Strengthening and Defending the Family (Highlights from the April 2015 General Women’s Session)

The April 2015 General Women’s Session was such an inspiring meeting. As a wife and mother, I especially appreciated the focus on strengthening and defending the family, since this is something I think about and pray about everyday. After re-reading the talks, here are the quotes that stood out to me.

Cheryl A. Esplin “Filling Our Homes with Light and Truth”.

“When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us.”

Families are the Lord’s workshop on earth to help us learn and live the gospel. We come into our families with a sacred duty to help strengthen each other spiritually. Strong eternal families and Spirit-filled homes do not just happen. They take great effort, they take time, and they take each member of the family doing his or her part.”

“The answers to our prayers may not come dramatically, but we must find quiet moments to seek greater light and truth.”

Carole M. Stephens, “The Family is of God”.

“As we use our time in mortality to study and apply the Savior’s teachings, we become more like Him. We come to understand that He is the way—the only way—we can overcome mortal challenges, be healed, and return back to our heavenly home.”

Bonnie L. Oscarson, “Defenders of the Family Proclamation.”

“The proclamation on the family has become our benchmark for judging the philosophies of the world”.

“We need to boldly defend the Lord’s revealed doctrines describing marriage, families, the divine roles of men and women, and the importance of homes as sacred places…If it is the Lord’s plan, it should also be our plan!”

“We eagerly teach our children to aim high in this life. We want to make sure that our daughters know that they have the potential to achieve and be whatever they can imagine…Do we also teach our sons and daughters there is no greater honor, no more elevated title, and no more important role in this life than that of mother or father?”

“We need to take a term which is sometimes spoken of with derision and elevate it. It is the term homemaker. All of us—women, men, youth, and children, single or married—can work at being homemakers. We should “make our homes” places of order, refuge, holiness, and safety. Our homes should be places where the Spirit of the Lord is felt in rich abundance and where the scriptures and the gospel are studied, taught, and lived. What a difference it would make in the world if all people would see themselves as makers of righteous homes. Let us defend the home as a place which is second only to the temple in holiness.”

President Monson (from the video):”The home is the basis of a righteous life.”

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The Power of Memorizing Scripture

This year I have felt impressed that our family should work on memorizing scriptures. Over the years we have often had a scripture of the week that we posted on our wall, but we haven’t actually memorized them. I was inspired by a friend who is memorizing scriptures with their two daughters (age 7 and 5), and I knew if they could do it, we could do it too. I loved Elder Scott’s talk about the power of scripture, and I want those same blessings in my life and in the life of my children.

Here is how it works at our house:

1) Select a scripture. Most often the scripture is related to our FHE lesson. We spent all of January memorizing Helaman 5:12, since our lessons that month were tied around that scripture and our 2015 family theme. In February our scriptures were on the topic of love.

2) Display the scripture. I search online for pretty images of the scripture (these are usually pretty easy to find). Print, laminate, and post on the wall in a prominent place in our home.5ef76b1b78e9ff08777b219f9bef8d08

3) Practice the scripture. The best time we have found to review the scripture is doing our morning drive to school. The audience is captive in the van! Each of us takes a turn reciting the new scripture, or reviewing one from past weeks. Sometimes we review the scriptures at dinnertime. It only takes a few minutes.

4) Keep a binder. Once the scripture has been learned they go into our Family Memorization Binder (inspiration here) for us to keep and review.

Here are the scriptures we have memorized so far this year.

Helaman 5:12

John 15:12

Matthew 22:37

Mosiah 2:17

John 3:16

Malachi 4:6

2 Nephi 25:26

Matthew 28:6

My 10-year-old daughter is really good at this. She is always the first one to memorize a verse, and can be counted on to make sure the rest of us get it right. I am more lenient with my 7-year-old and 5-year-old (they tend to recite the same shorter verses when it is their turn, which is just fine for their stage of development). The more we have memorized, the harder it is to keep straight all of the references, but we do our best, and remember the message of the words is the most important thing.

It is really cool whenever we are at church and somebody quotes one of the scriptures we have memorized. It definitely catches the attention of us all!

Our next scripture to memorize is Moroni 10:32. We will likely have the youngest children just memorize the beginning, but some of us will work on the whole verse.

tumblr_ltfr4uhKeF1qg4713Image available here

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Elder Scott on the value of memorizing scripture.

Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Scripture.” October 2011 General Conference.

“Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”

“Learning, pondering, searching, and memorizing scriptures is like filling a filing cabinet with friends, values, and truths that can be called upon anytime, anywhere in the world.

Great power can come from memorizing scriptures. To memorize a scripture is to forge a new friendship.”

“The scriptures can form a foundation of support. They can provide an incredibly large resource of willing friends who can help us. A memorized scripture becomes an enduring friend that is not weakened with the passage of time.”

Richard G. Scott, “For Peace at Home”. April 2011 General Conference.

If you young people would review a verse of scripture as often as some of you send text messages, you could soon have hundreds of passages of scripture memorized. Those passages would prove to be a powerful source of inspiration and guidance by the Holy Ghost in times of need.”

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April 2015 General Conference Summary

General Conference was wonderful. The messages shared were inspiring and great reminders of the essential elements of the gospel. I am thankful to have living prophets and apostles on the earth today to give us God’s word. The next step is: what will we do with what we have heard? As Elder Nelson asked, “Because of what I have heard and felt during this conference, how will I change?”

As I watched the sessions I specifically listened for the following (and encouraged my children to do the same):

1) the key message of each talk (summed up in just a few words, or one quote)

2) scripture references that stood out to me

3) any references to our 2015 family scripture, Helaman 5:12, or the idea of foundation (I was thrilled when my 5-year old was the first to notice President Packer’s mention of foundation).

President Eyring: the law of the Fast

President Packer: marriage and family life, testimony of the atonement, foundation

Sister Burton: husbands and wives, “thee lift me and I’ll lift thee, and we’ll ascend together”

Elder Oaks: the parable of the sower, “spiritual food is needed for spiritual survival”

Elder Clayton: choose to believe in him, Alma 32:27

Elder Perry: marriage and families, “Family is the center of life. It is the key to eternal happiness”.

Elder Bednar: Godly fear, Helaman 5:12, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Elder Christofferson: marriage and families

Elder Nielsen: parable of the prodigal son

Elder Holland: the fall and the atonement

President Uchtdorf: grace of God, “God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly”, 2 Nephi 25: 23, parable of the debtor

Elder Hales: religious freedom and liberty, “How we live our religion is more important than what we say about it.”

Elder Cook: parable of the wheat and the tares, family, Psalm 27

President Monson: temples, peace, John 14:27

Sister Wixom: believe in God, Mosiah 4:9, Helaman 5:12

Elder Teixeira: have joy

Elder Pearson: 6 principles to endure to the end, “Search the Book of Mormon and the words of the living prophets everyday, everyday, everyday!”

Elder Andersen: can you see the hand of God in your life and the world around you?

Elder Sitati: be fruitful and multiply

Elder Nelson: how will I change because of what I have heard this conference? Sabbath day-is it a delight?, teach children the gospel, “No other work transcends that of righteous, intentional parenting!”

One of the great things about a General Conference weekend and hearing so many inspired messages at once is the ability to see patterns and themes. Did you notice how many talks were about marriage and families (especially including the General Women’s session)? And how each speaker bore witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ? I noticed a number of speakers referred to parables taught by the Savior, so add that to my spiritual study list. And Elder Pearson’s comment is a clear exhortation to study the Book of Mormon and the words of the living prophets EVERDAY.

I am looking forward to studying these messages in depth and applying their teachings to my life!

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Preparing myself for General Conference

Earlier this week I shared some of the plans I have to help my family prepare for General Conference. I have also been preparing myself spiritually by thinking and pondering about the answers and guidance I most need in my life right now.

The following articles/talks are great reads to help put anyone in the right frame of mind leading into a conference weekend.

Elder Robert D. Hales, “General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony”. October 2013 General Conference.

Elder Neil L. Anderson, “Teaching Our Children to Love the Prophets”. April 1996 Ensign.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “General Conference-No Ordinay Blessing”. September 2011 Ensign.

General Conference: A Paradigm Shift -Remember not to spend the weekend “shushing” the children. Make it a positive experience for all (and whatever I miss, I can read later!).

Preparing Yourself for General Conference

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Preparing our Family for General Conference (including FHE plans)

General Conference is a twice-annual event that is very important to me. The opportunity to hear living prophets and apostles speak the word of the Lord is a special blessing, and I am grateful for it. I want my children to recognize what a blessing General Conference is, so we do a number of things to prepare our family for it.

Recognizing the Apostles

We have had a lot of success teaching our children the names of the First Presidency and Apostles by singing their last names to the tune of “10 Little Indians”. Monson, Eyring, Uchtdorf, Packer, Perry…etc. All of my children (age 10, 7, and 5 know the song well now).  The next step is to match the right name with the right person. This month I ordered the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles picture set available from We can use the 8×10 photos in many ways for many years!

FHE before Conference

Our FHE the week before conference is always focused on conference preparation. Here is our plan for tonight:

1) Using our new picture packet, review the names and faces of the prophet and apostles. Can we put them in the correct order?

2) Review the importance of General Conference by discussing the following quotes from Elder Hales.

“To the young members of the Church, I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life.”

“Wherever we are in this world…I testify that we are gathered at His conference.”

In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us…This is possible because the Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand.”

General-Conference-Quotes-2We will hang these printable posters from the Red Headed Hostess on our wall and keep them up all week.

3)Plan for General Conference weekend: There are tons of resources available online to help keep children occupied during General Conference (sometimes it is a little overwhelming). We have done many activity packets and coloring in the past, but this year I want to find out what they are most interested in doing, so we aren’t scrambling at the last minute. We will pick our favorites from the ideas below.

IMG_1250-2Remove the poster from the most recent conference Ensign. Hang it on the wall, and then the children get to put a sticker on the picture of whoever is speaking.

Scan10261My children have always enjoyed coloring the General Authority ties. I can’t find the link on Sugardoodle anymore, but I did find a version here or here.

I picked up a post-it-note pad for each person in our family. I will hang the pictures on the wall, and we can use the post-it-notes to jot down key topics and quotes and hang them on the wall. For my beginning readers and spellers, I printed and laminated these headband cards to use as reference cards.

One of our family goals this year has been to memorize scriptures (almost weekly). We can also use the post-it-notes to quickly record scriptures that are mentioned. We will also listen close to see if our scripture of the year is quoted.

As usual there are a number of packets and great ideas available on Sugardoodle.

We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ has a fabulous list of ideas and resources. We have had success with the concept of reverence stations in the past.

This time around I would like to try Smash Booklets. The children will have the freedom to write and draw and decorate their pages as they please.

And since it is Easter weekend, it would be fun to combine Easter eggs and apostles.

This Conference I Spy worksheet would be fun, along with homemade spy glasses made from toilet paper rolls.

On the menu

General Conference at our house means crepes for breakfast on Saturday, and cinnamon rolls on Sunday! Yummy!

What General Conference plans and traditions do you have?

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Easter Traditions and Plans: Starting a Holy Week study

Our family just finished a low-key spring break at home, and now it is time to prepare for Easter!

This year I have decided to take another step  to make our Easter a little more focused on the Savior. Inspired by this post, we are going to hold our own “Holy Week”. Starting today we will be reading about the events that took place during the last week of the life of Jesus Christ. We are using the summaries and scriptures that were printed in The Friend in April 2011. To do this I printed off the summary for each day on spring colored cardstock, laminated for durability, and then taped the summary for each day on to one of my kitchen cupboards. As we do the readings each day, we will add a corresponding picture from our Gospel Art Kit. We will do our readings during evening dinner time.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has just released a new Easter campaign on Because He Lives.

“Jesus Christ lived. He walked the Holy Land, working miracles and teaching truth. Then He was crucified. But His death was not the end. Because of His Resurrection, we will live again. Because of His sacrifice, we can rise above sin to experience true joy. Because He lives, we can find His help and healing every day of our lives.”

Here is a lovely new video message which I plan to share with my family today as a start to our Holy Week.

The site also contains a brief summary of each day in the last week of the Savior’s life, which I plan to incorporate in our Holy Week study.

On Easter Sunday we will conclude with this Bible Video: He Is Risen.

I have always struggled a little bit with the idea of Easter baskets and how best to incorporate that into our family. I like the idea I have seen around the web of “Secular Saturday and Sacred Sunday”. In the past I have done a family basket and included things like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, coloring books and stickers. This year I don’t feel like we are really in need of any more stuff, and with a birthday and General Conference this week, I am opting to simplify things a bit.

I found this cute Easter Jelly Bean Prayer at The Idea Room, so this small gift is what my children will wake up to on Easter Sunday.

This year I discovered a very nice picture book called In The Garden, by Caralyn Buehner. It appears that the book is out of print, but I was luckily able to snag a copy from my library. It presents the story of the Atonement in a simple way for children to understand with beautiful illustrations.

In between watching General Conference we will decorate our eggs, and do an egg hunt (some with pictures of Jesus Christ cut out of Ensign magazines, some with coins, and some with candy).

Dinner will be our traditional ham, potatoes, green beans, and rolls, with Angel Food Cake and strawberries and cream to finish things off!

We usually do this Easter FHE lesson (with eggs that are filled with items representing significant events in the atonement and resurrection). We will likely do it the day after Easter this year.

Looking for more ideas?

We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ has a great list of Christ Centered Easter Crafts and Activities. Maybe another year we will try the Easter All Week booklet.

The Chickabug Blog posted a cute bunny and chick fingerprint craft. This would make a fun activity to entertain the little ones as we listen to General Conference.

It’s been awhile since I have prepped any lunchbox notes for my kiddos, and Kiki and Company has a cute Easter Bunny laugh edition.

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October 2014 General Conference Themes: The Pathway to Jesus Christ

As I have studied and pondered the counsel given at the October 2014 General Conference, I noticed a few consistent themes. A number of talks related to the idea of following  a path that leads to Jesus Christ, and making sure that we are facing him.

President Thomas S. Monson, “Ponder the Path of Thy Feet”.

“As we look to Jesus as our Exemplar and as we follow in His footsteps, we can return safely to our Heavenly Father to live with Him forever.”

“Physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked.”

“As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain.”

“Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.”

“Ponder the path of thy feet” (Proverbs 4:26).

“The Savior’s example provides a framework for everything that we do, and His words provide an unfailing guide. His path will take us safely home.”

Elder Eduardo Gavarret, “Yes, Lord, I Will Follow Thee.”

“The decision to “come unto me” and “follow me” is personal. When we accept this invitation, our level of commitment is raised, and it is then that we can “walk with Him.” This level establishes a closer relationship with the Savior—the fruit of our accepting the first invitation.”

What steps can we take today to “walk with Him”?

  1. Feed the desire to be a better follower of Christ.
  2. Pray for this desire that your faith in Him may grow.
  3. Obtain knowledge from the scriptures, lighting the way and strengthening your desire to change.
  4. Make the decision today to act and say, “Yes, Lord, I will follow Thee!” Simply knowing the truth will not change your world unless you turn knowledge into action.
  5. Persevere in the decision you have made by exercising these principles daily.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Free Forever, to Act for Themselves”.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ opens the path to what we may become.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lord, Is it I?”.

“Is your heart set on the convenient things of this world, or is it focused on the teachings of the diligent Jesus Christ? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

“Does the Spirit of God dwell in your hearts? Are you “rooted and grounded” in the love of God and of your fellowmen? Do you devote sufficient time and creativity to bringing happiness to your marriage and family? Do you give your energies to the sublime goal of comprehending and living “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height”of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?”

“May I suggest that the holy scriptures and the talks given at general conference are an effective mirror we can hold up for self-examination.

As you hear or read the words of the ancient and modern prophets, refrain from thinking about how the words apply to someone else and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”

We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us.”

Elder Carlos A. Godoy, “The Lord Has a Plan for Us!”.

“We are not here in this life just to waste our time, grow old, and die. God wants us to grow and achieve our potential.”

“I know that the Lord has a plan for us in this life. He knows us. He knows what is best for us. Just because things are going well does not mean that we should not from time to time consider whether there might be something better. If we continue to live as we are living, will the promised blessings be fulfilled?”

Elder Larry S. Kacher, “Trifle Not with Sacred Things”.

“The decisions we make in this life greatly affect the course of our eternal life.”

“Heavenly Father has blessed us with the supernal gift of the Holy Ghost to guide our choices. He has promised us inspiration and revelation as we live worthy to receive such. I invite you to take advantage of this divine gift and examine your choices by asking yourself the question, “Are my decisions firmly planted in the rich soil of the gospel of Jesus Christ?” I invite you to make whatever adjustments are needed, whether small or large, to ensure the eternal blessings of Heavenly Father’s plan for you and those you love.”

Elder Hugo E. Martinez, “Our Personal Ministries”.

“The teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, show us the way.”

Elder Jorg Klebingat, “Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence”.

“The decision to change is yours–and yours alone”.

1. Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being.

2. Take responsibility for your own physical well-being.

3. Embrace voluntary, wholehearted obedience as part of your life.

4. Become really, really good at repenting thoroughly and quickly. 

5. Become really, really good at forgiving.

6. Accept trials, setbacks, and “surprises” as part of your mortal experience.

” I testify of a loving Savior who rejoices when we apply His Atonement daily with the calm and happy assurance that we are facing in the right direction.”

Moroni 10:32 “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

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Books for Spring and Easter

The first day of Spring has passed, and Easter is just a few days off, so it is time for a little spring reading! In the spring we also like to read our favorite bunny and duckling books.

MakeWayforDucklingsBookCoverA classic favorite is Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, and a new favorite is Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore.Lucky-DucklingsOur list has mostly stayed the same this year, so go back to my post in 2013 for our complete list of Books for Spring and Easter.

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Books for Beginning Readers

My seven-year-old daughter has been making great progress in learning to read. She loves to be read to (and I enjoy reading to my children!), but getting her to read on her own has taken some prodding. Here is our list of favorite beginning reader books that she has enjoyed.

9781423133094_p0_v2_s260x420The Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems: This author is always a favorite at our house, and we have long enjoyed the silly tales of Elephant and Piggie.

9780062082039-sm1The Penny books by Kevin Henke: Penny and Her Song, Penny and the Marble, Penny and Her Doll: All are sweet stories by another favorite author.

200px-Frog_and_toad_coverThe Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel: Frog and Toads adventurous days are often quite hilarious, and their friendship is the kind worth reading about!

9780061478147_Extralarge_imageLittle Critter books by Mercer Meyer: Cute stories that children can relate to, these books are a great length so as not to be intimidating.

9780516020679_xlgRookie Readers series: I found these short books at our library, probably around 50 books written by different authors. They are short, easier reads, and were the first books that my daughter would try reading by herself.

seuss-1-fish-2-fishDr. Seuss:  check out this helpful leveled reading guide to guide you toward an appropriate choice.

220px-LittleBearThe Little Bear books by Else Minarik: The little bear stories are sweet to read. We have enjoyed these stories mostly as read alouds, but they are a great level for beginning readers.



Fancy Nancy Beginning Readers: We have been reading Fancy Nancy aloud and enjoying her for years, but admittedly my daughter hasn’t been too willing to try these on her own. I still think they are worth including on this list, and might strike her interest again one of these days.

Looking for more ideas? Check out Not Your Mother’s “Dick and Jane”: Beginning readers that won’t bore you to tears.

What beginning reader books have you and your children enjoyed?

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Three helpful articles for parents

A few interesting articles that popped up in my reader recently. Worth a read for parents!

Why Children Need Chores: Doing household chores has many benefits-academically, emotionally and even professionally.

1. Watch your language: thank your children for “being a helper” rather than “helping”.

2. Schedule chore time.

3. Game it:start small and have young children earn new “levels” of responsibilities, like going from sorting clothes to earning the right to use the washing machine.

4. Keep allowances and chores separate: money can lessen a child’s motivation to help, turning an altruistic act into a business transaction.

5. Types of tasks matter: chores should be routine and focused on taking care of the family (like dusting the living room or doing everyone’s laundry), not self-care (tidying one’s bedroom or doing personal laundry). Let children help in choosing tasks.

6. Talk about chores differently: instead of saying, “Do your chores,” say “Let’s do our chores.”

7. Give chores a PR boost: Don’t tie chores to punishments, talk about them positively.


9 Things Every Parent with an Anxious Child Should Try

My children have often struggled with separation anxiety (going to school or primary classes alone, etc). I thought some of these tips could help me to handle the situation better and help me to coach them through their anxiety.

1. Stop Reassuring Your Child: Use the FEEL method-Freeze, Empathize, Evaluate, Let Go

2. Highlight Why Worrying is Good: worry is perfectly normal, it can help protect us

3. Bring Your Child’s Worry to Life

4. Teach Your Child to Be a Thought Detective: Catch your thoughts, collect evidence, challenge your thoughts

5. Allow Them to Worry: worry openly in limited doses, then put them away

6. Help Them Go from What If to What Is: live in the present time

7. Avoid Avoiding Everything that Causes Anxiety: use gradual exposure

8. Help Them Work Through a Checklist

9. Practice Self-Compassion


8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently : what does “practice smarter, not harder” really mean?

As a piano teacher and a parent of piano students, I thought the results of this research study were interesting. “The researchers note that the most striking difference between the top three pianists and the rest, was how they handled mistakes.” The one key strategy=strategically slowing things down.

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.” -George Bernard Shaw -

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