Life is all about families! As I have been writing histories of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, I’m drawn to them with increased tenderness and honor, even greater than when they were alive. Some of them I never knew. I am also thinking about precious one-on-one moments with my children and grandchildren in soul-connecting activities and discussions. I am happiest in the presence of my family. My thoughts wrap around them; every prayer centers on them; my heart is linked inseparably by eternal bonds. Family is everything to me—husband, children, grandchildren, siblings, parents, grandparents—backwards and forwards up and down the generations. It’s like an intricate web that cannot be touched without setting the whole matrix in motion. I think of my posterity yet to be born, and already love them with inexpressible intensity. I yearn to leave behind a legacy of faith to help them remain constant as they traverse their mortal journey. I hope to assist them—by example and precept—to have a strong personal faith in Jesus Christ which will prepare them for the challenges they will most surely face. I know this love and concern will increase, in this lifetime and beyond the veil, as I continue to labor and pray in their behalf. Family is my work, my joy, my life—now and forever. Family gives me abundant Reasons to Rejoice!
When teens graduate from high school and leave home to taste independence, they enter the dangerous decade of young adulthood. In the thrill of freedom, they often explore forbidden paths which lead to destructive behaviors, habits, and detours. By contrast, what parent could want more than to hear the following words from a son or daughter during these critical years? Here is a short extract from a long list of lessons learned from our oldest grandchild who recently returned from her mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was hard work. She said she is not the same person that she was 18 months ago.
- I have learned why we need opposition and the trial of our faith.
- I have learned the important role of the Holy Ghost, and why I never want to live without the guidance of the Spirit.
- I have learned the importance of family and what I want my future family to be.
- I have learned what it means to truly love people.
- I have learned that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is infinite and intimate.
- I have learned what Heavenly Father can accomplish through 19 and 20 year- old men and women.
- I think the greatest change in me is that I can say with confidence that I know the truths of the gospel for myself.
- There is a certain peace and joy that comes when you know the truth. It comes from the Savior. That is what continually motivated me to wake up every day with excitement to share it with others.
- I have learned that I have great reason to rejoice!
It is inspiration from God to send missionaries of young adult age to spread the good news of the gospel worldwide. In the process of blessing others, these young adults are shaped in magnificent ways. I am a grandmother with great Reasons to Rejoice!
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: What sacrifices have I been asked to make in my religion? I believe that a religion that does not require effort and sacrifice—doesn’t produce faith, refinement, and spiritual growth in its members. We understand this principle in other areas. For example, if I work hard and save money to pay for my college tuition, I will apply myself with greater diligence and appreciation. And how absurd it would be to ask a physical trainer to help me develop bulging biceps and total body fitness without performing strenuous exercise? The principle of sacrifice and reward has application in every dimension of our lives. It applies to religion too. If it doesn’t pinch, it isn’t a sacrifice. Here are some sacrifices I’m striving to make. I am imperfect, but I will never give up trying.
- Resist forbidden things.
- Study scriptures daily.
- Pray morning and night (and in between).
- Obey commandments.
- Minister and serve others, even when it’s inconvenient.
- Prioritize marriage and family as number one—to love, teach and minister.
- Cherish the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Fast and pay tithing.
- Repent when I make mistakes and strive to improve.
- Stand as a witness for truth.
- Treat others kindly even when mistreated. Forgive freely.
- Learn to love with compassion and courtesy.
Note the ACTION WORDS: Resist, study, pray, obey, minister, serve, prioritize, cherish, repent, stand, learn, love, forgive.
As a child, sitting still in church was difficult for me. Talks at the pulpit seemed long. But when time came for congregational singing, my wiggles stopped and I sat upright. Even before learning to read, I felt something joyous in singing hymns of praise to God. Later, while driving as a family on road trips, my sister taught me to harmonize. I clearly recall peering out the window at rolling countryside scenes while singing, “Ere you left your room this morning; Did you think to pray?” Throughout my life, singing and accompanying church hymns have burrowed gospel messages into my heart. This is good counsel for all: “Let us use the hymns to invite the Spirit of the Lord…in our homes, and our personal lives. Teach your children to love the hymns. Sing them on the Sabbath, in home evening, during scripture study, at prayer time. Sing as you work, as you play, and as you travel together. Sing hymns as lullabies to build faith and testimony in your young ones…Let us memorize and ponder them, recite and sing them, and partake of their spiritual nourishment” (First Presidency preface in our hymn book). I wish I had sung hymns as lullabies to my young children. Quality of voice doesn’t matter. There is a feeling that comes through music that is more powerful than words.
May I describe what joy feels like to me? It’s deep and untouchable by external influences—such as disappointments, trials, and pain. I’ve had all of those. But even in the midst of difficulties, I feel a brightness of hope that lets in light. This hope is leads to faith, because I trust God’s purpose in allowing trials—His beautiful plan to tutor and improve me. I pledge to follow Him. This faith increases gratitude for my Savior who makes it possible to have eternal life. This gratitude heightens inner peace, which is a soothing feeling of equanimity that allows me to fall gently to sleep at night and to wake smiling in the morning. I might describe joy as an inward “smile.” Peace, gratitude, faith, and hope—gradually increase my ability to “grow in love” as Leo Tolstoy put it. These are all elements of happiness. They are subtle feelings and are easily overlooked, especially during an uphill climb. So I’m trying every day to recognize, acknowledge, and then record these tender mercies from above. They are Reasons to Rejoice!
Though the world is in turmoil, I don’t need to be afraid. These promises from prophets bring comfort and peace: (Pres. Howard W. Hunter) “I promise you in the name of the Lord whose servant I am, that God will always protect and care for His people. . .The Lord has power over His saints and will always prepare places of peace, defense, and safety for His people.” (Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley) “Our safety lies in repentance. Our strength comes of obedience to the commandments of God.” (Pres. Thomas S. Monson) “Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of Heavenly Father and of the Savior will comfort and sustain us—and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. . .Fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” This is where I put my trust. The Lord wants us to look for Reasons to Rejoice and feel His peace through obedience. That’s the course Alan and I choose to pursue.
Do you sometimes feel that God doesn’t hear or answer your prayers? Although in truth He answers every sincere prayer, it’s not always in the way or as soon as we might expect. Thus, sometimes we miss it. “Seldom will you receive a complete response all at once. It will come a piece at a time, in packets, so that you will grow in capacity. As each piece is followed in faith, you will be led to other portions until you have the whole answer” (Richard G. Scott). So, when I pray for help, God will give me gentle promptings that make me ponder and learn to trust. I must act on the promptings and even struggle before the whole answer becomes evident. Sometimes an answer comes merely as a feeling of peace. I’m learning that answers come in a step by step process, and during that process, I am drawn closer to the Savior in my desire to hear and learn. Heavenly Father is a personal, living God. He knows our names, and cherishes us as His children. Because He loves me, He will answer my prayers in the way that ensures my greatest growth, change, and capacity for joy.