Sunday, August 23, 2015

Teaching Children Gospel Standards

Guess what, guys?  I have an article in this month's August 2015 Ensign sharing some experiences my family and I have had learning about and applying the gospel standards.  (That's totally not my family in the photo, however!! ;)

The article is called "Teaching Gospel Standards: One Family's Experience," and can be read online right here or on page 48 of the magazine.  It appears right after Jan Pinborough's article called "Lighting Our Children's Paths with Gospel Standards," and is a companion article to it.

Be sure to read Jan's article too as it mentions my sister Cara Kennedy who wrote a song that helped our family memorize My Gospel Standards.  Check them out!

Also of note: You can now read the Ensign online in a new full-color format...very easy to read. Just follow this link.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

a Call for All to share their love of Family & The Family Proclamation!

Hi there.

How are you dear readers doing?

We've had a most excellent summer together, my family and I.  I love having a slow-paced summer, not too much running around, and lots of time at home with my kids making special memories.  My family is why I do basically everything that I do.  I'd imagine the same is true for you.

As a result I've spent less time online/blogging this summer, but coming up next month it's time to celebrate something very near and dear to my heart -- THE FAMILY: A PROCLAMATION TO THE WORLD.

The celebration, which has been happening yearly since 2010, has brought a lot of great blog posts about family together in one place. (You can read them here on celebration creator Montserrat's page.)

I am looking for bloggers and women and men like you to write posts for the Family Proclamation celebration this year, which will take place between September 13th and 26th.  

Your post would be shared right here on my blog on one day of the celebration which marks 20 years since the announcement of this important document.  I know that many of you have enjoyed my posts here, but now I'm asking you to speak up and share some of your hard-earned wisdom with me and the rest of the world on the importance of family.

Please contact me at, if you'd like to write something pertaining to The Family Proclamation in the coming weeks.

Many thanks!

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Protecting Religious Freedom Elder Hales

When I pondered how to teach this talk to my children I decided that if they are to protect and stand up for religious freedom in their lives, it's important that they know and understand what Elder Hales calls the "four cornerstones of religious freedom."

He explains them as follows:

"There are four cornerstones of religious freedom that we as Latter-day Saints must rely upon and protect.
"The first is freedom to believe. No one should be criticized, persecuted, or attacked by individuals, or governments either, for what he or she believes about God. It is very personal and very important.
"The second cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others. The Lord commands us, “Ye shall teach [the gospel to] your children … when thou sittest in thine house.”11 He also said to His disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”12 As parents, full-time missionaries, and member missionaries, we rely on religious freedom in order to teach the Lord’s doctrine in our families and throughout the world."

"The third cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to form a religious organization, a church, to worship peacefully with others. The eleventh article of faith declares, “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” International human rights documents and many national constitutions support this principle."

"The fourth cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to live our faith—free exercise of faith not just in the home and chapel but also in public places. The Lord commands us not only to pray privately13 but also to go forth and “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”14

Prior to our lesson (which we discussed over dinner), I made little origami boxes to serve as our "cornerstones."  It was a rush job, so my boxes weren't perfect, but they are very easy to make and a tutorial can be found here.

When the family came to the dinner table (the Elders were over too) they found these four "blocks" sitting on the table in a random pile.  My kids were pretty quick to figure out the "puzzle."  

When they stacked the boxes on top of each other in the correct order, it spelled "religious freedom" down the side.


After finishing our "puzzle", we asked the children to define religious freedom.  For help with this definition, we relied on the "cornerstones" of religious freedom, given in the talk.  We talked about each one individually and shared experiences from our own lives that applied to each principle or cornerstone.  We talked about why living and defending these freedoms in our daily lives helps ensure our religious freedom.  We talked about what would happen if we failed to stand up for these freedoms.

Since my boxes were not perfect, balancing them on top of one another required a delicate touch. When speaking about experiences we've had in the past, we talked about how we felt compelled and sometimes restrained by the Spirit to walk a fine line in defending religious freedom, while also respecting/protecting the agency of others around us and avoiding contention.

Because of experiences that I have had, I have a first-hand testimony of what is required to defend religious freedom: what is required is that we do it in the Lord's way...not our way and not the world's way. 

The Lord's way is in love.  The Lord's way is based in sound doctrine.  The Lord's way is without contention or contempt for those who would oppose us, but with empathy and love.  The Lord's way is by relying on the spirit, every step of the way.

I have been given a glimpse of the love that the Lord feels for his children...even His children who currently oppose His plan.  At the time that I was given this glimpse of His love, I was really taken back and humbled at the Lord's great capacity, at how much he really does care for each one of us.  And I have felt a desire to try and get closer to having that kind of love for others every day.  I'm still trying, but I know that as we follow the Spirit, ever so closely, in our interactions with others, we will walk safely in a path lit by His love and power.  I hope over the next few years, I will be able to pass this understanding on to my children as I believe their generation will need this knowledge and wisdom most of all.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Defending the Sanctity of the Home

I was watching some boys for a friend the other day when one of them mentioned an upcoming trip where he and his dad were going to see his favorite Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.  I said, "Oh, I've met Jeff Gordon...twice actually."  I had an instant fan.  "Really, where?" he said.  I said that Jeff had come in to where I used to work (CNN)on a few occasions and that it was my job to speak with him when he came in for an interview.

Later on, the same boy asked me, "Where do you work?"  I said, "I work at home, raising my children and making my home a place we all want to be."  He said, "Oh...I thought you'd work somewhere serious."  I laughed, and asked, "Like where?"  My son said, "Like CNN?"  I told the young man that I had chosen to stay home and work for the benefit of my family and that I take my job quite seriously!

Sister Oscarson has taught, "We should “make our homes” places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.

Here are some things that I do to defend the sanctity of my home:

1. Keep the gospel standards and teach them to your children.

A few years ago, my sister set Primary's My Gospel Standards to music.  As a family, we memorized her song and so began a journey to discover what living the standards really means to us. In the August 2015 Ensign, you can read more about how we've taught our children the principles found in My Gospel Standards in the article, "Teaching Gospel Standards: One Family's Experience."  I firmly believe that parents need to walk the walk in order for children to follow in our footsteps.  The article before it by Jan Pinborough also gives great advice on teaching standards in the home.

2.  Prioritize family time above all else.

Ever since I heard President Packer say in General Conference that "Family time is sacred time and should be protected and respected," I have made that my motto.  We carefully scrutinize outside activities in which we engage in order to optimize our time together.  We ask ourselves these questions on a regular basis: Does the activity add value to our lives?  Does the activity add too much stress?  Can the activity be done by all members of the family at the same time?  Does the activity interfere with family night or other important family events?  Can we replicate the activity in our family without committing major amounts of our time for a season?  Because we limit/eliminate activities that would take us away from each other, we are free to do MORE with our time at home and go on more outings as a family that bring us a lot of joy and shared memories.

3.  Defend your family against evil influences.

As a family, we choose our media carefully.  About every six months, we meet together to update our family media plan, which you can read more about here on my blog, and here on Sugardoodle, and here in the August 2014 Ensign article "Taming the Media".  President Packer's admonishment to protect our nestlings is well-illustrated and understood in the following brief video:

4.  Encourage guests in your home to keep the standards while visiting there.

Visitors to my home feel the spirit when they enter.  I often have Elders tell me that my house feels like or reminds them of their home.  That familiarity which they feel is the Holy Ghost, which is hopefully always a welcome guest.  When young friends visit, I give them reminders if necessary (and reminders to my own children) of how we act in our home.  Visitors to our house often are happy to oblige my request to use appropriate language, to use the Lord's name respectfully, to speak kindly to siblings, and to choose appropriate media.  When we do this our homes become a refuge where others can experience how peaceful home can be.

5.  Do your best at home.

It is easy to give our best at school or at work and to forget about doing our best even at home.  While returning home is often a trigger to finally exhale, we must not relax the signs of respect and love that we show for one another.  We once had a missionary frequent our home who had a lot of challenges, but one thing he always taught us was to just "do our best."  Although I am far from perfect at it, I try to remember to do my best in how I interact with my children and husband.  I try to plan fun activities and work and service that will bring out the best in our interactions with each other.  And I try to remember that sometimes my best is substandard to the day before, but that my best efforts are all that the Lord requires.

I love my home.  I believe in the sacred nature of homes and families and I am honored to work hard every day to defend the sanctity of the home.

This post is part of a blogger round-up! Read the tips and experiences these bloggers share in making their homes a sacred space.

 Mandy @ A Bliss Complete | Camille @ Chicken Scratch 'n' Sniff | Jen @ Lexical Creations Grace Lane @ Upheld | Jocelyn @ We Talk of Christ | Montserrat @ Cranial Hiccups

Defend the Sanctity of the Home Blogger Round-up: These bloggers offer their advice and experience on making their homes a sacred space. 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Age of the Gifted Pickle-Sucker

With only 8 days of summer left, we're starting up our General Conference Lessons again.  This first one I'll share with you is from Elder Oaks' talk The Parable of the Sower.

Elder Oaks explains that the condition of the ground in the parable is the condition of our hearts and the seed represents the message of the gospel.  One of the most poignant parts for me was when he pointed out that we can move from good/fertile soil/hearts to stony ground if we deny ourselves spiritual nourishment.  We distance ourselves from feeling the spirit and receiving spiritual nourishment by not reading scriptures for instance, by not praying, or by doing things during the administration of the sacrament that takes our mind off of communing with the Lord.

Another thing Elder Oaks warned about was having a "key hole" view of the gospel, in which we focus on one doctrine or perceived fault about the gospel or the church and completely ignore the big picture. He quoted President Hinckley who spoke about political commentators who were aflame with indignation about some news event to the point that their sour anger poured out of them constantly.  He concluded that, "Surely, this is the age and place of the gifted pickle sucker." 

"In contrast," Elder Oaks suggests, "to be securely rooted in the gospel, we must be moderate and measured in criticism and seek always for the broader view of the majestic work of God."


Just for fun, we pulled out a well-aged jar of homemade dill pickles from the basement to illustrate what it means to be a pickle sucker.  
Each child tried the pickles (which was made even more sour by the fact that we had just finished eating sweet blueberry smoothies for breakfast!)  As they tasted, we talked about which taste they preferred, the smoothie or the pickles.

We talked about how we should try and avoid becoming a "gifted pickle sucker" by seeking out the good and by having faith and looking for the eternal perspective of God's plan.  It's no fun being a pickle-sucker!

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