You Aren’t Wealthy Until You Have “What Money Can’t Buy”

In a world that tells us that money equals success, or that we can buy anything with enough money, how do we acquire wealth without money? Scrolling through my news feed on Facebook yesterday, I noticed this sentence posted by my sister-in-law: “You aren’t wealthy until you have what money can’t buy.” (I wish I could give credit where credit is due, but she didn’t provide a source for the thought.) The sentence lingered in my mind throughout the rest of the day and set me to making a list. Here are five things I have in my life that I didn’t pay money for. At this point in my life when money is scarce, I am thrilled to discover that I am actually wealthy.

Knowledge of the Plan of Salvation

Let us learn of Christ; let us seek out that knowledge which leads to Peace, Truth, and the Sublime mysteries of eternity - by Dieter F. UchtdorfThere is, in fact, a price to salvation, but I didn’t pay it; the Savior Jesus Christ did. He paid the price in Gethsemane and Golgotha when he atoned for the sins of the world. He gives salvation to each of us, freely. The Lord has beckoned us, saying, “Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Nephi 26:25; see Isaiah 55:1).

Knowing about God’s plan for my happiness, my salvation, my ultimate good is priceless to me. In return for this gift, all He asks me—us—to do is repent and keep His commandments. Continue reading →

We Are God’s Children Having a Mortal Experience

Do you ever wonder if you existed before you were born? What happens after we die? These are questions everyone wonders about at some point in their lives. Some religions have answers, and some don’t. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon church) does have the true answers to these questions. One of the basic understandings we must have is that we are children of a divine Being, and we are currently in the middle of a mortal experience.

The Plan of Happiness

Though we are incomplete God loves us completely - Dieter F. UchtdorfOur spirits existed before our bodies did. In fact, we have the same spirits now as we did before this life. We lived with God before our mortal lives, and we made crucial decisions that impacted our eternal course. In our premortal existence Jesus Christ presented a plan whereby He would redeem us and we would have the ability to choose ourselves. Lucifer was also with us, and he presented a plan where he would redeem us but he would force us to keep the commandments. We actually fought a heavenly war over this choice. Those who chose to follow Jesus Christ are all of those who have been, are, and will be born on earth. Continue reading →

Coming Out of a Crisis of Faith

My cousin and his wife have four daughters, but they lost both of their sons in infancy. When their second son was in the hospital, slipping away despite excellent care, my grieving cousin said he felt rocked to his core, and he was trying to figure out what was left, what was true at his foundation, what he could believe in.

Film critic Gene Siskel once asked Oprah Winfrey, “What do you know for sure?” She was thrown off guard and said she had to think about it. She eventually could answer that question, and began asking the question of others as well. Essentially, it was the question my cousin was asking himself at that devastating time: “What do I know for sure?” When everything in his life was shattered, he was asking himself that question. He was searching within himself for an answer.

If There Is a God, Then Why Does He Let Bad Things Happen?

Do all you can do and then leave the rest to the Lord - Joseph B. WirthlinIt is an age-old question: “If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, then why does He allow bad things to happen?” Some of the answers offered by people hoping to give solace include: God’s ways are not man’s ways; evil happens because God allows His children to exercise free will; God wants His children to grow personally and spiritually through suffering. While each of these answers offers truths to consider, they often don’t provide the intended help. When trials lengthen or intensify, it is common for people to give up hope of relief or help from God.

“Why Is This Happening to Me?”

When we know we have tried our best to be obedient to God’s commandments, we can be blindsided by a disaster that we didn’t earn. In our pain, we cry out, “Why is this happening to me?” And if God’s help doesn’t come quickly, we can internalize the problem even deeper and wonder how we are flawed or deserving of the heartbreak. Or we may wonder why we are unimportant and ask, “Why doesn’t God care about me?” Continue reading →

Being the Answer to Someone’s Prayer

My son had a singing performance recently. He and one of my daughters were on their way to the set up for it when my son’s van abruptly stopped working. I was working on a project on the computer when my daughter called. She said she just wanted me to know about their car trouble and to ask me to pray for them. I asked her to keep me informed and went back to my work.

Heavenly Father Uses Other People as Answers to our Prayers

God does notice us, and He watches over us, but it is usually througg another perosn that He meets our needs. by Spencer W. KimballI paused briefly to offer a prayer to Heavenly Father for help. I asked Him to keep my son and daughter safe and to help them start the van again so that my son could get his equipment to his performance. As I worked, I thought of my son and daughter and my son’s van and the idea came to mind that the van could be fixed later, but it might not restart now as my son needed. Then a quotation came to my mind. President Spencer W. Kimball, one of the past presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church) taught that “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.”1 I wondered who would help my son—his wife? someone from his singing group? Then it became obvious to me that Heavenly Father was whispering to me, “You are the one to help!” As the thought grew in my mind, I shut down the computer and drove to help my son and daughter.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ, explained our opportunities to be the answer to someone’s prayer by serving each other. (He refers to the quotation from President Kimball.) Continue reading →

The Difference Between Pleasure and Happiness

Fun is just a fleeting moment, but happiness is a lastig thing by Claudio RM CostaThere are things I like to savor in life: the smooth taste of pistachio gelato, the excitement of seeing a much-anticipated film in the movie theater for the first time, a hot bath after a strenuous day, a rare nap where I sleep incredibly deep, or the satisfying feeling of zoning out to my favorite show with my husband after a long day. But no matter how much I savor the moment, the thing about these simple “pleasures” in life is that a pleasure is just that – temporary.

President James E. Faust, former member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) spoke about pleasure and happiness.  I like his definition of the two:

Pleasure is often confused with happiness but is by no means synonymous with it. The poet Robert Burns wrote an excellent definition of pleasure in these lines:

But pleasures are like poppies spread:

You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white—then melts for ever;

Or like the borealis race,

That flit ere you can point their place;

Or like the rainbow’s lovely form

Evanishing amid the storm.

(“Tam o’ Shanter,” in The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Burns [1897], 91, lines 59–66)

Pleasure, unlike happiness, is that which pleases us or gives us gratification. Usually it endures for only a short time. As Elder David O. McKay, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, once said, “You may get that transitory pleasure, yes, but you cannot find joy, you cannot find happiness. Happiness is found only along that well beaten track, narrow as it is, though straight, which leads to life eternal” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1919, 180).

In my opinion, pleasure is a part of life and is important at times.  But, it is true that pleasure cannot provide us lasting joy or happiness.  Let me give you an example.  I have been in the process of re-organizing and decorating my home.   It has taken quite a bit longer than I estimated and has kind of turned into a thorn in my side.  My house always seems un-tidy with all the moving around.

The other day I was so overwhelmed, I wished I could magically have all the objects fly around in my house to their proper place like the scene in the beginning of the movie, Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince.

Since I apparently didn’t do so well at Hogwarts, my house remained un-magically touched.  Begrudgingly I went about to work on the task at hand.  When I had finished with much of the project, I remembered my feelings of wanting to wish the problem away.  I thought in that moment that I was glad I couldn’t do that because if I hadn’t had to work for the solution, I would never have the satisfaction of a job well done by my own hard work.

To me, that is the difference between pleasure and happiness.  Usually happiness and joy are longer-term feelings or states that involve hard work and sacrifice. It’s how I feel in my marriage, for example.  As we have gone through difficult things together we have been bound and forged even more together.   Going through some of these difficult challenges was never fun, but the joy we feel as a couple from supporting one another – making mistakes and correcting them together, would not be there had we not struggled together.

President Faust also said,

That inner peace spoken of by the Savior seems elusive when we are preoccupied with things we have or things we wish we had. In a time when we are both obsessed and consumed with the possession and the acquisition of objects, the counsel of Moses seems more needed than ever: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, … nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Ex. 20:17).

Some years ago a special child was born to a young mother. This child was born without eyes. It was normal in all other respects except there was nothing to resemble eyes or sockets above the nose. This mother might in bitterness have said, “Why did this have to happen to my child?” or “Why did this have to happen to me?” Instead she said: “The Lord must really love us and have confidence in us. We really must be favored to have been given this child. To think the Lord picked our home, knowing how much special love and care this child would need, is very humbling and comforting. We are grateful for this special child and for the blessings it will bring to our home.”

In the story The Little Prince, the fox was wiser than he knew when he said, “Now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, trans. Katherine Woods [1943], 70). The odyssey to happiness lies in the dimension of the heart. Such a journey is made on stepping-stones of selflessness, wisdom, contentment, and faith. The enemies of progress and fulfillment are such things as self-doubt, a poor self-image, self-pity, bitterness, and despair. By substituting simple faith and humility for these enemies, we can move rapidly in our search for happiness.

Are Mormons Happy?

There is a lady I go to church with who is one of the happiest people I know.  Everyone who comes in contact with her leaves her presence beaming.  She makes everybody laugh and she is totally magnetic.  Every time I am with her, I leave thinking; I need to be happier like her.  If her name comes up in conversation, everybody’s eyes light up. It is obvious everyone loves her.

The way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we be in life by Joseph B. WirthlinMy friend, one of the happiest people I know, also deals with something that could easily become something to make it very hard to be happy.  This sweet wife and mother recently suffered a stroke and deals with daily limitations because of it.  When I first met her, she had already gone through the stroke.  The first thing I learned about her was that her favorite thing to do was read.  The stroke took away that ability instantly.  She has been in therapy and working hard to relearn reading and speaking among other skills.

As women in our local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) we have taken turns volunteering with this member to help improve her skills.  I have had the privilege of helping my friend a few times.  I know that others feel the same as I do – that when I go to help my friend, I always leave feeling lighter, happy, inspired and loved.  I always leave feeling like I’m walking on clouds. Continue reading →

Is Being Loved a Requirement to Love?

I was married for seventeen years. The demise of my marriage had brought fear of trusting people with my feelings and thoughts—essentially, with myself. I found it difficult to have friends and confide in them. The idea of loving and trusting a man again, enough to remarry, seemed impossible to accept.

True love requires action by Dieter F. UchtdorfThroughout the following years I pondered love: the love I felt for my children, my siblings, my parents, my friends, and for people generally.

Because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church), I thought about God’s love for me and my love for Him. I read passages from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, words of latter-day prophets, and other inspired writings. One passage in the New Testament helped me contemplate the reciprocation of love:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son (1 John 4:7–10).

God loves us, whether or not we love Him in return.

Lesson from “Cast Away”

Fifteen years had lapsed since my divorce, and through study and prayer, I had learned much about love, and my heart and mind had been healed. I encouraged myself to trust, to attach, to feel. I even let myself begin to care for a certain man; the problem was, he did not return my affection.

While my unrequited love simmered on my mind, I went to my brother’s home to borrow a hand tool. Our conversation turned to relationships and love, and my brother reminded me of an illustration found in the movie “Cast Away.”

Tom Hanks’s starring character, Chuck Noland, is marooned alone on an island when his plane crashes in a remote area of the South Pacific. He lives on the island for over four years, isolated from any human connection. To cope, he turns a bloodstained handprint on a Wilson-brand volleyball, part of the detritus of his crash, into a face. He names the ball Wilson. As time passes, Wilson becomes real to him—a companion—and he talks to it.

Noland figures out a way off the island, and he takes Wilson with him. When a storm causes Wilson to wash overboard, Noland jumps into the water to save him, but Wilson has floated too far away. Noland’s torment is obvious as he watches Wilson float beyond reach.

My brother asked me a few questions about Noland’s relationship with Wilson:

• “Did Noland love Wilson?” Yes.

• “Did Wilson do anything to be loved?” No.

• “In any way was Noland dependent on Wilson to love him back?” No.

Thinking about my answers to his questions, I concluded that because I want to be like God, I choose to love. Sometimes the love I feel and show is reciprocated and my relationships are rich, full, and rewarding. Sometimes my love is not returned. Does that stop me from loving? Should it? Do I feel attachment or joy only when love is reciprocated?

Conditional Love

Conditional means that there are stipulations, terms of an agreement. In marriage, the conditions reflect a covenant or promise between the man and woman and God.

Unconditional Love

Love that is given freely, expecting nothing in return, is described as unconditional. It is a gift to the giver and usually a gift to the receiver—they only need to accept it. Sometimes, however, unconditional love is not accepted.

Bruce C. Hafen, an emeritus member of the Quorums of the Seventy, a governing body in The Church of Jesus Christ, describes the unconditional and conditional love of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ was able to atone unconditionally for the original sin of Adam and Eve and for the physical death, and to atone conditionally for the personal sins of all mankind.

The unconditional parts of the Atonement, those that assure our resurrection from physical death and that pay for Adam’s transgression, require no further action on our part. They are the free gifts of unmerited divine grace. The conditional part, however, requires our repentance.1  

As in the example of the atonement of Jesus Christ, both conditional love and unconditional love are part of our relationships. Each has a role in helping a relationship thrive. But what happens when love is not shared? Can we love when it is not reciprocated in kind, or not at all?

Lessons from a Quilt

For several years, a friend cared for my daughter while I worked. She and her husband did not accept payment for their kindness to my daughter and me. We were not close friends—we did not socialize—but I felt their love for me and I tried to reciprocate in other ways. When I prepared to move and her care for my daughter would soon end, I wanted to make her a quilt. But I was worried because I had watched her receive gifts from friends and although she was always genuinely thrilled for their gifts and the sentiments behind them, she did not always keep their gifts for very long. I felt confident that my gift would delight her. She would at least temporarily love it and know that I appreciated her service to my daughter and me. But could I accept that she would not love and keep the results of my hard work for long? Could I give her the quilt unconditionally?

As I pieced the quilt I reminded myself that I loved her kindness to me and that it would be OK if she gave the quilt away. I remembered her sweet personality and her generosity. I reminded myself that keeping or not keeping the quilt would not be a measurement of her affection for me—or mine for her—or the connection we felt for the moment in time when I was in need and she helped me.

In the end, I gave the quilt to her unconditionally, and she received it unconditionally. Always when I think of her—or the quilt I made—I think of Heavenly Father, and how much He showed His love for me through her kindness and service. Because she loved God, she served my daughter and me, expecting nothing in return.

Loving others unconditionally comes first. Being loved in return is wonderful—but not required.

Note:

1. Bruce C. Hafen, The Broken Heart (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 7; emphasis in the original.

Prayer Can Banish Worry

When the focus is negativity, the antidote is prayer

Being human, it seems that we often focus on the negative things in life, more than we should.  In school when I got my report card or transcript, my eye immediately sought out the lower grades.

Prayer is a privilege and the soul's sincere desire by David A. BednarMany parents also do the same with their children.  When I got a new performance evaluation at work, the negativity was great cause for concern.  Negativity is not entirely bad because it allows us to make adjustments in our life that ultimately work for our benefit and well-being.  Whenever I meet someone who is exuberantly or overly positive, it worries me. Not because it is all bad, but because if you don’t think negatively once in a while, how do you decide what needs to be done in your own life to improve it?  How do you set goals for yourself in the future? Negativity serves a good purpose, but it should not be our entire focus.

In the 13th Article of Faith, which are “Mormonism’s teachings in a nutshell” (similar to the teachings of various creeds in other Christian religions), Joseph Smith cites the admonition of the Apostle Paul,—“We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things” (Philippians 4: 8). Continue reading →

How Practicing Mormonism Increases Mental Health

The basic principles of good mental health are a part of Mormon religious principles. Mormon is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Mormonism has always included lifestyle practices and beliefs that scientists find increase a person’s mental health. A person who is basically healthy is often happier and Mormonism includes a health component. While encouraged to use traditional medical care, they also believe in taking care of their bodies, which they view as gifts from God. The Mormon health code, known as the Word of Wisdom, teaches Mormons not to drink alcohol, tea, or coffee, to avoid illegal drugs, and to not smoke. It encourages eating grains, fruits, and vegetables, and to eat meat sparingly. It also encourages exercise and sufficient sleep. Today, we know these things are all wise health practices, even though some of them were unusual for the time in which it was issued.

Purpose in Life Increases Mental Health

A girl in the snow playing around with her healthy body. Faith and Doubt by Thomas S. MonsonMental health professionals encourage people to live a life of purpose and meaning. For Mormons, this is a central focus of life. Mormons believe they are children of God and are deeply loved by Him. They believe they chose to come to earth before they were born, having lived for a time with God first, and that they came here with a specific purpose. They were to seek truth and to find it with the help of the Holy Spirit. They were to learn how God wanted them to live and then to do so to the best of their ability. Mormons understand we can’t achieve perfection here on earth, but we have all eternity to manage that. We just need to be continually striving towards it, which keeps us focused on improving. As we see ourselves becoming more than we thought we could be our mental health improves. Continue reading →

Mormonism Answers: What We Know about Heaven

Mormons believe heaven is an actual place and is the place where God dwells. As people repent and believe in Christ and follow God’s commandments, they prepare to live in the highest kingdom of heaven.

                                    Mormonism Answers: What We Know about Heaven                                                     

The first funeral I really remember was for my great grandmother Edith Smith Bushman.  I was 11 years old. Both of my grandfathers and several other extended family members had already passed away, but I do not remember the details of their funerals.  I joined great grandmother’s large family in the viewing room to pay our respects to her wonderful, faithful life. As I walked around that large room in the funeral home, I noticed two little feet behind a secluded curtain.  Startled, scared and crying, my three year old sister Daciana hid from the person in the casket. She did not recognize great grandmother at all.

I sat on the floor beside her and we talked in our simple, childlike manner about death, heaven, and what happened to great grandmother Edith. I still vividly remember that conversation. My parents taught us about heaven, but it was the first time I verbalized my belief of heaven to someone else and even though Daciana was three, I felt like it would comfort her. The simple truths I shared with Daciana did comfort her, and she soon went on her merry way.

Knowledge of heaven’s existence brings peace and comfort when loved ones die, and also provides individuals an inner courage to live a purposeful life.

The Immortality of the Soul

Heaven Ideal Home ADThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, teaches true principles about the immortality of the soul.  Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that mankind existed before this lifetime in the presence of God as His children. “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and … has a divine nature and destiny” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

Instead of having physical bodies, each of us existed as a spirit. God the Eternal Father prepared this earth for His children to receive a body, experience mortality, and hopefully choose to return to live with Him again. God’s course of spiritual and physical progression for His children is called the plan of happiness or the plan of salvation. He chose His Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world, for He knew mankind would sin and need a way to repent and return to Him. Continue reading →