Saturday, October 10, 2015

Time to Wrise—Now More than Ever

(see what I did there in the title? Right is to Write as Rise is to Wrise. Okay, maybe not that clever but I’ll let it stand.)

By Jewel Leann Williams

I’ve spoken before about why what we write matters. I’d like to expand on that a little bit, based on what I heard at General Conference this past weekend. 

I’m referring to President Russell M. Nelson’s talk, where he referenced the 1979 prophecy given by Spencer W. Kimball to the women of the Church:

Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.

President Nelson added:
“The day that President Kimball foresaw, is today. You are the women that he foresaw. Your virtue, light, love, knowledge, courage, character, faith, and righteous lives will draw good women of the world along with their families to the church in unprecedented numbers.”

I wasn’t surprised that President Nelson said what he did. I do want to emphasize it, though:

You are the women that he foresaw.

Let’s keep that in mind while I point out a few more things President Nelson said:

Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind when directed by the Spirit?

Step forward, take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God, more than you ever have before. I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball’s prophecy, and I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ, that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way.

(Keep in mind, I’m typing these statements out from the video of President Nelson’s talk, since it’s not out in text format yet, so punctuation and all that might be different.)

We are being called out.

Again, I might add.

We—the sisters of the Church, and specifically those of us who express ourselves in the public forum, are being asked again, as we have been before, to step up, to show ourselves to the world, and to let them see how we are distinct and different in happy ways.

Remember this challenge from Elder M. Russell Ballard?

 “You have a great opportunity to be a powerful force for good in the Church and in the world. There is truth in the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword…. May I ask that you join the conversation by participating on the Internet to share the gospel and to explain in simple and clear terms the message of the Restoration.” (M. Russell Ballard, “Sharing the Gospel Using the Internet,” Ensign, July 2008)

Those of us who were given the desire and ability to put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or to express ourselves via other mediums, were given those talents by our Heavenly Father to bless the lives of those around us.

Satan is so clever, and he also has a way with words. He can flatter and deceive and the things he tells us sound so good. We’ve all felt that in our lives. Magnify it by millions and you have the sophistries and the philosophies of men that we must defend against.

Darkness is out there.  We can be—we must be—a light.

I’m not saying we have to write “churchy” stuff all day long, we don’t need to stand and preach and proselytize. 

Truth and light can shine through in what we write, even if we’re writing a sci-fi or a vampire mermaid historical romance. We can tackle tough issues, but give hope.

We stand as witnesses of God, at all times, and in all things, and in all places—right?

It’s a reason to put ourselves out there. Writing from the soul is scary. Letting people see what we write, terrifying. But remember the promises.

We can be as distinct and different as can be, but if no one sees, who does it help?

We can receive whispers and sometimes shouts from the Spirit, and those things can enrich our lives, but the time for quietly keeping our testimonies to ourselves is over. The Lord needs US to stand and shout our testimonies from the rooftops, so to speak.

It doesn’t matter if it hits the New York Times (or Amazon) bestseller’s list—it needs to be out where people can see it. Remember our promises.

Can I challenge each of us, (like, especially ME) to find a way to take a little kernel of light and truth, and put it out there for the world to see? A blog entry, a Facebook post, or, since this site is primarily for writers, how about a poem, a short story, or a novel?

The President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ made us a promise. Here it is again, and I’ll let him close out what I’m trying to say:

Step forward, take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God, more than you ever have before. I plead with you to fulfill President Kimball’s prophecy, and I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ, that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fail With Honor

As my daughter gets ready for her mission to Chile, there are a lot of things she is nervous about. The biggest thing is the language. She didn't take Spanish in high school, and--like me--she speaks Spanish like a white girl. Our pronunciation is terrible.

The other day we went to the church distribution center in Mesa and saw some Spanish speaking sister missionaries. Since our next errand was to look for shoes for her mission, I urged her to ask the sisters about their shoes and what they would recommend. The conversation eventually came around to learning a language. My daughter asked them how long it took them to learn the language. One sister said it took her 5 months, the other, 7 months.

Then one of the sisters gave her this advice when it comes to learning the language in the MTC: "Fail with Honor." She went on to explain that everyone failed at learning the language in the MTC, but instead of getting discouraged, or giving up, embrace the failure with your head held high and continue to ask questions. Continue to work hard and continue to fail. Because if you're not afraid of failure, you will learn faster that those that are afraid to try for fear they will say something wrong.

As I thought about this advice as it pertains to writing, I realized that I haven't always failed with honor in this area. There were lots of moments where I retreated into myself and was afraid to let anyone read my writing. I also quit querying for six years. I realized I let my fear of failure slow down my progress. I still progressed because I never quit writing but how much faster would I have progressed if I wasn't afraid to show my work to other talented people, or I wasn't afraid to query an agent that may have given me some much needed advice?

So my advice today is to fail with honor. Don't be afraid of failure, embrace it as part of the learning process. Recognize that our life on this earth is full of failures because we are not perfect, but God knew this and prepared a way for us to rise above our failures. Thanks to Jesus Christ's sacrifice, we can all fail with honor as we repent and try harder to do better in all areas of our life.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Clarion Call- Are You Ready?

by Kasey Tross

Okay, Mormon Mommy Writers- did you hear the messages that were just for us in this past weekend's General Conference sessions? Because I did.

There were several that spoke to my heart, but the one I wanted to share with all of you today was this one from Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer.

Elder Schwitzer said,

"If ever there was a time when the world needs disciples of Christ who can communicate the message of the gospel with clarity and from the heart, it is now." 

Guess who can do that?

Us. Writers. Writers who know the truth. You and me.

Elder Schwitzer spoke of Jesus Christ as our perfect example in this, saying, "He was not afraid to speak against the earthly powers or rulers of his day. Even when such were opposing the mission given to Him by His Heavenly Father. His words were not designed to confuse, but to move the hearts of men. He clearly knew His Father's will in all He said and did."

Another wonderful example was Peter, whose words, spoken as he stood up against those who would mock the church, converted thousands. Elder Schwitzer said, "This is powerful evidence that one man- or woman- who is willing to testify when the world seems to be going in the opposite direction, can make a difference. When we as members make the decision to stand up and powerfully witness for God's doctrine and His church something changes within us. We take His countenance upon us. We become closer to His Spirit. He in turn will go before us and be on our right hand and on our left, and His Spirit shall be in our hearts and His angels round about us to bear us up. True disciples of Christ are not looking to make excuses for the doctrine when it doesn't fit the world's concepts."

He went on to say, "True disciples represent the Lord when it may not be convenient to do so. True disciples desire to inspire the hearts of men, not just impress them. Often it's not convenient or comfortable to stand up for Christ."

Can we do it? Can we stand up for Christ? We certainly need to, because as Elder Schwitzer said, the world is pulling in an even more dangerous direction. When talking about the "great and spacious building" from Lehi's dream in the Book of Mormon, Elder Schwitzer said, "For years, I thought the mocking crowd was making fun of the way the faithful lived their lives. But the voices from the building today have changed in their tone and approach. Those who mock often times try to drown out the simple message of the gospel by attacking some aspect of the church's history or offering pointed criticism of a prophet or other leader. They are also attacking the very heart of our doctrine and the laws of God, given since the creation of the Earth. 

"We as disciples of Jesus Christ and members of his church must never let go of that iron rod. We must let that clarion trumpet sound from our own souls."

I believe that Elder Schwitzer was speaking to you and me when he said, "As Latter-day Saints it is time for us to stand up and testify. It is time for the notes of the melody of the gospel to rise above the noise of the world."

Let me add my testimony to Elder Schwitzer's and say that as Mormon Mommy Writers it is time for us testify through our words, using the talent God has given us. When we come across these voices of the world who are shouting so loudly that abortion is okay, that marriage isn't that important, and that Christians are bigoted hypocrites, we cannot turn our heads anymore and pretend we don't see and hear. We have a unique gift to communicate in ways that others do not, and I know that when we allow the Spirit to work through us we have that power to make a difference, just like Peter did.

If you feel like you don't know enough, it's time to study.

If you feel like you aren't close enough to the Spirit, it's time to pray.

If you feel like you aren't strong enough or brave enough or tough enough, it's time to trust in the Lord and let His strength, courage, and resolve bear you up.

Last week on Facebook I had an experience with this: our local news station shared a story of a woman who had intentionally blinded herself, because she had felt her whole life that she was meant to be blind. She found a psychologist who was willing to help her, and together they poured drain cleaner in her eyes. The comments on the post were things like, "That's crazy! Why would anyone do that to themselves?" and "That psychologist should be arrested," and, "Mental illness can make people do awful things!" and other such things. One commenter said, "I've seen this before- there was a guy who thought he should only have one leg so he cut off his leg. Crazy! Why would someone do that?"

There was something so obvious here, something so blatantly obvious about these appalled comments versus what the world has been applauding lately with magazine covers and awards for courage. I didn't want to say it. I knew I'd get slammed. I knew it would fill my e-mail inbox and my Facebook with contention and negativity- the last things I wanted. But I knew it had to be said. If you don't say it, who will? I heard in my head.

So I said it.

"I've heard of this sort of thing before too. There was this one guy who thought he should have been born a woman so he actually had surgery to remove perfectly good, healthy, functioning parts of his body- and a psychologist helped him do it. It's amazing the damage that mental illness can make people do to their bodies."

Surprisingly, what followed was silence, punctuated only by several likes and one other comment in reply to mine saying, "^This."

I don't know if the post just got lost in the ether, but I'd like to think that perhaps I made some people reexamine some of their opinions and attitudes, if even just to plant a tiny seed of truth in their minds.

This experience taught me to be brave, to speak out, because I have a unique perspective to offer the world, and what I have to offer might just be the one thing that changes someone's mind, that turns them a little bit closer to the truth. I certainly hope so.

How have you spoken out in the cause of truth? If you haven't, will you try?

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Perfectly Worded Surprise

About five years ago, my best friend and I decided to keep a “Best Friends Journal.” We would alternate writing in it. Being the reader/writer of the pair, I would diligently write in it when it was my turn, churning out three or four pages. On the other hand, my lovely friend would write perhaps a paragraph and then misplace the journal for months at a time. It was an ongoing joke between us about how scattered brained my friend was. Of course it was just for fun, but after a few years, the journal disappeared completely, from both our hands and our minds.

Yesterday, I received a package in the mail from my best friend. After going through an unreasonable amount of packing tape and stamps, I uncovered our lost journal! She had once again found it. After laughing at the circumstances, I opened it up to the newest (and rather short) entry…and started to cry.

In just a few words, my friend was able to put all of her personality, all of her quirkiness, and all of…well her into the journal. Her scarce words moved me far more than any 600 page novel ever could. She wrote from her heart and her soul. It was absolutely beautiful.

She wrote about how it only took her 4 years to write me back and how far we have come in those four years. We are both married and have careers when, four years ago, all of this would have seemed impossibly grown-up. She was unapologetic about being herself and how she appreciates how much I accept her. I will admit that I had to sit down in the middle of my kitchen (where I was reading the journal) and let a few silent tears trail down my face.

I guess the point of this was to show you that a few beautiful words can be just as powerful as a long, eloquently written letter. You just have to find the perfect words… 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Story Hoarding

by Patricia Cates

Has anyone else out there ever had an idea stolen by a friend or colleague? Or maybe had a coworker take credit for something that you actually did at work? I sure have. More times than I care to count. It’s a jungle out there. Okay so maybe some of it dates back to elementary school, but it still haunts me to this day. Call it baggage or perhaps a small case of paranoia if you will. Like the old adage says, “Once bitten twice shy.”
Sometimes I think I really need to get over it…but it’s hard.
So how does this pertain to writing? Sadly I now fear going to a publisher or having a face to face. I fear that they are going to give my brilliant (or very poor) book pitch to another, more popular and marketable client. I even have a fear of going to a writers conference, or being in a writing group, because someone there…with more time and talent…will take my story and run with it. Am I completely nuts?

Look what happened to the mastermind/creator of the Facebook concept! This worries me.

How many times have you seen two different movie studios come out with almost the same movie within a year? (Insert answer here.)
So I now refuse to share my WIPs, and I believe it is retarding my growth as a writer. I must learn to trust at some point. Honestly I cannot think of a single person whom I can completely confide in. Every single friend I have has another friend of equal value, or a spouse, with whom they share information freely.
Contracts are broken every day…as are confidences. Not always maliciously…but broken nonetheless.
So I stay holed up like a hermit. My flash drives under lock and key. My passwords thankfully encrypted and changed regularly. The funny thing is that I am just a run-of-the-mill, stay at home mom. That being said….if there are indeed any safe places to go, I would love to know. I will need to emerge from my shell at some point.


Monday, September 28, 2015

The Modern Bestseller: Written By Social Media?

by Kasey Tross

Image from

Lately I've been reading a very interesting book by Nicholas Carr called "The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains" (spoiler alert: what it's doing to our brains isn't good). It's a fascinating look at neuroplasticity and technology; specifically, a look at how technology has changed and is changing our brains. The author starts with the invention of things like maps (which increased our ability to think abstractly) and clocks (which made us start mentally quantifying time) and books/publishing (which led to the advent of silent reading- a precursor to individual learning).

Now that I'm getting into the part about the internet, I'm finding that he's bringing up some interesting concerns for us writers, like the fact that the 3 best selling novels in Japan in 2007 were all written as strings of text messages, and all written on cell phones.

No, seriously.

So here is some food for thought for you today:

" does seem inevitable that the Web's tendency to turn all media into social media will have a far-reaching effect on styles of reading and writing and hence on language itself. When the form of the book shifted to accommodate silent reading, one of the most important results was the development of private writing. Authors, able to assume that an attentive reader, deeply engaged both intellectually and emotionally, 'would come at last, and would thank them,' quickly jumped beyond the limits of social speech and began to explore a wealth of distinctively literary forms, many of which could exist only on the page. The new freedom of the private writer led, as we've seen, to a burst of experimentation that expanded vocabulary, extended the boundaries of syntax, and in general increased the flexibility and expressiveness of language. Now that the context of reading is again shifting, from the private page to the communal screen, authors will adapt once more. They will increasingly tailor their work to a milieu that the essayist Caleb Crain describes as 'groupiness,' where people read mainly 'for the sake of a feeling of belonging' rather than for personal enlightenment or amusement. As social concerns override literary ones, writers seem fated to eschew virtuosity and experimentation in favor of a bland but immediately accessible style. Writing will become a means for recording chatter." (pp. 106-107)

The author also says that writing will become less permanent, as that is the nature of all digital media, especially social media. He says that authors will be less likely to care about perfecting our work:

 "It seems likely that removing the sense of closure from book writing will, in time, alter writers' attitudes toward their work. The pressure to achieve perfection will diminish, along with the artistic rigor that the pressure imposed. To see how small changes in writers' assumptions and attitudes can eventually have large effects on what they write, one need only glance at the history of correspondence. A personal letter written in, say, the nineteenth century bears little resemblance to a personal e-mail or text message written today. Our indulgence in the pleasures of informality and immediacy has led to a narrowing of expressiveness and a loss of eloquence." (pp. 108-109)

So, what do you think? Will digital media and the influence of social media have authors swimming into the shallows? Are we losing an art form here? Is it already happening? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dopple Gang

By Beckie Carlson
I recently went on a trip with my youngest daughter to Atlanta, Georgia. I had not been to Georgia before. I used to live in Alabama and Florida (at different times), so I figured it would be mostly the same. What I didn't know was that Atlanta is Gotham City. You may not have known this, and I'm sorry if I'm ruining some fantasy-other-wordliness aspect of Gotham City,'s in Georgia.
Our adventure began when we got the rental car and headed out in the safe hands of GPS (aka evil maniacal devil guide) to our hotel. I don't know when I decided Siri was a reliable source again. She has burned me way too many times in the past for me to have any sane reason to trust her, but here I was, across the country in the middle of a rainy night, trusting my life to the voice in my phone with a desire to kill me.
How do I know she wants to kill me? Let's recap. I have gotten lost more times than not when using her. Usually it is because she decides to tell me to take U turns in the middle of freeways or busy roads. Other times it is because she leads me to my destination which actually turns out to be a lonely spot in the middle of nowhere, perfect for murder. This time, it was to the back side of a prison. Yes, just pull into the guarded driveway...don't mind the guns..."your destination is on the right"....sure it is. I didn't fall for it.
I had a feeling that no matter what Siri said, I should probably head towards the taller, better lighted buildings in the distance. By some miracle, we ended up at our hotel. I prefer to believe it was devine guidance. On the way, we discovered we were in Gotham. It wasn't hard to tell, all we had to do was look up. The buildings were somewhat shrouded in fog. Did I mention it was raining? Constantly? The entire weekend? The fog swirled around the tops of the buildings. One building in particular had lights shining off the top, cutting through the fog, just waiting for the Bat signal to be blasted into the sky. It was Gotham. I'm sure of it. If that wasn't enough proof, the sirens that screamed all night were the clincher. I didn't actually SEE Batman, but I'm pretty sure I saw something dark and caped streak past my 9th floor hotel window in the middle of the night.
The rest of our trip went fairly well. We went to a Art walk/block party, very much NOT like the art walks here in Arizona. I expected to see cool art that made my mind scream, "How did they think of that!?" like what happens at the art walks here. Instead, what my mind was screaming was more of a, "WHY did they think of that? What is wrong with them!?" My daughter assured me it was all about the experience, not the product. That had to be the only resoning behind the live music in the "Mammal Bar" which turned out to be a very warm, over crowded room (bar), with a group of adult size toddlers playing on xylophones, recorders, and bongos....with no apparent melody in common. My brain hurt and I wanted to curl up with something familiar, like a cactus. It was painful.
All in all, I totally enjoyed my trip with my daughter. She is an awesome person. I'd want to be her friend if we weren't related. She's totally cool. She is also blessed/cursed with the same talent as I have. We both see celebrity faces in random people. On this trip we saw young DiCaprio, Ice T's uncle, A white Bruno Mars, and the perfect blend of Bradley Cooper and Will Arnett. I admit to following the latter around with my eyes for quite a while and even snapping a picture. Is that weird? It's not like I'm going to stalk him or google his picture online and find out his name and whether or not that girl with him was his girlfriend or send him bunnies or anything, it was purely for research.
Cause I said so.
Photo credit:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Truest Sacrifice

I’m going to begin with a reboot of the story of the Rich Young Ruler.

The not-at-all rich, not at all young, Mom prayed to ask the Lord, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He answered, “Thou knowest the commandments. Love God, love thy neighbor, No killing, no stealing, no adultery, be honest…”

The mother interrupted and said, “Lord, I do all of that stuff (remembers the "be honest" thing)—or at least, I’m trying my hardest. What else do I need to do? What’s the secret?”

The Lord said, “Maybe thou shouldst go read what Joseph Smith said about sacrifice.”

Among many things about sacrifice that the Prophet Joseph Smith said, here are a few (from Lectures on Faith 6):

“An actual knowledge to any person, that the course of life which he pursues is according to the will of God, is essentially necessary to enable him to have that confidence in God without which no person can obtain eternal life … and unless they have an actual knowledge that the course they are pursuing is according to the will of God they will grow weary in their minds and faint … and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. …“It was in offering sacrifices that Abel, the first martyr, obtained knowledge that he was accepted of God. And from the days of righteous Abel to the present time, the knowledge that men have that they are accepted in the sight of God is obtained by offering sacrifice.“But those who have not made this sacrifice to God do not know that the course which they pursue is well pleasing in his sight; for whatever may be their belief or their opinion, it is a matter of doubt and uncertainty in their mind; and where doubt and uncertainty are there faith is not, nor can it be. For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time; so that persons whose minds are under doubts and fears cannot have unshaken confidence; and where unshaken confidence is not there faith is weak; and where faith is weak the persons will not be able to contend against all opposition, tribulations, and afflictions which they will have to encounter in order to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ Jesus; and they will grow weary in their minds, and the adversary will have power over them and destroy them.”
That’s a lot. It's deep stuff. The gist is that we can’t know that what we are doing in our lives is exactly what the Lord wants us to do, unless we offer up to Him everything that we have, and are. And if we aren’t utterly confident that our course in life is pleasing to God, we can’t have absolute faith. If we don’t have that faith, we will falter and risk being overcome and losing our way.

What are we willing to sacrifice? What do we hold back from the altar? 

I know that there are times I am terrified that Heavenly Father will ask me to let a child go.

When Simon was a newborn, I would sit in the chair and feed him or rock him, and I sat there sobbing, holding a perfect little baby, so grateful to have him, yet so afraid that it was only until Heavenly Father figured out that he was missing: 

(imaginary Heavenly Father conversation:)
Hey! Where'd Simon go? (muffled angel answers)
What? Who sent him down there?  I miss him! Bring him back, NOW!

Yes. I was truly convinced that any moment, I would have to give him back. And it still scares me to think of losing any one of my children, or my husband. I'm pretty sure I'm holding them back from the altar, or at least using my biggest puppy dog eyes and looking up at Heavenly Father begging him to not have that be something asked of me. So I am well aware that I may be lacking in the "willing to sacrifice" department. 

Some sacrifices are harder to make than others. 

I like the story of King Lamoni’s father. When he was taught the Gospel, he cried out in mighty prayer, begging to be saved, and promised to “give up all his sins” to know God. 

Are we willing to sacrifice, to give up, our favorite sins? This is what Moroni calls “denying yourselves of all ungodliness.”

Doctrine and Covenants 121: says:

“Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth”

Speaking of how our righteousness impacts our confidence, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told this story. He says:

The conference concluded with a testimony meeting in which a handsome, young returned missionary stood up to bear his testimony. He looked good, clean, and confident—just like a returned missionary should look.
As he began to speak, tears came to his eyes. He said he was grateful to stand in the midst of such a terrific group of young Latter-day Saints and to feel good about the life he was trying to lead. But that feeling had only been possible, he said, because of an experience he had had a few years earlier, an experience that had shaped his life forever.He then told of coming home from a date shortly after he had been ordained an elder at age 18. Something had happened on this date of which he was not proud. To this day I do not know the nature of the incident, but it was significant enough to him to have affected his spirit and his self-esteem.As he sat in his car for a while in the driveway of his own home, thinking things through and feeling genuine sorrow for whatever had happened, his nonmember mother came running frantically from the house straight to his car. In an instant she conveyed that this boy’s younger brother had just fallen in the home, had hit his head sharply and was having some kind of seizure or convulsion. The nonmember father had immediately called for an ambulance, but it would take some time at best for help to come.“Come and do something,” she cried. “Isn’t there something you do in your Church at times like this? You have their priesthood. Come and do something.”His mother didn’t know a lot about the Church at that point, but she knew something of priesthood blessings. Nevertheless, on this night when someone he loved dearly needed his faith and his strength, this young man could not respond. Given the feelings he had just been wrestling with and the compromise he felt he had just made—whatever that was—he could not bring himself to go before the Lord and ask for the blessing that was needed.He bolted from the car and ran down the street to the home of a worthy older man who had befriended him in the ward ever since the boy’s conversion two or three years earlier. An explanation was given, and the two were back at the house still well before the paramedics arrived. The happy ending of this story as told in that testimony meeting was that this older man instantly gave a sweet, powerful priesthood blessing, leaving the injured child stable and resting by the time medical help arrived. A quick trip to the hospital and a thorough exam there revealed no permanent damage had been done. A very fearful moment for this family had passed.Then the returned missionary of whom I speak said this: “No one who has not faced what I faced that night will ever know the shame I felt and the sorrow I bore for not feeling worthy to use the priesthood I held. It is an even more painful memory for me because it was my own little brother who needed me and my beloved nonmember parents who were so fearful and who had a right to expect more of me. But as I stand before you today, I can promise you this,” he said. “I am not perfect, but from that night onward I have never done anything that would keep me from going before the Lord with confidence and asking for His help when it is needed. Personal worthiness is a battle in this world in which we live,” he acknowledged, “but it is a battle I am winning. I have felt the finger of condemnation pointing at me once in my life, and I don’t intend to feel it ever again if I can do anything about it. And, of course,” he concluded, “I can do everything about it.”

Are we willing to sacrifice our favorite sins in order to have confidence in front of our Heavenly Father? 

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
 that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Elder Neal A Maxwell said, “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we ‘give’ … are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us.”  

The Savior taught the Nephites after his resurrection:

“Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away. … And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:19-20).

To have a broken heart and a contrite spirit is to be humble and receptive to the will of God and to the counsel of those He has called to lead His Church. It also means to feel deep sorrow for sin and a sincere desire to repent.
The prophet Lehi emphasized the importance of offering this sacrifice: “Behold, [Christ] offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:7).

Those who show their willingness to sacrifice as the Lord has commanded will be accepted by Him. He taught in Doctrine and Covenant 97:8: “All … who know their hearts are honest, and are broken, and their spirits contrite, and are willing to observe their covenants by sacrifice—yea, every sacrifice which I, the Lord, shall command—they are accepted of me” (D&C 97:8).

Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught: 
“We are still commanded to sacrifice, but not by shedding blood of animals. Our highest sense of sacrifice is achieved as we make ourselves more sacred or holy. This we do by our obedience to the commandments of God. Thus, the laws of obedience and sacrifice are indelibly intertwined. … As we comply with these and other commandments, something wonderful happens to us. … We become more sacred and holy—[more] like our Lord!” (“Lessons from Eve,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 88).

I love what Elder Neal A. Maxwell said:

“Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!” 

It is my hope and prayer that each of us, and especially myself, can place the parts of ourselves, the natural man, the animal, upon the altar and let go of our sins. I know that the Savior has already paid the price to have our sins be consumed and to purify us so that we can be clean. I know that as we sacrifice whatever it is that the Lord asks of us, --even our favorite sins-- that we will be strengthened and perfected. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Slump I Never Expected


In July, I self-published a non-fiction ebook called The 12 Days of Christmas. I worked on it for four years. I was obsessed with it for four years. I loved it, then hated it, for four years. I edited close to 500 pictures for four years. I pulled my hair out and drove my family nuts May through July, while I educated myself on the self-publication process.

And then...there it was, online July 9, 2015: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE. (my telling of our 20+ years of doing a wonderful Christmas project. If you have kids and want to have an adventure this holiday season, check it out. For Nook readers, the book is HERE)

It was a four-year pregnancy with a three-month delivery. It was my fourth baby. We celebrated with dinner out and my favorite wine.

The next day, I got up and didn't know what to do with myself.

It's a lag that's gone on for two months now.

Yes, I'm marketing the book and getting some interviews and doing give-aways and all that. I'm mainly attending to a bunch of emails. But it's not the same. The creative process for this endeavor is over.  And it's very strange. Not having a "project" feels like I'm walking around with only one arm. 

I've asked myself more than once recently, What did I do before I starting working on this book?  I have to admit, I don't remember. I was four years younger, so my memory has probably deteriorated a bit.

I just know I now have hours of TV options in the evening. My Saturdays are suddenly open. I'm not up 'til two a.m. anymore trying to write a tutorial about how to make a snowflake out of Q-tips.  Life is just so different when you don't have a monkey (although beloved) on your back.

I think I'm in mourning. Though I'm certainly busy with regular day activities, I feel like a dear friend has moved away.

I'm sure this feeling will pass. I'm directing myself take to new tasks. I'm making a baby quilt for our first grand child. I reorganized my craft room. I'm finally sorting through all the paperwork on my desk, stuff I haven't looked at in two years. I'm going to read Jen Hatmaker's new book, For The Love. I'm beginning to plan Thanksgiving.

Life will move on, and eventually I believe I will no longer feel this unexpected loss in my life. I still write for three blogs, and I have a novel (I wrote in 1984) I haven't looked at in six years. Who knows what the next four years will bring.

I'm simply grateful I can check one thing off my bucket list: publish my book.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Faith Precedes Miracles: My Adoption Journey

by Katy White

Six months ago, I was blessed to adopt my second child. This is a very intimate post, but I've been asked by a lot of loved ones about our adoption journey, so be prepared for something long and personal. 

The story of how we found our son is pretty amazing to us. Last year when we knew we wanted to adopt again, we looked at a lot of options to do so, including going through various adoption websites and agencies. In the end, we had a strong feeling that we shouldn't do any of those things but should instead try spreading the word through social media. We prayed to be guided on how to do that, and in mid-December, a friend texted me telling me that she'd seen something on Facebook about an adoption awareness challenge. My husband and I talked it over and felt like we should do it.

On January 1st, we started a 60 day social media challenge, where we (along with other hopeful adoptive parents) posted a picture with some information about us on all our social media platforms. Every day had a different focus--our home, our favorite foods, our most cherished traditions, etc. It was difficult to make every day informative, fun, and uniquely us, and I spent a lot of time on every post (a lot of time.)  We got a great response from our friends and family, and it meant a lot to us to see people sharing our posts in support of us. 

On day 36, a friend from an old ward (church congregation) shared one of my posts with her followers. Shortly after she posted, a woman replied telling my friend to have us reach out to her husband. 

Interestingly, the woman who responded was the daughter of our bishop and my visiting teaching companion in an old ward, the same ward where my friend still lives. The woman who responded is married to an attorney who facilitates adoptions for Marshallese families who live in the States (about 10% of the Marshallese population lives in and around Arkansas; the attorney served his mission in the Marshall Islands, so he speaks the language fluently and knows the people and their culture very well). Oddly enough, my old VT companion had actually mentioned him to me back when we were doing fertility treatments, but I didn't think twice about it at the time. My friend's referral couldn't have been more timely.

We spoke to the attorney on February 26th, and he told us that he had some placements to make soon and that we could be chosen by a birth mom within a month (which we didn't even remotely believe--we'd been in the praying-for-a-baby business for too long). But then three weeks later (March 14th), we got a phone call saying a birth mom had picked us and was due in a month. We were floored, and I can't begin to explain how excited and happy we felt. But almost immediately afterwards, I was struck with almost crippling anxiety that I couldn't shake. I was terrified this anxiety was a sign from Heavenly Father that we shouldn't adopt. I'd never felt real anxiety before, and it was awful. I couldn't sleep or focus on anything. I wanted to move forward, and when I fasted and prayed about doing so, I would feel peace instantly. But then it would be replaced with overwhelming anxiety again. I didn't know what to do.

All the while, I had this strong feeling in the back of my mind that I can't really explain, but it was essentially this: E (our daughter) was the child of my hope; my next would be the child of my faith. With E, my mom, who passed away when I was little, appeared to multiple members of the birth family (and I look just like her, so they recognized me instantly when they found our profile). There was no question about the Lord's will for any of us. But with this...I was afraid of making a mistake. I wasn't looking for another miracle, just an answer to my prayers, but the constant feelings of panic were obscuring my ability to receive that answer.  

After about three or four days of this, I felt prompted to call a dear friend who has dealt with anxiety for years. I told her everything I was feeling, and after she listened to me, she said, "I don't know if this is your baby or not, but I can tell you this: the Lord doesn't work in anxiety." 

Immediately, I felt the Spirit so strongly, the anxiety disappeared. It was an unquestionable confirmation that her words were true. I felt like I could see and think through things with complete clarity, and suddenly, the opportunity we were being presented with felt incredible and exciting again. When my husband and I talked and prayed that night, it was so obvious to us that everything about this situation was a direct answer to our prayers. We had felt we needed to do a social media effort instead of going through an agency. We had been led to a challenge that led a friend of ours to share a post, which in turn led us to our attorney, who led us to our birth mom. Everything about the situation was the result of very specific prayers, not just by us, but by our loved ones. It felt perfectly right.

The next day, we reached out to our attorney and told him we wanted to proceed.
By the end of the following week, we got the phone call that our birth mom had gone into labor three weeks early! After a full day of scrambling to get our last doctor's appointments and paperwork signed off, we packed up and were on a plane with our daughter the next morning to Arkansas, where our birth mom and baby were. Our daughter couldn't have been sweeter or more patient the whole day, despite the unholy hour of our wake-up and departure. We were all filled with a nervous excitement. 

When we finally walked into the hospital room and laid eyes on our son, the Spirit in the room was undeniable. I knew my baby, knew his soul. In that moment, I knew I'd been looking for and waiting for HIM, not just for a baby. It was like a missing puzzle piece was finally put in place. I just knew

After placement was official, I reached out to my friend who had connected us with our attorney. She told me how happy she was, and she told me her side of the story. In her words: 
This quote has been on our wall for the last 8 years. I've always been a firm believer that simple things make a big difference. I try to follow through on promptings I get to do good, but honestly, I have about a 65% follow through rate.  
These past months our friends were hoping to adopt and I felt prompted to pray with all my might and repost their message on my accounts. That led to a comment which I followed through on and a few FB conversations and now my sweet friend has a baby in her arms (obviously they had to do much more than that but my role was easy). Moral of the story: God knows we are imperfect. He knows we often fail. But often He prompts us to do small and simple things to bring about miracles...even if we only have a 65% follow through rate.

In private, she shared a little more of the story with me, including a comment that profoundly struck me. She said she felt my mom was watching over this baby, just as she was for my daughter. Then she said that she felt there was a Relief Society of sisters on the other side of the veil from all nations watching over us (and people in our situations). The truth of her words speaks to my soul.
Miracles happen. They have happened to me. In every way, I know that my baby boy was intended to be a part of my family (and I won't get into all of those reasons). He brings so much joy and love to our world. He truly is the child of my faith.


Related Posts with Thumbnails