My Tribute to a Prophet of God

president-thomas-s-monson-lds-591264-printThe last Saturday in September of 2010 was not one of my finest moments. It was the night of the General Relief Society Meeting and I did not want to go. Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels this way sometimes. After all, my husband and daughter were going to play with our horses, and I had to put on a skirt and go to the stake center for a meeting? Ugh. Such was my attitude that day.

But, I went. And the address given by President Monson that evening is one I have cherished ever since. The talk was entitled, “Charity Never Faileth,” but the message I took away had little to do with that topic. Instead, I learned something incredibly reassuring about the worth of souls in the sight of our Heavenly Father.

My daughter has a chronic illness. You’d never know it to look at her, but there are a lot of things her body puts her through that just aren’t fair. As a mother, watching her struggle has been excruciating at times and is my biggest challenge. That evening I sat there in tears listening to President Monson as it seemed he told a story for the sole purpose of calming my troubled heart.

The story was about a woman named Mary Bartels. She rented rooms to patients of the hospital across the street from her home. One day a “truly awful-looking old man” came to the door needing a place to stay. He had been turned away from other homes because of his appearance, but Mary had compassion on him and set up a cot because her rooms were filled. The man continued to return to her home over the years, always bringing gifts for Mary and her family. Mary was blessed to get to know the man and learn what a beautiful soul he had. I now quote the rest of the story from President Monson’s telling:

After the man passed away, Mary was visiting with a friend who had a greenhouse. As she looked at her friend’s flowers, she noticed a beautiful golden chrysanthemum but was puzzled that it was growing in a dented, old, rusty bucket. Her friend explained, “I ran short of pots, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, until I can put it out in the garden.”

Mary smiled as she imagined just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when He came to the soul of the little old man. “He won’t mind starting in this small, misshapen body.” But that was long ago, and in God’s garden how tall this lovely soul must stand!

I was moved that evening picturing my own especially beautiful soul living in a body that is far less than ideal. She, too, will one day stand tall in God’s garden. In the meantime, she is an example to me by making the best of every day and being happy in spite of circumstances outside her control. No matter the condition of her physical frame, she is growing something beautiful on the inside. The light of our Savior shines brightly through her and I am humbled and blessed that she was sent to our home.

FlowerThe metaphor of the golden chrysanthemum meant so much to me that I found a dented, old, rusty pail and with my daughter planted a beautiful flower. We listened to President Monson’s story and hopefully the meaning will stay with her as it stayed with me. I highly encourage you to listen to this talk and hear him tell the story in his own magnificent way.

Farewell, President Monson. I thought the best tribute I could give you was to share how much it meant to me when you calmed my troubled mother’s heart and gave me something I can reflect on time after time. You were truly a man of God and I will cherish you forever for giving me a new perspective and turning my sorrow into hope for a brighter day.

By Stephanie Gifford

Trials and Temptations

212501fa454d49c245249ef8d07963f6 Many times I have wondered why there needs to be so many trials and temptations in this life. Why would God give us so many temptations and yet expect us to be able to return to Him? As I have watched my children grow and witnessed the struggles they have to endure, I have wanted to murmur like Laman and Lemuel rather than be obedient like Nephi. It all seemed very confusing that God would want us to return to Him and yet would give us all these roadblocks we have to somehow maneuver around in order to return. Something just seemed so wrong with this picture.

To try and figure it all out, I first looked up trials in the scriptures. I mean, I know there are trials out there, we’ve all experienced them. This was the first one I found: “For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.” (D&C 98:12) According to this scripture, the Lord definitely tries us to test and prove us. This made me think of Abraham and the Lord’s trying him to see if he would obey and sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham was given the choice; no one made him do it.

Another trial I thought was very interesting was the Children of Israel gathering Manna from heaven,

Then said the Lord unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. (Exodus 16:4)

This is also an example of a trial but this trial was actually very different from Abraham’s. Manna was a good thing; the children of Israel were being tried by something good. Yes, they were told to only gather a certain amount every day but it was nothing like being asked to sacrifice your child. Of course, these were former slaves who had never been taught what was right and wrong so God was probably beginning easy like we do with our children. Gather the right amount or it will just go bad anyway. It sounds more like a rule for children, doesn’t it? I’m sure there were people who thought it would be a lot easier to just gather it once a week or every other day; I mean, I can see why they would get tired of gathering it every day. But none the less, they were given the commandment as well as the punishment for breaking it. This is a great example of being tried by seemingly good things. Maybe wealth, power, and fame would fit in this category.

Adam and Even were also given a trial in the Garden of Eden,

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but, remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Moses 3:17)

This is the best example of how Heavenly Father tries us. He gives us options, commands us to follow one of those options, and then lets us choose. He made sure Adam knew the rules, He commanded him not to eat of the fruit of the tree, and even told him what the punishment would be. Adam didn’t accidentally break that commandment; he knew the rules and did it anyway. But also notice that it wasn’t God who tempted Adam (and Eve), it was Satan,

And Satan put it into the heart of the serpent, (for he had drawn away many after him,) and he sought also to beguile Eve, for he knew not the mind of God, wherefore he sought to destroy the world.
And he said unto the woman: Yea, hath God said—Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (And he spake by the mouth of the serpent.) (Moses 4:6-7)

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Words of Eternal Life

IMG_2496 Words are important. They are powerful. As mothers, we know this, right? I don’t need to *insert cute explanation here* because we live with words every day. We feel their power, their truth, and their meaning. But what if you were to wake up one day to find that all of the words you were using suddenly had a different definition? This would be a “Tower of Babel” effect where everyone around you would be speaking the same language, but no one would understand each other.

The thought of this makes me shudder!

The chaos would be bad enough, but the loss of power would be the worst. There would be no warning of danger, no asking for help, and no way to communicate with those we love most.

We have all seen the definitions of words slip away from their original meanings throughout the years. Sometimes it is easy to pass this off as a natural evolution of words. But what do we know about the importance of holding on to the correct definitions of words?

Let’s look to the Book of Mormon……

1 Nephi 15:23 And they said unto me: What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?
24 And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.
25 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did exhort them to give heed unto the word of the Lord; yea, I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul, and with all the faculty which I possessed, that they would give heed to the word of God and remember to keep his commandments always in all things.

Of all the things that we could hold to in order to reach the tree of life, we have been given the symbol of a “rod of iron” that represents “the word of God”. We are told to “hold fast to it” and we are promised that if we do, we “would never perish” and “the fiery darts of the adversary” would not “lead (us) away to destruction”.

Art by J. Kirk Richards

Art by J. Kirk Richards

What does it mean to hold fast to the word of God? Does it simply mean to read our scriptures? Seek revelation? Go to church? Or are we being warned to also understand how God defines His words?

Can someone truly cling to the Rod of Iron while adhering to the most current definitions of marriage, gender, education, faith, healing, etc.? Will God change His definitions to align with the latest Urban Dictionary entry?

A. Bilheran is a French researcher and etymologist. In this video, she talks about the importance of understanding the definitions of the words that are used. She explains how those who seek to gain power will redefine words to gain control. Listen to how she explains what is happening within our educational systems. She also discusses the importance of looking at original documents to understand the original definitions.

The trend in our world is moving away from looking at our original document (our DNA, or our physical body) to see what gender we are…. so instead of understanding that gender refers to how we “give birth, or beget”, the world redefines it as what we feel and desire.

genə-, also *gen-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning “give birth, beget,” with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.

Well-meaning politicians are coming out of the woodwork with grand plans to teach modern sexuality. They hope to avoid problems such as teenage pregnancy, disease, and suicide. Some have plans to use parents as the teachers while others look to institutions for sexuality instruction. PLEASE UNDERSTAND….. no matter how sincere the intentions, if these curriculums do not teach the original definitions of words, they will not bless the lives of the students or their future families…. and they WILL NOT lead to eternal life.

A. Bilheran rejects the corrupted definition of “gender” and replaces it with the term, “sexual career” to define how individuals choose to use their bodies throughout their life.

As proposed sexuality curriculums are adopted into our various education systems,we will see corrupted definitions infiltrate every home……. thus leading our hearts and minds away from truth.

Remember, if you lead children and parents away from truth, you lead then away from liberty.

If you lead children and parents away from liberty, you lead them away from their power.

When we convince our children that they can choose whatever “sexual career” they want, with no consequences… we teach them that the only power they have is the power to decide how they want to spend their time in this earthly life.

Parents should be intent on teaching that blessings of power, knowledge, love and understanding can be learned ONLY as we use our gender (original definition) to marry, procreate, care for family, and connect our family to the endless generations that have come before us and will continue on after us.

Which option has the truth? Which option gives life? Which option gives liberty? Which option contains true power? Which option is “desirable above all other fruit” and will lead to eternal life?

Art by J. Kirk Richards

Art by J. Kirk Richards

1 Nephi 8:12- And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I knew that it was desirable above all other fruit.

Let us not only hold to the Rod of Iron (The Word of God), but let us avoid Babel-like chaos by understanding the true definitions of these words so our children will not be deceived.

D&C 85:43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.

44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.

45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

by Jenny Baker

The Great Human Quest


“In addition to carefully teaching what is right, we must also clearly explain how the opposite of that teaching is wrong and why it is wrong. Then and only then, can we be confident the individual being instructed has enough information to make an effective choice based on his or her agency.” (page 57-58)

This statement is found in the book Teach the Children by Neil Flinders. In this intriguing book, Dr. Flinders presents a model for an agency approach to education. While this statement has given me a lot to ponder about how I teach religion and moral values to my children, I wondered if we could apply this principle to education itself. Is it possible to demonstrate a correct model for education and place it side by side with false educational philosophy and show why it is wrong?

The following packet of information is an attempt to do just that. The pages in this pdf file provide a side-by-side comparison of educational philosophy of the believers and non-believers for three different time periods:

• The Beginning of Mankind (from Adam to Noah)
• A Chosen Family (from Noah to Malachi)
• A Nation Divided (from Lehi to Alma)

A summary page is also provided in an image of two trees. After considering the fruits to the different educational philosophies, you may choose for yourself the type of education you want for your family. The last page in this packet provides a brief summary of the characteristics of Jesus Christ as a teacher. He is the great exemplar for effective teaching and as we seek to become like Him, we will improve our effectiveness as an educator.

Find the information packet here: Education Comparison – The Great Human Quest

-By Tammy Hulse
(Hearthstone Plan)

Intentional Parenting: Raise a Family in the Lord

"Night Time Stories" by-Alfredo Rodriguez

“Night Time Stories” by-Alfredo Rodriguez

“We are here, then, to be happy—each one of us—and to find real joy, but there is no real joy in this earth outside of fulfilling this great commandment of raising a family in the Lord. We are here to raise that family (not just raise a family, but raise a family in the Lord). That will take the very best that’s in [us]. Yes, it will take sacrifice and it will take obedience. . . .”

Elder Hartman Rector Jr. said this as part of a talk in 1973 but I think it’s even more relevant today. And besides the sacrifice and obedience he mentions, it will take a lot of patience, time, energy, love, prayer, faith, and inspiration; just to name a few. But all those are possible if we rely on Christ and teach our children to rely on Him as well. It is only with His help that we can successfully “raise a family in the Lord.” These attributes come as we grow, stretch, and faithfully parent our children; all the while teaching them to follow the same course with our precious grandchildren. Elder Douglas W. Shumway of the Seventy taught:

Loving, protecting, and nurturing our children are among the most sacred and eternally important things we will do. Worldly belongings will vanish, today’s number-one movie or song will be irrelevant tomorrow, but a son or a daughter is eternal.

What an awesome assignment we have been given to raise an eternal family! I know my husband and I can’t possibly live up to that responsibility by ourselves. Without the Lord’s help, I have no doubt we would fail. But we can get all the help we need if we’re willing to pray, listen to the Spirit, and follow His counsel. Our Heavenly Father is the best source for help. He knows each of our children individually, in fact much better than we do, and He is willing to help us if we ask. Rather than deciding for ourselves what to do, or what’s worse, just reacting in the moment, we can turn to the Lord for help. He will bless us with increased love, patience, understanding, or whatever it is we need at the time we need it most.

One day my daughter came home very upset, her anger increasing with every passing moment. Very quickly she was beyond listening or calming down. As I watched her, I felt like I was looking at an angry cat, back arched, claws bared, and ready to strike. After trying to talk with her but getting nowhere, my first impression was to send her to her room until she calmed down. I hate to admit it but I did not want to deal with her temper right then. As I continued to watch her, I distinctly felt the inspiration to hug her. I’m embarrassed to admit it but this was the last thing I wanted to do so I ignored the prompting. Thankfully He didn’t give up and I felt it again, “Hug her.”Very reluctantly I reached out and put my arms around my daughter and, rather than feeling the claws digging in as I was expecting, she melted in my arms and her anger turned to tears.
Finally, I was able to break through that seemingly impenetrable shell and find out what was really bothering her. We were able to work everything out. If I hadn’t followed that inspiration, this experience would have ended with her in her room where the issue would never have been resolved. Instead it ended in working through the problem with love and understanding that I really didn’t think I was capable of right then. This experience was an eye opener for me. It really helped me realize how much God knows and cares about His children, and if I listen to the Spirit, even when it seems crazy, the results will always be better.

There are many instances when we may have no idea what to do. Those are times when perhaps only God has the

'Dear Lord Jesus Please'' by Emily Schultz

‘Dear Lord Jesus Please” by Emily Schultz

answer and we can only find it through His help. If we come to Him humbly and prayerfully, we may be out of plans, patience, or good humor, but He will inspire us. He knows and loves our children and will help us raise them if we listen to His promptings. We shouldn’t feel like we are alone in this sacred responsibility; He wants to help us raise His children.

Intentional Parenting would be nearly impossible without our Heavenly Father’s help. My family needs those blessings which mean faithful, purposeful decision-making can’t be ignored. I want God’s version of successful Intentional Parenting.

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—

When I first read this, years ago, I thought Enos must have been the perfect child, but that’s not necessarily true. He might have acted like he was not paying much attention at all as a teen. It may have taken years for it to sink in while his father could have felt like giving up numerous times. Our children may be that same way. Jacob, Enos’ father, didn’t give up and neither can we. When we really trust God and believe He will help us, we need to take that step of faith into the darkness where there is seemingly no heavenly help. Once He sees we are willing to do the work to follow Him, He will send His Spirit with inspiration and guidance, but first we have to take that step of faith on our own.

Intentional Parents put their children first. It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to raise good children. If parenting is way down on the list of priorities, then it won’t be intentional and it also probably won’t be as successful. President Spencer W. Kimball warned us of allowing other interests to replace parenting:

Do not, however, make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven. Pray carefully over all your decisions.

C. S. Lewis understood this same principle, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All otheraa1a98c87515e5cac989917f20590f4c careers exist for one purpose only—and that is to support the ultimate career.” Somehow we have turned it all backwards. Today, families are to support everything else rather than everything supporting our families. Imagine the difference if we could restore the home and the homemaker to their rightful place.

by Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents

Intentional Parenting: Preparation for the Unknown

postit-scrabble-to-doWhen people hear the word preparation, they think “to do” lists, college degrees, or perhaps “Preppers” who store supplies for disasters. None of these are inherently bad or foolish at all, but preparation for being an Intentional Parent and raising another generation of Intentional Parents is a bit less straightforward than writing a grocery list or taking a class.

One of the best ways to prepare for Intentional Parenting actually begins with strengthening marriage first. We are told many times in the scriptures: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” It is necessary for a husband and wife to learn to work together as a team. This is a much better option than each doing their own thing, opposing each other, or competing with each other. Couples won’t always see eye to eye or completely agree on many issues, but trying to work together and appearing in agreement in front of their children is the important part. Kids need to see mom and dad as a united front.

As a couple decides to start a family, they should discuss parenting, rules, discipline, holiday traditions, etc. If these things are decided ahead of time, the actual transition into parenting can be much easier. As the children grow, parents need to keep communicating and working together. Those who don’t will be pitted against each other. As children get older, they quickly figure out which parent is more lenient or easier to manipulate and exactly how to get away with it. Working together, parents can strengthen each other as they stay united. If children know that rules and discipline are consistent with both mom and dad, the challenges of parenting will decrease dramatically.

family-prayer-mongolia-1154465-galleryWhen parents keep close to the Spirit and each other, the answers will come when they are needed most. Taking a leap of faith will sometimes be a necessary part of Intentional Parenting. Sometimes preparation means preparing for those times when we don’t know what to do, but that’s how parenting works.

There are examples of excellent family relationships in good books and in the scriptures as well as in society. Watch how other families work together and find good ones to emulate. It’s amazing what can be learned just by watching and being aware, but anything can be improved with enough time and effort. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; good parents rarely refuse to answer honest questions from people seeking help.

Testimony, obedience, charity, faith, and understanding, the same traits which help us return to our Heavenly Father, will help prepare us for Intentional Parenting and for raising the next generation of Intentional Parents. Like Nephi, parents working on these traits will be prepared to follow the guidance of the Spirit in all different circumstances.

A good example of teaching correct principles is Jacob, Nephi’s brother. When his son Enos was ready and open to it, he remembered all that his father taught him. He had already prepared for this moment long before as a young man learning from his father:

Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it—
And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.
Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul. . . .

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Intentional Parents can have this same effect on their children even if it appears they’re not listening. Later on at the right time, these children will remember what their parents taught them.

Whenever I feel like I finally have a handle on being a mother, something unexpected happens. Without fail, life is always changing which means new challenges, difficulties and concerns all the time. I wish I knew how complicated motherhood was before I had kids. I think I would prepare differently if I had known. I would try to prepare more for change: to look ahead, and know what’s coming while praying for patience, faith, and guidance. Being a parent is the greatest—and the hardest—thing ever!

The story of the Army of Helaman is a favorite for most children. Their military success along with not one of them getting killed wasn’t just a random coincidence. They were prepared with the faith necessary for this great responsibility by their parents who taught them and cared for them:

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

Would it have been possible for them to be so greatly blessed without their parents teaching and guiding them? Probably not; they would not have been prepared and the outcome would most likely have been drastically different. Their parents prepared them to face life’s challenges. Their fathers were providing and exemplifying while their mothers were nurturing and teaching them.

Whatever life hands out, whether it’s building a ship or raising the next generation of Intentional Parents, preparation leads to more success with the challenges of life.

By Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents

Intentional Parenting: Goals, All Shapes and Sizes

pexels-photo-269399Imagine the struggle it would take to put together a one thousand piece puzzle without being allowed to see the picture on the box top first. The only thing visible would be a thousand tiny puzzle pieces. Starting with the edges might help, but it still gives very little guidance for which way is up or the measurements of each side and nothing of the picture itself. On the other hand, having the box top visible is extremely helpful. The picture guides our decisions for how to separate all the pieces of one pattern, gives us dimensions, and, most importantly, shows us the goal we’re aiming for. Parenting can sometimes feel like doing a puzzle without the picture on the box top. Similarly, having the picture on the box to help assemble the puzzle is an example of how Intentional Parenting works.

Perhaps a good way to describe what intentional means is this: there is always a big picture reason behind the actions of an Intentional Parent. Important actions are not decided on a whim, a certain mood, or as a reaction to something else. What we’re talking about is much more than just deliberately choosing to become a parent. It’s about choosing a parenting style in which the big picture or end goal is the deciding factor for all important decisions. The key is deciding on the end goal and having it always clearly in mind.

What would be an end goal or big picture for parenting? If I want my kids to be independent and strong, it takes a different type of parenting than raising dependent children. End goals matter. Once we have a goal or big picture in mind, making a plan to get there is much easier.

Of course, parenting isn’t the only thing that counts. Among other things, agency and personality play a big part as well, but parents do have a huge role! Many just don’t realize how big it really is. The more deliberate and purposeful a parent is in raising a child, the better effect that parent will have. Any style of parenting, good, bad, or just average, will have a big impact on a child. Great planning doesn’t mean there won’t be many surprises and unexpected events along the way, but Intentional Parents will almost always have better outcomes.

The best example of Intentional Parenting is our Heavenly Father since He is the Perfect Parent. One example of God’s Intentional Parenting is His interaction with Nephi:

. . . I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.
Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.

The Lord knew He needed an alternate plan for the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation. To accomplish this, He had Nephi make a second set of plates. The Lord was looking at the results or end goal He wanted more than 2000 years in the future, and that plan would shape how he interacted with Nephi. Because He deliberately asked Nephi for two sets of plates, we still have the first 450 years or so of the Book of Mormon.

Another example is how God sent Nephi and his brothers back for the Brass Plates. We learn how this actually gave them a way to teach their children to read and write as well as to teach them the gospel. Having those plates made a big difference for Nephi’s posterity. The Lord had a specific outcome He wanted and this colored the decisions made.

Similarly, if parents have an end goal in mind, it’s easier to make decisions concerning what would be goode145d1c4899321cfcce324bd9b2a1cf9 for the family and what wouldn’t; what would be needed to accomplish those goals and what would be detrimental. So much confusion exists today about parenting. If we follow God’s pattern of keeping the end goal in sight, we’re bound to be more successful.

Surprisingly, choices we make usually have both good and bad consequences almost every time. This happens because of many short term and long term factors. An easy example would be eating potato chips, ice cream, or chocolate. At the time, it tastes delicious and having more tastes even better, but later on, it adds to those few nagging pounds to be lost. Family Night is another good example: when the children are fidgeting and teasing each other and won’t sit quietly even for the thirty second lesson, it just doesn’t seem worth it. But years down the road, when those same children are teens and understand the gospel principles within their own budding testimonies, it becomes obvious how very worth it all those crazy family nights were.

It’s all in our perspective: if we only look at the short term consequences, the picture will always look strikingly different than if we see the long term consequences. But the trouble comes in how easy it is to ignore the long term consequences and focus on the short term as though that’s all there is. Choices will often be dramatically different when the focus is on the long term.

"Neddy s Turn" by Muriel Dawson

“Neddy s Turn” by Muriel Dawson

When my kids were still very young, my husband started earning enough money that I felt we could afford to have someone come in and clean our house. I thought it was such a great idea because it would give me more time with my kids. It was working out great until my oldest daughter turned 13 and I realized she had never dusted or cleaned anything in her life. It finally dawned on me how this might affect her when she grew up and had her own home and family. I let the cleaners go on the spot and started teaching my kids to clean.

Our Intentional Heavenly Father shows us these ultimate end goals when we study the Plan of Salvation. It’s also why we learn about Adam and Eve and the Creation. Those truths help us see the big picture, the eternal consequences, which can be vastly different from the short term worldview. He gives us those examples to guide us as we intentionally make our choices.

By Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents

Intentional Parenting: Discipline for Future Disciples

3510d49777f4c005b1c9657ac99d441fWe may often be reluctant to share our own discipline stories, even positive ones. Sometimes it works better to hear it from a bystander and get their reaction as well:

I used to be a store manager for Blockbuster. One day this mother and son were checking out and the kid [yelled], “I want a candy bar. Wah wah.” The mother keeps saying “No, I already told you no.” Then this kid thinks he has a fool proof plan. The kid open[s] a Snickers bar right there and takes a bite. He then says “Now you have to buy it.” The mother is shocked and says “You’re absolutely right.” Turns to me and says, “We’ll have the candy bar also.” I scan the candy bar and she says “Now, throw it away please.”
The look on the kid’s face was priceless.

I was standing in line at a major supermarket and in front of me was a woman and a small girl (about [age] 4), and in front of them was a young mother, with a small boy (about [age] 3). The little boy asked his mother for a candy bar, and was told “No.” The little boy then asked for a candy bar again, and he was told “No” again. So at this point he decided to have a temper tantrum. He threw himself on the ground, cried, screamed, [and] called his mother a “stupid head,” amongst all of the classic tantrum behavior. His mother then whispered to the mother standing behind her and they smiled, all while this little boy was hysterical about being denied a candy bar. His mother then took a candy bar from the shelf and put it in her cart. The boy was happy upon witnessing this and his tantrum stopped.
The mother and son then went through the checkout and paid. The mother then turned around and handed the candy bar to the little girl behind her in line. She looked directly at her son and said “Children who behave are rewarded, and children who throw tantrums and embarrass their mothers get nothing.” She turned around on her heels and walked away from the boy who was left silent with his jaw . . . on the floor. . . . It was brilliant.

Discipline, a word which often brings a lot of anxiety, fear, and misunderstanding, is a very difficult subject to discuss in this day and age of political correctness and worry of what others might think. Fear of government intrusion is also a cause of concern for parents. There are just too many stories of children being taken from their parents because they were disciplined in a way a neighbor or social worker disagreed with. Consequently, it is a subject that is often ignored or only joked about before quickly changing the subject. In fact, it is so seldom discussed we are losing the very idea of discipline and just how important it is. But the problem is children need discipline and correction.

No worries though, it is not my intent to tell any parent how to discipline or punish their children. That is a right reserved to the parents and should be between them, their children, and God. If children are to truly learn and progress towards adulthood, discipline will need to be tailored to fit the specific needs of each child. The goal here is to bring discipline back out into the open, explain it, define it, and give parents the knowledge they need to incorporate effective discipline into their parenting. But most of all, the goal is to help their children grow up into amazing adults ready for the challenges of life and their own parenting.

he first step is to follow the pattern set by our Heavenly Father. He established ground rules with consequences if they are not followed:

Now . . . How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.

Our Father in Heaven established consequences for breaking His laws to help teach us, His children. A big part of discipline should be allowing children to experience the consequences of their actions. We can’t fix everything for them or take away all consequences and still expect them to learn from their mistakes. We can give them ideas and even help them, but it’s important to let them work it out themselves as much as they can. We cannot do it for them, but we can stand by them, help them, and guide them.

Now I’m not saying allow a child to be hit by a car as a consequence for running into the road. Before they were allowed to play outside, they should have been warned not to go into the road and what the consequence of disobeying would be. Maybe they were warned the consequences would be remaining inside while everyone else plays outside. Whatever it may be, the consequence needs to be imposed as soon as the rule is broken. All rules need a consequence which fits each child and their actions.

I had to write reports based on whatever I did wrong. Once I got caught in a lie and I had to write a report about 5 famous liars. Once I refused to take a bath and I had to write a report about germs. This was before the internet. We had a set of encyclopedias and that was it. It was surprisingly effective.


I got caught skipping school when I was 14. My Dad told me that he was taking me out of school the next week. Every day that week he would drop me off at a local business (he knew all of these people) and told them “Here’s your free helper! He doesn’t want to go to school, so he gets to work!” They would work me, doing the worst [jobs] ever, for 8 hard hours every day.
One week of that and I was begging to go back to school.

8e92b9e2f94736bb3c08c5e992e1f492When we tell a child there will be a certain punishment for a certain action, we need to follow through with it. Empty threats won’t work very long and they also disassociate punishments from actions. Following through with consequences may seem hard or inconvenient at the time, and often kids will try to make parents feel guilty, but following through will make a parent’s job much easier in the end. If children know punishments always follow incorrect actions, they will soon learn those actions are not worth doing. Over time, the need for punishment often diminishes leaving other types of discipline, instruction and training, with a bigger role. This makes for a much calmer, happier home. We can also help our children understand this is how God works with us as well. This will help prepare them, knowing what He expects from them as well.

by Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents

Intentional Parenting: The Intricacies of Agency

Venny Soldan-Brofeldt "Yes or No" - (Ja eller Nej)

Venny Soldan-Brofeldt “Yes or No” – (Ja eller Nej)

I once heard a young wife, expecting her first child, comment on how she planned to teach her child about modesty, “I’m not going to take away my daughter’s agency. I’m going to be a good example for my daughter by acting and dressing modestly and then I won’t have to say anything to her; I just know she will follow my example and be modest too.” That is an excellent goal! However I think most mothers who have experienced teen-aged daughters will admit it doesn’t quite work that way. There is excessive pressure from media and friends teaching how immodesty is cool and beautiful. Going shopping and trying to find cute, modest clothes doesn’t help much either. Immodest outfits are effortless to find while it takes searching to find modest, trendy fashions teens will love. All this causes most girls to dress immodestly to fit in. The good example from their mothers, whom they consider old anyway (sorry, Moms, but it’s true), are not going to convince them to act and dress modestly when almost everyone their own age is doing just the opposite. Example is a crucial part of raising children, teaching one thing and doing another never works, but Intentional Parenting takes more than just example.

The fallacy of using example by itself becomes obvious when the same rule is applied to other things 46b5c943498392e2f18e7ff83363595fchildren do. Will children always brush their teeth—and do it consistently every night and morning following all the correct procedures—because they watch their parents do it? Will children always fasten their seatbelts in the car without any reminders simply because they watch their parents buckle up? Will parents never have to tell children no more sugary snacks because they should just notice their parents’ healthy choices? Will parents never have to grab a wandering child out of the busy road because their example of staying on the sidewalk should be enough?

Most parents are comfortable setting rules for issues like hygiene, safety, and sugar. They naturally understand rules are necessary for this. Yet somehow this doesn’t carry over to religious matters such as modesty, church attendance, or good media habits. These parents may say, “But it’s about saving our children’s lives when it comes to busy roads and seatbelts and it’s about keeping them healthy when we’re talking about snacks and brushing teeth.

That apparently makes it different than religious matters, but does it really? Is a child’s spiritual health any less important than their physical health? If we think about what Christ taught; “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man,” children’s spiritual well-being is just as vital—or even more so—than their physical well-being. Rules at home need to reflect that.

Setting these types of rules is usually where parents begin to worry about hurting a child’s agency. The problem comes in how to find that line between taking away children’s freedom altogether and allowing children to abuse their agency, others, and/or themselves. Neither extreme constitutes good parenting. Between them is a middle ground where parents can help children learn to use their agency to bless the world around them.

As part of our church teachings, we often hear the Creation story, and it’s easy to wonder why. The Creation is the only connection we have to a place outside of this world. It draws us out of our normal personal experience and allows us to view the big picture of why we are here and what God’s purpose is. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught in the minute details; we forget the overarching perspective our Heavenly Father has. That reminder is the key to thriving in this life and really understanding the importance of returning to our heavenly home. Our world is full of ways to help us forget there’s anything more to living than having a good time. We all need reminders of that big picture over and over again.

Our Heavenly Father gave us all agency; it’s part of our eternal natures and an essential part of God’s plan for us, but agency never stands alone. To help us learn how to use our agency, the Lord, as part of His Plan of Salvation, established laws and their consequences. How we follow those laws shows whether we are choosing Christ or not. Their consequences, both good and bad, are to emphasize those laws and help motivate us towards better choices next time.

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

What a perfect pattern for parents to use as a model! Choices are permanently tied to consequences. But those everyday choices don’t have just physical consequences; they have eternal consequences as well. Intentional Parents need to teach their children about the connection between choices they make and their consequences, both physical and eternal.

Alma explained this connection to his son Corianton:

. . . How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?
Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man.
Now, if there was no law given—if a man murdered he should die—would he be afraid he would die if he should murder?
And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin.

"Sermon on the Mount" by Maurice Denis, ca. 1927.

“Sermon on the Mount” by Maurice Denis, ca. 1927.

God instituted laws with consequences giving us a path to follow. With those laws in place it’s pretty hard to plead ignorance. While children may be too young to follow this path set by our Heavenly Father, He solved this problem by giving them parents. As parents search for correct principles to teach and guide their children, it enables children to learn what obedience and choosing correctly feels like. Homes should be small replicas of God’s Plan. There are rules to follow and consequences in place for those rules. This helps children understand how God and His Plan of Salvation work. He leads and inspires us but follows through with the bad consequences when a choice is made which breaks His laws. As children grow up watching their parents’ example and experiencing the rules and consequences their parents utilize, children also learn how God’s Plan works.

By Jennifer Jensen, author of “Raising Intentional Parents

The Book of Mormon: More Precious Than Diamonds

diamonds-2599816_960_720“My brothers and sisters, how precious is the Book of Mormon to you? If you were offered diamonds or rubies or the Book of Mormon, which would you choose? Honestly, which is of greater worth to you?”

President Russell M. Nelson posed that question during his recent General Conference address. The Book of Mormon has received renewed attention of late, and it has caused me to ponder the many promises and blessings associated with its study, as well as how it can aid our efforts to strengthen home and family.

We know we are under commandment to read and study the Book of Mormon. In the October 1986 General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “In 1829, the Lord warned the Saints that they are not to trifle with sacred things (see D&C 6:12). Surely the Book of Mormon is a sacred thing, and yet many trifle with it, or in other words, take it lightly, treat it as though it is of little importance. . . If the early Saints were rebuked for treating the Book of Mormon lightly, are we under any less condemnation if we do the same?”

Not only is studying the Book of Mormon a commandment, but – as with all commandments – great blessings are available to us as a result of our obedience. After reading just four General Conference talks on the promises associated with the Book of Mormon, I was able to compile the following list of how consistent study will bless our lives. Stop for a moment and think of the problems you face in your personal life and in your family. Then review this list and see if daily study may hold the answer for you.

Prophets and apostles have promised that if we study the Book of Mormon daily, we will:
• Make better decisions
• Receive answers to questions
• Receive direction
• Be immunized against evils of the day
• Be protected against pornography and other addictions
• Resist temptation
• Avoid deception
• Stay on straight and narrow path
• Grow nearer to God
• Have increased reverence in our homes
• Have greater respect for family members
• See the spirit of contention depart
• Counsel with greater love and wisdom as parents
• See our children be more responsive and submissive
• See an increase in righteousness
• Have faith, hope, and charity abound in our homes and lives
• See an increase of peace, joy, and happiness
• Hear the voice of the Spirit
• Overcome doubt and fear
• Receive heaven’s help in our lives
• Have our souls healed, comforted, strengthened, succored, and cheered

What a list!

Many of us are troubled by the state of our world and the evil and turmoil that is ever increasing. We wonder how to shelter our families. Daily study of the Book of Mormon is vital as we strive to raise a sin-resistant generation in these latter days. Read the list of promises again. Can we really afford to let distractions or laziness steal these blessings from our families? Remember the counsel of Alma: “Do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way” (Alma 37:46).

family-scripture-reading-1078974-wallpaperIf you question whether this study can really make such a difference in your family – try it! The Savior invites us all to experiment upon the word. Make a commitment to gather your family around you each day and learn the principles in this sacred book. It may not solve all of your problems, but it will make them easier to bear and allow the blessings of heaven to be more readily poured out upon you.

The following are just a small sample of the many promises that have been proclaimed by Church leaders if we will study the Book of Mormon daily. I hope they will inspire you as they have inspired me to make this a high priority.

Russell M. Nelson
“When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls” (October 2017 General Conference).

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions” (October 2017 General Conference).

Ezra Taft Benson
“Do eternal consequences rest upon our response to this book? Yes, either to our blessing or our condemnation. Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life. There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who is not” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 65).

“There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the straight and narrow path” (October 1986 General Conference).

Joseph Smith
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461).

Marion G. Romney
“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

Thomas S. Monson
“My dear associates in the work of the Lord, I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives” (April 2017 General Conference).

Written by Stephanie Gifford
Gathering Families Contributor