Monday, January 30, 2012

His Mother Made Him a Little Coat


We blessed Abraham on Sunday.

And as much as I could write about what a sweet experience it was to see my husband take our little boy in his arms and give him a name and a blessing... I mostly want to talk about what he wore.

I really wanted Abe to have a special blessing outfit but when I went to go buy one I was appalled that the one I wanted, a cute little knit sweater with pants, cost $40! Instead of paying this exorbitant price for an outfit he would wear once, I decided to try my hand at knitting him a blessing outfit.


I found this pattern on Ravelry and even though it was harder than anything I've tried to knit before (I've mostly just made hats and leg warmers) I thought I'd take a shot at it. It was hard (for me) and I pretty much worked on it non-stop for 2 weeks. I am so happy with how it turned out. I was thrilled it actually fit him because he went through quite the growth spurt in two weeks!


I poured a lot of love into those stitches and so it was was sweet for me to see my little boy bundled up in something I had worked so hard to make for him. It reminded me of another mother who also worked hard to make her son a special little coat.

"...Samuel ministered before the Lord, being a child... Moreover his mother [Hannah] made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice... And the child Samuel grew before the Lord." (1 Samuel 2:18-21)
I love to think about what sort of thoughts went through Hannah's head as she worked, year after year, on Samuel's little coats. I can only imagine the amount of love she poured into every stitch and I am certain that her coats were beautiful and unique; something that would remind Samuel, every time he put it on that it was because of her love for him, that she was willing to dedicate him to the Lord.

As my husband took our little boy in his arms to bless him and present him him to the Lord I couldn't help but think about Hannah's willingness to turn her son over to the Lord's service. I can't imagine anything harder than consecrating your child completely, to leave him in the trust of others, in order to serve the Lord.

And I hope that if, and when, such a sacrifice is asked of me that I will be able to make a sacrifice similar to the one Hannah made. Because deep in my heart I know that this little boy is more God's son that he is mine. I am just grateful God has lent him to me for a little while.


Oh, and I just have to add this picture in because it took us about 20 tries and this was the best family portrait we could manage.



And some how it seems just right... a perfect illustration of our crazy little family.

I am really glad Abe chose to be a part of it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Five Things for Friday, 30th Edition

-1-

Awhile ago Cocoa of Chocolate on My Cranium asked her readers which fictional character they most identified with. I loved the question but didn't have time to respond at the time. So I am going to do it now.

I am most certainly Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables.



Granted I am not an orphan and I don't have red hair, but in many ways our personalities are remarkably similar. In Middle School I even once knocked a boy out with my lunch box when he teased me by making "kissy lips" at me on the school bus. Though I've definitely mellowed out as I've got older I am still an overly dramatic, romantic, ambitious Anne Shirley at heart.

I am curious... what fictional character do you think you are most like?

-2-

A few weeks ago I finished the book "The Year My Son and I Were Born" by Kathryn Lynard Soper. It is a memoir about how her heart and life were changed by giving birth to a son with Down Syndrome. I was so touched by her perspective and I especially loved what she said towards the end of her book,

" ... 'Knowing other people are in worse pain doesn't erase your own'... And mine had been terrible. But as the pain faded, I was beginning to see how unnecessary most of it had been. Thomas's diagnosis brought some inherent difficulties, like health concerns and educations issues, but the stuff that really hurt didn't come from Down Syndrome. It came from my reaction to Down Syndrome... How much grief stemmed from my twisted belief that faster meant smarter, smarter meant better, and better meant happier? The bulk of my suffering had been self-inflicted, like when I soaked my bloody toe at Christmas time; the injury called for only a tablespoon of salt, yet I dumped in half a cup. Down Syndrome didn't need to hurt so much. Neither did depression. And for that matter, neither did motherhood.

The irony just about killed me, but I had to smile. Thomas's disability had enabled me to face my own. And his diagnosis which once seemed like a burden, had granted the sweetest relief." (pg. 303)

This is a really wonderful book and has given me so much to think about. If you get a chance to pick it up, it would be well worth your time.

-3-

Speaking of good books I thought I'd share my all time favorite parenting book. It is called "The Wonder Weeks" and I think it has done more to help me as a mother than any other book I've read...besides the scriptures. The whole premise of the book is that babies go through mental growths spurts just like they go through physical growth spurts. Usually a few weeks before a baby makes a physical "leap" forward they also make a mental "leap" forward which is characterized by a fussy, clingy, and sleepless baby. This is a time when a baby's whole world is changing and they don't know how to cope with it yet so they cling to what is safe and familiar... mom, milk, being held, dad, etc...

This is kind of hard for adults to understand but just imagine if every few months you gained a new sense, like all of a sudden you could hear twice as far or could smell things a half mile away, it would really change your world and make it kind of a scary place. Those are the types of changes a baby goes through every few months and with which they have to learn how to cope. They are the times your baby needs you the most. The book points out several different leap periods (you can see a chart of them here) when babies make the biggest cognitive developments. The dates are based off the baby's conception date so if your baby was born "early" or "late" then the dates might be off 3-6 weeks.

This book has been so helpful because Abraham has been super fussy lately and doesn't want to nurse. I was starting to get worried about him, thinking that maybe he was sick or hurting, but then I picked up this book and realized he is right in the middle of the "world of patterns" leap and that there were things I could do to help him. Instead of getting frustrated or upset with him I am able to recognize what he is learning and enjoy watching make sense of his strange body and world. It is really helpful and is one that I wish that I'd read before I had Asher, it would have saved me a lot of grief and tears.

-4-

Asher has been getting his Book of Mormon characters and his Winnie the Pooh characters mixed up. The other day at the library he was trying to explain to me that he really wanted the movie with Piglet, Tigger, and Nehor.

"You mean Eeyore? " I asked.



"No mom, Nehor."



I didn't realize there was an anti-Christ in the Winnie the Pooh movie. I guess I'll have to pay closer attention in the future! :)

-5-

Thank you all so much for your kind comments on my last post. I really appreciate them. Don't worry I haven't hit the depths of despair yet, just a few hard weeks. But things seem to be looking brighter.

I wanted to fit this video into the "Nothing" post, but it just didn't seem to work, so I am posting it here. It is a video about the Hubble space telescope and the furthest into space that man has ever seen. It is really an incredible glimpse into the immensity of God's creations and makes me feel even smaller than than the "Pale Blue Dot" image does. It is mind boggling.



Oh, and you need to read this talk that Steph shared in the comments. It is called "Our Creator's Cosmos" by Elder Neal A. Maxwell and is incredible. Incredible.

Have a wonderful weekend!

If you want to link to your own "Five Things for Friday" post you can use the tool below to add your link. 1) Please link to the URL of your blog post and not your main blog and 2) Please include a link back here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nothing

I've been feeling sort of low lately.

It seems like Satan has been working hard on me to make me feel small, worthless and hopelessly flawed.

There are days when life, and all the suffering, pain, and heartache that comes with it, seems so meaningless and I really begin to wonder why I am here on earth at all.

I recently saw this image and the reality of my own insignificance and worthlessness in the vast expanse of the universe became jarringly apparent.



This image, called "Pale Blue Dot", was taken in 1990 by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. When the spacecraft had completed its mission and was returning home NASA had it turn its camera around and take a picture of Earth. This is what Earth looks like from the edge of our solar system, 3.7 billion miles away. Just a faint blue dot.

The famous astronomer Carl Sagan shared this insight about this image:

"The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark... It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. " (Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, p. 6)

It is so humbling to look at that tiny speck floating in the solar system knowing, that on the day this picture was taken, there was a little girl named Heather living, hoping, and dreaming on it. Looking at that pale blue dot makes me see that all my ambitions, dreams, worries, and fears are just a drop in the bucket in the vast universe of God's creations, and it seems impossible that He would care about them at all. This perspective makes me cry, like Moses did after God showed him all the creations which He had made, "Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed." (Moses 1: 10)

The message that Satan has been pounding into me lately really is true...

I am nothing.

And all the problems, insecurities and ambitions I have are infinitely unimportant.

And yet, at the same time...

I am everything.

And all the problems, insecurities, and ambitions I have are infinitely important.

For we read in Moses 7:28-37 that God cares deeply about each and every one of His creations.
"And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept... And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; ... how is it thou canst weep?

The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;... but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;... and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7:28-37)"

How incredible is it that even though I am just one, teeny tiny portion of God's creations, He loves me.

He knows me.

He cares about me.

And when I kneel down each morning and night the Master of all Creation, the Lord of the Whole Universe, listens to my prayer.

That knowledge fills me with awe and somehow makes my personal heartaches, worries, and ambitions much easier to bear. It makes me realize how silly it is to harbor feelings of anger or pride and how pointless it is to seek after the the praise and wealth of the world. God has promised that those who "overcome the world" and serve Him will inherit all that He possesses, which is something that our mortal minds can not even begin to fathom. It is glory, power and joy beyond our wildest imaginations.

"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immorality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39)

I truly am nothing amidst the glory of God's infinite creations but I have the potential to be everything.

And knowing that makes my life meaningful, even when Satan tries to convince me otherwise.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Wait!

Our book "The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth" is coming out in print soon! We initially thought it would come out in November but the layout and editing took longer than expected. Right now it is looking like it will be off the press sometime in March!

This means that our pre-sales aren't going to last much longer and the 10% discount you get for ordering the book early will be ending really soon. So, if you are planning on buying a copy of the book sometime in the near or distant future (which I know many of you are) I'd HIGHLY recommend doing it sooner rather than later. They probably won't be discounted again any time soon.



And trust me if you are, ever have been, or ever will be pregnant or if you have a friend or spouse who is, has been or will be pregnant you don't want to miss out on this book... it is really quite incredible collection of stories and testimonies. If you'd like to read some excerpts from the book or learn more about our project you can visit our website.

Go order your discounted copy now before it is too late!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Five Things For Friday, 29th Edition

-1-

It is that time of year again, when people start looking for ideas for their Relief Society Birthday parties! I thought that since I have some new readers since last year that I'd share the links to the two scripts that I have written. The first is a re-enactment of the First Relief Society Meeting. I went to the church history museum in Salt Lake City and transcribed Eliza R. Snow's notes from the Relief Society ledger and then wrote up a re-enactment based on her notes. We did it two years ago in my ward and it was really incredible. Here is me dressed up like Emma.



Also, last year I wrote a script about the 15 Women Who Have Led the Relief Society, which is a program with a brief introduction to each of the General Relief Society Presidents. It is really touching and so easy to put together. You are welcome to use my scripts and if you perform them I'd love to see pictures!

-2-

Last week was my first time back to modern dance in 6 months. I wasn't able to dance with the modern dance company I usually dance with because my hips were so bad the last few months of my pregnancy that I couldn't walk very easily... let alone leap! So it was really wonderful to go back and move my body for a few hours. I've been much more happier and "with it" the past week, and I think it has a lot to do with going back to dance. I was telling Jon that I think that I've been living in my in head too much lately, being so focused on (and stressed) about all the tasks and things I need to get done, that I've been really disconnected from my body. It has been so nice to have a few hours each week that I can just focus on "getting my head back into my body" and feeling a little more like a living soul than a disembodied spirit. I really need that right now.

-3-

I've been in charge of the posts for The Gift of Giving Life blog this week and there were some really good posts this week.

On Monday I shared a guest post called "The Gift of Eve" by Jeanna Stay which I absolutely loved. She said:

Eve began her life in the Garden of Eden. She knew what it was to have no pain, no hunger, no struggle. And then she left that Garden to bear children and to bless the earth with her seed. At first glance, I would think, “Wow, I bet she missed Eden (especially during hour #16 of labor).” I think we often believe the state in the Garden was better, nicer, happier. And yet, do you know what she testified?

And Eve, [Adam’s] wife … was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. (Moses 5:11–12)
She knew them both. She knew the Garden and she knew mortality. And she preferred mortality. She blessed God for giving it to her. And in doing so, she blessed all of us. Eve’s gift is more than just the life she gave her posterity. Eve’s gift is the joy she found in doing so. It is her example of courage in the face of the unknown. It is a testimony that, even when life is hard (and it so often is), mortality is a gift so great that she rejoiced in it and praised God.
Wednesday I shared a post I wrote called "The Song of the Soul: Singing to Your Baby":

Over the years I’ve pondered a lot about why that song is so special to me but I haven’t ever been able to explain it. Then a few weeks ago a good friend sent me this quote by N’Shama Sterling. She said:

“When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. They then return to the tribe and teach the song of the child to the village.

When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education,
And today I shared Shuana's (one of my modern dance friends from BYU) birth story entitled "After the Trial of My Faith"

It was no great miracle, but it was miraculous to me. I went to bed Sunday night thinking there was no way we could birth at the birth center. Monday morning I awoke essentially in labor, and Heavenly Father put the best midwife in my path to make my desires possible. I don’t think the location of my child’s birth is eternally significant. What is eternally significant to me is that I now know that I am capable of exercising my faith and calling down the powers of heaven to help me and my family.

And I learned that lesson in the most beautiful way, through birth.

Hop on over and check them out!

-4-

I want this book.



Really bad.


-5-

I know that this post has been making the rounds on Facebook but I loved it so much that I just thought I'd share it in case you missed it. It made me laugh on a hard day when I really needed to laugh. And I am seriously thinking about hanging these words of wisdom on my fridge, just as a reminder,

"Carry on Warrior, only six hours till bedtime."


Amen!

Sending you all my love and hoping that you have a wonderful weekend!

If you want to link to your own "Five Things for Friday" post you can use the tool below to add your link. 1) Please link to the URL of your blog post and not your main blog and 2) Please include a link back here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Widow of Nain


The Resurrection of the Widow's Son at Nain,
Illustration from 'The Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ' by James Jacques Joseph Tissot


Luke 7:11-17


Background:

Jesus was traveling around Galilee with his disciples teaching and working miracles. He had entered into Capernum where he was sought out by a "certain centurion" whose beloved servant was on the verge of death. He asked Christ to heal him, but would not let him enter into the house saying "but that say in a word, and my servant shall be healed." (Luke 6:7). Christ was astounded by his faith and the servant was healed, without Christ ever seeing or touching him. After performing this miracle the next day Christ and his disciples traveled to Nain (Luke 6: 10).

Facts About Her:
  • She lived in Nain, a village in Galilee about 9 miles from Nazareth (vs.11);
  • She was a widow (vs. 12);
  • She had only one son, a young man, who had recently died. As she and "much people of the city" were taking her son out of the city on a funeral bier Christ saw her and "he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not." (vs. 12-13);
  • Christ touched the bier and the men holding it stood still. Christ then commanded, " Young man, I say unto thee, Arise" and the woman's son arose from the dead and was "delivered" to his mother (vs. 14-15);
  • After this miracle the people were afraid and declared, "That a great prophet is risen up among us" and they spread news of Christ and the miracle he had done "throughout all Judæa, and throughout all the region round about." (vs. 17)
Speculations About Her:
  • Nain is about 9 miles from Nazareth, the city where Christ grew up. In fact because Narezeth is higher in elevation one could (and possibly still could) actually see Nain from Nazareth if one looked to the southeast. In view of how close these two cities are to each other it makes me wonder if perhaps Jesus may have known this woman and her son before he saw them at the city gates. Such a thing is very possible and adds a new dimension to the story.
"When a person breathed the last breath and the heart stopped beating, the eyes of the deceased were reverentially closed, the entire body was washed and anointed with oil, and the hands and feet were then wrapped in linen bands. The body, clothed in a favorite garment, was then wrapped with winding sheets. Spices of myrrh and aloes were placed in the folds of the garment to perfume the body. A napkin was then bound from the chin to the head. The family took the body on a bier to be buried within hours of death, not days. During the first century, many people were laid to rest in rock-hewn tombs, one of the most prominent features of the hill country of Galilee and Judea; others were buried in the ground."

We don't know if this young man's death was the result of long drawn out illness or an unexpected accident, but no matter how he died it is likely that his mother's grief was fresh, very fresh. She may have only had several hours to process the fact that her only son was dead and all the implications that came along with his death. The newness of her grief makes Christ's tender words " weep not" all the more powerful. He was telling her that even though her grief seemed unbearable she wouldn't have to mourn much longer because she would soon have her son again.
  • As a widow with no male heir to take care of her this woman's plight would have been hard indeed. Women had very few political rights in New Testament times and she probably would not have inherited much or been able to provide well for herself. Most likely she would have been at the mercy of other people's charity for the rest of her life. And seeing that her son was a "young man" that probably would have been a long time for her.

Mario Minniti, Miracle at Nain (1620)

My Thoughts:

I've been pondering a lot about the meaning of the word "compassion" and why, in many of the New Testament stories, Christ is "moved with compassion" to perform a miracle for someone. As I was studying compassion I found that compassion is not the same thing as pity, sympathy or empathy. One of the big differences is that while pity and sympathy are things that you feel, compassion is something that you do. Compassion is often linked to the word mercy and used to describe the motivation behind great acts of charity and love like the Atonement. In fact, the outward expression of charity is compassion.

It is interesting that throughout the scriptures Christ often says that his "bowels are filled with compassion" (John 3:17; D&C 101:9; 3 Ne. 17:6) towards His children. The word "bowels" in the original New Testament Greek is σπλάγχνα (splágxnon) and refers to organs of the body like the heart, lungs, intestines and the womb. All these are all parts of the body that swell and then must expel something to keep functioning properly. So when Christ says that His bowels are filled or moved with compassion he is saying that His great love, His charity, for His children compels Him to bless them, heal them and save them.
Link
Compassion is charity in action.

The other thing I love about this woman's story is that it is a profound testimony of Christ's love and compassion towards women. In fact, in all four accounts we have of Jesus raising someone from the dead all of them are done in the presence of, and usually on the behalf of, women.
  • The raising of the daughter of Jairus was not only performed on a woman (a girl really) but the only people there to witness it was the girl's father and mother and two of the apostles (Luke 8:41-56).
  • The raising of Lazarus from the dead was done in the presence of only a few, mainly Mary and Martha, and was done mostly on their behalf (John 12).
  • When Christ rose from his grave his first witness was Mary Magdalene and the other women who came to prepare his body for burial.
  • The raising of the son of the widow of Nain from the dead was done in the presence of many men and women but was on done because Christ had compassion on a woman.

Raising a person from the dead is an incredible miracle for anyone to witness, but it has special meaning for women. Christ is demonstrating to women that he has power over the grave. Giving them a living testimony that through him and by him all the children that women bear and nurture on this earth will live again. No sacrifice that women make to bring forth a child, to nurture a friend, or to love a family member will be in vain, because Christ will be (and is) victorious over death.

Questions to Think About:
  • Why were "much of the people of the city" with her as she buried her son? What type of people do you think she and her son were to have so many people mourn with them?
  • Do you have a widow in your life (young or old) who needs remembering? What special challenges does she face? How can you follow the example of the Savior and be moved with compassion towards her?
  • Can you relate to this woman's grief? How do you image she felt when she saw her son raised from his death bed? How does her story help you better understand the power of the atonement and the resurrection?
  • What special significance does the term "compassionate service", which is often used to describe the work the Relief Society does, have seeing that the motto of the Relief Society is "Charity Never Faileth"?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Latter-day Saint Women Around the World: Odette from Germany

I am excited to introduce Odette from Germany today as my guest poster for my Latter-day Saint Women Around the World series. One of my best friends is also from Germany and we met when she was foreign exchange student here in the US almost 12 years ago, so I really loved reading Odette's story. Her conversion story is really inspiring to me.




Hi, I am Odette. I grew up in a town called Rostock in the North-East of Germany right by the Baltic Sea. Its a rather small city with about 200.00 people. We moved into a small village about 30 minutes away from Rostock when I was 6, so I am kind of a country girl. I love animals and horseback riding. I am an only child and because my dad is a seaman, me and my mom were alone most of the time. My family is not religious and so I never even thought about God before I went to the USA for a year as an exchange student. After a few difficulties with my host family I ended up in Logan, Utah with a nice Mormon family. When I think back, I see God's hand in all of this. All the sudden I had 4 siblings, parents and a so-called normal family life. It was a big change for me but it helped me to find my way to God. I am currently living in Greifswald, Germany with my husband Ronny and our baby girl Amélie-Sophie. I am a stay-at-home mom and love to spend time with my little girl and watch her grow up.


Me, my mom and my American family on top of the conference center. ( Taken in 2006)

What is the dominate belief system in your country?

In Germany about 60% consider themselves as Christians ( 30% Catholic 29 % Protestants and 1% smaller denominations) , which does not mean they go to church. Because we have lots of immigrants from Turkey, Islam is considered the second largest religion (about 4 %). Other smaller religions are Buddhism, Jewish, and about 34% consider themselves not religious. Most only go to church twice a year. In my perspective its only the older people that go to church regularly. It also depends on the part of the country. Here in the North-East not many believe in God anymore because of the 40 years of communist rule. Only restaurants are open on Sunday. But they are starting to have a “Shopping-Sunday” where all the stores are open once a month.

How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

I first got to know the church in Utah when I was 16. I lived with a Mormon family and basically learned everything from them. They showed me how prayer works, had Family Home Evening with me and invited me to come to church with them. In the beginning I just stayed at home because I kind of enjoyed to have some quiet time alone. My host sister Kimberli took me to Young Women's activities and I soon started to find friends there. So I started going to church just for Young Women´s and then my little brother Cameron asked me why I did not want to stay for sacrament meeting. He told me how good it was and about the spirit he felt there. So I stayed and I soon realized what he meant. I felt the warm spirit and God's love for me, just pouring over me. I will never forget this feeling. I have been a church-goer ever since. I got to know the gospel and found a way to understand the scriptures even though it was not in my mother-tongue. After about 6 months I felt ready. I had been thinking about baptism a lot and I had prayed a lot and knew it was true. Everyone was so excited when they heard my news that I wanted to get baptized. My parents in Germany did not approve and thought this was just a phase I was going through, so I did not get their permission. It was a big challenge for my faith and patience. I had to wait till I was 18 and could decide for myself.

So after a year I went back to Germany and was all the sudden alone, trying to live by what I knew was right. It was hard but two angels ( aka. missionaries) were sent my way to help me through this. I had to start over and learn all about the gospel in German. They taught me, they were friends, and even kind of brothers. After my 18th birthday I finally got baptized on April 14th, 2007 in the Baltic sea on a beautiful sunny day. Since then I have grown in many ways. My testimony has become stronger and even more powerful. I started a family of my own with a nice Mormon man and continue to count my many blessings every day.

What is the LDS church attendance like in your area?

Our area is kind of rural with not many people. Our district consists of 6 branches. There are no stakes or wards in our area. Our branch is a combined branch out of two groups (Stralsund & Greifswald) and one branch (Wolgast). Currently we have an attendance of about 40-50 members every Sunday. Because we are combined out of three bigger cities, some members have to travel for a long distance to come to church. I think the furthest has to travel for almost 2 hours to get to church. Since we have lots of older members they have organized to share a car. So sometimes they travel for hours to pick everyone up and then 1-2 hours to get to church. We are lucky enough to have the branch in our city, so we get there in 10-15 minutes. We have lots of new converts and some families who have been in the church since 1930. Our ward consists of 4 big families with children. Three of them started out from our oldest member. He is almost 90 and had a big family with 6 children. Two of them are still in our branch and their children have families of their own here too. But we also have quite a few older single women and some young converts. We have more men in our branch and right now up to 10 children.

How far away is the nearest temple?


( Me and Amélie-Sophie in front of the Freiberg temple October 2011)

The nearest temple would be in Kopenhagen, Denmark. Its about 2-3 hours by ship. But we go to the Freiberg, Germany Temple. Its about 5 hours away by car. It is a miracle for the members in East-Germany. It was built during the Communistic regime in the DDR and dedicated in 1985. It was pretty busy because there were only two temples in Europe at that time. Not many people know about it in Germany but in Freiberg its pretty well known and kind of the town's landmark. It was re-dedicated 2002 and it now also serves those in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, and, before the Kyiv Ukraine Temple's 2010 dedication, Russia and Ukraine. Since then its not as busy as it used to be, but its always special to be there. Its the place where I received my endowment, was sealed to my husband and did lots of ordinances for my ancestors. I love the temple and I feel so much peace when I am able to be there. We try to be there at least twice a year. I am currently the only member in my family ( except my husband and baby) and so I am really trying to do my genealogy work. I have really seen many blessings doing so.

What sort of reaction do you get from most people when they find out you are Mormon?

I am still kind of shy about my religion. I really try to be a better missionary but its hard. Whenever they find out they are pretty surprised. Most only know about plural marriage but they are pretty open to my experiences. They think its brave to live as a religious person nowadays. Mostly they are pretty accepting. My family has gotten used to it even though they are not really interested in it.

How is missionary work in your country?

Its pretty hard to do missionary work but it has gotten better since President Uchtdorf dedicated the country for missionary work. Our area is still feeling the effects of the communistic times, so many people have hard feelings with God. We usually have about 5-10 baptisms every year. I think Germany in general is having a good number of baptisms but our area is still a little behind in the means of growth in the church. The missionaries have a huge area to cover and no vehicle to go to the small villages. Lots of new converts are usually young single adults.

How many families do you know (LDS or not) who have more than two children?

I think most families in Germany only have 2 children. Its unusual if you see a bigger family. In the church we have lots of families with more than 4-6 children.

How many sisters do you visit teach?

I currently have 4 sisters on my teaching-list. They are all inactive and most of them don't want us to visit. So its hard to visit teach. We mostly write letters. One time when I went to visit a sister, she was so happy because she had prayed for someone to come by. I just had a feeling to go by on that sister and see how she was doing. I was so glad I followed the promptings of the spirit and to help her see God´s love for her and that her prayers will be answered.

What are the greatest challenges the sisters in your Relief Society are facing?

I think the greatest challenge is to teach Relief Society when sisters are so different in their knowledge and testimony about the gospel. We have a variety, from a member for 50 years to a member for 2 weeks. Its hard to answer deep doctrine questions and to not confuse new converts at the same time. We don´t have many sisters in our Relief Society because most of our sisters are serving in other callings in Primary and Young Woman, so that makes it hard to have good discussions and lessons.

What is the greatest blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life?

The greatest blessing is to know and feel Gods love for me and to feel his guidance and help in my life. I am glad I can know that I can be with my family forever and I know what plans God has in store for me. I understand my purpose on this earth. It simply makes me happy and that is all that matters.

Thank you so much Odette! What a blessing for your little girl that you've made the choices you have.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Things For Friday, 28th Edition

-1-

The other morning I was upstairs getting ready when I heard peals of giggles coming from downstairs. I'd left Asher and Rose down there while I showered and got dressed and the whole time I'd been getting ready I had this sinking suspicion that they were up to something. And boy was I right. When I finally came down I discovered that they had gotten into the flour bucket and had covered the whole family room in flour. It was everywhere. On the chair, in their toys, on the computer, in the closet, all over the pile of clean clothes I'd just folded, on my sewing machine, in the baby's swing (luckily I'd taken him up stairs with me) and the whole floor was covered with a white layer.

I was in shock. I couldn't believe what they had done in the 15 minutes I'd been upstairs. I am really proud of myself because I didn't scream and I didn't spank anyone, even though I really wanted to, but I did rampage around the house like a madwoman and put just about every toy they owned in time out. Later, Jon told me about this YouTube video that went viral a few months ago where two little boys did just about the same thing! And watching it made me feel better, because my kids didn't make nearly as big a mess as these two little boys did.



Still, I wish I'd been as calm and collected this mom was and instead of being so angry like I was. Because really it was pretty funny... after the fact.


-2-

I was excited to see that the 1828 Websters' Dictionary of the American Language is online! One of the best scripture study tips I was ever taught was to, when I came across a word in the Bible I didn't fully understand, to look up the meaning of word in an old dictionary. My seminary teacher explained that over the last 400 years the English language has under gone a lot of changes. Words that you think you understand the meaning of may actually have had a much different usage at the time the Bible was translated. It is really amazing how looking up words, even that you think you know the meaning of, can really deepen your understanding of the scriptures. I've never had access to a dictionary this old before and so I am super excited to have such easy access to it.

The other great thing about the 1828 version of the dictionary is that Noah Webster often referenced scriptures in his definitions and always favored the Biblical explanation of concepts over the secular ones. For example, the first entry in the word "Love" is:

1. In a general sense to be pleased with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification. We love a friend, on account of some qualities which give us pleasure in his society. We love a man who has done us a favor; in which case, gratitude enters into the composition of our affection. We love our parents and our children, on account of their connection with us, and on account of many qualities which please us. We love to retire to a cool shade in summer. We love a warm room in winter. we love to hear an eloquent advocate. The christian loves his Bible. In short, we love whatever gives us pleasure and delight, whether animal or intellectual; and if our hearts are right, we love God above all things, as the sum of all excellence and all the attributes which can communicate happiness to intelligent beings. In other words, the christian loves God with the love of complacency in his attributes, the love of benevolence towards the interest of his kingdom, and the love of gratitude for favors received.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind - Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matt. 22.
It really is a great tool for scripture study. I'd love to have a copy of this dictionary in hard print one of these days (but it is $60!) or even better if they'd make an iPad app for it!

-3-

Speaking of scriptures I just got a new set of scriptures for Christmas, which I really needed because this is what my old scriptures look like



They were falling apart in pieces and it is nice to have a new higher quality set. But it is so hard to transition over to new set of scriptures because I have put so much of my heart and testimony into my old set. When I pick them up it is like holding an old friend. My new scriptures on the other hand feel like strangers. When I mark or write in them I feel sort of guilty. But hopefully as I start studying and using them they will become as beloved (and useful) as my old ones are.

Last week in church this poem called "New and Used" by A. Jonathan Vance was printed on the front of the program and it captures how I feel about my old scripture perfectly.

When I peeled away the plastic,
The cover was smooth and clean.
The pages were crisp, like an apple,
And the gilded edges gleamed.
The binding crackled as
I opened the pages;
The first breath of a babe
Waking up from the ages.
The magnificent tome was unblemished.
And wouldn't be useful till tarnished.
Years later,
The cover was battered,
And within it,
The pages were tattered.
Anyone leaf
Would meet your gaze
With a flood of colors
Like the map to a maze.
Each little nugget
I'd found on my quest,
Had been marked and noted,
Then put to the test.
This book had a price, years ago.
Its value now? You cannot know.

-4-

None of my pants fit me. I'd forgotten that it takes several months after having a baby before my body gets back down to its normal size (hopefully). So to make myself feel better about myself, and a little less like an overstuffed potato, I've been wearing skirts a lot the last few weeks. I've never been a big skirt wearer but I've discovered that I really like wearing skirts! It came as a surprise to me and as I've tried to figure it out here is what I've come up with for why I like wearing skirts. 1st, with a pair on tights (not nylons) on under my skirt my legs actually stay warmer than in pants, even if my skirt is short. It is magic. 2nd, wearing a skirt makes me feel different. Its not just feeling more feminine (which it does) but it is also seems to give a simple elegance to even the most mundane tasks. Somehow it seems to make vacuuming up 5lbs of flour off my floor seem much more glamorous than it really is. 3rd, people (especially men) treat me differently when I am wearing a skirt, or at least I think they do. I'm not sure if this is all in my head but all I can say is that wearing a skirt everyday does something to me, even though I'm not quite sure what that something is... yet.

Any other skirt wearers out there know what I am talking about?

Or am I just a wee bit crazy?

Because that is totally a possibility.

-5-

And I promise that one of these days, in the not so distant future, that I will post about a woman from the scriptures! I realize that a new comer to my blog might wonder why in the world I call my blog "Women in the Scriptures" when it has been a good 2 months since I've actually wrote about a woman from the scriptures. So hang in there, I have one in the works and will try to get her posted soon.

Have a wonderful weekend!

If you want to link to your own "Five Things for Friday" post you can use the tool below to add your link. 1) Please link to the URL of your blog post and not your main blog and 2) Please include a link back here.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Taking the Challenge

For the last two years I've issued my "Women in the Scriptures Challenge" at the beginning of the year and I am going to do it again this year... and probably for the rest of the time I write this blog. I think it is a really important way for followers of Christ to study their scriptures... male and female.

The full challenge is to read through the complete standard works and keep a list of all the women you find mentioned. The half challenge is to read through one volume of scripture and keep a list of the women you find mentioned. I am certain that what you discover will surprise you! Read here for all the details of the challenge.

If you've already completed the challenge, either the full or the half, you can put this gold star to put on your blog! Or print it out and stick on your fridge if that works better for you :)

Women in the Scriptures




I know that many of you have committed to doing the challenge this year and I'd LOVE to know about how the experience was for you, what you learned or what you discovered this year. So if you have done the challenge (even a little bit of it) please comment and/or link to a post you've written about your experience and insights. You might just inspire someone else to take the challenge.

And if you started doing the challenge and haven't finished it yet-- don't give up-- you have another year, or another or another until you get it done. It isn't something you have to rush through. And in fact you can even do the challenge two or three times if you want. Trust me, it never gets old.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Latter-day Saint Women Around the World: Suzan from Kenya

Today's guest post for my series on Latter-day Saint Women Around the World is by Suzan from Kenya!



I am Suzan and am from a family of twelve, some of which are deceased. I am from Nairobi, Kenya.

1. What is the dominate belief system in your country? Do most people consider themselves to be "religious"? Are business and stores closed on Sunday? Do most people attend church?

Kenyans are religious people and so most of us consider ourselves religious. I think it is among the countries with too many churches. Very few businesses and stores are closed on Sunday. Most people attend church and even those who don't, or rather don't attend most of the time, have a church where they belong.

2. How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If you are a convert please tell us a little about your conversion. If you were born in the church tell us a bit about your family and who was the first in your family to join the church.

I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for six years. My conversion story is bit long but I will try to make it short. I first saw the Book of Mormon nine years before I joined the church and it was written in French, which I could not understand. I had no one to read it to me so I ended up locking it in my drawer and I would take it out and just look at it. After nine years I was blessed to see it for the first time written in English when I visited the church and was at the same time pleased to receive my own copy, now in English. When I read it I felt the truthfulness of it and I didn't want to stop reading it. I then started the lessons with the missionaries and after two weeks I was in for the baptism. Just as I prayed the first time to know if the Church and the Book of Mormon were true I still know for sure that this is the true Church of God upon the face of the earth, and that Joseph Smith was called of God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ, and that we have a living prophet today.

3. What is the LDS church attendance like in your area?

In new branches I would say that the church is growing so fast but the same does not apply to some wards .We have 1 Stake, 7 Wards and around 11 branches in Kenya. An average church attendance is about 50. Those of whom we say travel far spend about an hour to reach the church, though those in the villages might spend 2 hours. We more single adults than married and I also think that the women are more than men.

4. How far away is the nearest temple? When was it built? How busy is it? Do most people in your country know about it? What are their feelings about it?

The nearest Temple is in South Africa which was dedicated on August 24 1985 and it is busy because it serves both the Southern and Eastern African countries. Not many know about it but members of the church does and love being in the temple.

5. What sort of reaction do you get from most people when they find out you are Mormon? Are people familiar with the church? Do you often have to defend or explain your beliefs?

The reaction of people is not all that good because the church has had a bad name in Kenya. They say we are cult and not so many know about it because there are many churches in Kenya. Yes, we often do [defend our beliefs] and this helps people in know and understand about the church.

6. How is missionary work in your country? Would you say that it is difficult or easy for missionaries to find people to teach? How often do you have a new baptism? What are the greatest barriers to missionary work in your country?

Missionary work is not so easy and baptisms are after every month or even two. I think the greatest barrier in missionary work is the formation of many churches and polygamy which Kenyans practice a lot.

7. How many families do you know (LDS or not) who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

Many families have more than two children and it is normal to have a family of whichever size you want, and even if a family of 12 move to any neighborhood it would still be OK because there are many polygamous families in the country.

8. How many sisters do you visit teach? Do you have to travel far to reach them? What have been some of your best visiting teaching experiences?

I visit teach six sisters and yes to some I have to travel a long distance. Some of my best experiences are when I teach and feel the bond between me and those I teach. The greatest experience was when I visited a new convert and listened to her testimony.

9. What are the greatest challenges the sisters in your Relief Society are facing?

Long distances visiting teaching and the unavailability of those you are assigned to visit.

10. What is the greatest blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life?

It is a blessing to know that if I do my part I will be able to be with my family members for eternity. The knowledge the gospel offers to me is a great blessing.

Thank you so much Suzan! I loved reading your conversion story and am so glad that you finally got a copy of the Book of Mormon in English!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Five Things for Friday, Greatest Hits of 2011 Edition

I've seen several other bloggers do a review of their "greatest hits" of 2011 and I thought it would be fun to do that for my Five Things for Friday today. I am adding a little snippet of each to jog your memory or to entice to you to go back and read it if you missed it.

My most viewed posts of 2011 were:

#1 Getting Adam to Partake

"I do understand that not all men and women in the Middle East understand the veil like this and that in many places it is used as a symbol of oppression and disregard for women's rights and voices. Even in Jordan there were various degrees of veiling and some of them were obviously done out of force and oppression. Yet, I'd say that many of the young Muslim women I associated with who wore the hijab wore it for reasons similar to my two friends. It was a really life changing experience for me to be surrounded day in and day out by women who were so outwardly committed to their religion and their promises to God. I realized that my Muslim friends understood something that, at that time in my life, I was only beginning to comprehend. They knew that because they were women they had real POWER housed within their souls. . They knew that they had the power to love men and to attract them to them-- hopefully for life. They knew that within their bodies lay the ability to bestow life and that how they chose to use that power would affect future generations. They fully comprehended the importance and divinity of that power and as a result they protected it and refused to misuse it. "

#2 LDS Church's Stance on Tubal Ligations, Vasectomies, and Hysterectomies

"A few weeks ago I finished writing the family planning section for the book I am working on. In preparation for it I did a lot of research on the LDS church's teachings on birth control and family planning. I rounded up dozens and dozens of quotes from church leaders throughout the years. It was an eye opening experience for me and has really changed the way I view my family. One of the things I learned that I wasn't aware of before is the church's stance on sterilization as a form of birth control (this includes tubal ligation, vasectomies, and hysterectomies performed for non-medical reasons).

In the 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions (which has recently been put online) it says this about surgical sterilization as a form of birth control:
"The Church strongly discourages surgical sterilization as an elective form of birth control. It should be considered only if 1) medical conditions seriously jeopardize life or health or 2) birth defects or serious trauma have rendered a person mentally incompetent and not responsible for his or her actions. Such conditions must be determined by competent medical judgement and in accordance with law. Even then, the persons responsible for this decision should consult with each other and with their bishop and should receive divine confirmation of their decision through prayer. " Source
I also found that many leaders have made strong statements and warnings about sterilization and birth control. Here are just a few of the ones I found..."


# 3 The Barbie Dilemma

"I'd never really thought about the message that Barbie dolls send young girls about what it means to be a teenager and what it means to be an adult woman. Yet as I really began to think about it I realized that Barbie sends the exact opposite message about womanhood and femininity than the one I want my daughter learning. Barbie teaches that how you dress determines your worth, that sexual appeal is what is valuable in a woman, that a relationship with "Ken" is the most important thing and that babies and family are afterthoughts, that breast are for appearances and not for function (her breasts have no nipples, so obviously there is no breastfeeding going on there!), and that shopping is the answer to all of life's woes.

She really isn't a very good role model.

And yet... I still really love her."
Link
#4 Due Date

"As I've read women's stories for our book, The Gift of Giving Life, I've seen that lots of women have different perspectives on miscarriages and what happens to the baby. Some women feel certain that the baby they miscarried, even if it was as early as 5 or 6 weeks, is still their baby and that those few weeks were all the mortal experience it needed. Other women wrote that they felt like the baby they had miscarried had chosen not to accept the body that was forming (perhaps because of birth defects) but would come back to them later as one of their other children or even a grandchild. And hands down, all the women who had had stillborn babies or babies born after 20 weeks wrote that they knew for certain that their baby was waiting for them in the next life.

As I've been reading these women stories my own heart started to ache a little bit. Where does my 12 week miscarried baby fit in?"
#5 This is the Type of "Feminist" I Am
"We live in a world where women are starving for meaning, freedom and purpose in their lives but are looking for it in all the wrong places. They see the symptoms of the disease and assume they must be the cause. They spend all their time focusing on curing the symptoms, wondering why they never seem to be making a difference, when the real culprit-- the disintegration of the family as a societal goal-- sinks further and further into the abyss and the world gets sicker and sicker. What we need in this world is not more governments or private programs what we need is a huge re-evaluation of our goals as a society. We need to re-focus on the family and once again make it the fundamental unit of society. We need men and women to come back home. We need them to rediscover the value of children and their responsibility to perpetuate life. We need them to realize that as the world moves further and further away from the family that true gender equality and true "empowerment" for women is impossible."
Thanks for all your love and supports (and comments) this year! I very much appreciate them and hope that 2012 is as good as 2011 was!

What was your favorite post on my blog this year?

If you want to link to your own "Five Things for Friday" post you can use the tool below to add your link. 1) Please link to the URL of your blog post and not your main blog and 2) Please include a link back here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Marriage of the Penguins

We finally put away our Christmas decorations today, and with how crazy life has been around here lately I am just impressed that they got taken down before July!

As I was packing things up in boxes I remembered that all month I've been thinking about these two little penguins, which have been standing on my bookcase, and what they symbolize.



When Jon and I were engaged we went to the theater to see the film "March of the Penguins." The film is about the migration and mating patterns of emperor penguins. Emperor penguins are unique because it is the male penguin who sits on the egg instead of the female penguin. In fact, male and female emperor penguins really have quite a remarkable partnership.

Every year the penguins make a mass migration to the part of the iceberg where the ice is the thickest and begin the process of selecting their mate for that year. The process takes them several weeks, even though they don't have much time until the weather becomes hostile. Still, they take the time to select a good mate because they know that if their partnership fails then it means that there will be no new life that year. The survival of their species depends on successful male-female partnerships.

Once the female has laid the egg she transfers the egg to the father, who sits on it while the mother makes a treacherous trek of several hundred miles to the ocean in order to get the food that she and her chick will need to survive the winter. While the mothers are gone the fathers huddle together to shield their eggs from the incredibly harsh winter winds. When the egg hatches the father regurgitates a meal (even though he himself hasn't eaten for months) that he has been storing in a special "pouch" to give the chick the nourishment it needs to survive until the mother can get back.

If the mother doesn't return (because she got eaten by a seal or died on the trek) then the father has to abandon the chick, who will die in the cold, in order to return to the sea to get the nourishment he needs. He knows he can't provide what the chick needs all by himself. If the mother does return then she and the father will spend the next several months taking turns caring for the chick while the other one makes the trek to the sea for food (which gets shorter as the season progresses). Eventually the chick will be old enough to take care of itself and the father and mother return to the sea to eat until it is time to do the same thing again the next year. It is really inspiring to watch these penguins work together.

Jon and I bought our little penguin statuettes as part of our wedding decorations and had them placed next to our guest registry during our reception. I am sure that our guests thought they were a bit strange (we didn't tell anyone what they were for) but Jon and I wanted to remind ourselves of the counsel given in "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" which says,
" By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." (emphasis added)
We wanted to make the formation of a successful and thriving family our highest priority, even above personal aspirations and goals, and we wanted to work as equal partners to accomplish it.

In our marriage we've tried really hard to remember that even though one of us may be leaving the family in order to make an arduous and dangerous trek to the sea for food, while the other stays behind to endure sub-zero temperatures and starvation to incubate the egg (or vice-versa) that in the end we are both working towards the same goal.

And every year at Christmas time we pull out our little penguins to remind us that the promise of continuing life, whether for penguins or for humans, depends on successful marriages.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Latter-day Saint Women Around the World: Ayanda from Johannesburg, South Africa

My guest post today is from Ayanda from Johannesburg, South Africa. I was so touched by her beautiful testimony and am so excited by how much the church is growing in her area. It is so beautiful to see how much the Lord loves all his children!



My name is Ayanda. I live in Johannesburg South Africa. I've been married for almost 8 months and I am very happy. Most of my family are members of the Church but my husband is the only member in his family.

1. What is the dominate belief system in your country? Do most people consider themselves to be "religious"? Are business and stores closed on Sunday? Do most people attend church?

Most South Africans are Christian and they tend to like attending Pentecostal churches (The ones that clap hands etc.) because those churches don't have strict principles to live by. All that's required is for one to come to church on Sunday and they can do anything else. They can drink and still be as worldly as they would like to be. Most people consider themselves religious and they attend church but they kind of have their feet on both sides. They believe that going to church justifies their other wrong doings.

2. How long have you been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? If you are a convert please tell us a little about your conversion. If you were born in the church tell us a bit about your family and who was the first in your family to join the church.

I was raised in the church. My grandmother was taught by the missionaries in the late 80s. She was a mother of 9 children and had been searching for a church. She had been searching for a church and had been taught by missionaries from other churches. She came to a point where she stopped searching and stopped attending church. When the missionaries visited her she felt something different and she particularly loved the fact the they taught about the 3 degrees of glory (a principle that her grandmother had taught her). She joined the church and so did many of her children. Although some are not active. Some of us are enjoying the fruits of her decision.

3. What is the LDS church attendance like in your area?

We have seven stakes within the area that I live in. The are many wards and many branches on the verge of being split but the problem is the lack of worthy priesthood holders. In my ward there are a lot of families between the ages of 22-30. So we have a lot of young married couples, very few middle aged couples and about eight older couples. So as you can imagine there are a lot of young children. It is a wonderful place to be though because there's a lot of diversity, many different cultures.

4. How far away is the nearest temple? When was it built? How busy is it? Do most people in your country know about it? What are their feelings about it?

The nearest temple is about thirty minutes away. It caters for everyone in the South East Africa area (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar) to name just a few. The attendance during the week is not that good. The temple is mostly occupied by patrons from other countries. On the weekends though the temple is VERY busy and some sessions have to be split. The temple is only open in the afternoon on weekdays but because the the attendance is increasing, they're looking into having it operate in the mornings also. Most people love the temple but it seems as if those who live further away seem to appreciate it more. Our leaders constantly give us counsel to attend as often as we can and there seems to be an improvement as a result of that.

5. What sort of reaction do you get from most people when they find out you are Mormon? Are people familiar with the church? Do you often have to defend or explain your beliefs?

I feel like I ALWAYS have to defend my beliefs. Most people who are not members of the church have only heard bad things about the church. A very good friend of mine is not talking to me anymore because of all the things she's seen on TV. She heard that the prophet abuses children :( It's sad that they don't give the church a chance. They just believe whatever they hear.

6. How is missionary work in your country? Would you say that it is difficult or easy for missionaries to find people to teach? How often do you have a new baptism? What are the greatest barriers to missionary work in your country?

Missionary work is flourishing despite the negativity that people have about the church. Many families are being brought into the gospel and they always seem so happy. There was a baptism recently in my ward and the couple had been living together for a long time. After hearing about the gospel they got married and they are very well integrated into the church. I can say that the only barriers to missionary work are the misconceptions about the church from the media.

7. How many families do you know (LDS or not) who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

A lot of families are beginning to have less and less children and they are becoming more and more spread out. If a person has more than four children, they're considered as a big family. If a person has more than four children and they're about a year or two apart, they're most probably a Mormon family.

8. How many sisters do you visit teach? Do you have to travel far to reach them? What have been some of your best visiting teaching experiences?

I visit teach 4 families. The furthest is twenty minutes away and she is a very faithful sister. She has three children and she used to walk about for about two hours or more every Sunday morning to get to church. She gets a ride to church now but the fact that she walked that far with her children was a great testimony builder for me.

9. What are the greatest challenges the sisters in your Relief Society are facing?

A lot of the sisters are very faithful in the church. They attend the temple regularly, they serve diligently and they are so kind. The greatest challenge is that their husbands are not as faithful as they are. They are either partly active, less active, or not members at all. That is the greatest challenge and it is what weighs upon the minds and hearts of the leaders-- having the fathers of the families be just as faithful as the mothers.

10. What is the greatest blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ has brought into your life?

The greatest blessing that I have had is to be married in the temple. I am so grateful to have a worthy Priesthood holder in my home. I know that whenever I need a blessing He will be there. He is not only a blessing to me but to my family. Although many of us are members of the church, many of us are women and to have a Melchizedek Priesthood holder in the family is an incredible blessing. Being married has brought me the greatest joy and sense of fulfillment in my life. I'm happy because I know that Heavenly Father loves his daughters and blesses them with the Priesthood.
Thank you so much Ayanda!