Sunday, November 30, 2008

LDS View of Heaven

Hello folks. Time to answer another of those questions.  The question was …”In your religion, are LDS the only ones going to heaven?”

The very short answer is … “no.”

The very long and detailed answer about who goes where after this life, according to our doctrine, is found in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is a canonized book of revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith from Jesus Christ.  So to Mormons, it is scripture.

Here I will give you a basic view of our understanding of heaven.  We believe that nearly everyone goes to heaven, but that there are different degrees of glory in heaven. Your works and acceptance of the grace of our Savior through repentance determine which degree of glory you inherit at the final judgment day.


Now I will note that these degrees of glory are assigned after the final judgment day. This is not where we go right when we die. Right when we die we either go to Spirit Paradise or Spirit Prison to await the final judgment day. Here is a description of those who go to Spirit Paradise: Those who are just and have been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality, who departed the mortal life firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. (Taken from Doctrine and Covenants section 138:12, 14.)

Those who go to Spirit prison are described as follows: The wicked, ungodly, and unrepentant who defiled themselves while in the flesh and rejected the prophets. (D&C 138:20-21)

Okay so after we die, good people go to paradise and wicked people go to prison. There we wait until the judgment day.


When we are judged we can go to one of three degrees of glory or outer darkness. May I quote from the Bible Dictionary that is tacked onto the end of the LDS printing of our King James versions of the Bible;

“It is apparent that if God rewards everyone according to the deeds done in the body, the term heaven as intended for man’s eternal home must include more kingdoms than one. In speaking of man in his resurrected state, Paul tells of glories like the sun, the moon, and the stars (1 Cor. 15: 39-41). He also speaks of the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12: 2). Jesus spoke of “many mansions” or kingdoms (John 14: 2).

“Latter-day revelation confirms the teaching of the Bible on these matters and verifies that there are three general categories or glories to which the members of the human family will be assigned in the judgment following their resurrection from the grave. These are known as the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms, of which the sun, moon, and stars are spoken of as being typical (D&C 76D&C 88: 20-32D&C 131: 1-4). In addition to the degrees of glory, there is a place of no glory, called perdition, reserved for those who commit the unpardonable sin.”

Now within each of these three kingdoms there are many levels. The only place reserved for those baptized by proper authority (or in today’s world and our view, the LDS) is the highest level of the celestial kingdom.  Now, it is important to note that every soul will have the ability to accept or reject ordinances necessary to receive this glory if not in this life then the next. 

This is part of what we do when we worship in our temples.  We perform ordinances for deceased relatives to either accept or reject in the after life.  God is a just and fair God and will give all the chance to choose eternal life if that chance was not granted during mortality.

Basically, the level of heaven we believe good people of other Christian faiths will go to will be much like the heaven they are taught in their doctrine that they will go to. They will be angels and will live in peace in the presence of the Savior.

Our doctrine in the LDS church gives us a more literal reading of the commandment of Jesus for us to be even as our Father in Heaven. The highest level of celestial kingdom is reserved for those who were faithful members of the church of the Firstborn. These are faithful people baptized by the proper authority, who have made further covenants with the Father in the Temples of God and lived faithful to these covenants.

The inhabitants of this highest level of the celestial kingdom are married to the spouses to whom they have been sealed in the Temple and they become literally like our Heavenly Parents. They dwell in the presence of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

I hope that answers the question about if we think only LDS go to heaven. Joseph Smith saw a vision of all these degrees of glory and said even the least of them, the telestial, where wicked people go was so amazingly wonderful it was beyond our comprehension. The “hell” part of this kingdom will be knowing how much more they could have had and not being able to have it. That and they will not be with the Savior. Instead they will be ministered to by the Holy Ghost.

I think this is one of the most generous doctrines of heaven out there. It also is the only one I know of that teaches that it is possible for family relationships to last forever. I know many people who believe that. It seems to be within us to just know that because the love we feel for each other does not die with death that our relationship as husband or wife, mother and child, should also not cease.

But as far as I am aware, the LDS church is the only church whose doctrine specifically teaches that this is possible through participating in the proper ordinances through proper authority here on earth.

In the past, I have always thought this a “nice” doctrine. Now … well it is the driving force behind my newly doubled efforts to live worthy of His grace and to valiantly keep all the covenants I have made with my Father. I want to raise my daughter Camille as her mother. This great trial that serves as a motivator to me has not perfected me. I still struggle to put off the natural man and live worth of the Spirit at all times. But, I will spend the rest of my life striving to live worthy so that I may claim that privilege of raising Camille and being where she, by the grace of the atonement is already assured of being. 

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Here is the roll recipe. It is my sister in law Elizabeth's grandmother's recipe. Enjoy the love!

Grandma Garff’s Sour Cream Rolls


1 large carton of sour cream (2 cups)
1/4 cup shortening
Heat them together in a little pan, but don't boil.

Place in mixing bowl and stir in:
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, well beaten

Take 2 packages of dry, fast rising yeast and dissolve in 1 cup of luke warm water.   Then mix with other ingredients in large bowl.   Add 7 1/2 cups flour, and knead.

Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and place a dishtowel over it.   Place bowl and contents, well covered, in a refrigerator overnight (or in a cold oven for 3 hours) and until the dough has doubled in bulk.   Make rolls and place in roll pans, cover with dishtowel and let raise for about 3-4 hours.

Don't make them too small.   If you fold them over, put a little butter between the folds.   Bake 9-12 minutes, depending on oven, at 350 degrees.   Bake until rolls are light brown--not dark brown.

I cut the dough into 4 equal parts and then roll it out into a 16 inch circle. Then I use a pizza cutter to cut the circle into 16 even triangles. I roll them up like Cresent rolls and butter them with a melted butter and a pastry brush hot out of the oven.

Make them tastier!

This dough is an excellent base for cinnamon or orange rolls.

After the first rising, divide dough 4 ways.  Roll each section out into a circle.  Brush dough with softened butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar & cinnamon (for cinnamon rolls) or sugar and orange zest (for orange rolls). Roll into log shape and slice 1 ½ inch rolls.  Place in buttered pyrex and bake.

Optional (but not to me) Frosting:   While the rolls are still slightly warm, frost with a butter, milk, powdered sugar frosting (cinnamon rolls).  Or butter, OJ and powdered sugar (orange rolls).  I just eyeball this.  I like my frosting like my shakes, on the thick side.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Today I am giving thanks for a simply wonderful day. We spent the whole day with family. Everyone helped cook or clean something. It was a relaxed day. No major kid meltdowns. Lots of really cute loves from my niece Aubrey who is a couple months younger than Camille would have been. 

And the food ... ahhh yes the food. Did I mention my family is full of great cooks? And Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE meal. And I am thankful I got to enjoy the meal fully with no sick stomach to hinder the enjoyment.

We had all the traditional foods. Turkey with my dad's stuffing that he, Jon and my brother Darren made together last night. Darren then took half and headed to Utah with his wife. It was unbelievably good. I wish I could give you all a bit. My dad knows how to season things so well.

Mom made an old family favorite jello salad. I made homemade sour cream rolls. Hot out of the oven, they almost melt in your mouth. I also made my grandmother's candied yams. No marshmellows allowed. We actually "candy" the yams by baking them for hours in brown sugar and butter. Pretty much they turn out to be dessert, and they are my favorite dish at Thanksgiving. 

Jon's sister Marleen and her husband Spencer brought fresh green beans and mashed potatoes. Yummy! And my mother in law brought a pecan pie, Dixie salad (a Las Vegas pioneer dish with pomegranates, apples, nuts and other things in whipping cream), and 2 amazing homemade cranberry relishes. 

Just before we started our dinner, our friend Chris Herrin (the head pastry chef for the Venetian Hotel) showed up with a culinary student assistant named Lenny. He brought us some extra pies from the Bouchon. A pecan, 2 apple, and the best pumpkin I have ever had. 
Pumpkin pie with roasted pumpkin seeds on top of whip cream that looked like marshmallows because it was so perfectly piped.

To top it all off, Lenny brought us some of his "homework." A chocolate yule log mouse cake with pumpkin truffles on top. It was beautiful! And it tasted even better than it looked, though that seemed impossible. Thanks Chris and Lenny!
Chris and Lenny had a tasting plate of our food. Chris said it was better than anything they were serving at the restaurant. Normally I would think he was just being nice. But today -- Thanksgiving -- well we do Thanksgiving right. And I honestly don't think there was a better meal anywhere in the valley today. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I am thankful for all of you today and everyday. You truly enrich my life in so many ways. Tonight my heart feels full in a way I have long wondered if it ever would again. I know Camille is feeling that full joy as well which tops off the joy in my heart this day. It is a wonderful thing to have your heart as full as your stomach at the end of the Thanksgiving meal.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Parable and An Answer

MANY years ago, I was a foreign exchange student. I lived in Spain for a summer with a host family. I went through a training program before embarking on this adventure. I was not taught Spanish (that might have been helpful), but rather I was prepared for living in a new culture.

In this training, the following story was shared:

A young American woman was invited to visit a distant country. She did not know the language and was given no instruction before arriving. She was to make the trip alone. Upon her arrival, she was taken by a native of this foreign land to a dinner to welcome her. 

She was escorted into a large room with dirt floor but pathways built up off the ground leading to tables and chairs. Her female escort took her over to a spot on the dirt and motioned for her to sit. She noticed that many other women were also seated on the ground while the tables and chairs remained empty.

After every woman was seated each pulled a veil over her head. The American was also handed a veil. She put it over her head but it was thin enough that she could see through it. She watched as a few moments later men began entering the room on the pathways. They walked on the pathways to the tables and chairs. Once seated they kept their feet on foot rests that were part of their chairs.

When the food was served, the men were all served first in double portions. The men began to eat. They ate some of everything they were served and then handed one of their two plates to the servers who then took the plate to one of the women. The women then ate what was left on the plate.

At the end of the ceremony the men left, their feet never touching the ground. Afterwards, the women removed their veils and exited.

The American woman was highly offended by the way women were treated in this society and promptly wanted to cut her visit short and go home. She called to make arrangements with the person who had arranged the visit. This person was surprised by her call. He was native to the foreign land.

She explained how she did not feel comfortable being in a society where women were treated so poorly. The man was shocked. After the woman explained her experience, the man explained his culture. 

In our culture woman is the highest form of life. She is worshiped second only to the mother earth. No man is ever allowed to touch the mother earth with his skin. It is too sacred. Women on the other hand, eat all their meals on the earth and are allowed to touch the earth any time they want. 

Because the woman is so sacred, men are not allowed to look upon any woman except his wife and children. Thus when in groups, women wear veils through which they can seen but not be seen. As a sign of respect, men are to taste everything a woman would like to eat before she eats it to ensure it is worthy of her palate and not poisoned. In all the man was shocked that in someone could so totally misjudge his people due to these cultural differences.

So that is the end of the story. Now -- why I am sharing it. First off, because I want to remind all my readers and commenters that we are all human with our own shortcomings. We don't always understand what others mean with their words or the background behind their comments. We all are often too quick to judge things or people we don't fully understand. I appreciate how protective so many are of me. And I appreciate others concerns, however misplaced, for my healthy healing. Luckily, I have been blessed with rather thick skin in some regards and I am doing very well and healing in the right way and at the right pace for me. Let's spread a little more love around for all shall we? ;) Even to those with whom or with whose comments we don't agree.

Additionally, I think this fictional analogy gives a nice lead in to how I view some of the questions asked about my church. I have learned over the years and from experience like my time in Spain that it is important to realize we just don't understand everything. 

The world is filled with many different sets of cultures and values. Heaven has its own culture and its own values. We on Earth get glimpses of the values and some of the culture in heaven through reading the scriptures and listening to the prophets. Some of these values have become part of the values of our societies. But not being residents in heaven, and not remembering our life there before we were born, we are not experts in all of heaven's ways.

Taking that into consideration, I want to highlight my acute awareness that God is God -- all knowing, completely holy, all powerful -- and I am just Stephanie -- made of the dust of the Earth. I do consider myself a reasonably smart human, but I do not pretend to understand the tiniest fraction of what the Lord understands.

So, when the Lord speaks, I listen, believe, and try my best to obey. LOTS of times, I do not understand his direction. He doesn't always tell us the WHY. Actually, it seems most of the time He holds the Why to Himself. It seems He wants to see if we will be humble enough, even child like enough, to obey without having to know the why. 

The point is -- who am I to question or challenge God's wisdom? Nobody. So I don't do it. If He is the author of it, I don't question it.  Are you with me? 

Okay, now is where it gets a little more tricky. How do we know when God is the author? He doesn't often appear to man or to us personally to give us direction. Heck, even having heavenly messengers or angels are rare events, at least for me seeing as I have never had one of those.

So how do we know? The answer is personal revelation, experimentation, and peace. This process is very personal. But God will let us know when He is giving direction to us through the peace of the Spirit. We can experiment with the direction and try it out. This shows faith. This faith is often rewarded with greater understanding of the direction and more surety of its source. 

Now for my personal perspective and experience -- As a 14 year old girl, I spent a year studying the scriptures on my own. I had been raised in an LDS family and never really had huge doubts about what my parents taught me, still I couldn't say I knew the church was true. I wanted to know for myself. So I began praying during this period of study, that the Lord would let me know if it was true. 

During this year, I realized I had made lots of mistakes in my life. I repented of those and had an incredible and powerful experience one night where I felt the full effects of the atonement of Jesus Christ in paying for my sins. I physically felt the burden of my sins lifted off my shoulders and knew without a doubt that I had been forgiven (that is another story for another time).

Later that year I took a trip to visit places of interest in my church's history. One of the last stops was at the Sacred Grove. This is the grove of trees where Joseph Smith first vocally prayed and where he was answered with a personal appearance by our Heavenly Father and the Savior giving instruction to him. 

I spent a little time praying there myself. Honestly, I was too concerned about the mosquitos and mud to feel much. :) But directly afterward I went with our group to a meeting where we were invited to share our feelings about the place and our experience. Sitting there in the group I thought about how much I wanted to know for myself about whether or not all of this really happened and whether Joseph Smith really did have that experience, whether he was a true prophet, whether the Book of Mormon was truly scripture. 

Suddenly, as if a veil were lifted off of my understanding, I realized that my heart felt like it was on fire. I felt a physical sensation of warmth inside of me that permeated my being. This was nothing like heartburn. It was unlike anything I had ever felt before or since. It felt so wonderful. I also realized that it had not just begun when I noticed it, but it had been burning there for who knows how long, and I had just now realized it. 

I knew at that moment that this was my answer. There was question or doubt in my mind as to the source of this feeling. It felt so good and so happy and so loving. I just KNEW that this was the Lord telling me 1) Joseph Smith was a true prophet, 2) He did indeed have that vision in that grove, and 3) the Book of Mormon he translated was indeed true scripture.

What is more, I knew that God was very aware of my realization. I knew it. I knew God knew I knew it. And I could never deny it. A few minutes later I walked into the foyer of the visitor's center where we were and grabbed some paper comment cards. I wrote down on several of those cards a message to myself. I wrote down how I felt. I wrote what I knew. I committed myself to live all my life according to this knowledge. I still have those cards. They are in a closet 5 feet from me right now. 

Now, I am a logical thinker. For me knowing those 3 truths also proved MANY other things true without me having to have a specific answer to each one. For example, if Joseph Smith is a true prophet, then logically, his prophetic teachings must also be truly from God, whether I understand them or not.

Additionally, I have since then gained a strong testimony of the prophetic callings of each of the prophets since Joseph Smith. I believe fully that each of them were prophets of the Lord. They were also men. They were not perfect men. Sometimes, in day to day life, they may have said or done things that were not "prophetic." But in their official capacity, when they gave direction to the church, I believe that was of God. 

This brings me to one of the questions asked: "I do, however, wonder how Joseph Smith's beliefs concerning polygamy were abandoned while keeping his other beliefs." I should note that the question, in my view, should ask "why are some of the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith still followed while others like polygamy have been abandoned." A small difference but polygamy was not a "belief" of the prophet's. Joseph Smith testified that it was a direct commandment of the Lord that, according to his own account, was one he did not want to follow. 

I do not believe there has ever been a doctrine of this church that has not been given us of God. I don't pretend to understand all of the directions or WHYs but I believe they are of God. Some of these doctrines have been very difficult for the members to live or understand. In changing times, God's directions have often changed. This does not make God a changing being. It makes Him a pragmatic Father to a very changing people with changing problems and changing needs.

It would have been a sin for Noah not to build the arc. For us, arc building is not in the list of commandments. God had never given direction about what we should watch on TV and in movies until our day and age. Joseph of old in Egypt was given direction to store wheat for the 7 years of famine. Moses was directed to lead the Israelites around in the wilderness for 40 years. God only gave those Israelites the amount of truth and law they were ready for -- the 10 commandments -- and did not give them the higher law at that time. When Jesus came, He gave the higher law and through His sacrifice ended the need for animal sacrifice. 

Directions from God change according to the needs of His children in their current day and age. So on the question of why we LDS people follow some of Joseph Smith's teachings but not others, like polygamy -- it is because a latter prophet received direction from the Lord (in 1890) that no further plural marriages were to be performed. Whatever purpose the Lord had in commanding its commencement, had been fulfilled. 

Now, I did not live in the days of polygamy. I am not asked to live it. It is not important that I understand the why. Personally, I am more concerned with following the directions the Lord has given to the people of my day. I want to be prepared with my 72 hour kits for my family and have a storage of food and water for my family in case of times of need or some disaster. I want to keep the influence of Satan that is rampant on the internet and on TV out of my home as much as possible. These are just a few of the directions specific to my day. People in the 1800s didn't have my worries and I don't have theirs.

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matt 6:24.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Questions

There have been a few more questions in the comments regarding the LDS faith and a few of its doctrines or teachings. I am not at all offended by the questions. They seem to be asked in a spirit of curiosity. Because they have been asked in such a neutral way, I plan on doing my best to answer these questions for you. 

I would not answer if I felt they were asked to elicit debate on the subjects. In answering, I am not trying to "convince" or "convert" anyone to my view. My intent is only to help those whose faith is different from mine to see the issues from my eyes so that they can understand how I see them even if they don't agree with me.

I write this preface because I want those not of my faith to know that I respect other faiths. I encourage all of you, whatever your faith may be, to be active in your faith and seek out a relationship with God. I don't care what name you give Him or what form you think He has, I hope all of us will strive to grow closer to Him. All good comes from God. There are lots of churches doing lots of good in this world. I believe all the good any church does is inspired of God. 

For those of you seeking further light and knowledge that you are not finding in your current faith, I would offer the invitation to learn more about the LDS faith. Meet with your local missionaries. They will teach you the basics of our beliefs and invite you to pray about what they have taught. It is the Lord who tells us which faith is right for us. Missionaries give you information and invite you to find out for yourself if it is true or not.

I will try to answer or rather explain how I view some of these more "misunderstood" or "challenging" subjects in my faith. However, as one of the commenters said, "I really am just curious... nobody has been able to explain it in a way that I feel satisfied with the answer, you know?" The real TRUTH is that on any subject that you find challenging, only the Lord speaking directly to your spirit can give you answers to satisfy. And even then, in my experience, He does not give you answers about algebra until you know and believe all your basic math facts.  Does that make sense? 

We must first understand the priesthood and believe that the prophet really does receive revelation for the church from Christ before we can believe any specific doctrine taught. That is especially true for doctrines taught in different time periods under different circumstances. 

I do hope though that after I post my answers you will at least be able to see my reasoning. And because I do believe each prophet since Joseph Smith to Thomas Monson and all those prophets in the scriptures too are and always have been inspired of God, I hope my understanding will make sense to you even if you don't agree with it. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baby Blessings

Kathryn M wanted to know more about baby blessings. Specifically who writes or delivers them. And if they tell the future of the baby. I may have to back up a little to explain this properly. Bare with me.

In the Bible, Jesus gave to Peter and the other apostles the "keys to the kingdom" or the power and authority to act in the name of God. This would allow them to continue the Saviors work and lead the church by revelation from God after the Savior was killed. It is by this power that the apostles preformed miracles in Christ's name. It is this authority, directly from the Savior who had chosen them out of the world, through which they guided the church in those early days.

We call this power and authority the priesthood. But the world was too wicked for those early apostles and in time all of them were killed and the priesthood authority was lost. Saints or believers still had the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, but they had lost that priesthood power, that presiding revelatory authority necessary, to guide the church under Christ's direction in the challenges of that present day. We call this the apostasy.

Still there were lots of good people who prayed and got answers to their prayers. They were personally guided by the Lord in their lives. But we believe there was no church that was headed by Christ himself with Christ's prophet as the president or leader of the church.

Fast forward to 1830. Here Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry are visited by Peter, James, and John, the biblical apostles. These angels give Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdry these same keys to the kingdom, to bind on earth and in heaven, or the priesthood power, that Jesus gave to them.

This power is passed from Joseph Smith to others the same way he got it -- through saying a special prayer while placing hands on the head of the one receiving the priesthood. Only one holding the priesthood can give it to another. Each priesthood holder can trace his authority back to Jesus Christ this way.

Okay now that the background is done (thanks for the patience), on to baby blessings. My husband, and most worthy active men who are Mormons, hold some level of this priesthood. They are not given authority to preside over the whole church. Only the current prophet and apostles have that. But they are given the power and authority to preside over their homes and act in the name of God in their duties as a father.

I should note here that this priesthood is only effective when the man is truly living worthy and by the Spirit. It is not a free reign to boss everyone around and be the power figure. It is a way for men to serve and sacrifice for their children and wife even as a mother spends her life serving and sacrifices her body for her children in her divinely appointed role as mother.

So one of the benefits of this priesthood is the opportunity to receive blessings given by this power and authority. There are many kinds of blessings given under priesthood authority. We give them in times of sickness to heal, just as the apostles did and with that same authority. They are given to give comfort and guidance. I received a few of these types of blessings after Camille died. They were very healing and are still a great comfort to me. I KNOW the priesthood holder was but a mouthpiece for the messages the Lord wanted me to have in those blessings.

Fathers often will give their children blessings when they start a new phase of life, like a new school year. These will encourage, warn, give comfort, or bestow blessings on the child. And also, new babies are blessed and given a name to be known on the records of the church. This is typically done in the first few months of life. It is usually done at church in our main sacrament meeting.

If the father of the baby holds the priesthood, he usually gives the blessing. Otherwise a grandfather, uncle, or anyone the family chooses who holds the priesthood can perform the blessing.

Blessings themselves are not written in advance. They are not pre planned. The man or men (often the one giving the blessing is joined by other priesthood holders) place their hands on the head (or in a baby blessing they all hold the baby together) of the person being blessed. The priesthood holder giving the blessing, or being voice, begins by invoking the power of the priesthood that he holds and then proceeds to give the blessing.

Now I have never given a blessing. Women get enough opportunities for service as women and mothers. We don't need the priesthood to help us in that area. But, the words of the blessing are given to the priesthood holder by faith and through the Spirit. The priesthood leader must be listening to know what the Lord would have be in the blessing. How this exactly happens -- well I am pretty sure the answer to that is as individual as how each of us hear the Lord in our lives. Some of us see visions, some hear voices, some feel peace, some feel a warmth in their soul, some just feel right about certain things. It is just as individual for each priesthood holder.

Blessings are not often recorded. But I often take notes as fast as I can when my children are blessed. I took notes during Camille's blessing. Jon told her that there would be a special circumstance in her life that she would have to go through. He noted the lineage of faith from with she descends and how her faith would grow through this experience. He said she would always be a great example to all her older sisters.

I remember asking Jon after the blessing what that meant. He said he didn't know. He couldn't find words to properly fit what he felt. Just that she would have something she would have to go through. I remember thinking and telling him, "that does not sound good." I certainly did not think it would be that she would die early. That was no where in my imagination. I thought maybe she would have some sickness or other trial to endure.

But as it turns out her blessing is being fulfilled. She is no doubt growing in her faith daily under the tutelage of her faithful ancestors and the Savior himself. And she is in every way an example to her older sisters and her mother and father as well. Blessings are not like fortune telling, but sometimes the Lord shows us a tender mercy by giving us a forewarning of things to come so that we may stand strong through the storm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mercies and Miracles

A reader asked if I had anything to say on this subject. Since I do have the best readers on the internet, I thought I would try to put a few of my thoughts on this into words for her.

For those not familiar with the Book of Mormon, I will explain what Mormon folk mean when they say "tender mercy." In the first part of the Book of Mormon, a prophet named Nephi writes the following; "But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance."

One of our current day prophets gave a talk a few years ago where he noted that during a highly stressful time in his life, his favorite hymn was played just before he had to do a very scary thing. He noted that this was a "tender mercy" of the Lord.

So a tender mercy has become a fairly common phrase among Mormon folk since that taught. We recognize these mini miracles that buoy us up and encourage us and strengthen our faith in trying times.

I have had several of these tender mercies brought to my attention by that inner whispering voice of the Spirit over the last 5 months. Alone, one of them may be seen as a coincidence. But combined they create powerful evidence to me that the Lord knew Camille's life would be taken in the time and manner that it was. Additionally, they are great evidence to me of the Lord's love for me and His desire to bless His children with little extra signs of that love when we must go through the dark days of this life in our journey to become more like Him.

My time is limited today. So I will simply list all the tender mercies I have thus far seen in this tragic time of our lives. I will say that I find more each month.

Tender Mercies:
Taking family pictures the Saturday before Camille' drowned.
Camille spending time with each set of grandparents alone for a day or two just weeks before she died.
Camille calling to me from the pantry the day she died. She had crawled to the top of the step latter and was so proud of herself. I went to find her and she had the biggest smile as she stomped her foot and yelled out. I called her dad over to see her because she was so cute. This is the image I use to replace the horrifying images that still haunt me finding her. I am so glad to have taken that moment to just look at and appreciate and love my baby girl and all her personality.
Having a dream that Camille drowned in the spa and then not remembering it till I saw her there.
Having her die before she was ever at an age that I had to discipline her.
Having her die before the economy took a nose dive. We had no money worries when she died. We were so glad not to feel we needed to be thrifty on her grave and about her medical care.
Having a speaker in church talk about KNOWING for sure that there is life after death because of an experience he had just after his sister died when he was in high school. The week he spoke, my friend Britt was in town and the first 2 rows were filled with people who had lost children in the last year.
The Camille stocking - and not finding that darned box last Christmas.
Having chosen her flower for certain the week before she died. 
Having a line in her baby blessing that sounded ... "not good" and made me hold her a little longer at night putting her to bed wondering what "special circumstance" she would have to go through.
Being inspired to start the blog when I did.
ALL the support that ALL of you have been to me and continue to be for me each day. That is half a million tender mercies all rolled into one. 

Well I have to run and I want to get this published before I go. Thank you again to all of you. Most of all Thank YOU to the Lord for the multitude of His tender mercies which do strengthen my faith and make me feel mighty even unto the power of deliverance.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Okay. I know I have this blog that a few people read. :) But really, I am not the blogging guru. I don't usually do the typical blogging things like being "tagged" or passing around "awards." I am not against these things but I just haven't ever felt like playing along. 

But today I just have to make up my own award because I have the most AWESOME readers and commenters on the planet. Seriously! I have LOVED all the great ideas people have thrown in the rink here for Christmas ideas. There are so many good ones. Many of them I have done in years past. With 4 girls, I have often combined funds and gotten one big ticket item for all the girls to share. 

I would tell you all what I decided to get, but see ... Sabrina sometimes reads my blog. So, you will all have to wait till Christmas too. Sorry. I promise I will post a photo of the big ticket items. 

Thank you so much to all of you who read and all you who comment. I am amazed at how few crazy comments I have gotten. Hardly any really. I just really think you all are the best. So you all win my own made up best blog reader/commenter award!

Now, another angel mom tagged me on her site to list 10 things I loved about my angel. I thought that might be one tag I would feel like doing. Tonight, I'll share.

I love the way Camille would kick her legs when ever she got excited or happy. 
I love and miss her open mouth kisses.
I love the look she would give me when she was headed to do something she shouldn't do. It was a look of question and measuring. 
I love that she slept through the night and went to bed without a fight if she was in her own bed and if she was tired.
I love that she used to plug her own nose and then talk just to hear how her voice changed.
I love that she loved and put up with ALL the love of her sisters.
I love and miss the super softness of her skin.
I loved that she was so petite and easy to carry around without breaking my arm or back.
I love how she would nod or shake her head to answer my questions.
I love how she loved to feel textures, carpet in her mouth and food pieces in her hands. She was a true explorer.

And  ...  I love that she still checks in on me and her family and helps us feel her love.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I am stumped about what to give my kids for Christmas. I have lots of ideas for the little things. That won't be a problem. And they will buy small toys for each other. But usually I have one "big ticket" item to give them. This is the one that is stumping me.

Now by "big ticket" I mean it is either the most expensive gift they get or it really is just large or just really nice even if it didn't cost so much. This year I want to keep the gifts somewhat on the less expensive side. I also want the gift to be something that will be well used and loved. 

I had a great idea for this gift. I decided to give each girl her own bean bag. I found a company who made really cute ones for about $60. That is right about what I had budgeted. I got all set to order them and then found that they were on back order till after the 17th of December. Bummer. We could use some fun seating like that in the loft for the kids to sit and read books. All the other bean bags I have found with nice filling are about $100. That is a bit out of my budget this year.

So now I am back to square one on the "big ticket" item. I am open to ideas. What are you getting your kids for Christmas this year? Anyone doing any homemade treasures? My kids are just not asking for anything that I would actually get them. I am avoiding anymore technology stuff this year. What do your 3 5 and 7 year olds love to play with most? Give a girl an idea or two PLEASE!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

National Family Week

National Family week begins Nov. 23. Today our local paper had a special insert to highlight and celebrate Family Week. Those local to Vegas should check it out in the RJ. The section is filled with articles about family traditions and legacies of excellence. By word of mouth, my name got submitted to write an article for the section. See page 6 of the insert if you get the RJ. I thought those not local might be interested to read what I wrote. So here is my article with the picture that was printed with it.

Editors note: On June 13, 2008, Camille Kathleen Waite was found in the backyard spa, unconscious and not breathing. She died two days later in the hospital.


On Sunday June 15, 2008, my three oldest little girls children, little girls ages 7, 5 and 2 filed into a hospital room where their youngest sister, aged 14 months, laid in a deep coma. Their sister’s body had begun shutting down and she would not live much longer. It was my duty as their mother to help them understand and accept that their baby sister would not be coming home to play anymore.


Never in my life had I been so grateful that I had taught my children so much about their ancestors. They knew my grandparents by name and had been told countless bedtime stories about their magical and loving Grandma Lucile, after whom my oldest was named.


They knew the strength and sacrifice of great-great grandma Ann Marie, my second child’s namesake, who lost everything she had emigrating to this country and following her beliefs. They had acted out her life at family reunions and read children’s books about her.


They knew the faith of courage of great-great aunt Elizabeth who sought out the truth about God and followed her heart. My third child bears her name. And they personally knew their grandmother Kathleen’s charitable heart and warmth, which her namesake laying on the hospital bed inherited.


So when I told my children where their little sister was going, they knew she was in good company with family who loved her and would take care of her. 


In my family, it is our tradition to know our ancestors. We carry their blood in our veins. We have inherited their strengths and their faith. We tell their stories at bedtime, we visit the places where they lived, we remember their sacrifices for us. We know those from whence we came, and in knowing them we better know ourselves. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Idea of a Wonderful Day

Today was what I would consider a wonderfully relaxing, blissfully productive, and totally enjoyable day. I am sure everyone has a different idea of what their "perfect day" would be like. Today was a pretty great one for me.

I woke up and read scriptures with the kids and we had family prayers. Then we started our chores. The girls emptied the dishwasher (with no threats from me and no complaining from them!). I headed upstairs with Annie and we sorted and folded laundry. Next we put away all the kids laundry and cleaned the kids bedrooms (Lauren and Sabrina had finished the dishwasher and come to help by then). 

I taught Sabrina how to start the washing machine and dryer last week. She has taken up doing the laundry for me. She likes to do it. Today I think she did about 5 loads without me ever asking her to go advance any of them. After the chores, we practiced piano and violin. 

At this point, the girls had earned their TV time so they went to go watch some Noggin. I watched a bit of Dancing with the Stars and while I talked myself into tackling the kitchen. I have been doing lots of baking without time to really clean up after the last two days. So after I saw the dances I wanted to see, I cleaned the kitchen and did all the dishes. 

As I finished, the girls came downstairs and we all had lunch together. Jon brought a table downstairs for me and I moved all my computer stuff over to it. I am going to use the table I had been using as a desk for Christmas decorations. I was happy to get that done.

I was a bit tired this afternoon, so I went to my bed and read a book and rested a bit while Jon played with the kids on the Wii. Finally, when I realized I wasn't falling asleep, I got up and headed downstairs to start dinner. Lauren followed.

Lauren told me she needed the pink cooking thing (an apron) and I needed one too (I don't usually wear an apron when I cook). So we put on our aprons and she stirred while I added ingredients for our dinner. It was so fun to have this one on one time with her. She was very helpful and happy the whole time. We made my yummy hamburgers. She loved helping make the patties. 

While they cooked, I brought a chair into the kitchen so I could sit while I peeled the fruit and got the rest of dinner together. Sometimes I get lightheaded standing in the same place for too long. It was relaxing to sit and peel the pears with Lauren sneaking pieces out of the bowl. 

We had an early dinner where everyone ate well (except Lauren. She filled up on pears and tomatoes before hand.) Then Dado decided we needed to show the girls The Empire Strikes Back. He introduced them to Star Wars this weekend. So we watched the movie together. 

Please note that I am still in my pajamas at this point. I love days that I can stay in PJs all day. 

After the movie I took a relaxing bath and read some more of my book. Jon got the girls ready for bed and Annie and Sabrina read stories to Lauren. This left Jon and I a few minutes alone together to reconnect.  When the girls were done with stories, Jon put Lauren.

Meanwhile, Annie decided to "beauty" me. She rubbed lotion on my feet and brushed my hair and cleaned my face with wet cotton balls. Then she put a clippy in my hair and put lip gloss on me. All the while, Sabrina kept us company and talked to us. 

When I was sufficiently "beautied," I went with a friend to a book club and had yummy dessert, met new fun people, and discussed the book I had been reading.

All in all, this was a pretty great day. I got some alone time with nearly everyone in my family. I got lots done. I felt no stress. There were no big kid fights to break up. We had lots of time with Jonathan after the market closed at 1 p.m.  It just was a sweet and relaxing day -- an ordinary day that I just want to remember. 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Growing Bump

I thought I better record the progress of my growing baby bump. I am 16 weeks now and am feeling better most of the time. I am hopeful that I will be able to fully enjoy Thanksgiving next week. I am still about 3 weeks away from finding out whether I am having a boy or girl. I will definitely be finding out. 

 Today I went grocery shopping. I was in line when the checker asked how I was. It is funny how I seem to measure my progress in healing based upon how this question from the grocery checker makes me feel. Today I reflected for a nanosecond and had an epiphany. "I am good," I told the checker. And I meant it. Not just okay or surviving. No I felt good. I could honestly say I felt good.

This is not to say I don't still have hard moments or really low hours. I do. But they are less frequent and being able to honestly answer that I felt good -- better than average -- felt like a milestone to me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Forgotten Treasures

We have been decorating here at the Waite house -- Christmas decorating. Last year we were living in my parents home. They had just returned from a mission. We were set to move into our new home a few weeks after Christmas. 

Last year when we decorated we used mostly my parents decorations. I didn't want to have to pack all ours up again to make the move. But I did need to get the stockings out for our family. 

Now I am a planner. I found Christmas stockings I liked years and years ago when Sabrina was a baby. I knew then that I wanted about six children. I didn't know if the company from whom I was buying our stockings would sell these stockings each year. I wanted all our families stockings to be the same type so ... I bought 8 stockings that year. 

When we have had a new baby, I have just picked one of the stockings out for her and sent it off to get her name embroidered on it. Last year we had a new baby girl. Of all the boxes piled in the garage I did find the one with the stockings with our names. What I could not find for all my looking was the box with the extra stockings. I searched and searched but I just couldn't find them.

Finally I gave up. I saw the company was still making the same stockings so I ordered one for Camille and called it good. So what if I ended up with an extra stocking. This year I found the extra stockings.
Here you can see our extra stockings. The first has toys on it. The second has a snowman. The third has Santa in his sleigh with reindeer. The white one is our stocking for the Christ child. We write out gifts we promise to give him in the coming year and put them in on Christmas Eve. These are all nice stockings. One of them will be used for Peanut next Christmas.

Then I found the box of our stockings with our names on them. I never remember what is on each child's stocking. I had totally forgotten what kind of stocking I had purchased for Camille.
When I pulled Camille's stocking out, I was so glad that I couldn't find the extra stockings last year. Another tiny miracle to prepare the way for us. Here is Camille's stocking:
I couldn't pick a more perfect stocking for my blue eyed angel daughter knowing what I know now. This was a new stocking design last year for the company who makes these stockings. I already had an angel stocking for Sabrina, but I remember loving this stocking and feeling like it looked like Camille. How glad I am that this is the stocking I chose and that I couldn't find those extra stockings last year. 

Some boxes are not meant to be found. Some children are not meant to live long. In the end, I believe we will find all these things will work for our good.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Three Days and Counting!

Well I have gone three days now without feeling sick. Wahoo!!! It is funny how when you have felt sick for so long you forget how wonderful it is to not feel sick. I have felt so good the last couple of days. I forgot how nice it is to be able to eat and not dread it.

I am not sure I am completely done being sick. Sometimes I still get a sick day or two thrown in there at this stage. But I do think this is a turning point for me. I am getting excited for Thanksgiving food already! 

I am sure my little baby bump will now start rapid growth. I gain all my weight in the middle three months. Those are my good eating months. I will have to take a photo of the belly sometime soon to share with you all. 

Watch out belly! Here she comes!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Holiday Thoughts

I know it is not even mid November yet, but I am ready to start decking my halls. I love Christmas. Most other mothers I know who are facing their first Christmas without their child are dreading the coming season. I don't know why I don't feel that. But, I don't. I am sure there will be some tender moments in the midst of the festivities but to me Christmas is just such a joyful time.

I have been thinking about how to incorporate remembering Camille into our Christmas celebrations. I am excited about my ideas so far. I think they will really add to the Christmas Spirit in our home and be true gifts to Camille and reminders of her.

I would like to invite any of you who would like to join us in these new traditions. Your help will make them so much richer in so many ways. 

First, I am going to hang Camille's stocking with all our others. Next to it I am going to have a pad of paper. I already bought a pad of heart shaped paper for this. As a family we are going to fill Camille's stocking with acts of love and service. We are each going to look for out of the normal opportunities to show love and serve others. When we see one, we will do the service or show the love in honor of Camille. Then we will come to get a piece of paper and write what we did down and put it in Camille's stocking. 

The acts may be simple. Maybe I will snuggle my kids extra long before bed one night. Maybe my kids will obey the first time they are asked to do something. Just as long as they did it with Camille in mind it will count as a gift to her. I hope we can also find some more challenging service opportunities as well. Maybe a bake sale to raise money for a charity or something. 

Then Christmas morning we will take out all the papers and read them. It will be our way of helping Camille open her presents. I think it will really bring in the Spirit of Christmas because any gift of love or service is also a gift worthy for the Christ child. If you want to do the same and send any of your acts of love and service papers to me, I will add them to Camille's stocking as well. They will be fun to read Christmas morning.

The second tradition I want to modify is our tree decorating. Every year I have a mini Christmas tree for each child. You know those little ones that are about 2 feet high. We put lights on them and a star or angel on top. Then I have an advent calendar that has a door to open for each day. I put the ornaments behind the doors and day by day the kids get to decorate their own Christmas trees.

At first I thought I would not do one for Camille. But I have changed my mind. One of my fellow angel moms had a great idea that I thought I would use. I am going to put Camille's tree up and decorate it as an angel tree. Every decoration on it will be angel related. Here is the part where I hope my friends will help out. I would love to have every decoration on this tree be a gift. Somehow I think they will have so much more meaning coming to me as gifts than me just going to the store to buy them. 

So, if you would like to either send and angel ornament (they do need to be small for a mini tree) or if you would like to join in doing and recording acts of service and love as gifts for Camille, please email me and I will send you my mailing address.  My email is on my profile page or it is

I am going to get my decorating going this weekend. I know it is early, but why not spend the extra two weeks in holiday cheer?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Here are the recipes from what I made for our party the other day. Try them and let me know if you like them. They are yummy to me.

Melt Aways

Melt Aways
1/2 lb. Butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup corn starch
1 cup flour

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat ingredients together till smooth and creamy. Form into small balls about the size of a quarter (no bigger). They will grow in the oven a little. Bake them for 12 minutes. Makes about 40 cookies.

3 ozs. soft cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
food coloring

Make frosting by mixing all ingredients. The frosting can be any color you like. Some favorites are pink or blue for baby showers, green or white with a bit of a cherry on top for christmas, or orange for halloween. Frost cookies when they are completely cool. Be generous with the frosting. It makes the cookie. Eat the cookies in one bite. They crumble once bitten into.

The Festive Cheese Spread
I love this one!

Festive Cheese Spread
8 ozs. soft cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1 bottle mango chutney (or apricot jam) enough to cover the cheese block
1/2 cup crasins boiled till soft and cooled
1/3 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1 bunch green onions chopped up

Mix cheeses and coconut. Form into a 1 inch high square, oval, rectangle etc. and put in fridge. When ready to serve put cheese base of plate. Cover with chutney or jam then cranberries then nuts then green onions. Enjoy with crackers. I like it best with Wheat Thins. They are sturdy enough to cut into it and they just taste good with it. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pregnant Grief

I do not have an overly emotional nature. I am the girl who would rather laugh than cry and often will find a joke to drive away tears. I don't think being sensitive is one of the talents I was given at birth. I have to remind myself lately of what I am "normally" like because I haven't really been myself for the past nearly 5 months now. 

In the beginning I just cried so much and so often. The pain was so fresh and the grief so overwhelming. There seemed to be an unending stream of tears for me to cry. As I have grown stronger and borne this grief with more stability, I have pregnancy hormones to negotiate. 

In so many ways this pregnancy has been healing already. It has given me hope and purpose and physical pain to focus my mind. But, sometimes it is just hard to be grieving and hormonal. I can tell there is an extra layer of emotion added to my otherwise "normal" grieving emotion. 

I love to sing. I haven't been able to sing since Camille died. I still can't get through a church hymn. Even many children's songs are just too hard to get out. I used to sing my children the song "I Wonder When He Comes Again" when I put them to bed. I haven't been able to sing it since. 

I just am nearly always in tears just beneath the surface. It takes so little to tear through that outer layer and let the waters rush out. It isn't that I hate crying. But really, I think my Grandma Bunker said a wise thing on her death bed. 

Grandma had liver cancer. It progressed extremely quickly once she was diagnosed. The doctors had given her 6 months to a year to live. The third week after her diagnosis she went from doing fine to being bed ridden and unable to eat much. All her internal organs were shutting down. My parents were out of town with my little brothers. My older sister and brother and I went to visit her after not seeing her for a day or two.

The change in her was dramatic and scary for us at ages 13, 15 and 18. She was almost unrecognizable compared to how she had looked just two days earlier. This was a grandma who lived close to us and was in many ways a second mother to us. Walking into her bedroom we knew she would not be with us much longer. The tears just fell and they fell in abundance. None of us could speak. 

Well none of us except for Grandma. She told us over and over and over that she loved us. I think that is how I knew she would die very soon. It was the last thing she wanted us to know and she wanted to burn it into our consciousness. "I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you." It made its mark. I have never doubted that love that I know never dies.

As we were there, holding her hands and sobbing at her sides, Grandma imparted a final bit of wisdom that has stayed with me since. "You know you can get all weepy and cry about this but all that does is give you a stuffy nose and a headache." She died that night in the middle of the night while my parents were on a flight home.

Well I have had about a decades worth of stuffy noses and headaches these last 5 months. There are benefits from this emotional shift. I do think I am more sensitive and compassionate. But I hope there comes a day after the baby is born and those postpartum hormones have worn off, that I can stop taking Tylenol regularly and sing again.