Thank You, Thomas

Our family has been studying faith lately. It has been a great scripture study path for us. Every time we started the Book of Mormon again, it seemed like we weren’t getting much out of it. And we had trouble staying dedicated. Some days we’d have long chapters. Some days the chapters were beautifully short (sadly, that was the thought) and we’d be longing for a short one the next night, too. It breaks up stories too much to go by pages. And how do you know where exactly to end? So, the topic study came as inspiration. It allows us to study as long as we’d like, and since we’re starting with faith (the first principle, and something I have been struggling with lately), we get to delve into stories. We’ve studied Christ’s miracles, and the great examples of faith in the scriptures. It has been such a blessing.

But today, I woke up with the beginnings of a migraine. I blame the “family slumber party” on the couches. I agreed to stay up and watch a movie as long as we were all in PJ’s and all ready to fall asleep. I picked the long couch, but it has a bar running in the middle of it. The bar started out where my back is, but when my back hurt, I slid down and it ended up kinking my neck funny. At least, that’s what I’m guessing happened. At any rate, I grabbed my caffeine pills (the only think I’ve found to help my headaches), and we anxiously waited to see if church would be a good idea. Of course my kiddo was crossing her fingers. She’s too much like her mother. When she’s at church, she loves it there. But GOING always raises anxiety. While waiting for my headache to dissipate to see if I could stand being at church, we sat down and (quietly) watched church videos.

My favorite church video is Finding Faith in Christ. I’ve always loved the testimony it shares. Today was no different, I greatly enjoyed it. But today, I thought about WHY I enjoy it. It is a bold testimony, and as a teen, that is what spoke to me. But as an adult, my faith is very different than it was before. It is even different than it was 5 years ago. I feel like 5 years ago, my testimony was an impenetrable wall. I was in the middle of a battle for my soul, and it was still holding. Then I entered a very different battle. Instead of constant barrage, the tactic became slow and persistent banging in the exact same spot.

Infertility.

I never knew that infertility would rock my testimony harder than divorce. It still baffles me. I still look over my faith from past years and can’t quite figure out why it needs such reinforcement now. A slow and steady banging does more damage than an entire life upheaval. I struggle with feelings of impatience and a thought that God hasn’t kept  his promise. I feel that He hasn’t made a great friend lately, and that has made it hard to talk with him.

When we were married 6 months, I was given a priesthood blessing that my body would be able to bear children. It stated that God was pleased with my desire and that my body would be made whole so that I could carry them. I’ve been married for 3 1/2 years. I have no other children. This paragraph sums up the gaping hole in my faith. I know it can be fixed, and I know that God does keep his promises… and yet a niggling voice says “yeah, just not to me.” And that voice has been working for 3 years. It screams loudly about 1 week out of four. When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask why he had to make our bodies go through torture once a month. Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve got to deal with the fact that we’re, once again, not pregnant? That we’ve got to wait a whole other month to go through the same torture because maybe, just maybe, it might work this time?

I’ve got to admit that after 3 years, the sting has gone out of it. You learn to deal with it in a way I hope no one ever has to accept. It honestly, really and truly doesn’t hurt like it used to. It doesn’t even hurt when I see so many pregnant women around me. Or when I see kids that are celebrating birthdays and reminisce that that the news of their future arrival added one more rock to the catapult, one more swing with the battering ram.  But for a while, it really, really hurt. It hurt when I accepted the calling of nursery assistant. It hurt knowing I could have had a kid in nursery. It hurt making quilts for everyone else’s babies, and finding out exactly how many women that weren’t me were expecting in our ward. It hurt finding out first because of the calling.

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It hurt when my sister announced her pregnancy. But I think that that wound is actually the one that helped push me past the pain and into gratitude. The pain of my sister’s impending bundle was at its strongest the day I yelled at her husband. He’s not known as one with much tact. It causes conflict in his life, though I don’t know if he really understands the degree. He’s learning, and I commend him for it. But somehow, he always finds my tender heartstrings and yanks on them. This one was especially tender.

My sister had announced the name she was planning on using for her baby, and it was a name that was one of my favorites. A name that if I had already been able to have kids, might have already been taken. When I said something about it, I was severely cut in half. From the sister who rarely cuts with her words. She told me that “she was having a baby, first, so she would use it.”

Ouch. Seriously. I don’t have words to express how much that got to me. It was more than rubbing my face in my lack of child-bearing. I was more than taking something I really wanted. It was … pure pain. Twisting the knife in my side.

Well, my mother told my sister that she was justified. It’s expected. My personality is completely opposite from my mother’s and my sister’s is exactly the same. It is really easy for my mother to understand my sister’s point of view and very hard for her to understand mine. My sister is meek and timid, and often too submissive. I am bold and loud and often too oppressive. I don’t expect my mother to ever understand how much it hurts. Or to understand that I have feelings and am not just being mean. I also didn’t expect my sister to understand. My sister, who would never hurt on purpose (I call her my angel sister, which she hates; but she’s got a soul like Mother Teresa’s. She’s born to do and be good. There is no question that her strongest personality color is white), had no intention of hurting me. I knew she didn’t mean it.

And then, I was visiting with her and her husband, and she jokingly said, “are you ever going to forgive me for calling my baby that?” and I seriously said, “no.” … and her husband opened his mouth. Gave the same line I’d already heard. “Well, we figure, she’s having a baby first, so we get to use it.” Still not meant to hurt. But I had had it with that line. I looked him square in the face and said “STOP saying that! I’m so sick of hearing that.” Well, her husband back-peddled, and mumbled he didn’t mean to upset me, and I left.

Then, when my sister and I were together again, she told me that she and her husband had talked about it and had decided to use another name. I told her I didn’t care. It wasn’t the name that had hurt me. This is true. Though before finally saying what I was thinking, I would never have called the girl by her name (ever), it wasn’t about her name at all. We had a nice long talk about loss and infertility (if you’ll recall, she lost her baby last year at 28 weeks). It gives a strong bond most sisters don’t share. We know mutual suffering. She talked about how she understood the agony of trying. I know she does. I’ve watched her. She’s been such a blessing in my life because of all she has taught me through her own trials and how they correspond with my own. Then she used another well-overused line. ” when you get your baby, you’re going to get a very special spirit.” It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? But it is so shallow! It doesn’t soothe the pain. It doesn’t make up for anything. I’ve learned that God doesn’t reward our suffering with exactly what we want, and that saying I’ll get a special spirit doesn’t make it even. Nor does God really work that way. It is what we learn that matters, not what we get. But even the learning doesn’t seem to be enough while we are in the midst of the storm. In fact, I was so done even trying. It seemed like I was faced with continuing to try, continuing to be mad at God every month when once again, he “failed to keep his promise,” and continuing to be exhausted or to just stop caring. I expressed with her my struggling faith, and she understood. She just listened. It comes down to choosing God or choosing to try for a baby.

It was so much easier to just not try, not care. After 3 years, that’s where I was at. It was easier not to care. I’ve been through the wringer with my faith. And what have I learned from it?

  1. You have to believe in God to be mad at Him. It seems like a silly thing to learn, and a silly place to start, but when you’re severely struggling with your testimony, it gives you rope to hold on to when you’re spiraling downward with your faith. When I was questioning what I believed in, it gave me a foundation. You have to believe He is real if you’re going to be angry. First stone in the foundation. He exists.
  2. You have to believe He CAN keep His promises, if you are going to be frustrated that He isn’t. Once again, I realized that if I believe in God, I have to believe he CAN keep his promises. If I was going to be angry with Him, I had to believe that he really could fulfill his promises. Second foundation stone.
  3. You can’t gain faith by “praying” to gain it. Praying isn’t enough. Neither is holding an ultimatum. “God, I’ll believe if you will give me a baby.” “Lord, help my faith by giving me what I want.” and “Can I just learn the lesson already, so I can move on?” are not words that bring faith. Nor do they work, just FYI. I was constantly seeking the answers to building my own faith, but  I wasn’t actually doing it right. I couldn’t find a clear-cut formula for faith-building anywhere I looked.
  4. Instead of seeking to understand faith, seek to understand the atonement. True story. As we are reading about faith in the scriptures, it is not in the miracles that faith is found. It is not in the stories or examples. It is in understanding the atonement. Luckily, the book of Romans discusses the connection between faith and the atonement so well, that I discovered the connection in our studies. Faith must be founded on the atonement in order to take root in the soul. All the studies of faith just slip out unless there is also a study of the atonement.
  5. When you believe in the atonement, you must question your proximity to God and his will. This is the walls of a testimony. There was a beautiful talk about this in conference, though I confess I had a pretty snide answer to the opening questions (“Why, yes, I would “confidently walk up to” Heavenly Father. I’d look Him in the face and ask him why on earth he’s doing this to me!”). Seriously, that talk was meant for me! He expresses the struggles of my soul! I’ve made it this far in my faith. I’ve stripped down my testimony to it’s foundation, but it will go no further. So instead of continuing to attack my testimony in God, Satan tried to attack my testimony in myself. In all the blessings I have received in the past 3 years, one phrase is always there. “God loves you.”  And, sadly, I don’t think I ever accepted it. In fact, I rolled my eyes. I feel like my testimony is going through it’s teen years. You know, like every time your parent told you they love you and you just rolled your eyes and think, “Whatever. If you loved me you’d let me go to Stacy’s party.” [Yeah, I never thought that, either. I don’t know where that thought came from. I was a perfect child. And if you believe that, I invite you to re-read this post]. There are 3 parts to questioning your proximity to God:
    1. you must ask yourself if you believe that he loves you.
    2. You must ask yourself if you love  Him.
    3. You must ask yourself if there is anything in your life that is keeping you from following God’s plan for you. For me, the answer here is my own stubbornness and hurt feelings. My need for justice and fulfilled promises.
  6. Question C leads directly to where I’m at. Once you put away those things that are keeping you from drawing closer to God, there is just simple faith left. You’ve stripped away the doubts and hurt feelings. You’ve come to just accept Him and His will… yeah, it’s just that. It is the “peace, be still” of the soul. It is the calming of the personal storm. It is the acceptance of who you are and where you are. Giving God back the wheel. Just… Being. And being okay with just being. It is the roof on the testimony-fortress. Acceptance of God’s will is the protection we all need.

So, here I am. I am not pregnant. And I’m okay. I’ve since learned that in order for me to get and stay pregnant, I’m going to have to give myself shots every day. Shots that aren’t cheap. Shots that cost more than my house payment. And did I mention that they’re SHOTS? Self-injected shots? I’ve also learned, through more blessings, that there is a divine reason for this, though I don’t know what it is. And that’s okay.

Thomas, too, needed a testimony boost. His testimony walls were severely shaken. I think that Thomas was the last to see the Savior, because although he truly wanted to see Him, he was so caught up in his own head, so busy, that it was impossible for him to accept and understand. It was through the agony of waiting that Thomas began to accept the truth of God’s miracle for him (The agony of waiting. Nope, can’t relate…).Through the desperate sorrow of the loss he felt, he eventually came to be still. And when he was still, Christ was there. I am grateful for Thomas, and that through Thomas’s example, I, too, can learn to wait and be still. I’m grateful that he didn’t have perfect faith. I’m grateful that he needed to see to believe. Because we can see that God loved him, anyway. Chastised him, yes, but still loved him. And by feeling the nail-marks, a physical representation of what Christ did for us – you could say it was by understanding the magnitude of the atonement – Thomas’ testimony became stronger than it had been before.

Call to Arms

We’ve been going to the new ward, even though we aren’t moved in yet. It gives me the opportunity to have a half hour drive before we get to church. Today, I was observing all of the people in white shirts and ties out in the community.

There were the 2 missionaries standing waist-deep in a garden, helping out the man in the nice clothes. I assume that he had to pick his produce before he would go to church.

Then there was the family of strapping men helping the car in front of them with the loose tie-down strap (or something else on his trailer).

Then there was the row upon row of cars from out of town that pulled into the stake center building, I assume for a baby blessing (Future/returning missionaries don’t give talks on fast Sunday).

And while driving, and thinking of all of these people, this song comes on the radio.


I found the added messages appropriate, thought they weren’t in the song I heard on the radio. (I’m sorry if you have safety on and it doesn’t play. I could only find one video and it was deemed “inappropriate.” but I can’t figure out why. I was pretty frustrated to have to turn safety off to watch it… If you don’t want to turn off safety, here’s the lyrics.)

I thought of all of these examples of refugees receiving aid today. Sometimes all it takes is tightening a tie-down strap with a stranger. Or caring for a neighbor’s garden. Or inviting a loved one to church.

And sometimes, even the members become refugees. Sometimes we’re the ones caught up in the storm. How blessed we are to help others and also receive help. How blessed we are to enjoy the feelings of camaraderie by knowing that we share a common heritage. We are all children of the same Heavenly Father. May we always remember our brothers, refugees from the storm.

We sang this song in sacrament meeting today. I found it relevant to the thoughts I am sharing.

 

The Gift of the Holy Ghost FHE

Purpose: To help family members appreciate the privilege of receiving the Holy Ghost and to recognize its holy guidance.


Possible Songs: When Jesus Christ was Baptized, Children’s Songbook page 102; I Know My Father Lives, Children’s Songbook page 5; Listen, Listen, Children’s Songbook page 107; The Still Small Voice, Children’s Songbook page 106; The Holy Ghost, Children’s Songbook 105; Search Ponder and Pray, Children’s Songbook page 109; Let the Holy Spirit Guide, hymn 143; Thy Spirit Lord Has Stirred Our Souls, hymn 157; The Spirit of God, hymn 2

Possible Materials: picture from Gospel Art Kit of girl being confirmed, wrapped up like a present; An illustration of stairs for the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel (From the Fourth Article of Faith); a picture of Christ in America; Cards discussing the ways the Holy Ghost can speak to us from the discussion. 


Preparation: Begin with prayer. Ask yourself how often you have experiences with the Holy Ghost. Do you feel satisfied that these experiences come as often as they should? Do you feel that you receive personal revelation to guide your life?  Read the suggested scriptures and any articles listed in Resources.

Children: Watch the videos about the Nephites receiving the Holy Ghost. Have a parent or teenage sibling summarize Doctrine and Covenants 138 for you and to help you understand the scriptures given in the discussion.

Lesson:

Introduction: Whisper. Quietly say things like, “if you can hear me, blink your eyes. If you can hear me cross your toes.” Etc, until you have everyone’s attention. Talk about how the Holy Ghost is like a still small voice, and if we’re not listening, it’s really hard to hear.

            Then make an illustration of stairs going up with 4 steps. On the bottom step, write “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Review Faith from the previous FHE lesson. On the second step from the bottom, write “Repentance.” Remind them about the lesson on repentance. On the next step, write “Baptism by emersion for the remission of sins.” Remind them that that was last week’s lesson. Ask the family what comes next (The laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost).

            Pull out the wrapped picture of the girl receiving the Holy Ghost. Ask the family to open it, and then to discuss why you wrapped it and what a gift is. Discuss that we do not have to open the gift, but that it is given to us so that we can open it and use it.

Discussion: Discuss how in a previous lesson, we talked about the Holy Ghost. Have the family talk about what they remember from that lesson. Briefly discuss who the Holy Ghost is and what is his role in the Plan of Salvation. Talk about how the Holy Ghost influences our lives if we will let him. It is by him that visions and dreams and prophecies usually become, but He doesn’t always speak to us in a loud voice, in fact he rarely does. He communicates with us by:

  1. Warning us of danger or evil (Remind the family of the story of President Harold B. Lee).

  2. Giving us our testimonies (Alma 5:46).

  3. Helping us know and choose the right (D&C 11:12).

  4. Helping us understand things (D&C 6:15).

  5. Helping us recognize truth (Moroni 10:5).

  6. Guiding us in important decisions (2 Nephi 32:5).

  7. Comforting us (Galatians 5:22; Moroni 8:26).

  8. Helping us remember things (John 14:26; D&C 6:22).

  9. Helping us know when we need to act for ourselves (D&C 58:26).

  10. Giving us words to speak. Helping us understand and communicate with each other. (D&C 84:85; Luke 12:12)

  11. Talking to us in our minds and in our hearts (D&C 8:2-3; D&C 11:13-14).

  12. Causing our bosoms to burn or giving a feeling of peace (D&C9:6)

  13. Causing a stupor of thought (D&C 9: 9)

  14. Weighing heavily upon our minds, ideas that won’t go away (D&C 128:1; D&C 6:23).

            Activity: Have cards labeled with the ways the Holy Ghost helps us and cards that have the scriptures. For really young children, tell of an anecdote describing each clue and have them point to the clue (I highly suggest taking quotes and anecdotes from The Unspeakable Gift of the Holy Ghost by elder Jay E. Jensen). For younger ages, have the clues already turned over, but flip over the scriptures. As a family find each scripture and discuss which clue it goes to. For older ages, have all clues and scriptures hidden.

From the Book of Mormon: Read 3 Nephi 19:9-23. Discuss how important the Holy Ghost is. They really wanted its influence in their lives! How did Jesus feel that they wanted the Holy Ghost? Note that they followed the principles and ordinances of the gospel. First, they believed and repented, and then they were baptized. Then the Holy Ghost could come upon them.

From Church History: Discuss what we need to do to feel the Holy Ghost in our lives. Remind the family that we can lose the spirit by partaking in profanity, uncleanliness, disobedience, rebellion, sin, and anger. Just as we can lose the Holy Ghost, we can choose a lifestyle that will bring Him closer to us. President Joseph F. Smith set a perfect example of what is expected of us before we can receive revelation or promptings from the Holy Ghost. Read Doctrine and Covenants 138. What pattern did he follow (Make sure to discuss pondering, asking, worthiness and alertness)? Explain that Heavenly Father has given us the Holy Ghost to help us live our lives successfully. He was not meant to be a reward for when we are perfect. Learning to be guided by the Holy Ghost is, in fact, necessary to help us reach perfection.

Activity: Show the family a small object you will hide for this game. Have a family member volunteer to leave for a moment while you hide it. When they return, tell them that he must listen to find it. Use a quiet noise, such as lightly tapping a pencil to show the child which way to turn to look for it. Make sure that the noises you make are very soft and reverent. Tap more quickly as the child moves closer to the hiding place. A variation would be to have a few family members constantly giving bad directions or just plain making noise while a quiet family member gives correct information.

Further discussion: The Holy Ghost is not the only source of promptings in our life. Satan can deceive us with his own voice. We must keep these basic rules in mind when we feel we have received revelation:

  1. Promptings of the Holy Ghost do not violate any gospel principles, including the agency of others.

  2. The promptings are in harmony with the teachings of the scripture and of the prophets.

  3. The promptings are in harmony with the order of the Church. See D&C 28:2,6-7

  4. The promptings bring peace to the soul; they do not raise doubts and questions. See D&C 11:12-14, 50:23-24


Challenge: Have each baptized member of the family write down and act on any impressions they have received from the Holy Ghost this week. For any members of the family not yet baptized, challenge them to memorize Article of Faith number 4.


Resources:   Primary 3 Lesson 12;  Come, Follow Me lessons on the Holy Ghost; Gospel Principles Chapter 21; The Unspeakable Gift of The Holy Ghost by elder Jay E. Jensen (the whole talk is amazing, but this lesson only focuses on the second half. The first half is covered in The Holy Ghost Helps Me).Family Home Evening Resource Book lesson 15; True to the Faith section on the gift of the Holy Ghost, starting on page 83;

School Blessings FHE

We have found that if we don’t make a specific Family Home Evening night dedicated to Father’s Blessings before school that they don’t happen, so we dedicate one Family Night a year for that purpose.

A father’s blessing is a special time. It allows our children’s father to receive revelation for his children and it gives the children a feeling of comfort and peace before school starts. It also is a guaranteed time for everyone to build a relationship with our Father in Heaven, on an individual basis and as a family. And since we are building our family an individual at a time with blessings, we DO grow stronger as a family.

But what about homeschooling? Does that change things? Nope. Well, mostly nope. I am guessing it changes the things discussed in the blessing, because circumstances would be different, but mostly, we feel it’s still important to grow as a family whether its public school or homeschool. And they will be studying and learning, and could use that extra reminder that God is proud of their choice to do so.

Child Highlight FHE

Purpose: To help each family member pay close attention to one another and to give each child a sense of belonging in a family. 

Possible scriptures: The Child’s Favorite scripture or John 3:16, Matthew 7:11, James 1:17, or Doctrine and Covenants 14:7 (God’s birthday present);  or Doctrine and Covenants 18:10, Psalms 8:4-6, or Jeremiah 1:5 (Individual Worth); or John 13:34, 1 John 2:10, 1 John 4:21, Doctrine and Covenants 88:123, (Love one another)


Possible Songs: The Child’s Favorite song, A Happy Family (Children’s Songbook page 198), or any birthday song.

Possible Materials: Any items that are significant for the child being highlighted (awards, favorite toy, a picture they drew or a story they wrote, baby pictures, favorite book, something they collect, any musical instrument). You could draw an outline of each child on butcher paper. If all else fails, this is a good printout to put in a scrapbook by A Day in My Life.


Preparation: Begin with prayer. Collect items that are significant for the child being highlighted. Really get to know the child being highlighted. Focus on what makes them who they are. If possible, conduct an “interview” with the family member.

Lesson:

Introduction: Say that there is a special person in your family this week and you would like to focus on them. Ask the VIP member of your family to sit front and center (you could make the seat special somehow, if you’d like).

Discussion: Introduce the child being highlighted and what makes them so special. Include thinks you know about them, as well as any information collected during an interview.

From the VIP: Ask the child to teach the family something that they know, read their favorite story, or show a cool trick.

Challenge: Pass around a booklet with enough pages for your family, or an envelope with paper to everyone in your family except the VIP. Have each family member write something special or a good memory that they have had over the past year. Compile the notes into something that the child can keep safe and refer to over the next year. Challenge the family to keep the memories that they wrote down in their mind when they are with the VIP and notice if it makes a difference in how they treat that person all week.


Resources:   Believe it or not, there are not many resources I’ve found for this lesson! 

General Conference FHE

Purpose: To help each family member properly prepare for General Conference in order to ensure that each may get the most out of the opportunity to listen to the prophets and learn together as a family. 

Possible scriptures: Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; Doctrine & Covenants 68:4; Doctrine and Covenants 43:8–10. Reread some talks from last conference. Prepare a quote from your favorite talk to share with the family
(Younger family members may benefit from watching the excerpts of conference found from the conference page of The Church website under “watch highlights” or “Relive the stories;” or via YouTube Mormon Channel).


Possible Songs: We Thank Thee, O God For a Prophet, hymn 19; Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice, hymn 21; The Spirit of God, hymn 2; Testimony, hymn 137; Again We Meet Around the Board, hymn 186; Come, All Ye Saints Who Dwell on Earth, hymn 65; Come, Sing to the Lord, Hymn 10; Oh, Holy Words of Truth and Love, hymn 271; Latter-day Prophets, Children’s Songbook page 134;

Possible Materials: 3 different sizes of containers and 3 containers of water full enough to fill the largest sized container, as well as something to catch the extra water (towels or a cake pan?). A set of each of the standard works (or illustrations of them) and the most recent copy of the conference report. 


Preparation: Begin with prayer. Consider your present attitude towards General Conference and ask yourself what you could do in order to receive greater spiritual renewal and personal guidance from the Conference addresses. Read the conference talks from the last General Conference (or watch them), as well as any articles listed in Resources.

Children: Have fun playing with measurements and how much water will fit into each cup. Then get the help of a grownup and explore LDS.org Conference website for children, especially this video about the Conference Center.  


Lesson:

Introduction: Ask the family to join you in a place that is okay to spill and get wet. Present a small cup (the smaller the better) and a large cup (larger, the better), as well as a medium-size. Tell the family that the Holy Ghost is like water. We are each like the glasses. When we are being taught, the teacher who has done his work to prepare and invite the spirit in is like the pitcher that pours water into our glass. Some of us spend very little time preparing. We are like the small glass (pour the water into the small glass, let the extra water overflow). When conference comes, we are able to receive some of the blessings of the Holy Ghost, but we are easily overwhelmed and cannot hold more than a little enlightenment. Sometimes we are like the medium glass (pour the water into the medium glass. Just a little should overflow): we are looking forward to conference, we have plenty of room for the Holy Ghost, and we come away feeling refreshed and enlightened, but we still long for just a little bit more. But what happens if we could be as prepared as the full glass (Pour water into the third glass. It should fill it entirely)? When Conference comes, we are eager and well-prepared, we have prayed for enlightenment, studied past conference addresses, and are eager to receive more enlightenment. As we listen to conference, we receive every blessing and insight that the Lord wishes us to receive.


Read this statement by President Boyd K. Packer:

 “In a few days there opens another general conference of the Church. The servants of the Lord will counsel us. You may listen with anxious ears and hearts, or you may turn that counsel aside. … What you shall gain will depend not so much upon their preparation of the messages as upon your preparation for them” (Follow the Brethren, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Mar. 23, 1965], 10).


Discussion: Ask the family what we consider scripture. Hold up each book as it is called (I have a drawing of each book so that Old and New testaments are separate, as well as The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price). Then hold up a copy of the Conference Edition of the Ensign (or draw one, as well).


From a Modern Prophet: Ask the family why we have General Conference. According to President David O. McKay (in Conference Report, Oct. 1954, 7), General conference is:

1.        “To inform the membership of general conditions—whether the Church is progressing or retrogressing, economically, ecclesiastically, or spiritually.

2.       To commend true merit.

3.       To express gratitude for divine guidance.

4.       To give instruction ‘in principles, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel.’

5.       To proclaim the restoration, with divine authority to administer in all the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to declare, quoting the Apostle Peter, that ‘there is none other name under heaven given among men’ than Jesus Christ ‘whereby we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12.)

6.       To admonish and inspire to continue in greater activity”

President Howard W. Hunter also said,

“Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful. It is a time when an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is burned into the hearts of those who have the determination to serve him and keep his commandments. Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives—a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1981, 15)


From the Doctrine and Covenants: Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; Doctrine & Covenants 68:4. Discuss how each time a Prophet speaks the words Heavenly Father wants him to say, it is scripture.




From President J. Ruben Clark: President Clark once asked how we would know if the Prophets were speaking as themselves, or as one speaking for God. In answer to his own question, he said,

“I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’

 “In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak” (“When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?”Church News, July 31, 1954, 9).


Further discussion: Ask your family what they can do to receive all of the blessings of General Conference. Make a list of options. This may include taking notes, discussing conference between sessions, setting goals to study conference in the future, praying to receive inspiration for your life, and thinking of questions you have that you would like answered and then listening for those answers.

            Discuss with your family a time that you received an answer to a question that you had during General Conference, or just bear your testimony about General Conference and how you feel about getting to listen to men of God.


Challenge: Ask each family member to prepare for conference this week. Ask them to think of a question that they would like answered, and invite each member of the family to take notes so that they can invite the spirit of revelation into your home.


Resources:   LDS.org’s website on General Conference and how to prepare for it; Institute manual on Teachings of the Living Prophet, chapter 6. A copy of the most recent conference addresses.



Easter FHE

Purpose: To help each member of the family focus on the Savior this Easter and remember that through the resurrection, we can return to our bodies and live forever. Jesus Christ gave us great gifts that no one else could give us. The Family Home Evening Resource manual states:
“Religious holidays provide parents with some very natural teaching moments when they can share with their children those feelings and experiences that will bind them to each other and to the gospel throughout their lives…We need to find ways to celebrate Easter that are meaningful and that help them grow in love and appreciation for the Savior.” 


Possible scriptures:Any in Matthew 21-28, Mark 11, 14-16, Luke 19-20, 22-24, or John 12-13, 18-20 (clearly, there is more to the last week of the savior’s life, but these scriptures cover the events); Guide to the scriptures on the Atonement; 1 Ne. 11:32–33; 2 Ne. 2:7; 2 Nephi 9:6–26;  Alma 7:11–13; Alma 11:41–45; Alma 40–41; Doctrine & Covenants 19:16–19; 1 Corinthians 15; Article of Faith #3
 


Possible Songs:

Possible Materials: An Easter basket filled with eggs and bunnies, with an empty egg for each member of the family. Gospel Art pictures (or any other pictures of your choosing) involving the Savior’s last week; including the Triumphal Entry, the Last Supper, Christ in Gethsemane, the Crucifixion, and Christ as a resurrected being.


Preparation: Begin with prayer. Read the suggested scriptures and any articles listed in Resources. Address this lesson with enthusiasm and gratitude.

Children: Think about what Easter is all about. Fill an Easter basket with your favorite things about Easter, then gather enough empty eggs for each member of your family. Then watch the videos about the week of Jesus’ death, including the triumphal entry, the Last Supper, Christ in Gethsemane, Christ on trial, Christ being crucified, and Christ risen again [Note to parents: for younger attention spans, pick the videos you deem most appropriate for your child].

 

 
Lesson:

 

Introduction: Pull out an Easter basket filled with commercial Easter items. Hand the family each an empty egg and ask them to find something that fits in the egg that makes them think about Easter. Make suggestions throughout about new birth and spring flowers starting to grow, or about bunnies and candy. The idea is to understand that each of these things has a place, but that they are not the purpose of Easter. When the family has regrouped, start with the youngest member of your family and ask each person what they found. Each selection is good, because it brings happy memories, even if it doesn’t focus on the Savior. 

 
Discussion: Ask the family why we celebrate at Easter time. The responses will turn towards focusing on Jesus, but get the family to think even deeper. Emphasize the word Celebrate. Easter is about Jesus’ death and all of the pain and agony he felt. Why, then, do we celebrate? 

We celebrate Easter because Easter is about Jesus’ final triumph in that he overcame death, both spiritual and physical. Easter is Christ’s final victory! We celebrate Easter because of the Atonement! Explain to the family that the Atonement has two parts: the first part is when Christ suffered for the sins of the world in the Garden of Gethsemane. The second part came when he was resurrected after he died on the cross. Both sin and death are part of the mortal experiences we came to earth for; both were part of the plan for us to learn and progress. But both, without the atonement, would keep us stuck and unable to return back to Heavenly Father. 

 
From the New Testament: Read the scriptures involving the last week of the saviors life listed in the suggested scriptures. Or read any of the following summarizations: 

·         Easter Week from the April 2013 Ensign 

·         Easter Week from the April 2011 Friend 

·         Easter Footsteps from April 2012 Friend 

Activity: Many people find it convenient to explore the last week of the savior through another Easter egg hunt. I discuss a few of my favorite examples on my blog. 

 
Further discussion: Read the following statement from the Family Home Evening Resource Manual. It sums up the entire lesson in 2 lines. Then talk about the importance the atonement has in your life. 

“Without the Atonement, it wouldn’t matter how good we tried to be; we would not be able to return to our Heavenly Father or regain our bodies. We would all be lost.” 

 

Challenge: Challenge your family to memorize the 3rdArticle of Faith as they celebrate Easter this week.
 


Resources:   Behold Your Little Ones lesson 29;Sunbeams Manual Lesson 45;  Come, Follow Me lessons on the Atonement; Family Home Evening Resource Book lesson 36; Easter Weekfrom the April 2013 Ensign; Institute manual on The Life And Teachings Of Jesus Christ, section 5; Easter Weekfrom the April 2011 Friend
 

 

 

Jesus Came to Earth FHE

Purpose: To share, as a family, special experiences in Christ’s life. To draw closer as a family to the Savior who came to Earth and lived among his brethren and sisters.  We cannot have a testimony of Jesus Christ if we do not know Him. 


Possible scriptures:Spend this week studying the scriptures contained in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, paying close attention to Luke 2:40;  


Possible Songs: When Jesus Christ Was Baptized, Children’s Songbook page 102; Jesus Loved the Little Children, Children’s Songbook page 59; I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus, Children’s Songbook page 78; Jesus Once Was a Little Child, Children’s Songbook page 55; Tell Me the Stories of Jesus, Children’s Songbook page 57; Come Follow Me, Hymn 116; Our Savior’s Love, Hymn 113; Master, the Tempest is Raging, Hymn 105; Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains, Hymn 212


Possible Materials: I think this bookmark is pretty perfect! Also, any pictures from the life of the Savior as found in the New Testament. I highly suggest watching Finding Faith in Christ. If it will help your family, consider making a timeline of Christ’s life, including events such as his birth, fleeing to Egypt, his trip to the temple, the wedding of Cana, when he began his ministry, when he called his disciples, his triumphal entry, the last supper, the atonement, and the crucifixion.



Preparation: Begin with prayer. Ask yourself ­­­­­how you would have felt to be alive at the time of our Savior and see Him in person. Read the suggested scriptures and any articles listed in Resources.

Children: Print off the bookmark found above, and assemble it to use as a guide to teach your family about Jesus and his Life. Make sure you know the stories. Then watch the videos about Jesus as a boy and any other videos you’d like to learn more about involving Jesus’ life on earth.  


Lesson:

Introduction: Ask the family who is Jesus Christ? What did he do and why was he important? How did he come to earth? What did he teach? Have the family share their favorite stories of when Christ was alive on Earth. Ask the questions “What think ye of Christ?” and “But whom say Ye that He is?”


Discussion: Discuss how every prophet before Christ testified that he would come and that every prophet since Christ has testified that he did come.


Ask the family if Jesus ever made any mistakes. Discuss that Jesus was always doing the work of Heavenly father. Remind them of the story of the boy Jesus at the temple, and discuss how Jesus was baptized even though he had never done anything wrong, because he wanted to keep ALL of God’s commandments.


Then talk about how Jesus loved everyone, even those that did not love him. He taught us how we can love other people and serve them. He loved those that other people didn’t like, and spent time with them.

·         Read John 3:16.  Talk about how Jesus loved us so much he came to earth in order to help us.

·         Read Matthew 22:36–39. Discuss that Christ summed up everything we need to do into 2 big rules: Love God and Love the people.

·         Read Matthew 25:35–46. Talk about how Christ performed miracles out of love, and then said that if we serve other people, we also show love to God.

·         Read Matt. 5:3–12. Talk about how Christ loved us by teaching us about love.

·         Read Luke 23:34. Talk about how Christ also loved those who hurt him.

·         Read Doctrine and Covenants 19:16. Discuss how Christ suffered for our sins out of love.

·         Read John 15:13–14. Discuss how Christ paid the ultimate price and died for us that we may live again.


From the scriptures: Due to the nature of this lesson and its magnitude, pick your favorite story (preferably saving his birth, death, baptism, the atonement, and his parables for other lessons, as they are already included therein) from the New Testament and share it with your family.


Further discussion: For older children, discuss what it means to be the only begotten, how Christ was both mortal and divine, and how that allowed him to suffer for our sins.


Bear your testimony of Jesus Christ and how you feel about His time on Earth.


Challenge: Throughout the week, find opportunities to serve and love others, in the name of the Savior. For younger children, you could give them a token that they can leave in as a sign that they served (it also acts as a visual reminder that they are challenged to serve others).



Jesus Created the World for Me FHE

Purpose: To help the family learn about the creation and gain respect for the world around them because it is a gift from their Heavenly Father.

Possible scriptures:Moses 1-3; Abraham 3-5; Moses 1:39; Moses 6:63; Moses 7:28, 32 (the whole chapter is beneficial); Genesis 1-2 (include JST); John 17:3; Colossians 1:16; 1 Nephi 17:36; 2 Nephi 2:14; Jacob 4:9;  Mosiah 3:8; Mosiah 4:9; Alma 30:44; Mormon 9:11,17; Doctrine and covenants 29:31; Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-3;  Doctrine and Covenants 59:14-21Doctrine and Covenants 76:24; Doctrine and Covenants 104:13-17;


Possible Songs: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, hymn 242; All Glory Laud and Honor, Hymn 69; O My Father, Hymn 292; If You Could Hie to Kolob, hymn 284; I Am a Child of God, Children’s Songbook page 2 and Hymn 301; My Heavenly Father Loves Me, Children’s Songbook page 228; Thanks to Our Father, Children’s Songbook page 20; The World Is So Lovely, Children’s Songbook page 233;

Possible Materials: Visuals for the story of the Creation;


Preparation: Begin with prayer. Ask yourself again if you feel God’s love for you. Do your family members know? With a feeling of God’s love comes a sense of safety and personal confidence, as well as the feeling that someone cares even when no one else knows. This is so important that it cannot be neglected. Take a moment to think over the creation and how it is evidence of God’s love for you. Read the suggested scriptures and any articles listed in Resources. If you are able, attend the temple.

            There are many different focuses to take in a family where everyone knows the basic creation story. Pray to know what is the best direction to take for your family, but some of the areas of focus include: why we have so many creation accounts, That all things were created spiritually before they were created physically, . The article by Keith Meservy is incredibly helpful. There are many different focuses to take in a family where everyone knows the basic creation story.

Children: Watch the video on Creation.


Lesson:

Introduction: take an imaginary nature walk with your family (If it’s warm enough, you could ACTUALLY take a nature walk). Imagine what you see. Have the family describe what is “around” them. Start with the basic senses. Ask the family what they feel. Then ask the family HOW they feel. What does thinking of the world around us remind us of our Savior and Heavenly Father? Why do we have an earth to live on (to have a place to be tested so that we could return to God because He loves us and wants us to become like Him)?


From the scriptures: Read Moses 1-3, Abraham 3-5, and Genesis 1-2 (along with the Joseph Smith Translation). Discuss the order and blessings given in the creation accounts, that Jesus Christ acted by God’s direction, and that the earth was created for man.

            Activity: Use the visuals or create hand symbols for each day of the creation account.


Further Discussion: Express gratitude for God’s love and that he created such a beautiful world for us to live.  Discuss ways we can show God we are grateful for this world.


Challenge: Challenge each family member to look for ways God loves them throughout the week. At dinner each night, have each family member share what they noticed that day. Invite the members of your family to make sure those things end up in prayers as well, focusing all week on only expressing gratitude in prayer. 


Resources:   Behold Your Little Ones lesson 7; Sunbeams Manual Lessons 8-13;   Gospel Principles Chapter 5; Family Home Evening Resource Book lesson 6; Four Accounts of the Creation by Keith Meservy


Testimonies and Faith FHE

Purpose: To help family members to increase their faith in Jesus Christ and grow their testimonies of Him.

Possible scriptures: Matthew 8:5-33; Matthew 17:20; Mark 5:25-34; John 11:25; Romans 10:17;James 2:17,26; Hebrews 11:1,3(the entire chapter is beneficial); 1 Nephi 2:16; 2 Nephi 9:23; Alma 5:45-47; Alma 32:21, 26-43; Alma 34:17; Alma 37:33; Ether 12:6(the entire chapter is beneficial; Moroni 7:25-26,36-37; Doctrine and Covenants 5:16; Doctrine and Covenants 42:48; Doctrine and Covenants 76:19-24; Doctrine and Covenants 88:118;


Possible Songs: I Feel My Savior’s Love, Children’s Songbook page 74; I Know My Father Lives, hymn 302 or Children’s Songbook  page 5; Come Follow Me, hymn 116; I Need Thee Every Hour, hymn 98; Father in Heaven We Do Believe, hymn 180; I Know that My Redeemer Lives, hymn 136;

Possible Materials: a mustard seed and a picture of a mustard tree (the best one I can find is here, copyright M Mandella); A picture of Noah(and this one); pictures of Christ performing miracles; drawings of soil and flowers; A picture of Nephi and his brothers. A picture of Lorenzo Snow

Preparation: Begin with prayer. The best way to teach faith is by example. Ask yourself how you are doing with the basics of the gospel. Can your family see you praying, studying the gospel, and following the Savior? Read the suggested scriptures and any articles listed in Resources. ALSO NOTE: this would be a great lesson to invite the missionaries over.

Children: Watch the videos on Noahand your choice of videos on Christ doing miracles. There are many to choose from.  Think about what faith is. Think about how plants grow from a little seed.

Lesson:

Introduction: Begin the lesson by asking the family the difference between belief, faith, and knowledge. Then have a strong family member (the father, if possible) lift each child. Ask them if they know that the family member is strong enough to lift the child? Ask them why (because they experienced it)? Ask the family if they believethe family member wouldn’t drop them? Belief and knowledge are part of testimonies. Now ask each child to get in front of the family member and close their eyes and fall backwards. Regardless of how they respond, teach them that this is faith: willingly accepting the promise to catch him or her made by the family member and doing what they were asked to do.

Discussion: Ask the family, “What else do we know about faith?” Answers may include “it is the first principle of the gospel,” “A spiritual gift,” “a hope for things which are not seen which are true,” “a principle of action,” “a strong belief of truth that makes us want to be good,” and “faith causes miracles.” Discuss how faith really drives us through our day, even if we do not recognize it. We eat breakfast because we have faith that our bodies will work enough to need the nourishment. We learn new things because we have faith we will benefit from the knowledge in the future. We work because we have faith we’ll receive a paycheck. We plant seeds because we have faith that the plants will grow. Next ask who our faith should be in (Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father), what that means (that we trust him so much we’ll do whatever he asks), and what can happen when we have faith in Him (the Atonement becomes applicable, we can be forgiven and gain eternal life).

From the Old Testament: Noah showed immense faith even in the face of mocking because he listened to the Lord and built a boat on dry ground and gathered animals when the Lord commanded him. Read Hebrews 7 and Genesis 6:12-8:19.

From Jesus’ Teachings: Read Mathew 17:20. Show the family how big a mustard seed is. Then show them the picture of the tree. Discuss how something so little grows into something so big. Faith usually begins as a small thing, sometimes only the desire to believe. Also how if we had faith as big as that tiny seed, we would be able to move mountains. Discuss as a family ways to grow our faith. Just as we develop talents by studying, practicing, and working at something until we get it, we can build our faith.

From Jesus’ Ministry: Jesus Christ often interacted with people who had faith. These people had the faith to be healed, to ask healing for others, and many other miraculous events. As a family, study Matthew 8:5-33and Mark 5:25-34. Discuss how miracles come after we ask in faith, and sometimes after we have been tested a while to make sure we believe. It’s called “trial of our faith.”

From the Book of Mormon: Alma taught a lesson on faith. He said Faith is like planting a seed. Read Alma 32:21, 26-43 as well as Alma 34:17. Discuss the different types of growing conditions. Also discuss that we can best cultivate our faith with desire and with prayer. It also takes searching and studying (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:118) and living his teachings that we have already received; that is the cultivating of the soil.

            Activity: create illustrations for the different soil types and plant “flowers” in the “soil” and see how they grow.

From the Book of Mormon: Read 1 Nephi 2:16. This is how Nephi gained his testimony. Ask the family what steps Nephi followed (first he desired. Then he asked Heavenly Father. But is that all? Lastly, he acted upon it. He didn’t rebel like his brothers did. He applied faith to his testimony).

From Modern Prophets: How do we know that Christ even existed? This is a fundamental and important realization. Very few people have ever seen Him or His miracles. Yet the power of their words touches our hearts (through the Holy Ghost we learned about last week), and their testimony can become our testimony. Discuss as a family how the testimony of others is enough to give us the desire to plant the seed of faith. {I’m a Forgotten Carols groupie, and the song that comes to mind is “The Shepherd,” a song sung by a shepherd that missed the whole visitation because he was asleep.} Discuss how many testimonies we have of the Savior. Read Doctrine and Covenants 76:19-24, and discuss The Living Christ; also share the story of Lorenzo Snow in the Salt Lake Temple found in chapter 20 of Teachings of Presidents of The Church: Lorenzo Snow, first section.

Further discussion: Discuss the difference between faith and testimony (Faith is doing, testimony is knowing). Go back to the introduction at the beginning of the lesson. Our testimonies only come by revelation through the Holy Ghost. We have to work and live for them through faith. Everyone must gain a testimony for themselves; others cannot give you their testimony. Also discuss how testimonies are usually not gained overnight, but continually. We are often just given a piece at a time. For older audiences, you may also wish to discuss the difference between a testimony and conversion.


Challenge: Challenge each family member to be prepared to bear their testimony at the beginning of next Family Home Evening. Help them to be comfortable with the idea, and tell them it is a safe environment to practice where they know that everyone loves them and will benefit from their testimony. If anyone does not feel comfortable doing so next Family Home Evening, do not make them. Offer to help younger children.


Resources:   Primary 3 lesson 7; Come, Follow Me lessons on building spiritual self-reliance; Gospel Principles Chapter 18; Family Home Evening Resource Booklessons 11 and 16; Bible Dictionary: Faith;