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The Portal to Progression

With God, through prayer, all things are possible, and without prayer we lack the power to progress. Prayer is the portal to progression. As Elder Kevin W. Pearson taught: “Without prayer, there is no possible return to the Father. Without prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and the cleansing power of the Atonement are unattainable. Without prayer, sufficient faith to understand and keep the commandments is impossible. Without prayer, the necessary spiritual power to avoid temptation and overcome trials and adversity would be unavailable.”

Read the full article here.

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Guest Post: What’s in a Name—Evelyn Grace

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Our daughters Isla (6 yrs old) and Evelyn

I’ve been asked a number of times where the inspiration for Evelyn’s name came from so I figured it was time to write it down. The explanation for her first name is easy: she shares this name with her great grandmother, Evelyn Darlene Hargiss. It’s a beautiful name. The not-so-simple explanation is needed for her middle name, Grace. This name holds particular meaning for Michael and I as it is a name inspired by all it took to bring this beautiful person into the world and into our lives.

In December of 2015 Michael and I began feeling that the time had come for us to have another child—that there was, in fact, a child waiting to come into our family. Despite my many reservations and fears (products of a difficult first pregnancy and even more challenging postpartum depression/anxiety), we decided to trust the Lord and begin trying. In mid-March I found out I was pregnant, and a week later I entered the hell of hyperemesis gravidarum. For those unfamiliar with this disease, it is severe nausea and vomiting that afflicts about 1% of pregnant women. Unlike “morning sickness,” this nausea and vomiting is constant. For ten weeks I laid in bed, unable to keep any food down. I lost 40 lbs. The muscles in my legs atrophied, and were used as food by my body for the baby. Most days I had trouble keeping even water down, and spent quite a bit of time at the hospital getting fluids. My digestive system shut down. My kidneys were beginning to fail. The feeding tube they put in (horrible) just made things worse, so I took it out. I was dying. But I didn’t. As suddenly as the sickness began, it stopped. My nausea medication started working. I stopped throwing up. My body began the painful and frustrating process of recovering. Then about two months later, as my belly finally started growing and my body was stretching, the constant pain in my legs and hips started. The heartburn got worse. The insomnia set in. Constant discomfort and pain. Hormones coursing through my body making me feel like I was going crazy. And for as horrible as all of that was, for as often as I cursed my body and sometimes wished I had never gotten pregnant, I have never been so richly blessed or seen so many miracles.

I felt the Lord’s love in the combined faith of those who prayed on my behalf. I saw so much of the Lord’s love in my husband as he cared for me. When people would bring dinner over for Michael and Isla, I saw His love. When people would stop Michael in the hallway at church and tell him they were praying for us, I felt His love. When I would get text messages from friends and family letting me know they hadn’t forgotten about me and were praying for me, I felt His love. That love sustained me. It saved my marriage, and my life. It took care of Isla when I wasn’t physically able to. And it is bringing me back to health.

I feel my Heavenly Father’s and Savior’s approval and love now as I recover. I feel it when I am being way too hard on myself for not being able to do more—for not cleaning enough, not cooking enough, not playing with Isla enough, not being more patient with Isla, etc. I feel it when I get frustrated that my hips still send pain shooting down my legs when I put my pants on in the morning. I feel it when hormones overtake my mind and I feel crazy or depressed or intensely irritable, and They remind me that it won’t last forever. And then I feel it again when I realize I’m being spared from experiencing postpartum depression.

And that is why Grace. Because when I look at Evelyn, I am reminded that His Grace hasn’t just saved me. It saved her mortal life as well. It allowed me to carry her to term. It allowed me to have the most beautiful delivery and to experience some of the most profound joy I’ve ever felt as I saw and held her for the first time. I get to be her mother because of His love and Grace. And I get to keep on loving Michael and Isla and experiencing my life with theirs. This has been an exceptionally challenging period of time, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I never want to forget what happened, the good and the bad. Being saved by Grace doesn’t mean as much if you can’t remember or longer appreciate what you’ve been saved from.

Jessica Hargiss

Perspective

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“I believe every human being carries in his or her heart some form of fundamental questions regarding life itself. Where did I come from? Why am I here? What will happen after I die?

“These kinds of questions have been asked by mortals since the dawn of time. Philosophers, scholars, and pundits have spent their lives and fortunes seeking for answers.

“I am grateful that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has answers to the most complex questions in life. These answers are taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are true, plain, straightforward, and easy to understand. They are inspired, and we teach them to our three-year-olds in the Sunbeam class.

“Brothers and sisters, we are eternal beings, without beginning and without end. We have always existed. We are the literal spirit children of divine, immortal, and omnipotent Heavenly Parents!

“We come from the heavenly courts of the Lord our God. We are of the royal house of Elohim, the Most High God. We walked with Him in our premortal life. We heard Him speak, witnessed His majesty, learned His ways.

“You and I participated in a Grand Council where our beloved Father presented His plan for us—that we would come to earth, receive mortal bodies, learn to choose between good and evil, and progress in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

“When we passed through the veil and entered this mortal life, we knew that we would no longer remember the life before. There would be opposition and adversity and temptation. But we also knew that gaining a physical body was of paramount importance for us. Oh, how we hoped that we would quickly learn to make the correct choices, withstand the temptations of Satan, and eventually return to our beloved Parents in Heaven.

“We knew we would sin and make mistakes—perhaps even serious ones. But we also knew that our Savior, Jesus Christ, had pledged to come to earth, live a sinless life, and voluntarily lay down His life in an eternal sacrifice. We knew that if we gave our heart to Him, trusted Him, and strived with all the energy of our soul to walk in the path of discipleship, we could be washed clean and once again enter the presence of our beloved Father in Heaven.

“So, with faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you and I accepted, by our free will, Heavenly Father’s plan.

“That is why we are here on this beautiful planet earth—because God offered us the opportunity, and we chose to accept it. Our mortal life, however, is only temporary and will end with the death of our physical body. But the essence of who you and I are will not be destroyed. Our spirits will continue living and await the Resurrection—a free gift to all by our loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. At the Resurrection, our spirits and bodies will be reunited, free from pain and physical imperfections.

“After the Resurrection, there will be a Day of Judgment. While all will eventually be saved and inherit a kingdom of glory, those who trust in God and seek to follow His laws and ordinances will inherit lives in the eternities that are unimaginable in glory and overwhelming in majesty.

“That Day of Judgment will be a day of mercy and love—a day when broken hearts are healed, when tears of grief are replaced with tears of gratitude, when all will be made right.

“Yes, there will be deep sorrow because of sin. Yes, there will be regrets and even anguish because of our mistakes, our foolishness, and our stubbornness that caused us to miss opportunities for a much greater future.

“But I have confidence that we will not only be satisfied with the judgment of God; we will also be astonished and overwhelmed by His infinite grace, mercy, generosity, and love for us, His children. If our desires and works are good, if we have faith in a living God, then we can look forward to what Moroni called ‘the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge.’”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Full talk here.

Always

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Photograph by iStock/Thinkstock

 

It’s late, but I like to pretend I’m still young, so I’ll share some of my thoughts. :)  I am tired though and I know from experience the consequences of unwisely choosing to begin a work week without adequate rest. I’ll keep this brief.

“I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

Today was a good day. Our bishop gave an incredible talk in church about doubt, faith, weakness, and grace, among other things. I needed to be taught and hear these principles.

On numerous occasions throughout the past few months I’ve had reason to doubt why God would give me these trials. I’ve felt overwhelmed by fear that I would lose my wife to this pregnancy, or that we would lose our new baby, or that I would lose them both.

This kind of trepidation was new to me. Before recent events, I couldn’t fully understand the depth of doubt inherent in simply fearing for a loved one’s life. I know that fear now, and it is powerful! But by the grace of God I have gained a testimony of principles more powerful than fear. I want to share my testimony with you.

Many times in the last few months I have felt moments of distress and even anger. I’ve also felt sudden surges of joy and peace. I have learned that life guarantees the former. Disquietude, fear, uncertainty—these are inevitable, and I anticipate I’ll get more than my fill of them. I think we all will and do.

The moments of comfort and reassurance came too. They came amidst my roller coaster of imperfect faith as I struggled to place my trust in a painful plan. As the trial extended over several weeks, a pattern emerged and the Lord mercifully showed it to me. He showed me something I didn’t expect.

I’ve learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty for experiencing doubt. Undoubtedly, doubt is a good thing to experience. Doubt gives me the chance to exercise my faith. Without doubt, I would have no cause to trust. In fact, without doubt I could never learn to trust.

With that concept in mind, I’ve learned that my faith cannot exist without doubt. Indeed, what is faith but an open admission of doubt coupled with a determination to trust?

Like many principles of the gospel, this one seems a paradox to me. But it is true nonetheless. And just as assuredly as life brings pain and suffering, faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement brings relief, peace, and even joy. It always brings these things!

I know this is true because I am living it! When I place my faith in my Savior, when I share my doubts and fears with my Father in Heaven, They always encourage me. Always!

When I seek guidance and wisdom to know how I can better care for my wife and children, They always give it to me.

When I ask for Their blessing that I will do my job well during these trials so that I can provide for my family, They always give it to me.

When I sincerely plead for forgiveness after losing my temper and patience, They always give it to me.

When my trials scare me and I feel discouraged by my imperfect and weak faith, and I think that choosing to move forward in faith would not make sense… when I pray for faith and help to move forward anyway, They always give it to me.

“Therefore, ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for he that asketh, receiveth; and unto him that knocketh, it shall be opened.”  – Jesus Christ, 3 Nephi 27:29

I am a witness of God’s love for His children because I know He loves me and my family. He teaches me this repeatedly, daily even. I can depend on His every word. The more I choose to trust Him instead of my doubts, the more He shows me just how trustworthy He truly is.

These trials are hard, but they no longer feel impossible because I know the Lord is with me.

“And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions” (Mosiah 24:13 – 14, emphasis added).

 

Babies and Valleys

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My wife and I recently learned we’re having another child. I wanted to scream for joy when she told me (which I did after we ended our phone call). I love being a father and I’ve wanted to have another child when the time was right. Apparently the time is right!

My dear wife suffers immensely during pregnancy. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say the doctor has officially diagnosed her with a rare condition. It’s so rare, in fact, that literally 1% of pregnant women experience it. Her suffering pains me. Between the pain, drugs, and dehydration, she’s left bedridden and unable to care for herself in many ways.

As I care for her, I find myself experiencing my own suffering. It pales in comparison to hers, but I understand it’s just as real. I feel lonely. I miss my friend and life companion. I struggle to balance my family’s needs with my own needs, work, and cleaning the house. My daughter needs more attention than I can give. I see her suffering and it pains me. I wish I could do more for her and Jess.

I’ve never felt so much weight on my shoulders. I’ve never felt so stretched. As our family’s trial continues I find myself wanting to turn to my addiction more, and I find myself depending on the Lord more fully and more willingly. I would be lost without Him. I have felt His sustaining hand daily.

I want to be a good husband for Jess and a good father for Isla and I can’t do either without taking care of myself. Making time for my own spiritual, emotional, and physical health has proven essential to my ability to move forward.

These trials have called on my best faith. Trusting the Lord’s plan for my family, trusting that this pain and suffering is for our good if we remain faithful, and trusting when I wake up every morning that He will get me through the day has been a difficult and continual decision.

I fear that I’ll relapse. I fear that I’ll fail in my responsibilities at home and at work. I fear that my failures will exacerbate my family’s suffering and add to their burdens. Most of all I fear that I’ll relapse, and that such an event would trigger an overwhelming avalanche of doubt and pain for my wife and me.

As I seek to trust in God, I am intrigued by the principle of grace. I know grace is real because I’ve felt it. I’ve felt the complete draining of my body and spirit only three hours into a Monday, followed by the encouragement received in that moment upon praying for help, and later the astonishment of reaching the end of the day with the sudden realization that the world is still turning, I didn’t yell at my daughter as much as I did the day before, and I didn’t turn to pornography.

I’ve been studying the ink out of the scriptural accounts of Alma’s people and Limhi’s people in the Book of Mormon. This has been a topic of study for me since my fifth month serving as a missionary, but not so intensely important to me as it is now.

I want to understand why the Lord paved the way for Alma and his people to obtain freedom from suffering and bondage, and why He helped and ultimately delivered King Limhi’s people as well, but noticeably not in the same manner. I need to understand why.

The Lord mercifully continues to teach me and answer my sincere questions despite my impatience and doubts. In some moments I even feel angry with Him. Yet He remains ever ready to comfort and succor me, to run to my aid in the very moment I turn to Him.

I do feel that these trials are for my good and the good of my family inasmuch as we faithfully endure them. I’m trying to take it all one day at a time.

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not want.

He maketh me lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside still waters.

He restoreth my soul,

He leadeth me.

He leadeth me;

I shall not want.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd;

I shall not, I shall not want

Thou prepares a table before me

Within presence of mine enemy,

Thou anointest my head;

My cup runneth over, runneth over

I shall not want.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

I will fear no evil For thou art with me;

For thou art with me!

Thou comfortest me; I shall not want.

 

The Lord is my Shepherd.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.

Surely goodness and mercy

Shall follow me all my life,

And I will dwell in the house, the house of Lord,

Forever, forever, forever, forever.

I shall not want. I shall not want, I shall not want.

— “I Shall Not Want,” a song based on Psalm 23

 

"Endings are not our destiny"

Merely Interruptions

A friend of mine died this weekend. I’ve struggled to define my feelings of sorrow since learning of his passing. He and I weren’t close, but I recall him with fondness and admiration for his inherent goodness and kindness. I can’t picture him in my mind without a smile on his face, nor can I do so without discovering a smile on mine.

Just now as I was pondering my friend’s death, God reminded me of something I recently heard. It comforted me, so I want to share it here.

“In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.

Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.

How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf).

Click here to read the full talk.