NT 2: Turning Our Hearts

The new home study curriculum is amazing! I bore my testimony about it in church yesterday and then again in Sunday School. I can already see positive changes in our home, family, and myself from this program. The hardest part of scripture study for me is deciding what to study. With the curriculum provided, my biggest roadblock is gone! I have been able to pick out one to two verses or a story or a Gospel principle to share with my kids each day and they actually listen!! No more fighting over reverence and sitting still through a 60-verse chapter, no more difficult concepts flying over their heads. I feel so empowered by this curriculum to make the scriptures accessible to my children. If you haven’t already started implementing Come, Follow Me––For Individuals and Families, you need to do it! Don’t spend one more day without the blessings that will come if your family studies the scriptures together.

Getting off my soap box now….

For Family Home Evening tonight I borrowed an idea from this week’s material (Come, Follow Me, “January 7-13,” p. 8) to work from Matthew 1:1-17 and discuss the importance of knowing about our family history. I broke in the topic this morning by reading just Matthew 1:1 with the girls, telling them about Samuel anointing David to be the future king, the prophecy of Christ’s lineage, defining “lineage,” and telling them what we would be doing for FHE. The girls asked if we could play a game. I pondered the request and with the help of the Spirit I came up with an “Ancestor Matching” game.

The Lineage of Jesus

Singing “The Hearts of the Children” from the Children’s Songbook really set a nice tone for our lesson tonight. We reviewed the main points of the morning’s teaser and re-read Matthew 1:1. My oldest daughter helped write out the lineage of Jesus from king David down to Joseph and Jesus. I then wrote my kids’ names on the board and showed them their lineage through of my ancestral lines. The girls asked if we could say the names out loud. As we read the names of our family members, I felt a powerful spiritual witness of my ancestors’ continued life beyond the grave and their awareness and appreciation of us. They care that we know about them.

Malachi prophesied, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6, OT). Elijah restored the sealing power of the Priesthood to Joseph Smith and it is available today in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 110:13-16). I think one of the essential points of the Gospel is that, through the sealing power of the Priesthood, we unite every generation. This is one of the ways Heavenly Father brings His children back and it is one of the great blessings of eternal life: living with our family members in God’s presence for eternity. But I think part of the blessing is having our hearts knitted together. How can we do this unless we know about ancestors and start cultivating that bond now?

To this end, I told the girls stories about the ancestors we listed on the board. I tried to keep the stories short and centered on topics they could grasp and also easily remember. My oldest is almost six so I told them about my grandpa being given a gun and horse at the same age and sent out to the mountains with his brother overnight to watch the family sheep. I told them about my third-great grandmother who had thirteen children. She raised geese and ducks for various family needs (we are all about livestock and farms). I told them about my grandmother who never learned to swim or ride a bicycle but who built on her strengths to become a talented seamstress, cook, baker, and homemaker.

Then the kids got their wish! We played a game matching information about ancestors to their picture and name.

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We felt our hearts turn to our ancestors tonight. I hope my kids will remember some of these stories, finding strength and inspiration in them; I hope through the stories they will also build a powerful bond with these family members.

 

Day 55: Drop Everything for Your Kids

Alma 57

In my quest to become a better mother I have recognized a terrible weakness in myself that I need to deal with. I tend to obsess over things, including projects I take on, to the extent that I will doggedly pursue my objective regardless of what is going on around me. It’s a great trait for getting things done but it has some unexpected consequences for my children.

Alma 57 taught me a valuable lesson today about the importance of dropping a project to pursue a more pressing need of greater long term value. In Alma 57 the Nephite army sends out a prisoner transport under the direction of Gid to bring Lamanite prisoners from the recently acquired city Cumeni to Zarahemla. While the transport is underway, Nephite spies show up to warn Gid that the Lamanite army will imminently attack the city of Cumeni. The prisoners rebel upon overhearing the report and Gid’s transport is faced with a choice: fulfill their orders to take the prisoners to Zarahemla or act on the warning of the Nephite spies and fulfill the larger objective of maintaining the city Cumeni and keeping the army strong.

In many ways I face a similar choice almost every day with my kids. I will be working on a project or just doing something around the house that needs to be done and one of my kids will come tug on me with an urgent request. I usually keep working on what I’m doing and offer an appeasement, “I’ll come in just a minute,” “I’m almost done with this,” “can you give me a minute?” They usually continue pestering me until I come/listen, but my oldest daughter has started giving up if I don’t stop what I’m doing and pay attention right away. “Never mind,” she says dejectedly. Sometimes they don’t even ask me to look at things or to listen to a story anymore.

Gid’s small group of soldiers reacted to the prisoner rebellion as best they could but instead of doggedly pursuing the few that got away, the group of Nephite soldiers “took [their] march with speed towards the city Cumeni” (Alma 57:34). As a result, “we did arrive in time that we might assist our brethren in preserving the city” (ibid.). Rather than doggedly chase down escaping prisoners to fulfill their initial assignment, they heeded the warning of the spies and returned as quickly as possible to Cumeni where they saved the army and preserved the city.

If I want my children to talk to me (ever), if I want to be part of their daily play and investigation into the wonders of the world, I need to be like Gid’s group and drop what I’m doing. I need to stop letting my projects take priority over my children. They are my number one priority and I need to demonstrate that to them by listening, by playing, by being mentally, emotionally, and physically present. Yes there are going to be boundaries because sometimes an adult needs to not be interrupted but when I’m doing something that really could be put down for a few minutes, I need to walk away from the project and pay attention to my children. None of my projects are worth hurting my children’s feelings or damaging our relationship. It’s time for me to prioritize my children in everything I do because my relationship with them has eternal value and significance.

Day 50: A Better Cause

Alma 43:45

The reign of the judges among the Nephites was fraught with dissension and war. In Alma 43 the wicked Zoramites have joined ranks with the Lamanites in anger over the sheltering of converted Zoramites among the people of Ammon. Moroni leads the Nephites in battle, with spiritual guidance from Alma the younger. The scriptures make a point of comparing the Nephites with the Lamanites to demonstrate how and why God blesses and helps one group over the other, and to explain how the Nephites could triumph over an opposing army twice its size.

Both armies expended a great deal of time, energy, and resources to fighting. The Lamanites were especially fierce (v. 44). So how could a smaller army possibly match and defeat them? Alma comes down firmly on the explanation: “Nevertheless, the Nephites were inspired by a better cause…they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church” (Alma 43:45). The “better cause” that imbued the Nephites with greater strength and success in the war centered on God, family, freedom, and religion. Described as a “better cause,” these priorities have eternal significance.

How often do we expend time, energy, and resources on things of little value that don’t matter in the eternal long-run? Sometimes I arrive at the end of a busy day and wonder what I did with my time that really matters. I got lots done according to my to do list but the details fade quickly in the absence of eternally significant work. What would be my “better cause” on which to spend time and energy? Could I have a good conversation with one of my kids? Could I minister to someone in need? Could I grow my testimony during more consistent religious study? What would be your “better cause”? What busy work could you drop from your schedule or what daily tasks could you spend less time on to make space for eternally significant work?

 

Day 24: True Joy

Mosiah 4:3

The Book of Mormon (and all of scripture) uses the word “joy” in a variety of contexts. Mosiah 4:3 describes one aspect of joy that I think has a very specific meaning and application. A little background: King Benjamin has spent the last several chapters teaching his people in a beautiful “farewell address” before his turns the kingship over to his son, Mosiah II. Benjamin is considered a prophet-king. He is a righteous man, he has received instruction from divine visitors, and he is filled with charity––he desires the salvation of his people so he teaches them the Plan of Salvation and prophesies of Jesus Christ. In relating to the people what would happen to their souls if left untreated in a state of sinfulness, King Benjamin paints a miserable picture. The people feel the weight of an eternity of damnation (i.e. not living forever in the presence of God). But he tells them of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who will come to earth in several hundred years to suffer and die for the sins of every person. No one has to suffer an eternal damnation because Jesus Christ will make it possible for them to repent, become clean from their sins, and qualify for eternal life. The people cry out, “O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God…” (v. 2).

“And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins…” (v. 3). “Joy” here indicates a special kind of happiness, more than happiness, that can only be achieved through faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, and forgiveness of sin. It is a taste of what we can experience in the Celestial Kingdom, living with God and our qualifying family members. This particular use of joy, so clear here in Mosiah 4:3, helps us understand the use of the word “joy” elsewhere in scripture. True joy can only be achieved through the remission of sins.