Some last Fall days

Another warm day in the canyon with the girls and Teddy. The children found a little tree "fort" and played Family, and I played with them. So fun.

Honesty and Wisdom

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday Morning Session of the April 1982 Conference.
Three of the talks in this session were really hard-hitting ones about honesty and deceit. It made me wonder what was going on in the church at that time to cause this emphasis to be needed! A couple of the talks specifically mentioned "get-rich quick schemes" and people being gullible because they wanted something for nothing, so I wondered if there was some scam making the rounds in Utah in the early 80's? But the other thing that struck me was how relevant these subjects still seemed right now.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton's talk, "This is No Harm," was probably my favorite of the three. I thought it was interesting that he spent equal time condemning those who lie, and warning people not to become victims of lies that others tell! He said,
In today’s world, where deceitfulness is so widely practiced in advertising, promoting, and marketing, a worthy prayer could well be, "Help me, O Lord, to be free not only of personal deceit, but grant me also the wisdom to avoid those who would damage me or mine through devious means."
He went on to say that one way to avoid being tricked by others is to avoid selfishness and greed, because "greed can make a person both dishonest and gullible."

I also liked this advice:
A wise person will not allow himself to be victimized by the unscrupulous because of false pride. Oftentimes people are swindled because false pride prevents them from asking questions and seeking additional information. For fear of embarrassment or being thought ignorant, a prospect ofttimes nods his head in the affirmative when he really doesn’t understand the glib salesman’s line of chatter. “What does that mean?” “What are the risks?” “What are the pitfalls?” “What is the history of the company?” “What references do you have?” are questions worthy of pursuit.
But here is the part that most struck me as relevant for today:
We are living in a day and time when the “gentle lie,” the “soft lie,” the “convenient lie,” the “misleading lie,” the “once-in-a-lifetime deal,” the “opportunity for a few selected friends” are being vigorously advocated and promoted. Designing promoters of questionable schemes have and will continue to prey on the gullible… 
It should be the goal of every Latter-day Saint to become the kind of person of whom it can be said, “His word is his bond.” In all of our words and deeds we should ask ourselves, “Is it right? Is it true?” not “Is it expedient, satisfactory, convenient, or profitable?” Just, “Is it right?” The wise will consider, “What is right?”; the greedy, “What will it pay?”
The extent to which dishonesty has become "institutionalized" or expected in our world is a frequent topic of discussion over at the Jr. Ganymede blog. And I don't think Elder Ashton's words here ignore the fact that it might be difficult, even counter-cultural, to live the kind of life where we refuse to even suggest a lie. He says:
If a lie is any communication given to another with the intent to deceive, we will all do well to seek God’s constant help in understanding and finding the truth. People of integrity will neither foster, nourish, embrace, nor share the lie. People of wisdom will not let greed, fear, or the desire for quick riches lead them into the snares of the dishonest and unscrupulous who prey on the gullible in order to maneuver from them valuable possessions.
I'm glad I don't have to think about getting promoted or impressing a boss or anything like that. :) But I know so many good men who DO have those concerns, who still manage to do their work with honesty and integrity. It makes me happy to think of these good men out in the world combatting the idea that "everyone" lies a little, and "this is no harm."

And in my home, I want to do my best to reinforce these principles too. The lies my kids tell are still mostly obvious and funny. But I want them to absorb the ideal of honesty deep down, and make it part of themselves, so that they'll be able to go out and be lights in the world someday as well.

Other posts in this series:

It is largely learned

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Relief Society Session of the October 1981 Conference.
When Sheri Dew gave her "Are we not all mothers?" talk in 2001, I thought it was so revolutionary. I had never considered how all women, whether they physically bore children or not, had a calling of "motherhood." (And because I had just gotten married, but didn't have children yet, this doctrine felt fresh and important to me.)

But as I've been reading these old Conference talks, I've been surprised to learn that Sister Dew was teaching a doctrine that had been emphasized many times before. In this Relief Society Session, I don't think there was one talk that didn't reiterate that the calling of motherhood belongs to ALL women, no matter their age or circumstance. For example, here is Sister Shirley Thomas in her talk, "An Opportunity for Continual Learning":
We are all daughters of Eve. I think of one sister who fills a very responsible position in Relief Society. Although, being single, she has no children, she has important work in her profession. She touches the minds as well as the hearts of young people; she uses fully her excellent talents and training; she brings love and light to the lives of others. I believe that her role is directed and accepted of the Lord as is my neighbor’s, a mother of eight. Mothering roles differ and may yet take on other dimensions, but we can each learn to use the principles that relate to motherhood.
Because I DO have literal, physical children in my home right now (sooooo many of them😄), I'm not sure why this doctrine is so meaningful to me—but it is. I guess I love the idea that the skills I'm practicing in my life right now—organizing, managing, teaching, comforting, brightening—are going to be of use to me long after my children grow up and leave home. And not only that—long after I die, in the eternities too! It makes it all seem more worthwhile somehow.

Here's another thing I loved. Sister Thomas said:
Mothering is also an eternal, fundamental work. It has to do with bringing life and love, and it is largely learned.
I found that so reassuring. I know women have divine gifts and divine heritage from our Heavenly Mother. Probably even aptitudes and talents that help us do this work of mothering. But on the whole—"it is largely learned." To the extent that loving and nurturing and teaching others doesn't come naturally, we have to just learn it the way we learn anything else! And we CAN learn it! By practice. By study. By inspiration. And we can be confident that our Heavenly Parents will bless us in our efforts!


Other posts in this series:

Creatures, wild and tame

I am putting zoo pictures and Halloween pictures together in this post because it just seems right somehow.

So. I feel like we are always going to the zoo for some reason or another, but I looked at old pictures and the last time we went was in 2014. And all the kids look like BABIES! Well—even those of them that weren't actually babies, I mean. Anyway, this time we went because we just finished a school unit on Elephants. This was the second time Marigold has ever seen real elephants in…person…and she was VERY HAPPY about it.
I liked this elephant because he was putting his trunk in the same position as my stuffed elephant, Bendigo. (This is Bendigo.)
We were at the zoo without a baby (he was home with Sam), and thus without a stroller, which was pretty great. I feel like I am always lifting strollers up so babies can see over fences. But this time I just had to lift Teddy up sometimes, and mostly everyone could just SEE all by themselves! Amazing.

Being there without a baby also meant the kids could play on the playgrounds I'm always dragging them past, saying, "We don't have time; the baby has to get home for his nap." So that was pretty great too. And the zoo was practically deserted, it being a chilly morning in the off-season.




When it is given gladly

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Welfare Session of the October 1981 Conference.
A few tidbits from the welfare session of General Conference:

Elder Marvin J. Ashton had great advice for ministering brothers and sisters:
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” You can’t feed them if you don’t know where they are. You can’t feed them if you give them reason to resist you. You can’t feed them if you don’t have the food. You can’t feed them if you don’t have charity. You can’t feed them if you aren’t willing to work and share. 
Wherever these lost sheep may be, a necessary ingredient for helping is empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings and to feel what he feels. Meaningful help can never be given without empathy for the recipient. This requires gaining the confidence of the person; listening with eyes, ears, and heart; trying to comprehend how this person feels; and then letting him know by your personal performance that you really understand. One who really understands and practices empathy doesn’t solve another’s problems, doesn’t argue, doesn’t top his story, make accusations, or take away free agency. He merely helps the person build his self-reliance and self-image so he can try to find his own solutions.
I really liked Sister Barbara B. Smith's talk "A Safe Place for Marriage and Families." She had a lot of good things to say about making our homes places of work and service and love.

Sometimes I think to myself (exasperatedly), "I'm serving other people all day long…whether I like it or not!" But this reminded me that when I do it grudgingly, it's not really even service:
Work becomes service when it is given gladly, often unsolicited, and for the purpose of filling another’s need. I know that service should be learned in a home. And I am very certain that it blesses the home where it is found.
It makes me wonder how I can make more of my daily work into service.

More about work in the home:
There is no better way to prepare family members for service in the Church, or in the world of work, and, most importantly, in their relationships with our Father in Heaven than to be accountable in meaningful responsibilities.
It is sometimes so tiring to try to get the children to accept their responsibilities, and to be accountable. But there is "no better way to prepare" them for life! That is motivating.

And this next part made me want to do better at expressing appreciation to Sam for all he does for us. He works so hard! All the time! And I DO appreciate it, but do I (and the kids) tell him that often enough? I think we could do a lot better:
It is sometimes the case that a husband or father fails to be honored for the work he does. Because he is gone from the home and the family does not see him at his work, they may not acknowledge the full significance of his contribution. …The wages earned by a man are necessary, but his family’s pride in his work is often more valued by him.

Other posts in this series: 

A year of Ziggy


Specialists in mercy

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Afternoon Session of the October 1981 Conference.
It seems obvious that there has to be some kind of balance in teaching justice and mercy. At various points in my life I've worried about teaching one or the other too strongly with my children—either emphasizing justice and consequences so much that they feel overwhelmed and like they will never be able to repent, or emphasizing mercy so much that they don't take repentance seriously. And of course, you never know if your children even hear the message you're trying to get across, or some other interpretation from their own minds.

But even so, somehow I always come back to my testimony of repentance and mercy. I think if I HAVE to err on the side of one or the other—for me, the choice has to be mercy. It's too important and has been too meaningful to me for me to risk my children not understanding how God's arms are always open to receive us, no matter what wrongs we've done. That has probably been the most important doctrine I've learned so far in my journey to know Jesus Christ.

So I loved Elder Marion D. Hanks' talk in this conference, called "My Specialty is Mercy." Here are some excerpts:
I am sure that everyone within sound of my voice today is in favor of mercy. But mercy merely as a principle, impersonal mercy, is no more useful or virtuous than impersonal faith or impersonal repentance or impersonal love… 
I was listening with deep interest as [a friend told his] “before and after” story. The “before” involved his life as a nominal but nonpracticing Christian employed in a stressful occupation with rough associates and with a tendency to follow the crowd in all their bad habits. He was not attentive to his wife and children, was worried about his family, suffered from an unhappy conscience, and had developed a serious physical ailment. 
Then two young men came to his door. They represented the Lord, they said, with a message of eternal truth for him and his family: the gospel of Jesus Christ is restored to the earth, the church of Jesus Christ reestablished; every individual and every family are important to God and through his plan can find purpose and meaning; families are meant to be together forever; and there is a way to know for oneself the truth of these things, they said, for the Holy Spirit will confirm the knowledge for those who sincerely seek.
He listened and believed. Immediately he put aside bad habits. His wife and children responded also. Their lives changed. They studied and prayed and worshiped, joined the Church, and lived in the light of the Spirit. His work improved, and soon new opportunities and trust and renewed reputation for dependability resulted. 
At the conclusion of his story came a ringing declaration of faith, without self-consciousness, without bluster, without guile. “I am like the Lord in one thing,” he said; “my specialty is mercy.” 
My specialty is mercy! 
One cannot live long with the scriptures without recognizing that God our Father and his holy Son have specialties also. 
The specialty of the Father is mercy. 
[And] there is [always another] one who understands, who sympathizes. He was misunderstood, rejected, knew supreme loneliness, was poor and had not a place to lay his head, suffered anguish and conflict of mind. 
He understands. 
He can give pardon and bring peace. 
The specialty of the Savior is mercy. 
And he requires that we be specialists in mercy.
I love this. What would I do without this comforting knowledge?


Other posts in this series:

A narrow sliver of sunlight

It was a Friday morning, 65 degrees outside, and Sam was going to be working from home. I said at breakfast, "In the afternoon I'm going up into the canyon to sit in the sun and read for a few hours. Anyone who is done with their work may come with me."

(I would have been happy enough if no one wanted to.)

But some people DID want to, and that was even better! The older boys had other (better?) things to do, but the girls and Teddy wanted to come with me. I packed up apples and cheese slices and Our Mutual Friend, and we chose a canyon. It was a little late for Fall leaves—the last weekend of October—so I was just hoping we'd find somewhere pretty to enjoy, down in the lower areas, at least.

When we got into the canyon, everything was in shadow. And the leaves were brown and mostly fallen. As we drove up the road, we could see little patches of color off beside us here and there, and sunlight shining on yellow treetops. I finally realized (and it should have been obvious, I guess) that the sunlight and the leaf-color went together—of course, since the places that got the most sunlight are also the places that stayed warmest and lost their leaves last!
We found a nice, leafy, rocky spot where the kids could play, and climbed up the hill until we were in the sunlight. The ground was COVERED with leaves, but in the sunny places, there were leaves on the trees too. "When the sun reaches the picnic table, we will eat our little lunch," I said. (I was not sure if the sun ever WOULD! The canyon walls were so high. And the sun is in its droopy Fall pattern.)
But it did! So we had our lunch.
This was my leafy reading spot. The kids let me read…a tiny bit. Mostly they were just climbing up and down the mountain from me, finding things and then chattering to me about what they'd found. But I didn't mind being distracted. It was so beautiful, just warm enough with a sweater on, and no one was fighting. What more could anyone wish for?
The girls found many treasures. A shiny marble.

The prophetic call to arms

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Sunday Morning Session of the October 1981 Conference.
Well! Never let it be said that Bruce R. McConkie was afraid to call things as he saw them:
We know what the future holds and of the wars and plagues and desolations that will soon sweep the earth as a devouring fire. 
This is a gloomy day of sorrow and sadness. The heavens gather blackness; men’s hearts are failing them for fear; nations are perplexed and know not where to turn to find peace and security… 
There has never been such a dire day as this. Iniquity abounds; …and the revealed word assures us that conditions will get worse, not better, until the coming of the Son of Man.
I don't know that I've heard quite that tone in General Conference before, but it certainly got my attention!

Interestingly, this whole session seemed extremely…bold. The apostles didn't mince words, and they left no doubt that this is all serious business, this war against Satan we are engaged in. But I think it caught my attention especially because I've been noticing the war terminology and martial metaphors increasing again in our day. No one is more enthusiastic, loving, and optimistic than President Nelson! And yet he keeps using the war metaphors too. I kind of like it—it reminds me that drifting along, hoping to stay comfortable, is not a viable life plan. (For one of the best posts I've ever read about why this military mental model works for The Church of Jesus Christ, see here.)

So here's William R. Bradford:
You must prepare. You must now make yourselves worthy and available. If you do not, the work will go on without you. It will go on at a slower pace, but it will go on. If you are not part of it, if you do not do your duty, what will happen to you? How will you be sanctified? 
If you do not do your duty, those whom you could have taught but did not will eventually have their opportunity to hear the gospel from someone else, but what of you? How will you be sanctified?… To sanctify yourself you must serve others.
And Charles Didier:
To desert, defect, give up, resign, surrender, renounce, abdicate, yield, apostatize, withdraw, back out, abandon—each of these words has almost the same meaning. We could find one for every situation in our lives where we might vacillate when facing what is called duty—duty to country, duty to church, duty to family, duty to oneself, duty to God. 
To vacillate is to hesitate in choosing a course, to try to move in two different directions at the same time, or to try simply to serve two masters. One of the greatest temptations that man has faced throughout half of history is the temptation to serve himself and to satisfy his own appetites first. This choice can lead to the spirit of desertion. Whoever we are, rich or poor, powerful or humble, faithful or not—all are subject to this temptation.… 
Have we made our provisions? Are we preparing ourselves to face one of the greatest temptations: to desert the service of the Lord in moments of doubt or trial, which may lead to other desertions?
And David B. Haight:
The Prophet Ezekiel warned: “Ye feed not the flock. 
“The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost.”
None are to be lost, but everyone is to feel the love of the Master through His servants. He knew that to carry the message of the gospel to all nations would require active participation by everyone baptized—not just some, but everyone.
And in case you didn't get that the stakes are high in these battles, Elder McConkie brings it home:
Some who are true and faithful will perish along with the wicked and ungodly in the days ahead. But what does it matter whether we live or die once we have found Christ and he has sealed us his? 
If we lay down our lives in the cause of truth and righteousness or in defense of our religion, our families, and our free institutions, why should we worry? 
We are not hanging on to life with greedy hands, fearful of the future. Once we have accepted the gospel and been reconciled to God through the mediation of Christ, what matters it if we are called to the realms of peace, there to await an inheritance in the resurrection of the just?
Goodness. I mean, I'm a fairly peace-loving person. I don't like conflict. I don't like controversy. But even (maybe especially) for a gentle, slightly-timid person like me—there's something to be learned from this bold warfare stuff. This isn't imaginary. This isn't inconsequential. This is real warfare, and we're all enlisted! If it was true 40 years ago, it's true now. And the fight's not over yet!


Other posts in this series:

Enjoying Maple Canyon

It was so hot all through September and early October. And then it was cold. And then it finally evened out into glorious Fall weather, just as October ought to have. And I was itching to go somewhere and enjoy it!

Our family outings are fewer in number these days. I feel like I am always taking half of the children somewhere or other. It is certainly easier that way! And nice, in its way. The older kids have their own schedules and their own ideas about how to spend their free time, and the younger kids appreciate having me more to themselves on occasion. But—even though it inevitably involves some grumbling, and lots of jostling and arguing and noise, and a few moments of Sam and me (who are now usually ABLE to leave them behind with an older child babysitting whenever we need to) questioning whether we ever ought to go anywhere with the whole family again—there is just something so good abut being all together for a few hours. Satisfying. It's an opportunity I know is getting rarer and rarer, and will soon be gone altogether. 

Thus, one lovely October Saturday, we girded up our loins and packed up a picnic and headed down to our favorite pumpkin patch at the Red Barn. Everyone was excited. But when we got there, it all just felt like…too much. It was crowded. And expensive (this place keeps growing, and so does the price! It was all free when we first started going…). And there were long lines. And we suddenly found that all we really wanted were the apples. And the apple cider. And the apple cider donuts.
And so in a bold and daring departure from tradition, we took our donuts and our apples and our cider, skipped the pumpkin patch, and went instead up Maple Canyon!
Not without eating a few first, of course. (Here is Teddy tilting his head for optimal donut biting.)
Maple Canyon is one of my favorite canyons, because it is small and quiet and there are hardly ever other people there—and there is the loveliest leafy picnic area at the top of the small quiet road.

Races, Ropes, Rainbows


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