Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mission Bound, but Christmas first! What a missionary needs!

So as of two days ago, I report in 40 days. 


That makes today 38 days.  THIRTY EIGHT.  Holy cow.  I remember opening my call and having 101 days... It is amazing who time flies! 

I was able to go home for Thanksgiving which was absolutely wonderful! I love my family so much! 

It is a thanksgiving tradition in my house to have our christmas lists ready for black Friday.  Momma Han ALWAYS gets on our case, usually about Monday.. and then they aren't ready Thursday night when we go through the ads.. haha procrastination! This year, because I flew in on Tuesday, I took the layover time in SLC to put together a list and then slowly attached links before Thursday! Momma Han was so proud!! 

Here is my Christmas list, for all of those interested :)
(Links are attached!)

Christmas List:


Stamps-forever stamps, cool designs



LONG Skirts



simple watch: waterproof... Louisville is Humid! 


a couple scarves (plain colors: black, ivory)

stud earrings
          Earrings 1
          Earrings 2

white (4)
cream (2)
black (2)

ANYTHING from HERE


Merry Christmas to all :)
Missions are the best!
I love missionaries!

XOXO,
Sister Hannah

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Roommates = Blessings!

I have truly been blessed with amazing roommates.  All of my semesters at college have been so wonderful because of these incredible people.  This semester, Fall 2014, I was assigned to live with these five girls: Aggie, Ally, Estela, Girdy and Kristi.  Going in, I only knew Ally, who I absolutely love and was so excited to live with again! Originally, Aggie wasn’t on our room assignment list either, she was a lovely surprise addition and let me just say how grateful I am for her and all she adds to our apartment! I was able to find Girdy on facebook, but Kristi, Estela and Aggie were a complete mystery.  I didn’t know how this semester was going to go.  I worried about us clashing and not getting along.  I worried about another possible Nicole situation…(one problem roommate is enough, thank you very much!) I worried about bad roommates.  Boy, were all of those worries for nothing! The six of us meshed so well from the beginning.  Every single one of my girls is seriously incredible.  I know we are all supposed to be roommates for specific reasons, and while I am still figuring out {most} of those reasons, I have seen time and time again why we are all supposed to be in 2306 together.

Aggie Slade
          Aggie is my absolute favorite Samoan roommate.  She brings to the table her life experiences that the rest of us do not have.  It is so hard for me to describe in words how amazing she it.  I wish I could bottle up her amazing-ness and share it with everyone.  She is so cool, seriously.  She served a mission in Hawaii and has also attended BYU-Hawaii.  She is so intelligent and has a passion for life.  She always gives out the best advice too.  I look up to her so much!  As I was preparing to get my mission call and then go through the temple, she was so kind and loving towards me.  She gave me some of the best advice during those times and I cherish it.  I love Aggie because she is so down to earth.  She doesn’t beat around the bush.  She knows what she is doing with her life, even if she says she doesn’t know, we all see she has her stuff together.  I love Aggie because she will come home and just sit and talk with me for hours about life and my concerns.  I love doing that! :) She is a sweet example to have in the apartment! I love Aggie so much!

Ally Larsen
          My favorite Utahan;  Ally is simply wonderful.  We have lived together since January and I love her to death.  We clicked instantly when we met and get along really well.  She is so caring and loving.  She is a great friend and listener.  We all know that I can talk… haha.  She and I are very similar, but at the same time so different.  Sharing a room with her has been one of the best experiences.  I have never had to share a room before and I know that rooming with her was the perfect transition.  She is so funny too.  A jokster.  I love her sense of humor.  She can quote Spongebob like nobody’s business.  Haha.  Whenever we are together, it is always a good time! I love her so much! Ally and I were supposed to be roommates because we compliment each other.  She is sweet, sensitive and caring.  Her calling this semester as nice notes coordinator is absolutely perfect.  She kills it and it suits her.  Ally is a beaming ray of sunshine wherever she goes!  Always singing (BTW, she has a killer voice) and spreading joy! I love Ally so much!

Estela Gomez
          My favorite Latina roommate, my match in selfie taking and sass giving.  Estela is adorable.  At the beginning of the semester we were all out in the living room talking about Halloween costumes.  Aggie was saying that all the brown girls are going to be the same things.   I was telling her to embrace it because I am embracing my whiteness.  Estela pipes in with “Maddy, you’re not white, you’re RED!” I start busting up laughing and she follows up with “oh I am so glad you laughed at that.”   She kills me.  Some of my other favorite Estela lines are “I am still learning English!” and “This is true” which is her just quoting me… HAHA.  Estela brings a whole new level of selfie taking to our apartment.  I thought I was bad.. no, she has me beat and I love it.  We are snapchat best friends and snapbombing is our favorite thing to do.  She is sassy and sweet.  I have loved watching her open up in the last couple of weeks.  At first she was reserved and quiet, but that is NOT the case anymore.  Estela has taught me so much in the short time we have roomed together.  She studies hard.  She flirts a lot. She has a great head on her shoulders.  I know we were supposed to be roommates, but I am still waiting to know the exact reason why.  I just love Estela so much!

Girdy Guertler
          My favorite French American citizen, Girdy is so unique and that is honestly the only way I can describe her.  She is cute and quirky and walks to the beat of her own drum.  She has a passion for life and runs with it.  She has taught me so much also.  I have watched her embrace herself and she owns it.  She does what she wants and doesn’t care what people think.  She has her own style which is totally unique to her, sparkles, stripes and BOWS!  We come from similar families and are able to relate on that level.  She LOVES Christmas too.  Girdy has an incredible talent too.  She is able to convince people of anything.  She can tell a story with a straight face and make you believe it, and then weeks or even months later you come to find out it wasn’t true.  I don’t know how she keeps it up.  It is seriously a talent.  Girdy is from French America.  This has become part of her.  Haha, I can’t even describe how great Girdy is.  She has taught me to be a little crazy sometimes and I needed that.  I love Girdy so much!

Kristi Davis
         My favorite curly haired Nebraskan.  Kristi is just drop dead gorgeous.  I will begin there.  She was so shy at the beginning of the semester but I have watched her open up SO MUCH in the last 10 weeks.  It has been an incredible transformation that I have loved to watch.  She is so sweet, caring, loving, kind and tender.  She is soft spoken… until you get her laughing!! Kristi has a contagious laugh.  As we have all discovered, once we get her laughing it is hard for her to stop.  It is one of the greatest things ever.  I love this side of Kristi.  Kristi also has this amazing talent of writing.  She is writing a book and a couple of short stories for her siblings.  She told me about them last night and they blew me away.  They are so good and I can’t wait to read them.  I honestly just want them to be published now because the plot lines are so captivating I just don’t want to wait! I see so much of myself in Kristi.  We are extremely similar.  I know, without a doubt, that we are supposed to be roommates.  We have the same drives and goals and relate on SO MANY LEVELS it is insane.  We have similar struggles and it is so great because we are able to talk about them together.  I love talking to Kristi and I love how Kristi listens.  I know I can talk a lot and Kristi is always so patient and listens lovingly.  I love listening to Kristi too and am grateful she confides in me because I know that my experiences can and will help her.  We have many similar struggles and challenges which keep us on the same plane.   I know we are roommates to help each other out, grown and learn from the things we have and are experiencing.  I know all of my roommates are here in 2306 for a reason, but I strongly believe that Kristi and I needed to be together.  I look up to her so much and she teaches me constantly.  She is so humble and sweet.  She is constantly striving to be more like Christ.  She is just so stellar.  I love Kristi so much!

And now you can all see why I have the most amazing roommates and friends.  Each of these amazing girls brings to the table something so unique and different.  We all need each other.  These girls truly bring out the best in me and I am so blessed to have them in my life, to be living with them and learning from them.  I am grateful for their testimonies and the examples they set for me! Don’t any of you get married too quick now because I want to room with you all again when I get home from Kentucky! :) I love my roommates!

XOXO,

Madeline

Welcome Home! Thanksgiving Break 2014!


Today started SO early… like 4am early! I really didn’t want to miss my flight and not be able to come home.  I also didn’t know if it was going to be snowing or not (it was supposed to) and I didn’t know how the roads were going to be.  Always safe, never sorry right?  The roads were pristine.  It didn’t snow.  It was warm? Am I still in Idaho? The IF airport is so small.   The security line was minuscule.  Me and the dude in front of me.  Normally planes board 30 minutes prior to take off in order to take off on time.  I got nervous when the gate wasn’t even lit up 30 minutes prior.  Then 20 minutes… still no attendant or anything.  10 minutes prior to takeoff the flight attendant finally showed up and we boarded.  Shockingly, on time.  It was a tiny, tiny jet.  Yes, jet.  My mom would have died! My bag didn’t fit in the overhead compartments so I got to check it for free.  Score!! The flights were enjoyable and both were early! I landed at John Wayne and my dad came and got me from the airport! First things first, “Do you wanna go play some golf?”  The only acceptable answer, “YES.”  The only answer I wanted to give, “YES!”  I have been wanting to play golf for a long time now... since the snow came, I have been missing it a lot knowing I can’t play.  We went and picked up Daniel from wrestling and then headed home.  Dad had to take a few business calls before we could go play so I went to In n Out.  Perfect way to spend that time! Finally a decent burger! From there we went straight to Coto.  To say I was excited is an understatement.  Like really, really excited to beat the old man at golf.   The round was absolutely wonderful! I have missed golfing so much! When we were done with the round, I raced home to make my doctors appointment and then we had dinner as a family!!  I stopped by Aunt Ronnee's later that night and we chatted for a couple of hours! Love her and the cousins! 


the perfect golf day! 

and people think I am the crazy one.. 
Damon being a dork wad and Dailee being a cute 11 year old


Wednesday was low key.  Dad and I played another round of golf where I proceeded to beat him, again.  We prepared for Thanksgiving and just hung low! It was really nice to just have a day to relax!

Thursday: HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! Today was family filled and food filled.  It always is and I love love love it! I was grateful to be able to see everyone and enjoy their company! My family is the greatest! There is never a dull moment with us! Dinner was amazing, thank you Dad.  He always does all the cooking! Of course I couldn’t pass up the million picture opportunities either! I love this sweet family of mine!

Momma and me! 40 Days until I report to the MTC!!! 
Three generations!
Aunt Ronnee, Me, Momma, Grandma Nancy
Jeffrey and I found some cool guns from Uncle Terry!  
Grandma Nancy! 

We just like to take goofy pictures! :)

Friday! The busiest day.  Leslie and I went mission shopping.  We ran into Zach M! He works as See’s in the mall.  We hid behind an ad for 10 minutes waiting to surprise him.  He kept helping customers which delayed the surprise, but he was so happy to see us! I just love Zach! He is so kind and fun to be around! Leslie and I eventually gave up on mission shopping and got food.  It is so hard to find mission appropriate clothes in California.  No one likes to sell skirts that are past your knee or shirts that are not shear, or cover your shoulders.  It is so bizarre how they hate sleeves here… That night, Jeffrey had his CIF playoff game.  IT WAS AMAZING.  We tailgated before the game, which was at San Clemente High School.  The first half of the game, we dominated.  Capo came to play.  The second half, San Clemente caught up.  It was the most intense game that I have ever been too.  The fourth quarter ended and we were tied.  Overtime.  We got the ball first and didn’t score.  San Clemente then got the ball and they did score.  It was extremely sad to see the game end like that after we had such an amazing run.  Capo was the underdog and we made it to the semi finals.  Those boys did GREAT. 


Pre-game tailgate! 

Sweet Cousins! Tossing the football around before the game!
(Left to Right: Maddie, Damon, Me, Dailee, Declan, Cory, Cain) 
When Mitch smiles >>>
sweet momma
Aunt Ronnee didn't get the black out memo.



Jeff #50, Team Captain.
Taking the field.
#GOCOUGS


 SUPPORTING OUR BOY!!



On Saturday, I flew back to school and almost missed my connecting flight because it was on the OTHER SIDE OF THE AIRPORT!  I booked it there and barely made it! I don’t like cutting it so close.  I did make it though, and I made it safely back to Rexburg! That night I went to the temple and it was a wonderful experience! I love the temple so much!

me rushing to my flight and praying that I make it.. I did! :)
XOXO,
Maddy

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lava Hot Springs!


Rexburg Temple 22 November 2014
Left to Right: Travis Davis, Cory Hafen, Me, Dennis Minster


Today was an absolute blast.  We started off the day (at 12:45, haha) at the temple! The best place to start! I absolutely love these boys and I love love love this place.  It is so sacred and peaceful.  I love going twice a week.  I always love going with Dennis and Cory on Saturdays, and it was such an awesome addition to have Travis too! 

When we got back we headed down to the hot springs in Lava.  It was an hour and a half drive, but worth it! It was also supposed to snow all day and it didn't.  BLESSING.  I was driving.. and I didn't want to drive in the snow! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the hot springs.  I love going to them because we don't have anything like it in California.  It just amazes me.  After we were done warming up, Dennis, Mauri and I went to the Wagon Wheel in town.  Oh my goodness, delicious.  And we had the sweetest waitress too.  I got a strawberry, avocado, bleu cheese spinach salad with raspberry vinaigrette.  SO GOOD.  Tasted like summer. 

We headed back home and arrived safely in Rexburg.  The tender mercies of the Lord are real.  It was supposed to snow all day and didn't.  We made it safely to and from the hot springs.  I am so blessed. We are all so blessed! :)

Lava Hot Springs; 22 November 2014
Left to Right: Dennis Minster, Mauri Cueva, Me


Loving life and loving God more!!

XOXO,
Maddy

Monday, November 17, 2014

Discipleship

Today in my English class we were assigned to read this Ensign article.  IT IS AMAZING.  I needed to hear it, especially after the day I had.  It was rough.  Elder Neil A. Maxwell is absolutely incredible! Here is the link, but I love the talk to much I copied it here!

I am so blessed to attend a university where this is my homework!

//It is long, but SO worth it!!\\

How grateful I am that we may rejoice in God’s great gift of immortality, unearned and universally given to mankind through the Resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). However, God’s greatest gift—eternal life—will be given only to a comparative few: those who respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). The great gift of the Resurrection, therefore, will be “added upon” by the exaltation inherent in eternal life, which is contingent upon the degree of our discipleship. Thus, it is Jesus’ invitation to discipleship that I would like to discuss.
When Jesus took upon Himself the heavy, atoning yoke in order to redeem all mankind by paying the agonizing price for our sins, He thereby experienced what He Himself termed the “fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God” (D&C 76:107). The phrase itself makes the soul tremble. Jesus also volunteered to take upon Himself additional agony in order that He might experience and thus know certain things “according to the flesh,” namely human sicknesses and infirmities and human griefs, including those not associated with sin (see Alma 7:11–12). Therefore, as a result of His great Atonement, Jesus was filled with unique empathy and with perfect mercy.
In turn, He who bore the atoning yoke has asked us to “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me” (Matt. 11:29). So the taking of Jesus’ yoke upon us constitutes serious discipleship. There is no greater calling, no greater challenge, and no greater source of joy—both proximate joy and ultimate joy—than that which is found in the process of discipleship. This process brings its own joys and reassurances. We must not, however, expect the world to understand or to value our discipleship; they will not. In a way, they may admire us from afar, but they will be puzzled about the priorities resulting from our devotion.
Shouldering the yoke of discipleship greatly enhances both our adoration and knowledge of Jesus, because then we experience, firsthand, through our parallel but smaller-scaled experiences, a small but instructive portion of what the Savior experienced. In this precious process, the more we do what Jesus did—allow our wills to be “swallowed up in the will of the Father”—the more we will learn of Jesus (Mosiah 15:7). This emulation directly enhances our adoration of Jesus.
Simultaneously, in this same process, the more we become like Jesus, the more we come to know Him. There may even be, more than we now know, some literalness in His assertion, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). We lack deep understanding of the implications of that remark of Jesus. As with so many things, He is telling us more than we are now prepared to receive.
The Prophet Joseph Smith, writing redemptively to his rebellious brother, said to William, “God requires the will of his creatures, to be swallowed up in his will.” The Prophet Joseph then pled with William to make “one tremendous effort … [to] overcome [his] passions, and please God” (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, comp. Dean C. Jessee [1984], 115). Alas, William didn’t do it, just as some of us fail to overcome our passions and thereby fail to please God. We are too busy pleasing ourselves.
In contrast, meek Enoch reached a point in his discipleship, wrote Paul, when he received a testimony that he pleased God (see Heb. 11:5). Ponder that. One can come to that point where one knows that he or she pleases God.

Knowledge Alone Cannot Save Us

One mistake we can make during this mortal experience is to value knowledge apart from the other qualities to be developed in submissive discipleship. Knowledge—discovery, its preservation, its perpetuation—is very important. Yet, being knowledgeable while leaving undeveloped the virtues of love, mercy, meekness, and patience is not enough for full discipleship. Mere intellectual assent to a truth deprives us of the relevant, personal experiences that come from applying what we profess to believe. There were probably orientation briefings in the premortal world about how this mortal life would unfold for us, but the real experience is another thing!
Thus, while knowledge is clearly very important, standing alone it cannot save us. I worry sometimes that we get so busy discussing the doctrines in various Church classes that talking about them almost becomes a substitute for applying them. One cannot improve upon the sobering words of King Benjamin, who said, “Now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them” (Mosiah 4:10). Such is still the test. Deeds, not words—and becoming, not describing—are dominant in true discipleship.
Of necessity, of course, we are to teach and learn the doctrines. We would be spiritually stranded without them and, likewise, without the saving and exalting gospel ordinances, because “in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.
“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84:20–21).
So it is that discipleship requires all of us to translate doctrines, covenants, ordinances, and teachings into improved personal behavior. Otherwise we may be doctrinally rich but end up developmentally poor.
The celestial attributes, such as love, patience, mercy, meekness, and submissiveness, embody what we are to become. They are not just a litany of qualities to be recited. Awareness of them—even articulate awareness—without their application will not do. Furthermore, these same attributes cannot be developed in the abstract. The relevant experiences are required, even when you and I would try to avoid them. Moreover, in an ultimate sense our individual developmental schedules reflect God’s timetable, not ours, for God will not withhold from us certain growing experiences that He, in His infinite wisdom, allows us to undergo for our eternal benefit. His timetable, if followed, prepares us incrementally for the journey of discipleship and for going home.
Any serious disciple yearns to go home to Heavenly Father and to be welcomed there by Jesus. But the Prophet Joseph Smith declared we cannot go where They are unless we become more like Them in the principles and attributes and character They possess (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 216).
Of the many restored truths, God has surely given us enough and to spare. Soberingly, however, we have been told that “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3). I hope we feel the cutting edge of the word required. It is used instead of the milder expected. Neither does the Lord say, “It would be nice if …” The word is required, bringing us back again to the need for submissiveness in discipleship.

The Burden of the Natural Man

The gospel’s rich and true doctrines combine to constitute a call to a new and more abundant life, but this is a lengthy process. It requires much time, experiencing the relevant learning experiences, the keeping of covenants, and the receiving of the essential ordinances—all in order to spur us along the discipleship path of personal progression. In the journey of discipleship, we lose our old selves. The natural man and the natural woman are “put off,” and then we find ourselves become more saintly (see Mosiah 3:19). One sees such saintliness all about him in the Church—quiet, good women and men, not particularly concerned with status, who are becoming saintly. This is what should be happening in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Yet, walking and overcoming by faith are not easy. For one thing, the dimension of time constantly constrains our perspective. Likewise, the world steadily tempts us. No wonder we are given instructive words from Jesus about the narrowness and the straightness of the only path available to return home: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He also said in that same verse, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Jesus has laid down strict conditions.
We live in a world in which, happily, many others regard themselves as Christians. Some live rich and marvelous lives. But there are some who style themselves as Christians who admire but do not worship Jesus. Some regard Him as a great teacher but not as the Great Redeemer. Yes, Jesus is the generous Lord of the expansive universe, but He is also Lord of the narrow path! Some people forget His latter Lordship.
The ravines on both sides of that narrow path are deep and dangerous. Moreover, until put off, the shifting, heavy, unsettling burden of the natural man tilts us and sways us. It is dangerous.
Nor does the natural man or the natural woman go away quietly or easily. Hence the most grinding form of calisthenics we will ever know involves the individual isometrics required to put off the natural man. Time and again, the new self is pitted against the stubborn old self. Sometimes, just when at last we think the job is done, the old self reminds us that he or she has not fully departed yet.
A vital, personal question for each of us, therefore, is, Are we steadily becoming what gospel doctrines are designed to help us become? Or are we merely rich inheritors of an immense treasure trove of truth but poor investors in the process of personal development so essential to discipleship?
Significantly, when the Lord God described His purposes by saying, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), He uses the word work, even though His is a “marvelous work.” For us, becoming like His Son, or “even as [Jesus is],” certainly is work! (3 Ne. 27:27). Of necessity, this process requires the cross of discipleship to be taken up daily—not occasionally or seasonally.
Sometimes, as we commence taking up the cross, we ignore or neglect the first part of Jesus’ instruction. He said, “Deny [yourselves], and take up [your] cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This self-denial is especially challenging in a world filled with so many sensual and secular stimuli. In our time, greed and lust, though they have always been friends, have never formed quite the cartel they have formed now. It is global; it is so profitable.
Denying oneself has never been popular as a lifestyle, and it is clearly not today. Self-denial is portrayed by many as too puritanical and too ascetic. Scoffers have acquired powerful pulpits from which they bray their message, which constantly puts down discipleship and encourages the natural man to think highly of himself and to please himself.
What is it that we are to deny ourselves? The ascendancy of any appetites or actions which produce not only the seven deadly sins but all the others. Happily, self-denial, when we practice it, brings great relief. It represents emancipation from all the “morning after” feelings, whether caused by adultery or gluttony. Being concerned with tomorrow, true disciples are very careful about today! Self denial also includes not letting our hearts become too set on any trivial or worldly thing. Then we can learn the great lessons about the relationship of righteousness to the powers and the joys of heaven.
The fundamental fact is that if we do not deny ourselves, we are diverted. Even if not wholly consumed with the things of the world, we are still diverted sufficiently to make serious discipleship impossible. As a consequence, all the gifts and talents God has given us are not put meekly on the altar to serve others and to please God. Instead, we withhold to please ourselves. Diversion, therefore, is not necessarily gross transgression, but it is a genuine deprivation, especially if we consider what we might have become and what more we might have done to bless and to help others.
Ironically, the natural man, who is so very selfish in so many ordinary ways, is strangely unselfish in that he reaches for too few of the things that bring real joy. He settles for a mess of pottage instead of eternal joy.
By denying the desires of the natural man to the degree that they exist in each of us, we avoid this diversion, making it easier for us to take up the cross of discipleship. Of course, when it occurs in our lives, emancipation from various forms of bondage brings no celebrating parades, nor does it make the evening news. But it is big news because we “come off conqueror” (D&C 10:5).
So it is that discipleship, far from being ascetic, is to choose joy over pleasure. It is to opt for the things of eternity over the trendy and appealing things of the moment. Eventually, we become readied for the final moment of consecration, when, gladly and completely, we let our wills be swallowed up in the will of the Father. Jesus did this in Gethsemane, where he said, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). What was God’s will? That Jesus complete the Atonement. Even so, Jesus prayed, “Take away this cup from me” (Mark 14:36); and still later he cried out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). Yet Jesus yielded.

The Great Pivot

Is it possible to develop discipleship when one has no initial, inner desires for discipleship? Can we plant inner desires in someone against his or her will? External exhortation of such individuals won’t usually produce much change. For most of us, however, even when the inner desire is there, it requires periodic sharpening by outward circumstances to quicken any existing inner desires and to get us to act upon them. It was so with Abraham. Abraham desired a better life: more happiness and the blessings of the holy priesthood (see Abr. 1:1–2). Outward circumstances were a spur to Abraham’s yearnings, but clearly he had firm and basic desires of discipleship.
It’s different in the case of prodigals. Turning away from the world and toward God, toward home, requires of them to make what I call the Great Pivot. This Great Pivot begins slowly and tentatively when the mind perceives what is in comparison with what might be. This represents the first tentative steps in the process of beginning to develop “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Regarding the varying degrees of progress we have made in our personal development, what if our individual lack of inner, spiritual symmetry were somehow visibly reflected in our outward physiology? How odd, swollen, and misshapen or anemically underdeveloped some of us would appear! All intellect and no heart! Earnest and eager, but without a trace of empathy! Egoistic with not a single sinew of mercy! Or perhaps fixated on pleasing self with little concern for neighbors.
Of course, our actual degree of inward, spiritual symmetry is somewhat hidden—at least until we get to know each other and to experience each other! So, the lingering question should not be, How many imperfections do I have? but rather, Is my discipleship sufficiently serious that I am working patiently and steadily to overcome my weaknesses, perhaps even changing some of them into strengths? (see Ether 12:27).
If, however, discipleship becomes a daily duty, it genuinely helps us in developing our spiritual symmetry and character. We then have much less concern, for instance, with things of the moment. The banter in the cafeteria with peers or at the office round table with colleagues would so reflect, and, likewise, family discussions around the dinner table. We would also be much less concerned with our public image and with what “they” think, being, instead, much more concerned with having Jesus’ image in our countenance. The one-upmanship we typically see connected with intellectual prowess and other forms of prowess is opposite to what discipleship calls for. Jesus’ aim is to lift us up, not to put people down.
Given all you and I yet lack in our spiritual symmetry and character formation, no wonder God must use so intensively the little time available to develop each of us in this brief second estate. One’s life, therefore, is brevity compared to eternity—like being dropped off by a parent for a day at school. But what a day!
For the serious disciple, the resulting urgency means there can be few extended reveries and recesses and certainly no sabbaticals—all this in order to hasten God’s relentless remodeling of each of us. Reveries and special moments may come, but they are not extended. Soon the drumroll of events, even difficulties, resumes. There is so much to get done in the brief time we have in this mortal classroom.
Comparing what we are with what we have the power to become should give us great spiritual hope. Think of it this way: There are some very serene, blue lakes on this planet situated in cavities which once were red, belching volcanos. Likewise, there are beautiful, green, tropical mountains formed from ancient, hot extrusions. The parallel transformation of humans is much more remarkable than all of that—much more beautiful and much more everlasting!
So it is, amid the vastness of His creations, God’s personal shaping influence is felt in the details of our lives—not only in the details of the galaxies and molecules but, much more importantly, in the details of our own lives. Somehow God is providing these individual tutorials for us while at the same time He is overseeing cosmic funerals and births, for as one earth passes away so another is born (see Moses 1:38). It is marvelous that He would attend to us so personally in the midst of those cosmic duties.
Are we willing, however, to be significantly remodeled even by His loving hands? Enoch was. He marveled over God’s vast creations and fervently exclaimed, “Yet thou art there” (Moses 7:30). God is ever “there”! Significantly, Enoch also exclaimed over three attributes of God’s character, declaring that God is just, merciful, and kind forever. You and I count on those attributes of God every day. And the fact that God uses those qualities to bless us should stir us to develop them in ourselves to operate in behalf of others.

Becoming Alive in Christ

God is very serious about the joy of His children! Why should we be surprised? God desires us to become more like Him so we can go home to Him. He is a perfect Father!
Where would we be, in fact, without God’s long-suffering? Given the divine sorrow each of us has caused our God and our Savior, what a divine comfort to know that “he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42). No more reassuring and important words could be said to any of us.
What ineffable love! What stunning patience! How wrenching it would otherwise be to be resurrected and forever wincing over having displeased Him. Oh, the marvel of His divine mercy and His plan of happiness!
One day, if we remain faithful, we will, as the man or the woman of Christ, know that we, too, please God. Discipleship’s enlarged capacity to serve will bring enlarged joys. No wonder we read lamentations from the Lord about those who do not accept His invitation to discipleship. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:37).
Or, from the Book of Mormon, “O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you!” (Morm. 6:17). These lamentations measure the deep love Jesus has for us and underscore the importance of our accepting His invitation to discipleship.
Even so, Jesus prayed for us and for all of His followers not to be taken out of the world but that we might be kept from evil (see John 17:15). We stay in the classroom until school is out because there appears to be “no other way.”
It is left to each of us to balance contentment regarding what God has allotted to us in life with some divine discontent resulting from what we are in comparison to what we have the power to become. Discipleship creates this balance on the straight and narrow path.
Discipleship turns on our spiritual sensitivities. It increases the “aliveness” in each of us. These sensitivities are enhanced, not diminished, with discipleship. It’s part of what the scriptures call becoming “alive in Christ because of our faith” (2 Ne. 25:25; see also Rom. 6:111 Cor. 15:22). In contrast, there’s a dullness and a sameness about sin. With discipleship we learn to act for ourselves rather than merely letting ourselves be “acted upon” by circumstances (see 2 Ne. 2:13).
One of the dangers we face in discipleship is drifting. This can occur when we become “wearied and faint in [our] minds,” to use Paul’s phrase (Heb. 12:3). This is one of the tragedies of failing to be serious disciples; not that we become necessarily wicked, but rather that those who drift merely exist and are not truly alive in Christ.
Paul warns those of us on the path of discipleship to be diligent, “lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you” (Heb. 12:15). Travel on the straight and narrow path occurs in company with other disciples, imperfect as we all are. Side by side, as we all are, means that there are ways in which we can become offended or even embittered. Given the imperfections of all of us in the Church, offenses will come and disappointments will occur. How we handle these is crucial. We must be quick to prune any personal sprig of bitterness so that our wills can be truly swallowed up in the will of the Father as we put off the natural man and the natural woman. Jealousy, resentment, and self-pity can all keep us from becoming alive in Christ.

Defining Moments

We sometimes speak of defining moments. Long ago in May 1945 there was such a moment for me on the island of Okinawa at age eighteen. There was certainly no heroism on my part but rather a blessing for me and others during the shelling of our position by Japanese artillery. After repeated shellings which overshot our position, the enemy artillery finally zeroed in. They should have then fired for effect, but there was a divine response to at least one frightened, selfish prayer. The shelling halted. The prayer was accompanied by my pledge of a lifetime of service—a pledge which, though imperfectly, I’ve tried to keep. With this blessing and pledge, I was nudged toward discipleship without realizing what service would be required. I had been blessed, and I knew that God knew that I knew. I remembered the pledge after the war when my overseas savings gladly went to finance a mission. This mission, of course, was yet another step in the direction of discipleship.
Many subsequent and subtle moments have been at least as important to me as that defining moment in Okinawa. Unlike the roar and crash of artillery followed by a delivering silence, these smaller moments involve the Lord’s periodic whisperings to my mind. Over the years, these whisperings have guided me and reassured me. They give me, from time to time, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, sudden strokes of ideas and occasionally the pure flow of intelligence (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 151). These moments are as real for me as what happened on Okinawa. These are inward things, often taking the form of a directing phrase. I have found that the Lord gives more instructions than explanations.
Our spiritual experiences are personal and spiritual. Often they are not sharable. Some may be, but it takes inspiration to know when to share them. President Marion G. Romney, who often combined wit and wisdom, said, “We’d have more spiritual experiences if we didn’t talk so much about them.”
Be assured that God is in the details and in the subtleties of the defining and preparatory moments of discipleship. He will reassure you. He will remind you. Sometimes, if you’re like me, He will brace or reprove you in a highly personal process not understood or appreciated by those outside the context.
In the revelations, the Lord speaks of how the voice of His spirit will be felt in our minds. He also says that if we read His words—meaning the scriptures—we will hear His voice. Many disciples have had private moments of pondering and reading the scriptures when the words came through in a clear, clarion way. We know Who it is who’s speaking to us! We’ve all had the experience of going over a scripture many times without having it register. Then, all of a sudden, we’re ready to receive it! We hear the voice of the Lord through His words.
So it is in the process of discipleship. There are more meaningful moments than we use profitably, just as in terms of service there are more opportunities around us than we now use. God is ever ready; if only we were always ready.
President Brigham Young taught, “There is not a single condition of life … [and] not one hour’s experience but what it is beneficial to all those who make it their study, and aim to improve upon the experience they gain” (in Journal of Discourses, 9:292). I hope we realize that. We may fritter away our time, but life is always drenched with more opportunities for discipleship than we use. Therefore, all the minutes and hours and moments can be, at least incrementally, defining moments.
God is in the details of our lives. He knows us perfectly, just as Jesus knew the woman of Samaria whom He quizzed as to her belief in the Messiah. She said, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things” (John 4:25). And Jesus said, “I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26). She went back to her village all excited and said she’d found the Messiah, and then, significantly, she said to the villagers, “He told me all that ever I did” (John 4:39).
God knows us perfectly. He loves us perfectly. His only begotten son, Jesus, has invited us to “come, follow me.” In a real and majestic sense, each of us has been called to serve in His holy discipleship. May we all renew our desires and efforts to do so.