For Them That Honour Me

Keeping The Sabbath Day HolyWhen Jill and I were raising our children we taught them that Sunday was the Sabbath Day, a day when our family refrains from recreation and focuses our attention on God.

Well, that was the theory. In practice it must have seemed to the children to be a list of shalt nots stretching into the eternities.

For example, on a Sunday there was no shopping, no television, no video games, and no newspaper (parents were included). When we went on vacation, it was usually from early Monday to late Saturday.

Around twenty-five years ago a pamphlet published by the Church was distributed to families. Today I don’t recall anything about the pamphlet except that it had a list of could dos on one of its pages. I cut out the list, pinned it to the bulletin board, and implemented many of the suggestions.

No doubt my children appreciated the Church’s diligence.

  1. Read the scriptures, conference reports, and Church publications.
  2. Study the lives and teachings of the prophets.
  3. Prepare Church lessons and other Church assignments.
  4. Write in journals.
  5. Pray and meditate.
  6. Write to or visit relatives and friends.
  7. Write to missionaries.
  8. Enjoy uplifting music.
  9. Have family gospel instruction.
  10. Hold family council meetings.
  11. Build husband-wife relationships.
  12. Read with a child.
  13. Do genealogical research, including the four generation program and family or personal histories.
  14. Sing Church hymns.
  15. Read uplifting literature.
  16. Develop appreciation for the cultural arts.
  17. Plan family home evening study and activities.
  18. Plan other family activities.
  19. Friendship nonmembers.
  20. Fellowship neighbors.
  21. Visit the sick, the aged, and the lonely.
  22. Hold interviews with family members.

The list is still there on the bulletin board. I may add number 23: “Blog about the Gospel.”

Hat tip Chariots of Fire

From Muslim To Mormon

GwenGwen, who adopted the name Khadijah as a Muslim, is retired and lives in Portland, Oregon, devoting as much of her time as possible to volunteer work and writing youth and young adult Science Fiction. Gwen publishes on line, but wants to shift to self-publishing in her next book.

It all seems so surreal at times, my how the years have flown past me. From the time I was about 12, I wanted to know how we all got here. I wanted to know how things happened; how all this complexity around us came to be. Somehow, despite the abusive home life, and the darkness about me, I just knew that the beauty and complexity about us all is not an accident, and later I would begin to see that unifying intelligence could easily be called God.

I wouldn’t really address the idea of God again until my late 20’s, when I began to realize that certain things around me could not be random. I also felt that someone had helped me at several points in my life and the feelings became so strong that I began to really want to thank whoever was doing these things for me. So, in a series of what I consider to be God driven incidents I read the Bible and realized that the help must have been coming from God.

Those who are accustomed to the Holy Spirit working in their lives won’t find this surprising and years later it is very clear that Heavenly Father was pursuing me long before I knew it. In one series of events in 1974, one evening I had stood on the porch and marvelled at the astonishingly beautiful sunset; feeling extremely fascinated with how it happened.

Later that night, I watched a program that reviewed the book, “Late Great Planet Earth”, and the very next day, I saw the book laying on my boss’s desk. I borrowed it and spent the next two weekends reading it and comparing the passages quoted with the various versions of the Bible in the house. At the time none of us were Christians and I still do not know how the Bibles came to be there.

Me wearing a traditional hijab

Me wearing a traditional hijab

At the end of the second week end, I was on my knees, praying to God to bring me wisdom, and forgive my sins. After all, I had tiny children and knew that I was not a good parent. I was very worried about damaging them.

Interestingly, in the next 30 plus years, I’d find several different churches, but always felt as if something was lacking. After 9/11, my search for the one true God would even lead me into Islam for several years. I didn’t want to casually worship God, the only one who loved me, but I wanted to do it with devotion and obedience.

Along the way in life were many blessings and heart breaking hardships, yet I kept searching for the true God. In my early experiences with Christianity, many seemed to preach about Jesus on Sunday, but then be against the power there in. In several churches, it all seemed to be a surface experience and I’d repeatedly find that I felt too evil, too lost to ever be a real part of it all. Ever conscious of my own faults and being hated by those around me, I entered Islam.

For a few years, I loved the praying, highly organised and involving absolute prostration before God, I felt as if this was best for me. The problem is that Islam is a very closed society, and if you are not Middle Eastern and speak Arabic you are never really accepted. I loved Allah SWT1 and worshipping him, but was very hurt by the way that some Muslims treated me. No matter how hard I tried, it felt like I was failing God.

So it was, on March 13th, 2011 I found myself in Ohio driving back toward the apartment I shared with two other women in Painesville. I’d been out doing research on the Amish because I’d endured a harsh childhood at the hands of an Amish step father, and wanted to make sense of what I’d experienced.

Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple is a National Historic Landmark, now owned and operated by the Community of Christ

So, this day, in the afternoon, I was driving north and began to pass through the tiny community of Kirtland, Ohio. As I drove, I saw a strange looking building in the distance and gradually realised that it looked like a church.

Something in my heart leapt, and I felt compelled to pull over and look at the structure. I looked Kirtland up on my Android and realised that the structure before me was the first Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Over the years, I’d had several brief encounters with various types of Mormons, but I never got involved.

I was very fascinated with early American history, and knew that I had to see that building; go inside. Well, it was all locked up and the visitor’s center for that church was too; I would have to return another day. Getting back in my car, I started home, realising that I had no idea when it would be open.

Then I passed an LDS church and knowing that they had to be connected, pulled in when I saw cars there. Surely they would not object to just one question from me? At the time I was still Muslim, and dressed appropriately for a Muslim woman to include the abaya and hijab2. I worried that they would be mean and reject me as a terrorist as a few had done.

To my utter astonishment, the missionary sisters warmly received me, even after I said that I was just interested in American History and not becoming Mormon. After all, I was Muslim. One visit became two; two became four and soon I was attending the Mosque on Friday and Mormon Church on Sunday.

It did not take long for the differences and similarities between my two faith experiences to begin to become troublesome. I was certainly sure that the LDS I met were much friendlier than the Muslims I knew, and they spoke my language. In Islam, the way that Jesus Christ was handled always troubled me, and speaking of it, got me in trouble.

The baptism of Jesus Christ

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him

The missionary sisters and church members in the Kirtland area, gradually won my heart and helped me to believe that Christians could be loving and accepting, though I still have reservations about the LDS calling themselves Christian, because the Christian denominations I had previously experienced were certainly not as loving and supportive.

We jokingly settled on the idea that the LDS were version 1.0 and everyone else were version 8.1. It would take me some time to appreciate that the LDS do not speak harshly of other faiths, and that is one of the key issues that attracted me to them. I felt I was ready for baptism, but in reality, I had much to learn.

Almost three months passed, and when it was time to return to my home city of Portland, Oregon, I was convinced that I wanted to become a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints. It was difficult to think about giving up my Muslim faith, but no one pressured me, and I am convinced that if I wanted to attend church in my abaya and hijab, no one would say a thing.

I was comfortable with Muslim prayer, my abaya and hijab, and the modesty and devoutness of my life, and still miss the security I feel in my hijab. It is difficult for some to understand; perhaps part of my soul will always be Muslim.

Finally on January 29th, 2012 I was baptised and there were lots of well-wishers there. Two of the sister missionaries who’d been my teachers in Kirtland were now at Provo and they drove up to Portland, Oregon. I was somehow uncomfortable with being baptised in pants, so they allowed me to find a white dress for it. I think that perhaps most of the church attended, including my roommates who are not Christian. It all flew by in a blur for me. I was overwhelmed.

Rainbow that appeared the day of my baptism

Rainbow that appeared in Portland on the day of my baptism


For the first time in my life, I felt loved, really loved for me, not who others wanted me to be. Early on, there had been questions about my believing in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith as a Prophet and the standard things that the LDS believe.

I kept telling them that for me those things were not difficult because I believed in Allah SWT, the prophet Muhammad PBUH3, and the Qur’an, so the step on to the rest of the truth was not difficult. I believe that Heavenly Father still talks to us through the prophet, Thomas S Monson. And, I believe that Muhammad PBUH was one of the prophets.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

  1. SWT is Subhanahu Wa tala and that means “glorified and exalted is he”, it’s an honorific that is seen as required respect when they use the word Allah. Muslims believe in one God, and Allah is merely the word God in Arabic. We worship the same God.
  2. I still believe in the practice of Hijab, but mostly don’t do it nowadays to blend into American culture. This Youtube video provides a great explanation into the real reason for Hijab.
  3. PBUH is another honorific and is used after the name of any of the prophets. It means, “Peace be upon him”. Muslims recognise the same prophets as Christians.

Credits

The Atonement

The Death of Jesus

The Death of Jesus by James Tissot


The Atonement of Jesus Christ, according to The Guide to the Scriptures, means “To reconcile man to God.” Also:

To atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect atonement for all mankind … the only one able to do so. His atonement included his suffering for the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane, the shedding of his blood, and his death and subsequent resurrection from the grave.

Because of the Atonement, all people will rise from the dead with immortal bodies. The Atonement also provides the way for us to be forgiven of our sins and live forever with God. But a person who has reached the age of accountability and received the law can receive these blessings only if he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, receives the ordinances of salvation, and obeys the commandments of God.

The scriptures clearly teach that if Christ had not atoned for our sins, no law, ordinance, or sacrifice would satisfy the demands of justice, and man could never regain God’s presence. (The Guide to the Scriptures, Atone, Atonement)

This week the atonement is the subject of the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School. I have been asked to substitute and an assignment like this can be quite intimidating. Not that the experience of teaching Gospel Doctrine is new to me, for I have often taught about the Old Testament. But still, it has been a while and I never have got used to teaching and keeping the attention of 100 members for 40 minutes.

When teaching, I stay on topic but like to vary how part of the lesson is presented. To that end, it would be helpful to read to the class a few thoughts from you, dear reader, if you are up to it.

Below are the images I will show at the beginning of class, as suggested by the lesson outline. Click on the links below to see images of Christ’s ministry. Look at the pictures and think about what Jesus Christ has done for you.

Sermon on the Mount
Christ Healing The Blind Man
Stilling the Storm
Jesus Blessing Jairus’s Daughter
Christ with the Children
Jesus Praying in Gethsemane
The Crucifixion

Notes

The Death of Jesus courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum.

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I Love to See the Temple

Aurora and Cassandra at the Salt Lake Temple

Aurora and Cassandra in the grounds of the Salt Lake Temple


Last week my granddaughters Aurora and Cassandra went to the wedding of their mother’s cousin Alyse. This photograph was taken in the grounds of the Salt Lake Temple while Alyse and Adam were getting their pictures taken.

1 I love to see the temple.
I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit,
To listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.

2 I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place
Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth:
A fam’ly is forever.

Photo Credit

“A Place of Love and Beauty” by Ada

Song

“I Love to See the Temple” #95 Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry.
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World LDS Church Membership

The complete updated membership statistics are available at World LDS Membership.

WorldThe worldwide ranks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew by 306,613 members during 2010. According to the 2012 Deseret News Church Almanac, the Church’s membership swelled to 14,131,467 as of January 1, 2011.

Countries with the largest increases were the United States (85,675), Mexico (36,972), Brazil (36,006), the Philippines (13,891), and Peru (12,747). These were the same countries that had the largest increases the preceding year.

The countries with the most members are the United States (6,144,582), Mexico (1,234,545), Brazil (1,138,740), the Philippines (645,776), and Chile (563,689). The most temples, including announced or under construction, are in the United States (79), Mexico (12), Canada (8), Brazil (7), and Australia (5).

The largest LDS populations by percentage are in Tonga (45%), Samoa (31%), American Samoa (22.5%), Niue (19.1%), and Kirabati (11.9%). The United States comes in at 14th with 2%, tied with Palau. 32 countries have Mormons representing one percent or more of their populations and 15 countries have a Mormon population of 2 percent or more.

30 countries have 10 or more stakes each. The most stakes are in the United States (1,465), Brazil (239), and Mexico (221) while there are no stakes in 99 countries.

2008 saw minor membership declines in 17 countries, 2009 had 11 declines, and 2010 had 18.
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U.S. LDS Membership Statistics

The complete updated membership statistics are available at United States LDS Membership.

Perusing the 2012 Deseret News Church AlmanacThe ranks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew by 85,675 members in the United States during 2010. According to the 2012 Deseret News Church Almanac, the Church’s U.S. membership swelled to 6,144,582 as of January 1, 2011.

States with the largest increases were Utah (25,966), Texas (9,239), Arizona (6,715), California (5,475), and Washington (4,923).

The states with the most members are Utah (1,910,343), California (763,370), Idaho (414,182), Arizona (387,950), and Texas (296,141). The most temples, including announced or under construction, are in Utah (15), California (7), Arizona and Idaho (5), and Texas (4).

The largest LDS state populations by percentage are in Utah (68%), Idaho (27%), Wyoming (11.5%), Nevada (6.7%), and Arizona (5.8%). 20 states have Mormons representing over 1 percent of their populations and 13 states have a Mormon population of over 2 percent. States with the least Mormons are District of Columbia (0.37%), New Jersey (0.36%), and Rhode Island (0.35%).

24 states have 10 or more stakes each. The most stakes are in Utah (546), California (157), and Idaho (121) while there are no stakes in Rhode Island and District of Colombia.

2008 saw a membership decline in only one state, South Carolina. In 2009 it was Michigan’s turn to see a decline of 43 members. In 2010, Michigan with a membership loss of 237 was joined by West Virginia (-169), Delaware (-25), New Hampshire (-7), and Vermont (-2).
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Train Around The Christmas Tree

Train around the Christmas tree

Train around the Christmas tree


I set up a train set around my Christmas tree so my grandchildren could play with it when they came to visit. The controller is hidden between two houses near the rear but Bryson soon found it.

However, things do not always work out as planned…
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Christmas Letter 2011

Paul and Megan's wedding reception in Driggs, Idaho

Paul and Megan's wedding reception in Driggs, Idaho

 
Hi Friends and Family,

This is our fourth annual Christmas Letter blog post. We will send the URL to this page to friends and family with their Christmas cards. We have added a few events that happened too late in the season to be included in last year’s letter.

December 2010

Missionary Dan returned home from his mission. He came bearing gifts from afar and reported his mission in sacrament meeting.
A day after Daniel returned he attended Jake and Rachel’s marriage in the Bountiful Temple.

United States Capitol, Washington D.C.

United States Capitol, Washington D.C.

Spring

Daniel got a cool new girlfriend.
We had The Best Easter ever.
Toured the Carl Bloch: The Master’s Hand exhibition and the Model Railroad Festival.

Summer

We took a few local hikes, for example Ford Canyon and Shepard Creek Trail. We also camped at North Fork Park.
Checked up on the Spiral Jetty.
Went to the obligatory parades.
We took our grandchildren to the zoo to see the dinosaurs.
Took a trip to the Mesa Easter Pageant and the Grand Canyon. Jill really enjoyed her trip, as did we all. Daniel and Jill toured Washington D.C. with the Kent Ward family.
Rick surprised Jill with an anniversary trip to see The Little Mermaid at Tuacahn.
Paul and Megan were engaged. They married in the Rexburg Temple.

Fall

Jake and Rachel moved into their new home.

As we celebrate what really matters this Christmas season, we share with you some of James Tissot’s paintings to illustrate the birth of Christ, along with scriptures from Matthew and Luke.

We hope you have a very Merry Christmas,

Rick and Jill

Jake and Rachel at the Bountiful Temple

Jake and Rachel at the Bountiful Temple

 
Photo Credits
U.S. Capitol: Susan Ward
Paul and Megan wedding: Rowsell Photography
Jake and Rachel wedding: Still Timeless Photography

Then And Now

Rick and Jill marriage certificate

Rick and Jill 1980


Paul and Megan marriage certificate

Paul and Megan 2011


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