who we are…

Dear friends

I promised this post a couple of months ago.  Back in April, I was asked to give a talk with 6 days notice and no topic at the Saturday evening session of stake conference.  For those of you not familiar with latter day saints, a stake consists of several units of the church in a geographical area.  It was a sublime experience to be led by the Holy Spirit as to what to prepare to speak on and on the evening, being the penultimate speaker, it was humbling to note that my words summarised all those who had spoken before.  So, here’s the talk.

 

Good evening, Brothers and Sisters.  As I pondered this assignment, I felt impressed to speak on who we are and our relationship with God.

Some years ago, when I was a young girl, I looked in a mirror while getting ready for school, and into my eyes.  I didn’t see a gawky, shy but slightly mischievous 11 year old girl.  As I looked in my eyes, I saw something else, something far deeper, beyond my physical appearance, and I recognised that this part of me would still be alive after my physical body passed away.  I didn’t understand what this overwhelming feeling was; I burst into tears, was inconsolable for some time, and missed school!  Unable to really explain what I had felt, it was years later before I came to understand who I really am.

The knowledge that we are spirit children of God has been with humans since our first parents, Adam and Eve, walked the Earth, and permeates humanity.  That we are literally all spirit sisters and brothers within the human race follows, since we have the same heavenly parentage.  Some time ago, before the earth was formed, though it probably would not seem long ago if we could remember, as the children’s primary song (#4) states: we lived in Heaven:

Lived there and loved there with people I know. So did you.

Then Heav’nly Father presented a beautiful plan,

All about earth and eternal salvation for man.

 

We knew who we were then; we knew our identity and our relationship to God was clear – we knew that we are His children and we chose to follow, and defend, Father’s plan for us to become like Him.  We chose to honour our relationship with God.  And now we are here, on earth.

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom at April 2016 General Conference explained:

“Here on earth, we identify ourselves in many different ways, including our place of birth, our nationality, and our language.  Some even identify themselves by their occupation or their hobby.  These earthly identities are not wrong unless they supersede or interfere with our eternal identity —that of being a son or a daughter of God.”

From the scriptures, two individuals who, I feel, did not let their earthly identity supersede their eternal identity, despite the difficult times they lived in, are Mormon and Abraham.

First, the mighty prophet historian and leader commander, Mormon.  He lived at one of the most trying times in history, one which would see the annihilation of his nation (the Nephites) and leave his surviving brethren nation (the Lamanites) in a depraved and lost state.  He knew it, he could clearly see the state of his nation people, that “they did not come unto Jesus with broken hearts and contrite spirits” (Mormon 2v14) and that they “did struggle for their lives without calling upon that Being who created them” (Mormon 5:2).  Mormon leads the Nephite armies from the age of 15 years and he is about 50 years old, when he ‘utterly’ refuses to be a commander and leader “because of their wickedness and abomination” (Mormon 3 v11).  Mormon states “I did even as the Lord had commanded me; and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard… Therefore I write…” (Mormon 3v16-17) and certainly Mormon wrote – we know that!  It appears to be more than 10 years later when he decides to lead the Nephites again, though it is “without hope,” for he knew “the judgements of the Lord which should come upon them” (Mormon 5 v2).  Mormon’s final words, before Moroni records his father’s death, reach out to all, inviting to believe in Christ and be baptized, with water and with fire, with the Holy Ghost (Mormon 7).  Throughout his life, Mormon did not lose sight of his eternal identity, nor that of his brothers and sisters, including us, for whom he wrote.  He did not forget his relationship with God.  Can you imagine if Mormon only identified himself as a Nephite commander or leader, totally fixed on destroying all Lamanites, rather than as a child of God with a unique task to fulfil?

Then Abraham and the particular choice he made early in his life, to not identify with his fathers and the people around him – “In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of [his] fathers, [he], Abraham saw that it was needful for [him] to obtain another place of residence… [His] fathers having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshipping of the gods of the heathen” (Abraham 1 v1-5).  They utterly refused to hearken to Abraham, who identifies himself as “a follower of righteousness” (v2) with desires to “receive instructions and to keep the commandments of God” but instead they tried to offer him up, as an offering to strange gods, idols, as they had done with men, women and children before him.  Abraham was saved by an angel, leaves the Chaldees and goes to the land of Canaan.  As we know, in that land, the Lord makes a covenant with Abraham, which Abraham keeps, and through Abraham’s seed “shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessing of salvation, even of life eternal” (Abr 2 v11).  Today, we take part in that Abrahamic covenant, become Israel – the covenant people, as we are baptised and receive all the blessings of Heavenly Father through temple covenants.  Can you imagine if Abraham only identified himself as a Chaldean, willing to be sacrificed to the heathen Gods, rather than as a child of God with a unique task to fulfil?

We live in equally troubling and difficult times – the winding up scenes of history – but also the best of times since we have been given the opportunity to be baptised, by water and by fire, with the Holy Ghost.  We individually have the opportunity to make covenants with God, possibly as no other people in the history of the world, with the building of temples across the world.  Truly, we are ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.’ (1 Peter 2 v9).

But do we identify with this, first and foremost, or do we put our relationship with God second, preferring to be identified by our profession, by money or where we live, our nationality, or our race?  And do we identify others by their profession, nationality or race rather than seeing them as a child of God, as we all are?  What would be the difference in our lives if we identify ourselves as daughters and sons of God with his unique work to fulfil?  Remember:  “These earthly identities are not wrong unless they supersede or interfere with our eternal identity —that of being a son or a daughter of God.”  Elder Hallstrom

As I thought on this, I realised that God has told us, throughout scripture, what we can do to maintain and improve our relationship with him:

“Turn ye unto me,… and I will turn unto you.” Zechariah 1 v3

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you.”  D&C 88 v 63

“Return unto me, and I will return unto you,” Malachi 3 v7

“Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you,” James 4 v8

How do we draw near, turn to Him, return to Him?  It is simple, we repent.  Through Zechariah, the Lord told Israel to “Turn you now from your evil ways,” and through Malachi, Israel was told to bring “all the tithes into the storehouse.” James wrote “cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded;” and early in this dispensation, through Joseph Smith Jnr “sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him.”  And to us now, a couple weeks ago in General Conference, our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, told us:

“When we left our premortal existence and entered mortality, we brought with us the gift of agency…  Although it is imperative that we choose wisely, there are times when we will make foolish choices. The gift of repentance, provided by our Savior, enables us to correct our course settings, that we might return to the path which will lead us to that celestial glory we seek.” 

I have made mistakes and I have felt the Lord’s forgiveness as I have needed to use the gift of repentance to turn back to him.  I am very grateful for our Saviour, our eldest brother, and that because of Him, when I make a mistake or neglect to do something, I can change.  Because of Him, I can improve each day and I have pondered on where I need to improve and I hope I can remain true and faithful to my Father, and choose my relationship with Him.  I know the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, available only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true.  I know for myself that it provides all necessary covenants and knowledge of salvation, so we can honour our relationship with Father, while on earth and return safely to Him.  I know Joseph Smith Jr is a Prophet, that the priesthood of God was restored to earth through His angels – John the Baptist, Peter, James and John.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that Thomas S Monson is a true prophet of God.  I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

My brothers and sisters, for that is what you truly are, we all have a special relationship with God; He is our Father and He loves us, you, very much.  We need to draw near to Him, keep our covenants, use repentance, feel the blessing of forgiveness, and honour that relationship with Him while here on earth. Then when we pass on, we will see Him clearly again, “face to face: now, we know in part, but then shall we know even as also we are known” (from 1 Corinthians 13 v12).

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

the burning hut

Dear friends
One of my cousins passed this story to us, so I’m passing on, hoping it will encourage someone else 🙂

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little
hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, and soon there was nothing left. The worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. “God, how could you do this to me?” He cried.

Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” The weary man asked his rescuers. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

In life it’s easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, when things are not going our way, but we shouldn’t lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of pain, and suffering.

Remember this the next time your “hut” seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the grace of God. Please consider passing this message on, because “You Never Know Who Feels Like Their
Hut Is On Fire Today”

International Women’s Day

Dear friends
So life keeps going with all that it brings. 

The funnies: –
Me: (on why there’s a mid season break for extended filming) I don’t think it worked like that in my day!
Daur2: What?  You twerked in your day!!??

The compliment: –
Local Heritage officer: (on looking at my latest project) A very well designed extension.
This is why I’m an architect,  I love creating spaces for all to appreciate 🙂

The surprising/ thought provoking: –
Female friend (mother of 2, same age as me and the LDS seminary teacher): It is cancer. Their going to operate next month,  remove it completely and I have to decide on whether to have reconstructive surgery later in the year.  It helps to talk about it.

And then Mothering Sunday: –
My mother: (after lovely dinner prepared by my dear husband and why it’s not Mother’s Day) It originally started so those downstairs [ie servants] could visit their homes/ mothers at least once in the year. 
My children and husband (expressions – similar – in a card): Thank you for being the best Mummy!!

Latest read: – I’m reading Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje – I’ve read it before; it’s one of my older books retrieved from the garage last spring; it’s a great,  poetic read. 

Latest on running: – I’ve been running a little bit during these wintry mornings – I need to improve my stamina!  but my latest running partner (another mum with dog during early morning seminary) will be teaching seminary (in the absence of the teacher for surgery),  so I’m not sure whether to go down to the park to run on my own… it’s quite light in the mornings now but it’s a big grass and woodland area.  There are other runners… I’ll think on that one.

image
View on my typical early morning run

Finally, to international women’s day, that this is, I can’t say I’ve done anything particular but I did decide (yesterday) to go to the LDS women’s conference on Saturday – I didn’t have much choice,  my mum declared she wasn’t going if I wasn’t!  I also thought on how if we don’t support such activities and conferences, they won’t be organised. It simply means a whole Saturday out… at least a friend is driving this year (it’s towards London).  The workshops do look quite interesting and despite my cynicism, I know I will enjoy the day, and probably meet some old friends.  

After all this,  I recognise that our family is greatly blessed by our Father in Heaven.  I am very grateful for where we live and the time we live in and the opportunities we have.  A different place,  a different generation,  and we would be living very different lives. That goes for all of us.  Take care. 

time for posts

Dear friends

This is a little unusual.  The house, apart from me, is empty.  My dear husband and dear children all have some activity at church this evening and since our small car broke down today (I’ll explain in another post but I don’t want to complain… let’s simply say, I’m glad it didn’t happen on my shift!), they’ve all headed out in the big 7-seater – and I’m home alone!  This is a rare thing.  I also, do not have any paid work to do – I worked a full day in the office (being dropped off by dear husband with our dear daughters at about 0815h – Son1 did the school run for Son2 today) and I finished assessing last Saturday all the log books which I’ve received to date (that’s my second home work job for a local university).

So, I can indulge myself in Wordpress, blogging, reading posts, you and me, at least for another hour or so until Son2 is dropped back home.  Rice is steaming, ready to accompany wonderful African sauces, including egusi prepared by my dear husband yesterday evening – yummy!  This moment is bliss.  I’m even on the laptop which means I can type faster than when I post from my tablet.  🙂  I’ve prepared a quick list of topics in my hard journal which have been mulling around my head the last few days – storm naming (Storm Imogen reached us Sunday night – what a noise!!), US presidential election (I’m fascinated with watching this from over here but I’m guessing for my US readers it’s either starting to get tiresome or interesting?), LDS women (there’s a few conferences and things that we’ve been invited to, I won’t go to all of them but I’ve some thoughts about being a (?an) LDS woman, a 2.3 mile run yesterday morning (yes, 2.3 miles, rather than 2.3km!), but I’m going to start with a work related topic, a design team meeting…

Christmas eve…

Dear friends
OK.  The weekend before Christmas is over – school finished, ward Christmas party, wedding anniversary, and Son2, our youngest, was baptised. And yesterday, I finished work until the New Year and my dear husband had our boiler serviced (so at least we should stay warm!).  And what else this week…, dinner for the missionaries and new friends and Daur2 had her ears pierced, once each, in the lobe – looking pretty! 

So now we have less than 24 hours to buy & wrap gifts for each other, decorate the house and tree (oh, take it down from the loft first and tidy the front room,  aka my dear husband’s study), deliver cards to neighbours and nearby family.  Alot can be done in 24 hours with 6 pairs of hands and 6 pairs of feet.  It’s 0745h, I think I need to get some of them moving…  I remind myself:

Jesus is the reason for the season

And refuse to feel pressure, stress, anxiety, for more than 24 hours! We’re going to enjoy the day preparing together 🙂 #ASaviorIsBorn #HeIsTheGift #ShareTheGift.  I wish you all a peaceful,  family, friendly, Christmas  🙂 … did I just hear sleigh bells?…

a Christmas message

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released a 2015 Christmas message:

We find the real joy of Christmas when we make the Savior the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time, particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellowmen.

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior’s teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others.

As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service to our fellowman. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior. And may one and all have a joy-filled Christmas.

I encourage you to check out this tag on social media #ASaviorIsBorn. I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 🙂

inside church

image

Dear friends
This is my current view. It’s early morning, at the chapel, I’m waiting for Daur1, and yes, those are my sock clad feet to the bottom right of photo. 
I’m reading the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13 verse 1):

Look! And I looked and beheld many nations and kingdoms…

And I looked around to ponder. And my mind cast back to when I first entered this building nearly 30 years ago, one spring morning for church.  It looks a little different – back then the walls were brick internally. But the feeling was the same. A feeling that I was home, where I should be. 🙂
And the beautiful paintings always remind me who I’m following.  I love our buildings, so simple and functional on every level.  When I visited St Vincent (in the Caribbean) it was great to see a lovely two storey building reflecting local stone materials, responding to the terrain (a hill and that’s why it was two storey).  And to know that our tithes are used for these. 🙂

I’ll take a few more photos (I need to slip on my shoes…) for those of you that have not seen the inside of a LDS church building. Enjoy! 🙂

image

image

image

image

minority families…

Dear friends

Last week there was a policy announcement from church leadership. I wasn’t aware of it until Sunday, when after church meetings, Daur1 said it was mentioned in young women’s lesson and there is loads of comments on the Internet about it.  So, back home I looked up lds.org to see what it was about, for myself.

In my words, it’s that children of / within a same sex marriage couple can not be baptised until they are 18 years old. 

This seems perfectly reasonable to me – no point having a child baptised (we don’t believe in infant baptism, a child must be at least 8 years old) when their parents are in a situation which opposes those beliefs.  Regardless of how stable and how supportive those parents  may be of the child’s decision, at some point there will be conflict.  Either for the child or for one or both of the parents. And, I’m certain, for the child, it will be confusing at some point, even if eventually that child manages to mentally resolve it. I can refer to my own situation, which some of you may feel is not the same, but for me, it feels relevant.

My dear parents were never married, and, as far as I can tell, never lived together. I don’t know why – I’ve never asked, and I probably never will.  My Dad has a wife and children and a home.  He visited my Mum and us once a week.  For the bulk of my childhood I said nothing more than “Hello Daddy” and “Goodbye Daddy” at the start and end of an uncomfortable 20 minute visit where he money to my Mum and pocket money to us.  I am the oldest of his children.  My younger brother is younger than my oldest half sister, so you can work that out!  My relationship with my dear Father deserves a post of it’s own, so back to the point of this post.

I was in the clear minority at school, not only for my skin colour, for growing up in a single parent family, for “having no Dad” as my peers described, and I felt that as a ‘stigma’.  I knew I was loved and was very matter of fact with friends that asked, “do you have a Dad?” Response “yes!! Everyone does. He just doesn’t live with us.”

By the time I reached my teens, although I knew what was right in terms of civic society – not hurting, stealing, killing, lying – when it came to what was right in terms of my own personal welfare, well, I was in a state of confusion, particularly in terms of relationships, questions like what is the real, true position, God’s point of view, on premarital sex?  I was in search of personal peace, personal answers, as I was becoming an adult. I never felt able to ask my mother since I was fully aware that she had all of us out of wedlock.  And although my mother was firm, provided a Christian upbringing (Mum not affiliated with any particular church though I went to a pentecostal Sunday school) and and told us not to ‘drink from the governor’s cup’ (or some strange phrase where the governor and his cup was an innuendo for sexual activities), it was a struggle, at least for me to reconcile this with her own actions.  (You may judge me as weak because of that).  Once I had the opportunity to learn more, I made a choice, to make and keep covenants with God, and I found peace. 

So, what am I saying? I’m saying when it comes to eternal matters, our choice matters.  And most of us, when we reach adulthood, will have the ability to choose things in this life.  And quite simply I believe that our Father is fair and that 18 years in any loving home where respect is taught for parents, with one, two, male, female, black, white, parents, is beneficial for our eternal welfare – family love can be learned and that is fundamental.  There will be time, and I feel, time to make and keep sacred covenants once we individually make that choice…

I’m probably not explaining this very well.  It may be difficult enough to grow up in a minority-type family, so why would our Father want to make it worse for his children in such a situation.  So I totally accept this policy statement as Father’s will.  And I fail to understand why others feel this shows intolerance or a degree of being unfair.  I expect the reason it wasn’t explicit before is because same sex marriage is a new situation.  Thankfully, revelation is always relevant and for the times in which we live.

charity

Dear friends

I love this definition of charity which was in the visiting teaching message this month – here’s the link to the talk https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/charity-never-faileth?lang=eng  It’s Prophet Thomas S. Monson, at women’s session,  October 2010.

Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.

I can definitely work on these!  As I do, I know I will come to know our Saviour better,  and so I can trust Him more.