Wednesday Wonderful Women: Julie B. Beck

Julie B. Beck is the current General Relief Society President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Relief Society is the worldwide women’s organization of the church.  Organized by Joseph Smith March 17, 1842 for “All women in the ward ages 18 and older, as well as women younger than 18 who are married or are single mothers, belong to the Relief Society organization. The purpose of Relief Society is to organize, teach, and inspire women to prepare them for the blessings of eternal life. Members of the Relief Society fulfill this purpose by increasing faith and personal righteousness, strengthening families and homes, and seeking out and helping those in need…The Relief Society organization also provides an individualized support network that gives women the opportunity to care for, strengthen, and teach one another” (lds.org).

Quotes from Sister Beck:

“It is not possible to make real change all by ourselves. Our own willpower and our own good intentions are not enough. When we make mistakes or choose poorly, we must have the help of our Savior to get back on track. We partake of the sacrament week after week to show our faith in His power to change us. We confess our sins and promise to forsake them (see D&C 58:43)” (“Remembering, Repenting, and Changing,” Ensign, May 2007, 111).

“It would be impossible to learn the lessons the scriptures contain by reading them only one time through or studying selected verses in a class. . . . The Lord has told us that our time should ‘be devoted to the studying of the scriptures’ (D&C 26:1) and that ‘the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given. . . for [our] instruction’ (D&C 33:16)” (“My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures,” Ensign, May 2004, 107).

“Just as the Savior invited Mary and Martha of New Testament times to participate in His work, women of this dispensation have an official commission to participate in the Lord’s work. . . . The organization of Relief Society in 1842 mobilized the collective power of the women and their specific assignments to build the Lord’s kingdom, just as the organization of priesthood quorums gave men specific responsibilities. . . .

“Through Relief Society, women have an official role in the Church with great responsibilities, ‘including working in the temple and teaching the gospel’ (Dallin H. Oaks, ‘The Priesthood and the Auxiliaries,’ Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 17). Further, Relief Society is to help women ‘plant and make grow . . . a testimony of [Jesus] Christ and of the Gospel’ (The First Presidency, ‘Memorandum of Suggestions,’ Mar. 29, 1940, 2), ‘strengthen the family and the home’ (Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 10, 2004, 17), and ‘attend to all family duties’ (D&C 20:47)” (“Fulfilling the Purpose of Relief Society,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 108–9).

 

Forgive me for just writing a quick highlight about Sister Beck today.  I had an interesting weekend filled with major ups and downs.  Dear friends were in town for a visit.  We toured the city together and had great company and conversation.  Their children were sweethearts and my children loved having them around!  Each time they pulled up next to us or arrived at our home, my daughter shouted with sheer, innocent delight, “friends!!  Friends, mommy!!”  It was so sweet.  They have been good friends of ours since shortly after we were married.  They are a fulfillment of a blessing I was given that I would meet dear friends who would remain our friends throughout our lives.  They are as dear to us as family!

Unfortunately, our visit was tainted by a car accident.  The front end of our car was met by some oncoming traffic while I was driving, and I broke my finger.  Everyone else involved was ok.  The other cars involved were totaled and we have other repercussions and costs as a result as well, even though we were able to drive our car away from the scene.  Some of the repercussions are emotional.  I feel terrible, as anyone would for being involved in a car accident.  I know there are more tragic things than a nonfatal accident, but that doesn’t make it easier.

There is a thought I had the other day as I was contemplating the trials that my husband and I are experiencing.  Some days feel like we are sort of being tested beyond our capacity to handle, and we wonder why when we exist on this earth that we might have joy.  So where is that joy?  Why does it feel so very far out of reach?  Why would the Lord kick us when we’re already down like this?  I struggle to understand when in the midst of my trial there is so little hope.

The truth is (and here is my thought), our joy is in the Lord Jesus Christ.  “[For] he [has gone] forth, suffering pains and aafflictions and btemptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will ctake upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.  And he [has taken] upon him adeath, that he may bloose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to csuccor his people according to their infirmities.  Now the Spirit aknoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the bflesh that he might ctake upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me” (Alma 7:11-13).

Our joy comes through our faith in Christ and in His Atonement in spite of our trials.  Our trials are designed to heighten our understanding of the sacrifice the Savior made, or to stand as His disciples in all times and places.  The trials are the test to see if we are truly His disciples or if we are only offering lip service.  Our trials are designed to refine us and to temper us that we might be prepared to stand in the presence of the Father.

I think I could go on and on about the purpose of our trials.  There are many reasons and many outcomes.  I know it is possible to be grateful for our trials as we learn and grow and develop wisdom and experience.  The important thing is to be grateful for all the little blessings we have, and that we keep doing the things that will bring balance and consistency and faithfulness.

What do you do to maintain balance and consistency from day-to-day?

Netflix Movie Review: “That’s What I Am”

Every once in a while I’ll watch something that’s available on Netflix watch instantly program to ascertain it’s moral, social or cultural value.  This was one of those movies.  As a work of art, it wasn’t riveting, but it was one of those stories told like “The Wonder Years” about times that were a little less like they are today.  I think it was produced from an anti-bullying campaign sponsored by the WWE which is interesting all on its own.

I feel like the movie can be summed up by what the mother of the main character, Andy, said in the trailer.  Andy asked his mom why God would make someone that looks like “Big G” who was perceived as the biggest nerd in his class.  Her response was perfect: “Maybe because God didn’t see anything wrong with him in the first place.”

Why do we make definitive judgements based on the limitations of our own perspective?  In the scriptures, the Lord says in Matthew 7:1 and 3, “Judge not, that ye be not judgedAnd why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”  Someone once said, “we see things as we are, not as they are.”  Our perspective is infinitely finite!  Heavenly Father has told us “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).  We cannot discern from our humble vantage point the ways or reasons God has for doing the things He does, as lofty as our horses may seem.  We are only commanded that we love one another, to judge not, and to forgiveunconditionally.

I love the story told by President Thomas S. Monson to illustrate this point:

A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”
John looked on but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.
A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”
John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”

“…There is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize. Thus the commandment: “Judge not.”

I recently read this article about a mom who allowed her son to wear a Halloween costume that others considered taboo.  Other mothers criticized her for her choice claiming that kids can be awfully cruel.  Why is better to be snobby about other people’s choices?  Maybe those mothers could have focused more on teaching their children good values and to love each other and less on censoring other children or their mothers.

To truly have charity and Christlike love takes equal parts thought, word and action.  But, to truly be charitable and to have the image of Christ in our countenance, charity is something we are.

Perhaps when we are tempted to judge we need to pause for a moment and remember that the Lord is in command.  We can “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). Just relax and watch what might unfold with your personal values solidly in place.  Have confidence in who you are without resentment for what others are doing.

Wednesday Wonderful Women: Mother Teresa

Well, I actually didn’t know very much about Mother Teresa but that she was a force for good in the Christian world and won the Nobel Peace prize for her accomplishments (in 1979).  I chose her because I wanted to learn more about what she’d done, and I am impressed by her faith and perseverance.  Her efforts to serve people were truly Christlike and she was a great example of a disciple of Christ.

“Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. She knew she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months’ training in Dublin she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she depended on Divine Providence, and started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work. On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to start her own order, “The Missionaries of Charity”, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI” (Nobelprize.org).

The Missionaries of Charity became a worldwide organization and “By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries” (Nobelprize.org).  “Missionaries care for those who include refugees, ex-prostitutes, the mentally ill, sick children, abandoned children, lepers, AIDS victims, the aged, and convalescent. They have schools run by volunteers to educate street children, they run soup kitchens, as many other services as per the communities’ needs. They have 19 homes in Kolkata (Calcutta) alone which include homes for women, for orphaned children, and for the dying; an AIDS hospice, a school for street children, and a leper colony. These services are provided to people regardless of their religion or social caste” (Wikipedia).

Mother Teresa quotes:

Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

“I try to give to the poor people for love what the rich could get for money. No, I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds; yet I willingly cure him for the love of God.”

“I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?”

“If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.”

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”

“Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.”

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.”

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”

“Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness” (Brainyquote.com).

Underemployment and Debt: My Unwelcome Guests.

Wishing I could pick up old dreams like old friends, dust them off and polish them anew. On display on top of a pedestal or in a glass box, out of reach and completely unattainable…but beautiful, oh so beautiful. Most days are spent doing my best to ignore them. Most nights, mourning their premature deaths and what could have been. I especially mourn the dreams that have yet to be born – those dreams that I attribute to the future and progress of my children. What will their lives be like if they aren’t allowed to dream? In what do we have to hope without progression, without dreams? Stifled by the struggle of day-to-day, making ends meet where the rope just isn’t long enough. It’s not just about income and bills, it’s about self-worth and the value attributed to the ability to progress, provide, or fit in. It’s the comfort of being able to step over the boundaries of necessity into a world of luxury and simple pleasure. Or, being able to splurge a little and not worry about how it will reflect when you make an account for it, or justify it, or have to make the choice of what to cut out instead.
I know it’s important to just be grateful for what I have. I really don’t go looking for ways to be ungrateful. I don’t look for things that other people have and wish I could too. I don’t care about fads or trends.
President Thomas S. Monson reminded us to be grateful in the October 2010 General Conference. He said, “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love.” And he quoted President Hinckley saying, “When you walk with gratitude, you do not walk with arrogance and conceit and egotism, you walk with a spirit of thanksgiving that is becoming to you and will bless your lives.”

We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” 8

How can we cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude? President Joseph F. Smith, sixth President of the Church, provided an answer. Said he: “The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life.” He continued: “Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!”

Do material possessions make us happy and grateful? Perhaps momentarily. However, those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us. Unfortunately, these are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted.”

To express gratitude is gracious and honorable, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live with gratitude ever in our hearts is to touch heaven.”

It is important to remember in my trials that I am not alone.  I can look to the Savior in my time of need:

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: … he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows… But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:3-5).

“And he [has gone] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.And he [has taken] upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he [has taken] upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:11-12).

Wednesday Wonderful Women: Lucy Mack Smith

Lucy Mack Smith was born July 8, 1775 and was married to Joseph Smith Sr. January 1796 and had eleven children. Lucy was the mother of the Prophet and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, Jr.
The following are excerpts from Lucy Mack Smith: Woman of Great Faith By Jaynann Payne
“Lucy Mack Smith had faith in herself as a woman and as a homemaker. Her unique combination of traits seemed paradoxical; she was impulsive and determined, yet she relied upon the promptings of the Spirit to temper and give authority to what she did and said.”
“Lucy Mack Smith was a woman for all seasons. Through sunlight and shadow her faith in the family was of eternal scope. It showed itself in the trusting love she had for her parents and brothers and sisters; in the respect and honor she showed her beloved husband; in the inspiring way in which she nurtured the tender faith of her own children, especially young Joseph; in her faith in herself as a capable homemaker and mother; in the faith to hold family nights that were unforgettable; in her compassionate service to the Saints and her fellowmen; in the powerful testimony she bore of the truth of the Book of Mormon; and finally in her faith in her eternal family, which brought the only comfort possible in that darkest hour as she leaned over the biers of her dearest ones hewn down as martyrs. Her faith verified that they had indeed “overcome the world by love” and that a loving and merciful Father had taken them to himself that they might have rest.”
“Lucy was not tall, but she straightened up regally and with fire in her icy blue eyes walked right into the noise and confusion. Her voice rang out with authority:’Brethren and sisters, we call ourselves Saints, and profess to have come out from the world for the purpose of serving God at the expense of all earthly things; and will you, at the very onset, subject the cause of Christ to ridicule by your own unwise and improper conduct? You profess to put your trust in God, then how can you feel to murmur and complain as you do! You are even more unreasonable than the children of Israel were; for here are my sisters pining for their rocking chairs, and brethren from whom I expected firmness and energy, declare that they positively believe they shall starve to death before they get to the end of their journey. And why is it so? Have any of you lacked? Have not I set food before you every day, and made you, who had not provided for yourselves, as welcome as my own children? Where is your faith? Where is your confidence in God? … Now brethren and sisters, if you will all of you raise your desires to heaven, that the ice may be broken up, and we be set at liberty, as sure as the Lord lives, it will be done.'”