Monday, November 17, 2014

How I Strengthened My Testimony of Joseph Smith

As a member of Christ's true church, there are so many opportunities to grow...if you will take them.

After General Conference was over in October, I started with Elder Andersen's talk about Joseph Smith for our family's General Conference Review Lessons.

I loved his challenge to read Joseph Smith's testimony, to consider recording it in your own voice and to listen to it often and share it with friends.

Have you ever sat down and thought about your testimony of Joseph Smith?  Have you ever written your testimony down?  Or written down how you feel about him?  Have you ever tried to share that testimony with a friend?

I have.

The first time I did it (that I can remember recently), it was awkward.  You know why?  Because I wasn't used to saying it.  I wasn't used to telling someone those words, "and then he knelt in a grove of trees and he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ."  Oh...and by the way, angels still appear to men on earth. (Insert eyes of friend averting, subject being quickly changed...)

I also noticed something weird about the words coming out of my mouth.  I wasn't 100 percent sure of myself and I sounded unsure of myself.  It was like my preconceived idea of how my friend was going to respond to my declaration colored the way I said words that I already knew in my head were true.  

So it was kind of a flop...except I learned from it.

I went away from that experience realizing that I needed to grow in my testimony that Joseph Smith was the righteous man God chose to restore all of these wonderful truths to the earth...truths that have changed my life completely for the better.

I spent some time reading his testimony and pondering the blessings that are mine and my family's because of the work of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

I thought back to the time when I was serving in Young Women and we learned about Joseph Smith and memorized "Joseph Smith's First Prayer."  When we sang the words of that hymn the spirit witnessed to me that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

I thought about how early in our marriage, my husband and I memorized this part of Joseph Smith's experience, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me....When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other--This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!"

I thought about all of those quiet moments when I have turned to the pages of The Book of Mormon--the book that Joseph Smith translated--and how much those words have brought comfort to my soul and joy to my path and an understanding of who Christ is...and who I am.

I thought about peaceful feelings I've felt as a youth and young adult visiting the Sacred Grove (the place whereabout the First Vision may have occurred, where I sat pondering Joseph's experience,) where I prayed to know if His account of the First Vision was true, and how I felt about him at that time.

I thought about my children and how wonderful it is to know that we are a forever family.  I thought about every blessing I've received via the Priesthood ordinances that were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith...and I thanked God.

I thought on these things and treasured them in my heart, and I vowed that if the opportunity came up again, I would be ready.  I would not use an apologetic tone when speaking about the Prophet Joseph Smith, because I now knew more in my heart than before.  Because I had taken the time, I now knew what I knew.

That opportunity came a few summers ago, while I was conversing with a very sweet girl, not of our faith, but extremely faithful.  I was so impressed by her expressions of faith and a willingness to do what she felt God required of her as a woman of God, that when she asked me what makes Mormons different, I felt prompted to tell her about Joseph Smith.

This time, the words I spoke were fully mine, laden with a personal witness that the Savior Jesus Christ and God the Father did appear to a 14-year old boy in a grove of trees in New York.  That person was Joseph Smith.  He later translated the Book of Mormon, which, like the Bible, is another testament of Jesus Christ written by inhabitants of ancient america.  The existence of this book and Joseph's experience is proof that God is the God of all men, that he still speaks, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.

This time, as I spoke, I felt the Spirit confirming the words that I said...both to me and to her.  I felt God's approval.  And I knew again that what I was saying was true.

This is a special witness that I have received only because I put my testimony into words and spoke them aloud to another person.

There is so much testimony-building wisdom in Elder Andersen's talk.  I know that his suggestion to record Joseph Smith's testimony in one's own voice is good and true.  These are not just his words, they are scripture, and knowing them and making them our own will help bring the witness that we seek.

I know, because I have done it.  And my children have done it.  

And I know that if you will do it, you too will be blessed, because "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17)

An opportunity for great spiritual growth is before you.  Will you take it?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Joseph Smith and Polygamy

As a fairly well-educated, Mormon woman, does the fact that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy bother me?

No, not in the least.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have always known that Joseph Smith had multiple wives, as did select prophets  who were commanded to in the Old Testament.  This is a fact that is discussed in Sunday School, and I learned about it as a child from my parents.  It is not hidden.

So, when I hear rumblings online about a few articles floating around trying to portray the "shock" of active Mormon women in hearing this information as if it was a major revelation, I just roll my eyes a little and move on with my day.

Did I read said articles (or the comments that surely accompanied them)?  

Nope.  I don't need to.

You don't get "spiritual answers from God" by reading the NYTimes or (even though I used to work there) or the plethora of conversations going on on social media on any given day.  Sorry, you just don't.

If there's one thing I've learned from the life of the prophet Joseph Smith it's that if I have a question about anything, I can ask God and He will answer me personally and directly.  

So, to the honest seekers of truth, if you want to know whether Joseph Smith was commanded of God to enter into additional marriage relationships (as did prophets in Biblical times) or if you're sincerely wondering if the boy Joseph knelt in a grove of trees to pray and saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, then all you need to do is ask God.  

He will answer you.

a happy, Mormon woman, who follows Christ, believes the Bible, 
and stands by the Prophet Joseph Smith

(You can read more about this topic here.)
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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fall Family Pictures

Have you guys ever tried to take your own family photo?  It isn't easy.  But the other weekend after church, I set up my tripod and snapped a few pictures using my timer.  This one was about as good as I could get.  Scarlett isn't smiling because she's in between pulling crazy faces.  This is the only one that's halfway decent.  Do you think it'll do for a Christmas card this year???

The other ones I took that day look something like this:

...and this.

Oh, Merry Christmas.  I love my crazy kids!

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Happy November!

We had an awesome Halloween and October full of fun and spooky activities, but now it's November, and that is quickly becoming my favorite time of year.  I've been super busy volunteering at school this year, and I'm in charge of a service project that is finally coming to fruition.  So I'm pretty excited about that.  (In fact, I need to shower and get to school real quick to help out!)

This weekend, once the tricks or treats were over, we worked together as a family to winterize our yard.  We were so proud of the kids for working together and having such good attitudes doing what we asked of them.

I snapped this picture of Steve reviewing the triumphs and lessons learned of our day working together.  It was mostly triumphs.  I love how the kids are fixed on Steve's every word as he doles out fatherly praise on them each individually.

Scarlett saved this leaf for me which she is sure was made by her personal leprechaun.  We love all types of magic fun around here!

Guy continues to be an amazing big brother and a super-duper family historian.  He participated in someone's Eagle Scout project on Saturday, taking pictures of tombstones in a local cemetery, then digitizing the information and uploading to a family history site. He was jazzed about it and bore his testimony in church that he felt the Holy Ghost very strongly during the project.

I have much to thank God for in my life, and I bet you do to.  I love a season that is all about saying thanks.  I am also grateful that my gratitude calendar (that I threw together years ago) is holding up!  Each day, we write down one thing we are grateful for on a slip of paper and place it in the pocket.  (I fill the pockets with stickers for the kids to take once they put a slip of paper in.)  After we eat Thanksgiving dinner, we open the notes and read them aloud.

Have a great Monday!
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