Stilling the storms of life: The time I was put on church probation

Isaiah 1.18 bigIt’s been a long, and noisy week here in the Bloggernacle, hasn’t it?

I have to admit I am tired of all of the back and forth, the sides, the contention, the news stories, the blog posts … so very tried. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I stepped into Church on Sunday. I sat down on the chair with my kids and our stuff and waited for Sacrament Meeting to start. The organist started playing some of my favorite hymns and I just sat and listened and quietly sang along,

“Jesus lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly, while the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high. Hide me O my Savior hide, till the storm of life is past. Safe into thy haven guide, oh receive my soul at last.”

“Precious Savior dear Redeemer, Thy sweet message now impart. May thy spirit pure and fervid, enter every timid heart. Carry there the swift conviction, turning back the sinful tide. Precious Savior dear Redeemer, may each soul in thee abide.”

“Jesus Savior pilot me, over life’s tempestuous sea. Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal. Chart and compass came from thee: Jesus Savior, pilot me.”

“Master the tempest is raging! The billows are tossing high! The sky is o’er shadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh. The wind and the waves shall obey thy will, peace be still. Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever may be. No waters can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies. They all shall sweetly obey thy will, peace be still, peace be still. They all shall sweetly obey thy will, peace, peace, be still.”

I needed to hear those particular hymns and have those words going thru my mind as I began my Sunday worship. Those songs and those words melted a lot of my fatigue away. The words of the Sacrament prayers were especially powerful to me as well, and I felt very refreshed as these prayers were spoken. I also thought a little deeper about what it meant to take upon me the name of Christ, and the promise to always have His spirit to be with me. It was a comfort and a blessing to think of the atoning blood of Christ washing away my scarlet sins – making them white as snow.

My thoughts turned very briefly to many years before, as I sat in my bishop’s office confessing my sins and asking for help. That was a hard day, one of the hardest in my life. The decision to go to him for help was one that I knew I needed to make, but was afraid to make; I was embarrassed – for all of the reasons you might expect. But I made the choice to go and to ask for help.

In that meeting I was put on probation.

Bishop was not angry, or judgmental. In fact, he was quite the opposite, and full of love and concern for me and my spiritual well being. As part of my probation he asked that I refrain from taking the sacrament, and that I not comment in meetings or say prayers in the course of the church service. He encouraged me to come to Church and to stay for the full 3 hours and to sit in the chapel during Sacrament Meeting. He gave me some homework to do as well – passages of scripture to read and think about. He asked me to keep a journal of my experiences, but that he would not ask me to share that with him. He asked me to pray for specific things: forgiveness, and to be able to feel the Atonement and the love of Christ as I worked thru my problems. We met together a few more times during my probation and each meeting was a blessing. I could feel the grace of the Lord and the Atonement working in me and on me, to change me into something better. As Bishop prayed for me and as I prayed for myself in those meetings, I could feel the tremendous love that my Heavenly Father had for me, just for me, pouring down on me, healing me, cleaning me, and making me whole again.

If life had a rewind button, I wouldn’t make the choices again that landed me in that bishop’s office and on probation. However, that probation taught me so much about what is important. Not being able to fully participate at church was a humbling experience. It taught me to appreciate the full fellowship of my membership in the Church. It taught me, as the words of the hymns suggest, to fly to the bosom of my Savior for help. It taught me to abide in the Lord. It provided me a course correction back to Jesus Christ, and it showed me that truly He is the one who stills the storms of life. The beauty of The Plan of Salvation is that we do have a Savior provided for us. He has already done the hard work, and asks that we come to Him with our weaknesses, our trials and our sins to be healed, to be forgiven and to have the storms of our lives stilled. He can do these things. He wants to do these things for us, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves and to take Him up on His offer.

Seeing with an Eye of Faith: Visualize Your Desired Future

A remarkable phrase shows up a number of times in the Book of Mormon. It involves “looking forward” with an “eye of faith” to a desired result in the future. The idea is that if there is something that you sincerely desire, you should use your inner “eye,” or your imagination, and picture yourself as already being there or having what you want.  Through your faith that it is possible, you can begin to see yourself as having already reached your goal.

In the book of Alma 5:15-16, Alma preaches to the people about the goal of being received into heaven when their life on Earth is over.  In order to direct them toward that goal, he asks them if they can imagine how things will be at that future time when they finally get there. As they “look forward with an eye of faith,” what kind of outcome do they see? He asks:

15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? Do you look forward with an eye of faith, and view this mortal body raised in immortality … to stand before God …?

 16 I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?

What Alma is trying to have his audience do is to visualize their own future in minute detail. They are to imagine being resurrected and raised to stand before God.  They are to imagine themselves hearing the approving voice of the Lord accepting them into heaven — reaching their ultimate goal.  He suggests that if they try to visualize this scene and what they envision is only negative, then perhaps they need to find that balance in their lives so that the way they are living is in alignment with a positive outcome and then exercise their faith so that they are now headed in this more desirable direction.

Continue reading

Nobody’s Perfect: A Look at Toxic Perfectionism and Depression

samaritanwoman-213x300

By Joanna Benson and Lara Jackson

Guest blogger:
Lara Branscomb Jackson has her BA in psychology, her master’s in counseling and is completing her PhD in counseling. Lara has a private practice and works at a Wellness Center that focuses on eating disorders, addiction, diabetes, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety.  She grew up in North Carolina in the LDS faith and is an active member in the  LDS church. An interesting aspect of Lara’s experience is that her parents were converts to the church from the Baptist faith. Her parents were the only converts to the LDS faith of her extensive family. Lara has been in numerous callings in the church including multiple opportunities with the Young Women’s program.

Utah Valley University professor Kris Doty observed first hand how depression affected LDS women, when she worked as a crisis counselor in the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. Doty saw increased activity of LDS women on Sunday evenings after church meetings suffering from feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and guilt.

Doty concluded the LDS women’s depression was caused by genetics, abusive history, family relationships, and judgment by others. However she found that toxic perfectionism was the major cause of depression among LDS women.

Continue reading

Suggestions for Giving a Good Sacrament Talk

Having finished partaking of bread and water in memory of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice, a young man walks up to the podium. He pulls out notes copied by printer from information found on the LDS Church website. Nervously he clears his throat and prepares to face a group of people familiar to him, but often no more than acquaintances. He puts on a smile to cover true feelings of discomfort.

“Hello.” he starts. “The Bishop wants me to talk about happiness. I first learned of the assignment Saturday morning soon after getting out of bed. The phone rang and woke me up. I climbed out of bed and started dressing when my mom called out that I had a call. ‘who is it?’ I begged. It seemed too early for it to be my girlfriend who was probably just getting up. ‘You’ll find out. Just pick up the phone.’ I wish I hadn’t,” the young man says, turning to the far older man sitting between two other men. “You caught me at the only time to reach me.” He turns back to the audience, “The minute I said hello and the Bishop said hello back, I knew what this meant. I’ll get back at the Bishop,” he chuckles in good nature. No one takes him seriously. That is part of the problem.

He clears his throat to start the rest of the talk. For a moment he looks out among the bored adults, screaming babies, inattentive busy children, and self-absorbed teenagers. It seems the only ones paying attention are his parents; siblings not caring. “I am going to base my talk on Elder _________ of the Seventy who gave this excellent talk about what Christ did for us.” The young man proceeds to read paragraph after paragraph, interjecting a few short comments of his own. By the time he ends most in the meeting are taking a cat nap or reading the latest Church magazine or scriptures on mobile devices. He sits down and the next speaker gets up to more or less repeat the process.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Although the example was from a young man, adults often follow this same pattern. Part of it is a general nervous reaction to getting up in front of a group to communicate. The American culture is extremely individualistic with only the most extroverted getting noticed. Exhibitionism is the norm for public presentations and lectures set aside for teachers. No matter. There are some suggestions anyone can follow to give a better Sacrament meeting talk that is engaging and less uncomfortable. Most who read this probably already know these tips, but hopefully it can be shared. Do in our own talks what 1 Timothy 4: 12 says, “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Continue reading

Some Mormon Ghost Tales

When leaves start turning bright colors of amber and orange and occasionally the first snow falls, its that time of year again. At the end of October ghosts, ghouls, strange beings, and killers walk the streets. Kids laugh and candy is handed out as if grown on trees. You guessed it; Halloween has arrived.

I have to admit that Thanksgiving is a good day of rest and food while Christmas is exciting and special. Halloween on the other hand has its own pleasures. For once those who are imaginative and don’t see the world the same way as others can let loose. Dressing up and acting like a fool or other is just plain fun. With these thoughts having been expressed, I will be writing about two themes for this time of scares and spooks.

This first post is about ghosts and otherworldly frights. Mormonism is full of stories about angels leaving messages and spirits roaming the world. Despite or even because of that there aren’t too many ghost stories passed along in its history. Part of this could be the specific teachings related to the afterlife and those who hang around. There are only two reasons theologically recognized why a visitor from the other side of the veil of life is seen; to leave a message from the Lord or daemons tormenting mortals. There are plenty of stories about both.

One of the first Mormon stories in history is of an evil possession during the First Vision and an excorcism years later. Not many probably put the former in the catagory of ghost story, but it can fit into the genre. These are great starts for the subject of Mormon spooky tales. Continue reading