General Conference was a good experience and I need to talk about a few addresses that really struck me. (And I remember that I still need to discuss addresses from October's conference still. Sigh!)

The main thing holding me back from talking about conference is that I can't shake the deep disappointment I feel because Elder Bednar did not give a talk during any of the general sessions. He spoke at the priesthood session, but usually the Apostle who speaks at the priesthood session still speaks in the general session.

Conference was really great but this sadness is keeping me from fully appreciating it right now. I guess I was super excited to hear from him after the great help his book (or, more specifically, following the counsel in his book) had given me. (And I still need to talk about that huge obstacle I overcame because I followed Elder Bednar's counsel!)

I was eagerly looking forward to more teaching and edification from him.

So yes.  Talks to discuss still:

A Time to Prepare by Elder Ian S. Ardern from October 2011 conference
It is Better to Look Up by Elder Carl B. Cook from October 2011 conference
President Eyring's talk from the Saturday morning session (March 31)
President Uchtdorf's talk from the Sunday morning session (April 1)
President Monson's main address during the Sunday morning session April 1)

And I'm sure there is at least one more.

Hopefully I'll get these all done during the week.
 
 
I am not sure what happened. I don't know why it's been so long since I wrote a blog entry. My bad.

Since last I wrote, I have come to the conclusion that both President Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar are in my head. I wonder if they will ever get out.

President Uchtdorf has been there for I don't know how long. All I know is whenever he gives an address at General Conference it is exactly what I needed to hear. Also 99.9% of the time his first presidency message in the Ensign is also what I needed right at that moment.

I didn't think that so much when it came to Elder Bednar, but it turns out I was wrong. His talk from General Conference in October struck a chord with within a week and has sent me on a journey to get my family history work done and get the names submitted to the temple for ordinances. It didn't really speak to me so much on the day he gave that address but it turns out I wasn't listening withe right ears so now I can say Elder Bednar has been in my head since the April general conference (2011).

The biggest indication that Elder Bednar is in my head, though, is that just as I was 1) seriously planning a return to school (via online degree program) and 2) I was wondering why the spiritual progress I had been making in leaps and bounds had suddenly all but stopped, out came his book "Increase in Learning: spiritual patterns for obtaining your own answers" Wow! This book was totally written for me! This book has caused so many epiphanies that I can hardly keep up with them.

The book has also given me a new mantra: "Endowed with agency we are agents, and we are primarily to act and not simply be acted upon." Though I will reword it so it's not a word-for-word repeat of his words. I think I may have it, though it may still be an exact quote. I am an agent with the capacity and power to act and not merely an object to be acted upon.

I think I had stopped acting and that is why my spiritual progress slowed down. Things are getting better and I am more motivated and yearning to learn more as I've been studying this book.

Deseret Books is holding a weekly online discussion on this book that is very interesting. It's great to see other people's insights on Elder Bednar's words. (Anyone interested at 1:00 pm Mountain Standard Time every Wednesday through March 21 at seek.deseretbook.com/learning. You have to scroll down to find Emily Watts' start of the discussion and refresh your screen to see all of the comments, but it was worth it. I cannot wait for next week's discussion. This week was chapter 1 and the questions he gives us to ponder. Next week is the related reading material for chapter 1. I am excited about this and can hardly wait for next week's discussion.

So this has me wondering if Elder Ardern and Elder Carl B. Cook are now in my head, since the general authorities seem to start their stay in my head by giving an address on something I trully needed to hear at that point.

And I really do need to write about my feelings and thoughts on the talks of the latter to general authorities. I am starting to master my time, somewhat. I have to if I am going to be attending online classes to get a degree. I have a doable schedule, I think, but I won't really know until I actually start the classes to see if I've allotted enough time for school work. I am trying to live by that schedule now but I have slipped a little. Partly because I did not anticipate that I would join the woman's basketball team at church.

Also I've been having a hard time getting to work early, but I believe I'm back on track with that now.

Mostly at this point, while I wait to see if my schooling plan will come together as I hope, I will be spending a lot of time studying Elder Bednar's book. (And re-reading and studying over and over again.) I am using the Gospel Library App, which allows me to get my online study notebook, to record my notes and thoughts and such. It's very handy actually. So this book has me all excited.

I am just facing the possibility of not being able to start classes when I had hoped, unless I go to plan B and start at another college and have those credits transferred to the school I really want to "attend". The problem is none of the other schools had disciplines that were in line with what i am looking for so I don't know what classes I could take that would be helpful for the other school.

I don't know. I'll have to start really pouring my heart out to Heavenly Father and more earnestly seek the company of the Holy Ghost to help me figure this all out.

It doesn't help that instead of waiting until next year to move to Salt Lake City and hopefully work for the church, that I'd really, really prefer to do it near the end of this year. Again, I have to do it in the Lord's time. I just don't know what His time is yet. I need to find out - especially since I'll have to make a decision about a lease for my apartment by March 1.

So I need to more earnestly apply the principles Elder Bednar is teaching in his book.

I highly recommend that everyone get this book. It is that fabulous and that helpful. Again it's "Increase in Learning: spiritual patterns for you obtaining your own answers. It's available from Deseret Books. You can get the Deseret bookshelf version, the actual book or the kindle version. I don't know if you can stream the videos (which to me are an essential part of cementing the principles Elder Bednar is teaching) on the Kindle Fire. I know, from comments at seek.deseretbook.com/learning that you can't on the older kindles.

So go forth and buy this book. I doubt you will be disappointed!

(And hopefully this weekend I will write my entries on "A Time to Prepare" (Elder Ardern's address) and "It is Better to Look UP" (Elder Carl B. Cook's address.
 
 
Followup to "Malachi 4: 5-6"

I did meet with my bishop on Tuesday. I did tell him I want to help out with the family history program. He was very happy and asked if I'd even be willing to hold a class with the youth soon. He wants them to have names of their ancestors to take to the temple when they do baptisms (and confirmations) for the dead.

There is some irony here though. (And not just the fact that pubic speaking still triggers some level of a panic attack.) I mentioned Elder Ian S. Ardern's talk "A Time to Prepare" wherein he counsels us about the wise use of our time and expressed concern that today's technology is leading too many people to be busy but not productive - having time master us instead as it should be, we mastering our time.

Since "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn," each time I go to the church websites for family history, I end up spending many hours looking around for my ancestors and seeing what other features there are of the site.  Though I need to do so if I am to help others in my congregation (ward) use the technology, I don' think Elder Ardern meant that it was OK to spend hours upon hours upon hours even on something of worth pursuit as family history.

Yet I am so excited to see these tools and eager to pick up where the younger of my 2 brothers has left off. Speaking of which, I need to ask him for at least copies of the family trees he created back in the days before these things were done via technology, so that I can build my tree and see about getting names ready for submission to the temple. It would be so neat if some of the youth did the baptisms and confirmations for them.

There are other things of that matter more that I need to work on. I am struggling to find out which ones I should focus on first and then fit them into a schedule that I must create so that I don't spend my entire evening internet city building. (I do not do internet farming and I do not fling angry birds into concrete walls to waste my time. It's city building thing that does it.)

Still, the fire remains lit. I want to do my family history and I want to help the youth and adults in my ward (or even stake if need by) do their family history with the wonderful technology the church has for this worthy pursuit.

I just need the Lord's help to know what it is I should do and say in this pursuit.

(Full entries on the "A Time to Prepare" and "It is Better to Look Up" still coming.)
 
 
So General Conference:

First quick comments:
    As usual, President Uchtdorf's talk (You Matter to Him) seemed meant for me because right now I STILL need to be reminded that God has not forgotten me. (Click here for the video or here for the text.)

    That said, his talk wasn't the one that struck me the most. Two addresses do that.
        The first talk is A Time to Prepare, (video - for text version, click here) by Elder Ian S. Ardern.
        The second talk is It is Better to Look Up, (video - for text version, click here) by Elder Carl B. Cook

I will write idividual entries for these talks later.

Something strange happened to me in the past week, and I'll blame it on Elder Bednar's talk "The Hearts of the Children Shall Turn" (video - for text version, click here). I am now zealous to pursue my family history work. More than that, however, is I very much want to help the adults in my ward (or stake even) who may be intimidated by or unfamiliar with technology. Elder Bednar specifically asked the youth to do so, but I want to do so as well. In fact, ideally I'd like to work with the youth and then team with them to help those who are less technologically savvy.

I was so excited that I went to look at the church's resources for family history work - including the one Elder Bednar mentioned that is for the youth - and spent far more hours than I intended or even had the time to spend.

(Go to https://new.familysearch.org/ to discover your family tree and https://familysearch.org/ to discover your family records)

I have a meeting planned with my bishop tonight to talk about something else, but I do plan to offer my help in working with those whith less technology knowledge when we meet.

I just can't believe how excited I am about this. I have never been this excited. It's probably a good thing. The brother who was doing all of our family history work has not touched it, as far as I can tell, in years. My other brother was working on our father's line (since we have very little information) but I'm not sure how much time he has now with his new job often him keeping late.

I hope I can keep this fire burning.
 
 
In Relief Society, our lesson was on President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's conference talk "Waiting on the Road to Damascus.

This was, blessedly, the second time this month we've discussed this talk.

We were coming up with reasons why we end up waiting on our road to Damascus. The subject kept showing up about how women (especially LDS women) get caught up in comparing ourselves to others and being the hardest on ourselves and how things are never good enough with us, more specifically how we see imperfections that no one else notices.

This made me remember something I read in President Uchtdorf's book "The Remarkable Soul of a Woman". In it he mentions how his wife cooks meals of all kinds from all parts of the world. She always then says things like "I used a little too much of [x ingredient]" or "Next time I'll add a little more [y ingredient]." Little subtleties that those who are eating her meals wouldn't notice. (Now I can't remember where I was going to go with this. All I can think to say is that if a general authority's wife does the same thing, then we are most definitely not alone in our feelings.). It's a pretty wide spread symptom in women.

The other thing that came to my mind was a part of his talk we didn't get to. That of sharing the gospel with our friends. He mentioned how he and his family, when asked how their weekend was, always mentioned something about the what happened in church. (One of the reasons I now post a Facebook status each week about what really struck me at church that day.) One of the other things he mentioned was how when their friends were struggling with something in life they'd usually remark "Well it's easy for you. You have your church."

I realize that it has become easier for me since reactivating to handle many of life's difficulties. I still find myself beating myself up mentally but can stop it as soon as I realize what I am doing.

One sentence from President Uchtdorf's talk really struck me this week in regard to testimonies.

I've been so very frustrated because even though I know I have a testimony of the Gospel, I can't seem to be able to bear it. I have to keep reminding myself of counsel from one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles - "persistence and patience..."

Anyway, the sentence in President Uchtdorf's talk - which I seemed to have missed in the many, many times I have read this talk was - "Sometimes a simple phrase of testimony can set events in motion that affect someone's life for eternity."

As I've been frustratingly trying to figure out how to unlock my testimony, I have found this somewhat helpful. Maybe I am uttering phrases of testimony without realizing it. I don't know. I still am not sure I'm able to bear a testimony, but President Uchtdorf's words have given me some comfort on the matter.

This keeps bringing back to my memory something that happened last month.

The clutch went out on my car. I discovered this one morning getting ready to leave for work. Fortunately the Holy Ghost allowed me to call a coworker who practically comes right by where I live in time to get a ride to church. I had to rely on him for a ride for a week. (Well sort of a week. It was Wednesday-Wednesday but that covered my Friday off).

When I realized I wouldn't be able to go to the temple that Friday off my first thought - and this is a huge sign of how far I've come since I started back to church mid-September - was that the Lord had a reason for that and it had nothing to do with my worthiness to go to the temple that week.

With the help of a different coworker (who has no idea that she was such a help to me in this respect) was telling me, after I was able to drive myself to work again (and just in the nick of time as the coworker who was giving me a ride would be off the day after I drove myself to work) that she was telling the coworker how fortunate I was to have him there to take me to work when I needed a ride.

Apparently he told her something to the effect of that he was fortunate because of the discussions of church we had.

Each afternoon he'd ask questions about the church. I'd answer them and we'd spend much of the ride to my place discussing the church. Two things that struck me were: first, how easy it had been for me to answer his questions and to freely discuss the church. Not too long ago that was a very difficult thing for me to do; second, this is probably the reason why I wasn't able to go to the temple. The Lord wanted me to be able to answer this coworkers questions and discuss the gospel freely.

Whether he wanted that to give me the practice for future purposes or these discussions were for my coworker's sake (or maybe a combination of the 2) really isn't that important.

I don't expect that my coworker (devoted to his religion) will suddenly take the missionary discussions and decide to join the church. But maybe all he needed was a better understanding of the church. Or maybe something we discussed will come back to his mind sometime in the future. Or maybe now that I've found it so easily to discuss the church once, it will become easier and easier and won't be so timid in the future.

And maybe in those discussions was the start of me unlocking my testimony as a whole. (And maybe even just a phrase of my testimony - which I'm sure probably came out at some point during the discussion - is also among the steps needed to start to be able to bear my testimony.)

Only the Lord knows the reason.

All I know is, I have been able to keep moving on my road to Damascus better than I have ever been able to before. It is almost ironic how easily personal revelation has come to me so often and more easily since I took to heart one thing both President Uchtdorf and Elder Bednar's talk helped me to do - let go of the notion of asking Heavenly Father to reveal His will to me with more than a subtle feeling or thought (mind you, I was not seeking visions, and archangel trumps, just something stronger than subtlety). Also that many of those personal revelations have, in fact, come in the way I was asking for them.  I do not believe that all of the things the Lord wants me to know will come as so many of those things have lately, but I do know that I am no longer waiting on my road to Damascus. I keep moving one little step at a time.
 
 
This past Sunday (5/30/2011), I was still contemplating the "One Sheep" revelation. Firstly, I never explained that I think I was opened up for this personal revelation by 2 talks from April's General Conference by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor of the First Presidency, and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. They were both on revelation.

Additionally, I had recently listened to an earlier conference talk by President Uchtdorf, "The Love of God". (I think the title is self-explanatory. It is enough to say at this point that this talk started pulling me away from Satan's desire that I think God does not love me or care about me.)

President Uchtdorf's April 2011 address was "Waiting on the Road to Damascus". It helped me to realized that although I was not looking for the angel's voice that caused the earth to tremble or a visitation such as the then 14 year-old Joseph Smith Jr. had, I WAS looking for something more than a subtle prompting or a subtle feeling. The talked helped me to see that a subtle prompting or feeling is every bit as meaningful as the major event type vision such as what happened with Saul on the road to Damascus or to the boy prophet, Joseph Smith Jr.

Elder Bednar's talk, "The Spirit of Revelation," focused also on the nature of revelation. He likened revelation to 3 experiences with light: the turning on of a light in a dark room (the immediate answer to a prayer, for example), the subtle brightening of the sky during a sunrise (the subtle promptings and feelings from the Holy Ghost for personal revelations), and how on a cloudy day it is harder to see the subtle changing of light during a sunrise (receiving revelation without realizing it). The first form of revelation is the exception rather than the rule.

Essentially, both talks gave me a much better understanding about how revelation really works. As a result, I stopped looking for something greater than the subtle way the Holy Ghost's works, and therefore I allowed myself to be more opened to personal revelation.

So then that Sunday, I was more open and more ready for the Holy Ghost to reveal somethings to me.  The sudden realization that I was the one sheep, was actually somewhat akin to the light being turned on in a darkened room.

I realized this past Sunday, however, I had been in the dark (or asleep) for so long that when the light came on in the room it was so bright that I was blinded and couldn't see everything. In other words I had missed something more sublte that was in that personal revelation. Another answer to another prayer.

Even as I reentered activity into the church, I was full of self hatred and self loathing. It had slowly started to subside as I continued moving forth in church activity, but I still wasn't convinced that I was the person so many people around me saw let alone the person who was worthy of God's love as many church leaders had testified over the years - that we are all loved by God.

What I missed in the brightness of the light being turned on was a more subtle secondary light. The one that was answering my prayers to see myself through His eyes and the eyes of those around me. What was made known to me was that with the understanding that I was the one sheep who was brought back to the fold by the shepherd (my 2 home teachers), I realized that if I weren't loved by God - if I weren't worthy of His love - the shepherd would never have come to find me. Since I was worth being found and returned to the fold, I realized that I was not the person who I hated and loathed so much.

Because of that moment in Sunday School, I have finally begun to see me through the eyes of the people around me who kept mentioning good things they saw (that I didn't) and more importantly I have started to see myself through God's eyes. I am not the "stupid loser girl" I kept calling myself. My friends do not see me as that, God does not see me as that, and now I am starting to see that I am not that.

A subtle answer to a prayer within the great light of personal revelation.