joseph Smith's Vision and about what we believe about God.

Joseph Smith - History (an account of the First Vision)

The Sanctity of the Body: by Susan W. Tanner

Building Bridges of Understanding: by M. Russell Ballard
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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Taking His Name Upon Us

When I was preparing to marry my husband Steve, I notified my place of employment that I would be changing my last name and would need a new login, which included a handle/id that people would use to send me instant messages at work. Now, the IT dept at this place had a knack for abbreviating long names...and I suddenly thought, oh no, what if they change my screen name to "Christj" (since I was previously "Hatchj" and Christensenj would have been too many letters.)

Suddenly, my whole instant-messaging life flashed before my eyes! If I were to become "Christj" wouldn't it be strange for someone on the receiving end of one of my messages...especially, if I were to complain or even worse ridicule something at work?! My harmless outlet for sarcastic venting at work would be ruined!

They did end up changing my screen name to "Christensenj", but that little episode really got me thinking...Am I doing all I can to live up to the name that I have taken...the name of Christ, himself? Becoming a "Christensen" has changed my perspective on that, because, I actually have Christ in my last name now...but as a "Christian" and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I covenanted at baptism to take the name of Christ upon me. (I also covenanted to keep His commandments, serve others, and testify of Christ.) I was baptized at the age of eight, so I have been able to put that into practice from a young age. It is easy to forget, though, in our day-to-day happenings that we have covenanted to act as Christ would that when we see Him again, we will know Him, because we will be like Him. Luckily, we get more than one chance to become more like Him in this life.

To read more about baptism in the LDS church, please click on the separate links listed below. Also, if you have any questions for me about baptism, please let me know.

Baptism (Source: Bible Dictionary)

Baptism: A Continuing Covenant (Source: Priesthood Manual)

The First Article of Faith

Pictured above: Jocelyn being baptized by her Dad, October 20, 1985, Lorain, Ohio.
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