Monday, November 16, 2015

Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance: How Can I Stand as a Witness of God? - Sunday, November 15, 2015

Wow, that was one enthusiastic class.

I'm glad that you were all full of energy, though it was not always focused on the lesson's topic, ha ha.
Still, thank you all for coming and participating.

Besides, your asides let me get to know you better ... which helps me to be a better teacher.

Okay, so we worked on talking about standing as a witness of God. And on some ways that we can prepare ourselves to do that.

And, as I was going through a bunch of links that I'd bookmarked to get to (eventually -- do you ever do that? In all seriousness, I have about 200 "saved" links for Facebook alone. I just really want to KNOW ALL THE THINGS! as the meme says) ... and, in it, I found this ...

Okay, do not let the name throw you. It's a really good read (as are his other posts). And, just because he's not young or whatever, that doesn't mean that he doesn't have good stuff to post that might help. (Knowing you all, though, I'm sure that I don't have to give you that push to hearken to those with experience. Heck, y'all listen to me well enough in class [THANK YOU], and I'm *gasp* over TWICE your age! SO, as I was saying, you guys and gals are very cool and wise. My job is to just help you become cooler and wiser. :P)

BUT, the post linked above is helpful ... Brother McBride (since that's the real name of MMM) even gives a list of thoughts/behaviors that can lead to apostasy ... and, if you don't have the time to read it all, here's the main gist is that people who have the Holy Ghost with them are not fooled by alternate voices of the adversary

If you have the Holy Ghost with you, if you can recognize his promptings, and if you choose to follow them, you will be a strong and faithful member of the Church. You will BE spiritually self-reliant.

And that is one of our desires for you -- from the prophet on down to your local leaders, including me as your teacher, and your families -- for you to be able to weather all the tests and trials that you will eventually face ... In fact, we don't want you just able to endure them, but to blaze through them, finding joy and peace on that journey, to be an example of the believers to all who happen to come into contact with you.

Because we believe in you. Because we KNOW that you each have the potential for awesomeness.

 ------------------------------------------------------------

Okay, back to the class report.

We missed one of our classmates this week (visiting friends), but everyone else of our usual bunch was there. (Should we maybe send a card or something to those who haven't attended in a while? What are your thoughts on this?)

We discussed, again, a bit about the policy changes/clarifications and some of the reasons behind them (protecting children from having to deal with issues that are beyond their maturity to face, protecting ALL families, etc.).
We also discussed that the main and most important thing is that we love ALL people. As members of the restored Church, we have covenanted to remember Christ always. And, if we want to be considered to be part of His fold, we also covenant to be "willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; ... and ... willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life."

Part of this covenant is that we love others. ALWAYS. Even if we don't support their lifestyles or all their choices, we do our darndest to LOVE them with Christ's love. We treat them with love, respect, and compassion ... because they, like us, are children of our Heavenly Father. And He loves them , too. The best way we can improve our lives, their lives, and the world at large, is to LOVE them.


We also discussed a few scriptural examples of those who stood as a witness of God, especially in pretty awful circumstances. Samuel the Lamanite, Daniel, Joseph of Egypt (good Seminary answer!), Joseph Smith, Abinadi, ... There are bunches that we didn't cover at all, too: Ester, Mormon, ... and countless others.

I did issue a CHALLENGE: This week, will you look for examples of those standing as witnesses of God (in your life, in the scriptures, in the news ...) AND/OR look for opportunities where YOU can stand as a witness of God.

I hope that you all have a wonderful week! I expect to hear some great stories and insights! ^_^

Also, next Sunday, I'm planning (unless the Spirit steers me elsewhere) of discussing making your own decisions and setting goals towards becoming spiritually and temporally self-reliant.
If you need to look at the lesson outlines (including scriptural references and some applicable talks), look in the column on the right. I'd be thrilled if you chose to read ahead. I'll still love you, even if you don't, though.

Have a great week! I'll see you on Sunday!
Be kind, be courageous, be loving, be awesome!
        Sister Cox

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Gearing Up For Sunday - Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance (November 15)

Okay, class of mine!

I have no idea at all if any of you are even reading this blog at all ... but that's okay.

I figure that, since I've been working on preparing my lesson, I'll let you know a bit about what to expect tomorrow (besides some candy-candy-candy).

Especially after the social media fuss and, now, the tragedy in Paris ... we'll be concentrating on the lesson "How Can I Stand As a Witness of God?"

We'll also probably involve bits from other lessons (overcoming doubt and learning to make our down decisions) ... but the main focus will be on standing as a witness.

Now, since the class is mainly male (and, honestly, I'm going with what I know ... and I've not had the opportunity to be part of the Young Men organization, ha ha), I'm sharing the Young Women Theme:


Notice in that opening paragraph ... that it's IN the opening paragraph -- before anyone has time to lose focus while reading the YW Theme? ... that part about "standing as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places."

(Young Men, don't gloss over it just because it's piiiiiiink. Before WWII, pink used to be a color for boys and not girls. Just sayin'. Besides, I know that you're all too darn awesome to be tied down by cultural constructs that have no dealing with doctrine. :D)

If it's important enough for the Young Women to say this EVERY WEEK, that's pretty darn important. (Except for the new inclusions of Virtue and "strengthen home and family," I still have this memorized from when I was much, much younger. Those new bits do throw me a little. Good thing I had the opportunity to repeat this weekly when I served as YW Secretary. Good times.)

So, please be thinking of scriptural/church history/in-your-life examples of people standing as witnesses (like how one of our classmates was able to influence his friends to not swear around him!) ... as well as musing over ideas of how we can stand as witnesses of God in our lives here and now.

See you all tomorrow!

Be kind to yourself and others. And make sure to be awesome, too!

Monday, November 9, 2015

November 8 - How Can I Find Answers to My Own Gospel Questions (Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance)

Wow, it was a rather energetic class this Sunday.

But, better too much energy than too little ... As long as you're involved, I'm a happy instructor!
(And a happy instructor = an instructor who's happy to bring treats! Just sayin'!)

So, we discussed ... lots, really.

First, you all are pretty dang amazing. You do know more than you give yourself credit for. Keep up that great work ... and never stop learning. ^_^

You already knew that you can look up answers in the Bible Dictionary and Topical Guide.
(I was impressed!)

You also knew that you are always able to request answers from our Heavenly Father through prayer and scripture study.

Please allow me to stress that daily scripture study is a very important habit (One that I'm still working on!). You will be very blessed if you establish that habit NOW (Let me tell you, once you have a career, higher education, and/or a family, it just gets that much more difficult for you to prioritize your personal relationship with God amid all these other very important things).

Please be aware that you can always search for answers on the Church website (www.lds.org).
There are TONS of great resources there.

You can ask people you trust: your parents or grandparents or a friend's parents, your bishop, your Stake president, your teachers/instructors/leaders ... You can even ask some of your friends. There are bunches of people out there who'd love to have the opportunity to help you.
(You could also ask other members of your ward family ... I'm sure that most would be pleased and rather flattered that you respect them enough to request their opinion/knowledge.)

When you joined Young Women's or Young Men's, you should have received a copy of the manual, True to the Faith. If you don't have it, let me know. If you can't find it, remember that it's available online.
It's an awesome resource ... which you'll probably remember me reading STRAIGHT from it to you.

(Really, it's a wonderful little manual that will help you, as you study it ... or even just use it as a reference guide, to better understand the gospel. I'm always very impressed with how GOOD and useful it is, even though it's so small.)

Here's a bit of what we talked about from True to the Faith - Revelation:
Revelation is communication from God to His children. This guidance comes through various channels according to the needs and circumstances of individuals, families, and the Church as a whole. 
When the Lord reveals His will to the Church, He speaks through His prophet. The scriptures contain many such revelations—the word of the Lord through ancient and latter-day prophets. Today the Lord continues to guide the Church by revealing His will to His chosen servants. 
Prophets are not the only people who can receive revelation. According to your faithfulness, you can receive revelation to help you with your specific needs, responsibilities, and questions and to help you strengthen your testimony.
YOU can receive revelation.
Unlike the prophet who is granted the right to receive revelation for the whole world (and the whole church), the revelation you will receive (if you seek it) will be for yourself and those you have stewardship over.
  • Yourself
  • When you are married and have children, you can receive revelations to help your family.
  • You can receive revelation for those you Home or Visit Teach
  • If you teach a class or are in a leadership position, you can receive revelation that will help you serve.
  • If you serve a mission ... or if you are being a member-missionary, you can receive revelation to help you and those that you're ministering to
  • And more, I'm sure ... but those are just the first examples that come to my mind.
In True to the Faith, it also outlines ways that we can prepare to receive revelation:
  • Pray for guidance.
    Seriously, just ask. Have a desire to know. 
  • Be reverent.
    TttF defines "reverence" as profound respect and love. It's what's being referred to when we talk of fearing the Lord. We're reverent during our Church meetings to show honor, respect, and love to our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and even to those who are around us (whether they're teaching, giving a talk, or listening to the speakers/teachers.
    If we are reverent, even if everything's crazy all around us, we can be ready to receive and recognize promptings.
  • Be humble.
    We need to be mindful that we're not perfect. We don't know everything yet. We rely on Heavenly Father and the blessings that He lovingly gives us. Being humble helps us to be open to these promptings.
  • Keep the commandments.
    This one is pretty simple, right? If we're sinning, the Holy Ghost won't be able to be with us. We will chase him off. Bummer. Don't do that.
    And, when you do (since we're not perfect)? Repent! 
  • Partake of the Sacrament worthily.
    When we partake of the Sacrament, we're reminded of our baptismal covenants.
    It's pretty dang important.
  • Study the Scriptures every day.
    I already talked about this above. And I'll talk about it a lot. But I think you've got the gist. Especially since this post is getting crazy-long already.
  • Take time to ponder.
    Direct quote from TttF: "Pondering takes your thoughts from the trivial things of the world and brings you closer to the Spirit."
  • When seeking specific guidance, study the matter out in your mind.
    Read Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-8
    Really, give yourself time to think and meditate ... when your mind is quiet and you're not distracted by ... everything else in the world, you help to open your mind and heart to promptings.
  • Patiently seek God's will.
    Remember, there may be times when you DO receive an instant answer.
    More often than that, though, you probably won't. That doesn't mean that you aren't going to get that answer. It just means that it's not now.
    Trust the Lord. Trust His timing ... He does know more and better than us, right?
Now, we weren't able to discuss (yet) the next, VERY IMPORTANT bit ...
Recognizing the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Because, really, it's not going to do you a terrible amount of good if you're searching and striving to find answers ... and you don't realize when you've received one. Or THAT you HAVE received an answer.

Here's the list of things to remember that's given in True to the Faith:
  • The Holy Ghost speaks to the mind and heart in a still small voice.
  • He prompts us through our feelings.
  • He brings peace.
The more you seek for revelation, the more opportunities you have to receive it.
Think of how many times in our last General Conference that our leaders beseeched us to live in a way where we can have the CONSTANT companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide and direct us, to protect us. That is an awesome gift that they want for all of us to be able to have.

That's yet another reason I know that our leaders (from President Thomas S. Monson down to our local leaders) love us. They want us to choose, for ourselves -- not be forced to do it, good things. They have our best interests at heart.

And, if we ever doubt that, we can pray about it. We can study our scriptures. We can ask others for help. And, even if you're alone, without your scriptures or any way of accessing them, in the noisiest, craziest place ... you always can have the Holy Ghost there with you.

And, please, always be aware that your Heavenly Parents and Jesus Christ love you more than any words could describe. They are rooting for you. Your ancestors are cheering you on. Your leaders love you. You are important. You are valued. You can change the world for the better.

Make good choices and be kind to each other!
    Sister Cox

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Spiritual and Temporal Self-Reliance - November 1

Behold, He Cometh - Simon Dewey

Yes, it's DECIDEDLY PAST Monday and I'm FINALLY blogging. (Sorry!)

So, you've had the better part of a week to muse over what we discussed in class Sunday.

(You remember ... we had the big TV with the video that didn't fully load [again, SORRY!] and we were joined by members of next year's class, since they'd have just been sitting around during that hour, due to the practice of the Primary Program ...)

SO, as I was saying, we were talking about "how do I become spiritually self-reliant?"

And we talked about some basic answers:

  • Study your scriptures ... well, at the least, READ them ... daily is good.
  • Pray. At least morning and night is a good goal.
    (Though we are counseled, like in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 or Doctrine and Covenants 19:38, to pray ALWAYS ... which goes along with our baptismal covenant to ALWAYS remember Jesus.)
  • Serve others/love others
  • Follow the prophets and their counsel/Keep the commandments
And I hope that you understood some of the benefits ... like, if you've developed your OWN testimony, you can deal with hard times, when your faith is tested, more effectively.
OR, if you have a friend or family member (could be both!) who's having a crisis of faith/period of doubt/whatever, you can help to strengthen THEM during this.

Your testimony is rather like a life preserver, in my opinion. It helps keep you afloat in this crazy ocean of temptation and STUFF that is this mortal life. The church can be likened to M. Russell Ballard's metaphor of The Old Ship Zion ... If we're on the ship and choose to STAY on the ship, we're much safer and able to help ourselves and others more effectively. But, should something happen and we fall off/get pushed off/whatever the boat, our faith can help us persevere until we catch hold of the rope extended to us from our friends, family/ward family, the missionaries and we are able to get back onto the boat as part of the fold again.

When I was younger, I often was a bit confused by Christ's parables of the five wise and the five foolish virgins. It seemed like a jerk move not to be willing to share oil with others ... but, well, obviously I wasn't understanding the parable now, was I? [Yes, your teacher is SO not perfect. She is not the most spiritual being ever ... but she's trying to improve. So bear with me, please. ^_^]

But, as I have come to understand that the oil isn't a physical thing, but that spiritual preparedness we've been commanded to cultivate. As much as I would like to, I cannot share what personality traits  or habits I've worked (very) hard (or am STILL working) to develop as a disciple of Christ. I can't just say, "oh, here, [Your Name], looks like you don't have [a testimony of tithing/a love of service/a habit of daily prayer and scripture study/whatever], here take some of mine."

HOWEVER, if you are working toward creating those good habits and virtues in your life NOW, you WILL have them in the future ... well, as long as you keep working at it. If not, we've been warned that we can lose what light and knowledge we've gained. And that is a sad thing ... since we have to put forth a not-small amount of effort to get it in the first place!

SO DON'T LOSE IT, okay?
(But if you do, I'll still love you. So will Heavenly Father and Jesus, of course! I mean, yeah, we'll all be sad. And I'll worry. But you'll still be loved. ... But please don't make me worry. I really don't need any more reasons to NEED to color my hair, okay?)

But, still if you're preparing for (1) a mission, (2) going to the temple and making covenants there, (3) having a forever family, and/or (4) celestial exaltation (and you're on the right track if you're keeping your baptismal covenants!); you NEED to be spiritually prepared.

Now, to channel President Uchtdorf for a second, with an airplane analogy --
Imagine you're on a plane. The cabin, through some rough flying, has lost pressure. Those silly-looking oxygen masks are released from the ceiling above the seats.
You're instructed that YOU PUT ON YOUR OWN MASK FIRST before helping others who can't don their own themselves.

WHY? It seems really selfish. We're commanded to put others' needs ahead of our own, right?
No. We're to love our neighbor as we love ourselves ... we have to take care of ourselves SO we're ABLE to help others. You can't give what you don't have. You can't give MORE than what you have.

So, in this case, you take care of yourself first. Since, if folks can't get a mask on themselves, they certainly are unable to help YOU if you're passing out from lack of air.

... Yes, it's easier to imagine a more concrete example -- as much as I'd WANT to give a HUGE donation to the Church's charitable organizations (e.g., the PEF [Perpetual Education Fund] and the Temple Patron Fund), if doing so makes it so that I've extended beyond our family's budget, have I really helped if NOW we're causing others to pay for our mortgage, food, and other necessities?
Not really. In fact, that money COULD have gone to taking care of other families in the ward boundaries.
So, though I'd mean well, it'd be a jerk move (especially to my husband, if I didn't get his feedback before pulling that stunt).

So, for spiritual self-reliance, you think about it like drops of oil ... and you know that you're burning this oil every day, too ... so it's in your best interest to make sure to replenish your supply daily.
  • Pray
  • Study the word of the Lord. Not just in the Standard Works, but also the words of the living prophet (Reading/re-reading General Conference talks is a great thing)
  • Serve others/Love others/Develop charity
  • Attend church/Mutual -- (Seriously, when I was a bit older than you, I had a job where I had to work on Sundays often. I'd try to make at least Sacrament Meeting, when possible. I could FEEL a difference if I wasn't at church. It wasn't a great feeling. It's helped me so that, unless I'm sick, I really make an effort to BE at church. Even though, with small children, it's HARD to concentrate. But I know that I'm where I need to be. YMMV.)
  • Keep the commandments
  • Attend the temple whenever you can (Even if it's just walking around the grounds or going to the visitor's center, I love the peace and comfort that I receive being there.)
    [Funny aside: When I was a freshman in college, one of my (Catholic) friends referred to the Portland Temple as "Mormon Disneyland." ... She was more correct than she thought, since I do find it the happiest place on earth. ^_^]
  • Many other beneficial things ... Care to bring up any in the comments? (Remember, you don't use your full, real name. Make up a pseudonym or something. ^_^ Practice internet safety, please.)
As I mentioned in class, I've had quite a few friends fall away from the Church. I still love them. But I cannot MAKE them change their choices.
What I can do is let them know that I love them and that I'm here for them; I can be an example (hopefully a good one!) to them; I can pray for them; I can even fast for them ... and I can make sure that my testimony is firm and strong enough that I can keep hold of the iron rod. And maintain the hope that my friends will CHOOSE to return.

Because, really, would YOU want to go somewhere, kicking and screaming, that someone is dragging you to? No, it's much nicer to go somewhere of your own choice and volition.

I love you guys (and gals, you're included in that). I really hope that I'm being a somewhat effective teacher to y'all. I am anxiously eager to help you learn what you'll need to know to deal with all the temptations, discouragement, and those other tools of Satan and his followers that you'll HAVE to encounter in this world.
I want you to KNOW  -- beyond any shadow of a doubt -- that you are a loved, treasured child of God. There's nothing that you can ever do to lessen His perfect love for you. He won't be thrilled with all your choices (like He's often disappointed in mine), but He still loves you and values you. You are PRECIOUS to him. And there is NOTHING in this world or anywhere else that will ever have a chance of changing that fact.
He wants YOU to be able to, to WANT to, return to His presence. Because He loves you.
Jesus Christ would go through all the suffering in Gethsemane JUST for YOU. Because you are just that precious. And nothing can change that.

And that is why it's so very sad when we make poor choices, when we turn away from the love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to chase after things that won't bring us eternal joy ... or we let worldly distractions come between us and that perfect love.

So, work at filling up those lamps ... so that you can find your way back to our Heavenly Father's presence, so that you can be a light and an example to those who've lost their way.

Because you are youth of a noble birthright; you have this amazing, unlimited potential for growth and progress.

Be kind to each other. Be kind to yourself. Be something amazing.