Saying Goodbye

We are so grateful to Miss Lisa, who so graciously hosted us and fed us and cared for our children and poured herself out for us this week.


She is the one that has so diligently educated us about PRS, the medical intervention options for our baby, and advocacy ideas.

So grateful!

Chaplain Training, Day Two

So while I was wrestling Alex and the Baby at the chaplaincy training, Nathan and the kids were out doing fun stuff like visiting more temples:

And going to museums:

And going on hikes:

And meeting more of Nathan’s family:

My day was just as adventurous, but in a conference-ey kind of way.

The first talk was Elder Lawrence, who spoke the entire time about the adversary.  While I have obviously heard references to the adversary from time to time, and it’s obviously a part of doctrine and in the scriptures, I have never before heard an entire talk just on this topic.  He gave his witness, though, that the devil is real and at work.  It was very intense, and something I will never forget.

He told us that we have the right to send the devil away, and that we especially should when we face temptation.  He also talked about the false messages from the devil: no one cares, I’m just bothering people, I’m a failure, Everyone else is doing it… And then he said the next time the devil tells you “everyone else is doing it,” to just say that you don’t want to go to the telestial kingdom just because everyone else is!  He spoke about the counterfeits of the devil, like lust instead of love, and sorcery instead of miracles, etc.  The primary goals of the devil are to stir up contention, pervert relationships, and time attacks against our personal preparations for power, such as Sunday mornings, temple trips, sealings, etc.  He also said that contention will always drive away the Spirit, regardless of who is at fault, and that fault-finding is only a distraction the devil uses so that we don’t notice the Spirit is already gone.

He even said the devil holds General Conference the same time we do, trying to copy and pervert our ways of spreading the gospel.

He said that Satan does not just want us to choose bad, but wants us to forget we are at war.

It was profound, and intense.

There was also a talk from Dr. Michael MacKay (BYU) about leadership, which tied in as far as the previous talk referencing false prophets.  This talk was talking about leadership by magnifying callings, but those callings being from the Lord and not something we aspire to or “deserve”.  He said we never “deserve” a calling or position in the church, and even if called then we must be humble and we must have the Holy Spirit.  The talk was structured so that it compared Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey, and how by professional resume Oliver actually “deserved” more to be prophet: he witnessed the translation, was given the gift to translate, was given the power to baptize, was ordained an apostle, had permission to ordain elders, called forth to establish the church, commanded to choose the twelve, was one of three witnesses, printed the manuscript, and edited the articles of the church.  Except the problem was that he challenged the prophet’s authority.  It wasn’t Oliver that was called as prophet, but it was Joseph.  Although, if Oliver had not apostatized, he would have been the senior apostle and probably would have been prophet after Joseph Smith.

In leadership, we must rely on the Spirit and not ourselves, and do things according to the Lord’s will and not our own way.

No one – not men or women, he said – no one “deserves” the priesthood, because it’s not something we can demand or objectify.  Social movements don’t dictate our prophets or revelations from God.  We seek after the Lord, and humbly serve Him.

There were other talks that I missed pieces of because Alex needed eighteen trips to the bathroom, and this girl was busy learning how to hold her bottle with her feet.

At lunch, I met a chaplain and his wife who have a son with cochlear implants!

The afternoon talks were the director of LDS Charities, and a female chaplain from Salt Lake City area, but I was changing diapers and wrestling a six year old and putting the baby down for a nap and missed most of that.

Elder Carlson spoke to us after that, and he talked about the importance of personal devotions (prayer, scripture study, pondering, meditation, and acting in faith).  He also directed us to meditate for ten minutes a day about the Savior, everyday, besides our time in prayer or study.  We include this in our monthly reports, and he encouraged us to write about these experiences.  That will be quite the challenge for me, I think.

Nathan and all the children joined me for the closing apostle talk, and it was Elder Anderson who spoke to us.  He said the first chaplain in the United States was the son of Heber C Kimball.  He talked to us about the objectives of the quorum of the twelve apostles, and that these are to build faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to strengthen families.  He took us through a study of D&C 130:18-19, D&C 76:96-98, 109; and D&C 138:26, 28, 30, 31.  He spoke about how there are many environments – like counseling or even most chaplaincy contexts – where we are not allowed to proselytize, or circumstances where people are not interested.

This does not change our obligation or covenant to testify, however, and there are still ways in these contexts to testify.

We might just share principles without using church words, or talk about our families, or share about things we learn or experience spiritually.  He said this still prepares people for work they will continue on the other side of the veil.  We are running out of time for conversion in this lifetime, he said, and in so many cases people refuse to even go there.  But the people around us can still be prepared for further conversion on the other side of the veil, and so it is important that we do not stop testifying. The knowledge we give them now goes with them through the veil, and it will help them.  There are many glories, he said, and these will be given liberally and graciously.  Anything we can give them now will still prepare them.

He quoted President Monson, who said,

“The worth of a soul is its capacity to become like God.”

He also quoted President Nelson, who said,

“Teach them who they are.”

This means finding ways to testify that we are children of God.

We do live and work in a pluralistic society, though, and should never judge or condemn or be cruel.  The Lord is not condescending, he said, though He is full of truth.  We do not hedge on truth, but we do speak in tones of compassion and love.

When we want to teach others line upon line, testifying in informal ways, the things we can share with them (in order) are:

  • There is a personal God.
  • I am a child of God.
  • There is right and wrong.
  • I will choose the right.
  • The Son of God made eternal life possible.
  • I will sacrifice for my family.
  • Families are the organization of heaven.

These are the stair steps, in order, that we progress through in conversion as the Spirit confirms truth to us.

It was very powerful, and made me think again about my children and my work and the ways to better use my words to testify in bold ways that are still loving and gentle and uplifting, even to those not of our faith.

We met with Elder Anderson after the training was over, and the kids all hugged him and told him about getting adopted and getting sealed and about what a long drive it is to Utah.  He was so delighted!  He was so kind to them, and very patient, and very tender with them.  We had special blessings and moments and conversation I do not want to forget.

When this was over, we needed to be outside.  Alex and I had a long day of meetings, and all of us will be back in the car again, so we needed to play.  We walked back over to temple square, and toured the visitor center so they could learn more about how it was all built and see the model of the inside.  They were especially excited to take their picture with President Monson:


You know how so many times you work and work and work and work at getting information into the heads of the children, and you never think it will stick?

Other times they surprise you.

We walked into these gardens near the temple, and Alex ran up and just randomly and without prompting goes, “Oh, look, you guys!  It’s Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey!  They are getting the Melchizedek Priesthood!  And those big guys must be Peter, James, and John!  I know all about that!”

The kids knew this was John the Baptist, too, and that it was about the Aaronic priesthood and baptism, and that this is why it had to be John the Baptist who did that for them!  I was so excited they had even put so many stories together!


Right after we took this picture, we passed a shabby and dirty looking man crouching on the corner.  He was holding a sign, and the kids stopped to look at them.  I let them, because I want them to have wide-open eyes.  They were safe, and there was no reason to filter, not if they are going to actually learn.  It’s scary parenting because I never know what’s going to come out of their mouths, but they have to practice, right?

Seven:  Hey, man!  What does your sign say?
Man:  It’s says I’m homeless, and I am hungry.
Alex:  Didn’t you eat lunch?
Man:  No, I have not eaten in four days.
Seven:  You need to eat every day.
Man:  I don’t have any money to eat.
Alex:  You should eat at your house.
Man:  I don’t have a house.
Seven:  I didn’t have a house once.
Anber:  Me too!
Alex:  Me too!
Kirk:  Once, my brother and I lived in a trailer with our mom, but those people wanted it back so we had to leave.
Man:  That’s kind of what happened to me.
Alex:  You sleep on the sidewalk?
Man:  Sometimes, but the police will tell me to move and sleep somewhere else.
Seven:  Sometimes my mom just made me walk all the time and we did not have any place to sleep.
Alex: I lived in a van.
Anber: My other mom locked me in a trunk.
Man:  That’s terrible.
Alex: I’m sorry you don’t have food.
Seven: Or money.
Kirk: Or a house.
Anber: Yeah. That’s bad.
Barrett:  Yeah, that’s bad.

And then know what those kids did?  Without any prompting?  They dug around in the bottom of the stroller, and pulled out their cheese and crackers we had saved for a snack on the way home, and they gave them to the man.

They stood there and stared wide-eyed and mouths open as he ripped open the packages and nearly swallowed them whole.

This guy was a legit hungry guy.

He meekly whispered a thank you between bites, and I started to move the children along so they wouldn’t just stand there and stare, but then you know what happened next?

Anber, of all people, ANBER, out of all the children it was Anber who started it.

She turned back and ran to that man and gave him a hug.

And then all the kids ran back to him and gave him a hug.

They just stood there, with him crumpled in the middle of their huddle, for a long time, while the kids just held him.

And he cried.

And they offered him some wipes.

And then he finished his crackers and Nathan showed up with the van for us to go, and they waved him goodbye.

And it was maybe the best day ever as a parent.

Chaplain Training, Day One

Angels, seen and unseen, have brought you here.

That’s how my morning started, very early, a blessing even before breakfast, at the church office building.

All day today and tomorrow is chaplain training for the church.

The Very Reverend Father Nabil Haddad, from the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, spoke this morning during chaplain training.  He spoke about being a minority in Jordan, and how Christians are called as witnesses.  Christians failing to be witnesses, he said, have caused problems and unknowingly kept their communities in the minority, so that now when they do try to testify it agitates those around them until whole countries are in crisis.

We, all of us, belong to God, he said, and so it is time for us to be godly in our relationships.

We cannot be in relationships if we isolate from each other.

We cannot isolate ourselves by failing to witness, or by failing to participate in our communities.  The people who need our testimonies are endangered, and we endanger ourselves as a people when we cut ourselves off.  As chaplains, we have the responsibility to spread a message of peace, even unity, to our families, our communities, and our people.  Our message is one that God is love, and so we must also love our neighbors rather than hating them or avoiding them.

My role as chaplain is not restricted to a specific assignment or calling, but who I am, all the time, and who my voice invites the people to become.

Dr. Yahya Al Batoush, the Grand Mufti of the Jordanian Armed Forces, was also here and wanted dialogue.  He said that terrorism is a construct that has become an industry, and that industry cuts off life and happiness while many benefit from it – but that this brings the wrath of God upon us.  He spoke about Islam, and that pure Islam is not about killing people.  In pure Islam, he said, there is no killing or oppression, but that the enemy infiltrates the religion in order to destroy it.  He urged us to work together to protect covenants, families, and respect for women.

RADM Margaret G. Kibben, Chief of Navy Chaplains, also spoke this morning, though I did not speak to her individually.  She said there is a divine aspect to intuition, and we must learn the language of a people to better serve them.  This “language” is often not about a spoken language, so much as meeting people where they are and speaking with them about things they know rather than engaging in theological battles.  Even when our theological perspective is counter to the language of the people, we are still called to meet them where they are and invite them toward God – isolating them by demanding our own agenda means we have already blown the privilege granted to us.

There are still only a handful of women LDS chaplains, but also only a roomful of men.  We are few, but strong, they say.  One of the other women is Dr. Barbara Morgan, the Director of Institute in Boston and a chaplain for Harvard/MIT.  She spoke to us at lunch, and encouraged us to remain up to date on the prophet’s teachings.  It is good to know the past discourses, and a solid foundation to study the other prophets of this dispensation.  But the Lord needs us to know what is true for us right now, and while the principals of the gospel do not change, the application of them to our lives is critical and the whole reason we have modern prophets and apostles.  She also reminded us not to drown in our work and callings, that we put the Lord first, and then our spouse, and then our children, and then the work.

The afternoon was spent in orientation, since the church just endorsed women chaplains this year, so we all had to be here.  It turns out we have to be here every October for the rest of forever.  I don’t know if we can always bring the whole family, because it seems so impossible and not practical, but that is not a worry for today.  I am just processing so much.  My mind and heart are full!

The orientation was simple.  It covered the different categories the church endorses (military, healthcare, institutional, public safety, education, corporate, and civic), and the requirements (active in the church, temple worthy, Bishop interview, Stake President interview, Endorsement Committee interview, psych eval, General Authority interview, 2 years of CPE and educational experience, monthly reports, annual Stake President interview, annual interviews and training in Salt Lake).  Types of ministries include moral, ethical, and spiritual advisors; deliver talks and sermons; offer prayers in community settings; conduct memorial and funeral services not at the LDS chapel (which are conducted by Bishop), provide ministry of presence, provide pastoral counseling, assist the sick and dying, and perform casualty and death notifications.

I do not do infant baptisms or marriages.  I can accommodate namings, blessings, communion services, and last rites by adapting what is being requested into prayer, song, or non-ordinance service, or by connecting them to the appropriate priesthood leader, or by facilitating the appropriate leader of another faith.  The details of all this, far more in depth than would make interesting reading, was given to us and clarified in depth and also sent to my stake president.  We also went over the code of ethics for chaplains and the applicable laws.

The closing talk was then given by Elder Wood, who is also on the Military Advisory Committee.  He spoke about the Sabbath, which I loved since we have studied it so much this year.  He said that creation is purposeful, and neither random nor accidental.  He said that civilization is based on cultivation, construction, and production. The Sabbath, then, is to cease from civilization and to consecrate creation, so that all that is Good is rendered holy permanently.  This, he says, is what consecration means.  All of the good that we do becomes consecrated as holy when we keep the Sabbath and attend the temple; it is nothing without these things.

These were the talks in chaplain training today that entirely blew my mind.

Then, as if there were any room left in me, I had private interviews and blessings that so thoroughly prepare me and so carefully instruct me, as they always do.

You are called here to learn the bounds on your left and on your right, so that you will not stray even while you press forward in faith, breaking known boundaries of time without stepping out of bounds on eternal principals.

Heavenly Father has prepared you, and this was foreordained. He wanted you to be a chaplain.  He wanted you among the people, to live the things you have lived so that you know the things you know.  He wanted you to be a woman, even a leader.  You are His daughter, and He knows you, and He loves you.  All this is already prepared, and all that is left for you is simple obedience.

You are loved.  You are an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

You understand the distinctness of the priesthood, and the uniqueness of women.  On the question of  (not) ordaining women, speak by the Spirit of your role and your experience and all that you do, and women already within the veil, rather than comparing ordinations with those who say they ordain women but have no authority to ordain anyone.

You have been blessed with the courage of Moses, and the inspiration of Esther, and the conviction of Paul, and we bless you again with the assistance of angels on both sides of the veil and the atonement power to overcome the opposition and affliction that will surely try to stop you.

Enough affliction, already, I said!

They laughed.

I did not wear my hair today, just a hat.  I am not ashamed of my bald head, but it gets cold.  Someone asked me if I was muslim or doing chemo, and I said I got ovarian cancer last year, but probably had it for awhile before that, but found it and had surgery last year.  This lady had it three years ago!  She also has to have a mastectomy in a year or so, and also got to wait a time between.  I also met another mother of a PRS baby!  She spoke at the wives’ luncheon, where Nathan attended so that it is now the spouse lunch.  He said there is pink tile in the bathrooms, over in the Relief Society Building.  That made me laugh.

It was a very packed day after a very packed weekend of conference, and we have more tomorrow.

I am trying to process it all, and Nathan is trying to survive children.

My cough is still here, but since the blessing I can suddenly breathe again and everything is cleared up.  I am also holding down my food, and feeling much less fatigued, though I am certainly worn out.  But I am excited to continue to study and process all I learned today, even that which was not written here, and the more private things, and to soak in more tomorrow if I can.

And I feel empowered to do what He says, instead of just overwhelmed.

I feel ready to try, instead of it just feeling impossible.

Because He says so.

Now, if I can just figure out how to help other people believe it, too.