Visiting Teaching, Faith and Virtue Value Experiences

I am so blessed to be surrounded by such amazing young women, a marvelous relief society and fantastic leadership at church.  

As part of my month of March my goal is to get to know my visiting teaching companion and actually get out there to see the sisters on my route.  I’m a tad bit nervous because I’ve only experienced visiting teaching a handful of times and I honestly have no idea what to expect or even how to begin.

I guess the first thing to do is snag Sister R and pray about heading out to see the women on our route as soon as my schedule switches over.  If I don’t mention it again over the next few posts, won’t one of you call me out on it and make sure we’re holding eachother accountable?  I have reminders on my calander at home and at work and on my phone, but at the same time I am absolutely terrified.

Why am I terrified?  Well, it’s hard for me to put myself out there.  I’m a bit more shy than people thinkI am.  Also known as I get nervous in social situations.  Worse, I am horrible with names and faces.  Luckily, after a bit of prayer, I finally have a visiting teaching companion so once I have my schedule flip flopped, we should be able to sync up with the ladies on our route.

I’m honestly looking forward to getting to know my companion and the sisters that we’ve been asked to visit and hope that we can make an impact on each others lives.  I have some great examples of Latter-Day Saint women in my life, but I would love to meet more and have more that are an active part of my life.

I’m also working on some of my value experiences for my own personal progress.  I can’t necessarily expect the young ladies in our ward to go through personal progress with me as a coach if I haven’t done it myself, or if I’m not working on my own at the same time they are.

I am sad though that I don’t have my own mother guiding me through this.  I spent some time talking with my sister today and she indicated that my mother’s drinking has become more of a problem since the last time I’ve seen her.  It is definitely heart breaking, but I know I will find the courage, after a lot of prayer, to approach my mom about personal progress and ask her to go through it with me, I just need one of those sober moments which are far and few in between.

Now, away from the things that cause me a bit of anxiety and the struggles wiht my family, which you will all hear a bit about over time and on to the value experiences I have started working on.

I’ve chosen the first experience in both Faith and Virtue as my diving in points.

If you aren’t a member or haven’t seen the current Personal Progress Value Experiences, I figured I should share. So here we go!

Faith Experience One:
The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn about faith from the scriptures and living prophets. Read Hebrews 11Alma 32:17–43Ether 12:6–22; and Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20. Read two general conference talks on faith. Exercise your own faith by establishing a habit of prayer in your life. Begin by regularly saying your morning and evening prayers. After three weeks of following this pattern, discuss with a parent or leader what you have learned about faith and how daily personal prayer has strengthened your faith. In your journal express your feelings about faith and prayer.

Virtue Experience One:
Virtue is a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards. It includes chastity and purity. The power to create mortal life is an exalted power God has given His children. He has commanded that this power be used only between a man and a woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife. Study the meaning and importance of chastity and virtue by reading Moroni 9:9Jacob 2:28“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”; and the section on sexual purity in For the Strength of Youth. Also read Article of Faith number thirteen and Proverbs 31:10–31. In your journal write the promised blessings of being sexually clean and pure and your commitment to be chaste.

Over the next couple days while I’m wrapping up my lesson prep, I’ll not only be sharing more about Grace!!! but also writing about these two value experiences.  I’ve already finished the Virtue Experience, but because of how close to home this one hit, I have a bit of blogging to do about it.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be done chewing through those thoughts tonight.

Have a blessed day!

One of my favorite talks

Grace again? It’ll pop up a few more times!

I know I’ve been talking about grace a lot, but it is my focus for another few days.  I think that by the time I’ve actually stood up before our young women that I’ll be able to teach the class cold without my notes and just go where the spirit leads.

Thats the way I like teaching and like to give talks.  I always have a plan and always want to be ready with handouts or teaching tools that I may be led to because sometimes the Spirit will hijack my lessons and lead me in a different direction that my class needs to go.

In the case of my class, I want these young women to know how important grace is.  I’m not considering grace as only a part of the atonement or a part of the plan of salvation, but also as a part of our ability to heal and our ability to not just live but thrive!

Wow!  Just wow. 

So getting ready for Sunday, which is only four more days away isn’t a scary thing, but I do have a little bit of a case of nerves.  While I’ve taught most of the girls in my class on a regular basis, there are a few that I haven’t met yet and it will be the first time presenting a lesson with our Young Women’s leadership team being present.  While I’ve given a talk in which all but two of our leadership were present, it’s definitely a huge change.

Here are the questions I answered yesterday:

  • What is grace?
  • What will we receive because of grace?
  • Why do we need grace?
  • How can we use grace in our every day lives?

I also took a look at a number of scriptures about grace including the five from the ‘What is grace?‘ lesson outline:

 For by grace are ye saved through faithand that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

 Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecyand having all these witnesses we obtain hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.
 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weaknessthat we may know that it is by his graceand his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
 33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sinsthat ye become holywithout spot.

What have I learned from delving into thses scriptures?  Well, I have a few points of interest:

  1. by grace we are saved through the power of faith
  2. after all that we can do, (good, bad, serving our fellow men and women), grace is able to save us
  3. through our identity in Christ our faith is strengthened adn we can accomplish anything
  4. grace can help us find our perfection through our identity in Christ

Not too bad of a start for this journey in grace.

The next step in getting ready for this lesson was to find a number of talks and resources that addressed the topic of grace and the ‘after all we can do’ prase found in 2 Nephi 25:23.

Yesterday, I posted about a few talks that I had found that include:

The lesson outlien itself also includes In the strength of the Lord which was given by Elder David A. Bednar in the October 2004 General Conference.

From this talk, we’re able to take away one of the most amazing bits of information about grace that I’ve ever heard or seen in print.  “Grace is strenth and an enabling power…”

I keep going back to that thought which is a theme which also occurred in the October 23, 2001 BYU Devotional which also answered an amazing question about the journey of life and what it is a amazing roll grace plays in it.

The framework for my message today is a statement by President David O. McKay. He summarized the overarching purpose of the gospel of the Savior in these terms: “The purpose of the gospel is . . . to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature” (from the film Every Member a Missionary, as acknowledged by Franklin D. Richards, CR, October 1965, 136–37; see also Brigham Young, JD 8:130 [22 July 1860]).

Thus the journey of a lifetime is to progress from bad to good to better and to experience the mighty change of heart–and to have our fallen natures changed.

Thats right, make bad men good and good men better through the power of the atonement with grace as it’s enabling power.

WOW!  I like wow moments and this one was very much a paradigm shift.  I don’t know about you, but with that right there, I get the chills.

Grace is the divine means to help and to strengthen and guide us through our darkest times.

For some of us, our darkest moments are ones where our lives are endangered, face a personal tragedy or struggling with the pain of depression which may come seasonally, as a result of imbalance in our brains or after facing our past.

I can’t even begin to tell you which of the circumstances are the worse, but when it comes down to it, it isn’t up to me to decide which is the worse.  In the end, it also isn’t up to us to decide if someone elses journey is harder than our own.

What is important is to know that no matter what our struggle is that we have grace to strengthen us.  Additionally, we can reach out to those around us that may be struggling to support and love on each other.

I know it isn’t always easy, but often we hear the promptings of spirit and feel that nudge to reach out to someone that may need us.

What is grace?

Well, I’m home again today.  It’s my last “regularly” scheduled Monday that can be considered a weekend.  Next week I swapped out days in order to have an extended birthday weekend with my husband and to get our house straitened up for the spring.  

After that special extended weekend our floor should be finished and all the base boards down.  We’ve only been working on the floor for .. two years now.  My Mister J has a tendency to start projects and not finish them and there is a growing threat that the half started projects currently living in our garage may grow legs and find their way into a construction dumpster since we still have access to one in our development.

So much to do between then and now, but first I need to conquer this stomach flu and get back to work.  The Doc says I can head back on Wednesday but I have strict instructions to head to the emergency room if I start vomiting again.  Ugh, stomach flu.

Once all of this is over, I’ll be working a 5 am to 2 pm schedule Monday through Friday.  That means that for the first time in fifteen years I’ll have a normal weekend and even better, despite the hours being a lot earlier than most people prefer, I get to avoid Austin traffic!  

I’m excited for the new schedule and for the position at work where I get to focus on coaching my team mates.

Now, what does all of this have to do with grace?  Not much but I figure some more get to know you touchy feely type info about my life in a way that makes me a real person to my readers would be a great way to get started.

I’ve posted a few times that I’m preparing a lesson on grace for my first lesson as part of our Young Women’s program.

There are a lot of things that come to mind during my preparation for this upcoming lesson.  There are a number of images, a number of songs and hymns and conversations I’ve experienced since the time my nephew passed away and the one below is the one that stands out the most:

Music, amazing music, is a great way to help focus in and find yourself connected to the Spirit.  I’m one of those people who get emotional when they listen to music.  For example, when I hear The Motions by Matthew West, I tend to cry.  

There are so many times in my life where I’ve felt as though I was just going through the motions.  Almost like I was pretending or wearing a mask and floating through life without connecting or endearing anyone to me or being endeared to anyone.  I’ve had so many wake up calls in my life where I’ve made horrible mistakes that should have sent me down a road where I would have died far too young. 

How scary is it to look back and think about what his grace has enabled me to do even when I didn’t realize it was there with me.  I found the strength to finally free myself from a situation where I was not safe.  

Domestic violence is terrifying and it sent me through a spiral of depression, fear and a crazy roller coaster of horrible relationships that could have also ended in a world of pain for myself and my family.  But thanks to his grace, not only have I been able to survive, I’ve also been able to forgive.  

If our Savior could endure so much in order to forgive me, wasn’t that enough for me to be able to forgive the one that hurt me?  What an amazing gift grace is.  It took the guilt and the fear and the pain and lifted it off my shoulders and through time and prayer I was able to forgive.  

Of course there are also moments when I’m listening to the radio and I hear things like Gods Not Dead by the Newsboys and I feel the rush of hope that comes with remembering that His grace means that my God is inside of me through his Spirit and it is roaring like a lion!

There are other things that come to mind when thinking about grace which have helped me begin to prepare for the work that would be done in my life.  Every step I’ve taken, every hurt, ever triumph, all have brought me to a moment where I have the privilege of teaching the young women in our ward.  

In preparation of this upcoming lesson, I’ve been reading scripture about the atonement and about grace, as well as listening and studying the talks that are part of the lesson plan: What is grace?

First, I have to tell you how blessed we are as a church to have a program that we can use to teach our youth that combines modern revelation with the living word as we see it in Scripture, not just the Holy Bible, but the Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants as well as the Pearl of Great Price.

I’m not one to get into apologetics, thats not the purpose of me writing here about grace.  I’m sure that there may be moments in time later that we can get into apologetics and that we can have a grand old time doing so, but that isn’t the purpose of me writing about grace today.

No matter which denomination you are a part of, one thing we have in common is the belief that through His grace in the power of the atonement that we are empowered to being saved.

There was a point in time that my mother argued with me that because I joined the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-Day Saints that I no longer believed in Jesus because of a simple caveat to how Mormons view grace as seen in 2 Nephi 25:23 as seen below: 

For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

What is this “after all we can do” thing that seems to separate Mormons from other Christians?  It was during an evening at a local recovery program as my husband and I began dating that I was told that Mormons aren’t Christians because we don’t believe in grace and don’t have His grace in our leaves because of that one phrase.

My first knee jerk gut reaction at this point is one where I want to ask “did you see the name on the building”.  Of course people on the outside can see this response as antagonistic or even one with an attitude that can put off someone who is having that conversation.  (Remember that moment earlier when I mentioned that I didn’t want this to be an apologetics commentary, I’m doing my best to steer away from that…)

The hardest part about this “after all we an do” phrase is that in the long run, when you separate it from the over all message about grace found in 2 Nephi 25, it is found without it’s full, robust context which is a huge disservice in a situation where we’re discussing grace

So let us take a look at what this part of the Book of Mormon is able to tell us about grace:

20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved.
 21 Wherefore, for this cause hath the Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph, that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand.
 22 Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written.
 23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
 24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keepthe law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.
 25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.
 26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.
 27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.
 28 And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffneckedpeople; wherefore, I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.
 29 And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.
 30 And, inasmuch as it shall be expedient, ye must keep the performances and ordinances of God until the law shall be fulfilled which was given unto Moses.

So here we are, having learned about the prophecies of Christ and grace and the laws that we were expected to abide by.  What does it mean?

Well, after a lot of personal study over the last handful of years, I understand why it could be argued that we don’t believe in grace as Mormons.  But here’s the catch.

Doesn’t the after all we can do mean that no matter what we do both by serving our fellow man and abiding by the laws and following the examples of the ministry of Christ that we are empowered by his grace no matter what we do?

There are so many articles and arguments that address this one phrase that consists of only five words.  The amount of writing and the number of talks regarding this phrase is simply staggering.  But luckily, we are thoroughly blessed by the apologists who gathered up so many of these quotes and articles regarding faith and grace for us that in attempting to indicate we do not have grace, they actually provide us with a comprehensive listing of quotes from talks that you can’t help but wonder who they’re trying to convince what grace is and how it pertains to all of us.

One of my favorite quotes actually comes from a talk given on December 9, 1982 by President Ezra Taft Benson titled “After All We Can Do” which is quoted in The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson:

“What is meant by ‘after all we can do’? ‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. ‘After all we can do’ includes living His commandments. ‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellowmen and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. ‘After all we can do’ means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and giving ‘succor [to] those who stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:15)-remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto Him (see Matthew 25:34-40; D&C 42:38). ‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated.”

A free copy of The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson is availableonline at LDS.Org and also through Deseret Book.

More recently, in the 2010 October General Conference, Elder Dahlin H. Oaks said in his talk Two Lines of Communication said :

“Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, ‘after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23).”

There is so much more on this topic that I’ve been exploring in preparation of next week that my head is simply exploding (in a good way) with all of it.  I think maybe after all this chit chat that I should actually get down to defining grace and answering a few questions about grace based on the information I’ve been devouring over the last few days.

At least, these are my answers!

What is grace?

Grace is the divine help and strength received through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

What will we receive because of grace?

We receive forgiveness, resurrection, immortality in the next life and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Why do we need grace?

Grace bridges the gap between us and our Heavenly Father caused by sin.

How can we use grace in our every day lives?

Grace strengthens, comforts and urishes our spirits in times of struggle.  While prayer may not necessarily change our circumstances, grace gives us the strength to face our trials in life.

What an amazing thought.  The atonement is the redeeming power that can make bad men good, but the enabling power of grace not only makes good men better, but it also gives us the strength to accomplish things through Christ that I could have never done on my own.

Now that I’m done rambling, I hope that you all have a blessed week.

Welcome to Young Women, Sister G!

Last week the Second Counselor and I had training with the president of our Young Women’s organization at church and I learned so much about the program, and yet I know so little!

If you aren’t a member of the Church ofJesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or are a concert like me, the number of organizations and programs within the church that are always running can be overwhelming.

As a new convert I was given the opportunity to not only learn the gospel and gospel principles, I taught them as I learned them. That doesn’t mean I know the who’s who of the Book of Mormon yet, but I’m working on it.  

BTW thank you to TheRedHeadedHostess for the amazing DoodleBooks!!!! I hope that they will help me become closer with the Book of Mormon. While I’ve read through it and listened through several times, I’m still learning the history and the stories and know that the journals and DoodleBooks created by her will be a benefit for me.

Anyway, LDS Organization in a nut shell, ready go!  Kidding… 

I’ve said before that as a convert (silly auto correct keeps changing convert to concert… Replace convert with concert in the previous fragment and laugh), I have not had the opportunity to go through the Young Women’s program. I’m still struggling with mottos and themes and personal progress. 

There are also things that I don’t struggle with like loving the young women and the youth leaders, teaching when it’s my turn in the rotation.

I will learn the motto.  I love the theme:

Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. (D&C 4:2)

I don’t know, there is just something about this quote and embarking in the service of God that speaks directly to me. While I missed our New Beginnings program and have no idea what that even is at this point, I am embarking in a new service to God and it is a bit exciting.

While our Ward is not as large as others and your Young Women meet together I have an amazing and very special group of young ladies that I have the opportunity to get to know as a Bee Hive Advisor.

During training I got to learn that we rotate which group of young ladies will conduct each month, how we rotate activities during the month and a bit about the young ladies that I will be serving.

I will also be the Personal Progress Coach. 

This part is one that is a bit scary for me. I am being encouraged to participate in Personal Progress and complete the program with my girls since I have not had the opportunity to do so before.

This was a wow moment for me. Part of my responsibilities will be to know what extra steps and activities we can do with a lesson to fulfill requirements for personal progress.

What a challenge that will be! I’m being asked to become an expert about something I know nothing about, for me this means reading through the personal progress book really fast a few times to get the gist of what this part of the program looks like and then start throwing together go to lists and activities. I can do this.

At the end of training, there was something that was more precious to me.

I was officially welcomed to Young Women. I received my Young Women pendant.   With a hug, I felt like after years of continuing in growing in my testimony and still growing in my conversion, that I finally belong.

I don’t have a chain for it yet, but I’ve been carrying it with me this week and look forward to completing my own Personal Progress and earning my medallion with my girls.

You could say that this years theme was just for me. Like my girls, I’m embarking in service of the Lord.