Thursday, August 28, 2014

I AM beautiful!!

Since I've been on my mission, I've learned the power of "I AM" statements. Even in joking, it's amazing how two simple words followed by an explanation of how you see yourself truly defines who you are. They also define who you want to be. For example the words, "I am not pretty" or "I am dumb" tear you down compared to, "I am beautiful" or "I am smart!".

"I AM" is a name that Jesus Christ gave himself. Exodus 3:14 says, " I AM THAT I AM". In Doctrine and Covenants 29:1 it says, "Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the great I AM, whose mercy hath atoned for your sins." Christ performed the atonement for us, which includes his suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, his death on the cross and his resurrection! His atonement has the power to heal and also to change us. When we choose to use negative I AM statements, we are not letting the power of Christ change us.

Whether we realize it or not, we use one of Christ's many names every single day! We all use it! And sadly, I fall into the trap of using it negatively. Too often do I compare myself to others and tell myself that I AM not good enough, pretty enough, funny enough, ect. That's not fair to me and it's not fair to the Savior!

I've been thinking about this for the past couple of months. There are plenty of women around me, and even some men, who are floating along in the same boat. I've prayed a lot about what to do to help myself so that I can overcome this weakness and then turn around to help others.

And then it hit me! I need to do a natural beauty week!!!

I know that BYU does some sort of beauty week, but I never participated while I was there before I left on my mission. I fully intend to once I get back! But anyways. I don't know what sort of activities are involved in the BYU beauty week, so I made up my own.

There are only three rules.
  1. No make up. None. (Sorry to the guys out there! You can adapt as necessary by sacrificing something that will help you center your focus on others rather than yourself.)
  2. Take a picture a day, caption it with a positive I AM statement and write a brief explanation.
  3. Invite others to join!
Join the event on Facebook here. Let's make this event BIG starting on September 7th!

The reason I decided to not wear any make up is because it's easy to get caught up in appearances. Whenever I "actually" do my make up in the morning, meaning that I put effort into it, I have to continually look at myself throughout the day to make sure that it's not smeared and that I still look acceptable. And then I notice other women and their makeup more rather than focusing on them. And then I assume that they're doing the same and judging me. And then I get insecure and start talking myself down with negative I AM statements. And then!'s a downward spiral. No good. Welcome to the mind of Sister Anderson.

Here's how my week went! :)

Day 1- I AM a life long learner!
I went with Sister Smith to do service at a monastery! On our way out, they offered to give us a private tour. I met a real live nun! Her name is Sister Andrea. She's amazing. Since she has lived in the monastery since she was 15 and is now 85, she was able to tell us so much about the monastery's history. She gave us a tour of the little chapel that she worships in and it was beautiful. I'm grateful we had a few minutes to learn more about how these Catholic nuns worship Jesus Christ. :) I love learning about other religions!

Day 2- I AM charitable!
Sister Lamborn and I could have taken the few minutes we have before bed to write in our journals and unwind for the day, but instead we chose to heart attack our neighboring sister missionaries when they were stressed out! "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." Moroni 7:47 

Day 3- I AM a disciple of Christ!
I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints! "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." 3 Nephi 5:13 I can't believe I've been doing this for about a year now! Nothing brings me greater joy than being able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and all my brothers and sisters. :) This is who I am and I am proud of it!

Day 4- I AM not ashamed of eating!
It may not look very convincing because I'm only eating yogurt, but I love love love food! And I'm not ashamed of it! I'm not one of those girls who'd ever pick a salad over a piece of stake... I think it's especially easy for women to get down on themselves when it comes to eating because we all want to be thin. Yes, too much food isn't a good thing. All things in moderation with a bit of exercise thrown in there goes a long way. So long as I'm feeling healthy, I'm doing great! 

Day 5- I AM frugal!
We only get to go shopping once a week on Mondays. I am learning how to be frugal with my money by only spending it on things that I need during the week. Previously I wasn't very good at budgeting my money but I'm getting better at it! This I AM statement is something that I want to become. 

Day 6- I AM myself! :)
I love to have fun! I have a boisterous personality and it's easy for me to feel a bit obnoxious or overbearing at times. I love the quote, "The people who mind don't matter and the people who matter don't mind!" I don't know who said it, but it's something I try to live by. Don't get me wrong, I DO believe that everyone matters, but if they're just going to think I'm insane, they can go ahead and think that! I am insane! And I love it! :)

Day 7- I AM brave!
This may seem silly to all you dog lovers out there, but on my mission I have developed a slight fear of dogs. It seems like everyone has one, so it's not a rational fear in the slightest. However, since my hand was almost bitten off about six months ago, I've never been able to pet a dog that was taller than my knees. This dog was HUGE. And I pet it. Therefore, I am brave!

I AM beautiful!

This week I sacrificed a few things and stepped out of my comfort zone to help me look outward to serve, love and understand others better. I also learned how to appreciate ME for who I AM. :) I learned a lot about myself that will help me be a better servant, friend, sister, daughter, and neighbor in the future. God knows who we are. He also knows perfectly who we are going to become. I'm so grateful for the knowledge that I have that I am His daughter and He loves me more than I will ever understand. That love is there for all of us as His children. Because we are His children, it's important to realize that we have infinite worth!! If we trust in His plan for us, He will help us on our path to become.

Okay, now it's your turn! I invite all of you to join with me in doing your very own natural beauty week! Give up something that blocks you from focusing on what is really important or keeping you from seeing your individual worth. Take a picture every day and post it with an I AM statement of talents or qualities God has blessed you with. Hashtag it with #iambeautiful. As you do this for a week, don't forget to pray for God to help you feel of His love. The purpose of this is to let your inner beauty shine and to help you realize what God has given you so that you can love and serve others more effectively!

It worked for me! Now it's your turn! Give it a try! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Pretender or Prophet?

A lot of people that I have met on my mission have asked me why Mormons worship Joseph Smith. Because I've grown up believing that he is a prophet called of God, it's almost a funny question to me. But then I remember that from the outside looking in, it might seem that way.

Let me just clear it all up right here and now. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we only worship Jesus Christ. He is the Only Begotten of the Father, our Savior and Redeemer and He was the only one who could have taken the pains and the sins of the world upon himself.

So why is Joseph Smith so important?

Well, this question takes us back to biblical times. Throughout the Bible we read of prophets who have been called of God to be His spokesman, to oversee the household of God here on the earth. Examples of prophets are Adam, Noah, Moses, and Abraham. All these men taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and foretold of the coming of a Messiah who would come to suffer for the sins of everyone who would live on earth. It's important to understand that these prophets each held the priesthood, or the power and authority of God given to man for the salvation of His children.

There's a children's song that I love called, "Follow the Prophet". The chorus goes:

Follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet,
Follow the prophet,
Don't go astray!

But of course, even the people in the Bible didn't always listen to the prophets that were sent to teach them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Periods of time when the gospel is changed, rejected, or ignored as taught by Heavenly Father's prophets is called apostasy. There can be personal apostasy, where individuals decide that they don't want to live the gospel the way Christ intended, or there can be general apostasy, where big groups of people reject the gospel. During the periods of general apostasy is when people kill the prophets or God takes them away, also taking away His priesthood authority from off the earth.

When the people are ready again to accept the gospel, God brings them out of apostasy and calls another prophet to lead the people and oversee Christ's church on the earth. It's a big pattern!!!

In the New Testament, we read of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection. While he was on the earth, he established his church by calling 12 apostles, giving them priesthood authority to act in His name. Though He was the Son of God, people even rejected Jesus Christ and His teachings and fell into a state of apostasy. After His crucifixion and resurrection, the apostles kept the church up and running the best that they could by sending epistles to people like the Corinthians, telling them that they needed to stop making changes and stick to what Christ taught. Eventually, people rejected the apostles as well. (See Mark 12:1-9) After they were all killed, there was no one on the earth that held the priesthood authority to help lead Christ's original church. Without the direction of the apostles, unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and ordinances like baptism.

We call this period of time the Great Apostasy. It was a world wide apostasy that lasted for generations upon generations! There was corruption and confusion among people who did what they thought they needed to do to follow God without His direct guidance. They had to rely on human wisdom to figure out what scripture meant!

There were lots of churches that were established during this time. Later on, reformers like Martin Luther or John Calvin saw corruption in churches and changed things in search of greater spiritual light and truth. Fun fact: not a single reformer ever claimed that they were called of God to be a prophet.

Christ's church didn't need to be reformed, but restored to its original state. 

The Restoration of the gospel didn't happen until the 1820 when a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith asked a simple question. Like many around him, he was confused by so many different doctrines and practices in all the different religions. He lived in Palmyra, New York and grew up in a religious family that constantly sought after truth. Joseph went to lots of different churches but still was confused.

He later wrote about his experience, "So great were the confusions and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong... In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" Joseph Smith --History 1:8,10

He found a verse of scripture in the Bible that hit his heart: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, which giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5

He took James' advice and went to a grove of trees to ask God what to do. His experience is amazing.

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... when the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! Joseph Smith- History 1:16-17

It is my testimony that God the Father and Jesus Christ came to Joseph Smith that day in that grove of trees. I know with all my heart that it really did happen! God is a personal god, who called Joseph by name and answered the question of his heart.

Joseph was instructed not to join any of the churches because they "were all wrong" and "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof" Joseph Smith History 1:19. There were lots of good people who believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, but they didn't have the fullness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize or perform other saving ordinances.

Joseph Smith was called to restore Christ's original church in its fullness!! And that he did! He was given the priesthood authority, the same power that was given to prophets of old, to reestablish the church again on the earth. It was officially reorganized on April 6, 1830 with only six members in attendance. Since then, the church has grown by the millions and continues to grow today!

He was lead to an ancient record of scripture known as the Book of Mormon. (Since this post is getting long I'll direct you to my very first blog post called, The Keystone)

God is the same yesterday, today and forever. We know that God has always worked through prophets. He continues to speak through his prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson.

All of this may be new to you, and I invite you to pray about it. Follow what it says in James and ask God for yourself if there is a possibility that this is true. That's what I did! And now I'm serving as a full time missionary to help others come to know of the truth too. I know that Joseph Smith was called to be the prophet to end the Great Apostasy and bring the fullness of the gospel to the earth in these last days! That's why Joseph Smith is talked about so much by members of this church! Because without Joseph Smith, Christ's church wouldn't have been restored to the earth in its fullness!

I love what Elder Lawrence E Corbridge said about Joseph Smith:

"There is no dispute about what Joseph Smith accomplished, only how he did what he did and why. And there are not many options. He was either pretender or prophet. Either he did what he did alone, or he had the help of heaven. Look at the evidence, but look at all of the evidence, the entire mosaic of his life, not any single piece. Most importantly, do as young Joseph and “ask … God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given [you].” This is not only how you may learn the truth about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith; it is also the pattern to know the truth of all things." The Prophet Joseph Smith

Now it's up to you. What do you think? Was Joseph Smith a pretender?
Or was he a prophet?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

All the time

God is so good. It makes me sad how easy it is to forget that fact in times that are harder than others. I spend every waking moment of my day trying to help others realize that God is so good to each of us, and sometimes forget to realize how He has been good to me in my own life. I was a bit discouraged just last night on the way home at the end of the night. I wasn't saying anything because I was afraid that if I did, I'd burst out in tears. My companion, Sister Lamborn, did her very best dealing with the situation. She asked me if there was anything she could do to help, and I said that I would let her know. After a few minutes of driving in silence, she turned on the music. The song that came on was the song that God really wanted me to hear in that moment. It's called, "Count Your Many Blessings". 

1. When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your blessings;
See what God hath done.
Count your blessings;
Name them one by one.
Count your many blessings;
See what God hath done.

2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

I knew in that moment that I needed to think of all the things that I was grateful for, especially all the things that God had blessed me with! Once I started listing off the things that were going well in my life, I was reminded of how good God really is. 

Last Saturday I went to the Nationals baseball game in DC with all the missionaries in my mission! It was SO much fun!! We sat in the nosebleed section, of course, but we finally got to our section at the tippy top of the stadium. There was a lady at the top of the stairs of our section to help us find our seats. While I was waiting at the top of the stairs during a play, so that I wouldn't be a distraction from the game to those who were intently watching, I decided to talk to her. She's worked every game for the past two years and has loved it. She told me about how there were season ticket holders that sat close to where she stood and they always bought her Nationals gear as gifts for doing such a great job. She showed me her baseball earrings that they had just given her.

I heard myself say, "Oh God is good!" 
She replied, "Oh honey, ALL the time!!!" She went on to tell me about how that is an old fashioned phrase because she hasn't heard very many people say it any more. She told me, "It doesn't matter who says 'God is good', I will stop whatever I am doing to reply, 'ALL the time!'. He isn't just good SOME of the time, or MOST of the time, but ALL the time."

I told her that I would bring it back! Every time I saw her after that, I called out, "God is good!" and she would call back, "All the time!" with a big two thumbs up in response. 

So whenever you're feeling down, rather than thinking about all the things that aren't going right in life, think outward and look up! All you have to do is count your many blessings, and before you know it, you'll see that God has been good to you. Not some of the time, not most of the time, but all the time.