Learning

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.

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.

Stories of Jesus: Study the life of Christ in 55 days

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Just before Christmas, I had a strong desire to focus more on the life of Jesus Christ, so we started reading the New Testament during family scripture study time. I specifically wanted to read both the happenings and the teachings of His life, with the goal that my children will know Him better, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it in a comprehensive way. I searched long and hard for study guides that had a complete chronology, but I didn’t find anything satisfactory–everything was thematic or out of order or excluded key stories. So, I printed out several of them, laid them out side-by-side, looked at notes in my own Bible, relied heavily on this Harmony of the Gospels tool, and created my own. It took a looooong time, so I want to share it in hopes that it can be an easy, ready resource for families to study the gospels in the New Testament. Continue reading

Roles, Revelation, and Grace

Twenty years ago this month, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” for the first time. To celebrate, a handful bloggers are hosting two weeks of posts about the doctrine of the family. [More info here.]

I was invited to contribute as a guest blogger, so I slipped out of my writing sabbatical and hit the keyboard with my testimony of personal revelation and grace in helping me find my own place in God’s plan. I addressed how sometimes our own reality is at odds with prophetic counsel regarding family, but peace and confidence can come as we understand the doctrine and seek Heavenly Father’s will for us personally. You can find the post here: http://www.cranialhiccups.com/2015/09/roles-revelation-and-grace.html

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A tribute: the life and testimony of President Boyd K. Packer

When an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ passes away, it feels like the loss of a friend. These are men who have uplifted us and brought light into our lives through testimony and example. President Boyd K. Packer passed away on July 3, 2015 after serving as an an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than 45 years. I have studied his life and a large body of his teachings and I want to share some of my favorite things about him; this is his legacy that will live on in me as I continue on my own journey of discipleship.

President Packer came into his testimony of the gospel while he served as a fighter pilot in World War II. He studied the Book of Mormon purposefully for the first time and began to truly believe its divine message. I appreciate what he taught about answers and testimony sometimes coming slowly. He has taught me to trust in good feelings and be patient for clarity and answers to come.

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I also love his testimony of the scriptures. Elder Nelson once commented on how much Elder Packer’s knowledge of the scriptures has influenced the direction of the church. When the Quorum of the Twelve has weighed out problems and issues in their councils, he has searched his mind for relevant teachings from the Book of Mormon and shared them with the Brethren.  “Without the Book of Mormon,” Elder Nelson said, “Elder Packer couldn’t be the prophet he is. Continue reading

The learning curve

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One thing about parenting is that you just never really get it. Each season of childhood presents new struggles and new puzzles to be solved. As soon as you feel like you have a handle on the challenges at hand, they change. New ages, new stages, new problems—new realizations about your own inadequacy as a parent. Perhaps that is the whole point of parenting… to be constantly humbled over and over again as we acknowledge before God that we have no idea what we are doing and desperately need His help.

Let me just cut to the chase. I have an anger problem. It’s something I’ve struggled with ever since my little boys were toddlers and unwittingly did things that exasperated me. Once, as a flustered young mother, I marched myself up to the Barnes & Noble Help Desk and asked the unsuspecting clerk Continue reading