Relationship with God through Prayer

 

by Natalie Olsen

Everyone faces daily trials. Everyone experiences pain, sorrow, loss, and hardships.There have been countless trials and challenges that I have faced in school, in family, and even in the littlest situations. These trials seem to spark the question, why is this happening to me? The one being that I am truly thankful for to have as a constant companion when experiencing these trials, is God; our Heavenly Father. Whenever you are facing a trial or experiencing a hardship, don’t think, just drop to your knees and pray. I cannot express how much prayer has changed my life. Through prayer, your questions can be answered. Through prayer, your sorrows can be uplifted. Through prayer, you can communicate directly with your Father in Heaven who has endless love for you and every individual no matter what hardships they are going through or choices they have made. Your Heavenly Father loves you and knows you personally.

personal-prayer-272817-galleryThe ultimate way to speak to Heavenly Father is through prayer. When you are kneeling down and thanking and asking your Heavenly Father for help and support, He is there listening to you. We don’t always have to pray at our bedside; we can pray throughout our daily lives whenever and wherever we go. Heavenly Father helps us accomplish even the littlest things. for example, before tests or finals, I can pray to remember the things I have studied. We can use prayer to ask Heavenly Father for guidance if we’re lost on the road. We can pray for anything and He will be for us. I recently heard a story from a little girl named Pheobe. Pheobe is 4 years old, and one day, she was trying to open the lid to her nail polish. She was having a hard time so she knelt down and prayed for Heavenly Father to help her accomplish this task. After the prayer, she tried again and she was able to open the lid to her nail polish. She then announced, “Heavenly Father helped me!” It is absolutely incredible to know that our Heavenly Father is there to help us through taking a test, finding our way, opening a nail polish lid, and through everything we are encountering in our lives.

In my experience, whenever I pray I feel as though I am talking to my best friend. A best friend is always there by your side and comforts you when you are in need of comfort. Heavenly Father is my best friend. He is there beside me through everything I do. He comforts me and knows what I am going through. The only way to keep in touch with my best friend, is through prayer. Every time I pray, the closer I become to my Father in Heaven; my best friend. He is our Father, he is our friend. I cannot even count how many times my prayers have been answered and my hard times have eased because of my Heavenly Father. I don’t know what I’d do without prayer, just like not knowing what I’d do without a best friend. He brings me happiness when I’m sad, I can feel his embrace when I’m depressed, and I can receive truth and guidance when I am lost. Our Heavenly Father knows each and everyone of us more than we know ourselves. He is constantly by our side. If you are lost, depressed, confused, and in need of someone, pray. I know that He will answer your prayers and you can receive guidance and feel His love for you. I know this with all of my heart. Create a relationship with your Heavenly Father through prayer and you will never be lost. You will never be alone. You will always have someone to turn to. I know this to be true, I have felt true joy through prayer, and I know that you too can have this relationship with our Father in Heaven and truly receive guidance and happiness throughout your life.

Finding Faith in Christ in Times of Trial

I’ve often gotten sick in the winter, so when I had a virus in mid February I didn’t really think twice about it. I figured I’d be back to school in three days maximum. Days turned into weeks, and I kept feeling sicker and sicker. I went to doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. In March I finally started feeling better, but more sad. I couldn’t understand why everyday I felt these overwhelming feelings of sadness. I thought something was wrong with me. I felt hopeless and so so alone. Eventually my sadness got so bad I was admitted to the hospital for depression. When I got there I felt angry and alone. I thought I didn’t belong there and that it was a waste of time. I participated half heartedly and couldn’t understand why I felt so horrible.

The first night I knelt down and said a prayer. The next day was still hard but I felt more at peace. I started participating more, I started feeling more like myself, and I started to appreciate the power of the Atonement. On a particular hard night I was praying my heart out and I felt like I wasn’t getting any answers, so I picked up my Book of Mormon and flipped to a random page. 3 Nephi 22:4 really stood out to me “Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.” To me, this verse means that although we may have problems in our youth, in the whole scheme of things our struggles will be forgotten. Verse 7 also says, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee.” In our lives we are going to have times of trial. We are here to be tested and to learn. We wouldn’t be able to learn if we didn’t have times of trial.

Through this experience I learned how to pray better. At first I would pray to have this trial lifted because I thought I couldn’t do it. But as soon as I realized I could do it, I changed my prayers to “please help me to be able to bear this burden.” As soon as I did that, and when I  decided to put all my trust in Heavenly Father, it got easier. President Uchtdorf said, “You are stronger than you realize, more capable than you ever imagine.” Heavenly Father knows what we are capable of. We don’t. Although this trial has been hard, I did it. I am beyond grateful that I had this trial. Before I never appreciated my parents as much as I should have. I also never valued Priesthood  blessings like I should have. Through this experience I grew closer to Christ and Heavenly Father. I now know how blessed I am, and appreciate how much the gospel blesses my life.

 

Standing as a Witness

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a witness is someone who has a personal knowledge of something.  In the case of members of the church, this would be the gospel.  However, how do we stand as a witness if we aren’t ourselves witnesses yet?  You can’t have someone testify in court who didn’t even see the crime.

Although we don’t have to know all you are standing up for perfectly, we must at least believe it.  We strive to strengthen our knowledge of the gospel and all it has to offer.  We must first put forth effort to gain this knowledge. There are some cases where the knowledge came to someone through a great experience, but for most of us it comes slowly through hard work, determination, and love.  We can’t sit at home watching TV and eating our cheese puffs, just waiting for some great epiphany. No, we must work.  With hard work we can gain this knowledge.  I myself find that I can get caught in a daily routine of just reading my scriptures and saying my prayers without actually paying attention to what I am reading or saying.  When I put off my daily communication with my Heavenly Father by just doing these things because I’m told to, the experiences I could have had, don’t happen.  This can often result in a feeling of loneliness, like no one is there to guide us, but He is always there. If we will just reach out our hands as far as we possibly can, our Heavenly Father will grasp them and pull us up from the raging waters we are so close to drowning in, but we must try. We must read our scriptures as if they are the next Hunger Games.  We must learn to love every “and it came to pass…” and “in the reign of the judges…” We must also strive to gain a relationship with our Father in Heaven.  He is the best friend we could ever ask for.  He is never too busy or likes someone else more than you.  He will never ditch your plans.  He will never ignore you or talk about you behind your back because He is perfect, and every imperfect soul needs someone perfect to look up to.  I know every single one of you looks up to someone. Whether they are famous or just an average person, for some reason you strive to have the qualities that they posses.  This person should be our Heavenly Father. We should want to be like Him, not because we are told to, but because in our heart it is our dream.

Another way we can become closer to our Father in Heaven is to learn.  We must fully understand the atonement and the gospel.  When we understand and take advantage of the atonement’s healing power our bond with the Savior grows.  Like a rope, each little string is what-in the end-binds us to our Heavenly Father.  If we are to overlook these little strings that seem unimportant and useless, our rope will rely solely on others and a little bit on our own weak testimony.  Once we have grasped the gospel and have become a witness we can show others what they too can become.  Be the example for them. You don’t have to go around showing everyone that you have high moral standards and are wicked cool because of it. No, we must be humble, and when the time is right share.  If someone looks up to you they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.

It’s a process. You must first become a witness, then become a friend and example of the church, then lastly-if the time is right-teach.  Would you listen to some infomercial telling you that if you drink this product you will have the perfect body in just two days? Or are you more likely to listen to your friend who tells you this instead of some weird guy that interrupts your favorite show?  So if we are more likely to listen to people we look up to and love, we must strive to be those people.  We must try our absolute hardest to be examples to others of a good friend and person.  People often look up to their friends.  So go out there and make friends. Be an example to them.

I personally have an experience where I talked about the church in my class.  This was a class I was very comfortable in.  I am a friend with everyone in it, including the teacher.  One day we were talking about the book we were reading, and how it is very centered around the Catholic religion.  The topic of religion then came up, and my teacher-who is Catholic-starting asking questions.  Her first one was if any of the Catholic kids enjoyed their church.  To my surprise, none of them said they did.  They said it was boring and not at all exciting.  She then asked if any members had questions about the Catholic religion.  All the Catholic kids raised their hands explaining that the church as a whole was confusing, and had many parts they did not understand.  My teacher’s next remark was that she didn’t quite agree with the fact that their priests and popes couldn’t get married.  She then asked the class if anyone else in another church was allowed to get married as a priest.  I raised my hand and explained that we did not have just one person appointed to speak every Sunday, but that we picked members of the congregation to speak.  This amazed my teacher.  I explained that we had a bishop that ran the ward, but it was the members who were given topics they were assigned to speak about, and that I myself had talked in church too.  After my remarks she asked me if I enjoyed my church.  Unlike the others, I responded that I absolutely loved my church and loved going.  This surprised everyone, and my teacher ended on saying, “See? Churches can be fun.”  Afterwards, I was talking to my friend who told me that our church seemed so fun and how she loved the dances and everything.  This lead into a discussion about the basic principles of our church.  I was talking about it with two of my friends.  It was because of our friendship that they listened and were willing to bring it back up with me after class.  I had been an example of our church to them.  And now that my entire class knows, I find myself striving to live a better life and be an even better person.  As we stand as witnesses out strength and experience grows along with our testimony.

Tolerance

Tolerance is quite a large subject, so I will be focusing more on how tolerance has to do with kindness. While researching on LDS.org for some talks for inspiration, I came across a talk called “Tolerance, the Beginning of Christlike Love” by Sister Ann N. Madsen from October 1983. Sister Madsen starts off her talk by recalling a memory of her childhood. She says, “One of my earliest childhood memories is of my father, who was a blessed peacemaker, settling disputes in our family by using a saying which meant ducks are different- or, in other words, each of us is unique, be tolerant. People are different, but thats not necessarily bad.” I feel like this is a very important saying that should be more present in our daily lives. Today, we are meeting people from lots of different places who are different than us. I remember when I first moved to the Netherlands in the 4th grade. I was very excited to start school because I thought that school was fun; my thoughts have changed over time. I thought that everybody would be like me, from America. When I walked in on the first day I felt like a stranger, not just because I was the only American in my grade, maybe even my whole school. The realization sunk in that I had moved away from my childhood home and my old friends that I had known forever, to a new place with new people, most of them from Britain, who thought that it was absurd to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I knew, as a 9 year old in 4th grade, that I was different. At the time I thought it wasn’t a nice thing to feel. Getting older, and moving back to America, made me appreciate how nice it was to be different. It felt nice to be unique, even if it was just in a school community. I know that my friends have showed kindness to me by knowing, understanding, and appreciating the fact that I am different. 
 
One way to be tolerant is to be kind, or having Christlike love. We know that two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors. These things should be our highest priorities in life. We read this in Matthew 22:37-39, which says, “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Being kind to others is a key way to have tolerance. Just as Christ loved everyone, we should do the same. We all live on this earth together, and we are all children of God. Although it may be challenging, we must love our enemies too. Reading Matthew 5:43-45 we see the same, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth the rain rain on the just and on the unjust.”  To me, this means Heavenly father treats us all equally; he doesn’t give more privileges to the people who do good, so we should treat others equally too.
 
There are many things that can make tolerance difficult to have. In Sister Madsen’s Talk from October 1983, she goes on to say some challenges that we might face when trying to have tolerance or Christlike love. She says, “We separate ourselves from others by the differences we see. We feel comfortable with those who dress like we do, think like we do, and act like we do; and we feel uncomfortable with those who are different.” As much as I regret saying this, what Sister Madsen says is true. In our world today, I am finding myself feeling a little uncomfortable with some who are a little different than I am, which I am ashamed of. It should not be okay for us to judge others and take pity on them because they are different than we are. As members of the Church, we should be giving non-members or anyone else a warm welcome, instead of making them feel uncomfortable because they are different than we are. Sister Madsen also says, “Some differences don’t matter at all and should never divide us. Most cultural differences also fall into this category. We are a worldwide church and represent many different cultures. We cannot afford lapses into provincialism.” To those of you that don’t know, provincialism is where people view things with a very narrow mind. An example of that is thinking that others aren’t as good as you are, because they don’t do things the same way as you do.
 
Tolerance has both good and bad sides. When we have tolerance, we need to be careful. In an April 1998 talk called “What is Tolerance” by Russell M. Nelson, he says, “Tolerance is a virtue much needed in our turbulent world. But we must recognize that there is a difference between tolerance and tolerate. Your gracious tolerance for an individual does not grant him or her to do wrong, nor does your tolerance obligate you to tolerate his or her misdeed. That distinction is fundamental to an understanding of this vital virtue.” I definitely agree with what Elder Nelson says here. It is good if you tolerate someone’s differences, but it is not good if you allow yourself to tolerate what they are doing wrong. Many things today that we as members of the Church believe in are happening. If we tolerate these things, it isn’t making the world a better place. Instead we should do what is right, because things, no matter what they are, can have impacts on our lives.
 
I would like to end by reminding you all how much our Heavenly Father loves us. He loves us so much that he gave his life for us. He should be an example to us, not to take our lives for those we love, but to love everyone. D&C 133:52 says, “And now the year of my redeemed is come; and they shall mention the loving kindness of their Lord, and all that He has bestowed upon them according to his goodness, and according to his loving kindness, forever and ever.”

What it Means to be a Peacemaker

By Justin D.

I am a 16-year-old sophomore in high school. I have a few hobbies including playing basketball, playing video games, cooking, and watching sports with my dad. My family and I have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about eight years.

Lately I’ve pondered the question, “What does it mean to be a peacemaker?” Other questions I had were, “How have I been a peacemaker?” and “How does being a peacemaker relate to being a child of God”?

What it means to be a peacemaker. What is the opposite of peace? I think of hostility. Beginning with the fall of Adam and Eve, there has been hostility, war, and unrest on the earth. Today, we experience stress, anger, anxiety, and hatred in our daily lives. However, even with the challenges we endure, in times like these, when things are at their worst, we see the best come out of some people. There are people throughout history who put their personal interest, pride, and humility aside for the good of others. Hopefully we can all look to someone in our own lives that has these same traits. To me that’s what a peacemaker is: someone who can fight through the smoke and chaos that comes with challenges and see the best in people, and the best in situations, and makes it their central focus and goal to nurture and spread that good.

There is someone at my school that comes to mind who bears these qualities. He has inspired me to be better. He is a mediator: his job is to try to help students find peace, whether that means peace in their lives at home (should they be struggling with personal issues), or peace at school (if they are having trouble with a classmate).  Every day, when I see him in the hall dealing with hostile, angry kids, I wonder “wouldn’t he just love to smack that boy?”  But then it dawns on me, that would only make him feel good, and only for a short time.  To do his job as a mediator, or a peacemaker, and bring peace — true peace that lasts — he has to find a way to put aside what might make him feel good and think about what might make the other parties feel good and bring peace to the situation.  Resolving that conflict would bring a much longer, sustained, lasting peace.

How have I been a peacemaker? I have three sisters at home: one older sister and two younger sisters. Honestly, I love my sisters. They have taught me a lot, and have really been a blessing. However, they have struggles trying to get along, share, and understand each other. Sometimes peace at home requires more skill than negotiating between Israel and Palestine.

To me, a peacemaker’s priority is to remain calm and centered with the Spirit when situations are at their worst. When two people are in a disagreement, a peacemaker must step in and help each side see the other’s opinion. Even if the two sides don’t agree, the important factor in peace is that they understand the other’s opinion. This isn’t easy, particularly at home. We get so heated, thanks to emotion and frustration, over our desire to get our point across, that we block out the possibility of being open to listening to the other’s point. I try to create peace by stepping in and helping each of my sisters understand each other. These experiences are helping me grow personally. They are helping me grow stronger, and making me a better peacemaker.

How does being a peacemaker relate to being a child of God?  Well, to simplify things for me a bit I guess, there’s one simple rule when it comes to being a peacemaker. You have to be at peace. You can’t share something you don’t have.

Peace to me is a gift. You can’t make it in the kitchen, you can’t win it playing a video game, and you can’t fake it. My father gave me the opportunity to receive peace when he made the choice to convert to this church. My baptism gave me the first taste of peace. My covenant with Heavenly Father continues to give me the opportunity to grow and become more peaceful. Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated in a talk entitled “Blessed are the Peacemakers” that peace can prevail only when the natural inclination to fight is superseded by the determination to love one another on a loftier level. He goes on to say this can only be done by living through Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us how to live with one another. He declared two great commandments, “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31). Just before his death the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27).

These scriptures are great reminders that peace is a gift that we are commanded to share. We are all brothers and sisters thus making us all children of God.

My favorite scripture story comes from Mark chapter 4. This is a story of Jesus and his disciples being swept up in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. The story tells us the waves beat at the walls of the boat and Jesus asleep at the stern. The disciples cried out to him, to which he awoke and, standing calmly, with authority,  rebuked the wind. He said to the waves “Peace be still!”, and the winds ceased, the clouds broke, and the rain stopped.

If the Son of God can say “peace be still” and silence a biblical storm, He can speak to your heart and calm the storm you may be feeling right now. His is the ultimate peace.

It is our moral, civic, and Christ-given obligation to share and spread this peace in a way only His peacemakers can.

 

Finding Hope Through Christ

In my life, I often fail to accomplish my goals and live up to the person I want to be. These times sometimes prevent me from being happy and feeling peace. I remember the pain and confusion I feel after sinning and failing to be the person that Christ wants me to be. I have felt directionless.

Yet, I continued to remember the sacrifice that Christ made for me and the love that He showed. From these thoughts I found hope in Christ, but this did not solve my problems. It did, however, give me the strength I needed to get on the right path. As I turned to the scriptures and prayer, God’s guidance dissolved my confusion. I felt like the Book of Mormon prophet Alma, who after sinning against God, found hope in the words of his father who had prophesied “unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world” (Alma 36:17). Alma cries, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death” (Alma 36:18). Alma then describes the exceedingly great joy that filled his soul. I have felt the same feelings of joy as I have repented of and forsaken my sins. I have felt freedom and peace.

The repentance process has proven to me the divinity of Jesus Christ and His personal love for me and each of us.

Knowing His love for me, I know he has a plan for my life. Understanding this has helped me gain hope that I can overcome all my trials. It has taught me to never give up, but to rely upon Christ to carry me through rough times.

I know that Christ is interested in my welfare. Through prayer, I know that we can each feel the love and help that Christ freely gives us. I pray that all will gain hope through Christ to overcome their trials. Trust that He loves you and turn to Him to experience His redeeming power.

No Rated R Movies?

000Just the other week I was forced to make a difficult choice on whether or not to watch an R-rated movie. In most cases, staying true to the standards I’ve set for myself isn’t too difficult, but in this particular case doing what I knew to be right was harder than usual. My psychology class was finishing a long unit, and to review for our upcoming test, the teacher decided to show us a movie that helped capture a lot of the curriculum we had recently learned. I was excited to watch this movie until my teacher announced that the film we were about to watch was rated R. After I heard this I immediately cringed: how was I supposed to  review the material I learned in class and keep my moral standards at the same time? This had me stumped for a while before I made my decision.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are asked not to watch any movie that is rated R. We try to watch movies that would only motivate us to do good and keep our standards; most rated R movies don’t help  accomplish that. Instead, they are spiritually damaging and can lead us down a path we’re trying to avoid. When I explain this to my friends, I usually get the response, “what makes an R-rated movie any different from a borderline PG-13 movie? To answer honestly, I don’t know if there is a difference. But what I do know is that we are invited not to watch, “anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way”. Its possible that some PG-13 movies could deter us from that goal as well! Because of this, members of my church have to use their judgment and choose whether or not its appropriate to view the movie they’re planning on watching. But discouraging members not to view R-Rated movies makes it easier to attain the goal of keeping good thoughts, actions and language.

At the end of the day, I think it comes down to obedience. It’s easy for me to justify doing the wrong thing because I often feel like my particular circumstance is different and is the exception to the rule. It isn’t easy making decisions without knowing all the details or understanding the whole picture. But that’s what religion is all about! Religion believing in something without knowing everything. Having to trust that God is leading you where you want to be even if it’s difficult at first. Although I don’t know exactly what my church’s thought process or reasoning for this rule was, I do know that my church, led by Christ, is trying to steer me into the right direction in life. And I’ve learned from experience that if  I continue to follow their guidelines I’ll be much better off. I’ve come to know that my church is true and as I trust in God by simply obeying I will be rewarded.

While in my dilemma of what to do, the words of one of my church’s children’s songs came to mind. The song goes, “If the Savior stood beside me would I do the things I do? Would I think of his commandments and try harder to be true?” . After picturing Christ next to me as I made my decision, how could I just sit back and disregard a standard I’ve set for myself? When I heard those words come to mind, I got out of my seat and walked up to my teacher’s desk and asked to leave in front of my whole class.  After a brief conversation, my teacher was so impressed with my courage to stand up that I didn’t have to do any make-up assignment, and was excused from class for the rest of the week. This experience taught me that by simply doing what is right, even when its hard, God will bless you.

Mothers

By Claudia M. Buruca

What is a mother?

If you type in this question to any search engine you will find many results and definitions.  Some examples would be: “a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth”, or the verb form “of bringing up a child with care and affection.”

To me, a mother is someone who guides us in the right direction.  She loves us unconditionally and she puts her child’s needs above her own. Brother Bradley D. Foster said: By divine design, nurturing seems to be part of the spiritual heritage given to women.”

 The other day I asked one of my co-workers what a mother was to him, and how he would describe a mother.  It took him a while to answer my question.   After a few minutes he came up with an answer.  He told me “a mother should be caring and loving.  They should be tender, but also give their love unconditionally.”

As President Joseph F. Smith said, “The love of a true mother comes nearer [to] being like the love of God than any other kind of love” (“The Love of Mother,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1910, 278).

My co-worker also said that mother’s can perceive “when things are not well, or when things may go wrong.”  There were two things that I liked in what he said.  The first being “motherhood and fatherhood  is a picture of God’s love and faithfulness.”  The second, that mother’s don’t have to be the ones who gave birth to you.  They could be someone who took over the role of being a mother because the mother was absent.  Mothers could also be grandmothers, aunts, and even father’s, etc.

In my life, I have the blessing of having three mothers.  My mother being a single parent raised me with my brother.  When she had no other choice but to work and go to school to give me a better future, I spent most of my childhood with my grandmother and great-grandmother.  I consider them both my mothers as well because they have helped raise me, and have made me into the person I am to this day.  I am very grateful for this blessing in my life.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said that “If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation-not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them.”  All three of my mother’s have been there when I feel down and have been there when I am doing well.   My great-grandmother is an example of a woman who grew up without a mother.  She was raised by my great-great grandfather.  He instilled in her all the qualities that she was able to instill in my grandmother.  These qualities have been passed down the generations to me. For this reason I know what the role and duty of a mother should be, and I will strive to add on to those qualities for my future generations.

As President James E. Faust said: “There is no greater good in all the world than motherhood. The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation” (“Fathers, Mothers, Marriage