President Dieter F. Uchtdorf conducting
Choir: Glory to God on High
[ prayer ]
President Henry B. Eyring
Our Heavenly Father wishes to bless His children, spiritually and temporally
He understands each of our needs, pains, hopes
When we offer succor to anyone, the Savior feels it as if we reached out to succor Him
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
How can we deserve this warm welcome from the Savior?
There are more in need of help than we can possibly reach
Something we can each do: follow the law of the fast
“the Lord shall guide thee continuously and satisfy thy soul in drought”
Simple commandment with marvelous promise
We are offered opportunity to fast once and month and give a generous fast offering
Some of your offering will be used for those around you
Leaders pray and fast to know who to help and what to give
Pres. Kimball: “a sin of omission with a heavy cost” “Rich promises are made by the lord to those who fast to assist the needy. . . . To omit to do this righteous act of fasting would deprive us of these blessings.”
Civil war in Sierra Leon – chaos, killing, and sorrow; more than 2 million refugees
Even during this time, LDS Church grew, first branch opened
“This shirt is the first clothing I received. I used to wear it to go to work. . . . I didn’t have other clothes. During the war this blanket kept us warm. . . . When the rebels came to attack us, this was the only thing I could lay my hands on as we fled to the bush.”
Funds from fast offering donations – of someone like you – allowed members to buy food
“When I think of the people who did this, I think they were sent by God, because ordinary human beings made this kind of gesture for us.”
In a country where a dollar was worth its weight in gold, she paid her tithing as $1, $1 to missionary fund, and $1 fast offering to help “those who were truly poor.”
“Better to teach them the principle and let them observe it until they are old enough to choose intelligently.”
Spiritual blessing of power to receive inspiration, greater power to resist temptation
Christ went into wilderness to fast and pray – and resisted Satan’s temptations
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning and thy health shall break forth speedily”
Claim those blessings for ourselves and our families
Help the Savior as He cares for the poor
Choir: Have I Done Any Good?
President Boyd K. Packer
The end of all activity in the church is to see that a man and a woman, with their children, are happy at home – sealed together for all time and eternity
“Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth”
Commandment to multiply and replenish the earth is central to the plan and is the source of human happiness
Righteous exercise of this power draws us closer to Heavenly Father
The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it IS the plan of happiness – it is the key to happiness
Very personal feelings occur in a natural way
[ am I the only one having a TON of trouble understanding him? ]
We can’t escape the consequence when we transgress
Our spiritual bodies cannot heal themselves when damaged – we must repent
When the repentance process is complete, no scars remain
God is our Father . . . His mercy is without limit
Sacred temple ordinance is much more than a wedding
Sister Linda K. Burton
Husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, and uncles who know who they are and are doing their best to fulfill their obligations
A husband is never more attractive to his wife than when he is serving as a worthy priesthood holder, especially in the home
“You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home.”
“Your most important calling in all eternity . . . you must help create a home where the Spirit of the Lord can reside.”
World sends false messages about what it means to be a real man
Don’t listen to Satan’s lies!
Satan has forfeited the sacred privilege of ever being a husband or a father
We need each other as covenant-keeping women and men
Work together to lift the rising generation and help them reach their divine potential
“It is not good that man should be alone.”
Male and female spirits complete each other, not compete with each other
“There’s so much more of happiness to be had when we can rejoice in another’s successes and not just our own.”
Stop more often to enjoy sacred family time
1. When was the last time I sincerely praised my companion, either alone or in front of children?
2. When was the last time I thanked, expressed love for, or earnestly pled in prayer for my companion?
3. When was the last time I stopped myself from saying something I knew could be hurtful?
4. When was the last time I apologized and humbly asked for forgiveness?
5. When was the last time I chose to be happy rather than demanding to be right?
Put our trust in the Lord to help each other live happily
Choir and congregation: High on the Mountaintop
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Reform our personal lives to prepare us to return to our Heavenly home
Parable of the sower reported in all 3 synoptic gospels, also one Christ explained to disciples
Seed that was sown: word of the kingdom, teachings of the Master and his servants
Different soils: different ways mortals receive and interpret these teachings
Those of us who have committed to be followers of Christ – what do we do with the Savior’s teachings?
Parable warns of attitudes that can prevent the seed from a goodly harvest
Stony ground describes those who receive the word with gladness, but have no root in themselves
What causes hearers to have “no root in themselves”?
New members who are merely converted to missionaries or attractive characteristics of church
Even those raised in the church can slip into a condition where they have no root in themselves
Members without firm and lasting conversion to the gospel
If we are not rooted in the teachings of the gospel and regular in its practices, any one of us can develop a stony heart
We must increase our exposure to spiritual truth in order to strengthen our faith and stay rooted in the gospel
If the emblems of the sacrament are being passed and you are texting or whispering or doing anything else to deny yourself essential spiritual food, you are severing your spiritual roots and moving yourself to stony ground
Potential destroyer of spiritual roots: keyhole view of the gospel
Limited view focuses on a particular doctrine or practice or perceived deficiency in a leader and ignores the grand panorama of the gospel plan and the personal and communal fruits of its harvest
To be securely rooted in the gospel, we must seek for the broader view of the majestic work of God
Some grew among thorns – choked, yielded no fruit – cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches choked the word
1. Deceitfulness of riches
We are all tempted by this. When attitudes or priorities are fixed on the acquisition, use, or __ of property, that is materialism
Theology of prosperity
Possession of wealth or significant income is NOT a mark of heavenly favor; absence is not an indication of heavenly disfavor
An abundance of material things = danger of being spiritually sedated
2. Most subtle thorns to choke out effect of gospel word are worldly forces “Cares and riches and pleasures of this life”
When we are beguiled by trivial distractions, and when we have an entitlement mentality
We are all overcome by cares of this life when we’re paralyzed by fears of the future
Dangers of surrendering to cares of this world: “You have to be willing to offend here. . . . That’s exactly where the faith comes in.”
“importance of really living what we claim to believe. That needs to be a priority not just in our personal and family lives but in our church, our business dealings, our treatment of the poor – in other words, in everything we do.”
Don’t be digested by society
Parable of the soils – suitability of soil depends on the heart of each one of us who is exposed to the gospel seeds
seed “fell into good ground and brought forth good fruit” – how do we prepare ourselves to be this good soil?
“They which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it and bring forth good fruit”
Seek to be firmly rooted and converted to the gospel
Prayer, scripture reading, serving, regularly partaking of the sacrament
Mighty change of heart will replace selfish desires and concerns with a desire to love Him and serve His children
Elder L. Whitney Clayton
All of us will have to traverse our own spiritual wilderness and undertake our own rugged rescue journeys
There will always be a spiritual light that beckons to it
Perceiving spiritual light begins with our willingness to believe
God requires that we at least initially desire to believe
“Let this desire work in you”
Give place in our hearts for the Savior’s words
Belief and faith require our personal choice and action
We seek before we find – promise is “Every one that asketh, receiveth”
“If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do, though ye believe not me, believe my works”
Test of our lifetimes: will we choose to believe in Him and allow the light of the gospel to grow within us . . . or insist on traveling in the dark?
There may be times when we have been hurt, when we are tired, when our lives seem dark and cold . . . if we are willing to believe, if we desire to believe, if we choose to believe, then the Savior’s example will show us the way forward
We must choose to open our hearts to the divine reality of the Savior
God does not force us to believe. Instead, he invites us to believe
We are the ones who must choose to embrace those spiritual invitations
“The Father commandeth all men everywhere to repent and believe in me”
Belief, testimony, and faith are not passive principles. They do not just happen to us.
We will not accidentally come to believe in the Savior – we actively choose to believe
Give place for the hope that we will find spiritual light by choosing to believe rather than choosing to doubt
When we pray, read scriptures, fast, keep Sabbath day holy, worship in temple, get baptized, take sacrament, repent, we are choosing to belief
Spiritual progress may seem slow and intermittent. If you feel this way, please do not give up, ever. Go right on believing Him and in His gospel and church.
Decision to believe in Him will bless you immeasurably, and forever
Choir: Come Unto Jesus
Elder L. Tom Perry
“We now live in a culture of temporary. More and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment.”
Have courage to seek truth and lasting love, going against the common pattern
Sanctity of the institution of marriage, importance of families as basic unit of society
Various faiths are united on marriage, family, values, loyalty, commitment
Marriage- and family-centered priorities cut across political, economic, and religious boundaries
How do the LDS Church distinguish and differentiate itself from the rest of the world?
While it is wonderful to see and feel that we have so much in common with the rest of the world, only we have the eternal perspective of the restored gospel
We take the commitment and sanctity of families to a greater level because of our understanding that families go back before this world was, and will continue on through eternity
Entire theology of the restored gospel centers on families
In the LDS Church, we believe in pre-mortal life, where we all lived as spirits, children of God
Marriage ceremonies eliminate words “until death do us part,” instead “For time and all eternity”
Strong, traditional families are basis of strong society, stable economy, stable culture of families – also basic unit of eternity
Organization and government of heaven will be built around families and extended families
We as a church want to be leaders and participate in worldwide movements to strengthen families
Commitment to marriage and a family lifestyle is most sensible, economical, happiest way to live
Too much of tv, music, internet present classic case of minority masquerading as majority
It has never been harder to raise responsible children and keep marriage and families together
The solid majority of mankind still believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman
Fidelity within marriage, marriage vows “in sickness and in health, til death do us part”
Reassurance and comfort in knowing that marriage and family are still the aspiration and ideals of most people
As a church, we want to assist to create and support strong marriages and families
We want our voice to be heard sustaining the fulfillment that traditional families bring
Choir: I Believe in Christ
[ prayer ]
Right after Evan was born, Jarom’s grandma took us shopping at Ikea and got us, among other awesome things, a stuffed fox. It was so cute and photogenic that I took a lot of pictures of Evan with it when he was little, and then I brought it with us to our first family photos later that year.
And the next year’s family photos…
But not in 2012.
I honestly just forgot that time. It didn’t even cross my mind.
We also didn’t bring the fox with us to the hospital when we had Christian. I should have, as it would have been something that each kid had a picture with. Again, didn’t even cross my mind.
But then a few months ago, I got to thinking… what if the fox is Christian?
Not literally, of course. That would be weird.
What if the fox in our pictures is there to represent Christian? That’s why no fox in 2012 – I was pregnant at the time. That’s why no fox at the hospital – Christian was there himself.
So this year, we took the fox with us for family pictures, knowing it was there to stand in for Christian.
I’ve mentally composed this post several times as I try falling asleep the past few weeks, but now I can’t remember what I was going to say. Trust me, it was eloquent, witty, and just the right amount of heartbreaking. You would have loved it.
Instead…I’ll be making this up as I go along, and it won’t be nearly as eloquent, funny, or appropriately heartbreaking.
I would absolutely say that sitting here at Year 1.5 feels wonderfully, unbelievably different – and better – than being at 6 months or a year after Christian’s birth/death. In a lot of ways, I’ve come a long way in healing. Of course, in a lot of ways, I also feel irreparably broken.
Things that have gotten easier:
- holding (some, not all) babies. I even held a one-day-old baby this summer!
- getting through my days, weeks, and months without wanting to stop existing. I was really depressed for the first few months, and I’m so glad to not feel that way anymore.
- making birth announcements for friends.
- talking about Christian to strangers. The first time I told someone that my baby had died, I barely made it through a sentence without wanting to run away and cry.
- thinking about having another baby. There will be at least 2 years between Christian and whoever comes next, and I do appreciate that he’ll have his own space.
Things that are still hard:
- going to church. There are SO MANY babies and pregnant women.
- hearing pregnant women complain. I know pregnancy can be miserable – but from my perspective, I would give anything to have a healthy baby safe inside, even if it meant being on bed rest or giving up sweets (seriously) or whatever.
- seeing baby clothes at the store. This had gotten way easier until my recent “Wait, what? I’m pregnant? Wait, what? I’m not anymore?” Now it feels like I was so close…
- rare moments when I think about how old Christian would be and what he’d be doing. One of my friends was due at the same time as me, and sometimes I realize that Christian would be toddling around with her little girl, he would have had his first birthday, I’d be chasing after him and getting frustrated about teething and naps and dirty diapers.
- family milestones, like Evan starting school or a nephew getting baptized. These are things I will never see Christian do. I don’t know if this sense of loss will stick around for the rest of my life, but it’s certainly here now.
- baby showers. I tried one a few weeks ago, and made it all the way until gifts were opened. I took off because…baby clothes. They’re so tiny, but they’re still so much bigger than Christian was.
But, even with the list of things that are still hard, overall my life is so much better than it was last year. Or six months ago. I don’t spend every day feeling awful. When I drive Jarom to work, I drive past the hospital where I got the news that Tiny Baby would die. When I drive Evan to school, I drive past the mortuary. So there are lots of daily reminders, but they don’t make me feel heartbroken (usually).
I know this sounds weird, but I love – love – love meeting other parents who’ve had a baby die. They feel like instant kindred spirits. Maybe it’s just nice to talk to someone about Christian, and about their baby, without the awkward “I’m so sorry for bringing that up, I don’t know what to say, let’s talk about something else” moment. I like talking about Christian. Actually, I love talking about Christian. I can’t see him or hold him or watch him grow; I can only talk about him. So I do, maybe too much. But I really appreciate being able to talk about him with someone who understands, from experience, how wonderful it feels to talk about him.
Was that eloquent? Heartbreaking? I didn’t get much wittiness in there, sorry. Maybe at Year 2!
In my mind, my pregnancy with Christian (and, really, my life as a whole) is cleanly divided into two parts – “Before the Ultrasound” and “After the Ultrasound.”
Everything before was normal. Hopeful. Innocent. And, from my perspective now, naïve. Even the morning of the ultrasound, I remember getting ready for the day, trying to deal with an Evan breakdown, going about life without any idea I was about to get such horrible news. My concern was really just whether we’d have a boy or a girl – Jarom and I couldn’t agree on a boy’s name. The ultrasound was a way of settling that question, not raising more heartbreaking ones.
About two weeks Before the Ultrasound, I was at a bridal shower. I had just transitioned to maternity shirts, but only because I had one I really loved. I was barely showing a tiny, tiny bit. Someone commented on it at the bridal shower – “You don’t look pregnant at all!” I cheerfully agreed. I hadn’t been sick at all, I had very few pregnancy-related complaints, it was nice to be pregnant without feeling like it.
For the past year and a half (it’s really been that long since Christian was born!), I’ve felt a mixture of disgust and pity when I think about the seemingly foolish optimism I had Before the Ultrasound. At the time, there wasn’t any reason not to be optimistic – yes, I knew women who’d had miscarriages, and a few women who had “lost the baby” during pregnancy, but those are friend-of-a-friend and I-read-this-really-sad-blog stories. Not things I thought of as real possibilities. Not things that could or would happen in my own life. But with the disturbing perspective of grief, every part of my life Before the Ultrasound took on a “Why were you so cheerful?” cast. In really dark moments After the Ultrasound, I hated my Before the Ultrasound self. She had no right to be happy.
A little over two weeks ago, I started having a weird pain in my side. Very early in the morning the next day (a Tuesday) I took a pregnancy test to ease my mind about the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy causing the pain. I knew the test would be negative, but it wasn’t – which fed my fear about an ectopic pregnancy. I went into the OB office that afternoon; no indication of implantation outside of the uterus. So I began to very cautiously hope that things would be ok. The nurse sent me in for a blood test to check my hcg level. For the next few hours, I thought I’d be able to enjoy pregnancy until I got closer to the 20-week ultrasound (at which point I would become overwhelmed with the fear of another fatal birth defect).
But when the nurse called with my hcg results, she said they were so low that I was either barely pregnant or I was going to miscarry. Come back in on Friday, she said, and we’ll be able to see if the levels have gone up significantly (yay, pregnancy!) or down (boo, miscarriage).
Wednesday I tried to distract myself. I watched for signs of an impending miscarriage. I tried distracting myself some more. And I assumed the worst. But Thursday, when nothing bad had happened yet, I very consciously allowed myself to feel excited. I figured out my due date. I thought about baby clothes. I let my heart be light.
Unfortunately, Friday came with bad news. My hcg level had gone up only a few points, when it should have more than doubled. I was told over the phone that “This is not what we’d see with a healthy, growing baby.”
And, of course, the world crashed down around me. Not to the extent it did with Christian’s diagnosis and death, but with an added note of “You should have known better than to hope. You DID know better.”
But since then…I’ve actually started to regret not having been more optimistic. Tuesday to Friday was not a long time, and I only let myself be happy for one day. I was suddenly jealous of Before the Ultrasound Mika, who had 20 weeks of optimism and innocence. Yes, I knew that there were (and still are, with any future pregnancies I may have) lot of things that can go wrong. Miscarriages happen. Fatal birth defects happen. Inexplicable stillbirths happen. Tragedies during childbirth happen. But optimism feels so much better than pessimism (or, perhaps, even realism). Letting my heart be light felt so good. So refreshing. I’ve been weighed down by fear for so long that hope was a blessing.
Instead of being disgusted with my Before the Ultrasound innocence, I’m uplifted. Instead of hating my brief Thursday excitement, I’m motivated to be optimistic about the future. I’d much rather do that and crash later than spend months or years in despair.
What are you optimistic about?
Last year I had this great plan for a Christmas present for Jarom. I had the kids make up stories, I wrote them down, and I was going to illustrate them (or adapt the kids’ drawings) and make a book. A really great book.
Guess which part actually happened? Just the stories. I did try to write them down word-for-word, though. And I found the papers the other day!
At the time of the storytelling, Evan was 4 (almost 5) and June had just turned 3. See if you can guess which story is by which kid.
Once upon a time there were dogs. They ate everything in the whole world because they liked every type of food. Suddenly, they accidentally ate someone’s house. It was a giant ant-eating dog-ant that ate every type of house so it can eat the dogs. This is a good giant ant-eating dog-ant because it ate a bad guy’s house. Then suddenly CRACK went the ant! KABOOM went its nose in a big explosion. There are dogs eating their food and other stuff. The end.
Once upon a time a cow said moo. The cow saved the other cow. Then he ate the other cow. Then Farmer Brown heard the cows say click-clack-moo. Then the cow said “I don’t want to say moo.” The end.
Once upon a time Santa Claus had ponies. They gallop. The reindeer is a type of pony. The pony eats Santa Claus. The end.
Once upon a time there were dinosaurs. They eat people. They’re big and scary with big teeth. T-Rexes have giant eggs. The egg-knappers steal the eggs. The T-Rex chases the egg-knappers and eats the egg-knappers in half. People come to steal and make a trap for ALL the dinosaurs to fit in. One of the dinosaurs bit a person but had no teeth so it was ok. Another dinosaur did have teeth and it bit a person with a bug in their hair. It was a bug-eating dinosaur. The end.
The unicorn takes the crown back in her hand and gallops with it. The end.
Once upon a time there were 3 little pretend dinosaurs that came alive. They pretend that they’re dead but actually they’re alive. They look like they’re statues. Two Os and an E. They turn into a toy again. Then they come alive again and they eat meat from the meat store. They go outside to eat their meat. They eat everybody’s food that was made out of meat! Everyone is sad so they sneak up to kill the dinosaurs but the dinosaurs are just toys. The people are sad because they lost all their meat. The live T-Rex that doesn’t turn into a toy comes to town and he EATS the people. That’s the most frightening part. Then the T-Rex ate everyone’s treats. All the alive-not-toys dinosaurs came from the whole planet. They were good ones and they didn’t eat the T-Rex but made him a good guy except he still ate everyone’s treats because the whole earth of people was in his stomach. The end.
Once upon a time, ponies had a toy Flufferfito. They fight when they gallop and the other ate the black Flufferfito. The end of the itsy-bitsy story.
In the past few months I’ve made 4 or 5 birthday cakes and probably a dozen batches of cookies. I absolutely love it (even though a few times, I put the cake off until the last minute…and got really stressed…and drove Jarom crazy).
Seriously, baked goods make people happy. A really good cookie or slice of cake exists in its own moment – even if I am miserably unhappy, orange chocolate chip cookies bring some actual measure of joy to my life. It’s small, and it doesn’t cancel out the anguish of, say, having one of my kids die, but still. Have you eaten one of those cookies?
I think delicious baked goods are also akin to reading a fantastically good book. The kind where you’re only a page in and already telling yourself, This book is going to be so. So. Good. (My best examples of such books are Mistborn – specifically the first of the trilogy – and The Name of the Wind. Oh, and Elantris. Read them all!) There’s a feeling of giddiness: I’m experiencing something incredible. It happened to me when I went to the Harry Potter theme park with Jarom last month, and it happens to me every single time I use a tried-and-true cake or cookie recipe.
And I can’t ignore the aspect of “I made that cake, and now someone else is having that wonderful giddy feeling. I did that for them!”
So if I offer to make a birthday cake (or anytime cake) for you, or bring you a fresh batch of cookies, I mean it. I love baking.
I have really mixed feelings about today being Evan’s first day of kindergarten.
I’m partly overjoyed. Evan and I really need a break from each other; he’s recently decided that he LOVES reading (hallelujah!); he wants to be around kids his age; I’m not prepared to teach him everything his teacher is.
And I’m partly anxious. I got a handout with a list of “‘I Can’ Statements” for each term of the school year, and there’s a LOT to learn. I’m anxious on Evan’s behalf – what if he doesn’t like school? What if he doesn’t make friends? What if he’s a bully??
And, of course, I’m partly sad. While Evan is at school he’s in a world that doesn’t include or need me. (I realize this is a weird, probably untrue statement, but it describes how I feel.)
That being said, may I present a very excited kindergartener?
We did the same questionnaire as last year.
Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Caitlyn (our 7-year-old neighbor who moved into Cooper’s house)
What is your favorite color? purple
What is your favorite tv show? The Aquabats
What is your favorite outfit? “My dragon cape from Grandpa Glenn.”
What sport or game do you like best? “All kinds of dragon games.”
What song do you love? “The song with all the monsters that we use when we clean up.” (The mini-boss music from Wind Waker – we really do put it on when we need to clean up quickly!)
What is your favorite cereal? bird cereal (Fruit Loops)
Who is your best friend? Caitlyn
What do you want to be when you grow up? a fireman
What is your favorite book? any book about sharks
What are you really good at? “Playing dragon games.”
Where do you wish you could go on vacation? the beach again (We spent a week in Monterey at a family vacation)
What is your best memory? going on rollercoasters at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
What would you buy if you had $1,000? “A super huge giant T-rex toy.”
What is your favorite food? ice cream
If you could have a wish, what would it be? “When I wanted to shrink I could do that and then grow back.”
What your favorite ice cream flavor? chocolate
Who is your biggest hero? “You [Mama]. Actually it’s mostly Pa.”
What do you like to do most with your friends? play dragons
What do you hope you’ll get to do in school this year? go on field trips