Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Things That Matter Most

Today became increasingly worse until about early afternoon. I started on the wrong foot by waking up late and then getting to church late (luckily, I arrived in time to get the sacrament, and enjoyed the music and time for reflection). As the day wore on, some painful emotions from last night returned [I've been blessed with some amazing guy friends, but there's some other guys I'd like to be friends with who seemed interested and then dropped me... That kind of painful emotions], making me feel lousy and extra-sensitive; I managed to offend one of my roommates while I was preoccupied, which I felt bad about. While I was trying to repair things with my roommate, I got a call from my mom. One of my relatives, who seemed healthy a couple weeks ago, only has about a week left to live. Not great timing for my emotions.

The good side! While I was on the phone, my visiting teachers came over! (this link explains the history of what visiting teaching has been and has become today). It was an unscheduled visit that came at the perfect time. Right when we finished talking, my home teachers came over! (here's a link to an overview of what home teaching is). It was good to visit with them and to know that if I need anything, they are more than happy to serve. It made me so, so happy to know that the Lord's church has the organization in place to help watch, support and care for each other. I'm never alone; I have so many layers of people to rely on, and God at the head of it all. Shortly after my home teachers left, another friend came over and took me to his married friends' house, who have a week-old baby boy. During the 4 hours we were there, I chatted with the mother until she fell asleep, then joined the men in conversing about linguistics, sci-fi literature and Rubik's cubes while the baby slept in my arms.

I was surprised at how quickly my emotions were able to recover and stabilize today, and I attribute that to the knowledge I have of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the relationship that I'm developing with my Savior. What saved me was logic and faith: I realize that, logically, faith is the only way to get through life without falling apart. When you learn that someone is dying, especially suddenly, it might make you reflect on the fragility and value of life. Sometimes that thought process can have some scary implications and wonderings. Before I let my mind get that far though, I reminded myself of something I've been considering this week, that goes back to 1 Corinthians 10:13: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." More than just temptation, I read this scripture to mean that God will support his people (as evidenced in a host of other scriptures) - He will comfort them, and bear them up.

Here's one of my favorite scriptures, from D&C 6:36-37:
Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
When I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are on my side, working for my greatest good and happiness, I can trust that in spite of however grim the current moment is, it'll be ok. I also know that they will be with me, by my side, helping me in that very moment (and that they are also there with me sharing in my greatest joys). Based on those, I can combat fear with faith in any crisis. Additionally, the full gospel of Christ further instructs me in ways that give me peace. Read the mormon.org page which explains the Plan of Happiness (also known as the Plan of Salvation) for more detailed information, but here are a few parts that apply:

- Each of us has an eternal soul.
- Heaven wouldn't be heaven unless I were with my family.
- All wrongs will be made right in due time.
- Life doesn't end at death, and I will be reunited with those I love.

As I remember the things that are most important - these gospel principles - and trust their fulfillment because of their source (God), I can prioritize and see life with a more holistic, far-seeing perspective. And I know that everything will be alright.

Isaiah 40:31John 16:33Helaman 5:12Isaiah 43:1-5 for a just a few scriptures affirming that God will provide, and we need not fear so long as we rely on Him.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dance Performance!

video
Here's a video of my class's dance performance tonight. It was so fun! I hope I can do more things like this in the semesters to come!

And yes - we are college students doing a ballroom dance routine (cha cha, with some west coast) to "The Eensy Weensy Spider" :D Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Being Healthy

Yeah, this is kind of another food post...

I've been reflecting on how what I eat makes me feel. This largely came to pass because of last night, when it became apparent that my dinner of leftovers had over-aged, and my stomach started tossing and turning for the rest of the evening. Not a huge fan of when that happens, but it makes me grateful for the good health that I experience most of the time.

While I was roaming the grocery aisles and checking my list today, I pondered the diet I've had this semester and how it's made me feel. Thanks to the advice of more health-conscious friends (due to their hypoglycemia and allergies/intolerances), I've been trying to consume more protein, and I was impressed with how much more... balanced? steady? energized?... I feel. I think I was relying too heavily on grains before. I'm slowly doing better about eating fruits and veggies this semester; part of my problem is that I need to plan ahead when buying fresh produce, and I'm not very good at planning my meals beforehand. I've been learning how to satisfy my sweet cravings with fruit (or occasionally dark chocolate), and relying less on straight sugars (though I still love them). Also, the longer I've been in college, the more I've tried to cook from scratch. Principle tells me that that should be cheaper and healthier, but in practice... It requires practice :) I do feel accomplished when I can make something delicious, especially if it's from scratch, and it's a habit that I'm developing with every semester.

Moral of the story is that I feel better when I have a more balanced diet. I'll probably learn more when I take my anatomy class next summer, but it's been cool realizing how much connection there is between our physical bodies and mental/emotional states. I'm not too concerned with numbers as far as "health" (really, that's more like a "body image" line of thinking) goes: thanks to my dad's example, I think of being healthy as taking care of your body by having a balanced diet and exercising. I don't need to weigh a certain amount, or have a certain size of waist, or have huge muscles to consider myself healthy. Can I do the things I want to - like hike and dance - without excessive difficulty and do I feel energized and emotionally stable? I think those are important marks of good health.

Not to mention the importance of getting enough sleep (and, as my mom likes to remind me, at the right hours of the day) :) That's enough of a health spiel for now though. I'm just thinking about the progress I've made and thinking about what I can do better.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Yum!

I've been breaking out what's left of my European chocolate after distributing the majority of it to my friends and family. This is probably my favorite kind:
It would always melt in my backpack, so I'd have to open it carefully and scrape it off the wrapper. It is absolutely divine.

Also, I find myself frequently making dinner around midnight on the nights that I work, and tonight I fixed dinner before 11! A little sad that it's still so late. But, tonight's dinner was really good, despite a rocky beginning. I put the liquids on the stove to boil, and got distracted talking to my roommate... By the time I returned to the kitchen, the pot was frothing over onto a good portion of the stovetop. Oops. I think I added a little too much milk-water-margarine after that to compensate for what I lost, so I tried recompensating by adding a large tablespoon of flour... The sauce turned out ok, thickness-wise. To mix up tonight's Pastaroni flavor (4-cheese corkscrews) I added lots of deli ham pieces and just enough onion powder to give a more 3-dimensional (but not overpowering) flavor. I rather liked it, and since it was more filling, I've got plenty of leftovers!

I registered for next semester's classes tonight, and my entire schedule is composed of major and dance classes. I'm sure it'll undergo some tweaking before January (and perhaps even in the first week of classes), but I'm pretty excited.

And, I realized that Halloween is in less than a week, and I don't have a costume yet! When I'm not studying for midterms this week, I really need to figure that out! I also have a dance performance this week, which I'm super excited for as well :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

To Become A Renaissance Man

Noun: 1) a cultured man of the Renaissance who was knowledgeable, educated, or proficient in a number of fields. 2) a present-day man who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field.

I had a hard time picking a major because so many things held interest for me. That is still true, so I'm trying to fit a diversity of classes in to the remaining time I have left. It felt like I have two options with my time in life: specialize and become proficient in just one thing, or diversify my skills and settle for across-the-board mediocrity. Neither option sounds especially appealing, because I would like to be good at a lot of things. But there just doesn't seem to be enough time in college to take such a breadth and depth of classes.

But then I had a new thought. Who says I have to be done engaging myself and learning new things when I get my collegiate degree? That should be obvious, but I think there's an underlying tendency to give ourselves unnecessary deadlines and restrictions, especially on our personal growth. I've still got plenty opportunity to become a "renaissance woman," because I've got the rest of my life to work on learning and "becoming." I think that often when we're young, we forget about the "big picture," that someday we'll be old(er), and that we'll grow and change in ways that we can't imagine right now. So I can still hold to this desire of mine and turn it into a goal. One of the great things about growing up and fulfilling dreams is that we then get to come up with new ones :)

Family: Hakuna Matata

The importance of family has been pressing on my mind for the past year. First it was an awareness (of its importance), then a desire (for stronger family relationships). This summer gave me the tools to accomplish the task, and this fall I've been putting them to use.

Applying these desires and newfound abilities to my immediate family while living long-distance has been one challenge. This past weekend I was faced with another challenge: to apply them to my relationships with my extended family, to whom I now live significantly closer.

You see, I've grown a lot in college... Before college, I felt like an awkward, low-self-esteem nobody that needed catering-to because I couldn't make a significant, valuable contribution and feel included in groups based on my own merits. My best friends and my immediate family were the only two groups that I usually felt secure in. I often felt majorly disappointed with myself for my lack of fitting-in with extended family; I attribute this problem to 1) expectant self-fulfilling prophecy and 2) lack of depth in the relationships, because I only saw my cousins once a year. I felt like I ought to have actual friendships with my family members, and I was jealous of both sides of my family, because my cousins saw each other and my grandparents so frequently; I yearned to have that close, loving bond that they all seemed to have with each other - to feel like I actually belonged in more than just name.

Moving to the state where I have the highest concentration of relatives provided a lot of opportunities that I never had before. That was SCARY. But, I'm a firm believer in the philosophy that you miss all the chances that you never take. So I went to family dinners and attended some family celebrations for the first time in my life. Sometimes I called my mom in tears because I felt so lonely and out of place there. But I felt like I was where I should be; nothing would change if I left things as they were. Slowly, I started feeling more and more like I had a place in these gatherings.

I looked toward this past weekend with a little trepidation. I'd made some progress over time, but I had a new test in seeing some cousins my age whom I hadn't seen in 2-3 years. I also hadn't seen my grandma and many other cousins in over a year. Even though I was excited to go, the old worries of being an unwanted, awkward burden again swam slowly in circles beneath the surface of my consciousness.

I ended up having a wonderful weekend! Friday I slept in, spent a lot of time reading, and went to the high school's musical to see my cousin play in the orchestra pit. Saturday morning I got up early to go to the temple with my cousins, and then we spent most of the day boating on a lake! Saturday night was spent chatting and playing card games with the aunts, uncles and other adult cousins. Sunday we went to two different wards to hear a couple cousins speak in sacrament meeting, and had a family lunch afterwards. Following lunch, we went to see my grandpa's headstone in the cemetery. I had a few hard moments, like when looking through old photo albums or thinking about my grandpa, but the principle of getting busy and distracted helped move me through. I treasured the moments where I felt like we were establishing mutual, connective bonds, and it's always a ball after the little kids decide that you've become friends. I had a really enjoyable time and I feel like I made really constructive gains in my relationships with extended family. I felt significantly more like I do, in fact, belong to them.

The principle that I want to draw from this experience prompted the title "Hakuna Matata". A prominent theme in the classic Disney movie The Lion King, the idea is introduced as "a meerkat and a warthog, named Timon and Pumbaa respectively, teach the main character, a lion cub named Simba, that he should forget his troubled past and live in the present," which is represented in the Swahili phrase "hakuna matata" (literally meaning, "no worries"). It's a message I had to embrace this summer with my grandpa's death, that I can't change what's happened (or not happened) in the past, no matter how much I may wish and regret it. Becoming absorbed in the past like that only hinders my present and compromises my future. By focusing on the pain of yesteryear, I may lose the chance now to develop the kind of relationships I always wished for with my family. Don't worry about what you can't change, and do the best you can with today. These family relationships are one of the most important things I've got, and I don't want to fail them again; that is probably my biggest fear, so I'm going to respond with faith in action.


"Hakuna matata - what a wonderful phrase! ...It means no worries for the rest of your days." I'm leaving my past to Christ, relying on the healing power of the Atonement, and moving forward with faith in His promises. Everything's gonna be alright; in fact, it'll be great, even now :) I'm sure happy.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Alternative to Pastaroni...

I feel like I keep having the same thing for dinner... So I decided to mix it up tonight (more than just mixing spices and pieces of canned or deli meat into my pastaroni).

This feels awfully reminiscent of another post where I described an amazing fruit salad I made, last year-ish?

For "dinner", I mixed blackberries + kiwi + gala apples + red plums + honey + plain yogurt. It's not bad... I wasn't sure how the kiwis would work, but I rediscovered that I really, really like kiwi :) The blackberries are kinda tart, but the rest of it works together well. I like it when food experiments go well, and I like it even better when they end up being healthy :)

It might not look like much... But it was good!

Also, my roommate told me about downloading (legit) free music on purevolume.com, so I checked it out this week. I found a super cute song called "Favorite Girl" by a group called The Icarus Account. Here's a link to the song on Youtube:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reminiscing

I just went through a TON of old papers today, and found some sweet memories. Most of these are from freshman year.

"It's rainin' men, Hallelujah! (Get your umbrella, I'm comin' down!) -from your future spouse"

"Gosh my handwriting is bad. I can't even spell k without messing up. Its been fun getting to know you, even if eating an entire pizza on an exhaust vent! I still owe you a hug. You can redeem it anytime you like. (sounds like a coupon) Just guilt or something...um. On second thought don't. Happy Valentine's Day!!" -Z

For Employee of the Month: "is always looking for something to do during slow times & helps in whatever way she can. K has also been such a great host! Thank you so much!" -A

"I just wanted to thank you for sitting up with me and talking with me about my 'personal crisis,' even though you were going hiking with your man [or mom? ambiguous handwriting] in the morning. It really meant a lot to me, and even though I'm still unsure of my next course of action, my mind is a lot clearer, and I am no longer pulling my hair out in large clumps." -M

"You're one of those people I know will always be there to listen to me, or help me if I ever need it. Thanks" -A (who became one of my best friends)

"Thank you for your lesson today. Just be happy and don't worry. You're doing a great job and I appreciate all the time you put in." -E

"You are wonderful! You're so sincere and selfless and such a great friend. Thanks for your wonderful example and all your help you've been to me. It's a pleasure having you on my floor! Have a great Christmas and I'm so excited for next semester!" -J

"You don't even realize what you mean to those around you. Everyone you know looks at you as an example of how to live the gospel. Even people you never thought would look up to you. And you are so much more beautiful than you know. And your inner light enhances that even more. God loves you because you are one of his precious, beautiful, virtuous daughters. Love always," -from my brother

"You are an inspiration to me. You have such a desire to become who God wants you to be, and you strive to make that happen. I am so blessed to have you for a friend and roommate. Your loving hugs and reminders that naps make everything better help me on hard days. Some days are hard for you, and I wish so much that I knew better how to help you. Always remember how much I love you. You are beautiful and strong. I look up to you and feel blessed by your influence. Good luck on finals. Merry Christmas. I love you." -C

I also just went through and read every single card I've gotten in college (I keep all of them). I am very blessed, and very loved, even if I didn't always see it. Life is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Am My Mother's Daughter

I finally cooked the ground sausage I've had in my freezer for months to include in some soup I made tonight. 

I definitely snacked on pieces of the sausage several times while waiting for the rest of the soup to finish cooking. Whenever my mom cooks sausage, that's what she does. In fact, ground sausage is so yummy, she's probably just cooked it alone before simply for the sake of enjoying the delicious flavor. Sometimes she's gracious enough to let the kids have a piece or two. (My mom's "entitlement complex" is funny and well-deserved).

I'm not really a soup person, but it was pretty good tonight. And talking to my mom for a little bit was infinitely better. I can't think of anything right now that we fight about anymore - she's usually right about pretty much everything, and she knows to be careful talking to me about school - so it's become more of a friendly dialogue. We're growing together, mother and daughter, as we navigate new and ever-adapting experiences in our lives. She'll always be my mom, but it's fun to have her as a friend too :)

Another Tuesday

Yeah, technically it's Wednesday now...

I mentioned my blog to my roommate earlier this evening, about how I'd gotten a lot of views, but no comments on the previous blog post or comments on my facebook link to it; it's hard to know what people think when you don't get any feedback! She said she hadn't read my big post about Jeffress, but commented that her favorite posts I've written have been the simple 3-paragraph ones about the little things in life which only take 5 minutes to read. That was really interesting to hear, especially because I'd wondered about finding a good balance between the light and the serious.

So, I'll try to do more of those. Downsides of today: I kinda missed some class time today because I was working on that last blog post (I felt like it was pretty important), and I've spent the last 45+ minutes picking Teflon flakes out of my fettucine alfredo with a toothpick because I used a crappy pot to cook it in. Upsides of today: work was SO fantastic (I love being in a leadership position where I can help people, and I love my crew!!), I had a good phone conversation with a friend I haven't seen in a while, and I had a great time dancing tonight (I think I'll be spending more time in the country swing club...). It was also a lovely night outside for walking: brisk, with a jacket just being optional. And there's even more fun things tomorrow! Class (Isaiah, Phonetics and Dance being my favorites), visiting teaching, more dancing, reading the weekly emails from my missionary brother, etc.

And, as my eyes are getting droopier, and as thinking about it elicits a short yawn... Something else nice about tonight will be going to sleep :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Current Political Events

As I've asserted before, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And yes, I've been very aware of the recent hubbub surrounding Pastor Jeffress's public statements about Mormons (the popular nickname for members of my church). His theological assertions are inaccurate, but my biggest grief is with his narrow-minded, prejudiced approach to people of other faiths, and his intent to defame. People make uninformed mistakes all the time, but to deliberately malign others is to be anti-Christlike. I'm directing my words both to Jeffress and to those who have gotten offended at his words and resorted to anger and name-calling in return.

I have a couple major reasons why I don't engage in political debates. One is that I know I'm not totally informed on all the issues at stake; thus, my positions aren't very defensible, and a heated, polarized debate isn't the best place to inform myself and make clear-headed judgments. I like to be acquainted with "the whole truth" to make sound judgments and to understand the perspective of others. My second reason is because of the nature of the debate itself. I can get quite passionate about issues I feel strongly for, and I want to stay in control of my emotions, rather than let my emotions control me. Additionally, my experience has been that these debates are most commonly between polarized political elites, and with that being the case, neither side is likely to sway the other (no matter how informed either side is), and it turns rather into a mudslinging, degrading fray. Therefore, I prefer to gain political understanding from engaging with multiple sources and making decisions on my own, and thereby avoid the emotionalism and contention associated with debates.

I want to address the mudslinging element in particular. We read in 3 Nephi 11:29-30 (in the Book of Mormon) one of the first things that the Savior Jesus Christ taught the people in the Americas when He visited them shortly after his Resurrection:
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
It is one thing to discuss our disagreements with others. Doing so provides the opportunity to learn about others, to examine our beliefs for flaws, and to test the strength of our convictions. You might call it a "refiner's fire" of sorts (see Malachi 3:2-3, in the Old Testament). However, engaging in disagreements where our hearts are stirred up with anger against each other is of the devil. Disagreements like this largely arise when we attack people by deriding or belittling them, intentionally causing them harm. It is fine to think differently from someone else, but if you attempt to malign or defame them, you are attempting to abuse and belittle another son or daughter of God, and He's not cool with that.

I know that it's hard to curb that little nasty voice that wants to interject sneering one-liners or out-and-out railing assaults into conversations with others, especially when you feel like your conversational partner has wronged you in some way. But I testify to you that to give in to those urges is to become Satan's mouthpiece and to allow him to influence you. I also testify that giving in to that bitterness will never make you feel better, and that peace and healing come only through accepting the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As we accept the Atonement and strive to become more Christlike, He will bless us with His love and patience for ourselves and for our fellowmen.

As I said earlier, I like to learn as much as I can before offering an opinion regarding an issue, whether it's "do I like pickles" or "which candidate is most fit to be the next President of the United States". To ignore or not fairly investigate both sides is to remain ignorant, and to refuse to learn more is to be narrow-minded. Dr. Jeffress apparently knows that Mormons (or, Latter-Day Saints) exist, and he knows a little about our theology. However, his research was clearly biased and shallowly done. One evidence of that which made me laugh is found in an article by Russ Wise that Jeffress endorsed on his facebook page, which article is titled, "Mormon Beliefs About the Bible and Salvation". It starts out innocently enough by presenting facts, but then those facts are twisted and glammed up with sensational, pointed remarks to ridicule and vilify the LDS faith. The part that made me laugh was when the author claims that Joseph Smith contradicted himself in describing the nature of God: he quoted from Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 and Alma 31:15 for support, and yet he completely ignored their context! It's funny because the D&C reference is completely accurate, but the Alma reference was quoting the recorded prayer of an apostate group, which, as you can read in the rest of the chapter, "astonished [Alma, the missionary] beyond all measure" (verse 19). That, my friends, is narrow-minded and incomplete investigation. Anyone reading the article can see that it is written not just to inform, but to deceive and bias its readers.


If, in the course of your discussions with others, you find that you want to persuade them to your point of view, I'd like to emphasize that from my own experience and as stated in the gospel, the way to do that is by love, not brute force. We may read in Alma 31:5 (in the Book of Mormon),
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just--yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them--therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.
Also, from the Bible, in Proverbs 15:1,
A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Think of your own experience. Are you more likely to be open to change or correction if someone says, "Hey, you're wrong!" or "I hadn't thought of your perspective before; this is how I see the same issue"? My guess is that if someone were to declare the former to you, you might get defensive (as if you were personally attacked) and cling more tightly to what you were saying in the first place. Loving people - not bashing them - is what will make people more inclined to listen to you. If you really, genuinely care for someone, they have greater reason to trust your motives when you have something to tell them. Love people, seek to understand them, and value them; don't demean them and expect them to listen to you. Christ loves us, and that's one reason why we can trust His corrections of us, and humbly apply them to our lives.


My personal history - overcoming my own tendencies to judge quickly, my mother's counsel to never assume things that I don't know, my father's advice in befriending people, and navigating my relationships with my siblings - has taught me many of these lessons on love, understanding and persuasion. I've also learned by study, as I read the scriptures (both the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and others endorsed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as sources of doctrine), apply the teachings I discover to my life, and see their results, that these practices do lead me to become more Christlike. I know, from the many evidences in my life, that as Paul beautifully wrote in 1 John 4, love leads us to God, and that contention pulls us away from God.

Let us conduct our political dialogues with greater civility, respect and understanding, and let us learn together and work together to reach solutions for our common problems.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Night

One of the useful things I brought back from Vienna was an appreciation for herbal tea. I've had a sore throat for the last couple days, and sipping three mugfuls of peppermint tea with honey tonight is soothing it quite nicely :)

Being caught up on homework feels so fantastic! I've got math homework due in 15 minutes... And I got it done last week! When I shared that sentiment with my mom, her response was, "Why didn't you listen to me years ago when I tried to tell you the same thing??" It meant that tonight I got to relax and watch the Anastasia movie with my roommates. (That said, doing nothing grows old pretty fast)

Also, I think that single women need to be particularly careful about how many sappy movies they watch and sweet songs they listen to :P (Thank you Anastasia, "Across the Stars" from Star Wars Ep. II and "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera for the courtesy tonight). I don't think it's a terrible offense to commit, or one that I'm especially guilty of... But it sure does remind you of how sweet it is to be in love with someone, and reminds you of dreams for the future :) 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wait, where did Fall go??

I woke up to snow this morning. It's the first week of October.

Luckily, the snow hadn't reached the valley yet: it clung to the mountains like a creamy, thick white fog while it rained on us below. It only snowed briefly in the afternoon, and the ground was so wet that it didn't stick. When the clouds finally lifted from the mountains, the unmistakable trace they left behind looked like sifted powdered sugar across the whole mountain range.

Walking to work in the afternoon wasn't horribly cold, but I re-discovered that if my head is exposed (even if the rest of me is well-covered), I get a painful, painful ache at the base of my skull where it meets my neck, which doesn't go away until my ears are rewarmed. Walking home from work in the evening wasn't pure, frozen misery either; I anticipated that it'd be colder than earlier, so I layered an extra jacket on, wore a hat, and kept my gloveless hands in my pockets. With my head, core and feet snugly warm, I felt free to almost enjoy the brisker air on my face :)

Wearing a winter hat and feeling bundled up against the chill brought back memories of winters past. I remembered walking around Temple Square in Salt Lake City for the first time with my family last Christmas. I remembered when I was dating someone last year and was glad for the excuse to cuddle closer to him as we walked around in the cold. I remembered crazy nighttime adventures from freshman year. I remember being excited to finally arrive home from work and drink the rich hot chocolate I was so looking forward to. For some reason, the cold and snow make me think of Christmas. It's probably a good thing, because when I was just looking out at the weather this morning, I couldn't think of anything positive. But walking home tonight mostly turned my mind to the clear, simple, effervescent, sparkling joy that comes with the Christmas season. I smiled and reveled in the moment for a little while. Then I remembered that it's still October, and I don't even have a Halloween costume yet.

Hey, at least there was something good about the fact that it snowed this early in October... And, the colder weather means I get to be creative with scarves and cardigans, which I really enjoy :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

LDS General Conference: Condensed Notes, part 1

I can't wait to read the transcripts of the talks when they come out. Hopefully by Thursday this week!

(Here's a link to the October 2011 Conference archive page - the Relief Society meeting [for the women's organization] already has transcripts available, but the other sessions just have video and audio up today).

I've often heard the suggestion to pray before Conference about some questions you would like answered, and that as you listen to the talks, you will find your answers. I tried that a little this year, just taking baby steps to prepare myself before Conference. I didn't feel like I had any urgent questions, so my preparation over the preceding week consisted of extra-attentive scripture reading and praying to hear the messages I needed to hear. Before the first session started, I jotted down a few topics that I would like guidance on: marriage or missionary service, time management, family, charity, and praying for others. The result was that I got answers to some extent on each of those topics; in April, I'm excited to see what happens as I put more earnest (and specific) effort and desire into my spiritual preparation for General Conference.

The notes I take for each speaker aren't meant to be all-inclusive. I usually try to write ideas that stick out to me, and sometimes those inspire my own thoughts that I include.

These are my condensed notes from each session:

General Relief Society Session (from last weekend)
All of the speakers stressed the importance of quality visiting teaching as our way of supporting and uplifting each other as sisters, and they all talked about the new book "Daughters in My Kingdom" which covers the global history, growth and personal stories of women in Christ's church.
- Julie B. Beck taught "what I hope my granddaughters will understand about Relief Society", regarding its purposes, organization and capacity to do good and bless individuals and families.
- Silvia H. Allred talked about the gift of charity (the pure love of Christ), how we may obtain it by desiring and praying to God for it, and the many ways that charity is expressed. (She used a quote from Henry B. Eyring that I really liked).
- Barbara Thompson talked all about cleaving (or sticking closely) to our covenants, and how those covenants can sustain us and give us power, joy and protection in everyday life.
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf uses great analogies and stories to convey his important messages, and this time he used a small, five-petaled forget-me-not blossom to illustrate 5 things we should always remember: to be patient with ourselves, to discern the difference between good and foolish sacrifices, to be happy with right now, the reason "why" of the gospel (instead of all the "what"s), and that the Lord loves and remembers each of us individually.

Saturday Morning
- Richard G. Scott's most repeated message was that scriptures are like friends who we can turn to whenever we want, and who can help us with any problem we face.
- Barbara Thompson talked about basic requirements for receiving personal revelation and a testimony of truth.
- L. Whitney Clayton spoke about missionary work and how Nebuchadnezzar's dream is being fulfilled: the gospel (the stone cut without hands) is filling the whole earth.
- President Thomas S. Monson announced 6 new temples and a new "temple patron assistance fund" to which people can donate so that church members who live far from a temple can go to the temple once in their lifetime.
- José L. Alonso's message was the importance of "doing the right thing, at the right time, without delay."
- Boyd K. Packer spoke directly to the youth of the church, urging them to keep the commandments (reminding them that they have the power to do so), to listen to the Holy Spirit and the prophet, and to be optimistic and look forward to a full life, even though we live in perilous times. 
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf reminded us to keep a healthy perspective, that while in some ways "man is nothing", it's even more true that "man is everything" to God. We are God's children, and as such, our happiness is "His work and glory".


Saturday Afternoon
- David A. Bednar made an interesting observation that young people's tech savvy is more than just useful for texting and communication, it's also perfect preparation to do greater family history work with the new tools we have today. He emphasized the importance of the prophecy in Malachi 4:5-6, that the hearts of the fathers and the children will be turned to each other, else the earth would be wasted at the Savior's coming.
- Neil L. Anderson talked about the importance of parenting, and reminded us that the commandment given to Adam and Eve to "multiply and replenish the earth" is still in force, and that we shouldn't judge another for decisions which are between a husband, a wife and the Lord.
- Ian S. Ardern talked all about time management and getting rid of things that distract us from our most important priorities (if we don't prioritize, we become subject to procrastination).
- Carl B. Cook shared a simple story from when he was discouraged and President Monson told him to literally and symbolically look up, and then summed up the message in the words "look up, step up, cheer up."
- LeGrand R. Curtis, Jr spoke about what it means to redeem something, and what this says about Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. 
Unfortunately, I had to leave for work at this point. I'll have to watch the archived recordings later this week for the talks I missed.


Sunday Morning
- Henry B. Eyring elaborated on 3 parts of the baptismal covenant: charity, being a witness of Christ, and enduring to the end.
- Robert D. Hales gave an excellent talk that I gained a lot from on what it means to "wait upon the Lord." It includes hope, trust, faith, patience, diligence and pressing forward, especially during times when it's hard. 
- Tad R. Callister showed how the Book of Mormon's additional witness of gospel truth eliminates the ambiguity resulting form many and varied interpretations people have gleaned from the Bible, and how there is no middle ground (a theme covered 2-3 times in other talks as well) between God and Satan. 
- Elaine S. Dalton encouraged fathers to teach values to their daughters by their own virtuous conduct and by the way fathers treat their daughters' mothers. She said, "You are not ordinary men," and reminded them of the potential and responsibility inherent in their paternal roles. 
- M. Russell Ballard taught that names are significant, and that using the full name of the church - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - is meaningful in describing just who we are.
- President Monson taught that God is "the same yesterday, and to day, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), and that His commandments are non-negotiable, and that we need to listen and act on what the Spirit tells us. He also asserted that the relationship we develop with our Heavenly Father by praying to Him is crucial to our survival. 


Sunday Afternoon
- Russell M. Nelson talked about what it means to be children of the covenant, and about the Abrahamic Covenant, which is applicable to all his descendants and members of the Church.
- Dallin H. Oaks centered his talk on, "What think ye of Christ?", about who Christ is and what that means for us. He's one speaker who asserted that there is no middle ground in choosing between God and Satan.
- Matthew O. Richardson gave an interesting talk on how we can change our teaching methods to better "teach by and with the Holy Spirit," by teaching people (not lessons) and teaching in a way to prompt people to act.
- Kazuhiko Yamashita shared his tender feelings for the missionaries who taught him the gospel and shared how we can become better missionaries ourselves.
- Randall K. Bennett taught that there are consequences for every choice we make, and that we can't pick-and-choose them; he also emphasized that you cannot serve both God and Satan - that you have to choose.
- J. Devn Cornish gave a sweet, simple talk about why prayer is important and what is important to include in your prayers. 
- Quentin L. Cook issued some principles to help us deal with tragedy and mourning: we have a Father in Heaven who perfectly understands, the Atonement of Christ covers pain of sin and loss, we have the Plan of Happiness and the promise of eternal life, and that we should be grateful for all the tender mercies of the Lord. It'll be ok :)
- President Monson, in conclusion, reminded us that Heavenly Father is aware of our challenges and our efforts to serve Him and be happy. He also asked us to remember the General Authorities in our prayers.


Even for a condensed version, that's a lot of notes. I'm missing notes on the men's Priesthood session and part of the Saturday afternoon session; I'll probably post those separately later this week after I have time to watch them. 


I love the chance that General Conference gives me to relax and to feast on the Spirit. I learn so much from the many men and women who address us from their life experience and feelings as guided by the Holy Ghost. I know that Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet of our living Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of his vantage point as a prophet, I know that we will be blessed by heeding his words as surely as other people have been blessed for following prophetic warnings in their time. 


This gospel is wonderful, and it is true. Living it leads us back to living with our Heavenly Father and our Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Why would I sell my long-term happiness for short-lived pleasures? This is a gospel of happiness :) In the name of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Friend, amen.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

LDS General Conference: An Introduction

You know, life seems full of decisions and subsequent adjusting and refining. This blog has been public and anonymous since I created it, and picking what things might benefit others and what things are better left private has gone through many adjustments. For example, I realized after my last "serious dating relationship" that I don't need to keep the world at large informed of my dating life; family and roommates are sufficient audience :) Other topics represent more of a challenge, like what spiritual events should I share or reserve for my journal. Based on the "call to arms" on the blog "(Gay) Mormon Guy", which the author based on an excellent talk in General Conference today, I'm starting to think that maybe I need to reconsider some of my boundaries on topics, or simply adjusting my approach to what I share through my blog so that I can share more and share better.

The Semi-Annual LDS General Conference, for those who might not have been aware, is a twice-a-year event (held the first Saturday and Sunday of April and October) broadcasted live from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the upper-level church authorities (President of the Church and his counselors, the Quorum of 12 Apostles, members of the Quorums of 70, and leaders in auxiliary programs) address the Church as a whole on various topics for 8-10 hours over the weekend.

Here is the lds.org link to find current and past General Conference addresses.

Conference is pretty amazing. On one level, it's a lot of fun to get together with my friends at someone's house, bring food, and listen to the speakers' messages. The best part though, is that no matter where you are in the world or what circumstance you find yourself in, all the members of the Church get to hear the same messages. I'm definitely guilty of taking the blessings of General Conference for granted. We believe that the line of priesthood authority was restored by God through Joseph Smith, and that line of authority with prophets, pastors, evangelists, etc has continued since to the present day. Those who lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints aren't theological politicians - they are ordinary men and women who obey God's call when He asks them to step up and assume extra responsibilities in caring for His children worldwide. As members of Christ's Church, we sustain these men as prophets, seers and revelators for the whole world. Thus, the opportunity we have every 6 months to hear from so many prophets of the Lord is a priceless one indeed.

Soon, I'll share some of the preparation I did for Conference and some of my favorite insights I got from listening to the speakers. But I need sleep now if I want to be awake for the rest of Conference tomorrow.

Guten Abend und bis Morgen! :)