Thursday, July 26, 2012

Days 23-25: Scripture Study

Confession time. Though I have still studied 30 minutes a day, I haven't done great with keeping study notes for the last few days. That's why I am supposed to set goals with minimal parameters. Whoops. Since I broke that parameter, I'm gonna go ahead and change my definition of perfection for the month. The new definition is studying for 30 minutes every day. There. See how easy it is to have a perfect month?

Having said that, I am still going to make an effort to keep study notes because even in the last couple of days of not keeping notes I have noticed a difference. The spirit speaks to me much more when I am doing what it takes to have a focused mind. (And taking notes is what it takes for me).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day 22: Scripture Challenge

It's interesting how the Lord has led me this month. In the beginning, I had only a vague plan of what and how I was going to fill the thirty minutes each day. Before long, I felt a need to study faith. As I studied faith, I was naturally led to love. I am still stuck on love, though each time I study I feel like I am being given another hint at what my Father in Heaven would like me to change. The best part is that the longer I go on this path, the more God changes me. It is not overwhelming because God is in control. As the spirit takes charge of my studies, I am learning at the pace that is appropriate for me. Almost without my noticing or making specific goals (which for me can sometimes become contrived) my heart is changing.

And now I remember why true study of God's word is worth the time.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day 21: Scripture Challenge

Today I read "Love Takes Time," by Marvin J. Ashton, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

This talk is based on the idea that words are not enough to show our love. Ongoing actions over time are what bless others and ourselves and what define true love.

As I've thought about the nudge God has given me toward love, I've considered the various applications of this inspiration. Does He want me to work on the way I show Matt love? Should I improve my relationships with family members? Friends? Do I need to learn to love everyone? Any one of these could be a serious and time-consuming project for personal growth. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) He think I means all of the above.

While I could easily make a ridiculously detailed and ambitious list of goals out of any one of the above-mentioned applications of this inspiration, I don't think I need to. When I was on my mission I spent several months studying and trying to develop the Christ-like attributes mentioned in Preach My Gospel. As I did this, I noticed that they were all interrelated and as I worked to develop one attribute, I automatically improved in the rest. I am beginning to believe that this has application to many gospel topics.

I'm still studying love and allowing the spirit to guide me toward the application that God would like me to focus on, but I believe the others will naturally improve as I work on one.

Spoiler: I think I'm being led toward loving those I have a difficult time loving, or loving everyone. I am beginning to change the way I think about people and trying to discover people's gifts rather than their faults.

Day 20: Scripture Challenge

 July 20, 2012

Yesterday was the 20th day of this month. I can't say that I have done a great job of making the most of this challenge. I know that I benefit most from scripture study when I do it earlier in the day, for example, and most of this challenge I have been studying from 11:30-midnight give or take a half hour.

Having said that, I would like to acknowledge some of the blessings I've gotten from setting aside 30 minutes every day for scripture study and pondering.

Although my study has not been at the ideal time of day and despite my failure to develop a clear study plan or objective, Heavenly Father has used this opportunity to teach me something that I need to know at this moment in my life. He wants me to love His children and He wants me to be grateful and happy for the blessings he's given me. Lucky for me, once He pointed this out to me, I realized that I want these things for myself as well. I want them desperately and I would probably have continued for a long time without realizing that hunger had I not allowed Him to teach me.

Gratitude log for July 20, 2012:
  • I got to go Visiting Teaching twice, once in the morning and once in the evening
  • In the morning, my VT companion shared a message about love and testified that if we ask Heavenly Father to increase our love, He will
  • Matt made dinner and it was delicous
  • It was a cooler day (it poured the night before!)
  • Lillian learned the word "hug"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pause for Pictures

I have read for 30 minutes every day still, though on a couple of occasions when I did not have a clock visible I had to estimate the time.

Obviously my blogging has lagged and I don't want this month's posts to be pure study guide notes, anyway, so instead of giving you the daily details of days 14-18 I'll give the impressions and the impact that they have made on me.

First, I need to give a shout out to Christina who flew out to spend a whole week with Matt, me, and Lilly. We had a blast and we're all experiencing major Teena withdrawals. Here're some pictures of the good times we had:

Cuddling on the bus

Girl time in the sandbox

Lilly loves Allie!

Digger Wasp carrying a dead bug. Google it.

We intended to use this, but when I climbed down to make sure the water was deep enough we were glad I checked. We went for a nice swim, but probably would have died if we'd tried to enter via rope swing...

Hi guys!

Peek a boo!

Best buds

Pointing at the lake

Cuddling lions--this was pretty awesome in person

Lilly's not quite a gibbon yet

Three monkey pals

Lilly's deciding what to order.

The next five pictures tell a story. I call this series: "Treat please"

Entering the lake (Lilly's second time swimming)

Friendly ducks

Day 19: Scripture Challenge

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
1 John 4:7-8

Days 14-18: Scripture Challenge

Over the last several days my studies have not seemed particularly spiritual or enlightening. Admittedly most of them have begun around 11:00 at night. Despite my occasional lack of focus and direction in studying, I have been blessed for my efforts.

Day 11 marked the beginning of a week of revelation. Though it didn't feel like a scripture study any different from the rest, Heavenly Father gave me a hint of what He wants me to change about myself. In the days following day 11, I have had "love" come to my mind several times. I began to study it under's gospel topics tab. (I'm starting to love that, by the way!)

I don't feel like I have necessarily learned anything new about love besides the fact that I have been struggling with it and the Lord would like me to address that issue.

Though I am a person who generally deals well with change, certain aspects of my move to Madison have been difficult. I left behind friends who I love with all my heart. People who have changed me forever and who have been with me during pivotal moments in my life. Consequently, I have a high expectation of my friends now. It's kind of like dating again after you found (and broke up with) the perfect man.

My problem is that I have been expecting the same quality of relationships in people who I have only met in the last year. To be honest, I have used a very fine strainer to decide who has potential to be my next bestie. Perhaps as a side effect of that attitude, I have begun to look for the flaws instead of the gifts that people have, and it has not been working for me.

I did not realize I was doing this until the Lord gave me several subtle impressions during my study and pondering time.

I am grateful for the opportunity that is created by studying my scriptures. As I've taken time to PONDER in addition to reading, I have felt my mind guided to those things that the Lord wants me to know.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day 13: Scripture Challenge

July 13, 2012

Because I've spent the last few days getting caught up on blogging my scripture studies, I have had little time left to really get into anything new. I guess this is a testament to the value of balance. For me, I have a difficult time getting much from my study unless the balance of reading, pondering, praying, and writing is just right.

Looking back on my notes, though, from July 13th, I am interested in 1 Nephi 10:17 where Nephi teaches that the Holy Ghost is "the gift of God unto all that diligently seek it." It made me wonder what this gift entails exactly. When I was a kid, I thought that receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost would make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy all the time. While the Holy Ghost certainly can make me feel this way, I think it can be with us without our feeling those things. What do you think?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 12: Scripture Challenge

July 12, 2012

On this day I spent all of my scripture study time getting caught up on blogging scripture studies. This was a good experience in that the entire study was spent pondering. I haven't done that before. It was a straight thirty minutes of thinking about the things I'd studied. I hope, however, to not do it again. My best scripture study sessions have included a flexible mixture of study, pondering, and praying.

Here are some pictures from day twelve. Happy day!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 11: Scripture Challenge

July 11, 2012

2 Nephi 26:29-30
He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.

I've been thinking lately about how hungry I am to be heard and how my interest to hear others has diminished in the last year or so. I'm not sure when this started, but I suspect it's related to my move to Madison. I left my family and friends who I had spent many years building relationships with and came to a place where I need to start fresh. In this situation, there just aren't as many ready listeners as there used to be--at least not listeners who I know are sincerely interested. 

I have become tired from all the social niceties of asking people about themselves and hungry for someone to ask about my thoughts and my life. Somehow that has slowly morphed into a desire to "set myself up for a light unto the world" to "get gain and praise of the world," or at least, it's in the same spirit of these attitudes.

I searched for this scripture because I know that I have needed to work on charity lately, but as I write about it, it's easier for me to see where the problem lies. I am going to be praying for a more sincere love for my fellow man.

Day 10: Scripture Challenge

July 10, 2012

I love Lehi's dream of the tree of life for several reasons. One of my favorite things about it, though, is the fact that it was a dream and that the description of it feels very dream-like. As a person who has had a few life-changing dreams, I have a deep gratitude for this form of revelation.

In the April 2012 General Conference, Elder Scott spoke about dreams as a form of revelation in his talk, "How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life." The following quote is exactly what I have observed about dreams as a form of personal revelation:

"Revelation can also be given in a dream when there is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. If you strive to capture the content immediately, you can record great detail, but otherwise it fades rapidly. Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost. However, He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect."

Why do you think the Lord speaks to us in so many different ways? What are the benefits of having a variety of ways to speak to His children?

Day 9: Scripture Challenge

July 9, 2012

On day nine I again spent the majority of my study time catching up on blogging my previous study days. It's interesting how much more I got out of those studies as I blogged them. Sure I was keeping notes in my study notebook as I read, but having to make a post describing those study days is like adding yet another level of meditation to my study and it made a huge difference.

When I read something, I rarely get much more than the most basic storyline out of my study. When I read with a notebook and take notes, I get a slightly clearer picture of how the storyline applies to me in general terms and when I write a journal entry or blog post about it, I find my focus sharpening on what I specifically need to learn at this moment of my life.

I have been feeling so many promptings for so long lately that I need to keep a journal again, but I have ignored them all. This blog is the closest I've come to doing it. (Potential future "Perfect Month?")

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day 8: Scripture Challenge

July 8, 2012

For the majority of my scripture study on day eight, I chose to get caught up on my blog entries and I reviewed notes that I had taken on previous nights and wrote up my posts. I took about an hour doing that, then spend ten minutes reading from 1 Nephi 7.

This chapter is the lovely one where Nephi prays that he would have power to burst the chains that his brothers had bound him with and God kindly loosens them instead. I have always thought this was a bit of a reminder to Nephi to keep his pride in check. Honestly, I've never really loved Nephi because his pride does seem to be such an annoying flaw throughout his story (it's the same with Joseph of Egypt--his ancestor).

I've been thinking, though, about Dad's comment on my post for day four: "We needn't require perfection of our heros. We can be inspired by imperfect people who do some things perfectly." I think that part of the reason that I don't have many heroes is that I do require perfection of them. I feel that a clear character flaw like pride completely clouds their good characteristics. As I've pondered on Dad's comment, I've begun to question my requirements of others. I think Christ is a much more forgiving judge and if I am hoping for His forgiveness, I better start seeing heroes in imperfect people.

Day 7: Scripture Challenge

July 7, 2012

Today I read about Nephi's purpose in writing in the plates: to persuade people to come unto Christ and be saved. As I thought about this, I wanted to listen to hymn 117: Come unto Jesus. Because is awesome, I went there and was listening to it within a few seconds of that whim. I often find myself zoning out during the hymns at church, so I particularly enjoyed listening at home and carefully reading the words as they played. (I decided not to sing because the technical aspects of singing sometimes distract me from the words themselves).

I have decided to incorporate hymns and music into my study whenever I feel so inspired. I am finding that my study is much more productive when I allow it to be dynamic. Lately, the more flexible my study plan, the better my experience.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 6: Scripture Challenge

July 6, 2012

Lately I've been struggling with faith. It's not that I have lost my faith, but that I am beginning to ask more questions. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and have decided that it's not a bad thing. I am at a plateau and in order to have the spiritual growth spurt that I feel is coming, I need to let myself ask these questions and learn to let the spirit guide me in finding the answers. I also realize that the spirit may guide me to simply have faith that the answers will not disappoint me and allow that to be my answer for now.

On day six I read a talk by James O. Mason, the President of the Bountiful temple, entitled "Faith in Jesus Christ." It is one of the talks listed under "Gospel Topics: Faith" on

According to this article, faith is inhibited by fear and doubt and it is often interwoven with hope and charity. Matt and I were talking the other night about scary movies. At one point in our lives, we both individually decided that we no longer enjoyed them. Matt pointed out that he believes that it's not only the gore or the demons, but the entire concept of fear itself that the spirit dislikes. I thought this was an interesting point in the context of this talk because fear is described as the absence of faith.

Specifically, faith should be centered on the Savior. According to President Mason, this faith requires an acknowledgment of his divine attributes, including His infinite love for innocent and sinner and His infinite capacity to forgive and heal. For me, this kind of faith is the ultimate source of hope and the greatest thing I can hope for is this kind of faith.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Day 5: Scripture Challenge

July 5, 2012

When I was in the Primary Presidency in my last ward, the church came out with new leadership manuals. I'd never even seen the old ones, and there was a ton of hype in the Worldwide Leadership Training for these new manuals. I was extremely pumped to read my brand spanking new red manual from cover to cover.

About two weeks later I still hadn't even read the entirety of the small section that related directly to Primary. This is what I thought of when I read 1 Nephi 5 on day five. The boys finally returned from Jerusalem to the wilderness with the brass plates in tow. What do you suppose Lehi did when they got home? First, as always, he praised God that they were safe and well. Next, he "search[ed] them from the beginning." You go, Lehi!

It seems like a "duh" response to getting the brass plates after all the sacrifice that went into obtaining them, but is it really what we would do? Maybe Lehi is becoming one of my heroes. (Oh boy!)

Day 4: Scripture Challenge

July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!!!

On day four, the following phrase from 1 Nephi 4:2 caught my attention: "Let us be strong like unto Moses." I have read right past this line many times. This time, though, I just happened to be imagining myself in Nephi's place, when I came to this phrase and it occurred to me that I would never think/say that. When in my life have I thought, 'I need to be strong like [insert any prophet's name here]'? Never. I have admired certain prophets and people from the scriptures at different times in my life, but I haven't really used them as role models.

To be fair, I'm not generally the type to idolize anyone. Even in my adorable tweens I never had a celebrity crush and I seriously struggle with the question, "If you could meet any famous person who would it be?" Basically no one, thank you. I even had a dream once where I was entertaining a bunch of famous people for my birthday and it was torture. (Britney Spears ruined my mom's table).

So why does Nephi think to "be strong like unto Moses?" I suppose it's because he truly admired and loved him. I think the closest I've come to relating to this phrase is when I think of my deceased grandmother. I very much hope to become like her.

Moroni (not Captain Moroni, but the one at the end of the Book of Mormon) is probably the closest I have to a scripture hero. I know my dad has a church history hero, though I can't remember who it is. It's kind of a strange ambition, I guess, but I've decided I want to feel strongly enough about a gospel hero to someday say to myself, "Let me be strong, like ---."

Who are your heroes?

Day 3: Scripture Challenge

July 3, 2012

On day three I read lesson 13 from the George Albert Smith lesson manual in preparation for the Relief Society lesson. Despite my best intentions to learn, nothing about it really struck me. Then I read 1 Nephi 3:1-13 and again did not feel like any particular point spoke to me.

It bothers me when I have a scripture study like that because I expect to be able to have a spiritual experience every time I study. However, as I think about that expectation critically, I believe it's an unrealistic expectation.

If we had an overwhelming direct message from God every time we read the scriptures, there would be no sacrifice involved in our studying. I believe that to study the scriptures is a sacrifice and an act of faith. Even though I did not feel particularly enlightened on this day, I was consistent in the decision to follow God's commandment to search the scriptures. I have faith that it was not thirty minutes wasted. Maybe the mere act of sacrificing that time was the purpose of day three's study.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Day 2: Scripture Challenge

July 2, 2012

On day two, I had an interesting parenting insight from 1 Nephi 2:2. Lehi had been preaching the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem, as commanded by God. Obviously the Jerusalem-ites didn't want to hear that they were wicked so they responded by threatening Lehi's life. In response to this dilemma, God commanded Lehi to get the heck out of Jerusalem.

I was again admiring Lehi for the way he responded to this commandment. If I were Lehi I think a part of me would have felt cheated. Thank you very much, God, I would have thought. I did exactly what you asked and now instead of protecting me, you're telling me I better run for it.

As I thought about this, an image came to mind of being spotted in weightlifting or gymnastics. The goal of spotting is to help the person the absolute least amount necessary for them to complete their rep or their backflip, or whatever. A good spotter doesn't do any more than what is absolutely necessary. This way (in weightlifting) the person being spotted gets to maximize the work that their muscles are doing.

 In gymnastics, the gymnast who is being spotted well can feel a hint of what she needs to adjust in order to complete a skill and is just helped enough to gain confidence.

I decided this is what God often chooses to do for his children. I also decided it is an excellent model to follow for raising Lillian. Often, when she is asking me for help, I try to encourage her to try to do it on her own and then I help her just as much as necessary. For example, if she is begging me to help her up onto the couch, instead of picking her up and putting her on the couch, I allow her to try to climb up herself. If I can see that she is struggling, I put my hand under one of her feet to give her a foothold, but I don't push her, I allow her to do it by herself. With physical things, this is natural to me because I've done so much spotting in my life. I think the difficulty for me will come when I need to do emotional and/or spiritual spotting. Heavenly Father knows his stuff.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Day 1: Scripture Challenge

July 1, 2012

I've noticed a pattern in life. When one decides to do something that will have a significant spiritual impact, the devil does his best to derail those plans.

On day one, Matt and I were already feeling a tug away from our goal. It began without our even noticing; happily distracted doing less important things, we didn't remember our goal until late in the evening. By then, reading our scriptures for thirty minutes seemed like an unappealing use of our last moments of weekend. There was some tension in the apartment as we grudgingly began our goal.

Matt and I both received an answer to these feelings through our study.

As I read the beginning of the Book of Mormon, I noted that Lehi is a consistently positive and faithful man. Even when he learned of the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem (his home) he responded by praising God for his mercy. How easy it would have been to curse God for the great loss that was looming in the future. Instead his perspective was open to the eternal plan that God had for His people and he saw the mercy that guided all of His actions.

Matt's answer came during our abbreviated couple study. We read a short section of President Uchtdorf's talk, titled "The Why of Priesthood Service" from the April 2012 General Conference. This paragraph seemed to speak directly to some of the feelings Matt had expressed earlier that night:

"...the fact that something is good is not always reason enough to require our time and resources. Our activities, initiatives, and plans should be inspired by and grounded upon the why of our priesthood service and not by any flashy trend or interest of the moment. Otherwise, they can distract our efforts, dilute our energy, and get us caught up in our own hobbies, spiritual or temporal, that are not at the center of discipleship."

As always, we felt good after reading. It's interesting how common it is for human kind to resist doing things that they know will make them happiest.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Month Two: The Scripture Challenge

July 1st (yesterday) was the first day of my second perfect month, and the goal for this month is: a perfect month of scripture study.

I will study 30 minutes of scriptures every day of July.

The only other parameter for this goal is that I will keep study notes in a notebook as I go. I've found that doing this seriously improves my scripture study. For this goal, I've invited Matt to join me. I also invite any readers to do this one with me. I am excited to hear how this goal affects us all.

Alma 32:27 is my inspiration for this month:

But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.

And so begins my second perfect month experiment.