Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pioneers Past and Present

For LDS people, the 24th of July is a day to celebrate. The early saints of the Church arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, after fleeing from persecution in Nauvoo, Ill. Mobs killed the early Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. The saints were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs. The sacrifice that these saints made to follow God is astounding. There are numerous historical and historical fiction accounts about the saints who came west and some retelling later travels to settle other nearby areas.
Echo Canyon 1866
An 1866 party of pioneers in Echo Canyon east of the Salt Lake Valley (courtesy

Though the Church was restored in the modern days on United States' soil, it is a world-wide organization with more members outside of the USA, than in it. Even today, people still make sacrifices to follow their beliefs. Some lose the support of their families, their friends, their jobs, or their homes so they can have the gospel in their lives.

My grandmother and grandfather joined the LDS church while living in New York. Because there was no temple there at the time, they moved their family to Arizona so they could be sealed together--not just for time, but for eternity. This is a sacrifice that I am grateful for, and I am sure others may take for granted. As a result of their conversion, many other families also have the blessings of the gospel in their lives.

My best friend from high school made the decision to be baptized and joined the church between our junior and senior year. Her family supported her, yet they were not 100% happy with her choice. I know it hasn't been all easy with many struggles along the way, but she was able to be sealed in the temple to her husband and is starting a pioneer legacy all her own with her husband and her children.

Whether you come from a long line of pioneers, or you are the very first to join the church, the heritage of the church's beginnings are a part of your life and American history. The Church began not quite 200 years ago, in 1830, and has grown to over 14 million members with about 140 temples throughout the world. It is the 4th largest Christian religion in the USA. Also, it heralds one of the largest (and oldest) women's organization in the world, the Relief Society, which works to take care of one another and provide aid to people of all religions in 170 countries and territories throughout the world. The growth is amazing.

People like my friend and my grandparents and the early pioneers inspire me. Their examples of steadfastness make me want to be better. I want to have the faith and strength of pioneers past, present, and future. I don't know that I could have endured the physical strain of crossing the plains, nor the heartache of losing family and friends to death along the way. But, I am here now enduring challenges that are equally difficult, but in a different way. In a world where so many are struggling, I am trying to be strong in my faith and testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. I try to help those around me to strengthen their faith and testimonies so they can be strong enough to endure the onslaught of trials in the latter days.

©Wendy 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Don't Fall Victim to Identity Theft

I was at the store when my red flags started going up.

I had been shopping for my son's birthday with all of my kids--who were also shopping for his birthday. After a grueling hour or more of this trip, decisions were made and we were at the check-out stand. When everything was totaled up, I swiped my debit card and entered my PIN. The card wouldn't go through. I was completely perplexed. We tried to run it again. It still didn't work. I knew I had funds available, and beyond that, I have overdraft protection, so I was a bit concerned.

Upon returning home, I had a couple of voice messages from the fraud department of my bank. I looked up my bank account online and discovered an erroneous charge hitting my account. I quickly hushed my six kids and dialed the 800 number from the message. They listed several other charges that had tried to go through my account besides the one I saw. *Groan.*

Luckily, they are really great about taking care of things like this and I don't think there will be any lingering effects--other than being without my debit card for a week. I have a small suspicion about what happened, which I will be further investigating.

I want to address a more dangerous form of identity theft, one that can have eternal implications: Do YOU know WHO you are?

There are so many mixed messages in the world that can leave us wondering or confused about who we are and who it is we are meant to become. The adversary works hard to distort our view of ourselves, mask ourselves with things that hide our true beauty, damage our perceptions. I see people every day who are seeking happiness, wandering aimlessly, never really finding what they are looking for in life.

Satan wants us to forget that we are children of God. He wants to cover our eyes, shield our minds, infiltrate our souls and remove any memory or feeling of who we are and where we are from. We need to work hard to not get trapped in this "spiritual amnesia." Don't let Satan steal your spiritual identity.

As with identity theft, we have to safeguard ourselves from spiritual identity theft. Necessary actions include frequent (or constant) prayer, daily scripture study, regular worship/church attendance and anything else that will strengthen you spiritually.

If you do not yet know who you are spiritually, I hope that you will seek that out--pray, study and ponder--and gain that knowledge for yourself. God does loves us, He answers our prayers, and He wants us to return home to him again. He knows us as individuals. Always remember that. Continually seek to know it without a doubt.

Protect your identity.

© Wendy 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pornography Only Hurts the Viewer, Right? Think Again.

*This is a pretty serious post, about a serious topic. Just FYI.

I have been thinking a lot about pornography and the far reaching effects it has not only on the one who is using pornography, but to others around that person. I think too many people think it's okay to look at such degrading pictures, or think that it's not going to hurt anyone, or think even that they are not addicted and it's not affecting them. Or maybe they know it has affected them, but they think they now can't do anything to stop. Or many people probably think that the material they are viewing, reading, or listening to isn't even porn.

Really, I don't know what goes through the mind of one who uses pornography. But, I do know the pain and heartache and sorrow that happens to those close to the user. I spent my life with a father who was, and still is, addicted to pornography. I have to say, I barely know him as a person. I don't know if he loves, or even cares about me as his daughter (or if he is even capable of doing so at this point). There is no emotional connection--at least not a positive one. It has affected my siblings as well--even influencing some of them to struggle with pornography. It led to being molested. Ultimately, it led to infidelity and the end of my parent's marriage, a broken family, pain, heartache, and sorrow. I have lots of unanswered questions, unanswered love, and the feeling of basically being an orphan--at least on some level.

A scripture from the Book of Mormon hit me so hard, Jacob 2:35:
"Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds."
Recently, the Deseret News wrote a four part series on pornography, which you can read: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. These four articles talk about some experiences from people who have been affected by viewing porn, some who have been deeply hurt by being involved in making porn, and also the legal problems around it. There are astounding statistics also given in the articles. It is a devastating trend in society. So many people think it's okay or 'no big deal', when in reality, it is a really big deal. Those with pornography addiction often have trouble controlling their tempers, become depressed or habitually unhappy.

Society is full of porn...or images that are really close to it. It's not just pictures. It can be live and suggestive dancing. It's suggestive or explicit lyrics in songs. You can find innuendo even in children's movies. Reading materials can be pornographic in descriptions (romance novels, erotica, etc.). Prime time television, commercials and other programming slowly desensitizes our minds to not recognize evil when we see it. Gordon B. Hinckley has said to "avoid pornography like the plague." I wish everyone would.

Because of things that happened in my childhood, it has affected me as an adult and in my marriage. I'm still healing. I don't trust many people alone with my children. We don't allow sleepovers. I am really careful with who I leave them with and we also have really blunt discussions with our children around the age of 8 about sex and safeguards that are important.

Painting by Del Parson
There are tools to help, but it is a long process that may involve many re-starts. Pornography is said to affect more parts of the brain than drugs. Another article about pornography, tells about a new website entitled "Overcoming Pornography Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." It contains help for individuals, family members and church leaders who are affected by or dealing with pornography as well as ways to prevent it in our homes. I hope that if there is anyone in need of rescuing and healing from pornography addiction that they can find the help they need.

The Atonement is real. God loves you and wants you to be free and happy. He wants you to be healed. Jesus Christ paid the price for us--we just need to accept it, to use the atonement to be made whole and to heal. You have never gone too far to come back. It may not be easy, you may struggle, but there is always hope through Jesus Christ. Healing is not just for the sinner, but also for the brokenhearted, the abused, and the afflicted.

© Wendy 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013

Importance of Date Night

Think back to when you were not yet married, but dating that person of your dreams. You're in love and finding out everything you can about the person you would someday marry.

Fast forward 5, 10, 15 or 50 years later...

Are you still dating? In love? Getting to know each other better?

If not, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate and put in more of the work that marriage requires. Marriage and staying in love takes work--100% effort by both spouses, husband and wife. Just like a garden, you can't water it and take care of it the first couple of weeks of summer and then just let it fend for itself the next few months. It will die. Likewise, marriages must have the nourishment and the work required to be fruitful.

Since we believe that families are eternal, cultivating a healthy marriage, as well as happy family relationships, is paramount for my husband and me. Not only that, but the strength of families (or the lack thereof) directly correlates to the strength of our society. Our example of a happy marriage will have a significant influence on our children--what they will observe and later seek for their own marriages. It is our responsibility to teach our kids how to work at a marriage. Our attitudes will become theirs. If we show them that marriage is important, they will likewise cherish their own.

The importance of marriage brings me to the importance of having date night. Couples need time to reconnect--spiritually, emotionally, and physically--and some scheduled time is often necessary to make that happen. Here are some ideas to get it going in your home:

  • Pick a night of the week that works best, for us, that day happens to be Friday. Be consistent and make it happen. It can be for an hour or five hours or over night; again, whatever works for you. 
  • Get a babysitter for the kids. Often you may be able to find family that can watch your children for free. We usually get a babysitter that we know from church. Negotiate how much to pay per kid per hour. I have a few older kids that can really help out a lot, but are not quite ready to babysit consistently. We average paying about $5 per hour, and round up a bit. Babysitter costs vary by demographics. I have also found that most 12-14 year old girls are the best babysitters.
  • Double date. Encourage friends to come along and enrich their marriage too.
  • If it doesn't work (financially or otherwise) to go out, put the kids in bed and play a game, watch a movie, have dessert or get some take-out from a restaurant and have a date in your own home.
  • You can be simple or elaborate with your date nights. We often just go get dinner and dessert, but sometimes go to a movie or go grocery shopping together. We also try to go to the temple together about once a month--to remember covenants, or promises, we made that will help us ensure our family can be together forever, not just until we leave this life.
  • Spend time talking, writing love notes, or just being tender with each other.
  • Also, have a myriad of great ideas that are cheap, free, easy, fun and can fit into anyone's lifestyle. This is a great resource to help get you started or feed you new ideas to strengthen your marriage and relationship with your spouse.
Whether you've been married for one year or seventy years, remaining close to your spouse is crucial. Become and stay best friends and be blissfully happy. Do it for yourself, for each other, and for your family. You'll be glad you did! And besides, dating is fun! Not all work is hard work. :)

©Wendy 2013