Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Nephi's Lullaby

Don't you love those scripture days where your reading slams you in the face like an ultimate punch and pours into your heart like a bowl of warm tomato soup?  It is the BEST feeling in the world.

The other day I was reading in 2nd Nephi.  Chapter four is where Nephi is being extremely poetic and, I think, having some sort of emotional meltdown.  The kind we all have every now and then... where we are SO HARD on ourselves.

He talks about his soul lingering in the valley of sorrow.  "O wretched man that I am!"  You take a journey with him as he lists all these AMAZING blessings he has been given: God had led him through the wilderness, confounded his enemies, showed him visions, and filled him with love.  Even with all of this, Nephi still is imperfect and catches himself sinning.

Two things about this hit me...

First, I felt so sorry for Nephi and could relate.  That overwhelming feeling of guilt for our sins and imperfections is a very real thing.  And the words he used to describe his sorrow were so beautiful and straight from the heart.

Second, it kind of makes me feel better about myself.  If a prophet of the Lord still makes mistakes, then it's okay that I make them too.  Stop being so hard on yourself.  It is completely fine to not be flawless.  The Savior has given us the wonderful gift of the atonement so that we won't have to do this alone.

As I sensed the emotion in his words, I wanted his feelings to be translated into music.  The joy of his blessings, the sorrow of his imperfections, and the hope that, with the Lord's help, he could still endure.

So, I hopped on the piano and tried my best to translate what it meant to me.  Nephi would probably listen to it today and think, "Um, no Jess, you've totally misinterpreted what I was trying to say."  
Ha ha!  And that's okay.  This was still a big stepping stone for me.  The last time I wrote a song was in third grade with the title "Puppies in the Meadow" that I'm pretty sure could have been played with two fingers.  I'm grateful that Heavenly Father blesses me with tiny miracles like helping inspire me to try to write a new song.

PLEASE read the verses!!!  Feel his emotion.  Nephi is so amazing.

2 Nephi 4:16-35
16 Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.
 17 Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.
 18 I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.
 19 And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.
 20 My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep.
 21 He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.
 22 He hath confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me.
 23 Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night-time.
 24 And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high; and angels came down and ministered unto me.
 25 And upon the wings of his Spirit hath my body been carried away upon exceedingly high mountains. And mine eyes have beheld great things, yea, even too great for man; therefore I was bidden that I should not write them.
 26 O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?
 27 And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
 28 Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul.
 34 O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.
 35 Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

I know some people (like my nephew and my husband) learn music better by watching fingers than by reading sheet music.  Do you know how hard it is to get through an entire song without messing up when a camera's recording you? ...Unsuccessful.

Click HERE to download the sheet music

“We get nearer to the Lord through music than perhaps through any other thing except prayer.”
-- President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1936, 111

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

I'd like to share today that powerful moment in MY LIFE when I knew for myself that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God.

In high school, I took RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD as one of my class electives.  For our final assignment we were challenged to give a presentation on one world religious leader of our pick.  Obviously... Obviously, my choice was Joseph Smith.  I'm pretty sure I was the only mormon in the class, so it was only appropriate to represent, right?

As the week went by, I was able to sit down and give the prophet my undivided attention.  I learned so much about this truly great man.  I began to know who he really was and recognize all of the service and sacrifices he had made for the church.

The end of the week had come and the due date for my school presentation was swiftly approaching.  I had my speech prepared and was adding the finishing touches to my visual aid poster board.  All that was left to do was find a picture or two of Joseph to add to my project.

I remember late in the evening, sitting alone in our quiet living room on the old, wooden rocking chair that a creaked with the shifting weight of each sway.  I was reading through a book of Liz Lemon Swindle's painted scenes for the life of Joseph Smith.  The pages flipped to this image of the day Joseph was martyred, holding his brother Hyrum who was shot before him.

Click HERE for more information about the art piece

Of this moment John Taylor said:

"Immediately, when the ball struck him, [Hyrum] fell flat on his back, crying as he fell, 'I am a dead man!'  He never moved afterwards.  I shall never forget the deep feeling of sympathy and regard manifested in the countenance of Brother Joseph as he drew nigh to Hyrum and leaning over him exclaimed, "Oh! My poor, dear brother Hyrum!"

My eyes swelled with tears as I saw in this portrait the love the prophet had for his brother.  And immediately the question pressed on my mind with great heartache...


Why did Joseph suffer so?  Why would he lose his brother, suffer the persecution constantly knocking at his door, be dragged out into the street to be tarred and feathered, risk the safety of his family, spend freezing winter nights in a gloomy jail, and die for his beliefs?  

It makes me think of Sam from Lord of the Rings...

"It's like in the great stories, Mr Frodo, the ones that really mattered.  Full of darkness and danger, they were.  Sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy?  But in the end it's only a passing thing, this shadow.  Even darkness must pass, a new day will come, and when the sun shines it'll shine out the clearer.  Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.  But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going because they were holding onto something."

I realized that Joseph Smith was holding onto something.  Something so important that it was worth every sacrifice that he went through, even up to the last moments of his life.  He was holding onto the truth.

 "I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."

I am so grateful for all who have made grueling sacrifices so each of us can know the truth and have the gospel in our lives.  I have a testimony that Joseph Smith was a true prophet.  He saw God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ in a vision.  He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God. And he restored the Church of Jesus Christ for everyone today as latter-day saints.  It makes me smile thinking about how awesome it is!  I am so, so grateful.

Monday, October 6, 2014

General Conference Weekend

Feeling so great and refreshed from general conference this weekend.  I don't think I can wait six more months to fill my G-CON tank again.  Why can't every week be like this?

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