Stop It

A few recent events have got me thinking about how we treat each other, most especially the strangers we come near to, but don’t interact with and the internet we use to show our ugly side.

Last week my sister was in her car, at a stop light, when she looked over to find the passenger of the other car taking a picture of her with their phone. The passenger quickly retreated back in the seat when they made eye contact with my sister. This upset her. Why had that person taken a picture of a stranger? What would they do with it? You have to wonder that nowadays, will that picture now be a meme, meant as funny and possibly could be but at the expense of someone else? Or could it have been innocent enough – the individual taking the picture liked my sister’s haircut and wanted to do the same with their hair? Who knows – we never will.

The other incident was a post on Facebook. A friend had recorded, what I presumed was a stranger, dancing at a church event he was attending. If you know me, you know I appreciate those who can dance as though no one is watching, even though they are in the middle of a crowded room. I commented on the post to show my appreciation. The comments that followed however did not seem to be as positive, but not mean. Then a particularly mean spirited comment was posted, one that went on to attack the boy dancing, despite him being a stranger to the person who posted. The comment after that was from a friend of the boy dancing, who then tagged him in the video.  I noticed not long afterwards that the mean spirited comment had been deleted and more of the boy’s friends were positively commenting on the video. I checked back before posting this entry and there are so many positive comments and my friend explained that he had shown the video to the guy before posting it, and that they got along really well.  But the thing I am focused on is that one ugly, deleted comment.  

Because my point here folks, is that who we are and how we treat each other is, “never checked at the door” as Elder Holland would say.  I’m not here to preach how perfect I am and how imperfect the rest of the world is – I am just as guilty. I’ve been to thepeopleofwalmart.com; laughed at awkwardfamilyphotos; I make judgments on people who don’t follow the rules of common decency and walk on the correct side of the aisle at the store; I’ve poked fun at the pictures or videos of strangers doing strange things. But that’s beside the point, I shouldn’t do those things, none of us should. And with the internet it seems all too easy to put someone down.

Before the boy was tagged in the video it was easy for someone to post mean things, even though it was not anonymous like most websites where people troll. But the moment the boy received an identity, those commenting with identities (and profiles to display much more about them than just their names) retreated. Why is it that when we or the person we are commenting on lacks an identity we find it so much easier to be cruel?

We should strive to be kind always, otherwise how can we consider ourselves kind? I’m not saying we don’t slip, we lose patience from time to time, someone hurts us and our instinct is to fight back, with things like that we strive to be better after each failure (or at least we should), we apologize as best we can to the person we were ugly to. But what about what we post on social media? What we say about that stranger on YouTube who posted a video or had a video posted about them?  It’s almost worse online because we type our means thoughts. We type them and then we have one more chance to take them back, to erase them from ever being written but many times we hit SEND without a second thought. We hide behind a computer or phone screen and make snap judgments on a person we know nothing about.

I work with the youth at church, so this isn’t something new I’m thinking about – it’s just that recently I’ve seen (maybe realized) adults act the same as teenagers with cyber bullying.  One quote shared with the youth more than once in the past few years is from President Dieter F. Uchdorft from a conference talk a few years ago:

This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

Might I suggest that we can change “sin” on that bumper sticker to anything: dance, dress, speak, look, think, etc.

I know I want to be better about how I treat people, those I know and love (and those I know and don’t love so much) but especially strangers.  I think we can learn a lot about ourselves by the way we treat those we do not know and do not have to look in the face while or after we have said things about them.  Be kind when you’re out and about (and if you see my sister, don’t take a picture.  She really didn’t like that), be kind when you’re on Facebook, snapchat, and other social media, be kind at home, work, school, even Wal-Mart.  And strive to be the kind of person people can trust when their back is turned to you.

And because I love Elder Holland so much and feel that one quote in a blog post isn’t enough – here’s one more.

HOLLAND

Googleimages – https://www.pinterest.com/pin/66498531971387763/

Teaching Prep

I’m teaching in January so I’ve been pondering and preparing my lesson. It’s been tough for me to prepare this time.  I’m not sure exactly why but I’m sure the holidays didn’t help and then I kept thinking what I should say for my guest post for Ashley’s blog and then there’s also the fact that I’m pregnant (gender reveal to come next week BTW).

The only thing I’ve known for sure about my lesson is that I want to share this video I came across.  I found it on lds.org under the youth site.  The topic I’m going to try to focus on is “Why is Jesus Christ Important in My Life?”  Also on the site, I found a talk by Dallin H. Oaks where he mentions a woman who tells him she’s been asked to return to church and she just can’t think of why she should.  He says something to the effect of, when you think of all the Lord has done for you, don’t you have many reasons? And her response, “what has he done for me?”

I think a lot of people forget, or do not understand, exactly what the Lord has done for them.  I found this video to be a beautiful message about what Jesus Christ has made possible for all of us.  I truly believe that if we all worked on developing our relationship with the Savior that there would be less contention and hatred, we would be more understanding of other’s shortcomings and weaknesses, and we would all have more peace about the things we cannot control.

In case the video doesn’t work, I’ve put the link at the bottom of this post.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

https://www.lds.org/youth/learn/yw/godhead/important?lang=eng#video=reclaimed

My First Guest Post

Remember that guest post I talked about?  It’s been posted.  Here’s the link https://justfamely.wordpress.com/2016/12/28/righttime.

At first I wasn’t sure what to write, so I started to just write everything about being single and dating and then pulled out what I thought might actually be helpful and I still managed to stay vague – that’s my trademark!  Still nervous about it though.

Perfection

I taught the first Sunday in July and my topic was perfection.  More so – not letting perfection get in the way of trying.  This topic…given to the one who starts planning out her lessons a month in advance and practices them until they are practically memorized…gee great.  So I thought about it a lot, thought about how to open, what to focus on, what in the world to say.  I listened/read podcasts, church talks, scriptures, etc.  Here is goes…

In Matthew 5:28 we read, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

So I asked the girls, “What does perfect mean?”  They came up with the same answers I did, “flawless; without mistakes”

Russel M. Nelson said:

“In Matt. 5:48, the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios,which means “complete.” Teleios is an adjective derived from the noun telos, which means “end.” The infinitive form of the verb is teleiono, which means “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.” Please note that the word does not imply “freedom from error”; it implies “achieving a distant objective.””

That’s completely different from what I thought ‘perfection’ to be, especially the “freedom from error” part.

While preparing for this lesson, I had the opportunity to go out with the Sister Missionaries.  They had a lesson scheduled, but as happens so often to them, that lesson cancelled just as we arrived to the home.  So we went to visit people nearby.  One man we visited was baptized just a short while ago.  When the sisters first met him, he was barely able to walk he was so drunk.  They worked with him, got him attending addiction recovery and all the while visited with him and taught him about the gospel.  When I first met him, he was sober and getting ready to be baptized.  He was so optimistic.

Well, when we went to visit him on this night, he was not in such a good place.  I had noticed he wasn’t at church the previous Sunday and he missed his friend’s baptism Sunday night.  He was completely different than the man I met.  He had fallen, and he had fallen hard.

At one point, he leaned forward and said to the Sisters, “I never said I was perfect.  Never said I would be.”

His definition of perfect was the “flawless. without mistakes” definition and that’s a hard thing to live up to.  When you fail to be perfect, it’s easy to just give up because it seems so unattainable.  But perfection is not about finishing the race without any errors, it’s about finishing.  Perfection, as we read, is about reaching a distant end, it’s about being fully developed and along the way to that, we make mistakes.  Enduring is getting up each time you fall, recommitting each time you make a mistake, repenting each time you sin.

Then we watched this video:  Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them

I asked the girls what they thought about the video (I warned them I would ask this and yet it was still like pulling teeth afterwards – I told them I was fine sitting in silence and I finally got some talkers).  The thing that stood out most was that perfection will come in the next life; don’t demand the unreasonable, but demand improvement.

I had a bishop once tell us that improvement was like looking at a calendar…let’s say you want to be better about saying your morning prayers.  You do it the first day, and the next, and maybe even for a week but then you are late one day and skip it.  By the end of the month you’ve said your prayers maybe 20 times out of 31.  Have you failed?  NO! You’ve improved, you’ve done better and you kept trying.  Continue trying and soon you’ll have developed the habit of prayer.

We have to keep an eternal perspective rather than focusing on every failure.

In 1 Nephi we read the story of when Nephi and his brothers are sent back to get the gold plates.

In 1 Nephi 3:7 Nephi says, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

…so Nephi is armed with the knowledge that the Lord won’t let him fail – right?  He should be able to walk right up to Laban (who currently had the records) and just ask for the plates right?

in verse 11 Nephi’s brother, Laman, is sent to talk to Laban.  Laban was made and kicked Laman out and called him a robber and threatened to kill him.

Who would have given up here?  I would have, I hate rejection, much less having my life threatened.  But Nephi doesn’t give up.  Why do you think that is?

In verses 15&16 we find out:

  1. 1)Because it’s a commandment
  2. 2) Because of Faith.

In verses 22-23 they’ve gathered all their gold and silver and precious things and they are going to try and buy the plates from Laban.  Again-they are kicked out and their lives are threatened.

But does Nephi give up?  Does anyone remember what happened between the brothers after this? (beating and an angel appears).  What does the angel tell them? (go back)

So Nephi goes back and then what happens?  He comes across a likely grotesque and definitely drunken Laban and is told to cut the guy’s head off…to which he hesitates because..well that’s murder.  But he goes through with it, gets the plates and as a bonus he gets Zoram (and Zoram gets freedom).

Nephi by all counts, failed several times to get the plates.  He wasn’t able to just walk in and get them because the Lord had commended it.  But that didn’t stop him, it didn’t make him doubt if it was actually a commandment or not.  He didn’t say, “well, maybe I’m just not cut out for it.”

The same as we aren’t able to JUST BE perfect because the Lord commands it.  During what we may perceive as failures–we need to remember to have faith that the Lord prepares a way for us to accomplish the things he commands and there isn’t something WRONG with US when we don’t get it right the first time. Perfection isn’t attainable in this life, our job is to continue to improve.

An interesting thing I came across while working on this lesson.  In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “be ye therefore perfect even as your father which is in heaven is perfect”.  In 3 Nephi 12:48 he says, “be ye therefore perfect even as I, or your father who is in heaven is perfect.”

The interesting thing to note here is that in Matthew 5:48 – Christ had not yet been crucified or resurrected, whereas in 3 Nephi, when he visits the Nephites, he has already been resurrected.  Even Christ was not truly perfect until after his mortal ministry was complete. By all definitions – Christ was perfect, except for Greek translation – “to reach a distant end, to be fully developed, to consummate, or to finish.”

Read Ether 12:25-27

The Lord, the same one who commands us to be perfect, GIVES us weakness.  And through weakness, he can make us strong, he can make us perfect – or rather, complete.  When we struggle, we must remember to turn to the Lord.

President Uchdorft gave a talk titled “You Can Do It Now!” in which he relates a story of a time he went skiing with his grandson.  He fell and when he attempted to get back up he only fell again.  After a few tries he gave up and tried to hide his face in case anyone he knew passed by.  Then his grandson came over to him, reached out a hand and said, “You can do it now!”  President Uchdorft said near the end of this talk, “You are stronger than you realize.  You are more capable than you can imagine.  You can do it now!”

I know that this is true for each and every one of you.  I know from personal experience, having situations in my life where I felt physically and emotionally incapable of continuing and yet somehow I was able to reach my destination (physical or spiritual – sometimes both).  I’ve had young women tell me that they didn’t think they could do something, and I’ve told them time and time again that they are stronger than they think.  They will surprise themselves and will have many amazing experiences if they just continue trying.

The Bus and the Bully

Typically on the first Sunday of each month a presidency member teaches the lesson.  This past month I had the opportunity to teach and the topic was “Why do I need to forgive others?”

First – I gave everyone a pen and a piece of paper with these three questions:

  1. Why do we need to forgive everyone, including ourselves?
  2. Why is the Lord the only person who can decide whether or not a person should be forgiven?
  3. Why is failure to forgive such a great sin?

For this one, I delved deep down into the dark abyss that is my educational experience.  I was not immune to bullies so I shared with the girls my story of the bus and the bully (note: I shared the story from memory, so what is written is the more dramatic, thought out version of my experience).

When I was in sixth grade I had to ride the bus to school.  In the mornings, when the bus picks you up one stop at a time, you don’t have much choice where to sit when you are one of the last stops.  Because of this, I had no other choice but to travel to the back of the bus.  Now for some of you, the back is where the cool kids sat and maybe you sat there because you were a cool kid.  For kids like me, the back is the seventh circle of hell.  I was a quiet kid, so I took the first seat available.  There was an eight grader on the bus, short, blond, cheerleader.  Her name was Erin.  Erin and I didn’t know each other but that morning, and every morning for the entire school year, Erin gave me a hard time.  She would say mean things or ask embarrassing questions – if you’ve been bullied you know the feeling.  She made every morning miserable, to the point where I would try to miss the bus so that my sister would have to take me to school.

So here’s my question.  Do I have to forgive Erin?

Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10 reads:

Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgiveone another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.

 10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

To answer question 1 on the piece of paper – it is required that we forgive all men.

To answer question 2 – things might get a little sticky in my explanation.  I asked the girls, what do we know about Christ and what he did for us?  Luckily the answer, “he died for our sins” came pretty quickly because he did a lot for us, but this is the one I wanted to zero in on.  So Christ took upon Him our sins.  Only our sins? To which one sweet little twelve year old said, “All our sins.” All.  Everyone.  Not just those in the room, not just those that attend church, or those that even want Him to take their sins, but EVERYONE.  I drew on the board.

Forgiveness

E=Erin

C=Christ

J=Me

I drew Christ bigger because He’s the most important part of this.  So Christ took on MY sins. (see diagram below)

Forgiveness2

But He also took on Erin’s:

Forgiveness3

I won’t pretend that I am perfect, I have been mean to people, I have even made grown men cry before.  But Christ took those mistakes and sins and that cruelty I showed to someone else, he took all of those upon himself.  To which I am grateful – but he also did the exact same for Erin.

So this is why He is the one who decides.  I have to forgive Erin, even though she never asked for or likely wanted, my forgiveness, because Christ has paid for what she has done.  If she wants forgiveness, she goes to Christ, because he has taken on her debt and he knows the thoughts and intents of her heart, whereas I just saw her as an evil cheerleader out to ruin my life.

For Question 3 we build on what we’ve been talking about.  In the book, The Peacegiver by James Ferrell, he explains pretty well why we must forgive everyone.  In the book we read:

The Lord, by taking the sins of (those who hurt us) upon his head, extends us the same mercy. ‘Upon me let this iniquity be,’ he pleads, ‘Let me deal with it if there is any dealing to be done.  But YOU, my dear daughter, let it go.  Let me take it, as I already have done.  Forgive.

So by taking on the sins of others, Christ owns up to that sin as though it were his (which we know he was perfect, therefore sinless so this is big).  He then comes to us and asks us to forgive HIM!  He asks ME to forgive Him for what Erin did, just as he asks others to forgive Him for what I did.

Then it goes further in the book by saying:

When we withhold forgiveness from others we are in effect saying that the atonement alone was insufficient to pay for this sin.  We are holding out for more.  We are finding fault with the Lord’s offering.  We are in essence demanding that the Lord repent of an insufficient atonement.  So when we fail to forgive another, it is as if we are failing to forgive the Lord.

That is why it is the greater sin because to fail to forgive is to not forgive Christ.

Forgiveness is easier said than done.  So what are some things we can do to recieve the Lord’s help to forgive others (and ourselves)?

  • Pray
  • Read Scriptures
  • Fast
  • Get a blessing
  • Serve

Do you think it’s important to PREPARE to forgive? If so, how can we do this?

The girls had a lot of the same answers but overall we discussed that one of the best ways is to study the life of Christ and to work on our relationship with Him.  Because as you grow closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ you will begin to take on their attributes.  You will begin to see others as they see them.

President Uchtdorf said:

The more we allow the Love of God to govern our minds and emotions – the more we allow our love for Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts- the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.  As always, Christ is our exemplar.  In His teachings as in His life, He showed us the way.  He forgave the wicked, the vulgar, and those who sought to hurt and to do Him harm.

To end, I shared this video from the youth website at LDS.org.  I asked the girls to pay attention to how this man was able to forgive.

Last month, the teacher gave each girl an index card and had them write what they know about Christ and who He is to them.  Then the girls were given the rest of the time to bear testimonies, however, they were only allowed to say what they had written on the card.  It was a great spiritual experience, and I reminded the girls of this at the end of this video.  Many of the girls got up there and said that Christ was their brother who knows exactly how they feel.  I agreed.  He knows exactly how they feel whether it’s joy or hurt or pain.  And if they struggle to forgive someone, they should take it to Him.  They should pray for the strength to do it, and I have a testimony that the Lord will come to your aid if it is truly the desire of your heart to forgive (because I also have a testimony that to pray without intent yields exactly what you want – to keep holding on to it).  He has done it for me many times and I will never forget the strength he lent me.

Note: At some point in the lesson I remember stressing to the girls that sometimes there are very serious things you must forgive and one thing I have learned is that forgiving does not always equal trusting.  In cases of abuse or serious harm, they need to forgive, but they DO NOT need to allow that person to harm them again.

The Birds and Bees and Me

Have you ever imagined discussing the birds and the bees with your children? How about other people’s kids?  Well, I haven’t really imagined either scenario.  I’ve had talks with Stormy about how he should always treat the ladies right, especially because the chances are there will be more women fawning over him as he gets older (and I’m not just saying that because I’m his mama).  But at 9 months old, I can’t say I’ve felt the need to have “the talk” with him. I know they say kids are becoming sexually active younger and younger but I am a firm believer that it’s not THAT young.

So I found myself a little unprepared yesterday at church when the topic came up.  I’ve talked to the girls (ages 14 and 15) about chastity, keeping oneself pure and not doing anything with a boy, and I mean ANYTHING.  No dates even.  In our church it’s pretty standard practice that the youth don’t date until they are 16 and even then, they shouldn’t date exclusively and they should go on group dates.  That’s not to say there aren’t teens at church who don’t abide by those standards and guidelines but for the most part it’s the case.

So yesterday our lesson was on, “Why should I treat my body like a temple?”  The teacher started out by asking how we treat our bodies like temples and the first thing I hear from the girls is, “are we going to talk about chastity?” (note to reader this was said in probably the same way they ask their parents if they are going to have to clean because people are coming over for dinner). The teacher said, “a little” and we read the story about Joseph of Egypt and the girls snickered about Potiphar’s wife and how crazy she was.  They questioned if Joseph only had one garment on when Potiphar’s wife grabbed it and therefore he ran out of there naked.  To which I replied, “come on people, it was Egypt, of course he only had one garment.” (note: this is what my friend would say is one of my crazy stereotypes that has no basis).

We moved on from there to other things, other ways to treat our bodies like a temple.  Like what we put in to our bodies, what we do with our bodies (piercings, tattoos, etc.)  I don’t know how it happened because I’m pretty sure we had moved on to how drugs are bad, don’t do them and don’t get tattoos because you get old and wrinkly and that’s gross and the girls were saying what they wanted to do even though they knew they shouldn’t (what types of tattoos or piercings they wanted) and I cried from the corner all the reasons not to (i.e. cartilage piercings always make me think of goats, gauges can’t be undone, etc.) Then one of the girls says something about how she wouldn’t ever want to do it because you’d have to figure it out.  All of us were probably stuck on piercings or drugs and so one of the girls said, “do what?” and the girl made a gesture and said, “you know, it.” to which the second girl said, “are you talking about sex?” and the first girl nodded and the second girl said, “it just goes in, what’s to figure out?” To which I threw my hands in the air in full panic and said, “congratulations! You have officially made me uncomfortable.” Not to mention the teacher and one or two other girls.  Then I told them they don’t have to worry about figuring anything out at this time because they aren’t going to be doing anything…right?

Then the conversation went to transgenders (because one thing we mentioned was not making changes to our bodies because they are a temple and from God) and then on to hermaphrodites (except I seemed to be the only person in the room who knew that was the term). It was presented as, “say there’s a baby and it’s a girl but it also has a weenie.”  …Suffice it to say, I’ve never been happier for the end of class.

But it got me thinking about how unprepared I was.  I patted myself on the back for some of my responses and being able to cite some things for the questions but overall I am way out of my depth here.  I have a 9 month old, I haven’t gone through this with kids before and here I am going through it with other people’s kids.  The only comfort is that we are all the same religion so I know what I am telling them doesn’t go against what their parents believe.  But what we believe is inching further and further away from what the world believes and how the world lives.  Transgender issues are ones I never had to figure out, I never wondered if it was right or wrong and work that out because the world didn’t put people like Bruce Jenner on a pedestal and call him/her brave for what he/she was doing.  These are things these girls have way more contact with so I can understand when they ask a question like, “well what if someone is uncomfortable in the body they have?” and they aren’t talking about feeling fat or hating that they have their grandfather’s nose.  And they are trying to work out what they are told at church, which is obviously transgender sex changes are wrong; and what the world tells them, you’re a closed minded jerk if you believe a transgender shouldn’t have our support in changing the very nature of their body.  I want to point out here that we do teach the kids to “hate the sin and not the sinner” and I may or may not have mentioned that in a previous post.  Christ came for the sinner, not the perfected individual, but at the same time he never said, “it’s okay to sin and to keep doing it, I’m tolerant of you disobeying my law.”  No, he told the sinner to repent but he loved the sinner nonetheless.  So too we try and teach the youth to love everyone, to be a Christian to all but to stand up for what we know is right.

But I digress. I meant to talk about my preparation.   Yesterday was an eye opener for me.  I need to be more prepared to talk to these girls about the issues they’re confused about.  If the girls are anything like I was, they may not be comfortable asking these types of questions to their parents but they seem pretty comfortable talking to their leaders about it (exhibit A = yesterday).  But it was also an eye opener as a parent.  I don’t want my kids 3-4 years away from moving out of the house and not understanding certain things, not understanding what I believe and what I want them to believe.  I don’t want them to be so unprepared for when they venture out into the real world which will only get crazier and crazier than it is today.  I want them to have a foundation, something they can come back to when things get confusing.  Something solid and unchanging in a world that is constantly changing.

And now I find myself on a half soapbox when all I really wanted to do was write about how awkward life was for thirty minutes yesterday.

If you’re a parent or leader, how do you deal with these awkward situations?