A Light In the Darkness

6383c15744e4469dc61721603cc8964fFall is a wonderful time of year. For many, it is a time of harvest and plenty, an opportunity to see the fruits of our labors. For those of the Jewish faith, fall means a time of celebration of many holy days, including Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah means “Head of the Year”. Just as our head (brain/mind) controls the rest of our body, Jews believe that their actions on this holy day will greatly impact the rest of the year. It is celebrated as a time of prayer, a time to ask God to grant a year of peace, prosperity, and blessings. It is also a time to celebrate and proclaim that God is King.

Tonight (Sept. 20, 2017), Jewish women and girls around the world will gather to light the candles to usher in Rosh Hashanah. As I have begun learning about Jewish holidays and mitzvot (commandments) associated with various holidays, I have discovered some beautiful symbolism and traditions that women of all faiths can learn from and appreciate.

Divinely Different

In an article titled, “Women and Mitzvot”, Rabbi Dov Lev wrote, “Success in life is predicated on two distinct undertakings: On one hand, an organism must advance and expand. On the other hand, it must protect and nurture. These two undertakings are opposites, but both are necessary for success. . . The same is true on every level of societal and personal existence. It was with this theme that God created two distinct genders, to work together in unison to accomplish their ultimate goals.

God, in His wisdom, created men and women differently, and “relationships can only be successful if gender distinctions are recognized and adhered to.” Men’s and women’s psychological and physiological needs are different, and because of that, a woman’s mitzvot are different from that of a man’s. Not only do those of the Jewish faith believe the idea that men and women are different by divine design, but the difference is embraced in every aspect of their faith. “Throughout the ages, Jewish women have imbued spirituality into the Jewish home. As such, certain mitzvot are set aside especially for women because of their special connection to the home.”

Women and the Mitzvah of Lighting Candles

The mitzvah of lighting candles has been given particularly to women. As soon as a young girl can understand the significance of Shabbat– the Jewish Sabbath– and can say the blessing (about the age of three), she should kindle her own candle. You may be wondering why females were given this specific mitzvah.

Rabbi Lev explained that women are the pillar of the family: “Since the beginning of mankind, all societies have recognized that a woman’s sensitivity and warmth are ideally suited for motherhood. Moreover, the extraordinary feeling that men can never experience – nurturing a baby inside them – puts women in the position of being the best, most loving caregivers for their children. For the preservation of the family structure, and by extension the overall health of society, the Torah encourages women to embrace this role.

4147965e32d7a1d571f06f2300819dedThe job of lighting the candles is given to the woman of the home because it is the woman who most influences the spirituality there. By encouraging the study of Torah (the law of God), the meticulous performance of mitzvot, and through her nurturing presence, a woman can transform her home into a place of holiness, peace, and tranquility. It is thus fitting that she be the one to bring the extra measure of light and holiness with the Shabbat candles.

A Light In The Home

Lighting the Shabbat candles brings not only a physical light but also a spiritual light into the home. It brings peace, harmony, serenity and spirituality into the home and to all its inhabitants. This powerful time of lighting the candles is also an opportunity to ask for blessings for the house and the family. Jewish women are admonished to especially pray for the welfare of their children when lighting Shabbat candles. Here is the text of a traditional prayer that is said when lighting the candles:

“May it be Your will, Lord my God and God of my fathers, to be gracious to me (and to my spouse, children, parents) and to all my family. Grant us and all Israel good and long life. Remember us for good and blessing. Consider us for salvation and compassion. Bless us with great blessings. Make our household complete, crowning our home with the feeling of Your Divine Presence dwelling among us.

“Make me worthy to raise learned children and grandchildren, who are wise and understanding, who love and fear God – people of truth, holy and attached to God, who will dazzle the world with Torah and goodness and service of God. Please hear our prayers, in the merit of our matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, and ensure that the glow of our lives will never be dimmed. Show us the glow of Your face and we will be saved. Amen.”

Oh, imagine the impact if EVERY woman in the world, regardless of religion, daily offered up a similar prayer such as this, invoking the power of heaven to be upon her family and loved ones. Imagine the change in the world, the light in the darkness.

A Light In The Darkness

8ba1c6411f73f4c09f94f5b25639f6a2Several years ago, while I was in college, my roommates and I decided it would be fun to take a tour of a popular nearby cave. At one point during the tour, the guide led us into a massive, cavernous room. He then did something that surprised everyone on the tour, and flipped the light switch, plunging us into immediate darkness. Have you ever been just a little afraid of the dark? Have you ever been in a place that was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, even with your eyes wide open? At that moment in time, my answer to both of those questions was yes, so at that point of the tour, I may just have screamed a little bit at the unexpected blackness. Fortunately, another guide was across the cavern and lit a small match. Though tiny, that little match’s light immediately dispelled the anxiety of all in the group. Then, one by one, the guides began to light candles along the path and told our little tour group a story I can’t remember now, but I will never forget the overwhelming darkness of that cave.

I share this experience because if you’ve ever been afraid of the dark, or been in a deep, dark cave, then you know how welcome a ray of light can be. Even a small light makes a big difference in a dark place. Today our world can seem very dark. There are many searching for light, for any gleam of hope that dispels anxiety, fear, or depression. As women, we have been blessed with the divine gift of being able to light a candle to help those in spiritual darkness.

In a beautiful article, Women & Shabbat Candles, Leah Kohn exquisitely details being a light in the darkness:

“One need only consider how much we depend on light – whether physical or spiritual – to understand the importance of a . . . woman’s role in this regard. Light fosters communication and interaction between people. It gives us the ability to relate properly to one another. In a sense, darkness erases distinctions between people, whereas light creates a separation between entities, clarifying their boundaries and bringing out their individuality. At the same time, light brings things together by conferring a sense of unity and shared space. Darkness on the other hand is often associated with chaos.
Light creates physical clarity and spiritual harmony. In a room without light we trip over the same things that, with light we realize are far from obstacles, but are there to make life easier and more comfortable. This is true with people as well. When there is light between people, we enhance each other’s experience. When two people see things the same way, empathize with each other or share similar values, they are said to see things in the same light. This convergence becomes a basis for peace and harmony in their relationship. It is these very qualities that a woman invokes on Friday evening when she lights candles and ushers into her home a feeling of almost palpable peace and tranquility.”

Light The Home, Light The World

As a Christian, I do not necessarily light physical candles. Rather, we Christians believe we were born with the Light of Christ, which we must nurture and grow. It is that light that we are commanded to share. John 8:12 says, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” 3 Nephi 18:24 adds, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up—that which ye have seen me do.” The Light of Christ is divine energy, power, and influence that proceeds from God, through Christ, and gives life and light to all things, including to us.

Whether you are Jewish, Christian, or some other faith, we recognize the importance of having light in the darkness, and, more importantly, BEING a light in the darkness. President Thomas S. Monson pointed out, “If you want to give a light to others, you have to glow yourself.” (“For I Was Blind, but Now I See,” Ensign, May 1999, 56; Liahona, July 1999, 69.) As women, Daughters of Zion, we are bearers of light. We have more influence than we realize. As we keep the light in our hearts burning, we can, and do, shape and mold the world with our lights.



I can’t help but think of a song by Melanie Hoffman, “A Light in the Heart

A light in the heart is a light in the home,
A light in the home is a light in the town.
A light in the town is a light in the nation
And light in the nations is light in the world.

Keep the home lights burning bright.
Keep your light burning bright.
Shine your light.

Dear women of the world, please keep the home lights burning bright. Do not be afraid to share your beautiful light with those seeking it in an ever-darkening world.

To read more about Rosh Hashanah and Jewish traditions, check out these websites/articles:

By Wendi Mott
Gathering Families

Intentional Parenting: Raise a Family in the Lord

IMG_2496We 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.”

''Dear Lord Jesus Please'' by Emily Schultz

”Dear Lord Jesus Please” by Emily Schultz

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 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.

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

Illustration by Harry Anderson 1906-1996

C. S. Lewis understood this same principle, “The homemaker has the ultimate career. All other 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.

-Jennifer Jensen (Author of “Raising Intentional Parents“)

Dear Daughters of Zion

Dear Daughters of Zion,

We know you are busy. You always are. But we couldn’t let this month go by without pointing out something we have noticed….. we all share one, great concern….. How can we ready ourselves and carry out the work of Zion in these Last Days?

Instilling the love of the gospel in our family is very difficult to do lately. There are many of us who live with sorrow because of the very personal ways that the adversary is striking us. We have all felt this sorrow to one degree or another, haven’t we?

300-general womens meeting new 2It is interesting to note that the weekend of September 22-24th is going to be so centered on women. First of all, and most importantly, it is the weekend of our General Women’s Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What a miraculous event! Women from all over the world, members of the church and non-members, will meet to get direction and strength from our leaders and a member of the First Presidency. There’s something powerful in gathering out the women of Zion to worship together!

Another gathering is happening this weekend…

The Mom’s March for America— is “a national gathering of mothers to WebImage-Passalong-300x206 shine the light on the powerful influence of mothers in our homes, communities, and nation; and raise the bar of decency, civility, and liberty in our culture. This is not a march walking down the street, shouting and carrying signs. This is a Cultural March; a celebration of the biggest cultural movement happening in America – the march that mothers make every day in their homes, neighborhoods, and businesses as they nurture their families, influence their communities and shape our nation.”

May I suggest reading the Declaration of Mothers. You will be inspired!

What an amazing gathering of mothers! And the best part is that we can participate from our very own homes!

“I believe that the moment we learn to unleash the full influence of converted, covenant-keeping women, the kingdom of God will change overnight.” -Sister Sheri Dew (Women and the Priesthood: What One Mormon Woman Believes (2013), 163

These two gatherings are not the only things happening this weekend…

Here’s a list of a few things to ponder……
– Important Jewish Holiday: The Feast of the Tabernacles, occurs on the 20th-22nd of September. In this Ensign article we read that The Feast of Tabernacles, “with its imagery of the blowing of trumpets, a call to regather and reawaken Israel. It is a time of renewal of true worship with new understanding.” The Feast of the Tabernacles occurs during the Jewish month of Elul. Elul is the month of repentance and re-turning to the Lord before the Day of Atonement. It’s interesting to note that the eclipse happened on the first day of Elul. The month of Elul ends with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.


“Christ and his prophets teach of a latter-day awakening and gathering of Israel—the beginning of their second and final harvest. And there are those who see Rosh Hashannah as prophetic of this event, though most of them see it only as prophecy of the gathering and renewal of Judah. Latter-day Saints believe in a larger gathering: the Jews to Israel and all of Israel to the gospel. Both gatherings have already begun. Coincidence or not, the gold plates, which in their translated form (the Book of Mormon) have spread throughout the world to begin to awaken and gather Israel, were delivered into the hands of Joseph Smith in the latter part of September, a time closely approximate to the beginning of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Coincidence or not, a statue of Moroni, their keeper and deliverer, now stands on temple spires, trumpet to his mouth, proclaiming to all Israel that it is time to awaken and gather.” Lenet Hadley Read (“Symbols of the Harvest”, Ensign, Jan. 1975)

– Signs in the Heavens: Remember John’s Prophecy in JST Revelations 12:1; “And there appeared a great sign in heaven, in the likeness of things on the earth; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” This “sign” is found when the constellation of Virgo is seen with the moon below her feet. Stars and planets also align to make up her crown. This same, celestial alignment previously occurred on the Feast of Trumpets in 2 B.C. and 1832. It will occur again on September 23, 2017. The sign in 2 B.C. is considered to have come the autumn before Christ was born. The sign in 1832 occurred right as Joseph Smith, under the direction of the Lord, organized the Kingdom of God on this earth. We may not know if there is any significance to this year’s sign. But it is definitely something to ponder.

– Many religions will be fasting this weekend. Think of how many people of faith will gather together in prayer and fasting! What power and grace will we see?

Sing and Rejoice!

“Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee.” (Zechariah 2:10-11)

We are not sure what the last of the last days will look like. It’s interesting that we are not fearful in spitemary-magdalene-saw-jesus-1103329-gallery of what is on the news. However, we are very keenly aware of the important role that the daughters of God will play in the winding down scene. Our homes must become sanctuaries, our arms must be outstretched with charity, and the words of God must always be on our lips. With this realization, we are even more grateful for the power of prayer and fasting as well as the peace of the temple. Can you imagine taking on this dispensation without it?

Dear Daughters of Zion, this coming weekend is obviously a time of gathering. Let’s each take upon ourselves the role of a gatherer in this last dispensation. As daughters of Zion, we can gather our families to the temples. We can invite our friends to join in prayer and fasting! We can reach out to our neighbors to rejoice together at Women’s Conference and at the Mom’s March. Together, we can petition the Lord for help in preparing ourselves and our children for the coming of the Lord. Can you imagine the power, blessings and joy that will result?

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee.” (Zechariah 9:9)


Jenny Baker, Michelle Boulter, JaKell Sullivan, Laureen Simper, Stephanie Gifford, Ai Eisenach, Alisa Ellis, Alyson Williams, Becky Foster, Emily Thornton, Jennifer Jensen, Julie Rae, Kristine Swarts, Kristine Wagner, Mandy Baker, Natalie Robison, Randi Gardner, Rhonda Hair, Shelby Rodgers, Susie Schnell, Wendi Mott, Antonia Ormston, Maggie Klaas, and the rest of the women of GatheringFamilies.com.
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Increasing in Wisdom

man-person-school-headI had a conversation with a bright, energetic woman from Siera Leone, Africa, while attending the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. She was an eloquent speaker who used her doctoral degree to bring modern farming equipment to her country. She was impressive, to say the least. But as we spoke of our children, she complained of the poor schooling in her area and how she worried that her children were not learning the way she thought best. I asked her if she would consider supplementing their education by teaching her children at home? She answered me with a quick…

I am not a teacher!”

I reminded her of her own great education and asked if there was something she had learned that she would like to share with her children and she replied again…

I am not a teacher!

I tried once more to explain that mothers teach their children all of the time! Our teaching is not limited to how to make a bed or brush teeth properly, but can be expanded to all areas of great knowledge. She replied, once more,

I am a mother, not a teacher!

What a tragedy! This brilliant woman feels that she must stand idly by and watch her children waste away in a failed education system. In the world’s eyes, the worth of the “professional” takes precedence over her worth as a maternal mother. Perhaps she has mistakenly prioritized education and career because that is where she has spent the majority of her time? Or perhaps she has never learned the divine nature of women? Or maybe she has yet to learn that she can count on the Lord to help her fulfill the role of motherhood?

The adversary has successfully redefined the role of motherhood to fit a very narrow role. And the worst part is… WE ARE FALLING FOR IT! It is no wonder that so many of the rising generation have a difficult time understanding the love and wisdom of our Father in Heaven. How can they learn this eternal wisdom and love if they are continually denied time with parents in a nurturing and growing capacity?

May each of us treasure this truth; one cannot forget mother and remember God. One cannot remember mother and forget God. Why? Because these two sacred persons, God and [our earthly] mother, partners in creation, in love, in sacrifice, in service, are as one.” –President Thomas S. Monson (“Behold Thy Mother”)

Eternal vs. Temporary Worth

It is far too easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day grind. We work hard to achieve goals that seem important, but are so overwhelmingly temporary in the grand scheme of things. Even good things such as career, higher education, and community service can blind our view of our eternal worth. Gathering our children within a family gives both parents and children time to reflect and remember our eternal natures.

Increase in Wisdom

Family life is the perfect way to increase in wisdom. It’s a simple idea, really. Whatever we attain in21272396_867247773441398_3232743472386661075_n this life will not only go with us to the next life, but it can go on with our children throughout their lives. If obedient, our children will not only receive the wisdom that was handed down to them, but they will add upon that wisdom and hand it down to their children.

“Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (D&C 130:18-19)

This eternal increase in wisdom won’t happen unless we make teaching our children a priority. Parents must follow the Savior and lead, guide, and walk beside their children… just as we would have the Savior do for us.

Gathering vs. Dispersing

The theme of gathering is found throughout the scriptures. We long to be “gathered in from [our] long dispersion,” (2 Nephi 10:8). The thought of being gathered in gives us a feeling of comfort and completion. We have felt this as our own family gathers together for prayer, meals, or fun.

The gathering of Zion begins at home. President Henry B. Eyring gives us insight into the principle of gathering families, “Families are the basic organizational unit of the eternal realms, and so He intends for them also to be the basic unit on earth. Though earthly families are far from perfect, they give God’s children the best chance to be welcomed to the world with the only love on earth that comes close to what we felt in heaven—parental love. Families are also the best way to preserve and pass on moral virtues and true principles that are most likely to lead us back to God’s presence.

Parents can make a conscious effort to gather their families in from the temporary world. This separation will allow for greater learning and peace to take root. Once the principles of the gospel are firmly established in the hearts of our children, they can go confidently out in the world to gather in other families. This pattern will be repeated over and over until all the families of the earth are gathered in.

Imagine the blessings that await future generations once our generation chooses to give up the temporary things of the world in order to focus on their own, eternal family.

“If we fail in our homes, we fail in our lives. No man is truly successful who has failed in his home. I ask you men, particularly, to pause and take stock of yourselves as husbands and fathers and heads of households. Pray for guidance, for help, for direction, and then follow the whisperings of the Spirit to guide you in the most serious of all responsibilities, for the consequences of your leadership in your home will be eternal and everlasting.” -President Gordon B. Hinckley (“Each a Better Person”)

IMG_2421Every mother is a teacher of the most eternal and everlasting nature. The “professionals” cannot have the eternal impact that we have. We don’t have to do this alone, we have the help of a loving Heavenly Father and our Savior who will guide us, through the Holy Ghost, to accomplish this perfect plan. Let’s move forward, with faith, to gather our families and increase in wisdom together.

By: Jenny Baker