Monday, October 20, 2014

In honor of Pregnancy/Infant loss awareness month, and in memory of Richard Loren Best

Most big sisters wait about nine months to meet their baby brother.  I've been waiting years to meet mine.  Richard Loren would be 38 years old this month, had he survived his first day.

A few years back, I taught a Primary class that Jesus Christ is our older brother and loves us so much that he volunteered to be our Savior.  I told the class that brothers and sisters have a natural love for each other that comes from being part of a family.  As an example, I talked about my younger brother, explaining that I have always loved him even though I've never met him.  I compared this love to the love which Jesus Christ must have for us because He is our brother.
Christ with the children.

A boy in my class spoke up.  Alex (name has been changed) told me that he had a little sister who died while she was a baby.  Alex talked about how much his family still loved the little girl, and told us that they continue to celebrate her birthday every year.

When I was a child, my parents taught me that families are forever, and because my parents had been married in the Mesa LDS temple, my brother would always be my brother.  I believed them because they were my parents and I trusted them implicitly.  Since then I've come to know for myself.  God gave us the gift of eternal families so that we may be tied to our loved ones no matter how much distance separates us, or if that separation is death.  I thank my Heavenly Father that He, knowing how much we would love our family members, provided a way for us to always be tied together. Families are forever.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lessons learned from Martin Harris, Lucy Harris, and the Lost 116 pages

Martin Harris
Painting by Lewis A Ramsey
Source:  Wikimedia Commons
I have heard certain LDS church history stories told so many times that I tend to stop paying attention whenever they come up.  The story of Martin Harris and the lost 116 pages is one of these.   The story begins, and half my brain goes to sleep.  Even just half awake, though, something bugged me about this story:  what was Martin Harris thinking?  I mean, if I were friends with the Prophet, and had a testimony that the man was indeed a prophet of God, and if that friend and prophet told me that something I wanted to do was a bad idea, I’d drop the whole plan.  I could never figure out where Martin Harris was coming from.

The church history section of has a series of essays called Revelations in Context, one of which is The Contributions of Martin Harris.  This essay contained an account of the lost 116 pages story, so I was quickly scanning the essay with half a brain.  Yes, yes, I ‘ve heard this since Primary  . . . the point will be don’t nag God . . . but God is omniscient so he’s already planned a solution . . . and also God is merciful . . . I know this part of the story . . . And then I came to an abrupt stop because I read:  “Martin and Lucy’s relationship was already strained, and Martin’s support of Joseph Smith caused the rift between them to deepen.”  This was a part of the story I hadn’t heard before.

It turns out that Lucy Harris initially believed that Joseph Smith possessed the Gold Plates and wanted to help finance their translation, but later changed her mind. From The Contributions of Martin Harris:
Though Harris came to believe quite sincerely, his wife had turned hostile. Lucy Harris was concerned, quite understandably, that Martin might take a large financial risk to help publish the book, that her peers would mock her husband’s participation in what they viewed as a fraudulent scheme, and that Martin had simply left her feelings out of his calculations. She was also stung by the way Joseph rebuffed her every attempt to see the plates, and she beleaguered Martin incessantly to see some evidence of Joseph’s ability to translate.
To ease Lucy’s disquiet, Harris asked Joseph to “enquire of the Lord through the Urim and Thummin” if he might “carry the writings home and exibit them” (Joseph Smith, History, circa 1841, fair copy, 14, Joseph Smith Papers) to his wife and others. 
Another picture of Martin Harris, this one from a photograph
That was my missing piece of information, the reason I never quite understood the story.  I couldn’t understand bugging the prophet until God changed His mind, but I can understand conflict in marriage.  I could not identify with Martin Harris before, but I can now.  I don’t see Martin Harris as a fool anymore; I see him as a man torn between his family and his faith.  He had a testimony and he wanted his wife to believe also. 

Now, on to some things I’ve learned from this expanded version of the story.

First, Faith comes when we don’t have all the information but choose to believe anyway.  Neither Lucy nor Martin got to see the gold plates while Joseph Smith translated them.  Eventually, Martin Harris would see the plates, but Martin Harris did not have a testimony because he saw them.  His testimony had been founded long before, when he did not seen but chose to believe.  Something similar happens when I don’t understand something in the gospel, but choose to believe anyway. 

Second, some dating advice for my kids.  I remember YW leaders and seminary teachers giving lots of dating advice.  One piece of advice, often repeated, was “only date members of the Church,” which always worked for about ten minutes, when a student would point out somebody we knew who was married to a nonmember who later converted, or who had married in the temple and later divorced.  The teachers and advisors never knew quite how to respond to this point.  Now I think I have some better advice for my children:  only date people, church members or not, who respect your testimony and honor your choices.  The strain in the Harris’ relationship didn’t come because one was a church member and one wasn’t, or because one had a testimony and one didn’t.  It was because one had a testimony and the other tried to undermine it.

Which brings me to my third point, love thy neighbor, but love thy testimony more.  In other words, as I love and serve others, I should worry more about what the Lord thinks of my choices than what my loved ones think of my choices.  Generally, this isn’t a problem, because keeping the first great commandment involves keeping the second, (See Matt 22:36-39) but sometimes standing up for my beliefs means disagreeing with people I love.  When this happens it’s really tough.  I feel bad for Lucy, worrying about what her friends would think if Martin mortgaged the farm, and I feel bad for Martin, who must have felt caught between love for his wife and love for God. 

Strange that a small piece of information that I didn’t know before changed my entire outlook toward a story I’ve heard for years.  I’m glad I read the essay.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Happy Pentecost! (Wait, what's Pentecost?)

"There appeared unto them cloven tongues"
public domain art via 
And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks [Shavuot, or Pentecost] unto the Lord thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the Lord thy God, according as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee:  And thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God (Deuteronomy 16:10-11)

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they [the Apostles] were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1)

The Christian celebration of Pentecost is this Saturday, 7 June 2014.  The Jewish Pentecost, or Shavuot, is slightly earlier in 2014:  It began at sunset on 3 June and lasts until sunset 5 June.  Latter-day Saints do not typically celebrate Pentecost, though it is mentioned in our scriptures and Sunday School lessons.  So I wondered, as it approached this year, what is it?

Nuremberg Chronicles, 1493
Hartmann Schedel [Public domain],
 via Wikimedia Commons
Pentecost is the Greek name for the Hebrew holy day Shavuot, called the “feast of weeks” or the “feast of firstfruits” in the King James Version of the Bible (See Exodus 34:22) .  In Israel, the winter wheat is harvested after Passover, and the Law of Moses specifies that the Israelites were to celebrate Shavuot 50 days after Passover as a day of thanksgiving for the harvest.   The Israelites were to bring freewill offerings to the tabernacle, later to the temple.  These offerings included fruit, sheaves of wheat, and bread made from newly harvested wheat (see Deuteronomy16:9-12).  Additionally, according to Jewish tradition, the Children of Israel had walked from Egypt to Mt. Sinai in the 49 days following the first Passover, where they then received the Torah.   Shavuot, then, became a holy day to express thanks for two blessings:  the harvest and the scriptures. 

In the feast of Pentecost described in Acts 2, Jesus’ apostles met to celebrated Pentecost at Jerusalem, presumably so they could donate their freewill offerings to the temple.  According to Acts 2:5, Jerusalem was full of “devout men, out of every nation under Heaven,” likely for the same reason.  While the Apostles met, the Holy Ghost fell upon them, sounding like a rushing wind, appearing like tongues of flame, granting the Apostles the gift of tongues and giving Peter the courage to bear testimony of Christ to over 3,000 people.  The early Christians would soon stop keeping the Law of Moses, but would continue to celebrate Pentecost, changing the purpose of the day from thanksgiving to worshipping the Holy Spirit. 

Modern-day Jews continue to keep the feast of weeks as best as they can without a temple.  The devout do not sleep the first night of the feast, instead spending the entire time reading the Torah.  Many Israeli Jews spend the night attending tikkunim, community celebrations where the attendees spend the night in fellowship, study, and pageants.  In the synagogues the congregations re-read the Book of Ruth, which probably took place during this time of year.  The next day many families celebrate with a thanksgiving meal that includes dairy products, such as cheesecake, because the word of God in the Torah is sweet like milk and honey (

  Torah inside the former Glockengasse Synagogue in Cologne
By Horsch, Willy
 [GFDL (
 or CC-BY-3.0 (],
via Wikimedia Commons
Rabbis teach that the most important lesson of Shavuot is the covenant between the Lord and Israel.  The Torah given at Mt. Sinai is a symbol of that covenant.  Shavuot marks the anniversary of the covenant, the day in which God set Israel apart and made them His people.  They explain that the importance of the Book of Ruth is that a woman who was not an Israelite by birth accepted the covenant and became part of the covenant people.  Jewish teenagers who wish to reaffirm their commitment to the Jewish covenant often will choose to be confirmed at the time of Shavuot. 

The rabbis tell us that the Torah is the ketubah between God and the Jewish people. A ketubah is sometimes called a wedding contract, but it is better called a covenant. It enshrines sacred obligations. Jews are a covenantal people; we are bound to one another and to God by the idea of everlasting, mutual obligation. Sinai was the chuppah, and Shavuot is our anniversary.
Rabbi David Wolpe

For Christians, Pentecost also marks a time of covenant.  Christians, particularly Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans, teach that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost marked the complete fulfillment of the Old Covenant under the Law of Moses and marked the beginning of the New Covenant, or New Testament.  Many Christian denominations consider Pentecost the birthday of Christianity, just as many Jews consider Pentecost the birthday of Judaism.  In Christianity’s early days, Pentecost Sunday was one of the few days in which new converts could be baptized, symbolizing their entry into the new covenant.  The Church of England, in fact, calls the feast day Whitsunday rather than Pentecost Sunday, meaning “white Sunday,” referring to the color of the clothes the new Christians wore at baptism. 

I am impressed enough with the things I learned while studying Pentecost that my family is going to celebrate it this year (a couple of days late so as to fall on Family Home Evening.)  We will talk about why the scriptures are important.  I will help my daughter with the middle name Ruth tell the story of the woman behind her name.  We will review our baptismal covenants.  And we’re definitely going to eat cheesecake.

Friday, May 9, 2014

An Ensign article by Sister Holland made me feel better about Mothers' Day

Few women are quite comfortable with Mothers' Day.  The holiday brings out the motherhood-insecurities in all of us.  Personally, my phobia is that I won't make it into Heaven because I don't enjoy  the traditional feminine homemaker-y activities that I imagine are loved by women who are, therefore, better mothers than I.  Deep down, I worry that upon looking at my life review, St. Peter will shake his head and say, "You didn't bake casseroles or scrapbook?  You never sewed your girls' prom dresses or canned  your produce?  I'm sorry, Sister Abbott, but you can't come in."  An irrational insecurity, probably, but there you go.

Patrica Holland, in 1987, wrote an article for the Ensign that makes me feel a little bit better.  "For three-fourths of my life," she wrote,

I felt threatened to the core because I hated to sew. Now, I can sew; if it is absolutely necessary, I will sew—but I hate it. Can you imagine my burden over the last twenty-five or thirty years, “faking it” in Relief Society sessions and trying to smile when six little girls walk into church all pinafored and laced and ribboned and petticoated—in identical, hand-sewn dresses, all trooping ahead of their mother, who has a similar outfit? I don’t necessarily consider my attitude virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy, but I’m honest in my antipathy toward sewing (Holland, Patricia. "One thing needful:  Becoming women of greater faith in Christ." Ensign October 1987).
Elder and Sister Holland in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 2013
Photo courtesy South America South Area,
Now it's my turn to be honest.  At first, reading this article made me feel better because somebody else had an insecurity like mine, and this somebody else had been a first counselor in the General Young Women's Presidency and was the wife of an Apostle, no less. Upon reflection, however, I think my favorite bit of the article is something Sister Holland wrote toward the beginning, before she admitted that she hates to sew.

Sister Holland wrote about visiting the Holy Land just after her release from the General YW Presidency.  She'd felt overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of motherhood, of church leadership, and of being First Lady of BYU.  The release eased some of her responsibilities, but replaced them with feelings of loneliness and loss of identity.  Exhausted, she sat overlooking the Sea of Galilee, read from the New Testament, and hoped for comfort.  She wrote of the healing she received that day:
The Sea of Galilee
Photo taken by Zachi Evenor
via Wikimedia Commons
Our loving Father in Heaven seemed to be whispering to me, “You don’t have to worry over so many things. The one thing that is needful—the only thing that is truly needful—is to keep your eyes toward the sun—my Son [sic].” Suddenly I had true peace. I knew that my life had always been in his hands—from the very beginning! The sea [of Galilee] lying peacefully before my eyes had been tempest-tossed and dangerous—many, many times. All I needed to do was to renew my faith, and get a firm grasp on his hand—and together we could walk on the water (ibid.)

The most difficult Relief Society lesson I taught was one on motherhood.  My ward Relief Society consisted of all types of mothers:  mothers with husbands and mothers without; mothers of many children, few children, and no children; mothers of biological children, of adopted children, and of stepchildren; mothers of rebellious children and mothers of obedient children.  How, I worried, could I present a lesson on motherhood without hurting the feelings of some of these sisters—my friends—in my Relief Society?

I found the solution to my dilemma when I realized that I needed to talk about the Atonement.  Different women have different insecurities and challenges, but all women have them, and Christ gives us the ability to overcome them all.

Sister Holland's Ensign article reminded me of what I had learned from my Relief Society lesson.   Basically, the Atonement isn't just for the religion part of my life.  It is for all of my life, motherhood included.  It is not possible for me to be the perfect mother—whatever that is.  However, God can take my efforts and, through the grace of Christ, make them enough.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Joseph Smith, Charles Finney, and the Burned-Over District

“Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion,” wrote Joseph Smith, Jr., in his History.  “It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country.  Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!”  Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist” (Joseph Smith-History1:5).
Joseph Smith, Jr.
The United States, in 1820, was in the midst of the Second Great Awakening.  Responding to new-found freedom of religion as individual states disestablished state churches, people explored different denominations and chose from among them.  When Joseph Smith referred to an “unusual excitement on the subject of religion,” he wasn’t kidding:  the particular area of New York where the Smith family lived was so overrun with religious meetings that historians have dubbed it the “Burned-over district.” 

From 1825-1828 Presbyterian minister Charles Finney worked in the Burned-over district to bring souls to Christ.  His tool of choice was the revival.  Though controversial in his methods, Finney used the revival with much success, and other preachers approached him for advice.  In 1834 he taught a class of Presbyterian preachers how to conduct revivals; a year later he published these Lectures on Revivals of Religion in book form. 
Charles Grandison Finney
Photograph ca. 1850
Source:  Wikimedia Commons
Finney began his Lectures by explaining what a revival was, and continued by explaining why it was necessary.  A revival injected new spiritual life into the congregation and community.  Without this spiritual renewal, Finney argued, Christians would be distracted from serving God and backslide into sin.  Finney explained:
Men are so spiritually sluggish, there are so many things to lead their minds off from religion, and to oppose the influence of the Gospel, that it is necessary to raise an excitement among them, till the tide rises so high as to sweep away the opposing obstacles. They must be so excited that they will break over these counteracting influences, before they will obey God. . . . Hence it is necessary to awaken men to a sense of guilt and danger, and thus produce an excitement of counter feeling and desire which will break the power of carnal and worldly desire and leave the will free to obey God. (Finney, Lecture 1.)
Further, without the excitement produced by a revival, nonbelievers (Finney called them sinners) would never humble themselves enough to feel the Holy Spirit and be converted through Christ’s grace.  It was the church’s duty to help save nonbelievers and backsliders through holding periodic revivals.  “There is no other way in which a church can be sanctified, grow in grace, and be fitted for heaven” (Finney, Lecture 2, Section II(6)).
Lithograph of revival ca. 1830
“A revival consists of two parts,” wrote Finney (Lecture 3).  First, the preacher encouraged listeners to examine their sins and confess them, in this way breaking down their pride and making them humble.  Finney provided the example:   
 ”If there is a sinner in this house, let me say to him, Abandon all your excuses. You have been told to-night that they are all vain. To-night it will be told in hell, and told in heaven, and echoed from the ends of the universe, what you decide to do. This very hour may seal your eternal destiny. Will you submit to God to-night—NOW?”  

A revival’s second part consisted of prayer, pleading with the Lord to pour out His Spirit among the congregants and grant them forgiveness and conversion.  Again, from Finney:
“Now, my brethren, I have only to ask you, in regard to what I have preached to-night, “Will you do it?”. . . Have you gone over with your sins, and confessed them, and got them all out of the way? Can you pray now? And will you join and offer prevailing prayer, that the Spirit of God may come down here? “(Finney, Lecture 4, Remarks (3)). 
If the minister and the church members had done everything right up to this point, God would indeed pour out his Spirit on the congregation and sinners would be converted.

Revival meetings worked well during the Second Great Awakening because the evangelical tradition of the time taught that individuals needed to have a conversion experience to receive God’s grace, and the excitement produced at a revival brought many people the conversion experience they looked for.  In the Smith family, Lucy Mack Smith, Hyrum, Samuel Harrison, and Sophronia felt satisfied with conversion experiences they had felt while attending Presbyterian revivals (see Joseph Smith-History 1:7).  Joseph Smith, however, never experienced such a life-altering conversion during the revivals that he attended, so he looked for one elsewhere, in a grove of trees near his family’s home.  This time he obtained the experience he sought. 
The Sacred Grove
The more history I learn, the more convinced I am that God influences the world.  God inspired leaders in state governments to disestablish religion, ensuring that a fourteen-year-old boy would have many different sects to choose from, and feel comfortable with none of them.  God created an atmosphere where people believed in sudden miracle conversions, so that Joseph Smith Jr. would look for one, and not be content until he found it. Finally, when Joseph prayed in the sacred grove, God provided the First Vision. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

An Art History Class Becomes an Impromptu Lesson on Body Image

“I have a soapbox,” I announced to the third grade class yesterday afternoon.  “It’s not really about art history, but I think it’s important.  Let me talk about this for a minute and then we’ll discuss Neoclassical and Romantic art.”

I went on to explain that the day before, as I was choosing which pictures to show the class, I’d looked at several by a Neoclassic painter named Ingres.  As I looked at his portraits and his female nudes, I thought to myself, women aren’t shaped like that. 
Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere
by Jean August Dominique Ingres, 1806
Source:  Wikimedia Commons

“Look at this picture,” I continued, holding up Mademoiselle Caroline Riviere.  Several kids noticed immediately that something was off.  “The woman’s neck is too long and too thin, and the nose is longer than a real woman’s nose.  The artist painted the woman in a way to make the whole painting pretty. He wasn’t trying to paint her like she really looked.   But let’s pretend for a minute that your teacher, Miss P., is a third grader in the 1800’s, and let’s pretend that she doesn’t know that this isn’t how the woman really looked.  Miss P.  just thinks the picture is very beautiful.  Miss P. wants to look just like the woman in the picture, so she can be beautiful too.  But she can’t, because her neck and nose aren’t long enough.  How do you think Miss P. is going to feel about herself after a while?

“There are lots of pictures in magazines and catalogues today that are like this painting:  The person in the picture isn’t real.  The person who made the magazine picture changed the way the person looked so that the whole picture looks pretty.  The problem is if somebody today thinks the person in the picture is real, and if they can’t look like the fake person in the picture, they feel bad about themselves.  But Miss P. is beautiful just because she’s Miss P., and all you girls are beautiful just because you’re you, and all you boys are handsome just because you’re you.”

I debated bringing this up in third grade because I volunteer to teach art history, not ethics.  And I debated putting this up on my blog because it doesn’t really fit the theme of history of Christianity.  I decided to, anyway, both times, because I can’t stop thinking about how I felt as I looked at those ill-proportioned pictures of women.  I’m not particularly bothered that Ingress painted women with an eye to the overall composition of the painting instead of an eye to what women really looked like.  Instead, I’m concerned because I’ve just realized that women have been “photoshopped” for a long time--much longer than I’d considered.

I have five kids, ages 14 to 5.  I’ve dealt with body image concerns from my daughters and my sons.  Yes, I think it’s ok to be in a ballet class even though you don’t think you’re shaped like what you think a ballerina is shaped like.  No, I don’t think it’s a problem that you’re little sister is as tall as you, though I understand why you’re angry when people think you’re twins.  No, I don’t think anyone notices that your eyes aren’t quite symmetrical, and I think that even if they did notice, it’s not important.   After looking at Ingres’ pictures, I understand better why my kids (and many adults) have such a hard time getting this.  We look at pictures that portray beauty in unrealistic ways.  And we’ve been doing it for over two hundred years, not just since the invention of photography and digitally altering images.

My kids, and all the kids in third grade, need something better than they get from Ingres.  They need to know that they’re children of God, and this alone makes them beautiful.  So yesterday I took time out of art history to teach this message to third graders as best as I could.  Next week I’ll present a similar lesson in family home evening.  I decided to post my soapbox on my blog, too, as some people who read my blog aren’t in my family or Miss P.’s third grade class.

We are children of God, and that is enough to make us beautiful.

Friday, March 14, 2014

2014 Church History Symposium part 1: A Small Leaf in the Forest of God’s Knowledge

Soviet army visor cap
Picture taken by Tom Abbott
I don’t remember much of international relations and politics during the Cold War.  I was too young.  Germans could legally cross the Berlin Wall beginning on my fifteenth birthday, and the USSR collapsed when I was seventeen.  I remember that when the Iron Curtain came down, it happened quickly, stunning the adults I knew.  I remember a teacher in my high school seminary musing that he had thought the Church would never be allowed to enter Eastern Europe while he lived, but now it seemed that it could happen after all.  Looking back, God had been working in Eastern Europe all along, using small means to create a miracle that would confound the wise.

Several of the sessions I attended at the Church History symposium March 6 and 7 addressed this theme, God’s ability to confound the wise people of the world.  President Uchtdorf, in his keynote address March 7, discussed how our wisdom may look like foolishness to God, whose foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of man.  He said God knows what we do not.  God is good and faithful and sometimes performs His work in ways that are incomprehensible to us.  God asks us to have faith.  Those who disregard the powers of Heaven will find themselves on the wrong side of history. 
My Piece of the Berlin Wall
Picture taken by Tom Abbott
As an example, President Uchtdorf retold the story about President Monson promising the Saints of the GDR that if they remained faithful they would enjoy every blessing available to people in in any other country (For this story as told by President Monson, see Thanks be to God, Ensign May 1989).  At the time President Monson gave the promise, President Uchtdorf couldn’t imagine it being fulfilled during President Uchtdorf’s lifetime.  The evidence of the world contradicted the word of an apostle.  Ten years later, when Sister Uchtdorf overheard a rumor that a temple was going to be built in East Germany, both she and President Uchtdorf dismissed it.  A few days afterward, however, the church announced the Freiburg temple. 

The previous day of the symposium, Thursday March 6, I listened to Clint Christensen tell another story about God leading the church and confounding the wise.  His presentation was entitled Ebony Grafted onto the Olive Tree:  The Global Impact of the 1978 Revelation.  During the 1970’s, Brother Christensen said, President Kimball felt it was time to preach the gospel in more countries.  He looked for ways to expand missionary work around the world.  One of the difficulties he encountered concerned how to take the gospel to Africa, the islands of the Caribbean, and Latin America, because so many of the men who live in these parts of the world are of African descent and at this time could not hold the priesthood.  Without local priesthood holders, the Church could not set up wards or stakes, call missionaries or patriarchs, or perform temple ordinances in these areas.  President Kimball prayed for inspiration.  How was he to take the gospel to the world?  The answer eventually came via the 1978 revelation on the priesthood.  Today people of African descent serve as patriarchs, stake presidents, mission presidents, temple presidents, and General Authorities.  During this presentation, I realized that President Kimball had not known how to take the gospel message to Africa, the Caribbean, or Latin America.  But God knew, and opened up a way (To read a version of this story as told by President Hinkley, see Priesthood Restoration, Ensign October 1988).
Accra Ghana temple

After the 1978 revelation opened doors in Africa, Church membership in Ghana grew rapidly.  This, combined with Cold War anti-American sentiment, led to the 1989 “freeze,” during which time the government of Ghana suspended all activity of the LDS church.  J.B. Haws discussed The Freeze and the Thaw:  Church and State in Ghana in his address which immediately followed Brother Christensen’s.  From his address I learned about yet another time when the wisdom of the world suggested that things were going badly for the Church.  God was working behind the scenes, however, and after eighteen months of the freeze, leaders of other congregations convinced the government of Ghana that Ghana needed freedom of religion.  God even turned the seeming setback into a blessing:  the increased media exposure of the LDS church during the freeze led to a sudden increase in church interest at the beginning of the thaw.
"We have only one leaf from the vast forest of knowledge"
-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Picture from

President Uchtdorf compared all human knowledge to one leaf in the forest of God’s wisdom.  He counseled:  There are times when things appear to be going badly for the truth of God.  Be patient.  Things will work out.  God will succeed.  The truth will spread throughout the earth.  Stay calm and carry on.  Things which appear impossible now may become commonplace in years to come. 

Or as my husband likes to say, “God is in control of the world.  Satan doesn’t win a round.” 

Note:  President Uchtdorf’s entire keynote address can be viewed on YouTube here.