Thoughts on Blurred Vision and First Vision

The First Vision
What Causes Blurred Vision | iCare Vision Center

Yesterday I felt an anxious load, so Matt drove me up the canyon and we went on a walk. I tried to talk it out so I could identify what was making me feel overwhelmed. My kids’ schools are in flux because of varying levels of COVID status. I had just dropped one off at an activity that had felt safe when I signed him up, but now I felt less sure. I read a Facebook post by the school district and started feeling sick when I saw all the angry fighting in the comments. My fears turned to our collective ability to get along and support one another rather than cling to ideologies at the cost of relationships and civility and a little bit of humility.

We walked in the mountains and tried to make sense of it. I told Matt that I rewatched a news clip recently where Elder Christofferson participated in a discussion about ethics in the media, and a moderator pointed out that 78% of Americans, when they disagree on issues, don’t just disagree on the policies, they disagree on the very facts. I mentioned how that makes it feel impossible to come to an understanding of the truth. I’m sure I don’t have to explain this to anyone reading; we’ve all been dumbfounded by people sharing and embracing contrary “facts.” I feel this pressing responsibility to protect my family and make wise choices, and President Nelson once said that “Good information leads to good inspiration,” so I know I need to be informed, but when the information is so overwhelming and changing and confusing . . . ? Anyway, we had a good conversation about remembering what I can and cannot control, focusing on what I can reasonably do, and trying to move forward in faith. The exercise, the air, the talking all helped me to feel a little better, and back down the mountain we went to reenter real life.

Then this morning I read the talk “Shall We Not Go On in So Great a Cause” by Elder M. Russell Ballard. I was just trying to do my goal of reviewing all the talks before October conference and didn’t expect to get a lot of insight from a message about the Restoration, but something jumped out at me. It’s an obvious message that comes from the Joseph Smith story, one that I’ve taught myself many times, but today I saw it in a new light because of current events.

Joseph recorded: “During this time of great [religious] excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit.

So here’s me thinking through this: great excitement, yes–not about religion, but masks, race, riots, politics, elections, social distancing, etc… Serious reflection and great uneasiness? Check. I feel the pull to be aloof too. I don’t want to be caught up in all the fervor, but I am trying to read and study and understand different points of view…

… [Yet] so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.”3

It is impossible to know what information is totally accurate; I have sources I trust, but I still don’t know what information is missing, not being considered, etc …

Joseph turned to the Bible to find answers to his questions and read James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”4

And it struck me that I need to trust God more. Those familiar with Joseph’s story know that his prayer led to a revelatory experience with God and His Son and opened up a new era of restoration of His gospel. I don’t think God needs me to open up any new eras of anything, but he can help me filter mass confusion into some peace and certainty… even if it’s just for me and my family. (It’s ok that different people feel and act differently. So frustrating, but ok.) I don’t think I have enough information to get complete inspiration (It’s likely I won’t be blessed with a corona-cure or the secret to unlocking the social injustice for all mankind), but I can get the information I need to take next steps. Elder Ballard pointed out that this did not make everything easy for Joseph and his family (Spoiler alert: he was killed.), but I crave the peace of knowing I’m doing the right thing despite the noise around me, and Joseph stated that when he had his answers, he was “filled with love, and … could rejoice with great joy.” Plus I loved Elder Ballard’s reminder that “Because the family was united, they survived these challenges,” and that “it may be that they came to know God through their suffering in ways that could not have happened without it.”

So that’s my wish right now. To get to know God better (without wishing suffering on myself or anyone else) and let Him walk me through this, to stay a little more aloof of all the fervor and a little more plugged in to what He wants me to do. Maybe you find fault with this strategy; heaven knows we’re all coping the best way we know how, but today, this was a message that gave me some personal hope.

You’re invited to a Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Conference

This is an invitation to anyone who is involved (or WANTS to be involved) in Publishing or Media: writing, editing, music, filmmaking, marketing, podcasting, fiction, nonfiction, you name it. The Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media Association has an annual conference, and I have worked a LOT behind the scenes to help them transition to a VIRTUAL CONFERENCE this year. (I think I have an honorary degree in Zoom now.) So you can attend from anywhere!
There are keynote presentations by Brandon Mull, Bruce and Marie Hafen, The Bonner Family, and Hilary Weeks (aren’t they cool?!), PLUS a whole lot of great workshops and breakout sessions by smart and wonderful people.
Go to their website: ldspma.org to check out all their offerings, and if you register quickly, you can use the code on this handy-dandy badge they made me (with a picture that tricks you into thinking I’m 8 years younger) to get a 50% DISCOUNT.

Agency and other things that make me angry

Today I walked past my living room and saw this scene.

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I feel like it is a metaphor for parenting. See that orange towel on the left? I found an old towel, cut it in half, and sewed it together to create a mat where the cat can rest and not shed on the furniture. I laid it out on the chair where she usually sleeps. So what happens? She chooses the other chair, and it makes me crazy. I can pick her up and put her on the towel, but when I walk away she’ll move back.

This whole quarantine, I have tried to do the work to create some productive and meaningful options for my kids. I made charts and lists of ideas. I’ve tried to build in purposeful pursuits and avoid mindless activities that just waste time. I’ve invited and adjusted and renegotiated and tried again. But I have three teenagers, and my kids are like my cat: No thanks, I’ll just do what I want instead. Even though it is dumb. Even though there’s a perfectly good option sitting right there on the chair. It is maddening, not only because it feels like constant rejection and disappointment, but because it happens to be pretty much the only kind of human interaction I’ve experienced for almost 70 days. Add on top of that the energy it takes to just stay safe and healthy and navigate all the varying opinions and politics and ambiguous information, and it has felt a little bit relentless.

I don’t have a cute lesson to tie this up with a bow. I’m just saying that for me, parenting in lockdown is hard and frustrating. I feel powerless to bring about the kinds of results that are in line with my own priorities and values. Maybe it’s only me. I’ve seen a lot of posts about people and families doing amazing things while they’re in lockdown–being resourceful and united and determined. It’s the first time I’ve experienced the feeling less that is supposedly one of the big dangers of social media. Because, metaphorically, I can’t get the stupid cat to sleep on the orange towel I made. It makes me wonder how frustrating it is for Heavenly Father when He presents us with so many opportunities for growth and service and learning, and we say, “No thanks, I’m good,” and we choose stuff that really is not as good for us. And yet, He is patient. He keeps extending invitations and forgives us our mistakes. I’m not there yet. Not even close. I imagine He’s more worried about my anger than He is about how much time my kids are on Playstation. So I’m working on it, but it’s a struggle. And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately. #leastinspirationalpostever

General Conference Book Club

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Back when I blogged at Diapers and Divinity, I used to do a regular feature called General Conference Book Club, but it’s been years. Recently, I was trying to figure out how I could do some good during this period of quarantine/”stay-at-home,” and I thought maybe I could resurrect it. The “book club” is an opportunity to review the most recent general conference talks, be uplifted by their messages, and experience a sense of community as we share our thoughts with each other.

Here’s how it works: Each Wednesday I post a video on my Facebook Author page announcing the talk for the upcoming week. I share some information about the speaker, the topic, some doctrinal points, or some suggested study methods to get the most out of the talk. You can then read or watch or listen to that talk on your own schedule throughout the week and then return to the video post to share your thoughts in the comments. I think we can learn a lot from each other’s insights and ideas for application.

You can find all the general conference book club videos/posts here. (<– Just click that link.) Please join us. Jump in at any time!

You can also watch the videos on Instagram @stephaniedibbsorensen, but I’ve noticed there’s not quite as much discussion there.

Fun in the time of coronavirus

Coronavirus: Zoom is in everyone's living room - how safe is it ...I did some research and found some fun ways that we can connect with extended family and friend groups over Zoom or other videoconference apps. Here’s a list of games/activities you could do to stay in touch, reach out to people, and enjoy people’s company.

Pictionary (with Zoom whiteboard feature), can also use a random word generator for ideas of what to draw https://randomwordgenerator.com/pictionary.php

Yahtzee—all participants print out a score sheet and take turns rolling dice.

Bingo—use these sites to print out boards https://myfreebingocards.com/

and draw numbers. https://letsplaybingo.io/

Boggle—share this site on a screen and everyone writes down words against the timer. https://www.puzzle-words.com/boggle-4×4/

Jackbox Drawful— Through April 11, 2020, Jackbox Games is offering Drawful 2 is free if you download it with the Steam code here. The game is similar to Pictionaryexcept you and your friends will be challenged with ridiculous drawing prompts such as “cotton candy hair” or a “creepy tiger.” https://shop.jackboxgames.com/collections/steam-codes/products/drawful-2

Homemade Trivia— A fun, interactive idea is to use an application such as TriviaMaker.com to create your own trivia games.

Or Random Triviahttp://www.randomtriviagenerator.com/

Risk—multiplayer game (don’t need Zoom, but need a Steam account). https://store.steampowered.com/app/1128810/RISK_Global_Domination/

Variety of online card gameshttps://www.cardzmania.com/games/

Pandemic—just in case real life isn’t entertaining enough.  https://www.asmodee-digital.com/en/pandemic/

Heads Up—just need the app on your phone so you can show clues to each other. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/heads-up/id623592465

Scattergories—Here are the lists http://scattergorieslists18.blogspot.com/ Just pick a letter and set the timer.

Scribbi.io—like a virtual Pictionary https://skribbl.io/

Read My Lips–To play Read My Lips, have the person who is “it” turn off their microphone. They will then say a series of words in a given amount of time while everyone else reads their lips and writes down what they think they’re saying. The person with the most correct guesses is the obvious winner.

Last Letter–If you’d like to keep your brain sharp during this time of social distancing, play Last Letter with your friends. All you need to do is choose a category — ’90s movies, flowers, states, colors, etc. — and say a word within that category. The next person will say a word that starts with the last letter of your word, and on and on you’ll go until someone comes up blank. That person will then sit out the next round. Keep playing until only one player is left standing.

Charades—self-explanatory

Raid your cupboard— Some of your board/party games might adapt, especially if both parties have it and can use parts on their end: Look through them and be creative.

General Conference Notebook

Screen Shot 2019-10-04 at 3.52.37 PMThis blog has been quite neglected, but those who know me well will not be surprised that General Conference is all it takes to revive it.

I was inspired by the coloring pages at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint’s Facebook page, an Instagram post by my friend Jocelyn, and my long history of conference love and preparation, so I compiled this 11-page packet. It’s a simple notebook my tween and teens will use to take notes at conference. They can color the apostles if they want or just write notes by their picture, and they can also record any impressions they have about goals for the new youth initiative.

So here you go. You’re welcome to download, print, and use if you’d like.

General Conference Notebook

I love general conference so much and my heart is thirsty to be taught this weekend. I love the testimonies and the expressions of hope, and I also love being called to repentance. I know that sounds odd, but it’s so nice to know what to work on so that I can grow spiritually and progress in alignment with God’s will. I wish you all a wonderful conference weekend, with a very special dose of what Elder Holland calls “a personal, prophetic epistle just for you.”


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Here’s a little update on my new book, Learn of Me. It is held up at press for another week or so, but should be in stores by the middle of October. You can still order it on Amazon and it will ship when it’s available.

New Book on Its Way!

At this time last year, I “finished” writing a manuscript and submitted it for publication. It was a workbook for completing President Nelson’s challenge to study everything about Jesus Christ in all 58 subheadings of the Topical Guide in the scriptures. The stars didn’t quite align, and it didn’t end up going to press, so I changed gears and pursued self-publishing with the help of a designer, Jeannie McLaughlin Co.​. It has been a lot of work to learn how navigate the self-publishing world, and I’ve kept sharing little teasers with you that we’re getting really close to publishing it. The workbook has really evolved into an awesome product that I’m proud of.

But, just in this last week, I found out that I had misunderstood a rule about permissions, and it threw a real wrench in the progress of the book. I panicked. (I might have cried, hypothetically.) I went back to my original publisher and asked them if they would please take a second look at the book. They did, and I found out that they have accepted it for publication! They are hoping to get it into stores by October general conference. I’m so excited that when I tell you “it’s coming soon,” it really is this time.

Whew, man, this publishing roller coaster is not for the weak of heart. Thanks for being supportive enough of the ideas I shared here to give me courage to keep moving forward on it.

Here’s a sneak peak of a few pages throughout. I’m submitting it this week and it heads to press quickly. If all goes as planned, Learn of Me should be in bookstores this September.

 

 

Living Prophets Summer School

This summer, my poor children are being forced to take the college class I teach at BYU [homeschool version]. I’m posting their reading schedule here just because I needed a place where they can access the links.

To all who inadvertently receive this in their inbox (due to a long-neglected blog subscription), feel free to either ignore it or steal it for your own use. Happy Summer Reading!

DATE

DUE

PREPARATION before class DISCUSSION and EVENTS
TLP Chapter 1: Our Need for Living Prophets 

(TLP= Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual)

“The Doctrine of Christ” by Elder Christofferson

Why living prophets matter
   TLP Chapter 2: The Living Prophet: The President of the Church

(including the 14 Fundamentals talk at end of chapter)

The role of our living prophet

14 Fundamentals of Following the Prophet

TLP Chapter 7: Studying General Conference Addresses 

Choose any two of the suggested study methods from TLP ch. 7 and apply them as you study these two President Nelson talks. Bring your notes to share.

April 2018:  Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives

October 2017: The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like …?

Practice Study Methods

Tips and Research Tools

Read 5 talks by President Nelson (bring D.A.P. notes for one of these):

April 2017:  Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives

October 2016: Joy and Spiritual Survival

April 2016: The Price of Priesthood Power

January 2016 (Worldwide Devotional):  True Millennials

October 2015: A Plea to My Sisters

Teachings of Russell M. Nelson
TLP Chapter 4: The Quorum of the First Presidency

The Church Is on Course – by Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley

Quorum keys and responsibilities
KT packet: Oaks

Small and Simple Things

Feb 2014 (BYU-I): Witnesses of God

Life, ministry, and messages of Dallin H. Oaks
KT packet: Eyring

His Spirit to Be With You

Apr 2012: Mountains to Climb

Life, ministry, and messages of Henry B. Eyring
TLP Chapter 5: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

“Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name” by Elder David A. Bednar

Quorum keys and responsibilities
Read THE LIVING CHRIST and the FAMILY PROCLAMATION

Aug 2009): “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Julie B. Beck

Deadline to watch family proclamation video on Digital Dialog.

Proclamations and the doctrine of the family
EXAM 1
KT packet: Ballard

Precious Gifts from God

May 2014 (CES): Be Still, and Know That I Am God

Life, ministry, and messages of M. Russell Ballard
KT packet: Holland

Be With and Strengthen Them

Sept 2012 (CES): Israel, Isreal God Is Calling

Life, ministry, and messages of Jeffrey R. Holland
KT packet: Uchtdorf

Behold the Man!

Jan 2017 Worldwide Devotional

Life, ministry, and messages of Dieter F. Uchtdorf
KT packet: Bednar

Meek and Lowly of Heart

Sept 2017 (Worldwide Devotional): A Welding Link

Life, ministry, and messages of David A. Bednar
KT packet: Cook

Prepare to Meet God

Sept 2016 (Worldwide Devotional): “Fear Not…”

Life, ministry, and messages of Quentin L. Cook
  KT packet: Christofferson

The Elders Quorum

Jan 2011 (BYU Devotional): Give us this day our daily bread

Life, ministry, and messages of D. Todd Christofferson
KT packet: Andersen

The Prophet of God

Oct. 2011: Children

Life, ministry, and messages of Neil L. Andersen
KT packet: Rasband

Behold! A Royal Army

Sept 2015 (BYU Devotional): Religious Freedom and Fairness for All

Life, ministry, and messages of Ronald A. Rasband
KT packet: Stevenson

The Heart of a Prophet

May 2017 (BYU Women’s Conference): The Knowledge of a Savior(watch!)

Life, ministry, and messages of Gary E. Stevenson
KT packet: Renlund

Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing

April 2015: Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying

Life, ministry, and messages of Dale G. Renlund
  EXAM 2
  TLP Chapter 6: General Conference

An Ensign to the Nations, Jeffrey R. Holland

Preparing for General Conference
  TLP Chapter 3: Succession in the Presidency

Pres. Nelson, “Sustaining the Prophets,” Oct. 2014

Understanding Succession in the Presidency
  Elder Gong bio, link TBA.

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

2014 BYU-H Devotional Be Not Afraid, Only Believe

Elder Gong
  Elder Soares bio, link TBA.

Prophets Speak by the Power of His Holy Spirit

April 2015 Yes, We Can and Will Win!

Elder Soares
  ***Family Proclamation Research Project***  
  FINAL EXAM  

Navigating Social Media Use: Your Children and You

When it comes to monitoring technology at my house, my husband might have used the following terms to describe my approach: “nazi,” “relentless,” and “Russian gulag.” I prefer to think of myself as determined. This is the LEAST favorite aspect of parenting for me right now.

How long have you been on that? What are you looking at? Please turn that off. Give me your phone.

Ugh.

I recently sat down with two admired friends (who I originally met through blogging during my Diapers and Divinity days), and tapped into their expertise about two things:

  1. How to do a better job of walking this world of technology with my children.
  2. How to use my own social media accounts in positive and meaningful ways.

Even though I talked to them long after the microphones were turned off and gleaned so much insight, you can hear some of their sage advice on LDS Perspectives podcast. (Yeah, I got a gig as a very part-time podcaster. It’s been fun.) Check it out at this link, or subscribe to LDS Perspectives podcast for more episodes:

http://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/10/04/digital-natives/

On Brain Theft and Consent

Empty Your Inner TrashIn our hyper-media world, we (and our children) are bombarded constantly with in-your-face digital messages and images. Remember that catchphrase “garbage in, garbage out” from the earliest days of computer programming? Well, it seems that a large percentage of our media outlets are determined to put as much garbage in as possible. And we, the consumers, have almost lost control of what we get to consume. An article over at WIRED, (which is ironically surrounded by many of the flashy advertisements it denounces) makes a case for attention theft– when our brains are assaulted and literally used without our consent by content we don’t want and in time we don’t choose to give away.  Check out this bold claim:

As suggested, the key word here is “consent.”  There’s a big difference between leafing through a magazine, reading articles and advertising by choice, and being blasted at by a screen when you have no place to go. Indeed, consent is the usual way access to the body is conditioned. The brain is a pretty intimate part of your body, from which it follows that your permission ought be asked before having your synapses groped by a stranger.

I just want to go on record that I AGREE, and this trend is so annoying. If my son wants to look up a vocabulary definition on my phone at a doctor’s office, he shouldn’t be assaulted with an auto-played Carl’s Jr. ad that’s both raunchy and unwanted. Equally as annoying is the fact that we too often just let it happen without complaining or fighting back. Of course, in the name of free speech and free press and freedom of expression, others can say and create what they (legally) want to say and create, but we, in the name of free to do and be and see and hear whatever the heck we (legally) want, should not have to consume it all. Sure, we can put filters in place (already a grueling and exhausting process that all mothers of tech-savvy children loathe), but many cyber spaces don’t give the option of consumer-controlled filters or settings.

For example, my friend Amy recently posted on Amazon’s Facebook page about a problem she has with her Amazon TV viewing. Despite tight parental controls in the settings, there was still a lot of content showing up on the browsing pages, or suggested viewing, or sidebar ads. She asked them, “…When my parental controls clearly show I have no interest, why will you not allow me to completely block that content from view? I don’t need my 7 year old scrolling past ‘American Playboy’ each time he wants to watch a cartoon. Please seriously consider allowing those of us who don’t want Mature content in our homes the ability to completely block it out.” Can you see that this is an example of them forcing consumption of an image or idea without consent–in fact, violating the customer’s established consent? If you want to go like or comment on Amy’s post and offer support for consumer-controlled content filtering at Amazon, go here.

As for myself, I’m going to try to be more aware of this brain theft concept and speak up when companies and websites and media services keep feeding my family garbage without my consent. I say garbage out.