Sunday, June 14, 2015

Building a Celestial Family: Intro

We owe our families the kind of relationship we can take into the presence of God. . . . We can determine to forgive quickly and fully. We can try to seek the happiness of others above our own. We can be kind in our speech. As we try to do all these things, we will invite the Holy Ghost into our families and into our lives.
Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency (source)

I read the First Presidency message for June, which I don't usually do, because the title stood out to me: "Families Can Be Together Forever." The article talked about how we can make our family relationships celestial while here on earth. That stood out to me, because my family is not like that. We don't really get along, there are disputes about beliefs, and our home is not a place the Spirit can dwell because there's constant bickering and not much remembering the Savior. That's something I'm trying to change over the summer. So this article caught my attention. I love the above quoted paragraph particularly. I wrote it on a card and tapes it where I'd always see it, to remind to do the things President Eyring counsels: 1) forgive quickly and fully, 2) seek the happiness of others, 3) be kind in our speech. President Eyring states that as we do our best to do these things, the Holy Ghost will be present in our families and lives. That's something I really want! So I want to examine each of these points a little further. 

I started writing this as one post, but it was incredibly long, so I'll post it as a series. Check back soon for Part 1, on forgiving.

The whole series has been posted! Click for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Reader Report: Aloha!


With the ringing Hawaiian greeting of "Aloha!" Chieko N. Okazaki welcomes us into a garden of goodness where the gospel has the zing of zest and ginger. . . . Sister Okazaki shares insights from the scriptures that are personal and practical. Christ is not just the way, the truth, and the life, she reminds us. He wants to be our way, our truth, and our life. The Christian way is not dramatic, flashy, or taxing. It is do-able, satisfying, and even fun.  

Chieko N. Okazaki
Chieko N. Okazaki describes herself as "a child of humble Japanese laborers on a plantation on the big island of Hawaii." Reared a Buddhist, she converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints at age fifteen, struggled to obtain an education, married Ed Okazaki (a Congregationalist who later joined the Church), bore two sons, and taught school in Hawaii, Utah, and Colorado before becoming an elementary school principal. Sister Okazaki became the first non-Caucasian to serve on any general board when she accepted a calling in 1961 to the YWMIA board. She was a member of the Primary general board when she was called as first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency in 1990. A woman of vision and a celebrator of women's achievements, Sister Okazaki sees Relief Society as a mighty sisterhood that can transform the lives of women. She believes passionately that strong individual women build strong partnerships in marriage, raise strong families, serve powerfully in the Church, and become "nursing mothers" to communities worldwide that need health, happiness, and holiness.

Publishing Info:

~ ~ ~

Chieko N. Okazaki is, I think, my favorite general authority. I fell in love with her a few months ago when I read a blog series containing many excerpts from her books. Now that it's summer, I checked them out from my local library (and I can't wait to buy a copy for me to keep forever)! 

There were two main themes present throughout this book: have a personal relationship with the Savior and Heavenly Father (developed by sincere, ongoing prayer), and serve others (sharing the love that comes from that relationship). 

Here are some of my favorite quotes/points/ideas (there's a lot, because Chieko knows what's up).
  • Build a stronger family by building a stronger you (p 2).
  • "There's not just one right way to be a Mormon woman" (p 5). I feel like a lot of times we get caught up in trying to be this ideal Mormon woman, when really there is no ideal. There's no one right way. We are all different, with different talents and abilities, different interests, and Heavenly Father has a different plan for each of us. The beauty of this Church isn't the fact that we all do the same thing in the same way - it's that we're all different but we can come together to make something bigger than ourselves. 
  • "It is possible, even in less than ideal circumstances, to have a Christ-centered home. The process of building a Christ-centered home can begin with a single faithful individual" (p 5). 
  • "We do not need to wait for ideal circumstances before Jesus can enter our lives" (pp 8-9). 
  • "His task was not only to give life to the dead . . . but to give increased life to the living with less than flourishing faith" (p 10). 
  • Know the Savior's love in all circumstances (p 14). 
  • "He has promised that He will be our never-failing companion. We can trust that promise" (p 35).
  • "The way of Christ takes us straight to other people" (p 36). 
  • "For me, great strength comes every week as I partake of the sacrament and remind myself that I bear the name of Christ, that I have taken it upon myself like something tangible. Sometimes, when I am lonely and tired, I take the name of the Savior upon me like a warm blanket. I wrap myself in it the way my two-year-old grandson wraps himself in his cherished 'blankey,' and I feel warmed and comforted. If I am feeling vulnerable, sometimes I take the name of Christ upon me like armor, feeling it solid and bright and impregnable, so that no opposition can puncture it and so that no wound can devastate me. Sometimes I take the name of Christ upon me like Joseph's coat of many colors, a beautiful garment in which to dance and rejoice and praise the Lord" (pp 49-50).
  • "Pious rules and observances [exist] for one reason: to help the people of Israel learn to love the Lord. They [can] do all of those things and never love the Lord or do all of those things instead of loving the Lord. Sometimes we fill our lives with pious rules and observances too, or let other people do it for us. We forget the Lord. We forget to love Him. We forget to feel in our hearts His love for us. And that's when our lives get out of balance" (p 76). 
  • "Jesus always did the right thing because He carried in His heart the divine image of His Father in Heaven. He could not say or do things that did not fit that image. That's what we need, a divine image so clear and powerful that we can recognize it and tell if our actions are matching it" (pp 82-3).
  • "We have taken upon ourselves that name of Jesus and the way of the disciple. Our way will also lead to gardens of anguished prayer, to crosses, to tombs. At those times, we, like the apostles, must endure in faith and love. We must endure despite our pain, with our pain, in the depths of our pain, until the moment of the resurrection in us when we understand the greater purpose in the cross and the tomb. I testify to you that those moments of understanding and acceptance will come" (p 101). 
  • "When we see a true Christian in action, we see Christ in action" (p 115). 
  • "God isn't in the business of making us believe Him. Faith cannot exist if there is no freedom to doubt. And freedom means that terrible mistakes will be made. I don't believe that faith means God will remove all tragedies from our path or solve all of our problems for us. I believe it means that He will be with us, suffering with us and grieving with us and working with us as we deal with our own tragedies and work our way through those problems" (p 119). ("How can I increase my faith?" - Click here). 
  • "The image of the path is a useful one, because it teaches us that there is a way by which we may come to our Savior. But in another way it is misleading. Paths lead from one point to another. The image suggests that we are over here and the Savior is over there and that we must follow the path to reach Him. It implies that there is a distance between us and the Lord and that we must traverse that difference to find ourselves with Him. Yet, in reality, He is already with us "(p 128). 
  • "I don't have to rely on my own goodness to be good. . . . I don't have to rely on my own capacity for love to be loving. I can rely on the Savior's love the fill my heart so completely that it will brim over and spill irresistibly into love for the people around me. I don't have to rely on my own patience, my own generosity, my own forgiveness, or my own steadfastness to be patient, generous, forgiving, or steadfast in righteousness. If I am willing to make room in my heart for the Savior, if I invite Him into my life, and if I fix my thoughts and desires and hopes on Him, then in some miraculous way I can think the thoughts of Jesus, I can feel the feeling of Jesus, and I can do the works of Jesus" (p 131). 
  • "I'm never afraid of what I'll hear [when I pray] because I know it will come in the tones of love" (p 134). 
  • "The concept of choosing happiness is powerful and empowering, because it acknowledges that we are created to experience a fulness of joy, that joy is inextricably involved with our use of agency, and that other things besides happiness will come to us" (p 169). 
  • "We need to have an ongoing conversation with God that shares our whole hearts with Him. That means we need to be honest about what we love and what we don't, where we succeed and where we fail, what were feeling and what we're thinking. One of the most human things about us is the strength and power of our feelings -- and some of those feelings are very negative. We feel grief so intensely that we think our hearts will break. We are consumed by a rage so fiery that our whole worlds seems angry. We feel discouraged. We feel depressed. We aren't always honest, always kind, always faithful. We aren't uniformly cheerful, compassionate, and courageous. And usually it's during those moments that we choose not to pray, because we think that God doesn't want to see that part of us, respond to such turbulent emotions, or accept us in our negative moments. . . . The scriptures teach a far different message" (p 172). 
  • "The promise of Joseph Smith to the Nauvoo Relief Society . . . was this: 'Angels cannot be restrained from being your associates.' Has this promise come true for you? Both Joseph Smith and Alma promised the ministration of angels to women. Yet such is the respect of our Heavenly Father for our agency that He will very rarely I've us something for which we have not asked. What would happen, do you think, if we prayed for revelation, for knowledge, for the comfort of the ministration of angels?" (p 177).
  • "God's patience with us means that we have all the time we need, as long as we're trying. We can start over as many times as we need. Life isn't a race. God isn't waiting at some mythical finishing line, tapping His foot, glancing at His stopwatch, and muttering, 'Hey, get a move on, will you?' . . . In fact, He's far from waiting at the finish line, He's there, right beside us, encouraging us and sometimes even lifting us over the rough spots" (pp 204-05). 

This was a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed it (as you can tell). I recommend it to anyone who is doubting their Heavenly Father's love, who thinks the Church has too many rules, who has set up themselves more rules than they can handle, anyone who feels they're beyond forgiveness, anyone who has forgotten the matchless power of our God's love. This is also great for converts (Chieko joined the Church when she was 15), for women (Chieko is also one of these), for mothers, for doubters, for those burdened with sin and shortcomings (I'm sure all of us fit into one of those categories). Really, read this book to be reminded of how much He loves you. 

"When we build for eternity, we need not make haste."
Aloha!, Chieko Okazaki, p 42