I recently spent 10 days (off and on) with my very best friend, Kelly.  Her daughter just had a baby and so Kelly came to stay with me while she jumped back and forth to take care of the new mommy.  Yes!  I am now close to Grandma status!!  It's so hard to believe.  Having my dear friend here all that time gave us plenty of time to talk, laugh and cry.  It was refreshing to be with someone who knows me and loves me anyway!

Kelly and I met at girls camp.  Our stake in California covered several towns, ours being half an hour apart. We were twelve.  I'm not even really sure what attracted me to the young women in her ward, but I just remember wanting to be around them.  After that we would see each other at stake events (including more girls camps) throughout the years.

And then came our fourth year at camp.  At that time, the 4th year campers were calling "Adventurers" and they would go on an overnight hike the weekend before girls camp.  Because Kelly and I had fall birthdays, we went the year behind our friends and the girls in our same grade at school.  I immediately latched onto her and the duration of the hike I talked and she listened! A match made in heaven.

I found the journal entries from that year at camp:

"So far it's been pretty fun.  A girl named Kelly is the only one from C.  We've sorta been palin' around together most of the time.  Actually, pretty much all of the time!  She's so great!...We walk around and talk, tease each other, and goof off.  We have this thing for kissing up to [our leaders].  We're gonna see who's the beset kisser-upper by the end of the week.  It's going to be loads of fun.  Anyway, Kelly's really fun to be around!" 

I remember that week!  The week Kelly and I became real friends.  At the end of that week I wrote:

"It was pretty hard to say good-bye to everyone, especially [our leaders] and Kelly.  Kelly and I were practically inseparable the whole week.  Now we're not together and it's actually kind of weird.  I hate it.  We're so much alike, yet we're so different!  She's so awesome and I love her so much.   I hope she realizes that despite how much I've joked with her and stuff."  

I feel the same today, after spending this last week together.  Having her here has made me wonder what it takes to build such a deep friendship.  We joke that what's kept our friendship going is that neither one of us will stop writing back!  But it's kind of true - - we have a private blog to prove it.  It's been through our writing to each other that we have built deep friendship and connection.


Any relationship you desire is worth the fight, the time and the energy it takes to get there.  According to Psychology Today, it takes three elements to build such a friendship:  investing time, accentuating the positive, and being helpful (give and take feels equal).  If we want that kind of friendship, we need to be that kind of friend.  I only pray that I can do those things to nurture my dearest friendship.

"Friends are the surest defense against one of the most ruthless killers:  isolation....one unshakeable imperative: If you want to live a long and healthy life, invest in friends, particularly in midlife (Life Reimagined, p. 88)."  It's during midlife that forging deep friendships is the hardest.  I've experienced that in my own life.  Currently, I still want to make connections, but where is the time to invest?  Midlife is also the most stressful period of our lives and when stress rises our inclination is to isolate, to say no to more - -  more things and more people.

"Animals actively work to build...friendship bonds.  They do it...to avoid being eaten by predators. Multiple studies...have shown that animals with the strongest social networks live longest...'What friendship is at the end of the day...is creating small-scale, intensely bonded groups that act as a protection [to life's] stresses (Psychology Today).'"  Probably another topic for another day, but this leads me to wonder why friendships are as vital (if not more so) as family bonds.  Maybe there is something about someone choosing to be in your life.

The greatest friendships are the ones who support our identities.  My greatest friendships have been forged with time, energy, and no strings attached.  There is mutual give and take.  There is sharing the good and the bad.  There is genuine joy when there is success or cause for celebration and there are tears shed when grief is inevitable.  There is the belief that someone loves Julia simply because she's Julia.  I want others around met to feel this same security.

Friendship has always been a lifeline for me.  I have been blessed to have good friends throughout my life, but it hasn't always been easy.  I think the main barrier to developing deep friendships is our fear of being truly vulnerable with another person (other than our spouses).  It can be scary to get that close.  Until recently, I didn't realize what a risk it can be to open yourself up to another person, hoping they will love in return.  It's in those moments when I cling even harder to this friendship that has lasted beyond any expectations.


After that first week of girls camp, Kelly sent me this poem, unknowingly a prophecy of what today would be:

"We're joined in a friendship that time cannot sever.
With bonds we have built we'll remain friends forever.
We're welded in spirit, attached by our hearts.
We're fused by the feeling that friendship imparts.
We're tied by emotions, connected by dreams.
Reinforced by our hopes, unified by extremes.
No longer a function of time or of space,
Our love is a substance that life won't replace."
 - Bruce B. Wilmer - 


Come Follow Me: Asking Questions

I have been thinking a lot about asking questions lately.  In preparation for a teacher training meeting awhile back, I asked each participant to read a conference talk and come with questions that came to mind.  During the meeting I asked what questions they had written.  I was a bit surprised when one sister gave a brief monologue about how beautiful the talk was but posed no question.

Likewise, in a recent lesson I was teaching, I asked the sisters to think of any questions that came to mind while we read a passage of scripture.  Again, no questions were posed, only comments about what the verses meant to them.  Maybe I didn't give them enough time or maybe it was the wrong setting for such a request, but I still found it interesting that nobody thought of a question.  

Both experiences caused me to think about the process of asking questions and how often we ask questions ourselves.  I, for one, can't say that I was born with an inquisitive nature.  My husband, on the other hand, questions everything!  As I have been married to him and had my own experiences, questions have become second nature to me.  When I read the scriptures, I will often find myself asking questions rather than highlighting inspirational verses.

Chapters 11-15 in 1 Nephi are replete with questions. Several questions are asked by Nephi, by an angel and by Laman and Lemuel.  I became intrigued by their questions and wondered how they were the same or different than the others.  As I created this table a few thoughts came to mind.

Angel's Questions
Nephi's Questions
Laman and Lemuel Questions
11:2 - What desirest thou?
11:1 - "after I had desired to know…I sat pondering"
(not a direct question, but there is sincere desire here)

11:3 - I desire to behold the things which my father saw

11:4 - Believest thou that thy father saw the tree of which he hath spoken?

11:10 - What desirest thou?

11:14 - What beholdest thou?

11:16 - Knowest thou the condescension of God?

11:21 - Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?

13:2 - What beholdest thou?

13:21 - Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

14:8 - Rememberest thou the covenants of the Father unto the house of Israel? 

15:7 We cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken (not direct question)

15:8 Have ye inquired of the Lord?

15:10 How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? 

15:10 How is it that ye will perish because of the hardness of your hearts? 

15:11 Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?

15:12 - …are we not broken off from the house of Israel, and are we not a branch of the house of Israel?

15:15 - …at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? 

15:15 - …at that day will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine?

15:15 - will they not come unto the true fold of God?

15:21 - What meaneth this thing which our father saw in a dream?  What meaneth the tree which he saw?

15:23 - What meaneth the rod of iron which our father saw, that led to the tree?

15:26 - What meaneth the river of water which our father saw?

15:31 - Doth this thing mean the torment of the body in the days of probation, or doth it mean the final state of the soul after the death of the temporal body, or doth it speak of the things which are temporal?

Questions Leading to Conversion
In the examples above there are different types of questions.  The angel asks Nephi what he wants, what he knows, what he sees and what he remembers.  These are important questions that seem to go straight to the heart.  The angel is taking what Nephi sees, what he already knows and building on that knowledge. "Yea, thou knowest I believe all the words of my father...blessed art thou Nephi, because thou believest int eh Son of the most high God; wherefore, thou shalt behold the things which thou has desired (11:5-6)." 

When Nephi is speaking to his brothers, he tries the same tactic, but it feels different.  We can almost hear his own frustrations with his brothers.  When they express their lack of understanding, he asks, "Don't you remember?" and "How can you be so hard in your hearts?"  Nephi is responding to the resistance he is getting from his brothers.

From the questions of Laman and Lemuel we gather that they are focusing on the things they don't know and understand,  a few times even mentioning that they don't or can't understand what is being taught.  Thus, they are frustrated and harden their hearts, shutting off the possibility of hearing truth.  At one point their demeanor seems to change and they start to ask for the meaning of the dream Lehi had.  These last questions appear to be sincere.  And yet, in the end they proclaim, "Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear."  Again, Laman and Lemuel choose to focus on the things they don't understand. 

There are a few things we learn from Laman and Lemuel's questions.  First, they allow their lack of understanding to diminish their ability to believe.  Elder Neil L. Anderson addressed this issue in his talk, You Know Enough.  He's speaks of those who are preparing for missionary work and don't feel they know enough to preach the gospel.  He simply tells them to focus on what they do know, the rest will come.  I have one daughter who will get easily frustrated if she doesn't understand something right away.  We need to take breaks, step back and baby step her through the things that are hard to understand.  I see Laman and Lemuel having this same stumbling block.  Nephi, on the other hand, admits that that he doesn't know all things and doesn't allow that lack of knowledge to inhibit him in learning more.  "And I said unto [the Spirit]: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things (11:17)."

The second thing we see with their questions is that they don't want to do the work it will take to truly find answers.  "Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened up to you."  It requires real action - - asking, seeking and knocking - - to come to the truth.  Michael A. Goodman, a professor at BYU has said,  "When Laman and Lemuel didn't understand Lehi's words, they would argue among themselves and even ask Nephi about their meaning; but they refused to exercise the faith and effort necessary to obtain an answer form the Lord (see 1 Nephi 15:8-9).  Their lament that 'the Lord maketh no such thing unto us' was not an indictment of God but their own lack of effort."

There is a third piece to asking questions that is necessary for coming to the knowledge of God.  On the surface, the questions Laman and Lemuel pose don't appear to be that different from Nephi's.  The tone, however, is what distinguishes Nephi's ability to understand and come to full conversion.  "Have ye inquired of the Lord?" Nephi asks his brothers.  This is the difference.  "Laman and Lemuel ultimately refused to humble themselves and turned away from the Lord," Goodman continues.  Therefore, all questions hinge on the heart of the asker.

Personal Application
We have been trying something new for our family scripture study this year.  In the past we would wake up bright and early, sit on the couch or lay on the floor, read a few verses each, say prayers and get on with our lives.  There wasn't much discussion happening.  It was a great way to wake up!  But this year, reading the Book of Mormon, we wanted something different.  Now we give the kids the reading block and read the assignment ourselves.  We asked them to come prepared with both thoughts and questions that come to mind as they read.  Their questions have been super insightful. As we create an atmosphere where asking questions is acceptable, we are able to see into the hearts of our children at a deeper level.  As we observe their responses to answers, we also catch a glimpse of whether or not they are truly becoming converted.  It's been fascinating and I hope it will continue throughout the year.  

I have grown to love questions!  My favorite group of questions in this scripture block come from 1 Nephi 15:15.  Nephi teaches his brothers about the Gentiles becoming a part of the House of Israel by understanding His true points of doctrine.  He then exclaims, "And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, at that day, will they not receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine?  Yeah, will they not come unto the true fold of God?"  Nephi is emphasizing, through questions, the joy and blessings that come from making covenants with Heavenly Father. It's like he's asking his brothers, "Don't you want that, too?"

Cecil O. Samuelson once said, "One of the key ways that we learn...throughout life is by asking questions (speeches.byu.edu, Nov. 13, 2001)."  As we ask our questions, we can be sure we are asking with sincerity when we humble ourselves and push through the stumbling blocks when we lack understanding.  The Spirit will ultimately teach us and guide us in our quest for truth.

 - - - - - - 

"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any things according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him."  
1 John 5:14-15


Come Follow Me: Be Not Ashamed

Lehi's Dream by Damir Krivenko

“And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.  And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building, and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.  And it was filled with people both old and young, both male and female, and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine, and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit,  And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost (1 Ne. 8:25-28, italics added).”

Reading about Lehi’s vision this time I was struck by how he tells this part of the story.  He is watching people take this fruit that makes one happy, is most sweet, fills our souls with exceedingly great joy, and is more desirable than any other (see 1 Ne. 8:4-12). As the people partake they look around “as if they are ashamed.”  Questions began to pop up in my mind.  Why did they look around in the first place?  If the fruit  is that delicious, what would cause them to feel ashamed?  I found this super fascinating because if something were that amazing, it doesn’t seem possible to be deterred from enjoying it.  Why do we allow ourselves to feel ashamed?  And on the flip side, I thought of those in the building:  who are they, why are they mocking, and why do they care if others are partaking of the fruit?  

It’s so easy to say, “It’s the world, we’re letting the big scary world out there affect us.”  We know that the great and spacious building is “the pride of the world,” but that pride is not exclusive to “them out there.”  We, in the Church, need to be cautious of allowing the great and spacious building to enter our church buildings.  

I recently had an experience that heightened my awareness of how the great and spacious building affects me.  I’ve never been drawn to the more outward temptations of the world - - drinking, smoking, partying, etc.  For me, the battle has always been much more internal.  A few months ago I had found a truth that resonated with me deeply.  I had come to understand my worth greater, my understanding of God’s love had increased, and my confidence had “waxed strong” because of this new insight and understanding.  I felt peace, settled and content.  I lived in this space for a couple of months.  And then, in a matter of about a week, two or three comments were made that negated the truth I had come to understand.  I thought, “If they are saying these things, then I must be wrong.”  The fact that there were multiple comments was also jarring (though even one probably would have done the trick).  I began to doubt and feel ashamed of what I had come to believe.  I became confused because the fruit tasted so good and yet these comments made me feel “wrong.”  My main trigger was that I did not want to appear above others or self-righteous because of the sweetness I had tasted.  I didn’t want others to feel “bad” because I felt “good.”  And so, I “fell away.”  I let go of that fruit and gave into the belief that I just couldn’t enjoy the fruit to the extent that I wanted to, so I dropped it altogether.  And I am still working my way back to the tree in regards to this particular situation. 

How often do we look to the world for validation of how we’re living?  The world is definitely getting louder.  “In the attitude of mocking” we see agendas being pushed in television shows and movies, social media comments meant to belittle and degrade, and tolerance being preached above the laws of God.  “...we continue to face distraction and deceptions, confusion  and commotion, enticements and temptations that attempt to pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following Him (Elder Neil L. Anderson, CR 2019).”  I have witnessed this same attitude amongst our members. We compare and compete and can belittle another’s faith in doing so.  I am a passionate person and have feared or felt ashamed for being “too good” or believing “too much.”  And yet, what I gained the most from reading the New Testament last year is from Paul‘s example of being unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul was bold and fearless, never shirked from the truths he believed.  He spoke with conviction and power, no matter the message he was sharing.  I want to be like Paul!

How do we keep ourselves from feeling ashamed?  How can we keep our eyes on sweetness of the fruit rather than looking around for that external validation?  Elder Neil L. Anderson spoke of this dream in his most recent conference talk.  He said,  “[The fruit] represents ’the love of God’ and proclaims our Heavenly Father’s marvelous plan of redemption...This precious fruit symbolizes the wondrous blessings of the Savior’s incomparable Atonement....Partaking of the fruit of the tree also symbolizes that we embrace the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel...”. In other words, we keep our eyes on the Savior by learning of Him and partaking of the goodness He offers through His atoning sacrifice the covenants we make.  

One of my favorite chapters of scripture is John 15.  “Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can yet, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abide the in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing.”  And then the Savior shares a beautiful treatise on love.  Without the Savior Jesus Christ as our focus we cannot feel that incomprehensible joy that is ours to partake.  Without the Savior Jesus Christ, we cannot produce the fruits necessary to bring others along on the journey.  

I’ve been pondering my experience from a couple months ago, wondering what exactly happened.  The short answer is:  I “looked around.”  I sought validation from outside sources and believed mocking fingers.  Whether the mocking was intentional or not, I allowed the voices from the building to be more influential than the sweetness of the fruit.  As one sister recently said, “To partake of good fruit we need to choose from the right source.”  Christ is that source.  As we continue to look to Him, to develop our relationship with Him and our Father in Heaven, and trust that the Holy Ghost will guide is with truth, we cannot be led away.  

“When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation...and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening - or not happening - in our lives.  Joy comes from and because of Him.  He is the source of all joy....If we look to the world..., we will never know joy....[Joy] is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ (President Russell M. Nelson, CR. Oct. 2016).”

 - - - - - 

“Keep your eyes and your hearts centered on the Savior Jesus Christ and the eternal joy that comes only through Him.”  
Elder Neil L. Anderson, CR Oct. 2019


A Mother’s Love

"The very essence of motherly love is to care for the child's growth, and that means to want the child's separation from herself...Two people who were one become separate. The mother must not only tolerate, she must wish and support the child's separation." 
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, 48

My daughter moved out this week.  Even though her apartment is just a few blocks, my heart still hurts.  It was especially difficult the first night when I went to bed.  That first night on your own can feel pretty lonely, right?  And then the next morning when I went to wake up all of the other kids - - her bedroom door at the end of the hallway remained closed.  My husband noticed the loss when she wasn’t there to greet him at the doorway with one of her “Brooky hugs.”  (She was always the most excited whenever he came home!)


"It is only at this stage that motherly love becomes such a difficult task, that it requires unselfishness, the ability to give everything and to want nothing but the happiness of the loved one....Only the really loving woman, the woman who is happier in giving than in taking, who is firmly rooted in her own existence, can be a loving mother when the child is in the process of separation." 
Erich Fromm, 48

I honestly can’t say that this stage is my favorite, or even easy for me.  No.  I’m not so great at transitions in general, but letting your kids go to forge their own lives is super hard for me!  I mean, once they are gone and I see they are doing well, it’s a bit “out of sight, out of mind;” but there are (and probably always will be) those moments when tears fill my eyes as I realize they aren’t ever coming back.  Sure, they will physically come back, but their childhood selves are gone forever the moment they leave.  And when they do come back, they aren’t the same.  It’s not the same. I'm not even the same.

"...the relationship of mother and child is by its very nature one of inequality, where one needs all the help, and the other gives it.  It is for this altruistic, unselfish character that motherly love has been considered the highest kind of love, and the most sacred of all emotional bonds."
Erich Fromm, 46-47

Ironically, on the morning Brooklynn was eager and anxious about moving out I was talking to my son several states away - - the only day of the week I get to talk to him.  I wanted the day to be all about her, but I also wanted him to know that I loved him that morning, too.  Meanwhile, my two-year old, right in front of me and with me all day every day, had decided he needed to be my priority that morning.  Motherhood was calling loud and clear!

Often a mother’s love is tied up in demands, right?  We clean, cook, counsel, correct, cuddle, comfort, create, cover.  This is our calling.  We show our love by doing these things, right? In my most recent yoga experience the instructor used a quote from Major League baseball coach Joe Madden as the basis for our practice.  In his introductory press conference of 2014 he said, “Don't ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.”  I have had a lot of pressure placed upon me in the last little while, to the point of wanting to cave in.  Motherhood demands have been placed paramount inside my personal pressure cooker, so much that I have forgotten the pleasure of it all.  I’m noticing that pressure seems to be magnified each time a child prepares to leave the home!  The fight becomes way too real!


"Motherly love...is unconditional affirmation of the child's life and needs...Affirmation of the child's life has two aspects; one is the absolute care and responsibility absolutely necessary for the preservation of the child's life and his growth.  The other aspect goes further...it is the attitude which instill in the child a love for living, which gives him the feeling it is good to be alive, it is good to be a little boy or girl, it is good to be on this earth!"  
Erich Fromm, 45-46

This week, as my daughter left the nest, I also felt joy.  I felt joy because I could see that Brooklynn felt "it [was] good to be alive."  The first night she was gone, Addie (my second daughter) was at work and my husband was out of town.  It was just me and the boys.  I had a moment of realization, “Now I can give these boys the time they need from me.”  There’s a lot of hype about big families - - that kids don’t get enough attention or that the younger kids get lost in the shuffle.  But this is a new moment for our family and I’m realizing as the older kids leave I am able (and available) to give more time to the younger ones.  It’s different.  Things will always be different.  But different isn’t bad.


"Mother's love for life is as infectious as her anxiety is." 
Erich Fromm, 46

Interestingly, as I release another child into the world, I feel a bit more free as well.  Oh, there is plenty of anxiety, wondering and worrying if she's doing well and waiting for the moment when she's not!  But, it is a beautiful gift to watch your child make that first step into true adulthood.  (Only, now I wait anxiously for my missionary son to come home and enter the real world again!) Yes, this transition has been bittersweet...and I'll take all of it if that what it means to love only as a mother can.

  - - - - - 

"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ 
than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child." 
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, CR Oct. 2015


Come Follow Me: Highly Favored of the Lord

This is one great paradox I have found in the scriptures - - the idea that Nephi, the brother of Jared, and others were highly favored of the Lord and yet God doesn't have favorites, does he? What does it mean to be highly favored of the Lord?  Are we not all highly favored? 

This question arises when we view the word favored in it's limited meaning:  favorite, best-liked, privileged, or preferred.  The Lord does not necessarily prefer one person over the other; however, He is bound to bless those who obey His commandments (D&C 82:10). 

But for further understanding, in the 1828 edition of Webster's dictionary we find some more applicable definitions to this word.  One word that struck out to me was that to favor is to support.  For example, "to be in favor of a party is to be disposed or inclined to support, to justify its proceedings and to promote its interests."  In light of the Lord's favor then, we can understand that as we make righteous decisions, He will support and promote our interests. He will help us in our righteous desires. 

Another definition we find is "an act of grace or good will."  In Matthew we learn that "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good (Matt. 5:45)."  The Lord is eager and desirous to pour down blessings upon all of His children.  When Nephi says he has been highly favored, I can imagine he is looking back on his life and recognizing the many blessings he had received.  We can all have that same gratitude as we look backwards and in the present moment. 

And lastly, (I liked this one), to favor someone is to "resemble in features."  A child might favor his mother or father, having similar features and mannerisms.  To be favored of the Lord could also mean that we are made in His image and are striving to become like Him in all that we do. 

Being chosen can also be a part of what it means to be favored of the Lord.  In 1 Nephi 1:20 we read, "But behold, I Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance." Again, this phrase "whom he hath chosen" can cause us to tailspin, wondering if we have been chosen.  When I read the word chosen, though, I think more about responsibility than I think about being favored.  And yet, they were chosen "because of their faith."

This thought can be portrayed in the fact that Mary was "favored of the Lord" to bring forth our Savior into the world.  Jospeh Smith has likewise said, "...we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participating in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory, 'the dispensation of the fulness of times, when God will gather together all things that are in heaven, and in all things that are upon the earth...' (TPJS, p. 231)."  To be chosen thus, means to have great responsibility in following the commandments of the God and helping Him bring to pass His work and glory.

Going back to Nephi, what did he do to become highly favored of the Lord?  He was told by his father, "...thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured (1 Ne. 3:6)."  He desired to know that the words of his father were true, cried unto the Lord and sought Him diligently (1 Ne. 2:16).  He remembered the miracles of their forefathers (1 Ne. 4:2; 5:15).  He obeyed both his father and God (1 Ne. 3:7; 4:18).  He kept and preserved the records (1 Nephi 6).  These are all things we can do to be considered highly favored of the Lord.

Other groups of people in the Book of Mormon were also highly favored because they humbled themselves and rid themselves of contention (Alma 48:20) and "they were perfectly upright and honest...firm in the faith of Jesus Christ (Alma 27:27, 30)."  Again, we can be found highly favored as we strive for these same characteristics. 

But it's not only in the doing of these things that we become highly favored.  Remember the definition that we are made in His image, that we are His children.  Again, the paradox: "Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one, he that is righteous is favored of God (1 Nephi 17:35).  God loves all of His children perfectly, not because they are perfect but because His love is perfect.  We are his children.

I am led to believe that whether or not we feel chosen or favored of the Lord is up to us, not Him.  We choose if we want to be chosen.  And the instant we choose to follow Jesus Christ, to bind ourselves to Him through covenants and ordinances, to repent and turn toward God, it is in that instant that we become highly favored.  The Lord will not withhold any blessings or opportunities just to prove a point.  When we choose Him, we become favored - - in that moment.

Brigham Young once said, "I know this day that I have favor with God; and I would not do anything that would deprive me of this for the world and all that is in it (JD 10:365)."  As we choose to seek God, we can all say this same thing with assurity.  Every morning I can wake up and declare this statement, with hopes that throughout the day I will remember Him and bless his children. Every day I can choose to be righteous and have the assurance that I, like Nephi, am highly favored of the Lord.


"The Art of...." Reading Challenge

Happy New Year!  

Some years I love to give myself a reading challenge for the year.  Rather than just making a book list for the year, I like to do this because it gets me to read books I might not normally read.  This year was No exception!

My Goal:  To read 12 books with “The Art of...” in the title.  I finished 10!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
I read this in one night.  It’s not my favorite genre and I got to the point where I just wanted to finish it. I’m not a fan of animal thinking/talking books. Surprisingly, I have found myself thinking about this book throughout the year.  Maybe it’s because the movie just happened to come out soon after I read the book.  I think this is a beautiful story or love and pain.  Relationships.

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm
This was one of my favorites of the year!  I read it in February, thinking it was fitting for Valentine’s Day.  Fromm showed me that love is much more complicated than we give it credit for.  It’s easy to say, “Just love them.”  But love is such a multifaceted word, with many as many ways to feel it as their are people in the world!  The greatest lesson I learned from this book was that a mother’s love is the deepest.  Because whereas in most relationships love is a coming together, motherly love is a pulling apart.  A mother’s love is most deeply shown when we allow our children to leave us.  I have experienced that feeling tremendously these last couple of years as my kids have become adolescents and begun to leave the home.  It is heart wrenching for me!  I highly recommend this book.

The Hidden Art of Homemaking by Edith Schaeffer
This is a hidden treasure I’m sad I didn’t read sooner.  This book brings life into mothering and homemaking.  Schaeffer shows how joy can be brought into ever aspect of a homemaker’s life, especially in the seemingly monotonous and mundane tasks.  I would recommend this to every young mother.

Life Reimagined:  The Art and Science of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
I was browsing the library shelves for a different book when this one popped out at me.  Did you know there are little to no books written on midlife?  Yeah, we joke about having a midlife crisis, but we don’t take the time (as a society) to fully realize how true that can be.  Whereas there is plenty written and talked about for the younger and the older ages, midlifers (between the ages of 40-65) are expected to just manage it all!  This is the busiest and most stressful time in life and we have a hard time taking care of ourselves as we are taking care of both the young and the old.  And yet, in order to not only survive this stage but to thrive in the next, we need to cling to friendships, take care of our health, find meaning and purpose, and enjoy the journey.  This book was timely just as I enter (and have felt the keen pressures) of this stage myself.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
Written by a husband (musician) and a wife (psychologist) this is a beautiful book about discovering creativity by opening ourselves up to all possibilities rather than sticking inside the box.  Full of precious quotes and little gems, I felt inspired to let go of social norms and “have tos” to become who I am truly meant to be.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
While reading this book I kept saying how beautiful it was (ask my dear friend, Kelly).  And it did feel beautiful while reading it.  Afterwards I wondered why I had liked it so much, though.  Maybe I just didn’t love the ending.  Maybe when I expected a happy ending, all I felt was sadness.  It was also a bit unnecessarily graphic in sexual content.  I really don’t know how I feel a bout this book.

The Art of Power by Thich Nhat Hanh
I read this book in preparation for a presentation I gave to youth in September.  Like The Art of Loving, this book helped me to see how power is also a word full of deeper meaning than we give it credit for. With a focus on mindfulness, I learned that power is in the present moment and when we are being our most authentic selves.

The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon
This book was wonderful!  I first listened to a podcast interview of the author on Leading Saints and then decided to read the book.  It’s funny how a seemingly simple concept can be so forgotten in our current society.  Do we know our neighbors?  Do we stop and visit with them or just wave and keep on driving?  I have personally found so much joy in “walking my neighborhood.”  When I walk rather than drive, I almost always run into somebody to visit.  I find joy in knowing who I’m mingling with at church.  Again, what may seem like common knowledge has become a lost art for sure and this book is purposeful and necessary.

The Lost Art of Gratitude by Alexander McCall Smith
Meh.  Not super great.  I don’t really love this author.  I’ve tried!  And modern literature just doesn’t seem to do much for me.  This book was pretty pointless about a girl who got mixed up in the drama of a woman who’d had an affair.  I thought it’s as going to be a mystery.  Not the case.  Sorely disappointed.

The Art of Remembering by Alison Ragsdale
A broken book for sure.  This was depressing.  It had the same elements as the movie, “The Vow,” if you’ve seen that one.  Again, I’m not sure how I feel about this book.  I have the opposite reaction to this book than I had with the Heartbeats book.  I didn’t love it as I read it, but afterwards I can’t say I hated it.  It’s a story about love and lost love. Memory and lost memory. Pain. Marriage. Life.  There is a bit of language.   I just don’t know what else to say about this one.

Overall consensus:  I loved the nonfiction more than the fiction on this list.  I would love to continue reading more Art of... books, but I plan on reading only a few next year rather than one a month.  I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and found some great books to add to my personal library.


Come Follow Me: A God of Miracles

"He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.  He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants..."  - - Testimony of Joseph Smith - - 

"Have miracles ceased upon the land?"

This is the question posed in the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ. This book tells the story of a people in America, a family and the trials and triumphs of their posterity.  In this great book of scripture the gospel of Jesus Christ is clarified, even by Christ Himself when He visits the people in America after His crucifixion. This book is filled with testimonies of prophets and other followers of Jesus Christ, though many had not seen Him personally.  This book is written for the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile, to show the covenants we can make with our God, and to communicate the reality of a Savior, even Jesus Christ.

As I read the title page of the Book of Mormon, I was struck by the phrase: "...to come forth in due time..."  Jacob teaches us that the words will be preserved until the Lord sees fit to reveal them to the children of men (2 Ne. 27:22). Mormon also tells us that the words of the prophets "shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away... (Mormon 8:26)." Yet, we know that God is a God of miracles, "And I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today and forever...(2 Ne. 27:23)."  And the Book of Mormon coming forth, especially the way it came through a young 14 year old boy, is miraculous indeed!  Because of this great work of scripture, the doctrines taught in the Old and New Testaments are clarified and verified for, "in the mouth of two or three witnesses the word shall be established (2 Cor. 13:1)." Another great blessing and miracle to behold!

In the testimonies of the three witnesses, they claim: "That we, through the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates...and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man....and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true (italics added)."  To me these men are testifying of the miracle of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.  For it is by faith that miracles are brought to pass.

Continuing with verse 23 in 2 Nephi 27, Jacob declares, "...and I work not unto the children of men save it be according to their faith."  I can't imagine any greater faith than that exhibited by Joseph Smith when, as a young boy, he knelt in prayer to ask the God he knew which church he was to join.  This faith, spurred on by a reading of the scriptures and seeking with an earnest heart, led to the miraculous vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ.  This vision then led to more miracles - the keystone being the translation of the Book of Mormon.

There are many who will say miracles have ceased, that Christ performed His only miracles before and while living upon the earth.  The beloved prophet whose name graces this book of scripture proclaimed:

And now, O all ye that have imagined up unto yourself a god who can do no miracles, I would ask of you, have all these things passed, of which I have spoken?  Has the end come yet?  Behold I say unto you, Nay; and God has not ceased to be a God of miracles. 
Behold, are not the things that God hath wrought marvelous in our eyes?  Yea, and who can comprehend the marvelous works of God? 
Who shall say that it is not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?
And who shall say that Jesus did not do many mighty miracles?  And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.
And there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being?  And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. 

For any, then, who doubt the reality of the Book of Mormon as an inspired work, I ask the question: Why not?  If God could bring forth revelation upon revelation to the ancient prophets, why could he not do so now? The only reason God wouldn't work miracles today is because of a lack of faith on our part.  For, "...the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust (Mormon 9:20)."

But I guess it's hard to believe in miracles in real time.  Even Gideon had a hard time believing the angel who told him the Lord would help him fight a battle because he asked, "Oh, my Lord, if the Lord be with us, whey then is all this befallen us?  and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us from Egypt?' (Judges 6:13)."  Maybe it's easier to believe things in hindsight. How, then, can we acknowledge and bring forth miracles into our own lives today?

Maybe we first need to ask, "What is a miracle?"  In Webster's 1828 Dictionary we learn that miracles are literally "a wonder or wonderful thing!"  Theologically, of course, there is more involved with intervention from Diety to make something happen that normally would not happen.  And the LDS definition states that a miracle is "an extraordinary event caused by God." When I started to list some miracles I've witnessed - - the birth of seven children, keeping faith amidst trials, a breathtaking sunset, a dear loved one returning to the gospel, and others - - I asked myself, "What is the difference between a miracle and a tender mercy or a simple blessing from the Lord?"

In reading Elder David A. Bednar's talk on tender mercies, I interpreted them to be gentle gifts from God, testifying to us of his reality in a very individual and personal way.  Elder Bednar states, "I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord's tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ."  Tender mercies are simple nudges and quiet affirmations that God is aware of us.  Miracles, however, are described more as events. And though "faithfulness, obedience and humility invite tender mercies into our lives," it is by faith that miracles are wrought in our lives.

And yet, even as I type that I wonder if there is much of a difference.  Maybe for us to start seeing and believing miracles exist, we need to start acknowledging them when they happen in our lives.  Maybe acting on faith to bring about great miracles in our lives begins with expressing gratitude for the small examples we witness daily, while working for and hoping for bigger miracles to happen in the future.  For His course is "one eternal round" (see Alma 7:20; Alma 37:12; 1 Nephi 10:19; and Doctrine & Covenants 35:1)."  We could all do well to testify as David, "Thou art the God that doest wonders (Ps. 77:14)."

This year we can start by reading the Book of Mormon and asking "Is this true?" What a great miracle it is to gain a testimony of the Living Christ and to believe in the words of those who testify of Him.  And let us remember that the acknowledging the small, daily miracles in our lives will only increase our understanding, awe and belief in the greatest miracle given to us all:  The Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.

 - - - - - - - 

"When we are personal witnesses to these wonders which God performs, it should increase our respect and love for him; it should improve the way we behave.  We will live better and love more if we will remember that.  We are miracles in our own right, every one of us, and the resurrected Son of God is the greatest miracle of all.  He is, indeed, the miracle of miracles, and every day of his life he gave evidence of it.  We should try to follow after him in that example." 
 - President Howard W. Hunter, CR April 1989 - 

See Also: The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life be like Without It? - Russell M. Nelson


What Christmas Means to Me

A mother. Young. Fair. Innocent. Mild.
Bringing into this world a humble, small child.
Her eyes must have shone with honor and fear.
Her heart must have felt her Father so near.

A father. Strong. Faithful. Noble. Kind.
To a woman with child himself he would bind.
Not knowing, yet knowing, all that would be.
His mind must have pondered the Child he’d see.

A Child. Helpless. Lovely. Precious. Small.
Coming to this world to save one and all.
Dependent on mother and father, true.
Who could imagine the things He would do.

Shepards. Awed. Wondering. Faithful. Sweet.
Leading their flocks to the Child they’d meet.
Confused, yet aware, of the witness they’d be.
Hearts must have swelled as they knelt on their knee.

Wise men. Traveling. Seeking. Knowing.
Searching the heav’ns for the star that was glowing.
Though distance and years would pass them by.
They pressed on in earnest, their eyes to the sky.

Disciples. Waiting. Hopeful. Strong. Bound.
Determined to follow the God they have found.
We struggle and climb, hearts heavy and light.
Remembering the Joy who was born on that night.

Merry Christmas!


Caring too Much is Going to Kill Me!

It’s been two years of a highly stressful calling.  Many times I have explored the fact that maybe I am the one making this calling as stressful as it is.  I’ve tried to alleviate the pressure - - more delegation, more communication, less expectations.  But none of it seems to work.  My heart is too full of the sadness, the pain, the frustrations, the struggles to fully relax and put my mind at ease.

I had a couple of epiphanies today, though.  The first thought came while listening to a podcast episode by Jody Moore.  She was talking about the relationship we have with our life.  She explained we can make up the story we tell and the story we believe.  For instance, instead of grumbling about how stressful my calling is (and therefore my life!), I can focus on the immense growth I am receiving by serving in this capacity.  I have moments when I realize that I will be sad when his part of my life is over.  I’ve always said, “I don’t want to get to heaven and wish I’d enjoyed my time on earth more.”  We have one opportunity!  I want it to be great.  And that’s how I want to feel about this calling.  Yes, there are moments of exhaustion; moments where I wish I had time for other things, but there are also experiences I wouldn’t trade as I practice serving as the Savior would. I can focus on that!

Another thought I had that I have been so worried about “doing” this calling “right” so much that I have forgotten to just be ME!  I’ve been so focused on the stress, trying to balance home life and calling, and struggling to please everyone that I have forgotten how wonderful I am at certain things.  For instance, I love having people over!  I love gathering together and talking and laughing.  I’m a FUN person.  But, sadly, I think that fun part of me is less utilized than it can be.  So, I want that back! I want more ward parties.  I want to have fun.  I want to become close-knit and feel that our ward is more than a bunch of people going to church together, but that we truly area family.

And so the title of my post.  I care too much.  I care too much about making everyone happy that I have forgotten to do so myself.  I care too much to make the problems in our ward go away, to fix all the kinks, that I have forgotten to just enjoy where I am.  Right. Now. I also care about building relationships and helping others feel great about who they are.  I can only really do that, though, if I live and love myself.

They say that strengths and weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin.  Because I care too much, I am able to love, empathize, reach out and uplift.  If I focus on the weak side of the coin - - the part that says I have to fix all the hurt in the world (or the ward) - - I will feel exhausted and it will kill me.

Erich Fromm has described Care as one of the elements of the “active character of love.”  He says, “Love is the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love....One loves that for which one labors, and one labors for that which he loves (Art of Loving, pp. 25-26).”  I can choose to love and to labor for that which I love.

So today I commit to CARE.  To care ENOUGH, not too much.

 - - - - -

“Our Lord and Savior ministered personally to the people, lifting the downtrodden, giving hope to the discouraged, and seeking out the lost. By His words and actions, He showed the people that He loved and understood and appreciated them. He recognized the divine nature and eternal worth of each individual....Like our Savior, as Church leaders we should love the people we serve, showing care and concern for each one individually. May the Lord bless us in the sacred responsibility He has given us is my prayer...” 
 - Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, June 2006 - 


Meeting a Mentor

Years ago I had a question:  What is the difference between a weakness and a sin?  Usually, when I ask a comparison question like this I’m really asking, “How do these two things feel different?”
After visiting with a friend on the subject, she saw this book in a bookstore and told me about it.  I picked it up instantly.  I still remember the moment I started to read.  We were going on a trip and I was sitting in the passenger’s seat.  As I read the first page or two, I began to sob.  This was my answer!  This book was exactly what I needed to overcome my feelings of perfectionism and self-doubt.  This book changed my life.

Fast forward several years.  By this time I had read a couple of other books by the author, listened to some talks she’d given, and found an article or two.  Wendy Ulrich had definitely become a favorite of mine.  Then she published, Let God Love You.  The first time I read it I thought, “This is amazing!" (Everything she writes is amazing!).  However, the first time I read, I didn’t implement the lessons into my life very well.  A few years later, after experiencing some depression and struggles, I picked up the book again.  Only this time I worked on the exercises in the back of the book.  I read it in one day and by the time my husband came home from work I was changed!  The poor man didn’t know how to respond to the tears and emotions of liberation I was feeling!  Again, this woman had literally changed my life!

Most recently I have been serving as Relief Society President.  With all of the changes and revelation that has been falling from heaven through our leaders, there was one change that has caused me some struggle.  Without going into too much detail, the premise is that the Relief Society and the Elders Quorum are to work more closely together.  Working out the details on what that means can be a little tricky.  I was so excited to hear Wendy Ulrich had published another book and bought Live up to Our Privileges right away.  I was fascinated with what I was reading and loved how she was breaking down each priesthood office, explaining their responsibilities and the meaning for women of each office.  Somehow, other things got in the way (children, calling, life!) and I set the book aside.  As the wrestle with the Elders Quorum and Relief Society situation became a bit more intense, I was prompted to pick up Wendy’s book.  She did it again!  Her words gave me the confidence to move forward and continue on the path of figuring out what it really means to work under priesthood authority...together!

Saturday, November 16th, was a beautiful day when I finally had the opportunity to meet this woman who has had such an impact on my life.  I couldn’t hold back the tears while we visited.  I told her, “If I believed in hero worship, you would be my hero.”  I really did act a bit ridiculous about meeting her.  Afterwards, I realized I didn’t even think to get a picture with her! (I guess another meeting is in order.)

Here’s the thing:  some of my greatest mentors have been authors.  Wendy Ulrich has been one of those mentors in my life.  I tell friends, “She’s the LDS version of Brene Brown!”   Nearly everything I have read has resonated with me in such a way that helps me sort out my emotions and clarifies gospel principles.  She has helped me feel the difference between what we talk about in church and how we apply that teaching to our hearts.  Her words have increased my aspirations to write, to learn, to share and to grow closer to my Father in Heaven.

And so I say,  “Thank you, Wendy.  Thank you for putting your thoughts and research into writing so that women like me can be blessed by them. Thank you for being a champion for women and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for letting me harass you at the conference.  And thank you for the book (so far so good).  You truly are as amazing in person as you are in your writings. I love you!”

 - - - - - - -

“By right of our covenant relationship with God, our willing obedience, and our humble petitions, we are entitled to [His] grace, this enabling power of God as our Father, Jesus as our Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost as our Comforter.  Their grace is sufficient to compensate for every human sin and weakness, to make us holy and without spot, and this, in the humble words of Nephi, ‘notwithstanding [our] weakness.'"
 - Wendy Ulrich - 

More Books By Wendy Ulrich


Worth vs. Worthiness

Sitting in church the other day I was struck by the word "worthiness" during the sacrament.  I think we are very good at confusing worth and worthiness.  And it's not hard to see why when we read the following definitions:

Worth:  Value; that quality of a thing which renders it useful, or which will produce and equivalent godo in some other hting; value of mental qualities; excellence; virtue; usefulness; importance; valuable qualities. 

Worthy/Worthiness:  Deserving; such as merits; having wroth or excellence; equivalent; possessing worth or excellence of qualities; virtuous; estimable; suitable; either in a good o bad sense; equal in value. 

However, Joy D. Jones recently defined the difference between these two words: 

Let me point out the need to differentiate between two critical words:  wroth and worthiness.  They are not the same.  Spiritual worth means to value ourselves the way Heavenly Father values us, not as the world values us.  Our worth was determined before we ever came to this earth.  "God's love is invite and will endure forever."  

On the other hand, worthiness is achieved through obedience.  If we sin, we are less worthy, but we're never worth less!  We continue to repent and strive to be like Jesus with our worth in tact.  As President Brigham Young taught: "The least, the most inferior spirit now upon the earth...is wroth worlds."  No matter what, we always have wroth in the eyes of our Heavenly Father (Value Beyond Measure, Oct. 2017).

The key difference then is that worthiness is something we gain, while to be worthy is an eternal part of our divine nature. 


We can gain insight on worthiness from a couple of our sacramental hymns:

Purify our hearts, Our Savior
Let us go not far astray,
That we may be counted worthy
Of thy Spirit day by day. 
Hymn 183 In Remembrance of they Suffering

To be like thee!  I lift my eyes
From earth below toward heav'n above, 
That i may learn from vaulted skies
How I my worthiness can prove. 
Hymn 171 With Humble Heart

Yes, worthiness is something we can prove.  We entered into mortality so that we could proven (Abraham 3:25).   And yet, oftentimes we believe our worth is determined by our worthiness. 

Elder Dale G. Renlund has taught that we don't earn blessings, we qualify for them (CR April 2019).  Likewise, in one of President Henry B. Eyring's latest talks he states that "the holiness we seek is a gift from a loving God, granted over time, after all we can do (CR Oct. 2019)."  This again suggests that our worthiness is based on obedience, not our identity.  Worth, however, is eternally ours. 


Wendy Ulrich explains worth this way: 

Anciently, the mercy seat was covered both inside and out with fine gold workmanship, suggesting both the blazing glory of God and the supreme inner worth of every human soul.  This is not a derivative worth based merely on our usefulness or even our goodness.  It is our inherent worth, to which Christ testifies when he claims us as his seed and promises us his mercy...Despite outward displays of obedience, we have little sense of our worth.  Critical enemy voices, now internalized, rob us of the mercy seat that belongs within (The Temple Experience, pp. 220-221).

President Thomas S. Monson stated perfectly, "The worth of a soul is its capacity to become as God (quoted by Joy D. Jones)." 

Our lessons in Relief Society can often leave us feeling down on ourselves rather than stronger.  We use the room as a place to dwell on our "guilt" as mothers and women rather than using the doctrines of the gospel to edify all.  Relief Society is a place where we need to be learning our divine worth, not bemoaning our unworthiness.  We often mistake self-degradations for humility. 

To this Sister Jones encourages, "Thinking small about ourselves does not serve us well.  Instead it holds us back.  If the love we feel for the Savior and what He did for us is greater than the energy we give to weaknesses, self-doubts, or bad habits, then He will help us overcome the things which cause suffering in our lives.  He saves us from ourselves."  

I love that!  "He saves us from ourselves!"  Thinking small holds us back!  And so we must come to recognize that knowing our worth propels us forward as we seek to live more worthily.  An important distinction I hope to internalize more fully in my own life.  

 - - - - - - - 

Sisters, let's not be confused about who we are!  While it is often easier to be spiritually passive than it is to put forth the spiritual effort to remember and embrace our divine identity, we cannot afford that indulgence in these latter days.  
 - - Joy D. Jones - - 
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