Friday, October 3, 2014

Oil Cleansing Method for Your Face

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a blog entry about cleansing your face with oil.  I thought it sounded crazy, but I'd been looking for a way to incorporate carrot seed essential oil into my facial products, and this seemed perfect.  I had previous read that carrot seed essential oil was a powerful tool to help with aging skin, but that it had a distinct smell. I got the oil, and it does indeed have a strong, distinct smell.  Not necessarily unpleasant, but one that would probably make others look at you a bit strangely, so I wanted to use it at night.  I read about the Oil Cleansing Method on She describes the various proportions and details on how she uses this method in detail on her site.  I will just share my method and results here.

What I used:

A couple teaspoons Castor Oil
A couple teaspoons Olive Oil
Several drops Carrot Seed Essential Oil

Castor oil is an astringent oil, so it is great for cleaning deeply, and may help with oily skin.
Olive oil is nourishing, and moisturizes.  The carrot seed essential oil is rich in Vitamin A and help the skin to rejuvenate.  I just put these together in a small jar I had saved from some previous skin care products.  It worked perfectly.  

The Procedure:

Using a foam wedge (normally used for applying foundation), I dip it into the oil and spread it across my face and neck.  I go over my face a couple of times with the foam, then use my fingers to massage it in for a bit longer, maybe a minute or two.  I let the oil sit for just a bit longer, depending on how much time I have.  After that, I soak a wash rag in hot water, and gently wipe the oil off my face, being careful not to rub too hard.  I have, at times, rubbed enough that my face actually felt dried out after the procedure, which is not what I want.  I use this method at night, so I can have the carrot seed oil on my face all night, without worrying about the scent.

The Results/Verdict:

The first week or so of using this, my face felt pretty tingly, almost a bit warm for sometime afterwards.  I'm not sure if that was from the carrot seed oil, the astringent affect of the castor oil, or an unrelated factor, but that no longer occurs.  I first noticed that my face felt very soft and moisturized.  It was lovely.  However, that great revelation and benefit came after a week or so.  I noticed that the hyper-pigmentation I had on my face, which was particularly bad after a summer of long bike rides and weeding in the garden, has faded dramatically, and is in fact almost completely gone.  I am amazed.  I have used various methods in the past to get rid of those spots, and none have worked nearly as well, and certainly not as fast as this method.  I think it is the carrot seed oil that is mostly responsible. In any case, this is a method I definitely recommend, and will continue to use.

One Additional Note:

The big concern, I think, with putting oil directly on your face is going to be that it will clog your pores and cause breakouts.  The theory behind this method is that (as we learn in chemistry), like attracts like, so the oil will pull the oils that have accumulated on our face and in our pores out and off our face.  In practice, I have not seen an increase in breakouts or clogged pores since using this method, with two small notes.  For a couple of days, I had a few blackheads, but I was hiking and camping during that time, which generally leads to blackheads anyway.  Second, I had a few spots the day after using a clay mask, which in my experience generally leads to a small break out as the clay pulls things to the surface.

Overall, very pleased, even delighted with the effectiveness of this method.  I used Castor Oil and Olive oil, but other oils could be sunflower, avocado, hazelnut, and coconut oils.  I'm going to look into other essential oils that might help with anti-aging as well. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shampoo Bars: The Basics

Our family stopped using shampoo about 2 months ago.  It's true.  Like most things, it all came about as a process, as one thing led to another.  It all started because I felt like my hair was starting to feel extremely dry and damaged, as well it might since my hair is highlighted and straightened frequently with a flat iron.  For the most part, I greatly reduced blow drying, and used an argan or other conditioning oil on it, but it just didn't feel like I wanted it too.  I started reading into which shampoo and conditioner might help.  In the course of my search, I read some articles about the chemicals used in conventional shampoos, especially sodium-laurel-sulfate.  Since we were simultaneously trying to reduce our use of chemicals and plastics, and shampoo is mostly unpronounceable chemicals, it was an easy jump to looking into alternatives to shampoo altogether.  I didn't have to look long.

I first came across the idea of No-Poo.  No-Poo is simple, with a few variations.  The most common is to use baking soda.  Just common baking soda. Mix a couple teaspoons with warm water, massage it into your scalp and rinse.  Usually this would be followed with a conditioning rinse of apple cider vinegar (ACV).  Other methods would be to use nothing, just scrub your hair with your fingers, or use a combination of herbs.  I tried the baking powder for a while, and my hair felt clean, but still quite dry.  After some further research, I found that the pH was actually quite damaging to your hair over time, so I looked for another method.

The second alternative we tried was Castile soap, diluted in a ration of 1:4 with water.  I used Dr. Bronner's Castile soap, which comes in about types, depending on the essential oil used.  I chose Lavender.  Since it was very thin and watery, and I didn't want the kids to use too much, I put the mixture in foaming pump containers, and that worked great.  Everyone seemed to like using it, and I continued to use the ACV rinse.  However, I wasn't 100% pleased with it, as my hair seemed a little greasy. I should note, when switching from conventional to natural shampoos, I've heard it can take up to several weeks for your hair and scalp to adjust to the proper oil production.  Still, I didn't think it was the perfect solution.  However, we had discovered Castile soap, which is a wonderful product, and will replace every chemical cleaner in our house.

After further research, I learned about shampoo bars.  Actually, I had read about shampoo bars before I got the Castile soap, but I could not find any at local health stores, so in the end, I had to order them online.  There are A LOT of varieties and suppliers out there, and it was confusing to try to choose.  I took a recommendation from another blog and decided to try Beauty and the Bees, which is based in Tasmania.  Needless to say, shipping direct from their website was far too expensive, but I found some an Amazon.  They have 8 or more varieties, and I wasn't sure what kind to get, so I ordered a sampler box of 6 small bars.  They came with a sticker on each one saying what kind it was, and what type of hair/results it was best for.  Each of us choose what we wanted to try, which worked out great since there are 6 of us.  I ended up with one called Moroccan Mud.  It smelled great, and when I tried it--wow, it was terrible!! After the second wash, my hair felt like it was loaded down with sculpting paste.  I could push it in to any position, and it would just stay.  It was just so greasy and gummy and heavy. It was weird for me, since I never use any product on my hair.  To make matters worse, I had to talk in church that day! Yikes.  I braced myself for a couple of weeks of hiding in the house during the long adjustment time.  Then, the very next time I washed my hair, all that just dropped off, and my hair was light and clean and wonderful.  I credit the time using the baking soda and Castile soap for the quick adjustment time.  In fact, I would recommend using the baking soda for a week, then trying the shampoo bars, for a quicker adjustment period.

I decided to try another shampoo bar type, called Voodoo Bamboo.  I guess I was just attracted to it because of the super cool name, and that it contained bamboo charcoal.  This bar is a bit different in texture than the other bars, more of a gel or glycerin feel, and the smell is just heavenly.  I love the smell so much.  After washing with it about 2 or 3 times, I felt like my hair was very dark; so dark, in fact that I went and had my highlights redone, even though I would have normally waited another 2 or 3 months! After getting the highlights, I felt it hadn't changed my color at all--it was still very dark. In addition, I felt my hair didn't feel as clean--it was just a little less bouncy, maybe a touch gummy. I went back to the Moroccan Mud bar today, and my hair feels bouncy again--and much lighter in color!  Too bad, because I loved the smell!

More on Shampoo bars and Castile soap another time.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Crazy? Maybe!

Last week I was talking to my mom about some things that happened at the homeless shelter where I volunteer one a week.  (This is not a scary dump of a shelter, it is fabulous--the Food and Care Coalition in Provo).  My mom made a connection and informed me that the sister of someone we know is homeless in Provo.  My mom said this person went kind of crazy.  According to my mom's account, first she started homeschooling, then she went "natural", and the next thing you know, she's homeless on the streets of Provo. I was thinking, "Ummm, mom???"

So this is the first year in a long time that we haven't had any homeschoolers.  Keaton is graduated. Carson has followed Keaton's footsteps to Karl Maeser Prep.  I was extremely worried about him going there because of the rigorous academics.  However, he loves it and is thriving socially, at least. (Can you believe he didn't make ANY friends at Timberline Middle School last year?  Remarkable for a kid like Carson) I think coming from a charter school background, public school was just too overwhelming.  He has made tons of friends already, and is on the drama team, just like Keaton.  Did I mention he just wants (and I'm not sure he even realizes he's doing this) but he just wants to be like Keaton.  In any case, his grades are not stellar, even with a 504 that requires his teachers to supposedly let me know of all upcoming assignments.  So the verdict is still out on the academic side.  Makenzie is in middle school (6th) at Mountainville, and her grades are very depressing.  I will need to homeschool her to get her up to speed in her Language Arts eventually, but she is adamant against it.  She's a socialista. McKay is back to Mountainville after a year at public elementary.  I think when kids start out at a charter school, it is hard to adjust to the more chaotic and open style of public school.  It is a relief to not have 4 kids in 4 schools, and also to see McKay dressed decently, since he is required to wear a uniform.  (On a tangent, having kids with sensory issues is more expensive than just burning money).

When I look back at the way my life is different from about 2 years ago--wow, it is nuts, just crazy.  Almost like waking up from a long, deep sleep.  Sometimes I wonder how and why events happen, but I know chance meetings and events are not chance at all, although it often takes a great deal of time to figure out the meaning.

In the course of my education in Landscape Architecture, my main interest was the design side, and not so much the environmental side.  Seeing all the issues we face as a country and world regarding pollution (been to SLC in the winter lately?), drought (we've been on water restrictions for 3 years now), and chronic illness possibly caused or aggravated by chemical toxins (fibromyalgia, lupus, CF, MS, Lyme), I'm much more interested in seeing what I can do to help.  Our family has been slowly getting rid of chemical cleaners, reducing plastics and waste (easier said than done, everything comes in a package), and looking at renewable energy sources for our home.  Fortunately, there are SO many websites and blogs from like-minded people.  Need a recipe for homemade deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc?  You can find more than you need.  In fact, we just made a batch of detergent today.  Trying it out now, so no verdict yet.

The culmination?  We're mulling starting a natural product line, using all natural products like beeswax and honey from our hives, olive oil, castile soaps, essential oils and so on.  To make what?Well, first of all, shampoo bars.  Yes, shampoo bars.  Yes, a little crazy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lorenzo Snow 23: The Prophet Joseph Smith

At its core, this lesson is about gaining a firm testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith, his divine calling and his role in restoring the gospel.  It gets me to thinking about the elements of a testimony.  A quick online search a few days ago brought me to a blog post about the Testimony Glove.  You all remember the Testimony Glove?  The idea is that there are 5 essential elements of a testimony, and we can remember them using the 5 fingers of our hand.  I was rather astonished to find that this blog post generated a very heated and contentious debate between the pro-Testimony Glove camp and the anti-Testimony Glove camp.  Fortunately, here in this class, we do not have to declare ourselves pro or anti Testimony Glove.  I think arguments can be made both ways, but I will declare myself in the neutral camp.  While I do think it is a little kitschy and formulaic, when I think of the Testimony Glove, I think over those 5 elements of testimony represented there, and do a little self-evaluation to see how my testimony in each of those areas is doing.  To see which are strong and thriving, and which might need a little more attention.  What are those 5 elements?:

  • ·      God is their Heavenly Father
  • ·      Jesus Christ is their Savior and Redeemer
  • ·      Joseph Smith is a prophet of God (who restored the gospel of Christ and translated the Book of Mormon)
  • ·      The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s church on earth today
  • ·      The church is led by a living prophet

For me, when I go through this list, I consistently find that the weakest of the 5 elements for me is the third: Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.  Now, I’m not saying that I don’t have a testimony of the importance of Joseph Smith, only that this point is the one that I about which I have done the least studying, praying and contemplating.

If you add some of the other elements of the gospel in which Joseph Smith was instrumental, in particular translating the Book of Mormon, restoring the priesthood and restoring temples, I have a stronger testimony in those areas because I have more thought, time and experience invested in them.  However just on the Prophet Joseph Smith himself, I haven’t really put that much effort into it, and so I’m grateful for the opportunity of this lesson to look more closely at the Prophet.

I had this lesson prepared, and then a tragedy occurred that caused me to shift things all around.  The son of family friends died suddenly and unexpectedly this past week, leaving behind a devastated family, wife and newborn son. 

The bleakness and frailty of life brought home to me by this tragic death made me mindful of the beauty of the gospel truths, revealed by Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith, that make these painful events so much easier to bear.  In particular, I thought of the words; not just words, but truths, spoken by Joseph Smith in the King Follett Sermon.

Just to give a little back ground, King Follett was a member of the church in Nauvoo.  He was a kind and faithful man who was much loved by the members.  He suffered an untimely death, which caused great sorrow and distress among those in Nauvoo.  At his funeral, Joseph Smith offered powerful words of comfort and revelation.  This is an excerpt from that sermon:

King Follett Discourse

I now call the attention of this congregation while I address you on the subject that was contemplated in the fore-part of the conference. It is a subject of the greatest importance and the most solemn of any that could occupy our attention, and that is the subject of the dead. I have been requested to speak on the subject on the decease of our beloved brother, Elder King Follett, who was crushed to death in a well. I have been requested to speak by his friends and relatives but inasmuch as there are a great many others here in this congregation who have lost friends, I feel disposed to speak on the subject in general and offer you my ideas as far as I have ability and as far as I will be inspired by the Holy Spirit to treat and dwell upon this subject.
I want your prayers, faith, the inspiration of Almighty God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost that I may set forth things that are true and that can easily be comprehended and which shall carry the testimony to your hearts. I want to ask this congregation— every man, woman, and child—to answer this question in their own heart: What kind of a being is God?  Does any man or woman know?  Have any of you seen Him, heard Him, or communed with Him? There are but very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God.
In order to understand the subject of the dead and to speak for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary to understand the character and being of God. The first principle of truth and of the Gospel is to know for a certainty the character of God, and that we may converse with Him the same as one man with another, and that He once was a man like one of us and that God Himself, the Father of us all, once dwelled on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did in the flesh and like us. If the veil were rent today and the great God that holds this world in its sphere and the planets in their orbit and who upholds all things by His power—if you were to see Him today, you would see Him in all the person, image, fashion, and very form of a man, like yourselves. For Adam was a man formed in His likeness and created in the very fashion and image of God.
Here then is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God. You have got to learn how to become Gods in order to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done—by going from a small capacity to a great capacity, from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, until the resurrection of the dead, from exaltation to exaltation—till you are able to sit in everlasting power and glory as those who have gone before, sit enthroned.
How consoling to the mourners when they are called to part with a husband, father, wife, mother child, dear relative, or friend, to know, though they lay down this body and all earthly tabernacles shall be dissolved, that their very being shall rise in immortal glory to sorrow, die, and suffer no more. And not only that, but to contemplate the saying that they will be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. To inherit and enjoy the same glory, powers, and exaltation until you ascend a throne of eternal power and arrive at the station of a God, the same as those who have gone before.
So I come to what I wish to speak of—the resurrection of the dead.  The soul—the immortal spirit—the mind of man. Where did it come from? Man existed in spirit; the mind of man—the intelligent part— is as immortal as God Himself. Intelligence is eternal.  It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it. Hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost? You who mourn the loss of friends are only separated for a small moment from their spirits, and their spirits are only separated from their bodies for a short season.
The greatest responsibility that God has laid upon us in this world is to seek after our dead.  It is necessary that those who have gone before and those who come after us must be made perfect and have salvation in common with us. For it is necessary that the seals be in our hands, to seal our children and our dead for the dispensation of the fullness of times—a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man. God has made it obligatory to man and thus has He laid it upon the eaves of the world. 
What have we to console us in relation to our dead? We have reason to have the greatest hope and consolation for our dead of any people on earth. For we have aided them in the first principles. For we have seen them walk worthily on earth in our midst, and sink asleep in the arms of Jesus; and those who have died in the faith are now in the celestial kingdom of God. Hence, is the glory of the sun.
You mourners have occasion to rejoice, for your friend has gone to wait until the perfection of the reunion and the resurrection of the dead. At the resurrection of your friend in felicity, he will go to the celestial glory, while there are many who die in the world who must wait many myriads of years before they can receive the like blessings. 
Your expectation and hope is far above what man can conceive. For why has God revealed it to us? I say to you my friends, by the authority of the Holy Ghost and in the name of the Lord, that you have no occasion to fear; for he is gone to the home of the just. Don’t mourn; don’t weep. I know it by the testimony of the Holy Ghost that is within me. You may wait for your friends to come forth to meet you in eternity in the morn of the celestial world.
I have a father, brothers, children, and friends who are gone to eternity to a world of spirits soon to meet me. I bless those who have lost friends. They are only absent for a few moments and the time will soon be gone. They are in the spirit. The trump will soon be blown, and then shall we hail our mothers, fathers, friends, and all.
A question about parents receiving their children. Will mothers have their children in eternity? Yes! Yes! Mothers, you will have your children. For they will have it without price; for their debt of redemption is paid. 
As the child dies, so will it rise from the dead and be living in the burning of God and possessing all the intelligence of a God. It will never grow, it will be the child in its precise form as it was before it died out of your arms. Children dwell and exercise power, throne upon throne, dominion upon dominion, in the same form just as you laid them down. Eternity is full of thrones upon which dwell thousands of children, reigning on thrones of glory, with not one cubit added to their stature.
I have the truth and I am at the defiance of the world to contradict it.
Hear it, all ye ends of the earth: I call upon all men—priests, sinners, and all. Repent! Repent! Turn to God and obey the gospel.
I have intended my remarks to all—to all the rich and poor, bond and free, great and small. I have no enmity against any man. I love all men—I love you all. My voice is always for peace. 
I cannot lie down until my work is finished. When I am called at the trump and weighed in the balance, you will know me then. I add no more. God bless you. Amen.

Isn’t that powerful? I first heard it this past summer in Nauvoo, in a circumstance that greatly impacted me.  In addition to the pageant, the actors and others do various vignettes or shows during the week.  The actor who portrays the Prophet Joseph Smith presented the discourse one afternoon.  It was in a quiet grove, and as the actor stepped into the filtered light and began to speak, a transformation occurred, in which the character became the man for those few minutes, and testified to my heart of the Prophet and his teachings.

If we need to have a testimony of the divine calling of Joseph Smith, how do we get it?  Through reading what has been written about him by those who knew him, maybe? The Prophet Lorenzo Snow knew him well. He said:

“Perhaps there are few men now living who were so well acquainted with Joseph Smith the Prophet as I was.  I was with him oftentimes.  I visited him in his family, sat at his table, associated with him under various circumstances, and had private interviews with him for counsel.”  In addition to these private interactions, Lorenzo Snow witnessed Joseph Smith in public – in his ministry as a friend to the Saints and as the Prophet of the Restoration. 

Although President Snow was impressed by the experiences he had with Joseph Smith, his testimony of the Prophet’s mission was not based on those experiences. He repeatedly declared that he had received his testimony from the Holy Ghost. He said:

“As to [Joseph Smith] being a man of truth and honor I, nor any one else that knew him, have any reason to question for a moment. But then I never went forth to preach the principles of this Gospel depending entirely upon any information I received through him or any other man; but I believed on his words, coming as they did to me as the words of truth, from an inspired man of God. … The Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost which all men may receive and enjoy, … confirmed the truth of what he had told me, and it became knowledge to me of that nature which no man can give nor take away.

What is President Snow teaching here?

·      That we gain testimony from Spirit teaching spirit, not from observations gained through our mortal, earthly bodies.

As the Prophet Joseph stated:

All things whatsoever God in His infinite reason has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in our mortal state, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle.  They are revealed to our spirits precisely the same as if we had no bodies at all.

I really liked this concept, because it gives a good explanation of why we will never gain testimony through the physical act of study or observation, but only through our spiritual eyes.  The Apostles of Christ, even though they walked with him for three years, could not see who he was, because they looked with their physical eyes.  Only after receiving the Holy Ghost did Spirit testify to spirit.  In the same way, we can best increase our conviction that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God by seeking out circumstances where the Spirit can testify.

What kind of a man was Joseph?

Lorenzo Snow testifies that when Joseph Smith received his divine calling, he was a pure, sincere, honest young man. 

Not only was he young, but he was poor and uneducated, He was a mere boy, honest, full of integrity, unacquainted with the trickery, cunning and sophistry employed by politicians and religious hypocrites, to accomplish their ends. He felt incompetent and unqualified for the task, to stand forth as a religious reformer, in a position the most unpopular. But, God had called him to deliver the poor and honest-hearted of all nations from their spiritual and temporal bondage.

Regarding his Joseph’s character, President Snow said: 
I knew him to be a man of God, full of the spirit of his calling—a man whose integrity could not be disputed, and who was honest in all his endeavors. No one that was as intimately acquainted with him as I was could find any fault with him, so far as his moral character was concerned. … I bear testimony of the good character of Brother Joseph Smith, of his honesty, his fidelity, his faithfulness, his generosity, and benevolence, as a man and as a servant of God.
How where those qualities-sincerity, honesty, integrity- vital to Joseph Smith’s ability to serve successfully in his role in restoring the gospel?
One man who, upon meeting the Prophet, was impressed with his integrity, was Dan Jones.  Dan Jones was a ferry boat captain of Welsh descent who immigrated to the US around 1840.  Captain Jones noticed negative comments about the Mormons, and as he says, ““Through a careful investigation of the accusations I perceived clearly that it was impossible for them to be true, either because in their zeal they overstated the case or because they contradicted themselves in some way.”  After some time of study, and inner conflict, Dan Jones became converted to the gospel.  Finally, in 1843, he docked at Nauvoo with a load of converts who had emigrated from Great Britain.  According to written accounts, “Eager to become personally acquainted with Joseph Smith, Captain Dan ran his eyes over the crowd at the dock. No one, however, fit his notion of what a prophet was to be like—a man wearing a goat skin, having “a long beard and long, white hair … with a high and retiring gaze, murmuring quite a lot and very saintly.” Even after a “large, comely man” approached him on the boat and said, “God bless you, brother” while shaking his hand kindly, Brother Jones failed to recognize the person whom he sought. Only when Joseph Smith returned a second time did the captain realize that he needed to look no further. After studying him for a while, Brother Jones reformulated his concept of what a prophet should be like. Four years later he wrote: “His fair countenance and his cheerful, guileless face rather convinced me that he was not the cunning and deceitful man I had heard about.”
As stated earlier, Joseph Smith was a poor, uneducated boy at the time of the first vision, but through the continual guidance of the Holy Ghost, he gradually increased in spiritual power and knowledge.
President Snow relates:
Toward the latter part of his life Joseph Smith became a master of strength and influence over his fellows. The Prophet had the power to impress in a remarkable manner all who approached him. There was something about him that went to their hearts. This was particularly the case with brethren when receiving from him their appointments to go forth and preach the Gospel. They loved him, and believed in him, and were ready to do whatever he directed for the furtherance of the work of God. He filled them with the power of his presence, and thrilled them with the testimony of his prophetic mission. There are many people in the world who possess an extraordinary spirit of friendship and warmth that everyone feels who meets them. I have met many such men, but never yet have I met another person in whose company I felt the peculiar and powerful influence that I felt while in the presence of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It was due to the great portion of the Spirit of God that he possessed, merely the shake of his hand would cause a person to become filled with this influence, and any sensitive nature would know that he was shaking the hand of an extraordinary person.
Although obviously I don’t not know this from first hand experience, my impression and opinion is that the effect described above was not due to the personal charisma of the Prophet, such as an expert politician or orator would have, but because of the power of the truthfulness of his words.  Even today, when we hear someone testify of the Prophet or relate his words with conviction, we can often feel that same powerful influence fall over us. 
Has anyone ever had an experience with that?
I know that for me, and probably for most of you, I have that experience each time I hear, or read or watch the account of the First Vision.  As we seek to gain a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the gospel was restored through him, the most important first step is to specifically seek and ask for a testimony of the First Vision. 
We have been counseled by prophets and apostles to gain a direct witness of this event.  Why?
·      Everything hinges on this pivotal account.
The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith…having accepted this truth, I find it easy to accept of every other truth that Joseph Smith declared.  (Joseph F. Smith)
You should always bear testimony to the truth of the First Vision.  Joseph Smith did see the Father and the Son.  They conversed with him as he said they did.  (Ezra Taft Benson)
President Lorenzo Snow said:
In the integrity of my heart, with honesty of purpose to know the truth, I received [Joseph Smith’s] message—I obeyed this form of doctrine, and I received, in the most tangible and satisfactory manner, a divine manifestation—the promised blessing—a knowledge of this work. Am I the only witness? How is it with the experience of thousands whom I now address? Are you also witnesses?
Would anyone like to add your witness? 
I would like to add mine.  I know that the events described by Joseph Smith did in fact happen as he said. He was a true and living prophet, foretold from antiquity.  He did in fact see the Father and the Son. I testify that Joseph Smith was sent of God, and that he did establish this work in the name of the Son.  I testify that he sealed his testimony with his blood as a martyr because, and did so because, knowing it was true he could not deny it even to save his own life.  In the Nauvoo pageant, the martyrdom is narrated as the audience watches Joseph and Hyrum stand in determination, never fearing, and then march in glory from the stage.  Watching them exit, my heart burned with the knowledge that they were received into heaven in glory.
Sisters, at the start of this lesson, I we discussed some of the elements that are essential to a testimony.   Having a sure testimony of Joseph Smith is not one we can afford to overlook. It is the pivotal link to so many other aspects of the restored gospel.   I would like to close with my testimony to you of the second of those elements, Jesus Christ.
This gospel and in particular my Savior, are so precious to me.  Not just at this time of year, but continually, my faith and trust in Christ is foundational to all the desires of my heart.  At certain times such as Christmas and Easter, when I take the time to focus on them, they are tender and close to the surface.

To think that God himself came down among men. “And he said unto me, knowest thou the condescension of God?” “And I said unto him, I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.”  When I was younger, I felt like I needed to understand everything, to know everything.  But what has become central to my faith is just that—“I know that he loveth his children.”  I know that God loves me, as does His Son. 

The story of Christmas, of Christ’s birth is not just a story.  It gives reason and meaning to life for all of us.  Christ is truly the Son of God, only begotten in the flesh, who chose, condescended, to take on the form and limitations of mortality to walk among men; to teach, to lead and to set in place all those elements necessary that we can return to him through his grace.  And for the one reason: because he loves us.  He loves me infinitely.  He loves YOU unconditionally and boundlessly.  I love my Father and Christ deeply and rely on that faith each day of my life. 

Who is Christ to me?  The Creator of this beautiful world that I love so much.  A gentle Counselor who teaches me when my heart is unwilling to follow.  Love and Forgiveness without end when I fall short.  My precious Savior and Redeemer.  I love Him.  I believe in Him and I believe Him.  I will always do my best to follow him.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Lorenzo Snow #9: Sacred Family Relationships

For a few days last week, Dave and I attended a parenting seminar down near Fairview.  When we arrived, we found that almost all the couples there were homeschoolers, and yet all very different in circumstance, background and opinion.  Some were young and some were older.  Some had blended families.  Some families were small, and some were quite large.  And yet, as we went through the course, we came to find many unifying elements.  Many of the families there were facing similar challenges with their families as we were, and all were concerned about their children’s development, their relationship with them, and of course, we were all dedicated to finding solutions to help our children and our families find happiness over the long term.  Most importantly, we were all LDS families, desiring to create family centered homes focused on Christ.

One family in particular, the Apontés, really stood out to us.  The father, José, was the keynote speaker, and their story is a good example of the principles being taught in this lesson.

José and his wife, Jacky, are Puerto Rican.  They were both born into homes of abuse, where the children were treated as unwanted encumbrances at best.  In Jacky’s case, she was eventually removed from the home for her safety.  They met at a boarding school, and with their similar backgrounds, they came to rely on each other, because they had no family support.

When José was 17 and Jacky was 16, José decided to pursue and new life in the US, and invited Jacky to come with him.  She said she would only go if they were married.  With no family support, they were married at a young age and arrived in the US with no money, no prospects and no hope.

What are some lessons about families we can learn from the experience of José and Jacky’s childhood?  Are there any?

(Quote #1)

"The human family -- without the gospel or without strong families -- is not going to go very far. Unless we can fix families, you can't fix anything else. Most of the problems that are most vexing are things government can't fix. They have to be fixed at a different level. That's the urgency of our message. I'd rather have ten commandments than ten thousand federal regulations...Unless we rebuild marriages and families, then we really are just straightening deck chairs on the Titanic." Neal A. Maxwell

Why is it sometimes easier to be kinder to strangers and acquaintances than to the people inside our own home?  Which are more important, and why?

Do we sometimes have to put down the traditions of our fathers when it  comes to child rearing and other family relationships?  Has anyone had an experience of being raised in a certain way, and determined not to perpetuate that?

About 4 months after arriving in the US, they met and were taught the gospel by the LDS missionaries.  They were baptized within one week.  What do you think was the main principle that sparked their interest in the gospel message?

Family relationships are sacred and can grow stronger in eternity.

President Snow said:

Encourage marriage, … and impress upon [others] the sacredness of that relation and the obligation they are under to observe that great commandment which was given of God to our first parents, to multiply and replenish the earth. This is all the more necessary, in view of the present tendency in the world to disregard that law and to dishonor the marriage covenant. It is saddening to note the frequency of divorces in the land and the growing inclination to look upon children as an encumbrance instead of as a precious heritage from the Lord.

[The Lord] has shown us that if we are faithful we will associate with each other in an immortal and glorious state; that those connections formed here that are of the most enduring character, shall exist in eternity.

At the time of their baptism, José and Jacky were still just young, 16 and 17, and had married for security more than anything else, and yet this doctrine touched their hearts and inspired them to being a loving family.

What can we do to help the youth of the church understand the sacredness of the marriage covenant?  What can we do to help them look forward to marriage and parenthood?

After having 4 children in a few years, Jose and Jacky moved to Spain for a job, where José started working long hours, and, in doing so, pulled away from the church and his family.  Finally, in frustration, Jacky decided to leave and return to the states.  Soon after, José had a dream, or vision in which he was chasing Jacky and his children through the streets of Seville, only to finally come to a beautiful garden.  However, his family was able to enter, while he was blocked outside, watching them disappear.  That same night, he had another dream in which he was able to enter with his family.  He realized that he did not want to lose the opportunity to be in the garden with his family, and José and Jacky reconciled. 

José was able to restore his family because he had a vision of the future.  At our retreat, we were each encouraged to write a vision for our family in 20 years, an event that we would all attend.  We were asked to develop this vision with our family, focusing on the feelings of relationships we desired to have at that event. 

President Snow gives and example of what such a future event might be like:

(Quote 2)

Anticipating his 70th birthday, Lorenzo Snow invited all his children and their families to gather in Brigham City, Utah, for a “grand re-union and anniversary celebration.” He arranged for their lodging and food and for programs that all, including the young children, would enjoy. “The more I reflect upon this subject [of a family reunion],” he wrote, “the greater are my anxieties and desires for a family gathering, that I may see you all once in my life, and give you a father’s blessing.” He urged them to let nothing prevent their attendance “except the most serious and insurmountable obstacles.”
The Snow family gathered from May 7 to 9, 1884, and enjoyed music, theatrical productions, speeches, poetry, games, food, and friendly conversation. President Snow’s sister Eliza reported that throughout the event, he attended “various meetings of the family, and in the capacity of Patriarch, … engaged in conferring blessings upon members” and giving “much fatherly counsel, instruction and admonition.” As the reunion drew to a close, all the family came together to hear him speak. According to Eliza’s record, he expressed “his pleasure and gratitude to God that he now enjoyed the happiness of beholding the pleasant and smiling faces of his large family, and the good he anticipated would result from this reunion.” Looking out over his family, President Snow exclaimed: “My heart is filled to overflowing with warmest feelings of gratitude to my Heavenly Father. … Language is powerless to express the deep feelings of my heart for this holy and sacred opportunity on this the celebration of my seventieth birthday, of standing here and beholding this glorious and heavenly inspiring spectacle.”
When we have such a vision, it can help us avoid or encourage actions today that would impact our future event.  It can be the source of a desire to create more unity and harmony in the home daily. 

When husband and wife enjoy a oneness of feeling, they encourage love and kindness in the home.
President Snow said:
See that the little, trifling misunderstandings in domestic concerns do not poison your happiness.
Wives, be faithful to your husbands. I know you have to put up with many unpleasant things, and your husbands have to put up with some things as well. Doubtless you are sometimes tried by your husbands, on account perhaps of the ignorance of your husbands, or perchance at times because of your own ignorance. …
… I do not say but that your husbands are bad—just as bad as you are, and probably some of them are worse; but, never mind: try to endure the unpleasantnesses which arise at times, and when you meet each other in the next life you will feel glad that you put up with those things.
To the husbands, I say: Many of you do not value your wives as you should. … Be kind to them. When they go out to meeting, you carry the baby at least half the time. When it needs rocking, and you have not much to do, rock it. Be kind when sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice to do so; feel kind anyway, no matter what the sacrifice.

President Snow said that “little, trifling misunderstandings” can “poison our happiness” in the home.  What are some specific ideas that can help us avoid this “poision”?

When is it the hardest to be kind?  What can we do to make those moments easier for ourselves?

When we discussed this vision with our family, we emphasized the importance of daily relationships over the years, continuous associations that would make that 20-year reunion more enjoyable.  We discussed that we see happen when we get together with our extended families now, and how we can work to avoid those in our own, future family.

What are some of the feelings President Snow had about bringing his entire family together?  How can we help our families stay united?

President Snow said:

In this we will see a spirit of determination that will enable us to become one, that we may learn how to love each other, and I pray to the Lord that he will deposit that love in each of our hearts which he deposited in Jesus his Son, and that he will continue to deposit a knowledge of that which is good.

In the world today, this pattern described is not the reality for everyone.  Sometimes, the outcome is not reconciliation, but divorce.
In his conference talk, Faith, Fortitude, Fulfillment: A Message to Single Parents, Elder David S. Baxter said:

"You are striving to raise your children in righteousness and truth, knowing that while you cannot change the past, you can shape the future."

"Whatever your circumstances or the reasons for them, how wonderful you are. Day to day you face the struggles of life, doing the work that was always meant for two but doing it largely alone. You have to be father as well as mother. You run your household, watch over your family, sometimes struggle to make ends meet, and miraculously you even find the wherewithal to serve in the Church in significant ways. You nurture your children. You cry and pray with them and for them. You want the very best for them but fret every night that your best may never be good enough."

"Please never feel that you are in some kind of second-tier subcategory of Church membership, somehow less entitled to the Lord’s blessings than others. In the kingdom of God there are no second-class citizens."

There is a second category of member that may feel like a second-class citizen, and this applies to both male and female.  That is those who have not been able to marry in this life.

President Snow said:

People who have no opportunity of marrying in this life, if they die in the Lord, will have means furnished them by which they can secure all the blessings necessary for persons in the married condition. The Lord is merciful and kind, and He is not unjust. There is no injustice in Him; yet we could scarcely look upon it as being just when a woman or a man dies without having had the opportunity of marrying if it could not be remedied in the other life. There would be injustice in that, and we know that the Lord is not an unjust being. My sister Eliza R. Snow, I believe, was just as good a woman as any Latter-day Saint woman that ever lived, and she lived in an unmarried state until she was beyond the condition of raising a family. … I cannot for one moment imagine that she will lose a single thing on that account. It will be made up to her in the other life, and she will have just as great a kingdom as she would have had if she had had the opportunity in this life of raising a family.

Does anyone who had to wait for either marriage or children have thoughts they would like to share?  What have you done that has enabled you to feel close to Heavenly Father?  What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome?

(Quote 3)

"There is a temptation on the part of some of our sisters who have never married to give up, to stop trying, to think of what they don’t have in life instead of what they do have. It is important for them to never give up, to never cease living. As Sister Carol Clark has so beautifully stated: “The personal challenge is not to wait successfully but to live richly, fully, joyfully. The goal is not to wait for the right person but to be the right person” May I emphasize the word live. Live richly, fully, joyfully. Be excited about your chance to grow and develop your potential. Be excited about life and the opportunities and privileges that the Lord has given you."  Marvin J. Ashton

(Quote 4)

I assure you that if you have to wait even until the next life to be blessed with a choice companion, God will surely compensate you. Time is numbered only to man. God has your eternal perspective in mind. Ezra Taft Benson

Upon returning to Florida, the Apontés had 6 more children, for a total of 10.  José had a very successful business, and was in the stake presidency.  Many people looked up to them as the wonderful family that they in fact are.  Their beloved eldest son, James, was an inspiration to all through his testimony and enthusiasm for the gospel.  When he was age 18, James fell deeply in love with the daughter of parents who determined they needed to rescue James from the Mormon cult.  They found their son ripped from them and turned against them and the gospel in a painful way that left them in shock and despair.  José, as a member of the stake presidency, felt unworthy and unqualified to stand before the members and preach.  At home, he and Jacky withdrew into their pain.  Unfortunately, they didn’t realize the depth of the pain in their children, who adored their brother as well, and their second son, Josiah started to lash out and rebel in anger.  It was a very dark time for them.

One of the first activities we did at the seminar was to introduce ourselves by using random objects to build our home, as it is, as we ideally wish it to be.  One lady who had driven to the seminar from Arizona with a tiny baby, without her husband, had just managed to put her selected objects in a rather disorganized pile.  She picked up each object and explained what it represented, and concluded by saying, “I’ve got joy in here somewhere, but I can’t find it”.  To me, that was one of the most memorable lines of the whole seminary.  I have often felt that way.

Has any else ever lost their joy?  How do you refind, or regain that lost joy?

For the Apontés, the return of joy came with the inspiration that what they needed most to reclaim their children was, first just pure love, connecting to their hearts, and second, teaching true principles.

Children learn the gospel best when their parents seek inspiration and set good examples.
(Quote 5)
This is not our work that we are engaged in, it is the work of God. We are directed in our movements by a superior intelligence. … The future of this kingdom will rest on our offspring; and its power and ultimate triumph, on their education and proper training. If we wish to sway a proper influence over our families, we must show them good examples as well as give them good precepts. We should be able to say, do as I do, as well as to say do as I say.
Strive to teach your children in such a way, both by example and precept, that they will unhesitatingly follow in your footsteps and become as valiant for the truth as you have been.

President Snow said:

It is the business of the father to be qualified to teach and instruct his children, and to lay principles before them, so that by conforming to those instructions they can be the most happy that their natures are susceptible of in a state of childhood, while at the same time they learn the principles upon which they can gain the most happiness and enjoyment in a state of [adult]hood.

The Apontés were looking for a new way to teach their children good behavior and responsibility, and learned about the program taught at the seminar.  The approach is simple, based primarily on 4 basic skills, which are:

Following instructions
Accepting a “No” answer or criticism
Accepting consequences
And Disagreeing appropriately

These seem simple, but as I have pondered then I have come to believe they are truly gospel based.  Almost every problem I have had in my life could have been avoided if I had been taught these skills, and learned to apply them.

Following instructions—Keeping the commandments
Accepting a “No” answer and criticism—Answers to prayer, acceptance when things aren’t the way we prefer, or admonitions for improvement
Accepting consequences—Repentance
Disagreeing appropriately—being respectful when we disagree or things don’t go the way we want

President Snow said,

Our children, if we are diligent in cultivating in ourselves the pure principles of life and salvation, will grow up in the knowledge of these things and be able with greater facility than ourselves, to promote the order of heaven and establish happiness and peace around them.

Through their continued faithfulness, the Apontés have seen the fruition of these promises.  Two more children have joined their family for a total of 12.  James has returned to their family and faith in the Lord.  This past Wednesday, they took Josiah to the MTC to begin his missionary service.  And in October, the entire family will begin a mission to Guatemala.