Saturday, January 30, 2016

Humility Through Trials

The Book of Mormon tells the story of an ancient Prophet named Lehi, who left Jerusalem and travelled to a Promised Land. As I mentioned in my last post, Lehi had a couple of sons who were rebellious, Laman and Lemuel,  and a couple of sons who were much more obedient and faithful, Nephi and Sam.  Two more sons were born in the wilderness and were named Jacob and Joseph.

After some time of travelling in the wilderness, they came to the land Bountiful, where they beheld a sea. (1 Nephi 17:5) .  After they had been there for the space of many days, Nephi was commanded to build a ship, to carry the family across the waters to a new land (1 Nephi 17:8). His older brothers didn't think that he could do this, but Nephi went to the Lord and asked where he should go to find the materials to build the ship.  With the help of his humbled brothers, he built it not after the manner of man, but after the manner that God commanded him (1 Nephi 18:2).

Once the ship was finished, the ship was load with provisions of fruits and meats from the wilderness, and an abundance of honey, along with seeds and other provisions that the Lord had commanded them to bring. The family set sail and were driven forth with the wind towards the Promised Land (1 Nephi 18:8).

After several days at sea, Nephi's older brothers, and other men and their wives on the ship began to make merry, dancing and singing, and speaking with much rudeness.  They forgot by what power, the Lord's, that they had been brought forth out of the land. Nephi was afraid that God would be unhappy with them, and he began to speak soberly to them, perhaps to chastise them. They were not so thrilled that their younger brother was being a ruler over them.  Laman and Lemuel took cords and bound Nephi so that he could not move.

The family had been guided throughout their journey by the Liahona, a ball of curious workmanship, a compass of sorts which only worked when they were righteous. Once Nephi was bound, the Liahona ceased to direct them which way to point the ship (1 Nephi 18:12).  A storm also arose, and the ship was tossed by the waves and they were driven back for three days. The older brothers began to fear they would be drowned in the sea, but still they did not loose the bands restraining Nephi.

After four days, the tempest grew exceedingly strong, and the ship was about to be swallowed up by the sea. Nephi's brethren finally realized that they must humble themselves and repent of their wickedness so that they would not perish (1 Nephi 18:15).  They finally released Nephi from the bands on his hands and his feet. Nephi's hands and feet were swollen and exceedingly sore.

1 Nephi 18:16 says "Nevertheless, I (Nephi) did look unto my God and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions.

I try to imagine what Nephi may have felt during those 3-4 days of being tied up by his brethren. Because he was a humble and obedient man, I doubt that he was continually berating his brethren, or telling them how dumb they were and how great he himself was.  He didn't tell them that they had better let him go, or "I hope you learn your lesson. " I doubt also that he continually complained in prayer to God... wondering why he had to endure this trial at the hands of his brethren.. "Why me?" perhaps never crossed his mind.  Nephi had seen visions of the future, as had his father, and he had faith in the Lord that he would be delivered.

What can we learn from Nephi about enduring trials?  When this trial was over he still praised God. Because Nephi had been taught of goodly parents (1 Nephi 1:1) he had seen visions and had a great knowledge of the Lord and His goodness. He had been blessed throughout his life and knew that God was aware of him.  Therefore when those trials came, he endured them with patience.

Several years ago, I suffered from a condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia. It is a condition that causes sharp electrial pains in my face that were almost debilitating. I could not take over the counter medications to relieve the pain, since it was nerve based, but eventually I received prescriptions that somewhat helped. The pain would often interrupt my speaking, and eating, as I cringed and rubbed my face to try and relieve the pain. I couldn't drink from a straw, and it was often hard to even kiss my husband, because my face was very sensitive to touch.  I tried not to complain, and perhaps that saved my children from knowing how badly it really hurt. My husband, of course, was aware of my struggles.  It also did not help me feel better if I complained, nor did it make any of the pain go away. I assumed that there must be something that I needed to learn from that trial, but that lesson came years later.

After a few years of inconsistent periods of flare ups, I was able to receive a life altering procedure, called Gamma Knife surgery. This deadened the nerve that was causing the pain... it was amazing, and made life so much easier.

I firmly believe that I was given that trial to endure so that later, when Mark was enduring the pain and suffering of his cancer and it's treatments, I was much better able to have compassion for him. I think I was a better caregiver because I understood what it was like to be in pain.  When he had times that he was grumpy and irritated because of what he was enduring, I did not take it personally and get grumpy back. I'll also say that he pretty much kept his complaining between the two of us, and kept a face of faith to those around us. He received many Priesthood blessings to help give him courage and strength to endure.  Although Mark's deliverance from the trial he endured was death, he was an example to me of humility through an awful trial.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Back to school again...

Here I am resurrecting my blog for the purposes of completing an assignment.

Last summer, in June maybe it was, I received a new church calling. I am a counselor in the Relief Society Presidency in the Kimball Stake in Mesa Arizona. Metzie Phelps is our President, an amazing lady I am happy to socialize with.  Lottie Montgomery is the 1st counselor, and I am the 2nd, and Maelynn Warren was the secretary... she has since moved from the stake and we'll be getting a new counselor this weekend.

In the fall, we attended the ward conferences in our Stake - and as part of the 3rd hour meeting, the RS Presidency was asked to share some time with the Pathway missionaries in the area, as they made a presentation to each ward.  So, I heard the Pathway message 7-8 times in a few weeks.  The Pathway program is run through BYU-I online, and is a way for individuals in the LDS church to attend college and finish their degree at a greatly reduced cost.  Pathway students attend a gathering each week, and work online to complete a religion class and another class ( general studies, English, Math) for 3 semesters and then they may matriculate on to BYU-I online.  As I heard this message again and again, I started getting that nagging that it was time for me to complete my schooling.

A little background, I attended the University of Wyoming starting in 1985, after I graduated. I had a scholarship that paid for my tuition, and so that determined I would go there.  (there's a little irony in that I had initially thought I would attend Rick's College in Rexburg, which eventually became BYU-I.  ) After 3 years of UW, I began the next fall semester, and was a little frustrated - hadn't found that special guy, and was struggling a little in my major.  My dad had once told me that he thought I would go on a mission, and I resisted that idea.  At the beginning of the semester, I prayed and told Heavenly Father, that if I didn't meet someone by the end of that year, THEN I would consider going on a mission.  Well, of course, He had different plans.  Sometime in September, or October, I was sitting next to Sister Hurst, the bishop's wife, during sacrament meeting.  I was not sitting by my friends, so perhaps I was more open to the Spirit. During that meeting, I got the distinct impression that I needed to go on a mission.  I didn't really WANT to go, but after that, I knew that the Lord wanted me to go, and so I did.  I had my mission call by Thanksgiving, and on February 1, 1989, I entered the MTC to head to the England Leeds mission.  Not a bad way to derail the finishing of college.

When I returned home, it was to Mesa Arizona. My family had moved there from Wyoming in May of 1987.  So, it was far from Wyoming, and I had no money to return to college.  I began working at waitressing again, and found a position with a bank soon after that.  I met my sweetheart Mark Brown in the fall of 1991 in a singles choir, and we married in August 1992.  I worked full time in the banking industry for many years, as Mark finished his schooling and he became an accountant.  Our beautiful children were born along the way, Brennan in 1994, Jessica in 1997, and Mallory in 2001.  I loved taking care of my husband and children, and working, though occasionally the thought would come of someday finishing my degrees.  I was established in my profession, and was making good money, so it wasn't terribly important at the time.

Fast forward a few years, and a wrench was thrown into my plan of my happy family life.  My dear Mark was diagnosed with a Ewing's Sarcoma tumor in his calf, in May of 2012.   After two and a half years of battling that awful cancer, he died in October of 2014.  I was fortunate to have been working part time during those few years, as he was working at Banner in Healthcare Finance to support our family, and therefore able to spend a good amount of time taking care of him and our family.  I was also fortunate upon his passing to have the means to pay off our mortgage, and therefore our monthly budget wasn't as strained with only my salary.  I was approached by my employer, a non profit tuition organization, to work full time, and receive insurance benefits, which I accepted and am grateful for.

So, now, as I have sent my Jessica off to college at Utah State University in Logan, Brennan has returned from his mission in Sweden and started classes at Arizona State University, and Mallory is a freshman at Mesa High School, I found myself ready to continue my education again.  I am certain that the time was not right when my children were younger to complete my degree - it would have taken me away from spending time with them, and also the time I had to be with my sweetheart.  I do believe that the Lord had a hand in that. I have begun this classwork through Pathway, one of the assignments is to Put it All Together, and I am going to do my best at that.  (hence the resurrection of the blog...)

The lesson assignment for the Religion class, The Book of Mormon, was 1 Nephi 1-5.  Now, I probably couldn't count how many times I have read those first five books of The Book of Mormon. Probably more times than I've read the END of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon contains accounts of many people who lived in ancient times, beginning with Lehi and his family. They left Jerusalem after the Lord warned them to leave, after Lehi prophesied to the people concerning their iniquity, and they sought to take his life.  Lehi had four sons, two of whom were murmurers, not so happy with what their father was requesting them to do, and two of whom were more righteous, and willing to follow their father, and they knew he was following the Lord.

So, Lehi, took his family and departed into the wilderness, by the Red Sea. They left behind their home and property, and many belongings. The older sons, Laman and Lemuel, were not so keen at having to have left all their things, and called their father a visionary man.  1 Nephi 2:12 says they "did murmur against their father. And they did murmur because they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them."  On the flip side of that coin, Nephi was more in tune with the Spirit of the Lord.  Verse 12 in the same chapter -  "I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord" - he was more open to the teaching of his father, because he had faith.

As we discussed these few chapters in our class gathering this week, we talked about the difference between these brothers.  We decided that it came down to Pride... Laman & Lemuel were very prideful.  Perhaps being the older brothers increased their pride, and they apparently enjoyed the wealth that their family had accumulated.  So, it was quite a blow to them when they had to leave it all behind.  (They were later sent back to aquire some of those belongings, but it wasn't the easiest task to complete. )   On the other hand, Nephi and his brother Sam were much more humble.  They were not ruled by pride. They had faith and believed in the words that their father had prophesied, and knew that he would do the best for their family.

I am looking forward to a more in-depth study of the Book of Mormon. It has been a few years since I have studied it individually, or with my family. As our children grew and more involvement in school and work came about, we weren't as diligent with family study time.  I am thankful for the opportunity to learn, to teach and to share the things that I am learning with my family and others.