LOIS’ POST: These last 18 months posting on our blog have brought many surprising blessings. Initially it took courage to open up our most sacred, personal feelings for public viewing. We appreciate your respectful feedback and encouraging comments. We are pleased to note that our modest posts have been read in 78 countries throughout the world. THANK YOU. As we complete our 18-month blogging goal, we hand the baton to our 21-year-old granddaughter, Madeline Dunn. We invite you to continue to visit the website, Reasons to Rejoice, as she expresses uplifting insights from her youthful perspective. As my final post, I want to share a simple statement of truth: Jesus Christ’s Plan of Salvation answers these deep questions of the soul: (1) Who am I? (2) Where did I come from? (3) What is my purpose on earth? (4) Where will I go after death? http://www.mormon.org/ This plan explains how we can be happy in this life and return to God’s presence, and how to grow up to become like Him. The Lord forgives my sins, recreates my nature, promises resurrection after death, and qualifies me for glory hereafter. He assures that all things wrong in the world will one day be made right. He promises His faithful followers a fullness of joy. That is the capstone of my REASONS TO REJOICE. “Rejoice, O my heart…I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Nephi 4:30).
ALAN’S POST: As I look back over the past 18 months that my wife and I have posted on our website, “Reasons to Rejoice,” I have experienced great joy in exploring and sharing my deepest convictions. I have rediscovered and reinforced countless reasons to rejoice in my life. I am grateful for you, our readers, who have perused these posts three times per week. We now find it timely to shift our attention to specific genealogy and family history goals. As a parting offering, I want to share my testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I testify of God’s marvelous Plan of Salvation for His beloved children. We left our heavenly home in order to come to earth and learn by experience. Heavenly Father knew that we would inevitably make mistakes, so He provided a Savior for us, who would atone for these errors. Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can repent and be sanctified. We are enabled through His power to progress eternally, to eventually become as He is. The scriptures and words of living prophets provide a roadmap to keep our feet on the right path. Through covenant making and covenant keeping, we are assured of joy in this life and forever. My hope is that you have been edified by reading our posts and will find future installments equally uplifting. I pray that the Lord’s choice blessings will be with you and your families. Until we meet again, we bid you ado.
When people say, “I want to give my children a better life,” they infer that they experienced some form of deprivation growing up, and want to provide better. This is a great goal if it is more than providing material comforts and conveniences, which in excess can deprive children of lessons learned from sacrifice, patience, and hard work. What can we give our children and grandchildren that will be of the most value, both in this life and the next? The Lord has given parents responsibility to teach children principles of virtue, light, and truth. These values are not usually learned in school classrooms or from friends. “Ye will not suffer your children…that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil…but ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:14-15). We can make our homes houses of learning where we talk openly, listen, encourage questioning, testify, exemplify, and seek learning ourselves, for we cannot teach what we do not know. “Reverently speak of the Savior—in the car, on the bus, at the dinner table, as you kneel in prayer, during scriptures study, or late-night conversations—and the Spirit of the Lord will accompany your words…Your testimony will never leave your children…and will prepare them for the challenges they will most surely face” (Neil A. Anderson).
As the end of the year draws to a close, I start thinking about what I’ve learned during the past 12 months. “It would be a poor result of all our anguish and our wrestling if we won nothing but our old selves at the end of [the past year]” (George Eliot). Each year I write a few pages of “Reflections” answering these questions:
- What are a few highlights to remember during the last 12 months?
- Describe an important truth I’ve learned.
- What are some ways I’ve progressed this year?
- What have I learned from someone’s example?
- Describe a trial and what I learned from it.
- Describe a book, poem, song, or scripture that affected me in a deep and personal way?
- Describe a happy moment this year.
- What were some tender mercies or miracles from the Lord?
- List some things I’ve accomplished this year.
- What are some things I will work to improve this next year?
Collecting these yearly evaluations into a binder makes them accessible to review and measure progress. If this list sounds daunting, try answering just one. I think you’ll find, as I have, that it’s worth the effort.
At the close of our yearly Christmas Eve festivities, we PASS THE CANDLE. This activity can work with large family groups or small gatherings of friends. The tradition is to darken the room (except the Christmas tree) and light a candle set in a brass holder with sturdy handle. As each person holds the candle, he/she shares something meaningful—something personal from the heart. A 3-year old might simply say, “I love Jesus.” An adult might share a new truth learned and applied during the year. Someone else might express gratitude for someone dearly loved. Another might describe a kindly service rendered. Someone might express personal feelings about the Savior or a tender mercy recently experienced. Another might share a trial and what was learned from it. A wide variety of expressions unfold in this setting with ages ranging from the very young to the very old. A sweet, sacred spirit surrounds us and unites us. The last person blows out the candle and we kneel in family prayer. “Happy homes come in a variety of appearances. There are, however, identifying features: a pattern of prayer; a library of learning; a legacy of love” (Thomas S. Monson).
With all the gains in technology, some things have been lost—like reading together as a family. I’m grateful for counsel from our prophets to have family scripture study every day. It might go like this: Parents call the children to gather. They each take turns reading a few verses. Even the toddler joins in, repeating the words read by an older sibling. They talk about the principles and how to apply them, ending by kneeling together in family prayer. The session doesn’t have to be long—just consistent. “Most of us would not shirk from the task of defending our families if they were in physical danger—even giving up our own lives, if necessary. Yet are we as quick to make the less obvious sacrifices necessary to protect our families from spiritual dangers?” (Robert Eaton). Children are strengthened as they ponder and practice principles of truth. They are armed with spiritual defense against temptations and worldly influences. Families are unified in common direction and purpose. Family scripture study produces strong and spiritually healthy children.
Might I have been in the wrong?
Everyone is born with a conscience. Some people call this universal endowment the Light of Christ. Our conscience sends clear signals helping to distinguish between right and wrong thinking, doing, speaking, or feeling. Of course, if we abuse or ignore the signal, it weakens. When I begin building a case to justify or excuse myself, it is a red flag waving in the air to get my attention—that I have violated my conscience. “Only people who are doing something that goes against their own sense of right and wrong have to spend time and energy spinning out a self-justifying story. The very fact that we need to struggle for approval proves that we do not approve of ourselves.” Reading this distilled truth from Terry Warner’s book, Bonds That Make Us Free, caused me to reflect upon the time I got rear-ended at a stoplight. Can you imagine my distress when I was the one who got the ticket? The officer chose to accept the driver’s story that I had pulled in front of him too quickly and he couldn’t stop. For weeks I fumed and built a mighty case justifying myself as the innocent victim. After much self-excusing and case building, I took Warner’s counsel to ask this question sincerely: “Might I have been in the wrong?” Answering the question made me open to a new possibility. Though hard to admit, maybe I did change lanes too quickly. My conscience helped me accept the possibility that I might have been in the wrong. Though I may never know for sure, at least I no longer felt resentment. I am grateful for the Light of Christ that enlightens me with truth, even when I am wrong.
I want to be a person whose word can be trusted.
“Did you say 7 o’clock? Sure, I’ll be there!” But he turned out to be a no-show. Years ago, a promise was binding. Giving one’s word was absolute and obligatory—a measure of one’s personal integrity. I found this line amusing from a 19th century novel: “You have my promise. I will never speak of this, so long as I am unaware of any urgent necessity existing for its disclosure. But should that necessity come, then I shall ask you to release me from my promise.” Can you imagine someone today asking to be released from a promise? Sadly, the current trend is for promises to be casually given and frequently abandoned. Why isn’t one’s word held in high esteem as it once was? What can I do to make a difference? I certainly can’t change a world swamped in lies, but I can raise myself to a higher standard. I want to be a person whose word can be trusted, like my father’s. If he committed to perform a particular assignment, consider it already done. It would be done without delay or prompts. If he said he would be there, his presence was assured without reminders. If he promised to hold a secret, it was secure. When my father promised me anything, he could be trusted. I pledge to carry on this legacy of integrity. I want to be truth telling, truth living, truth seeking, and truth loving.