Beauty in imperfection

As I age, I appreciate beauty everywhere, even in the imperfect. When I do something artistic, I like it to be a little asymmetrical. There is beauty in the realness of life experience. It’s still hard for us to see. We are used to constant images of near perfection. We’re like broken glass. Pretty, sure, but kind of junk.

image from amazon.com
image from amazon.com

God created us. He knows we’re broken and rough. But He loves us. “Think of the purest, most all-consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount—that is the measure of God’s love for you.

“God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.” (Elder Uchdorf)

God loves us because He made us. He knows we have worth beyond what we see. He has plans to help us achieve our potential, the potential He created us for. He invites us to come closer to Him so we can feel His love and see His vision for us.

“He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked. What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.” (Elder Uchdorf again)

God expends continual effort to give us this life to experience, and he knows even more perfectly than we do all about us, including our imperfections. He is willing to keep working with us in detail despite all our failures. And His plan is for us to succeed gloriously. He knows what He is doing.

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Sister Marriot quoted President Hinckley in conference, saying “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God. … The Lord will not forsake us.” It’s so hard to do, isn’t it? Trusting God when you don’t understand what He sees?

One thing we can do to understand God’s perspective of us is to pray. I have been working on my life handbook (slowly). One exercise I did was to write my most important goals and then prioritize them so I could see which ones I want to keep focused on daily and which are more long-term or lower priority. When I finished prioritizing everything I do, my top goal was to pray on my knees aloud morning and night. This was my top goal because my personal relationship with God is my highest priority. That being said, I have taken prayer for granted. I say prayers, not expecting a response, and sometimes not thinking much about God as I talk to Him. But if I want a better relationship with God, I need to be more sincere.

I believe our imperfections are beautiful to God because He knows we can overcome them. We see broken glass, He sees in us something else.

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image from http://kasiamosaicsstore.blogspot.com/
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Phoenix Temple Photo

Hi! Just wanted to share a few photos I snapped the other day of my favorite temple.

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Phoenix Temple with storm clouds, north side.

It had been threatening rain, but here in Phoenix I don’t believe a forecast for rain unless it is at least 50%. The clouds looked beautiful and the rain actually materialized. According to a radio announcer it was the first time Phoenix has had rain during the month of June in six years!

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Phoenix Temple and fountain
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Detail from front of Phoenix Temple “Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.”

Mormon culture vs gospel culture

A unique culture exists among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Each person lives their life based on their core beliefs. Each member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or “Mormon”) applies what they believe to choices they make, and over time a common culture has emerged. Anyone who has visited Utah will notice differences between the culture there an other places in the country. Some may be good, others not so good. For example, Utahns take good care of their yards, but Utahns aren’t very courteous drivers.

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Welcome to Utah sign. From the Monroe family blog. https://themonroefamily.wordpress.com

I’d like to talk about the difference between Mormon culture and Gospel culture. Mormon culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group, in this case a group of Mormons. Gospel culture is the behaviors and beliefs taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ, as contained in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are different because Mormon culture may emerge from practices not founded in the gospel, for example eating green Jell-O with carrots. A person trying to live the gospel will inevitably do it imperfectly. So as Mormons live and practice their beliefs a Mormon culture emerges. Occasionally people get Mormon culture and the gospel mixed up. They think that the gospel teaches that you have to drive a big van, have lots of kids, and volunteer a lot. Or perhaps they had an experience where a Mormon said or did something less than Christlike and think the gospel condones such behavior. Neither is true. The gospel of Jesus Christ is perfect because it is based on eternal truth. Mormon culture is imperfect because it is the expression of imperfect people.

“There is a unique gospel culture, a set of values and expectations and practices common to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This gospel culture, or way of life, comes from the plan of salvation, the commandments of God, and the teachings of living prophets. It is given expression in the way we raise our families and live our individual lives.” L. Tom Perry, October 2012 General Conference

Latter-day Saints around the world may not all live the same flavor of Mormon culture, but all of them are trying to live the gospel culture. Gospel culture includes choices like valuing marriage and family, keeping the Sabbath day holy, and studying the scriptures. I enjoy meeting other members in the church and finding out how they live the gospel, what they are working on right now, and hearing their testimonies about the happiness they have found. Here are a few examples:

I have also noticed that church leaders have tried to adapt teaching the gospel to all cultures. They are willing to discard cultural practices that are simply Mormon culture, while not changing the culture of the gospel. “While we treasure appropriate cultural diversities, our goal is to be united in the culture, customs, and traditions of the gospel of Jesus Christ in every respect.” (Elder Cook). Last time I flew on an airline, I sat next to a man who is married to an inactive returned missionary. He was raised a good Christian and they are raising a happy family based on Christian values. He knew a lot about Mormons and we had an interesting discussion about Mormon culture. I do not know why his wife decided to leave the church, but I imagine it’s probable someone could have offended her.

In some way and at some time, someone in this Church will do or say something that could be considered offensive. Such an event will surely happen to each and every one of us—and it certainly will occur more than once. Though people may not intend to injure or offend us, they nonetheless can be inconsiderate and tactless. Elder Bednar

I think if we realize the difference between the cultural practices of people who are Mormons and teachings of the gospel, it is easier to see that a Mormon may do something contrary to their beliefs even though the gospel itself is true. Also realize that living the gospel will look as unique as each person trying to do so.

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A Mormon girl
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A Mormon from India.
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A Mormon from Guatemala.
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A Mormon from Canada.
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A Mormon grandpa.

As a mom, I have to be careful to not get a perfection complex. I call it Martha Stewart complex when someone tries to have a perfect home, fabulous meals, manicured appearance, well-dressed children, etc. Those things are nice, but in the end they are not important. What is important? The gospel. Because it is the key to happiness. I hope we can see past the imperfections of Mormon culture to unlock our potential through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Motherhood: the hardest thing

Motherhood begins with nine months of physical discomfort. The birth of every baby is an adventure: unpredictable, painful, joyful, life-changing. Newborns require hours of holding, feeding, rocking. Through the first bleary days of waking and sleeping until mother and baby emerge bonded into two beings whose hearts beat as one. Out of the exponential burst of physical growth blossoms a unique personality. Bright innocence shines from a child’s face, giving a Mother a glimpse of heaven.

newborn baby

Motherhood requires a certain level of proficiency at housework. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping, planning, and budgeting grow out of the need to care for the children we love. Mothers pick up bits of information in subjects they never knew existed, becoming an encyclopedia of practical knowledge.

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Photographing 3 youngsters: an example of no matter how hard we try, it never turns out perfect.

Motherhood piles up responsibility so high a woman bends with exhaustion. There is always more to do, more that can be done. She wants the best for her children. So she tries to balance the work with episodes of play: going to the park, reading a story, giving undivided attention. The work piles higher. Things break, children get sick, time runs out. She feels tense, anxious, hormonal. The children argue, throw tantrums, ignore her quiet responses, yell, tease, pout. Her patience runs out. Every day her patience is stretched further and further. Sometimes it breaks. At the end of the day, falling into bed, a Mother feels the quiet assurance that her work is the most important work she could have done.

A mother sees the infinite potential in her child and nurtures it. She teaches, tutors, trains. She sees a talent and works to give the child the chance to develop it. Karate, building kits, music. Mother wishes she could be the perfect mentor. As the child grows, there are missed opportunities, negative peer pressure, laziness. A child becomes a youth exerting independence. Mothers have to navigate child psychology, honest disagreement, autonomy and responsibility. They teach the lessons, learn the lessons, and live the lessons they try to instill.

Motherhood is a road to becoming. A mother develops maturity, capacity for work, patience. So do her children. I have done hard things. Motherhood is the hardest thing, but also the best thing I have ever done.

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a busy mother

Life’s challenges never let up. A woman willingly takes on more when she becomes a mother. But somehow amid the tears, there are smiles. Somehow between the trials there is growth. Looking back through the struggle there are golden memories. The human connection between mother and child is one of the strongest bonds on earth. The generations of life would not continue without mothers.

God is our Father. In this whole messy experiment of humanness, He planned for our growth. He saw our potential and He designed our lives to intersect as Mothers and children, wives and parents, daughters and aunts. God, the perfect Parent, wanted us to become more like Him and so he created Mothers.

Happy Mother’s day to the special women in my life. My life wouldn’t exist without you.

#LDSconf thoughts

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Conference Weekend

It was a whirlwind weekend. Saturday morning DH went out riding motorcycles with a friend. Five minutes before conference started, I tried to move the computer out to the living room so we could all watch. But I didn’t know how to set up the wireless internet connection, and daddy wasn’t home yet, so we listened to primary songs and worked on cleaning the house instead. Once our chores were done, we went over to Grandma’s house to watch the Saturday afternoon session with extended family.

Watching conference as a family is my favorite way to spend conference. Some Sundays get harried and hectic by the time we get ready for church and do all of our assignments. On Conference Sunday, we can just be together. I love it. And whenever there is a family gathering, there is good food. Since it was Saturday, I asked my kids to watch one talk plus watch if President Monson spoke. The rest of the time they spent playing with their cousins.

On Sunday we stayed home and watched conference as a family. By this time our computer was all set up and ready to go. We turned on the Tabernacle Choir broadcast and enjoyed the Easter Sunday concert. Sometimes it can be hard to watch conference with little kids, but mine were pretty good this time. My daughter had the Friend magazine out and played bingo on the board in the magazine. My son sat and read a book, pausing to pay closer attention once in awhile. The little ones played in the room with us.

I love the messages presented at conference. There is always a smorgasboard: messages of personal improvement, testimonies of Jesus Christ, gospel application, missionary work, and the plan of salvation. Usually there is a balance between calls to repentance and consoling our efforts. For example, Elder Oaks helped us evaluate our soil in the process of conversion. He has spoken many times on the theme making eternal goals our highest priority. Elder Bednar spoke about fear: how the fear of God can actually help us feel peace in a troubled world. For those of us who get over-anxious about the challenges we face, his message was soothing.

Video quote: Source of Enduring Peace — David A Bednar

My favorite messages were the back to back talks on Grace. First, Elder Holland’s talk about how Jesus Christ’s mission was the greatest expression of love ever known. Christ gave us “the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins.” Then Elder Uchtdorf gave a beautiful and concise explanation of grace. It is the power that erases sin, raises us to a level beyond our capacity to reach, and pours into our lives the power to accomplish all we strive for. Without understanding grace, Latter-day Saints get depressed when we try to achieve perfection and fail (every time)!

Video quote: The Path of Discipleship — Dieter F Uchtdorf

I also appreciated the talks about Returning to Faith and Waiting for the Prodigal. Because there ARE casualties in the trials of life. Living the gospel is hard. Some of us fall away, become inactive, etc. Yet even for those of us bogged down with difficult doctrines or difficulty living the doctrines can find peace in the gospel. And those of us who are strong can extend love and help to those who need it. Because none of us are strong enough on our own. We need each other and we need Jesus Christ.

I’m grateful for conference. It gives me a chance to take my spiritual temperature and evaluate where I need to improve. I know our leaders are righteous men who are in tune with God’s direction for the church. I also feel the camaraderie of the worldwide Saints. There are people like me who are also trying to live this glorious gospel and feeling its blessings in their lives.Pres-Monson-exiting-conference

Phoenix Temple Tour

The Phoenix Arizona Temple (aka Phoenix Mormon Temple) is the newest temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also the closest temple to my home. I got to tour it in October and wanted to share my experience.

Our family had a reservation on a Monday morning. The weather was perfect, with lots of sun and promising to be a hot day. We followed the volunteers who directed us to park in the lot of Wet-N-Wild water park. They were all super friendly. We saw one person we knew and got a 30 second update on how she was doing. I loved the helpful feeling exuded by everyone, they made me feel like they were so happy to be together and helping out.

My kids loved riding the tour bus the quarter mile over to the temple. They had never been on one before and we had to remind them to stay seated while the bus was driving.

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Photo Courtesy of Dave & Audrey Simonson from http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/phoenix

At the temple, we went into the church next door where we watched a brief video explaining temples and their purpose. I like the quote by Elder Holland, who says he can’t picture heaven without his wife and family–it just wouldn’t be heaven without them. I agree. I can’t picture heaven without being surrounded by the people who make me happy.

Our tour guides were also very friendly. They explained it would be a silent tour and encouraged us to enjoy the quiet feeling in the temple and save our questions for afterwards.

After our introduction, we walked over to the temple entrance. I like the desert landscaping around the building. As we approached the door, helpful volunteers put shoe coverings on for us to protect the carpet in the building. They were all talking and laughing and enjoying themselves.

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Courtesy of Dave & Audrey Simonson. From http://www.ldschurchtemples.com/phoenix/ November 14, 2014
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Photo by Matthew Reier. From lds.org news page 12 Oct 2014.
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Photo by Matthew Reier.

Inside the temple, we got to walk slowly through the entryway, with its beautiful door handles, mosaic floor, and sitting areas. Most of the walls are a pale sand color, but in the entryway there is a painting of Christ on a wall with dark paneling and art glass.

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Door detail. From mormontemples.org.

Next we went downstairs. The marble floor and marble stairs are shades of brown with swirls of pink. Very pretty.

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Stair detail. Photo by Matthew Reier.

The desert agave blossom motif on the anodized gold railing repeats throughout the building. I like how everything is very symmetrical and orderly and also uses themes from nature and neutral colors. To me, the interior design combines the best elements of a church, spa, and high-class hotel. Beautiful surroundings, peaceful, focusing on the experience of the individual. Only in the temple, the experience isn’t created to generate revenue for a corporation, instead the experience brings one closer to God.

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Baptistry in the Phoenix Arizona Temple. Photo by Matthew Reier. Photo from lds.org news page.

Downstairs we walked past many more paintings depicting Jesus Christ. Scenes from his mortal ministry remind each of us that this home belongs to Him. More marble covers the floors and walls. Everything seemed exquisite to the last detail, yet not ornate enough to draw attention to itself. I also enjoyed the way the sitting areas were arranged to encourage contemplation. I could picture myself returning and enjoying the atmosphere. The focal point of the lower level in the temple is the baptismal font, with its teal and coral highlights. The mural behind makes it appear to be a continuation of the river.

The next room we entered had a beautiful mural painted on two walls depicting the Sonoran desert near Lake Pleasant.

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Desert mural in Phoenix Temple. Photo by Matthew Reier.

My neighbor had told me a story about this mural, how this particular spot had a special meaning to one man who felt an answer to prayer there. He didn’t know that the mural would be painted at the same location where he liked to go for solitude. When he saw the mural for the first time, he felt surprised to see his “special” place depicted in the temple–another special place.

I enjoy the feeling of being outdoors while in the mural room. I love spending time in nature. It lends itself to contemplation. The murals of the desert feel like being outside here in Arizona, highlighting how “home” is always the most beautiful place, even in a desert.

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Photo from http://mormontemples.org/

The next room has beautiful columns that repeat the same agave blossom detail. Near the ceiling are geometric shapes that look like sunflowers and interlocking ovals. This room is brighter and lighter than the preceding room.

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Column detail. Photo by Matthew Reier. From lds.org news page.

The next room was the Celestial room, which is the most beautiful room in the temple. It had a gorgeous stained glass oval window in the center of the ceiling. The window is underneath the exterior spire, so during the day, sunlight illuminates it. At night there are lights in the spire that illuminate the window.

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Stained glass window detail. Photo by Matthew Reier. From lds.org news page.

Again, the rooms in the building are serenely beautiful with exquisite craftsmanship. Unlike the Gilbert Arizona Temple, which features a large crystal chandelier, this room has the oval window as a focal point with four smaller rectangular chandeliers. Stained glass windows surround the upper walls, repeating geometric themes found in the room.

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Photo by Matthew Reier. From lds.org news page.
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Interior room in Phoenix Arizona Temple. from mormontemples.org.

The final room of the tour is the room where marriages are performed. One of the core beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” (from The Family: a Proclamation to the World)

After walking through the entire temple, we exited through the main entry. We were able to enjoy walking across the grounds where there is a fountain that also acts as a reflecting pond. One nice gentlemen there offered to snap a photo of our family for us. He took a couple photos and was generally helpful.

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Reflection of temple. From http://www.ldschurchtemples.com.

As we exited the temple grounds, there was a covered tent with more information, water, places to sit, and a photo booth for picture taking. The booth was convenient because with the crowds and heat, our photos outside didn’t turn out great. Here’s our family photo.

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Our family at the Phoenix Temple photo booth

We hopped on the tour bus and returned to our car.

I was so impressed by how friendly everyone was. I loved the building and the beauty inside. I wanted to return again when it would not be busy so I could enjoy the serenity here. I also thought although this may be one of the most beautiful building in the state of Arizona, it probably doesn’t compare to what buildings are like in heaven. So why would God care about this building? He cares because when it has been dedicated, it belongs to Him. He also wants us to remember the beauty of everything He wants to share with us. He wants to give us everything He has.

So I got to tour this amazing temple, but unlike a construction worker who builds it and has to move on to the next project, I get to enjoy the beauty of this building for years to come. I also came away feeling inspired to keep my own home more organized and peaceful, to be more like the temple.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour, especially if you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and wonder what a Mormon temple tour is like.