30 August 2007

Frustration

"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23: 34)
I love this scripture because I would not have survived this first week of my senior year without it.

I have been planning a Shakespeare independent study since October of last year. This project has months of my time invested into it. My guidance counselor has lied to me, my supervising teacher has ignored the situation, my principal won't speak with me, my mother doesn't know how to help me, and I don't know who else to talk to anymore. I can't explain their reactions, other than to assume that they're all hoping I'll lose interest in my project and go away. But I believe too much in what could be accomplished to let that happen.




I've been bringing my scriptures to school in hopes that they'll be a measure of comfort to me in my (mostly) silent frustration, and the Word of God is once again my only link to sanity at a time when my life is saturated in madness. However, my friends have also taken it upon themselves to contribute to my burden with snide comments about my faith. "Do you have those weird Worship CD's from the TV commercials too?" was the question that my long-time friend asked me yesterday, even though I've never disparaged her for being an atheist a day in her life.

My head tells me to say, "it mattereth not, I am not angry." (Alma 61: 9) But I have been lied to and deceived so many times in the past few days, how can I say to myself that I'm not angry when that's exactly how I feel?

But I am blessed. I am blessed with a look into the Savior's heart, and to know how he felt when his disciples doubted him. I am blessed to know that I can turn to Heavenly Father and His Son in prayer, and to receive the comfort that they have provided for me. I have been blessed with resolve to continue fighting for the chance to write this play, and to give the student body an opportunity to grow and to understand the relevance of Shakespeare in their daily lives. And as I continue to tell myself that the minor setbacks "mattereth not," I'm beginning to believe on His words. My stubbornness has ebbed enough to allow me to be patient, and the wait does not seem so long, but also no less urgent. I prayed to know how to be calm yet persistent, and I've been blessed with that understanding.

As I reflect on the past few days, I realize also the opportunity that has been given to me that I never would have had if everything had gone according to plan. As I was leaving the classroom of the one teacher that believes in my project as much as I do, my old Publications teacher asked me if I was still interested in being the editor of the school newspaper. I accepted, and now I have the only student forum under my direct influence. And believe me, if I wanted to, I could drag the administration through the mud. But part of saying "it mattereth not" is to forgive the trespasses of all men. And even though I have a responsibility as a student journalist to remind the administration that the student body has a voice with concerns, that voice is more likely to be heard when it isn't dripping with disdain anyway.

Such is the life of a writer; not for the faint at heart, the timid, the weak, or the prayerless. And without a doubt in my mind, I attribute the gains that I've made to my Father in Heaven, and never to my own understanding. His spirit is what allows me to stand firm in this modern-day lion's den without fear, to walk boldly across tightropes because I know why my poise is solid, why my balance is centered, and why my heart is true.

I may not understand why others have treated me so harshly; but when I think about how much I've gained from this experience, I can say with tested and mature confidence "it mattereth not."

26 August 2007

Happy Baptism Day!

And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts. (Jacob 2: 32)

Today is the anniversary of my baptism; tomorrow, my confirmation. My reflection over the past year began at noon today when I was in Young Women's; the same time I was being submerged into the waters of Mormon last year. I remember how anxious and serious I was from the very beginning. I knew that converting to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would take my life in an entirely new direction. My mind was overwhelmed with everything that was rampaging through it.




I remember wanting so badly to finally be baptized, but at the same time wanting to savor the experience. I wanted to be saved from my iniquity, but I wasn't sure I could say goodbye to the natural girl in me. I wanted to be righteous, but I was afraid that I would fail miserably. My confidence in my decision never wavered, but I was unsure that I could be the Saint He wanted me to be. I knew my past better than anyone else, and I wasn't sure that my life had the adequate materials to create a Saint.

But I was willing to try, and was soon blessed with more materials than I even knew what to do with. And ever since then, I've never had a second thought about my life, and the direction it has taken. I testify that those who seek to come to the Lord's fold will not be turned away; we may be tested, but we are never forsaken. We may be tried, but we are never forgotten. We may be lonely, but we are never alone. How can I even do His love justice with words?

I quickly saw that my baptism was only the beginning to the life that was in store for me. I had so much more coming to me that I never could have foreseen. My patriarchal blessing, my first trip inside the temple on my birthday, my mom accepting that Mormonism is my religion, and the LDS and non-LDS lives that He has allowed me to touch along the way. Even today, my newest friend from Germany was asking me and my friends about "For Strength of Youth." And just recently, my classmate was wondering how to get a copy of an LDS Bible because of how great the concordance is. Little instances and opportunities to bless lives like these remind me of how far I've come, and how blessed I've been to truly know My Father in Heaven and His Son. And of course, "Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever." (Moses 4: 2) My life would be nothing without everything They've given me, and I can only hope that I will continue to be faithful and strong in Their mission; to Endure to the End like the valiant Saint They saw in me before I did.




My life is at an Autumn, a season of changing, and I have no idea where the Lord will take me. But as long as His loving hands are around me, I will not fear. As long as I have His love, His Son, and His Church in my life, I will not be lost. I will not be a sin-beaten tragedy crying for a name.

I will be His beloved Paradox; quirks and all.

23 August 2007

Barefoot & Pregnant

Only the other day a letter came to my desk from a woman who wrote at length of her troubles. In a spirit of desperation she asked, "Does a woman have any promise of some day being a first class member of the human race? Will she always be a piece of chattel wrapped in a chuddar acting only by the permission of the man who stands at her head?" (A chuddar, incidentally, is a very simple shawl worn by women in India.) She then continued, "To me the answers to these questions are no longer important, but I have daughters. If it is possible for a woman to look forward to an eternity of anything than being barefoot and pregnant, I would like to be able to teach them this.

There is bitter tragedy in the lines of that letter. I fear there are many others who may feel that way. The situation is tragic because it is so extremely different from what our Father in Heaven would have for his daughters. Behind this woman's words I see the picture of a wife who is discouraged, starved for appreciation, ready to give up, and not knowing which way to turn. I see a husband who has defaulted on his sacred obligations, who is calloused in his feelings and warped in his perceptions, who denies through his manner of living the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt that there has been fault on her part as well as his, but I am inclined to think that his is the more serious. . .

I am offended by the sophistry that the only lot of the Latter-day Saint woman is to be barefoot and pregnant. It's a clever phrase, but it's false. Of course we believe in children. The Lord has told us to multiply and replenish the earth that we might have joy in our posterity, and there is no greater joy than the joy that comes of happy children in good families. But he did not designate the number, nor has the Church. That is a sacred matter left to the couple and the Lord. The official statement of the Church includes this language: "Husbands must be considerate of their wives, who have the greater responsibility not only of bearing children but of caring for them through childhood, and should help them conserve their health and strength. Married couples should exercise self-control in all of their relationships. They should seek inspiration from the Lord in meeting their marital challenges and rearing their children according to the teachings of the gospel 
--President Gordon B. Hinckley, Cornerstones of a Happy Home, (1984), 1–11
The first time I ever heard the phrase "barefoot and pregnant" was from Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees. I had wondered about the phrase privately, and I see that randomly trolling around Google is within the spheres of influence of the Lord to answer our most private and desperate questions. But I've had some time to ponder "barefoot and pregnant," and I admit that I linked it immediately to the image in my mind of Molly Mormon; a woman who, among other things, is too afraid to have her own thoughts and to stand up for them.




And perhaps I should clarify about my perception of Molly; I don't begrudge the woman who seeks after a more traditional lifestyle with a man at the head of the household. I've seen the formula in practice, and it works in making the family functional when it's done correctly. What I dislike is what the Prophet recognized right away; when those traditional roles are used against a family out of petty need for control, and in the end it leaves the whole unit destroyed.

President Hinckley's image of a family where encouragement and love do away with the need for such dominance and dysfunctionalism is, in a word, beautiful to me. And for some reason, it's rare; even among the Saints I know. I give the Saints a lot of credit; they divorce less, they are more connected as families, and they tend to be more loving and positive people. But there seems to be a misconception, even among us who should KNOW better, that some of us are a little closer to Heaven than we actually are.

I think every ward has those one or two families that do their best to shine their light, and go the extra mile. Those families that volunteer all of their time and energy into helping the church programs, who never miss a Sunday, and whose children and home radiate the spirit to all who come to visit. On the surface, they look as though they've got it all figured out. And I know I depended on that for the longest time as the vision of my future, that level of perfection and selfless gospel living. But when you're friends with someone long enough, you find out about the skeletons in their closet. And you still love them anyway. But inside, you feel taken aback because you wonder, "if they aren't as close to perfect as I thought, then what shot did I ever have of getting it right?"

Or maybe it's just me. But that anecdote is absolutely true about one of the families in my branch. And I joked with my friend that I died a little bit inside when I discovered the reality of the situation, but it really did change my expectation of myself within the Church because I literally saw that no one is perfect-- nope, not even them.

We're fortunate in that our Father in Heaven wasn't the one who suggested we strive for perfection. He gave us agency that we might become righteous, which really does provide hope for nutters like me.

My best friend has been struggling with his testimony ever since I met him over two years ago, and I've literally said and done anything and everything I have thought of during that time to get to the root of the problem. If I can stop one heart from aching, I shall not live in vain, right? He would laugh if he heard me say that because he knows it's true. He's like my older brother, and it pains me to see him suffer. He has never told me what he struggles with specifically in his testimony, but my guess is that he resents the expectations.

For him, I think righteousness and perfection have always been links in the same fence. I think he has always wondered if there isn't more to this life that he just doesn't get to see because people have been trying to "shelter" (his word) him with fences all the time. My disdain for Molly and Peter, I think, are rooted in everything I've experienced with Jacob. He has taught me that just because a young man doesn't want to go on a mission doesn't mean he has lost his place in Heaven. He has taught me that testimonies don't have to be cookie cutter repeats in order to be "right." Most of all, he has taught me how to reach people who need someone to see them; not the mold that they're being shoved into, but THEM. He has taught me to see a person's needs, not my wants for someone else's life.

And I think for now, that's the only way for the Saints now to live with those who are on different walks of life. We can't all be saints and martyrs, but we can still "be one." (D&C 38: 27)

Modesty at Seventeen

First period French III was probably the most useless class since my fourth endeavor with computer keyboarding. The one redeeming quality to parlez vous francais-ing with MY class was that we had some pretty candid moments together. One in particular stands out to me that involved a tete-a-tete with the Human Growth and Development teacher and Rachel. The cognitive dissonance that resulted has never settled for me, but that ends today.

Scene: Rachel and Steven are pretending to do their work as usual, just like the rest of us. And by that, I mean blatantly not doing it at all. The teacher, a native speaker, doesn't give us much that could be called work, and we don't care enough about foreign language to do anything about it. So at the start of this scene, Rachel is sitting on Steven's lap, and I can instantly tell you it's not what it looks like. That phrase has never meant anything coming from a teenager, and even less when Mrs. Human Growth Teacher comes into the room.

She takes one look at Rachel and snaps, "Get off of that young man's lap young lady. There's no excuse for that kind of behavior. Come to my class and I'll teach you modesty." And I instantly wanted to start laughing, but we were all respectful. We waited until after Mrs. Human Growth Teacher left the room before we laughed in her face. All I could think at the time was, The Mormons are coming! Lovers of laps and miniskirts beware! And honestly, you have to know more about my hometown before you can understand why that's so funny.

Should I have laughed? Probably not. But I'd be lying to you if I said I would take it back.

I had this scene in mind as I read this editorial from the LA Times. And naturally, I have to come to Modesty's rescue.

Modesty, for me, is about being comfortable. I don't want to yank, pull, tuck, fix, cover, recover, check, double-check, and otherwise be fixated on my appearance all the time. My friends and family will tell you; I'm not full of myself enough to care that much about what I look like. For me, being modest is not only easier, but it's rewarding. I never have to worry about what I look like when I descend to/ascend from chairs. I can stretch without a hassle, and tie my shoes as many times as it takes without have to put a wall behind me to hide peek-a-boo knickers. I don't have to cross my legs if I don't want to, and guys look into my eyes when they talk to me. People see who I am, and hear what I'm saying instead of only seeing what I'm (not) wearing.

Plus, in all honesty, I think I've spent enough time compromising my virtue for one lifetime. My body stays covered these days because I've seen what happens to you when you treat your body like a visitor's center instead of a temple.

I now call your attention to this part of the editorial:
"It's not a lack of female modesty but a sense of male entitlement that leads to sexual violence. And the idea that we women can change men's behavior by changing our clothes is not only disconcerting, it has been debunked. As millions of women know all too well, no one ever avoided a rape by wearing a longer skirt."
Two logical fallacies here: 1. she's wrong and 2. there's no way she can prove her claim either. Even a brief bout with common sense will tell you that if you put a modestly dressed girl and a lover of miniskirts side-by-side, even Average Joe Mormon is going to pick the one in the mini-skirt when all other variables are equal. I do give our Young Men some credit, but the majority of them don't really deserve it, and they know it. Call me wrong if you'd like, but I've watched it happen. If you don't want to come up on a guy's radar, then dressing modestly is a great place to start. Silly you if you think that's ALL you need to do, but modesty is a start. I've faded into the background enough times to know. And if being the object of male fantasy is something that bothers you, I recommend wearing some pants with that belt you call a skirt.

I think people mistake Modesty for things that it isn't too. See here:
"And therein lies the problem with so much of the modesty movement. Scratch the surface, and what's supposed to be good for girls reveals itself to be all about the boys: dressing in a way that doesn't over-excite them, demurring so that their manhood remains intact and holding tight to our sexuality until we find a husband who is worthy of that ultimate 'prize.'

What's lost in this view of the world is the power of female desire: not just sexual and sartorial but professional and intellectual. There is something liberating about a girlhood (and womanhood) that is not lived solely in anticipation of, or in response to, a man. There's something freeing about a world in which women have the right to take risks (and to get mad)."
I remember the warnings we got before we went to Youth Conference; "Young Women, let's please dress responsibly. The Young Men will be there, and we need to be considerate." I'll agree that the fixation on the opposite sex, especially in the young LDS culture, is a bit unnecessary and distracting. I agree with Emmeline Wells, a journalist from early church history that I think every woman should know:

"All honor and reverence to good men; but they and their attentions are not the only source of happiness on the earth and need not fill up every thought of woman. And when men see that women can exist without their being constantly at hand... it will perhaps take a little of the conceit out of some of them."
My modesty isn't about appeasing other people, and it really is nice when they don't have anything to bother me about. My modesty certainly isn't about attracting the right sort of guy, although I'm sure one day it will, if it hasn't already. All of these reasons only reflect what modesty is really supposed to be about; the one thing girls wish could co-exist with miniskirts, but never has.

Safeguarding my virtue behind my clothing is about having peace of mind that only comes when vanity and sex appeal isn't at the forefront of my attention. THAT is a liberation I wish more women would pursue. There's no liberation in being the traditional feminist; standing around in revealing clothing and ranting about your rights and prerogatives as a woman.

But you know what? That kind of revelation gets you crucified in my hometown, as you've seen with Rachel. So I may settle for the silent example, but at least I'm setting one, right?

Right.

15 August 2007

Teenagers

I have a problem. A big one actually. It looks like this:
"Who gets inoculated? Teenagers? Right. Just select a teenager you think is a good candidate for a dose of historical inoculation and try to get them to read Story of the Latter-day Saints or Rough Stone Rolling. Go ahead, give the teenager in your family a copy of American Moses or By the Hand of Mormon for Christmas and see if they actually read it. History just doesn't click for teenagers. They are too busy being teenagers: high school, homework, youth programs, incessant socializing, college and mission plans. No wonder they don't read books. . .
When? Seminary is too early: they're not really listening."
Innoculation is a term that was discussed at the Sunstone Symposium, where all the big-name bloggers on the Bloggernacle talk about the Church and blogging. Sounds innocent enough, right? Until you see assumptions like the one provided floating around. And, of course, I have to set the record straight, because that's what bloggers do.

I love the way the Church treats teenagers on paper. Youth Conferences, Seminary, EFY, Young Women's and Young Men's, and even seminary. These programs are all designed to give teenagers a fighting chance to be the righteous people that our Heavenly Father wants us so desperately to be so we all go Home one day. And as I remember the churches that I've been to in the past, and the utter lack of youth-oriented anything, it almost hurts me to say this:

Too many youth leaders and every-day Saints do not realize how much they don't pay attention to who we really are and what we really need.

Who says teenagers don't like history? Who says we don't read, or think about our place in the Church? Who says we all have to be self-absorbed know-nothings that view the Church as the most boring and perfunctory thing on the planet?

That's not who we are!

I'm sure those teenagers exist somewhere, but they're by no means the majority! (And I for one don't blame them for feeling as snubbed as they do.) But I'm fortunate in that I go to branch where the youth are few in numbers (less than 20 even when we combine), but we all genuinely care about the gospel.

I've been to youth conference and EFY. All of the teenagers I met there were all sincerely interested in the work of this Church, and becoming better Saints. And you know what I wonder? How many of these youth have comments, like the one above, tossed around about them? How many teenagers let false assumptions about the Youth of Zion roll off our backs because we know what Jesus would do?

As a teenage convert, I have never struggled with whether or not the Church is true. What I have struggled with is my ability to live up to the high standards I've set for myself within the Church. Other youth that I have met have asked me what being the only one in my house is like for me. I've never know exactly what to say. I've been working on it, and this is what I've come up with:




A very delicate and precarious balancing act; a tight-rope walker with just as much to lose from falling as an acrobat does; my life. It's exhilarating at times, knowing that my strength and talent, my grip on the Iron Rod, and the poise from my Heavenly Father is what keeps me stable. It's exhilarating to know that each day I become stronger because of the way I live.

But at the same time, it doesn't take a lot to make the rope sway, and it's both frightening and lonely in such a high place. Being the enigma on the high wire is exciting, but there are days when enigma crosses that fragile line into the territory of the freak show. Some days, as stated in Footloose, I'm so high up I have to look down to see Heaven.

But there are also days when I consider throwing myself from the wire for want of a little peace and anonymity. And I must say, knowing what the adults of the Church really think about us teenagers doesn't help the fragile operation.
I know I'm not the first teenager to live this life, and I know I won't be the last. And I'm not complaining as much as I am revealing the truth about my situation in response to false misconceptions about the youth. And you know what? I'm GLAD I was given the circumstances I was dealt. Being born into the Church doesn't look like it's any easier than what I deal with. At the end of the day, those born into the Church usually have their families to turn to, or at least the assurance that time will not sweep them away because they've had years of practice of, at the very least, laying low.

But I couldn't imagine going through the same lessons year after year since BEFORE the age of 8. I imagine it would get very old very quickly. My heart goes out to any member that struggles to find any kind of identity among all that repetition. I can only pray that they know how much their Father in Heaven loves them, and that the leaders are doing the best they can with what they know. And I'm all for meeting halfway for now. What I don't like is the prospect of staying at halfway point.

Having said all of that, it really sets me off when adults in the Church make light of the dedication that the Youth of Zion have for their Church. We tolerate a lot out of the goodness of our hearts, you know.

We tolerate the fact that the lessons are boring to some, and yet completely new and foreign to others.

We tolerate that every single one of those lessons even begins and ends with same apology! ("I know you already know all this, but. . .")

We tolerate the fact that seminary starts at 6 in the morning in some parts of the country. (*cough cough* Here!)

We tolerate the fact that the adults in the Church assume that we care so much about our social lives that we couldn't possibly be concerned enough about Church history to own Rough Stone Rolling.

You're talking to someone who bought Rough Stone Rolling at EFY because it looked interesting, and because I have such a personal connection to the plight of the Prophet Joseph Smith. You're talking to someone that does home seminary with a manual and its redundant questions because 1.) I'm not allowed to go to the seminary at 6 in the morning, and 2.) Deseret Book's shipping of anything better is a catastrophic disappointment to anyone who doesn't live on the west coast.

You're talking to someone who was cornered in a discussion about Church history at my public high school, in the middle of a test by a teacher who knew better. You're talking to someone that bothered to go out of her way to LEARN the Church's history because nobody was teaching it, and I was tired of being one-upped by anti-Mormons all the time; especially because I KNOW this Church is true! You're talking to someone who has basically sacrificed any kind of relationship with my family because of my loyalty to the Church; the hardest sacrifice of all.

There's nothing I wouldn't do for my God, and by extension, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is it fair, then, that teenagers are so looked down upon. My life is just ONE example of the numberless LDS teens out there that care just as much as I do. I know all of this ME-talk has to be unattractive, but quite frankly, so is everything I'm calling attention to!

And we can either sit here and point fingers at each other, wishing that things were different; or we can change them! If the lessons have been in circulation too long, and they're missing both sides of the coin (that is, converts and otherwise,) then re-write them! Certainly there's a better option for seminary than 6 AM! And if this Church is true (which it is) then why are we so insistent upon tucking all of our rich and powerful history away in shoebox somewhere?! Let's give those anti-Mormons something to talk about!

Make no mistake; I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love the leaders who work so hard to make it the best it can be. I even love the person who made the comments that I'm objecting to so strongly. Only by acknowledging what we need to change will help us change at all. And things may not be ideal in the Church, but we really shouldn't forget how good we have it. If my biggest problem is that I can't get replacement scriptures in under 6 months, then I'm doing all right. But, if nothing else, I implore any and all of my readers with any respect for anything I've said to rethink what they say about and to teenagers; I promise you, there is more going on behind our sadistic little smiles than we lead people to believe, especially the longing to be faithful members of a Church we help to build.

And all I'm saying is that if you're asking "shall the Youth of Zion falter?" then I assure you, then answer is "HECK NO!"

13 August 2007

Eternity with Paradox

I acquired and finished Stephenie Meyer's newest novel, Eclipse. President Faust passed away a few days ago. I didn't go to church yesterday because I was in Annapolis with a good percentage of my extended family.

What do these three topics have in common? A single word that never meant much to me until I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Eternity.

We hear about Eternity on a regular basis in our meetings (keeping an eternal perspective, marriage as an eternal covenant, the temple being our bridge into the eternities), but I wonder if the term becomes any more meaningful from the emphasis we place on it. Even when I'm making statements related to my religion, I can't help but wonder if using the word "forever" means anything coming from me. Teenagers say "forever" about even the most trivial things. Can I help wondering if I'm any different?

But I've had a few opportunities to "be still," as our Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley advises, and to contemplate the layers of meaning that make up the onion of Eternity.

I hated romance novels until I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. But her characters are beyond captivating, and her stories reflect gospel principles in ways that are tasteful and appealing to both LDS and non-LDS audiences. When I finish her books, I leave them with a renewed sense of what love is really about. Stephenie made a statement in an interview on Amazon.com that Twilight is about finding true love, New Moon is about losing true love, and Eclipse is about choosing true love.


Eclipse reminded me that Eternity isn't just a goal to be reached at the end of this life. Eternity was in full swing before I got here. By actively keeping my world spinning by investing my energy into self improvement, I make choices that are always shaping and changing my world. As Meyer brought her book to a close, she illustrated an important point to me that I had never considered before. The main character, Bella, must choose whether or not she will pursue true love, and it comes with a very high cost. She would have to leave every aspect of her life behind her, including her family and friends. She would never have a normal, American Dream kind of life with the white picket fence, 2 1/2 kids, and a dog. She would have to sacrifice more than she could comprehend or even appreciate, opportunities that she would never know about, all because of one choice. But her choice has to be made, and she has to do make it for herself.

I imagine that Meyer's non-member readers may look at that and think, "How discomforting..." but that's what we, as Latter-day Saints, have to consider with everything we do. Our whole way of life is based upon the concept of Eternity, and making decisions that are permanent even in death. Our words, our deeds, our spouses, our families require a level of responsibility that cannot be taken lightly because they are literally FOREVER.

When I think about my life with this perspective, I cannot help but have an increased sense of reverence about why I'm here, what my life's mission is, and getting things right the first time. But at the same time, I worry all the time about making decisions that I could live with forever if I had to. I doubt I'll ever do things perfectly, but I've made an important distinction as a recovering perfectionist: there's a difference between doing something right and doing it perfectly. And I find that the more I understand that distinction, the better off I am inside.

President James E. Faust had his own special place in my heart, even if I didn't have the experience with him that, clearly, others on the Bloggernacle have had. I remember learning more about forgiveness from his General Conference talk than I ever learned on my own. Forgiveness is something that I struggle with when it really matters, and I'm glad I have his talk to help me through it. Maybe with this small piece of his legacy, I can become a better person, and come a little closer to the kind of Eternity I'd like to see for myself and my family.

Having leaders like President Faust with such wise counsel reminds me that agency is not supposed to be a daunting curse; it's a gift that, if we could not handle the accompanying responsibility, we would not possess such power. If we follow the instructions and guidance from our leaders, learning all the time to be more virtuous, then eternal glory will not seem so far beyond our reach.

I admit openly that I'm a recovering perfectionist. It's more than just wanting things done right the first time; it's a level of anxiety that has been unhealthy for me at times, but has been a cross I bear (I'm sure) for a purpose. But what if our crosses are too heavy? What if we fail in a hard moment? Even though (and I even dare say, because) I didn't go to Church yesterday, my testimony of family history work was strengthened.

I know I left my family gathering with AT LEAST 50 new names to add to our family tree, not to mention that my normally chaotic family was together in the same room, being civilized, and helping me to do the work that their loved ones have been waiting so long for someone to do. I remember once upon a time, I didn't want to do my family history because of how difficult it seemed. But I've been blessed with the help I prayed for, and the work is being done. And just watching this unity in my family, this miracle unfolding before me, I return to a realization that family history work always seems to bring with it. Our Father in Heaven believes in second chances because He loves us, and He wants to bless us with eternal life. The tricky part is deserving it.

But what is deserving? I agree that obedience is important, but I learned a long time ago that choosing The Other Option doesn't have to mean Choosing the Wrong. Yesterday, I'm pretty sure I broke a commandment by not going to Church and not taking the Sacrament.

But by choosing to "eat crabs" (they eat them, I watch) with my family, I further fulfilled a mission that was given to me in my patriarchal blessing, which serves my family on both sides of the veil.

Does my choice have consequences? Sure! I find it much harder to go throughout my week when I haven't taken the Sacrament on Sunday.

But is that what you have to be willing AND able to do sometimes? Absolutely! May not sound right when you say it like that, but the point of this life isn't to make sense. If that were the case, brussell sprouts and Liberace would not exist.

The point of this life is to learn about Eternity, and to be able to live our lives in a way that reflects our acceptance of what is expected of us.

And whether that point reaches you through a Young Adult romance novel, the First Presidency, or even from playing hooky from Church, is entirely up to you.

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