April 2014 Visiting Teaching Message: The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Savior and Redeemer

The visiting teaching messages of the past many months have all focused on one or two aspects of Jesus Christ’s role. This month, the focus is on his role as Redeemer and Savior.

When discussing stories or attributes of Christ, I try to ask myself, “How does this affect my relationship with God? And how does this affect my relationships with others?”

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Relief Society Lesson 7: Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ

Joseph and Hyrum 2I still remember on my mission, one particular day when one particular investigator told my companion and me that he admired many things about our church, and had many LDS friends whose families and lives he respected, but that there was one thing he could not get over: we worshipped Joseph Smith. We tried to explain the distinction, that we worship God and Jesus Christ, but are grateful for Joseph Smith because he helped us know Them more. We also brought in ancient prophets who helped us do the same.

And then my companion said a prayer. She began it, “Dear Heavenly Father,” and closed it, “In the name of Joseph Smith. Amen.” I was mortified, and thought this guy would never believe the story we just told, or that 99.99999999999% of Mormon prayers end, “In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.” My companion told me later that she was nervous. I told her that it was fine. And it was, mostly, but the issue that the man raised is an important one, because it is a real concern for many people.

I thought of it again when I first read the 7th chapter in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual: “Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ.” And I thought of some questions. Let us keep them in mind as we consider this lesson.

  • Why do we sometimes focus so much on Joseph Smith?
  • What can we learn from his life, that can help us in our own?
  • What can we learn from Hyrum’s life? (He is included in this lesson too.)
  • What can we learn from their relationship.
  • What can we learn from their willingness to be martyrs for Christ’s sake?
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Valentine’s Day: Love and Blood and Water

A version of this essay first appeared at Segullah.org

“But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor, into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.” 

From The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

I picked up a box of “Hello Kitty” valentines in the grocery store because I was drawn to the images. The figures on the cards were simple line drawings. Simple.

In second grade we covered shoeboxes with doilies and red construction paper, cutting a slit in the top just big enough for a valentine envelope (and maybe a candy heart) to fit through. Back then our biggest concern in life was which valentine card to give to which classmate. Simple.

Then I thought about a man I had loved several years ago. He loved me too and we talked of marriage. We were friends who played and worked together and supported each other. But, in the end I could not marry him. The reasons aren’t important anymore, but they weren’t simple.

This interlude in the Valentine’s Day aisle got me thinking about what love is. And what it is not.

Love is simple. 

Love is not simple.

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Young Women Lesson: How can repentance help me every day?

Repentance can be a very difficult subject. You want to help the girls learn how to recognize when they’ve done something wrong and to improve upon that, but you don’t want to instill shame. I think as an opening activity, I would ask one of the girls to tell the story of the Council in Heaven. In the story, Satan wants to make every one do the “right” thing, but Christ advocates for agency. This story tells us that making mistakes is something that we know will happen and it’s part of the Plan to make mistakes. Doing the wrong thing means simply that we did something wrong; it does not mean that we are therefore “bad” people. In the class, I might emphasize that again: doing something wrong does not mean we, ourselves, are bad and undeserving of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

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Sacred Music: The Sound of All of Us

Lately I’ve been meditating about belonging to the tribe of humanity: sisters and brothers, all traveling in a foreign land, all a little lonely for home and for each other. This song reminds me that together we are the voice of God. And that feels a little like home.

 

The Wailin’ Jennys singing One Voice

This is the sound of one voice
One spirit, one voice
The sound of one who makes a choice
This is the sound of one voice

This is the sound of voices two
The sound of me singing with you
Helping each other to make it through
This is the sound of voices two

This is the sound of voices three
Singing together in harmony
Surrendering to the mystery
This is the sound of voices three

This is the sound of all of us
Singing with love and the will to trust
Leave the rest behind it’ll turn to dust
This is the sound of all of us

This is the sound of one voice
One people, one voice
A song for every one of us
This is the sound of one voice

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Where All the Stories Are LOVE Stories

One of My Heroes. From one of the greatest stories of LOVE.

One of My Heroes. From one of the greatest stories of LOVE.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

 

 


http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/461259724/where-all-the-stories-are-love-stories

As a storyteller, I’ve long understood the power of connecting ourselves with our heroes. Growing up I was able to put myself in the shoes of Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, Nephi, Indiana Jones, then, eventually Bridget Jones and even Walter Mitty. It’s the power of a story. No matter where we live or who we are, we have the imaginations that stretch us, pull us, and encourage us to aim higher, achieve more, relate, and envision a happy ending–even if we’re at the scary, unknown exposition.

Stories are universal. And a culture is made up of stories passed from one generation to the next. The foundation of the way we define our lives is expressed through stories told in movies, social media, news media, and books written at a given time in history. Over the last year, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the right time in history to make a change in the stories we’ve passed on about the LGBT community.

The trend in our culture has been to portray our LGBT neighbors as misfits, always on the outskirts of normal society, often so eccentric that we are unable to relate. Rarely do you see a movie featuring gay couples sharing a simple kiss, holding hands, or looking at each other with expressions of everyday love– these simple actions are the foundation of everyone’s love story. They make art art and love love– your love and my love. My story, as a filmmaker, is to change this. To make a documentary film about these everyday, extraordinary stories that make us all the same.

I believe in people. I believe in the power of love. And I believe that the thing that connects us to each other, regardless of our differences, is our personal story. Our stories are our lives. They are fleeting. They are precious. They are worthy of being documented. And each one should be told and heard.

I’m reminded often, during this filmmaking process, of  the words of my hero from one of my favorite stories. Atticus Finch understood something during his time that many people did not,  ”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Maybe that seems simplistic on a topic that has caused much heated discussion and debate, but for me, it’s truly come down to simple love, kindness, and acceptance of those who may at first appear different that I am.

If you feel so inclined, please, take a look at our kickstarter project, donate if you can, and share the link. Thank you.

First Gay Marriages in Utah

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