Saturday, February 27, 2016

PIAT - Visualize Study Skill

Don and I are half-way done with our second semester of the Pathway program! We are excited about finishing Pathway this year and moving on to BYU-Idaho online classes. Right now though, we are all the way into the book of 3 Nephi in our Book of Mormon religion class. This week we have studied chapters 12-17. One of our assignments this week is called “Putting it All Together”. We have to choose a topic we have studied in the lesson for the week, reflect on what we have learned, and then create something that “puts what you are learning all together”.
Each week one of the students in our class presents a study skill. These skills are meant to help us “achieve the goal of greater understanding” when we read the scriptures. There are nine study skills that we can pick from when it is our turn to present. They are, 1)Substitution, 2)Setting, 3)Principles and Doctrine, 4) List, 5)Clustering, 6)Flag Phrases, 7)Symbolism, 8)Visualize, and 9)Cause and Effect. The study skill that was presented this week was, “Visualize”.
Visualizing while reading isn’t a new concept for me. As an avid reader from the time I was very young, visualizing is somewhat second nature for me as I read. However, visualizing the scriptures is a little more difficult because of the strange language and the symbolism that is often used. But, in our resources for this study skill, we are told that the purpose of using the Visualize skill is that it “can bring new insights and greater understanding to scriptural passages”. Well I can certainly use new insights and greater understanding when I read the scriptures!
So how does "Visualize" work? Our student lead gave us three steps to follow to better understand how to “Visualize”.
First, determine the setting. This means that we have to figure out the time and place of what we are reading. These are important when trying to understand what is happening in the scriptures. If we know that what we are reading took place in Jerusalem 600 years before Christ was born, we can use what we may already know about that time and place to better imagine what might be going on. Then if we can imagine the people who are there and what is happening, we can get better picture in our heads of the scene that we are reading about.
Second, look for the details. This step requires us to pay attention to small things in the scriptures that will provide details about the time, place, and/or people were are reading about. Determine what details are important and will add to our understanding of what we are reading can be difficult. But, as the resource for this skill says, these details can “bring the scriptures to life”.
Third, ask questions to help fill in your mental picture. This step can require more work from us as we try to figure out what the scriptures may not actually be spelling out word for word. This step is, not surprisingly, the hardest for me to do. I tend to gloss over the things I don’t understand and I don’t spend time worrying about it. But, when I do take the time to ask questions about the setting, the people, or the story, it helps immensely when trying to visualize what I’m reading.
Our student lead referred to a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from April Conference 2013 called, “Lord, I Believe” in which, Elder Holland uses the study skill “Visualize” so well. He tells a story from Mark 9. He lays out the setting, fills in the details, and then asks and answers questions about the story. He does this so well that while reading about it, you can see the scenes play out in your mind.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be as good at this study skill as Elder Holland, but I’m so happy to have the tools to be able to try. I hope you will want to try to “Visualize” as you read your scriptures too!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Putting it All Together - The Zoramites!

Don and I have started our second semester with the Pathway program. This semester we are studying the second half of the Book of Mormon: Alma 30 – Moroni 10. We also have a relatively easy math class. As part of our religion class, we are required submit an assignment every week called “Putting it All Together”. We have to choose a topic we have studied in the lesson for the week, reflect on what we have learned, and then create something that “puts what you are learning all together”. This week, and probably in many weeks ahead, I will be posting on my blog about something I have learned.
As part of our class on Thursday nights we work as a group on an activity that is directed by one of the other students. This week my group studied Alma 31:15-35 and “Praying with Sincerity and Faith”. This is the topic that I want to try to put my thoughts about and my learning all together in this post.
Chapter 31 in the book of Alma is about Alma’s mission to reclaim the apostate Zoramites. Alma, along with his brothers and sons, went to preach to the Zoramites because the Zoramites were dissenters from the Nephites. They had the gospel but then they made a lot of mistakes and became apostates. They didn’t keep the commandments, they didn’t pray daily, they denied Christ and worshiped once a week with set prayers.
In fact, in verses 15 to18, we can read a Zoramite prayer which they would cry out loudly while standing on top of a tower, called a Rameumpton, in the middle of their church with their hands stretched toward heaven. This prayer is filled with the words “us”, “we”, and “our”, showing the selfish nature of the Zoramites. They also deny Christ in verse 16 by saying that God had made it known to them that there won’t be a Christ. Alma and his brothers and sons had never seen this kind of worship before and they “were astonished beyond all measure”. Alma was saddened by the Zoramites and their pride and materialism so before he began to teach them, he prayed.
Alma’s prayer shows a strong belief in Christ. In every verse he cries out to the Lord. He knew that teaching the Zoramites would be a challenge and in his prayer he asks for help. He tells the Lord that his “heart is exceedingly sorrowful” and that their wickedness “doth pain my soul”. He doesn’t want the Zoramites to suffer in their wickedness anymore. He then asks for strength, patience, wisdom, and comfort as he tries to bring the Zoramites back to the Lord.
As I read Alma’s prayer in verses 26 to 35, I feel his love for the Zoramites and his faith in the Lord. He is sad at what the Zorzmites  have become and he wants them to have the blessings of being righteous again. His need for specific qualities that will help him are asked with the faith that he will be given them. His prayer is powerful and sincere.
I know that my own prayers need to be more like Alma’s. When I pray, I need to remember to be sincere and truthful about my needs. I also need to have faith in my Heavenly Father’s abilities and timing. This is a struggle but the comparison of the Zoramite prayer and the prayer of Alma shows how important it is. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

S.M.A.R.T. Goal = Happy Marriage

This week for one of my Pathway assignments, I was directed to make a couple of S.M.A.R.T. goals. A S.M.A.R.T. goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I was told to consider which family relationships I would most like to change or improve and select two. Then I had to set one S.M.A.R.T. goal for each selected relationship. My goals needed to focus on MY choices, actions, and resulting effects and not on the desired behaviors of the other person. I chose to set my goals to improve my relationships with Don and Jesse.
Today I’m going to write about my goal to improve my relationship with Don. I would love to have a happy marriage. I would love to know that our relationship was solid and strong and happy MOST of the time. So I decided to make it a goal to make that happen. After 22 years, I guess it’s about time. So my goal for our marriage is for both of us to be happy with ourselves and with each other most of the time. I know we can’t always be happy but I want to feel that our marriage is happy overall because I haven’t felt that for a long time.
I love being friends with Don. When we can talk and share and be comfortable and happy around each other without anger or bringing up past mistakes, I love being around him. I often tell him that I love being his friend. He’s so nice to his friends!
I also love feeling cherished, protected, and loved by Don. When he says nice things about me to other people or takes care of something that I don’t want to do or is difficult for me to do, I feel loved. I like when he is vocal about my good characteristics and doesn’t throw me under a bus about my bad qualities. I like when Don helps me with projects and when he encourages me to be creative. I like when he lets me make our home look and feel comfortable and welcoming for us, our family, and our friends.
I also like to take care of Don. I like feeding him and making sure he has clean clothes, or new socks, or a new toothbrush when he needs them. Surprisingly, I even like having our house clean for him! I love to hang out with Don and do fun things together. I even enjoy running errands with him because he is so good at it.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time I don’t feel close to Don or want to do anything with or for him. He has a very critical attitude and micro-manages everything. This often feels controlling and wrong. It is especially hard for me to be near him when he and Jesse fight.
I feel that Don is much happier in our marriage than I am and I struggle with that a lot. I know that there are many things I can and should do to have a happier marriage. I am not without blame in this situation. So my goal to have a happier marriage has to start with doing some of those things even though I don’t want to and even though I feel like it should be Don’s responsibility to fix what I think is broken.
My S.M.A.R.T. goal is…
Step 1. Speak with kindness to Don. I will stop being antagonistic and accusatory. I will give Don the benefit of the doubt.
Step 2. Help reduce Don’s stress. This means I have to spend less money. I will also stay on top of my chores so our home environment is calmer.
Step 3. Be more social. Don loves to do things outside of the house while I love to stay home so I will need to get out of my comfort zone to do this.
I have had a hard time coming up with a way to measure my progress on this goal but I think some daily reflection will help. I write in my journal almost daily and so I will take a few minutes to reflect on my behaviors for the day to see if they are in line with my goal.
I know that my specific goals are attainable. I’ve done them all before and had good results. The challenge will be to continue them even when I’m not getting the resulting behaviors that I’m looking for.
This overall goal of having a happier marriage fits into with my larger life goals of being a happy person and having a happy home and family. It also fits into my eternal purpose of living in the Celestial Kingdom with my family.
I will be taking these specific steps this week. I realize that 22 years of history and hurt isn’t going to go away in one week but I know that I can make some significant changes that will be positive in making our marriage happier.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fortifying Ourselves against the Enemy

This week in our religion class for the Pathway program through BYU-Idaho, Don and I got to read the books of Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon, and Mosiah chapters 1-3 in the Book of Mormon. Then during our Gathering we both participated in groups that reviewed some of these scriptures and asked us to reflect on and respond to some specific questions about them.
My group discussed a very small part of our reading assignment; only three verses, 7 through 9, in the book of Jarom. Since Thursday night, I have thought about those three verses a lot. I wondered why someone thought thirty minutes of our class time that would be spent studying these three verses was worth our time and even necessary to our growth as students and as disciples of Jesus Christ. So I decided to study it a little more on my own and see what I could find out.
In these three verses, we find out that Jarom is a Nephite, a follower of Nephi, and is also Nephi’s great-nephew (his grandfather, Jacob, was Nephi’s brother). We also find out that the Lamanites (the bad guys) are going to battle against the Nephites over and over. Jarom assures us that the Nephite kings and leaders were “mighty men in the faith of the Lord” and that they “taught the people the ways of the Lord”. I found this so interesting. Here these men are fighting battle after battle and Jarom doesn’t say that their leaders are well trained and armed military men, but that they are faithful men of God. Honestly, my first thought was that I would rather have a big, strong, warrior fighting my battles but Jarom quickly changed my mind.
Jarom teaches us that because of the leader’s faith, the Nephites were able to withstand the Lamanites and push them out of their land. Then the work begins that I thought would be so important to be done first. The Nephites begin to fortify their cities. How did I miss the importance of faith when fighting an enemy? Faith is the first principle of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would be important in any situation!
Then I was in for another surprise! Jarom records in verse 8, “we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich” and made “all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war”. After fortifying their cities, they had families, spread out, got rich, and moved from an agricultural society to an industrial society. This was not the way that I would have thought things would progress for the Nephites! I imagined that they would spend all their time and efforts on fortifying their cities and building up strong armies to fight the Lamanites. But in Jarom 1 verse 9, I found the answer to my confusion. After he lets us know that the Nephites were “prepared to meet the Lamanites” and that the Lamanites “did not prosper against us”, Jarom says, “the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land”!
The Nephites were not just in the business of fending off the Lamanites. They were also building up the kingdom of God. They were prepared to and did keep His commandments. And ultimately, that is what fortified them when their enemies came.
I am so grateful to have had these short three verses to study in our block of scripture this week. I know that my Heavenly Father wants me to understand and have faith in Him. This was a testimony building experience for me as I learned how to fortify my life against the enemy that is always trying to get in.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Book of Mormon is of great worth today!

As part of the Pathway program that Don and I are enrolled in, we are taking a religion class this semester. We are focusing our study on the first half of the Book of Mormon. This week our assignment was to read and study 2 Nephi 28-33. I love my Book of Mormon because it is well marked from an intense personal study that I did a number of years ago. The insights I had and the things I read in the study manual that were special to me are marked in my scriptures. The few chapters that we read this week are especially loved. I learned a lot when I studied them before and I was reminded of many of those lessons as we went over it again.
The part that I have marked before, that again testified of its truthfulness to my heart this week, and that I want to focus on now, is why The Book of Mormon is “of great worth” to us today. The Book of Mormon was written in ancient times for us today as we see in 2 Nephi 28:2,”And the things which shall be written out of the book shall be of great worth unto the children of men, and especially unto our seed, which is a remnant of the house of Israel.” Then in verses three through fourteen, we are given all the reasons why this is true.

Verse 3 – There will be churches which are built up not unto the Lord.
Verse 4 – They will contend one with another.
Verse 4 – They will teach with their learning.
Verse 4 – They will deny the Holy Ghost.
Verse 5 – They will deny the power of God.
Verse 5 – They will say there is no God today.
 Verse 5 – They will say that the Lord and Redeemer is done with his work.
Verse 5 – They will say that He has given His power to men.
Verse 6 – They will say that the Lord is not a God of miracles.
Verse 7 – People will say that they can do whatever they want and everything will be fine.
Verse 8 – Others will say that they can do whatever they want and God will justify their sins.
Verse 9 – Many will teach false, vain, and foolish doctrines.
Verse 11 – Many people will become corrupted.
Verse 12 – Churches will become corrupted because of pride, false teachers, and false doctrine.
Verse 13 – They will rob the poor.
Verse 13 – They will persecute the meek and poor in heart.
Verse 14 – Because of pride, wickedness, abominations, and whoredoms, almost all of them have gone astray.

These are strong words but they are powerful. As I read them I can see the truth in them. I can look around and see these things happening my community, in my nation, and in the world. It is so wonderful that we have The Book of Mormon to testify of Jesus Christ, to add to the testimony that we read from the Bible, and to guide us as we try to live the way He has taught us in a world that has so many pitfalls.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Balance in My Life

This week I thought a lot about the balance in my life after reading M. Russell Ballard’s talk from April 1987 titled, “KeepingLife’s Demands in Balance”.
While facing some serious physical issues, Elder Ballard was told that some good would come from his illness. His colleague “suggested that it is good, on occasion, for everyone to face adversity, especially if it causes introspection that enables us to openly and honestly assess our lives”. From this interaction, Elder Ballard realized that he “needed to rearrange some of [his] priorities to accomplish the things that matter most to [him]”.
After over twenty years, I am nearing the end of the time that I will be a stay-at-home mom and within a few years, my husband and I will be empty-nesters. Looking back, I wish that I had taken the time to rearrange some of my priorities to accomplish the things that mattered most to me while my children were young. The demands of being a good parent, a diligent homemaker, a supportive and loving wife, an active member of my ward, a caring family member, and participating in outside activities made keeping a balance in my life difficult to say the least. I’m actually amazed at what balance I was able to achieve when I realize how crazy life has been.
I need work on balance in my life now as my husband and I are facing our own serious legal issues. Because of our judicial system, these problems have been part of our lives for the past 6 years and will likely continue for quite a bit longer. I am grateful for the steps that Elder Ballard outlined in this talk and will be taking the time to rearrange some of my priorities to accomplish the things that matter most to me now.
Elder Ballard’s first step is to “think about your life and set your priorities”. One of my goals this semester was to write down three things to accomplish each day. As I continue to do this, I will, as he says, “keep foremost in mind the sacred covenants you have made with the Lord as you write down your daily schedules”.
The second step is to “set short-term goals.” I will also be praying for divine guidance in my goal setting.
The third step was to budget, to “control your real needs and measure them carefully against your many wants in life”. This is especially hard for me because I’m one of those people who he warns “need the principle of balance in their lives more” because I am “driven toward accumulating ‘things’ in this world”.
 I feel like I do have a handle of the fourth step, “stay close to your spouse, children, relatives, and friends”. The people I have in my life help me keep a good balance.
The fifth steps is to study the scriptures. Elder Ballard quoted 2 Timothy 3:15-16 which says, “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. I love the scriptures but need to study them daily to work on a better balance in my life.
I also need to work harder and the sixth step which is “finding the time for sufficient rest, exercise, and relaxation”. I need to make sure that when I set my short-term goals from step two, that I include these things from time to time! Elder Ballard says that “good physical appearance enhances our dignity and self-respect”, so I need to do it.
The seventh step is to have family home evening. Elder Ballard reminds us that “the prophets have taught repeatedly that families should teach one another the gospel”. This has always been a challenge in our home but I will definitely work on it.
Lastly, the eighth step to achieving balance in life according to Elder Ballard is to pray often as individuals and as families. I know that this can help me as I try to balance the everyday pressures of life and of my specific issues too.
I am grateful for this talk and for the Pathway lessons this week. They have strengthen me and my testimony. I have a new resolve to work toward balance in my life. I know that, as Elder Ballard said, “Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm grateful for the 1st Day of School!  Cody started 10th grade and Jesse started 6th grade!