One week ago, I stood in a park in downtown Salt Lake City with 200 Ordain Women supporters – and said a prayer for the group.
As I was reading through October’s lessons, I was very excited about the focus on Christ and love. The lessons on the Come Follow Me website are very good. In this lesson, I tried to get away from the cerebral aspects of “we need to love everyone” and go into the “how” to love everyone.
The week before the lesson, I think it would be good to ask the students to spend time thinking of their favorite story of Jesus. You could ask some of the older girls who studied New Testament last year in seminary to share a story they learned about that was important to them to share with the younger girls, or you could ask everyone to spend some time reading in the Gospels this week in their personal study. Then when you start class, you could ask each to share the story they picked and write it on the board in a list.
The lesson manual frames the lesson with this quote: ”It is the business of those who profess to be engaged in [God's] work to move on, to go forward. … So long as there remains a step forward to be taken, that step should be taken.” Thus, at the offset we know that it is not just God’s kingdom that needs to (and will) move forward–it is the individuals that make up that kingdom. Which means you, and me, and the sister we sit beside in Relief Society, as well as the sister who sometimes sits by herself.
It was helpful for me to keep this call for individual movement and progression in mind as I went through the lesson. While I do believe that the “Kingdom of God” will go forward, it can be a bit overwhelming for me to envision it in some of the ways that President Snow mentions. It is much easier for me to grasp individual persons, taking individual steps forward in their daily decisions and lives. Only then can I picture all of those small movements adding up to the big, forward, rolling movement of the Church.Read More
by Liz Johnson
(Liz Johnson is the mother of four and resides in Northern Indiana. She has a BA in International Development and is two postage stamps away from being a certified doula. This post is adapted from an Easter talk she gave in Sacrament meeting.)
Whenever I think of Christ being lifted off the cross, His mortal work on the Earth finished, and being prepared for burial and entombment, I can’t help but think of His loyal followers and how they may have felt at the crucifixion of their Lord. This man – whose life had been prophesied for generations and whose birth was foretold by prophets of old was there – in flesh and blood! He had walked with them, healed the sick, made the blind to see, raised a man so dead that “he stinketh” back to life. He had performed miracles of all varieties, spent time with all classes of society, and bestowed forgiveness on even the most vile of sinners. This mortal son of Deity, whose power seemed to defy all reason and all rank, had been brought before the civic justice of the day, wrongfully convicted, tortured, and then put to death right in front of his loyal followers. How devastating must it have been to see a man so powerful in the ways of God be so defeated and victimized by mere mortals?
Was there even any hope to be had? We know that his followers had been taught of the resurrection – Martha proclaimed her faith that her brother, Lazarus, would rise again in the resurrection not long before Christ’s crucifixion. They had witnessed the miracles throughout His life and had expressed unwavering faith in His power and glory. But who could save their Lord? The man who had saved the beggar, the adulterer, the leper, and the friend – who would save Him now? With His crucifixion, they had no Lord to call upon to come raise Him from the dead as Lazarus was raised. Could their faith have endured on this, the blackest of all Fridays?
And then, seemingly to add insult to injury, when Mary Magdalene came upon His garden tomb early Sunday morning, she found His grave vacant, apparently vandalized and plundered by those who had despised her Lord. I can only imagine the bitter feelings she might have felt – was it not enough that they had taken Him, pounded nails into His hands & feet, plunged a sword into His side, and crucified Him with common thieves? They couldn’t let Him rest in peace, but had to desecrate not just His life, but His resting place as well?Read More
Today is Palm Sunday when we celebrate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem – one week before Easter. On this day, Jesus rode through the city gates on a donkey and has hailed by the Jews as their King. Only four days later, after the Last Super with his apostles, Jesus was betrayed and taken away from the Garden of Gethsemane by soldiers. And five days after His triumphant entry, He was tried and crucified.
It didn’t take long for the Hailed King to move into a downwardly spiral of events – just a few days. While Christ anticipated these events and knew they were part of the plan, I’m sure they were not pleasant. We too know how fast things can fall apart in this earth life.
On the morning of Friday the 13th of July 2012, I sat alone in my small Honda Civic slowly absorbing the words I had just heard from my doctor and trying not to cry. I had a 25 cm cyst in my abdomen that needed to be surgically removed immediately before damage was done to my internal organs. I had no health insurance, no job, and nowhere to live to recover from such a surgery. My heart was very heavy.
The phone rang. It was the HR Department from my previous employer telling me that my Cobra Health Insurance had been reinstated. Then I did start to cry. I wept tears of gratitude and knew that I had been a part of a miracle. It was the first of many miracles – and I had unknowingly taken just one step into a journey that would last many months.
That morning in the dark mood of that small car, my path was illuminated by that miracle and God would continue to guide me throughout this journey. “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angles round about you, to bear you up.” (D&C 84:88)
Four days later I was in Alexandria Hospital hooked to an IV and waiting for an ambulance that would take me to Fairfax where a surgeon was waiting to operate. A friend waited with me, insisting that I have a blessing before I left for surgery. After several calls – and to my surprise – Elder Wilson of the Seventy was on his way to anoint me. The moment he put his hands on my head, my whole body filled with power. It was an overwhelming feeling. I knew then that this man had lived a life dedicated to righteousness and that he had become a powerful tool in the hands of God – and I also knew that God wanted to show me, His daughter, how powerful He was – and assure me that He was in charge and would strengthen me. Another miracle. ”I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand. Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.” (How Firm a Foundation – #85)
And so it went, from the ambulance to the hospital, and into the hands of a very particular surgeon. One miracle after another. I was guided and strengthened and kept safe down a narrow illumined path as my life exploded around me. My friends worked in shifts to be with me until my family could arrive. My sister, Heather, was with me one week later when bad combination of stress and pain killers caused my intestines constrict and cramp – leaving me with the worse abdominal pain of my life. I was curled up in a ball on the Stinson’s couch – crying and desperate. Heather called the doctor and listed the pros/cons of an emergency room visit. She asked if I wanted her to call for a blessing – and that didn’t feel right, so I asked for a prayer of faith. With me on the couch, my sister knelt and offered a prayer on my behalf.
It was then that I felt the great comfort of the Lord. Like a warm blanket, I felt the arms of love encircle me and a soft voice in my mind telling me to relax. I knew if I could just let my body relax that the pain would start to work itself out. And it did. I have felt this same comfort many times since in moments of distress. “His presence shall my wants supply, And guard me with a watchful eye. / To fertile vales, and dewy meads. My weary, wandering steps he leads. / My noon-day walks he shall attend, And all my midnight hours defend.” (The Lord My Pasture will Prepare – #109)
And, through these experiences, I came again to know – even more deeply – what I’d know before: that the Risen Lord Lives! He knows me! He lives to guide me and strengthen me and comfort me. I know more intensely now that He is my Savior.
On this Palm Sunday, we, with all Christendom, hail Him as our King and look with eager eyes to Easter Sunday when HOPE is made fresh again in the world. ”He is Risen! Tell it out with joyful voice. / He has burst the three days’ prison; let the whole wide word rejoice. /Death is conquered. We are free. Christ has won – the victory.” (He is Risen – #199)
I will spend my Palm Sunday worshiping at two different churches. During this Holy Week, I will attend a session at the LDS Temple and a mass at the Basilica of Catholic University. I hope to spend Easter Morning on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial with my scriptures, watching the sun come up above the Cherry Blossoms.Read More
“What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you look at this picture?” The Relief Society teacher asked me directly. The image was from a magazine and was what I would describe as mixture of Goths and eccentrically, darkly dressed women and men. I knew what the answer was likely supposed to be. But the teacher didn’t know me. She knew my name, and she knew me by the pastel floral prints that had I chosen to wear on my return to church a few years earlier. These pale prints grew within my wardrobe making me into a wraith of my former self. Choking on these pale forals, I longed for the company, asymmetrical styles, and nose rings of my pre-uber-Molly days.Read More