Sep 12, 2004

Following with exactness

Well, today was an interesting day. I taught my lesson on the 2000 stripling warriors, Helaman's army, whom he lovingly referred to as his sons....those who miraculously, during two wars with the Lamanites, did not lose one soldier. They were all wounded, but not one was slain. I have been reading these accounts of war in the entire book of Alma (and really, the entire Book of Mormon) and I must say, I am deeply moved by the faith of those Nephites, and Captain Moroni, who was obviously a passionate, feisty man of God, who took their liberty and their country very seriously. These men were willing to die for their country, and Captain Moroni mentioned time and time again that he equated their liberty with God.

And this made sense to me. It also reminded me not to take what I have for granted. It also explained why I feel the chills, or the Spirit, everytime I hear Lee Greenwood sing "God Bless the USA". Today was no different. On our way home from the cookout with my Dad and his brother's family, that song came on my iPod and that same feeling washed over me. Especially the part.."and I will stand up; next to you, and defend her still today". The people of Ammon were willing to do the same thing with the Nephites, but Helaman told them not to break their covenant of not bearing arms against their brethren. So instead, they sent out 2000 of their young sons, who were more than willing to stand for their country. And every one of them were "steadfast and undaunted", and followed their prophet and captain of their army, Helaman, with exactness. and this they did because they knew the testimonies of their mothers and did not doubt them.

How amazing is that! Their mothers obviously were also "steadfast and undaunted", and they must have been absolutely amazing women to bring up their children to be such faithful and honorable young men! Women like these are relatively uncommon in our day, but it is my goal to be a woman, and a mother like those mothers of the armies of Helman. President Spencer W. Kimball said;

“To be a righteous woman during the winding-up scenes on this earth, before the Second Coming of our Savior, is an especially noble calling. The righteous woman’s strength and influence today can be tenfold what it might be in more tranquil times. She has been placed here to help to enrich, to protect, and to guard the home—which is society’s basic and most noble institution. Other institutions in society may falter and even fail, but the righteous woman can help to save the home, which may be the last and only sanctuary some mortals know in the midst of storm and strife” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 326–27).

Motherhood is obviously the most noble calling a woman can have. So many people just don't realize how important it is; and being a good mother is not simply watching after the needs of one's children, but raising them to have good values, strong standards, and testimonies of their God. No, we cannot force our children to be who we want them to be, but we have a much stronger influence upon them than most people realize. I am humbled at the prospect of ever becoming a mother, yet my desire is great. I know that I will be a mother such as these.

I felt inspired today and a message entered my head, and I was prompted to say it to my class. I never even thought about it, but what I said was smiliar to this: "It is vitally important for us to recognize the great influence we have on each other, and especially our children. For those of us who are not married yet (and that is most of us), we need to be sure that we have a testimony of this gospel before we even consider marriage. Because after the marriage, it is almost too late. Life happens; and then suddenly children enter our world, and if we are still sitting on that fence, not sure where our beliefs lie, not able to follow our prophet with exactness and gain a testimony of those things that right now seem to contradict our social or political beliefs, but which are taught by our prophet, how will we ever be able to raise faithful children unto God? We are Zion's army; born in the latter days, and just as our prophets have told us, it is no accident that we have been saved for these turbulent and perilous times. We are fighting a war against Satan and his followers, and things are only going to get tougher. It is essential that our children are raised knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt just what their parents believe, and to see the example and testimony of those parents and to see them following the prophet "with exactness"."

And this is true. Children even at an early age can sense the strength and resiliency in their parents or caretakers. True, we often put our parents on a pedestal and believe they can do no wrong until that one day something happens and we realize our parents are just as human as the rest of us. But...children watch their parents more than they watch anyone else; and they develop their own set of beliefs, values, and attitudes based on what they saw growing up. This is why so many people are screwed up today -- because of lousy parenting! I'm not saying that those children who came from bad families are not responsible for their actions, because they are, but the scripture that talks about the sins of the children being brought upon their fathers is very true. Bad parenting can seriously traumatize a young soul -- and scar him or her forever. That presents an extra challenge for that individual to grow up and stop the cycle -- to be the kind of parent he or she may not have had. We can all be like those sad souls on Jerry Springer who blame their parents for everything in their life that goes wrong, or we can be strong and we can take responsibility for ourselves, and realize that life has handed us a few lemons -- but now it's time to make lemonade! I like the story that Bryn shared in her talk today about the plan of Salvation and overcoming personal tragedy. She mentioned the art piece that portrays Jacob wrestling with the Angel.

Do we all know this story? Jacob was on his way to confront his brother Esau, and he happened upon an angel who was his perfect match. He was already greatly distressed because he feared Esau, and feared Esau smiting him. He wrestled all night with this angel, but he could not prevail. At the break of dawn, the angel finally wounds him in his thigh, and then says, "Jacob, let me go." Jacob then says, "no, not until you give me a blessing." It was then that Jacob received the new name; Israel, and was blessed. The next day when he finally came upon Esau, they embraced and wept.

The moral of the story? Sometimes our trials and tragedies are perfect matches for us. It seems that we will not prevail; that we are wrestling all night with no hopes of ever succeeding in overcoming them. But we have the right to demand a blessing; a blessing of peace and a blessing for help. God knows us better than we know ourselves, and he will never give us a trial that we cannot overcome. Unfortunately, so many people do not have the faith in themselves nor in their God to withstand, or prevail, and they give up. By doing so they are denying the greatest gift of all; the Atonement, which is Christ's gift to all of us that we may one day reach exaltation. Who are we to think we cannot get through something, or overcome something? God knows us. He knows our "perfect matches", and we will be tried and tested. He will allow Satan to tempt us. That's the whole point. But if we look deep down within, and find that strength -- we will see that we are indeed a perfect match for this particular trial, and that we CAN overcome it; and we don't have to do it alone. We can ask for blessings. We can pray for God to "lead us, guide us, and walk beside us -- to help us find our way". We can remind ourselves that we are Children of God!

Ok, I know I'm going all over the place in my blog tonight, but good English structure doesn't mean much to me tonight. I just love how everything that seems so different and unconnected suddenly connects -- and that is what happened tonight.

So going back to my description of my day, I went to my Uncle Joe's house and enjoyed an afternoon with family I don't see often. I love my Dad. I know he loves us. He has a kind yet passionate heart, and I know that I have that within myself as well.

But on our way back, just after listening to "God Bless the USA", and making all these connections in my head, and feeling gratitude for all that I have been blessed with, and knowing how I would stand to defend my country with all my heart and soul, just as Captain Moroni, my mother calls my sister and shares some news.

My cousin Jessica is being sent to Iraq.

Jessica is in the National Guard, and was in the middle of switching units because she was starting school in Milwaukee. They also eliminated her job, something in communications.

But now that her unit has been called up, they are not letting her switch. And because her job has been eliminated, they have informed her that she will be in the infantry.

Jessica is being brave and is not scared. She is upset that her unit change didn't go through and now it is too late; because she had just started her civilian life. But I know Jessica, and I know she, like Jason, has the same resoluteness, courage, and passion. I know she will serve her country well.

Do I like the idea of yet another one of my family members being over there? No, I do not. But I do know what they are fighting for; the liberty of a nation, so that they can enjoy their God-given right of agency (even if they don't know how at this moment) -- and even, in part, they are fighting for our liberty. I do not agree with many of the things that have happened over the past 2 years, but I also know that I value my liberty immensely, and I know that it is equated with God. Just as Captain Moroni said. There is no point in hashing over the would haves and could haves and the rights and wrongs of the reasoning for going into war. What is done is done. But pulling out now, unfortunately, would be a grave mistake; and while I want our soldiers to come home now, and to not have any more innocent blood spilled on either side, and I especially don't want my family being over there, I recognize that right now, at the very least, they are fighting for something good; even if it is only in their hearts. They are standing for the freedom and liberty of all who inhabit this earth. Freedom, again, is a God-given right, and I truly believe that everyone has that right to live in a country that is not reigned with terror and bloodshed.

I love Jason and Jessica. I am proud of them. They are "standing up, next to you, and defending her still the same". I am in awe of our soldiers over there, and all of our veterans from previous wars. War is an ugly thing; and I know I don't even know the half of it, but I know that I am grateful that I DO NOT know all about it; and the reason I don't is because of people like Jason and Jessica, Jess's friend Jeremy, Jeremy Young, and all the others who have, are, or will serve. They are valiant and strong, and I hope they recognize that the hell and the horrors that they experienced while at war are indeed for something.

Something that is inalienable. Something that is God-given. And that is liberty. And with that liberty, we are able to practice our religions as we wish; and we are able to follow our prophet.

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