Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Unplanned Pregnancy

I'm currently carrying a baby that I did not plan. In fact, my husband and I were taking precautions to prevent pregnancy because we both felt that adding another baby would be more difficult than not. I'm too old (age 36). I'm too tired. I'm too overwhelmed by 4 boys often enough to not feel up to it. Pregnancy is so long and tiring. Childbirth is so difficult. We don't have enough money. Our house is too small.  Etc... However, despite all the reasons not to get pregnant, it happened. Through our own choices and actions, of course -- though we didn't choose pregnancy itself. 

Initially it was shocking and worrisome, and has been sooo hard on my body, and yet, I look at my other children and feel reassured that I will love this child as much as I love them. That the same joy the others bring me, she will, too. That the same ways that I have been learning and changing as a result my motherhood, will continue. As we've gotten by and made it work until now, we will continue to get by and make things work. Even on our humble income, even with my weariness and sometimes selfish preferences, even with all the demands that come with parenthood.

In the end: a baby is not a crisis. He or she is family.

We rise up to challenges that are inherent in family life. We give and give and give. That's what we do. The more willing we are, the more satisfying it is. Our children grow up, they mature, they succeed and fail, they fall down and get back up. They depend on us less and less, and we feel so proud of who they are and what they are doing. It's a privilege and an honor to experience this, and to contribute to society in such a singular and important way. I'm grateful for my child. Not resentful. Not afraid. Humans are resilient, resourceful, and capable. I am capable. I can do it. Not very well all the time, but overall, yes, I can do it. In two months, she'll be in my arms and I'll wonder why I ever doubted and feared, and will just be completely grateful.

I choose family. I choose life and hope.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Sacred Emblems of the Sacrament

Sacrament Meeting Talk
Michelle Cox
Sunday, January 11, 2015

Today, like each regular Sunday, we are gathered for a memorial service.  But, the body of the deceased is not here.  “He is not here, for he is risen” (Matt. 28:6).   The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, triumphed over death; his resurrection being joyfully announced by angelic messengers of God.  His body had been wrapped in clean linen and lovingly, sorrowfully placed in a sepulcher, but when his devoted disciples went to the tomb at the end of the Sabbath to complete the burial preparations, they found the cloth folded neatly and set to one side.  The Savior's body was not there because he had been resurrected.  Without his body to cover at our memorial service, we have been instructed to cover emblems, or symbols, of Jesus’ death; bread and water. 

During the Last Supper, Jesus blessed bread, broke it and gave it to his disciples.  The Joseph Smith translation of Matthew 26:26 records the Lord saying, “Take, eat; this is in remembrance of my body which I gave a ransom for you.”

Only a few hours later, that body would bow down in agony under the crushing pain of the atonement for the sins, sorrows, and troubles of all mankind.  As Jesus described, “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink – Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:18).

 The escape route from sin being accomplished (which is our own repentance and perfect, Christ-like submission to the will of the Father), Jesus Christ then allowed himself to be arrested, unjustly tried and convicted, his body beaten and whipped, then nailed to a cross and crucified.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows … he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

At our memorial service today, young priests reverently broke bread, just as Jesus demonstrated 2000 years ago, and deacons passed it to us.  The broken bread reminds us of the torn body of the Savior; the stripes from the whip, the piercings of his hands and feet by nails, and his side by a sword.

The water, Jesus taught, we drink in “remembrance of my blood of the new testament, which is shed for as many as shall believe on my name, for the remission of sins” (JST-Matt 26:24-25).

When Christ prayed the great Intercessory Prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded to Heavenly Father, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done.  And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).  It struck me that in the Savior's final lessons to prepare to completely fill his role as Savior, he had to experience what it is like to suffer alone, and then to suffer with the strengthening power of God.  He would then know exactly what we experience when he comes to our aid; how much we need his help and how it makes us better able to bear our burdens.

The young men in our ward who have been ordained to the office of teacher, pour water into cups that will then be blessed by priests, and sanctified “to the souls of all those who drink of it” (D&C 20:79).

Thus, the sacrament, a holy and solemn act of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our personal benefit and progress, moves us to “witness unto … God, the Eternal Father, that [we] do always remember him,” even outside of church, even on a Tuesday morning or a Saturday night.

The great prophet Moroni, near the end of the Book of Mormon, exhorts all to “be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.  See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Mormon 9:28-29).

With the same solemnity and honesty that Jesus made the atonement for us, we are to solemnly and honestly partake of the sacrament and renew our baptismal covenant to keep God’s commandments.  With this being the intent of our heart, we will find the act of taking the sacrament a renewing, humbling and joy-producing experience.

Throughout the week, we will find ourselves evaluating our thoughts and actions, asking ourselves if they will help us or hinder us in being honestly prepared and worthy to partake of the sacrament, and repenting when necessary during the week in preparation for the sacrament.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “One of the invitations inherent in the sacramental ordinance is that it be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul.”

Elder Melvin J. Ballard testified, “I am a witness that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed, and the load being lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food.”

As Cheryl A. Esplin taught last General Conference, “Our wounded souls can be healed and renewed not only because the bread and water remind us of the Savior’s sacrifice of His flesh and blood but because the emblems also remind us that He will always be our “bread of life” (John 6:48) and “living water” (John 4:10). 

His is a kind of loyalty that never faileth. “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand” (D&C  27:15).

Friday, September 26, 2014

"To Young Women" - Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

October 2005 General Conference

"Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good."


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Virtue Opens Heaven’s Views

August 24, 2014
Michelle Cox

The prophet Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue.”

Virtue might be most quickly linked in our minds to modesty or chastity, however, virtue is even more than these.  The Preach My Gospel manual defines virtue as “a pattern of thought [or] behavior based on high moral standards.”  I’ve found that link to our thoughts very interesting.  Virtue describes the condition of our hearts and minds – and is also a means for transforming us and opening up access to God’s power.

Mark chapter 5 describes a moment during Jesus’ mortal ministry when the hem of his robe was touched by a woman who had been very ill for 12 years and was seeking healing from him.  Verse 30 describes Jesus “immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him.”  Also in Luke chapter 6, it is recorded that “the whole multitude sought to touch him; for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.”  These brief accounts seem to say that virtue is synonymous with divine power.

Why are we here on this earth?  Are we here to just trudge along and get by?  Just be as good as we can?  Moses 1:39 quotes the Lord saying, “For behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  Therefore, we are here to be fundamentally changed; to progress from imperfect beings into something so magnificent that we can comfortably look our Heavenly Father in the face and live in His presence, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, being “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

What does virtue have to do with it?  Quite a lot.  In order to succeed in this life – to succeed in the way that would bring eternal joy – we look to the One who overcame the world, the Savior Jesus Christ.  His virtue healed, blessed, and glorified.  His virtue served others, reached out to the lonely and the sick.  And, most importantly, his virtue observed every law and commandment of God.

The Book of Mormon teaches us that virtue leads to charity, which is the pure love of Christ, an eternal love that brings eternal blessings (Moroni 7:48).  Psalms 24:4-5 teaches us who will receive this honor, “He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.”

How else is virtue essential to our mortal journey?  2 Peter 1:3-4 open up another aspect of virtue.   The passage reads, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:  Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” 

Virtue unlocks divine power in our lives, as well as “great and precious promises.”  We gain access to the healing, forgiving power of Jesus Christ.  We become qualified to participate in God’s work as his servants and missionaries.  Doctrine and Covenants 4:5-6 lists characteristics of those who are called to the work, “And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work.  Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence.”  And back to 2 Peter 1:5, the apostle admonishes, “giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge.”

Why does knowledge seem to be linked to virtue?  2 Peter 1:8 explains that if these wholesome qualities “be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  By embracing virtue, we become fertile ground for knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ.

In Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 we learn even more. The Lord lovingly commands us, “let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.  The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.”  The image is clear:  when our thoughts are carefully guarded and tended to with virtue,  the doctrine of the priesthood (its keys, authority, power, callings, responsibilities and duties) will be pure and refreshing to our souls.

Without virtue, we lose access to this knowledge of Jesus Christ, his doctrine, and his plan.  We weaken our connection to the Holy Ghost, whose role in the Godhead is to confirm truth to us through thoughts in our minds and feelings in our hearts.  Therefore, our minds must be unfettered by the unvirtuous things of the world.  Modern-day apostle, Jeffery R. Holland, simply promised, “The promptings of the Holy Ghost will always be sufficient for our needs if we keep to the covenant path,” which includes taking upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, remembering him, and keeping his commandments.

Doesn’t that make us stop and consider what might impact our ability to access this key prerequisite of virtue?  Of all the millions of books, movies, videos, magazines, songs, games, etc, that there are in the world, there is an urgent need to “bridle all your passions” (Alma 38:12) as the Book of Mormon says, and to “cleave unto [the Lord] with all your heart” (D&C 11:19).

Consuming anything that is unvirtuous puts us on risky ground.  The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.  But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

If we are to be able to understand the things of God, and not discount them as foolishness, and love His doctrines and willingly keep all of his commandments – then virtue is key.

How do we know if we’re on the right track?  Simply, we will love the things of God.  Doctrine and Covenants 88:40 explains, “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light.” We will also have no desire for sin.  In the Book of Mormon, a people who were converted unto the Lord exclaimed, “Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”

What can we do when we falter?  Elder Holland lovingly invites, “Claim the promises of the Savior of the world.  Ask for the healing balm of the atonement for whatever may be troubling you. … Know that in faith things will be made right in spite of you, or more correctly, because of you.”  The voice of the Lord, Himself, beckons to us, “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30).

When we may feel bleak and broken, remember: there’s a man who died for usHe suffered for our sins.  He allowed himself to take on the sins of all the world so that you and I, all of us, can be made clean if we take action.  “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;  But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;  Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—  Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.  Wherefore, I command you again to repentLearn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.  I am Jesus Christ; I came by the will of the Father, and I do his will.” (D&C 19:15-20, 23-24).  “Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am” (3 Nephi 27:27).

With the loving and eager help of the Lord, we can maintain the path of virtue as it leads us to the happiness and fulfillment that awaits us.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Redemption of the Dead: Part of God's Perfect Plan

Doctrine and Covenants, Section 138, verses 57-60
Received by the prophet Joseph F. Smith, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on October 3, 1918

57 I beheld that the faithful elders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the preaching of the gospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the spirits of the dead.
 58 The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,
 59 And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.
 60 Thus was the vision of the redemption of the dead revealed to me, and I bear record, and I know that this record is true, through the blessing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, even so. Amen.

Teachings from this vision and some things they imply:

1.  Prophets can see into the spirit world and tell us what goes on there; reveal things that are otherwise hidden to us.  How wonderful it is to have prophets in these latter days!

2.  The spirits of the dead have access to repentance.  The effects of sin are not permanent for those who choose to accept Christ and repent.

3.  Temple ordinances are a requirement for those who wish to repent.  Which is why we do temple work. If they have already performed those ordinances during their mortal life (and are not in a state of rebellion against God, I'm assuming), they have access to repentance.

4.  They have to pay a penalty of some kind; perhaps experience grief or sorrow for what they did, perhaps do some sort of service for others to right wrongs or to just act like Christ, be obedient to his commandments.

5.  People who die with unresolved sin, but repent, are washed clean!  The guilt is gone!

6.  After they have repented, they receive a reward!  Most likely: happiness, joy, the presence of God our loving Heavenly Father, joining the missionary ranks, becoming more like Christ!

7.  Salvation is fully available!  True and complete repentance makes it as though the person had never committed the sin.  There is no lasting stain.  There is no lasting memory of guilt.  They are on equal ground with everyone else who has repented and qualified for salvation, including the sinless Savior, Jesus Christ, himself.

Christ the Consoler, Carl Bloch

It is amazing, wonderful, incredible, fantastic, and joyous!  This is what Jesus died for.  This is what he submitted for in the Garden of Gethsemane, what he submitted for when he was spit on and whipped, what he submitted for when he was nailed to pieces of wood and lifted up for all to see.  This is what he allowed his spirit to leave his body for, and then commanded it to return for on the third day.

The plan of salvation is so complete that there are no loop-holes, no flaws, no misses, no mistakes, no one overlooked.  It can work perfectly for anyone who submits, just as the Savior did.  Submission to the plan of God is not weakness, but ultimate power because it infuses us with God's power, which is the only power that Satan cannot compare or stand up to.  We can crush him through our obedience to God's perfect and beautiful plan.  We are mightiest when we are meekest before God.
I have no fear for the future; everything will be made right.  Christ succors his people in their time of need because he bought that role with his own suffering.  He earned it with his blood.  He knows pain. Intimately.  He knows healing.  Perfectly.  He is the author and finisher of our faith.

I know this because I have grieved and because I have been healed. I don't regret or begrudge the grief.  I absolutely love the healing!  And I love Jesus Christ for healing my soul.  Peace be to yours.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Please Stay

Gina Ashby
Colorado, USA
To those who are mourning over the excommunication of Kate Kelly, more specifically those who hoped the Church would grant priesthood ordination to women through her efforts, my heart has been deeply saddened and troubled. I feel strongly to say: PLEASE STAY! Please stay with us! My heart goes out to you. I love you dearly! We went to college together, served a mission together, you are my friends, my family. You will forever be my sisters in Christ.

Please stay! Although your hearts are troubled, I plead for you to look at the big picture, the eternal scope of things. You are so needed in building up the kingdom of God, preparing the world for the coming of our Savior. There is no other place that teaches the Plan of Salvation, that has restored priesthood keys, confers the Gift of the Holy Ghost, or that looks to Jesus Christ as the literal head of the Church. There is no other place that will keep your family members as safe, or that teaches more passionately to stay morally clean, to keep the Word of Wisdom, to live the Law of Chastity, to know and love God by knowing and keeping the commandments. There is no other place with power to seal families into the eternities, or prepare us more fully to stand before God after this life is over.

Leaving this Church would rob you and your loved ones of the safety and security only the fullness of the Gospel can bring. Please stay!

As you supported OW, you felt sisterhood, unity, and bonding over a common cause. The Lord knows your desires. His prophet knows your desires. You’ve opened your hearts, shared your wounds, you’ve nurtured one another, strengthened, uplifted, inspired, and rallied around each other. You’ve felt companionship, friendship, and loyalty. You have shared your voice, felt needed, valued, and understood. In gathering, you have enjoyed the rewards of leading, inspiring, edifying, discussing, and problem-solving. You have been aware of the needs of others. You have used talents, taken courage, and stretched yourselves. The reality is: All those things can be found when similarly united in the efforts of the Relief Society. Can we, as sisters, unite together in the cause of doing good and building up the kingdom of God in the way the Lord has established?

Dive into Relief Society with equal passion! Use your strengths, talents, gifts, and skills to bless the lives of people in your ward and community—men, women, & children. Put your passion into the organization that was created and patterned after the ancient institution “to help prepare daughters of God for the blessings of eternal life.” The Relief Society has been restored modernly for women to use their glorious qualities to grow and flourish in the way best suited for women.

Study the recently published and inspired book, Daughters in My Kingdom, and be reminded how valued the women of the Church are and have always been. “The world’s greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus Christ.” The Relief Society is the same women’s organization that existed in the church anciently and is “divinely authorized, divinely instituted, divinely ordained of God to minister for the salvation of the souls of women and of men.” It truly is bigger and more wonderful than we may realize.

If you are hurting, doubting, or struggling, look to the many generations before you who faced things that were hard for them and caused them to question or wonder if it was worth it. Staying the course and choosing faith always brings the greatest blessings. It will for you, too. Feelings are tender now. Don’t be rash in the moment of lamentation. Let the gospel heal you and draw you closer to the Savior. Put your energy into building faith. Hearts can heal.

As your sister in the Gospel, I plead for you to stay. Choose faith. Choose patience. Choose to trust the Lord and His modern-day prophets. All will be well. We can get through, but let’s do it faithfully, together.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Our Identity as a Disciple of Jesus Christ

Linda K. Burton
Relief Society General President

from the General Women's Meeting
March 29, 2014

"... Our true identity is that of a disciple of Jesus Christ. ...  Think what a gift it is to give our gift of daily discipleship to the Lord, declaring in word and deed, 'Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ.'

...  I love the women of the Church.  I have seen your strength. I have seen your faith.  You have something to give and are willing to give it.  You do this without fanfare or publicity, drawing attention to the God we worship, not to yourselves, and with no thought of what you will receive. That's what disciples do."

Watch her full address here and be inspired!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Our Safety Depends upon Following the Prophet

From Harold B. Lee, October Conference 1970

We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation, which is the last dispensation, which shall usher in the coming of the Lord. The gospel was restored to prepare a people ready to receive him. The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. There will be inroads within the Church. … We will see those who profess membership but secretly are plotting and trying to lead people not to follow the leadership that the Lord has set up to preside in this church.

Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet, “as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:4–5). There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:6).

... Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow the ones whom the Lord has placed to preside over his church. He knows whom he wants to preside over this church, and he will make no mistake. The Lord doesn't do things by accident. He has never done anything accidentally. And I think the scientists and all the philosophers in the world have never discovered or learned anything that God didn't already know. His revelations are more powerful, more meaningful, and have more substance than all the secular learning in the world.