Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Discipleship and Religious Persecution

I've had this burning desire to tell people about my religion.  I want them to have what I have.  I want them to understand the joy that comes from knowing what I know.

At the last General Conference--which is a semiannual gathering for members to listen to sermons from church leaders--many topics were covered.  But the topic that stood out to me the most was of being a disciple of Christ and standing up for what you know is right.  In conjunction with this topic was the discussion of religious persecution.  I've actually thought a lot about that on my own because publicly right now, my church is a little bit frowned upon by the world due to some of our core beliefs.  And to be quite honest, in my "worldly" mind I might agree that we appear that we aren't keeping up with the times.  But I also see the bigger picture.  I know that God is in charge of the affairs of the church, and that he accomplishes His work through a living prophet.  Ever thought about that before?  He directs the church.  NOT the prophet.  If He sees need for a change, He will reveal it to our current prophet, who would then reveal it to the world.

What is persecution anyway?  This is a word I am very familiar with as I grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and heard several stories about how the first leaders of the church AND my ancestors were persecuted for what they believed.  According to the dictionary provided on my Apple computer, persecution is "hostility and ill-treatment especially because of...religious beliefs"  and "persistent annoyance or harassment."

Historical Persecution 
Since the beginning of time, people, prophets, and even Jesus Christ himself have been persecuted for following God's commands and urging others to do the same.  Take the Biblical prophet Daniel, for example, who was cast in to a lion's den for praying.  Take the prophet Lehi, from the Book of Mormon, who prophesied that the people would be destroyed if they didn't repent and change their ways, was mocked and scorned and threatened.  His two oldest sons even persecuted him by speaking wickedly about him and plotting to kill him.  I could go on and on, I think every Biblical and Book of Mormon prophet was persecuted in one form or another.  And we all know that our Savior was persecuted in the worst ways possible, nailed to and hung on a cross to die.

More recently, in our dispensation of time, the prophet Joseph Smith who restored Christ's church to the earth was persecuted from the minute he spoke about his experience of conversing with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ about which church to join.  He was violently chased out of every city he and the followers tried to settle.  He was tarred and feathered, beat, made fun of, mocked, falsely accused and sent to prison.  He eventually was killed by a mob at the age of 38.  The Mormons were persecuted alongside of him and continued to be, even after his death.

Present Persecution
In April 2014 General Conference, one of our current apostles, Jeffrey R. Holland, (see our church is set up how Christ's was, we have 12 apostles just like the Savior did) said,
“With admiration and encouragement for everyone who will need to remain steadfast in these latter days, I say to all and especially the youth of the Church that if you haven’t already, you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith or perhaps even endure some personal abuse simply because you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such moments will require both courage and courtesy on your part.”

I think that persecution goes on still, but not so much as in violence and killing.  I see persecution now, (at least here in the United States) being more hostile in attitudes and ill-treatment through words.

Take, for example, a comment left by a complete stranger on my blog a couple years ago.  I had written this post about what Mormon's believe and why we say we are Christian, and a random female responded,
"Wow. Please stop reproducing. Wake up. Mormons are not Christian. By definition you aren't Christian. I have to believe you are sincerely retarded if you can honestly believe you are. Being Christian means accepting Christ as your ONLY god, the father, son, and holy spirit. AS ONE. Now, is that what you believe? No it isn't is it? So I will ask again, no beg...do not spawn anymore offspring because this world is full of enough idiots already and doesn't need your help in spreading the disease that is stupidity.”

Elder Holland shared a story in his talk about a female missionary pair and their experience with a hostile man.
“My companion and I saw a man sitting on a bench in the town square eating his lunch. As we drew near, he looked up and saw our missionary name tags. With a terrible look in his eye, he jumped up and raised his hand to hit me. I ducked just in time, only to have him spit his food all over me and start swearing the most horrible things at us. We walked away saying nothing. I tried to wipe the food off of my face, only to feel a clump of mashed potato hit me in the back of the head."

Again these are just two examples.  I'm certain the stories could go on forever.  I see it all over the internet.  I see it on TV too. People persecuting Mormons (and other religions for that matter) all across the web.  It doesn't make me change my mind about what I believe, rather rethink, ponder and pray about my beliefs and then gain a greater understanding and faith about why I believe what I do.  So in a way I suppose it's good.  In another way, it's actually very sad.  Sad the people treat others they way they do.

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means I  "...defend, embrace and assist in spreading the teachings of the Savior."  It means I follow Jesus AND his teachings whether I understand the why's behind everything or not.  It means I honor the covenants (promises made between me and the Lord) I make at baptism and in the temple.

Elder Holland brought up the word defend in the above mentioned quote, "...you will one day find yourself called upon to defend your faith..."  I know that defending my Savior is being a disciple.  Even when it's hard.  Even when all my friends disagree with me.  Even when others make me feel ashamed for believing what I do.  Even when I feel alone.  I don't think it's always easy, especially when the "world" mocks me for what I believe.  Even Peter, one of the Savior's apostles felt shamed by the people of the world.  In Matthew 26:

34 Jesus said unto him, (Peter) Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

 35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

Peter loved Jesus.  He followed him.  He knew in his heart that he would not deny Him.  But look, even he, an apostle of the Lord isn't perfect.  Matthew 26:

69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.
 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.
 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

I love this story because it teaches me that we are all weak in the flesh, no matter who we are.  It teaches me that we should not judge.  I have no doubt that Peter regretted his decision to admit that he knew Jesus.  I also have regrets as Peter did.

I have a lifelong friend who unfriended me on Facebook because she didn't want to see my religious posts.  I have probably lost photography business due to my religion.  Mitt Romney lost the presidential election because of his religion and beliefs.  But we continue to follow the Savior, even when it is hard or even when people judge and persecute us.  It hurts but it also increases my faith.  

I'm grateful I am a member of the Savior's true church.  It has brought continuous joy throughout my life, and continues to bring me that joy and bless me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2nd Grade:

Since we moved here, we have been promised a new K-8 right in the middle of our community!  Mylie did kindergarten and first grade at another school, and we were so excited when our new school opened up this year to start her in second grade!

However, the first day of school was an enormous disappointment for me.  Her class didn't even have a teacher yet.  There was a sub for the first three days!  Long story short, the first day of school I talked to the principal's assistant, then called and talked to someone in the district.  It's extremely unfair and so sad that a second grade class didn't have a teacher when the district knew in PLENTY of time (at LEAST a week, but I think they knew three to four weeks prior).  Although the kids ADORED the substitute, they didn't allow her to stay as the permanent teacher.  And she WAS certified and ready to go!  After talking to someone from the district, they promised me a teacher by Friday.  She showed up Thursday, and to make matters worse, she is pregnant and due in October!  What the heck!  I have nothing against pregnant women, and nothing against her personally, but the situation just got worse.  That means the kids will be getting a sub (or subs) for at LEAST six weeks of the beginning of the school year.  I am a very unhappy parent.  I didn't go complain.  Yet.  Don't know if I will.  I know legally they cannot discriminate against a pregnant woman.  But c'mon!!!  I'm concerned that she's not going to get the same quality education that the other class is.  In fact I know she won't.  I've been a teacher and I've been a sub.  A sub just isn't and can't be as invested as a regular class teacher.  And a pregnant woman, AND a woman with a newborn certainly isn't going to be as invested as she was in years passed.  Poor students.  Poor Mylie.  

But it gets worse.  Mylie thinks the teacher doesn't like her.  She thinks the teacher thinks she's not smart.  And Mylie thinks the teacher is mean.  I'm going to give it two to three weeks and see how it's going by then.  And tonight is back to school night, so I'm hoping to get a little more clarification on the situation.  Sigh.  This is NOT what we signed up for.  Blah.

In good news, Mylie has two best friends right in the neighborhood.  It has become tradition to take beginning of the year photos with them.  It's fun to see how they have grown in two short years.  Unfortunately, one of the cuties moved before second grade.  Here they are:

Christine, Kenedy, Mylie

I love this one!

Official first day photo.  Another tradition:  photo by our front door on the first day of school.

People kept commenting on Facebook that she looks like a teen!  Ha ha!

She's over character stuff.  Last year was a Frozen backpack.  This year had to have turquoise in it!  That thing looks like it weighs 100 pounds!

First day of school in 1st grade. She wore a Sophia the first dress and also wanted to wear it the last day of school.  Well when that came around she had already outgrown wearing character stuff!  She was embarrassed.  Sniff, sniff.

First day of Kindergarten!  They gave the kids their bags and had them decorate them at home.

And the traditional, yearly school photo started here in kinder.  They girls all had the same teacher too!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Because of the Sabbath Day observance that is being discussed in church, Richie and I decided it was time to have a Family Home Evening lesson on it, and include our children on deciding what is and is not appropriate for all of us to do on Sundays.  Michael and Emmy are actually still a little young to understand what the heck we're talking about, but Mylie was most definitely ready.

As we started talking about this, Mylie was shutting down.  Unhappy that she was going to have to change her Sabbath activities.  Grumpy, pouty, angry.  The lesson wasn't going over the way I had anticipated--even though we were using scriptures to show her that it is a commandment, quotes, etc. What to do.  The question came up, "Well, prophets and God tell us to keep the Sabbath Day Holy, do you believe in the scriptures and the church?"  She started opening up a bit.  "Well YOU know those are true, but I'm me!  I don't KNOW!"  We asked if she had prayed about it to which she said yes.  She said she has asked Heavenly Father many times if the scriptures and the church were true, but had not received an answer.  

I was stuck.  If she had prayed about it and asked with a sincere heart, why wasn't she receiving her answer?  We talked about how we receive answers.  Do people hear Heavenly Father's voice?  Some may, perhaps, but no, most do not.  We receive answers in many different ways.  Through others, through thoughts and feelings, dreams, through a burning in our hearts, while reading the scriptures, etc.  She confirmed to us that none of these things had happened to her.  

Richie asked her if she'd like to pray together and ask again.  She said yes and wanted Richie to say the prayer.  In the prayer, Richie told Heavenly Father of Mylie's desire to know for herself if the scriptures and the church were true.  He said more things but that is what I remember.  I was feeling the spirit pretty strongly during the prayer.  Right when he said "amen" Mylie jumped in to his arms and said, "THANK YOU Daddy!" while sobbing.  I asked Mylie if she got her answer.  She said no.  I said, "Why are you crying, and why did you say thank you?  Did you feel something?"  She said she did.  I asked if she felt goosebumps and a really good feeling in her heart--accompanied with tears.  She did.  I pointed out that THAT is the Holy Ghost answering her prayer.  I asked again if she thought she got an answer and she said she did.  She continued sobbing.  She and I feel the spirit the same way.  Richie pointed out that he feels the spirit in a different way.  But either way, it's an answer to prayers.  

Then Mylie told me she HAD felt the spirit before.  She told me two different instances where she felt that. One was when Richie told her his experience with his Dad dying.  I can't remember the other, but I do remember how sweet it was.  

I'm so grateful we took the time to listen to the spirit, and let it guide us in helping Mylie get an answer to her prayers and recognize the Holy Ghost.  She will be baptized in just a year and I feel we are on the right path to prepare her.  She will make that choice on her own, and that will be an amazing feeling as a parent!

My Thoughts on Sabbath Day Observance

There's been a big push lately for Sabbath Day Observance in the church.  As I thought about my personal Sabbath Day activities, I began to realize that I haven't been the best at recognizing it as the Lord's day.  Being YW president right now, I decided that the next first Sunday lesson would be on keeping the Sabbath Day holy.  I absolutely loved what I learned, or re-learned I should say.  I had the girls make a list on everything they have even done or still do on Sundays.  Good or bad.  The list was their own--it was personal and nobody but themselves would see it.  I made my own list as well.  We color coded our lists once they were finished.  Red was for things we knew we shouldn't be doing on the sabbath, and we needed to STOP.  Green was for things we know are good things to do on the sabbath, and we should keep on doing them.  Yellow was for things that were in question--are they appropriate things to do on the Sabbath or not?  How do I know?  These were items that were to be thought about during the lesson, pondered then taken to the Lord in prayer.  My list of yellows was a good amount.  Some of the things that are coded in yellow I have come to the conclusion can be good or bad for the Sabbath.  For example, Facebook.  If I am getting on Facebook a lot during the day on Sunday, it's probably not a good thing.  If I am getting on to share something of worth, testify of Christ or share my testimony, it is a fabulous thing!

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the lesson I prepared:

 ”It is NOT an insignificant thing to violate the Sabbath Day.  I want to say that you lose every time you violate the Sabbath Day, you lose more than you can gain no matter what you think you are going to gain.”  
President George Albert Smith

What DO I think I will gain by breaking the Sabbath?  
Most things would be pleasure like having fun!  Facebook, Instagram, tv shows, parties, etc.  A chance to get more work and projects done (like right now I am painting the cupboards in my kitchen and I could REALLY use Sunday to work on them!)  

What am I losing when I violate the Sabbath?  That's a harder one to figure out, but I'd say for me I am losing as a mother my showing my children that working and having fun is more important to me than God and obeying Him.  I'd also say that God wants to bless me, so I am missing out on blessings that I could have otherwise enjoyed.  I am also losing because on Sunday I should be doing things like reading the scriptures, writing in my journal, serving others, praying, meditating, resting, going to church, etc.  Not taking time to do these things is denying myself of personal, spiritual growth, a closer relationship with God, blessings from serving others and more! 

"Not pursuing your “own pleasure” on the Sabbath requires self discipline.  You may have to deny yourself of something you might like.  If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day.  Routine and recreational activities can be done at some other time.”
Elder Russell M. Nelson

This has been hard!  Denying myself of my "own pleasure" on Sunday HAS really required some self discipline!  Especially when it comes to social media, watching recorded tv shows and movies, and simply doing nothing!  Today I went to ward council, went to church, took an hour nap, heart-attacked someones door with Mylie, I spent time reading scriptures with Mylie, sang church songs with the kids, I indexed and now I am journaling--which I have really missed!  I was on Facebook for just a little bit, but I didn't paint my cabinets!

Some people appear to think that if they have attended religious meetings or performed some portion of the service required of them no Sunday, they are then at liberty to pursue pleasures and engage in activities incompatible with the spirit of the Sabbath and still continue to enjoy the favor of our Father.  I say to you that if they members of the Church, knowing better, persist in desecrating the Sabbath day in the pursuit of worldly pleasures, they will lose their faith;  and the Spirit of our Heavenly Father will withdraw from them.”  
(“Fatih--and Life,”  Improvement Era, April 1949, 252.)

I've seen this as a big time problem among friends, family and acquaintances!  I'm not judging AT ALL, it really does just hurt my heart when I see this happening!

“The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things.  Abstinence from work and recreation is important but insufficient.  The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it.  ...to observe [the Sabbath], one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected.  To fail to do these proper things is a transgression...”
President Spencer W. Kimball

I'm working hard with myself and my family with our Sabbath Day observance.  I'm grateful for inspired leaders who know what we need to improve on and encouraging members to better ourselves.  I'm so grateful that God has given us a LIVING prophet for OUR day.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Emmy Lucille Whitaker

Naming your baby is TOUGH.  Getting Richie and I to agree on a name is near impossible.  But the names we have finally agreed on with all our kids seem to be perfect once they are here.

Mylie Joleen:  Mylie was a named we both liked, and Joleen is a mix between my mom, Joni, and Richie's mom, Eileen.  So that middle name is very meaningful and special to me, and I love and adore both of our mothers.

Michael Kevin:  Michael (who went by Mike), was Richie's dad's name, who passed away when Richie was 8 years old.  I thought it would be a wonderful thing to name our baby boy after him, and call him Michael.  Kevin is my dad who I think is the most amazing father in the world.  I wouldn't even THINK of leaving him out of my baby's name.  This name is also very meaningful to me, and I hope that Michael understands what great men he was named after and try to live his life the way these two men have/did.

Emmy Lucille:  Emmy was actually a name that Richie and I both agreed on quickly.  We went through some of our geneology to come up with a middle name.  Lucille was Richie's great-grandmother, (who is his mother's father's mother.)  We honestly know nothing about her but I hope to learn a lot about her and tell Emmy the meaning of her middle name as well.

Emmy's Birth Story
Emmy's due date was October 11.  I went to see my doctor on October 3.  I had told her several months beforehand that I had had a fourth degree tear (front to back) with Mylie, and a second degree tear (half way) with Michael, and that I would really like to avoid a tear this time around.  Well at my appointment she started talking about those tears and asked me if I had experienced problems with pooping my pants.  I wondered why in the world she was asking this question because no I had control over that!  Apparently, big tears like that can cause a life time of issues with that very thing.  So she was concerned that if I had another big tear I may have that lifelong problem.  She suggested getting a c-section.  Actually it was more like her telling me she REALLY thought I should do that.  I told her no, I didn't want a c-section.  So she said she wanted me to deliver early.  She said, "Okay let's schedule you for an induction tomorrow morning."  WHA????  That freaked me out a little.  So I called Richie and worried and worried but we decided to just do it.  Ugh though, that was stressful!  I had to rush home and get ready--pack my bags, get my house clean, and most importantly find a friend who was willing to watch my kids as my mom wasn't getting here until the 10th!

The next morning we were up at 4:00 am to get ready to be at the hospital by 5:00 am.  San Antonio Hospital is in Upland and it proved to be a great hospital for delivering babies.  Several months ago a woman contacted me about photographing her daughter's wedding in October (which I couldn't because it was too close to my due date).  Anyhow, she was the labor and delivery office lady and set me up with a great nurse.  The doctor broke my water and started my Pitocin around 7:00 am.  I begged for my epidural soon after that.  After upping my dose a few times then giving me a narcotic, my "hot spots" finally went away and I have seriously NEVER been so comfortable and relaxed!  Even though I was incredibly tired, I felt so good.  The nurse checked my dilation a few times, and the last time she did she said, "Oh wow!  You're ready!"  I asked, "Am I beyond ready?" to which she replied I was!!!  She could feel Emmy's head and she was just about to crown.  By this time I absolutely could not feel my legs at all.  In fact, when they lifted my legs to put them in the stirrups, I couldn't feel it at all.  Not even the pressure.  It was a huge surprise to me when I saw them lift and if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes would NOT have known they were even touching me.

Once the doctor got there it was bam, Bam, BAM!  I gave one hard push and she was out!  (No tearing, but I did get a nice episiotomy.)  I couldn't believe it was that easy this time!  (Mylie was 3 hours of pushing, Michael about 25 minutes).  I thought she was beautiful right away and loved how much I got to hold her before they really gave her a good cleaning.  Less than an hour and I was breast feeding.  Oh how I love my little Emmy.  She was 7 pounds 1 ounce, 19 1/4 inches, and born October 4 at 2:08 pm.

Mylie absolutely adored Emmy from the second she saw her.  She has wanted to hold her, feed her, burp her, etc.  She loves having her around and sobbed when I told her Emmy wouldn't be sleeping in her room quite yet.

Michael was totally oblivious to Emmy for a few days.  He noticed her a little here and there after that, but it wasn't until a few days ago that he has needed his mommy a little more, and that has made it a little more difficult.  My poor, sweet little Michael who is not going to get all the attention he needs and deserves, I do feel guilty over that.  But everyone says he'll be just fine.  I hope that's true.

I LOVED having my mom here.  I felt so relaxed and at ease.  Took her to the airport a couple days ago, fought back my tears, and came home. She's so awesome. The whole time she was here she was saying things like, "What do you want or need me to do? USE me while I'm here! Put me to work! Go out on a date! I would love to watch the kids! Where's the chocolate? What do you need at the grocery store? Go get a massage! Wake me up to take a shift with Em
my. I did some laundry for you. Here, bought you some gold Sperry's. Want me to make some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies? Dinner is on me tonight. Go shopping...without the kids!" etc. And on top of all that, my house was clean the whole time she was here.  Sure wish we lived close.  Oklahoma is anything but close!  Richie's mom will be coming tomorrow night, so I'm super grateful she will be here to help as well.