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The Link Between Family and Freedom

Do you ever look back at your life and smile thinking of how different it is from what you had once planned? I’m so grateful I’ve learned a lot since the days when I knew it all.

Once upon a time in my youth, I had life all planned out. I would have my important career in a skyscraper and live in a downtown apartment with easy access to the nearest major league ballpark. I would live an important, satisfying life in my urban oasis.

Fast forward to reality. I now live in a century-old farmhouse with an amazing husband who couldn’t care less about sports. I didn’t finish college. I spend my days as a stay-at-home mom caring for my husband, my daughter, a Yorkie and some horses. There are no tall buildings in sight, and I can’t even tell you the current starting lineup for my favorite baseball team. Instead, I keep busy researching rare neuromuscular diseases and other topics that were nowhere near my radar 15 years ago.

The best part is – I wouldn’t change a thing! I have no doubt that life leads you down different roads for a reason. Every step we take builds on the one before. First, I met a man I couldn’t live without, even though he took me completely by surprise and turned out to be everything I never knew I always needed. Then I became a mom and it changed my life in every way. Suddenly I had an answer for the things I had always questioned earlier in life. I used to wonder things like: How does it benefit anyone to have children and just be a stay-at-home mom? You spend your whole life raising kids just so that they can grow up to spend their whole life raising kids. Kind of a pointless cycle, I had thought. Ironically, I was blessed to grow up with the greatest mother as an example. It just took me awhile to realize that I wanted to be for someone else what she has always been for me.

My outlook changed dramatically once I was actually a mother. Our little family had a rough beginning which – following a now familiar pattern – was nothing like I thought it would be. Instead it was infinitely better! Once you feel a love like that, you can’t go back to thinking anything is more important. I realized the purpose of “just being a mom” was eternal in nature. It became so obvious that families were created to help us learn Christlike love, to learn what it means to love someone more than you love yourself, and to be willing to do anything for them. Families are where we learn sacrifice and service and unconditional love and compassion and forgiveness and all the other traits that will help us return to our Father in Heaven someday.


That makes the family critically important and worthy of defending. In order for our families to be a laboratory of learning as we progress back to our heavenly home, we have to have the freedom to teach our children what and how we see fit to teach them. This is why I’ve taken an interest in things like education and freedom and preserving the family. All of these issues are linked.

As a society, we’re either moving toward strengthening the family or we’re moving toward letting it fail and having government step in as the caregiver.

As a society, we’re either moving toward strengthening the family or we’re moving toward letting it fail and having government step in as the caregiver. There are many forces at work in our nation trying to pull us to one side or the other. President David O. McKay once gave a talk entitled “Two Contending Forces”. In it, he talks about Satan vs. Christ and the different ways that we see these two sides contend with each other, like selfishness vs. service and state domination vs. personal liberty. He quotes Communist leaders like Marx, Lenin and Khrushchev in saying that hatred is the basis for Communism, and Christian love is an obstacle to the development of a revolution. While they may disguise their ideology with a smile, the only unity sought for is voluntary submission to their ideals.

On the other hand, Christ teaches that the greatest commandments are centered in love: love the Lord thy God and love thy neighbor. Our works must be filled with love, and the noblest aim in life is to strive to make the lives of others better and happier. He likens this to motherhood – the noblest calling where work is done exclusively for others.

Satan would have us be captive and controlled by oppressive tyrants, so that our choices are not our own. In that scenario, we cannot develop into all that we have the potential to become because someone else is in charge of our destiny. Christ wants us to be free to love and serve and put our religious beliefs into action, thus spreading the light of Christ throughout the world and allowing the gospel to go forth. The talk ends with the counsel to sustain, fight for, and be willing to die for the light of Christ.
This is why I want to stand for freedom. Communism may seem like an impossibility to most Americans, but there can be no doubt that our freedoms are slowly being eroded and that traditional morality is being replaced by moral relativism where there is no right or wrong and people are encouraged to simply do whatever feels good. This kind of thinking will eventually erode our liberties.

John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” A moral and religious people tend to govern themselves rather well as they strive to live a higher law. Our Constitution is based on principles of limited government, and a moral people don’t need government to tell them the right way to live. It’s a very symbiotic relationship. When we move away from being a moral society (like when religion is silenced and stigmatized), government has to move in with greater control to guide behavior. When you get the wrong people in charge of such a government, the effects are catastrophic.

Ezra Taft Benson said, “The cause of freedom is the most basic part of our religion. Our position on freedom helped get us to this earth, and it can make the difference as to whether we get back home or not.” That statement alone tells me all I need to know about which side to be on. If you wonder how you can get involved and where to begin, start by reading the address by D. Todd Christofferson at the 2016 Provo Freedom Festival. He gives the background of why religious freedom matters to us and to our families, and then gives counsel on how we can become informed, speak out, and get involved. Once you have a desire to do this, the Spirit will guide you from there on the specific actions you can take.

The Family: A Proclamation to the World states:

“We warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets. We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

My only goal in this life is to return to my Father in Heaven with my eternal family intact. I believe part of that will require being accountable for what I did while I was here. I want to stand for things that matter in order to preserve the things that mean the most to me – faith, family, and freedom. If these things matter to you, choose to be involved. Choose to make a difference. It is marvelous that we can take part in preserving Godly principles in our society! The future of religious freedom – and the future of our families – depends on whether or not people of faith choose to stand. Let us rise to the challenge!

14718811_676212405873852_5523984483066766551_nAbout the Author: Stephanie Gifford lives in southeast Idaho with her husband and daughter. She has a passion for learning about God’s hand in American history and how it ties to the restoration of the Gospel. To share what she has learned, Stephanie has started a Facebook page – Latter-day Prophets and Patriots – which has daily thoughts from LDS prophets and apostles on government and our inspired Constitution.

Small & Simple Things

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It’s 5:30 a.m. on a Friday.

The baby is up early to breastfeed. I drag myself out of bed and retrieve baby girl from her room. I feed her, change her diaper, and put her in the bassinet to go back to sleep.

I lay back down in bed because, today, I deserve to sleep in. You see, my husband has been working sun-up to sun-down for weeks. I have been doing it all on my own with the children and I am exhausted.

It’s now about 9:00 a.m. I can hear the baby stirring. I really don’t want to get up and face the day. The boys have been up for a few hours – in and out of my bed. I didn’t REALLY get to sleep in. I get to the kitchen and the boys have helped themselves to cereal (I’m okay with that today – they can have a good breakfast tomorrow). I pour myself some granola and scarf it down before needing to feed the baby again.

While I feed the baby, my five year old slips on the wet floor. (Why is the floor even wet?)

Soon after, my three-year-old tells me he peed his pants. (Oh! THAT is why the floor is wet! Gross!)

I should exercise but the day is already getting away from me so I’ll just do it tonight. (I’m not going to do it tonight.)

I hop in the shower while the baby sits in the bouncer and the boys come in whining about numerous things. I just want some peace! Why are they fighting so much? Why am I so tired and so grumpy?

I recall the day I first held my son in my arms. Everything changed that day. I was not just Randi anymore, I was now “Jude’s mom”. And soon I became Maxwell’s mom and then Penny’s mom. Becoming a mother has truly made my life infinitely better. But today – today is terrible! Why?!

I’m sure anyone that reads this would have the simple answers for me. I know the answers too. I do, but in that moment, when I’m SO tired and I’m so overwhelmed, I don’t always remember.


It’s Saturday morning. I can hear my baby waking up in her room.

I get up and retrieve this sweet, precious, miracle from her crib.

Penny’s bedroom wall is painted with flowers that I drew and painted by hand. My husband and I spent hours perfecting this floral wall for our soon-to-arrive baby girl. For months I dreamed of our daughter sleeping in her room under her bird mobile, surrounded by flowers and butterflies.

Today, my dreams are real and my baby is every bit as perfect as I knew she would be. I am so thankful that all of this is real.

I feed my baby and I notice her. Those ears are perfect. That chubby little hand grasping my finger! This morning baby girl takes her time eating. By the time she is finished, I can hear my boys stirring. I put Penny down for her morning nap.

I say my prayers and sneak into the kitchen. I turn on the scriptures on my phone. I open the shades and let the sunshine in. I scramble some eggs, put some bread in the toaster and place a bowl of fruit on the table. The boys run in. “Mom! What are you making us?!” They are so happy just to see me up! My five-year-old, Jude, says “Mom those scriptures are talking about Ammon! We learned about Ammon in primary!”

The rule in our home is that Mom always says the prayer at breakfast because I honestly need to ask for help. Every morning that we have breakfast together I pray for the Spirit to be in our home and in our hearts. I pray that we can have the ability to accomplish our tasks and that we can be kind to one another.

Today I’ll exercise. I pull out my yoga mat. Two little boys are peeking around the corner with their mats in hand. “You can join me,” I say. I don’t enjoy exercising, but having those little boys join me makes it pretty entertaining. In the shower I pray in thanks. Today is a good day. The light coming through my bathroom window is especially magical. That scripture this morning was exactly what I needed to hear.

Today, I am even going to make dinner!

Now what is the difference between these two days? The small and simple things I chose to focus on!

In the talk entitled, “By Small and Simple Things” by Susan K. Bednar, Susan says:

Come with me to my busy life as a young wife and mother. Elder Bednar was enrolled in a demanding doctoral program at Purdue University, far away from our families. We had an energetic two-year-old — energetic is kind of a mild word for the way he was — and a very young baby, very little money, and hardly any time to spend together as a family. As we struggled to balance family responsibilities, the rigors of school, and Church callings, I became more and more overwhelmed with my duties as a stay-at-home mother and wife. Many of you may have experienced some of these same emotions and frustrations.

After considerable pondering about my situation, I asked my husband for a priesthood blessing. I was promised in the blessing that if I would exercise, get more sleep, eat regular meals, have meaningful prayer morning and night, and engage in more purposeful and consistent scripture study, I would receive the physical and spiritual tools to better cope with my circumstances and the discouragement I was feeling. The reason I remember this blessing so clearly is because afterwards I thought: “Doing this is going to solve my problems? These are typical ‘Sunday School’ answers.”

Sister Bednar then spoke about how she rationalized NOT doing all these things. We all could – I sure do. And in this day and age, there are loads of articles, memes, and stories about how HARD it is to be a mother. This media complains about how moms never get time for themselves and how motherhood is such a thankless job. Moms sacrifice SO much! I let those thoughts influence me sometimes, and when I do, I rationalize NOT doing the things I know I should do. I decide I’m going to “give myself a break.”

Isn’t it funny, though, how it’s not actually a break when you leave out those small and simple things?

“By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

I have to share a funny little experience from the other day. I was complaining to my husband about my stress. I told him I need to learn how to manage my stress better. The next day he brought me home a pamphlet with big letters that said, “STRESS MANAGEMENT.” I laughed pretty hard but then I sheepishly opened up the flap. I wanted to see what was inside! I opened up the pamphlet and guess what it said?

Be positive
Exercise & Stretch
Spend time with those that you love
Manage money
Eat right


I told my husband, “Sweetie… I already know all these things! This pamphlet gives me nothing!” And then he so sweetly asked, “Are you DOING those things?” I was put in my place.

I know that sometimes we appear to simply be “housewives.” In a world full of so many grand definitions of success, making peanut butter sandwiches and sweeping the floor three times a day doesn’t seem like much. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and tired. But when we make the choice to change our perspective, to remember why we became mothers, we realize that the little things we do for ourselves and for our families make a big difference.

Amidst the around-the-clock baby feedings, floor mopping, and sandwich making, what is it that we are working for? For me, it is exaltation. I want to live again with my Heavenly Father & Mother and my Savior Jesus Christ. And I want my family there with me.

“By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

What “small and simple things” should I be doing to achieve my greater goal of exaltation?

In a General Conference talk given in April 2016, President Monson suggests three choices we can make that will help determine our destiny:

1. Choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith – a real faith, the kind of faith that will bolster our desire to choose the right.

2. Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.

3. Choose Christ.

I can testify that prioritizing the right “small and simple things” makes a big difference. I am so grateful for the guides we have been given to help us remember what to prioritize: a living prophet, the scriptures, prayer, and revelation. We can’t do it all by ourselves, but we CAN do it all through Christ.


By: Randi Gardner


Stop Running!

As a busy mom, I have often found myself pondering the scripture, “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength” (D&C 10:4). On days when I had no sleep, a ‘to-do’ list a mile long, and sick children, I wonder how this is even possible. It wasn’t until I considered the opposite of this principle that I more fully understood what the Lord had in mind. Let me share with you what I have learned….

If there was one word that describes running faster than we have strength, I would say that it is RIGOR. We first hear about Rigour in Exodus 1:13-14. “And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: All their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.” The Pharaoh commanded that the Israelites be forced to gather straw to make enough brick to fulfill an impossible quota. He would not listen to reason and lift their burden. He wanted to weaken the Israelites and force them to leave their God by requiring them to run faster and labor more than they had strength.


A similar situation happened in the Book of Mormon under the command of Amulon;
And it came to pass that so great were their afflictions that they began to cry mightily to God. And Amulon commanded them that they should stop their cries; and he put guards over them to watch them, that whosoever should be found calling upon God should be put to death.” (Mosiah 24:10-11) Again, we have another person in power that required rigor in order to weaken a God-fearing people and force them to leave their God.

In Leviticus, God warns His people about rigor and commands the Children of Israel; “Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.” (Leviticus 25:43) He warns against rigor THREE TIMES!!!! I guess the Lord didn’t want His chosen people to follow after the merciless rulers of Egypt.

Fast forward many years and we find ourselves bowing under the stress and rigor that has been placed upon us. The evil in this world forces us to use all of our energy to align with current policies and laws. With every passing year, it becomes harder and harder to provide for, preside over, protect and nurture our families.

Every year, hundreds of new bills are implemented that place extra burdens on our backs. Forms to fill out, fines to be paid, taxes to be levied, and regulations to be kept come at us like a fire hose on a house plant. It is impossible for the average family to keep up with everything that is required of them. Time restraints alone keep us from attempting to even comprehend the magnitude of the heavy load that is placed upon us.

The recent buzz word in education is “rigor” or “rigorous”. Our children are expected to reach prescribed standards that do not always meet the abilities of their personal development. Teachers are also asked to spend more time reporting, preparing and assessing than they used to. The results may reflect achievement on paper, but most parents will attest that their children are overwhelmed with all they are expected to do…… and let’s face it, so are the parents.

I had a conversation with a young man who has always had his life well organized. He was the youngest of five children who had all excelled in life. His future was bright and he had always looked forward to changing the world. But lately, he had seemed depressed. His positive outlook had disappeared and he just didn’t look like himself. As we talked, he expressed that too much was expected of him. He found that the things that were easy for his older siblings were too overwhelming to him. He had decided not to go on a mission because he was worried that he wouldn’t be ready for college and career if he left for two years. His natural optimism was replaced by drudgery as he weakened under the weight of so much rigor.

Are we recognizing our current generation gap? Have we not realized that the rigorous push for a perfectly engineered society has left our youth dealing with things that even their older siblings didn’t have to endure?

What about the adults? Do we expect to be able to do all that our older siblings and parents were able to do? Have we not realized that the rigorous push for more government control in our lives has left us with very little time, money and freedom to pursue the kind of life we would design for ourselves?

This is where I have to stop myself. I could choose to feel sorry for myself or start yelling hateful things to everyone involved in this new kind of rigorous, social engineering. But I choose not to. Instead, I look to the scriptures and see God’s promise to His children.……

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions. And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.” (Mosiah 24:14-15)


We have all felt our burdens being lifted in our own, personalized way. Our Heavenly Father has not forgotten us. With that in mind, we can go forward in faith and work with our politicians and representatives to help them see that these rigorous burdens have no place in our country. We can reach out to those around us in service and help lighten their load. And we can make and keep sacred covenants in order to claim the promised blessings that will help us through our trials.

Above all, we need to make sure that these burdens do not keep our family from looking to our Heavenly Father. The rigorous requirements of Pharaoh and Amulon did not keep the righteous from worshiping God, and our rigorous requirements shouldn’t either. Although other men might expect us to run faster than we have strength, the Lord has promised us that He will lift our burdens and that we will come off as conquerors in the end. Can there be a better promise for our times?

“Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; be diligent unto the end.
Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work.” (D&C 10:4-5)

-By Jenny Baker