Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mormon Soprano's Blog on Marriage

I read a wonderfully researched and thought-out post on Marriage.

"What Is Marriage?

Marriage is a “hot topic” right now in the media and the blog world due to Proposition 8 in California. Emotions are running high. There is much being said regarding this topic, combined with intensive personal investments of energy, money, time and effort. Some reports are staying neutral and open-minded, but often the tone becomes bitter, negative, and contentious. This saddens me, and I encourage my readers not to participate in spiteful conversations. Please take the high road. Or, as Elder Robert D. Hales so beautifully instructed in his recent Conference Talk – show your love and discipleship by practicing Christian Courage. I give fair warning that this site is a “contention free zone“. I invite anyone who prefers a war of words and intolerance to go elsewhere. However, I hope that the rest of you will stay, read, share your thoughts and participate in gaining better understanding and respect.

It is not my wish to add another “Proposition 8 Battle-Cry” to the pile. Instead, I would like to devote this post to the core issue in question:

Marriage.

Specifically, I would like to give you a brief explanation of what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) believe about Marriage.

Marriage and Family mean everything to us. It is part of God’s Holy Plan. We believe that being part of a family unit is essential to each stage of our progression; before this life, during this life, and in the life to come.

We believe that all of us lived as one large family before this life. Spirit children; brothers and sisters, with Heavenly Parents. God our Heavenly Father created this earth as part of a divine plan, which included receiving a body, and a family. This life would be our time to prove ourselves, exercise our free agency, and live by faith. After this life ends, we will continue to live and progress. An important part of God’s Plan is to provide the way for us to be eternally linked with the people who mean the very most to us; our family.

Read more...

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Staying Pure for Marriage

I got this in an email about four and a half years ago. It has been really helpful for my teenagers and their friends. I hope it is helpful for others as well.


"CELESTIAL DATING" or
HOW TO PREPARE FOR LIFE AND REALLY FALL IN LOVE ON THE LORD'S TERMS
by BISHOP STEVEN H. SATTERFIELD

PREFACE: TO PARENTS and YOUNG ADULTS

David of old, choice in the sight of God, allowed his eternal soul to fall into the depths of hell. Can we say that God has been with us as much as He was with David in his youth? Can we claim the faith in God that David showed? Yet, David fell! And we can fall too, no matter how choice we are! To fail to believe that is to have fallen prey to one of Satan's biggest lies.

Why did David fall? He failed to obey his God. In doing this he physically placed himself in a position which could allow sin to strike. Had David turned away his head and not invited Bathsheba to his home, he likely would be exalted today.

I have looked into the tear-filled, sorrowful eyes of too many good Latter-day saint youth involved in sexual transgressions not to know how easy it is to fall! I have asked myself time and time again why some fall and others don't. Surely such a question requires a very complicated answer. Nevertheless, after many hundreds of hours of interview, several common errors, among those who had fallen into transgression, became obvious.

Time after time, physical surroundings, circumstances, and activities were all repeated, and all seemed to set the stage for sin to enter into young lives. Bitterness, regret, sorrow, and a feeling of despair quickly replaced excitement and enthusiasm. The message of the following rules is plain and simple: You CAN and must be the one to control your life in order to be free from sin. Where you are, who you are with, where you are going, what you are doing, what time you are doing it, are all controlled by you, and will be to your good or to your detriment.

In order to help substantiate what I have written, I have used many quotes from President Kimball, but much of the inspiration comes from countless hours of interview with young people. To live these rules will require spiritual strength added to a sincere desire to do what is right. Prayer, scripture study, attendance at church, and service, are all necessary prerequisites to having the strength to follow these rules. The rules are strict, but make no mistake, so is the Lord! The rewards of a chaste life are far greater than the sacrifices necessary to follow this counsel. Nothing can be of greater assistance to you in obtaining the Celestial Kingdom than to be worthy to marry the right person at the proper time in your life in the Temple.

RULES FOR CELESTIAL DATING

1. NO DATING UNTIL AGE 16; NO SINGLE DATING UNTIL 18. President Kimball tells us, "Any dating or pairing off in social contacts should be postponed until at least the age of 16 or older, and even then there should be much judgment used in selections and in the seriousness." President Kimball goes on to counsel us that beginning the dating process too soon almost always brings young, immature marriages or immorality and sin. He says that early dating is often done with parental approval, "yet it is near criminal to subject a tender child to the temptations of maturity." Remember, NO STEADY dating until after missions. It is an excellent idea to always double or group date until at least the age of 18. (Quotes in order: Ensign, February 1975, p. 4; Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 223.)

2. MISSIONS BEFORE SERIOUS DATING. President Kimball advises us that "every boy should have been saving money for his mission and be free from any and all entanglements so he will be worthy. When he is returned from his mission at 21, he should feel free to begin to get acquainted and to date." He tells us further that, "one can have all the blessings if he is in control and takes the experiences in proper turn: first some limited social get-acquainted contacts, then his mission, then his courting, then his temple marriage and his schooling and his family, then his life's work." A word to you young ladies of the church: You should always encourage a young man to fulfill his mission. NEVER be the cause of a young man deciding to stay home for any reason, for you will be held accountable. Missions for young men of the church supersede marriage in importance from ages 19 to 25. (Quotes: Ensign, February 1975, p. 4.

3. DO NOT DATE NONMEMBERS OR UNWORTHY MEMBERS. NO MISSIONARY WORK ONE-ON-ONE WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX. I do not believe that the Lord would expect the choice young people of His church to find their eternal mates among nonmembers! He would not ask us to go against both HIS counsel throughout the ages or against the counsel of his prophets. President Kimball tells us, "clearly right marriage begins with right dating...therefore, this warning comes with great emphasis. Do not take the chance of dating nonmembers, or members who are untrained and faithless." Now, do not rationalize by saying that you are doing missionary work. The Lord does not instruct us to do missionary work one-on-one with members of the opposite sex. Fellowshipping should be done in groups. Missionary work needs to be done without hazard of emotional romantic involvement that could lead to conditions which confuse the potential candidate. Many potential members have been "turned off" by improper dating of LDS people. I am quite aware that we have faithful members of the church who have joined as a result of exposure to the church by his or her marriage partner. We are grateful for them. However, for every success story I have heard, I am aware of many sad examples of both members and nonmembers being hurt by not following the counsel of the prophet in this matter. (Quote: The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 241.)

4. DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN "KISSING-HUGGING" SESSIONS (making out, or necking, as it is called). I am not talking about the serious sin of "petting," but the lengthy make out sessions that many feel are "okay" as long as you do not let it go too far. President Kimball teaches us, "among the most common sexual sins our young people commit are necking and petting. Not only do these improper relations often lead to fornication, pregnancy, and abortions -- all ugly sins -- but in and of themselves they are pernicious evils...". Necking or making out, the kissing hugging session, is wrong IN AND OF ITSELF, not just because it may lead to something worse. I am not saying that there isn't a proper time in a dating relationship to kiss. There is a proper time and place. President Kimball advises us, 'kissing would be saved at least until these later hallowed courtship days when they could be free from sex and have holy meaning." In an address delivered to returned missionaries (not high school-age people), President Kimball said, "a kiss is an evidence of affection. A kiss is an evidence of love, not an evidence of lust -- but it can be. Don't ever let a kiss in your courtship spell lust. Necking and petting are lustful; they are not love. I don't mind your kissing each other after you have had several dates, but not the 'Hollywood kiss,' not the kiss of passion, but the kiss of affection and there won't be any trouble. Now remember these things." (Quotes in order: The Miracle of Forgiveness; p. 65; Ibid., p. 231; An address delivered by Elder Spencer W. Kimball January 2, 1959.)

5. NO FRENCH KISSING. This type of conduct is far too intimate and too suggestive of the sex act itself. A French kiss does not meet the standards President Kimball describes above.

6. DO NOT PARK. Especially in the high school years, parking in an automobile has been the downfall of many choice young people. Our prophet, President Kimball, tells us that, "in interviewing repenting young folks, as well as some older ones, I am frequently told that the couple met their defeat in the dark, at late hours, in secluded areas. The car was too often the confessed seat of the difficulty. It became their brothel." BEWARE! Often I have found that a couple originally parked to discuss a problem or work out an argument -- not to make out. However, after the problem was resolved, they kissed to make up and things developed from there. It does not matter the reason; DO NOT PARK. After a date, GO HOME! Once you get there, go into the house, ALONE!

7. NEVER, NEVER G0 INTO A HOME OR AN APARTMENT ALONE. I estimate that 80 to 85 percent of the young people I interviewed, who were involved in sexual transgression of any sort, got involved in a home or an apartment alone. This is especially true of COLLEGE-age members who have their own apartments. If you would live just this one rule ALWAYS, you would significantly reduce your chances of ever falling. If you are in a home and everyone leaves but you and your date, ONE OF YOU should leave also! DON'T GIVE SATAN A CHANCE. That is all he needs!

8. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GO INTO A BEDROOM. Bedrooms are not for entertaining friends of the opposite sex; not even to "just listen to records," watch TV, etc. Do not let- a bedroom become a "familiar" place to be with members of the opposite sex.

9. NO BACK RUBS. Becoming too familiar with each other physically offers liberties NOT entitled to single couples, and is wrong. Back rubs have too often led to more intimate acts.

10. DO NOT LIE DOWN BY EACH OTHER OR ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. Lying down to watch TV, lying down in the park, on the beach, or wherever, places you in a position that is not needed and spiritually unhealthy. When you watch TV, SIT UP! When you go on a picnic, sit up! When you have a good night kiss, at the proper time in a relationship, don't recline to do it. ALSO, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER lie on top of each other! This is absolutely wrong. Remember, do not do anything you would not want your own son or daughter to do.

11. ATTEND ONLY WHOLESOME ACTIVITIES. X-, R-, and most PG-13-rated movies are NOT appropriate to see on dates or at any time. President Kimball advises us that, "danger spots likely to have most appeal among the youth, and which should be shunned as one would shun a poisonous serpent, are undesirable movies and improper TV programs." I have had many members (young and old) tell me that they just "over look" the filth in a movie and not let it affect them adversely. To that I say baloney! You cannot go to a movie or to any entertainment that portrays sexual or violent material, as do most movies today, and not be affected and spiritually hurt. It affects you whether you like it or not! In fact, if you find that this kind of material does not offend you, then this is a sure sign that you have already been spiritually damaged in your life and do not even know it. We should avoid Drive-in movies for dates. President Spencer W. Kimball in talking of drive-in movies, said the following: "There in the car, in dark privacy, with suggestive, voluptuous acting on the screen, was Satan's near-perfect setting for sin. With outward appearances of decency and respectability, with an absence of holy influences and with legions of vicious, hovering tempters, even good youth are trapped into immoral acts --acts which would at least be much less likely in the living room or in the formal theater on Main Street." Further, if you find yourself at a party where alcoholic beverages are being served, where the lighting is poor, where couples are making out in the corners, where drugs are being used, or anything else not conducive to maintaining the spirit, LEAVE! When you are at dances be careful of your posture on slow dances (NO BEAR HUGGING) and your intimations on fast dances. Now, never, should you go to bars. Even "just to dance" or "listen to the music," is not sufficient reason to go to bars. If you frequent bars consistently, you will fall into serious moral sin. I HAVE YET TO FIND AN EXCEPTION TO THAT STATEMENT. (Quotes in order: The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 229; lbid, p. 225.)

12. NO IMMODEST DRESS. Dress that is modest and becoming of an LDS young man or young lady is most important at all times, especially when dating. Girls, immodest clothing includes two- piece swimming suits (or ones with low necklines), halter tops, short shorts, tight-fitting clothes, low necklines, short skirts, etc. Boys, keep your shirts on and buttoned up! President Kimball tells us that those who do not actively resist the evil influence of immodesty will "absorb and foster it." He goes on to say, "I see some of our LDS mothers, wives, and daughters wearing dresses extreme and suggestive in style. Even some fathers encourage it. I wonder if our sisters realize the temptation they are flaunting before men when they leave their bodies partly uncovered or dress in tight-fitting, body-revealing, formfitting sweaters.... We cannot overemphasize immodesty as one of the pitfalls to be avoided if we would shun temptation and keep ourselves clean." On occasion I have found young ladies who wore things that were immodest and did not realize it. All looked well in the mirror as they stood there with shoulders back and standing up straight. What they did not realize is that they don't stand straight all day --they sit, they stoop, they lean over and their clothes become immodest. Make sure all of your clothing is modest for all occasions. (Quote: The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 226.)

13. DATE IN COUPLES OR GROUPS MOST OFTEN. Even after the age of 18, it is desirable to date in couples or groups. Dating in groups is not only safer, but you will find that it is much more enjoyable. You will also get to know things about your date that you could not find out any other way. As we get older, we tend to think that we are "above group dating." This is a serious error. Do not make single-dating the largest portion of your dating. Sometimes when we start to like someone quite a bit, we tend to single date almost exclusively. This is a dangerous mistake.

14. NO LATE HOURS. We should be in from our dates by 12:30 OR SOONER. Most proper functions you attend will end by 12:00 or sooner. You then have 30 minutes to get home. If it does not take 30 minutes to get home, then get home sooner. Do not make it a habit to be out late or up late for that matter. Not all moral problems occur late at night, but many, many do! When we are tired and have become quite familiar with each other through the evening, it is very easy to let down our guard; that is all Satan needs. Resistance seems to be lower at night, so make it a habit to be in early from your dates. THIS DOES NOT MEAN that if your go to one of your homes you can stay longer than 12:30! You should both be home by that hour.

NOTE TO PARENTS: You would be shocked to know the number of young people that I have talked to that lost their virtue in their own front room, or family room, or bedroom. Parents, care enough to chaperon your children while in your home through the entire evening. DO NOT go to bed until the "party is over" and everyone has left! Do not let a young couple go to parts of the home isolated for long periods of time. WAIT UP until they are home from date.

15. EACH PARTNER SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN ACTIONS. Dating is a two- way arrangement. You are each responsible for your own actions. Never allow another person to control your actions. Never say to yourself, "This young man (or woman) is so good that they could never do anything wrong. What ever they would do would be OK." Anyone can make errors. You must have firmly planted in your mind right from wrong, and do not let ANYONE talk you into anything that would not meet the Savior's approval. Know exactly what you are going to do on a date before you go. To go on a date without a plan may sound harmless or even exciting but can lead to trouble very easily.

16. DISCUSS DATING RULES WITH PARTNERS. As you date, especially with those you really like, discuss these rules and your standards so that you each understand what you expect from yourself and your relationship with each other. Set the stops now while your minds are clear and unhampered by emotions. It's too difficult to set them in the middle of a passion-filled night. If a dating partner is not willing to follow these rules or thinks they are too strict, DROP THEM FLAT! Never let your standards relax -- even for what may seem to be the best young man or woman you have ever known!! If you want the help of the Lord and his blessing, follow his counsel.

17. DO NOT THINK THAT YOU ARE THE EXCEPTION TO THESE RULES. Don't say to yourself, "Boy, do I know so-and-so who needs these rules. " The rules are for you! To think that it could never happen to you is an error. It CAN happen to you. YOU ARE NOT SO IN CONTROL THAT YOU CAN AFFORD TO SAY TO YOURSELF, "Oh, I would NEVER do that, therefore, I can go into an apartment alone with my date, or park, or whatever." This is an open invitation to Satan to prove you wrong! And, he will! The biggest error of all is to think that you are an exception to one of these rules.

These are not all the rules we might follow in dating. But, I have never talked to a young person yet who has committed a moral transgression of ANY kind who has not broken several of these rules. REMEMBER, breaking these rules interferes with Celestial Dating and falling in love. They DO NOT bind you down, but rather free you from the things that cause countless heartaches. Things that have contributed to many a Celestial candidate falling to a lower kingdom!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Specific, Sincere Prayer

A long time ago, when my testimony wasn't as strong as it is now, I had just read The Book of Mormon and was praying about its truthfulness. I was having a hard time understanding that if Heavenly Father loves His children so much why He did allow the Nephites to be slaughtered. I didn't understand how justice must be satisfied if the people are disobedient, but that is another topic altogether.
I had been praying and pondering about the sacrifices and obedience that is required to gain eternal life. I wanted to know if it was worth it. Maybe I would be just as happy in a lesser kingdom? Obviously, I wasn't very spiritually mature at the time, but I was sincere in my questions. I wanted to understand better. I thought if I prayed to remember the love that I had for Heavenly Father maybe that would help me want to live more righteously. So I did just that, I knelt and prayed an innocent, sincere prayer to remember what the love that I had for Him.
My answer was immediate, overwhelming, and sweet beyond words. How I long to do all that I can to always feel His love, to remember how I love Him, and make whatever sacrifices necessary to return to His presence!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Good Music in My Life

Music touches me in so many ways. I can hear or sing a hymn and be unexpectedly moved to tears. It can bring forth cherished memories, invite the Holy Ghost, and bring peace. It often stays with me through the day and gladdens my heart. A beautiful melody can pick me up when I am down, or help me escape to a happier place.

I have memories of learning music as a child, and in high school band. The thrill of participating in making music is indescribable. I have sung in choirs, singing praises and prayers to my Heavenly Father. Being a part of it fills my soul on a level that is deeper than many others. I feel connected. Connected with those around me, but mostly connected to spiritual things, to the Spirit of God.

I have had answers to my prayers come through music and lyrics. I've had dreams where new melodies were sung and awakened with them briefly in my head. How I wish they would linger long enough for me to capture them.

I have also awakened to my daughters' singing. The joy that their sweet voices brings into my heart makes the rest of the day richer. I'm so thankful for good music in my life.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What a beautiful world!

Today as I was hurrying through Logan to a dentist appointment my heart swelled as I took in the beauty around me. The crystal clear sky hung above me and the Wellsville mountains stood majestically to the west. The sight enticed me to slow down and drink in the divine creation before my eyes. How could I rush through each day without noticing? How ungrateful to do so!

I haven't posted here for too long, but so often I think, "I should put this on my Tender Mercies blog." Yet, here this blog sits pretty empty with those precious Tender Mercies quickly forgotten as I rush to the next thing. I don't think this is how it is suppose to be.

We went to the Twin Falls Temple open house last Saturday. I was touched by the video at the beginning of the tour. Elder Holland talked about how heaven wouldn't be heaven without the sweet associations and relationships with our family members continuing. I'm so grateful for the knowledge that I have that those things will.

My husband's 45 year old sister has terminal cancer. We went to visit her with our daughters and almost 2 year old granddaughter, Emma. She had never met Emma. She was so delighted just to watch and hold that little girl. Children are truly angels that surround us. I am so glad that we made the trip. No amount of money can replace the true joy I witnessed.

This summer I've been able to attend 3 musical performances. One with our immediate family and Grandma Jo, one with Ryan and Becky, and one with my mom, Mindy, and April. I grew up with opera music filling my home. Puccini and Verdi reigned supreme. My dad was always telling my mom to turn it down the way a parent would tell a teenager. But how I've come to love it! And my girls, too. My mom wanted us to go to the Utah Festival Opera's productions of Manon Lescaut and Aida. She hasn't been in the best health and didn't think that she could attend. I was able to convince her to go to a matinee of Manon Lescaut at the last minute. We took pictures (go see here). The music was breathtaking. The experience divine. And the company couldn't have been better. Having my mom there to enjoy it with us made it complete somehow. I was so glad that she was able to come. It will be a memory that we won't forget.

I'm so thankful for the blessings in my life. So aware of the many, many of which I'm unaware. Those that I am cognisant of are too many to list in my prayers. I know Heavenly Father hears my heart sing in thanks.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Repentance, Renewel, and the Atonement

Today I got an email that I had received academic renewal on my college transcripts. In a nut shell, it means that the bad grades on my transcript from fall of 1982 are no longer computed into my GPA. I can't tell you how much that mistake has haunted me! (For the Reader's Digest version, go here.)

My academic adviser, Jessica was holding my graduation packet until she got the news that it was approved. I forwarded the email from the record's dept. to her and got back a "Wahoo! I'm so happy for you! Look at those beautiful transcripts!" She just met me yesterday and I felt genuine concern from her for my academic and personal wellbeing. She was rejoicing with me over it.

I couldn't help but associate this experience with repentance. I have gone to school off and on since 1987 and done my very best to get good grades. But it seemed that no amount of A's would make up for that quarter of school. I had messed up and it was there lurking around. That D was making my GPA a 3.8, even after 62 other credits. I felt shamed. No matter how hard I tried, it was there. I had no power to correct it for myself.

Then with a small fee of twenty-five dollars, and the signature of the right person, it was gone, erased. I have renewal! It is now only a mistake from which to learn. No longer a blemish on my GPA. I couldn't do it on my own. It was done for me. What a great feeling!

Even joy. Not because a 3.8 isn't acceptable, but because it made me think of the true joy that comes from repentance and doing one's best after the sinning is stopped. Knowing that because of the Savior and His Atonement, I can have those sins and mistakes gone, erased. I have had them erased. The shame for the sins that I've committed is gone, and my heart is light because after all that I can do, the Savior has paid the price for me and has done the rest.

How I love Him! How grateful I am for my knowledge and faith in Him, even Jesus the Christ! Academic Renewal is but a reminder for me of the greatest renewal, spiritual renewal, and the greatest gift, my Savior Jesus Christ and His Atonement.