Reclaimed – The Power of the Atonement to renew, forgive, and forget

Happy Sunday!

As I was looking over my site, the video I put up on the last post had been replaced by this one.  I changed the videos, but was so touched by this one that I wanted to share it today.  It was created for the Youth, but I feel that it is for everyone, because, (as Elder Bowen stated in the general conference talk that the video is based on), “The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us. It can clean, reclaim, and sanctify even you.”

Virtue + Charity = Power – Trying to Be like Jesus in Deed and in Thought

I just got a new calling as a team teacher for the missionary prep class in our stake.  I taught my first lesson yesterday, and then saw this message today.   It’s so inspiring.  I am impressed today about the importance that virtue plays in doing the Lord’s work.

When the Savior was touched by the woman who was plagued with an “issue of blood”, the Lord knew that someone had touched Him because, as the scripture states,  he immediately [knew] in himself that virtue had gone out of him, Mark 5:25-34.  Virtue, or the power that flows freely from virtue was part of the Savior, because He was the perfect being, the Lamb without blemish, one without sin (see also Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 – note that virtue and love are so vital to this scripture, and I am speaking about Christlike love, not lust, here.).

If we want to be effective leaders, teachers, mentors, spouses, parents, friends, etc. then it behooves us to follow the Master’s example on this point.  To quote from the talk that the video was taken from (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, We are all Enlisted, Gen. Conf. October 2011) –

Well, the Lord has drawn lines of worthiness for those called to labor with Him in this work. No missionary can be unrepentant of sexual transgression or profane language or pornographic indulgence and then expect to challenge others to repent of those very things! You can’t do that. The Spirit will not be with you, and the words will choke in your throat as you speak them. You cannot travel down what Lehi called “forbidden paths”5 and expect to guide others to the “strait and narrow”6 one—it can’t be done.

I also have a calling as the Primary Chorister.  This month, our song is I’m trying to be like Jesus.  I scoured the internet for ideas and found some great ones on Sugardoodle.  I quoted the scripture, Alma 5:14 –  Have ye received his image in your countenance.  We discussed what that meant, and I  took a mirror and a picture of the Savior and asked the children how their image was like the Savior’s (head, hair, eyes, etc.) and then we talked about the fact that as we spend time with people, we begin to behave and act, and sometimes look, like the people that we spend time with (I joked here about pegging my pants in High School – if you are reading this and went to school in the 90’s you’ll know what I’m talking about :). )

We began to discuss the scripture, 2 Nephi 9:9, which states that if we had not had a Savior, that we would have become like Satan, And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; and then we talked about the song , line by line –

I’m trying to be like Jesus,
I’m following in His ways.
I’m trying to love as He did
In all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted
To make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen
As the still small voice whispers:

CHORUS  – Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.

I’m trying to love my neighbor.
I’m learning to serve my friends.
I watch for that day of gladness
When Jesus will come again.

I try to remember the lessons he taught,
And the holy spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

CHORUS

Note that the whole song is about kindness, and gentleness, and being loving, and listening to the Holy Spirit.  I talked to the kids about a friend of mine, who, one day when his child had made a mistake, got angry and yelled, “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”  Well, for one thing, He probably wouldn’t have yelled.  He probably would have  taken the child aside to sit down and discuss the problem, and then, would have shown forth love and expressed faith that the child would make a better choice in the future.

Finally, we talked about Moroni 7:47-48, which talks about charity, the pure love of Christ, and that, if we ask, and are filled with this love, when he shall appear we shall be like him – what an amazing thought!  That by spending time with the Savior (through scripture study, worship, and following the Spirit), and by acting as He would act – acts of love and virtue,  we will become like Him.   If we become like Him, then we will have power to do His works (see John 15: 1-7 and John 14:12).  I can’t imagine that we would sit back and expect the Savior to “tow the line” and live virtuously, and then, conversely not expect  Him to have requirements for us to follow.  We use and appreciate the Grace that He provided through His infinite atonement, and then to not try to be virtuous and loving  in our daily walk – it just doesn’t make sense.

We just finished watching the London 2012 Olympics – how inspiring to watch those men and women who had worked for four years to become something great.  How wonderful is our Coach, who accepts us, yes, but then invites us to become something better.  Who sees our divine potential to become great, to do great things in this world, to be more than the man or woman sitting on the couch, eating doughnuts, and watching T.V.  He wants so much more for each of us, and the way that we start on the path is to begin to “try to be like Jesus.”

For Mother’s Day – Love your daughter’s Mom

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just found a beautiful message for this holiday, based on a talk by Elaine Dalton.

Here is the transcript of the entire talk, and one of the quotes that I love the most –

You are your daughter’s guardian in more than the legal sense. Be present in your daughter’s life. Let her know your standards, your expectations, your hopes and dreams for her success and happiness. Interview her, get to know her friends and, when the time comes, her boyfriends. Help her understand the importance of education. Help her understand that the principle of modesty is a protection. Help her choose music and media that invite the Spirit and are consistent with her divine identity. Be an active part of her life. And if in her teenage years she should not come home from a date on time, go get her. She will resist and tell you that you have ruined her social life, but she will inwardly know that you love her and that you care enough to be her guardian. (Love Her Mother, Sister Elaine S. Dalton, General Conference, October 2011)

Mormon Messages Channel

When I was young, my Dad had a projector that he would haul out for FHE (as I mentioned in the previous post).  We watched shows like;

  • Man’s Search for Happiness
  • Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts
  • One
  • Johnny Lingo
  • The First Vision
  • The Restoration

I loved them.  Each one had a profound effect on me.

For example, in Worthy Music Worthy Thoughts, then Elder Boyd K. Packer talked about our minds being a stage and that thoughts were players on that stage.  If we didn’t want certain thoughts to be on that stage, then all that we needed to do was to banish those players and put new, good thoughts on stage.  He stated that we are the ones in control of what is played out on the stage of our minds.  That idea was brilliant, and has helped me through out my life.

The problem is, there is no projector now that I am raising my own kids (plus, I’m sure that the films are quite out-dated).  How do I give them the rich, gospel, media experience that I treasured?

Enter, youtube – the LDS page with Mormon Messages.  I have an app on my phone for The Mormon Channel, and it comes with those Mormon Messages Videos available on the phone.

On Sunday, my daughter (age 6) found those videos, and was mesmerized.

The one that she loved the most was this –

She watched it repeatedly, and then wanted me to watch it with her.

I’m not sure whether she was fascinated by the gospel teachings, or the desire never to wear flip-flops again. 🙂  Either way, I really believe that media is a powerful tool that can be used to teach these children (that are in a media-saturated society) ideas and principles that can help guide them.

Now, if only I can find the movie – The Phone Call.

Ukraine Temple Dedication and Cultural Celebration

Isaiah 2:2-3 – I went on my mission to Bulgaria and I was so touched by this video.  I wept, and wept, and my two-year-old kept saying “it’s okay Mommy, don’t cry!”  I couldn’t help it.  Seeing the youth gathered like that, excited about both their cultural and Spiritual heritage.   Listening to the languages, hearing their testimonies, and seeing my Bulgarians both talking and dancing was so special.

There were four comments that really touched me;

  • A sister, Ol’ya,  from Belarus  said, “We would like to show that Belarus exists, that this country, though isolated, still has members” (2 Nephi 26: 25, 33).
  • A brother, Mahksad, from Kazakhstan said, “I want him [the prophet that would come to the cultural celebration] to see that there are youth, that there is a rising generation in the Church that can be relied on, that the Church can continue to build on the new generations, because we’re pioneers in our countries” (1 Nephi 13:37, 1 Nephi 14: 1,8, 14).
  • A sister, Liza,  from the Ukraine said, “This is a clear gathering of Israel” (1 Nephi 10:14).

  • During part of the dedication, President Monson said, “It’s your temple now, and in a few minutes we’re going to give it to the Lord.  Then you will come to His temple, and His Spirit will come to you” (Doc & Cov 97:15-16).

What an amazing time to be living in!

Internet Safety For Our Youth

'J' getting her first taste of technology

My daughters are already learning their way around technology.  My five year old can connect to the internet and I have an account for her with some of her favorite little games (sesame street ABC’s, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) and my two year old is now trying to figure out how to send a text to her grandma.  🙂

So, in the midst of this unprecedented technological era, I’ve been worried about teaching, training and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to protecting my babies.  I came across a fantastic article in BYU’s Alumni Magazine entitled, THE DANGEROUS DIGITAL VORTEX, with the byline; Savvy parents connect with their children to build powerful family firewalls.

The author interviewed BYU associate professor of computer science, Charles D. Knutson who stated; “Increasingly, technology is the air we breathe. … We have to acclimate our children and teach them and train them how to live in a world where that is their reality.”

The article pointed out that dangerous areas such as pornography and predators in chat rooms are not the only thing to worry about.  “Sexting”, cyber bullying, Facebook, video games, and even too much texting can be areas that, if left unchecked, can become major problems.  Prevention, and frank discussion is vital to training our children and youth.

Under a section entitled –  Internet Filters and Computers in the Kitchen Are Not Enough, the author stated;

Responsible parents know not to put a computer in a child’s bedroom, but Knutson has found that some don’t think twice about handing their son or daughter a cell phone with a browser, messaging, and a camera. “You give your kids iPhones and they have the entire world at their fingertips. They’re taking it to bed with them, and maybe they’re accessing porn or maybe they’re just up until 4 in the morning texting their friends.” Parents who do this “have an absolute disconnect” about what they’ve done.

The solution is for parents to keep up on the latest technologies. They must investigate thoroughly and put limits on any devices they buy. That means adding filters, disabling questionable features, and controlling access. Some parents keep custody of the devices; the children check them out when it’s agreed they’re needed and check them back in at specified times, such as during homework hours or bedtime.

I think that is SOOO important to remember.  Technology for teens is a privilege – NOT a right.  Just like driving the car.  We need to teach our children responsibility, and intelligence.

For example –

  • Texting language is not correct;  just because your friends type “thru” and “C U L8TR” doesn’t mean that it is accepted as proper English. (When one uses texting language in his/her college papers, it only makes that person look illiterate.  And, please don’t think it hasn’t happened, I have graded too many of these papers during my six years teaching on the college level.)
  • It’s important to have conversations.  The art of conversing will allow one to go far in life.  A lot further than those who only know how to text their thoughts and feelings.
  • There are many AMAZING activities in life that can be done without technology.  In order to learn those skills, one needs to unplug!

The author also states that not allowing any technology in the home is not a good idea.

Some parents are so terrified by the prospect of their children having access to the digital world that they “pull the plug”—they forbid any and all technology in their homes. “That solution creates a false sense of security,” says Knutson. “Your children still have access to computers at the library, at school, and at their friends’ houses. And they’re going to leave home. If they go to college, now they have a laptop for the very first time, and they’ve never had to contend with what that world looks like. It’s like tossing a kid into a swimming pool who’s never seen one before.”

Pulling the plug also denies children and families the positive connectivity of the digital world, which includes Church websites, General Conference, and valuable instruction of many kinds.

The most important thing to do is to make sure that families have good communication about the world in which they live.

Knutson says that when there’s emotional connection in the family, there’s a huge amount of protection. Add to that gospel teachings, and you have what amounts to a near firewall against harmful technology.

“I really believe that this is the fire this generation has to pass through,” says Knutson. “It’s the river of filthiness in Lehi’s dream. He said the iron rod was on the riverbank, so when you’re clinging to the rod, you’re very close to the river. It’s muddy, and you get splashed. But you can’t let go and move further from the filthiness. You’re where you’re supposed to be. It’s not your location that’s safe or unsafe—it’s how you behave despite your proximity to temptation. We cannot withdraw from the world but instead are called to be in it while we hold on to the scriptures, good parents, others who are godly, and, most of all, the Savior.”

You can read the entire article here.  Also, the BYU professor has a website dedicated to Internet Safety which can be found here.

 

The First Amendment in the Classroom; or Is it Constitutional to Teach about Religion?

I recently read a book called, Religious Literacy: What every American needs to know and doesn’t (Harper Collins, 2007), which I enjoyed very much.  It really made me ponder a lot of things and I wanted to share a few notes. 

The author, Stephen Prothero is chair of the religion department at Boston University, and he has authored many nonfiction books on religion  and writes many reviews and articles for various journals and newspapers.  He treats religious beliefs with a great deal of respect and he discusses the history and ideas that support his thesis in a very scholarly way.  His website can be found here.

The basic premise for the novel is (from his website):

Do you get tongue-tied when asked to name the Twelve Apostles? Do you think Adam’s wife was Joan of Arc? If so, join the crowd. The United States is one of the most religious places on earth, but it is also a nation of religious illiterates. Many Protestants can’t name the four Gospels, many Catholics can’t name the seven sacraments, and many Jews can’t name the first five books of the Bible. And yet politicians and pundits continue to root public policy arguments in religious rhetoric whose meanings are missed, or misinterpreted, by the vast majority of American citizens. This is in my view a major problem in contemporary civic life. “Religious Literacy,” … explores this problem, pinpointing key moments in U.S. history that spawned our current epidemic of religious illiteracy and offering practical solutions to remedy this problem, including mandatory religion courses in the public schools. The book also includes a Dictionary of Religious Literacy with key terms, beliefs, characters, and stories that every American needs to know in order to make sense of religiously inflected debates: from abortion and gay marriage to Islamic terrorism and the war in Iraq.

He begins by talking about a quiz that he made for his students (which can be found here if you’d like to take it) and proving that Americans fared very poorly on their knowledge of  things that they profess to believe.  (No small surprise there, simply because we live in a society of entertainment, and to become literate in Culture or Religion is usually only done if one is self-motivated.)

Prothero goes on to give the history of Religion in the USA and how it was the Believers and not the Atheists that led to the secularization of  American schools.  At the beginning of the public schools in the US, readers like Noah Webster’s Spellers, and the McGuffy Readers were pious schoolbooks and were slanted toward Protestant teachings.  Roman Catholics took opposition to these teachings in the schoolhouse (and rightly so, considering that many were aimed at teaching against Catholicism).

Now, I’m summing up a great deal of highly interesting information here, but eventually, the first amendment was invoked and religion began to take it’s place out of the schools and the responsibility for religious instruction fell largely on the American Home and the Sunday School.

Prothero then suggests a remedy  – which is to bring religious studies back into the Public School.  This of course, as a teacher, is the part that intrigued me the most.  His main premise is – Religious people make huge life decisions based on their beliefs.  Since most news stories are about religion (Iran, Iraq, Israel, etc) and many major political decisions are based on religion, then we need to do a better job of understanding faiths, our own and others.

But the question is, can we talk about religion in schools?  Is it Constitutional?  Many teachers are fearful to even mention the subject at all.

The answer, that the Supreme Court has given, is  – yes. It is Constitutional to teach about religion in the Public Schools.  WHAAAT??? 🙂

What is illegal is to teach “Sunday-school-style religious instruction” (Prothero, p.128) or in other words, a school teacher cannot proselytize his/her pupils into a religion, but s/he may teach about religion.

Prothero gives  five different quotes from Chief Justices that very clearly outline the Court’s decisions about teaching religion.  I will repeat those ideas here (more detail can be found on p.128-129 of this text or from the court rulings themselves).

  • Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson (McCollum v. Board of Education, 1948) –  “Music without sacred music, architecture without the cathedral, or painting without the scriptural themes would be eccentric or incomplete, even from a secular point of view. … Certainly a course in English literature that omitted the Bible and other powerful uses of our mother tongue for religious ends would be pretty barren.  And I should suppose it  is a proper, if not indispensable, part of preparation for a worldly life to know the roles that religion and religions have played in the tragic story of mankind.” Jackson also stated,  “The fact is, that, for good or ill, nearly everything in our culture worth transmitting, everything which gives meaning to life, is saturated with religious influences.”

 

  • Justice Thomas Clark (Abington v. Schempp, 1963) – “[I]t might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.  It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.  Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistent with the Fist Amendment.”
  • Justice William Brennan (Abington v. Schempp, 1963) – “The holding of the court today plainly does not foreclose teaching about the Holy Scriptures or about the differences between religious sects in classes in literature or history.  Indeed, whether or not the Bible is involved, it would be impossible to teach meaningfully many subjects in the social sciences or the humanities without some mention of religion.”
  • Justice Lewis Powell (Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987) “Courses in comparative religion, of course, are customary and constitutionally appropriate.”  and The Supreme Court (Stone v. Graham, 1980)  –  “the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.”

Prothero states:  Few school administrators understand the crucial disctinction that these justices have repeatedly made between studying the Bible academically (which is constitutional) and reading it devotionally (which is not). He says that schools that educate teachers don’t understand or teach the distinction that the First Amendment makes in teaching religion, and so the teachers remain silent.

But, [s]ilence can lie as well as words, of course, and in the case the lie is that religion doesn’t matter: it has no social, political, or historical force so students can get along just fine without knowing anything about it.  This approach flies in the face of decades of Supreme Court rulings.  It also lends credibility to the complaint, common in conservative Christian circles, that public schools, far from being religiously neutral are actively promoting a ‘culture of disbelief’.

… the First Amendment requires of state governments not just neutrality among religions but also neutrality between religion and irreligion.  The current state of  obeying the law by avoiding religion may well be violating the Constitution, by indoctrinating students into a secular world view.

He goes on to say that when we don’t teach the youth about religion in general, it fails to prepare students for citizenship in a world in which religion matters.

At the end of his book, Prothero gives a Dictionary of Religious Literacy that covers topics from Abraham, to Buddhism, to yoga,  Zen, and Zionism.

I highly recommend this book, both for it’s historical account of religion in education and it’s very informative section on what we can do under the Constitution.  As a teacher, I find it encouraging to know that I will not be “put in the stocks” for saying the words Bible or Jesus Christ in my classes.

How Women Can Gain Power: A Response to “Why Standard’s Night is Sub-Standard – teaching sexuality to young women”

I just read a very fascinating article by Kathryn Soper, entitled – Why Standards Night Is Substandard: Teaching Sexuality to the Young Women.

She talked about a young girl’s need to feel love, quoting an article by President Benson:

I recognize that most people fall into sexual sin in a misguided attempt to fulfill basic human needs. We all have a need to feel loved and worthwhile. We all seek to have joy and happiness in our lives. Knowing this, Satan often lures people into immorality by playing on their basic needs. He promises pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment (The Message: The Law of Chastity, New Era, January 1988).

She states – To put it simply, thirteen-, fourteen-, and fifteen-year-old girls don’t have sex because they desperately want sex. They have sex because they desperately want something else. President Benson points out several psychological necessities we mistakenly seek through illicit sex — love, joy, fulfillment… .

Then she  names another reason that young girls begin to harness their own sexuality – the thrill of power that  she finds when she learns that she is becoming a woman and can capture the attention of men.

To tell you the truth, I knew exactly what she meant as she talked about the first time she wore mascara to a dance when she was a young woman.  I remembered the moments in my life when I felt that power.

There was a poignant moment when she discussed a mother, desperately worried about her daughter’s intimate relationship, and she (the author) asked if the daughter [had] power in her life.

Then she said that the mother, looked uneasy, and I didn’t blame her. Power is not a commodity we associate with Mormon girls and women. To our ears the very concept of power sounds worldly and corrupt, unless we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine. But I wasn’t talking about priesthood power, and I wasn’t talking about the steel-fisted power of a political dictator or corporate mogul, either.

I tried to explain. “What I mean is, does Amy sense that she’s in control of her own life? That she has the right and the ability and the opportunity to get what she wants and what she needs?”

Finally she discussed the problem with that kind of power –

She knows the power of sexual attraction, but she doesn’t need a man’s approving gaze or hungry touch to feel strong… All of humanity suffers every time a woman, young or not, uses her body not to express herself, but to secure a self; not to feel pleasure, but to gratify another’s; not to share love, but to barter for it.

While I agreed with most of her arguments and enjoyed her writing style, I felt frustrated that she didn’t take it a step further and talk about HOW to gain power in other ways, or offer suggestions to young women leaders and mothers about HOW to teach Standard’s Night.

May I submit that women need to find avenues to channel their powers, and places to turn to find confidence and self-esteem.  One of those places is in creation.

I read an article several years ago about a young teenage girl who was involved in self-mutilation (cutting).  The mother knew that her daughter loved to do art.  So she took her to an art store and bought her girl some expensive supplies to “keep her hands busy” when she felt the urge to do damage to herself.

Not only does that give the girl an outlet, it helps build the confidence and self-esteem that the girl needs.  Then wise parents and friends will reach out and give her the attention then she is crying out for, but if they don’t she can find it in other ways.

At an early age, I wanted the good opinion of others (I still do at times.  I think that is part of the human package) but I learned that the only way to get the attention and love that my soul craved was through the feelings of the Holy Spirit, telling me that I was unique, special, loved and approved of.

How much more satisfying it is when we receive the praise of God, knowing that it is fully justified and that His love and respect for us will persist, when usually the praise of men is fleeting and most disappointing (President N. Eldon Tanner, Ensign, Nov. 1975, p.76).

So there is power to be found in the act of creation, whether it be creating a healthy body, a work of culture, a work of kindness.  There is power to be found in developing our unique gifts and talents.

But the power that will be the most satisfying is the power that comes when the Soul (meaning the Spirit and Body together) gain strength.  This is what we must teach at Standards Night.  There was a reason that the Savior had the ability to perform his mighty miracles.

Remember the story of the woman that had an issue of blood? For twelve years, she  looked for a cure but was unable to find it.  Then she heard of Jesus and thought within herself – If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.

She went through a large group of people and touched the hem of his garment  – And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.

That story is miraculous, but our discussion is centered around what comes next – And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that avirtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?

His power and strength came from his virtue.  That power went out of Him, and He felt it leave.

The disciples then said to Him, “what are you talking about, look at all of these people that are surrounding you, they’re all touching you.”

But He knew, that an individual in that crowded mass needed His power, healing and His recognition to make herself whole.

When the author of the above article stated “we’re talking about priesthood power, which we qualify as exclusively masculine” she failed to mention Whose Priesthood power the men of the Church hold.  In ancient days, the Priesthood was called  – the aHoly Priesthood, after the bOrder of the Son of God (Doc. & Cov. 107:2-4) and regardless of who administers the power, it belongs to the Savior and it is available to all who have the need of it for strength, healing, love, forgiveness, guidance and power.

This is what we should be teaching at Standard’s Night.  That the way to feel His power when we need it is to reach out and touch Him, even the hem of His garment if that’s all that you can reach.  We should show the girls that the way to reach Him is through preparation, repentance, and by using the WORD of God in our talks and lessons and daily lives.

Then we should teach how to channel our own power as Creative beings and as Spiritual beings.

Let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thycconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven. Doc & Cov 121:45.
These are things that everyone can do, at any time, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done.  These are things that, if instilled in our young daughters, will raise a generation of women who [refuse] to be objectified and sexualized … [refuse] to be consumers of those things which subtly undermine … divine identity and … moral character.  … The blessings of virtuous women who keep their covenants are so vast and so grand they are almost incomprehensible. (Elaine Dalton, Arise and Shine Forth: A Return to Virtue, April 29, BYU Women’s Conference).

These women would be powerful, because they would know how to gain the Divine power and the respect of God. Then they would be taught by the Holy Ghost.  They would learn to be creators and always feel fulfilled and nourished, with the ability to strengthen and nourish others.