There is so much controversy in the world today!  The topics of a pandemic, public education, economic downfall, racism, religious freedom, refugees and immigration, and global unrest permeate every conversation with varying viewpoints on every side.  Oftentimes it’s difficult to discern the truth amidst all the cacophony of voices!  In social media realms there is little curiosity and much judgment, little understanding and much criticism.  In short, I am seeing a lack of compassion. 

What is Compassion? 

Compassion is “suffering with another...a sensation of sorrow excited but he distress or misfortunes of another....Compassion is a mixed passion compounded of love and sorrow.”  A lot has been said in the world about empathy and I’ve asked myself what is the difference between compassion and empathy.  “While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.”  (I would add the desire to understand in this definition as well.) 

I was particularly moved by the compassion in Alma during our Come, Follow Me studies the past two weeks.  Alma and Amulek are doing the hard work of teaching the Zoramites — an apostate sect of Nephites (Alma 30:8). They were a hardened group of people who worshipped their own righteousness more than God (Alma 31:15-18).  They mocked, belittled, and shunned anything that was taught by others.  

What is our typical reaction when we come across such individuals?  Maybe we turn away, unsure of how to respond.  Maybe we ridicule and go to our own place of self-righteous judgment.  Maybe we criticize and argue with them, trying to convince them of the error of their ways.  (I'll admit, I've been guilty of all such responses.) Very seldom do we see such behavior treated with compassion.  And yet that is exactly what Alma shows us. 

“Now it came to pass that after the end of Korihor, Alma having received tidings that the Zoramites were perverting they ays of the Lord...his heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people.  For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people; therefore his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites (Alma 31:1-2).”  Notice that the words used is “sorrowful” — not judgmental, not critical, not angry — sorrowful.  His heart was grieved because of the loss and hardness of his brethren. This shows Alma’s deep compassion. 

Later in the chapter we read Alma’s prayer: 
“O, Lord God, how long wilt thou suffer that such wickedness and infidelity shall be among this people?  O Lord, wilt thou give me strength, that I may bear with mine infirmities.  For I am infirm, and such wickedness among this people doth pain my soul.  O Lord, my heart is exceedingly sorrowful; wilt thou comfort my soul in Christ (31:35-36).” 

Again see the heartache.  Why is Alma so grieved about this people, the Zoramites?  Why does he care?  Why does it matter to him?  These people were once his brothers and sisters in the gospel.  He has great care and love for them.  Thus, his sorrow is founded in his relationship with them and with God.  His desire is to bring them back to the knowledge and understanding of the loving God they once knew.  His heart as filled with pain because of his compassion toward them. 

One last verse: 
“Now Alma, being grieved for the iniquity of his people, yea for the wars, and the bloodshed s, and the contentions which were among them; and having been to declare the word...among all the people in every city; and seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful (Alma 35:15).” 

Again these words:  sorrowful, grieved.  I personally do not hear feelings of judgement in these words.  What in Alma is a great compassion and desire for the welfare of his brethren — despite their wickedness.  We all can learn from this great example of Alma and show compassion toward our brethren, toward all humankind.  

When Christ was on the earth, teaching  and preaching unto the people (as was Alma), “when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd (Matt. 9:36).”  When we foster such compassion in our hearts we will not longer desire to be right or to condemn; rather, we will be driven to love and serve our neighbors, listen to understand, and to express kindness in a world that is urging us to do the opposite.  We can foster such compassion by starting our day with God in mind, pausing before speaking, and pulling from our own experiences while practicing our ability to relate to one another.  

This earth life is hard enough as it is without the constant turmoil and contention brewing.  We owe it to ourselves and our children to create an environment, a culture if you will, of compassion. There is no better time than today to start the trend! 

 - - - - - - 

In a very real way, the Master speaks to us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.’ Let us listen for His knock.  Let us open the door of our hearts, that He—the living example of true compassion—may enter...”
- Thomas S. Monson, April 2001 - 


Do the Hard Work

Self-awareness and change is hard work.

Marriage is hard work.

Motherhood is hard work.

Life is hard work.

I think at some point we forget this truth.  Somewhere in our cultural dialogue, we have forgotten what it means to do the hard work, to struggle, and to finish what we began.  

My dad is the one who taught me about hard work. You set your eye on the goal and then get to work.    You finish the job.  Being an avid reader, I remember many times, “Get your nose out of that book and look up.”  He always wanted me to be aware of the beauty around me, to be aware of what was right in front of me.  My dad is struggling with cancer.  He has done the hard work, he continues to do the hard work of enduring to the end. 

That’s the personal note on this subject.  Now let’s talk about what it means to do the hard work. 

In the scripture we are taught to “work out your own salvation (Phil. 2:12).”  Amulek reiterates this instruction when teaching the humble Zoramites, “...and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God... (Alma 34:37).”  Many might use this verse to imply that the work of receiving salvation is all on our shoulders. Yes, there is work in keeping the commandments, but more important is the work of building a relationship with God and trusting in His grace for the empowerment, enlightenment and strength needed to do the work He requires.  

I like how Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke about our work with God.  He said: 

Our Heavenly Father has described His vast plan for His children by saying, ‘Behold, this is my work and my glory —to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ Consider the significance of the Lord’s use of the word work.  What He is doing so lovingly and redemptively is, nevertheless, work —even for Him!  We, likewise, speak of ‘working out our salvation,’ of the ‘law of the harvest,’ and of the ‘sweat of the brow.’  There are not idle phrases.  Instead, they underscore the importance of work.  In fact...work is always a spiritual necessity even if, for some, work is not an economic necessity. 

The Lord has a work.  We as mothers, wives, and daughters of God have a work.  It is a spiritual necessity to do that work. However, hard work does not need to have negative connotation.  Notice in Elder Maxwell’s quote he said that the Lord is doing the work lovingly and redemptively.  We can do our work in that same manner, showing ourselves the compassion we need in order to do the work being asked of us with that same love.  

M. Catherine Thomas gives us some insight into how we can do such work:

I encourage you to design your own spiritual practice for training your mind, things you want to rain yourself to do every day in order to raise your spiritual energy level, in addition, of course, to your prayer and scripture.  What you repeatedly practice I’ll become your inclination....Setting out to create new mental habits is something like a spacecraft trying to escape the force of gravity—at first it takes quite a bit of effort, and then you break free, and it almost runs itself (The God Seed, pp 208-209).

How many of you set out to be mothers with joy, anticipation, a little nervousness but mostly excitement?  How many of you, at some point in your mothering, realized that it was a lot harder than you had originally anticipated?  Motherhood burn out is a real thing!  It takes work to keep redemptive love as a focus, not only toward your children and spouse, but also toward ourselves!  And yet, the work of a mother is the same work God has —to bring our children to Christ.  What better mission is there than that!?  Making it a priority to create a spiritual practice for ourselves is vital in fulfilling this great mission.  

Yes, these roles we play in life can be exhausting, but with the Lord and His mission as our focus we have the capacity to find joy in motherhood, joy in self-discovery, joy in marriage and joy in life!  Then we can move forward with a steadfastness in Christ and do the hard work required of us!  Our children deserve mothers who will do that hard work.  

 - - - - - - 

Put your shoulder to the wheel; push along,
Do your duty with a heart full of song. 
We all have work; let no one shirk.
Put your shoulder to the wheel. 


Light Your Candle, Light Your World

We recently passed our family's birthday season -- 4 birthdays in three weeks and the birthday of our home (5 years in Rexburg!).  Oh, and throw Father's Day into that mix and we have a month-long party!  With each celebration came some candles and an opportunity to celebrate the life of each beautiful person. 

Elder L. Tom Perry once spoke of his childhood birthdays, how they were lavished with attention and given free reign on their special day.  He said, "This attention was a way of showing us that we were wanted and needed and had the complete love and support of our family."  As Elder Perry aged, he starting to look at birthdays differently.  "I understand better each day the blessings of knowing that I am a child of God.  What tremendous power and potential the Lord has blessed each of his children with (BYU Speeches, Aug. 3, 1980)."

Do we recognize this "tremendous power and potential" in ourselves?  Do we give ourselves time to believe the truth of this statement?  Are we willing to light our candles, to light up our world?  

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold.
There is a Spirit who brings fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home. 

Carry your candle, run to the darkness;
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn;
Hold out your candle for all to see it.
Take your candle, and go light your world.*

Have you watched a child recently, really watched him?  Our three-year-old, Donovan, is such a delight!  His smile lights up the room, his energy is contagious, and his joy is full.  He is a bright light.  Children are bright lights because they have not yet been shown that they are not. I don't think it's a coincidence that our children learn the song, "I am a Child of God" at a young age.  They sing it when they believe it.  Why do we stop believing it?   Somehow, sometimes, as we continue on our mortal journey, our lights may begin to dim. 

Alicia Keys has something to say about that.  She writes:

At some point during our conversation...it dawned on me...How I’d dimmed my light so it wouldn’t blind others or make them uncomfortable around me... rather than basking in teh glow of those miracles, I shrank.  As certain moments I even dumbed myself down or chose not to talk about the many blessings I’d received.  I feared that if I shared my experience in its entirety, if I took the lid off my joy, it would push others away or make them feel small. … Some part of my spirit was always signing up for less because that is what I believed I deserved.  For many years, I thought I was just being modest.  I never wanted to come across self-absorbed, or as someone with a big head.  It’s how we women are brought up: Don’t ask for more. Don’t’ take credit.  Don’t outshine others.  But there on the couch, it hit me that my alleged modesty was just a disguise—a mask for a lack of self-worth.”  
— Alicia Keys, More Myself pp. 247-248

Have any of you felt that you needed to dim your light so others wouldn't feel uncomfortable? I have. 

Have you had a hard time celebrating the success of others because it somehow dims your light?  I have.  

Do you sometimes believe you are just being modest, when in reality you are dumbing yourself down? I do.  

I believe this is a common struggle among all human beings! 

I believe we can do better.  

I believe I can do better.  

We each have a light to shine.  The Lord, Jesus Christ taught, "Ye are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;  and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:14-16)."

I remember an instance when I shared a dream of mine with a group of friends.  There was something I wanted to do in my life and I explained with great detail what that was.  It was interesting to watch the dreaming become infectious.  Suddenly the room was filled with dreams and desires with a whole lot of support and encouragement going around.  It was energizing! What I learned in that moment was that when we share a piece of ourselves others feel the freedom to do the same.  When we shine our light, "it giveth light unto all that are in the house."  

Shining our light is not for our own gratification or so that we can feel good about ourselves.  Shining our light is about igniting the light in others!  So, please!  Do not allow the adversary (and the many voices in the world) to dim your light! It's not worth it.  Your world needs you to shine! 

We are a family whose hearts are blazing, 
So let's raise our candles and light up the sky.
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus, 
Make us a beacon in darkest times.

Carry your candle, run to the darkness;
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn;
Hold out your candle for all to see it.
Take your candle, and go light your world. *

 - - - - - - -

"The Lord's invitation to let our light so shine is not just about randomly waving a beam of light and making the world generally brighter.  It is about focusing our light so others may see the way to Christ."                                              Bonnie H. Cordon

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