I seem to fall apart when it comes to my journal in October, at least I did this year. I think it was the different assignments, I didn't make journaling a priority. Rather than get frustrated with myself I'm just going to start anew and November is the perfect month. I always look forward to focusing on the many blessings I have in my life. I can even find blessings in my trials and weaknesses.
Ten years ago I hear President Eyring say,
"When our children were very small, I started to write down a few things about what happened every day. Let me tell you how that got started. I came home late from a Church assignment. It was after dark. My father-in-law, who lived near us, surprised me as I walked toward the front door of my house. He was carrying a load of pipes over his shoulder, walking very fast and dressed in his work clothes. I knew that he had been building a system to pump water from a stream below us up to our property.
He smiled, spoke softly, and then rushed past me into the darkness to go on with his work. I took a few steps toward the house, thinking of what he was doing for us, and just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind—not in my own voice—these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family. Grandpa didn’t have to do what he was doing for us. He could have had someone else do it or not have done it at all. But he was serving us, his family, in the way covenant disciples of Jesus Christ always do. I knew that was true. And so I wrote it down, so that my children could have the memory someday when they would need it.
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened." (Henry B. Eyring, "O Remember, Remember", General Conference, October 2007)
I have never forgotten his words and think of them often, usually when I forget to write. However, despite my inconstancy, I have seen great blessings as a result of consistently (in my inconsistent way) recording the blessings in my life. So today I made it a priority to print off the pages and add them to my journal. I date stamped each list and I am ready for the month.
If you would like to participate and use the gratitude pages here are the links.
Gratitude poster (idea, super simple. We are on our 7th year.)
TheSmallSeed has a wonderful Daily Gratitude Devotional Guide available for download as well. I'm looking forward to learning and seeing God's hand in my life this month.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Genesis 1:27-28
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. Genesis 2:15
From the beginning God’s purpose is that His children become like Him with the first commandment He gives them being to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, or in other words to create as He does. In connection with this commandment, God designs and charges His children to be stewards of His creations, including their own offspring.
The charge to be stewards comes in verse fifteen of Genesis chapter two cited above as the Lord puts the man in the Garden of Eden for two important purposes: to dress and to keep the garden. These first purposes are not temporary assignments in the Garden of Eden, unconnected to man’s role in the world and in the eternities but instead are fundamental to who God is and what man may become.
The Hebrew word for dress means to work and to serve, while the word for keep means to guard, protect, save, watch, treasure up, and celebrate. One way to understand the meaning of the word for keep is to think of the English word as a noun. Keep in English can refer to the innermost stronghold of a castle. This is the place where a keeper of the castle keeps that which is most precious, particularly his wife and children, safe and nourished with provisions that he also keeps there for that purpose. In this sense, the Garden of Eden is a keep just as heaven is a keep where God keeps, protects, saves, and nourishes His family, or as the holy of holies in the ancient tabernacle and temple is a keep as a representation of heaven.
(walking into a castle keep on our trip to the UK the summer of 2016)
This understanding of the word keep is meaningful from other perspectives as well. For instance, to me it gives greater weight to what it means to keep commandments, implying obedience with a deep recognition of the importance of the commandments and of honor for the giver of the commandments.
As an example of ancient connections between cultures and languages highlighting these universal principles, the Samaritans whose name comes from the Hebrew word for to keep consider themselves keepers of the ancient word of God and commandments as found in the Old Testament. As another example, samurai, using the same three letter root word--SMR and meaning servant in Japanese and potentially also coming out of this ancient understanding, are keepers of ancient traditions and the land of Japan.
In any event together these purposes of serving and keeping include much of what man should do and what God does. An applicable sermon about these two principles and their righteous application to lend understanding to the charge to dress and keep the Garden of Eden is found in Mosiah chapter two in which King Benjamin teaches about how God serves and keeps us, and how He expects us to do likewise in reciprocation to Him by keeping His commandments and in service to others:
And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.
Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?
And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
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.
And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless and prosper you. Mosiah 2:14-22
The roles of creators in God’s plan are always those of father and mother, and the fifth commandment is a solemn charge to keep God’s plan, as children and society, in general, are commanded to honor fathers and mothers.
The account in Genesis chapter nine verses 20 through 27 is on its surface a difficult passage to understand, missing detail and leading to questions, but it is also full of rich symbolism and can be viewed symbolically in many ways including as a lesson in honoring father and mother:
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
Again, one way of understanding this account is as a lesson in keeping the fifth commandment (at the time of Noah the fifth commandment is yet to be recorded in the currently held scriptures, but it is eternal in principle).
Despite what is recorded as weakness on the part of Noah, God requires his children to honor him. Noah is naked in his drunkenness, and the Hebrew word for naked comes from the same root as the word used to describe Adam and Eve as naked in the Garden of Eden, which can additionally involve poverty and vulnerability. The details regarding Ham’s actions towards his father Noah may be incomplete, but the inference is that he should exercise more honor towards his father. In contrast, Shem and Japheth walk backwards into their father’s tent (the symbolism of the tent leading back to the meaning of keep as a noun) so as not to see his nakedness and cover him, thereby honoring him, serving and keeping their father who is in a condition of vulnerability at that moment.
The Hebrew word used here for cover is often used metaphorically to cover sin or to pardon. Pictographically the root verb is a beautiful word that can represent this covering of sin and pardoning through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. In pictograph, the word begins from right to left with an open palm, a thorn, and a man with outstretched arms: The open palm potentially[i] represents bending, opening, allowing, or taming; the thorn involves an interesting duality in that a thorn can inflict pain and be a symbol of hate and sin but can also be associated with shielding and protecting as shepherds traditionally often use thorn bushes to protect their sheep from harm; the thorn can also mean to hold or cling; and finally a man with outstretched arms traditionally potentially means the beholding of a great sight but also has obvious Christian meaning as a representation of Christ lifted up on the cross.
This Hebrew verb for to cover is also associated with plumping up and filling in hollow spaces as with earth covering a body in burial, and this meaning and the account of Noah and his sons in its entirety suggest a beautiful general companion role of children ideally plumping up and filling in hollow spaces in terms of forgiveness, compassion, care, and honor for their fathers and mothers with that of the creative roles of fathers and mothers with their children (one way of looking at creation in Hebrew pictographic language being to fatten or fill up with life). As children grow they perceive weakness in their parents, whether that weakness be real, merely perceived, or a mixture. It is the same love that parents have for children that children can and should reciprocate to their parents in forgiving them and treating them with compassion, kindness, respect, deference, and honor. This reciprocation in truly honoring father and mother strengthens the familial link, taking it from the one-sided creative relationship to a greater two sided binding of faithfulness and love made possible and increased by God’s grace as He blesses the associations of imperfect parents and children. Just as parents are charged to be stewards in serving and keeping their children, children through the commandment to honor father and mother may to their great advantage, especially as parents age, become stewards in serving and keeping their parents.
In this sense of reciprocation of the roles of steward in a spirit of love, the blessing of the fifth commandment—that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee—holds a spiritual meaning in the eternal nature of family relationships built on forgiving and being forgiven, serving and keeping, honor and love that will bring eternal, joyful association.
[i] I use the word potentially because attempts to definitively assign meaning to ancient pictographic language carry the danger of limiting all of the powerful meaning that can be derived from it. In the case of pictographic Hebrew meaning derived from individual symbols and combinations of symbols can expand in breadth and depth of interpretation and application as one reads and contemplates with the spirit. As an example, and again hopefully not to limit, (to cover) can potentially illustrate covering or pardoning sin, accepting salvation through Christ only, bending to His will, taking hold of and clinging to Christ, taking up a cross and following Christ, being grateful for and accepting all experiences in life as blessings... Furthermore, contemplating the three symbols themselves in sequence—the open palm, the thorn, and the man with arms outstretched—with the spirit can be much more powerful than translating the word into modern language. Coupling this reading and contemplation with further context in the pictographic language leads to more and more spiritual meaning. Becoming an expert in pictographic Hebrew or biblical Hebrew in a strictly academic sense is illusory, limiting, and truthfully impossible in that expertise in this world is tied to worldly nature and culture with its aspects of consensus, status, control and other limiting characteristics in opposition to revelation, whereas the true blessings that can be gained from language, particularly a language that is relatively closer to the pure Adamic tongue are those of revelation and the knowledge of God. In this way the spiritual study of truth through ancient language and symbols in general is similar to seeking truth through a urim and thummim, bringing one closer and closer to God through a cycle of revelation and faith. Eventually in this world as people truly and profoundly humble themselves, recognizing their own nothingness and God’s goodness, in preparation for the time when the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day (Isaiah 2:11) the language of man will cease to devolve and instead be elevated by God like the language of the ancient brother of Jared for whom the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them. (Ether 12:24)
I'm embarrassed this update has taken me so long to do. I'm even more embarrassed that I have not updated my children's folders in a very long time, but today is the day. Just in time for General Conference this weekend and possibly more updates to come. That is one thing I did not really think through when I first made the folders, who was going to keep updating the charts?
Did you get a chance to listen to the General Women's meeting last weekend? It was lovely with so many inspiring messages and thoughts and feelings.
Sister Eubank's talk (Turn On Your Light) quoting President Kimball has been something near and dear to my heart. I wrote a quick thing back in 2011 (see this post) and will look at again as I review her talk.
Sister Marriott's talk (Abiding in God and Repairing the Breach) about the Savior and love pierced my heart. I need to do better about this and I want to fully understand this scripture in Isaiah, “The Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound.” (Isaiah 30:26)
Learning that Sister Jones' son was buried the day before her talk made her words (Value Beyond Measure)so rich and meaningful. Not that they weren't on their own, but knowing about a person's life and their struggles always helps me relate and feel a connection.
Of course, I always love hearing President Uchtdorf speak and his talk (Three Sisters) was filled with wisdom and love. I can't wait to hear the words, teachings, and inspiration at will be shared this weekend.
Here are the latest updates:
If you are looking for more information on the folder format go here: "Conference is Awesome" folders.
If you are looking for more information on the big chart format go here: "Conference is Awesome" chart.
You can also get more ideas here at: Ideas to Prepare.
I'm going to to try something a little different this year, I think, which I will share in the next couple of days.
When I took this photo I shared on Instagram, "As I stare at the screen today trying to listen to know where to go next, what to say and do, I think of my grandmothers and how much they would have loved what I was doing. I feel them close, lending strength. I am the sum of strong, courageous people who loved the Lord. Their sacrifice is not lost on me. I hope they will be proud of the woman I am becoming and the way in which I am trying to honor them."
I just finished a wrestle.
I’ve been working on a project that is bigger than me. It pushed my knowledge. It required sacrifice not only from me but my family (who have been so supportive). At times it has required great faith as things have gone wrong and opposition has been strong. But the thing that surprised me about this project was how much God wanted me to wrestle and in the process how much I learned and grew.
As I reflect on all that happened with this project, (which I am excited to share with you soon, I hope and why I haven't posted much here lately), I once again find that the Lord prepared me for what was to come. Over and over again I see a pattern in how the Lord teaches me, always here a little, there a little in ways I don't always anticipate.
One of those ways was this talk by Sheri Dew titled "Will You Engage in the Wrestle?"
I don't remember how I found it, I rarely listen to things when they first come out usually because I'm studying something else, but I know the Lord's hand brought it to me that day. As I look back over my notes what Sheri taught was not new, they were principles I already knew, but for some reason, I was prepared to understand and learn her message in a way that penetrated my heart.
Now if you are one of my children reading this, yes I used the word penetrate and I know how much you dislike that word, but none of the other words in the thesaurus seemed quite right. I did try, just for you.
As I started to read and record the thoughts and feeling of my heart in my scripture journal I found that I had too many many quotes from the talk I wanted to include and reference as I studied. So I printed it off and added it to my journal as I studied. I also ran out of room so post it notes and other small pieces of paper were added. I did not know that this would be the beginning of a beautiful journey for study time. (I did write a little bit about my process here: scripture journal: today)
I'm not sure why I have felt strongly to share this today, perhaps there is someone who will be inspired by the scripture journal process, which I give all credit to the Lord. Or perhaps there is someone who is ready to learn from words in Sheri's talk or it might all just be that I need to acknowledge God's hand in my learning process. Whatever the reason, I love the spiritual wrestle and this past year has given me plenty of opportunities to understand more acutely what Enos was referring to in Enos 1:2.
I have a new appreciation for wrestling since Rock started the sport this year. As I watch him and his teammates learn techniques, become stronger through conditioning, and overcome the mental obstacles in their matches I also learned that limits are pushed, endurance is taxed, and just when you can't give anything else you must dig deep into your reservoir and wrestle a little longer.
The same is true with spiritual wrestling. Sometimes God gives us the easy answer, right? Sometimes it is almost effortless, but often we must learn new principles, build endurance as we practice what we have learned, and then there is the anguish that often comes through trials or questions that are not yet answered. Our limits are reached and yet we still have to find a little more faith to wrestle a little longer.
Sheri said, "Champion wrestlers tell me that it isn't necessarily the strongest wrestler who wins. It is the wrestler who knows how to leverage his strength to overpower his opponent. Spiritual wrestling leverages the strength of true doctrine to overpower our weaknesses, our wavering faith, and our lack of knowledge. Spiritual wrestlers are seekers. They are men and women of faith who want to understand more than they presently do and who are serious about increasing the light and knowledge in their lives."
I have loved studying this talk. I love studying the words of wise people and their testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I feel like Sheri's words have become part of me as this is what my recent wrestle as done for me. It changed me physically and spiritually. My love for the Savior increased and my understanding of the gospel grew in ways that will bless lives. I am so profoundly thankful for the reminder of God's love for me, for all of us. How I love the gospel of Christ!
There is so much in life that I have no control over, so much heartache, loss, a pain that I wish I could ease. There are so many with questions and struggles that I can't solve, but perhaps I might help brighten someone with a small give away.
I loved Sheri's words and have shared her talk in book form with several of my friends. I would like to also share 3 copies with you. So if you would like to receive a copy of "Worth the Wrestle" please leave a comment below sharing one way you feel God's love for you.
The winners will be chosen and announced next week on Wednesday, September 6, 2017.
On a side note, I do not personally know Sheri and I should probably address her more formally by "Sister Dew", but after my study and wrestle this past year I feel like we are friends and I always call my friends by their first name.
wherefore, worship the Lord thy God, and honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God shall give thee. 1 Nephi 17:55
God’s commandments are powerful in ways that are often beyond our initial understanding or expectations. This power comes from the truth commandments contain and from God’s sanction and honoring of them. When we keep God’s commandments their power becomes tangible and miraculous. This principle is associated with other truths as well, such as the truth that when we add to or take away from simple, God given commandments, following after the wisdom and precepts of men we lose spiritual meaning and power.
The Ten Commandments may be divided into two groups based upon the Two Great Commandments with the first four of the Ten Commandments focused on love for God and the last six commandments on love for neighbor. In the above verse, Nephi refers to the first commandment of each of these two groups as they exercise faith in their journey to the promised land. Life is simpler for them at this point as they have left Jerusalem and the culture of the world behind and refocus on the most fundamental of truths and commandments.
Refocusing with worship of God is intuitive, but what, then, does the placement of the fifth commandment as the first of those focused on love for neighbor indicate in terms of the priority and importance of our relationship with our earthly father and mother?
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. Exodus 20:12
This fifth of the Ten Commandments and how it is kept or not kept provides a profound illustration of the truths that keeping commandments brings power and miraculous blessings, and that following after the wisdom and precepts of men as fallen men and institutions lead away from this commandment brings a great loss of spiritual meaning and power.
The relationship and roles of father and mother are the most foundational and important in all existence as they are the key to creation spiritually before mortality and then physically and spiritually in this life. The first and fifth commandments point us to the first two creations, first spiritual by God and then physical by earthly parents. Christ, then, can become our Father in mortality when we are spiritually reborn and become His sons and daughters through covenant and a change of nature through faith in Him:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. Mosiah 5:7
One way of looking at the Hebrew verb to create is to fatten or fill up with life, which meaning aligns itself with a creation that occurs not out of nothing but rather as an organization and nurturing of existences that are eternal. It is interesting and instructive in this regard that one of the most important physical symbols of spiritual truths is oil, which is a fat used in cleansing and binding up, anointing and healing, and as a source of light, and that the Messiah (Anointed One) is the source of all life and light.
This understanding of creation leads to the question as to what means are optimal for fattening, filling up with life, enriching, endowing, and in all ways blessing existences that have always existed in order to raise them up and lead them along a path that leads to an increasingly greater existence and enjoyment. Both in the heavens and on earth God ordains families beginning with two parents, male and female, as the central organization to accomplish this process of creation. The creative process is only partially expressed in the power of procreation as it is understood in a limited sense, and is fully expressed in the totality of the combined and complementary roles of father and mother. In this life, God always starts and resets with parents, as other institutions fall away: Adam and Eve, Noah and his wife, Abraham and Sarah… all are God’s chosen instruments of creation, and with each start and reset they are the institutions God preserves, as He restores truth in its pure simplicity. In this way God honors fathers and mothers in a way that His children rarely do.
A prototypical illustration of these truths and eternal ideal is found in the lives and ministry of Abraham and Sarah. Even though they do not have children until their old age it is the family organization that anciently covers all needs and situations. In the patriarchal era, the family provides all religious, political, economic, and social organization and authority, even in cases where individual family members and relationships fail, as the family organization is charged with caring for all who are in need, including widows, orphans, and strangers in the land. It is important to understand that the Abrahamic Covenant is not a subset of God’s covenants but rather is comprehensive of all covenants and blessings, as through it all people are to be blessed with the blessings of the Gospel, of salvation, and of eternal lives. This covenant is contained in the second chapter of Abraham, included below together with a few preceding verses that lend context:
But I, Abraham, and Lot, my brother’s son, prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me: Arise, and take Lot with thee; for I have purposed to take thee away out of Haran, and to make of thee a minister to bear my name in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice.
For I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains—Depart hence—and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly.
My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.
And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. Abraham 2:6-11
The equivalence set forth here of Abraham, his seed, and the priesthood is a profound affirmation of the importance of the fifth commandment together with its connection to the first commandment as expressed above by Nephi. To illustrate, the Hebrew word for priest as it appears in ancient, pictographic Hebrew powerfully depicts these concepts and the essence of the priesthood:
From right to left the first letter is the shape of an open palm of a hand, bending in submission to and receiving from another. The second letter is that of a man with arms outstretched, anciently meaning to behold a great sight and being associated with revelation, aligning perfectly with an understanding of Christ being lifted up as the Great Sight, to bring all men unto Him from whom all good is revealed and all blessings received. The third letter depicts a seed sprout and represents continuation and offspring. Combined, the message to me is that the priest bends in submission to Christ in order to receive revelation and all good blessings and blesses his posterity with those same blessings. Anciently, priesthood and parenthood are inseparable, as for instance two requirements for a high priest anciently are to be married and to be able to procreate.
Again, as expressed by Nephi, we are to worship and follow God with full consecration, as our eternal, spiritual Father, and to honor our earthly father and mother that our days may be long in the land which the Lord God shall give us. There is great power in keeping these two commandments and in not following after the precepts and cultures of men that lead away from them.
You've heard me talk about family history for a few years now. I've talked about the wonders and promises of knowing our ancestors and sharing those stories and experiences with our families and that is not going to change. That is my passion, storytelling, but God wanted me to learn something else along this journey.
At the beginning of last year, I got a new calling within my ward. I was asked to be a temple and family history consultant. Once again I told the bishopric that I did not do genealogy. I was a storyteller and that was my place within family history. On both sides of my family, there are genealogists who have researched, documented, and traced our family lines back generation after generation. All those names and people that could be found have been found and I felt secure in the knowledge that I would continue to talk about family history from the position of a storyteller until I got a text late one night from a 15-year-old boy in our neighborhood:
The conversation continued and inside I am wondering (after the momentary panic) how I could effectively teach this when I don't really know myself? How can I share something that I don't truly understand? So for the sake of this class of boys, I put my head down offered a pleading prayer to the Lord and got to work. I called some friends, talked to my parents, and decided I would try to find a family member whose temple work had not be done and go to the temple. I had no idea how it would happen considering I had a full tree with lines dating back to 779 AD in one place but I had faith that God would not let me down.
One Monday morning with a genealogy expert sitting by my side, I asked question after question. My head was reeling from all the information I was getting and I felt certain that this task was too big, not possible. I was overwhelmed by everything there was to know and I should have started smaller.
She helped me looked through line after family line in FamilySearch and Puzzilla running into dead end after dead end. Two hours later I wondered how I could possibly help these boys when my own search had been so difficult and fruitless. Even Amy, the expert was impressed with how well our family lines were documented.
Then it happened, one more click on an ancestor, a cousin and I had a start.
Meet Indiana Turner. She is the niece of my 3rd great grandmother Paulina (I hope I got that right). Somewhere along the way her family and those of her siblings had been forgotten or perhaps they were waiting for me and for all they would teach me. So I began my search, who was Indiana? Did she ever marry? Did she have children? We started first looking for information with the people we already knew: her parents and siblings.
I looked for census records and birth records. I didn't realize how much I would love the records. I adored the handwriting, the professions, the small details in each record that tell more of the story. For that is what I was doing, find and telling Indiana's story. With the census records alone I found deaths, births, marriages, and changes in professions. For instance in this census from 1860, Indiana's father changed professions from the 1850 census from farmer to carpenter. The next columns indicate the value of real estate and personal estate respectively. Even her name had a story to tell.
This was the last census I could find Indiana Turner so I started looking for possible death records, marriage records, etc, but I was at a dead end for a few weeks. I was really looking and found that I would spend an hour here or an hour there. The records were so fascinating that I would pour over learning the history, searching places on google to see what it might have looked like in that time period. I could get lost in the records, but I was also no closer to finding more about Indiana. Then one day while I was sitting in a class I had an impression to perform a google search with Indiana's name and one of the first links was to the "Memoirs of Wayne County".
I wanted to jump out of my chair at my discovery, but it was rude enough that I was on my phone researching when I should have been listening. Not only did I find Indiana's husband, but their children and the author also included biographical information about both sides of the families. After some easy research in census records, etc, I was able to verify all the information and cite all my sources on FamilySearch.
I love being able to leave this trail, a proof of life for others to follow. I found that as I looked at other people in the tree I was disappointed when I couldn't go to a record to see where the dates or information came from. I was surprised at how much I love the original documents, although I'm not sure why as I am the storyteller and documents are part of that story. I save bits and pieces of our lives that I wish I had from my grandparents and great grandparents.
One thing I found as I was building these family units, is that I became confused by who was who and what records I had last searched. A simple notebook/planner that I had abandoned but I couldn't throw away because it had so many wonderful things in the front pages became my research book. As I wrote the different family names and little bits of information as I found them, this notebook became a treasure once more because the names became people with stories. I felt a connection to them and their lives became part of our lives as I would share what I had learned.
As I puzzled together family members and relationships I felt their help. I can't explain it, but I have a special relationship with Indiana that I never anticipated having with an ancestor that was born nearly 170 years ago. How I love her. I have thought of her often over the last year. My girls have been helping me go to the temple for her family and Samantha remarked that it was a sacred experience knowing the people whose work we helping with.
I am still the storyteller in our family, but now our story includes Indiana. It includes census records and sourcing. Our story is now intertwined with an understanding and the miracles only God can bring about in turning the hearts of the children to their fathers. My life is changed forever and some day I will weep more tears, as I have already wept countless times, as I embrace Indiana and thank her for helping me grow and love in this unexpected way.
If I can help anyone have a journey like this, please let me know how I can help. Who knows, you might even find a love for the records.
Painting by Minerva Teirchart
If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. Isaiah 58:13-14
There is an interesting contrast here between pleasure and delight: Pleasure is specifically characterized as man’s pleasure, in some translations as man’s business, and delight is of the Lord and of those who find delight in communing and being one with Him. In Hebrew the word for delight indicates that which is exquisite as well as that which is soft and pliable. To me this softness and pliability can be understood as applying in at least two ways: First, God is soft with His people. He does not coerce, control, or manipulate. He speaks with a still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and offers the indescribable joy of His association. Second, to commune with Him we too must be soft and pliable, and if we do so with real, heartfelt desire to be one with Him above all other objectives we can receive that which is exquisitely delightful—His spirit and association, to the extent we desire it, in a powerful and transformative manner.
He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. 2 Nephi 4:21
God knows that this is not generally a natural state of desire for His children, so, He leads those who will follow along gradually, again, without coercion, control, or manipulation from one state of desire to the next until by His grace those who choose Him become in the end through a change in nature like Him.
Christ is radical in many ways, some of them small, soft ways. As illustrated in the scriptural account of His life He is never too busy for those in His immediate presence. He does not keep a schedule and makes very few appointments. He does not commit Himself to human designs and institutions because He knew what was in man (John 2:25), and so He always provides a clear choice between the life He lives and offers and that existence offered by corrupt man. He is never in a hurry. He stops by wells and road sides and turns back when a woman touches the border of His garment with faith to be healed. He stops continually in His path to talk with the humblest of people, to bless them with a taste of who He is and the spirit within Him, giving them the opportunity to freely choose, follow, and become one with Him.
One of my favorite stories from the life of Jesus is found in Luke 10:38-42:
Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus feet, and heard his word.
But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Mary chooses and hears His word—the truth and light that He is from the beginning of creation.
What else is of anything close to the same importance?
Returning to Isaiah 58, and the Sabbath, it is interesting to me that the other major topic in this chapter is fasting, which is often done on the Sabbath, and which has the same primary purpose as the Sabbath—to turn from the things of the world and choose that one thing Mary chooses, to commune and be one with God. Choosing as Mary chooses we can delight ourselves in the Lord, and He will cause us to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father, this phrase communicating transcendence from the world and feeding upon Christ, the bread of life.
There is nothing more important to me than my knowledge of Jesus Christ and the unfailing goodness, strength, light, and perfection that He is. I am nothing without Him, and He is everything to me.
To learn more about the Ten Commandments you can go here.