18 December 2009


I had never heard this poem before I saw the movie Invictus last night, but it really spoke to me, so I thought that I would put it here. The movie was great. Oh how I love rugby! Sports can really bring people together and change the world.

By: William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

May we all remember these words when things get hard and we want to give up.

08 December 2009

Who Am I to Judge?

So for the past couple of days in my Doctrine and Covenants class we have been talking about section 76. This section talks about the three kingdoms of glory and all that God wants to give us after this life.

When you think about this revelation and all that it meant back in Joseph Smith's day, it is a very significant revelation. He lived in the days of Protestant Christianity. The accepted and known beliefs about the afterlife consisted solely in heaven and in hell. The concept that all could receive glory must have been absolutely revolutionary then--it still is today.

Human nature is such that at times we want to condemn others. Perhaps we see their hypocrisy or their thievery or murderings or covetousness and think, "well, they'll get their reward." Maybe we aren't quite that extreme, but I'm sure we've all thought something bad about another person. And I'm sure that others have thought the same thing about us. We aren't perfect. Being quick to judge is not completely foreign to us. So when Joseph received that revelation, it must have been difficult to imagine a plan where all could receive mercy and glory from God.

We also talked about the order that Joseph saw the different kingdoms. The Lord shows him the greatest glory in the celestial kingdom, and then he showed him those who denied the Holy Ghost. And then He showed Joseph the celestial kingdom again. I can imagine that that was a bit of a shock for Joseph. But I'm sure that the Lord did that with good reason. I bet that the celestial kingdom looked even more glorious. There must be opposition in all things.

I have often reflected on how we must experience opposition. I thought about that on my mission quite frequently--especially when I was going through a hard time. My range of emotion was truly expanded. I felt lower lows than I had ever experienced before that time, but I also experienced the highest highs that I've ever known. I know that that was because my capacity to feel was expanded. Even this semester I have felt that range expand even further. I have had to take the time to put others first. I have taken on more than I was capable of accomplishing, feeling at times that I was going to break. Somehow, however, the Lord has helped me get through all of the homework and all of the work that I have. I truly believe that all of this has helped me and has expanded my range of feeling and has been for my benefit. I have learned once again the importance of relying on the Lord.

This is what the Lord was doing for the saints at this time. He wanted them to learn even better how to rely on them. How could they have ever crossed the plains if they didn't have both the greater strength from their trials and also the knowledge of what the Lord wanted to give them if they proved themselves faithful.

This entry will be the last of my reflections on the Doctrine and Covenants. I hope that you have learned something from my seeming ramblings and have gained a greater appreciation for the scriptures. From now on I'll just tell about my life as it happens.

27 November 2009

A Real Update

So I realize that I haven't actually updated my blog in a while. At least not in any real way. So I thought that I would do that now.

Basically here's what's happened since I got home in the beginning of August:
  • I was home for three days, then came up to Provo to find a place to live (which I did and it was a bit of a miracle).
  • Went to DisneyWorld for a week (who wouldn't need a little R&R after serving a mission?) We had a great time and took some great pictures. You never are too old to put on Mickey ears and ride on spinning tea cups.
  • Then I came back to Provo and started the job hunt. I searched high and low for a few weeks, which was super stressful, but I was blessed enough to get a job with BYU Independent Study. I am an editor/Instructional Design assistant for IS. What does this mean? you might be wondering. Well, Independent Study does all of the online classes for BYU and we also offer a lot of high school courses. We do EVERYTHING for the class, aside from writing it, which we leave to the instructor. I edit the lessons for the classes and do basically anything else that needs to be done to produce the class, except for the art and film and things like that. I love working there and I have a great team to work with. I think lovingly of The Office when I'm at work, although it's not quite as funny as The Office.
  • I started school and decided to take 17.5 credits. (Oh, and I decided to double major as well. English Language and Portuguese. And I'm still doing my editing minor. Yes, I know, I am a glutton for punishment.) But school's going great so far. I LOVE what I'm studying and finally I am actually studying something I like and am good at. I even enjoy the homework that I'm given. That's how you know you're in the right field.
  • One of my classes is a student literary journal called Inscape. I LOVE being on Inscape and learning all about producing a journal. We do everything from getting submissions, to accepting them, to editing, to creating a layout, to putting the edition on the website, to publicizing. It's a lot of fun and I'm learning a lot. (If you want to check Inscape out, please go here: http://inscape.byu.edu)
  • Then after I got all settled with my new job, I was offered another job to work at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) to teach Portuguese to missionaries going to Brazil who haven't gotten their visas. After a lot of thought and prayer I decided to accept the job (but only temporarily) to teach these missionaries. Then I will be going back to Independent Study. At the MTC I teach the missionaries Portuguese but I also get to help them become great missionaries so they can help others have a better life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It has been very challenging so far having so much responsibility and so much to do (I didn't have the luxury of training before I started teaching, so I'm just figuring this all out.) I'm still trying to re-balance my whole life again so that I actually feel like a student, but I love the moments when I feel like I'm actually helping the missionaries and making a difference in their lives.
This whole semester has been SUPER busy for me with so many credits and working 20 hours a week. But I'm happy and life is good. There's so much more to say, but I'll just leave it at that for now. Expect more updates soon!

24 November 2009

This past week we talked about section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants and the correlation that it has with the Creation. What hit me most while we were talking about this was how this revelation was given to Joseph in answer to the question of what day we should worship. This revelation was given on a Sunday and the Lord said that "this is a day appointed" (meaning Sunday). So many people worry about when to worship, when the Lord is willing to answer. He did so for Joseph Smith. I love how the Lord describes what we should do on the Sabbath. We are supposed to rejoice, rest, and purify ourselves. So many times we focus on what we shouldn't do, but the Lord says so clearly all the wonderful things that we should do on this appointed day.

This section also talks about our responsibility to care for the earth. The Lord said not to use the earth to excess. In those days people couldn't even imagine a world where resources would run out. They were one the verge of gold rushes and the continent seemed endless. But what prudent counsel this is for us today. It applies very much to how we care for the earth and all that the Lord has given to us. When we are faithful in keeping the Sabbath holy and in caring for our stewardships, we are blessed.

To see Doctrine and Covenants 59 click here http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/59

16 November 2009

Types and Shadows

This past week we went to the Museum of Art on campus. I love going to those exhibits and this time we saw an exhibit called "Types and Shadows: Intimations on Divinity." It was profound. The whole exhibit is about how to look for the divine types and shadows that are all around us. I have always loved art and going to the museum reminded me of my art history class (it also made me miss it and want to take more...a common problem for me). But it was also such a moving experience for me. As we talked about the pieces and looked more closely at them, my testimony of the Savior grew and I felt the Spirit so strongly. I was touched.

There were a few pieces that touched me. One was "Devotion" by Ron Richmond. I loved it. This piece showed a woman from several centuries back looking intently at a contemporary-style vase filled with water. Looking at this painting I recognized the type of Christ. That He is the living water for all mankind. I loved the contrast between the centuries with the woman from centuries ago and the vase from today. For me, it made me think of how Christ is the Savior of all of us throughout all time. This woman was able to see the vase, or see Christ, though they were from different times.

Another piece that I liked depicted the parable of the Prodigal Son. That is my favorite parable and seeing this painting helped me realize how we are all like the Prodigal Son trying to make our way back to our Father in Heaven.

Visiting the museum was a very special experience for me. I was very edified and I saw the important role that religious art plays in bringing us closer to the Savior.

10 November 2009

Wisdom in Moving

In class a couple of weeks ago we talked about the similarities between the Old Testament Exodus and the Restoration Exodus. I was so surprised to find so many similarities. The Lord asks a lot of His people, but it is only because He wants us to get to a certain place, whether spiritually or physically.

In the Old Testament, the Lord calls Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. Moses warns the Pharaoh several times until the Lord sends down all sorts of horrible things. Eventually, the Pharaoh allows the Israelites to leave, but now without a fight first. Fortunately, they escape through the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. However, the journey does not end when they reach the other side of the Sea, but rather they spend forty years wandering around the wilderness before they can enter the promised land. But before this, Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to receive the law from the Lord. He had to go to a high place in order to receive this law, and it was given to him shortly after they left Egypt. Eventually they did make it to the promised land where they lived in relative peace after their years of servitude and then their years of wandering.

During the Restoration, the Lord asked the saints to make a similar journey. The Church began in New York, then went to Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois, and then Utah. Such movement was highly uncommon in that day (nothing like how we move around today) and there was purpose in it, just like with the children of Israel. The saints needed to be refined and purified before they could receive all of the Lord's blessings. The law came from the Lord when the saints went to Ohio and built the Kirtland temple--a symbolically high place, much like Mount Sinai. There the Lord poured out blessings upon the saints. But that was not the end, they were asked to move several more times before they could reach their refuge--the Salt Lake valley. It was in the Salt Lake valley where they could finally live in peace and could prosper.

We also talked about the geographical similarities between the Salt Lake valley and the Holy Land. Both have a freshwater lake that flows into a river (Jordan River in both instances) that feeds into a saltwater lake. These two locations are the only two in the world with that geography. I find that incredible. The Lord really does put His people where He wants them. I am constantly amazed at the patterns in our lives and what the Lord tries to tell us through them. He knows where we are and what we are doing.

03 November 2009

When I was on my mission we talked continually about finding "them that will receive you," meaning, that we needed to find those who were ready and prepared to accept the gospel. The Lord's way is not coercion, but is patience. He knows who is ready and it is our responsibility (yes, us, the regular Joes) to find them. I love the beginning passages of Doctrine and Covenants 42. It talks all about missionary work. I have read through those words many times and they often brought me comfort. The Lord talks about His missionaries going forth and talking "as with the sound of a trump."

He also talks about the importance of the Spirit. If there is one thing that I have learned, it is the importance of listening to the Spirit and not relying on my own knowledge to guide me through life. With the "prayer of faith" the Spirit comes and we can be guided in all that we do. It is with faith that all things are possible, but it is not an easy thing to have that kind of faith. It takes time and patience and growth.

Right now I've been put into a difficult situation of trying to decide between two really good employment opportunities. I have been spending the past week thinking a lot about what I should do. I think I've thought about it from pretty much every angle and I'm still not sure about what I should do. However, I know that the Lord will help me. He always does. I just need to have the faith to hear what He wants me to, rather than what I want to hear.

I am humbled to know that I have a Father who is concerned about my life, who knows what I am feeling and who wants to help. I may not have all of the answers, but that's okay. I don't need to know everything. I just need to have faith.

26 October 2009

The Power of the Word

What is the real power of the sword over the written word? Edward Bulwer-Lytton was the author who wrote that "the pen is mightier than the sword" and I really think that he has a point. I think it is difficult to measure the influence that the written word has against that of wars and fighting. I don't think that the correlation is exactly one-to-one. However, I know that the influence of the written word lasts far longer than that of a war. Children can never experience what their parents experience, but we can all read something truly meaningful and feel the significance of the words. We can all have an experience with literature and with words. Think of the Bible, probably the most influencial book in all of history. It has lasted not just for generations, but for centuries. The power of the words in that book has not diminished over the years, but has maintained a significance for all those who read it.

The same is true of the Book of Mormon. I saw the influence of the words in that Book in the lives of people that I taught while I was in Portugal. When they actually read and tried to understand what was written there, a profound change occurred within them. They were happier. They were different. They were never the same after they read from the Book of Mormon, but changed for the better. How can anything even begin to compare with that kind of change, a change so deep that it causes an entire life change? Truly, the written word has a power that cannot be measured.

The past week I went to a museum here in Provo. It's called the Crandall Printing Museum and I've actually been wanting to go there for a long time. They walked us through the history of the Gutenburg printing press and the process of printing on that particular press. Then we met Benjamin Franklin and he showed us his press and told us about the influence of the words he printed on his press. Then we talked about the printing of the Book of Mormon. The whole experience was more profound for me than I had imagined. I think I had forgotten the power that words can have. When I was there I could begin to see the vision of all that the words of the Book of Mormon and the Bible have done for us throughout time.

When we talked about the printing of the Book of Mormon, I was reminded of how miraculous its printing was. Who could have even imagined printing 5,000 copies of a book in that day? And who would have imagined doing it in such a short period of time? What a miracle! The influence of the Book of Mormon cannot be measured and it is all thanks to the God of Miracles who made it all happen.

It is no wonder when we realize the importance of the word that we are commanded to keep journals and histories. Who can know what influence our own words may have in someone's life?

17 October 2009

Right Where He Wants Us

I find that I am constantly amazed at how the Lord works in patterns. When I read in the scriptures, it is so blatant all that He does for us. And He doesn't just do it once. He does it again and again and again. Take Joseph of Egypt, for example. Poor Joseph is imprisoned time and again. He was never guilty of anything, but he was consistently put in jail or servitude. I'm sure he must have thought at times, "why me?" But there were things that he needed to learn through his experiences. Things that the Lord needed to teach him, as well as the fact that Joseph needed to be in that jail, so that he could interpret the dream of the butler, so that he could then interpret Pharaoh's dream and save his family from the famine. There is a reason for the patterns in our lives. I know that I don't see the why behind what happens in my life at first, but I almost always do later.

In class we compared the people of Moses to the pioneers. I had thought about this before, about how the Mormon pioneers had made a trip like the people of Moses. Actually, I had thought about it with Lehi's family, as well. It is incredible to me how this pattern is so prevalent across time with the people that the Lord calls. He asks them to gather and then asks them to move until they are right where He wants them to be. I can't imagine the sacrifice that must have taken for the pioneers. Many times they had to leave their extended families behind to go be with the saints wherever they were. They gave up their whole lives to follow what a prophet had asked them to do. I thought that serving a mission was a sacrifice, but I got to come back to my life and my family and all that I had known before. The pioneers didn't. While I cannot even imagine that kind of sacrifice right now, I am grateful for all that they did sacrifice so that I could have the gospel in my life and the joy it brings me.

13 October 2009


I had an interesting experience on Sunday. In my Doctrine and Covenants class on Thursday we talked about section 25. The whole lecture was fascinating as we talked about how this revelation, given from the Lord to Emma Smith, changed how women were viewed in the Church. We are to be equals to men throughout all the world. It isn't always that way, but the Lord was teaching us important principles and helping us to know how we should treat one another. We went over various verses about this topic and I loved the analysis of the section. I had never really given it much thought before, but the Lord really teaches Emma and Joseph about equality of gender.

But this wasn't all we talked about. We discussed the importance of the hymns. I love the hymns, but I hadn't really seen how important they were before. We do sing hymns all the time. We may not read a scripture every time we have a lesson, but we always sing a hymn to open and close. They must be pretty important to the Lord if He wants us to sing that much. Verse 12 says, "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads."I love this verse. The Lord delights in the hymns and sees them as prayers.

This past Sunday was Fast and Testimony meeting, where we have the opportunity to get up and testify of what we know to be true. I did not get up this Sunday to share my testimony, but I was very edified listening to everyone else. For the closing hymn we sang "Testimony." I was humbled as we sang this hymn. The words seemed to penetrate my heart and they actually took on meaning for me. Here are the words to this hymn:

The witness ofhte Holy Ghost,
As borne by those who know,
Has lifted me again to thee,
O Father of my soul.

I know that thou are in the heav'n.
I know the Savior reigns.
I know a prophet speaks to us
For our eternal gain.

My eyes are we; my heart is full.
The Spirit speaks today.
O Lord, wilt thou my life renew
And in my bosom stay.

As testimony fills my heart,
It dulls the pain of days.
For one brief moment, heaven's view
Appears before my gaze.
--Hymns 137.

Many times I sing the hymn and don't give too much thought to the words, focusing mostly on the music. But as I sang this hymn the words seemed to say exactly what I wanted to say. This hymn is a testimony and as I sang, I knew that the Lord was hearing this hymn as a prayer unto Him. I didn't need to get up on Sunday to bear my testimony, I was able to do so through singing this hymn with my heart really in it.

06 October 2009

In my Doctrine and Covenants class we talked about section 20, which is referred to as the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ. I honestly had never heard that before. I knew that verse 37 has the qualifications for baptism, so it makes sense. Learning about this made me reflect on my mission again. The Lord always works in a very organized way. On the mission there was a very precise way to do things, very specific rules to help us serve better. This is true for the whole church. Joseph was just figuring out how to be a prophet and how the Lord wanted it to be done. How great it is that the Lord gave him specific instructions on how things were supposed to be run. The Lord always tells us what He expects of us, rather than letting us wonder. Sure, we don't know everything, like what is going to happen tomorrow, but He does let us know what He expects of us. What a great pattern to follow. This section was instructions from a merciful Father, who wanted His servant, Joseph, to know what was expected of him, so that he could learn and grow.

28 September 2009

Why Not Read Every Day?

About nine months ago, when I was in Faro, I was talking with Irma Holtzclaw. She was such a great example of diligence. Seriously, she did everything perfectly. She and Irma Machado were fantastic at reading from the Book of Mormon every day. My studies were great, and I was learning a lot. I was focusing on Preach My Gospel and I felt like I had just perfect studies. One day Irma Holtzclaw asked me if I had read the Book of Mormon cover-to-cover on my mission. That took me by surprise and I had to respond that no, I had not read the Book of Mormon in its entirety. But from then on I resolved that I would do so before I went home.

This was a turning point for me in my mission. I had loved my mission and had been happy in the service of the Lord, helping any who would listen, and even those who wouldn't. But as soon as I started really studying the Book of Mormon, everything changed for me. I was anxious to read more and learn more. My studies took on a whole new meaning. But what's more than that, I was so much happier. It didn't matter what happened--I was happy in the work.

The Book of Mormon became especially important to me when I was asked to serve in Setubal. That was a very trying time for me. We had NO ONE to teach when I got there and then my companion got very ill. We spent a lot of time in the apartment, so I decided that I would dedicate that time to studying the Book of Mormon. So I did. It was incredible. Even though everything was hard and I was going through a trying time, it was all okay because I felt the love of the Lord in my life. I was blessed with more charity than I thought a person could have. I was happy. I was at peace. My study of the Book of Mormon changed me. It wasn't just something that was nice, or that helped me. It was something that literally helped me to change my very nature.

Being home, it has been difficult for me to feel that way, but I have noticed that when I actually spend time studying the Book of Mormon, rather than just reading it, I feel that same peace and I know that the Lord is aware of me and my life.

The Lord says "a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men"(D&C 4:1) in the Doctrine and Covenants. I had always thought that He was referring to missionary work, but truly the Book of Mormon is marvelous and wondrous. It is what we as missionaries use to help others come unto Christ. It is the good news. It is the means for the change that we all need to have so that we can become better day by day. Why else would we have the Book of Mormon, than to learn more about the Savior and to become like Him? This is the power of this Book. It changes people. It changed me. And it will continue to do so as long as I truly study and apply what I learn. Why wouldn't I want to read daily and experience great joy every day?

27 September 2009

Do I Bite My Nails?

This was written on 22 September 2009. Please see sisterthomasinportugal.blogspot.com for the original post.

I've recently been studying the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants. As I was reading section 3 I was impressed when the Lord says to Joseph, "But remember, God is merciful; therefore, repent of that which thou hast done which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen, and art again called to the work." Joseph had just lost 116 pages of scripture. That's no small mistake. I'm sure he knew the levity of that error, but the Lord told him in essence, "You're not perfect. Yeah, it was a big mistake, but you're still learning. Just don't do it again." And what is amazing to me is that Joseph learns. He doesn't do something like that ever again.

So I have a friend with a horrible habit: he bites his nails incessantly. Now, I don't bite my nails. I actually think it's gross, so I always volunteer to help people stop. I remember once I was sitting by him watching a movie. He had asked me to help him stop biting his nails, so we had agreed that I would push his hand away from his mouth whenever he went to start biting his nails. So the movie started. His hand went up. I pushed it away. Ten seconds later his hand would go up again. I would push it away. This pattern continued until the two of us gave up. He must have tried to bite his nails, I don't know, 20-30 times in just ten minutes. It was absolutely exhausting. This happened over four years ago. Recently I was talking to this friend and he was still biting his nails as much as ever. Nothing has changed in four years. He told me that he stopped biting his nails on his mission, but that when he got back he started right up again.

How many times have I done something of a similar nature. I am in no way, shape, or form perfect. I do try to do my best, but I find that I make the same mistakes over and over and over. When I was on my mission, I went through the same trials repeatedly. I think the Lord was trying to tell me something. He was trying to teach me and it just took me a long time to figure it out. How amazing it is to me that Joseph only needed to be told once and he changed. That is true repentance. It's changing. It's being different. The Lord is so patient with me. I didn't even have the patience to push my friend's hand away for more than 10-15 minutes.

The Lord is so patient with me, but this is not to say that He doesn't expect us to change. The Lord goes on to tell Joseph in section 5, "Oh, this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation—mine anger is kindled against them."All the Lord expects of me is that I change and that I do better every day. Surely, it's not as hard as I make it out to be. I just need to be more aware of my own nail being drawn to my mouth.