Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Valentine's Day 2021


I love my sweet husband. He always helps me to feel very loved. From writing me love notes  to emptying the dishwasher every morning, and from taking me on dates every week to telling me I'm beautiful frequently, he never lets me feel unloved. He is amazing!!! 

This year for Valentine's Day he made a scrumptious strawberry cheesecake (from scratch!). 

He also gave me roses - a living plant so I can enjoy them longer than just a week or two. 

I couldn't ask for a sweeter husband!!!

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Loving God with All your Heart

(Here is the talk that I gave today in Sacrament Meeting.)

Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentine’s Day has been described as a day to celebrate love. It is an occasion to express our love for family, friends and sweethearts through our actions and care.  For some that may mean roses and chocolates. For others it may be gifts, time spent together, acts of service, love notes, things that bring us closer together. 

A lawyer once asked the Savior, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” It is this commandment to love God with all thy heart that I would like to speak of today.

I think most of us know what it means to love someone. Love is an intense feeling of appreciation. It implies commitment and connection. It is a lasting bond between two people.

The heart is another symbol of Valentine's day. The heart represents not just love, but it is considered the source of all our feelings. It is what motivates us to act. Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, he tried, but his heart wasn’t in it”? The heart is what determines how committed we are, and how likely we are to succeed.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught “To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being— physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord.” 

The prophet Alma taught his son Helaman what it meant to love God with all his heart when he said, “Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.” (Alma 37:36 )

If we love God with all our heart, we are all in. We are committed to loving him. We will give our all to loving the Lord. 

On a rainy Valentine’s day about 23 years ago, one of my best friends, a young man named Steven told me he loved me and that at some point (when we were ready,) he was going to ask me to marry him. I was flattered. But I also started seriously thinking about how I felt about him. What about him did I love? Did I love him enough to give him my heart, to commit to spend eternity with him? You can probably figure out the answer...

God has invited us to love him with all our heart. What reasons do we have to love God? (Besides that it is a commandment) 

The apostle John suggested that “We love him, because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

He gave an example of how much God loves us when he said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

God told Moses, “This is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39) God’s whole work, his purpose, his motivation, all that he does is to help us gain eternal life, the wonderful life that he enjoys. His whole focus is helping us to attain perfect happiness. 

What other reasons do we have to love God? 

King Benjamin taught his people,“I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another— I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah   2:20-22)

God has given us all that we have. Our very existence is because of him and the love that he has for us. And he loves us unconditionally. 

Elder Uchtdorf taught “Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, he loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.”

The word charity has been defined as the pure love of Christ. It is this unconditional, powerful love that God has for us. And it is this love that God wants us to develop for others, including for God himself. 

The great general and scriptorian Mormon taught that “Charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. . . . But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” (Moroni 7:45,47)

How do we go about acquiring charity, this great love that Christ has for us? How do we learn to love God the same way that he loves us, with all our heart?

Mormon continued, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; (Moroni 7:48) 

We can start by having a strong desire to love God and by praying and asking for his help.

And then what? Well, how do we develop love for anyone? Some things we can do are spend time getting to know them, serve them, and find common interests.  These same things can help us to develop and strengthen the love we have for God.

 I want to emphasize how important it is that we continue to strengthen our relationships with God and others. How many couples divorce after years of marriage because they have failed to maintain the love they once had for each other. Love, if it is not strengthened, diminishes. So here are some ways that we can develop and then strengthen our love for God:

First we need to get to know him. King Benjamin asked, “For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?” (Mosiah 5:13)

If we want to love God, we need to spend time getting to know him. One way we can do that is by studying the scriptures and the words of the prophets. If we read the scriptures with the intent to know God better, we can learn about his desires, his teachings, the things he has said and done. We will better recognize all that he has done for us, and we will develop a greater love for him.

Another way we can get to know him is by communicating with him. Through meaningful prayer we can talk with him. We can recognize and thank him for the many blessings that he has given us. We can ask him questions. We can ask him for guidance. 

And since communication is always a two way street, we can do as President Nelson has repeatedly invited us to do and learn to “Hear him”. We can learn how to receive and recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and the personal revelation that he sends us. 

As we get to know God better, our understanding of him and the love he has for us will increase and so will our love for him. 

Another way we can strengthen our love for God is by serving him.  And the first and foremost way we can serve him is by keeping his commandments. 

After King Benjamin taught his people about the many things God had done for them for which they could never repay him, he concluded, “And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments;” (Mosiah 2:22 )

The apostle John quoted the Savior in saying “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) So we need to strive to do the things that God asks of us. When we love God with all our hearts, we will put the things he desires of us ahead of our own desires.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. . . . The many other things we give to God, however nice that may be of us, are actually things He has already given us, and He has loaned them to us. But when we begin to submit ourselves by letting our wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him. . . . There is a part of us that is ultimately sovereign, the mind and heart, where we really do decide which way to go and what to do. And when we submit to His will, then we’ve really given Him the one thing He asks of us.” [“Sharing Insights from My Life,” BYU devotional address, 12 January 1999]

When we submit to God’s will, to keeping his commandments, we show God that we love him. And the more we love him with all our heart, the easier it will become to keep his commandments.

President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.” 

Just as my interest in dating other people diminished as my love for Steven grew, our interest in doing things contrary to God’s will diminishes as our love for him grows.

King Benjamin taught another way that we can serve God, when he told his people, “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)

God loves all of his children and he wants the best for each of us. When we lighten someone’s load, give a shoulder to cry on, feed the hungry or clothe the naked, we are blessing God’s children and so we are serving God. 

Another way that we can grow to love the Lord with all our heart, is to develop common interests. We do that as we strive to become more like him

Elder Dieter F Uchtdorf said, “We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness— not out of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him.” We can try to be like Jesus, to act as he would if he were in our place, to see people as he sees them, to love them as he loves them.

Bruce R McConkie said, “Charity is love so centered in righteousness that the possessor has no aim or desire except for the eternal welfare of his own soul and for the souls of those around him.”

After the Savior’s resurrection he visited with his apostles and asked Simon Peter the same question three times, “Lovest thou me?” Peter assured him that he did love him, and the Savior told him, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.”

As we grow to love God and strive to become more like Him, His work to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man will become our own work and our own desire. Our love for our fellow men will grow and we will do all we can to bring souls to Christ.

Mormon concluded his words on Charity saying that we should pray for Charity: “that [we] may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:48) 

Elder Neal A Maxwell taught that what we love determines our desires, our desires lead to our thoughts and actions, and our thoughts and actions determine what we will become. What do we become or what do we gain when we love God with all our hearts? What’s in it for us?

In the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi had a dream in which he saw a tree whose fruit was sweet and desirable to make one happy. When Lehi’s son Nephi prayed to know the interpretation of the dream, an angel asked him, “Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And [he] answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. And [the angel] spake unto [him], saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.” 1 Nephi 11:21-23

Later when Nephi was teaching his brothers what he had learned, he explained to them that fruit of the “tree of life,... is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (I Nephi 15:36)

And in D&C 14:7 we learn that the greatest of all the gifts of God is eternal life, life like God has, a joyful life together with our families in God’s presence.

I know that God lives and that he loves each one of his children. I know that as we learn to love God with all our hearts, by getting to know him, by serving him, by striving to become like him, we will gain eternal life which is truly the greatest of all the gifts of God.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Candle Dance

 If you were going to compose a piece of music to represent some aspect of fire, what aspect would you choose? Would it be a raging forest fire? A blazing bonfire? A crackling campfire? I admit I was a bit overwhelmed with the idea of composing a fire song. I wanted something that had some image of fire. It had to show fire's energy, complexity and spontaneity, but I also wanted it to be something I could play. So I chose the image of a small flickering candle, with its glowing flame dancing brightly in the dark. 

Of the four elements I wrote songs for, this one was the most challenging for me. I came up with a basic melody only after much thought, but even then, figuring out where it would go from there was a challenge. More than once I scrapped everything I had besides that basic melody and started again. Here is what I have now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Here is the third piece of music that I came up with in the last few months.

When I first started working on "I Wish That I Could Fly", I called it my "air" song. "Listen to the River" started out as my "water" song. At about that point, I was asked if I planned to do songs for stone and fire, too. At first the idea seemed overwhelming, but when my first two pieces of music reached a certain point, I started considering what music for one of these other elements would sound like. 

Stone is solid and strong. It provides a foundation; it is a support; it can give shelter. With these thoughts in mind, I composed "Tomorrow Will Be Better". A sub-title for this song might be "So Lean Upon the Rock". When the storms of life beat down and seem overwhelming, take shelter on the lee side of the rock when you must, but plant yourself on a firm foundation and you will gain the strength you need to carry on. (See Helaman 5:12)

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Listen To The River

Shortly after I started composing "I Wish That I Could Fly", I began another song, which I call "Listen to the River". I found that working on two songs gave me a chance to alternate which I was working on. If I got frustrated with one, I could switch to the other, and when I came back to the first, I had a fresh perspective that helped me to move forward. The two songs had different time signatures, different keys and different moods that helped give me some variety as well.

The image in my head for this song was of someone relaxing on the bank of a river watching the light reflect off the ripples. Sometimes the water rushes over waterfalls and rapids, and sometimes it slows down and drifts, but it is always progressing on its journey to the sea.

Again, I am posting it here for your enjoyment, but I reserve the right to make changes in the future if I feel so inclined.😉

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

I Wish That I Could Fly

Some of you may know that I like music. For the last several years, I've been dabbling in music, arranging medleys of various songs, occasionally creating piano/viola duets that Hannah and I can play together, and just having fun. Some of these have included my Pioneer Medley, my Joseph Medley, and A Londonderry Duet.  

A few months ago, I challenged myself to compose some original music. I started with an idea, and then created the music around that idea. It has gone through many stages, growing and refining. I've put it aside for a while and worked on something else, but then I've come back to it and worked on it a bit more. I like where it is now enough to share it, but that doesn't mean that I might not change it in the future!

It's called "I Wish That I Could Fly" and that was the idea I started with, imagining that I could soar up into the sky and leave all my trials and problems behind me on the ground. The thought crossed my mind to add words, but ultimately I decided to leave it instrumental. 

You can listen to it and see the music here:

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Counting Our Blessings

Merry Christmas everyone!!! The year is drawing to a close, and I've been thinking about the many blessings we have received just in the last month.

Steven finally found a new job!!! It's with a company called IMA that has something to do with insurance. He wanted to start as soon as possible, but the person who will be his manager is on vacation so Steven won't start until January 4th. Due to COVID, it sounds like he will still primarily work from home, but when he can go to the office, it is right next door to Union Station downtown so the commute is far shorter than when he worked at MDC, and he can take public transportation (the company will pay for it) and be dropped essentially right on his doorstep. We have also been blessed these last three months that Steven has been unemployed to have had enough money in savings and food stored up that we've been able to pay our bills, have food to eat, and even have a nice Christmas. (It will still be a huge relief to have money coming in again!)

Hannah was able to come home for Christmas! She had gotten a flight home out of an airport in Provo, (who knew that Provo even had its own airport?!) but after a couple delays due to weather, her flight was cancelled at the last minute and the next flight to Denver from that airport wasn't scheduled for a few days. We scrambled to find her a flight out of Salt Lake, and she was blessed to be able to spend a bit more time with friends that evening and stay the night with her grandparents in Orem before flying home the next day. In this year of chaos, it is really nice to finish the year with our whole family together at home again.

Hannah and I were able to perform a musical number in church last Sunday. She played "O Holy Night" on her viola and I accompanied her on the piano. We didn't have much time to practice since she didn't get home until the Friday before the Sunday we performed. The musical number preceding ours was a piano solo, and the lid of the piano was up all the way, but I wanted to lower it before our performance, and in the process of lowering it, I managed to drop the whole piano lid on my hand. However, in spite of these unfortunate events, we were blessed that the musical number went really well, and my hand was only slightly bruised. Steven got to give a talk that Sunday as well, and that was really good too.

We have been blessed with good friends, good health and good weather. We have had opportunities to serve, from helping friends with re-landscaping their front yard to helping a grandmother sew doll clothes for her granddaughters. It was just announced that we can return to attending church every week rather than only on alternating Sundays as we have been the last few months. By some miracle, both of our high school students were able to pass all their classes this last semester (if only barely), in spite of the miseries and distractions of remote learning.

So while this year has had its struggles, through it all our family has truly been blessed. We end this year in a good place, and we continue in the hope that next year will be even better.