Sunday, April 28, 2013

Because I Kept a Scripture Journal

Today something really cool happened to me at church. I got to Sunday School with my friends and we were waiting around for our teacher to come. We technically don't have a teacher right now because our previous one was just released, so we were waiting for the sub. But a while passed and no one came. My friends asked me if I would teach the lesson. I agreed, even though I hadn't prepared anything. So, I pulled out my scripture journal. Inside of it, I take notes when people give talks, at firesides, during lessons, general conference, etc. I opened to a random page, skimmed it, and was able to teach from the notes I had taken on a talk given in sacrament meeting five months ago. There were scripture references, analogies, and impressions I had felt. I used my own thoughts, impressions, and knowledge as well to give the lesson fluidity. We referenced the scriptures several times and drew upon at least three stories from the scriptures. Our teacher finally came in with only twenty minutes left of the class and let me continue teaching.
This was a very cool moment for me. I felt the Spirit confirming that Heavenly Father was proud of me. And I'm proud of me, too. I'm happy that I was able to take notes and that I could teach by using the promptings of the Holy ghost. I felt the Spirit in my lesson. It was so special because I knew the things to say and teach, even though I had only a list of bullet points in front of me. I truly know that Lord is mindful of us and loves us dearly. He wants to bless us and He wants us to be happy.

This is a slightly goofy picture of me with my study journals. The middle two are completely full. The journal on the left is halfway full, but I got bored of using it. Haha. And the notebook on the far right is my current notebook.
Seriously though, study notebooks are the coolest things ever. You can record impressions you receive during scripture study, info from talks, etc.

Here's a typical page in mine. I use different arrows and indentations and bullet points to keep things organized. And, notes don't have to be perfect.

You can even glue in handouts from class.

Here's a page in a past study journal where I really wanted to learn a lot about faith. So I printed out some information about faith from True to the Faith and glued it in. Then, I methodically went through and looked up every scripture reference and even some of the footnote scriptures of those scriptures. I recorded other scriptures I found and impressions I received.

I ran out of room on that page, so I glued in a piece of paper to fold down. The writing is on the other side.

 If you don't already have a study notebook, you should consider keeping one. You can use it however you want. You don't have to keep yours like mine. Everyone is different. But I am always so grateful that I record this information and the sacred impressions I receive from the Holy Ghost while studying. And I know that the Lord blesses us with more spiritual experiences if we show Him we treasure the ones he gives us by writing them down.

If you want ideas for starting a scripture journal or have any questions, let me know!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How the Holy Ghost Witnessed Truth

Today in seminary there was a little confusion about some of the doctrine about spirit prison and paradise, judgement, and the degrees of glory. I immediately felt the Spirit leave me when some of the information was incorrect. I raised the question and the class discussed it for a while. Finally, someone went upstairs and asked the bishop to come down and help (seminary is held in his basement).  He came to our class and cleanly cleared up the confusion. Then, he bore a powerful testimony to us of how we are such a chosen generation. He told us that prophets have stated that we, as in today's teenagers, are the most righteous and valiant of all to be chosen to come to earth at this time. It's truly a big deal!
As my wonderful bishop was teaching us, I felt the Spirit very strongly bearing witness to me of the truthfulness of his words. I even shed a few tears.
He also said something that really made me think- Our choices impact future generations. For good, or for bad. The image came to my mind of my posterity sitting in heaven, watching me and cheering me on, hoping I make as many good decisions as possible. They support me, even though I don't remember them and can't see them. As are my ancestors who have come before. It is so wonderful to know that on the other side of the veil, there are countless people rooting for me and supporting me.
Just some interesting things to think about. But I was just so appreciative that I have the gift of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and that I could recognize his bearing witness of truth and untruth. That is such a blessing we have and shouldn't take advantage of!

I felt the Spirit very strongly bearing witness to me of the truthfulness of his words.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

They Will Hear the Gospel

Lately I feel like the focus around me has been missionary work. My leaders and teachers have been stressing this very important part of gospel living a lot recently. And, my dad was just called as ward mission leader, so it's brought up often. The missionaries come over a lot and it's great.
Today in young women's, our class had a lesson about the restoration and my teacher focused on how we can talk to our friends about the restoration and making sure we knew why it was so important and how a solid knowledge of the restoration can affect missionary moments. Being a member missionary is a huge part of my life. I absolutely love sharing the gospel with my friends. It brings me so much joy and happiness and complete bliss- I want my friends to have that as well. But, sitting in class today, I began to be very frustrated. I felt so sad because people outside of the church don't really realize what they don't have. They don't understand the joy, comfort, and blessings they aren't receiving.  It fills my soul with complete despair that these people- my brothers and sisters- don't have this in their lives right now and that they don't know what they are missing.
But then, whenever I begin to feel this way, the Lord comforts me. He lets me know that He loves His children and will provide for them in His own time. I had one such experience recently:

Our seminary teacher challenged us to ask our friends if they had any questions for us about the church. We were to record their questions and bring them to seminary so that we could learn to better answer them. I asked one friend in particular if she could ask me some questions. This friend is one of the people I love most dearly. She very religious herself, and has shown interest in understanding our religion. She thinks deeply and always has lots of questions about life. After being asked she told me that she'd give me a list of questions the next day.
And questions she gave me! I was expecting a few one or two-sentence questions. Instead, each of her questions were at least half a (typed) page long. She had obviously done her research because she quoted LDS scriptures such as the Doctrine and Covenants, and other books which contain words of the prophets. Using her doctrines, she used logic to try to prove why our religion must be incorrect.
I read through the questions, and with each sentence I read I became more and more sad. The Spirit instantly left me and it seemed as though each word I read slapped me in the face. I was so saddened by her words.
Later that night, however, she texted me. She told me that she didn't mean to offend me and how much she loved me. She bore her testimony of the truth she knows by saying that she was just looking out for me because eternity is a long time and Jesus is coming soon. It was at that moment that the Spirit whispered to me that she will eventually hear and accept the gospel. I felt the warmth of the Holy Ghost confirm his words. It was beautiful to me that I could receive confirmation that a friend I love so dearly will be able to obtain the joy I so cherish.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Healer of Hearts

Living in these latter days, rubble of our telestial world surrounds us. Wickedness and iniquity abound. Men crazed by diverse lusts create widespread harm. We have seen this happen this week with the bombing in Boston. My community saw it today with the suicide of a young teenager in our town.
But, sadness and wickedness is not the end! Christ and His infinite love, mercy, and glory prevail. He always will!
Because I was disturbed by the recent events, this evening I wrote a poem. I am only an amateur poet, but I'm pleased with how it turned out. It depicts my faith that Jesus Christ can and will heal us.

Healer of Hearts

Amidst the clamor of tragedy and woe
A man sweeps up the shattered fragments
Of all the broken hearts,
Splintered by the shrapnel
Spraying from a wounded world-
A planet pierced by poison darts
Of cunning crafters.
In the safety of an empty room
With sunlight streaming in,
He lays the shards he carefully gathered,
Calmly on the ground.
Appraising every piece,
Understanding what's been done,
One by one he gingerly
Lifts each fragment-
His fingers caressing
The jagged edges of the broken hearts.
Then, holding one beloved piece
He scans the room until
His eyes rest upon
A scrap which it completes.
Bit by bit he pieces
The splinters of the hearts
Piece by piece persisting
To heal the shattered shards.
Then One day when he searched the room
To find another broken part ,
There were none, and so he knew
He'd mended all his cherished hearts.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chicken Soup, Hospitals, and Mother

There is something so comforting about chicken noodle soup. Even more so when it's homemade and the best soup you have ever tasted. And, it's even a step better if it was made with love. Does this sound cheesy? Perhaps. But it comes from the bottom of my heart right now.
Yesterday morning my mom came in and woke me up for church. Except instead of gently waking me and then arousing my sister, she urgently told me to get my sister ready for church that morning because she wasn't feeling well. After our shower and we were dressed, I heard my mom on the phone with a nurse. When they hung up, my mom told me that my dad was coming home from his before-church meetings to take care of her. As I finished getting my sister and I ready, my dad ran upstairs to my mother's bedside. He picked up the phone and called an ambulance. My mother instructed me to make up a hospital bag for her. The paramedics arrived, and my parents left.
My brother, sister, and I were picked up for church by some friends in the ward. During the sacrament, I sat reflecting on the events of the morning. Strangely, I wasn't that worried at all. I had kept calm. And I felt that things would be okay. Then, I glanced over towards my brother as he passed the sacrament. I remembered the deer-in-headlights look in his eyes when I explained what was happening that morning. As well as I had been doing, when I imagined little brother's fear I couldn't stop the tears from coming. And then I started to wonder about my mother. What if she were to die? I hugged my toddler sister closer to me as I imagined her growing up with only me as a mother. I saw my future before my eyes, mother-less. 
But it wasn't that bad because I knew then and know now that my family has been sealed in the temple and I'll be with them forever. Even though it was sad to think about my mother passing away, I knew I wouldn't be devastated because I knew she would be in a better place and that our family would be reunited once more.
Thankfully, my parents arrived home in the middle of the afternoon. My mother's condition isn't serious and once she rests up she will be back to normal. What a blessing this is!
When our ward found out that my dear mama was in the hospital, everyone made sure that we knew they cared. They're bringing meals for us since my mom has to stay in bed. Today we had delicious home-made chicken noodle soup which I know was lovingly prepared by a sister in our ward whom I adore. It's so comforting to have such a loving ward family.
I love my family so much. This small ordeal has brought us closer together. I am so completely grateful to my Father in Heaven for providing this wonderful gospel which lets me live with them forever in eternity. I know He loves us a lot.

"Today we had delicious home-made chicken noodle soup which I know was lovingly prepared by a sister in our ward..."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Help From Both Sides of the Veil

Several days ago I had a really rough day. I'm still not really sure what triggered it or why I felt so down, but I did. Both my parents were gone, and it was only my pre-teen brother and I in the house. But, he was outside gathering sticks for a campfire. So I was left alone with my feelings.
Aaaand, my feelings felt awful. I'll spare you the details, but I was miserable. So, I texted some of my closest friends and tried to lean on them for comfort. I told them how I felt and they responded as best as they could with hopeful words to comfort me. However as much as they tried, it didn't work. I just couldn't be happy. So, I prayed. Usually that is one of the first things I do when I'm upset, but that day I think I was being stubborn. But I communed with my God and told Him how I was feeling. Then, I asked Him to please send me an angel to comfort me. I know that He does send angels in times of need, whether we see them or not, and I knew then that He would if I asked. At the conclusion of my prayer, I felt a little better. Soon, though, I began crying again and felt just the same as I had before praying.
I carried on like this for a while, until I head a knock at my door. Knowing it was my little brother, I quickly pretended I was asleep. I didn't want him to see me like that. He walked in and shook me "awake".  My brother asked me if I would gather sticks in the woods with him. But I was in no mood for any such activity. I grunted a "no", but he kept begging. Soon, he began poking and tickling me in an attempt to force me to a standing position. Somehow, I think he truly believed that poking me would totally make me want to change my mind. But I was miserable, so why should I collect sticks with him? I didn't even want to.
After a few minutes of enduring his harassment, however, a thought suddenly came to mind, "You prayed for an angel to comfort you. Here he is!" The thought startled me, but it made me laugh. This boy, this goofball who was currently driving me crazy, was only trying to show love. He really wanted to be with me. He could probably tell that something wasn't right with me, and that was his way of trying to help. A sudden surge of affection for my little brother flowed through me. I stood and agreed to accompany him. The delight on his face was priceless, and I immediately felt better.
That day proved true the words of Elder Holland when this conference he said, "...[when dealing with trials] the Lord will send help from both sides of the veil." I know this is the case.

My brother and I.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Conference for Teens

I watched the first session of conference this morning with my family, and it was so great! I'm so excited for the next session in a few hours!
My favorite part about conference is usually the beginning when President Monson talks about the growth of the church, the missions, and especially the new temples! A few years ago he announced a new temple that will be only thirty minutes away from me, instead of two and a half hours. Ever since, the announcing of new temples has a special new meaning to me because I understand the joy that people all over the world feel. It's incredible, and it's beautiful!
As a youth, there are many things we can listen for in conference. Even the words aimed towards adults about marriage and such can have unique meaning for us. For example, talks about marriage have huge significance to us even though we're not married. As teenagers in the church, we are on the brink of sooooo many giant life decisions! It is wise for us to heed these talks because it will help us know more about these choices as we prepare to make them.
The prophets and leaders of the church have so much knowledge and experience that they can impart to us. I know our lives will be blessed as we cherish conference. I have seen it in my own life. A few conferences ago, I picked out one piece of advice which stuck out to me that I was going to work on for next conference. President Monson gave the counsel. He told us to NEVER post-pone a prompting and to act immediately on inspiration. I instituted this counsel in my life and I saw immediate blessings! I became closer to my Lord, and the Holy Ghost. I learned to recognize the Spirit better, received more promptings and inspiration, and was able to be an instrument in the Lord's hands to further His work. Sure, I wasn't perfect, but the improvement I saw in my life by following teachings from conference was amazing!
So what can you do this conference to bring it in and make it personal? How can you act on the counsel given? Will you go the extra mile to be inspired and better your life? This divine knowledge from on high is being bounteously poured down to us. What will you do with it?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Note on Progress

As I was laying in bed last night I was pondering the mysteries of the universe. Okay, not really, but I was thinking deeply about my current life. Lately, I've felt stagnant. I'm not digressing or doing anything wrong, but I haven't truly been progressing. And that's why we're in this mortal state- to progress! As I was mulling over the cause of my lack of movement I had an epiphany. Here's what went on in my head:

Whitney's Mind: "Why do I feel like I'm not progressing? It's so frustrating! I hate it when this happens. What can I do to start accomplishing things? I know! Maybe tomorrow I can do this certain thing. That will help me in this goal in my life. Oh, but wait. Man, I don't like doing that. It's out of my comfort zone. Hold on!!! Wait a minute! Duh! That's the key to growth! You have to step out of your comfort zone! Woah! That makes so much sense! Oh, and didn't I hear a talk about that a while ago? Yes, yes I did. Wow! I think I just discovered the key to success!"

And there was much rejoicing. In fact, my brain might have even danced a jig or something. It's completely possible.

Also, I did hear a talk about progression that mentioned leaving our comfort zones. Here are some profound things I learned form it:

  • When we reach plateaus, that's when Heavenly Father sees if we really want to grow.
  • As we take the sacrament each week, Father asks us, "My child, what did you do this week to grow?" He doesn't expect perfection, just growth.
  • If we are going to stay above the growing evil, we have to keep growing!
So, today I applied my principle that stepping out of our comfort zones brings growth. I was practicing viola. I just got the music for an opera last night and I started practicing it today. Let me tell you- it is the hardest music I've ever played!!! I really didn't want to start practicing that music this morning. It seemed so scary!  But, I remembered that I needed to step out of my comfort zone if I wanted to grow musically. So, I practiced it. And yes, it was uncomfortable. I didn't really love it. But, I know for sure that I am that much closer to mastering the music, and that my skill in general increased ever-so-slightly because I exercised faith in that principle. I finished practicing with satisfaction and the beautiful feeling of being proud of myself.

It makes me wonder- what could each of us do if we stepped outside of our comfort zones? How would you grow? What could our world accomplish?