Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Category: Spiritual (page 1 of 2)

Living up to Expectations

I remember the first reactions I got from my Laurel class advisers when I told them I was going to Brigham Young University.

“Oh my goodness you are going to go down there and be married within the first year!”

Name: Camille
Age: 23
Year in School: Junior
Relationship Status: Single

Now, I understand that I am not ancient. I also understand that I still have some time until I graduate; however, I think it is important to discuss the problem of trying to live up to expectations.

I remember what went through my mind after my Laurel advisors said that. I became convinced, as they apparently were, that I would get married quickly. I mean, it was BYU, right? Isn’t that the way it goes down there? I had decided that I would be married by 20 and would have a child at either 21 or 22. That didn’t happen, but I am grateful for the course my life has taken because it led me to serve a full-time mission and I wouldn’t give that away for anything.

So here is my key piece of advice: turn your expectations into goals. Live up to your goals—your goals—and focus on that. Don’t let others determine what the “correct” course is for yourself. I wish I could remove the idea in my mind that a successful life means getting married early. That isn’t the case. Marriage is ordained of God— that is true—but everyone’s time is different. My time to get married wasn’t at age 20 like I thought it was. My time at 20 was to be walking the streets of Italy talking to people about Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, and a restored church. I love everything about that. But yet, I have friends whose plans were to get married at 19, 20, or 21, and I love that too.

If there are any expectations you should live up to, it is the expectation that God has for you to become like Him. That is your potential; that is my potential. And eventually marriage will play into that potential, but remember that success in life is not measured by the societal expectation of marriage timing. I know many successful and happy single people that are in their upper twenties. Now, I would say to my Laurel class advisers, “I may not be married, but I am happy.”

By Camille Baker

I’m not Lucky, I’m Blessed

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Sometimes I can hardly believe my good fortune!

I have food to eat (more than I need), clothes to wear (more than I need), a roof over my head (more space than I need), friends who care about me (can never have too many of those), a church to belong to (keeps me humble), stores to shop at (definitely more than I need), and a family of my own (I’m open to more grandkids!).

Some might say, “Wow. You are really lucky.”

But I prefer to say, “Wow! I am so blessed!”

What’s the difference? Gratitude. If we think all good things came from luck, then there is no reason to show gratitude to anyone. But I am positive that every good thing in my life is a gift from my Heavenly Father. He has showered me with an abundance of goodness. Does this mean I have everything I want? Am I rich? Have all my troubles disappeared?  Unfortunately, no. I do not have enough money to go to New Zealand, I haven’t been clothes shopping in months, and I would be thrilled if I could buy a new car. But I don’t need the latest and greatest to be happy.  I can be content with what I have.

No, I’m not lucky. I’m blessed.

By Phyllis Rosen

 

4 Steps that Got Me into Family History

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Getting into family history usually takes overcoming one of the greatest obstacles around: the sheer difficulty of an unfamiliar, complex endeavor. It can be a little daunting, but here are some ways to ease into family history work.

 

Start by Indexing

Indexing is a great way to start because it is a well-defined task. All you need to do is figure out how to read old handwriting and enter that information in the program. Furthermore, it will give you a good basis for finding your ancestors later, as you know very well which letters are likely to have been confused and incorrectly entered by someone that indexed the record you seek.

Research a Particular Family

Start with a family that is easy to research. If you have the option, research one of your ancestors that lived in the US in the 1800s. Online records are abundant for such ancestors. And don’t even worry if they have been researched before. It is probably better if they have been anyways.

This approach will help you familiarize yourself with how to find records (for example, notice the different spellings of your ancestor’s name from record to record), how to evaluate records (learn tips for evaluating records and see how they compare with your family; you may even find something that was missed before), and how to love doing family history work (see the next tip).

Find the Human

Focus on finding the human—not just records—when doing family history. If you only see text on pages, family history can be dull, but discovering insights into your ancestors’ lives is likely to be fascinating. Stories are especially valuable finds. One of my favorites is about my great, great grandpa Andrew. He made it to Utah as a seven-year old boy, and was asked if he had crossed the plains on foot. He responded that he had not; he had ridden his stick horse. With research I found that, later on, he was a great horse rider that managed to stay atop a wild, bucking horse, he bought a car and was determined to tame it as well, and he was very disappointed when he became older and his grand kids managed to beat him in a foot race.

Do It with other People

The final step that got me into family history was an expression of interest in family history by a cute girl I want to impress. This is certainly the best way to get into important and challenging things, as little can beat the motivational power associated with it. But you don’t need a cute girl or boy to motivate you; doing family history work alongside other family and friends can be a great motivation.

As I do it with my mom (and the cute girl) I find that we can bounce ideas off of each other, take advantage of each other’s strengths, correct each other on occasion, spend less time wondering why our search gave us no results, and overall just have a blast as we interact with each other and tackle together a great task.

By Austin Tracy

Why Go to Church?

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By Phyllis Rosen

There are many people who ask themselves this question every week. Sometimes they can’t seem to think of a reason they ought to attend church. But they come up with plenty of reasons to not go:

  •                 The kids are a handful…I don’t even hear what’s being said!
  •                 I’ve heard the lessons before, there’s nothing new.
  •                 The teachers are boring.
  •                 I’m tired/sick/grumpy/hungry.
  •                 I don’t have any friends.
  •                 It’s too far away.
  •                 It starts too early /it starts too late/it goes over lunchtime.

Although I’ve experienced each of those feelings, it’s not enough to keep me from going to church.

I learned a valuable lesson ten years ago when I returned to Nebraska for my high school reunion. I went alone. (No sense dragging my husband 700 miles to talk to people he doesn’t know.) I spent the night in my hometown, planning to drive the forty-one miles to church the next morning. Somehow, I forgot to set my alarm. When I woke up it was less than an hour until church started. I raced to get ready, skipping everything but the essentials, and drove as fast as I dared to the chapel. The entire drive I felt an overwhelming urge to get to the church. I arrived just as the sacrament hymn was starting.

As I sank into the pew (can you sink into the pews?) I was overcome with relief and with a great sense of belonging, as if I had arrived home. I can’t really explain it, but I knew in that moment that being in sacrament meeting, partaking of the sacrament, and feeling the Spirit of the Lord was a source of peace and goodness in my life.

There are many reasons I go to church. But for me the most important reasons are these:

  1. Partaking the sacrament gives me a chance to reflect on the week and renew my commitment to do better the next week.
  2. Singing the hymns (when I actually pay attention to the words) fills my soul with love.
  3. I get revelation for my family during lessons or talks. Really.
  4. I receive the blessings that come from obedience.
  5. I need the messages there to sustain me during the week.

Not every week has inspiring talks and stellar lessons. But over a lifetime, being there and listening to the messages and the Spirit has shaped me into the person I am. Each week I add another layer to the armor of God, and slowly but surely I become a better person.

 

 

Expressing Gratitude

Keep the Commandments”

The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to express thanks for the many blessings we have been given. A time to pause, reflect, and notice blessings that we may not otherwise recognize. A time to express our love for our Savior and our Heavenly Father, for truly “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father” (James 1:17).

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But how can we even begin to express our gratitude to them? King Benjamin puts into words the feelings we may experience as we reflect on our indebtedness to the Father and the Son:

“I say unto that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:20-21).

Because they bless us with so much, we love them. And as “unprofitable” as we may feel, there are still ways we can express that love and gratitude for our God-given blessings. In John 14, the Savior teaches His apostles a profound lesson about the way they, and we, can show our love to Him and the Father.

He says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” In three words, the Savior Himself gives us the simple formula for expressing gratitude: “Keep my commandments.” It is a phrase so often repeated and even sung in the church, but do we really stop to think about the significance behind it? What does it mean to truly keep His commandments?

In the Oxford Dictionary “keep” is defined as to “have or retain possession of,” “continue doing or do repeatedly,” “retain one’s place in spite of difficulty,” “continue to follow a path or course,” and “guard, protect.” In past times, the word “keep” was used to describe “the strongest or central tower of a castle, acting as a final refuge.”

These definitions may help us understand the plea the Savior was making when he asked his apostles to keep His commandments. Not only does he want us to obey them, He wants us to stay true to them, continually keep them despite difficulty, guard them, and protect them. And as we keep them, they can become a “refuge” for us. If we continue on in the account in John, the Savior further explains how this can happen:

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

We learn another great lesson about gratitude from these words. The Savior doesn’t always promise that our burdens will be taken away, or that our prayers will be answered in the way we may hope. What He does promise is that he will send us the Comforter- He will not leave us comfortless. He will come to us. As one who sees us and our circumstances with a much greater perspective than our own, we can trust that He knows what is best.

As we celebrate this time of year, seeking to count our blessings and express our love for the Savior, let us remember that the Savior has taught us to express our love to Him in ways far more significant than just words. He asks us to keep. Keep His commandments, keep our covenants, keep the faith. And as we “keep,” he promises to bless us with the ultimate gift- the Comforter, which enables us to feel as if we are constantly in His presence.

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Again in the words of King Benjamin, “he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever.” (Mosiah 2:24). Let us love Him. Let us keep His commandments.

Written by Amanda Brower

Strengthening Family: Plan of Salvation

science inquiryBefore we were born we all lived with God. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them.” Thus, men and women were created, spiritually first, as God’s own offspring—spirit sons and daughters with a divine potential. Like all loving fathers, God wanted to provide us with a way to become all that he is, a way for us to gain His inheritance; with this end in mind, he created a plan for us to learn and grow, that one day we could be perfected and able to live in His presence, with our families, for all eternity. Families are central to God’s great plan because it is in our earthly families that we can learn to adopt the attributes of Christ and feel a portion of God’s love for His children.

In order for us to progress toward exaltation (or our goal of eternal life with God), we had to do two things: the first was to gain a physical body, and the second was to prove that we were willing to keep God’s commandments, even without our memory of the premortal life. So, under the direction of our Father, Jesus Christ created the world as a place for us to live and grow as families. Adam and Eve were the first human inhabitants of the Earth, but in order for them to progress according to God’s plan (and therefore give way for us to live and progress), they had to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, bringing upon mankind the first spiritual death, a separation from God and a fall to mortality. In Abraham 3:26, God says, “And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; . . . and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”

baking-452298-galleryAll people who came to Earth to receive their bodies thereafter have kept their first estate, and those who keep God’s commandments while on the Earth will keep their second. It is important that we keep God’s commandments now so that we may be worthy to receive the ordinances that will, in part, qualify us for exaltation; these ordinances include baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination (for men), endowment, and sealing. The sealing ordinance is where we are sealed to our families for time and all eternity. No one can inherit all the kingdoms of God without having this sealing ordinance; this reiterates to us the importance God places upon the family unit and our responsibilities to our families, to both our ancestry and our progeny.

In Helaman 10:7, we read that with the right power and authority, “whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven. . . .” Because of this beautiful promise, our sealing to our family is not broken when we die. Those who have proved faithful on earth will live in spirit paradise, and have a mission to prepare those in spirit prison, people who have not accepted the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to receive their saving ordinances by proxy on Earth.

When Christ returns at the Second Coming, all people will be resurrected. This will be a glorious day, when we are not only reunited with our physical bodies, but also reunited with the members of our families. After the millennium (a period of a thousand years without temptation), we will be judged of God by our works and the desires of our hearts. He will place us in one of three kingdoms: either the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial, each increasing in glory. Those who qualify to live in the celestial kingdom will live in the presence of God, having completed their second estate, and having been perfected through the power of the Atonement of Christ.

0 (2)It is very important that we learn about and apply the Atonement in our lives, because without the Atonement we cannot enter into God’s presence again. 2 Nephi 25:23 says, “For we labor diligently to write [of Christ], to persuade our chidren, and our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” And we can’t stop there; it is our responsibility to teach the doctrine of Christ to all members of our families, that we might be surrounded by our central unit of happiness with God our Father forever and ever.

Written by Cari Taylor

The Pursuit of Happiness: Becoming and Belonging

0 (2) Last fast Sunday, as I was listening to the testimonies borne over the pulpit, I noticed a pattern. Over and over people were testifying about how the gospel brings us real and lasting (even eternal) happiness. I felt something within me agree with the sentiment, but at the same time, a question of “why” came to my mind. Why is it that the gospel of Jesus Christ allows us to feel joy and happiness both here on earth, and in the eternities? Over the next month, a few different situations lead to something really clicking for me; something that helped me answer this question of “why” and “how” the principles that we are taught in church (and hopefully in our homes and here at BYU as well) are essential in our own personal pursuit of happiness.

“Men are that they might have joy”

In 2 Nephi 2:27, we read, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” This scripture says a great deal about our purpose. We were created, and sent here to earth because our Creator wants us to have eternal joy. How amazing is that? In this life, and in the life to come, we are meant to have happiness, and Heavenly Father’s mission involves helping us to achieve that happiness. However, that doesn’t mean that life is all fun and games!

Why is this? Throughout my life, I have learned that it’s because true happiness doesn’t come from simple ease. Having everything go right for us all the time, or not having anything bad happen in our lives does NOT automatically result in happiness. Many people in today’s world will argue that it does – hedonism (the theory that pleasure—and therefore lack of pain—is the highest good and proper aim of human life) is an ideology that plagues our society and is prevalent particularly in the media that we consume every day. Knowing that we are meant to be happy, and also better understanding the idea that Heavenly Father allows things to happen in order to increase our eternal happiness can give us hope. We must trust that everything we go through is part of God’s plan, and takes place so that we “might have joy.”

Becoming

If we are meant to be happy, how does our Heavenly Father help us get there? This summer, I read a self-help book entitled The Happiness Project (Rubin, 2009). In this book, the author invited the reader (me) to write down a list of the things that they enjoy doing. As I went over my list, I started noticing a pattern. A majority of the items I had written down involved personal improvement or developing my talents: performing in a play or musical, drawing portraits, reading books, trying new recipes, any type of learning, singing or playing the piano, yoga, swimming, scripture study. As I pondered about why this was, the thought came to me that one of the reasons we are here on earth is to BECOME.

We are here to reach our full potential. To become like our Heavenly Father and Mother, and to one day to live as they do: as perfect beings who can continue progressing, learning, growing, and creating eternally. Our spirits, who have existed for longer than we can comprehend, know this! Deep down, we know and understand that we are meant to become, and our spirits rejoice as we come closer to reaching this potential. This is why trials and difficulties can add to our happiness. As we overcome adversity, we grow and come further along in our progression towards perfection. Similarly, most of the growing that we do in this life involves getting outside of our comfort zone and trying new things. Developing our talents takes courage, practice, and at times, failure. Remembering that we are meant to become can give us the strength to get back up and try again.

Belonging

A pattern also emerged in the remaining items on my personal happiness list. I realized that anything that didn’t have to do with my own personal becoming, had to do either with helping someone else become, or connection and nurturing a relationship. Serving others, teaching, snuggling with my husband, spending time with my family; all of these things have to do with BELONGING. We know that from the time before we came to this earth, we existed as a family—God’s family.

We did not exist or function in isolation, and we are not meant to do so now. This is why Heavenly Father has organized us into family units here on earth, and why His plan involves being with our families for eternity! This is also why He has provided us with prayer, and his Holy Ghost: two ways that we can personally connect and improve our relationship with Him. “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) We are meant to connect and foster lasting relationships here on earth, and forever into the future. Because of this, it also brings us joy to help others come closer their potential, and make choices that will also allow them to be with us forever. Understanding this can help us to reach out to others, and to strive to make real human connections with the people around us. We are more likely to forgive and to give others the benefit of the doubt. We can begin to see others as our Father does, and help encourage them (as well as learn from them) in their own journey to become and to belong.

Wickedness NEVER was happiness

Whenever I think about happiness, I cannot help but think about the scripture Alma 41:10 “Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness.” When we think about this scripture in the context of becoming and belonging, it makes perfect sense. Sinning, or doing anything that separates us from God, has serious consequences that involve stopping our progress (literally damning us) and keeping us from our eternal relationships. It cuts us off from our potential, and from living forever with those that we love. Although it may feel good at the moment, wickedness can never truly bring us real and eternal joy. Heavenly Father has given us commandments and guidelines that will help keep us all on the right track in our journey to become and belong. They help accomplish His mission of bringing us eternal happiness and joy. 

Ever since I had these realizations relating to my personal pursuit of happiness, I have been able to find the principles of becoming and belonging in every one of my endeavors. Understanding that the things that will help me find true joy and happiness are those things that help bring me closer to my potential as a child of God, along with bringing me closer to those around me, has brought focus, purpose, and peace to my life. I know that as we all strive to become more and more like our Heavenly Parents, and work on developing connections with those that we are blessed to come in contact with, we will have more success in making the world a better and happier place, and we will all be one step closer to carrying the joy that we feel now through to the eternities.

Written by: Rian Gordon

Sabbath Message: The Role of Parents

two-thousand-stripling-warriorsWhen I was young, my mother showed me a verse in the Book of Mormon that had always meant a lot to her, and that she considered to be her goal in life. It is a verse well known throughout the Church, and is found in Alma 56:47-48:

“47 Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; yea, they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.

48 And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.”

I have always loved these verses, especially because I believe my mother achieved her goal in life, which was to teach my sister and me to trust in God and believe that He would always be there.

However, as important as my mother has been and always will be, I am also very grateful to have a loving and supporting father. In the same chapter in Alma, we find another verse that I think is sometimes overlooked. In verse 27 it reads,

“And now it came to pass in the second month of this year, there was brought unto us many provisions from the fathers of those my two thousand sons.”

I love this verse because it shows that the stripling warriors were not fatherless; rather, their fathers were out doing their job, providing for their families. The pattern here is perfectly in line with the pattern set forth by the modern prophets and apostles: the primary role of the father is to provide and protect the family, and the primary role of the mother is to teach and nurture the children in love and righteousness.mother and girl

 

Together, as equals, the mother and father carry the responsibility to raise the family in the Gospel, teaching them to love God and keep His commandments. The blessings and protection of God were clearly witnessed in the lives of the stripling warriors, as a direct result of their obedience. This obedience was produced by the righteous teachings of their parents, meaning that when families remain true to God, He remains true to them.

—Kimball Gardner, Stance

Sabbath Message: Whom Will Ye Serve?

“[C]hoose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).family-walking-along-beach-1117003-print

I’m not sharing this scripture because it is my favorite, or because it changed my life when I memorized it in Seminary. I think this is one of my dad’s favorite scriptures, and I remember enjoying it when I read it for the first time in Seminary. But it’s never been one of those scriptures that stuck with me. It’s never been my go-to scripture.family-prayer

Although it has never been that scripture for me, someday I want it to be one of the most applicable and meaningful scriptures in my repertoire. Someday, when I have a family with little children who depend on me for so much—I will want this scripture to have meaning. When I have a family I will teach my children the gospel of Christ. I will teach them right from wrong. I will train and guide them in all that they need to know. I will teach them who to serve. When I have a family, we will serve the Lord.

—Shelby Olsen, Stance

Sabbath Day Message: He is the Gift

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