Thursday, December 27, 2012

Reflections on Christmas Morning

No blanket of snow to cover the land
No winds from the south to torment
No deep winter freezes or hot summer breezes
Just rain to both cleanse and begin

No baby to cry in the cradle close by
No toddler to peek through the door
No loud speech to mark the day as unfriendly
Just three quiet breakfasting kin

No stranger to stagger in at the door
No traffic to slow down the pace
No loud interruption of still celebration
Just memories of relinquished sin

And humbly we enter to sit near the tree
With song in our hearts and our voices
Wrapped presents exchanged and
Unwrapped with delight
Warm smiles imparted as each soul rejoices

Glory to the Newborn King
The babe in the manger nearby
The toddler fleeing from Egypt
Brings comfort to our fireside

The twinkling light of the new star
Fragmented through time and through space
Our tree is  aglow and we inwardly know
The joy that’s expressed in His face

The Giver of all the good gifts of this life
The Giver of all that will be
The Giver of life to those who are blessed
Pierced, suffered, and died on a tree
And suffering once and for all, he atoned
And still He caresses just me.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Living Prophets Today

I was reviewing some conference notes found in earlier blogs, and I came across
Elder Claudio R. M. Costa's talk from October 2010 General Conference.
Along with Elder Costa, I feel to say,

"What a great blessing it is to have prophets in our day!"

Here are my notes from that conference:

After I read, pondered, and prayed, the Lord gave me the assurance that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I know that all his successors are prophets.

Prophet—a person called by God to speak in His name. It is a great blessing to receive the word the Lord.

He will reveal his will to us and He will instruct us through His prophets. If we believe in Him, we will follow His prophets and do what He asked us to do. When I accepted baptism into the church, I covenanted to always follow the prophet. 

Points made by President Benson

1. The prophet is the only man that speaks for the Lord in everything.
2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
3. The living prophet is more important to us than the dead prophets.
4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
5. The prophet doesn’t need to have any special credentials.
    The Lord called a young man, Joseph Smith, to lead the Church. He was chosen by the Lord, and he     
    received from the Lord the gifts he needed to do His work.
6. The prophet doesn’t need to say “thus saith the Lord” to be speaking for the Lord.
7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
8. The prophet is not limited by man’s reasoning.
9. The prophet can receive a revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
10. The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
11. The two groups who have difficulty following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud
      who are rich.
12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
13. The prophet and his counselors make up the first presidency, the highest quorum in the church.
14. The prophet and the presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

Elder Costa testified of true prophet, counselors, and quorum of the twelve.

Now for my testimony:

I finished reading the Book of Mormon for the first time when I was 12. I remember praying early one evening to know if the Book is true. The warmth and power of the Spirit filling my bosom was enlightening and expanding. I had never experienced the Spirit to that degree before, and I knew that The Book of Mormon is true. My heart felt it and my mind comprehended it. I remember wanting to hold onto that feeling. I did not want to participate in any other earthly activity that evening. I had received a witness from the heavens.

A couple of years later, my older sister Sheila invited me to go with her to a play. I believe that it was called A Day, a Night, and a Day. I had been fasting to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I remember having a strong witness in answer to my prayer at the end of that day, and following that production, that Joseph truly was a prophet. 

I have felt the Spirit many times confirm to me that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I have felt the witness of the Spirit on many occasions as I have sought for the Lord's direction and to do His will. 

In one of my saddest times, after the death and temporary loss of our son Robby, I had a witness, in a very real and personal way, that Jesus Himself is aware of me and that His love for me knows no bounds. At this time, I felt these words from Him, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Indeed, it is when our hearts are broken and we exercise faith in Him that we are not only healed from our emotional and spiritual wounds, but we receive a remission of our sins. (See Matthew 9:2-8)

I can also testify that when our most recent prophet Gordon B. Hinckley passed away, I saw the mantle of authority shift to our new prophet Thomas S. Monson. As he spoke in a news' address, I indeed knew that he is a prophet of God. 

In our confusing world today, there are important things that we must do to not be deceived. We must pray; we must fast if we are able (and, if not, we must carry the spirit of the fast); we must study our scriptures; we must partake of the sacrament worthily; and we must support the prophets of God. 

It is a wicked and adulterous generation that must have everything shown unto them before they believe that it is from God. (See Matthew 12:39Matthew 16:4) It is sad to note that even when the Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth, not only as God's Prophet, but as His Son, there were people who demanded proof that the things He taught were true. 

God has placed prophets on this earth for instruction, for counsel, and to issue His calls and commandments. Some try to separate the commandments from the counsel, like the one is from God and the other is merely opinion. This is not so. We need to accept the words from the prophets as though they are God's own words, which they are. (See Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38) And we need to trust that the Lord knows all things and that it is His right to counsel us through prophets. We should accept His counsel and stop seeking to counsel Him. (Jacob 4:10)

We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet

I am thankful to my Heavenly Father and to His Son Jesus Christ for their remarkable love for me. Because they know all things, and because I do not, I will put my trust in them as a daughter. It is through the Spirit that I do know that I am a literal spirit child of my Heavenly Father; it is through the Spirit and through obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel that I also became a child of Jesus Christ and took upon me His name. It is through the Gift of the Holy Ghost that I can continue in faith and virtue, keeping the commandments and putting my trust in the Lord and His prophets until the perfect day. Without prophets both ancient and modern, I would not know of God's great love for me. I indeed am thankful for living prophets!

I am thankful for the counsel and teachings of all the prophets during my lifetime. I know that they were called of God just like the prophets that we revere in the scriptures.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Sacrament, A Sacred Memory

This Do in Remembrance of Me

I have always equated the sacrament with a sacred memory. "This do in remembrance of me," is what the Lord has told us to do. When we attend Sacrament meeting, we should do so wearing a broken heart and a contrite spirit. As we do so consistently, we will receive His image in our countenances. We commemorate the Lord's Last Supper and His Atonement in our behalf. We also commemorate our baptism and renew our covenants with Him, and we promise to "always remember Him." In exchange, He promises that we shall always have His Spirit to be with us, and if we continue faithful to the end, we will obtain Eternal Life.  One of the most important words in the scriptures is "remember." Another one is "hearken." Let us hearken unto the counsel of the prophets, and let us always remember who we are and what God expects us to do. Also, let us remember Jesus and never forsake Him.

Please read Elder Oak's talk: 

This small article addresses so many simple ways that we can prepare. Following are my ideas paraphrased from what I have read and what I understand: 

I. Because the sacrament is so important, there is absolutely no other meeting in the church which is more  important. All the details of the meeting should be planned in order to preserve the dignity of the sacrament.

II. There needs to be personal preparation for the sacrament to have efficacy in our lives. Our day-to-day thoughts and actions should reflect that we remember Him; we should come with a broken heart and a contrite spirit: meaning we should feel sorrow for our short-comings and feel humble enough to ask the Lord's help yet again; we also should feel sorrow for the trials and sufferings of others; and we should ever be aware of the Lord's sacrifice, atonement, and resurrection on our behalf, that can make us at one again with Him and with our Heavenly Father. We should arrive to the meeting early and be seated and relaxed and prepared to worship. 

III. Our attitude, our dress, and our personal choice to be reverent are important. These things can aid in our concentration or distract from it; they can also provide an atmosphere that helps other people feel either worshipful or distracted.Our focus should be on the Savior during the sacrament, and we should remain attentive, reverent, and respectful throughout the meeting, not giving way to things that would distract us from our purpose--to worship and to be edified by the Spirit.

IV. The Sacrament is important. We must learn that it is. We must remember that it is. The Sacrament is about our sacred memories: memories of the Lord's sacrifice; memories of our covenants and the Lord's promises; memories that because of Jesus, there is no other sacrifice necessary, except for us to remember Him and present our will to Him so that He can help us return to our Father. If we take the sacrament worthily, we will be built upon Christ's firm foundation and be able to withstand the wiles of the devil. Also, Jesus will forgive us and baptize us with fire and the Holy Ghost.

V. The Bishop or the Presiding Priesthood Authority oversees the administration of the sacrament. Members must maintain a level of righteousness that is compatible with participating in the sacrament. Young men who prepare, bless, and pass the sacrament must remain clean and worthy to do so.

I will ever be thankful to the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood for their diligence in being clean in these trying time. I witnessed a most beautiful scene. When my sister was undergoing cancer treatment and could not be to church, I was with her at her home when she had returned from the hospital from an intense round of chemotherapy. Two priests, under the direction of the Bishop, came to her house to offer her the sacrament. They did so most graciously. After which, Kathy took the time to thank them, and she also taught them. She told them that they came to her home in the Savior's place to offer her his Sacrament. Her sincerity and clarity, even in her weakened condition, touched the hearts of those young men deeply, and I would not be surprised if they remember it always. 

I also remember that after being bed-bound for six weeks in a pregnancy, I was delighted to return and take the sacrament. Even though our little one only lived 2 1/2 hours, I had missed taking the sacrament, and it was a necessary part of my healing. I do not think that most people know that the sacrament not only helps us recover from sin, but also from sorrow, misunderstandings, and deep hurts and scars. 

I know that my comments do not compare to that of an Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for Elder Oaks teaching and testimony. I am also thankful that I have been blessed through the sacrament for as long as I can remember. I am not nearly reverent or gracious enough, but I am striving to be. As I have written before, "The Lord's sacrifice for all of us is beyond comprehension. He loves us all so much. For me, Sacrament meeting is about honoring His sacrifice and seeking to align myself to do His will. It is a time when we are to seek edification and fellowship." I hope that I will do better at showing my love for Heavenly Father and for His Son Jesus Christ through preparing more fully before taking the sacrament. I also hope that I will be a member that contributes to the reverence of the chapel and one who helps others to invite and feel the Spirit in their lives.

This I say, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Your Holy Scriptures are Important


Holy Writ is Meant to Be Read

I was told by someone a few months back that it doesn't matter how many times I have read the Book of Mormon; all that matters is if I keep the commission of Jesus to do well unto others: things that are found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 25.

I want you all to know that it is through reading scriptures that are found in Holy Writ that I have come to understand how I can live a more Godly life and how I can serve as Jesus would have me do. Do I fall short? Yes. But I can attest that I do make better decisions because I do value what is written in the Book of Mormon, and in the Old and the New Testaments, in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the Pearl of Great Price. And these books remind me of who I am and who my Heavenly Father is and what my relationship is to Him. They give me hope, joy, comfort, direction, and peace.

In a day when having secular sophistry is more valued than having faithful humility, I would encourage everyone who believes in Holy Writ to not abandon your sacred books. They will bring you confidence to face the challenges of today's world, and they will serve to lead you in righteous paths and bring you peace. Also, they will fortify you against the attacks of those who deem your religious choices as folly. We cannot be dressed in the armor of God to stand against the wiles of the devil without reading our scriptures (See Ephesians 6).

I also believe in modern-day prophets. President Monson is the current prophet in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I value what he says, because I believe that he speaks to us directly for the Lord, just like the prophet Moses did anciently. It seems that most prophets are not accepted during their own times and among their own people. But I feel the Spirit when he speaks to the church, and so I value what he has to say and accept it as the Lord's words and His will. Having a lighthouse in the midst of a constant tempest is a valuable thing. We can stay rooted and directed and keep moving in the right direction.

This blogpost is not so much an invitation for you to believe as I believe, even though I would welcome questions or be happy to talk to you about that; it is more of a plea for you to hold onto the things that you know in your heart are right and correct--the things that you value as sacred; the things that you've proven to be of value. Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked from what you know to be true; plus, embrace truth wherever you find it, and shun those things that you know are contrary to truth.

So if you have Holy Writ or scripture that you esteem as sacred, hold to it and read it. Don't let anyone dissuade you from the Word of God and tell you that it is not important to read His words. You cannot know His words without reading them, and you cannot remember them and incorporate them into your soul and your being without reading them many times. Listen to the Spirit within you. When you are prompted by Light and Truth, do not ignore it, but follow the impulses you have to do good.

Never has there been a day when it is more important to be literate and to choose uplifting things to read. Your soul needs the spiritual nourishment and enrichment found in the scriptures in order for it to thrive or even survive these morally challenging times. I believe that if we could all recommit ourselves to prayer, scripture study, and mediation, we could bring about a mighty change in this world, beginning with ourselves and circling outward to embrace so many others. If your Holy Books are on a shelf or in a box, will you locate them and make them a part of your daily life? Miracles will happen if we all do that. Let's do it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

Christmas Newsletter 2012                                                                          

I am looking forward to all of my family being together to welcome in the New Year. I know that there may not be many Christmas holidays where we are all together again. Thank you Eliza Bitter and Alex Bitter for making the trip from Texas. We are all looking forward to meeting our newest addition, Amanda Lorraine Stevenson.

So 2012 is already at a close. It's been a good year. I've been looking over some pictures and just reminiscing on all the great times we've had. John graduate from Laverne in January 2012 with a Master of Education degree. He and Megan were engaged in February.

Bob, Christine, and I had a wonderful family vacation in March and traveled up the Coast to Monterey Bay. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. We stopped at so many vista points and the scenery and wildlife were always incredible.

Alex graduated from Brigham Young University in April with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. Then both he and Eliza were accepted into Texas A & M, and moved to College Station, Texas in August. Alex is working on his Master's degree in International Affairs, and Eliza is working on her Master's degree in Public Service and Administration. Both of them were awarded full-tuition scholarships.

John decided to take the Air Force Officer Qualifying Test (AFOQT).  This he did in April. As soon as he took it, he moved to Utah as well. His cousin Paul helped him get a job as a manager at the Subway in University Mall. Megan has a teaching job in Spanish Fork, and John wanted to have a steady job so that he could pay for his honeymoon and meet his expenses. He'd been substitute teaching until then. Needless to say, John scored super high on his test. He was called by a recruiter and his application for Officer's Training was begun. He had a month to get his packet together, and that was the month before his marriage. But he got it in.

John and Megan were married on 15 June 2012. I am so glad that we could all be there for that. It was a beautiful day. Everybody looked so beautiful. Megan's family is lovely, and they absolutely adore our John. It was great for me to have my extended family at this wedding since they were married in Salt Lake City.

And we had a wonderful week with family. I made Father's Day dinner. I knew that my Dad would like brautwurst with potatoes and sauerkraut, so that's what we made, and I made sure that it was gluten free for my mother. Eliza and Alex made the dessert. The little cupcakes with brownies looked just like hamburgers, and the sugar cookies looked just like fries. Then there was frosting for dipping that looked like catsup and mustard.  We also had beautiful day outings to Thanksgiving Point (Thank you, Sheila), and to the top of Millcreek Canyon.

Soon after that, Tom and Whitney moved to Utah. We were glad that Jacob's birth father had allowed Jacob to go with for John's wedding, but we were thrilled when he agreed that Jacob should move there with Tom and Whitney, because Tom had a job. He even thanked Tom for being a good dad to Jacob and said that he hopes someday Jacob will consider him a friend. He has agreed to let Tom adopt Jacob.

Christine and I were back to Utah again in August. We wanted one more chance to visit Eliza and Alex before they moved to Texas. And we helped them pack and saw them off. We stayed at Tom's and Whitney's until they were gone and had much time together with all our Provo and Orem families. It was so grand to be met with a great big hug from Jacob. Cathy came to stay with us as well so that we could all celebrate her birthday together. Then we visited my parents and family for a few days as well. Melinda and her boys were there, too!
Josh turned 9 already. His brothers Jesse and Jeffrey are 6.

We were back again in September. My mother had appendicitis and, therefore, emergency surgery. I was sad I couldn't help when she had had shoulder surgery in January because I had a severe cold. So I was determined to be there in September if my parents wanted my help. Christine and I were there for nearly two weeks, and it was a wonderful experience to have that time to visit with my parents. A highlight for many years to come. Plus, I had time with my children and extended family again. And all the while, poor Christine had to keep up on school.

Well John was accepted for Officer Training back in September, but he was told that it might be up to a year before he was called up. He has still been preparing and getting ready for that. Federal agents have been interviewing some of John's contacts, including me. Very recently, he received word that he will start Officer Training on 15 January 2013 in Alabama. This is a two month's training, and he will be trained as a Combat Systems Officer, which includes being the navigation pilot. After that he will have two years of flight school in Florida.

Cathy is doing well in her work and in her schooling. She is working on a Master's degree in Library Science through San Jose State. She experienced the severe pain of having kidney stones a couple of months ago. I'm glad that they dissipated and that she is doing well again. She is constantly serving others: babysitting for Tom and Whitney and friends of hers; treating people to dinners or activities. We are very proud of our Cathy.

Christine has continued to work at the library. She has now volunteered there over 380 hours. She is treated much the same as a trusted paid worker. She is the president of her young women's group. And she is a beautiful young lady. This fall has been exceptionally crazy as far as schoolwork. But she is pulling through it all so well.

Preparing for a Stake Dance

Bob and I are doing well. Bob is still in the Bishopric. I was released as Primary President on 18 November. I have still been helping out in Primary as one of the teachers just had a baby; plus, I've been playing the piano. I do have a new calling for the New Year though. Bob has been doing a wonderful job as a managing partner at Western U, along with creating awesome PowerPoints and lecturing, including creating and teaching the Jurisprudence and Ethics course.

Amanda Lorraine was born 29 November 2012. I am delighted to  see all the photos. It will really be Christmas when we get to Utah and see Jacob and Amanda, and everyone else too, of course. Children at Christmas really brings the Spirit of the whole thing home. So Merry Christmas all.

We love you and hope your Christmas Season is full of wonder and joy. And best and warmest wishes for 2013.

The Stevensons