25 October 2013

Blessings of Scripture

I was asked to speak in church this Sunday on 1 Nephi 19:23:
And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.
Now you all know just how much I LOVE the scriptures... or if you don't, you don't really know me at all. haha But whereas many members of the church shy away from studying the Bible, and even the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon, I find that those are some of my favorite parts! It of course helps that I know the history, culture, geography, etc. of the ancient near east. I relish all the interesting cultural tidbits, and the rich descriptions of the land. But I also understand that those details can feel like wading through a quagmire for people who don't already have an appreciation and understanding of the setting and background of the region.

That being said, it's not impossible to gain an understanding and appreciation of these contexts. So if you are one of those that avoids studying the Bible because it it too hard for you to understand, I invite you to reconsider! Make it a matter of prayer. Find some basic references that can help paint a better picture of what's going on. If all else fails, google it! haha But seriously. The Bible, however many errors it might contain, is STILL the Word of God. And He is a God of Mercy, which is made more clear to me in the Bible than in any other book of scripture.

While preparing my talk I rediscovered this Mormon Message, which I LOVE on so many different levels. And since I can't actually show it for my talk on Sunday, I thought I'd at least share it here.

20 October 2013

What's in a name?

I don't know, but there must be something in MY name, because no one can say it right.

I always thought my name was so simple and straight forward... just like me. But on the mission, a lot of people had trouble with my last name, so they nicknamed me Hermana Quemadita, "The Little Burnt Sister." Ok I guess the "ur" sound is a little tricky for Latinos. No big deal.

But here in England, where people speak English, few people say my name right. They all call me Dawna, because they normally say "a" as in "-aw" not "a" as in "-ay." One of the Elders, who is Scottish, told me that they normally spell my name here as Daena or Daina. In Utah, everyone tries to spell it Dayna. So perhaps I have a vowel missing from my name that prevents people from saying it correctly?

Then when I interact with the ESL students at Uni... well they've never heard of my name, so they all call me Diana, no matter how many times I tell them. haha

It just leaves me to wonder how such a short and simple name has created so much difficulty for people from all around the world... Suffice it to say, I go by many names these days.

18 October 2013

Liverpool and Preston

Last weekend the YSA (young single adults) went on a Temple trip up to the Preston Temple. But since we had a few hours in the morning, we made a pitstop at Albert Dock in Liverpool.

I don't know what this building is, but it's beautiful, and an interesting contrast to the rest of the city that is either industrial brick buildings or modern glass and steel constructions.

After walking around the dock a bit, my friend Camie and I went into the Maritime Museum. 

Then we ventured over to the Museum of Liverpool, which was also nearby. Conveniently enough there happened to be an Irish Festival at the latter on the day we were there. I took a video of some little girls doing some Irish dancing, but for some reason it won't load, so a picture of the musicians will have to suffice.

 There were several of these bizarre painted statues outside the museum... reminding me of the painted Berlin Bears and Cincinnati Pigs I saw years ago. The only problem is that I had no notion what this particular creature was supposed to be...

...but fear not. I found the answer! Superlambananas, apparently. Don't ask me what in creation THAT is supposed to be, though. haha

I thought this was going to be Elvis. Apparently this is the British Elvis, Billy Fury. Apparently he was a big deal. No one I was with had ever heard of him. But even THEY all know who Elvis is. Sorry Billy. Better luck next time?

And just in case you could manage to forget that Liverpool was the home of the Beatles, their faces are plastered everywhere, in all kinds of creative ways. This one was by far my favorite.
Can  you tell what it's made out of???? 
Jelly Belly Jelly Beans!!!
(FYI: ERYN SINCLAIR... this store was MADE for YOU!
Is it just me or does the guy on the bottom right look more like a 40yr old Harry Potter than a Beatle?

Obviously, though, the highlight of the trip was going to the temple. We got there late and were in a hurry, so I wasn't able to get my own picture of the temple, but this one is sufficiently gorgeous for my purposes here.  :)

One of the things I've missed the most living here in Birmingham is being close enough to go to the temple often. So I absolutely relished the opportunity to be back inside the House of the Lord. Perhaps because it's been a few weeks, or maybe more likely because of everything I've been learning from life, institute, and General Conference over those weeks, I felt like the windows of heaven were opened and I learned SO MUCH this time around. And I had a really special experience with my ancestor whose name I took through. There are no words to express just how much I love my family, no matter how long ago they may have lived! Ann Mather was born in 1656, so she'd been waiting more than 300 years to make those sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father. The love I felt for her was overwhelming, as was the feeling of her gratitude, joy, and sheer excitement that surrounded me during the session.  I was so grateful to the chance to go to the Temple, and looking forward to going again as soon as possible!

13 October 2013

General Conference Gems

That magical time of year came and went last weekend, and it was absolutely glorious in word and spirit. There is no point in me going on and on about how great it was. Instead, I shall entice and encourage you to read/watch/listen to conference yourself by including some of my favorite tidbits.

Here! Listen to a Prophet's Voice!

*President Thomas S. Monson is the Prophet of God upon the earth. He is not only the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also the Prophet for the entire world.*

"Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith." -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy." -Elder Richard G. Scott

"...man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior.... We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place." -Elder Dallin H. Oaks

"We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There is only one way. True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you—each of you! He allows you to access His power as you keep His commandments, eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change!" -Elder Russell M. Nelson

"There is joy guaranteed for the faithful." -President Henry B. Eyring

"Sometimes we may ask God for success, and He gives us physical and mental stamina. We might plead for prosperity, and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace. He may bestow upon us conviction and confidence as we strive to achieve worthy goals. And when we plead for relief from physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties, He may increase our resolve and resilience." -Elder David A. Bednar

"We do not diminish the value of what women or men achieve in any worthy endeavor or career—we all benefit from those achievements—but we still recognize there is not a higher good than motherhood and fatherhood in marriage. There is no superior career, and no amount of money, authority, or public acclaim can exceed the ultimate rewards of family. Whatever else a woman may accomplish, her moral influence is no more optimally employed than here." -Elder D. Todd Christofferson

"No matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up! Your destiny is a glorious one! Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now!" -President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

"The greatest blessings of general conference come to us after the conference is over. Remember the pattern recorded frequently in scripture: we gather to hear the words of the Lord, and we return to our homes to live them." -Elder Robert D. Hales

09 October 2013

Invasion of the Doctors, part 2

*This part of the story mostly focuses on my personal ponderings regarding a conversation I had during the filming with one of the actors and several of the film crew. So be prepared for a soapbox rant.*

As I mentioned on Facebook:
They are now filming in my room, and one of the actors said quite assuredly, "You've never had so many men in your room, love." Followed by one of those young men saying, "Well, we were all thinking it but we never would've said it." hahahahahaha I wonder if it was the giant book that says "Eternal Marriage" on my shelf or the picture of Jesus on my mirror that gave me away.

 The film crew scurrying about my room just before the above conversation.

For those of you who were curious as to my own response to the actor... It was one of those moments when multiple ideas and retorts passed through my mind, all clear as day, in the blink of an eye. I thought, "Should I be offended?" "Should I laugh it off?" "Should I own it?" "How can I use this to share the gospel?," and even the words of Romans 1:16 ran briefly through my mind: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth..." By the end of that brief introspection, I had decided to own it, no matter how that may have seemed to them. So I said, "Well that's true!" And laughed. That seemed to break the momentary tension of all the young men in the room as they realized that I was not offended or embarrassed to be called out as a virgin in front of all these strangers. But I wasn't just playing it off trying not to be embarrassed like I usually do... instead I realized that I really WASN'T ashamed for my virginity to be broadcast to an entire room full of men. How odd.

I've thought a lot about that experience over the last week, and it keeps getting funnier with every re-living of it! But in light of having watched General Conference in between the two days of filming, I've also learned a lot from it. I was able to pinpoint the true gospel principles that helped me 1) stand firm, and 2) not be ashamed of my choice or even 3) of making that choice known to strangers regarding why I've decided to remain chaste before marriage.

Elder Christofferson, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, said: 
"Most sacred is a woman’s role in the creation of life. We know that our physical bodies have a divine origin4 and that we must experience both a physical birth and a spiritual rebirth to reach the highest realms in God’s celestial kingdom.5 Thus, women play an integral part (sometimes at the risk of their own lives) in God’s work and glory “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”6 As grandmothers, mothers, and role models, women have been the guardians of the wellspring of life, teaching each generation the importance of sexual purity—of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. In this way, they have been a civilizing influence in society; they have brought out the best in men; they have perpetuated wholesome environments in which to raise secure and healthy children."
As the muses say in Hercules, "That's the Gospel truth!" I REALLY believe that, because the Holy Ghost has confirmed the truth of it in my own heart. So what might seem to many like an old-fashioned choice based on bizarre religious fervor, or even a misunderstanding that my personal worth only exists if I remain pure before marriage, I choose to remain chaste because I hold my womanhood and my divine role as sacred. I am grateful for my physical body, imperfections included, and the power and responsibility that I have to bring life into the world. Because I value and honor that privilege, I have chosen to exercise it only within the bonds of marriage, with a man worthy of being sealed to me for eternity and not just "until death do us part."

*Ok, I'll now step down from my soap box. :) *

They also thought the outside of our home was adequately horrendous for their filming purposes. The tall blonde woman, Leigh, played the American niece in the episode. She was mortified by the disgraceful state of our living conditions and made me promise to keep complaining about all the mold to the landlord until someone fixes it. haha If only she'd seen the other places I've lived (like Alpine aptmts in Provo!) then she'd know I have it pretty good here. haha

We did take pictures of the other actors, but I'll have to wait to get them from my roommate, since we snuck them on her phone. ;) I'll add them here as soon as I get them though!

Invasion of the Doctors, Part 1

This has to be one of the most random, ridiculous, fascinating experiences I've ever had... and for those who know anything about my life, that actually really is quite a feat.

*For those who haven't been following my Facebook updates, BBC filmed the British soap opera Doctors in my house over two days. This post was written during the filming.*

Our little town house is easily overrun, but the film crew, actors, and production team have literally invaded every nook and cranny of our quaint little home. There are only so many places for them to go, so the big hang out for the actors is my room (since they are filming in Sarah's room). But there isn't anywhere else for me to go, so I'm just here working on my bed in the midst of them all. It's actually been quite enjoyable to chat with and get to know them all a bit.

My room, completely overrun with furniture, equipment, and other supplies... now just add about 8 people in here and you'll understand why it felt so cramped!

 They also took over the living room...

(Plus about 25 people in and out of here.)

... and the kitchen. 

The only time you'll ever see/smell coffee in my home! haha

Since they have been hanging out in my room, they've been reading all the things on my walls... mainly inspirational/motivational quotes, etc. Their various reactions have sparked some interesting conversations, and some of them have even taken pictures of them to send to their children. haha I think it must be as unique for them to be in the room of a young, single American woman who has very little interest in things of the world as it is for me to have them in here. I wonder how many of them have ever seen a picture of Jesus Christ hanging in the room of a 26 yr old woman before, or how many of them have ever seen a giant manual all about "Eternal Marriage." haha I am definitely a peculiar person, but hopefully in the way I'm meant to be.

 The episode is about an old woman, named Flo, who is dying and is visited by her American niece before her passing. This is my roommate, Sarah, in her/Flo's bed. Don't worry... we took all these pictures while they were at lunch. ;)

They used Sarah's scriptures as props in Flo's bedroom! haha

Needless to say, it's been a day full of trying to suppress my giggles and generally failing at it.