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A few years ago (well….more like 20 years ago!) I was a freshman at what was then called Ricks College in Rexburg, ID.  At the time, my passion was ballroom dancing.  I had danced through high school and Ricks had the best dance program in the state at the time and was a good preparation for the best dance program (BYU) in the country.

My first year, I was on a team called “Style”, which went around the western united states putting on shows and also teaching kids how to dance appropriately and have clean fun.

Everyone on the team was very down to earth and friendly and full of energy.  One young man stood out though.  He was always full of optimism and positive energy.  Nothing seemed to get him down and we all had great fun as we toured the western U.S.

He went on a mission and I lost track of him…until about 7 years ago when I bumped into him.  He was good friends with friends of mine and it was great to see he had a beautiful little family.  We’ve kept in touch off and on throughout the years since then.

Some of you may remember, about 4 years ago, I wrote a post on this blog about his new little daughter who had been featured in the local news in Seattle.  She was dying at the time from a rare heart condition and at that time they were asking for prayers and donations to pay for a heart transplant.

Imagine their excitement, joy and gratitude they felt when the heart transplant was successful and they had raised money to do the surgery!  I along with others received a note of thanks from my friend, who is her father.

Fast forward 4 years from now.  The sweet little girl’s body rejected the heart and she is on life support without a chance of survival off life support.  Here is a note I received from him today:

Heaven will soon be sweeter. Our precious daughter Mia will be reunited with her donor tomorrow after she is taken off life support. We are devastated and wish this was not happening. It all seems like a terrible nightmare. We will be sad for a very long time, and will miss her everyday. She was the happiest, sweetest little girl, and there will be a hole in all of our hearts. The children are very sad and just want her to wake up. We are in agony and are trying to hold it together for sake of our other children. We are so thankful for all of your love and support and have truly felt it. The pain is too much for my soul, but your prayers are being felt. I am not sure if I will update again until we are back in Utah. I just needed you all to know that we are thankful for your love. so thankful. Tomorrow we will be doing the impossible task of letting our sweet little angel go back to live with her Father in Heaven. We will miss her everyday.

Please join me in praying for the McDonald family to give them comfort and faith in this trying period.  I can’t imagine how they feel and I pray God’s love and peace over them.

Last week’s article was about how to develop Charity (which we identified is the pure love of Christ) in one’s life.  This week, I thought it would be appropriate to share how you can measure the extent that you have Christ’s love in your heart.  These suggestions were given by members of our Stake Presidency on how to measure if one has pure love, or charity in their heart:

1. You feel a sincere desire to help others

2. Praying daily for charity

3. Looking for opportunities to serve, first within your own home and then with your neighbors

4. Being kind and patient in word and deed (even when it is hard)

5. Thinking about others’ needs

He had about 4-5 more that he discussed, but he talked so fast I couldn’t write them all down!

Some additional ideas I considered afterwards include:

1. Willingness to forgive

2. Not judging others

What other ways would you suggest as a good way to measure if on has the pure love of Jesus?

Mormon churches meet in congregations organized geographically called “wards”.  8-10 wards combine to make a “stake”.  Every six months the LDS, or Mormon Church organizes a meeting where the stake called “Stake Conference”.   At the stake conference, leaders of the stake (the Stake Presidency, organized by a president and 2 counselors) addresses the congregation on matters they feel that are necessary for the members of the stake.

The theme chosen by our stake presidency was charity.

Typically, when we think of charity today, we think of giving money or means to people suffering.  This is charity, indeed, but the scriptures show that charity is deeper than that.

In 1 Corinthians, chapter 13 (KJV), Paul states that charity is the greatest gift to have, even greater than that of knowledge, prophecy, and faith.

In the Book of Mormon, in the book of Moroni, chapter 7, the prophet Mormon shares some thoughts on charity that are similar (almost verbatim in some parts) as Paul.  Some key differences are that he includes a definition of what charity is (it is the pure love of Christ see v. 48) and that we should pray daily that we can be filled with that love so that when we come before Christ we are filled with His love.

With these thoughts in mind, I’ll share some points one of the counselors of the Stake Presidency shared with us in how we can develop Charity.  He told us there are 10 ways, which include:

1. Daily Prayer

2. Daily Scripture Study (preferably in the beginning of the day)

3. Attending Sacrament Meeting (Communion)

4-10.  He said to fill these ones in according to what we feel moved to do.

Therefore, for a fun little activity, I thought I could enlist some help from those of you who stop by and read frequently.

What would you list on 4-10 on how we can develop christ-like love in our lives?

P.S.  One thing that stood out to me from his talk was to begin within the walls of our own home.  Sometimes it’s very easy to be kind to others and serve others but difficult to be nice to our own family.

I came across notes from a talk given about 1 1/2 years ago by James E Faust, who at that time was serving as a counselor to President Gordon B Hinckley for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Parts of his talk was on having a healthy self esteem.  I will list the 6 keys that he mentioned and share some of my thoughts as well.

6 Keys to a Healthy Self Esteem

  • Keep your Free-agency

In my opinion, this is one of the only things that we truly have control over.  We have the power to decide what we will do in any given situation.  I have written about controling our thoughts and how our thoughts shape who we are.  If we get in the habit of doing good things and keeping the commandments good things will come our way.  If we choose bad things or even go to the extent of using harmful things like drugs, our agency is given away.  It is our choice to either choose the will of God or not.  Those who choose to live within the commandments of God have a healthier self esteem than those who do not.

  • Humility

There are a few scriptures that point out how humility and meekness bring us joy and abundance. (Isaiah 29:19; Psalms 37:11)  Those who feel the love of God and the joy that comes from humbly following Him feel greater joy and self-worth than those who do not. 

  • Honesty

I know that when I’ve chosen to be honest in all my associations and conversations I feel much better about myself than when I’ve chosen not to.  Those who strive to be honest with themselves, their friends, their employers, and all people feel greater self esteem.  The big challenge for me and probably many other people is the small “white lies” that creep in there.  If I exaggurate a story or build myself up in a way that isn’t necessarily completly true that is lying.  Some may say it’s impossible to be completely honest.  Maybe it is, but striving to be honest will surely lead to a greater self-image.

  • Love of Work

I grew up on a farm and learned to appreciate work.  I wouldn’t go as far to say that I love it.  However, I do know that I definitely feel better about myself when I’m working for a good cause than when I’m bumming around. 

  • Ability to Love

This one is a life-long pursuit and those who are blessed with this ability to give and accept love have much higher self-esteems than those who do not.  For years I feel that I didn’t love and respect myself as a child of God.  I had negative thoughts about myself and blamed others for some of the bad things I did as a result of not respecting myself or others.  Fortuneately the Lord was there for me the whole time and helped me through this.  I learned that it is o.k. not to be perfect and to love myself for all my strengths and weaknesses.   I’ve learned that love is a choice.  In fact, loving others doesn’t come naturally for me.  I have to pray for this love every day and I feel that the more I pray to the Lord, the more He blesses me with the ability to love myself and others.  To read a list of great scriptures on love and charity for yourself and others, click here.

  • Love of God

1 John 4:8 states: “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”  Therefore, in order to love we must, as Joseph Smith stated in his Lectures on Faith gain a “correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.”  These attributes can be found in the scriptures and include: mercy, grace, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, constant, all-knowing, and many more.  I know that when I strive to show love towards God that I have better self-esteem and desire to do good.  I feel more grateful for the blessings that He gives me on a daily basis and realize my dependance on Him. 

 

In conclusion, I realize that we all struggle with varies things and some of us struggle with self-esteem.  I know how difficult it can be to learn to love myself, others, and God, but I also know that it is possible to overcome.  My hope is that this post helps some of you who may be struggling with any self-esteem issues and that this serves to assist you as it did me.  Feel free to share any thoughts you have.

I’ve been reading Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon most recently.  Today I read in the “Hebraisms and other Peculiarities” chapter a section on a poetic form called “climax” (which means “ladder” in Greek), which was discovered in 1898 by a biblical scholar.  The definition of this poetic form is described as follows: “Climax occurs when the same word or words found at the end of one clause are repeated at or near the beginning of the next clause.” (Echoes, pg 166)

 The book then shares some examples of climaxes found in the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon.  I thought the one found in Moroni 8:25-26 was beautiful and wanted to share it.  I will break it down as it is broken down in the book to emphasize the use of climax:

And the first fruits of repentance is

baptism; and

baptism cometh by faith unto

the fulfilling the commandments; and

the fulfilling the commandments bringeth

remission of sins; And the

remission of sins bringeth

meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of

meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the

Holy Ghost, which

Comforter filleth with hope and perfect

love, which

love endureth by diligence unto prayer,

until the end shall come, when all Saints shall well with God.

If I hadn’t read about this poetic form, I would have read right over it and missed great symbolic purpose.  I think it’s awesome to see how this is like a ladder, or climax in that each step builds on the other and at the top of the ladder is love, which is the greatest commandment.  Even better, it doesn’t just stop there.  The verses tell us how we can maintain our love and the result (dwelling with God) if we are diligent in keeping love in our hearts.

What are your thoughts as you read this?  Also, do you know of any other examples in the scriptures where this poetic form is used?

In a recent post, entitled “Making our Hearts a Manger,” one of my friends, Brad Trnavsky, shared an interesting insight.  He commented that “when we were children all of our hearts were like that (a place for the Savior)… As you get older it’s harder to see past our own bias and prejudice.”  Later that day when I was speaking with him he further shared insight on how his own daughter has no biases and that she “would share her lollipop with anyone.” 

In the Bible, Paul shares a similar insight in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12: “when I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things…now we see through a glass, darkly…”

I thought about my life and how various experiences have led me to “see through dark glass,” as Paul describes.  I then asked myelf what “childish things” have I put away?  I don’t remember a whole lot about myself as a child and my perspective is different than someone from the outside looking in.  I wanted to get some insight on how I was as a child and thought my parents would be the best people to consult.  I emailed them and here is the feedback I received from my father:

As a very young child, you were pretty inquisitive. You were always getting in to things, and making messes in the process. I remember that one time you got into the diaper pail and had dirty diapers scattered all over the house. You were just sitting in the middle of it all having a blast. You were always asking questions. If we went to the movies, you were quite a pain to have there because we couldn’t watch a movie for you asking questions. We’d always say, “Just watch the movie and listen and you’ll find the answer. You were also pretty tender hearted, and felt bad for things that were hurt. You loved us to read books to you. It didn’t matter what kind of books they were. You were also reading by the time you went to kindergarten. One thing that you loved was horses. You would always just make your way over the their corral and just watch them. You loved to ride them. Another thing that you liked was being outdoors. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, you wanted to be out. We put the fence up in the back for that purpose. If I was mowing the lawn, or driving the tractor, you had to be on their riding with me. We mowed lots of grass together, and cleaned lots of stalls riding on the tractor together…One thing that you really didn’t like was contention…Your were also very bright and loved to watch the stars, and play with the cats that we had. The main thing I remember about you during those years and beyond was you felt responsible to be a good example and to try to be a problem solver…”

As I read this, it brought back memories and humbled me.  First, I thought of how inquisitive children are and as a child I wasn’t scared or inhibited in searching for new knowledge no matter where it was.  In the early years learning and growing are all children are doing and the world is like water and kids are like sponges soaking it all in.  I asked myself how do I view the world today?  Am I still searching for knowledge and learning and growing or do I think I have it all figured out.  Worse, have I allowed the “dark glass” of prejudice or things other people have said or done to me to hinder me from progressing?  As a child, I wanted to learn, grow, and find answers.  I didn’t care what people thought even if it was in a movie theater! 

Next, being tender hearted is a good quality of most children.  How am I doing in that category now?  Do I know how my friends and family are doing/feeling?  Do I care about their needs above my own or am I too wrapped up in my work or what I think is important to me to stop and make a phone call, or pause while my wife or friends are talking to me in the middle of doing something, etc.?  How about the people I help at church?  Do I really care about how they’re doing?  What about the world?  Do I pray for and care about people in other nations or communities that do not have as much as I do or am I too busy with other things? 

I’ll have to admit I love the smell of fresh grass to this day and perhaps the reason is because of the many rides my father and I took on the lawn mower.  Something I’ve also learned from my mother is to appreciate nature.  She’ll call me and tell me about a neat view of Mt Rainier or when a full moon is out or she sees a blue heron flying (this is her favorite bird).  Children are the same way as I was as a kid.  They appreciate and love playing outside.  They love God’s creations as I loved horses, cats, and the outdoors.  I feel maintaining this simple awe for nature and respect is a very important characteristic to maintain in order to fully appreciate God. 

Finally, my father says as a kid I wanted to be a problem solver.  Being the oldest, I do remember feeling a sense of responsibility.  I ask myself this question now.  If something is wrong do I take initiative to fix the problem or do I wait for someone else to fix it? 

This excersize was very good for me because it allowed me to reflect and remember that I am essentially still a child and don’t know as much as I usually think I do.  Even though I’m older, I’m still a child learning and growing.  The more I remember this and internalize this, the better off I’ll be.

In addition to these practical implications, the Savior shares spiritual and eternal implications of being as a child.  The scriptures share some great insights, which I will share. 

1. (Mosiah 3:19) As a natural man, I am an enemy to God unless I become like a child: humble, meek, patient, full of love, and willing to submit to everything the Lord asks me to do. 

2. (Luke 9:48) If I receive the Lord like a child I will be “great in the kingdom of God.”  For me this is basically the same concept of being humble and submissive to the Lord.

3. (Mark 10: 13-16) In this verse, Jesus’ disciples “rebuke” those who brought children with them to see Jesus.  Jesus reprimands His disciples and says “suffer the children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God.”  He further goes on to say that unless they receive the kingdom as a little child they can not enter into His kingdom and he blesses them. 

3 Nephi 9:22 is very similar to the verses in Mark as well.  In 3 Nephi, Jesus tells the people on the American continent that unless they repent and become as a child they won’t inheret the kingdom of God.  Notice that He adds that repentance is necessary for us to become as a child and therefore inherit God’s kingdom.

4. (3 Nephi 11:37-40) In this scripture Jesus informs the people that not only humbling oneself as a child and repentance are necessary, but baptism is also necessary to inherit the kingdom of God.  Verse 39 also states that this is Christ’s doctrine and whosoever builds on this doctrine is built on a rock (i.e. a solid foundation). 

5. (3 Nephi 17:21-25) In my opinion, these scriptures are some of the most touching scriptures we have.  Here, Jesus prays and blesses the peoples’ children one by one and weeps because of the love and joy he has for them.  It shows how much love Jesus has for children and it sheds some further light on the joy he must feel when we decide to humble ourselves like a child and submit to Him so he can bless us.  This is probably why the prophet Moroni stated that “children are alive in Christ.”  I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than being able to say that I am alive in Christ with confidence.  When I focus on becoming as a child I am progressing towards this goal.

In conclusion, I invite you to either reflect on your childhood or ask your parents to provide you some insight on what you were like as a child.  Or if you have children look to them as an example.  Consider some of the “childish things you’ve put away” and pray and reflect on what you can do to incorporate them back into your life.  The promises are great if we can remember to become as a child by removing the dark glasses we see through and learn to see as a child.

My 4th great-grandfather, Edward Partridge was a wealthy business owner when missionaries, including Parley P Pratt introduced him to the gospel.  Upon his conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, Edward forsook all he had including his business and his family disowned him.  However, Edward was steadfast stating: “I have torn my affections from this world’s goods, from the vanities and toys of time and sense, and been willing to love and serve God, with all my heart and be led by his holy Spirit.” As a result, “my mind has been as it were continually expanding—receiving the things of God, until glories indescribable present themselves before me.” (Messenger and Advocate, 1 (Jan. 1835), p. 61)

Two months after joining the church Edward became the first bishop.  He spent much time traveling throughout the United States to various branches of the church and administering to the poor.  He ultimately gave his life in service to his fellow man as he became ill but felt “he could not spend time to be sick.” (Woman’s Exponent, beginning 13 (1 Dec. 1884), pp. 102–3)

Since that time the LDS church has grown to become a leading and respected church in the humanitarian community.  The bishop of the church now assists the needs of millions of people both of the LDS faith and those not of the faith. 

Below are some articles that include statistics of the Church in their humanitarian efforts throughout the world:

Official Church Website

Humanitarian Update

Church News

I am personally grateful to have the example of Edward Partridge, who sacrificed all he had for the gospel.  I am also grateful to be a part of a church that reaches out and blesses the lives of so many of God’s children. 

We had the missionaries over last night and they shared an amazing story from the May 1988 Ensign.  Below is a story given by Elder John R Lasater:

Some years ago, it was my privilege to visit the country of Morocco as part of an official United States government delegation. As part of that visit, we were invited to travel some distance into the desert to visit some ruins. Five large black limousines moved across the beautiful Moroccan countryside at considerable speed. I was riding in the third limousine, which had lagged some distance behind the second. As we topped the brow of a hill, we noticed that the limousine in front of us had pulled off to the side of the road. As we drew nearer, I sensed that an accident had occurred and suggested to my driver that we stop. The scene before us has remained with me for these many years.

An old shepherd, in the long, flowing robes of the Savior’s day, was standing near the limousine in conversation with the driver. Nearby, I noted a small flock of sheep numbering not more than fifteen or twenty. An accident had occurred. The king’s vehicle had struck and injured one of the sheep belonging to the old shepherd. The driver of the vehicle was explaining to him the law of the land. Because the king’s vehicle had injured one of the sheep belonging to the old shepherd, he was now entitled to one hundred times its value at maturity. However, under the same law, the injured sheep must be slain and the meat divided among the people. My interpreter hastily added, “But the old shepherd will not accept the money. They never do.”

Startled, I asked him why. And he added, “Because of the love he has for each of his sheep.” It was then that I noticed the old shepherd reach down, lift the injured lamb in his arms, and place it in a large pouch on the front of his robe. He kept stroking its head, repeating the same word over and over again. When I asked the meaning of the word, I was informed, “Oh, he is calling it by name. All of his sheep have a name, for he is their shepherd, and the good shepherds know each one of their sheep by name.”

It was as my driver predicted. The money was refused, and the old shepherd with his small flock of sheep, with the injured one tucked safely in the pouch on his robe, disappeared into the beautiful deserts of Morocco.

As we continued our journey toward the ruins, my interpreter shared with me more of the traditions and practices of the shepherds of that land. Each evening at sundown, for example, the shepherds bring their small flocks of sheep to a common enclosure where they are secured against the wolves that roam the deserts of Morocco. A single shepherd then is employed to guard the gate until morning. Then the shepherds come to the enclosure one by one, enter therein, and call forth their sheep—by name. The sheep will not hearken unto the voice of a stranger but will leave the enclosure only in the care of their true shepherd, confident and secure because the shepherd knows their names and they know his voice.

The words of the Master Shepherd rang loudly in my ears:

“But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

“To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

“And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:2–5).

Many thoughts come to mind.  First, I think of all the times I’ve been lost and wandering on my own way…even injured spiritualy and how the Lord has reached down and picked me up either through another person or through a miracle of a healing or other means.

Next, I think of those who I’m called to be a Shepherd over.  My family, the people I home teach, those I serve as a ward missionary, the children of God I meet on a daily basis, etc.  Do I treat them and love them as a shepherd?  If not, what can I do to improve with my interactions with those I’ve been given stewardship over? 

Finally, I thought of all the references in the scriptures on being Shepherds .  There are many refering to “shepherds in Isreal”, following the “Good Shepherd”, and probably the most touching is the one in John 10: 2, 11-12, 14, and 16 that talks about the good shepherd giving his life for the sheep and how he knows every one of his sheep.

I’m grateful for Jesus and that He is always there for me even when I stray it seems like on a daily basis.  However, He is the Good Shepherd and will always search, call, and reach out to comfort me.  All I need to do is hear his voice and obey.

I hope this helps us all strive to become more loving and more like our Savior who is the true Shepherd of us all.

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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