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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Four Important Principles We Should All Understand About Motherhood . . .

“In the heav’ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare; Truth is reason—truth eternal, tells me I’ve a mother there.”
Eliza R. Snow

As part of Spirit Week when my daughter Kristen was in high school, everyone was asked to dress in what they hoped would be their future career. Kristen, who was well known among her teachers for her scholastic achievements, went to school carrying a cabbage patch doll wrapped in a blanket. Sincere in her desire to one day be a mother, she was surprised by the reaction of so many of her teachers. “You will be wasting your time!” said one. “Your talents and abilities could be put to much better use!” said another.

After graduating from BYU and becoming a school teacher herself, Kristen traded in her cabbage patch doll for a real baby--times two!

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in some doctrine about motherhood that is perhaps foreign to members of other religions, and at times not completely understood by ourselves.  But it is doctrine critical to our eternal salvation.

 Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”
Dallin H. Oaks

First . . .
We believe we are the literal spiritual offspring of both a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother.

Second . . .
We believe it is our purpose on earth, our divine destiny, to become like them.

Our Heavenly Parents are just that—parents. Exaltation is Eternal Life and Eternal Life is God’s Life. Or more simply put, God’s life is parenthood.

This is why there is such an emphasis on temple marriage and parenthood in our church. And it is why Satan works so hard to discredit and demean the terms mother and father. Although gaining an education and being successful in a career are good things that can help us reach our divine potential, all women who seriously desire exaltation, will also desire motherhood, because for women, exaltation and eternal motherhood are one and the same.*

Third . . .
By marrying in the temple, and bringing children into our home, we are participating with our Heavenly Parents in their work, and becoming like them.

My mother was not raised in the gospel. She did not grow up in an active Latter-day Saint home. But at the age of 17 she moved to Salt Lake City, attended church there and eventually chose to marry in the temple and raise a family.  One day, while taking my youngest daughter to the temple to receive her endowments before serving her mission, the importance of my mother's choice was profoundly impressed upon me. As I whispered to my daughter instructions to help her, I realized I was repeating the exact words my mother whispered to me 35 years earlier, when she first took me to the temple. The act of parents teaching their children the gospel and helping them make covenants that lead to eternal life, is the pattern of Godhood. How grateful I am for my own mother who first set that example for me.

Fourth . . .  
Perfection is possible through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.

I am aware of many well-meaning mothers who feel pressure to be Pinterest Perfect. They stress over Pinterest perfect meals, served in Pinterest perfect kitchens. They see an idealized superwoman portrayed on social media—or hear talks in church on Mother’s Day about supposedly perfect mothers-- and feel they are failures in comparison.

The good news is that we have never been asked to be Pinterest Perfect. Although Mormon culture  may have promoted the myth that grinding your own wheat, bottling peaches, sewing your daughter’s wedding dress, having digital scrap books, all while maintaining a size two figure, were requirements for exaltation, Mormon doctrine has never done so. The culture generated stereotypical Mormon mother is a myth and therefore impossible to duplicate. No wonder we end up feeling discouraged!!

Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement means believing in our Heavenly Father and in His plan for us.

It means believing that although we make mistakes, we can repent, we can be cleansed and we can be strengthened in our abilities to improve. It means believing that although all the blessings of the Gospel may not be available to us right now, they will someday be available if we do our part.** And it means knowing that if we follow the example of Jesus Christ, and develop His attributes,  we are developing the attributes of our Heavenly Parents.

Motherhood is about women who cry when their sons leave on missions, and women who cry because their sons aren’t worthy to serve.

Its about women who stay up all night making sure their newborn is breathing and women who are up late waiting for their teenaged children to return safely home.

Its about women whose hearts ache because they can't have children, and women whose hearts expand to foster children who are not their own.

Its about the expectant mother whose toddler has worn the same outfit two days in a row, and the mother who serves mac and cheese as a “balanced meal” because there are two ingredients.

Its about the mother who rejoices in seeing her baby take his first step, or hearing her say her first word.

Its about mothers who work the night shift so they can be home during the day with their kids, and mothers who work the day shift so they can be home at night.

Its about mothers who spend their days sitting at the side of a hospital bed comforting a child with cancer, and mothers who kneel at the side of their own beds pouring out their hearts each night for a wayward child.

 Its about the joy of holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time and the anguish of burying your teenaged son.

It is about highs and lows, ups and down, good times and bad, your greatest joys and your deepest sorrow.

Its about making a lot of mistakes, repenting and learning along the way

It is about living life and loving. 

Its about reaching our divine potential

Its about coming to know our God. 

Happy Mother's Day!
Lori Wagner
One Mormon Voice

*A righteous man or woman who chooses to not be married in the next life may still obtain Celestial Glory, but not exaltation. See D&C 131:1-4

**There are many righteous women who are single or not able to bear children who wonder how they fit in, or what God’s plan is for them. But the plan is the same for all God’s children. Exaltation. Eternal Parenthood. In order to be exalted, we must enter into the covenant of eternal marriage and keep that covenant. However, as that opportunity may not now be available to everyone who desires it, we have been promised that as we make and keep sacred covenants in this life to the degree that we are able, we qualify for all the blessings of eternity.

Want to read more about what Mormons believe?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Gender and Indentity Confusion--One of Satan's Sneaky Snares

The most important knowledge we need to understand about ourselves is that we are beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, and that our gender is an essential characteristic in God’s plan for us. It is no wonder that one of Satan’s great sneaky snares is to confuse us about both our spiritual identity as well as our gender. 

I am a child of God
The first principle missionaries teach is that God is our Heavenly Father and we are His children.  He has a body of flesh and bones and we are created in His image.  In “The Family—A Proclamation to the World” we are additionally taught that as beloved sons and daughters of God, we each have “ . . . a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual pre-mortal, mortal and eternal identify and purpose. “

The Bible begins with the story of the creation of man and woman, children of God, created in His image.

Each Sunday all over the world, young women stand together and recite, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us and we love Him.” In primary the children frequently sing, “I Am A Child of God”.

It is no coincidence that this doctrine is emphasized over and over again.

The most important knowledge we need to understand about ourselves is that we are beloved sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father and as such we can become like Him, and that our gender is essential to fulfilling our divine destiny and purpose.

God is my Heavenly Father and He knows my name
I remember well the first time I began to understand my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  I grew up singing “I Am A Child of God’ and always felt comforted by the words of the song. But it was at the beginning of 9th grade, when I came to know for a surety that God was my Heavenly Father and as such, he knew me!!

Brother Robert Wells (not the general authority) was my ninth grade seminary teacher at Lincoln Junior High in Orem, Utah. At the beginning of the year he informed us that after prayerful consideration he would be extending callings to class officers the following day. That night, while saying my prayers, I had the impression that I would be called to serve in our seminary class and that Leon Berrett would be called as the class president.

The next day when I arrived at seminary, Brother Wells was handing out appointment slips to those who were being called as class officers. Without thinking about what I was doing, I stood by him and waited for him to hand me my slip. He looked at me a little quizzically at first, then sorted through the slips until he found mine.  That afternoon he called me to be a zone leader.

Being a zone leader in a ninth grade seminary class was certainly not a position of power or much authority but for me it was life changing. For the first time in my life, I knew God knew me and He knew my name! For how could he tell Brother Wells to call me to a position if he didn’t know who I was?  And for a second witness that my revelation was correct, Leon Berrett was called to be the class president.

God loves us and wants to communicate with us
I few years later I had another memorable experience that strengthened my testimony of God as our Father and His love for us.  I was just beginning my mission in Ecuador and assigned to the small, poverty stricken coastal town of Esmeraldas. With very little Spanish, I struggled to teach the people the gospel in their native language.

One afternoon my companion and I met with a young man at the pre-fabricated church building. It was hot, as always, and without any air conditioning, we were drenched in sweat. But felt the Spirit as we taught about God, our Father in Heaven, who loves us.

The young man was a bit incredulous that God was actually his spirit father and so we taught him to pray and invited him to ask God Himself.  The young man bowed his head and in very simple words offered his first prayer. The Spirit filled the room as a clear and profound answer was given. Each of us could testify that a response was received, but what struck me the most about the experience was that I could literally feel God smiling! I could sense His joy at being able to talk once again to one of His beloved sons! I could feel His happiness at being able to let this young man know that yes, He was his father, He was aware of him and He loved him!

If having a clear understanding of who we are and what we can become is the most essential knowledge we can have in this life, it only makes sense that one of Satan’s most sneaky snares would be to attempt to distort and diminish our true identify.

Gender and identity confusion is a tactic of Satan to cause us to forget who we are and our purpose on earth
I recently watched a video published by The Family Policy Institute of Washington.  College students were interviewed regarding their feelings on people being able to use any bathroom based on the gender they identified with. All the students were in favor of the policy, feeling that everyone should be supported in their feelings.

Then the interviewer began to change the questions and asked if it were okay for him to believe he was an Asian woman, a seven year old and six-foot five (8 inches taller than his actual height) Having once taken the position that you can believe whatever you want to believe and should be supported in your belief, the students stuck with that position, but with less and less conviction.

The truth is that a five-foot nine-inch adult white man, is just that—a five-foot nine-inch adult white man. And no matter what he wants to believe, he will never be a seven-year-old, six-foot-five inch Asian woman. Never.

And although there are many dangers the "be whatever you want to be" environment creates for our society, I think the greatest tragedy of all is that it prevents people from learning who they truly are and therefore also prevents them from understanding their divine purpose and potential.

I know who I am, I know God's Plan, I'll follow Him in faith
Each of us is a beloved son or daughter of the Most High God. And no amount of personal desire, laws or public persuasion can change that. We are created in God's image and our divine destiny is to become like Him. Gender is an essential characteristic in achieving our eternal purpose as not only sons and daughters of God, but also future fathers and mothers with our own eternal families.

May we always remember that.

Lori Wagner,
One Mormon Voice