Friday, July 12, 2013

Mother's Retreat Journal Entry Week #6

Does my own family get my brightest light, or do I put my best efforts in shining only when I am in public?

In short, yes, and no.  ;-)  That is, I am almost exclusively within my home and with my children.  I don’t know of another place in which I can shine.  At church, I guess, or with friends/people I serve.  But I think I have an easier time loving my family than I do other people.  And I have to remember to be as generous with others as I am with my family.  Still, I don’t feel like my family gets my brightest light, not because I am letting it shine elsewhere, but because my light just seems rather dim.  I want to be brighter for them.  I would love to be able to teach my children and help them learn and progress spiritually, physically, emotionally and socially (the mentally part is easy, and I have to remember not always to focus on that.) As I have prayed, I know that the best way to teach them and help them make progress is by being an example.  But I’m not sure I’m a great example of physical, emotional, social or spiritual greatness.  I try in all areas.  But I’m not great.  I have a little flashlight, not a light house.  There is always so much progress to be made!

Here is what I do have:
Spiritually: I pray and receive revelation (almost) daily.  I love to read the words of the Lord, in scriptures, conference, books, etc. I love to go to the temple and try to go weekly.  I have a testimony and enjoy sharing it.  I want to know and do the will of the Lord.

Physically: I eat as healthfully as I know how/reasonably can.  I enjoy exercise and being healthy/strong.  I am grateful for a good body and the things it can do.  I keep myself neat and well groomed.

Socially: I enjoy people and have friends.  I seek to help those in need.  Seek out social opportunities, and frequently invite people to our home. 

Emotionally: I’ve had to learn a lot of new emotional habits in order to get over depression.  I am doing better emotionally now, and try to point out unhealthy emotional habits when I see them in my children.  I do things that I enjoy and things that I don’t enjoy. I believe my needs are valid and worth taking care of.

Mother's Retreat Journal Entry Week #5

How can I praise, honor and worship Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ by letting my light shine?

This seems like a leading/obvious question to me.  Because it seems like they are one and the same.  The Lord is my light.

I think my personal ways of expressing that light are through writing (anymore?), dancing (anymore?), serving others and just being me.  Being my best me as a mother is an important way.  A few days ago when I prayed about my day, the Lord reminded me: “Julia, you are beautiful.  You are trying to do many things.  Do them with grace.  Let your inner light shine.  Be your true self and be happy.  Be true to yourself. You are a daughter of God.  My daughter.  You have exquisite gifts and abilities.  Let them shine.”

Doing things with grace and being true to myself (my testimony, my gentleness of spirit and heart, my love for my family and others) isn’t always easy.  How is it that what I believe is in my heart isn’t what comes out of my mouth? It is like the light that is in me gets warped, somehow, but the natural man and my fallen body.  It is a way to praise and honor the Lord to work harder to be true to the light that is within me.  It is hard, often.  I know correct principles, I mean well, but. . . oh well. 

I had a dream, once:

I dreamed of learning to manipulate matter, to create and recreate, to dissolve and change what was around me.  Sam and I learned together and rejoiced in our new power.  And then, I was mute, and no longer in my training environment.  There were people all around me, sad, and needy.  Silently, I found them, one by one, conceived their trouble, and drew from what was around me to create a gift for them, perfectly suited.  I presented it with a smile and a powerful projection of love.  Each one knew he or she was loved, and was healed!  It was a beautiful dream, a reflection of my heart.
         That dream came to me when I was living in a situation of being misunderstood, resented, and criticized.  How I wanted to be able to give without words, (which were always twisted), and to prove my love and reveal my intentions in a way that could not be misconstrued or marginalized.   I wanted desperately to heal, to bless, to lift and give to the hurting people living around me.  Instead, every action and word brought animosity.  It broke my heart, and the dream was a sweet, sweet balm.

Mother's Retreat Journal Entry Week #4

How does my own pride darken my light?
What are my prideful ways and how can I be aware of them?

Perhaps like everyone else, I don’t think about being prideful often.  I mean, I don’t feel like I have a problem with pride.  But surely there are prideful ways.  Pride is:
a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character; self-respect; self-esteem.

pleasure or satisfaction taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself: civic pride.

Those don’t seem too negative, except for the inordinate opinion of oneself or superiority. I think when we talk about pride as a sin, it is conceit, vanity, vainglory, and egotism, etc.  Thinking too highly of oneself, especially to overlook faults that ought to be addressed, or believing that one deserves certain privileges and getting upset if they are not provided, or comparing others’ worst with one’s own best are all elements of “pride” that certainly damn one.  I don’t particularly struggle with any of those, though.  I look poignantly at my own failings (I’ve had to learn to be kinder to myself), and am grateful for the blessings of home, health, children, gospel, finances that I have.  I know it could be otherwise and may still be otherwise.  I try to act wisely to keep the blessings I have, but I know they are not my “right.” I guess that I am too quick to judge others at times.  Usually, though, I give the benefit of the doubt as long as I can, and then  feel confused about what to think more than jumping to conclusions.
Oh, what are my prideful ways? I like to look nice, but not enough to wear makeup, or a bra, or do my hair much. I like to be talented, but I feel sort of like my talents have been buried for about 12 years.  Even my dreams for myself—of someday being a famous writer or even well-known—have changed.  Now I feel content to do what good I can in the lives around me, quietly. 
Perhaps it is pride that has slowed by progress on writing my grandfather’s biography? I want it to be good writing—worthwhile and with a voice, and I’m not sure I have that down,  yet.  But really, I want that simply because I don’t want to write junk, and I want him to like it, too.  Perhaps I need to realize the first draft is just a first draft, and get it down and then get some insight from others. . .
It seems to me like my lack of pride (pleasure or satisfaction in something well done) is more of a challenge when it comes to letting my light shine.  Maybe if I believed in myself a little more and focused on faults a little less, I would shine brighter.  I recently came across the quote (again) by Marianne Williamson “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I don’t know if that quote is true/accurate.  I think sometimes it is the small ways that make the most difference, and that when we follow God’s will and seem to be “playing small,” he can magnify that work and make a great thing out of it.  I am certainly one to talk about my faults, with the understanding that it creates a certain bond with the other imperfect people around me.  I don’t know.  I think I can be powerful beyond measure, and have that power channeled into mothering, teaching, serving, and thereby manifest the glory of God.  I don’t believe I have to be Margaret Thatcher (we just watched “Iron Lady” last night) or Mother Theresa to serve the world. I ask in my morning prayer “how can I participate in the work of salvation today?” and so far, it has been in little ways: writing a thank you note or helping a sister in need or focusing on my children or doing visiting teaching.  Sometimes it is even things like writing my Mother’s retreat Journal.  Sometimes I fear that I’ve failed at the big things God might have had me do, and that is why it is only small things now.  I do fear that.  Perhaps I’ve messed up what might have been.  But “what might have been” is something I’ll (mercifully) never know, so all I can do is work from where I am.  And I am.

Mother's Retreat Journal Entry Week #3

Who has touched my life by letting their light shine?

Well, heck, a whole lot of people have touched my life by letting their light shine.  I really appreciate peoples’ light.  There are so many wonderful, different people.  “What e’er thou are, act well thy part.” Sometimes I need an example to aspire to.  Sometimes I need someone who is right there with me, and knows what I’m going through.  Sometimes I need a mentor, sometimes a friend, sometimes I need an bad example—or an example of bad choices.  Sometimes I need someone with a weakness so I can help her/him.  Our Light is Christ, but how we shine that light is in our own way, like Tiffany lamp shades. 
My parents touched my life and taught me by example.  My Dad taught patience, kindness, love of nature, love of people, love of beauty, wisdom, etc.  My Mom taught humility, desire to progress, charity, support for the priesthood, hard work. 
I learned from my siblings, my friends, my teachers.  Jennilyn Waters let her light shine and I saw kindness, loyalty, gentleness.  Jenny Jones and Jaime Rivas let their light shine and I saw selflessness, tolerance of others, true friendship.  Lisa Partin let her light shine, and I saw testimony, faith, fun, purity, strength of family bonds.  Naomi Frandsen let her light shine and I saw intellect, talents magnified, humility, gregariousness, love. David Cragun let his light shine and I saw faith, humility, gentlemanliness, talents magnified, cheerfulness. Eric McArthur let his light shine and I saw contrast, intensity, passion, drive, weakness and strength.  Through Becky Isom, Romney Clausen, Desi Chandler, Chris Mains, and so many others, I have seen great light! 
Sam Bernards, my husband, has shown me clear thinking, introspection, emotional stability, loyalty, love, hard work, faith, self-control and more.
I appreciate seeing strengths and weaknesses in all these people.  Their personal, unique beauty has touched me and shaped me by revealing the many glorious works and ways of the Lord.  That they are all so different and each so beautiful is encouraging to me.  The Lord can use me.  He has given me my unique gifts and opportunities and weaknesses and personality.  There is need for my light.

Mother's Retreat Journal Entry Week #2

In what ways do I hide my light and why?
I don’t conscientiously hide my light.  If I do hide it, I do so by choosing not to do something, rather than choosing to do something.  That is, I don’t write, or I don’t dance or I don’t plan excellent meals or empower my children, etc. Distraction, disorganization, or not believing it is important are all strong reasons. Or I know it is important at one point, but that sense of importance fades if it is not immediately before me.  My memory dulls the prick of conscience or immediacy.
One of the things that I do which I haven’t ever thought of as hiding my light, but which might fall into the category, is “airing dirty laundry.”  That is, I tell people about the hard times in my life—my struggles and failures, etc.  Sometimes it shocks people a bit, I’m afraid, or worries them.  Perhaps I tell too much too freely, and it gives people a poor impression of me.  Because I never, ever list my accomplishments.  I have strengths along with the weaknesses, of course, but I don’t air those.  Just the weaknesses.  Is that hiding my light?  I don’t think so. . .
That just brought up another way of hiding my light—if my light is the Light of Christ, or my testimony of Christ and having him in my countenance, then anytime I sin, or get distracted by what is unimportant instead of doing first things first and keeping things simple, I hide/darken that light.  That is a light that I don’t mind showing off, either!  That is, I would like people to know of my testimony and see it in my life.  I would be happy to tell about my testimony, and Jesus Christ, etc.  That is a light/strength that I DO share!  (Or try to.) Becoming a better missionary by talking freely about the happy, positive parts of my life and hopefully eliciting questions is something I could work on. 

And that makes me think of a sad thing—I told my sisters and sister-in-law how hard motherhood is, with the intent that they wouldn’t feel bad when it was hard for them, too.  But then it seems like I may have scared them off of it to some degree, because they all decided to work instead of being full-time mothers. Both my brother and sister mentioned to me that my “warnings” really affected them.  What have I done? I didn’t mean to say “This sucks, don’t attempt it!” I meant to say “This is hard—expect it to be hard and don’t expect perfection, and I think it will be much happier that way.” What fickle things words are.  They betray me incessantly.

Mother's Retreat Journal Entry Week #1

Am I filling my Lamp?  Do I shine? 
In short, I think I am shortchanging myself and my family.  The Lord gave me a commission to teach my children social, emotional, physical and spiritual principles, and through a blessing He reaffirmed that the way for me to do that is primarily by example.  I’m not being a great example.  Or, at least, I could certainly be better.  That starts with me filling my own Lamp, I think.  Taking time for me—shining.  For example, I think getting to bed on time and sleeping well and exercise and eating well are super important parts of physical wisdom.  I could do better at all of them.  I think I’m doing okay socially—as a family we are doing more socially now that we have for the last 3 ½ years.  That is good.  Still, I can support the kids in getting more friend time.  It might also be good to talk about what we are doing socially more.  A lot of the people we are socializing with are those Sam and I have identified as needing help/support/friendship.  Yesterday, Ethan confided in me that he feels uncomfortable around the Saintelus family—they are refugees from Haiti, and the single mom of five children is suffering from PTSD, apparently.  The state of their home would qualify as “squalor,” and the kids are not disciplined and consequently a little wild.  They are not at all belligerent or rude or anything like that.  They are nice kids.  They just need more parental guidance.  At first I chided Ethan, but then realized I really need to validate his feelings.  I told him I understood how he could feel uncomfortable, and not want them to come over (I’ve been watching them a fair amount as their mom tries to put things together, and they are currently trying to get rid of bedbugs, which freaks my kids out, as they do NOT want to get them.) I myself am sometimes uncomfortable, but I also believe that is not a reason to give up a good cause! Physically, I’d love to do better.  Making time to get myself exercise has not been a forte.  Even planning healthy meals has eluded me and I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants more than anything else.  I sometimes feel like my brain is spaghetti.  I’d like things to be orderly, and they are not! Self-control (to do things like go to bed and such) is continually elusive for me.  The balance between flexibility and structure is yet elusive.  I tend toward the “flexible” side, because it is easier.  However, what happens when I need structure isn’t always pretty and involves more yelling/frustration than anyone needs.  Spiritually, of course I could still improve.  I went to the temple this morning and that was wonderful.  It feels good to be in the temple.  Yet my personal prayers and scripture study are not what they could be.  I write “prayer notes” every morning, which mostly consists of a (hopefully) spiritually guided to-do list for the day.  But the true conversations with God are not currently happening.  I do take time for the to-do list, so I have time for a conversation.  Being in my closet and praying aloud would be really helpful. Also, scripture study has been different for a while.  For a long while I have felt to concentrate on conference talks (and now the Church published books “Daughters in my Kingdom.”  I feel like both have been really good spiritually for me.  They are very pertinent and I really enjoy and learn from them.  We read the Book of Mormon as a family every day, so I am getting some of that in. . . ought I to be doing more? 
Do I shine?  Am I filling my lamp? How can I shine? How can I best fill my lamp?

First things first.  My top priorities first.  I have a list in my phone of my top daily priorities, but I haven’t looked at it in quite a while.  When reminders pop up, mostly for self-care but also for special time with Dorothea, or calling family, I ignore them.  How dumb is that?  Back to the basics.  The things the Lord has asked of me currently are not more than will fit in my allotted time (they never are, actually.)  Things are pretty simple—pretty basic.  So back to the basics and first things first is important.  I’ll get out my phone and go through my list again and re-commit.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sacrament Meeting Talk

I gave a talk in sacrament meeting on Sunday.  It was our last week there, but the first time we spoke, so it was sort of an introduction and farewell.  I enjoyed giving the talk.  There is always so much to learn!  The bishop asked me to speak on the part from the Proclamation to the World that says we are all sons and daughters of God and as such "each has a divine nature and destiny."

We all long to be wanted, needed, and important. 
Every person in the world likes to feel important. Men and women are glad when they feel needed, and so are boys and girls. To know that someone depends on you and believes that what you do and say really matters makes you feel good and want to do your best.” Help me Hold to the Rod, Friend, March 1972, Marion G. Hanks

One of the beautiful truths of the restored gospel is that we are.  The Proclamation to the World on the Family teaches: ". . . each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny." [emphasis added]  The word "each" here is important to me.  It singles us out and differentiates us.  The world seeks to differentiate us by temporal means.  Sam and I had the opportunity, a few years ago, to attend a Walmart gala in which the company's diversity goals were shared, and the fact that Walmart associates were "37% diverse," was touted.  I thought "so does that make the other 63% clones?" The Lord knows us and sees us differently.  "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." 1 Sam 16:7  The Lord knows our individual abilities, talents, strengths, and desires.  He knows and has a plan for each of us.  One of the missions of our lives is to come to know what the Lord knows of us, to see what He sees in us, and to fulfill our individual nature and destiny. 

We are sons and daughters of God.  We have divine attributes.  
There is something of divinity within each of you. You have such tremendous potential with that quality as a part of your inherited nature. Every one of you was endowed by your Father in Heaven with a tremendous capacity to do good in the world. Train your minds and your hands that you may be equipped to serve well in the society of which you are a part. Cultivate the art of being kind, of being thoughtful, of being helpful. Refine within you the quality of mercy which comes as a part of the divine attributes you have inherited.
Some of you may feel that you are not as attractive and beautiful and glamorous as you would like to be. Rise above any such feelings, cultivate the light you have within you, and it will shine through as a radiant expression that will be seen by others.
You need never feel inferior. You need never feel that you were born without talents or without opportunities to give them expression. Cultivate whatever talents you have, and they will grow and refine and become an expression of your true self appreciated by others.” The Light Within You, Pres. Gordon B. Hinkley, Ensign, May 1995
We have divine gifts.  D&C 46:11-12 “11 For all have not every agift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
12 To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.”

But we are all different.  If God could be represented by a bright white light, and we all have some of His divine characteristics, we might be different colors of light.  White light encompasses all colors of light, but we are still growing in our divinity.  Some of us may be yellow light, or purple or green or red or blue.  All the colors of light are beautiful and important.  All are of God.  

Satan wants us to believe otherwise.  He tells us we "should" be certain ways, or have certain attributes.  He shows us how others shine and, because our light is different, he would tell us our shining is less important or even worthless.  As if one color in a rainbow is less valuable than another.  With Satan's pernicious "should" he leads us to judge, reject, and condemn ourselves, others and whole situations.  He leads us to devalue ourselves (and others) wrongly.  He doesn't want us to see as Heavenly Father sees, and rejoice in our uniqueness.  He wants us to see only darkness.  Coming to know ourselves and our unique nature and destiny is important.

When I was a young woman growing up in Nashville, TN, I felt fairly confident about my individual worth and divine nature.  I was one of only a handful of members of the Church in my high school and I felt grateful for the gospel and the values, knowledge and choices that set me apart.  I was at the top of my class at a top-tier high school and I considered myself hard-working and intelligent.  My sense of myself and my worth was pretty clear.  Then I went to BYU.  Suddenly, the light of the gospel that I had didn't seem to shine as brightly, as it was surrounded with 30,000 others.  I struggled to know how to shine is such a crowd.  I felt as if part of my worth and my self was diminished.  Then I went on a study abroad trip to Mexico, teaching Spanish literacy.  The people there thought I was pretty dumb.  My Spanish was like a child's.  I didn't know how to make tortillas or wash clothes in the river, and do any of the basics of sustaining life in a family.  The 15 years of education that I had acquired, and which I felt were a very important and valuable part of me, were useless.  In that setting, my education didn't matter at all.  I felt so much of "myself" stripped away, I began to wonder who I was and what was valuable about my life.

Then I got married.  I had majored in Family Sciences, because I knew that families were the  most important work I would do in my life.  It took me two months of marriage to realize I had no idea how to be married.  And then I had a baby and OHH the humility!  It took me even less time to realize I had no idea how to be a Mom!  All the ways in which I had valued myself were gone.  I did not feel smart, hard working, productive, or glowing with testimony.  The things I thought I "should" have been able to do well--the most important things!--were far harder than I had anticipated, and I was not doing them well.  I felt like a failure.

Luckily, during this time, I had some good examples in women around me who let their light shine.  Deena Hollee decided to teach cooking classes to anyone in the neighborhood who wanted to take them.  I learned to make sushi and have loved it ever since.  My visiting teachee, Inge Reni, was an outstanding lady, too.  She taught me, through her own trials, to praise the Lord in all things.  She was from the Caribbean and she knew how to let her light shine.  It was inspiring.  

As the years have passed, I have had to rediscover my "nature and destiny" many times.  I came to understand the important of learning the "mind of the Lord."  Seeing myself as the Lord sees me is the only way to really uncover my nature and destiny.  Learning to listen to what He wants from me, instead of listening to all the "shoulds" the world gives me is essential.  

Previously, I thought that I could go to the Lord for personal revelation about some (big) things, but that I could really rely on all the "shoulds" of the world and even from the church to guide my life.  We can learn many good things to do from others, but I quickly became overwhelmed with all the things I thought I "should" be doing or feeling, or how situations in my life "should" be.  I would start the day with lists so long of all the things I "should" do, that I felt defeated before I even began.  The "shoulds" ended up pulling me away from the Lord.  

I wrote in my journal: 
"The story of Mary and Martha (in Luke 10) also struck me as extremely pertinent as I considered these things:

38¶Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.
 39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.
Doubtless, Martha wanted everything to be perfect when she received Jesus (and likely many of his followers, too) into her home.  She had expectations how clean it “should” be, which foods “should” be prepared, etc., if she was anything like me.  And so, trying to fulfill all of her expectations about how she would receive the Lord, she was "cumbered about much serving."  She must have been feeling stressed and unhappy when she went to Jesus and asked him to bid Mary to help her.  Her expectations weren't being met.  She was failing as a hostess!  Jesus recognized this immediately, and called it out.  He said she was "careful and troubled" or worried and unhappy about many things (all her expectations of herself, of the situation and of Mary).  As it turned out, though, and as Jesus told her, all her "shoulds" were unnecessary   Only "one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  The one thing that Mary was doing--the one important, necessary thing--the thing that Jesus wanted from both of them--was simply that they come to Him and learn of Him and listen to Him.  All of Martha's expectations, preparations and worries were not required of the Lord.  He had not given her those "shoulds," she had gathered them herself, and was not the better for it.  The simple act of sitting at the Savior's feet, however, was all that Mary was doing, and all that needed to be done, and she was the better and happier for it.
If I can recognize the "should's" that I give myself, and instead discover the will of the Lord, or the things that I would like to be anxiously engaged in, I believe I will be much happier.  The Lord doesn't give busy work, he gives us the work of life, and love and joy."

As we seek to better understand our individual, divine nature and destiny, and how the Lord would use us in His kingdom, I think it is important to be wary of "shoulds" about ourselves, others, or situations.  So often, we make a "should" judgement based on our own mind, will, and word rather than the Lord's.  Not every good thing "should" be attempted ever day of our lives.  There were days, as a young mother, when things were so hard and I felt like such a failure.  But when I went to the Lord and asked Him what He wanted of me, it was always do-able (unlike the expectations I had for myself.)  Sometimes it was as simple as: "Today, love your children."  I could do that, and I know it made Him happy when I did.  We can and must go to the Lord to learn our nature and destiny.

Thanks to the restored gospel, we have wonderful resources for learning the mind, will, and word of the Lord for us.  We have the Holy Ghost.  Through prayer, scripture reading, listening to hymns or spontaneously we can receive daily, hourly, or moment by moment direction from Him.  We can go to the Lord every day to learn what He would have us do that day.  His expectations of us are perfect, for He knows us perfectly.  He doesn't ask us to run faster than we have strength, and He knows how to utilize our strengths in joyful ways.

We also have priesthood blessings.  I have received many priesthood blessings from my father and husband which have been instrumental in understanding my own nature and destiny.  

D&C 68:4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

Patriarchal blessings can also be a wonderful resource for knowing about ourselves.  My patriarchal blessing is very clear about my nature, and helps me catch a vision of my destiny.    Our Patriarchal Blessings can be like a Liahona—guiding us individually in our earthly mission, helping us know our selves better, and know how God sees us.

You can learn more about your life and mission on earth and the light that is in you by preparing to receive and then studying your patriarchal blessing.  Julie Beck April 2006 “You Have a Noble Birthright.”

“Your patriarchal blessing is yours and yours alone. Your blessing . . . is to be read. It is to be loved. It is to be followed. Your patriarchal blessing will see you through the darkest night. It will guide you through life’s dangers. … Your patriarchal blessing is to you a personal Liahona to chart your course and guide your way. …”

On Being Spiritually Prepared, Thomas S. Monson, Liahona, Feb. 2010

I share my testimony that each of us has a divine nature and destiny, and that we must go to the Lord to learn it.  Our understanding of our nature and worth will likely be challenged again and again, which helps us refine our understandings and go again to the Lord to know His mind and will.   I believe the Lord does not want us to make assumptions about what we "should" do.  He wants us to come to Him.  Christ himself didn't live up to others' expectations.  The whole Jewish nation believed the purpose of the Savior was to free them from Roman rule.  Christ "failed" at that, but it didn't matter.  He got his mission from his Father, not others' expectations.  He fulfilled His mission on earth perfectly.

Because of the restored gospel, we know these things.  We know we are beloved, unique, valuable children of God and He loves and knows us.  I am so grateful for Joseph Smith's reliance on the Lord's guidance and his sacrifices to fulfill his nature and destiny, despite the opinions of men.  I am grateful for modern prophets, for scriptures, for the gift of the Holy Ghost, for priesthood, and for my role as a daughter of God.  I am grateful to have a knowledge of these things.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.