Friday, March 11, 2016

February 28 (Plan of Salvation) and March 6 (The Atonement)

Yes, I've really fallen behind. Sorry.

But, well, these lessons all combine really, really well. Because, well, the Plan of Salvation won't work without the Atonement, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We chose to come to this mortal experience on Earth so that we can learn and develop those attributes and have these experiences that will help us learn, grow, and develop into our potential. We wanted to be able to become like our Heavenly Parents. We couldn't do it any other way.

We were sent here, as mortals, passing through a veil of forgetfulness which removed our memories of our heavenly home and all we knew there, so that we could be fully tested. We chose this. It will be worth it.

But, we knew that we would sin, that bad things would/could happen ... that there would be death, sadness, temptations to withstand, sin to repent of when we don't withstand these temptations, pain, sickness (physical, mental, and spiritual), loneliness, obstacles ... and these would come regardless of whether we asked for them or if they were trials selected just for us to help us grow and develop or if they were byproducts brought about by the choices of others ... since they would have their agency, too.

We have the gift of agency ... it's about the most important gift we've been given (our physical bodies are right up there, too).
To protect our agency, Heavenly Father prepared this wondrous plan to cover all eventualities and possibilities. It allows us all to use our agency -- to act/to choose, instead of being acted upon.

Elder David A. Bednar tells us, in his October 2006 Conference talk, And Nothing Shall Offend Them:
As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. 

We get to choose how to react to situations. That's a huge gift.
We can CHOOSE to give in to temptation or to overcome it.

That is a HUGE gift.
Agency is vital.

So is the Atonement.

It's almost easier (at least for me. Maybe it's not the same for everyone else) to understand that because Jesus died on the cross, though he didn't have to -- he chose to do it for us -- and then rose from the grave as a glorious, resurrected being, we also ALL will be resurrected. Our bodies and spirits will be joined together as complete souls, never to be separated again. This is a gift that is certain. We will have perfected bodies ... and, I think, that we will have a more full appreciation of what a wonderful gift our bodies are.

But, in the simplest phrase, Jesus's death and resurrection = EVERYONE overcomes physical death.
No matter how righteous or sinful one may have chosen to be, everyone gets this blessing.
Heavenly Father and Jesus love us. They want good things for ALL their children (and remember, through His mission here on Earth, Jesus adopted all of us. We are His children, as well.)

But, as much as Jesus suffered as he was on the cross, he suffered even greater things as he prayed and suffered for us in Gethsemane's garden.

(Interesting fact: Gethsemane translates to "oil press." Olives are pressed/smashed to release their oil. Christ's experience, suffering under a crushing load of the effects of sin, of pain, of all the sickness of body and spirit, all emotion, ... EVERYTHING EVER FELT BY ANY MEMBER OF ALL HUMANKIND so that He would understand PERFECTLY how we feel at any time ... it's like oils being crushed. Oils are released from the fruit, rather like how Christ suffered so much that "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Luke 22:43-44 tells us about that suffering AND that he suffered so that an angel was sent to strengthen him. King Benjamin [Mosiah 3:7] tells us that this was much more than any mortal being could bear.)

Remember how I keep mentioning that Jesus and Heavenly Father know us better than we know ourselves? That they understand us more than we understand ourselves? ... There's a reason for that. Because they've BEEN THROUGH ALL OF WHAT YOU OR I OR ANYONE has gone/is going/will go through.

It is an awe-inspiring and rather-unfathomable realization to reach. Jesus knows all our trials, all our pain and suffering, because he's FELT it, too. He's gone through it with you, for you ... because He LOVES you so, so very much. So much bigger and wider and deeper and larger than we even have words for. Because He KNOWS how important you are to Him and to your Heavenly Parents.

He was willing to pay any price for you.
Also, be aware that he was willing to pay any price for EVERY PERSON who was ever to be born or ever will be born. All people. Even the ones who don't seem to appreciate this huge gift. Even the ones who make it very difficult to love. Even the ones who choose, willingly, to hurt others ... because they, too, are our Heavenly Father and Mother's children. They love them, too.

This suffering that Christ underwent for us, as told in Doctrine and Covenants 19:16 and 18, was so that, IF WE CHOOSE TO REPENT, He will shoulder the whole load. He will take all our suffering, our pain, everything ... if we will just humble ourselves and choose to hand it over.

He is waiting, always at the ready, to accept our broken hearts and contrite spirits and give us wonderful things in return. He will alleviate (that means lighten) our pain and suffering. He will give us joy. He will enable us to bear our loads here.

Isaiah, whom my Institute teacher, Brother Dale Kirby called a "poet-prophet," stated it beautifully when he preached in Isaiah 61:3:
"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
When we are mourning (wearing ashes and sackcloth was, in Biblical times, an outward show of grief), Christ will give us BEAUTY -- he'll put the colors back into our world.

He will, when we mourn/are sad, give us the ability to have JOY ... not just in the life to come, but NOW. Because, as President Uchtdorf told us in the October 2015 General Women's Meeting (part of General Conference, "Now is a part of eternity."

When we are heavy in spirit or unable to physically handle what's on our plate, He will enable us to have gratitude, faith, and perseverance enough that we can praise Him and His infinite goodness, that we will glorify our Heavenly Parents, their plan, and their love for us.

As I've typed this, one of the hymns has been echoing in my head ... because music is a wonderful teaching tool.

So I will close with the lyrics to How Firm a Foundation:

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
2. In ev'ry condition--in sickness, in health,In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be. 
3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand. 
4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. 
6. E'en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov'reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.
7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!
Take strength and courage from how much you are loved, valued, and looked after through the Atonement of Christ (as well as all the other many, many blessings with which God blesses you on a daily basis). Know that you are precious in His sight. No matter how things may go, you Heavenly Parents and Saviour want you back. They will always love you perfectly.

Take that strength and courage ... and go be awesome.
      Love,
            Sister Cox


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Notes from the Stake Broadcast: Addendum! (Ask and it shall be granted)

Remember how I griped a few weeks ago that I didn't remember verbatim the excellent response Sister Redlund gives when asked a question about the church, the Word of Wisdom, Adam-ondi-ahman, etc?

Well, from my lips to the Lord's ears, as they say.

I was looking on Facebook this morning. I had a notification from one of the bloggers that I follow.

HE had shared, minutes ago, a Facebook post that Elder Renlund had posted this month.


If you can't read it or if the link is broken, here's the story that Elder Renlund tells:

My wife and I once visited a university in Athens, Greece. As part of that visit, we were taken on a sightseeing tour. While we were actually inside the Parthenon, our hostess, a graduate student in archaeology, said, “Next, I would like to take you to my favorite coffee house in all of Athens.” 
My wife said that we would love to go with her, but she said, “Please don’t be offended if we don’t drink the coffee.” 
Our hostess asked, “You don’t drink coffee?” 
“No,” we answered. 
“Why not?” she asked. 
As I was formulating a response, my wife said, “The short answer is this: In 1820, a young man by the name of Joseph Smith went into a grove in upstate New York to pray. He wanted to know which church he should join. There he saw God, our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Joseph was told he should join none of the churches. But he was told that through him, the Church Jesus had established while He was on the earth would be restored. The restoration would be through a process of revelation. And it is through revelation that we know that we shouldn’t drink coffee. My husband will now explain it to you further.” 

How do we really explain ourselves? How do we explain anything that we do or believe if we do not go back to the Sacred Grove and establish the principle of revelation, that God reveals His will to prophets in this day and age? We obey because we have understood through the Holy Ghost something of eternal import. The reason you and I observe the Word of Wisdom, obey the law of chastity, and keep other commandments is because of revelation.
But I really wanted to share this with you. It's a wonderful way to assist you in explaining WHY we do things. We take things on faith because we believe in modern-day revelation. We can receive this revelation through prophets, who speak to the whole church and the world. We can receive revelation through more local leaders -- like Stake President Carlile (for the whole Stake) or from Bishop Madsen (for our ward). Your teachers receive revelation for teaching their classes. You can receive revelation for yourself and whoever you have stewardship over (like when you Home or Visit Teach). Your parents can receive revelation for helping to lead your family, just as you will be able to receive revelation for leading YOUR family.

When people ask why we make and keep covenants, why we don't drink/smoke/support certain socially-accepted behaviors, Sister Renlund's quote is a wonderful starting point for explaining WHY. And, when you have an idea of how to respond in advance, you can be empowered ... so you will be prepared to respond with courage and compassion and respect to those who ask questions. (And, when you treat others with that same love and respect that Heavenly Father and Jesus have for us, you're opening up the possibility for a wonderful missionary experience ... as long as we can keep the Holy Ghost with us, to help influence us and speak the truth.)

But I wanted to be sure to let you know/read the quote.

Be awesome!
     Sister Cox
I think I will add this page to my playbook for answering gospel questions...
Posted by Bro Simon Says on Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

February 21, 2016 - The Plan of Salvation - The Importance of Learning and Agency


CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: 
Read the sections "Agency and Accountability" and "Education"
in For the Strength of Youth.

I know, I shook things up, putting the challenge first.
But, knowing you, y'all are awesome and can handle it.

This week, we combined (well, we attempted to combine) two lessons: Why is learning an important part of Heavenly Father's plan? and  What is the role of agency in learning the gospel?

And, in case you forgot, now you totally see why you've accepted the challenge to read those two sections in For the Strength of Youth.

Yesterday was an interesting class. It was a bit hard for you all to concentrate, I think, because of the beautiful (if a little chilly) day outside. But I think we got some learning done.
I appreciated all the participation you gave ... even if "Andre le Roc" did look quite nice in those aqua ballet flats. (In truth, I'm still snickering about that.)

As you (my clever, awesome class) pointed out, the reason we were sent here to Earth is to learn and to grow. And we wouldn't be able to become like our heavenly parents if we couldn't choose for ourselves or learn anything ... hence the need for the Plan of Salvation/the Plan of Happiness.

With Satan's plan, we wouldn't have had agency. We're not sure what his plan was exactly (maybe we would all be compelled to make the right choices. Maybe there wouldn't be right and wrong choices to make so our actions wouldn't matter either way), but no matter what his plan was, it negated our agency and wouldn't have allowed us (God's children) to attain ANY degree of our Father's glory.

Agency is vital. Allowing us our agency is the whole reason behind Christ's Atonement -- his suffering, death, and resurrection FOR US. FOR ALL HUMANKIND.
That's a huge price for Him to pay ... and he loves you all so much.
If He had to go through it all JUST for ONE, SINGLE ONE of you, He would do it, not hesitating for a second. Because He loves you.
Please remember that. Please be aware of how precious and loved you are. Always.

Without agency, we would only be acted upon -- like seaweed on the ocean floor, influenced by the current, but unable to make our own changes. That is not what Heavenly Father wants for us. He knows that, to be like Him, to be able to be as He is, we need to know how to act for ourselves. We need the opportunity to make choices for ourselves.

It's important.

It's also very important to learn.

One of my favorite scriptures is Doctrine 109:7:
"And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;"
I find that, in my experience, it nicely dovetails (which means that it fits perfectly and securely) with Alma 30:44:
"The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
 The more I learn, the more that I am convinced that God exists and established rules for how things work/interact. I enjoy learning about science (and many other things) ... and the more that I learn and observe, the more I see God's hand in all things.

For an example, Rhinovirus (the common cold) is a virus that survives best at a temperature of around 91.4-95°F ... what happens when we come down with a bad cold? Not only do we have an immune response where our white blood cells go and chow down on these invaders, BUT!! Our bodies have another response: we run a fever. This raises our internal temperature to something very inhospitable to the virus. I find this absolutely amazing. I have a testimony that our bodies are amazing creations ... and that they ARE creations. They are gifts from loving heavenly parents to us; to help us grow and become more like them.

There's also been amazing amounts of research done in the areas of Book of Mormon studies -- they've found the presence of horses in the Americas in the fossil record recently, they're doing an amazing dig out in Oman (where, it appears, Nephi and his family built the ship and sailed for the promised land).

If you look for God's hand in these things, looking in faith, you will find it.

Of course, temporal knowledge and spiritual knowledge will come in different ways. We have to prepare ourselves for both of these.
Remember, when we die, we can't take everything with us. We will take our memories, our knowledge, and those relationships we have to others (if we're sealed to our families and our spouses, we will have those eternal bonds ... IF we keep the covenants we've made with our Heavenly Father).

Also, please be aware, the Lord does not set us up to fail. He is on our side, cheering us on. He wants us to make good choices that will lead us to become closer to Him, that will bring us joy and His peace.

Yesterday, in Relief Society, we talked about "Help from on High," one of the lessons from the Howard W. Hunter manual.
As Sister Berg taught the lesson, she talked about patterns of faith.

This is like the pride cycle of the Nephites, but HAPPY.
  1. Act in Faith
  2. Pray/Study Scriptures
  3. Ponder
  4. Act on Promptings from the Holy Ghost
  5. Faith is strengthened
  6. Repeat
As you see, as we continue this cycle, our faith is strengthened each time, allowing us to grow and develop so that we have greater, stronger faith to allow us to do all things the Lord asks of us. We will also be familiar with the voice of the Holy Spirit, so we can recognize his influence in our life. Which, then, will strengthen our faith.

Sister Berg also shared this video:
Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation - David A. Bednar
(Sorry that I couldn't get it to imbed. I tried. But it's just not going to happen. Oh well.)

I hope that you find this helpful and enlightening (no pun intended).

Next week, we'll be discussing why it's important to teach the gospel, how we can help others to understand Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness, how to help others participate in learning, and how we can use Church music to help learn/teach about the Plan of Salvation.
I don't think we'll cover any of this in depth ... but we're going to try to touch upon these topics.

Go forth and be awesome!

Love,
     Sister Cox

February 14, 2016 - Notes from the Stake Broadcast

I hope that you were all able to attend, pay attention to, and enjoy the broadcast!
I ended up taking quite a few notes ... which I might as well share with you, right? ^_^

Remember, every other year, we'll be having three Stake Conferences (being 1 Broadcast for the region as well as our two typical Stake Conferences).

From President Carlile's address before the broadcast:

  • The story of Christ at the pool of Bethesda; he healed a man on the Sabbath.
    Observing the Sabbath - we should avoid having a set list (like in the Old Testament and, instead, concentrate on doing what helps our hearts and souls
    The man at the pool was looking for healing in troubled waters. We often do the same.
    We must look for the healing and peace available from Christ.
  • President Carlile quoted a poem Sharon Price Anderson wrote inspired by Carl Bloch's painting of Christ Healing the Sick at the Pool of Bethesda.
  • We need to avoid distractions from Christ
  • We have three reasons for observing the Sabbath (from Russell M. Nelson):
    1. Strengthen our testimonies
    2. Strengthen our love of God
    3. Strengthen our affection for and desire to serve Christ
  • Isaiah 58:13-14
  • One way to improve Sabbath Day Observance: MUSIC
    In our meetings, in our classes, in our homes.
    This is the best way to invite the Spirit into our lives.
  • Ward Music Chair, Organist, and Choister should ALL communicate with their Bishopric member and each other.
  • Sacrament Meeting begins with PRELUDE MUSIC - It should be the best 10 minutes of your week, sitting and pondering while listening to hymns
    The Opening Hymn should be familiar and full of life.
    We should not play hymns too slowly or too quickly.
    Special musical numbers are for worship, not to showcase performance skills.
    WE SHOULD ALL PARTICIPATE IN THE SINGING OF THE HYMNS.
  • Change the way you look at the Sabbath. Change the way you observe the Sabbath.


Broadcast Start
Conducting: James J Hamula
(Others there: Dale G. Renlund, Bonnie L. Oscarson, C. Scott Grow)


C. Scott Grow - "How to Remain True to the Faith"
"In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets. "True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word."
  • Scripture study will bless you with power to the convincing of others. This will help parents. Family Scripture Study is a priority.
  • Pray

    Joseph Smith's first prayer is an example of how scripture study is a catalyst for more meaningful prayers.

    ALSO, as Sister Berg pointed out in Relief Society yesterday, the Epistle of James was written to go forth to ALL TWELVE TRIBES of Israel, so it's very fitting for Joseph Smith to be inspired by it, since, as the prophet of the Restoration, one of his duties was to initiate the gathering of the twelve tribes.
  • Attend Church
    We attend church to worship, not as a social responsibility.
    Our sacrifice is a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
    We need to examine our lives and repent of our sins.
    You take the name of Christ upon you. Serve in the Church. Become like Him.
    ALWAYS remember Him so that you can have His Spirit to be with you. 


Bonnie L. Oscarson - Discipleship
  • "What is discipleship? It is primarily obedience to the Savior." - James E Faust ( https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/discipleship?lang=eng
  • “We teach that the moment they step out of the water, they step out of the world and into the kingdom of God. By covenant, they agree to obey His commandments.Covenants place us under a strong obligation to honor our commitments to God. To keep our covenants, we must give up activities or interests that prevent us from honoring those covenants.” - Elder Robert D Hales (Return: Four Phases of Our Mortal Journey Home (2010), 60.) 
  • Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - "You NEVER check your religion at the door." ( https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/06/the-call-to-be-christlike?lang=eng
  • Alma to Corianton - "Wickedness never was happiness." (Alma 41:10) 
  • Deliberate choice of wrong offends the Spirit. He will leave us. 
  • Repentance is still possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. 
  • Obedience (discipleship) brings blessings. 

James J. Hamula - The Last Days

  • The advice that Christ gave his disciples applies to us today: "Fear not." "Be not afraid, only believe." 
  • Keep your eyes fixed upon the Lord - Don't allow the world or its troubles to distract you from your faith. 
  • Trust in the Lord and in the power of His deliverance
  • Testimony of the Atonement
  • Isaiah 61:3 - "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." 
  • Follow your leaders
  • God's kingdom in the last days, foreseen by the prophet Daniel, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • There will be no institutional apostasy from the time of the time of the Restoration through the Second Coming.
  • Fear not.
  • His Church shall be a defense and refuge against the storms and trials of the last days.
  • We need to build our lives upon the gospel of Jesus Christ and its doctrines.
  • Hearken to the voice of Church leaders
  • - Perfection is not a prerequisite for a prophet. “I never told you I was perfect—but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 369).
  • By their fruits ye shall know them.
  • Stand with the Church and its leaders

Dale G. Renlund
  • Story of explaining Adam-ondi-aman to some strangers. He didn't know how to start in explaining WHY this site had such a special spirit present ... but his wife said ~The simple start to that question is that, in 1820, a young boy named Joseph Smith knelt to pray. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and revealed the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. ... My husband will now relate to you how that relates to this issue.~ (very poorly paraphrased. Sorry. I really wish I could recall EXACTLY the phrasing that Sister Renlund employs ... but you get the idea.) And, another time, when they were asked why they don't drink alcohol/coffee/smoke, she started with EXACTLY the same answer and passed the rest on to Elder Renlund. He took it in stride with a good sense of humor.
  • ADDRESSING QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CHURCH
    1. Restoration through Joseph Smith -- The Plan of Salvation
    2. How the Restoration brought about the issue/revelation at hand
  • Commandments have divine origins
  • ACT ON FAITH
    1. Obey
    2. Live it
    3. Receive revelation/blessings
  • Plan of Salvation
    - Gender is an eternal characteristic
    - The Council in Heaven
    - The importance of agency
    - The necessity of the Atonement of Jesus Christ
    1. Allows us to overcome physical and spiritual death
    2. Allows mercy to fulfill the demands of justice (mediator)
    3. Allows the possibility to make temple covenants
    - Mortal life/Post-mortal life
    -- We don't have the dichotomy of Heaven vs Hell. We understand about differing degrees of Glory.
    ---- Satan's approach (in the pre-existence/council in Heaven) wouldn't allow God's children to attain ANY degree of glory.
    ---- Satan can cause us to stop our progression through tempting us to sin. We stop our own progress by choosing evil.
    ----- Our degree of glory that we will attain in our post-mortal/post-judgement state is our own choice.
    - Celestial marriage is a covenant, eternal marriage. Nothing else will endure. We must comply with God's law to attain all that He has promised.

    11th ARTICLE OF FAITH - Dealing with differences in opinion/beliefs
    - Treat all with love and tolerance. Show respect to each other.
    - Our doctrine is NOT nefarious (God loves everyone).
    - Do NOT act in a bigoted way. That is not following Christ's example or obeying His laws.
    - Love and live the doctrine. Love all people. We CAN do BOTH.
    - Disagree without being disagreeable. Aim for understanding, respect, and (most of all) love.

    He also had some great examples of how to treat others of differing beliefs/lifestyles.
    1. His family is friends with those of other religions with different practices (Word of Wisdom)
    They choose to go out to dinner together. The other family can order alcohol. They don't preach at this other family. They show love.
    2. They could be friends with a couple in a same-sex relationship. They don't have to approve of that lifestyle. They also don't need to chastise the couple/family.

    Show love, tolerance, and respect. They are Heavenly Father's children, too. They should be treated like it.
--------------

I hope that you all received some answers and learned some wonderful truths to help you become closer to Christ,

I'll work on typing up what went on in class yesterday. Hopefully, it'll be up soon!

Be awesome!

Love,
Sister Cox

Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 7, 2016 - The Plan of Salvation: Overview

Found at: http://www.the-exponent.com/february-young-women-lesson-what-is-the-plan-of-salvation/

Most everyone (of our usual crowd ... there are a few that we're still missing) was there for class last week (and no one will be in class next week due to the Stake Broadcast ... so, instead of our class, we'll ALL be together with the rest of the Stake. Have fun seeing your friends from other wards ... but do try and pay attention and be spiritual and all. If I see you, I'll wave!).

So, for class we mostly just went over WHAT IS The Plan of Salvation/The Plan of Happiness. Because it's always good to have a refresher ... and I think that this was a really good class. Everyone participated (were we always all on task? No. But everyone was involved in class for the most part, which was AWESOME).

THIS WEEK'S CHALLENGE (and next week's, too, since I won't be seeing you to give you a different one): READ "The Plan of Salvation" Section in True to the Faith.
(For bonus credit, you can also check out the whole page about the gospel topic of The Plan of Salvation over at lds.org.)

As I said, we really just talked about what happened to bring about the Plan of Salvation and why it was needed and what will happen at the end.

  • We all existed with our Heavenly Parents in the Pre-Existence. We were spirit beings. We are his spirit children, created from intelligences (Nothing comes from nothing, right?)
  • We knew that to progress (and to reach our goal of becoming like our Heavenly Parents) we would need to leave our heavenly home, come to Earth, receive mortal bodies, and learn and grow and develop those characteristics that our Heavenly Parents have.
  • Heavenly Father presented his plan to us ... in it, since we would be separated from him, we would need a savior to allow us to return home again.
  • Lucifer volunteered, but would not allow us to have agency. He would guarantee that EVERY SINGLE PERSON returned ... but, with this plan, without agency, it wouldn't get us any closer to our goal of becoming more like our Heavenly Parents.
  • Jesus volunteered, agreeing to atone for the sins we would make and the suffering we would create for ourselves and others as we worked towards becoming more and more like our Heavenly Parents.
  • As you can probably guess (since we do live in a world where Jesus was born, suffered, died, and was resurrected for us), Jesus was chosen. Lucifer (and those who followed him [being a third part of all Heavenly Father's spirit children]) rebelled. There was a war in Heaven. Lucifer's side was defeated. He was cast out as Satan, along with all his followers. They never got to receive bodies. They cannot progress. ... They're kinda mad/bitter about that. I can't blame them for being upset. It stinks.
  • The rest of us have the opportunity to receive a mortal body, to be born on Earth, make covenants with our Heavenly Father, and to progress towards the overall goal of becoming more like our Heavenly Parents.
There are a LOT of things, as we study the Plan of Salvation, that we learn ... It is a very simple, yet a totally complex topic.
  • We pass through a veil of forgetfulness as we come to Earth. If we didn't and we still knew EVERYTHING that we knew then, this life wouldn't be a test. We would already KNOW everything so we couldn't grow. 
  • Adam and Eve came to Earth. While in the Garden of Eden, they transgressed ... which allowed them to become mortal (they could die) and separated them from God (sin). This is refered to as The Fall. We're all subject to sin and death ... which is why we all NEEDED a savior.
  • Jesus is our Savior. Because He has undergone everything, He understands EACH ONE OF US PERFECTLY.
    I don't know about you, but this really is comforting to me. He knows exactly what I am going through, what you are going through. He understands us better than we understand ourselves. and He loves us perfectly. This is a wonderful thing. I can't comprehend it all, but, oh, I am very thankful for it.
  • Jesus was crucified and died for us. He also was resurrected, overcoming physical death. Because He overcame death, we will ALL be resurrected. We will be complete souls -- our spirit and body will be reunited. We will overcome physical death. (Even the really naughty people. This is a gift to EVERYONE.)
  • Because Jesus atoned for our sins (ALL our sins. All the sins we've made, all that we will make, all that we might make), we can repent ... this lets us overcome sin. You could also say (very truthfully) that sin is separating ourselves from God (like how death separates our bodies from our spirits), so sin is spiritual death.
    To overcome sin, we have the opportunity to repent. When we repent, our sins are forgiven. Heavenly Father won't hold them against us. Repentance isn't easy ... but it is the only way to bridge that gap we've set between ourselves and our Heavenly Parents.
    (I like to tell my kids that if you don't feel close to Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father, who moved? [The answer is us. They are perfect. They won't change. We ... leave lots of room for improvement.])
And that brings us (mostly) to what happens after we die ... so I'm going to bring up another diagram. It's not as pretty ... but I really like it:

This is the chart for Gospel Essentials class from http://www.vcaa.com/epistles/charts/plansal.htm
If you want MORE information, there's another, more in-depth, chart under the Gospel Doctrine link at that site.

So, you see, in that center section there, Spirit Paradise and Spirit Prison.
Those who hare righteous and have been baptized get to go to Paradise. They'll also get to help do missionary work to the unbaptized or unrighteous (but baptized) folks.

One things that I LOVE about the gospel is that Heavenly Father treats everyone equally. 
EVERYONE will get a chance to learn the fullness of the gospel and to choose for themselves, even if they didn't live in a time or place when it was preached on Earth. He really does love ALL His children.

And, as you can see, there's a HUGE reason for temple work and family history to be done. We have ancestors and friends (whom we might not remember now, but we knew them back in the Pre-existence) who have been waiting for decades, centuries, millennia to have the opportunity to be baptized. And this is work that we can do.
(I've done temple work for some of my ancestors, only a very few of them people that I had met or knew -- my Grandma among them. And my husband has been baptized, confirmed, and done the work for my Pop-pop to have received all his covenants [well, besides being sealed to his wife, since she's still alive]. It is a very special experience to have the opportunity to perform this work for these individuals, to do something for them that they are not able to do for themselves. I very strongly recommend living so that you are always worthy to attend the temple and share these wonderful blessings with those who've gone on before without being able to do this work themselves. It allows you to do some very, very Christlike service. And I'd love for you all to have that opportunity. ... And if you don't have family names to do, there will always be names at the temple for you to serve those individuals. They will be grateful for the opportunity to choose to accept this work you've done for them).

Also, I made sure to mention in class that, even if we've done someone's temple work, that doesn't mean that they HAVE to accept it.

AGENCY is the whole reason for the Plan of Salvation. If we can't choose for ourselves, there's no point to even having this mortal experience ... which is why Satan's plan wouldn't have worked.

After being in the Spirit World (Paradise or Prison) and receiving a full knowledge of the gospel, we'll be judged. Jesus is our Mediator. He's earned the right to extend us mercy because he atoned for us. If we accept His Atonement (repent and forgive others), His mercy will fulfill the demands of justice.

Then, after that judgement, we will all be resurrected (not all at the same time. The righteous people will be resurrected first, then on down the line ... so, please do try to be Celestial Kingdom material so that (if I keep my covenants, too) we'll all see each other there. Sound cool?


Here's yet another good one
http://www.scripturecompanion.com/Downloads/Plan_of_Salvation_color.jpg

Then we'll be ready to go to our final place.
  • Celestial Kingdom - The highest glory. You need to be baptized, for sure. If you want to be able to achieve a higher level within the kingdom (and why not shoot for the best?), you'll need to make (and keep, naturally), your baptismal covenants, receive your endowment, and be sealed to your spouse (if you don't get married here on Earth, don't worry ... things will work out. Just be prepared to do it, right? Heavenly Father WANTS for you to get the best that He can offer. He's totally on your side. And, with Jesus Christ helping, you can't fail).

    In the Celestial Kingdom, we'll be with Heavenly Father. It'll be pretty awesome, so I hear.
    And we'll be there, sealed to our families. Which is awesome.
  • Terrestrial Kingdom - So, this place won't be horrible ... but it's not going to be the Celestial Kingdom. Jesus Christ will visit and minister to the people here, but they won't be able to be with Heavenly Father. And that's rather sad. But they'll be comfortable as they are ... so I guess that's okay.

    My Institute teacher, Brother Dale Kirby (who was AWESOME. Seriously, when you're out of high school, when you have an opportunity to take an Institute class, GO FOR IT. Trust me.) told us that the people here will be comfortable keeping the ten commandments, but they wouldn't be happy keeping the higher law. So it's not like they're bad people, by any means. They just don't really have a strong testimony of Jesus Christ. Well, at least not strong enough to be baptized into his Church ... But they'll get to know him better since he will come to teach and minister to them.
  • Telestial Kingdom - Here's where it's going to be pretty ... not great.
    Brother Kirby taught us that the people here wouldn't be happy keeping the ten commandments. And they wouldn't be comfortable around Jesus OR Heavenly Father ... so the Holy Ghost will visit them and teach them.
  • Outer Darkness is the worst place. Please don't go there, okay?
    The individuals who end up here have gone through a second spiritual death. They have no desire to repent. They will live under Satan's rule.

    This isn't just a place where people who've just made some REALLY BAD DECISIONS (e.g., Adolf Hitler, etc.) go ... No.

    The people who will inhabit this level of not-glory will have had a clear and full understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ ... but will have allowed themselves to fall away to the point they deny the Holy Spirit (after receiving it [Doctrine and Covenants 76:35]) AND Jesus Christ.
    And, what's sadder is that they've gotten to the point where they CAN'T repent. (The link takes you to an article from the April 1986 Ensign where H. Donl Peterson, BYU professor of Ancient Scripture, discusses the meaning of "Hell" in the Book of Mormon. It's actually a really great, rather deep, answer that gives a lot of information.
  • Those who will end up in Outer Darkness have chosen to live in a way where they do not get to receive any part of Heavenly Father's glory. 
And you know how I totally just gave a shout-out about Institute? You should totally check out the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual chapter about Section 76. It's good stuff. Just because you're not in Institute doesn't mean that you can't check out those awesome manuals!

While we were talking about Outer Darkness, it suddenly occurred to me that those who are in Outer Darkness didn't just deny the power of the Holy Ghost. They also are denying him to be around them. This is something that had never occurred to me before. So, THANK YOU for helping me to get to a place where I was able to receive a little bit of revelation/inspiration as we taught each other. It was a really wonderful experience.

I know that this is crazy-long (AGAIN) ... but, well, the gospel is pretty awesome. And I just want you to know that these things are important. And knowing them will help you to be a better missionary and a better person. I love you guys and I really want you to be able to progress and be way better than I was at your age. If there's anything that you especially want to know or have been wondering, let me know and I'll work to research it (or, better yet, to help YOU research it). ^_^

Go be awesome! The world needs your righteous influence!
     Love,
          Sister Cox

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

January 31 - The Godhead - Wrap-up

Since there were five Sundays in January, but only four lessons, we reviewed a bit of what we learned ... which was a good call since half of you were out of town (We missed you).

One of the class members (not me) gave a very nice talk about the Holy Ghost in Sacrament meeting. I know that he wrote it in Google Docs, so you COULD get a copy of it from him if you ask nicely.

We mostly covered the topic of looking for God's hand in our lives ... and why looking for (and RECOGNIZING) it is important.


First off, we talked about the Pride Cycle ... you can see this happen over and over (and over and over...) in The Book of Mormon.

The Nephite Cycle of Righteousness ... or, in short, the Pride Cycle

If you don't remember from class (or don't totally understand the image), here's the gist of it:

  • People are righteous. They follow the commandments. 
  • God blesses them, spiritually AND temporally. They have nice things. They have enough to cover their needs and some left over.
  • They forget WHERE those blessings come from. They start to feel entitled (like they DESERVE these nice things). They don't feel/show gratitude.
  • Because they're not grateful, they start to become proud. They don't pray. They don't share with those less fortunate (Example: Rameumpton -- The poor people weren't even ALLOWED to worship because they didn't have nice clothes. ... That's COLD.)
  • Since the people aren't remembering God, they disobey/ignore the commandments.
  • Heavenly Father can't send them as many blessings as He was before ... In fact, he has to send bad stuff. The people suffer. They suffer a LOT.
  • This suffering turns them to call upon God, since they sure can't get themselves out of this predicament. They humble themselves. They remember God. They're grateful for His help.
  • [Repeat ad nauseum. "Ad nauseum" is a phrase which here means "until you're sick of it." ... Because, as you read the Book of Mormon ... or the news, really, you see this happen over and over (and over and over and over...).]
Which brings us around to WHY seeing/recognizing the hand of the Lord in our lives is REALLY important.

If we are paying attention and looking/seeking to notice these blessings, we will find them. And, if we make a conscious effort to take notice, it will help us to REMEMBER.

(Factoid: "'Remember', is used 136 times in the BofM; 144 times in the King James Bible;
40 times in the Doctrine and Coverents;
and once in Pearl of Great price.
B of M: 8 x 1st Nephi; 22 x 2nd Nephi; 3 x Jacob; 21 x Mosiah; 37 x Alma; 12 x Helaman; 12 x 3rd Nephi; 6 x Mormon; 6 x Ether; 7 x Moroni" - Link [Answers.com])

Judging by how often we are exhorted to remember, it's not a far stretch of the imagination to guess that it's rather important.
Because, if we remember, if we look for and recognize the blessings that we are receiving ... won't that help us to be grateful? To remember? To be aware of how much we are blessed, protected, and loved?

And, in effect, won't that help us to turn to God always?

Which would bring us to this different cycle:

Look! In this cycle, we don't have to make stupid choices!
I love how this chart illustrates that if we simply choose to remember God, we can totally skip over the dumb/icky/sucky/bad parts of the Pride Cycle ... which is a HUGE blessing. Since I, for one ... I mean, you could feel differently, much prefer for things to go well and to avoid punishments for myself and everyone around me.

So, one thing that we didn't cover nearly as well as I wished we had is the HOW of going about this.

For this, I'm drawing from Elder D. Todd Christofferson's CES speech, "Recognizing God's Hand in Our Daily Blessings."

  • Look to God DAILY - We need to be praying daily. We need to be aware that all our blessings come from Him.
  • Trust in the Lord - Often it is easier to trust in money or some other seemingly-surer way to get things done. But, really, trusting in the Lord is where it's at. Everything else will eventually fail us. We will even, at some point, fail each other. But God is perfect. He WILL NEVER fail us.
    He knows our needs. He knows what's best for us. It's in His power to give us what is best at the best time for us. (See why we need humility? It's HARD to accept that even when we want something good and we want it NOW that, just maybe, there's someone who knows better than us ... and has that thing (or something even better!) saved to give us at the BEST time for our development. I'm not going to lie. Sometimes it's REALLY HARD to accept.)
  • That goes right with the next idea - Work through Problems.
    If we have strengthened our faith and trust in the Lord, we'll be able to press forward with faith. We'll be able to maintain (and strengthen) our testimonies as we go forward, knowing that God is on our side, that He will help us. We're not in this alone. Never. Christ's atonement guarantees that we never are alone in our struggles. And, if we call on the Lord, He will hear us and help us.
  • These things will help us to Reach Our Potential.
    You are a child of God. He knows who you are ... better than you know yourself. He knows what you're capable of. He knows how to help you to become better, to become perfect, like Him. (Seriously, I'm aware of the fact that I'm currently QUITE a screw-up. BUT!!! If He can take someone like ME and make me (ME!!) like Him ... if I can humble myself enough to allow Him to do His work, He WILL turn me into something amazing.
    And He will do the same for you. He loves you. He knows what you can become. He sees us for our potential, not for who/what we are right at this very second. And that gives me a lot of hope.
  • Seek the Lord's Help in Serving - When we know who we are, when we can feel the love of the Lord, we will want to serve others so that THEY can feel of His love.
    (Also, if we NEED to feel the Savior's love, we will feel it when we serve His children. It's a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me).
    Of course, service projects aren't the only way to feel the Lord's love or to serve Him.
    When we make those simple choices that bring us closer to Him, we serve Him.
    Personal prayer (or helping with family prayer), scripture study, observing the Sabbath, being an example to those around you, living your gospel standards set forth in "For the Strength of Youth", showing love and respect yourself and others, expressing gratitude (to Heavenly Father and to those around you), .... I could go on, but all these things (and many, many more) are ways in which you can choose to serve God. 
  • Remember the Bread of Life - Just like we covenant as we take the Sacrament each week, we need to always remember our Savior. Jesus Christ took on all of the consequences of our sins -- not only the suffering we would bring upon ourselves, but the suffering we would inflict on others through our poor choices. And the consequences and suffering that we would have to endure due to other people's choices -- and that's a HUGE sacrifice that we could never wrap our heads around. At least, not here in mortality. It was an infinite sacrifice ... and, well, when I think about it, I am always awed to the point that I cannot describe how grateful I am. It is, indeed, wonderful. And, if we always remember Him, we will be less inclined to make those poor choices that would separate us from Him, keep us from feeling the fullness of His love for us, and cause suffering to ourselves and others (including Him).
There are other things that we can do to recognize God's hand in our lives ...
  • Count our blessings.
  • Write them down for our posterity ... Think of how amazing it is/would be (depending on your ancestors' journaling skills ... I am from a long line of non-journalers) to read of a time when one of your ancestors recalled how s/he was blessed/protected and how it affected her/him.
    Or how great it will be for one of your descendants to read about YOUR blessings!
  • Write them down for yourself.
    This way, when you're feeling down or not as loved, you can remember how you were blessed. And you'll be more easily able to see the blessings you currently have.
I'm sure there are more, but this is getting crazy-long as is. (Sorry! But I just get excited about the gospel. And I'm rather verbose by nature.)

Sometimes your blessings will not be in-your-face ... they might be small things that you only notice upon reflection after the fact. But, if you look, you'll see evidence that your Heavenly Father knows you. That He knows your needs. That He loves you.
I like to think of them as little love-notes from Heaven ... but that might not be your cup of (rooibos) tea (or other tisane or hot chocolate).

But I know that you will find them if you look for them. Because I know that Heavenly Father loves you so very, very much.

Next week, since it's February, we'll be discussing the Plan of Salvation. So you can be aware of what's coming up.

Also, I still expect to hear some examples of how you've noticed Heavenly Father's hand in your life.

Now go and be awesome!
     Love,
         Sister Cox

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January 24 - The Godhead: How can I help others learn about Heavenly Father?

In class on Sunday, we were continuing the discussion about how the Holy Ghost helps us to learn the gospel and how he helps us in teaching others about Heavenly Father.

One of the great things about how Jesus taught (and how we aspire to teach) is that Jesus KNOWS us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And, with that knowledge, he's able to know how BEST to teach us. And that's what we, as students of the gospel of Jesus Christ (and as member missionaries and future full-time missionaries and parents), need to learn to do.

A great example of this in the scriptures is the story of Ammon (Honestly, he's one of my favorites).

                                       

We talked about Ammon during most of class.
I figure that, if you're going to learn about something, dive in! Learn all that you can!
So, we discussed a bit about Ammon's history:
  • He was one of the sons of Mosiah.
  • Mosiah was the king over the Nephite people at the time.
  • They all hung out with Alma the Younger, who was the prophet's son.
  • They were EXTREMELY NAUGHTY.
  • They led a LOT of people away from the church by preaching false doctrine.
  • It was so bad that their families prayed so much that an angel appeared to them.
  • After that, they chose to turn their lives around. They became very active in preaching repentance to the people. They felt HORRIBLE about all the evil they had done (and had caused others to do).
  • When King Mosiah was ready to pass the kingdom on, none of his sons desired to be king.
    They all wanted to be missionaries instead.
  • Ammon and his brothers decided to teach the gospel to the Lamanites, since they were their brothers, after all. (It's just that the Lamanites didn't believe in the gospel. In fact, they had a practice of capturing and killing all Nephites since, according to their beliefs, Nephi was a big meanie-head and took everything that should have gone to Laman. ... Although, we know the real reason that Laman didn't receive the full birthright was that he wasn't being righteous. That and, you know, trying to kill his baby brother is rather frowned upon. Even if your baby brother isn't a prophet.)
SO, where were we? Ah, yes. Ammon goes to serve the Lamanites as a missionary.
He's captured and brought to King Lamoni. Lamoni is bemused (a word which here means, "puzzled, confused, or bewildered") that this Nephite guy came to be a servant ... and maybe live here for the rest of his life. BUT, hey, a new servant! So, Lamoni sends Ammon out to help guard his sheep. (By the by, I think it's great that Ammon gets to be a good shepherd. Just like our Good Shepherd [Jesus Christ].)

And some especially naughty Lamanites come and try to scatter and steal some of the king's sheep. And the rest of the servants are FREAKING OUT because the last time this happened, THOSE servants were put to death ... and these guys would very much rather stay alive.

And Ammon ... he's happy. He rallies his fellow servants, puts his trust in the Lord, and saves the sheep (either with skillful use with the sling [Like ANOTHER good shepherd, being David in the Old Testament. Remember ... the shepherd who slew Goliath with a sling? That one.] and, then, chopping off the arms of any of the thieves who're trying to kill him). The rest of the servants are ... pretty impressed. They know it's a crazy story ... they gather up the arms as proof and go to report to King Lamoni (as Ammon then, following instructions to a T, goes to feed and care for the king's horses).

King Lamoni, upon hearing of these (impressive) feats of his new servant, sends for Ammon to come and talk to him. And, once Ammon comes, Lamoni has no idea how to talk to him ... because, well, Ammon just might be a great spirit. And, well, if Lamoni offends him, this great spirit could KILL him or something. Maybe this great spirit is mad about the past servants (the ones who allowed the sheep to be scattered and stolen ... and who were killed) ...

And Ammon waits there, in the rather awkward silence, for the space of one hour (their time. Which COULD be the same as ours ... we don't know. But it was a LONG, AWKWARD SILENCE).

And, since Ammon was prepared -- he had, as they say in Alma 17:3, "[He had] given [himself] to much prayer, and fasting; therefore [he] had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when [he] taught, [he] taught with power and authority of God."

When we work to have the Holy Ghost with us, we can be blessed, too. We can have help in how we teach, in being inspired (and recognizing that revelation). We can be protected as Ammon was. We will be able to be led to speak the words that will reach those we are teaching (not just as missionaries, but as Home/Visiting Teachers, teachers in a class, parents, friends, etc.).
And the Holy Ghost can confirm in the hearts of those we teach that, if we are teaching with the Spirit of God, those things are TRUE.

Ammon, having the gift of the Holy Ghost, was able to discern what King Lamoni was thinking. And he started to answer the questions King Lamoni had.
King Lamoni gathered courage and asked more questions, after promising Ammon that, yes, he would believe what Ammon told him ... and he did, as the Holy Spirit confirmed the truth of what was being taught.

I love how, as Ammon taught King Lamoni, he worked to build a foundation of shared knowledge.
King Lamoni believed in a Great Spirit. Yes, this Great Spirit is God. Do you believe that God created everything on earth and in heaven? I believe that he created everything on earth ... but I don't know what this heaven is. ... and Ammon goes and takes this bit of knowledge and builds on it.

It can be harder to do this with people who haven't had any religious upbringing (remember the story about President Boyd K. Packer and the atheist on an airplane that we discussed a couple weeks ago?) ... but we all will have something in common, something to build on. And, if we are prepared to be able to feel and recognize the promptings and influence of the Holy Ghost, we will be able to find that. And not only will be we able to have the words give to us to speak and teach, but those we are teaching will be able to better feel the confirmation of truth that the Holy Ghost provides.

Sunday evening, I was able to attend a fireside about helping the Youth (that's you guys) to be better prepared for missionary service (And I'm aware that not everyone will serve a mission. however, I know that if you're preparing yourself for the possibility, you'll be well-prepared for adult life and being able to attend the temple and make those wonderful covenants with your Heavenly Father/Heavenly Parents ... so, really, is there a downside?).

Please, as you go through your day/week/life, don't just go through the motions. Don't perform the steps of the gospel and your covenants just because you feel that you're supposed to do these things. Please strive to find the motivation to WANT to: 
  • Read your scriptures because you WANT to be familiar with the gospel, because you WANT to grow closer to your Heavenly Father, because you WANT to be able to feel His presence, love, and protection ...
  • Pray because you WANT to talk to your Heavenly Father, you WANT to share your feelings and thoughts with Him, you WANT to bring yourself closer to Him.
  • Serve others because you WANT them to feel the love that their heavenly parents and their Savior have for them, because you WANT them to feel it and to be able to recognize it ... and then go seeking, themselves, after the source of that love and happiness which is found in our Father's great plan of happiness.
  • Attend Sacrament meetings, classes, and activities because you WANT to. Not because you feel that it's a duty that you HAVE to do, but because you WANT to renew your baptismal covenants, to always remember your Savior and all that He has done for you -- because HE LOVES YOU.
    Go to your Sunday School and YM/YW classes because you want to learn more about our Savior and YOUR relationship with Him. Because you want to strengthen your relationships with your spiritual brothers and sisters, so that you can feel His love for them and help lead them back to our heavenly home through your loving service to them.
    Attend your activities, whenever possible, not because you think it's going to be the best and most fun thing ever (sometimes it might not be), BUT because you choose to attend to strengthen your relationship with your Ward (or Branch)/Stake family.
  • Strengthen your family (this includes doing chores and working together), not because you are earning an allowance or because you know that you'll be in trouble otherwise ... but because you WANT to help create a home that is a refuge from the world, a place where you (and all those who enter your home) can feel the Holy Spirit and the peace and comfort that he brings.
Do you see my point? It's not an easy thing to do. I find myself often going through the motions ... which brings to mind, as I write this, one of the talks from last April's conference.
Elder Wilford W. Andersen gave a talk titled, "The Music of the Gospel." In it, he talks of the joy that the change of heart (through the power of the Holy Ghost) can bring.
I'm especially reminded of a statement made to a doctor by a Native American man: "I can teach you to dance, but you have to hear the music." ... And, to me, learning to be motivated to WANT to live the gospel is like learning to hear the music. We can go through the steps, yes, and that's a good thing. But choreography (steps/going through the motions) without feeling the music (desire/motivation) is pretty empty. (If you wonder what I mean, go watch a music video, one with lots of dancing, but turn the sound off. It's not at all the same, is it?)

Okay, I've written enough and have probably bored you to tears and/or sleep.

But I really would like for you to know that you're important. The Lord knows who you are. He loves you. You have been sent here, at this time, for a purpose. (And it's up to me, your parents, your other leaders, and those around you to help you prepare for whatever it is.)

I also want you to know that I love you. As a class, yes, but also as individuals. The more I get to talk with you, the more I love you. (So, please speak up/participate in class so I can get to love you more sooner! ^_^)
If you ever need someone to talk to, or a hug, just let me know. You're worth it. And I would be honored to be of service to you.

So, go out there and show the world, through your awesomeness, how great of a place the world can be ... and help them feel their Savior's love (you don't always have to preach. So don't feel that you HAVE to pull a Samuel the Lamanite all the time. Remember how Ammon served then taught. Sometimes your good example is enough. Sometimes you'll need to use words). 



If you need a motto for the day, you can totally use this one.
I didn't make/paint it myself. It's from designmilk.
But I still thought it was pretty applicable.

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 17 - How does the Holy Ghost help me learn?

Now, my dear students (and, if you're a student of mine, you're dear to me. Deal with it. :P), I hope that you asked your folks' permission before going online.

(Parents, thanks for taking a look at the blog! I'm hoping that this will be a good way to convey information and help us all be on the same page, per se, of what your children are learning in class.)

This week, we talked about how the Holy Ghost helps us learn. We also discussed who the Holy Ghost is, what his purpose is, and why this is important to know (We did this worksheet in class).

The Holy Ghost [as it says in True to the Faith (which, if you don't already have a copy of this book in your home, please get one. It's a great little resource that I'm finding rather invaluable. Gospel topics, in alphabetical order ... I learn something new every time I open it. Which means that I should definitely READ IT ALL, right?)
If you DON'T already have access to a copy, you can read it online here at lds.org.]

... Where was I?

Oh yes! The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead ... which you all already knew, you smart cookies! He works in perfect unity with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ to help us live righteously and be able to receive the blessings of the gospel.
He witnesses the truth to us. He helps bring things to our remembrance. He guides us and helps to protect us. He comforts us.

Everyone can feel the promptings of the Holy Spirit ... as long as we are clean and pure. (And, well, even sometimes when we need a big, ol', spiritual kick in the rear.) BUT, when you're baptized and you receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, you get something really awesome: You now have the right (as long as you're living right) to have the CONSTANT COMPANIONSHIP of the Holy Ghost.

Which means that you can ALWAYS have him to help you, guide you, protect you ... as you go about your life. He will assist you in doing everything to live the commandments and perform all that you've been commanded to do. (And, if you're anything like me ... and I REALLY hope that you're better than I am, you can use all the help that you can get.)

Here are some great images that I thought you all might find useful about the Holy Ghost.

Sometimes it's hard to KNOW if you're feeling/have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost ... which is why I really like this list ... in fact, I have a version of this list in my Seminary scriptures.
How to tell who is influencing you
The more you are able to tell if and when you're receiving inspiration from the Holy Ghost, the easier it will be to receive more. Which is something that our leaders really want for all of us. ^_^

Here's a nice list compiling roles of the Holy Ghost:
Roles of the Holy Ghost from thethingsilovemost.com

And this one is nice ... since sometimes you might not KNOW if you've got the Holy Ghost with you.
(If you do, GREAT! Make the most of it! ... If not, well, it's time to repent so that he can be with you again. You're never too far gone. No matter what, Heavenly Father STILL loves you and WANTS YOU back. Please always, always remember that. If nothing else I teach you sticks, just remember that your Heavenly Parents, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, your leaders, your teachers, your parents ... we ALL are rooting for you. We all love you. We want to help you be your best. Please, please KNOW this.)
When you have the Spirit vs When you Don't - HolyHandouts.com

I want to tell you that I'm really enjoying having you all in my class. I look forward to seeing you next Sunday so we can discuss (hopefully!) the lessons "How does the Holy Ghost help me teach the gospel?" and "How can I help others learn about Heavenly Father?"

I hope that you're looking for those tender mercies of the Lord in your life. And that you're also working for opportunities to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost.

See you on Sunday! Go and be awesome! ... And, if you happen to see any of your classmates (that I haven't gotten to meet yet) at school or out and about, please let them know that we miss them and would love to see them in class on Sundays. ^_^
(I'm going to try and get hold of everyone, too ... but, since they actually KNOW you, it's a lot cooler ... and less creepy ... coming from a friend.)

Your adoring teacher,
     Sister Cox


Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 10 - The Godhead - How can studying the scriptures help me learn about Heavenly Father?

This last week (and, YES, I know that it's already Saturday night and ONLY NOW am I blogging. Sorry.) we talked about how the scriptures can help us learn about Heavenly Father and how that can help us teach others about our Heavenly Father.

We really did focus on how we can learn about our Heavenly Father from the scriptures.

Also, since I like to joke that we have someone come into observe just about every other week ... I am going to mention that we had the Stake Sunday School President come to observe our class. No pressure, right? (At least, not for me. You all seemed cool and collected. :D)


I really love this infographic about the Godhead.
If you need me to print you a copy to put in your scriptures or into a journal, let me know.
Sometimes my Pinterest obsession really pays off!
You all are ahead of the game, knowing that the Godhead is composed of three beings AND who they all are. 50 gold stars to you all!

We mostly talked about the attributes of the Godhead that we can learn about by reading the scriptures.

As Joseph Smith said on the worksheet I gave you at the end of class (PDF link here - credit goes to Kourtney at deserethome.blogspot.com, since SHE made it, not me.), "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the nature of God." and "If men [and women] do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves."

It is vital that we learn  and understand the nature of God.
We chose to come to earth, to have this mortal experience, so that we can learn and grow and become more like our Heavenly Parents. ... And how can we do that if we don't know what our Heavenly Parents are like?

In fact, Joseph Smith (along with a committee consisting of Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams) wrote Lectures on Faith (if you or your family don't have a book, you can access them on http://lecturesonfaith.com/). I took a great little Institute class about this work ... and I found that reading/studying this really helped me to better understand (1) what faith IS and (2) what God is like, what attributes the Godhead possesses.

I can testify that the more we understand what our Heavenly Father is like, the easier it is to emulate Him. And it's easier, also, to be more like Jesus Christ. And, hopefully, easier to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

I hope that you're still looking for opportunities to learn about the Godhead. I also hope that you're keeping your eyes open so you can notice those tender mercies of the Lord in your life.

Tomorrow, we're going to discuss "How does the Holy Ghost help me learn?"
I hope to see you all there!

Be awesome!
     Sister Cox

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2016 Mutual Theme - Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ (2 Nephi 31:20)


2016 Mutual Theme
designed by Latter Day Ideas
She even defined the theme ... so that we can better understand what we're memorizing

I found these while I was browsing around on Pinterest.

And, well, I thought that these were pretty cool.
The gal (I couldn't find her name) over at Latter Day Ideas did a great job at designing these. I really liked that she wrote up an explanation of the verse ... and at the blog post (linked above), she even told about how she was inspired by the "Get a Grip" Mormonad visual.

I just thought that maybe this might be something that you all might like and be interested in (I'll admit that I love me some printables. And I'm totally for anything that helps me to be a better student of the Gospel. Since, really, I need about all the help I can get).

I hope that you're still all looking for Heavenly Father's influence in your life today (and every other day)!
      Sister Cox

Monday, January 4, 2016

January 3, 2016 - The Godhead: How can I learn to see Heavenly Father’s hand in all things?

Happy new year, my class for 2016!

I know that I'm totally behind, not even starting this post until after I've already had you in class.

I wanted to thank you all for a good and fun start to the new year.

Most of class was spent getting to know you a little better (thanks for filling out the little surveys. I enjoyed reading through them!) and chatting a little ... but we did touch a bit on the lesson. ^_^

We read from Psalms 145:9 (Thank you all for bringing scriptures! That was awesome!)
"The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works."
And also from Doctrine and Covenants 59:21:
"And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments."

To me those verses say that (1) God wants to bless us. He's constantly blessing us. Even when we haven't done anything to EARN those blessings and (2) He's really disappointed when we don't recognize what he's doing for us.

And, really, I totally understand that. When I'm working hard on things and nobody gives me ANY gratitude, well, it really gets under my skin a bit (and then I have to repent. And I have more than enough repenting to do all the time anyways).

All good things come from God. He wants to bless us. He does bless us. Constantly.
So, it's a good idea to work to notice at least some of those blessings ... and express our gratitude for them.

And, that bring to mind a talk that President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave ... in his talk, Living the Gospel Joyful, especially the statement:
"In reality, Heavenly Father is constantly raining blessings upon us. It is our fear, doubt, and sin that, like an umbrella, block these blessings from reaching us."
If we work to look for and recognize the hand of God in our lives, our gratitude will help us to overcome our fear and doubts. We will be more motivated to repent and eschew (yes, I use big words. You can handle them. I believe in you.) sin ... which allows us to be able to receive even more blessings to help ourselves and others in our lives.

We also briefly talked about Elder Bednar's public recognition of a tender mercy of the Lord that occurred during his first General Conference talk as a newly-called apostle -- how the hymn directly preceding his talk, which had been chosen weeks in advance, was his favorite: "Redeemer of Israel," a hymn that he feels is especially "edifying and spiritually soothing."

That whole talk of his ("The Tender Mercies of the Lord") is a very good talk. I would highly recommend reading through it.

I shared a story from my own life.
A friend, I had considered her one of my besties, in fact, and I had ... fallen out.
It was strange and troubling for me. I still don't know what I'd done that would cause her to stop talking to me, to ignore emails or Facebook messages ... in fact, I was surprised that we weren't Facebook friends at all. (So I messaged her to ask about it. And apologize if there was anything that I'd unknowingly done) ...

But, yeah, I was sad. And confused.
My husband and mom both assured me that this wasn't my fault (which is sweet of them) ... but, well, they're family. They're predisposed to like me. (Even though I'm aware that if I was making poor decisions, they'd totally call me on it).

I was praying a lot about this. I hate being estranged from friends.
(In fact, I'm still bothered that I've lost touch with my first-grade bestie who moved away ... and I didn't have her address. Or the fact that I've still not managed to find my fifth-grade best friends from the one year I lived in Seattle. Yes, I'm weird like that.)

And, well, I got a new Visiting Teaching companion.
Who had also known my (ex-)friend.
And I was able to talk to her about things ... and felt better. And realized that I had a new friend.
Which was very comforting.

I mean, I still miss my past friend ... and I wish that I knew what I'd done (so I could NOT ever do that again) ... but Heavenly Father gave me what I needed.
It's really nice to KNOW that He's aware of me.

Just like I KNOW that He's aware of you, too. And I know that when we choose to recognize (at least SOME) of the many blessings that we've been given, we are happier.

And, well, I'd prefer that you all are able to be as happy as possible.

Now go and be awesome!
      Sister Cox

 


December 20 and 27 (Catch-up for my 2015 Class): Building the Kingdom of God in the Latter Days - Christmas and The Second Coming lessons

Wow ... sorry for totally dropping the ball on consistently blogging for you guys.
(However, I was quite chuffed that a few of you came and gave me hugs on Sunday. I miss you all something fierce!)

December 20th's class was dealing with the lesson "Christmas: How can I share my testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?"

And, well ... we discussed that. We talked about HAVING a testimony and being brave enough to share it.
I want you all to be aware that you can share your testimony, of course, over the pulpit on Fast Sunday. Or in Young Men's or Young Women's. Or face-to-face with someone. You can write it down in your journal. You can write it in a note or a letter to a friend. You can post it on social media. You can blog about it.

And it doesn't have to just be the whole "I believe this, I know that"-type of testimony.
You could post a quote from the scriptures or a church leader (even a teacher in your class ... but no pressure! :P) and write just a sentence or two about WHY you chose to post that.

What I'm trying to say is that it doesn't have to be a big, formal, scary thing.
And choosing to share your testimony is a wonderful way to strengthen it and to influence others.

On December 27th (my last class with most of you! *sniff!*), we talked about two of the lessons: "What can I learn from the scriptures to help me prepare for the Second Coming?" and "How can I understand the symbols used to teach about the Second Coming?"

Like it's been mentioned (often) the Savior often used parable and symbolism to express meaning to those He taught (and, since He knew them perfectly, He totally knew how to put things so that his students would completely understand what He was telling them. I, sadly, being imperfect, will not always be that effective of a teacher ... and part of this Sunday School Curriculum's goal is to help you all learn how to be able to teach as our Savior did. Since that's a REALLY GOOD TRAIT for missionaries [every member a missionary!] and parents to cultivate!).

We discussed a little about the ten virgins (remember? Five were foolish and five were wise. It's been revealed that ALL of them are representative of us in the Church. We should strive to emulate those wise ladies. Be prepared, as the Boy Scouts say. Constance vigilance, as Mad-Eye Moody states).
We also talked about the evil servant (how people can get complacent and assume that they'll have tons of time LATER to get everything in order ... but that's not so, since as we also discussed ...), how, since no one knows the day and time that Jesus is coming again, it will come as a thief in the night.

So, like it was stated, we need to be working to be ready NOW. This way, we have good habits and will find it easier to make righteous decisions.

And, if we're being righteous, we have no need to fear. We'll have peace and protection. We'll even have JOY ... even if the world's in even MORE of a mess than it is right now.

Most of the big events that need to be fulfilled before the Messiah comes again HAVE been fulfilled. There are still some things that we're working on (like taking the gospel to the WHOLE world. We're getting closer and closer) ... but ... well, we all might live to see that day.

And it will be a great time ... if we're righteous, anyways. If we're being naughty, it's not going to be so fun. And I'd really like you to have fun (I want to be able to have fun, too), so we all should work at making sure we're prepared (and you have FULL permission to call me to task if you see me slipping! I mean it!).

If you haven't already (since I'm SURE that you're reading all the references in the lesson plans ;D), you should totally read Dallin H. Oaks talk, "Preparation for the Second Coming."
It's a good one ... as are all the references that are given in the lesson plans. But you know what I mean.

Since one of the lessons from the last could weeks WAS about testimonies, I feel that I should share mine with you. It's not the most eloquent or anything ... but it's mine.

I know that we have a living Heavenly Father who loves us. He loves us enough to send his Only Begotten Son as a sacrifice so that we have the ability to have the fulness of the gospel here on the earth, we can repent and live with our Heavenly Parents, and so we all will be resurrected.

I know that God is a god of love. He loves all of us. He wants all of us to choose to return to live with Him, to be able to reach our full potential as sons and daughters of God. He also loves us enough to allow us the freedom to make our own choices ... choices which often hurt ourselves and others.

I know that we have the Atonement of Christ to allow things to be made right again. When we accept it and exercise faith in it, ... well, it will fix things. It will heal our hearts and minds. It will help us to forgive people, even ourselves. When we make full use of the Atonement, we are better able to be filled with charity towards everyone around us. We will be better able to do all the things that Heavenly Father has asked of us. We will be able to be better than we were.

I know that we have been blessed to have prophets and apostles. I love the fact that Heavenly Father loves us enough to do all He can to give us the knowledge that we need (while not compelling us ... since that's not how He works) to be able to make the choices that will bring us closer to Him and to be comfortable in His presence again.

I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God who helped to usher in the last dispensation and bring the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. There is no way that he could have done even half of what he accomplished on his own. Therefore, I KNOW that he was inspired and strengthened by the Lord to do all that he did.

I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet. I'm grateful for the wise counsel from him and our other leaders. I am comforted when I listen to and obey their counsel.

I know that I'm blessed because, even in the periods of my life when not everything was fun or easy, the gospel is the one thing that has always made sense.

I'm grateful for the fulness of the gospel that allows families to be together forever. I love my family. The idea of being without them frightens and saddens me. So I'm very thankful that I've been blessed with the opportunities that I've had to be sealed to them  ... and to KNOW that, as long as I keep the covenants that I've made with the Lord in His holy temples, I will have them. Forever. And everything will work out. Maybe not always how I'd like it to happen ... but, then again, I don't know everything. So I'm grateful that my Heavenly Father DOES.

I love you guys. You've been a wonderful class. I'm grateful that I've been blessed with the opportunity to get to know you and to love you. I hope that you KNOW that you're loved. Not just by me, of course ... but that there are lots of people who love you. Our leaders are praying for you, you know. We KNOW that you are capable of wonderful things. And I look forward to being led by you.
Heavenly Father and Mother and Jesus love you. You have ancestors and posterity who are all rooting for you. I want you to be aware of that.

And I say these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

... And, if you ever need someone to talk to or a hug or anything, just come find me. Because I love you all. And I want you to succeed. Because you're all awesome.
I know that the teenage and early adult years aren't always easy ... that's why I'm always after you to make sure that you are developing those good habits NOW (as opposed to Sister Cox, with the less-effective example), so that things will be better asap.

I want you to know that you're awesome. Really.

Love,
     Sister Cox

Now, go out and make awesome decisions. You're our future leaders. And I take comfort and joy in that thought. ^_^