Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Scripture Studay

3 Nephi 14

7 Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
8 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

3 Nephi 17

2 I aperceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot bunderstand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.
3 Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and aponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and bprepare your minds for the cmorrow, and I come unto you again.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New Calling

Today I was asked to be a gospel doctrine teacher for my singles ward. I was thrilled, shocked, and nervous about the calling all in the exact same moment. After I had been given a teaching manual and instructed that I would be set apart after sacrament I made my way to my sunday school class....where I began to feel completely inadequate. "I can't do this calling" was the thought that kept going through my head, and more and more I began to feel such nervousness I thought I was going to be sick. How was I going to find the time to fulfill this calling? Was I going to be a good teacher? How could I teach individuals who had more knowledge than I did (returned missionaries)? In my church journal there are scriptures at the bottom of every page. On the page of my journal today was this scripture "For with God nothing shall be impossible" Luke 1:37.

After sacrament I was set apart and I was given the most beautiful blessing. In my blessing it said that I would be able to find the time to prepare for this calling. It also said that I would be blessed with my employment and dating relationships. And that I have been called to help edify the Lords children, and that I will be blessed as I serve the Lord.

I don't know why I was so emotional about the whole thing today, but I was so overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and then feelings of peace and knowledge that my Savior really does KNOW ME and knows what I need in this time in my life. I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve the Lord and my ward.

Look Up - Elder Carle B. Cook

A challenge for all of us is not to look sideways to see how others are viewing our lives but to look up to see how Heavenly Father sees us.

I prayed for help and sought a priesthood blessing, which provided some reassurance. But I continued to search and struggle, and one day I felt more uptight and worried than ever. As my companion and I walked down the hallway, I stopped at a small janitor’s closet. I asked my companion to wait for me for a moment. I slipped into that tiny room and knelt down on a mop. I began to plead with Heavenly Father for some relief.

The Lord answered that prayer. I felt this thought come into my mind: “I never called you to master the German language. I just called you to serve with all of your heart, mind, and strength.”

I immediately thought, “I can do that. I can serve with all of my heart, mind, and strength. If that’s what the Lord has called me to do, I can do that.” I stood up feeling tremendously relieved.

From that point on, my measuring stick changed. I no longer gauged my progress and success against that of my companion or other members of my district. Instead, I focused on how the Lord felt I was doing. Instead of looking to the side to compare myself to others, I began to look up, so to speak, to know what He thought of my efforts.

I began counseling with Heavenly Father in the morning, telling Him that I didn’t know what the day would bring but that I would do my very best. “Whatever I can learn, allow me to learn it,” I prayed, “but no matter what, I’m going to give Thee my very best today.”

At night I would pray again to report on what I had studied and what I had done. I shared with my Father in Heaven my struggles and my successes alike. I had begun to turn to Him—not to others or even myself—to validate my progress.

That lesson that I learned in a tiny broom closet more than 35 years ago has stayed with me all my life, through a number of callings and assignments. Whenever I have been asked to do something where the expectations seem greater than what I have the capacity to do, I remember that experience and say to myself, “Wait. Who called you? Who are you serving? Who are you trying to please?”

The world we live in today has all kinds of measurements—most of them external to us. I think such measurements can be especially harsh to young adults. You go to school and earn a grade, but that doesn’t necessarily take into account what else you experience in your other classes or your family or your life situation. Sometimes we’re judged by the way we look or by the car we drive. We might base our sense of self-worth on how many friends are writing on our wall on social networking sites. We worry about what others think about the person we’re dating or what people will think if we marry before finishing school. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to please others, but we can’t trust such external measurements; the world can be too quick both to praise and to criticize.

Tap into Spiritual Power

We can tap into the spiritual power we need in making decisions by beginning each day with personal prayer and scripture study. That prayer can include a petition to be receptive to God’s plan for us. Even though we may not see the whole plan, we can ask to be receptive to the part of the plan that will come that day. As we are receptive, we will see the fruits of our choices to follow Him. We’ll be able to act on impressions we receive. And we’ll be able to do difficult things and to do, for the right reasons, whatever is required.

Stay True to the Direction You Receive

We can “look up” by staying true to the direction we’ve received from a loving Heavenly Father through personal revelation. Sometimes others would dissuade us from acting on what we receive, and even if they have good intentions, we need to be true to what we have felt.

My wife and I have a daughter serving a full-time mission in Spain. That daughter spent her high school years in New Zealand, while I was serving as mission president. When she turned 21, she said, “Dad, Mom, I think I need to serve a mission.” Of course, we were pleased with this righteous decision, but knowing that it had been a sacrifice for her to move away from friends and family during her teenage years, I told her, “You’ve already served a mission.”

She smiled and said, “No, Dad, you have. Now I want to go serve the Lord.”

“OK,” I smiled. “You fill that mission. You follow that prompting to serve.”

Today I am elated that she is not only serving her Heavenly Father and His children in Spain but she is also following the impression she felt. She didn’t let even me—a well-meaning parent—convince her to do anything other than what she felt was right for her life and Heavenly Father’s plan for her.

Don’t Be Afraid to Act

As important as it is to learn Heavenly Father’s plan for our lives, we sometimes get so caught up in knowing every detail, start to finish, that we become afraid to act. Don’t fall into this trap. Make good choices using your best judgment and move forward with your life. We’re blessed as we make choices. Don’t be afraid to make choices because you are afraid of making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to try new things. In doing so, you will find joy in the journey

Stand by Your Post

When our family was living in New Zealand, we sometimes became overwhelmed by the number of challenges that investigators, recent converts, missionaries, and others were experiencing. We often found ourselves praying for answers—and expecting to receive them quickly!

All of us are in need of help. And sometimes the solutions we seek docome quickly. But other times they come in ways other than we had hoped. Or they come later than we expected. And occasionally, it seems, they’re not coming at all.

In such cases, adopt the attitude of “stand by your post” until the Lord sends some help, however long that takes. But standing by your post doesn’t mean standing still. As I mentioned, don’t be afraid to act. Keep doing good things. Keep obeying the commandments. Keep praying and studying and doing your best until you receive additional direction. Don’t abandon your post. In His time the Lord will allow all things to work out for your good.

“Looking up” has blessed my life over and over since my experience in the Language Training Mission. As Mormon explains in Helaman 3:27, “The Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name.” I have felt and experienced His mercy and love. I know His mercy will come to all of us as we believe and call upon His name.

Look Heavenward

President Thomas S. Monson

“Looking heavenward should be our lifelong endeavor. Some foolish persons turn their backs on the wisdom of God and follow the allurement of fickle fashion, the attraction of false popularity, and the thrill of the moment. Their course of conduct resembles the disastrous experience of Esau, who exchanged his birthright for a mess of pottage.

“And what are the results of such action? I testify to you today that turning away from God brings broken covenants, shattered dreams, and crushed hopes. Such a quagmire of quicksand I plead with you to avoid. You are of a noble birthright. Eternal life in the kingdom of our Father is your goal.

“Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt, but rather is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose and lofty ideals.

“Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives.”

Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments - Elder Holland

that future, at least any qualitative aspect of it, must be vigorously fought for. It won't "just happen" to your advantage. Someone said once that the future is waiting to be seized, and if we do not grasp it firmly, then other hands, more determined and bloody than our own, will wrench it from us and follow a different course.

The more we pass ourselves around, the larger the likelihood of our picking something up. . . .
Whether on clinical or moral grounds, it seems clear that promiscuity has its price.

Although the progress of civilisation has undoubtedly contributed to assuage the fiercer passions of human nature, it seems to have been less favourable to the virtue of chastity. . . . The refinements of life [seem to] corrupt, [even as] they polish the [relationship] of the sexes. [Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 40 of Great Books of the Western World,1952, p. 92]

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
-Robert Frost

But in the significance and sanctity of giving life, some of us are not so responsible, and in the larger world swirling around us we find near criminal irresponsibility. What would in the case of taking life bring absolute horror and demand grim justice, in the case of giving life brings dirty jokes and four-letter lyrics and crass carnality on the silver screen, home-owned or downtown.

May I quote a 1913 sermon by Elder James E. Talmage on this doctrinal point:

We have been taught . . . to look upon these bodies of ours as gifts from God. We Latter-day Saints do not regard the body as something to be condemned, something to be abhorred. . . . We regard [the body] as the sign of our royal birthright. . . . We recognize . . . that those who kept not their first estate . . . were denied that inestimable blessing. . . . We believe that these bodies . . . may be made, in very truth, the temple of the Holy Ghost. . . .

It is peculiar to the theology of the Latter-day Saints that we regard the body as an essential part of the soul. Read your dictionaries, the lexicons, and encyclopedias, and you will find that nowhere [in Christianity], outside of the Church of Jesus Christ, is the solemn and eternal truth taught that the soul of man is the body and the spirit combined.

So partly in answer to why such seriousness, we answer that one toying with the God-given--and satanically coveted--body of another, toys with the very soul of that individual, toys with the central purpose and product of life, "the very key" to life, as Elder Boyd K. Packer once called it. In trivializing the soul of another (please include the word body there), we trivialize the Atonement that saved that soul and guaranteed its continued existence. And when one toys with the Son of Righteousness, the Day Star himself, one toys with white heat and a flame hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned. You cannot with impunity "crucify Christ afresh" (see Hebrews 6:6). Exploitation of the body (please include the word soul there) is, in the last analysis, an exploitation of him who is the Light and the Life of the world. Perhaps here Paul's warning to the Corinthians takes on newer, higher meaning:

Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. . . .

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. . . .

Flee fornication. . . . He that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. . . .

. . . Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and
ye are not your own?

For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's

Our soul is what's at stake here--our spirit and our body. Paul understood that doctrine of the soul every bit as well as James E. Talmage did, because it is gospel truth. The purchase price for our fullness of joy--body and spirit eternally united--is the pure and innocent blood of the Savior of this world. We cannot then say in ignorance or defiance, "Well, it's my life," or worse yet, "It's my body." It is not. "Ye are not your own," Paul said. "Ye are bought with a price." So in answer to the question, "Why does God care so much about sexual transgression?" it is partly because of the precious gift offered by and through his Only Begotten Son to redeem the souls--bodies and spirits--we too often share and abuse in cheap and tawdry ways. Christ restored the very seeds of eternal lives (see D&C132:19, 24), and we desecrate them at our peril. The first key reason for personal purity? Our very souls are involved and at stake.

Second, may I suggest that human intimacy, that sacred, physical union ordained of God for a married couple, deals with a symbol that demands special sanctity. Such an act of love between a man and a woman is--or certainly was ordained to be--a symbol of total union: union of their hearts, their hopes, their lives, their love, their family, their future, their everything. It is a symbol that we try to suggest in the temple with a word like seal. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said we perhaps ought to render such a sacred bond as "welding"--that those united in matrimony and eternal families are "welded" together, inseparable if you will, to withstand the temptations of the adversary and the afflictions of mortality. (See D&C 128:18.)

But such a total, virtually unbreakable union, such an unyielding commitment between a man and a woman, can only come with the proximity and permanence afforded in a marriage covenant, with the union ofall that they possess--their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. They work together, they cry together, they enjoy Brahms and Beethoven and breakfast together, they sacrifice and save and live together for all the abundance that such a totally intimate life provides such a couple. And the external symbol of that union, the physical manifestation of what is a far deeper spiritual and metaphysical bonding, is the physical blending that is part of--indeed, a most beautiful and gratifying expression of--that larger, more complete union of eternal purpose and promise.

As delicate as it is to mention in such a setting, I nevertheless trust your maturity to understand that physiologically we are created as men and women to fit together in such a union. In this ultimate physical expression of one man and one woman they are as nearly and as literally "one" as two separate physical bodies can ever be. It is in that act of ultimate physical intimacy we most nearly fulfill the commandment of the Lord given to Adam and Eve, living symbols for all married couples, when he invited them to cleave unto one another only, and thus become "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).

Obviously, such a commandment to these two, the first husband and wife of the human family, has unlimited implications--social, cultural, and religious as well as physical--but that is exactly my point. As all couples come to that moment of bonding in mortality, it is to be just such a complete union. That commandment cannot be fulfilled, and that symbolism of "one flesh" cannot be preserved, if we hastily and guiltily and surreptitiously share intimacy in a darkened corner of a darkened hour, then just as hastily and guiltily and surreptitiously retreat to our separate worlds--not to eat or live or cry or laugh together, not to do the laundry and the dishes and the homework, not to manage a budget and pay the bills and tend the children and plan together for the future. No, we cannot do that until we are truly one--united, bound, linked, tied, welded, sealed, married.

Can you see then the moral schizophrenia that comes from pretending we are one, sharing the physical symbols and physical intimacy of our union, but then fleeing, retreating, severing all such other aspects--and symbols--of what was meant to be a total obligation, only to unite again furtively some other night or, worse yet, furtively unite (and you can tell how cynically I use that word) with some other partner who is no more bound to us, no more one with us than the last was or than the one that will come next week or next month or next year or anytime before the binding commitments of marriage?

You must wait--you must wait until you can give everything, and you cannot give everything until you are at least legally and, for Latter-day Saint purposes, eternally pronounced as one. To give illicitly that which is not yours to give (remember--"you are not your own") and to give only part of that which cannot be followed with the gift of your whole heart and your whole life and your whole self is its own form of emotional Russian roulette. If you persist in sharing part without the whole, in pursuing satisfaction devoid of symbolism, in giving parts and pieces and inflamed fragments only, you run the terrible risk of such spiritual, psychic damage that you may undermine both your physical intimacy and your wholehearted devotion to a truer, later love. You may come to that moment of real love, of total union, only to discover to your horror that what you should have saved has been spent, and--mark my words--only God's grace can recover that piecemeal dissipation of your virtue.

Dr. Victor L. Brown, Jr., has written of this issue:

Fragmentation enables its users to counterfeit intimacy. . . .

If we relate to each other in fragments, at best we miss full relationships. At worst, we manipulate and exploit others for our gratification. Sexual fragmentation can be particularly harmful because it gives powerful physiological rewards which, though illusory, can temporarily persuade us to overlook the serious deficits in the overall relationship. Two people may marry for physical gratification and then discover that the illusion of union collapses under the weight of intellectual, social, and spiritual incompatibilities. . . .

Sexual fragmentation is particularly harmful because it is particularly deceptive. The intense human intimacy that should be enjoyed in and symbolized by sexual union is counterfeited by sensual episodes which suggest--but cannot deliver--acceptance, understanding, and love. Such encounters mistake the end for the means as lonely, desperate people seek a common denominator which will permit the easiest, quickest gratification.

Our sexuality has been animalized, stripped of the intricacy of feeling with which human beings have endowed it, leaving us to contemplate only the act, and to fear our impotence in it. It is this animalization from which the sexual manuals cannot escape, even when they try to do so, because they are reflections of it. They might [as well] be textbooks for veterinarians. [Fairlie, Seven Deadly Sins, p. 182]

Don't be deceived and don't be destroyed. Unless such fire is controlled, your clothes and your future will be burned. And your world, short of painful and perfect repentance, will go up in flames. I give that to you on good word--I give it to you on God's word.

In this latter sense, human intimacy is a sacrament, a very special kind of symbol. For our purpose here today, a sacrament could be any one of a number of gestures or acts or ordinances that unite us with God and his limitless powers. We are imperfect and mortal; he is perfect and immortal. But from time to time--indeed, as often as is possible and appropriate--we find ways and go to places and create circumstances where we can unite symbolically with him, and in so doing gain access to his power. Those special moments of union with God are sacramental moments--such as kneeling at a marriage altar, or blessing a newborn baby, or partaking of the emblems of the Lord's supper. This latter ordinance is the one we in the Church have come to associate most traditionally with the word sacrament, though it is technically only one of many such moments when we formally take the hand of God and feel his divine power.

Surely God's trust in us to respect this future-forming gift is awesomely staggering. We who may not be able to repair a bicycle nor assemble an average jigsaw puzzle--yet with all our weaknesses and imperfections, we carry this procreative power that makes us very much like God in at least one grand and majestic way.

No one man [or woman], however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life [or hers] before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group. [Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968), pp. 35-36]

It has been declared in the solemn word of revelation, that the spirit and the body constitute the soul of man; and, therefore, we should look upon this body as something that shall endure in the resurrected state, beyond the grave, something to be kept pure and holy. Be not afraid of soiling its hands; be not afraid of scars that may come to it if won in earnest effort, or [won] in honest fight, but beware of scars that disfigure, that have come to you in places where you ought not have gone, that have befallen you in unworthy undertakings [pursued where you ought not have been]; beware of the wounds of battles in which you have been fighting on the wrong side. [Talmage, CR, October 1913, p. 117]

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Temple Square & Temple Lights Round Two

We hadn't planned on going to the lights at Temple Square the very next day, after having seen them with my family...but my cousin Ash called and asked if we would go. I cannot turn down a fun evening with my Jersey cousin, her Boo, my adorable Boy, twinkling lights, and delicious hot cocoa!

We ate at the Blue Lemon...which has the best sweet potato fries ever...grabbed some hot cocoa and braved the cold weather! Since Dustin and I had just been there the day before we felt like legit tour guides leading these two love birds along!

I love this pic of these two!

...And I definitely love this pic of us...call me biased...I know I am;)

After we couldn't take the cold any longer we headed in doors to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. They have the largest, most gorgeously decorated Christmas trees I have ever seen! I loved them...if there is one thing I might like more than Christmas lights is Christmas trees!
Ash played a piano piece on a beautiful baby grand that sent chills down my spine....I really wish I had the talent of playing the piano...really wish I hadn't given up piano...I can remember so clearly my mom telling me "you're going to regret giving up the piano."....that day has come...I REGRET it!

I love this picture for so many reasons....:)

Just the four of us!

Best memories from the night:
1. Almost doing the splits (still don't know how I slipped on purely dry, no ice, cement?!)
2. Hot Cocoa:)
3. Ash and I sharing Stones family Reunion stories over dinner
4. Hearing Ash play the piano
5. Meeting Ash's Boy!
6. Ashley and Dustin meeting
7. Spending time with Dustin!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Turkey Day & Temple Square

This year for Thanksgiving my parents and Abby came to Utah! This was nice for a number of reasons:
1. Micaiah & I didn't have to make plans to travel to Washington for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.
2. I was able to work some hours at the hospital, so I could have time off for Christmas.
3. My parents were able to see Caleb & Rachel when they got back from Thanksgiving in Kentucky.
4. We were able to go Christmas shopping! I love Christmas shopping for a number of reasons:
a. I love Christmas window displays
b. I love all the Christmas smells & scents
c. Love me some holiday promotions & sales
d. I had the most amazing Christmas cookie and hot chocolate...all in the name of holiday shopping
(how did you like that list inside of a list;)?)
5. My parents were able to meet Micaiah's boyfriend, Mike!
6. ....but more importantly they were able to meet my boyfriend, Dustin, haha jk Mike!
7. We were able to spend Thanksgiving with Grandma and Grandpa Stones and that side of the family! Which all of us loved.
(Above) Karen & Cute little Zane!
My mom, Aunt Debbie, and Aunt Gretchen (they are missing their other buddy Aunt Gretchen who was in Switzerland with her newest grand baby:)) Stones' family get together's always result in a few things:
1. Eating LOTS and LOTS of food
2. Talkage of bodily functions (they are all obsessed with this)
3. and Tons and Tons of deep belly laughing!
The 'Aunts' are always so fun to be around! A little bit of craziness mixed with the 'Aunts' = lots of laughs!
I think this picture pretty much sums up the entire night! Just a good ol' time!
If there is anything else one should know about our family get together's is that we love a good impromptu photo shoot(at least the girls do)...hm 'we're vain' I guess is the only possible explanation;)
The day after Thanksgiving my Mama, Dadda, Abers, Dustin, and Myself decided to do some Christmas shopping followed by a trip to Temple Square to see the lights!
It was freezing cold this night and resulted in lots of red noses and purple finger tips...but it was all worth it for the photos and seeing the lights! Above: Abby and I
Abby, myself, and Dustin
Dustin and I
My Mama, Abby, Myself, and Dadda
My parents are so darling! They are the best of friends and make me laugh so hard! Xoxo
This picture does not do this tree justice! This tree has a ton of lights on it (I forgot the actual number) but literally every inch of it was covered in lights!
Hot Cocoa helped to get us through the night! It was so amazingly yummy!
She is a crack up!
I am completely memorized by lights...I love Christmas lights and especially love the lights at Temple Square!
The gals!
I am so grateful for all the many blessings I have in my life. Especially my loved friends and family! So grateful I was able to spend this Thanksgiving with so much family! xoxo

Friday, January 20, 2012

Keeping in Touch with Feelings

This talk was perfect for an emotional beast like myself! I have accepted the fact (whew finally!) that a LARGE weakness of mine is mastering and expressing my emotions. So often we are conditioned to not show any emotions other than the 'happy go lucky ones'. I mean lets just talk about how many people are put on anti-depressant medications because they aren't 'feeling' the right emotions!!! (DISCLAIMER:This is a broad statement and there are people who really do need these medications.) Lets face the facts...we all feel a HUGE variety of emotions...and it is completely one hundred percent normal!! Or weird...whichever way you want to look at it;) The key is learning how to properly express these emotions! A MASSIVE part of developing close relationships is being 'intimate' with one another. This article has given me a new-fangled (love this word!) perspective on what 'intimate' means in a relationship setting!

Keeping in Touch with Feelings
By C. Richard Chidester

It’s one of the most important things in a marriage. Yet many husbands and wives are emotionally tongue-tied.
I’d always thought I grew up in a family where a lot of sharing went on and where feelings were out in the open. Then, in graduate school, I married and I discovered that in all too many ways I still fit into the stereotype of the American male. I wanted to come across as aggressive, objective, and rational. Showing feelings openly, I thought, would be a sign of weakness or lack of control.
Yet there was plenty to make me feel unsure in the adjustments to marriage and to graduate school. As the pressures mounted, I did the worst possible thing. I clammed up.
I didn’t realize that silence communicates too; my wife, going through her own adjustments, became very uncomfortable and anxious because she didn’t know what was causing my feelings. She could only wonder: Did I hate her cooking? Was school getting me down? Was I homesick for my own family? Did I regret marrying her? She also wondered why she was so powerless to do anything about my feelings. She was happy; things were going well for her. But what was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I happy?
We were both pretty tense by the time I finally got up the courage to tell her what the pressures of school were doing to me. Then I discovered she was so receptive it was easy for me to talk to her. When I realized how she’d been feeling, I was overwhelmed. I told her how happy I was with her and our marriage and asked her not to take my moods personally when I was feeling anxious or discouraged.
Once she realized what was going on inside me, she understood. And both of us realized that the best thing she could do was just listen. I needed to feel supported in dealing with my own feelings, but she no longer felt that she had to take responsibility for changing my negative feelings into positive ones.
In some ways, that moment of true understanding was the beginning of our marriage—of being so close that we are truly one. Closeness comes on a continuum. We have “superficial” encounters with a clerk or service station attendant; we have “casual” relationships with a neighbor or someone who works in our building; we have a “close” relationship with a bishop, a friend, or a trusted colleague; we move into “involved” relationships when we are consistently sharing feelings honestly within our families or with close friends. But “intimacy,” a most profound and tender kind of closeness, is comparatively rare.
In intimate relationships, we share feelings we normally keep hidden—doubts and fears, joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. Most people marry out of a hunger for intimacy, but few achieve it. In fact, I feel that a great deal of suffering and loneliness in relationships can be traced back to a lack of intimacy.
Intimacy, then, means sharing feelings. My emotions are the key to me. Behind my behavior lies my emotions how I feel about things shapes my actions in the future. Since I interpret my experience on an emotional level, being in touch with my feelings provides my most important information about my real self. My emotional reactions tell me about my needs, my self-image, my values, my sensitivities, my fears, and my strengths. If I can recognize my feelings and ask, “Why did that comment make me anxious?” or “Why does playing with my children make me feel so good?” I am learning to know myself on a profound level.
If I can share those emotions with others, I am sharing myself. And the rewards—in feeling understood and accepted—are powerful. Another reward is in freedom; covering up emotions literally drains physical energy and causes tension.
Elder Marvin J. Ashton, commenting on the importance of communication in families, pointed out that communication is more than a sharing of words. It is the wise sharing of emotions, feelings, and concerns. It is the sharing of oneself totally.” (Ensign, May 1976, p. 52.) If sharing feelings is so important, why don’t people do it more often?—especially when I think all of us yearn for that kind of closeness. I remember one woman saying wistfully, “We’ve been married twenty-two years and I’d really like to know my husband. But he’ll never tell me how he’s feeling.” She is not the only one I’ve heard that comment from.
One reason that wistful plea has remained unanswered for twenty-two years is that intimacy also carries with it a terrifying risk. Since sharing feelings reveals so much about us, we become vulnerable. What if we are misunderstood or rejected if we share feelings?
This is a real fear, and sometimes it is justified. I know a woman who wanted to be closer to her husband, so she shared with him how hurt she felt when he was sarcastic about her in public. After this revelation, whenever this immature husband ever wanted to hurt her out of spite, he would purposely make fun of her when others were present. The toll on relationships and self-esteem in such a situation is a heavy one.
Another reason we hesitate to share our feelings comes from the expectations we pick up from others. No one is more emotionally honest than a baby; but as that baby grows up, he learns that “big boys don’t cry” and she learns that “you aren’t pretty when you pout.” Parents must teach their children to control their emotions, but instead they all too frequently teach them to repress their emotions. The delicate balance is to learn how to acknowledge emotions and to express them appropriately.
That was the situation my wife and I were in when we realized what my cover-up was doing to our own relationship. We’d both learned pretty clearly what society expected from us, and it has taken serious attention to keep us feeling close. Please believe me: it’s worth it. I know it’s worth it for our marriage, and other couples that I’ve worked with have expressed the same feelings: “We talked about things we’d never told each other before.” “I felt more warmth and love for my wife than I’ve felt for years.”
Here are some suggestions on how to deal with our feelings and share them more effectively:
1. Accept the concept that feelings are honorable. We don’t need to feel guilty about having feelings.
2. Learn to identify them properly and express them appropriately. We need to let our rational selves mediate so that we aren’t unleashing our emotions in an immature way. Thinking also helps us identify which emotions we should share openly in a healthy way and which ones we should handle privately.
3. Express emotions by describing them. For example: “Right now I’m feeling frustrated about my problems at work” or “I feel so discouraged about the way the children have been acting lately; I would really like to talk to you about it” or “I feel so much more relaxed about the way I’m handling my Sunday School class now.”
If you haven’t been used to doing this, it might be helpful to follow a simple model: When _____ happens, I feel _____ because _____. For example, if a husband neglects to call his wife when he is going to be late getting home, his wife will probably be upset. She could focus those feelings of anger outwards: “You’re the most inconsiderate person I know! The least you could do is call!” Or she could describe her feelings: “When you don’t call if you’re going to be late, I feel anxious and frightened because I’m worried something may have happened to you.”
4. Treat negative feelings respectfully, not guiltily. I’ve always been impressed with how open the Savior was about his negative feelings. In only one example, in 3 Nephi, we read that he is “troubled” because of Israel’s wickedness; but just a few verses later, he is saying, “My joy is full” because of the faithfulness of the people. (3 Ne. 17:14, 20.)
Many people feel that negative feelings are wrong, so they try to act as if they feel something else. The result is a double message, for it is simply impossible to express spontaneous love—or any other kind of positive emotion—under those circumstances. If the family rules allow the open and respectful expression of negative feelings (“When you did that, I felt hurt because …”), then positive feelings would flow more freely too.
Another temptation when you have negative feelings is to “let it all hang out.” Usually, this philosophy is actually a license to hurt. When the Apostle Paul told us to “speak … the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), I think he was telling us that we must share negative feelings in sensitive, non-threatening ways, being honest but in a way that will not make others feel defensive or put down. Sharing feelings is not an excuse to punish, blame, or insult.
5. Don’t criticize the other person’s feelings or try to change them. Only the person who has the feelings can change them. We can help most by listening and empathizing, but we may only make our mates feel worse if we say, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “I can’t imagine why you feel that way.” They may decide to stop talking to us since we only make them feel worse.
We can show empathy by supportive listening—eye contact, nods, pats, or hugs. We can also reflect our mate’s feelings by saying things such as, “It sounds as if you’re really worn out” or “You seem really happy with the way things have turned out.” Receiving our mate’s self-revelations without judgments, criticism, or rejection is so important that I wish I could think of a stronger way to say it. I think the main reason so many couples never achieve intimacy is that they can’t create a climate for real sharing by being warm and understanding when they listen. Too many of us react defensively when we hear our mate express feelings.
6. Keep in touch. Sharing feelings isn’t just for marathon sessions or crisis times. My wife and I have found it useful to get in touch with each other’s feelings each morning by asking, “How are you feeling?” or “How are you doing?” or by saying, “Today I’m feeling. …” It only takes a few moments but we know where the other person stands, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and in other ways. We have a sense of oneness and really feel motivated to be supportive and understanding. On days when we’ve neglected this “getting in touch,” I can tell the difference in just one day; and frequently the difference shows up in how effectively we relate with each other and with our children. It’s so important to keep in touch that if I leave before she wakes up in the morning, we touch base on the phone during the day.
What differences does it make to have this kind of intimacy in a home? Let me tell you what difference it makes to us. As I hold monthly interviews with my children to set goals and instruct them, the highlight for me comes when we get down to how they’re feeling about themselves, the family, school, church, the way we’re treating them, etc.
When feelings of anxiety and inferiority surface, I can get at the roots of the problems, not just the symptoms. Hearing and understanding our children’s feelings makes them feel loved. It helps us as parents adjust our behavior to deal with them more effectively. Most important, these interviews give me an open invitation to share my positive feelings about my children.
I’ll never forget the thrill I felt one night after the children had watched Heidi on television. The members of that family had talked about their love for each other and had demonstrated it in ways that moved our children. We talked about it while I helped get the children ready for bed; and suddenly one of my sons, his eyes filled with tears, reached out and put his arms around me. “Dad, I love you so much,” he cried. “I’m so grateful you’re my dad and that we can be together as a family.” Those next few moments, when I in turn shared my feelings about him, were some of the most tender of my life.
As I shared this experience later with my wife, we felt as if we were in on a great secret. This was what life was all about—developing close, loving relationships and sharing those feelings with each other. What if my son had repressed those feelings because he thought boys weren’t supposed to show emotion? That moment made the thousands of hours we’d invested in our children worth it.
Whether we recognize it, whether we are willing to admit it, that is what we all hunger for: the feeling of closeness to others, beginning with our Heavenly Father—the feeling of loving, appreciating, and prizing others and of being loved, accepted, and valued ourselves.
One night when I was down on the floor playing with my boys, one young son said, “Dad, thank you for playing with us like this. It’s really a lot more fun when you’re here.”
That statement was a double thank-you. I not only felt appreciated, I could see that my son was learning to be in touch with his feelings and express them.
As I look back over my life, the memories that really stand out are those times I’ve shared my true feelings of love with others and they’ve shared theirs with me. My father has been dead for years now, but I can still hear his voice in my mind saying, “I love you, son” or “I’m proud of you, son.”
It’s a thrilling thing when couples and families can throw off their taboos about showing emotions and can communicate about their feelings, when they listen and speak to each other with sensitivity, and when they—sometimes for the first time—experience intimacy. I’ll never forget one man who came to believe that sharing his feelings was a sign of strength, not weakness, and told his wife how he’d been feeling about himself. Seeing her receive his words with gratitude and relief and understanding, he exclaimed with the light of discovery in his face, “It’s a whole new world, isn’t it!”
That’s the point. The world of feelings is an exciting world, the place where we really live, the home of our testimonies and joys and sorrows—all of the things that make us uniquely human.