Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Christmas Truce ~ Do not hide your talents

I was reminded last night of the instruction given to us in Matthew 5:16:

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."

We should not hide our lights under bushels, rather we should open our mouths, not hiding the talent given to us by Heavenly Father (Doctrine & Covenants 60:2).

Last night, I attended the first rehearsal for Liverpool Stake's performance of The Christmas Truce. Almost 100 years ago to the day, the troops involved in the 'Great War' took part in a series of unofficial ceasefires. Each stake across the United Kingdom is putting on a concert to commemorate the Christmas Truce and to commemorate those who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

The event will be free of charge and we are inviting as many people as would like to come. If you're interested in coming to see the performance at Liverpool, our performance will be at the Liverpool Stake Centre on Saturday, 6th December, 7.30pm. If you can't attend the performance on 6th December in Liverpool, then you can find a list of locations and times here.

The performance is really going to be top notch and I wholeheartedly recommend attending the performance in your local stake. You can see the trailer for the performance below:

The Christmas Truce 2014 - The Trailer from christmastruce2014 on Vimeo.

So, if you are looking for a wholesome, family activity and an evening out, then make sure to support your local stake and attend the Christmas Truce - it's going to be a night to remember!

If you would like to get involved, then contact your local stake or click here for more information.  

Monday, 27 October 2014

Liverpool Stake Conference ~ 26th October 2014 ~ Families Can Be Together Forever

On Sunday, I was lucky enough to attend my first Stake Conference. I was even fortunate enough to sing in the dedicated Sisters' Choir. I felt so inspired throughout the meeting; there was a strong focus on Family History, Temple Work and Indexing, which are three activities about which I'm quickly becoming very passionate!

I'm hoping to be able to take part in Liverpool Stake's Temple Week in November and to go to the Temple for the first time. I'm quite excited. I visited the Temple Grounds with Sister Haskins and Sister Nemec at the beginning of August before I was baptised and, as you can see from the photographs, the grounds are very beautiful. However, I've never actually entered the Temple before. I'm very fortunate that I only live a short distance from the Temple, so I should be able to visit often once I receive my Temple Recommend.

Temple: Preston, England

Sister Haskins (left) and Sister Nemec (right) at the Temple in Preston, England
Our Stake President, President Steven Marshall, set us a few challenges at Conference. He has asked for us to all register on Family Search as Indexers and for each of us to index at least one batch of records. You do not have to be a Church Member to register as an Indexer. Indexing is simply the process of entering information from historical records into an online searchable database. It makes the process of Family History that much more straightforward. You can learn more about Indexing by clicking on this link. Liverpool Stake has pledged to index 1000,000 names in 2014, so we need to give a big push in the last two months of the year (where has this year gone?)!

President Marshall also challenged us to work on our Family Histories and to find one more name in our family tree. As I have only just started to delve into doing Family History, I'm hoping that I can find several new names and get their records. I'm so grateful that I can use the Family Search website. Again, you don't have to be a Church Member to register (for free) and to access genealogical records. The family is the most important unit in time and eternity. We are all spirit children of Heavenly Father and He organised us into families. Families are central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children. This is why there is so much focus on the family within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

I would like to accept President Marshall's challenges to index more batches of records so that more people can link up their family members and I will accept the challenge to find out more about my family tree and find a new name which I can take to the Temple. 

I'm so grateful to Heavenly Father for the inspired words for our Ward, Stake, Temple and Church leaders and I am so grateful to Heavenly Father for welcoming me back into His eternal family.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Blame It On The Weatherman... A Lesson About Being Prepared

This week's weather has been wet. Wet and miserable. We're not talking usual United Kingdom wet weather, here. We are talking, really wet and windy, thanks to the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalez. 

Source: BBC Weather, 22nd October 2014

Of course, in the United Kingdom, we are used to it being a bit wet and wild out there, but this has been something new and yesterday, the weather was so bad, I couldn't bring myself to leave the warmth and safety of my home. DISCLAIMER: I'm fending off some sort of flu-like lurgy and the thought of being blown down the street was a little less than appealing. I thank Heavenly Father that I'm not a missionary out tracting in this weather! Let's spend a little moment to pray for them, shall we? Keep safe, elders and sisters!

Source: Telegraph Online, 21st October 2014

My lack of enthusiasm for the weather yesterday has left me with a quandary today: I must leave the house today in order to get in the shopping, otherwise we are going to run out of supplies rapidly. This exact situation is why the Church teaches Members to prepare every  needful thing. Never mind zombie apocalypses, bog-standard poor weather, sickness or even a dud car can mean that you are quickly stranded and supply-less in a short amount of time. Now, I understand, why the Church is so keen to have us prepared. As Benjamin Franklin keenly pointed out: "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". 

So, what does a new Church member do to 'be prepared'? has some great advice about Emergency Preparedness as well as a Stake and Ward Emergency Planning Guide. Make sure that you and your loved ones are familiar with both of these.

Church members are counselled to become self-reliant. That means that if anything does go wrong, (and things so often do), there will be minimum stress and anxiety! 

Let's not sit on our laurels any longer, let's make sure that we are prepared! I will be posting updates about things my family is doing to help become more prepared and I hope that these updates will help anyone out there, who (like me) is feeling a little overwhelmed! Let's build our castles to be safe and prepared ones. 

In 2005, President Gordon B Hinckley gave us excellent counsel about being prepared in the Priesthood Session of General Conference October 2005. Let us heed this counsel and begin making preparations for our own families and personal situations.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Sister Peartree - That Conversion Story

Today, my second baptising missionary, Sister Kimmy Haskins, leaves for home in California. I feel as though I am losing a long-lost sister and I pray with all my heart that we will keep in touch! It felt like my heart was breaking when my first baptising missionary, Sister Nemec left for home a few weeks ago! These girls are awesome!

Sister Kimmy Haskins & Sister Clara Nemec at Preston Temple, England, 6th August 2014
I met Sister Haskins back in June, when I walked into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; my heart weighed down with questions and doubts about what I needed to do: get baptised.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I have been learning about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for about 10 years. The first time I met the missionaries was back in 2004, when I was on my way home from University in Liverpool. At the time, I lived in Widnes and I commuted each day between Widnes and Liverpool on the train. So did the two elders that lived around the corner from me. One day on my way home, they stopped me and opened the conversation with:

“Would you like to spend eternity with your family?”

I don’t think they were expecting my reaction.

Laughing, I replied “Are you kidding me?! If you had met my family, you would know why the idea of spending eternity with them is not a great selling point.”

Cue awkward silence.

Just to be clear – I love my family, greatly, I do, but we are potentially a little more dysfunctional than most families and back in 2004, we were all in the situation where 30 minutes in each others’ company was probably a bit too much.

I chatted with the missionaries for a little while. I was really too proud to listen to the missionaries' message of the gospel. I thought I knew it all, so my ears were tuned out, but there was one thing that really struck me:

These two young men were so convinced that had found the truth, they had both uprooted their lives to travel halfway across the world, to walk around in the rain in Widnes so that they could share the gospel of Jesus Christ with me. I thought they were crazy and yet I was also struck by the strength of their belief and their desire to help others. The elders had put their own lives on hold for two years so that they could save others'. There was a glint in their eyes that showed how happy they were. True happiness. It was these two elders that piqued my interest in the Church; it was these two elders who opened that door for me, just a little bit, so that I could examine my thoughts and beliefs more deeply. I wanted something in my life that I was so sure of. I just didn’t believe that it was God I was missing.

Over the intervening decade, I was taught by several companions. I went to Church, too.
I refused to get baptised though. I was very clear on something: there was no way I was getting baptised. I didn’t believe that the Church was true, so I didn't see why I needed to be baptised again, when I had been christened as a baby,  yet I was completely and utterly taken with the story of Joseph Smith.

Joseph was a seeker. I was seeking something. I felt a strong affinity with his story. He had a deep connection with Heavenly Father and I should have been more aware that it didn't matter what I did, or how much I resisted baptism into the Church. I played Devil’s Advocate with each of the missionaries who visited me over the years, but no matter how much I pushed back, I could not deny that I was utterly fascinated with the story of Joseph Smith and I just kept coming back for more.

I was like the Mormon Sympathiser Boomerang. I just kept coming back, no matter what!

Looking back now, I can see that I wanted to feel the blessed and happy state of the first elders I met and every other LDS member I’d been subsequently blessed to meet.

Let's fast forward to June 2014...

There were no missionaries. I was no longer reading the Book of Mormon, nor was I praying to Father in Heaven for confirmation of the book’s validity.

I was just washing up.  (This in itself is quite the miracle, but I digress).

I found myself, yet again, pondering Joseph Smith’s life.

There was something bugging me – lurking in the recesses of my mind… what was it?

Suddenly, everything was clear:

Joseph Smith prayed to know if the Church was true. He saw a pillar of light and had a quick chat with God and His Son, Jesus. I could accept that, no problem.

Later, in Missouri, the man is pulled out of bed by a band of non-believers who want the Mormons out of their state.

His wife and his children are dragged outside, muskets rammed into their faces. 

Can you imagine how utterly terrifying that would be? 
What would you do in that situation? 
Would your first thought not be to protect your family?

Joseph was trussed up and hot tar was poured over him by these men.

If you were a liar, do you not think that this would be the moment that you said: "Hey there boys, maybe we can talk about this…perhaps there's been a mistake..."

Joseph Smith did not. 
Joseph Smith was clear. 
He could not deny the truth. Even if it meant that his life, the life of his family, the lives of each of the early Church  members were put in mortal danger.

Joseph Smith was telling the truth.

It hit me like a tonne of bricks.
If the First Vision was true, and Joseph Smith was telling the truth then it followed that the rest of the story was true. The Book of Mormon must be true. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. 
It was a bit of a face-palm moment for me, really.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know I felt - I think I felt somewhat defeated, to be honest. I’d invested so much energy into trying to deny the validity of Jesus’ Atonement and of Joseph Smith’s story, I was somewhat disappointed when I realised the truth of the matter; so I did the only thing that I could do:
I went to Church
and that is where I met the lovely Sister Kimmy Haskins.
I asked her and her companion (originally Sister Fitia, then Sister Hesketh, then Sister Clara Nemec, followed by Sister Pongi) to come and teach me so that I could be baptised. I could no longer deny the truth;
The gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. Joseph Smith restored the Priesthood Authority. 
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the one true Church.

So, to all the missionaries across the world, I'd like you to know that what you are doing is amazing. You are doing such a wonderful and divine service. Please know that even when it seems you’re getting nowhere, know that you are making a difference for the better in every person’s life. Have patience. That person might not be able to accept the truth when you speak to them that first time, but keep spreading the truth; keep planting those mustard seeds and know that they will grow.

To any non-members reading this – think about it – ponder on what you have been taught. Remember Joseph Smith and honestly ask yourself, what would you have done in that situation? Follow Moroni’s advice and “ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true: and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Baptism Day! From L to R: Sis. Kimmy Haskins, Me, Sis. Clara Nemec, Caroline Hepburn 29th August 2014